Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 9, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  In OPEC’s monthly oil-market report, the organization predicted that demand for its crude will rise this year as the U.S. produces less oil and consumes more gasoline.  This statement accompanied a larger report justifying the cartel’s strategy in November to keep producing oil while allowing prices to slip, confirming speculation about the organizations’ strategy to hurt rivals — like the United States — rather than cut production to keep prices high.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  A new report from the Department of Energy found that the U.S.’ natural gas infrastructure would only require “modest incremental additions” of pipeline capacity in order to manage the additional load forecasted under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal.  This research weighs against concerns that there would be insufficient pipeline capacity to support the proposed increase in natural gas generation — weighing in favor of the EPA’s plans to regulate carbon emissions from coal plants.  WP

Climate Change.  According to a poll conducted last month by the New York Times, Stanford University, and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future, Hispanics are far more likely than whites in the U.S to view global warming as a problem that affects them personally and to support policies such as taxes and regulations on greenhouse gas pollution aimed at curbing global warming.  These results may have significant implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, as both Republican and Democratic prospective candidates seek to win votes from this growing segment of the population.  NY Times

Energy Markets.  The oil industry has emerged as a “new player” on the debt-risk watch list, particularly amid the falling oil price and steep increase in the total level of debt carried by the oil industry. Financial products linked to oil are also at risk — with several investment analysts noting that the current situation bears similarities to the housing crisis of 2008.  Forbes

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 6, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  Oil prices posted the largest one-week gain in three years after a turbulent week.  While market participants predict that prices could be finally bottoming out amid expenditure cuts and reduced drilling activity by major oil companies,  analysts caution that prices could slip again due to an oversupplied market and few signs of increasing demand.  WSJ

Climate Change.  A new study reveals that emissions reductions reported by U.S. manufacturers between 1990 and 2008 resulted from process improvements rather than U.S. manufacturers “offshoring” environmentally harmful processes to countries with lax pollution laws – a conclusion reached in many previous previous studies on the same topic.  The author created an index of technological change that fell as quickly as actual emissions in the analysis, suggesting that emissions reductions were due to technological changes within industries, rather than shifting output among industries.  Forbes

Energy Policy.  The White House received federal railroad legislators’ final draft of new regulations governing standards and operating procedures for tank cars that haul crude oil and other flammable liquids.  The proposed regulations —  which come in response to a series of oil-train accidents that began in July 2013 — call for tank cars to be replaced or retrofitted on a faster schedule to make them more puncture-resistant during derailments.  WSJ

Oil.  Despite the fact that diesel-power vehicles can deliver up to 30 percent better fuel economy than their gasoline counterparts, less than 1 percent of the passenger vehicles sold in the United States run on diesel, compared to 50% of vehicles sold by European car manufacturers. There are three main reasons for this trend: diesel-power cars often cost a few thousand dollars more than cars that run on gasoline, diesel fuel costs more and the price can vary widely within a few miles, and diesel vehicles require the periodic addition of an additive called AdBlue.  NY Times

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 5, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  The U.S. Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit for petroleum was the lowest on record last year, indicating that the boom in U.S. oil production has directly affected U.S. trade.  Additionally, lower oil prices have indirectly affected the U.S. economy by making gasoline cheaper, which has in turn freed a portion of Americans’ disposable income to purchase other goods and services.  WSJ

Oil.  In recent months, economists and policymakers have largely dismissed concerns that falling oil prices might be a harbinger of global economic slowdown.  However, as more data is released, many are increasingly worried about deflation – oil is a major driver of slowdown in inflation, and low or falling prices for goods and services can restrain consumer spending, deter business investment, cap wages, and hurt debt.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  The Brookings Institute discusses recent efforts to cut methane emission leaks and notes that pipeline repairs present an opportunity for significant improvement.  The scholars contest that reducing methane emissions leaks is essential to realizing the full environmental benefits of using natural gas in place of other fossil fuels, and that partnerships between key stakeholders  — companies, utility commissions, consumers, and governments — will be essential moving forward.  Brookings

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 4, 2015

Top Stories

Renewable Energy.  A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that energy capacity from wind and solar sources has more than tripled since 2008 while becoming increasingly cost-competitive.  Additionally, the analysts note that electricity demand has remained flat despite the economic rebound — a significant sign of improvement for the energy productivity of the U.S. economy.  WP

Oil.  The recent plunge in oil prices has led to a wave of credit rating downgrades in the oil and gas sector, increasing the risk of default for corporate bonds.  There were more downgrades in oil and gas than in any other sector during the past four months – marking the largest set of credit rating downgrades for a single sector since 2009.  FT

Energy Policy.  The New York Times notes that governments such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Angola, and Ghana are beginning to take advantage of low oil and natural gas prices by cutting fuel subsidies.  Though these subsidy cuts comprise only a small percentage of all fuel subsidies globally, experts report that the cuts are “beginning to add up”.  NY Times

Oil.  Despite a fall in oil prices of more than 50% since June, U.S. crude production remains at multi-decade highs.  According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. crude oil inventories grew to the highest level for this time of year in at least 80 years, and analysts expect inventories to continue growing in coming weeks due to scheduled seasonal maintenance at many U.S. refineries.  WSJ

U.S. Economic News

U.S. Economic News

U.S. Economic Indicators

The ADP National Employment report indicated that nonfarm private-sector employment increased by 213,000 in January, down from an upwardly revised 253,000 jobs in December.  Gains in hiring by medium-sized businesses and the trade, transportation, and utilities sector drove the report.  ADP report

ISM’s non-manufacturing index ticked up 0.2 points to 56.7, indicating robust growth in the services sector.  The Business Activity and New Orders Indexes increased 2.9 points and 0.3 points, respectively, while the Employment Index fell 4.1 points.  Report

U.S. News

Auto sales increased to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 16.66 million vehicles, a 13.7% increase from year-ago levels.  Boosted by low gas prices and a broadly improving economy, sales of General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Fiat, Nissan, Honda, and Suburu all posted double-digits gains.  NY Times

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned in written congressional testimony yesterday that although the U.S. was on pace to grow “substantially faster than all of the other advanced economies combined” in 2015, the rest of the developed world needed to do more to stimulate demand.  Lew argued that the U.S. could not be the “sole engine of growth” and expressed concern with the potential for a slowdown abroad to weaken U.S. growth.  FT

A growing group of young Republicans now dubbed “reformicons” are pushing for a move away from orthodox conservative tax policy premised on broad-based tax cuts towards more middle-income friendly policies, including subsidies and tax credits.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry have warmed to the “reformicon” agenda in recent months, acknowledging that tax cuts may be less effective now that the top rate is roughly half of what it was in the 1980s.  WSJ

Martin Wolf warns in the FT that both Greece and the “troika” of the ECB, IMF, and EC are engaging in a game of “chicken”, in which the new Greek government is taking an aggressive and dismissive attitude towards the troika, while the latter refuses to negotiate fairly with the Greek government.  Wolf argues that both parties need to “calm down and talk”; “deep and radical reform” to achieve “low-governed modernity” in Greece will take time but is imperative.  FT

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