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February 28, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin Business Journal

February 22, 2017

Texas oil and gas taxes could fall under bill filed by Republican state lawmaker

Texas Sen. Kel Seliger has filed a bill and joint resolution to decrease oil and gas severance tax rates and limit the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $5 billion. This is the first time the Amarillo Republican has filed a bill of this type, and tax observers say a proposal to reduce the severance tax is rare. More often than not, lawmakers tend to propose where excess revenue should go when the funding of the Rainy Day Fund exceeds its state-mandated cap. That state-mandated cap currently is $16.2 billion, which is 10 percent of the general revenue from last biennium. ... The rate of the severance tax varies by production. According to the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, gas severance tax is 7.5 percent of market value of gas produced and saved. Oil severance tax is 4.6 percent of market value of oil produced. Condensate tax would be 4.6 percent of market value.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 27, 2017

Natural gas squares off against competitors for Texas emissions money

The natural gas industry is squaring off against an odd-bedfellow coalition of environmentalists and big business over the size of their shares of a pot of air quality improvement money. As with so much this session, the man in the middle appears to be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has strong ties to the gas industry and is pushing lawmakers to extend a suite of programs that promote the use of natural gas in cars and trucks that are set to expire. The environmentalist-business coalition says the programs — in the form of grants or mandates involving state fleets or the construction of natural gas refueling stations — don’t actually do that much to improve air quality and that the money would be better spent in other ways. A big pot of money is involved — about $235 million is being spent this biennium out of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan fund. The money comes from a variety of vehicle fees and surcharges, especially those in the smoggier areas of the state, including Austin.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

U.S. power grid records largest gain since 2011

The amount of generating capacity on the U.S. power grid grew last year by its largest amount since 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported Monday. The agency reported that more than 60 percent of the increase came from wind turbines and solar panel installations, with another 33 percent coming from natural gas plants. Close to 27 gigawatts of total capacity were added, which when combined with 12 gigawatts worth of capacity retirements resulted in a net gain of nearly 15 gigawatts – compared to a net loss of 4 gigawatts in 2015.

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Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2017

Bryce: Wind power is an attack on rural America

Urban voters may like the idea of using more wind and solar energy, but the push for large-scale renewables is creating land-use conflicts in rural regions from Maryland to California and Ontario to Loch Ness. Since 2015, more than 120 government entities in about two dozen states have moved to reject or restrict the land-devouring, subsidy-fueled sprawl of the wind industry. ... Objections to the encroachment of wind energy installations don’t fit the environmentalists’ narrative. The backlash undermines the claim — often repeated by climate activists such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson — that we can run our entire economy on nothing but energy from the wind and sun. Many of those same activists routinely demonize natural gas and hydraulic fracturing even though the physical footprint of gas production is far smaller than that of wind.

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Oil Price

February 28, 2017

Cooking The Books? Saudi Aramco Could Be Overvalued By 500%

The world’s most valuable oil company, Saudi Aramco, is approaching its first IPO in 2018, as the government of Saudi Arabia prepares to sell off portions of the company in order fill a sovereign wealth fund crucial to the country’s transition away from an oil-based economy. Saudi Aramco is worth $2 trillion, according to Riyadh, and its five percent initial offering could yield $200 billion. This would be the largest IPO in history, blowing away the offering of China’s Alibaba in 2014. The problem, however, is that the company itself may not be worth as much as the Saudi government claims. Recent reports and growing skepticism regarding Aramco’s actual worth have cast some doubts on whether the world’s largest IPO will be as earth-shattering as originally thought.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 28, 2017

US oil ticks up for 2nd day on record OPEC output cut compliance

U.S. crude oil edged higher for a second day on Tuesday, underpinned by high compliance with OPEC's production cuts even as the market remains anchored by rising U.S. production. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has so far surprised the market by showing record compliance with oil-output curbs, and could improve in coming months as the biggest laggards - the United Arab Emirates and Iraq - pledge to catch up quickly with their targets. ... West Texas Intermediate crude oil added 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $54.16 a barrel by 0337 GMT, while benchmark Brent crude oil added 17 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $56.10 a barrel. For the month, U.S. crude oil is up 2.6 percent after falling in January, while Brent oil has risen marginally.

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Motley Fool

February 27, 2017

Can You Guess Which Country Has the World's Largest Oil Reserves? (Hint: It's Not Saudi Arabia)

According to a report by energy consultancy Rystad Energy, the U.S. holds 264 billion barrels of oil reserves, which includes oil from existing fields as well as a projection of oil from yet-to-be-discovered fields. Rounding out the top five are Russia (256 billion barrels), Saudi Arabia (212 billion), Canada (167 billion), and Iran (143 billion). Rystad found that the U.S. had already discovered 109 billion barrels of the reserves it used for its estimates. Another of Rystad's findings was the importance of shale in fueling America's explosive growth in oil reserves, with these sources supplying 50% of the reserves. Of that amount, 60 billion barrels were in the state of Texas alone, thanks to the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin. Meanwhile, another 20 billion barrels of oil are likely underneath the state of North Dakota in its Bakken shale, according to estimates by leading developer Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR). On top of that, the country has several emerging shale plays in the Rockies and Oklahoma that are starting to become important drivers of reserve growth.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

Mixed verdict in National Oilwell Varco, M-I Swaco noncompete case

A Harris County jury on Monday delivered a mixed verdict in a contentious fight between two Houston energy services companies over trade secrets, confidentiality and a noncompete agreement. The case, which has stretched over more than two-years involved Jeff Russo, who signed a noncompete agreement when he took a $13-per-hour laborer job with M-I Swaco and, after working his way up to become a top salesman, left to work for rival National Oilwell Varco. The verdict, delivered in state district court in Harris County, allows Russo to keep his six-figure job at National Oilwell Varco while finding that M-I Swaco acted in bad faith when it claimed Russo misappropriated trade secrets as a way to enforce the noncompete agreement. The jury awarded Russo and National Oilwell Varco $176,000 in attorneys fees. But the jury also found that Russo failed to comply with M-I Swaco’s confidentiality provisions and awarded $493,000 in attorney’s fees to M-I Swaco, a unit of energy services giant Schlumberger. The verdict did not specify how Russo breached the confidentiality provisions.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

February 24, 2017

Henry Energy, Moriah Energy partner on Midland Basin acquisitions

Two veteran Midland producers are joining forces to acquire and develop properties in the Midland subbasin. Henry Energy LP and Moriah Energy Investments LLC are forming Moriah Henry Energy Partners LLC, backed by a $200 million equity commitment from Post Oak Capital LP. Both Henry and Moriah will invest alongside Post Oak. The Permian Basin has been a core focus for Post Oak since it was founded 10 years ago, Frost Cochran, managing director, said in a phone interview from his Houston office. He said his background includes operating in the Permian and called the Permian “the gift that keeps on giving since the beginning of my career.”

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San Antonio Express News

February 26, 2017

DePillis: In the Permian Basin, it’s a rush to become the ‘Uber for the oil field’

Now, dozens of companies are vying to dominate an emerging, multibillion-dollar market by developing online platforms that would connect service companies to drillers, allow them to bid on jobs and send trucks to their most efficient locations at the lowest cost. Think of it as Uber for oil field services. But creating a tech platform for the oil field is a lot more complicated than taking passengers from point A to point B with a smartphone app. The market has multiple layers of operators and contractors. A trucking company that decides to use one program to keep track of all its jobs might be asked to adopt three other programs that its biggest clients use. The jobs often have special instructions, such as dealing with pieces of equipment that might be broken or different ways to bill, such as by the day or by the week.

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Bloomberg

February 27, 2017

Investors See Oil Break Out of Narrow Range With Record Bets

Oil has been bound to the tightest price range in more than a decade, and yet hedge funds have never been so confident it will eventually rally. Money managers boosted their bets on rising West Texas Intermediate prices to a record on speculation that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners will manage to ease a global supply glut. America’s crude producers, which are increasing output, aren’t so sure. They’ve been hedging against price declines for this year and 2018. Oil has traded above $50 a barrel since OPEC and 11 other countries started trimming supply on Jan. 1, which has in turn helped fuel a revival in U.S. shale drilling. American explorers have almost doubled the number of rigs targeting oil since May, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The mixed signals have locked WTI in its narrowest range since 2003 this month.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

EOG Resources narrows losses as oil prices rise and efficiency improves

On Monday, Houston-based oil and gas company EOG Resources said it narrowed its losses during the fourth quarter of 2016 as oil prices rose and operations improved. EOG’s revenues rose by 30 percent in the last three months to years, climbing to $2.4 billion from $1.8 billion in the same period in 2014. The company’s losses shrunk to $142.4 million, or $0.25 per share, compared to a $284.3 million loss, or $0.52 per share in fourth quarter of 2015.

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Houston Business Journal

February 24, 2017

Houston upstream energy co. makes 13,000-acre Permian Basin deal

Houston-based Camber Energy Inc. (NYSE MKT: CEI), formerly known as Lucas Energy Inc., is about to nearly quadruple its net acreage in the San Andres oil play in the Permian Basin. The company made an $11.03 million deal to buy 13,000 contiguous net acres in the Permian Basin from a private seller, and this time, it’s land Camber is ready to drill on. Camber started off 2017 with a deal to buy 3,630 net acres over the San Andres in an as-yet-undisclosed location — CEO Anthony Schnur doesn’t want competitors coming in to buy up the acreage until Camber gets the land it needs there. Right now, the company is targeting 20,000 net acres there before it starts drilling.

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Houston Chronicle

February 24, 2017

Houston’s Hi-Crush Partners buying Permian Basin Sand Co.

Houston-based Hi-Crush Partners will buy the Permian Basin Sand Co. for $275 million to beef up its sand reserves to service rapidly growing drilling activity in West Texas. Hi-Crush is one of the biggest oilfield services business in providing sand to the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking process. Massive amounts of sand are pumped into the wells to help fracture the shale rock and release hydrocarbons.

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Texas Lawyer

March 1, 2017

Oil Rebound Demands Preventive Maintenance for Contracts

As the recent Permian Basin buying spree and increased offshore capital expenditures by super majors reveal, the energy industry downturn of recent years may be turning a corner. Market movement has companies looking to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities on the horizon. Is your company ready? Just as maintaining physical assets is necessary, preventive maintenance in your contracting practices is equally critical. Such efforts should include evaluating risk allocation as well as updating policies and procedures that could affect the bottom line. With political and regulatory shifts evolving in the U.S. and globally, now is the time for a comprehensive check of your company's contracts, insurance and regulatory compliance strategies.

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Popular Science

February 24, 2017

Fracking fluid is leaking more often than we thought

Hydraulic fracture oil and gas wells spill pretty often, according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. That study, along with a companion paper which appeared in the journal Science of the Total Environment, analyzed spill data and behavior across four states—Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—with the goal of identifying common causes of spills to help industries improve. If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, you haven’t. Most studies on hydraulic fracture, or fracking, focus on underground leaks. This study focused exclusively on leaks at the surface, which can harm wildlife—most notably birds and marine creatures—as well as impact drinking water sources.

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Denver Business Journal

February 25, 2017

Denver oilfield service company plans to go public

Denver’s Liberty Oilfield Services Inc. has filed for an initial public offering. Companies preparing to go public say they expect to raise a token amount, in Liberty’s case $50 million, for the purposes of calculating the filing fees with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount the company expects to raise frequently rises after the first filing. The company, which filed for the IPO Feb. 14, has grown rapidly since its founding in 2011, when it had one active set of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, equipment, to the 11 active fleets it had in January 2017, according to its filing.

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World Oil

February 25, 2017

Saudi Aramco IPO to impact markets in many ways

The largest IPO in history will have an impact even beyond where it’s listed, rippling through the benchmark stock gauges tracked by investors globally. Saudi Arabia expects MSCI Emerging Markets Index inclusion in the near future, the exchange’s chief executive officer said on Sunday. Assuming a 5% float, Aramco alone would account for about 2.4% of the gauge, according to estimates by Mohamad Al Hajj, a Dubai-based equity strategist for the Middle East and North Africa at EFG-Hermes Holding. That would be enough to propel it into the top five companies by weighting alongside Samsung Electronics Co. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Aramco’s listing would almost double Saudi Arabia’s presence in the benchmark measure, which would be about 2.8% based on the Tadawul currently. The inclusion of the oil-giant would lead to passive inflows of $6.6 billion from MSCI trackers, and $2.5 billion from FTSE investors, Al Hajj estimated.

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Bloomberg

February 27, 2017

Shell Shuns New Oil-Sands Projects as Low Prices Force Cost Control

Royal Dutch Shell Plc is unlikely to take on new oil-sands projects as it maintains a grip on costs after crude’s crash forced competitors to write down Canadian reserves. While Shell’s existing oil-sands operations generate strong cash flows, the expense of developing new projects discourages additional investments, Chief Executive Officer Ben Van Beurden said in an interview. Oil sands, the reserves of heavy crude found primarily in northern Alberta, lured investors in the past decade as oil’s surge above $100 a barrel made the difficult extraction process economic. But they’ve fallen out of favor following the subsequent market collapse as companies dump expensive projects amid fears that competition from low-cost crude could strand costlier assets.

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Inside Energy

February 24, 2017

From Standing Rock To Texas

As protesters in Standing Rock clean up camp and head home, Sioux tribes in North and South Dakota are still battling in court to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their fight has inspired protesters who are trying to stop pipeline construction in other parts of the country. In the Big Bend Region of Texas, construction on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is nearly complete. Destiny Willcuts is a native Lakota Sioux. She left Standing Rock with her mother when extreme winter weather hit the area. They headed south, to a newly erected pipeline protest camp in Presidio County, Texas. “I didn’t want to give up the fight so I just decided to head to another front line,” Willcutts said. Willcuts is 16. She was arrested in January for chaining herself to a bulldozer on a Trans-Pecos Pipeline construction site in Presidio County. So far, 16 people have been been arrested while protesting the pipeline. Willcutts is facing felony charges.

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Oil Price

February 25, 2017

How Russia Is Using Oil Deals To Secure Its Influence In The Middle East

A string of oil deals between Russian oil companies and Arab petrostates have shifted the center of political gravity in the Middle East and North Africa towards Moscow – counteracting the effect of decades of American military and political involvement as U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for the region remains unclear. The 2014 oil price drop hit the national economy hard, causing the price of the ruble to plummet and GDP growth to grind to a halt. This has pushed Moscow to look outward to project strength as a crippling recession proceeds on the domestic front. The Arab World has been Putin’s favorite arena to grow the Russian sphere of influence. Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s visit to Moscow last year brought the two countries closer together on tourism and counterterrorism issues. But the North African country’s lack of oil or gas resources did not leave room for further discussions on Russia’s flagship foreign policy issue—energy.

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Utilities Stories

Wichita Falls Times Record

February 26, 2017

Collins: Progress -- Energy sector buffeted by prices, headwinds

The most notable of North Texas’ 2016 wind projects was one proposed near the community of Byers in Clay County. The project, developed by Windthorst-based Horn Wind LLC and Alterra Power Corp., is an 8,000-acre, $300 million endeavor that has drawn ire from officials at nearby Sheppard Air Force Base. They, along with some local government leaders, have speculated that the proposed turbines would interfere with with base pilot training and radar operations. Jimmy Horn of Horn Wind LLC has allayed some of those concerns in interviews with the Times Record News, along with saying that the project is being put through an extensive government permitting and approval process. Still, bills that would withhold tax credits from wind farms within a certain radius of military bases are working their ways through the state legislature and U.S. Congress.

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Washington Post

February 27, 2017

Fact Checker: Did President Trump save 77,000 coal mining jobs?

The Stream Protection Rule (SPR) is one of those complex federal regulations that can have an important impact on particular communities but may mean little to the rest of the country. The regulations, formulated late during the Obama administration, aimed to reduce the effect of coal mining on surface water, groundwater, fish and wildlife. The rule would have required companies to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams and destroy drinking water sources; companies would have needed to test and monitor the condition of streams before, during and after mining as well as restore streams after mining activities are completed. That brief description barely scratches the complexity of the rule, which when it was proposed in 2015 took up 262 pages in the Federal Register, consisting of 150 pages of explanatory preamble and 112 pages of regulatory text.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Science Daily

February 17, 2017

Printable solar cells just got a little closer

A new innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Researchers have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator. "Economies of scale have greatly reduced the cost of silicon manufacturing," said Professor Ted Sargent, an expert in emerging solar technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. "Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes."

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Seeker

February 27, 2017

A Potent Greenhouse Gas Used to Make Solar Panels Is on the Rise

US emissions of a greenhouse gas thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide have expanded tenfold over the past two-and-a-half decades, according to fresh government data. And one reason — wait for it — is America's increasing reliance on solar power. The gas, nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, is a key chemical agent used to manufacture certain types of photovoltaic cells for solar panels, as well as semiconductors and LCD flat screens. NF3 is produced in minuscule quantities compared to carbon dioxide and now adds only a wafer-thin margin to America's total greenhouse gas emissions, while carbon dioxide makes up 82 percent and methane nearly another 10 percent. But researchers warn NF3 is dangerous due to its devilish efficiency in trapping energy, and long atmospheric lifespan of up to 740 years.

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The Economist

February 27, 2017

Clean energy’s dirty secret -- Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems

ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening. From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. About time, too. There is a $20trn hitch, though. To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to replace old smog-belching power plants and to upgrade the pylons and wires that bring electricity to consumers. Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. Yet green energy has a dirty secret. The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty, need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. Unless the market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow.

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Reuters

February 23, 2017

Alphabet Sues Uber For Patent Infringement Of Key Self-Driving Car Technology

Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Waymo self-driving car unit sued Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] and its autonomous trucking subsidiary Otto on Thursday over allegations of theft of its confidential and proprietary sensor technology. Waymo accused Uber and Otto, acquired by the ride services company in August, with stealing confidential information on Waymo's Lidar sensor technology to help speed its own efforts in autonomous technology. "Uber's LiDAR technology is actually Waymo's LiDAR technology," said Waymo's complaint in the Northern District of California. Uber said it took "the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully."

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St. Louis Business Journal

February 27, 2017

Whistleblower suits filed by former SunEdison execs

Two former SunEdison Inc. executives have filed whistleblower lawsuits, claiming they were fired for raising concerns about the now-bankrupt company's financial situation. Carlos Domenech and Pancho Perez, who held leadership positions at SunEdison's TerraForm Power Inc. and TerraForm Global Inc. yieldcos, filed the suits last week in Maryland federal court against SunEdison and Ahmad Chatila, former SunEdison CEO, the Wall Street Journal reports. They each are seeking back pay and damages for what they allege were retaliatory firings for bringing their concerns to the company's senior management and board.

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Regulatory Stories

World Oil

February 27, 2017

Texas Legislature files resolutions supporting delegation of federal energy regulations to state

The chairmen of the Texas House and Senate energy committees filed two concurrent resolutions this week calling on the federal government to work with Texas in unraveling the regulations that were implemented during President Barack Obama’s administration, impacting the oil and gas industry. Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 filed by Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) and House Concurrent Resolution 84 filed by Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) strongly urge Congress and the new administration to closely review these regulations in order to determine whether these rules should be revised, repealed or alternatively, delegated back to the states to implement and enforce. "The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers would like to thank Chairmen Estes and Darby for their robust leadership on this important issue," said John Tintera, Alliance Executive Vice President.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

EPA chief vows quick rollback of Obama-era rules

U.S. environmental chief Scott Pruitt unveiled plans to roll back at least three Obama-era rules at the EPA while vowing to give businesses "regulatory certainty." Those policy reversals, set to start next week, will empower the Environmental Protection Agency to focus on its core mission of protecting the air and water, Pruitt said Saturday in a speech and question-and-answer session on the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md. "The previous administration was so focused on climate change and so focused on CO2, some of those other priorities were left behind," Pruitt said in his first detailed remarks since being sworn in on Feb. 17 to lead the EPA. "I really believe that at the end of eight years, we're going to have better air quality, we're going to have better water quality because it's going to be vested in a partnership" with states.

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The Hill

February 27, 2017

Trump to ask for major EPA, State cuts to boost military spending: reports

President Trump is expected to demand major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of State to fund boosts to military spending in his first budget, according to multiple reports. Trump on Monday will instruct Cabinet and agency officials to prepare budget requests, according to The New York Times and Axios. The administration is expected to release its first budget outline March 13, and Trump will ask for massive cuts to EPA climate change programs to help fund drastic increases in military spending. Trump’s request comes one day before he’ll address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, laying out his policy agenda.

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Texas Public Radio

February 23, 2017

Should Scientists March? U.S. Researchers Still Debating Pros And Cons

Scientists around the United States are getting ready to do an unprecedented experiment: They plan to march en masse in Washington, D.C., and other cities on April 22, to take a stand for the importance of public policies based on science. Some researchers predict that this March for Science will release much needed energy and enthusiasm at a time when science is under threat; others worry it will damage science's reputation as an unbiased seeker of truth. The idea for the march emerged soon after the inauguration of President Trump, and the Women's March that took place the next day. Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist at the University of Maine, says she posted a message proposing a march for science on Twitter.

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Associated Press

February 26, 2017

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek New Powers for Oil Well Regulators

New Mexico would restore one agency's authority to impose administrative penalties against oil and natural gas well operators in connection with petroleum and wastewater spills, under a bill endorsed by a Senate panel on Thursday. The Democrat-sponsored bill would allow the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, which oversees oil and natural gas well permits and decommissioning, to apply penalties of up to $10,000 a day when aquifers are polluted or threatened by drilling operations, and lesser fines for other violations of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act. A 2009 state Supreme Court decision held that the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division was not authorized to assess administrative penalties and must pursue lawsuits and legal settlements, a process currently coordinated through the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. Annual fines averaged nearly $600,000 before the ruling. Four operators have been assessed $20,500 since June of last year through legal action.

This article appeared on the US News website

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February 27, 2017

Lead Stories

Midland Reporter Telegram

February 26, 2017

Commissioners racking up campaign contributions

Texas’ three Railroad Commissioners build sizable campaign war chests during their six-year terms, with a large share of the contributions coming from the oil and gas industry that they regulate. The practice has long concerned environmental advocates and watchdog groups, who worry about the influence of an industry that pours money into campaign coffers year in and year out, making it difficult for challengers to mount competitive campaigns. For instance, commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick, who is not up for re-election until 2018, received $4.9 million in political contributions between July 2011 and June 2016, more than half from oil and gas interests, according to data compiled by Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based advocacy group. Commissioners say the campaign contributions don’t buy influence and they make decisions based on their merits and the public interest. There have been attempts to stem this flow of campaign contributions. In the past, the Sunset Commission, the state agency charged with periodically reviewing state agencies and recommending if they should be reauthorized, has suggested that the commissioners be allowed to collect campaign contributions only during the years in which they must run for re-election.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 25, 2017

Past fiscal decisions, not just oil slump, root cause of budget woes

In the wake of an oil and gas boom that flushed state coffers, lawmakers in 2015 went on a spree of tax cutting and spending on GOP priorities. They cut the state franchise tax on businesses by 25 percent, costing $2.6 billion over two years; green-lighted a vote on a constitutional amendment that will redirect to transportation projects $4.7 billion in state sales tax revenue from general funding that could pay for schools, prisons and health care services; spent an unprecedented $800 million on the state’s border security campaign; and expanded the local property tax homestead exemption, a move the state pays for on the back end when it shores up school district budgets.

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San Antonio Express News

February 25, 2017

Where will our nuclear waste go?

ANDREWS — Not many American towns would welcome thousands of tons of high-level nuclear waste. Fewer still would see its leaders spend three decades trying to bring it there. In Andrews, a hard-working oil town of 18,000 on the empty, flat plains of the Permian Basin, a game of reverse hot potato is playing itself out. A company here wants the heat-generating, potentially deadly radioactive leftovers that nuclear power plants and other facilities would rather get rid of. For a price, Waste Control Specialists would take this waste from across the country and store it above ground for 40 to 100 years until the federal government can find a permanent resting place, something that has eluded it for more than 30 years. The players in the game include the Department of Energy, Congress, the commercial nuclear industry, town residents, anti-nuclear activists, the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission and, most important, WCS, which already owns a 14,000-acre storage and disposal facility 30 miles from Andrews, close to the Texas-New Mexico border.

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San Antonio Express News

February 26, 2017

Led by Congressman Lamar Smith, GOP coalition seeks to slow down push to new energy technology

Over the past decade, the U.S. government has spent tens of billions of dollars to speed onto the market the energy technology that many believe is the future — from solar panels to industrial-size batteries to modernized nuclear reactors. “Building the new energy economy,” the U.S. Energy Department still proclaims on its Twitter feed. But with Barack Obama out of the White House, a coalition of conservative politicians led by San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith, the powerful chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is pressing to overhaul a system they say allows the government, rather than the market, to decide the future of the country’s energy industry in a bid to create a new low-carbon economy.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 27, 2017

Oil ticks up on supply cuts, rising US output caps gains

Brent oil prices edged up on Monday and were set to rise for five out of seven sessions as a global supply glut appears to ease, but rising U.S. production limited gains. Brent crude was up 0.04 percent at $56.01 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate was unchanged at $53.99 a barrel. Oil prices tumbled on Friday after U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed U.S. crude inventories rose for a seventh straight week.

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Business Insider

February 24, 2017

Baker Hughes oil rig count rises for 6th straight week

The US oil-rig count increased by five to a total of 602 this week, according to Baker Hughes. At 632, the oil rig count would be double the trough it fell to after the most recent oil crash. The gas rig count decreased by two to 151. With one miscellaneous rig remaining in use, the total rig count rose by three to 754. Last week, the oil rig count rose by six and the gas rig count by four.

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San Antonio Business Journal

February 24, 2017

Eagle Ford rig counts increase for six weeks straight

There has historically been a lag of a few months between oil prices and the rig count, but drilling permit filings with the Railroad Commission of Texas show that many companies are able to make the current market environment work for them. Over the past week, some 27 companies have filed a record 130 drilling permits for new oil and gas wells in South Texas. Among those making the biggest push in the Eagle Ford are Carrizo Oil & Gas (Nasdaq: CRZO), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) subsidiary Burlington Resources, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) and Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO). The Eagle Ford hit a low of 29 active rigs at the height of the downturn in June 2016 and has recovered. There still is a long way to get near the record of 259 rigs reported in May 2012.

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Reuters

February 26, 2017

Funds prepare $2 billion oil market play as supply tightens

Passive investment funds are poised to shift an estimated $2 billion from far-term to near-term crude futures over the next week, anticipating an energy market rally as a historic OPEC output cut slashes supply. The switch may foreshadow the end of a global oil glut that built up during a two-year price war. On Friday - for the first time in six years - a rule in one of the most popular commodity market indices was triggered, requiring funds tracking the index to sell Brent crude futures contracts for December LCOZ7 and to buy contracts for June LCOM7. The S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity Index rule aims to ensure that investors are positioned to cash in when oil market fundamentals change - in this case, when supply becomes so tight that the current price of oil becomes higher than the price of oil for delivery many months or years into the future. That structure is called backwardation.

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San Antonio Express News

February 25, 2017

Feds also targeting Uresti’s consulting company

State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s consulting company, Turning Point Strategies, was one of the targets of the raid on his law offices by federal authorities 10 days ago, law enforcement sources said. At the time of the Feb. 16 search, Uresti issued a statement saying it was part of a “broad investigation” of FourWinds Logistics, the scandal-plagued oil-field services company that he once represented. But FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents also were there to gather information on Turning Point, the sources told the San Antonio Express-News. Agents “were instructed to look for anything with Turning Point, including its investors or contributors,” one of the sources said. ... In November, the same month Uresti easily won re-election for the District 19 Texas Senate seat, an ad pitching Turning Point’s services appeared in Shale Oil & Gas Business Magazine. The company says it provides consulting services in such fields as oil and gas, utilities, alternative energy, and housing and development. “Have you been looking for someone to help your company thrive and just need to meet the right people?” the ad reads. It doesn’t identify Uresti, who’s pictured in the ad, as a state senator.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 25, 2017

PolitiFact: Midland outpacing San Francisco in startups? Yes, but …

Gov. Greg Abbott told state lawmakers that Texas not only leads the nation in oil and gas, it’s enjoying an “innovation renaissance” typified by technology development. “Midland,” Abbott said in his State of the State address, “Midland, Texas, now beats the San Francisco area in the percentage of jobs created by startups.” ... The Midland area in 2014 whaled the San Francisco area by this metric. We don’t know where either region ranks now; the government hasn’t done an update. It’s worth clarifying, too, that “startups” in this context simply means new businesses; Midland didn’t become a better-than-California high-tech hub. The two economies differ in scale and job types. We rate this claim Mostly True.

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Yahoo! News

February 26, 2017

Iran holds naval war games amid rising tensions with U.S.

Iran launched naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean on Sunday, a naval commander said, as tensions with the United States escalated after U.S President Donald Trump put Tehran "on notice". Since taking office last month, Trump has pledged to get tough with Iran, warning the Islamic Republic after its ballistic missile test on Jan. 29 that it was playing with fire and all U.S. options were on the table. Iran's annual exercises will be held in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Bab el-Mandab and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, to train in the fight against terrorism and piracy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to state media. Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily to Europe, the United States and Asia through the Bab el-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways that run along the coasts of Yemen and Iran.

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Houston Chronicle

February 26, 2017

Houston transforms the U.S. into an energy exporting hub

Massive cranes loom over the Port of Houston, ready to load cargo containers packed with plastic pellets onto ships bound for China and India, where the pellets will be transformed into grocery packaging, car parts and other consumer products for the growing middle classes of these developing nations. Along the Houston Ship Channel, Enterprise Products Partners has added and expanded terminals to ship crude oil and petrochemicals. New terminals to process and ship liquefied natural gas are planned or under construction from Corpus Christi to Lake Charles, La. All this represents a dramatic shift in the Houston and Gulf Coast economy and another example of how the technologies that opened shale formations to oil and gas drilling were truly revolutionary. In less than a decade, Greater Houston has shifted from net importer to net exporter as energy and petrochemical companies find international markets for crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products, and chemicals, including methanol, ammonia and propylene.

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Houston Chronicle

February 24, 2017

New Exxon CEO endorses carbon tax

Two months after taking over the CEO suite at Exxon Mobil, Darren Woods confirmed the company would continue to support a tax on carbon dioxide. In a blog post on the company’s website, Woods writes, “A uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction.” “One option being discussed by policymakers is a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. This would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today’s lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future.” That echoes language by Woods’ predecessor, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who for years argued that if governments were to regulate greenhouse gas emissions a uniform tax made the most sense.

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Houston Chronicle

February 24, 2017

Noble Energy sanctions massive Leviathan project offshore of Israel

Houston's Noble Energy and its Israeli partners said Thursday they will move forward with drilling one of the world's largest undeveloped natural gas fields off the coast of Israel, sanctioning the first phase at a cost of $3.75 billion. The project, known as Leviathan, has been championed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but has faced numerous issues in political debates and within the Israeli Supreme Court before finally winning governmental approval last year. Noble, which discovered the field in 2010, said drilling will commence in the middle of this year, although it doesn't expect to start delivering natural gas to Israel until late 2019. "The move would give Israel gas supply, and promote cooperation with the countries of the region," Netanyahu said Thursday in a statement translated from Hebrew.

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Inside Climate News

February 24, 2017

Unplugged Natural Gas Leak Threatens Alaska's Endangered Cook Inlet Belugas

Natural gas from a 52-year-old underwater pipeline has been leaking for at least two weeks into Cook Inlet in Alaska, home to a number of endangered species, including beluga whales. The company that owns the pipeline, Hilcorp, has said that the pipeline cannot be shut down without posing additional risk to the environment or employee safety because stopping the flow could trigger a crude oil leak. The 8-inch pipeline, which carries natural gas from shore to four offshore oil platforms, is leaking an estimated 210,000 to 310,000 cubic feet of natural gas each day, according to the company.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 25, 2017

Austin’s Forestar Group sells remaining oil and gas assets

Austin-based Forestar Group Inc. has reached an agreement to sell substantially all of its remaining oil and gas assets for $85.6 million, continuing its divestiture of holdings outside its main residential and mixed-use development portfolio. In a filing with the U.S. Securites and Exchange Commission, the developer said it had agreed to sell about almost 520,000 acres of “fee minerals” in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia to Mineral Resources Partners LLC. The deal comes about three months after Forestar sold about 58,000 acres of timberland in three separate sales collectively worth almost $104.6 million. Those properties were in Georgia and Alabama.

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Los Angeles Times

February 25, 2017

Amid U.S.-Mexico acrimony, energy might present common ground and opportunity, analysts say

Ixchel Castro, the manager of oil and refining research in Latin America for the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said the involvement of former Exxon Mobil Chief Executive and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited Mexico City last week, was a good sign. “Someone from Exxon Mobil understands very well how this mutual collaboration has been a win-win in the last few years,” Castro said. Castro was referring to the changes that President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law in 2013, opening the Mexican oil industry to foreign investment. It was a groundbreaking move. Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, had been a state monopoly since 1938, and has long been beset by mismanagement, corruption and nepotism.

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Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Energy Transfer to expand in Mont Belvieu with $385 million project

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners said it plans to expand its Lone Star campus east of Houston in Mont Belvieu with the addition of a $385 million fractionator and storage system. Energy Transfer said it’s responding to the increasing production levels coming from the Permian Basin that’s flowing into Houston. Energy Transfer’s planned fractionator would take streams of natural gas liquids that are collected during oil production, and then separate the liquids into individual products like ethane, propane and butane.

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Reuters

February 25, 2017

Dakota protesters regroup, plot resistance to other pipelines

Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline who were pushed out of their protest camp this week have vowed to keep up efforts to stop the multibillion-dollar project and take the fight to other pipelines as well. The Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was cleared by law enforcement on Thursday and almost 50 people, many of them Native Americans and environmental activists, were arrested. The number of demonstrators had dwindled from the thousands who poured into the camp starting in August to oppose the pipeline that critics say threatens the water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has said it intends to fight the pipeline in court.

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Forbes

February 25, 2017

U.S. Set To Rival Russia In Oil And Natural Gas Exports

Overall, to say that we will now be implementing more pro-oil and pro-natural gas policies might be the biggest understatement you will hear this year. Think about it: former Texas governor Rick Perry is head of the U.S. Department of Energy and former ExxonMobil CEO is head of the U.S. Department of State. Thus, the U.S. could rival Russia as the world's largest oil and gas exporting machine. Russia accounts for over 20% of the world's exported natural gas, and gas is easily the world's most important fuel going forward given climate commitments: gas emits 50% less CO2 than coal and 30% less CO2 than oil. In 2016, "Russia tops Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil exporter," and oil is the world's most important fuel, with no significant substitute whatsoever.

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Dynegy reports losses as it shuts down coal-fired power plants

The shutdown of two coal-fired power plants and the bankruptcy of a subsidiary contributed to losses last year for Houston-based Dynegy Inc., the company said Thursday. Dynegy said it lost $180 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a $134 million loss during the same period in 2015. For all of 2016, the company reported a loss of $1.24 billion, compared to a profit of $50 million 2015. Dynegy attributed most of its fourth quarter losses to the December bankruptcy filing of its subsidiary Illinois Power Generating Co., which operates coal-fired power plants in Illinois. The company, known as Genco, emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month after its plans for restructuring debt were approved by the Southern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court, according to a company statement.

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San Antonio Express News

February 26, 2017

Landowners near Eagle Pass coal mine had water shut down from wind-blown dust

Some residents living near a controversial coal mine outside of Eagle Pass had canal water services shut down for six days after a windy Valentine’s Day left their water coated in dust. Maverick County Water Control and Improvement District #1 staff found “little dust particles” covering a few tenths of a mile of Lateral 20 near Thompson Road on Feb. 15 following a day of 34-mile-per-hour winds, general manager Cynthia Martinez said. “It’s nasty,” said Jeff Taylor, who owns 13 acres near Dos Republicas Coal Partnership’s Eagle Pass mine. “It’s just all gooey and it’s not fit for anything.” The canals deliver residents domestic and irrigation water diverted from the Rio Grande. Martinez said she cannot confirm the su

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San Antonio Express News

February 25, 2017

CPS Energy’s nonprofit rescues stray animals found at power plants

It had been three weeks since the brown dog had slipped beneath a loose section of chainlink fence at the Leon Creek Power Plant and settled down next to a guard shack. She was a friendly Rhodesian Ridgeback and CPS Energy employee Lee West wanted to help her find a new home. So West turned to Worthwhile Animal Rescue Mission, a nonprofit started by CPS employees in 2011 under the company’s umbrella. It’s common knowledge among CPS Energy employees that the area near Quintana Road, where the plant is located, is a regular dumping site for unwanted pets.

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New York Times

February 26, 2017

Coal Industry Casts Itself as a Clean Energy Player

President Trump has questioned the science behind climate change as “a hoax” in positioning himself as a champion of coal. The three largest American coal producers are taking a different tack. Seeking to shore up their struggling industry, the coal producers are voicing greater concern about greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to frame a new image for coal as a contributor, not an obstacle, to a clean-energy future — an image intended to foster their legislative agenda. Executives of the three companies — Cloud Peak Energy, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal — are going so far as to make common cause with some of their harshest critics, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Task Force. Together, they are lobbying for a tax bill to expand government subsidies to reduce the environmental impact of coal burning.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

February 25, 2017

FWST: Clean energy gets second wind

There is a change in the wind. Wind, the stealer of umbrellas, has climbed its way to become a major contender in the energy field. Gone are the days of skeptics scoffing at the novelty and the choice between good for the environment or good for the wallet. In the last decade, the use of wind energy has sharpy increased. About 24 million American homes use wind, about 4 million of those in Texas, and many businesses are starting to use wind to power their facilities. The wind industry also provides stable job growth. In 2015, the sector provided about 24,000 to 25,000 jobs in the state, and thousands of Texas landowners were able to get lease payments for allowing wind turbines on their property.

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The Guardian

February 20, 2017

'The wild west of wind': Republicans push Texas as unlikely green energy leader

Living in New York and Washington, Greg Wortham heard all the grand talk about green energy from liberal politicians. Then he returned to the place where he grew up, a small town that embraced wind power so warmly that within a couple of years of the first turbine turning, it had some of the biggest farms on the planet. Yet Wortham is not from California, Oregon or New England, but a deeply conservative sector of Texas on the edge of the Permian Basin, one of the most bountiful oil and gas patches in the world. The welcome sign that greets motorists as they arrive in Sweetwater along Interstate 20, a three-hour drive west of Dallas, is not in the shape of an oil derrick or pumpjack, though: it’s a wind turbine blade bearing the town’s motto, “Life is sweet in Texas”.

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Offshore Wind

February 23, 2017

US Grid Ready for Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power Boost

US electrical grid has the potential to handle scores of gigawatts (GW) of installed offshore wind capacity which would also lead to less pollution and reduced electricity costs, according to a study carried out by researchers from the University of Delaware and Princeton University. The researchers, who have completed a first-of-its-kind simulation with the electric power industry, consulted with PJM Interconnection — a grid operator supplying electricity to more than 60 million people in 14 states — to develop a computer model that simulates how the electric grid would respond to injections of wind power from offshore wind farms along the East Coast at five build-out levels, between 7 and 70GW of installed capacity.

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Yahoo! News

February 17, 2017

Blackouts may cause Australia to shy away from renewables

In 2015, Canberra signed the Paris COP21 Agreement pledging to reduce its carbon emissions. The government concurrently set its own voluntary target aiming to secure 23 percent of its energy from renewable sources. But a string of recent blackouts might have prompted Canberra to change tack. Following a massive storm last autumn, South Australia was plunged into darkness after high voltage power lines were severed by a series of tornadoes. A subsequent December blackout wreaked havoc on a major industrial plant, which suffered damages that required a multi-million dollar government bailout. Investigating the catastrophic failure of backup systems to kick in, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) concluded that South Australia’s reliance on renewables played a significant part in producing the outage, as wind farms shut down for security reasons.

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Reuters

February 14, 2017

Cheap solar ambulances to speed into service in rural Bangladesh

An inexpensive, solar-powered ambulance that can fit down narrow laneways is set to hit the road in rural Bangladesh this year, its manufacturers say. The three-wheeled van, as well-equipped as ambulances used in Bangladesh’s cities, runs entirely on solar power – including solar battery power at night – and can be used in rural areas with no grid electricity, according to the developers. A Bangladeshi university, a government organisation and a local vehicle manufacturer who are collaborating on the vehicle say it should for the first time bring ambulance service to rural areas without it. The vehicle is in the field testing stage and there are plans to launch it by the end of 2017.

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

February 26, 2017

Schnurman: Deal-killers galore? NextEra CEO goes to Austin to send a message on Oncor

It’s Week 1 in the Oncor hearings, and NextEra Energy has already gone to the bullpen and brought in its ace. Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of the energy giant, made an unusual visit to Austin on Thursday. The Public Utility Commission, which is reviewing NextEra’s purchase of Dallas-based Oncor Electric Delivery Co., stopped its morning hearing and called an emergency open meeting for two hours later. The legal maneuvering allowed Robo to speak to the panel without being sworn in, so his comments wouldn't be considered evidence in the case. Robo first used the opportunity for a charm offensive. He said his wife was from Dallas, they married here and still have relatives in the state. He has the best interests of Texans at heart, he added.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 26, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott meets with Trump EPA head Scott Pruitt

Newly confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt met Friday in Washington with Gov. Greg Abbott to discuss environmental issues. An EPA press release said: “The two men agreed to work cooperatively on a range of issues,” including areas of Texas with smog conditions that run afoul of U.S. environmental standards — such as Houston and Dallas. Pruitt and Abbott both served as former state attorneys general who got much of their campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. As elected officials, both men have argued against more stringent EPA smog standards.

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Dallas Morning News

February 23, 2017

Texas' rural roots and urban future are on a high-speed collision course over a bullet train

John Stoneham’s knees don’t work like they used to, and it’s gotten tougher to count the cows roaming his 1,000 acres of land in southeast Texas. Sometimes newborn calves disappear into the tall brush and the 77-year-old can’t find them for days. ... The farms and homesteads in Grimes County blanket open land that for now is beyond the reach of Houston’s sprawling outer suburbs. The economic momentum and booming population growth that have transformed the state’s largest metro areas are distant phenomena in this and other rural Texas counties. But all that could change if the bullet train comes barreling through. Stoneham’s ranch is among thousands of parcels of Texas land that could one day be home to America’s first high-speed rail line. It’s also the site of a likely collision between two of the state’s most dearly held principles: Texans’ right to do what they want with their property and the free market’s ability to solve thorny problems with little government interference.

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Politico

February 24, 2017

Moore, Wallner: Why the GOP should abandon the border adjustment tax

Investors, employers and workers are getting nervous. What’s holding up the promised Trump tax cuts? The White House and GOP congressional leaders are hinting that tax cuts may not come until after Obamacare is repealed — meaning late summer at the earliest. But delay is the enemy of what these politicians need most: an early signature legislative victory that delivers on a key promise to voters and ramps up growth quickly. One distraction stalling the tax plan is the thorny issue of border adjustability. The Border Tax Adjustment, proposed by the House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, would in effect impose a tax on American imports while exempting American made exports from income tax calculations.

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Wall St. Journal

February 24, 2017

The Carbon Tax Chimera

The climate may change but one thing that never does is the use of climate change as a political wedge against Republicans. Also never changing is the call from some Republicans to neutralize the issue by handing more economic power to the federal government through a tax on carbon. The risk is that Donald Trump takes up the idea, which would hurt the economy with little benefit to the environment. George Shultz and James Baker, the esteemed former secretaries of State, have joined a group of GOP worthies for a carbon tax and recently pressed the case in these pages. They propose a gradually increasing tax that would be redistributed to Americans as a “dividend.” This tax on fossil fuels would replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and a crush of other punitive regulations. Energy imports from countries without a similar structure would face a tax at the border.

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February 24, 2017

Lead Stories

Bloomberg

February 23, 2017

Saudi Arabia's Oil Wealth Is About to Get a Reality Check

Saudi Arabia has said oil giant Saudi Aramco is worth more than $2 trillion, enough to consume Apple Inc. twice, and still have room for Google parent Alphabet Inc. The kingdom may have to settle for less. A lot less. Industry executives, analysts and investors told Bloomberg their analysis -- based on oil reserves and cash flow projections under different tax scenarios -- suggests Aramco is worth no more than half, and maybe as little as a fifth, of that amount. This means Saudi Arabia would earn a fraction of the $100 billion implied by its valuation if it sells 5 percent to the public in 2018, as planned. For example, Wood Mackenzie Ltd. came up with a rough valuation of Aramco’s core business of $400 billion, according to clients who attended a private meeting at the oil consultant’s City of London office this month and asked not to be named. The Edinburgh-based company, popular for its analysis and valuation of energy companies and assets, declined to comment.

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Motley Fool

February 11, 2017

In Case You Missed It, This Hasn't Happened in the Solar Industry in 16 Years

The solar industry has been on a growth streak for the past 16 years and is now a formidable force in energy. But this year may finally see the growth streak come to an end. According to GTM Research, 2017 is expected to see a 7% decline in installations, from 74 GW to 69 GW. This would be a significant downturn after years of growth, but it's not all that surprising to industry observers. First Solar, SunPower, Canadian Solar, and even shares of Tesla in SolarCity were all hammered by this decline before the calendar turned to 2017. While this year may be bad for solar energy, it may be the calm before a wave of installations hits starting in 2018. And if you look out on the horizon, the solar future looks to be getting brighter everyday.

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BOE Report

February 23, 2017

Billionaire Behind Dakota Access `Underestimated’ Social Media

Billionaire Kelcy Warren, who faced months of protests over the Dakota Access oil pipeline, said his company followed every law and still fell into a “mess.” Warren “underestimated the power of social media” during the standoff with environmental and Native American-rights activists, he said on a call with analysts Thursday. The Energy Transfer Partners LP chief executive officer was surprised that people were able to spread messages — including falsehoods — so widely and quickly over the Internet and “get away with it.” “There was no way we can defend ourselves,” Warren, 61, said on the call. “That was a mistake on my part.” ... Meanwhile, Warren said it’s “inevitable” that Energy Transfer Partners will consolidate with its parent unit, Energy Transfer Equity LP. Such a move would take place “at some point, not now,” Warren said. That would follow similar efforts by Targa Resources Corp. and Oneok Inc. to simplify their corporate structures and lower costs as competition heats up in America’s energy sector.

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Texas Monthly

February 23, 2017

Protests Against Oil and Gas Go Local

Although the oil and gas industry in 2015 won a major victory in the Legislature with a law that prohibits local governments from regulating energy exploration, the head of the Texas Oil and Gas Association said anti-industry activists are continuing to put up roadblocks at the local level—especially now that Congress and the White House are controlled by pro-production Republicans. “What we are seeing is the anti-oil-and-gas forces going state to state and local governments to thwart oil and gas activities,” said association president Todd Staples. “They’ve lost the [Obama] Administration, so what we are seeing is they are making it tough at every level.” Staples in particular pointed to opposition that has grown in South Texas to building Liquefied Natural Gas export terminals at the Port of Brownsville. Gas from hydraulic fracturing wells in the Eagle Ford shale would be transported across the Lower Rio Grande Valley in pipelines to a facility that would condense the volume of the gas for export overseas.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 24, 2017

US oil slips as stockpiles rise for seventh week

U.S. oil prices fell on Friday after government data released late in the previous session showed stockpiles rose last week for a seventh straight week, although losses were muted as inventory growth was well below expectations. U.S. West Texas Intermediate fell 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $54.33 a barrel by 0323 GMT, having closed up 1.6 percent in the previous session. It was on track for a weekly gain of about 1.8 percent, which would be its strongest so far this year. Brent crude was trading down 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $56.46.

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Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Apache says Alpine High discovery, despite skeptics, has even greater potential

The Alpine High oil and gas field, touted by Houston-based Apache Corp. as a major find, has greater potential than the company initially reported despite disappointing early production results, CEO John Christmann IV assured shareholders Thursday. Apache announced the discovery on the West Texas oil and gas field in September, estimating it holds the equivalent of 15 billion barrels of oil and gas. But production results, released earlier this month, disappointed analysts and investors, many of whom have been skeptical of Apache's find, since other companies had drilled in the area near Balmorhea without much success. In a call with analysts following the release of Apache's fourth quarter earnings, Christmann attributed the lower-than-expected output to a lack of equipment and pipelines in the remote area, which has limited hydraulic fracturing operations and the amount of oil and gas that can be extracted.

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Wall St. Journal

February 23, 2017

Border-Adjustment Tax Divides Energy Sector

The linchpin of a corporate tax overhaul proposed by House Republicans would mark a massive change for the U.S. oil and gas industry and has companies frantically studying whether to get behind it, fight it or stay on the sidelines. The proposal, a border adjustment tax, would remove companies’ ability to deduct import costs, including on raw materials, as regular business expenses. In turn, exports and other foreign sales wouldn’t count as income, meaning the U.S. would stop taxing companies’ foreign revenue and profits. Such a system could benefit companies that export fuel products or sell domestic crude, because it would make imported crude more expensive. It could hurt those companies that must import crude from other countries.

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Fox News

February 23, 2017

Oil and Gas Producer Apache Raises 2017 Budget by More Than 60%

U.S. oil and gas producer Apache Corp estimated its capital spending in 2017 would be more than 60 percent higher than 2016, joining a growing list of shale producers that are ramping up spending to take advantage of recovering oil prices. Apache said on Thursday that it plans to spend $3.1 billion in 2017, higher than the $1.9 billion it spent last year. It spent $4.7 billion in 2015. U.S. crude prices dipped to a low of $26.05 per barrel last year, but have largely traded above $50 since late November. This has prompted producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp , Chevron Corp and Hess Corp to boost their capital budgets for this year.

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Wall St. Journal

February 23, 2017

Non-OPEC Members Falling Short of Promised Production Cuts

Big oil producers outside OPEC aren’t cutting production as much as they pledged, Qatar’s oil minister said Wednesday, deepening pessimism about the effect of a landmark output deal struck last year. Russia, Mexico and nine other oil-producing countries agreed in December to reduce their output by a combined 558,000 barrels a day. The promise was part of a deal to raise crude prices with the 13 nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which separately agreed to slash 1.2 million barrels a day. But the non-OPEC piece of the deal doesn’t appear to be falling into place yet, said Mohammed al-Sada, the oil minister of OPEC member Qatar, and a key negotiator who brought the landmark deal together last year.

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Forbes

February 23, 2017

Anderson: U.S. Natural Gas Market Bulls And Bears Caged 'Indefinitely'

Supply is more sensitive than it’s been for decades due to to fracking and horizontal drilling techniques that have unlocked an enormous reserve base. Supply can be dialed up and down more quickly than ever before – think months as opposed to years. Prices are now caught between these opposing forces. LNG exports emerged because US natural gas prices dropped considerably below levels being paid in other countries, particularly in Asia where gas prices remain tied to oil prices. Entrepreneurs clamored to access this arbitrage window and began applying to build export plants or retrofit import terminals to process exports. The first export plant in the lower 48 opened for business last year.

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Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

DePillis: What "energy independence" really means

On the newly Trump-ified White House website, a section entitled "An America First Energy Plan" talks about how the U.S. can supply its energy needs from what's in the ground within our borders, to achieve "energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests." That's perhaps a wise goal, in and of itself; nobody wants U.S. foreign policy driven by desire for another country's natural resources. But here's the question: What does the U.S. give up if it cuts itself off from foreign sources of energy? In its annual energy outlook, economists from the British energy giant BP predict that the U.S. can be energy "self-sufficient" by 2023. That term is used deliberately. BP, which is interested in selling oil and gas products all over the world, defines "self-sufficiency" in terms of a country's balance of imports and exports.

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CNBC

February 23, 2017

Oil stocks are lagging, but analysts see a path to growth for some drillers

For some, the disparity comes down to the belief that oil prices will remain stuck in a narrow range as OPEC continues to cut output and U.S. drillers increase production. That will cap the recovery for oil stocks. But some independent exploration and production companies stand to reap bigger gains from the oil price recovery than integrated oil companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil and larger independents, said Timothy Rezvan, managing director of energy research at Mizuho Americas. The bigger players are less nimble and have committed to big shareholder payouts, he explained.

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World Oil

February 23, 2017

Canada's fading oil promise leaves U.S. majors struggling

Oil-sands investments in Western Canada that gobbled tens of billions of dollars over the past decade are proving an Achilles heel for some of the world’s biggest energy producers. Exxon Mobil Corp. slashed proved reserves the most in its modern history after removing the entire $16 billion, 3.5-Bbbl Kearl oil-sands project from its books on Wednesday. That followed ConocoPhillips’ announcement a day earlier that erased 1.15 billion oil-sands barrels, plunging its reserves to a 15-year low. While prolific shale plays in Texas and Oklahoma are going through an investment boom with oil above $50/bbl, the oil sands have fallen out of favor. Current investments in the region amount mostly to long-planned expansions by large Canadian producers like Suncor Energy Inc., while majors like Statoil ASA have sold assets. Suncor, which took over Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. less than a year ago, is down more than 3% this year in Toronto.

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CNBC

February 23, 2017

US turns into 'oil nation' with record exports, 'eating' OPEC market share

Shale and other U.S. producers sent 1.2 million barrels of crude oil onto world markets last week, up nearly 200,000 barrels a day from the week earlier and about 350,000 barrels above the four-week average, according to Energy Information Administration data. Until recently, the U.S. was exporting about 500,000 barrels a day. "OPEC's got a competitor. No doubt about it," said Kyle Cooper, a consultant with Ion Energy Group. "They certainly have to be concerned with U.S. oil producers eating into their market share." U.S. producers have also ramped up production to 9 million barrels a day last week, a level last seen in April 2016.

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Utilities Stories

Engadget

February 23, 2017

Endless nuclear power can be found in the seas

The ocean is a good source of uranium fuel, but it exists in such small quantities that extracting it hasn't been economically feasible. However, Stanford researchers have developed a new technique that can capture up to three times more, meaning we might soon get a new source of uranium that could help keep CO2 in check. A surprising amount of uranium exists in the ocean in the form of positively charged uranyl ions (no jokes please). The total is estimated at 4.5 billion tons, enough to power current plants for around 6 millenia. However, there's only around a grain of salt per quart (three parts per billion) and so far, it's been too time-consuming and expensive to extract it in decent quantities. The best way to get uranium out of salt water is to dip plastic fibers coated with an organic chemical called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions stick to the amidoxime, and can later be extracted and refined into uranium fuel.

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Oil Price

February 23, 2017

The U.S. Nuclear Energy Dream Is Dying

The United States was once a projected leader in the nuclear energy race. In the 20th century, the world dreamed of finding a way to provide safe, cheap, and renewable energy, and nuclear power seemed to be the manifestation of those dreams. All of this, however, seems to be coming to an end. This past week, Toshiba decided to sell its American nuclear power subsidiary at a $6 billion loss. Westinghouse Electric Company, an American company that Toshiba acquired 10 years ago, is in the business of building and constructing nuclear power facilities. This isn’t the first time that Toshiba attempted to offload controlling interest in Westinghouse – all previous efforts, however, have failed.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

The Australian

February 20, 2017

Gas carbon capture ‘cheaper’ than wind and solar, experts say

Catching carbon from gas power plants can provide cheaper secure electricity than wind and solar, according to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which has called on the federal government to boost investment in the technology as a way to balance energy security and the need to reduce emissions In a submission to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s review into national energy security, GCCSI Asia-Pacific manager Alex Zapantis said storing carbon emissions from gas and coal-fired plants was already cost-competitive with battery-supported renewables, and that costs would come down rapidly with more investment. “We need to look at total costs (of constant renewable supply) to ensure a like-for-like comparison,” Mr Zapantis told The Australian. The submission says life-cycle costs of a gas plant that stored carbon were now $120-$150 per megawatt hour. This is more expensive than costs of up to $100/MWH for wind power alone, but the situation changes dramatically when the cost of batteries are added.

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Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Council grows Houston's use of solar power

Houston, the nation's largest municipal buyer of renewable energy, plans to grow its green power use through an expanded agreement with a solar plant under construction near Alpine in West Texas. City Council in late 2015 agreed to a 20-year, $80 million deal to buy 30 megawatts of power a year from the Solaire Holman plant, which originally was to come online last December. Council on Wednesday ramped up that purchase to accept all 50 megawatts the plant will produce, at $44.68 per megawatt-hour and a maximum price of $125 million over 20 years. That will be enough to cover 10.5 percent of the city's annual electricity needs, and is intended to replace an equivalent amount of coal-generated power.

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Newsday

February 19, 2017

Wind farm’s long-term cost will be high for power projects

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a speech last month touted an offshore wind farm 30 miles from Montauk Point, he made special note of its “inexpensive energy,” saying it would “drive the economy.” While the project by developer Deepwater Wind promises many benefits, including meeting LIPA’s green-energy goals and the state’s Clean Energy Standard, it’s hard to make the case that the power it produces will be inexpensive. With an all-in development cost of $740 million, the 90-megawatt project will be among the most expensive power sources for Long Island to date. By the time the 20-year contract to purchase all the energy from the wind farm expires by 2042, Long Islanders will have paid over $1.46 billion for energy from the array — $59 million a year at 16 cents a kilowatt-hour, by Newsday estimates.

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EcoWatch

February 23, 2017

States Lead the Way Toward 100% Renewable Energy

Lawmakers in California and Massachusetts have recently introduced bills that would require their respective states to get all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. California Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who introduced SB 584 last Friday, would require the Golden State to have a carbon-free grid by 2045. It would also accelerate the state's current goal of hitting 50 percent renewables by 2030 to 2025. De León actually helped pushed through the initial 50 percent by 2030 law two years ago, but as he told the Los Angeles Times the legislation did not go far enough. "We probably should have shot for the stars," he said.

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Green Optimistic

February 21, 2017

Urine-Powered Batteries One Step Closer to Hitting the Market

Stanford professor Hongjie Dai and Michael Angell found a solution to the remote locations not being able to access grid-scale battery usage. As of today, the technology is too expansive to be commercially used, but with this research, there is a way to spread the technology. Dai and Angell designed a battery dependent on urea. As urea is found very easily in the environment, the new battery will help reduce the price and be commercially available. The battery is made from aluminum and graphite. Dai is fond of the new possibilities that the research brought to the industry: “So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance. Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?”

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Viet Nam Net

February 23, 2017

Vietnam wants to develop high-tech wind power plants

Fifty wind power projects have been registered in Vietnam so far, but only four of them, with the total capacity of 159.2 MW, have been put into commercial operation. According to the World Bank, Vietnam has the greatest potential in the region in developing wind power. Vietnam’s wind power reserves are estimated at 513.360 MW, or six times higher than the total electricity capacity by 2020. The bank’s research found that 8.6 percent of Vietnam’s mainland area has great potential, favorable for the installation of large-scale turbines.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Lamar Smith takes on the clean energy agenda

Over the past decade, the U.S. government has spent tens of billions of dollars to speed onto the market the energy technology that many believe is the future - from solar panels to industrial-size batteries to modernized nuclear reactors. "Building the new energy economy," the U.S. Department of Energy proclaims on its Twitter feed. But with former President Barack Obama out of the White House, a coalition of conservative politicians led by San Antonio Rep. Lamar Smith - the powerful chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee - is pressing to overhaul a system it says allows the government, rather than the market, to decide the future of the country's energy industry in a bid to create a low-carbon economy.

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Dallas Morning News

February 23, 2017

DMN: Conservative group's carbon plan gives us hope for climate change action

After decades of overwhelming scientific evidence showing that man-made emissions are endangering the planet's future, there should be no climate change deniers left. If only that were true. Congressional Republicans refuse to take powerful steps to embrace renewable energy. Like the Trump administration, they seem poised to roll back environmental rules, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, without also establishing a workable mechanism to reduce carbon emissions. With the clock ticking on climate change problems, this would be highly irresponsible. That is why we are pleased the Climate Leadership Council — a conservative panel including former Secretaries of State George Schultz and James Baker and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — is challenging skeptics in their party with a market-based approach.

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Houston Chronicle

February 21, 2017

Texas legislators trying to put brakes on Houston-to-Dallas bullet train

State lawmakers on Tuesday moved to derail plans for a privately-funded high-speed rail line in Texas, filing nearly two dozen bills to stop the project in its tracks or lessen its effect on landowners should trains roll ahead. The 18 bills, nine in the Texas Senate with companions in the Texas House, and five others focus on severely limiting Texas Central Partners' ability to develop a Houston-to-Dallas bullet train line. The project is supported by officials in both cities, but strongly opposed by many rural landowners and elected officials. Opponents called the deluge of fresh legislation an impressive and persuasive show of the uphill battle the 240-mile rail project faces. "There is a solid block," said Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. "How many other issues do you know that generate this solidarity? This is a big deal."

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Dallas Morning News

February 23, 2017

How to pay for Texas' $12 billion bullet train without asking the state for money

“Entrepreneurial risk will be borne by investors who understand that,” Texas Central President Tim Keith said. “The appetite for infrastructure assets by global investors is huge.” ... Texas Central executives are confident they’ll be able to find the money, in large part because investors are hungry for “real assets” -- tangible projects, basically -- that could provide bigger returns than what’s available in today’s market. Managers of huge pots of money, like private equity funds or pension funds, “have obligations to pay their plan holders and they need long-dated assets,” Keith said. In other words, low interest rates and other factors have meant that there aren’t a lot of places to park portions of those pools that will reliably pay out to investors over long periods of time. That’s part of why pension funds, which are supposed to be how workers get paid their retirement, are seeking out safer investments.

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Dallas Morning News

February 23, 2017

DMN: Lawmakers file flurry of misguided bills to derail the Dallas-to-Houston bullet train

The Texas bullet train project is moving ahead, hitting milestones and keeping alive the audacious promise of a 90-minute train ride between Dallas and Houston. But yet again, a big potential roadblock has emerged in Austin. This week, lawmakers filed over 20 bills that could slow the privately funded project or even kill it. Opponents appear more organized than two years ago when they tried to derail the program and failed. One bill calls for a government feasibility study; another requires a state designation to survey property. Multiple bills would ban state money, even though the owners, Texas Central Partners, have pledged to not seek any grants for the $12 billion project. The most threatening legislation would prevent Texas Central from using the power of eminent domain at all.

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Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

HC: Energy reality -- Pro-coal policy ignores the Texas model for building a clean power future.

We know that there's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any other time in human civilization. We know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat from the sun. We know that global temperatures have been hitting record highs. Major oil and gas companies know this, too, which is why the likes of ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco and Total all recognize the risks and reality of man-made global warming, and have called for a reasonable policy response. Scott Pruitt needs to get on board. The new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has a long track record opposing federal environmental regulation as Oklahoma attorney general. He's publicly doubted the reality of global climate change. Emails made public this week reveal that he coordinated with industry and political groups to roll back environmental regulations. He even allowed corporate lobbyists to draft letters for him to send on state stationery.

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Daily Caller

February 14, 2017

New York Gov. Giving Green Companies That Donated To His Campaign $360 Million

New York will give $360 million to a handful of wind and solar power companies, one of which donated money to the Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign. Roughly 80 percent of the cash from New York state will go to a pair of green energy companies, Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc. and Illinois-based Invenergy. Next EraEnergy made a campaign contribution of $3,000 to Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign. In 2015, Next Era spent $80,000 lobbying state officials. Invenergy spent $22,500 on lobbying that year, according to New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Cuomo’s spending will help pay for 11 solar and wind energy projects, including a 101.2 megawatt wind farm by Next Era and a 105.8 megawatt wind farm by Invenergy.

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Waco Tribune

February 22, 2017

Matthews: Here's a simple to-do list for Rick Perry in basic energy policy

Here’s what Perry must do: Eliminate mandates and subsidies for energy sources. The Obama administration spent an average of $39 billion annually over five years subsidizing solar and renewable energy projects. A chunk of that money came from DOE. The government shouldn’t decide private-sector winners and losers — that’s what consumers and markets do. Perry should phase out DOE clean-energy subsidies and hand that money back to taxpayers. Rationalize energy research. DOE is charged with conducting energy research and development. In an effort to fulfill Obama’s dream of a clean-energy economy, DOE’s 2017 budget request hoped to “double clean-energy research and development funding in five years.” That’s not likely now.

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Bloomberg

February 23, 2017

Governors Urge Trump to Support Wind and Solar Power

A group of governors from both ends of the political spectrum are urging President Donald Trump to support renewable energy, saying the wind and solar industries are crucial economic engines for impoverished rural regions. The Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition is seeking increased federal funding to modernize local power grids and boost clean energy research, according to a letter submitted to the White House Monday. The group is also calling for legislation to promote offshore wind farms and efforts to streamline the permitting process for wind and solar projects. The message is the latest indication that Trump’s criticism of renewable energy puts him at odds with much of corporate America and members of his own party. Since he was elected, Republican governors in Illinois and Michigan signed legislation backing wind and solar.

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The Hill

February 23, 2017

Eric Trump’s brother-in-law working at Energy Dept.

The brother-in-law of President Trump’s son is working to implement the president’s agenda at the Department of Energy (DOE). Kyle Yunaska, brother-in-law of Eric Trump through Trump’s wife Lara, is on the so-called “beachhead” team of DOE political appointees working to run the agency following the president’s inauguration last month, a person familiar with Yunaska’s position said. Axios reported on Yunaska’s hiring at the DOE earlier Thursday. The Trump administration has already faced allegations of nepotism. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is one of his closest advisers, and Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife, is working closely with the administration on a number of initiatives, although she is not an employee.

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New York Times

February 23, 2017

NYT: President Trump Takes Aim at the Environment

President Trump brandished executive pen and fresh hyperbole last week in blessing the coal industry’s decades-old practice of freely dumping tons of debris into the streams and mountain hollows of America’s mining communities. “Another terrible job-killing rule,” Mr. Trump declared at a signing ceremony that struck down the Obama administration’s attempt to regulate surface mining wastes. He insisted he was saving “many thousands of American jobs” in sparing coal companies the expense of cleaning up their environmental messes. The signing ceremony was not just an insult to the benighted coal hamlets of Appalachia, where the industry’s dumping of debris down the mountainsides has created a wasteland.

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CNBC

February 23, 2017

Trump: Keystone, Dakota Access pipeline makers must buy US steel

President Donald Trump on Thursday said the companies behind two hotly contested oil pipelines must use U.S. steel in their projects. Trump ordered the Department of Commerce last month to develop a plan that would require any company that builds a pipeline within U.S. borders to use American-made materials and equipment. But he has previously stopped short of language suggesting a requirement in public statements, instead saying he would like the projects to be built with U.S. raw steel and pipes. The Commerce Department has not yet issued a report on the requirement, but Trump on Thursday said the companies behind the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines would "have to buy" pipes made from U.S. steel.

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February 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Bloomberg

February 22, 2017

Oil Sands Batter Major Explorers' Reserves as Rout Sinks Value

Oil-sands investments in Western Canada that gobbled tens of billions of dollars over the past decade are proving an Achilles heel for some of the world’s biggest energy producers. Exxon Mobil Corp. slashed proved reserves the most in its modern history after removing the entire $16 billion, 3.5-billion-barrel Kearl oil-sands project from its books on Wednesday. That followed ConocoPhillips’ announcement a day earlier that erasing 1.15 billion oil-sands barrels plunged its reserves to a 15-year low. While prolific shale plays in Texas and Oklahoma are going through an investment boom with oil above $50 a barrel, the oil sands have fallen out of favor. Current investments in the region amount mostly to long-planned expansions by large Canadian producers like Suncor Energy Inc., while majors like Statoil ASA have sold assets.

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Oil Price

February 22, 2017

The Discounts Are Over: U.S. Shale Is About To Get More Expensive

The U.S. oil rig count has surged for the better part of three quarters, rising by 281 rigs since bottoming out in May 2016, an increase of nearly 90 percent. The rebound in drilling activity promises a swift return of the U.S. shale industry, with output coming back even though oil prices are trading 50 percent lower than they were a few years ago. The return of U.S. shale at lower oil prices is possible because drillers have successfully lowered their breakeven price during the downturn. Improved drilling techniques such as longer laterals, more wells per rig, more wells per wellpad, and drilling only at the best spots have all led to higher output and lower costs. That means that companies can turn a profit even though oil prices are much lower than they were in years past. In that sense, even though the downturn in prices forced some companies into bankruptcy, the industry is healthier than it was before.

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Phys Org

February 22, 2017

New polymer nanocomposites could improve solar cell durability

The Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory at Texas A&M University, directed by Dr. Jaime Grunlan, is working with scientists at the Sandia National Laboratory to reduce or eliminate arc faults and corrosion in solar cells. Corrosion in photovoltaic cells, which convert light into electricity, can damage connections and reduce or destroy the ability to generate electricity. The specific goal of Grunlan's research with Sandia is to prevent arc faults, which are discharges of electricity that can occur when electrical connections are corroded. Initial testing suggests the thin clay-based nanocomposite coatings developed at Texas A&M could also be used as anti-corrosive layers within the cells to improve durability/lifetime. The coatings developed within Grunlan's research group are being evaluated as barriers to moisture and corrosive gases. Testing is being done at Sandia as part of the larger Durable Module Materials National Lab Consortium (DuraMat), which is seeking to benefit the photovoltaic industry.

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Houston Chronicle

February 22, 2017

The U.S. is transitioning into a natural gas exporter

The United States is on track to become a net exporter of gas next year, driven largely by the growth of liquefied natural gas exports, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The U.S. started exporting LNG last year, courtesy of Houston-based Cheniere Energy, and the country is increasingly piping more natural gas to Mexico while, simultaneously, importing less gas via pipeline from Canada. The U.S. was still an overall net importer last year. The nation is projected to become a net exporter of total energy products shortly after 2020, the Energy Department said, which was a virtually unheard of proposition just a decade ago.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 23, 2017

US oil rises after report shows drop in stockpiles

Oil futures climbed nearly 1 percent on Thursday after data showed a surprise decline in U.S. crude stocks as imports fell, supporting the view that a global glut is ending. The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude April contract had risen 50 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $54.09 a barrel by 0229 GMT. Brent crude was up 51 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $56.35, although both benchmarks were still well within recent tight ranges. Crude inventories fell by 884,000 barrels in the week to Feb. 17 to 512.7 million, compared with analyst expectations for an increase of 3.5 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Wednesday.

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Bloomberg

February 22, 2017

Oil Market Signal Turns Bullish for 1st Time Since Crash

Forward prices for crude oil are signaling tightening supply for the first time since the market crashed in 2014. The price difference for Brent for immediate delivery and the one-year forward flipped to a premium on Tuesday for the first time in about 2 1/2 years, according to data from ICE Futures Europe.

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Forbes

February 22, 2017

Hanke: Oil And The Golden Constant

Thanks to the “golden constant,” I was able to anticipate the course of crude’s bounce back. Indeed, the price of crude has doubled since its cyclical nadir. Just as I predicted. How did I nail the course of crude’s price, and where is the price of oil going from here? To answer these questions, we must have a model – a way of thinking about the problem. In this case, a starting point is Roy W. Jastram’s classic study, The Golden Constant: The English and American Experience 1560-2007. In that work, Jastram finds that gold maintains its purchasing power over long periods of time, with the prices of other commodities adapting to the price of gold. Taking the broad lead from Jastram, I developed a model. It employs the price of gold as a long-term benchmark for the price of oil. The idea being that, if the price of oil changes dramatically, the oil-gold price ratio will change and move away from its long-term value. Forces will then be set in motion to move supply and demand so that the price of oil changes and the long-term oil-gold price ratio is reestablished. This represents nothing more than a reversion to the mean.

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MarketWatch

February 22, 2017

Citi sees Brent oil at $70 a barrel by end of 2017

If commodity bulls aren’t feeling the love in 2017 so far, they may get closer after Citigroup threw out a couple of upbeat calls on oil and copper this week. “Citi retains its bullish view on both crude oil and copper for 2017, seeing Brent potentially touching (around) $70/bbl. and LME copper possibly trading as high as $7,000/ton by year-end,” said analyst Edward Morse, global head of commodities research at Citi, and the team at Citi in a note to clients Tuesday. In both cases, analysts attribute the march to higher levels to “rapid rebalancing over the course of the year.” And as well, investors who have commodities in their portfolios are adding a diversifier, given the fact major commodities are no longer tracking solid positive or negative correlations with equities, bonds and the U.S. dollar, said Citi. Statistical correlations represent an asset’s trading relationship with another asset.

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Barron's

February 22, 2017

BofA Dims Its Outlook on Oil

The price of crude fell 1.4% on Wednesday to around $54, dragging energy stocks down with it. United States Oil (USO) and iPath CSCI Crude Oil ETN (OIL) slid 1.5% and 1.9% respectively. Meanwhile the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) declined 1.4%. It’s no small wonder. Increased shale production in the U.S., a strengthening dollar, and price wars all threaten the price of oil. That’s why BofA knocked down its price forecast for Brent to $50-70 from an average of $55-$75 per barrel through 2022. BofA’s global commodity research team explains: "Why do we see medium-term oil prices in a $50 to $70/bbl band? Below this level, oil supply rationing and rapid EM demand growth should push prices higher. Above it, we see a surge in global oil supplies and EM demand destruction curbing any additional price gains. After all, Brent crude oil prices remain at one of the lowest levels in real terms in decades.

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Bloomberg

February 22, 2017

Gas Pioneer Chesapeake Embarks on Oil Quest to Escape Junk Label

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the No. 2 U.S. natural gas producer, thinks it has a one-word answer to its debt issues: Oil. Chief Executive Officer Doug Lawler is focusing 60 percent of the Oklahoma City-based driller’s 2017 budget on crude oil projects, mostly in South Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming shale fields. The company plans about 320 new crude wells this year, compared with 90 for gas, Lawler said on Feb. 14. The hoped-for result: Oil output, set to grow 10 percent in 2017, could grow by double that rate next year. The former deep-water exploration chief for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has been striving to bring the gas producer back on its feet after inheriting suffocating debt, collapsing cash flow and wilting reserves 3 1/2 years ago.

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New York Times

February 22, 2017

The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday. The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health. Senate Democrats tried last week to postpone a final vote until the emails could be made public, but Republicans beat back the delay and approved his confirmation on Friday largely along party lines. The impolitic tone of many of the emails cast light on why Republicans were so eager to beat the release. And although the contents of the emails were broadly revealed in The New York Times in 2014, the totality of the correspondences captures just how much at war Mr. Pruitt was with the E.P.A. and how cozy he was with the industries that he is now charged with policing.

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San Antonio Express News

February 22, 2017

Texas inching its way into an oil recovery

Texas has soared through oil booms and slogged through oil busts before. Thomas Tunstall, an economic development research director at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said Wednesday that the current period of price recovery looks familiar, too — though it’s no joy ride — for people who watch the history of a cyclical industry. “It was a lot more fun being in Texas when it was $100 a barrel,” Tunstall said at a San Antonio Business and Economic Society luncheon at the Plaza Club.

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San Antonio Express News

February 22, 2017

Longtime farming family near Portland feels land sale to Exxon is best option

GREGORY — In 2016, Kenneth McKamey said his family faced a difficult choice: live with the possibility that a large chunk of their farmland could be bisected by a rail line, rendering it useless, or have Exxon Mobil purchase the land. The choice put the family “up against a tree.” Exxon eventually made a bid the McKameys couldn’t ignore. “If we didn’t make a deal with somebody somewhere, we’d end up cut up,” McKamey said, adding there had been recurring talk of the Port of Corpus Christi using eminent domain to split the land in two with a rail line. However, Sean Strawbridge, the Port of Corpus Christi’s chief operations officer, said he had no knowledge of discussions with McKamey regarding additional rail lines.

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Bloomberg

February 22, 2017

Total CEO Says OPEC Needs Cuts `Extended Beyond May' to End Glut

OPEC and Russia will need to prolong their six-month deal to cut oil output if they plan to trim the global inventory glut that has kept a lid on prices, said Total SA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne. “If they want really to have an impact on the market, which means to have the inventories going down because inventories are quite high, it will have to be extended beyond May” when OPEC has its next scheduled meeting, Pouyanne said Tuesday in a Bloomberg television interview in New York. “I’m convinced that they will do it.”

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Bloomberg

February 22, 2017

OPEC Still Waiting for Evidence Oil Cuts Are Doing Their Job

OPEC officials this week hailed the “excellent” and “unprecedented” implementation of their agreement to cut oil production, but were still waiting for solid evidence that the deal was fulfilling their key measure of success and shrinking the global glut. A reduction in the amount of oil held in storage around the world is the most important factor for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Qatar’s Energy Minister Mohammed Al Sada said at the IP Week conference in London Wednesday. The pace of that decline will determine the group’s next move, including whether to extend the accord beyond its initial six-month term, said OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo.

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World Oil

February 22, 2017

Billionaire Sam Zell joins slew of investors in 'awesome' STACK shale play

Billionaire real-estate investor Sam Zell is joining Continental Resources Inc.’s Harold Hamm in the growing list of enthusiasts of Oklahoma’s STACK shale formation. Zell, founder of Equity Group Investments Inc., made an investment in the region two days ago and sees "awesome" prospects for the oil-producing area, he told Alix Steel in a Bloomberg TV interview Wednesday. The firm also "re-upped" its previous investment in North Dakota’s Bakken play in anticipation of the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline. The project cleared its last regulatory hurdle after President Donald Trump took office. The STACK formation, along with the nearby SCOOP, is going through a drilling boom as it offers good returns at a $50 oil price. Continental expects to more than double output from the area’s oil-soaked rocks this year, while Marathon Oil Corp. plans to double the number of rigs in Oklahoma.

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Oil Price

February 20, 2017

Iran’s South Pars Oil Field To Produce By End Of March

The South Pars field in the Persian Gulf will begin production by the end of the fiscal year, according to Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, who made the confirmatory statement during an interview with IRIB TV this week. The first stage of production will see output of 35,000 barrels per day, while the second stage will increase to 100,000 bpd. Iran shares ownership of the gas reserves in the largest field of its kind with Qatar. The 14-trillion-cubic-feet find represents eight percent of the world’s known reserves. Both countries are members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

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Burlington County Times (NJ)

February 21, 2017

Mullane: The moral case for fossil fuels

But is there a moral case for using fossil fuels? Sure. It’s found in Alex Epstein’s New York Times best-seller, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.” Epstein, a conservative policy pundit, wrote the book to counter common talking points presented by climate-change doom-and-gloomers. His case, backed with government and science data, is that oil, coal and gas have taken a naturally harsh, disease-prone environment and tamed it, making it cleaner, safer and livable for us delicately designed humans. An inhabitant from the fossil-fuel-free world of 300 years ago, transported to modern cities and suburbs, would be amazed at how clean, safe and comfortable it is, compared with the world of the 18th century. In a world tamed by devices powered by fossil fuels, it’s easy to forget that the natural world is a harsh, unforgiving place where only the strongest survive, usually not for long.

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Oil Price

February 22, 2017

This Is Where Oil Majors Expects The Next Big Efficiency Jump

The race for using high-performance computing in oil and gas reservoir simulation, management and development is on. Oil and gas supermajors are continuously pushing for higher efficiency and lower costs, all the more so since the oil price crash in 2014 caused them to cut exploration and production investments. The industry is increasingly relying on advanced technology in appraising oil and gas fields that would minimize downtime and maximize profits. Last week, ExxonMobil boasted that it had set a record in high-performance oil and gas reservoir computing. In cooperation with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Exxon said it achieved parallel simulation using 716,800 processors, the equivalent of 22,400 computers with 32 processors each. The U.S. major claims that the data output is provided “thousands of times faster” than data received with typical oil and gas reservoir simulations.

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Texas Public Radio

February 21, 2017

Record Number Of Miles Driven In U.S. Last Year

Americans are driving more than ever before, according to new data released today by the Federal Highway Administration. Drivers in cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs put a record 3.22 trillion miles on the nation's roads last year, up 2.8 percent from 3.1 trillion miles in 2015. It's the fifth consecutive year of increased miles driven on public roads and highways, reflecting a strengthening economy, but it also "underscores the demands facing American's roads and bridges," according to a statement from the FHWA, "and reaffirms calls for greater investment in surface transportation infrastructure."

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Hydrogen Fuel News

February 22, 2017

Solar energy capacity expected to skyrocket in Texas by 2020

The number of large-scale solar energy systems in Texas is expected to double over the next few years. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas believes that solar power is gaining ground throughout the state, especially as utilities feel greater pressure to embrace clean energy. According to the West Texas Energy Consortium, many organizations are aggressively looking for property on which to build new solar projects. This is expected to have a major impact on the state’s solar capacity and could establish Texas as a leading solar market in the near future. ConEdison Development, which currently operates four solar energy systems in Texas, notes that the state has become a very attractive market for solar power. This is partly due to the fact that Texas receives abundant sunlight throughout the year.

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CNBC

February 22, 2017

SolarCity’s Ties to Foreclosure Cases Raise Questions on Vetting Policies

SolarCity, the nation's leading installer of rooftop solar panels and a renewable energy darling, has pitched its value to investors on a simple premise: Once customers sign up to lease a system, they will make payments to the company month after month for at least 20 years. But even when the customers look good enough on paper, it does not always work out that way. In dozens of cases over the last three years, The New York Times has found, SolarCity has reached long-term lease agreements with homeowners shortly before or even after they defaulted on mortgages. In at least 14 cases, the homeowners were already in default, or had other liens on the property, by the time SolarCity filed paperwork about the panels with the government.

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KLBK

February 21, 2017

Solar Energy Powering Homes, Businesses on the South Plains

LUBBOCK, TX - In October 2016, NextEra Energy, a power company out of Florida, built two solar panel farms on 1,100 acres in Chaves County, New Mexico near Roswell. 600,000 panel produce 140 megawatts of energy, which was bought by Xcel Energy in a Power Purchase Agreement. "That much power is actually for over 40,000 homes," Site Manager Steve Kowalick said. Xcel Energy provides power for 41 cities on the South Plains.

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Regulatory Stories

Houston Chronicle

February 22, 2017

EEOC sues energy company for race discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday sued a Houston oil field equipment manufacturing company for allegedly firing a black employee who complained of racial harassment after accusing his white co-workers of donning a white hood that resembled Ku Klux Klan regalia. Downhole Technology, which makes fracturing plugs for completion of oil and gas wells, was accused by the federal agency of failing to take prompt remedial action after Kenneth Echols, who is African-American, reported the incident to company officials and then retaliating against him for reporting the conduct. ... Downhole Technology was founded in Houston in 2010. Austrian-based Schoeller-Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment, which makes tools for drilling and completing directional and horizontal wells, gained control of the company on April 1, when it bought a 68 percent stake in the privately-held company, according to Schoeller-Bleckmann.

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Houston Chronicle

February 22, 2017

Big oil urges Trump to hold course on ethanol “point of obligation"

The oil industry’s largest lobbying group urged President Donald Trump Wednesday not to move responsibility for meeting the federal ethanol mandate away from oil refineries, arguing it would further complicate an already “broken system.” “Moving the point of obligation does nothing to alleviate the structural problems in the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said American Petroleum Institute Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola. “It would create significant uncertainty.”

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Midland Reporter Telegram

February 21, 2017

Sen. Ted Cruz: Eight years of hostility toward oil and gas are over

MRT: Is there anything specific that you heard in your conversations with people in the oil industry about laws or regulations they'd like to see changed, eliminated or added? Cruz: For eight years, the Obama administration had manifested deep hostility to energy and to oil and gas, in particular. Whether it's been the Environmental Protection Agency or the Bureau of Land Management or regulations across the board driving up the costs of developing our resources, the federal government's policies have hurt Texas. With the Trump administration, we now have leaders in Washington who are not zealots trying to kill jobs, but rather will work to create an environment where were can explore and develop our nation's God-given resources where we can see energy driving millions of new jobs and raising wages across this country.

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San Antonio Express News

February 22, 2017

Study finds ozone violations will come with hefty price tag

Not meeting federal ozone standards could cost San Antonio and the surrounding area over $1 billion in lost economic output per year over 30 years, according to early results of a study released Wednesday. Steve Nivin, assistant professor of economics at St. Mary’s University, told an independent air quality committee made up of local elected officials that the estimated annual impact on Bexar County and seven surrounding counties ranges from about $117 million to $1.2 billion. The effects depend on the severity of ozone levels and how manufacturers and road planners respond to federal regulations. The impact is defined as a loss to gross regional product, a measure of the market value of all goods and services produced by a metro area, Nivin said. He included Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina and Wilson counties in the analysis.

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Politico

February 22, 2017

Tillerson looking for ways to raise his public profile

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has asked his aides to find ways to improve his media profile, a request that comes as U.S. diplomats increasingly worry about the direction of the State Department and whether their new boss has enough influence with President Donald Trump. A State Department official said Tillerson’s aides have asked staffers at the agency to draft a paper laying out ways he can engage with reporters, who have been given almost no access to the new Cabinet member. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share the information. The State Department’s press office did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

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Bloomberg

February 22, 2017

Trump Deportation Threats to Constrict Already-Tight Job Market

President Donald Trump’s sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants will strain an already tight U.S. job market, with one study suggesting that removing all of them would cost the economy as much as $5 trillion over 10 years. That represents the contribution of the millions of unauthorized workers to the world’s largest economy, about 3 percent of private-sector gross domestic product, according to a recent paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research. At an average of $500 billion in output a year, removing all such immigrants would be like lopping off the equivalent of Massachusetts from the U.S. economy, said study co-author Francesc Ortega.

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February 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Oil Price

February 20, 2017

Biggest Gasoline Glut In 27 Years Could Crash Oil Markets

Oil prices are stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for more definitive data on what comes next. OPEC compliance is helping keep prices afloat, but rising U.S. oil production is acting as a counterweight. A new problem that has suddenly emerged is the record levels of gasoline sitting in storage. The market has already had to digest the fact that U.S. crude oil stocks were rising, and investors have done their best to explain away the trend. But now gasoline inventories are climbing to unexpected heights. It would be one thing if crude stocks were rising, perhaps because refiners were going offline for maintenance. But if that were the case, then gasoline stocks would draw down on lower refining runs. But if both crude and refined product inventories are going up at the same time, then there should be some reasons for worry

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Houston Chronicle

February 21, 2017

Tomlinson: Eminent domain power comes with responsibilities

Magellan is currently expanding its BridgeTex Pipeline to deliver oil from the Permian Basin to its extensive network in Houston serving the ship channel. The company invokes eminent domain where necessary. Magellan, though, is refusing to live up the other side of the bargain, according to two complaints filed with the Texas Railroad Commission and an antitrust lawsuit. Magellan's management has refused to allow Houston-based Fairway Energy Partners and Vopak Moda Houston to connect to Magellan's network at the Speed and Genoa Junctions so they can serve Houston-area customers. "The state of Texas privileges Magellan to move oil through Texas, it gives them the right of eminent domain and those two things together are very powerful," said Dana Grams, chief commercial officer for Fairway. "But they also have an obligation back to the citizens of Texas to make sure they are promoting competition and an open market."

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Houston Chronicle

February 21, 2017

Campaign contributions to Railroad Commissioners continue to pour in

Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into the coffers of the state’s oil and gas regulators over the past seven months, according to campaign finance filings from mid-January. The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the state’s energy industry, which has a history of backing the three commissioners with large campaign contributions. And the latest filing, covering the five month period between July and December 2016, was no exception: Commissioner Christi Craddick, who was made the commission’s chairwoman in December, has a nearly $2 million war chest. Between July and December, she received more than $726,000 in campaign contributions. Some of her biggest contributions, of $10,000, came from James Davis, owner of West Texas Gas, a West Texas gas distributor, and from Donny McClure, president of McClure Oil Co., a Midland-based oil exploration company.

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Forbes

February 21, 2017

Revolutionary Power Plant Captures All Its Carbon Emissions, At No Extra Cost

GROWING UP IN ENGLAND after World War II, "all the youngsters like me were obsessed with aircraft," says Rodney Allam ... In December, Allam, 76, flew from his home in the U.K. to meet Forbes at a construction site in Texas near the Houston Ship Channel, the heart of the nation's largest petrochemical complex. When completed early this year, at a cost of about $150 million, these 5 acres of steel and concrete, pipes, tanks and high-voltage lines will become the proving ground for a technology called the Allam Cycle. It's a novel electric-generation system that burns natural gas and captures all the produced carbon dioxide. The best part is that it makes electricity at the same low cost as other modern gas-fired turbines--about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Environmentalists are hopeful. "It's not just a bridge, it's a destination," says John Thompson, who directs the carbon-capture program at the Clean Air Task Force. Renewable energy sources haven't scaled fast enough to replace fossil fuels, and zero-carbon nuclear is too expensive.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 22, 2017

US oil holds near seven-week high; OPEC upbeat on output curbs

Oil prices held near multi-week highs on Wednesday after OPEC signaled optimism over its deal with other producers to curb output to clear a glut that has weighed on markets since 2014. The U.S. West Texas Intermediate April crude contract, the new front-month future, was up 16 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $54.49 a barrel at 0552 GMT. On Tuesday, the March contract expired up 1.2 percent after reaching its highest since Jan. 3. Brent crude was up 23 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $56.89, having touched its highest since Feb. 2 at $57.31 in the previous session.

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UPI

February 21, 2017

Study finds 6,600 fracking spills in four states over 10 years

In a new study, researchers tallied spills at hydraulic fracturing sites between 2005 and 2014 in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. Researchers surveyed state records of incidents at 31,481 fracking wells. According to their work, the decade yielded 6,648 spills in just four states. "State spill data holds great promise for risk identification and mitigation," Lauren Patterson, policy researcher at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, explained in a news release. "However, reporting requirements differ across states, requiring considerable effort to make the data usable for analysis." In Colorado and New Mexico, spills of less than 210 gallons don't have to be reported to the state. In North Dakota, any spill of more than 42 gallons must be documented. The legal discrepancies may explain differences in total reported spills.

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Inside Climate News

February 21, 2017

States' Data on Fracking Well Spills Inadequate for Comprehensive Study, Researchers Say

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, pulled together some of the disparate data and found there have been about 5 spills each year for every 100 wells that have been hydraulically fractured. Of the states examined, North Dakota had the highest rate of spills while Colorado companies reported just 11 spills per 1,000 wells annually. But some or all of that difference may be due to the huge differences in what the states ask oil companies to report. North Dakota requires operators to report any spill of 42 gallons or more, while Colorado and New Mexico generally don't ask for anything smaller than 210 gallons. Texas, the nation's top oil and gas producing state, wasn't even included in the study because detailed data was not easily accessible.

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Fortune

February 21, 2017

Toshiba’s Huge Nuclear Writedown Isn’t Its Only Problem

Japan's Toshiba, scrambling to fill the balance sheet hole left by a $6.3 billion hit to its nuclear operations, is also on the hook to pay billions of dollars for a U.S. natural gas contract. The computer chips-to-nuclear conglomerate surprised many in 2013 when it announced plans to buy 2.2 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually from Freeport LNG in Texas, exposing it to more than $7 billion in charges over a 20 year period. The company still has no firm commitments to sell the gas, a Toshiba spokesman said on Friday. Toshiba's contract requires it to either procure natural gas to liquefy in Freeport's facility and resell as LNG or pay a fixed gas processing fee to Freeport of about $370 million per year for the life of the contract.

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Daily Caller

February 20, 2017

Follett: Is Automation Limiting The Number Of Jobs Created By The Texas Oil Boom?

The New York Times reports that renewed drilling for oil and natural gas in Texas isn’t creating as many jobs as in the past. The culprit? Automation. Automation in the oil industry is reducing the demand for unskilled labor and new jobs, despite U.S. oil production hitting record highs. ... On the other hand, automation significantly reduced operating costs for U.S. oil producers. Break-even oil prices at productive wells fell from $60 a barrel three years ago to around $35 today. Jobs are coming back, just not at the pace they were before, and oil companies are still investing in Texas oil. Oil companies poured more than $28 billion into the Permian Basin of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico last year, and $6.6 billion was invested to double the amount of land they control in the region. Land rights in the region can retail for more than $63,000 an acre.

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Houston Chronicle

February 21, 2017

Ethanol credit prices fall on Trump’s regulatory freeze

President Donald Trump’s decision to delay an increase in the amount of ethanol blended into the country’s fuel supply appears to have offered some reprieve to U.S. oil refineries. The price of the Renewable Identification Number credits the government requires refineries to buy in order to produce gasoline fell by almost half during the month of January to 44 cents a gallon as of February 1, according to a new paper by Bud Weinstein, associate director of Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Energy Institute. “The reduction in RIN prices that has resulted from the freeze supports the notion that speculators in the RIN market have caused some of the harm that contributes to fuel margin differences,” he wrote.

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Houston Business Journal

February 22, 2017

Houston co. calls for commitments on new pipeline project

A subsidiary of Houston-based Genesis Energy LP (NYSE: GEL) has initiated an open season to gauge interest for a new pipeline project just south of the city. The open season is seeking binding commitments on crude transportation with origin points at the Department of Energy Pipeline or the Cameron Highway Offshore Pipeline System, according to a Genesis press release. Delivery points would be at terminals in Webster, Texas, and Texas City.

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Texas Lawyer

February 21, 2017

Haynes and Boone Tracking System Shows Increase in Energy Industry Bankruptcies

The number of bankruptcies among exploration and production oil and gas companies has quadrupled in the new year through Feb. 15, compared with the same time period in 2016, according to a tracking system developed by Stephen Pezanosky, a bankruptcy partner in Haynes and Boone's Fort Worth office, and other partners at the firm. The Haynes and Boone E&P Bankruptcy Monitor, as the tracking system is named, has become popular with existing and prospective clients, as well the press. "It's gotten our name out there in a lot of different places. The data we put together is used and quoted in a lot of different sources throughout the country," Pezanosky said.

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Seeking Alpha

February 21, 2017

Gouliaev: Marathon Oil -- An Unconventional Way Of Dealing With Oilfield Services' Price Inflation

Marathon Oil is transforming from a company similar to Anadarko Petroleum, Apache, Noble Energy and Hess into an almost pure unconventional operator in the mold of EOG Resources. Accelerated development of STACK/SCOOP assets, a higher-risk venture, appears to be driven by contractual requirements, as earlier Marathon wells lagged behind those of Cimarex Energy. The Eagle Ford acreage has likely reached its maximum potential, while still lagging EOG Resources by a wide margin. Accelerating development in the Bakken is a good way to avoid inflationary pressure in oilfield services that may be picking up in Texas. Recent Bakken wells perform well compared to those of ConocoPhillips, EOG Resources and Exxon Mobil.

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Corpus Christi Caller Times

February 21, 2017

Bennett, Wallace: Manufacturers’ great days on the Horizon

U.S. manufacturers’ spirits have been rising. Whether caused by the manufacturing-focused election season or America’s continued economic recovery, optimism is on the rise across Texas. The Dallas Fed’s recent report reflects this trend. It found that factory activity increased for the seventh consecutive month in January. New orders climbed to a multiyear high as well, pointing toward good things to come. The numbers are encouraging, but economic indicators aren’t what matter to working families. They want to know that their jobs are secure and that new opportunities are on the horizon. The good news: they are.

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Wichita Falls Times Record

February 18, 2017

Mills: Studies predict increases in oil, gas industry

Several studies by economists, financial institutions, and the leaders in the oil and gas industry anticipate a much better business environment for the oil and gas industry in 2017. The oil and gas industry in Texas ended a punishing 24-month-long economic contraction in December, according to Karr Ingham, a petroleum economist who issues the Texas Petro Index monthly. He said the TPI increased in December for the first time since peaking at a record high in November 2014. Ingham noted that the rise in crude oil and natural gas wellhead prices were key factors.

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Bloomberg

February 21, 2017

Crude Oil Could Plunge to as Low as $30 a Barrel

Crude prices could plunge toward $30 a barrel -- a rout of about 40 percent from current levels -- unless OPEC extends production cuts that are propping up the market, ABN Amro Bank NV said. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed at the end of November to limit collective production by 1.2 million barrels a day. It then got support from non-member nations, most notably Russia, that meant total planned curbs of about 1.8 million barrels daily. However, the agreed period for those reductions was the first half of this year, leaving uncertainty about what happens from July. “If they don’t continue with this trend, then the oil price could drop back to where it was two years ago,” Hans van Cleef, ABN Amro’s senior energy economist, said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Oil Buyer’s Guide, adding he’s unsure whether the deal to restrict supplies will persist. “Oil prices could easily go back to the low $30s.”

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Reuters

February 17, 2017

Nuclear not only problem as Toshiba liable for billions in gas contract

Japan's Toshiba, scrambling to fill the balance sheet hole left by a $6.3 billion hit to its nuclear operations, is also on the hook to pay billions of dollars for a U.S. natural gas contract. The computer chips-to-nuclear conglomerate surprised many in 2013 when it announced plans to buy 2.2 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually from Freeport LNG in Texas, exposing it to more than $7 billion in charges over a 20 year period. The company still has no firm commitments to sell the gas, a Toshiba spokesman said on Friday. Toshiba's contract requires it to either procure natural gas to liquefy in Freeport's facility and resell as LNG or pay a fixed gas processing fee to Freeport of about $370 million per year for the life of the contract.

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Seeking Alpha

February 17, 2017

Bookvalue Hunter: Whiting Petroleum's Powerful New Wells: 'Leave No Well Left Behind'

Whiting's recent portfolio of mega frac wells in the Bakken is producing impressive results among wells with 3 to 12 months of production, tracking a 947 MBOE type curve. WLL's more recent larger fracs of 7 to 15 million lbs of sand are clearly enhancing the early track of MBOE, many of them tracking a 1,200-1,500 MBOE curve. Whiting's larger production numbers will stabilize the production drops from its portfolio of 1,500 wells and push the company to break even on a faster pace given NYMEX at $60/bbl.

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Wall St. Journal

February 21, 2017

Saudi Aramco Picks J.P. Morgan, HSBC, Morgan Stanley as Lead IPO Underwriters

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned energy company has told J.P. Morgan, HSBC and Morgan Stanley they will be the lead underwriters for its planned initial public offering, set to be the largest ever, according to people familiar with the matter. The three banks will lead the giant offering of about as much as 5% of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, the people said. The three banks declined to comment. A spokesperson for Aramco said the firm doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation. Analysts say the stake being offered could fetch as much at $100 billion to $150 billion and Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has estimated that the entire company is valued over $2 trillion.

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Utilities Stories

Dallas Morning News

February 21, 2017

Schnuman: If NextEra buys Oncor, what’s in it for the rest of us?

NextEra Energy is paying so much for Oncor Electric Delivery Co. that there may not be much upside for the rest of us. That’s one criticism of the proposed $18.7 billion acquisition of Dallas-based Oncor, the state’s largest regulated utility. When big utilities change hands, ratepayers often get some relief, even though such sweeteners are not required. Under NextEra’s plan, Oncor ratepayers would save an estimated $13 million through 2020. That’s rather paltry for a utility with 3.4 million customers, and it’s not even guaranteed. The estimated savings assume that Oncor’s credit rating would improve after the deal and lead to lower interest rates, which would be a windfall for the public.

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Houston Chronicle

February 20, 2017

Schmal: A secure and low-cost power grid is within state's reach

The Texas Legislature will be in session for nearly four more months. That's plenty of time for lawmakers to notice that the energy world is changing from coal and gasoline to solar panels and electric cars. Every week we see a revelation of some invention or process and another nail in the coffin of old-school electricity ideas. Texas needs updated power pricing policies to stay in step with the evolving energy landscape and remain an energy leader in this country. Senators, congressmen, commissioners, when you worry about those killer hot days when the power grid is once again stressed and wholesale power is selling at your price cap, consider this: in 10 years, half of the vehicles sold in Texas will be electric. This incredible metamorphosis is a huge opportunity for keeping the power grid running smoothly. That opportunity could be realized if we would just start planning for it.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Dallas Morning News

February 21, 2017

What Shell is doing to help Toyota's hydrogen car attempt take off

Royal Dutch Shell Plc will build seven fueling stations for hydrogen cars in California through a partnership with Toyota Motor Corp., laying down their latest bet on the demise of the internal-combustion engine. The stations will nudge the state closer to its goal of having 100 retail sites by 2024 where hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles can fill up. The California Energy Commission is considering $16.4 million in grants toward the stations, with Shell and Toyota contributing $11.4 million. The Shell-Toyota partnership "shows there's a lot of interest and that the hydrogen market is poised to move forward rapidly," said Janea Scott, a member of the California commission.

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Reuters

February 21, 2017

First Solar raises 2017 revenue view on project timing

U.S. solar company First Solar Inc (FSLR.O) raised its 2017 sales forecast due to the timing of the sale of a major project, but said a large facility in Arizona had been canceled due to opposition to its location on tribal lands. First Solar also said it had been forced to write down the value of its Barilla Solar project in Texas because a slide in power prices since its construction in 2014 had hurt profitability. Shares of the company, which also reported better-than-expected profit and revenue, were up less than 1 percent at $36.62 in trading after the bell on Tuesday.

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The Energy Collective

February 21, 2017

Hemphill: 3 Big Energy Mistakes Not to Make in 2017, or Ever

1. Don’t bail out Kemper. This is a complicated project undertaken by Mississippi Power to demonstrate the wonders of “clean coal” technology. It was initiated in June of 2010 with an initial cost estimate of $2.2 billion. This was when President Obama had decided incisively that his energy strategy was “all of the above.” He had, perhaps, never heard of Nigel Lawson, the longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer in UK history, who said, “To govern is to choose.” In pursuit of this “strategy” Mississippi Power was given a $270 million grant from the Department of Energy and received $133 million in investment tax credits approved by the Internal Revenue Service. The plant is designed to generate 582 MW’s of power and was expected to be online in May of 2014. The most recent extension of the original schedule has brought the total cost to $7.1 billion. All the Mississippi Power web site says now about the schedule is “In Service: 2017,” three or more years late on a four year construction schedule. That’s hard to do. It should also be noted that a simple gas fired power plant of 582 MW would cost around $600 million dollars, not $2.2 billion. Or $7.1 billion.

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Regulatory Stories

Texas Public Radio

February 21, 2017

How The EPA Became A Victim Of Its Own Success

The EPA wasn't always such a politically polarizing agency. It was Richard Nixon, a Republican, who created the EPA in 1970. ... "It wasn't an issue that particularly interested him," says William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the EPA. ... "We've seen the fortunes of the agency rise and fall in different administrations," says William K. Reilly, administrator of the EPA under President George H.W. Bush. ... Through all of the ups and downs of the EPA, Reilly says, it's important to remember that public popular support for environmental protection has remained high. There is a growing partisan divide on environmental issues and fewer people identify as an environmentalist now than they have in decades past. "Environmental groups have basically become an arm of the Democratic Party," Ruckelshaus says, a move that he thinks is a mistake. But polling for the environment remains stubbornly high. There is a disconnect though. Why, if the majority of Americans feel that the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth, do environmental issues rarely come up in political debates. As ClimateWire pointed out, in the 2016 presidential campaign, there were "3 debates over 4 ½ hours, and zero climate questions." ... "People can't touch, smell and feel pollution the way they did back in the 1960s, the 1970s," Ruckelshaus says. "I think the EPA and state agencies have become a victim of their own success."

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Midland Reporter Telegram

February 21, 2017

TXOGA: Energy industry is economic force even in down times

Members of the Texas Oil & Gas Association have a wish list for legislators meeting in Austin “What Texas needs now, as we ease out of this dramatic downturn, is for our lawmakers to look closely at what makes Texas a good place to do business,” said Todd Staples, TXOGA president, during the association’s annual Energy & Economic Impact press call. “Specifically, we hope lawmakers maintain their commitment to science-based regulations, reauthorize the Railroad Commission of Texas, properly fund the Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, preserve a low tax environment and encourage the critical infrastructure development our growing state needs,” he said. “All Texans benefit when our lawmakers embrace smart policy that allows the oil and natural gas industry to provide for Texas, securing our economy, our environment and our future.”

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San Antonio Express News

February 21, 2017

Bexar County commissioners say no to nuclear waste shipments

On Tuesday, Bexar County became the first county in Texas to officially oppose having high-level nuclear waste pass through the county on its way to a West Texas waste site. The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing shipments of nuclear fuel rods from more than 62 sites across the U.S., most of them operating or closed reactors used to produce power. If the waste storage site in Andrews County is approved, the fuel rods could start being shipped to the Waste Control Specialists facility on the Texas-New Mexico line starting in 2021. Despite the resolution, Bexar County commissioners have no say over the waste site, which is under review by the the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Houston Chronicle

February 21, 2017

Texas Commission on Environment awards grants to help shrimpers recover from 2010 Gulf oil spill

The Texas agency that oversees environmental protection has awarded a $300,000 to the Texas Shrimp Association to help the state’s shrimping industry continue to recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced the grant on Monday as part of larger effort to help Texas’ Gulf regions recover from the oil spill’s economic blow. ... Last week, TCEQ announced a bevy of grants for Gulf oil spill recovery projects, which include plugging of abandoned wells, beach and lagoon restoration work and boosts for the oyster industry.

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Houston Chronicle

February 22, 2017

Big oil urges Trump to hold course on ethanol “point of obligation"

The oil industry’s largest lobbying group urged President Donald Trump Wednesday not to move responsibility for meeting the federal ethanol mandate away from oil refineries, arguing it would further complicate an already “broken system.” “Moving the point of obligation does nothing to alleviate the structural problems in the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said American Petroleum Institute Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola. “It would create significant uncertainty.”

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Washington Post

February 21, 2017

Pruitt to EPA employees: ‘We don’t have to choose’ between jobs and the environment

In his first full work day as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt made clear Tuesday that he intends to step back from what he sees as the agency’s regulatory overreach during the Obama administration. Pruitt, who spent years criticizing and suing the EPA before becoming its newest leader, reiterated an argument he often had made as Oklahoma attorney general. “The only authority that any agency has in the executive branch is the authority given to it by Congress,” he said during a noon address to employees at the agency headquarters. “We need to respect that. We need to follow that. Because when we do that, guess what happens? We avoid litigation. We avoid the uncertainty of litigation and we reach better ends and outcomes at the end of the day.”

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Washington Post

February 20, 2017

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action

President Trump is preparing executive orders aimed at curtailing Obama-era policies on climate and water pollution, according to individuals briefed on the measures. While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. Individuals familiar with the proposals asked for anonymity to describe them in advance of their announcement, which could come as soon as this week.

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Texas Lawyer

February 21, 2017

Environmentalists Wary of Gorsuch But Record Offers Only Limited Clues

Years before he became President Donald Trump's pick for the nation's top court, Judge Neil Gorsuch delivered some disquieting news to ranchers who were fighting oil drillers. "When you own property in the West you don't always own everything from the surface to the center of the Earth," Gorsuch wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in a 2014 case, Entek GRB v. Stull Ranches. "Someone else might own the minerals lying underground and the right to access them. Someone else still might own the right to use the water flowing through your property. All this can invite confusion—and litigation," he explained in the decision.

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February 21, 2017

Lead Stories

New York Times

February 19, 2017

Texas Oil Fields Rebound From Price Lull, but Jobs Are Left Behind

MIDLAND, Tex. — In the land where oil jobs were once a guaranteed road to security for blue-collar workers, Eustasio Velazquez’s career has been upended by technology. For 10 years, he laid cables for service companies doing seismic testing in the search for the next big gusher. Then, powerful computer hardware and software replaced cables with wireless data collection, and he lost his job. He found new work connecting pipes on rigs, but lost that job, too, when plunging oil prices in 2015 forced the driller he worked for to replace rig hands with cheaper, more reliable automated tools. “I don’t see a future,” Mr. Velazquez, 44, said on a recent afternoon as he stooped over his shopping cart at a local grocery store. “Pretty soon every rig will have one worker and a robot.”

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Reuters

February 20, 2017

Platts revamps Brent oil benchmark for first time in a decade

Oil pricing agency S&P Global Platts is making the first major overhaul of its Brent oil price assessment in a decade, to address falling supplies of the crude oil grades underpinning the benchmark that prices most of the world's oil. A decline in supply from North Sea fields has led to concerns that physical volumes could become too thin and hence at times could be accumulated in the hands of just a few players, making the benchmark vulnerable to manipulation. Platts said on Monday it would add Norway's Troll to the basket of four British and Norwegian crude grades which it already uses to assess dated Brent from Jan 1. 2018. This will join Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk, or BFOE as they are known.

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Dallas Morning News

February 20, 2017

Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as world's top crude producer

Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world's largest crude producer in December, when both countries started restricting supplies ahead of agreed cuts with other global producers to curb the worst glut in decades. Russia pumped 10.49 million barrels a day in December, down 29,000 barrels a day from November, while Saudi Arabia's output declined to 10.46 million barrels a day from 10.72 million barrels a day in November, according to data published Monday on the website of the Joint Organisations Data Initiative in Riyadh. That was the first time Russia beat Saudi Arabia since March.

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Washington Post

February 20, 2017

The big moral dilemma facing self-driving cars

How many people could self-driving cars kill before we would no longer tolerate them? This once-hypothetical question is now taking on greater urgency, particularly among policymakers in Washington. The promise of autonomous vehicles is that they will make our roads safer and more efficient, but no technology is without its shortcomings and unintended consequences — in this instance, potentially fatal consequences. “What if we can build a car that’s 10 times as safe, which means 3,500 people die on the roads each year. Would we accept that?” asks John Hanson, a spokesman for the Toyota Research Institute, which is developing the automaker’s self-driving technology.

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Houston Chronicle

February 20, 2017

Bill would create 'Amber Alerts' for chemical emergencies

If there's a tornado warning or a kidnapped child, your phone might wake you at 3 a.m. But if there's a cloud of chlorine gas descending on your neighborhood, it's anybody's guess who will let you know, and when. A state lawmaker has filed a bill to bridge the gap in emergency notification. It would create a system to push alerts to mobile phones during any chemical mishap that would "substantially endanger human health or the environment." Chemical fires and releases across Houston in the last year, and the Houston Chronicle's Chemical Breakdown series, have shed light on problems with toxic stockpiles and emergency response. The bill's backers hope the added attention will drive the legislation forward.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 21, 2017

US crude prices rise as investors bet big on oil strength

U.S. crude futures rose for a second day on Tuesday, with data showing hedge funds are betting big across oil markets following OPEC production cuts agreed last year. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 27 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $53.67 a barrel at 0511 GMT, after rising about 0.5 percent in a shortened session on Monday due to a U.S. national holiday. Brent futures dropped 2 cents to $56.16 a barrel, after spending most of the session slightly higher. They ended up 0.7 percent on Monday. Investors now hold more crude futures and options than at any time on record, after members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) committed last year to cut production.

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MarketWatch

February 20, 2017

Why the ‘next leg in the oil bull market’ could come soon

Oil prices may soon head upward, breaking out of the tight range in which they’ve traded lately, a top energy analyst said Monday. Speaking at the S&P Platts London Oil & Energy Forum on Monday, PIRA Energy’s Gary Ross said the bull market for oil is about to return, potentially sending prices as high as $60 a barrel in the coming weeks. “We think the markets have consolidated enough and that the next, smaller leg in the bull market is about to occur,” said Ross. “We are actually quite [upbeat] on prices, particularly when the April contract becomes the front-runner later this week.” (The “front-runner” is the nearest tradable contract.)

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Bloomberg

February 20, 2017

Gasoline Glut in New York Has Traders Sending Cargoes Abroad

The biggest gasoline market in the U.S. is bursting at the seams. Traders are lining up to export gasoline and diesel from New York Harbor, an area that normally relies on fuel imports from Europe and eastern Canada, shipping data compiled by Bloomberg show. While at least 6 cargoes that were headed to New York from Europe in January and early February were diverted to the Caribbean or the U.S. Gulf Coast, that wasn’t enough to stem the oversupply building up in terminals along the Eastern Seaboard. Record-high inventories in the region are now pushing prices low enough to turn the typical trade flow on its head.

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Houston Chronicle

February 19, 2017

Is peak oil demand coming faster than expected?

Planning for peak petroleum demand is, of course, critical for the oil companies that supply it. Most oil companies predict that peak demand is decades away; the International Energy Agency forecasts that demand will peak in 2040. But not all energy companies are as sanguine. In November, the chief financial officer of Royal Dutch Shell said during a conference call that the company expects that global demand for oil will peak long before supply, possibly within five to 15 years. A month earlier, Statoil CEO Eldar Saetre said at a London energy conference that his company expects oil demand to peak sometime in the decade that begins in 2020. The Grantham study predicts that demand for oil, coal and natural gas will peak by 2020. As more electric vehicles hit the road, demand for crude oil will plunge by 2 million barrels per day by 2025, the study projected. The decline will accelerate to 16 million barrels a day by 2040 and 25 million by 2050, the study predicts. The study also predicts that global demand for coal will be gone by 2050.

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Journal of Petroleum Technology

February 17, 2017

An Unconventional Approach to Oilfield Acquisitions

In Reeves County—the same county where Apache Corporation announced late last year that it discovered 3 billion bbl in a play called Alpine High—Gaurav noticed that some operators were changing the direction of their wellbores. “Nobody was interested in this area,” until that shift in strategy came about, he said. Upon a deeper inspection of the underlying data, Gaurav saw that wells oriented a particular way were producing better than other wells despite all being in the same landing zone. Sifting out the real performance drivers from the perceived ones may also help correct the course for operators that are following the best practices of another operator, only without understanding that they may be applying those practices in the wrong geologic conditions. Gaurav described the above strategy as simply “copy and paste.” He explained his view: “Even the guy who drives the sand truck from Wisconsin to Texas knows that more proppant is better. And there are areas where you see that 1,000 lbs of sand per sq. foot is just great because the rock is good enough.

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McAllen Monitor

February 20, 2017

Hinojosa: RGV native lands threatened by LNGs

I trace my indigenous Tejano family back more than six generations to a tiny cemetery in the Rio Grande Valley community called Encantada-Ranchito-El Calaboz. The Valley is my place of origin and where my heritage is located. Because of this, I organize to protect my lands from three polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. These giant terminals have been proposed for the Port of Brownsville and the companies behind them have plans to build industrial complexes and bulldoze pristine lands that include the remains of my ancestors. If the terminals are built, they will destroy archeological sites that tie us to our ancestors. It will also commit environmental racism by threatening nearby Latino neighborhoods. The facilities will span more than 3,000 acres with towering storage tanks filled with flammable gas, polluting flare stacks, multiple gas pipelines and massive tanker ships.

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KTAB

February 20, 2017

Seven Arrested at West Texas Pipeline Protests

7 people were arrested at the Pumpco main construction site in Alpine, according to the Brewster County Sheriff's Office. We're told 3 people barricaded themselves at the gates of the site. Protesters also attached themselves to a 55-gallon drum of cement, putting PVC pipe through the side of the drum, and holding onto a chain.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

February 20, 2017

Washington County landowners caught in eminent domain fight with Rover

If David Rheinlander believes that his 5.5 acres, which include woods and a modular home, are worth $10 million, then who exactly is the Rover Pipeline or the federal government, for that matter, to say otherwise? “If they don’t like it, go around me,” Mr. Rheinlander said less than a week after Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based firm developing a massive natural gas pipeline, asked a federal court to condemn a 150-foot-wide line across his Washington County land so it can cut down his trees as soon as possible. The 713-mile Rover Pipeline — spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan — has been in the works for several years. It is intended to bring shale gas out of three Appalachian states to Michigan and into Ontario, Canada. On Feb. 3, Energy Transfer got a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which means it can start construction.

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Bloomberg

February 20, 2017

Saudi Arabia Breaks Records on Oil Exports and Output for Year

Saudi Arabia boosted oil exports and production last year to the highest monthly averages on record as the global crude market endured oversupply. Exports climbed to 7.65 million barrels a day on average last year, from 7.39 million barrels a day a year earlier, according to Joint Organisations Data Initiative monthly data compiled by Bloomberg. Production rose to 10.46 million barrels a day from 10.19 million, on average, over the same period. Saudi Arabia led the push by global producers to end a crude glut by cutting output as of Jan. 1. JODI data indicate that the kingdom’s exports surged to more than 8 million barrels a day in November and December right before the cuts were due to start. Shipments in November were the highest since May 2003, JODI data show.

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San Antonio Express News

February 18, 2017

Perryman sees growing economic opportunities in Midland, Odessa

Looking ahead to 2021, Economist Ray Perryman sees numerous economic opportunities for Midland-Odessa, the state and the nation. Perryman, president of The Perryman Group, discussed his five-year economic outlook with the media before offering it to local business, government and civic representatives. “Midland and Odessa will continue to improve” as the region’s dominant oil and gas industry continues to recover from a two-year drop in commodity prices and activity, he said. “We won’t see $100 oil anytime soon, but with current price levels, rising global demand and low costs, the industry should do well,” he said.

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Houston Chronicle

February 17, 2017

Statoil sues researcher, claiming theft of technology

Statoil Gulf Services, a unit of the Norwegian oil major, spun off a new company last year in Houston to commercialize advances in hydraulic fracturing technology invented by its scientists and engineers. And to lead the research at the new company, Statoil named as chief technology officer the researcher who developed and patented many of the inventions. But now Statoil claims that Matthew Dawson kept secret a breakthrough he made while working for Statoil, passed it on to his wife to patent and later launched his own company to commercialize it. Statoil sued Dawson and his wife, Jin, in U.S. District Court in Houston, alleging that they stole the trade secrets and patented technology that belongs to the company. The case raises the questions of who owns inventions developed in corporate settings and how to determine whether the ideas percolated in the company lab or emerged independent of that work.

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MarketWatch

February 20, 2017

Why oil experts think OPEC’s U.S. headache won’t go away this year

The number of active U.S. oil rigs have now risen for five straight weeks, and according to experts in the industry, there are no signs the ramp-up in production will abate anytime soon. When asked what change they expect in the number of U.S rigs drilling for oil in the coming year, a majority of delegates at the S&P Global Platts Oil & Energy Forum on Monday said they expect the tally to have risen by February 2018. The weekly Baker Hughes data out on Friday showed the number of active rigs rose by 6 to 597 last week, marking the highest level since October 2015. At the Platts conference in London, 12% of attendees forecast a rise to above 1,500 rigs, while 45% predict a total of 1,000 to 1,499 active rigs. Another 40% see a level between 500 and 999, while only 3% said the count is likely to have slipped below 500.

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Wall St. Journal

February 21, 2017

Bullish Oil Investors May Be Getting Ahead of Themselves

Investors have amassed a record number of bullish bets on oil, but market fundamentals have yet to catch up with their optimism—putting oil prices at risk of a large fall, analysts say. Last week, hedge funds and other big money managers increased their net long position—a bet on rising prices—in Brent crude oil to the highest level since records started in 2011, the Intercontinental Exchange Inc. said Monday. This mirrors the U.S., where funds have raised their bullish bets to a fresh record. This comes as reports from both the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and outside observers suggest members of the cartel have achieved around 90% of the production cuts agreed in 2016’s deal. That would mark higher compliance than OPEC has achieved with past agreements.

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Houston Chronicle

February 20, 2017

Market Currents: Saudi crude heads to Asia, not U.S.

The word on the street is that Asian refiners will receive full allocations of Saudi crude in March, as OPEC’s kingpin chooses to keep its Asian customers well-supplied – at the expense of those in North America. As our ClipperData illustrate below, Asia was the destination for 68 percent of Saudi’s crude exports last year, while North America accounted for some 16.5 percent of volumes. There appears a distinct trend in July and December last year: exports heading to North America spiked at the expense of flows to Asia. The December spike has been reflected in strong arrivals of Saudi crude to the U.S. in January and through the first half of February. However, as the share of January exports heading to Asia spiked to its highest percentage on our records, the share of flows heading to North America is dropping once again.

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Courthouse News

February 17, 2017

Class Sues Plains Pipeline for Illinois Oil Spill

Plains All American Pipeline apologized for a 2015 oil spill in Madison County, Illinois, but hasn’t paid homeowners who were injured by it, three residents of Highland claim in a federal class action. Kevin Nodine et al. sued Plains All American Pipeline on Thursday for the July 10, 2015 pipeline rupture at the Pocahontas Pump Station, which sent more than 4,000 gallons of crude oil into waterways in and around Highland, a city of 9,800. The oil drained into Silver Lake, a 574-acre water body that provides drinking water to Highland and several surrounding villages. Plains All American was aware of erosion issues at the pump station eight days before the spill, the complaint states: “Despite having knowledge of the leakage, defendants failed to make immediate repairs on the containment dike at the Pocahontas Pump Station.”

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Hellenic Shipping News

February 17, 2017

How U.S. crude-oil inventories rose to their highest level ever

Strong imports: “The real driving force has been the surge in imports,” said Troy Vincent, oil analyst at ClipperData. The EIA on Wednesday report that crude imports for last week averaged 8.5 million barrels, down 881,000 barrels a day from a week earlier. However, over the last four weeks, they have climbed 9.9% vs. the same period a year earlier. Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, said that the U.S. saw nearly 10% more waterborne imports in 2016 than the year before. “Bargain-basement prices for foreign oil in the last year have been too difficult for U.S. refiners to ignore,” he said. “We will likely see this trend ebb in the months ahead, as OPEC imports fall off—yet U.S. production is rising again to plug the gap.”

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Associated Press

February 20, 2017

US Defense Secretary Mattis: No plan to seize Iraqi oil

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday the United States does not intend to seize Iraqi oil, shifting away from an idea proposed by President Donald Trump that has rattled Iraq's leaders. Mattis' arrived on an unannounced visit in Iraq as the battle to oust Islamic State militants from western Mosul moved into its second day, and as the Pentagon considers ways to accelerate the campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria. Those efforts could be complicated by Trump's oil threat and his inclusion of Iraq in the administration's travel ban — twin blows that have roiled the nation and spurred local lawmakers to pressure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reduce cooperation with Washington.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

February 19, 2017

Startup aims to add more power to choosing electric plans

Darla Jackson of Coppell, north of Dallas, wanted to change to her retail electricity company, but couldn't face the prospect of using the state's comparison shopping site, Powertochoose.org. Like many Texans, she felt overwhelmed by the number of companies, variety of plans and mind-numbing terms and conditions which, even after hours of study, left her confused, overwhelmed and uncertain of the best deal. Then, through Facebook connections, Jackson, 50, came across a website, Awesomepowertexas.com. After providing her monthly electricity consumption, the site's algorithm surveyed retail plans and data collected by the state, sifted through fine print and considered factors such as customer reviews and Better Business Bureau ratings. Ten minutes later, the site gave her a list of recommendations and she picked the one with the lowest cost.

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Houston Chronicle

February 20, 2017

Q & A: Electric plan consultant gives power back to consumers

Andrew Barth is more or less a Houston native and the son of a former Enron employee, and he has a job that can be difficult to explain outside of Texas. He is the senior vice president at Incite Energy, a consulting company that helps other companies navigate Texas' deregulated market and buy power plans. In most of Texas, where electric utilities were deregulated 15 years ago, getting electricity means sifting through hundreds of power plans sold by retail electric companies. It's Barth's job to help his clients - mostly commercial businesses - pick plans that work for them.

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BetaNews

February 17, 2017

Cringely: No fracking way! Fukishima is worse than ever

Back in 1979 I was hired by the White House to help investigate the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. My friend Robert Bishop, whom I consulted for this column, was the only American at Chernobyl. There is no solution to the Fukishima problem, but there are a few things that can be done to mitigate this crisis, with the main one being what’s being called an ice wall, which you may have read about. Yeah, like in Game of Thrones. Liquid nitrogen is pumped underground to freeze a ring of soil around the power plant. The idea isn’t to somehow cool the molten uranium because that has its own source of heat that will last for a century or more. The point of the ice wall is to contain the poison while also minimizing incursion of water. Starve the puddle of water, the idea goes, and just let the uranium do its thing. Water is bad not just because it might carry radiation and radioactive materials away from the site and into the environment, water is bad because the uranium’s heat will turn it into hydrogen and oxygen which will then explode. Why worry about such subterranean explosions? Think of it as fracking.

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The Southern Illinoisan

February 17, 2017

Crackel: Coal can eliminate our need for foreign oil

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal is our most abundant natural resource. The recoverable U.S. coal reserve is equivalent in energy to 900 billion barrels of oil. The current price of a barrel of oil is about $55. However, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) maximum price per barrel of oil is predicted by The Economy Forecast Agency to be $86.40 by August 2019. Also, WTI spot prices for oil have exceeded $100 per barrel in 24 monthly periods since March 2008. Princeton University researchers estimated the cost of producing the synthetic equivalent of a barrel of crude oil was $83.58 to $95.11. However, from the date of the article to now, the price of coal in two of our coal regions has dropped from about $60 per short ton to $40 per short ton. Therefore, a reduced cost of coal should decrease the cost of producing synthetic fuel.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

KXAS

February 20, 2017

Texas Connects Us: Solar Energy Plants in Texas Projected to Double

The number of large solar energy plants in Texas is projected to nearly double over the next four years. "We're seeing a lot more people coming in, kind of kicking tires looking for property, seeing how they can do it," said Ken Becker, chairman of the West Texas Energy Consortium. Wind, Solar Projects Change the West TX Landscape The Electric Reliability Council of Texas expects 20 new utility-grade solar projects to come on line by the end of 2020. That would bring the total to 41 solar plants in Texas, which could produce enough electricity to power all of Dallas County. "Texas looks great. I mean, it looks bright – the future's very bright for us here in Texas," said Dennis Brennan, manager of Texas Solar Construction, Operations and Maintenance for ConEdison Development. ConEdison currently operates four solar plants in Texas, including Alamo 7, the state's newest.

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Dallas Morning News

February 20, 2017

What Shell is doing to help Toyota's hydrogen car attempt take off

Royal Dutch Shell Plc will build seven fueling stations for hydrogen cars in California through a partnership with Toyota Motor Corp., laying down their latest bet on the demise of the internal-combustion engine. The stations will nudge the state closer to its goal of having 100 retail sites by 2024 where hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles can fill up. The California Energy Commission is considering $16.4 million in grants toward the stations, with Shell and Toyota contributing $11.4 million. The Shell-Toyota partnership "shows there's a lot of interest and that the hydrogen market is poised to move forward rapidly," said Janea Scott, a member of the California commission.

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Valley Morning Star

February 18, 2017

Retiring worn-out wind turbines could cost billions that nobody has

One big question is how much money is being set aside for the inevitable decommissioning costs associated with removing aging, unprofitable and just plain worn out wind turbines now whirling across the horizons of Cameron and Willacy counties. The life span of a wind turbine, power companies say, is between 20 and 25 years. But in Europe, with a much longer history of wind power generation, the life of a turbine appears to be somewhat less. “We don’t know with certainty the life spans of current turbines,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction Group, a nonprofit which studies landowner rights and the impact of the wind energy industry. Its funding, according to its website, comes from environmentalists, energy experts and public donations and not the fossil fuel industry.

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Regulatory Stories

San Antonio Express News

February 19, 2017

Fuel-efficiency standards under attack by industry groups

Auto manufacturers, refiners and conservative groups, buoyed by Republican efforts to roll back climate change polices, are targeting fuel-efficiency standards that require the nation’s car and truck fleets to operate on less gasoline and diesel. The standards, toughened in the final days of the Obama administration, were part of a suite of rules designed to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and are expected to dramatically reduce demand for gasoline and other fuels produced by refineries such as those along the Texas Gulf Coast in the decades ahead. Hoping for a receptive audience, lobbyists are pressing President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress to take a second look at fuel-efficiency regulations on both cars and heavy-duty trucks, which they say will raise prices on new vehicles and hurt workers in the auto and energy sectors.

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KRIS

February 21, 2017

City of Corpus Christi protests potential fracking site

The Federal Government wants to sell some parcels of land that would be used by oil and gas developers. The location of that land is just over 16-hundred acres located inside the Choke Canyon Dam Reservoir. Choke Canyon is one of the City of Corpus Christi's biggest fresh water resources. So a letter of protest was sent to the Bureau of Land Management last week. "The City of Corpus Christi felt that it was necessary to submit a protest letter to minimize our potential risk of contamination to our water supply," said Steve Ramos, Water Resources Manager.

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Houston Chronicle

February 18, 2017

Metro drawing up long-term Houston regional transit plan

What's clear, transit officials acknowledged on Feb. 15 during their first in-depth discussion of the transit plan's focus, is many solutions to traffic congestion will sit on transit agency shelves for years to come. "We know we will never have enough resources to build everything," Metro board member Christof Spieler said. "How do we choose which projects are most worthwhile?" Board members during the discussion said a host of factors will influence transit project priorities, though the critical litmus test will be whether a project can reliably and quickly serve a large number of riders and solve a congestion challenge. Officials predict as the region grows freeways will clog even more with cars and trucks for more hours of the day.

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Washington Post

February 20, 2017

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action

President Trump is preparing executive orders aimed at curtailing Obama-era policies on climate and water pollution, according to individuals briefed on the measures. While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. Individuals familiar with the proposals asked for anonymity to describe them in advance of their announcement, which could come as soon as this week. One executive order — which the Trump administration will couch as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy — will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities.

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Houston Chronicle/Quorum Report

February 20, 2017

Braddock: Amid accusations of fake news, organizations help Paxton in felony case

Amid Patrick and Trump's accusations of "fake news" and the Secretary of State's demands for a veil of secrecy to discuss voter fraud, prosecutors seeking a change of venue argue that Attorney General Ken Paxton depends on a network of secretly-funded organizations directed by Tim Dunn and his allies posing as news outlets to taint the jury pool in Collin County for his felony trial. In their bombshell legal filing late last week, prosecutors said Watchdog.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, "has close ties to Dunn, a Midland oilman, a noted Paxton supporter who guaranteed a million-dollar loan for him in the darkest days of his 2014 runoff election" and pointed out that Dunn's Empower Texans PAC "gave Paxton a $100,000 campaign contribution" at that time. That's the same Empower Texans that tried and failed in applying for a media credential at the Texas Capitol, denying floor access to a group that routinely makes campaign expenditures and has a case of alleged illegal lobbying pending in the courts. None of that has stopped the Empower Texans "Scorecard" from dispatching one of their "correspondents" to Capitol press conferences to serve up softball questions to the likes of Dunn beneficiary Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

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CNBC

February 17, 2017

Murray Energy CEO claims global warming is a hoax, says 4,000 scientists tell him so

Murray Energy Chairman and CEO Robert Murray on Friday claimed global warming is a hoax and repeated a debunked claim that the phenomenon cannot exist because the Earth's surface is cooling. Murray appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" to discuss Republicans' rollback of an Obama-era rule that would have restricted coal mining near waterways. President Donald Trump signed the measure on Thursday in front of Murray and a group of Murray Energy workers. Murray Energy is the country's largest coal miner. Many of its mines are in Appalachia, a region that would suffer some of the biggest impacts of the rule. Murray also successfully sued to delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate planet-warming carbon emissions from power plants.

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