The US Senate unanimously confirmed Ernest Moniz as Energy secretary Thursday.
The bipartisan approval of the nuclear physicist comes in contrast to divided opinions over the fate of another key member of President Obama's second-term energy and environment team. Citing transparency concerns, Republican lawmakers have sought to stall the nomination of Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
With a background in both government and science, Mr. Moniz is seen as a departure from his predecessor, Steven Chu. Moniz served as under secretary of the Department of Energy between 1997 and 2001. Prior to his nomination, he was the director of the Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Moniz also served on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
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In his confirmation hearing last month, Moniz stressed the importance of a diverse, balanced energy portfolio. He is expected to be the flag-bearer of President Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy, a strategy he openly embraces. Research and development should be "first and foremost," he said, in the Department's work towards a clean-energy future. ( Continue… )
"There is a way for the Tesla Model S to be recharged throughout the country faster than you could fill a gas tank."
It's a bit of a holy grail for an industry eager to overcome "range anxiety," the fear of running out of power. But what if electric cars could refuel as quickly and conveniently as gas cars?
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Mr. Musk's tweet, as well as a hint dropped in Tesla's latest quarterly report, suggests the company is working on a "battery-swapping" feature that would accomplish exactly that. ( Continue… )
The United States needs to make some decisions on how to capitalize on its surging oil production. Crude oil exports, except under certain circumstances, were banned in 1979 in response to the Arab oil embargo. More than 30 years later, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said he was upbeat about an emerging U.S. oil market but said talk of energy independence was a "naive" position. There may be enough oil available in the United States to sideline Saudi Arabia and its fellow OPEC members, the International Energy Agency said. In its latest market report, the IEA said an increase in North American oil production could have long-lasting domino effects. Many of those extend far beyond oil markets to the very core of the geopolitical hierarchy.
The IEA said it expects North American oil supply to increase by 4 million barrels per day, a figure that represents about half of what's expected from global oil producers during the same period. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said production gains mean it's time to take a serious look at export restrictions by the United States.
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Over the past two years the spot price of natural gas fell from nearly $5 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in June 2011 to less than $2 per MMBtu in April 2012, before beginning a steady climb back to the current level of about $4 per MMBtu. Prices have been supported by resilient demand as well as diminishing supply from some of the more mature shale formations and the depleted wells offshore.
Stronger natural gas prices are good news for some and bad news for others. Natural gas producers likeChesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) were hit especially hard as gas prices fell. Between June 2011 and April 2012, CHK’s share price declined 25 percent. But over the past 12 months, CHK has rallied 36 percent as gas prices recovered. Since Chesapeake is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, it’s not surprising that its shares track the price of the commodity. The company isn’t diversified, so it is nearly a pure play on natural gas. (Related: Short-Term Trend in U.S. Natural Gas Prices Point Higher)
However, Chesapeake isn’t the nation’s largest producer of natural gas. That distinction goes to ExxonMobil(NYSE:XOM). ExxonMobil shares have underperformed in recent years because of the company’s ill-timed $41 billion buyout of natural gas producer XTO Energy in 2009. The week the deal was announced natural gas fetched close to $6 per MMBtu. The acquisition of XTO made Exxon the largest US natural gas producer just as prices began a long decline. By June 2012 CEO Rex Tillerson was admitting that “We are losing our shirts” on natural gas production because of low prices. ( Continue… )
China asserted its Arctic presence at a meeting of the Arctic Council Wednesday, advancing the ascendant superpower's expanding interest in the region. The Arctic Council granted China "permanent observer" status, giving it influence over decisions made by the group's eight member nations.
It comes as melting Arctic ice opens new shipping lanes and access to oil and gas. Once an undesirable, obscure destination, the Arctic is quickly emerging as a critical frontier in the global quest for resources. The accelerating interest has many concerned for the future stability of a region already undergoing rapid environmental change.
"Eyes are on the Arctic right now," said Chris Krenz, Arctic campaign manager and senior scientist at Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization based in Washington. "It’s really a big resource rush. We have the opportunity to decide how and if that resource rush happens."
Oil and gas are the obvious targets. The region lays claim to 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil resources and nearly a third of its undiscovered natural gas. That captures the attention of an economic juggernaut in search of alternatives to its dependence on coal power and foreign oil. ( Continue… )
Production spikes from US shale oil and Canadian oil sands have sent a supply shock through world energy markets, the International Energy Agency said in a report Tuesday.
That shock makes the oil and gas industries in the United States and some developing nations winners in the new energy environment, while Europe's, quite possibly, emerges as a loser. Separately, European officials are investigating three energy companies accused of rigging oil prices.
The benefits of the North American oil boom on this side of the Atlantic are well-documented. Elsewhere, the production surge signifies a shifting dynamic between once-dominant oil giants and developing nations asserting their presence.
“The good news is that this is helping to ease a market that was relatively tight for several years," IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement. "But as companies rethink their strategies, and as emerging economies become the leading players in the refining and demand sectors, not everyone will be a winner.”
Steep growth in non-OECD refining capacity will put refineries in traditional powerhouses at risk of closure, according to the report. Unique drilling technologies pioneered in the US will be applied elsewhere, dramatically recasting global reserve estimates. This quarter, non-OECD economies will overtake OECD nations in oil demand for the first time, IEA projects. ( Continue… )
Back in 1939 a bet between two Shell scientists regarding who could build a vehicle to carry them the furthest on a set amount of fuel turned into an annual event which has grown in popularity ever since.
Today, the Shell Eco-marathon follows the same parameters, using a mix of ingenuity, imagination, and skill, high schools and universities from around the world compete to discover who can build the most fuel efficient car. Teams use an array of fuels to try and determine the most energy dense mixes, some which could possibly be used in vehicles or machines of the future.
Events now take place in Kuala Lumpur (Asia), The Netherlands (Europe), and Houston (the Americas), as the race has become a truly global event. There are two categories in each competition: prototype, and urban concept. (Related article: Nevada Renewable Energy – Good or Bad?)
Canada has a fearsome reputation in the Huston-based event, with the Laval University of Quebec having won the prototype category for four of the previous five years. They managed to retain their title this year, powering their car for 3,587 miles on a single gallon of gasoline (5,773 kilometres on 3.8 litres). ( Continue… )
U.S.-based industries and utilities that consume a lot of natural gas have been trying to figure out just how to respond to proposals in Congress to allow expanded natural gas exports, a move that could significantly raise the price of one of their chief inputs.
But, there is one segment of U.S. industry that ought to be cheering for such an outcome--though I doubt that its leaders will be offering their support in anything above a whisper. The renewable energy industry would benefit from higher natural gas prices--and higher coal prices, for that matter--since, as these fuels for electric power plants become dearer, renewable energy sources become more competitive. The costs for renewables are in the production and installation of the solar panels, wind towers and dams; the fuels--sunlight, wind, and water--are essentially free.
But it would seem almost unpatriotic to cheer for higher energy prices in America. Higher prices--all things being equal--tend to depress economic activity. And, higher energy prices also tend to make American goods less competitive on world markets by increasing the costs of many inputs. Hence, my observation that the titans of the renewable energy industry will probably stay largely mum in the fight over expanded exports of U.S. natural gas.
But there are good reasons for the American public to shoulder the burden of higher energy prices now to help build a more secure future. First, climate change is already on course to destroy the way of life that Americans say they want to preserve. Second, there is no chance, NONE, that fossil fuels can sustain American society and the world in the long run. Only renewable energy can offer the promise of essentially perpetual supplies. ( Continue… )
For all the energy prospects bandied about concerning the Arctic – including a new White House strategy paper for the region – oil drilling in US Arctic waters has come to a temporary pause.
Three major oil companies with operations in the region have pulled out for the year, citing harsh weather and regulatory difficulties.
Home to an estimated 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil resources and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas, the Arctic is sure to lure them back. How they return is crucial. If energy companies can show it's possible to recover those resources responsibly, it will have enormous consequences – for those companies' balance sheets, for the diplomatic relations of the eight nations whose borders fall within the Arctic circle, and for the health of the planet.
"Interest in the Arctic is not waning," Kara Moriarty, executive director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, wrote in an e-mail. "In fact, the interest is as strong as ever. Companies are already planning for the 2014 season and are working diligently to have the right equipment and plans in place to be successful." The group represents companies responsible for the majority of oil and gas activities in Alaska. ( Continue… )
The wealthiest man in Africa said he's secured billions of dollars in loans to help kick start the refinery business in Nigeria. OPEC-member Nigeria is forced to import most of its petroleum products because of aging infrastructure. Crude oil production in Nigeria has suffered in recent years because of militant campaigns and sabotage in the Niger Delta region. Last month, the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it was launching a campaign to save Christianity in Nigeria. With militant group Boko Haram seeking to establish an Islamic state in a country divided along religious lines, poorly maintained refineries may be the least of Nigeria's concerns.
Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote said he's secured $4.25 billion in loans from domestic and offshore banks to breathe new life into the refinery business in Africa's largest crude oil producer. Nigeria exports about four times as much crude oil as it can handle with its existing refineries. Aging infrastructure and poor maintenance means Nigeria has to rely on imports to meet domestic oil requirements and Dangote said such a significant investment makes good business sense. (Related article: SOUTH SUDAN: More Good News for Oil Production)
The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said Nigerian oil production peaked at 2.6 million barrels per day in 2005. Since then, militancy and corruption have contributed to relative declines in production. Last week, Timipre Sylva, former governor of southern oil-rich Bayelsa state was arrested for fraud, adding to a steady stream of corruption charges filed against officials in the Niger Delta. Later this week, lawmakers said they will look into allegations that Nigerian Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke is loosely connected to some shady deals involving Niger Delta oil blocks. President Goodluck Jonathan, himself a former Bayelsa governor, said he would crack down on corruption, though recent developments show his efforts so far have lacked teeth. ( Continue… )