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August 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle

August 15, 2017

Transocean to buy Songa Offshore as struggling sector consolidates

Transocean, the Swiss offshore drilling rig company that operates largely out of Houston, is set to buy Norway's Songa Offshore for $1.1 billion as Transocean seeks to expand its deep-water market share with an eye toward an eventual industry recovery. The deal continues a wave of consolidation in the struggling offshore drilling sector, with London's Ensco already in the process of acquiring Houston's Atwood Oceanics for about $850 million. But the offshore acquisitions are risky in a sector that has yet to rebound from the worst oil bust in a generation, even as onshore shale drilling, particularly in West Texas, grows at a strong pace.

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Bloomberg

August 16, 2017

Big Oil Follows Silicon Valley Into Backing Green Energy Firms

Major oil companies are joining Silicon Valley in backing energy-technology start-ups, a signal that that those with the deepest pockets in the industry are casting around for a new strategy. From Royal Dutch Shell Plc to Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp., the biggest investor-owned oil companies are dribbling money into ventures probing the edge of energy technologies. The investments go beyond wind and solar power into projects that improve electricity grids and brew new fuels from renewable resources. While the money involved is small -- a fraction of the $7.5 billion that venture capital and private equity injected into the clean energy industry last year -- the funds support work that may evolve into major income streams in the decades ahead as governments work to limit fossil-fuel pollution and global warming.

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Daily Energy Insider

August 15, 2017

EIA report says US total energy expenditures in 2015 lowest in 11 years

Total expenditures for delivered energy in the United States in 2015 were $1.127 trillion, representing a 20 percent decrease in real terms from the previous year, according to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) State Energy Data System. Adjusting for inflation, total energy expenditures for that year were the lowest since 2004. As a percentage of the total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), total energy expenditures were 6.2 percent of GDP, the lowest percentage since 2002. Forty-five percent of total energy expenditures were spent on the transportation industry, the majority of which went towards fuels for automobiles, rail, aircraft, and ships — a 28 percent decline from the previous year.

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World Oil

August 15, 2017

U.S. operators are teed up for a drilling resurgence

The U.S. E&P industry has survived an agonizing downturn, and now it seems poised to make a comeback. A rapid run-up of drilling activity in some parts of the U.S. suggests that companies have found ways to operate new wells profitably with oil prices that have, so far, been sustainably higher than what the industry experienced in 2016, Fig. 1. OPEC’s move to muster an oil output cutback—among its member countries and other large producers—also has played a part, propping up oil prices high enough for shale operators to rally. One obvious indicator of American activity this year is the Baker Hughes U.S. rotary rig count, which stood at 958 active units on July 28. The current total is more than double what was counted a year ago, representing an increase of 495 working rigs. In fact, in each month since January, the monthly average has increased by a range of 40 to 61 rigs, according to Baker Hughes.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

August 16, 2017

Oil prices edge up on falling US crude inventories, but global glut still weighs

Oil prices rose early on Wednesday on a fall in U.S. crude inventories, although analysts said that markets were still being weighed down by general oversupply. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices,were at $51.01 per barrel at 0023 GMT, up 21 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $47.70 a barrel, up 15 cents, or 0.3 percent. "API oil inventory data for last week was released showing a large 9.2 million barrel decline in crude inventories, while gasoline inventories showed a small build. The market took this as a mildly bullish report," said William O'Loughlin, investment analyst at Rivkin Securities.

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Houston Chronicle

August 15, 2017

Breakneck U.S. drilling creates “industrial inventory” of untapped wells waiting to flow

West Texas drillers again left scores of untapped wells in their wake last month as they drilled and pumped even more oil into the oversupplied market. Last month, oil companies left 135 more wells dormant in the Permian Basin, bringing the inventory of so-called drilled but uncompleted wells to 2,330, up 73 percent compared to last July, according to the Energy Department. Once those wells are brought into production, they could add hundreds of thousands of oil barrels to the nation's surging output each day – even as OPEC tries to cut global supplies to support crude prices, which have stalled under $50 a barrel. In the Permian Basin, the average well comes online producing 400 barrels of oil a day, according to the consultancy Drillinginfo in Austin.

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Rigzone

August 15, 2017

How Elon Musk and Cheap Oil Doomed Push for Another Car Fuel

The idea was nothing short of revolutionary: convert the nation’s millions of trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles to run on natural gas instead of gasoline and diesel. Back in 2008, the proposal by energy magnate T. Boone Pickens had some appeal. U.S. oil production was plunging, and the world’s biggest fuel-consuming country was becoming ever more dependent on foreign crude. Oil jumped to a record near $150 a barrel, while natural gas was comparatively cheap. Pickens co-founded Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to profit from the switch. The maker of natural gas filling stations was once valued at about $1.8 billion. But there was a different kind of revolution. New drilling techniques led to a boom in oil supplies from the U.S., and electric cars took off. Tesla Inc., which had yet to deliver its first electric car a decade ago, now has 455,000 reservations for its Model 3 -- almost 20 times the number of natural-gas vehicles on U.S. roads as of 2015.

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Dallas Business Journal

August 15, 2017

Forbes' list of largest private companies includes 8 from North Texas

Out of the 225 businesses on Forbes’ 2017 America’s Largest Private Companies list, eight are from North Texas. To make the list, companies’ revenue from the most recent full fiscal year had to be greater than $2 billion. Forbes excludes foreign companies, companies that don’t pay income tax, mutually owned companies, cooperatives, companies with fewer than 100 employees and companies that are more than 50 percent owned by another public, private or foreign company.

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Kallanish Energy

August 14, 2017

Carrizo closes $648M deal for Delaware Basin assets

Carrizo Oil & Gas said Friday it completed transactions with ExL Petroleum Management and ExL Petroleum Operating for roughly 16,508 net acres in the Delaware Basin in Texas’ Reeves and Ward counties, for approximately $648 million in cash. The Houston-based independent producer also agreed to pay an additional $50 million annually if the average daily closing spot West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil price as measured by the Energy Information Administration is above $50 a barrel for any of the calendar years 2018 through 2021.

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San Antonio Express News

August 15, 2017

Company wants Dakota Access security complaint dismissed

A North Carolina-based company that says it was a management consultant for the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline is asking a judge to dismiss a complaint alleging it illegally provided security services in North Dakota. Company president James Reese maintains TigerSwan provided only management consulting services for Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners, and that the physical security work was handled by other companies hired by ETP and ETP's contractors.

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Oil Price

August 14, 2017

Can The Permian Push Prices Down To $40?

Two analyst firms have revised upwards their production growth forecasts for the Permian, expecting oil output there to be 300,000 bpd higher by the end of this year. The firms are none other than Wood Mackenzie, whose analysts expect 300,000 bpd more in Permian output by end-2017—a 200,000-bpd increase to its year-end forecast—and Rystad, which sees the cumulative increase for June-December at 300,000 bpd. That’s the kind of consensus market players like to see, especially when it comes a couple of days after reports that investors are pulling out from the Permian after Pioneer Resources reported the share of natural gas and gas liquids in its overall output has been rising at the expense of oil. Investors love their crude, after all, and are much less excited about gas.

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Reuters

August 15, 2017

Hedge funds gamble for a third time on oil rebalancing: Kemp

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again," goes the proverb used to encourage students. Hedge fund managers are becoming bullish toward crude oil and refined fuels for the third time this year and must be hoping the signs of market rebalancing are real this time after early setbacks proved costly. Hedge funds and other money managers raised their net long position in the three major futures and options contracts linked to Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to 705 million barrels in the week to Aug. 8.

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Bloomberg

August 15, 2017

OPEC’s Long-Sought Success Spoiled by 2018 Oil Supply Worry

Oil investors are already worrying over the potential fallout when OPEC’s deal to cut output expires, marring emerging signs that the accord to shrink a glut is finally succeeding. Uncertainty about how supplies curbed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will be returned to the market in 2018 is clouding the outlook for crude, according to BMI Research. Prices remain vulnerable even though demand is strong, production gains are largely exhausted in Libya and Nigeria, and U.S. shale output is slowing, the unit of Fitch Group said in a report.

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Houston Chronicle

August 15, 2017

Large West Texas wastewater spill in Delaware River diluted by rain, BLM says

Heavy rain may have softened the environmental blow of a large wastewater spill in the Delaware River near West Texas oil fields earlier this month, officials say. Before dawn on Aug. 1, a few miles south of the Texas border with New Mexico, an over-pressured flow line ruptured and dumped 18,000 barrels of wastewater and 11 barrels of oil into the Delaware River, flowing for seven hours into the Pecos River and the Red Bluff Reservoir before it was discovered. "Anything this big is a pretty good sized event," said James Amos, a supervisory petroleum engineering tech at the Bureau of Land Management's field office in Carlsbad, New Mexico. "Hitting the waterway makes it even worse."

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Forbes

August 11, 2017

Wald: This Is What The End Of Shale Will Look Like

The Shale Revolution has a big problem. It is heavily dependent on institutional investors and lenders, and they are starting to lose interest in the business. Investment in shale has benefited from a Silicon Valley-like syndrome of focusing more on growth than profitability. But in the past similar strategies of growth-at-all-costs have led to busts. In a boom/bust industry like oil, businesses fall hard. When investors give up waiting for profits, they flee in unison, and when that happens, the Shale Revolution will end. The crux of the issue is that the breakeven costs of shale oil production are still too high for the market. The high costs of extraction and production for shale producers is the greatest variable impacting profit. Some global oil companies can produce for very little cost. It is estimated that Saudi Aramco’s cost is between $4 and $12 per barrel. In the current market, North American shale can be produced for somewhere between $30 and $50 per barrel. When oil was priced at $80, $90 or $100 per barrel, average breakeven prices for shale were much higher, exceeding $100.

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Reuters

August 14, 2017

Distillates to boost U.S. refiners' bottom line through year-end

U.S. refiners such as PBF Energy and Valero Energy are heading into the winter season on their best footing in years, as months of surprisingly robust distillate demand has eaten away at stubbornly high inventories and boosted margins. Inventories of diesel, heating oil and jet fuel are approaching their lowest seasonal levels in three years, fueling expectations among refining executives, traders and analysts that strong margins will help the bottom line for refiners through year-end. "With the distillate inventory correction at a somewhat speedier pace than gasoline, we expect distillate to come close to or even fully correct the imbalance by the end of the year," Barclays said in a research note on Wednesday.

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Associated Press

August 13, 2017

Kuwait says oil spill strikes its waters in Persian Gulf

Kuwait says an oil spill has struck its waters in the Persian Gulf. Kuwait's state-run KUNA news agency reported late Saturday that emergency responders were working toward containing the spill near Kuwait's southern Ras al-Zour. It says officials want to protect waterways, power plants and water facilities first, then clean surrounding beaches. Authorities say that they don't believe the spill came from any of Kuwait's offshore oil fields. Instead, they say they suspect the oil came from a tanker in the Gulf.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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KATC

August 15, 2017

Knight Energy files for Chapter 11

Knight Energy Holdings LLC has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, court records show. The petition, filed Tuesday in federal court, indicates the company has about $50 to $100 million in assets, compared to $100 to $500 million in debt. Chapter 11 is generally known as the "reorganization" method of bankruptcy, because it allows the company or person filing to reorganize their finances. Usually, it involves the sale of assets to try to pay down debts. The company has been embroiled in controversy for several years.

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Dallas Morning News

August 14, 2017

Dallas oil magnate reportedly invests $35 million in Overwatch League e-sports team

As the father of a teenage son, I've learned a few things by osmosis about the amazing popularity of e-sports. ... So with that backdrop, this story from ESPN came into play. Citing anonymous sources, it describes one of the biggest acquisitions of an e-sports team in the growing industry's history — $35 million to move Team EnVyUs from Charlotte to Dallas for a spot in video-game maker Activision Blizzard's upcoming Overwatch League. ESPN identified the buyer as none other than Kenneth Hersh, a Dallas oil and gas magnate and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. (His full résumé is here.) The ESPN story was quickly picked up by news sites such as Bloomberg, Sports Business Daily and Dot Sports.

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Utilities Stories

Tyler Morning Telegraph

August 14, 2017

Tyler Morning Telegraph: Coal subsidies don't make sense

Conservatives who objected to subsidies for green energy - such as the Solyndra money-pit - should object just as strenuously to subsidies for the coal industry, now that President Trump is in office. The principle is the same - let the markets decide. No energy industry should be subsidized by taxpayers - not solar, not oil and gas, and not coal. Someone should remind the Trump administration about this simple economic principle. “West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said Donald Trump is ‘really interested’ in his plan to prop up Appalachian mining by giving federal money to power plants that burn the region’s coal,” the Bloomberg news service reports. “Justice, a coal and real estate mogul elected governor last year as a Democrat, announced at a West Virginia rally alongside President Trump last week that he’s becoming a Republican.

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Energy Post (EU)

August 15, 2017

Petrol car ban won’t work without a huge investment in electric infrastructure

The UK government is proposing a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, in a move that echoes a recent announcement in France. Setting this sort of media-friendly target is a positive and welcome response to the challenge of air pollution across UK cities, write Richard Brooks and Jason Begley of Coventry University. But delivering the infrastructure, research and development support and incentives to switch to greener cars will be the hard part.

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Associated Press

August 10, 2017

Why the withering nuclear power industry threatens US national security

Michael E. Webber, University of Texas at Austin: (THE CONVERSATION) These are tough times for nuclear power in the U.S. Power plants under construction are facing serious delays, halts and cost overruns. Utilities in South Carolina abandoned a project to complete construction of two power plants in August, while the cost of the only nuclear plant now under construction has ballooned to US$25 billion. And it’s no secret that several existing nuclear power plants are at risk of shutting down. In fact, that specter is one of the key motivations behind Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent request to the Department of Energy for an analysis of the challenges facing conventional power plants. While the environmental and reliability impacts of the closures are well-understood, what many don’t realize is that these closures also pose long-term risks to our national security.

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New York Post

August 10, 2017

Trump is ‘interested’ in plan to prop up coal mining: W. Virginia governor

West Virginia’s governor said President Trump is “really interested” in his plan to pay power plants federal money to burn coal from Appalachia, according to a report. Jim Justice, who announced he was switching from Democrat to Republican during an event with Trump last week in the Mountain State, said he has spent a “goodly amount of time” with the president and pitched an idea for the feds to pay $15 per ton to power plants that use coal from mines in the eastern US, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. “He’s really interested. He likes the idea,” said Justice, a billionaire coal and real estate magnate. “Naturally, he’s trying to vet the whole process. It’s a complicated idea.”

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Bloomberg

August 10, 2017

The Eclipse Will Give Us a Glimpse of the Future of Natural Gas

Natural gas is about to get a glimpse of its future role in the U.S. power mix as solar energy’s backup. During the upcoming Aug. 21 eclipse, operators of giant solar fields from California to the Carolinas will cede market share to fast-start natural gas generators as well as hydroelectric plants and other sources to fill the gaps as the sky darkens. The celestial event, the first total solar eclipse visible in the lower 48 states since 1979, will provide owners of gas turbines a chance to shine even as the fossil-fuel is expected to be displaced over time by solar and wind energy. The eclipse comes as the U.S. power grid undergoes a transformation that will have flexible resources complementing growing supplies of solar and wind energy. Solar installations have grown ninefold since 2012 and renewable sources are forecast to supply just as much of America’s electricity demand as gas by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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Regulatory Stories

KUT

August 11, 2017

Science On Oil And Gas Link To Texas Quakes 'Uncertain,' New State Seismologist Says

The science on whether there's a link between oil and gas activity and a surge in earthquakes in Texas isn't clear-cut, says the new seismologist for the agency that regulates the industry here. In an interview with KUT, Aaron Velasco, a professor at the University of Texas El Paso, said he’s excited to influence policy in his new role at the Railroad Commission of Texas – and advise on an earthquake-monitoring system called TexNet. “That’s one of the things that attracted me about doing this, is to use my expertise and to be able to contribute what I can to the state of Texas,” he said. The Railroad Commission is responsible for tackling the increase of earthquakes linked to fossil fuel production here. But, there’s a wrinkle: The agency also acts as cheerleader for the industry, so it doesn't like to publicly acknowledge the link between industry and Texas quakes.

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Houston Chronicle

August 7, 2017

Tomlinson: Businesses becoming governor's 'enemies'

Gov. Greg Abbott has dozens of new companies to add to his enemies list. Houston's most important and prestigious firms have sent him an open letter calling his plans to humiliate transgender people, by requiring them to use public restrooms that match their birth certificates, a clear and present danger to the Texas economy. "We support diversity and inclusion, and we believe that any such bill risks harming Texas' reputation and impacting the state's economic growth and ability to create new jobs," the letter said. "We appreciate your leadership in Texas and urge you to avoid any actions, including the passage of any 'bathroom bill,' that would threaten our continued growth." Who are these immoral liberal weirdos who signed the letter? Jeff Shellebarger, president, Chevron North America E&P and chair of the Greater Houston Partnership. Ryan Lance, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips. Bruce Culpepper, president of Shell Oil Co. Linda DuCharme, president of ExxonMobil Global Services Co. Jeffrey A. Miller, president and CEO of Halliburton.

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Houston Chronicle

August 11, 2017

Weinstein: Think twice about raising taxes on oil and gas industry

Fulfilling his promise to overhaul America's tax system, President Donald Trump will soon offer the details of his plan. Though there has been much speculation about who the "winners" and "losers" may be, it seems likely that the oil and gas industry will be one of the targets. The good news is that the Trump people don't refer to oil industry profits as "obscene," as did former President Barack Obama on numerous occasions. Still, some of the allowances and deductions currently available to oil and gas companies could well be reduced or eliminated. This would be a serious policy mistake. Since 1913, oil and gas companies have been able to expense intangible drilling costs which are much like the research and development deductions enjoyed by other industries. Eliminating this deduction would discourage innovation in the energy sector, thereby jeopardizing valuable advances in oil and gas exploration.

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Oil Price

August 12, 2017

Automotive Giants Are Betting Big On Ride Sharing Tech

A new study is showing consumers are starting to prefer shared mobility services over owning a car and stopping off at a gas station. The study by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Columbia University, surveyed more than 1,200 people in Austin, Texas. They wanted to find out how their transportation habits changed after ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft left the city. Uber and Lyft had pulled out the Austin, Texas, market last year right after their ballot measure failed in a local election. Voters had blocked them from using their own background-check systems to bring in drivers, avoiding the strict guidelines governing the taxi and livery industry. The university researchers found that 41 percent of the respondents went back to using their own vehicle to fill the void, and only nine percent went out and bought a car for their mobility needs. About 3 percent chose public transit, and 42 percent switched to another smaller local mobility startup serving the market.

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Victoria Advocate

August 13, 2017

Crossroads ports less congested than larger ones

The fact that the Port of Corpus Christi is in an attainment zone - an area considered to have good air quality - is an asset that attracts industrial industry because the permitting process is simpler with this classification, Pedersen said. "If you're a company coming with foreign direct investments coming from overseas without any existing plants in the U.S. . you have to get a permit, and that's difficult, very difficult, if not impossible in a nonattainment area - for example, Houston," he said. Port of Corpus Christi officials are moving forward with a $350 million project to deepen the ship channel from 47 to 54 feet, Pedersen said. They hope to start construction later this year and complete the project in three to four years. The port exported and imported more than 100 millions tons of cargo in 2015, Pedersen said. "We are handling like a lot of wind turbine cargo . and we're putting that on rail to the great plains of North America on a big wind turbine project that is being built right now," he said.

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Washington Post

August 14, 2017

Even Trump supporters say trade is good for the U.S., new survey shows

Even though politicians as disparate as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders deride free trade these days, a record number of Americans say international trade is good for the United States, according to a new poll by a nonpartisan think tank. When Americans are asked about specific trading partners and trade agreements, however, opinions start to become more negative and partisan divides loom, the survey shows. The poll, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual survey of more than 2,000 adults around the country in late June and early July, comes as the United States prepares for talks this week to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The pact, which President Trump memorably called the worst trade deal in history, covers nearly 30 percent of U.S. exports and 14 million jobs.

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San Antonio Express News

August 14, 2017

Everything you need to know about NAFTA ahead of Wednesday’s talks

On Wednesday, U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade officials formally begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact between the three nations credited with quadrupling trade since it took effect in 1994. President Donald Trump originally threatened to abandon NAFTA, calling it “economic undevelopment” and “one of the worst deals ever.” Since then, agricultural and industrial trade groups as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been on a loud defensive, stressing that trade under NAFTA has ballooned to $1.3 trillion annually within the bloc.

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Dallas Morning News

August 14, 2017

Trump's idea to drain half of America's emergency oil reserve so far finds few takers

A Trump administration proposal to sell off half of America's emergency oil stockpile is so far proving to be a dry hole. Months after the White House floated the drawdown of hundreds of millions of barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that's partially stored in Texas, Congress has paid little mind to what would be a dramatic shift in U.S. energy and national security policy. Budget writers have ignored the measure. Key committees haven't given it much time. And even lawmakers open to the idea see folly in dumping the reserves when oil prices are so low.

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August 15, 2017

Lead Stories

CNBC

August 14, 2017

Fracking boom: US shale oil output to top 6 million barrels a day in August and September

U.S. shale drillers will keep posting strong gains in August and September, with production from shale regions topping 6 million barrels a day, the Department of Energy projected. The department's Energy Information Administration projected output in several key oil producing regions will grow by 117,000 barrels a day to 6.15 million barrels a day in September. The region's output is seen topping 6 million barrels a day in August. The forecast for this month is significantly higher than a prior estimate, primarily because the EIA began projecting output for the Anadarko region, which covers parts of Oklahoma and Texas, in its August Drilling Productivity Report. Drillers have recently flocked to the Anadarko because the cost of producing oil there is relatively low.

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San Antonio Express News

August 14, 2017

Wind and solar — major sources of power for San Antonio — face external threats; and they’re not Trump

IRAAN — Time moves slowly on the long, slippery climb up the 200-foot-tall wind turbine, broken only by the smell of oil, sweat, and the sound of clanging metal reverberating off the inside of the hollow steel structure. Workers clamber hand-over-hand on a narrow ladder up the inside of tube, their leather gloves and work boots made slick with gearbox oil. A safety harness attached to a steel wire, along with their wits, are all that keep them from a deadly fall. The 161-megawatt Desert Sky Wind Farm’s 107 turbines are perched on top of the Indian Mesa west of Iraan, an oil town in West Texas. For 15 years the turbines have churned in the wind, producing power for San Antonio’s city-owned utility CPS Energy. Further down west Interstate 10, rows upon rows of massive solar panels sit in a valley surrounded by mesas, rotating with the hot desert sun to produce 110-megawatts, all part of the Alamo 6 project. Built by San Antonio-based OCI Solar Power the solar farm is one of the newest power additions for CPS.

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The Intercept

August 13, 2017

Lerner: A legacy of environmental racism

JOSEPH GAINES WAS sitting on his porch in the Charlton-Pollard section of Beaumont, Texas, on a recent evening in June, sipping beer and chatting with some of his neighbors about the NBA playoffs, when a loud boom cut through the night and a stream of fire lit up the sky. A few minutes later, a strong, unpleasant odor settled over the street. As soon as they smelled it, the men stopped arguing about LeBron James and left the porch, covering their mouths and noses as they hurried into their homes. ... A block and a half from Gaines’s house, the street ends in an Exxon Mobil refinery that processes “sour crude,” oil that contains high amounts of sulfur. The process of removing the impurities and refining the oil into gasoline produces sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other gases that can cause respiratory, neurological, cardiac, and other serious health problems. Those gasses also give the neighborhood a rotten egg odor that occasionally wafted in with the warm breeze as Gaines and I sat on his porch. As unsettling as it was, none of the neighbors reported what happened that night — not the fire that rose above their heads, nor the sound they heard, the sickening smell or the symptoms that followed. For Gaines, the symptoms included an intense sudden headache, tearing eyes, a runny nose, and congestion that made it difficult to sleep and lasted into the next day.

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Houston Business Journal

August 11, 2017

Houston lost most manufacturing jobs in the nation in 2016

Harris County lost 18,900 manufacturing jobs, largely tied to the energy industry, which ranked the county No. 1 in the U.S. for manufacturing job losses in 2016. Meanwhile, Montgomery County in The Woodlands lost 2,100 jobs in 2016, ranking No. 6 for more jobs lost. The data is from Austin-based Headlight Data's analysis of information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dallas County created 3,191 manufacturing jobs in 2016, according to Headlight Data. That ranked No. 3 in the U.S. for most jobs created.

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Texas Monthly

August 12, 2017

Microsoft Application Allows Companies to Track Carbon Emissions by the Minute

Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service, just made it easier for companies to track their energy emissions on a nearly real-time basis. According to Greenbiz, Microsoft’s Smart Energy Azure Demonstration platform uses technology from WattTime, which uses data from the EPA and power grid operators around the country, to allow companies to track carbon emissions. Microsoft’s partnership with WattTime will “give power users the freedom to choose when and potentially where they want their electricity to come from,” Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental and cities strategist, said. “For the first time, customers can know the carbon footprint of the power generator that will be tapped when they flip on a switch. This allows customers to optimize when and where they use power in order to reduce their emissions.” WattTime’s technology aims to make it easier for even the average individual to better regulate and reduce their carbon footprint. For companies, information was typically available as a yearly average, but now, companies that use Microsoft Azure could be able to get updated emissions information every five minutes. A demonstration is available on GitHub, along with an explanation that breaks down how the technology works:

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

August 15, 2017

Oil prices steady after overnight tumble on dollar strength, China concerns

Oil prices steadied on Tuesday after sharp falls the session before to the lowest in about three weeks as a stronger U.S. dollar and a drop in Chinese refining runs hit the market. Global benchmark Brent crude futures were up 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $50.76 at 0551 GMT. That was just above the contract's 100-day moving average, briefly breached in the previous session. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 1 cent at $47.58 a barrel. Oil prices tumbled more than 2.5 percent on Monday in volatile trade as the dollar strength and the demand concerns in China, the world's second-largest oil user, weighed on sentiment.

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Houston Chronicle

August 14, 2017

Nabors acquiring Tesco for $215 million

Nabors Industries said Monday it will buy Houston-based Tesco Corp. in an all-stock deal that values Tesco at more than $215 million as Nabors bids to enhance its strengths in drilling and well construction. The all-stock deal buys Tesco at a 19 percent premium from its closing share price Friday, which was less than half of its value at the beginning of 2017. The deal combines two oilfield services companies that operate out of Houston, although Nabors is formally domiciled in Bermuda for tax purposes. Tesco was founded in Calgary, but moved its headquarters to Houston a decade ago, although much of its manufacturing remains in Canada.

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Dallas Morning News

August 14, 2017

North Dakota offers to settle Indian artifacts complaint against Energy Transfer

North Dakota regulators offered Monday to settle state allegations that the Dallas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline improperly reported the discovery of American Indian artifacts during construction. The state Public Service Commission last November proposed a fine of at least $15,000 against Energy Transfer Partners, though the commission has the authority under state law to levy fines of up to $200,000. The three-member commission unanimously agreed to offer a settlement under which ETP would make a $15,000 "contribution" to the State Historic Preservation Office or another mutually agreed-upon entity. The company would not have to admit fault, and the matter would be dismissed upon payment of the money.

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Texas Tribune

August 14, 2017

Oilfield sand miners encroaching on threatened West Texas lizard

A voluntary plan the state of Texas crafted to protect a tiny West Texas reptile — and avoid its listing as an endangered species — is facing a significant threat from companies that mine the fine-grain sand oil producers use for hydraulic fracturing. That’s the central message of a letter Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office sent late last week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updating the federal agency on the status of the “Texas Conservation Plan” for the dunes sagebrush lizard. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the sand-colored critter as an endangered species back in 2010 primarily due to loss of habitat from oil and gas drilling and ranching operations in the Permian Basin — an oil-rich region that spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico and also is home to the threatened lizard.

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Dallas Morning News

August 14, 2017

Months after Dakota Access protests, Dallas' Energy Transfer Partners faces barriers at many turns

After a bruising 2016, there was hope that 2017 would help one of the nation's largest pipeline builders dig out from the heap of national outrage triggered by the controversy over its Dakota Access pipeline. With a light-touch regulatory attitude in Washington, D.C., under President Donald Trump's business-friendly administration, stars had aligned for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners to turn the corner. Yet, with a little over four months left on the calendar, billionaire Kelcy Warren's empire that owns at least 71,000 miles of pipelines is still trying to emerge from the chaos.

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Houston Business Journal

August 14, 2017

Nabors to acquire Houston oil field services co. in all-stock deal

Nabors Industries Ltd. (NYSE: NBR), a Bermuda-based company that has its main offices in Houston, will acquire Houston-based Tesco Corp. (Nasdaq: TESO) in an all-stock transaction. The deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017, values Tesco common stock at $4.62 per share, based on the closing price of Nabors shares on Aug. 11. That’s a 19 percent premium of the closing value of Tesco shares on the same date and a 30 percent premium of Tesco’s enterprise value, based on its cash balance on June 30. In the deal, each outstanding share of Tesco common stock will be exchanged for 0.68 common shares of Nabors.

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CNBC

August 9, 2017

This hard-hit commodity could drop another 30 percent: Trader

One of Wall Street's most closely followed commodities watchers says natural gas bulls are about to get stuck. "The supply curve is on the cusp of really starting to take off in response to a dry gas rig count in the U.S. that's gone from 80 rigs to 189 rigs in the last 12 months," Robert Raymond said Tuesday on CNBC's "Futures Now" when discussing oversupply in the market. "People are underestimating how much associated natural gas is really going to come out of a lot of the 'oil shale wells' as well." The founder of RCH Energy explained that these factors will continue to spur overproduction in the market. From here, Raymond believes this action will serve as a lead balloon for the price of the commodity.

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Houston Chronicle

August 11, 2017

CB&I's planned technology sale is part of new lender agreement

Financially struggling energy contractor CB&I risked violating its loan agreements at the end of June, but reached amended deals with its lenders. The new agreements require CB&I to use the proceeds from a planned $2 billion sale of its technology business to pay nearly all of its $1.8 billion in debt. Failure to make that payment without lender approval would put the company at risk of default. The Woodlands-based CB&I is enacting a new strategy to fix its finances as a smaller company more focused on engineering, construction and fabrication for the petrochemical, refining, liquefied natural gas and gas-fired power sectors.

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Reuters

August 13, 2017

Energy hedge funds look to spreads, margins as long bets flail

For the oil-trading community, the fall of hedge fund manager Andy Hall signaled a heavy blow, but while commodity funds continue to shutter their doors, some are finding other ways to make money, including trading refining margins and calendar spreads. Commodity hedge funds have dwindled in recent years as oil prices slumped, leaving only a handful of larger players, including Hall, who ran the Astenbeck Capital Management fund until deciding to close it following losses this year. A number of funds bet heavily on an oil rally early in the year, boosting long futures positions to a record in late February, before oil went into a prolonged slump as global supply remained elevated despite cuts from OPEC.

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The National (UAE)

August 14, 2017

Kuwait first in Middle East to use chemical oil extraction

Kuwait has begun injecting chemicals into complex oil reservoirs to extract heavier grade oil, in the first operation of its kind in the Middle East, the state-owned Kuwait Oil Co said on Sunday. The project in the north of the country "aims to enhance and develop Kuwait's oil reserves" as part of ambitious long-term goals for the sector, the company. "Chemical injection of surfactants is often used for heavy oil extraction or for low-permeability reservoirs," said Sadad Al Husseini, a former executive vice president at Saudi Aramco.

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Houston Chronicle

August 14, 2017

BP fires up two major gas projects in Trinidad and Australia

BP recently began pumping natural gas from two major upstream projects, including the $2 billion Juniper development it operates off the coast of the Caribbean nation Trinidad and Tobago, the company said Monday. With the start-up of the 10,250-ton Juniper platform off Trinidad and another project operated by another company off the coast of Western Australia, BP has brought five of a planned seven projects online this year, part of an effort to boost its output by 800,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day by 2020. "These new projects, with their lower development costs and higher margins, also further improve BP's resilience to the (commodity) price movement," BP CEO Bob Dudley said in a statement.

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Centre Daily Times (PA)

August 14, 2017

Buckeye makes their case for reversal of Laurel pipeline; local refiners disagree

An approximate 90-mile stretch of pipeline between Pittsburgh and Altoona is the focal point of a passionate debate between the pipeline company that wants to reverse the flow and a coalition of others including local refineries along the Delaware River. Texas-based Buckeye Partners, the owner of the Laurel Pipeline, has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to consider reversing the flow of gasoline in the pipeline, in the process pushing up to 40,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel through the line each day toward central Pennsylvania. The line currently moves petroleum products from east to west and Buckeye would like to flip that, making it flow west to east. “We’re responding, not causing things,” said Bill Hollis, Buckeye Partners Senior Vice President and President of Buckeye Services. “The competitive dynamics of all this is what it is. It’s set by a global energy system and the free markets. Everything we do is very pro-consumer.” Hollis said East Coast refining has decreased by 440,000 barrels per day over the past decade, while Midwest refiners increased capacity by 350,000 barrels per day.

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Rigzone

August 14, 2017

More than 100 Oil, Gas Job Cuts Coming in Texas

Three companies plan on laying off part of its workforce in the fall. According to three separate letters sent to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), 105 Texas workers will be laid off. Rowan Companies, Inc., a subsidiary of Rowan Companies plc, is laying off 85 workers assigned to the Rowan EXL III (UDW drillship) due to the termination of a drilling contract. The rig is currently working for Arena Offshore in the Gulf of Mexico near Lake Charles, Louisiana with work expected to be finalized by the end of September. Layoffs will begin October 1 and are expected to be permanent. Andeavor Corporation (formerly Tesoro) is cutting 15 employees from its workforce at its San Antonio headquarters.

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Casper Star Tribune (WY)

August 14, 2017

Out of bankruptcy, Ultra focuses on Western Wyoming

Ultra Petroleum is digging deep in Western Wyoming. The Houston-based company, which emerged from bankruptcy in April, announced a net income of nearly $500 million from April to June this year. Revenue was up 45 percent during the second quarter compared to 2016. Ultra is the largest producer of gas in the Upper Green River Basin for 2017, according to state records. It declared bankruptcy last spring, $3.9 billion in debt, during a slate or Chapter 11 filings and layoffs. Executives were optimistic for the latter half of the year. “We’re a Western basin natural gas company, serving a Western market that has seen little to no gas supply growth,” said CEO Mike Watford, in a call with investors Wednesday. “We have a very real opportunity of significant resource expansion with the horizontal program we have planned.”

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St. Louis Post Dispatch

August 14, 2017

Armstrong Energy warns it may file for bankruptcy protection

Armstrong Energy, citing “recurring losses from operations,” says it could be headed to bankruptcy court. The Clayton-based coal company, in a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said “it may be necessary” to voluntarily seek Chapter 11 relief to allow it to restructure, or that “creditors could force us into an involuntary bankruptcy or liquidation.” Armstrong, which has been working in recent months to restructure its finances, operates five mines in western Kentucky and touts itself as a leading supplier of thermal coal — used for electricity and heat generation — in the Illinois Basin, which also includes swaths of Southern Illinois and Indiana.

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Utilities Stories

Texas Tribune

August 11, 2017

Rodriguez: El Paso: A test case for proposals attacking rooftop solar

Homeowners and small businesses increasingly use rooftop solar to generate power and lower electricity costs. Communities win when more solar is installed. It creates local jobs, reduces reliance on polluting traditional generation and reduces the need for electric companies to build new, costly infrastructure that will be paid for through customers' electric bills. Ignoring these benefits, El Paso Electric (EPE) has tried once already to handicap solar development. Now they're at it again — and, if successful, could begin a trend of anti-solar proposals statewide. All El Paso residential customers, solar and non-solar alike, are charged only for electricity they actually use. Through solar net metering, customers earn credit for self-generated power, lowering their monthly bills.

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KUHF

August 14, 2017

Texas House Member’s Ties To Utility Districts Raise Ethical Questions

When it comes to lawmakers who have signed big contracts with municipal utility districts — political subdivisions often referred to as MUDs — state Rep. Cecil Bell is in a class of his own. Bell’s pro-developer attitude and his seat this year on the MUD-governing House Special Districts Committee make him a go-to lawmaker at the Capitol for builders who need help from the government. As a state representative, the Republican from Magnolia has sponsored a number of bills to create or benefit MUDs in recent years. As a general contractor — he owns several companies that build water and wastewater treatment facilities and install underground utilities — he’s been awarded numerous contracts from MUDs, including one that he helped create.

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Associated Press

August 14, 2017

EPA moves to rewrite limits for coal power plant wastewater

The Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to scrap an Obama-era measure limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants. A letter from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt released Monday as part of a legal appeal said he will seek to revise the 2015 guidelines mandating increased treatment for wastewater from steam electric power-generating plants. Acting at the behest of electric utilities who opposed the stricter standards, Pruitt first moved in April to delay implementation of the new guidelines. The wastewater flushed from the coal-fired plants into rivers and lakes typically contains traces of such highly toxic heavy metals as lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium.

This article appeared on the WSBT website

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Bloomberg

August 11, 2017

The U.S. Nuclear Industry’s Last Hope Seeks Help From Trump

President Donald Trump has vowed to revive America’s dying nuclear industry. Backers of a troubled Georgia nuclear project want him to prove it. They have asked the administration to come to the aid of a project to build two reactors to the Southern Co.’s Vogtle power plant, according to people familiar with the talks. That could include increasing or speeding up disbursements of $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to the companies behind the nuclear plant, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing ongoing negotiations. A Georgia public service regulator was in Washington to make a case for the project, the last nuclear plant under construction in the U.S., and Southern has hosted congressional staff members at the construction site. The company also wants Congress to extend tax breaks for nuclear power.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Wall St. Journal

August 14, 2017

Foreign Solar Firms Gain Unexpected Support in Tariff Fight

A fight is brewing over possible trade protections for U.S. solar equipment and is uniting disparate groups, including green-energy advocates and conservative free-trade policy organizations. The U.S. International Trade Commission this week will hear initial arguments, for and against, a petition filed by bankrupt solar-panel maker Suniva Inc. to levy a 40-cent per watt tariff on imported solar cells, the piece of equipment that converts sunlight into electricity. The company has also asked the ITC for a minimum price of 78 cents a watt, including the 40-cent tariff, on solar panels made by foreign manufacturers.

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Houston Chronicle

August 14, 2017

Fitch: Solar project beating early projections, while wind struggles

Solar projects around the globe are exceeding "initial independent estimates," the ratings agency Fitch said in a report Monday. Looking at electricity production from solar projects across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North and South America since 2010, Fitch analysts found they met or exceeded their early estimates 70 percent of the time. "Solar projects have benefitted from better-than-expected solar irradiance and plant availability," the agency said. "The track record of solar projects is shorter, but they clearly have lower operational risk, better generation performance and lower volatility than wind projects."

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Energy Manager Today

August 14, 2017

DOE Wind Report Reveals Falling Costs, Rising Capacities

Wind power in the country took off in 2016, according to the new annual Wind Technologies Market Report prepared by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and published by the US Department of Energy this month. The US added 8,203 megawatts of wind power last year and saw $13 billion invested in new plants. Overall, wind power constituted 27% of all US generation capacity additions in 2016, the report says. Several states came out on top for wind. Texas installed the most capacity last year — 2,611 megawatts — and reached a cumulative capacity of 20,320 megawatts. Oklahoma followed with 1,462 added megawatts, and Iowa came in third with 707 megawatts. Iowa also topped the list of states with the highest percentage of wind for in-state generation in 2016 at 36.6%. South Dakota came in second with 30.3% and Kansas was a close third at 29.6%.

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

August 14, 2017

Fluor Enterprises, Lane Construction on track to design, build Texas' proposed bullet train

Irving-based Fluor Enterprises and the Lane Construction Corp. have been chosen to operate the high-speed rail line that will carry travelers between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, developer Texas Central Partners said Monday. The announcement comes after more than three years of development by Texas Central, the private company behind the $12 billion-plus venture. The project will be backed by private investors and the company has pledged not to seek public money. The 240-mile high speed rail line would take travelers between the cities in less than 90 minutes, with trains departing every 30 minutes during peak periods.

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The Hill

August 14, 2017

Sierra Club sues Energy Department over long-awaited grid study

The Sierra Club on Monday sued the Department of Energy (DOE) for its “secrecy” over a key study on the reliability of the electric grid. In its lawsuit, the Sierra Club said the agency did not respond to open records requests seeking information about internal deliberations and outside communications over the study. “We’ve repeatedly asked DOE for information to ensure reality and science are coming before polluter politics, but we have only been met with delays and secrecy,” Mary Anne Hitt, the director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement.

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Dallas Morning News

August 14, 2017

The economy in Texas and across the country rolls right along with the railway industry

Even with the energy industry in a bit of a slump, Forbes magazine ranked Texas the fourth-best state for business. Texas also ranks first for current economic climate, thanks to having the second-fastest economic growth and the third-fastest job growth in the nation over the past five years. And 109 of the 1,000 largest public and private companies in the U.S. are based in Texas. Other states cite our state as their competition for attracting and maintaining jobs. Freight rail infrastructure is another area in which Texas leads. We boast the highest railway mileage and number of railroad employees in the country. The strength of the rail network and the strength of the economy in Texas are not coincidental.

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The Hill

August 14, 2017

Neugebauer: The deep state is recklessly supporting bad energy policies

Many of the fiercest battles I fought in Washington were to stop government from creating additional financial burdens on the Texans I represented. The 19th Congressional District of Texas, — stretching from Abilene, through Lubbock to the New Mexico border — boasts some of the hardest working Americans I have known. These men and women are the backbone of our country, but few of these households are especially wealthy. Most are solid middle-class people that value family, honesty and hard work. Recently, I’ve seen Washington officials make another effort at advancing a tired argument that we should shift blindly toward renewable energy sources. The impact of this misguided policy on Texas, and the rest of middle-class America, would be unacceptable.

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Washington Times

August 14, 2017

Gay rights movement goes corporate, pays big business as ally in bathroom bills fight

The Texas Association of Business has been an outspoken opponent of the state’s proposed transgender bathroom bill, predicting the legislation will lead to a massive economic backlash and cost the state as much as $8.5 billion in lost business. The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce was similarly alarmed by the 2015 push for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that it would negatively affect the state’s “ability to attract and retain jobs, talent and investment.” ... These small-business coalitions and others across the country share a common source of funding: the national gay rights movement. Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the debate over gay and transgender rights has increasingly been framed in economic terms. ... Tony McDonald, legal counsel of the conservative nonprofit Empower Texans, said the gay rights movement has relied more on corporate influence to implement its agenda since the legalization of same-sex marriage.

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Think Progress

August 10, 2017

Energy Department puts national lab employees on notice of job cuts

The Department of Energy approved plans to reduce the workforce of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Brookhaven National Laboratory by as many as 525 positions. Both labs maintain the planned staffing cuts are not related to the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to DOE’s science programs. The labs’ explanations for the staffing reductions, though, have not eased worries among researchers who question whether the job cuts represent the first of many to come at other national labs as DOE feels pressure from the Trump administration to cut costs. Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior also have been put on notice about looming staff reductions.

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August 14, 2017

Lead Stories

Bloomberg

August 13, 2017

Venezuela's Citgo Turns to Canada for Oil as Crisis Deepens

Venezuela’s oil-supply woes are so dire that its U.S. refineries are turning to Canada for help. Citgo Petroleum Corp., the largest U.S. importer of Venezuelan oil and a unit of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA, has started to make quiet inquiries to buy Canadian crude for its refineries in Texas and Louisiana, according to people familiar with the situation. The imports would be used to replace dwindling shipments from Venezuela, where output dropped to a 14-year low in July. Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest crude reserves, is shipping less to Citgo as it redirects more of its shrinking supply to China and India to repay loans. Canadian crude, equally heavy and high in sulfur as Venezuelan oil, is a natural replacement, said Dinara Millington, vice president of research at the Canadian Energy Research Institute in Calgary.

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Houston Chronicle

August 13, 2017

How long can the U.S. keep hackers at bay and the lights on?

After it came to light this summer that hackers had infiltrated the computer networks of two U.S. power companies - at a time the country was still reeling from Russian cyberattacks aimed at influencing the 2016 election - the possibility of hackers taking down the U.S. power grid and sending the nation into chaos suddenly seemed a very real possibility. The companies pledged there was no danger. Senators called hearings and wrote letters to the White House demanding to know what it was doing about it. But to the teams of cybersecurity analysts charged with protecting the world's industries from a rapidly evolving deluge of malware, viruses and other tools of the hacker trade, it was just the latest in an escalating cyberwar against power grids and other critical infrastructure around the globe.

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Automation World

August 9, 2017

Safer Pipelines Depend on Advanced Automation

Like much of the nation’s infrastructure, more than half of its 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines were built in the 1950s and 1960s. This aging network has become more difficult to maintain as corrosion and the years cause pipes and related equipment to deteriorate. Though pipelines are inarguably the safest way to move oil and gas, keeping on top of pipeline conditions is critical for any operator. It’s an area where automation technologies have a role to play in helping to detect leaks, corrosion, failing equipment and other problems early enough to prevent serious damage to humans and the environment. Pipeline operators are required by federal regulations to conduct a visual inspection for leaks at least 26 times a year by walking, driving or flying over their pipeline rights of way. Not only is this often manually intensive and time-consuming, but human eyes are probably the least effective way to find a leak unless it’s a major one.

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Bloomberg

August 13, 2017

Without Oil, North Korea Sanctions Won't Stop Kim

For North Korea’s fledgling economy, the latest round of sanctions will cut deep. The curbs on everything from lead and fish exports to shady North Korean companies coincide with a deadly drought that’s ruining crops, darkening an already dire humanitarian picture. ... But for all the humanitarian and economic pain, the new measures aren’t likely to deter Kim Jong Un from his ambition of developing an arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles. That’s because Kim, who’s banking on military power to survive, has a web of illicit channels to skirt sanctions and the new curbs leave out the vital ingredient of oil. "North Korea’s dependency on Chinese fuel is China’s choke hold on Pyongyang," said Dennis Wilder, former senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. "If this goes, the North Korean air force can’t fly jets and their electricity system can’t function."

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Utility Dive

August 11, 2017

Challenge to carbon rules for new power plants delayed indefinitely

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided to extend a delay in litigation over carbon pollution standards for new power plants, and ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to file progress updates every 90 days. The standards are the first national limits on carbon pollution from new, modified or reconstructed power plants that run primarily on coal, and are in effect now. Those standards largely open the door to carbon capture and storage to help these plants capture part of those emissions. The case, North Dakota v. EPA, challenged the legality of those standards, saying carbon capture and storage technology is not an "adequately demonstrated technology" and thus making those standards is unlawful.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

August 14, 2017

Oil prices dip on weak Chinese refining activity

Oil prices dipped on Monday as a slowdown in Chinese refining activity growth cast doubts over its crude demand outlook, while rising U.S. shale output suggested supplies would likely remain high. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices,were at $52.00 per barrel at 0504 GMT, down 10 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $48.78 a barrel, down 4 cents, or 0.1 percent.

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ABC News

August 11, 2017

US rig count decreases by 5 this week to 949; Texas loses 7

The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. decreased by five this week to 949. A year ago, just 481 rigs were active. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes said Friday that 768 rigs sought oil and 181 explored for natural gas this week. Among major oil- and gas-producing states, California and New Mexico each increased by one rig. Texas lost seven rigs and Louisiana decreased by one.

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San Antonio Express News

August 11, 2017

San Antonio-based Andeavor to build $225M pipeline in West Texas

San Antonio-based refiner Andeavor Corp. will build a $225 million crude oil pipeline in West Texas. Andeavor, formerly Tesoro Corp., said the first phase of the 130-mile Conan Crude Oil Gathering Pipeline system will transport 250,000 barrels per day and begin in Loving County and Lea County, New Mexico and will connect with other pipelines in Loving County, according to a news release. A second phase could double the pipeline’s capacity to 500,000 barrels a day. Western Refining started an open season for the Conan pipeline system in May. Andeavor announced it was buying Western in November for $4.1 billion and completed the deal on June 1.

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UPI

August 11, 2017

Texas rig permitting nearly doubles from 2016

Accounting for about half of all the active rigs in the United States, the energy regulator in Texas said total drilling permits nearly doubled from last year. The Railroad Commission of Texas, the state energy regulator, said it issued 1,011 original drilling permits last month, compared with the 631 issued in July 2016. Of those, 893 were for drilling new oil or natural gas wells. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas shale is the most productive in the nation. Based on its latest drilling productivity report, the EIA expects production from the Permian shale basin to increase 2.5 percent from July for about 2.5 million barrels per day. Eagle Ford production would increase 2 percent to 1.38 million barrels per day if EIA forecasting is accurate.

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Houston Chronicle

August 12, 2017

To thwart trucking logjam, Noble Energy replicates Colorado strategy in West Texas

PECOS - On a rocky strip of land here, six tall storage tanks guzzle oil and water flowing from a nearby well, waiting for tank trucks to rumble down dirt roads for yet another pickup. For many drillers in the remote Delaware Basin, a section of the broader Permian Basin that stretches across West Texas and New Mexico, the only way to get crude from the fringes of oil boom towns to global markets is to dispatch fleets of trucks to scattered wells, from where they haul oil and water to terminals and various other collection points. With truckers in high demand - and commanding top salaries - it's an expensive obstacle for oil companies scraping pennies to ride out the recent drop in oil prices. Meanwhile, as drilling rigs spread across oil fields, the Delaware Basin's sparse and jagged roads have become dangerously crowded.

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Reuters

August 11, 2017

U.S. shale output poised to keep rising despite investor concerns

Shale production in the largest U.S. oilfield should rise by as much as 300,000 barrels per day by December, according to updated forecasts following the industry's latest quarterly results. The higher outlooks, amid worries the recent breakneck pace of gains may not be sustained, come on the heels of one high-profile Permian Basin producer's oil output miss last quarter and decisions by several other energy companies to trim annual budgets. Oil production from the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico is closely watched because its low costs and rapid growth have pressured efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to drain a global crude supply glut.

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Houston Business Journal

August 11, 2017

Houston energy private equity firm invests $47M into Chicago startup

Houston-based private equity firm EIV Capital has invested $47 million into a Chicago company that turns cow manure into 100 percent renewable natural gas for commercial trucks. The startup, AMP Americas, which launched in 2011, has raised $57 million to date. The company makes renewable natural gas from cow waste, and turns it into fuel for long-haul trucking companies. AMP Americas also owns and operates a network of public compressed natural gas fueling stations for commercial trucks. The goal, the company says, is to get trucking fleets to use cost-effective, clean and American-made natural gas.

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Reuters

August 8, 2017

Continental becomes latest U.S. shale producer to cut budget

Continental Resources Inc (CLR.N) cut its 2017 capital budget on Tuesday, the latest U.S. shale oil producer to cut back on drilling and fracking equipment amid tepid crude prices. The company, which is majority controlled by Chief Executive Harold Hamm, said it would spend $1.75 billion to $1.95 billion this year, down from a prior $1.95 billion target. Continental said it can be cash flow neutral - that is, spend as much as it makes - with oil prices CLc1 between $45 and $51 per barrel. By cutting its budget, Continental is following the direction of many of its U.S. shale peers, who have already cut more than $1.2 billion from their spending plans for the year.

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Houston Chronicle

August 11, 2017

Plains All American selling stake in Utah pipelines for $250 million

Houston's Plains All American Pipeline is selling its stake in two Utah pipelines for $250 million to a subsidiary of Dallas-based HollyFrontier. HollyFrontier's pipeline business, Holly Energy Partners, is acquiring full ownership - it already owned partial stakes - of the Frontier Aspen Pipeline and the SLC Pipeline. Holly previously owned half of Frontier Aspen and a quarter of SLC.

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Wall St. Journal

August 10, 2017

British Columbia Vows to Block Pipeline Expansion

The government of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, vowed Thursday to use every legal option to stop construction of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s planned expansion of a pipeline connecting the Alberta oil sands with the Pacific Coast. Under new, left-leaning leadership and citing risks to its environment and food supply, the province began to detail its plan to halt the energy project that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved late last year. Shares in Kinder Morgan Inc. and its Canadian subsidiary fell on the news but later recouped some losses. The development sets up another showdown over the need to get Canada’s landlocked oil and gas reserves to faster-growing Asian markets to spur growth—a crucial goal for a resource-reliant country that is still dealing with lower commodity prices.

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Houston Chronicle

August 11, 2017

Shell's massive Appomattox hull begins voyage to Texas

The massive four-column hull of a deep-water oil platform began sailing from South Korea to Texas this week, starting a months-long voyage that will bring Shell closer to finishing a multibillion-dollar Gulf of Mexico project. The departure is the latest milestone for a gigantic venture the European company sanctioned two years ago in the face of a raging oil bust that forced many of its rivals to scuttle offshore plans. As oil prices tumbled, Shell spent $600 million and employed 1,500 workers in Texas and Louisiana alone to fabricate parts for the so-called Appomattox project, expected to start pumping oil 80 miles off Louisiana by the end of the decade. Even so, Shell says it could still wring a profit from its 125,000-ton platform with oil prices below $50 a barrel, after deep cost cutting.

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KOSA

August 11, 2017

Report: West Texas produced over 23 million barrels of oil in month of May

West Texas still reigns supreme when it comes to oil production. The Texas Railroad Commission has just released its most recent production report. It shows Midland County taking the top spot, producing over 6.5-million barrels of oil in the month of May. Midland County is one of six counties in the top 10. Martin County, Reeves County, Upton County and Andrews County took spots five through eight.

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Bloomberg

August 11, 2017

Threat of Venezuelan Oil Ban Pits Oil Boss Hamm Against Refiners

The prospect of a U.S. blockade of crude oil imports from Venezuela has ignited fierce lobbying in Washington pitting domestic energy producers such as oil tycoon Harold Hamm, who favor a get-tough approach, against refiners that depend on those supplies. Hamm said hitting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro where it counts would deter the socialist leader’s moves to undermine democracy and consolidate power. In an interview, the Continental Resources, Inc. chief executive officer urged President Donald Trump to block the oil, a vital source of revenue for Venezuela. "If the president wants to make an immediate impact on Venezuela to stop these human rights abuses and restore the situation, he’s got the ability to," said Hamm, speaking as head of the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, whose members include producers, oilfield service companies and independent oil and gas associations.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

August 12, 2017

Waste disposal firm readying south Midland facility

Among the businesses expanding to accommodate the proliferation of drilling rigs throughout the Permian are those specializing in oil and gas waste management. Houston-based Milestone Environmental Services is in the process of constructing its newest oil field waste disposal facility south of Midland on Highway 349 just across the Upton County line. “We built our first facility in the Permian Basin in Pecos a little over a year ago to serve the Delaware,” Gabriel Rio, Milestone’s president and chief executive officer, said in a phone interview from his Houston office. Given the strong response, “we decided we needed to double down in the Permian,” he said. The new facility is expected to open in the fourth quarter of this year. It will initially employ 18 to 20 -- from facility managers and shift supervisors to pump operators and wash rack technicians.

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Houston Business Journal

August 9, 2017

Houston ranks second in Texas for CNG vehicle adoption

A new statewide study shows that there are fewer compressed natural gas-powered vehicles on Texas roadways, but those figures are expected to rise later this year. There are 9,040 CNG vehicles on the Lone Star State's roads, down 6 percent from last year, according to a study released Aug. 8 by the Texas Natural Gas Foundation. Harris County ranks second in Texas with 1,825 CNG vehicles, and it has the most CNG fuel stations at 28. CNG is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline or diesel. Part of the decline is attributed to the downturn in crude oil prices, which prompted many companies in the energy sector to reduce their fleets, including alternative fuel vehicles.

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Transport Topics News

August 9, 2017

Natural Gas Sector Pushes Surge in Plastics Industry

When diesel fuel prices soared a few years ago, natural gas was heralded as an affordable, abundant and domestically sourced alternative fuel that fleets could rely on for years. The hydraulic fracking sector was booming, and drillers were tapping natural gas with the hope of filling fuel tanks of commercial trucks. But as diesel prices stabilized, natural gas lost some of its luster, and for trucking, it hasn’t become the savior some expected. But that doesn’t mean there’s no market for natural gas. In fact, when it comes to liquefied natural gas in particular, refiners have turned their attention to a broader use: plastic goods. “Petroleum, especially natural gas, can easily be thought of as plastic. So the abundance of natural gas means it’s also easier to make plastic,” said Rigoberto Advincula, professor at the Department of Macromolecular Science at Case Western Reserve University, who is an expert in polymer science.

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Wall St. Journal

August 11, 2017

Global Oil Supply Grows on Higher OPEC Output Despite Deal

The global oil supply rose for a third consecutive month in July, even as the market continues to rebalance, the International Energy Agency said Friday. In its closely watched report, the IEA said oil supply had increased by 520,000 barrels a day last month to 98.16 million barrels a day, up 500,000 barrels on a year earlier. Despite efforts to cut production, crude output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed by 230,000 barrels a day in July to a new 2017 high of 32.84 million barrels a day, the report said. That figure was in line with data released by OPEC on Thursday.

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Utilities Stories

Dallas Morning News

August 13, 2017

Bennett: Berkshire bid for Oncor is good for Texas business

North Texas power line utility Oncor may have finally found a suitor who understands Texas business concerns. Oncor has been embroiled in the bankruptcy proceedings of its parent, Energy Future Holdings, for several years. The Public Utility Commission of Texas has appropriately scrutinized two prior proposals to buy Oncor, the most valuable asset in the bankruptcy, and is now about to consider a third offer. The bankruptcy court handling the EFH pending bankruptcy will also have a say in who buys Oncor, a decision with tremendous impact for North Texas.

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Associated Press

August 12, 2017

Texas Officials Look at Power Grid's Reliability

Some electricity companies in Texas are planning to put less money into maintaining and modernizing plants, causing some officials to worry about energy reliability in the state. Electricity companies are seeing less profit as other sources of electricity, such as wind and solar, have entered the market, the Houston Chronicle reported . Some companies are now planning to cease investments in modernizing plants and may begin shutting some down. "Nobody saw this coming," said Ed Hirs, an energy economist and professor at the University of Houston. "What ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas) is concerned about is. . not having enough electricity for when you need it, for whatever reason." Regulated systems often build in the cost of keeping plants running while not in high demand into the rates set. However, Texas deregulated electricity in 2002. Since then companies have relied on price spikes during the hottest days of summer when demand is high to make money.

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Bloomberg

August 11, 2017

The U.S. Nuclear Industry’s Last Hope Seeks Help From Trump

President Donald Trump has vowed to revive America’s dying nuclear industry. Backers of a troubled Georgia nuclear project want him to prove it. They have asked the administration to come to the aid of a project to build two reactors to the Southern Co.’s Vogtle power plant, according to people familiar with the talks. That could include increasing or speeding up disbursements of $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to the companies behind the nuclear plant, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing ongoing negotiations. A Georgia public service regulator was in Washington to make a case for the project, the last nuclear plant under construction in the U.S., and Southern has hosted congressional staff members at the construction site. The company also wants Congress to extend tax breaks for nuclear power.

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NASDAQ

August 10, 2017

Saft: Staid utility investing world upended by green energy revolution

The formerly staid, predictable world of utilities investing faces a revolution as the price of solar and wind energy plunges, creating new winners and losers. But dramatic falls in the cost of solar and wind energy pose a threat to that safe profile, potentially leaving utilities with large and increasingly un-economic sunk costs in older generating technologies. Average whole life project costs for large wind and solar generation in the United States are now less than for coal or nuclear and about the same as natural gas, according to a study of tax subsidy-neutral prices from investment bank Lazard.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Tomlinson: How Tesla and batteries could recharge Houston's energy title

We need to start thinking about how Houston can remain the energy capital of the world when oil demand begins to fade. The collapse of oil prices from above $100 a barrel to less than $50 has slowed the city's economy to a standstill. And according to every forecast, people in wealthy countries are using less oil year after year. Poor people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are the only source of new demand. Eventually, though, demand for oil will grow slower than the world's gross domestic product, or even population growth, and take away the industry's ability to generate high profits or add jobs. But a zombie oil industry does not have to bring stagnation to the Bayou City.

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Bloomberg

August 11, 2017

Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe's Power Grids

Electric car owners are earning as much as $1,530 a year just by parking their vehicle and feeding excess power back into the grid. Trials in Denmark carried out by Nissan Motor Co. and Italy’s biggest utility Enel SpA showed how batteries inside electric cars could help balance supply and demand at times and provide a new revenue stream for those who own the vehicles. Technology linking vehicles to the grid marks another challenge for utilities already struggling to integrate wind and solar power into their distribution system. As the use of plug-in cars spreads, grid managers will have to pay closer attention to when motorists draw from the system and when they can smooth variable flows.

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Regulatory Stories

San Antonio Express News

August 12, 2017

Ozone violation again on the table after EPA walks back delay

The Environmental Protection Agency just did an about-face on a federal ozone standard. Two months ago, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency would extend an October deadline for deciding which U.S. cities do not meet limits on ozone. The EPA now says it will make that decision by Oct. 1, according to Thursday’s Federal Register. That means San Antonio is again at risk of being found not in compliance with a 2015 ozone standard. The city is the largest in Texas and among the largest in the U.S. whose air meets all federal standards. “Nonattainment” is government jargon for not meeting the standard, and it would likely slow federal transportation funding for new road projects and make it more difficult for industries expanding or relocating to San Antonio to get air-quality permits.

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Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

August 10, 2017

What’s shaking? New state seismologist will tell us

Aaron Velasco is going to be telling Texas oil and gas regulators what’s shaking. Velasco was hired this week by the Texas Railroad Commission to be its seismologist to help the agency study where and when there is seismic activity as it relates to oil and gas drilling. The railroad commission regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas. Velasco will replace the commission’s first seismologist, Craig Pearson, who was hired in 2014 after a rash of earthquakes in North Texas were linked to oil and gas drilling. Pearson, who resigned June 1, remains on staff as the director of the Midland Oil and Gas Division District office.

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Wall St. Journal

August 13, 2017

What U.S. Wants From Nafta Talks

President Donald Trump’s trade team this week will begin the complicated task of rewriting the sprawling North American Free Trade Agreement, the 23-year-old pact he has branded a “disaster” for U.S. factory workers. The negotiators’ challenge: finding a way to address workers’ concerns while keeping the promise to “do no harm” to the large number of industries and communities that have benefited. The negotiations with Mexico and Canada, starting Wednesday in Washington, mark Mr. Trump’s first concrete attempt to translate his strong protectionist campaign rhetoric into policy. Early signs have been largely reassuring to business leaders and trade partners, who have worried that the president’s demands would uproot rules that are by now embedded in the continent’s commercial ecosystem. They say there is much they all can embrace in the Trump proposals, some of which borrow from the Obama-era Pacific trade deal that Mr. Trump killed on his first full day in office.

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San Jose Mercury News

August 11, 2017

Pollution fines down 60 percent under Trump

The Trump administration has collected 60 percent less from civil penalties for environmental wrongdoing than the administrations of presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did on average in their first six months in office. That’s according to an analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group founded 15 years ago by former enforcement attorneys at the Environmental Protection Agency. The administration has lodged 26 cases for violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental laws (not including Superfund sites) and it collected $12 million in penalties from companies, the group said. Clinton, Bush and Obama respectively lodged 45, 31, and 34 cases and collected $25 million, $30 million and $36 million in penalties.

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The Hill

August 13, 2017

CIA director: 'No intelligence' to suggest US on cusp of nuclear war

CIA Director Mike Pompeo in an interview Sunday said he has seen “no intelligence” suggesting that the United States is on the brink of a nuclear war with North Korea. “I’ve seen no intelligence to indicate that we’re in that place today,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday." “This administration has made our policy very clear. We’ve engaged the world to support that policy,” Pompeo told host Chris Wallace.

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August 11, 2017

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal

August 9, 2017

Investors Question Oil Output in Permian Basin, America’s Fastest-Growing Field

Investors helped turn West Texas’ Permian Basin into America’s fastest-growing oil field, but their confidence is cracking over whether drillers can keep production rising. Questions mounted last week after Pioneer Natural Resources Co. PXD -1.59% reported that its Permian wells are producing more gas and natural gas liquids such as propane than expected. That worried investors, who care a lot more about oil. ... The main issue for Wall Street is whether the Permian, where nearly half the rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. are located, will continue apace or will fall short of the expectations of investors, who in recent years crowded into companies drilling there. “The Permian is going to have some growing pains,” Scott Hanold, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said this week. The concerns aren’t universal, and some say they are overblown.

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Dallas Morning News

August 10, 2017

Watchdog: Texas’ electricity marketplace riddled with deceivers, manipulators and violators

How much trouble can one Texas electricity company get into? If you're super-huge Direct Energy, the answer is a jolt. Every few years, the mammoth British-owned company pays a steep fine to Texas regulators. Yeah, Direct Energy, The Watchdog keeps track of your sorry record. You and your companies are about to earn your 11th fine since the market was deregulated. These violation fines are handed down by the (Public) Utility Commission. Parentheses around "Public" because I gave up on the idea that the PUC actually cares about us, the public. It's the Utilities Commission. So many marketplace manipulators sell electricity in Texas. Yet state enforcement against these deceptive trade practices could be much stronger. Getting fined is a chore. Companies must engage in unethical conduct so widespread and obvious that wrongdoing can't be ignored.

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Houston Chronicle

August 10, 2017

Electric car forecast predicts 21% market share by 2035

Electric cars will be a regular feature of global roadways within the next two decade, far faster than many government forecasts predict, according to a study by the research firm Wood Mackenzie. The study predicts that by 2035 there will be 350 million electric cars on the road - representing 21 percent of the total vehicles - as world governments seek to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change. "This scenario of a carbon constrained world... extends the impact of renewables, energy efficiency and electric vehicles; builds an increased role for energy storage technologies and provides access to decarbonized electricity in the developing world," the report reads.

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Forbes

August 10, 2017

Tinker: Why 'Keep It In The Ground' Is Not Necessarily Green

Passionate voices in environmental, political and even academic spheres have recommended elimination of 85% of global energy by keeping oil, natural gas and coal in the ground, thus cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions. This, they argue, is for the welfare of the global climate and of the impoverished who, they claim, will be hurt most by the impacts of climate change. These activists suggest that fossil fuels can be replaced relatively easily with intermittent, low-density sources of energy such as wind and solar, as well as with massive production of chemical batteries in hundreds of new “gigafactories.” They have persuaded politicians to introduce “keep it in the ground” legislation, influenced regulators to subsidize renewable energy where renewable resources are poor, and helped to polarize the public. The “keep it in the ground” mantra is misleading at best. At worst, the economic intervention that requires proliferation of “green” energy can actually hurt human development and endanger the environment.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

August 11, 2017

Oil prices drop as oversupply concerns linger

Oil prices fell on Friday, dragged lower by persistent worries about oversupply despite a bigger-than-expected drawdown in U.S. crude inventories. Investors were also keeping a close eye on the broad market impact of tensions between the United States and North Korea. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 30 cents, or 0.58 percent, at $51.60 per barrel by 0336 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 31 cents, or 0.64 percent, at $48.28 a barrel. Oil prices touched 2-1/2 month highs on Thursday, but retreated to close down around 1.5 percent, with U.S. prices slipping back below $50 per barrel amid ongoing oversupply concerns.

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Houston Chronicle

August 10, 2017

Oil bankruptcies slow dramatically this year

The number of North American oil companies shuffling into bankruptcy court has fallen dramatically this year, a new report shows. Fourteen oil producers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the first half of the year, down from 50 in the first six months of 2016, according to Dallas law firm Haynes & Boone. The cases filed this year, including Colorado oil explorer King's Peak Energy, Canada's Rooster Energy and Houston-based Vanguard Natural Resources, involved a combined $5.1 billion in debt. All told, 128 U.S. and Canadian oil producers have carried some $79.3 billion in debt into bankruptcy court since 2015.

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Associated Press

August 10, 2017

Beware at the pump: Black market fuel is making millions

A black market for diesel and gasoline has rapidly spread around the nation, with organized crime gangs using fraudulent credit cards to siphon millions of dollars in fuel from gas stations into large tanks hidden inside pickup trucks and vans. Stealing fuel can be less risky than selling drugs or other illegal endeavors, and criminals can make $1,000 or more a day re-selling the stolen fuel at construction sites and unscrupulous gas stations, or to truckers looking to cut costs, investigators and industry experts say. ... Black market diesel started becoming a big business when credit card “skimmers” became more prevalent around 2006, DeWitt said. Thieves install these devices at gas station pumps, where they record card information as unsuspecting customers fuel up. The information is later transferred to a magnetic strip on a counterfeit card. The problem has only grown as the devices become more sophisticated.

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Dallas Morning News

August 10, 2017

Houston driller's Alaska play: Model for oil and gas industry or inexcusable conduct?

In the energy industry, Hilcorp has built a reputation for fast growth, big profits and making people rich. This 28-year-old Houston-based company has kept a low public profile while becoming one of the top five privately held oil and gas producers in the United States. Founder Jeffery Hildebrand has become a billionaire, rising up the ranks of the 100 richest Americans. Employees, who got six-figure bonuses for meeting output goals, rave online about their employer, which Fortune magazine has lauded as one of the 100 best companies to work for five years in a row. In regulatory circles, however, and among environmentalists, Hilcorp has become known for different reasons.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Louisiana port project could define ceiling for shale oil demand

A proposed Louisiana port project could define the ceiling for the future of the Texas shale oil boom, according to a new report. While Houston and Corpus Christi are leading the way in the burgeoning crude oil export industry, they could be surpassed by proposed plans to turn the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port into a "two-way LOOP" that ships out crude as well as receives it. The LOOP is currently gauging customer interest for major crude exports. If successful, LOOP could make oil exports comparable to the nation's growing liquefied natural gas export industry. If the interest isn't there, we'll know the "ceiling on international demand for shale crude," argues Sandy Fielden, Morningstar's director of oil and products research.

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Public News Service

August 10, 2017

Oil-Spill Fines to Create 300 Conservation Jobs in Gulf Coast States

Conservation groups announced that 300 new conservation jobs will be created in Texas and other Gulf Coast states with restoration funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The $7 million project, funded by fines from the incident, will repair and restore coastal areas damaged by the oil spill in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Mary Ellen Sprenkel, executive director at Corps Network, a group that organizes young adults to do conservation work, said the jobs will go to people from the towns where the work needs to be done. "We will be working with our existing programs in the Gulf states to train young people in their communities to do this restoration work - to provide young people with training, to do the ecological work and provide them with career opportunities,” Sprenkel said.

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Seeking Alpha

August 10, 2017

Zigler: Oil Is A Buy Again

Something happened to the oil market at the end of July. It went unnoticed to a lot of investors and traders. Why? Well, mostly because trading rooms emptied out for August vacations. And then, it was just a little thing anyway: a bullish crossover in the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spot oil. Near-term price momentum is accelerating. A barrel of front-month WTI is now changing hands at the $49-$50 level. If there's any oomph to oil's current momentum, a price objective of $61-$62 could come into view. You may know that bull moves in the crude oil market have been recent rarities. In fact, the last sustained upsurge was a 27-month stretch from February 2009 to April 2011-a bounceback from the Great Recession.

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Environmental Defense Fund

August 9, 2017

Shell becomes latest oil and gas company to test smart methane sensors

This week, the oil and gas giant Shell took a positive step toward addressing methane emissions. The company announced a new technology trial at a wellsite in Alberta, Canada, where it is piloting a specially designed laser to continuously monitor emissions of methane, a powerful pollutant known to leak from oil and gas equipment. The move by Shell is a glimpse into the future and demonstrates growing market interest in smart, sensor-based methane detection technology. Shell’s project joins a similar field test already underway in Texas, operated by the Norwegian producer Statoil, and a California utility pilot run by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Each of these deployments is promising, but the ultimate test will be broad-scale adoption of innovations that generate actual methane reductions.

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Power Source

August 8, 2017

Proposed settlement would allow drilling to resume on Mariner East pipelines

State regulators, Sunoco Pipeline and environmental groups have reached a settlement agreement to allow underground boring to resume on the Mariner East 2 cross-state natural gas liquids pipeline with conditions meant to protect against the kinds of spills that have bedeviled the construction project so far. The proposed settlement filed Tuesday evening calls for Sunoco to re-evaluate higher-risk sites where it plans to perform horizontal directional drilling or where lubricating muds migrated through cracks to the ground or water during drilling for the project. A Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board judge halted directional drilling for Sunoco’s twin pipelines on July 25 until he could hold a hearing to evaluate environmental groups’ challenge to the construction permits. Some of the restrictions were lifted last week.

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Texas Monitor

August 9, 2017

Carlos Uresti attorney fighting to represent the senator in fraud case

With an Oct. 23 court date looming, a criminal defense attorney is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that disqualified him from representing State Sen. Carlos Uresti in a fraud case that some have likened to a Ponzi scheme. Attorney Mikal Watts was disqualified by Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad on July 10, saying Watts had a conflict of interest because he previously represented Denise Cantu, a woman identified as a victim in the case against Uresti.

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Houston Chronicle

August 8, 2017

Cheniere reports net loss as it nears completion of 4th LNG unit

Houston's Cheniere Energy said Tuesday it's nearing completion of its fourth liquefied natural gas unit at its massive Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana near the Texas border. Cheniere said it is raising its earnings guidance going forward because its construction projects are ahead of schedule, bringing on LNG trains faster than anticipated. Cheniere, which became the nation's first LNG exporter early last year, turned its first quarterly profit at the end of 2016. Despite the growth in second-quarter revenue, Cheniere reported a net loss Tuesday.

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Houston Business Journal

August 2, 2017

Houston-based well-services company launches IPO

Houston-based Ranger Energy Services Inc., a provider of well-site services and associated equipment to the oil and gas industry, launched its initial public offering on Aug. 1. The 5 million shares are expected to be priced between $16 and $18 each, and the company plans to grant underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 750,000 shares. Before deducting the underwriting discount and estimated offering expenses, the IPO could raise up to $90 million, or $103.5 million if underwriters exercise their option in full, based on the expected price range.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Tomlinson: Batteries could help Houston keep energy capital title

We need to start thinking about how Houston can remain the energy capital of the world when oil demand begins to fade. The collapse of oil prices from above $100 a barrel to less than $50 has slowed the city's economy to a standstill. And according to every forecast, people in wealthy countries are using less oil year after year. Poor people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are the only source of new demand. Eventually, though, demand for oil will grow slower than the world's gross domestic product, or even population growth, and take away the industry's ability to generate high profits or add jobs. But a zombie oil industry does not have to bring stagnation to the Bayou City.

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Wall St. Journal

August 11, 2017

OPEC Says Crude Output Rose in July

OPEC crude oil production rose further in July, in the latest sign the cartel’s efforts to reduce output and drain a global supply glut are falling short. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ output rose by roughly 0.5%, to 32.87 million barrels a day last month, up by 172,600 barrels from June. The uptick, which was smaller than the prior month’s increase, was driven by higher production in Libya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, according to OPEC’s closely watched monthly market report. The report comes as Saudi Arabia—OPEC’s largest member and the world’s biggest crude exporter—has been pressuring other members of the cartel for better compliance with an agreement to curb production output.

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Associated Press

August 9, 2017

Judge approves Jill Stein's plea deal for pipeline protest

A North Dakota judge on Wednesday accepted a plea agreement that spares former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein any jail time for protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline nearly a year ago. Judge Gail Hagerty accepted a plea deal in which Stein pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief and prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge. Stein will be on unsupervised probation for about six months and must pay $250 in fees. She had faced a maximum punishment of two months in jail and $3,000 in fines.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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Philadelphia Inquirer

August 10, 2017

A Texas oilman is Pa. pot's biggest loser

Jack Kidd is finished with medical marijuana. “I’m done,” said the Texas oilman, who operates a natural gas pipeline in the hinterlands of northeastern Pennsylvania. “I just don’t care anymore.” Kidd sniffed opportunity last year when Gov. Wolf legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. In March, the El Paso entrepreneur applied to the commonwealth to grow marijuana at a site he had picked out 30 miles north of Scranton. In June, the state Department of Health awarded a dozen growing permits. Kidd’s company, PTMD Farm LP, was shut out. Of all the applicants, his score put him dead last. “We only got 195 points out of 1,000,” he said. “It was an insult.”

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Forbes

August 4, 2017

Nine Natural Gas Facts That You Should Know

1. FERC now finally has quorum for the first time since early-February, and with a huge backlog of unapproved pipeline projects at least 6 Bcf/d of new takeaway capacity projects are scheduled to come online throughout the critical Appalachian Basin between now and the end of First Quarter, 2018. Although don't expect significant volumes flowing through the troubled Rover pipeline until next year - a 3.25 Bcf/d line carrying PA and OH shale gas into eastern Michigan and up into Dawn Hub in Ontario. 2. From 2016-2018, U.S. piped gas export capacity to Mexico will double to nearly 15 Bcf/d. The country now takes about 4.2 Bcf/d from the U.S. and needs more U.S. supply because gas is 60% of Mexico's electricity and domestic production is rapidly dropping. But, bear in mind that the 2013 Energy Reforms have been progressing and upstream auctions for more foreign investment have been successful. Mexico's de-regulation is about producing more, not importing more from the U.S, with a $640 billion investment required.

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New Haven Register

August 6, 2017

Yale scientists developing low-energy method to desalinate sea water

Removing salt from seawater to create distilled water is not a new phenomenon. But using solar power to make the incredibly energy-intensive process potentially viable for a household or a small, remote community is new. Historically, desalination, or the removal of salt and minerals from water to make it drinkable or usable for watering crops, typically requires a large amount of energy, according to Menachem Elimelech, a professor of environmental and chemical engineering at Yale University. Now however, with a combination of the sun and nanoparticles, Elimelech knows it doesn’t have to be.

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Utilities Stories

Platts

August 10, 2017

Lower wind, higher load pushes up gas share in ERCOT

Weaker wind output and heavier load resulted in natural-gas fired generation taking up more than half of the fuel mix in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in July, an almost two-year high, with more nuclear outages in the footprint, the most recent ERCOT data showed. ERCOT's energy supply totaled over 38 TWh in July, a significant jump of nearly 13% from June's total at 34 TWh, but almost flat with the year-ago level of 38 TWh. Moreover, the grid operator set July daily peakload records twice, on July 20 and 28, reaching 68.8 GW and 69.5 GW, respectively, while the prior July record stood at 67.7 GW, set in 2015. July 2016's peak was at 67.4 GW. Natural gas-fired generation supplied 50.6% of the total demand, a level last reached in August 2015 of 51.2%, compared with 44.9% in June and 45.6% in July 2016.

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Longview News Journal

August 10, 2017

Longview News Journal: All power lines at Lake O' the Pines must either be raised or removed

Enough. Frankly, it was enough 35 years ago, when a respected Longview lawyer was killed as the mast of his sailboat came into contact with a power line overhanging Lake O' the Pines. And it certainly is enough now that three promising young men have been killed in a sickeningly similar incident last weekend at the reservoir north of Longview. The East Texas community — indeed the nation — has been horrified by the accident that took the lives of three Boy Scouts participating in an organized campout at the reservoir, just as members of Hallsville's Troop 620 have done every summer for years. This time, though, the mast of the catamaran manned by two Eagle Scouts who were teaching a younger troop member to sail made contact with a power line strung across Alley Creek on the reservoir's north shore, electrocuting the boys.

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Spectrum News

August 9, 2017

EPA recognizes City of Austin for leading green power use

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its annual ranking of Top Green Power Partners, and the City of Austin ranks fifth in the nation among local government purchasers of energy produced by renewable sources. Austin is also the largest city in the country to have 100 percent of all city-owned buildings and facilities powered by renewable energy resources. Austin Energy, boasts the No. 1 renewable energy program in the nation for sales every year since 2001.

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Houston Chronicle

August 10, 2017

Despite layoffs, contract workers recruited for local NRG plants

Contract workers are being recruited to help maintain NRG Energy power plants in the Houston area even as the company lays off long-time employees as part of its effort to cut costs, shed debt and return the company to profitability. NRG, which laid off workers in Texas and across the country earlier this week, declined to disclose the number of employees affected by cuts. But plant maintenance workers in the Houston area -- some with more than 30 years at NRG -- said that at least 80 of them received layoff notices.

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Utility Dive

August 9, 2017

Challenge for merchant generators is opportunity for private equity

A tough market for merchant generators could be a fertile field for private equity investors. The merchant power business model is distressed and headed for a “second round of bankruptcies,” a recent study by Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP and the Power Research Group finds. Merchant generators like Calpine, Dynegy and NRG Energy are struggling with heavy debt loads and low power prices. That has prompted asset sales by the likes of Dynegy and NRG Energy, with private equity again stepping up as a buyer. ... It is a cyclical pattern, a function of the forward curve for gas and power prices, Paul Maxwell, a director in the energy practice at Navigant, told Utility Dive. When these assets become distressed, “private equity steps in for the short term,” he said.

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Austin American-Statesman

August 10, 2017

About 100 protesters call for Austin to end fossil fuel use for power

More than 100 people rallied at City Hall Thursday evening to protest an Austin Energy power generation plan they think does not go far enough to end the use of fossil fuels to power the city. The plan, which has been approved by several city commissions, actually increases the goal of the percentage of renewable energy generated for the city from 55 percent to 65 percent with a contingency that could bring it up to even 75 percent. However, dozens of people clad in green T-shirts and outfits were calling for Austin to end all fossil fuel use for generating power.

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Utility Dive

August 9, 2017

Report: Challenges faced in Europe hold lessons for US generators

A report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) highlights how conventional power generators in Europe are finding ways to address problems that U.S. generators also face. European generators have been struggling with competitive forces and overcapacity that has resulted in lower demand and, thus, fewer kilowatt hours produced and for lower wholesale power prices. The report says that a conventional cost cutting approach to the problem do not provide a long-term solution and generators should combine those strategies with lean management systems and new digital technologies.

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Cleveland Business

August 10, 2017

America's other coal job, ignored by politicians, is dying fast

A couple months ago, Donald Trump was cheering a new coal mine in Pennsylvania that will put 70 people to work -- good news for a president whose pledge to revive the industry helped get him elected. But a bigger group of coal workers has already suffered sweeping job cuts, and it’s bracing for more. Coal-fired power plants employ more people than mines, and they’re shutting down all over the country. Cheap natural gas, the rise of renewables backed by tax credits, and subsidies for nuclear energy will likely combine to keep the trend going -- and leave more people like Lynnette Faje out of work. Faje had spent more than a quarter century at an Illinois-based power company that’s owned today by NRG Energy Inc. She had survived two buyouts and had spent her final three years at the company as a laborer on the plant floor after her office position was cut. She found out her $23.50-an-hour job was being eliminated entirely while taking minutes one day at a local union meeting.

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Oil Price

August 10, 2017

Global Nuclear Power Capacity Could Double By 2050

The world’s installed nuclear power capacity could increase by 123 percent in 2050 compared to 2016 levels, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report this week. These projections, however, are the so-called high in 2050. In the low case, the IAEA estimates are for a decline in capacity in the near future, followed by a rebound to current levels nearer 2050. In the high case, nuclear capacity is expected to rise from 2016 levels by 42 percent in 2030, 83 percent in 2040, and by 123 percent The main factors that are and will be influencing the future of nuclear energy are public acceptance, financing, and electricity markets. “If nuclear power’s potential as a low-carbon energy source grows in recognition and advanced reactor designs further improve both safety and radioactive waste management, the use of nuclear power could grow significantly,” the IAEA says.

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Power Source

August 9, 2017

Westinghouse: Project canceled 'without warning'

A week after efforts to build two Westinghouse power plants came to a screeching halt in South Carolina, the Cranberry-based nuclear firm chronicled the shock of the moment and began dealing with the aftershocks. About 6,000 people worked at the V.C. Summer site where two utilities, SCG&E and Santee Cooper, had commissioned Westinghouse Electric Co. to build two AP1000 power plants nine years ago. Westinghouse had hundreds of its own employees at the site last week when the South Carolina utilities decided to stop the construction project that already was years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The decision stemmed in large part from Westinghouse’s March 29 bankruptcy, the utilities said. But their move came “without warning,” Westinghouse said in a document filed with the bankruptcy court Monday.

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Philadelphia Inquirer

August 9, 2017

Ridge: Keep nuclear in the nation's energy mix

America’s electrical grid was failing. In some parts of the country, natural gas generation could not produce because the gas was not available. Coal plants were shutting down because their coal piles were frozen. Forty thousand megawatts of forced outages almost plunged the Northeastern and Midwestern United States into darkness. This scenario is not hypothetical: It happened in January 2014. This serious threat to our electrical grid was caused by the weather — by a “polar vortex” that slammed the country with prolonged extreme cold, freezing coal stacks and rendering natural gas unavailable. It was an act of nature. It could just as easily have been an act of terror. And in its aftermath, one fact stood out: Almost all of the region’s nuclear power remained operational throughout the crisis.

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Wall St. Journal

August 7, 2017

South Carolina Seeks Ways to Salvage Nuclear Project

An energy company’s decision to abandon work on a nuclear project in South Carolina has left the state reeling and the governor seeking one of several solutions to save at least one of the two reactors. Last week, Scana Corp. said it would walk away from its project to build two nuclear reactors in tiny Jenkinsville—after nine years and $10.4 billion spent—stunning local leaders and the 600 nuclear employees and 5,000 construction workers at its V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. The move left Jenkinsville, population 71, with an unfinished worksite the size of 1,000 football fields, while electric customers continue to pay 18% of their bill for a nuclear-power plant that may never generate a single kilowatt.

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Washington Times

August 6, 2017

Trump’s former Las Vegas cohorts gird for battle to stop his Yucca Mountain nuclear waste plan

The White House’s plan to revive a nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has pushed President Trump into an all-out war with Las Vegas, as powerful casino owners and city economic leaders vow to fight the administration tooth and nail over the proposal. Advertisement Mr. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for $120 million to restart licensing procedures for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which would be less than 90 miles from the Las Vegas Strip and would store roughly 77,000 tons of used nuclear fuel that now sits at sites across the country. Administration officials argue that they have an obligation to find a permanent burial ground for that fuel and that it’s long past time to push back critics and get the facility up and running.

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Washington Post

August 10, 2017

African Americans in Appalachia fight to be seen as a part of coal country

The depiction of the working-class struggle in Appalachia — boosted by the nation’s renewed interest in so-called coal country — has been overwhelmingly white. That conflicts with the reality of towns like Lynch, a former coal camp clinging to the tallest mountain in Kentucky, where an estimated 200 of the 700 residents are black, according to recent American Community Survey data. ... While the white population has decreased across the 13-state region of Appalachia — stretching from southern New York to northern Alabama — the number of black residents has increased or remained the same, according to a report from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Although that population shift is mostly happening in the Appalachian South or in larger metropolitan areas, places like Lynch have seen it, too.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Texas Monthly

August 10, 2017

It’s Not Easy Going Green

It is often the state’s blue (and increasingly urban) areas that elect to go green. In July, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized the cities of Houston, Dallas, and Austin for being among the largest green-power users among local governments across the nation. The three Texas cities all ranked within the top five out of thirty local governments recognized by the agency’s Green Power Partnership. Noticeably absent from the list were Texas suburbs. Since 2015, the city of Dallas has purchased renewable energy credits to offset 100 percent of municipal energy use, but the nearby suburb of Plano (the state’s ninth largest city), has nothing like this program. As big businesses relocate their headquarters, however, change is coming to Plano.

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Bloomberg

August 7, 2017

Electric Car Boom Drives Rush to Mining's $90 Billion Hub

A scramble by the lithium market’s biggest players to tie up supply of the high-tech metal is gathering pace in the 170-year-old heartland of Australia’s $90 billion mining industry. Rising Chinese demand for lithium-ion batteries needed for electric vehicles and energy storage is driving significant price gains and an asset boom in Australia, already the world’s largest lithium producer. The fast-developing hub is drawing investment and deals from global producers as well as chemical-to-battery manufacturers in China, the top consumer. Western Australia has four operations in production and three more major projects being advanced to begin output. Major players are likely to continue to scope for deals in the state to secure supply for the next 20 or 30 years, according to consultant Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

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San Antonio Business Journal

August 9, 2017

San Antonio falls in statewide rankings for adoption of CNG vehicles

A new statewide study shows that there are fewer compressed natural gas-powered vehicles on Texas roadways, but those figures are expected to rise later this year. There are 9,040 CNG vehicles on the Lone Star State's roads, down 6 percent from last year, according to a study released Tuesday by the Texas Natural Gas Foundation. The study shows that 199 of those CNG vehicles are in Bexar County, down 39 percent from last year. As a result, Bexar County fell from fourth to seventh in statewide rankings for the adoption of CNG vehicles. Part of the decline is attributed to the downturn in crude oil prices, which prompted many companies in the energy sector to reduce their fleets, including alternative fuel vehicles.

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Washington Post

August 6, 2017

Nonprofit installs solar panels on roofs of lower-income households — free

The trainees are part of the summer cohort of the newly launched Solar Works DC, a low-income solar installation and job-training program jointly developed by the District’s Department of Energy and Environment and the Department of Employment Services. The program will train more than 200 D.C. residents over three years, and GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic was awarded a grant to implement the first year of the program. The organization will train about 75 program participants in skills needed for careers in solar and related fields, and install solar panels for 60 to 100 income-qualified District homeowners. Before homeowners can receive their solar panels, a shade analysis is conducted to make sure the panels will receive sufficient sunlight to make the system viable. Once the panels are installed, any solar energy that is not needed to power the house is transferred to the power grid. All of this is part of the District’s larger goal of having 50 percent of its energy supply come from renewable sources by 2032, of which 5 percent would come from local solar power, as outlined in the city’s climate and energy plan. And training young residents in solar installation would prepare them to work in the rapidly growing solar industry, which added jobs almost 17 times as fast as the overall U.S. economy last year, according to an International Renewable Energy Agency report.

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Regulatory Stories

Oil Price

August 9, 2017

Calcuttawala: Why Trump Won’t Tear Apart The Iran Nuclear Deal

The Gulf’s well-orchestrated row against Qatar represents the single biggest development in anti-Iran sentiment in the Middle East since Trump’s election. But like other international stories, this one isn’t covered very well in TV news media. The Russia election scandal takes up most of the airtime. North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests, which suggest the pariah country could ostensibly hit the U.S., has taken Iran’s place as the biggest nuclear weapons concern for the State Department. In short, the [Iran nuclear deal] lives because the Trump administration has not prioritized the deal in the current geopolitical landscape. Withdrawing from the unratified deal, like Trump withdrew from the unratified Paris climate change agreement, would take serious geopolitical capital, capital that he lost after leaving the Paris agreement. The European Union could stick to the [Iran nuclear deal], which is just as well for them because their companies actually have skin in the Iranian oil scene. American oil majors are still barred from doing any business in Iran, so Tehran has nothing to lose economically from a U.S. abstention. At this point, Trump is forced to use carrots, not sticks, to get the policy outcome he desires from Iran.

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The Hill

August 10, 2017

Bledsoe: US can boost gas exports, cut global emissions in one fell swoop

Infamously, Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, but the rest of the world knows better. In fact, the main reason European and Asian nations are interested in importing U.S. natural gas is to displace coal and cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. If the Trump administration truly cares about expanding U.S. gas exports, as they claim, they should maximize the competitive advantage that lower-emitting U.S. natural gas has over not only coal, but also over higher-emitting Russian gas. This means the administration should stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to rollback domestic regulations of methane emissions from gas development, and perhaps use the threat of sanctions against Russian gas pipelines (as allowed under the new Russia sanctions law) to expand U.S. markets.

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New York Times

August 8, 2017

In Sweltering South, Climate Change Is Now a Workplace Hazard

For many working class people, President Trump’s promise to make America great again conjured images of revived factories and resurgent industries, fueled by coal and other cheap fossil fuels. Such workers gave more of their votes to Mr. Trump than they did four years before to Mitt Romney, helping him eke out victory in November with narrow wins across the Rust Belt. Latino votes fell off for Democrats as well, from the 71 percent that went to Barack Obama in 2012 to the 66 percent that went for Hillary Clinton last year. But to Robert D. Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University who some call the “father of environmental justice,” the industrial revival that Mr. Trump has promised could come with some serious downsides for an already warming planet. Professor Bullard is trying to bring that message to working-class Americans like Mr. Guerra, and to environmental organizations that have, in his mind, been more focused on struggling animals than poor humans, who have been disproportionately harmed by increasing temperatures, worsening storms and rising sea levels.

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August 10, 2017

Lead Stories

Reuters

August 8, 2017

EIA cuts U.S. oil production growth forecast for 2018

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday it expects U.S. crude oil production in 2018 to rise by less than previously expected. The agency forecast that 2018 crude oil output will rise by 560,000 barrels per day to 9.91 million bpd. Last month, it expected a 570,000 bpd year-over-year increase to 9.9 million bpd. For 2017, it forecast a rise of 500,000 bpd to 9.35 million bpd. Last month, it expected a 460,000 bpd increase to 9.33 million bpd, according to the EIA's monthly short-term energy outlook.

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RT Insights

August 8, 2017

How Real-Time Technology Keeps Electricity Flowing

Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a way to predict weather hazards, vulnerability of electric grids and the economic impact of the potential damage. Another interesting – as well as potentially life-saving and economically powerful — application of real-time technology is emerging from the labs of Texas A&M University. Aggie researchers say they have developed an intelligent model that can predict a potential vulnerability to utility assets and present a map of where and when possible outages may occur.

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Associated Press

August 9, 2017

US oil industry pushes back on sanctions against Venezuela

The Trump administration's decision on Wednesday to slap sanctions on eight members of Venezuela's all-powerful constitutional assembly brings to 30 the number of government loyalists targeted for human rights abuses and violations of democratic norms since anti-government protests began in April. But even as the list of targeted individuals grows longer, promised economic sanctions have yet to materialize amid an outcry by the U.S. oil industry that a potential ban on petroleum imports from Venezuela — the third-largest supplier to the U.S. — would hurt U.S. jobs and drive up gas costs. The sanctions announced Wednesday focused on current or former Venezuelan government officials accused by the U.S. of supporting President Nicolas Maduro's creation of a special assembly charged with rewriting Venezuela's constitution — a move the U.S. says is an attempt by Maduro to shore up his grip on power.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

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Huffington Post (HuffPost)

August 4, 2017

King: China’s Not So Secret Weapons — Rare Earths

The commodity that could bring us to our knees isn’t oil, but rather a group of elements known as rare earths, falling between 21 and 71 on the periodic table. This time, just one country is holding the noose: China. China controls the world’s production and distribution of rare earths. It produces more than 92 percent of them and holds the world in its hand when it comes to the future of almost anything in high technology. Rare earths are great multipliers and the heaviest are the most valuable. They make the things we take for granted, from the small motors in automobiles to the wind turbines that are revolutionizing the production of electricity, many times more efficient. For example, rare earths increase a conventional magnet’s power by at least fivefold. They are the new oil.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Atlantic may spawn as many as 19 storms as El Nino odds fade

The Atlantic hurricane season will probably end with an above-average 14 to 19 named storms that can rattle energy and agriculture markets now that it is almost certain a system-deterring Pacific El Nino won’t arrive. At least 5 to 9 will become hurricanes with 2 to 5 becoming major systems with winds of 111 miles (179 kilometers) per hour or more, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. Storms are named when their winds reach 39 mph. In May, the agency said 11 to 17 storms would form. “There is a possibility now that the season will be extremely active,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane seasonal forecaster at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. “We are now entering the historical peak months of the season. This three month period is when the bulk of hurricanes occur.

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Oil & Gas Stories

San Antonio Express News

August 9, 2017

Texas House to take up contentious tax rollback elections Saturday

As a property tax revamp heads toward a House vote Saturday, tea-party-aligned lawmakers are promising to attack a rule that would prevent them from making it tougher for cities and counties to raise tax revenue. The bill’s author, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dennis Bonnen, said Wednesday that if they’re successful in fighting the no-amendments rule, they’ll kill the proposal. The battle illustrates the delicate balancing act when it comes to the bill that would institute automatic rollback elections if cities, counties and special districts raise property tax revenue over a certain level.

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CNBC

August 10, 2017

Oil prices edge higher after US stockpile fall

Oil futures rose in early Asian trading on Thursday, adding to gains from the previous session after official figures showed U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up 8 cents, or 0.15 percent,at $52.78 at 0015 GMT. It closed 1.1 percent higher on Wednesday, snapping two days of declines. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up 8 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $49.64, after rising 0.8 percent in the previous session. U.S. crude stockpiles fell last week as refineries boosted output to the highest percentage of capacity in 12 years, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

CB&I selling technology business, suspending dividend

Financially struggling energy contractor CB&I said it's putting its technology business up for sale and suspending its investor payouts to help stabilize the bottom line. With the energy sector's construction boom largely stalled, The Woodlands-based CB&I reported a $425 million quarterly loss on Wednesday and revealed that its revenues fell more than 40 percent from the same time last year. CB&I's goal now is to come out of this difficult period as a smaller, more focused company geared toward the liquefied natural gas, petrochemical, refining and gas power generation sectors, said new CEO Patrick Mullen.

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San Antonio Express News

August 9, 2017

Abraxas Petroleum swings to a profit with a comeback in U.S. oil fields

San Antonio-based driller Abraxas Petroleum Corp. earned $7.2 million in the second quarter, boosted by this year’s comeback in the oil industry and its new wells in the country’s biggest shale fields. Its profit of 4 cents a share compares with a loss of $46.9 million, or 40 cents a share, during the same quarter last year, according to financial results released Tuesday after the market closed. The oil and gas producer’s revenue reached $13.2 million during the three months ended June 30, up from $11 million during the same period last year.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Andeavor, formerly Tesoro, says earnings plunge 90 percent

San Antonio-based refiner Andeavor Corp.'s profit fell 90 percent in the second quarter, missing Wall Street estimates as the company took a $209 million "adjustment" to the value of its inventory and incurred higher expenses, the company said Tuesday. Formerly known as Tesoro Corp., the company earned $40 million in the three months ended June 30, down from $418 million during the same period last year, Andeavor said in releasing its second-quarter results. The company made 31 cents a share, down from $3.47 a share during the same quarter last year. Andeavor, now the nation's fifth-largest refiner, missed Wall Street expectations of $1.59 cents a share, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

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Platts

August 7, 2017

Mexico expects participation in repeat auction for natural gas pipeline capacity

Mexico's National Gas Control Center, or CENAGAS, expects companies to participate Thursday in the auction repeat for state-run power utility CFE's cross-border natural gas pipeline capacity in the northern region. CENAGAS declared void the CFE's first-ever annual auction on July 10 due to a lack of participation for 2.2 Bcf/d of capacity carrying gas from Waha, Texas, into the northern bordering state of Chihuahua. David Madero, CENAGAS' general director, said late Friday that companies expressed interest for the capacity the first time it was auctioned, but they didn't register to bid.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Kosmos Energy to start drilling three super-giant prospects off West Africa this month

Kosmos Energy, a company behind some of the industry's largest recent oil discoveries, will begin drilling the first of a trio of so-called super-giant prospects off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania later this month. The Dallas oil company said on Monday it plans to resume drilling operations soon off the coast of West Africa, where it has already drilled six wells and discovered some 40 trillion cubic feet of gas equivalent in recent years. "Mauritania-Senegal is the largest new petroleum system opened along the last 15 years along the Atlantic margin," said Andy Inglis, chairman and CEO of Kosmos, in a conference call with analysts and investors.

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UPI

August 9, 2017

U.S. shale player Sanchez boosted by second quarter acquisition

U.S. shale exploration and production company Sanchez Energy said its output increased more than 40 percent over the first quarter of the year. Sanchez is one of the larger operators in the Eagle Ford shale basin in Texas and added more than 300,000 acres to its portfolio through a March acquisition from rival shale player Anadarko Petroleum. With the assets entrenched in its portfolio, Sanchez said its second quarter production of around 6.7 million barrels of oil equivalent was 43 percent higher than the first quarter. Revenue for the second quarter increased over the first by 31 percent to $175.7 million.

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San Angelo Standard-Times

August 8, 2017

West Texas rail upgrades 'critical' for oil and gas industry

A $7 million federal grant will be used to rebuild the Presidio-Ojinaga International Rail Bridge and the track between the border and Coleman, a news release states. The Texas Department of Transportation was awarded the grant as part of a public-private partnership to replace the bridge, which was closed in 2008 after a fire, and reconstruct the 72 miles of track on the state-owned South Orient Rail Line. The grant, announced Thursday, Aug. 3, is being hailed as a critical investment in the West Texas oil and gas industry by Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis.

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Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

DePillis: How Houston is like Detroit

Houston is still mostly focused on what made it rich: Oil and gas. But as a recent EY survey found, the American public — especially younger people — doesn't have a very positive view of oil and gas. They consider renewable energy to be better for the world. Now, as a Brookings Institution analysis of clean tech patents shows, Houston is far behind Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston in anything other than innovation lowering the environmental impact of oil and gas. "Only if we start to talk about energy as a solution, as a new innovative canvas to be painted on, is it going to be attractive to millennials," Golightly says. "If we have a conversation that's all about validating and extending the status quo, it's not going to be attractive to the types of people we need to create those kinds of breakthrough innovations."

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Rigzone

August 9, 2017

Where did the oil and gas workers go?

Laid off oil and gas workers seemed to migrate most to the construction and manufacturing industries. According to survey results, one-third entered into either construction (23.6 percent) or manufacturing (10.1 percent). While U.S. employment in oil and gas extraction and support services saw declines month over month the past few years before reaching a low in October 2016, other industries were adding jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An Aug. 4 detailed industry employment analysis from the BLS reported that manufacturing added 16,000 jobs in July and 100,000 jobs since November 2016. Construction jobs increased slightly by 6,000 in July, with building construction paving the way with 5,500 jobs added.

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UPI

August 8, 2017

Venezuela crisis is hidden consequence of Saudi oil price war

Venezuela is sinking ever deeper into a political and economic calamity. Inflation is above 700 percent and GDP is more than a third below 2013 levels. The country with the world's largest proven oil reserves is now the world's most indebted country -- no other nation has a larger public external debt as a share of GDP or of exports. Living standards have truly collapsed. Play Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:04 Progress: 0%0:00 Fullscreen 00:00 Mute Many factors have contributed to Venezuela's current crisis, including mismanagement of oil wealth by former Pesident Hugo Chavez and the current leader, Nicolás Maduro, and criminality, lawlessness and the black market. While all of these have undoubtedly had a part to play, the falling price of oil is the most significant factor. However the connection between this and an economic crisis in South America is not as obvious. What's going on in Venezuela is the unintended consequence of Saudi Arabia's policy of keeping oil prices deliberately low for political reasons.

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Associated Press

August 8, 2017

Driller files $5M suit against 'Gasland' resident, lawyers

A gas driller that was targeted with allegations that it polluted residential water wells in Pennsylvania has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a Pennsylvania resident and his lawyers, asserting they tried to extort the company through a frivolous lawsuit. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. said Dimock resident Ray Kemble and his lawyers sought to harass and extort the Houston-based driller, attract media attention and "poison" the community by recycling "stale, settled claims" against the company. "Cabot will protect its rights and pursue justice against those who irresponsibly and maliciously abuse the legal system," George Stark, the Houston-based driller's director of external affairs, said in a statement Tuesday.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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Bloomberg

August 7, 2017

Big Oil's Dream of $65 Billion Hidden Off Norway Is Fading Away

The oil industry has been salivating for years over Norway’s Arctic Lofoten islands, which could hold billions of barrels of crude. It will likely have to keep dreaming. The general election next month is unlikely to lift a deadlock that’s keeping a ban on drilling off the environmentally sensitive archipelago as more and more Norwegians are turning their backs on the industry that helped make the country one of the world’s richest. “It’s a dead issue,” said Frank Aarebrot, a professor of political science at the University of Bergen. Backed by unions and business, Norway’s two biggest parties, Labor and the Conservatives, have long favored steps that could open up the area for exploration. But so far they have had to compromise with smaller parties that are determined to keep Lofoten oil-free.

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Utilities Stories

KTXS

August 8, 2017

Taylor Electric Cooperative bringing faster internet to rural areas

Taylor Electric Cooperative announced it will soon be bringing "Access Fiber" into its service area, which will increase internet speeds by up to 25 times. Fiber internet has been popping up across the country over the past few years. Its technology differs from regular cable, in that it is light based, "so it has more capability and it'll be able to handle more speed than cable," says Elizabeth McVey, Director of Communications with Taylor Electric Co-op. The company services predominately rural areas that typically struggle with getting fast internet.

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Digital Journal

August 8, 2017

Graham: Nuclear power is losing ground but it still needs our support

Nearly a decade ago, planning began for two new nuclear power plants in eastern Georgia. But as of this week, the two plants have yet to be built, and another pair of utilities in South Carolina canceled construction on two nuclear reactors. South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and its partner, Santee Cooper stopped work on two new nuclear reactors this week, but it wasn't because of public protests, instead, the reasons were more realistic. Either the companies could overcharge customers to pay for the plants or go bankrupt. In Georgia, things work a little differently. Westinghouse is building the only nuclear plant under construction in Georgia but is already over budget and has missed a number of deadlines. Georgia has taken over the two reactors at the Vogtle plant through Southern Nuclear, and going over budget is not a concern because Georgia Power sells power in a regulated market. Georgia Power customers began paying for the new reactors as soon as construction began.

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Fortune

August 8, 2017

Coal Plants Might Be Even More Toxic Than We Thought

Scientists studying the aftermath of a massive coal-ash spill in North Carolina have discovered a byproduct of the fossil fuel that may pose human health risks. Duke Energy Corp. announced in early February 2014 that drainage from a broken pipe was leaking coal-ash into the Dan River, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina. Within a few days, researchers at Virginia Tech realized the spill created an unusual opportunity to better understand how particles just billionths of a meter wide, notably arsenic, embedded themselves in an ecosystem. They published that work in 2015. Then came the surprise. Electron-microscope analysis of sediment samples revealed a strange-looking substance, streaked in a pattern that called to mind zebras, according to Michael Hochella, a distinguished professor at Virginia Tech concentrating in nanogeoscience.

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Power Technology

August 7, 2017

Fusion-fission hybrids: nuclear shortcut or pipe dream?

With waste and safety concerns holding back global nuclear uptake, there is increased attention being paid to a longer-term nuclear goal: fusion. Unlike conventional fission-based generation methods, fusion creates only a small amount of short-lived waste, emits no greenhouse gases and has a secure fuel supply through deuterium, which can be distilled from seawater, and tritium, which can be bred in the reactor. Large-scale internationally sponsored projects looking to achieve fusion, and the key goal of producing positive net energy – generating more energy than is required to initiate and sustain a fusion reaction – are underway. The largest of these are ITER – a tokamak-based fusion mega-project in southern France – and the National Ignition Facility’s laser-based inertial confinement fusion device in California. While both of these projects are large and promising, the milestone of hitting positive net energy has proven elusive, with decades of research since the 1950s unable to find a definitive answer to the scientific and engineering challenges involved.

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Columbia State (SC)

August 5, 2017

Clyburn: How pro-coal federal policy helped kill the SC nuclear plants

The decision by Santee Cooper and SCANA to suspend construction of the nuclear facility at Fairfield County’s V.C. Summer site is catastrophic on many fronts. While a plethora of factors can be blamed, this decision also represents a failure of government policy. It could have been avoided. At the time construction began on the project, the U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a cause of global warming. Like solar and wind, nuclear energy produces no carbon emissions. Responding to the Supreme Court decision, President Obama’s administration promulgated regulations on carbon emissions through the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. That plan required states to meet certain emission reduction targets. Currently more than 50 percent of our state’s energy is supplied by nuclear, so it stood to reason that our state’s leaders would choose nuclear to meet our future energy needs and our emission reduction targets.

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Gizmodo

August 7, 2017

Dvorsky: Will America’s Epic Eclipse Impact Our Electric Grid?

The eclipse may only last for a couple of minutes at any given location, but grid operators across the US are bracing for the effect. To avoid power disruptions, grid operators will have to perform a delicate juggling act, transporting energy across the country to make up for the temporary shortfall in solar-dependent regions, while carefully monitoring the ebb and flow of available solar energy as the Moon drifts across the surface of the Sun. Thankfully, we’d had ample time to prepare—it’s not like we didn’t know this eclipse was coming. Grid operators also have a precedent to work with: Back in 2015, a similar event happened in Europe.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

KXXV

August 9, 2017

McLennan County approves support for $13M solar farm project

McLennan County approved support for a $13M solar farm to be constructed near Bruceville-Eddy. The project is a partnership between Cypress Creek Renewables, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and McLennan County. One of the biggest solar developers in the U.S., Cypress Creek Renewables partners with local communities to provide access to affordable and clean energy through solar farms. “Cypress Creek is thrilled to be making an important investment in the local economy of McLennan County, Texas,” CEO of Cypress Creek Renewables Matthew McGovern said.

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Forbes

August 8, 2017

Halpern: Battery Advancements Set To Accelerate Electric Car Adoption

Thanks to an abundance of hydropower, the pristine region of the Pacific Northwest is the largest producer of carbon-free, renewable energy in the U.S. This fact, coupled with conservation-minded residents, makes it an ideal stomping ground for a wholesale conversion to electric vehicles. My recent trip to China exposed me to the benefits of a society with a mindset geared toward conservation, but I also observed that it works best when embraced by an entire population of people. Based on my observations, electric scooters outnumbered gas-powered ones, the prevailing taxi choice was powered by electricity and construction abounded with solar panels atop buildings and towers. So why shouldn't there be a U.S.-based conversion to electric vehicles? In a word: convenience. We don’t like to wait. Nor do we like to stop after short hauls. But all of this is on the precipice of change.

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National Geographic

August 8, 2017

6 Essential Truths That Will Help the World Urbanize Sustainably

What will Detroit look like in 2050? Or Dubai? As we look ahead to a time when two-thirds of us will be urban dwellers, the innovative ways our cities are urbanizing today provide a blueprint for how a growing population can thrive tomorrow. Fascinating glimpses of this future are starting to reveal themselves. Urban Expeditions, a collaboration between National Geographic and United Technologies, explores emerging sustainability developments and trends. In June, a live event held at National Geographic's headquarters in Washington, D.C., convened experts who are currently redefining what it means to be “sustainable” across various sectors: food, climate, transportation, buildings and finance.

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Inverse

August 8, 2017

7 Massive Corporations Going Green to Boost Their Bottom Lines

Historically, multinational corporations have been the target of environmental activists: Faceless, gas-guzzling conglomerates blatantly pursuing profits are hard to love, or persuade to change. But slowly, a few companies that rule large parts of the world and our lives are becoming shining examples, not out of concern over climate change as much as increasing the bottom line. If you go back to 2016, the price of renewable energy like solar and wind dropped below the cost of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for the first time. This dip, coupled with substantial government subsidies for energy alternatives and a surge in the number of consumers who prefer sustainable products, has made going green good business. Take Walmart. The retail behemoth, which has 11,695 stores in 28 countries, isn’t exactly known for its ethical business practices. It’s driven family-owned business bust, been forced to pay-out in numerous lawsuits alleging dangerous workplaces, and back in the 1980s and 90s, famously took out life insurance policies on many of its employees.

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San Francisco Chronicle

August 6, 2017

Williams: If we keep subsidizing wind, will the cost of wind energy go down?

There are high hopes for renewable energy to help society by providing a more stable climate, better energy security and less pollution. Government actions reflect these hopes through policies to promote renewable energy. In the U.S. since 1992 there’s been a federal subsidy to promote wind energy, and many states require electricity utilities to use some renewable energy. But when is the right time to stop government support for an energy technology? This is a timely question: Rick Perry’s Department of Energy is currently working on a grid reliability report that many expect to argue that wind and solar cause reliability problems because they don’t supply power continually. A conclusion like this can be used to justify removal of government subsidies or regulations favoring other sources of energy.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

August 9, 2017

Tomlinson: Lawmakers must cut property taxes, not just limit them

Business at Texas German Autohaus has dropped off over the last three years following the collapse of oil prices, but that hasn't stopped the taxes it has to pay from doubling. The repair shop's problem is that Texas taxes property, not income, and its location on Edloe Steet is more valuable than ever. "Property taxes are out of control," said Hans Richter, who with a partner bought the lot in 1994. "When taxes grow faster than the economy, that's not sustainable." Lawmakers have placed limits on how fast taxes can rise on senior citizens and homeowners, but there are no protections for businesses. As a result, the burden has shifted onto businesses, which have seen tax bills skyrocket.

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Fox News

August 9, 2017

Scientists call out New York Times for incorrect claim about climate report

Scientists appear to have debunked The New York Times' claim it was leaked a secret, gloomy climate change report which it published amid fears President Trump would suppress it. On Monday, The New York Times published a story saying there are concerns that the Trump administration could suppress what’s known as the National Climate Assessment, a project of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. ... But those who worked on the report are pushing back against the claims, saying the version that was obtained and posted in full by the New York Times has actually been online and available to the public for months. “It's not clear what the news is in this story,” Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who is listed on the report as among the lead authors, said on Twitter.

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New York Times

August 8, 2017

Climate Report Could Force Trump to Choose Between Science and His Base

The impending release of a key government report on climate change will force President Trump to choose between accepting the conclusions of his administration’s scientists and the demands of his conservative supporters, who remain deeply unconvinced that humans are the cause of the planet’s warming. A White House official said on Tuesday that it was still reviewing the draft document that was written by scientists, some of whom have said they fear Mr. Trump will seek to bury it or alter its contents before it is formally released. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the administration would not comment on the report before its scheduled release this fall.

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Dallas Morning News

August 9, 2017

Dallas voters will decide on $1.05 billion bond package loaded with parks, street repairs

After more than a year of politicking, prioritizing, planning and more politicking, a once-meager bond program focused primarily on streets will now go to voters in November as a $1.05 billion laundry list of long-desired projects. The Dallas City Council on Wednesday added money to the bond package again at the last minute for projects that had been left on the cutting room floor. The additional $25 million will be spread among a Klyde Warren Park expansion, streetscape improvements in the Medical District and a developer-driven water gardens project on the southern edge of downtown. All three projects have pledged private matching funds and powerful interests behind them, such as energy magnate Kelcy Warren.

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Politico

August 9, 2017

Pruitt climate science challenge splits conservative allies

EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s attacks on mainstream climate science are causing discomfort in a surprising corner — among many of the conservative and industry groups that have cheered his efforts to dismantle Barack Obama’s environmental regulations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, political groups backed by the Koch brothers and the top lobbying organizations for the coal, oil, natural gas and power industries are among those so far declining to back Pruitt’s efforts to undermine the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, according to more than a dozen interviews by POLITICO. Some advocates privately worry that the debate would politically harm moderate Republicans, while wasting time and effort that’s better spent on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory rollback.

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Politico

August 8, 2017

Insiders don't expect White House interference with climate report

Several sources involved in producing a government climate change report due out soon say they have seen no indication that the White House might suppress the scientific research that offers the clearest indication yet that human activity is altering the planet's temperature. The New York Times reported Monday evening that it had received a copy of the latest draft of the report, and that scientists involved with it said they were worried the Trump administration could change or suppress the findings. The Climate Science Special Report, a part of the National Climate Assessment, was written by scientists at 13 federal agencies. Each of those agencies must sign off on the final version by August 18.

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