Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 20, 2015

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Climate Change.  The U.S. will begin a program in conjunction with the EPA to expand air-quality monitoring through overseas diplomatic missions, the goals of which are to increase awareness of the health risks associated with outdoor air pollution, help American citizens abroad reduce their exposure to pollution, and help other countries develop their own air-quality monitoring through training and exchanges with American experts.  This is spurred by the release of several years of alarming data concerning pollution levels overseas — particularly in China and India.  NY Times

LNG. The Canadian government announced new tax breaks for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects yesterday as part of an effort to increase the nation’s energy investment amidst the current low energy price environment.  While nearly 20 LNG projects have been proposed, concerns about construction costs and uncertainties about regulations and taxes have stalled final investment decisions.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  The New York Times reports that several large regional utility providers are investing in electric-vehicle charging stations in an attempt to increase  consumer demand for electricity.  While private charging companies have been largely unsuccessful in bringing in the revenues required to cover the cost of building and maintaining charging stations, the involvement of utility companies — which have significant experience with financing, building, and managing power infrastructure as well as selling electricity — may prove more successful in building the robust network of charging stations required to make electric cars a more viable option for consumers.  NY Times

Oil.  Alan Greenspan argues in the Financial Times that the 50% reduction in oil prices, collapse of the Russian rouble stemming from turmoil in Ukraine, weakening of the Iranian economy, and risk of default in oil-rich Venezuela over the past year have resulted in significant changes in the global economic and geopolitical landscape — of which the primary beneficiaries are the U.S. and its allies.  He asserts that OPEC has ceded its power over oil prices to the United States by refusing to cut production to support prices amid the widening gap between global production and consumption.  FT

Energy & Environment News

Energy & Environment News

February 19, 2015

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Energy Policy.  The chair of the Senate Energy Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-KY), and 20 fellow senators issued a letter urging the U.S. Commerce Department to allow crude oil exports to Mexico on grounds that it would benefit both the U.S. and Mexican economies.  Murkowski stated that relaxing the oil-export ban is “an opportunity for [the U.S.] to lead from an energy security perspective and from an economic security perspective”.  Reuters

Energy Efficiency.  The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that from 1980 to 2009, growth in residential energy consumption slowed to below the rate of household growth — indicating that per-household energy consumption decreased over this time span.  This reduction in per-household energy consumption is largely due to improvements in energy intensity, which is influenced by energy prices, changes in fuel sources, technology efficiency, and consumer preferences, among other factors.  EIA

Oil.  Despite a 50% collapse in oil prices since last summer, data released by the EIA show an increase in oil inventories of 7.7 billion barrels last week — a clear indicator that producers are not cutting back on output.  Market traders had actually anticipated an even greater surge in inventories, demonstrating continuing uncertainty among investors as to whether prices have hit the market “bottom”.  WSJ

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 18, 2015

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Energy Outlook. The Wall Street Journal reports that a team of economic advisers to the Chinese government is considering merging two or more of the country’s major energy companies in an attempt to make them more efficient and globally competitive.  Analysts warn that while such a consolidation would help the state firms compete overseas, it would harm competition within China and work against current market-oriented reforms.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  European Union antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager reported that the EU will soon move ahead with an antimonopoly case against Russia’s Gazprom energy company amid concerns that it abuses Eastern Europe market dominance to block rivals.  Formal charges against Gazprom are likely to be taken as an act of aggression by the Kremlin, but Ms. Vestager has dismissed political concerns and is standing by the economic case against the alleged monopolistic activity.  WSJ

Oil.  Royal Dutch Shell is beginning to decommission and dismantle its Brent Oil Field in the North Sea — an effort estimated to cost billions of pounds and take up to a decade to complete.  Industry experts at Wood Mackenzie, a leading oil-industry consulting firm, report that the full cost of decommissioning has been greatly underestimated for most projects, and predicts that dismantling costs will exceed new investment across the oil industry within the next decade.  NY Times

Energy Security.  According to a study by the International Centre for Security Analysis, Saudi Arabia is seeking to build up its nuclear capacity over the next ten years in efforts to lessen its own reliance on oil so that more of its total oil production will be available for export. Experts contend that while this is a logical energy and economic strategy, it heightens concerns about future nuclear arms races in the region.  FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 17, 2015

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EPA.  After many state regulators and utilities warned that the pace of proposed carbon emissions regulations may endanger the reliability of the electric grid, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy hinted that the deadline for carbon emissions cuts may be extended beyond 2020.  As currently proposed, the Clean Power Plan requires states to cut emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2020 in order to reduce emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.  Bloomberg

Oil.  A train carrying millions of pounds of oil through West Virginia derailed during a snowstorm this morning, dumping crude into a local river and causing the evacuation of nearby villages.  The derailment follows several similar incidents over the past few years and has amplified public concerns about the safety of oil shipments by rail.  NY Times

Natural Gas.  The U.S. Department of Energy proposed a higher minimum efficiency standard for gas furnaces, which currently account for roughly 20% of energy delivered to homes and apartments throughout the United States and are mostly fueled by natural gas.  By law, the DOE must set the highest efficiency level that is both technologically feasible and economically justified, and the proposed standard represents the first increase since 1992.  EIA

Energy Outlook.  Despite tumbling commodity prices, mining companies have vowed not to cut production because the stronger dollar is, in part, cushioning the blow of falling markets.  However, some observers say that the stronger dollar will only postpone the inevitable global glut of metals, coal, and iron ore; miners need to grow production, deliver cash to shareholders, and maintain a strong balance sheet — all three of which, they argue, are not likely to happen in a weaker price environment.  WSJ

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 13, 2015

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Oil.  Despite increased household savings in gasoline over recent months, overall retail sales unexpectedly declined 0.7% in January, on top of a 0.9% decline in December.  This may be explained by the fact that Americans are saving the money they are not spending at the pump; that being said, economists predict that consumers may be reacting with a bit of a delay and will spend their gains eventually.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  The company developing the Keystone XL pipeline plans to ask the U.S. government to permit a new and different project: a 200-mile pipeline from North Dakota’s oil fields that will cross the border into Canada to connect to another proposed pipeline, costing $600 million.  While U.S. laws currently restrict American oil exports, companies are generally allowed to sell crude oil to Canada if they apply for a license, which helps account for the rise in exports in recent years.  WSJ

Oil.  For the first time this year, Brent crude oil prices rose to about $60 a barrel – a 3.5% increase since late December and 35% increase since the recent low in mid-January.  Prices rallied after a leading shale oil operator in the U.S. became the latest in the wave of companies announcing cuts in capital expenditure.  FT