Posts Tagged ‘Oil’

President Obama Proposes Significant Increase in CAFE Standards

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

President Barack Obama and the nation’s predominant automakers have agreed to increase new vehicles’ fuel mileage.  The major way to accomplish this is to reduce the size of vehicles.  By 2025, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) must be 55.4 mpg for cars.  That’s up from the 2009 Obama mandate of 35.5 mpg by 2016.  The CAFE standard for 2011 is 30.2 mpg, with light trucks having slightly less burdensome standards.

The Obama administration says the new standards will save drivers $8,200 in fuel over the life of a car.  Between now and 2015, Americans will save $1.7 trillion on fuel costs, eliminate six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution and use 12 billion fewer barrels of oil.  Environmentalists applauded the new standards.  According to President Obama, “This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”  Joining the president at the announcement were executives of Detroit’s Big Three automakers: GM, Chrysler and Ford.  GM and Chrysler were bailed out of insolvency by the Obama administration with taxpayer money.  The government still owns 27 percent of GM; the United Auto Workers, an ally of the Obama administration and which supports the revised CAFE standards, owns 46.5 percent of Chrysler.

The tiered standards are expected to yield approximately $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles.  Additionally, it will result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators.  President Obama, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked closely with truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the State of California, and environmental groups – among them, Navistar, Volvo, Chrysler, and Con-way – to garner support for the new standards.  “While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” said President Obama.  “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks.  They were from the people who build, buy, and drive these trucks.  And today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium-and heavy-duty trucks.”

Waste Management CEO David Steiner said the rules will help his company meet a  goal of reducing emissions 15 percent by 2020.  The company will save 350 million gallons of fuel over the life of their vehicles.  FedEx CEO Fred Smith said that commercial vehicles account for 20 percent of all transportation emissions.  “Today’s progress is a win for the transportation industry, for the environment and for all Americans as we seek to decrease U.S. dependency on oil,” Smith said.

According to the White House,  the revised heavy-truck rules will cost owners as much as $8 billion in additional technology, but “will save American businesses that operate and own commercial vehicles approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program.”  The majority of fleet operators, according to the EPA, are likely to recover their up-front costs within a year or two.  Under the new program, heavy-duty vehicles are divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and what is referred to as “vocational” or special-purpose vehicles such as transit buses and garbage trucks.  More specific targets within each of these categories are based on each vehicle’s design and purpose.

American Trucking Association (ATA) president & CEO Bill Graves said the new regulations are “welcome news to us in the trucking industry.  Our members have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time and today marks the culmination of those efforts.”  He said that in 2007, the ATA endorsed a six-point sustainability program that included a proposal to set “technologically feasible” efficiency standards.

The new rules do not mean that President Obama has given up on his backing of electric vehicles.  Writing on the Climate Spectator website, Jessie Giles says that “While there has been some suggestion that Barack Obama’s new measure to double fuel economy targets for cars in the U.S. might be bad news for electric cars, at Better Place our assessment is that this will in fact be important for increasing the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.  The agreement to increase the CAFE standards is good news, not just in terms of taking steps to stretch our limited oil resources further and helping to reduce our carbon emissions.  Critically, it will also help to increase the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles such as electric cars.  Now, the twist: manufacturers must meet the CAFE standards on a sales-weighted basis – that is, the average fuel economy of all the cars sold by that particular car company.  What’s the easiest way of achieving the new standards on a sales-weighted basis?  It’s by increasing the proportion of electric cars in the manufacturer’s sales mix. It’s far easier to increase this proportion of electric cars than it is to make improvements in the current fuel consumption of every single car in the rest of the portfolio, where years of product development have produced incremental, but relatively minor improvements.”

As Global Oil Consumption – and Prices – Rise, OPEC Rejects Increased Production

Monday, June 20th, 2011

As gas prices seesaw up and down at the pump and Americans reluctantly pay more to fill their tanks as the economy slows, OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting States) could not agree on whether or not to increase production and provide some relief. The two key factors are Saudi Arabia and Iran. At an unusually contentious meeting, the 12-nation group could not reach agreement on new production targets.  That sets the stage for higher prices for oil and gas later this year as world demand for oil rises faster than supplies.  Saudi Arabia favored an increase in output, which likely would have translated to lower oil prices.  Other countries – such as Iran — resisted, arguing that oil supplies are adequate to meet demand and current prices are on target.  “We are unable to reach consensus,” OPEC Secretary General Abdullah Al-Badri said.  Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi called the meeting “one of the worst ever.”

Writing on the Salon website,Andrew Leonard points out that China is partially to blame for high prices at the gas pump.  According to Leonard, “If you want to know why gas prices are high, and why, in the long run, they will keep getting higher, all you need to do is peruse BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2011 report. Bottom line:  World oil consumption hit an all-time record high of 87.4 million barrels a day in 2010, driven by a surge in demand from emerging nations, but primarily led by China.  China has now overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer, with demand for all kinds of energy growing 11.2 percent in 2010.  In 2010, Chinese oil consumption grew by 860,000 barrels a day.  Since 2000, China’s oil consumption has grown an incredible 90 percent.  Supply, globally, is not keeping up with demand growth. And barring a major global economic meltdown, that dynamic is not going to change.  The rest of the world is going to continue to consume more oil, and finding and developing new sources of oil is going to continue to get more expensive.  And Obama can’t do a damn thing about it, except to put in place policies that encourage U.S. consumers to consume as little oil as possible.”

The Saudis and the Iranians frequently lock horns over pricing at OPEC meetings.  Typically, however, member nations follow Saudi Arabia’s lead, which produces most of the group’s oil.  This time the Saudi-Iranian rivalry resulted in a deadlock.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) had urged oil producers to put more crude on the market.  “Ongoing supply disruptions, as well as the fragile state of the global economy, call for a prompt increase in supply,” the agency said.  Iran, the second largest OPEC member after Saudi Arabia, is the leading price “hawk,” favoring expensive oil.  Saudi Arabia has consistently acted to moderate prices.

“Looking to the remainder of this year, the expected supply/demand balance indicates a tightening market,” OPEC’s report said. “As a result, global inventories could continue to decline as the market enters a period of high seasonal demand.”  OPEC’s member nations include Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

According to the IEA, demand for OPEC crude will average 29.95 million bpd (barrels per day)  in the 2nd half of 2011, or 1.2 million bpd more than April production of 28.75 million bpd.  Analysts said OPEC’s report had minimal impact on oil prices and a bigger focus would be the IEA’s latest forecasts.  “It’s absolutely market neutral,” said Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix.  “What’s going to matter more is the IEA report when we will be able to see if there are any more changes.”  OPEC’s May oil output rose by approximately 171,000 bpd to 28.97 million bpd as extra supplies from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Iraq offset declining production from Libya.  The report said Saudi output totaled 8.86 million bpd in May.  Saudi newspaper al-Hayat reported that Riyadh would boost supplies to 10 million bpd in July and oil traders said the kingdom was offering more to Asian customers, because they are driving the increase in global demand.  The world is expected to use 1.38 million bpd of oil more this year than in 2010, OPEC’s report said.

OPEC’s daily production is bound by quotas of 26.32 million bpd in May of 2011, according to the group’s monthly report.  That’s an increase from 26.17 million bpd in April, OPEC said.  Saudi Arabian output climbed to 8.86 million bpd in May, compared with 8.8 million in April.  OPEC’s total supply, including Iraq, was 28.97 million bpd May compared with 28.8 million the previous month.  Libyan supplies fell to 169,000 bpd in May as the conflict between forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi and anti- government rebels halted output.  That compares with an average 1.56 million last year.  OPEC, which provides approximately 40 percent of the world’s crude oil, announced its biggest-ever supply cuts in late 2008 when the financial crisis caused a collapse in global demand.  The decision capped production at 24.845 million bpd for all members except Iraq, which is exempt from the quota system.

Now we are unhappy that we did not reach a decision but this is not the end of the world,” al-Badri said.”It was not political, it was really an economic situation.  Of course, for the past six years we have enjoyed a very relaxed atmosphere, now we have some tension.  I hope we will overcome it.”

“The Terminator” Wants to Create Green Solutions

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently called for the end of false debate over climate science, saying that we should not assume that China will create green technologies that Americans can adopt and to admit that global warming will impact the globe in coming years. In a speech at the APRA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C.,  Schwarzenegger said that changing to a green economy, fixing the environment and ending the political stalemate over carbon legislation are well within the power of today’s technology.

“We want a new era of energy independence, a new era of green technology and green jobs, a new era of better health from a cleaner environment, and a new era of American inventiveness,” Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger connected the green economy of the future to the current unrest in the Mideast. He said that the overthrow of foreign dictators seemed impossible a month ago but now seems inevitable.  At the same time, he believes that defeatism about the ability of a green revolution to transform America will soon look incongruous.  The former California governor also pointed to the recent volatility in oil prices resulting from upheaval in the Middle Eastern as a clear example of why the United States needs to wean itself off foreign oil.  “Why should a dried-up desert country with a crazy dictator like Libya play havoc with America’s energy future?” Schwarzenegger asked.

Schwarzenegger pointed out that California offers a model for tech companies that can help vitalize the economy and cut greenhouse gases, while helping the country reduce its imports of oil. As governor, he signed a global-warming law that mandates reductions in greenhouse gases; California also has a renewable-energy mandate that has resulted in almost 20 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources.

He lamented the national discussion on clean energy, saying too much of it is stuck in the debate over the science of global warming.  Instead, people should focus on immediate benefits from investing in green technologies, including improved health, economic growth, consumer savings from efficiency, and reduced dependence on foreign oil.

“Think about what it means that in the Central Valley of California, one in six children has to walk around with an inhaler.  I know we can change the debate and win the debate,” he said.  “We can’t talk about global warming, because people can’t relate to that.”  Instead of creating “forward-looking policies” for energy use, elected officials are debating the science of global warming.  “There is a disconnect between what is happening and what is being debated,” Schwarzenegger concluded.

Will the Stock Market Recovery Continue in 2011?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Will the Stock Market Recovery Continue in 2011?  With the stock market ending its best December since 1987, there is hope that 2011 will see a strong Wall Street recovery.  One source of hope is the fact that the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has returned to its pre-Lehman Brothers level.  It joins the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq Composite Index and the Russell 2000 in seeing strong improvements in their levels.  Stocks have risen 20 percent in just four months.

The recent surge was helped by performance chasing.  The proportion of money managers lagging their benchmarks by five percent has increased from 12 percent at the end of October to 22 percent in the middle of December and trimming their risk exposure “on the presumption that the markets had reached the upper end of a trading range,” said JPMorgan’s Thomas Lee.  BTIG’s Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist, believes the purchase of hard assets as a hedge against depreciating currencies has helped drive the price of oil to above $90 per barrel.  He also points to high silver and copper prices – with the latter at an all-time high.  “There is no doubt commodities have performed well even though the dollar has not broken down, but the question is how long will it take before speculators bail on the trade,” O’Rourke said.

Wall Street market strategists are consistently bullish, generally forecasting 2011 gains of 10 to 17 percent, with Deutsche Bank forecasting gains of as much as 25 percent Main Street investors are equally upbeat: Recent polls indicate the greatest level of optimism since 2007, with the bullish crowd surging to 63 percent of those queried, with just 16 percent claiming bearishness.