Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is on the defensive after a series of crash-related fires have raised concerns over the safety of the company's Model S electric car.
The concern is unnecessary, Mr. Musk says. The three fires occurring in the past six weeks were the result of freak accidents, according to the Tesla CEO, not design flaws in the Model S.
Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is weighing a formal investigation after the third fire took place Nov. 6 in Tennessee. The federal agency will determine whether there is any need for a recall – a notion Musk is already dismissing.
RECOMMENDED: Think you know Tesla Motors? Take our quiz!
Tesla Motors has had a string of good news over the past year – winning major industry awards and earning a top safety rating from the NHTSA. The success has put a bright spotlight on Musk, which has helped boost the profile of Tesla Motors and electric cars in general. So far, the Tesla CEO isn't shying away from that spotlight when the news isn't so great. ( Continue… )
The holidays have come early for US drivers.
Gas prices are at the lowest they've been in 33 months and are projected to near the $3 mark as the year comes to an end. A combination of ample domestic supplies and light demand are keeping prices low.
About 1 in 4 gas stations across the US are already selling gas for less than $3 a gallon. Six states – Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas – already have average gas prices below $3 a gallon. Missouri motorists are paying the least: an average $2.82.
Falling prices put cash back in the pockets of consumers, but it may not be enough to spur a strong holiday shopping season this year. Most forecasts suggest only a modest increase in holiday spending as the effects of the Great Recession continue to linger. ( Continue… )
The US is poised to become the world's largest oil producer beginning in 2015. But its reign will be fleeting as the Middle East reasserts itself two decades from now.
Why? America's oil boom won't last forever, according to an annual outlook released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA). And the technologies that have fueled that North American boom in shale rock formations won't be easily replicated in the rest of the world.
"The capacity of technologies to unlock new types of resources ... and to improve recovery rates in existing fields is pushing up estimates of the amount of oil that remains to be produced," reads the Paris-based agency's report. "But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance."
Such a pessmistic forecast may seem hard to believe, given that the US is producing oil today at levels not seen since the 1990s. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, two advanced extraction techniques, have fueled a boom in shale oil and gas production across the US. ( Continue… )
The self-declared government of Cyrenaica, a district in eastern Libya, said it established its own oil company that's ready to put crude oil on the international market. Libya since Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship ended in 2011 has struggled to return to the level of stability he ensured with an iron fist. Now, one of Africa's leading oil states is tearing apart at the seams defined largely along the divisions suppressed during Gadhafi's autocracy. With 48 billion barrels of proven oil reserves at stake, what's next for Libya may have less to do with political reform than it does with who controls the oil spigots.
Tribes in eastern Libya have pressed for a return to an administrative system established in the 1950s. Then, Libya was divided into three states, with Cyrenaica spread out over much of the eastern half of the country. That all ended when Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup d'état. Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, leader of the revised eastern administration, said the new company would be set up in Tobruk, where protesters last week laid siege to the Hariga port. That protest left a tanker set to load 60,000 barrels of crude oil for Italy stranded offshore.
RECOMMENDED: US energy in five maps (infographics)
Seemingly waning in power, and just weeks removed from his kidnapping, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said the central government in Tripoli might run short on money because of oil export woes. The eastern area is home to several key oil fields and export terminals, meaning Zeidan has little say over what happens there. He said 60 percent of the oil production in Libya has stopped because of a series of disruptions, and most of that is from the eastern region. In the next month or so, he said, the Libyan economy may be in a bit of a pickle. (Related article: Libya: Benghazi Burns as Clashes Intensify in Tripoli) ( Continue… )
Optimistic, but unwarranted, energy supply forecasts permeate the media (courtesy of the oil and gas industry) even as the occasional dire scenario gets coverage. But, it is well to remember that none of people making forecasts can know the one thing they all desperately want to know: the future.
The most important thing you need to understand about forecasts--any forecast--is that their accuracy deteriorates rapidly, the further they go into the future. Surprisingly, almost no one who makes public energy supply forecasts acknowledges this; otherwise, we would see what statisticians call error bars--very large ones--in all these forecasts. In layman's terms, the further out a forecast goes, the wider the range of possible outcomes--so much so that for long-term forecasts the range of outcomes is far more important than the middle estimate.
But, this kind of waffling doesn't get headlines. Humans are evolutionarily disposed to listen to those who sound the most confident in their pronouncements, not those who are hesitant and full of equivocation.There is reason to believe that overconfidence is an evolutionary advantage, and that this explains its persistence in human society. In addition, research has shown that those projecting confidence engender loyalty even if their forecasts are wrong more often than those who couch their predictions in the language of uncertainty. You can get some of the advantages of being right without actually being right. People like to feel that they are certain even though that feeling often turns out to be false.
So, the lay public is treated daily to an orgy of often contradictory soothsaying and tends to respond as follows: "Come back to me when you know for certain." But, that's just the problem. We can't know anything about the future for certain, and yet we must plan for it. So, how do we go about doing that? ( Continue… )
Veterans Day 2013: Why energy jobs are good fit for vets (Sponsor content)
On Monday, among the parades, waving flags and memorial services that commemorate Veterans Day, it is important to remember that the members of our military often come home and face a new challenge — civilian life. Fortunately, there are ways that we, as residents and members of the business community, can show our gratitude to these American heroes. We can hire veterans.
At AREVA, a nuclear energy supplier headquartered in Charlotte, we are dedicated to hiring military veterans. In fact, about 10 percent of our Lynchburg-based workforce of almost 2,000 people is comprised of veterans and we have similar hiring practices in Charlotte, Richland, Wash., and Columbia, Md., our other larger locations. We’ve found that the job skill parallels between the military and the civilian energy industry allow veterans to translate their experience into a rewarding career with great opportunities for advancement. Our military veterans have the training and leadership skills necessary to tackle the needs of a society with a growing demand for energy.
Across the United States, nuclear and other clean energy is an important part of our lives. Nationwide, nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent of the electricity that powers every computer, electric car and light bulb. This clean, safe and reliable energy depends on a strong and talented workforce, and we need to ensure that we are developing and attracting top talent, particularly as new nuclear plants are built and we continue to service our existing fleet. Nuclear energy already employs thousands of Americans in well-paid careers. Careers in business, communications, human resources, legal, engineering, information systems and building trades, just to name a few.
At AREVA, we have been very successful in our efforts to recruit military veterans, who represent a growing part of our team across the country. In fact, military veterans comprise nearly 10 percent of our U.S. workforce. To encourage and continue this trend, we support the Troops to Energy program, as well as many other military recruiting events, and even launched a webpage in 2012 specifically dedicated to opportunities for veterans. These valuable resources help retiring military personnel find careers that are a good fit for them.
As we celebrate this Veterans Day, I believe we should honor our veterans by helping them in their transition to successful careers in their civilian lives. At AREVA we pledge to thank those who have protected our great nation year-round by hiring veterans whenever possible.
Mike Rencheck is CEO of AREVA Inc. North America
A report last week from Amnesty International said energy companies operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta region weren't entirely up front about what's causing the "hundreds" of spills reported every year in the region. In a 66-page report, the rights group said oil companies, in particular Royal Dutch Shell, have made numerous claims about sabotage and oil theft that raise a series of questions. Now, lawmakers in OPEC member Nigeria are mulling legislation that would tighten penalties for oil companies responsible for the spills. The cost, if passed, would be in the millions of dollars for the companies operating there.
Amnesty, in its report, said the hundreds of oil spills reported in Nigeria every year are ruining the environment and putting human lives at risk. It said spills in the Niger Delta are the result of pipeline corrosion, maintenance issues, equipment failure, sabotage and theft. (Related article: Eni Adjusts Profits Amid Africa Chaos)
"For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria, in particular Shell, have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil," the report said. "There is no legitimate basis for this claim."
Even if Shell is right, Amnesty's report said, it hasn't done much to ensure its infrastructure in the Niger Delta is protected from vandals. But the problem extends beyond just Shell, the organization said. A Nigerian subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni reported 471 spills in the Niger Delta, compared with the 138 from Shell from January to September. Eni's subsidiary also blames saboteurs, but Amnesty said there's "absolutely no information" to support their claims. ( Continue… )
“The playground is closed today kids.” I heard those unwelcome words all too frequently growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Air quality in the Los Angeles basin was the worst in the country throughout most of my childhood. This was largely due to the millions of private vehicles and the smog-trapping effect of the encircling mountains. Not being allowed outside because of air pollution was an unhappy reality on too many summer days of my youth.
Today, through tightened vehicle emissions standards and mandatory smog checks, the air quality in Los Angeles is greatly improved. The 200 “red alert” days reported in 1975 dropped to just three in 2010, while private vehicle ownership has nearly tripled over the same period.
China is facing pollution challenges today similar to what Los Angeles faced during the 1980s. In northern China, children are forced to stay indoors and home from school during peak smog events, which have been occurring with increasing frequency. Northern Chinese cities have recently been hit by some of the worst air quality on record, prompting journalists to refer to “airmageddon,” a term coined last winter when Beijing air pollution soared off the chart previously used to measure it. Others have called it “airpocalypse.” ( Continue… )
Nuclear fuel: How to store it safely (Sponsor content)
It is no secret that the Southeast is one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States. The Southeast’s GDP was $3.45 trillion in 2012, $600 billion more than the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic regions. Further, population rise in the South has maintained a brisk pace for decades. Charlotte and Raleigh in particular are recognized as economically dynamic, culturally vibrant cities, and boast an unmatched quality of life.
The important links between quality of life, economic growth and energy consumption are not secret. In order for the Carolinas to maintain economic progress, we need to ensure the production of a stable and robust electricity supply. This requires reliable and inexpensive power from a balanced and diverse generation portfolio that includes the vital contribution of nuclear power.
Nuclear power provides approximately 35 percent of North Carolina’s electricity generation. This is clean, safe, affordable and reliable electricity that serves as the stable energy foundation for economic growth in the state. Charlotte has become a hub of the nuclear industry and hosts a dynamic energy cluster that benefits from access to world-class educational institutions and a supportive infrastructure. ( Continue… )
On November 6 Shell announced it submitted revisions to its Plan of Exploration to the U.S. government, a regulatory hurdle it needed to clear in order to keep Arctic drilling plans open for 2014. Shell has not decided whether it will proceed with exploration operations next year, but wanted to keep its options open. The plan, submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, calls for a narrower approach to the Arctic, ruling out exploration in the Beaufort Sea. Instead, the company hopes to drill exploration wells only in the Chukchi Sea.
Shell’s Arctic campaign, closely watched by the oil industry around the world, has thus far been tormented by setbacks and controversy. After the Kulluk aground near Kodiak Island on December 31 of last year, Shell has decided to retire the troubled drilling rig at a cost of a “few hundred million” dollars. The oil company will move forward with the Noble Discoverer to drill several wells in the coming years, using Transocean’s Polar Pioneer as a backup. (Related article: Shell Announces Plans to Resume Arctic Oil Exploration in 2014)
After sinking an estimated $5 billion into its Arctic venture, Shell has yet to prove it can drill safely in the far north. The multiple problems in 2012 prompted a full review of the Arctic drilling campaign by the Department of the Interior, which it published in March 2013. It concluded that Shell’s failure to meet regulatory guidelines was due to “shortcomings in Shell’s management and oversight of key contractors.” Shell cancelled drilling plans for 2013 while it regrouped, and many wondered whether Shell’s failure would shelve Arctic oil drilling for the near future, at least in U.S. waters. Shell’s latest submission of exploration plans is a sign they are not ready to give up. ( Continue… )