Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted May 29, 2015
Reuters: The U.S. Congress could lift the 40-year old ban on domestic crude oil exports within a year as a drop in gasoline prices and the potential return of Iranian oil to global markets makes it an easier measure for politicians to support, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said on Thursday.
U.S. gasoline prices have dropped since last year along with global crude prices, thanks to strong crude output from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. On Thursday, the U.S. average for regular gasoline at the pump was nearly $2.74 a gallon, down from $3.65 a year ago, according to the AAA motorist club.
If that remains the case, it has the potential to allay politicians' fears that they could be blamed any rise in gasoline prices if the crude oil export ban was lifted. If talks between six global powers and Tehran on Iran's nuclear program reach a deal on June 30, sanctions on Iran's oil exports could be removed soon after. That could also put pressure on global oil and U.S. gasoline prices.
Posted May 28, 2015
Time: As the battle wages on in Congress over President Barack Obama’s signature trade agreements and the needed fast-track trade promotion authority (TPA), the president would be wise to consider alternatives that would enhance his trade legacy and also further our strategic priorities overseas. While energy is not included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations, many of the same Asian, European, and Latin American partners are calling for greater partnership with the United States on energy issues. By allowing the U.S. to become a stable source of supply to global energy markets, counteracting supply disruptions that will inevitably affect other energy-rich regions, President Obama and Congress can double down on promoting long-term economic growth and reinforcing U.S. foreign policy leadership.
The U.S. can do more with its energy resources to support this strategic vision. A direct way of leveraging this opportunity is to lift the ban on the export of crude oil and accelerate approvals for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). A series of policies and laws in the 1970s banned exports of U.S. crude oil with only limited exceptions. This ban is a relic from an age of energy scarcity and should be adjusted to reflect present realities. By working with Congress, and via executive order, the president can start taking steps today to boost U.S. exports.
Posted May 27, 2015
Wall Street Journal commentary (Engler and McGarvey): America’s business and labor leaders agree: President Obama and Congress can do more to modernize the permitting process for infrastructure projects—airports, factories, power plants and pipelines—which at the moment is burdensome, slow and inconsistent.
Gaining approval to build a new bridge or factory typically involves review by multiple federal agencies—such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Interior Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management—with overlapping jurisdictions and no real deadlines. Often, no single federal entity is responsible for managing the process. Even after a project is granted permits, lawsuits can hold things up for years—or, worse, halt a half-completed construction project.
Posted May 20, 2015
The Wall Street Journal (Leon Panetta and Stephen Hadley): The United States faces a startling array of global security threats, demanding national resolve and the resolve of our closest allies in Europe and Asia. Iran’s moves to become a regional hegemon, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and conflicts driven by Islamic terrorism throughout the Middle East and North Africa are a few of the challenges calling for steadfast commitment to American democratic principles and military readiness. The pathway to achieving U.S. goals also can be economic—as simple as ensuring that allies and friends have access to secure supplies of energy.
Blocking access to these supplies is the ban on exporting U.S. crude oil that was enacted, along with domestic price controls, after the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The price controls ended in 1981 but the export ban lives on, though America is awash in oil.
The U.S. has broken free of its dependence on energy from unstable sources. Only 27% of the petroleum consumed here last year was imported, the lowest level in 30 years. Nearly half of those imports came from Canada and Mexico. But our friends and allies, particularly in Europe, do not enjoy the same degree of independence. The moment has come for the U.S. to deploy its oil and gas in support of its security interests around the world.
Posted May 19, 2015
Solid bipartisan support for important energy legislation is on display in the U.S. Senate, with members of a key committee considering a number of ways to increase access to domestic supplies of oil and natural gas – as well as bills ending 1970s-era restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports.
Energy security is about having secure, reliable energy supplies to fuel broad economic expansion and create opportunity for individual Americans. When we remove outdated export restrictions, allowing U.S. energy to reach global markets, studies have detailed how domestic production will be stimulated – again, creating jobs and economic growth here at home. API Executive Vice President Louis Finkel talks about new legislation offered by Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, similar to legislation offered last week by Republican Lisa Murkowski, that would lift the crude export ban and boost U.S. energy:
“Bipartisan leadership on this issue keeps the focus on the consumers and workers that will benefit from free trade in crude oil. … Study after study shows that lifting outdated limits on crude exports will allow America to create more jobs, cut the trade deficit, grow the economy, and put downward pressure on fuel costs. Exports will help keep U.S. production strong in a tough market, and they will provide our allies with an important alternative to energy from less friendly regimes.”
Posted May 18, 2015
Wall Street Journal: BRUSSELS—The European Union is increasing pressure on Washington to include an energy chapter in a planned trans-Atlantic trade deal that would allow U.S. exports of natural gas and oil and reduce the bloc’s dependency on Russia.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s energy chief, said that easing flows of liquefied natural gas and crude oil from the U.S. to the EU is one of the bloc’s goals for the trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership, or TTIP, that is currently under negotiation. The U.S. has so far resisted an energy chapter in TTIP, but the shale-gas boom in the U.S. and the EU’s trouble with Russia have pushed the issue into focus.
“We believe that the energy chapter in TTIP…could make a quite important contribution to the mutually beneficial trade exchange, but also to the energy security of the EU,” Mr. Sefcovic said.
Posted May 15, 2015
Bloomberg BNA: The chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said May 14 that she is inclined to include standalone legislation that would end the 40-year ban on the export of domestic crude oil as part of a broader energy package the committee is drafting.
“I’d like to have it in there,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters. “It just makes sense in there, as part of the bigger, broader energy updating our architecture.”
The bill, the Energy Supply and Distribution Act of 2015 (S. 1312), released May 13, is scheduled to be the subject of a June 4 hearing on “energy accountability and reform,” along with other bills that could end up in the broader energy package, which is expected to be unveiled later this summer.
Posted May 14, 2015
Wall Street Journal: After slashing production for months, U.S. shale-oil companies say they are ready to bring rigs back into service, setting up the first big test of their ability to quickly react to rising crude prices.
Last week, EOG Resources Inc. EOG, -0.08% said it would ramp up output if U.S. prices hold at recent levels, while Occidental Petroleum Corp. OXY, +0.93% boosted planned production for the year. Other drillers said they would open the taps if U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate CLM5, -0.88% reaches $70 a barrel. WTI settled at $60.50 Wednesday, while global benchmark Brent LCOM5, -0.13% settled at $66.81.
An increase in U.S. production, coupled with rising output by suppliers such as Russia and Brazil, could put a cap on the 40% rally in crude prices since March and even push them lower later in the year, some analysts say.
“U.S. supply could quickly rebound in response to the recent recovery in prices,” said Tom Pugh, a commodities economist at Capital Economics. “Based on the historical relationship with prices, the fall in the number of drilling rigs already looks overdone, and activity is likely to rebound over the next few months.”
Posted May 13, 2015
The Hill: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have introduced a bill to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
The bill would fulfill one of Murkowski’s biggest energy priorities and allow American oil companies to export crude oil as they do petroleum products. It would also allow exports of condensate, a type of light crude oil.
“America’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since the export ban was put in place in the 1970s. We have moved from energy scarcity to energy abundance. Unfortunately, our energy policies have not kept pace,” Murkowski said in a statement.
“This legislation builds from bipartisan ideas, linking energy security and infrastructure to expanding exports and helping our allies. Our nation has an opportunity to embrace its role as a global energy powerhouse, sending a signal to the world that we are open for business and will stand by our friends in need.”
Posted May 11, 2015
Breaking Energy Opinion (Thorning): The Department of Energy recently approved an application from Alaska LNG to export natural gas. But there’s a catch: these exports can only go to nations where the United States has a free-trade agreement in place.
Never mind the fact that the top markets for LNG are India, China, and Japan, where we don’t have free-trade agreements set up.So essentially, the company is stuck alongside the 20-plus U.S. natural gas companies that are awaiting approval to sell abroad. Some have been waiting for nearly three years.
Despite the rapid expansion of the American energy sector, the American regulatory apparatus hasn’t kept pace with the industry’s growth. New exploration techniques like fracking have opened up giant swaths of underground energy reserves in places like North Dakota and Pennsylvania. And the operations established to dig up the embedded oil and natural gas have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and driven billions in new economic activity.
But now, unnecessary regulations are stifling firms with outdated rules. Most notably, the federal approval process energy producers have to navigate in order to sell in foreign markets is extremely restrictive. It’s needlessly difficult for firms to ship surplus oil and gas to eager customers abroad.