Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 30, 2015

Top Stories

Climate Change.  Although China has embraced the concept of climate change and is allowing its officials to openly discuss associated risks, many critics remain skeptical of the potential for energy policy reform so long as economic growth remains the government’s primary objective.  In an op-ed in the Financial Times, Nick Butler points out that the country is in the middle of shifting its energy mix, has imposed tighter regulations on emissions, and is beginning to relocate coal-fired power plants — all of which suggest that the country is capable of enacting energy policy reform in the current economic and political environment.  FT

Energy Policy.  Diplomats are scrambling to meet tomorrow’s deadline to conclude negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland regarding Iran’s nuclear program — a difficult feat given the contrasting interests and political sensitivities within the group that limit the number of viable solutions.  Over the weekend, the U.S. and its European partners labored to win Russian support for a mechanism that would allow suspended UN Security Council sanctions against Iran to snap rapidly back into effect if Tehran is caught cheating on the final deal.  WSJ

Oil.  The Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. production of crude oil marked a 16.2% increase in 2014 — the highest growth rate since 1940 despite a price collapse of nearly 50% in the second half of the year.  U.S. production is expected to increase further in 2015 and 2016, but at a slower rate of 8.1% and 1.5%, respectively.  EIA

Energy Policy.  Mexican officials announced ambitious emissions reductions targets on Friday, including a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent by 2030 and to make 2026 the country’s peak emissions year.  This goal is the first to be submitted by an emerging country leading up to the global climate conference in Paris later this year. WP

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 27, 2015

Top Stories

Nuclear.  Diplomats from several world powers are meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland this weekend to negotiate the final text of a nuclear deal with Iran.  A “substantial and comprehensive” announcement is scheduled for early next week, despite the fact that the final two-thirds of the text is still being debated.  While the prospect of a nuclear détente with the Islamic regime has become one of the Obama Administration’s key foreign policy objectives, it has also invited fierce criticism, as it alienates regional allies of the west in Israel and the Gulf region.  FT

Oil.  Amid falling prices, several global oil companies have slashed exploration investments in China in an attempt to prioritize high-return projects over expensive and risky ones.  Shale exploration has been particularly costly in China due to complicated geology and lack of data related to China’s shale reserves — while profits are also curtailed by factors like high population density and a government-set pricing system.  WSJ

Climate Change. 
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Yale University Professor Robert J. Shiller asserts that solving the challenging problem of climate change will rely on both a sense of idealism that creates an atmosphere for change, as well as a realistic structure that puts clear penalties on bad behavior by both individuals and countries.  He defends this argument using two theories: the “Copenhagen Theory of Change” — which states that governments, like Denmark’s, can solve the free rider problem by creating social support and pressure to join a pro-environment movement — and the “Climate Club Theory” — which holds that global warming could be solved if a group of countries could agree to create incentives for people to reduce carbon emissions, while also erecting tariff barriers on imports from countries that are not members of the “club”.  NY Times

Oil. 
U.S. shale oil producers are beginning to experiment with new technologies that leverage “big data” in an attempt to increase the efficiency of existing wells amid the low price environment.  The technology solutions aim to reduce costs by both reducing the number of wells that need to be drilled and better managing existing wells.  Reuters

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 26, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  Oil prices surged by more than 6% today amid escalating violence in the Middle East.  While it does not appear that oil flows in the region were disrupted, Saudi Arabian involvement stoked market fears that a wider conflict may soon impact the oil-rich region.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  New data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the Federal Highway Administration indicates that low fuel prices and a growing economy are indeed increasing the volume of consumer travel.  Specifically, traffic on U.S. highways has grown more in the past 12 months than in the previous two-and-a-half years — confirming assumptions that strong fuel demand will keep global crude prices at $55 – $60 per barrel amid increasing global oil production and inventories.  Reuters

Energy Policy.  The New York Times notes that a reputable Harvard legal scholar, Laurence Tribe, has garnered public attention for his attacks on the constitutionality of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  Professor Tribe asserts that the Clean Power Plan violates the 10th Amendment by permitting the federal government to take control of state institutions — a reading of the Constitution that invalidates both the Clean Power Plan and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act.  NY Times

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 25, 2015

Top Stories

Energy Policy.  The Supreme Court heard 90 minutes of oral argument today on whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have considered the costs to coal-and oil-fired plants before deciding whether to require plants to cut emissions — a key part of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda.  The Court appeared deeply divided over the issue, as more liberal justices (e.g., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg) generally voiced support for the EPA in imposing the regulations, while more conservative justices (e.g., Justice Antonin Scalia) asserted that the regulations represented a “classic” violation by a federal agency to impose rules without considering exorbitant costs.  WSJ

Oil.  According to a senior Gulf OPEC delegate, stronger than expected global oil demand will likely keep crude prices at $55 – $60 per barrel despite indications of a growing glut.  The statement is contrary to some forecasts that the U.S. supply glut will push global prices toward $20 a barrel — and suggests that OPEC officials remain confident in their decision to boost demand and defend market share.  Reuters

Natural Gas.  According to a study by two Brookings scholars, hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) has directly translated into an economic boom — predominantly through the channel of declining natural gas prices.  Specifically, the authors found that the fracking revolution caused gas prices to drop 47% compared with prices before the shale boom, leading to approximately $200 in energy savings per year for gas-consuming households across the United States.  Brookings

Solar.  The editors at Bloomberg View note that residential solar customers not only use less electricity, but also pay less toward the cost of maintaining and operating the electrical grid.  The problem — coined “solar freeloading” — effectively becomes a regressive tax on energy because customers without expensive solar panels end up paying more toward grid costs through their electricity bills.  The editors suggest that monthly fees on solar customers present a fair and simple solution.  Bloomberg

Keybridge’s Wescott and Pioneer Investments Publish Note on “The Oil Conundrum”

Keybridge’s Wescott and Pioneer Investments Publish Note on “The Oil Conundrum”

Special Report on Macroeconomic Trends and Financial Markets written by Dr. Robert Wescott and Pioneer Investments specialists analyzes the implications of the 50% decline in oil prices. Dr. Wescott suggests that falling oil prices may be a catalyst for major change in the geopolitical landscape, the economy and interest rates going forward. For more information on Keybridge’s macroeconomic expertise, please contact us at info@keybridgedc.com

Link: Pioneer Macro Advisory Note