Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 28, 2015

Top Stories

Climate Change.  A new study published by the Nature Climate Change journal finds that moderate global warming over the past two centuries is linked to weather extremes such as heat blasts and intense rainstorms, and that these weather events will likely become more frequent and intense as the earth’s temperatures continue to rise. While other studies have linked extreme weather conditions to human-influenced climate patterns, this study is among the first to predict future patterns.  NY Times

Oil.  Reuters reports that heightened geopolitical tensions in the Middle East — particularly in light of the impending Iran–U.S. nuclear deal — are having immediate effects on oil prices as traders weigh political risks against rising supply stocks.  As a result, oil prices have been increasingly volatile recently; while reports that Iran seized a U.S. cargo vessel caused a temporary spike today, a weaker dollar and newly released stockpile data continue to push prices downward.  Reuters

Energy Security.  Nick Butler of the Financial Times discusses the prospect of an EU “Energy Security Board” as a possible mediator for highly complex energy policy debates.  Butler argues that the Board would (1) guarantee that security of supply remains a priority, (2) ensure that policies are designed and planned on a long-term basis, and (3) create a platform for various arms of the government to communicate and collaborate on aspects of energy policy.  FT

Oil.  Luay al-Khatteeb of Brookings asserts that the reemergence of low and volatile oil prices after three years of stability represents structural changes occurring in the market rather than normal inefficiencies of supply/demand readjustment.  He predicts that unless current world oil production decreases by at least 4 percent, prices are likely to remain at around $60 a barrel — a level where most producers will earn reasonable profit margins and the U.S. as a whole will benefit from improved balance of payments and greater market share.  Brookings

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 27, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in U.S. oil futures — a popular investment tied to the oil market — have experienced notable investor outflows recently, causing many to worry about the new pressure this may place on the already vulnerable oil market.  Investment analysts warn that if oil prices begin to decline again while money pours out of crude-oil ETFs, a “serious financial washout” is possible within the market.  WSJ

Oil.  The recent crude oil price crash has forced major oil companies to take broad steps to cut costs, including reconfiguring their operations and relationships with key suppliers and governments.  The Financial Times notes that these changes may leave many companies better off in the long-run, as they are likely to be more profitable when prices begin to rise again.  FT

Energy Policy.  Tim Boersma of the Brookings Institute discusses recent anti-competition allegations against Gazprom, highlighting the preliminary findings and political tensions surrounding the charges.  Boersma notes that because the EU competition policy is being applied to a part of the EU gas market that lacks fully developed markets for trade and competition, there are questions about the degree to which Gazprom can be blamed for the lack of market development in these countries.  Brookings

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 24, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  Canadian energy giant TransCanada is requesting the U.S. government’s permission to construct an additional 200-mile pipeline across the U.S.-Canadian border — a clear indication that the company is not backing down on its oil-shipping plans despite the 7-year delay in approving its Keystone XL pipeline.  The proposed $600-million pipeline aims to transport up to 300,000 barrels of North Dakota crude per day and, if approved, would go into service in 2020.  WSJ

Oil.  The United States Geological Survey released a comprehensive report today that highlights a link between oil and gas operations and thousands of earthquakes across 17 U.S. regions.  One of the most notable findings indicates that earthquakes in Oklahoma are now hundreds of times more common than they were a few years ago due to hydraulic fracturing — a drilling technique that injects a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into the ground to break rock formations and release gas.  NY Times

Energy Policy.  As the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to unveil its final set of rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions,  leading American electric power companies — the nation’s largest source of emissions — worry that they may face power failures in the process of transitioning from coal to cleaner power sources.  Consequently, because the rules will close hundreds of heavily polluting coal plants, officials believe there could be blackouts across the country if energy companies are not able to build new sources of electricity quickly enough.  NY Times

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 22, 2015

Top Stories

Climate Change.  President Obama delivered a speech yesterday in the Florida Everglades to commemorate the 45th Earth Day, using the region as an example of how rising sea levels and greenhouse gas emissions, among other forces, can threaten the environment and the communities that depend on it.  The President’s speech is part a larger effort to reinforce what he hopes will be a central part of his legacy — a sustained push to get the United States and the rest of the world to confront climate change.  NY Times

Oil.  Oil prices rose to their highest level of the year today amid expectations that the oversupply of crude may be shrinking and growing concerns about violence in the Middle East.  Furthermore, the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude gasoline stockpiles fell last week — an unusual trend for this time of year, given that oil refineries typically start increasing production to prepare for the busy summer driving season.    WSJ

Oil.  Clifford Krauss asserts in the NY Times that although crude oil prices have generally swung like a pendulum in the past, the latest oil boom represents a vital shift in power, rather than simply a repeat of history.  He argues that the United States has now overtaken OPEC as the vital global swing producer that determines prices, citing a number of trends emerging since 2008 — including a massive increase in the number of American shale fields, a doubling of American petroleum output, and the introduction of innovative shale production methods that have proven highly adaptable to evolving market conditions.  NY Times

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 21, 2015

Top Stories

Energy Policy.  Greek officials met today with the head of Russian energy giant Gazprom to discuss the possibility of negotiating a multibillion-dollar pipeline deal between Athens and Moscow.  This discussion comes at a critical time for both parties, as Greece is currently trying to negotiate a new debt deal with its European creditors in order to avoid default, and the European Union is expected to announce antitrust charges against Gazprom tomorrow.  NY Times

Energy Policy.  Richard Nephew of Brookings asserts that while most attention has centered on U.S. concessions in the most recent settlement of the Iran nuclear issue,  Iran’s compromises were also substantial and should not be overlooked.  Specifically, Nephew argues that U.S. readiness to engage in sanctions relief should not be viewed as a “give-away”, but rather the result of a “proportional exchange of concessions” that is ultimately essential to the diplomacy process.  Brookings

Climate Change.  According to a report released today by Greenpeace East Asia, more than 90 percent of Chinese cities failed to meet national air quality standards during the first three months of this year.  The average concentration of PM 2.5 — which many consider to be the most dangerous of common air pollutants — was nearly twice the national standard and more than two and a half times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.  Report, NY Times

Energy Policy.  Amid a severe drought across the state, a California appeals court ruled against a four-tiered pricing plan proposed by regulators as a tool to force reductions in urban water use.  The court opined that the plan — which aimed to reduce water consumption by charging higher rates for high-volume consumers — violates a voter-passed amendment to the State Constitution that prohibits government agencies from charging more for services than their actual cost.  NY Times