Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted October 14, 2014
A new study by the Aspen Institute joins a series of analyses concluding that one benefit from exporting U.S. crude oil would be lower gasoline prices here at home. Aspen’s projected reduction of between 3 and 9 cents per gallon parallels findings in previous major studies by ICF International (3.8 cents per gallon), IHS (8 cents) and Brookings/NERA (7 to 12 cents) that exports would lower pump prices.
Aspen and the other studies project other benefits from exporting crude oil, including broad job creation, economic growth and increased domestic energy production. Yet the solidifying consensus that consumers also would benefit is critically important as the public policy debate on oil exports continues.
Posted October 13, 2014
Detroit Free Press: Ground zero for America's "shale revolution" in gas and oil production, North Dakota is also the reigning title-holder for lowest unemployment among the 50 states.
There were more unfilled jobs in September than job applications within the state, where oil field workers can make six-figure salaries and even the fast-food restaurants dangle hiring bonuses of $300 or more. The state has been recruiting specifically from Michigan for workers of all stripes and skill levels — hoping to entice entire families to relocate and grow roots.
North Dakota's official 2.8% jobless rate in August is essentially full employment, allowing just about anyone who wants a job to get one. At the same time, Michigan's rate of 7.4% was stuck above the 6.1% national average. (The national rate was 5.9% in September.)
North Dakota's roaring economy has been the envy of state governors and, for proponents of fracking, a shining success story for how an energy boom can produce a job boom, even for workers in professions that aren't directly related to extracting natural gas and oil.
Posted October 9, 2014
Columbus Dispatch: Consumers are starting to catch a serious break for a change on energy costs.
Gasoline prices in central Ohio are at their lowest level in nearly four years, while the outlook for home-heating costs this winter is better than a year ago.
“There’s definitely more money in my pocket,” said Kathy Bury, 58, of Blacklick, in eastern Franklin County.
She tends to buy gasoline $20 at a time. At current prices, that’s three-fourths of a tank, which is much more than a month ago, a contrast that “makes me happy,” she said.
Posted October 8, 2014
Others are picking up on how late EPA is in setting this year’s ethanol use requirements – as well as how political calculations appear to be affecting the administration’s management of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Politico (subscription required) has this:
The Obama administration is nearly a year late in setting its 2014 biofuels mandate, but both ethanol supporters and critics say with politics at play, the White House may delay its decision until after the midterm elections.
Several sources following the issue closely say that the White House hoped that boosting the overall volumes would be enough to act as a boon to (Democrat Bruce Braley in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race). But renewable fuels advocates in the state aren’t happy with that compromise, so anything short of a clear victory for ethanol makers could hurt Braley’s campaign. … “If they increase the number, but it’s still tied to the (ethanol) blend wall, in our view, they will have killed the program, and that will be seen as a huge loss for Braley, and they’ll wait until after the election,” said one person in the biofuels industry. “If it’s good for Braley, it’ll be before the election. If it’s bad for Braley, it’ll be a punt. And people will see the punt.”
Indeed they will. They can’t help but see energy policy being contorted to serve political ends. It’s no way to conduct energy policy, and it’s no way to treat Americans who ultimately could be impacted by decisions (or the lack thereof) under the RFS.
Posted October 7, 2014
Reuters: As oil production swells, demand falters and prices slide, the global oil market appears on the verge of a pivotal shift from an era of scarcity to one of abundance.
Oil prices have fallen as much as 20 percent since June, despite a host of rising supply risks, leading more investors and traders to consider whether 2015 is the year in which the U.S. shale oil boom finally tips the world into surplus.
While the plunge has rekindled speculation that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) may need to cut output for the first time in six years when it meets next month, some analysts are looking much further ahead.
They say a long-anticipated fundamental shift in the market may now be under way, ending a four-year stretch when $100-plus prices were the norm, and opening a new era in which OPEC restraint once again becomes paramount.
Posted October 6, 2014
CNBC (Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson): Over the last 150 years, we've seen the greatest advancements in living standards in recorded history — advances enabled by affordable and reliable energy that have brought light, heat, mobility, modern communications and other benefits to billions of people around the world. The United States has helped lead many of these advancements — by spreading our ideals of free markets, open trade, rule-of-law and limited state involvement. In doing so, we've allowed private initiative to innovate and drive progress.
As more of the world seeks to capitalize on these advancements, the ensuing spread of wealth is helping to lift more people into the middle class and realize these same benefits. In the past 10 years, the world has added three-quarters of a billion people to the middle class.
And despite some struggles of our own, America's business and economic system remains the envy of much of the world. Yet it's a system that continues to evolve … and change.
Perhaps the most dramatic changes have been in the U.S. oil and natural gas sector, where we've launched an energy revolution, fueled by technology and innovation, that's allowing us to produce more from oil and gas fields and develop new geographic frontiers. In the last decade, we've rewritten the U.S. energy story — from one focused on scarcity to one focused on abundance.
Posted October 2, 2014
The absurdity surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues:
Those Late 2014 Ethanol Requirements – EPA now is 10 months late with setting this year’s requirements for ethanol use. Under the RFS, the agency is required to tell obligated parties, like refiners, how much ethanol they’re required to use in a calendar year by November of the previous year. Thus, requirements for 2014 ethanol use were due in November, 2013.
As it is we’re getting closer to the point where the absurd becomes the ridiculous, with the growing possibility EPA could end up setting 2014’s requirements in 2015. It would be like something from one of the late, great Johnny Carson’s “Carnac the Magnificent” sketches: “Oh Unfortunate Ones, here’s how much ethanol you should have used …”
Posted September 19, 2014
A couple of recent polls indicate many Americans are concerned that lifting the 1970s ban on crude oil exports could increase prices at the pump. A couple of thoughts.
First, it’s likely these opinions stem from an idea that restricting domestic crude oil output to the boundaries of the United States will favorably impact domestic pump prices. Yet, because crude oil is traded globally, the world market sets the cost of crude, which then is the chief factor in prices at the pump.
Second, the strong weight of new scholarship and analysis say that allowing exports of domestic crude will lower pump prices in this country – while also boosting economic growth, employment and wages and improving our balance of trade.
Posted August 29, 2014
Supply matters. The impact of the U.S. energy revolution on global supply, with real benefits reaching consumers, is seen we head into the Labor Day weekend. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports the U.S. average retail price for gasoline on Aug. 25 was the lowest price on the Monday before Labor Day since 2010. EIA explains:
The recent decline in gasoline prices largely reflects changes in crude oil prices. In June of this year, the Brent spot price reached its year-to-date high of $115/barrel (bbl), then fell to $102/bbl on August 22. Current Brent prices are below their August average level over the past three years, which ranged between $110/bbl and $113/bbl.
This parallels another EIA report, crediting the surge in U.S. crude oil production with a more stabilized global crude market:
Record-setting liquid fuels production growth in the United States has more than offset the rise in unplanned global supply disruptions over the past few years … U.S. liquid fuels production, which includes crude oil, hydrocarbon gas liquids, biofuels, and refinery processing gain, grew by more than 4.0 million barrels per day (bbl/d) from January 2011 to July 2014, of which 3.0 million bbl/d was crude oil production growth. During that same period, global unplanned supply disruptions grew by 2.8 million bbl/d. U.S. production growth, the main factor counterbalancing the supply disruptions on the global oil market, has contributed to a decrease in crude oil price volatility since 2011.
More simply, supply matters. Because crude oil is traded globally, every additional barrel of U.S. production going into that market has impact.
Posted August 29, 2014
New York Times: THREE RIVERS, Tex. — Whenever overseas turmoil has pushed energy prices higher in the past, John and Beth Hughes have curbed their driving by eating at home more and shopping locally. But the current crises in Ukraine and Iraq did not stop them from making the two-hour drive to San Antonio to visit the Alamo, have a chicken fried steak lunch, and buy fish for their tank before driving home to Corpus Christi.
“We were able to take a day-cation because of the lower gas prices,” said Ms. Hughes.
The reason for the improved economics of road travel can be found 10,000 feet below the ground here, where the South Texas Eagle Ford shale is providing more than a million new barrels of oil supplies to the world market every day. United States refinery production in recent weeks reached record highs and left supply depots flush, cushioning the impact of all the instability surrounding traditional global oil fields.