Drumbeat: April 24, 2013
Posted by Leanan on April 24, 2013 - 10:49am
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt aims next month to issue a schedule of gradual rises in the subsidised prices various industries pay for fuel, to bring them near to world levels in four years, its trade and industry minister said.
A reduction in energy subsidies is widely seen as an important step towards allowing Egypt to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up its finances.
Egypt spends around a fifth of its budget on fuel subsidies, and the government is under pressure to reduce them to plug a deficit that has mushroomed since the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
A growing population and a falling currency are expected to push the energy subsidy bill to more than 120 billion Egyptian pounds ($17.4 billion) in the financial year that ends in June.
World energy demand will grow by 36 percent by 2030, senior economist at the British company BP Lev Freinkman told journalists in Baku on Wednesday.
He said the increase in demand for energy resources is mainly due to increased consumption in the electricity sector.
West Texas Intermediate crude advanced to the highest in more than a week amid speculation that the European Central Bank will cut its key interest rate to a record low next week.
Futures increased as much as 0.9 percent in New York to the highest intraday price since April 15. Banks including UBS AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) expect a rate reduction for May. U.S. crude stockpiles fell 845,000 barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said yesterday. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey before the API report had forecast government data today to show supplies climbed 2 million barrels to the most in 22 years, according to a Bloomberg News survey.
The price of oil is being driven lower by rising global supplies and lower-than-expected demand in the world's two largest economies, the United States and China. As oil and gasoline become more affordable, the economy benefits because goods become less expensive to transport and motorists have more money to spend on other things. Over the course of a year, a decline of 10 cents per gallon translates to $13 billion in savings at the pump.
Diesel and jet fuel have also gotten cheaper in recent weeks, which is good news for truckers, airlines and other energy-intensive businesses.
China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, will cut gasoline and diesel prices in the first adjustment under new controls after crude declined.
Retail gasoline will fall by 395 yuan ($64) a metric ton and diesel by 400 yuan, effective from tomorrow, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, said on its website today. The reduction is in line with changes in average global crude costs in the past 10 working days and includes an amount from the last price review, it said. The pump price of 90-RON, China III gasoline in Beijing will decline 4 percent to 9,325 yuan a ton, or $4.31 a U.S. gallon, the NDRC figures show.
London (Reuters) - Asian prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes for June delivery fell sharply this week on scant demand due to packed terminal inventories. Prices fell to between $14.20-$14.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) compared with around $15/mmBtu earlier in the month, as buyers lowered bids in light of poor demand.
"A big Asian buyer paid between $14.20 and $14.30 for two cargoes spread across June and July," a source from a trading house said, adding there was little expected incremental demand expected until June.
CALGARY – Encana Corp. is hunkering down for what it sees as a prolonged stretch of low gas prices, pledging to slash costs even as others point to an improving outlook for the furnace fuel.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its “near-term” outlook for commodities and reduced forecasts for oil and coffee amid prospects for weak demand from China to Europe. The bank also exited a bet on lower gold prices.
The U.S. needs to act quickly to take advantage of overseas demand for its glut of natural gas or lose market share to international competitors, Dominion Resources Inc. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Farrell said.
“The U.S. must act very soon -- or the door is going to close and our country will have missed a major economic opportunity,” Farrell said today during a luncheon speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.
Since its inception in 1960, OPEC has never been shy in flexing its energy-fuelled power over the West. But those days are done. To put it bluntly, you could say that OPEC power has been well and truly fracked. And it’s not just the US and Israeli shale gas and oil revolutions which threatens OPEC’s decline. OPEC is already grappling with a whole bunch of serious energy problems that are colluding to hasten its demise.
Let’s just focus on the OPEC kingpin and world’s leading oil producer, Saudi Arabia. Even as the Saudis and other OPEC leaders have played down the nascent impact of US shale development on global production (especially America’s growing self-sufficiency), the signs are that the Saudis are increasingly desperate to keep their world number one ranking in oil production. But the runes are not falling their way.
Each morning when I release my cat from the basement where he sleeps, he rushes to the upstairs bathroom to drink water from a bowl placed there for him. He appears to have a 'religious' belief that the water in this bowl is far superior to that in the bowl sitting alongside his food in the basement. So far as I can tell, there is no discernible evidence available to him to make this distinction. I take his preference then as a matter of faith rather than evidence. The water upstairs is holy. The water in the basement—not so much.
How do I know that the upstairs water is really holy? When I forget to fill the upstairs bowl, the cat complains even if his basement bowl is full. It is hard enough to reason with a cat, but even harder to argue one out of what is essentially a religious belief.
Abu Dhabi will continue importing gasoline for at least a year to meet domestic demand until a new refinery begins producing the fuel 12 months from now, officials with the state oil company said.
The UAE will be self-sufficient in petrol once a US$10 billion refinery upgrade in Ruwais in western Abu Dhabi is completed next year, said officials at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
A big increase in the use of the transport fuel has forced Adnoc to import petrol over the past year, as demand outstripped domestic supply.
Ghana, West Africa’s second-biggest economy, expects oil production to more than double to 250,000 barrels a day by 2021 as output rises at the Jubilee field and other sites start pumping.
The country has new crude discoveries at different stages of appraisal and development, Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye, chief executive officer of the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corp. known as GNPC, said in an interview in the capital, Accra, yesterday. At the Tullow Oil Plc-operated Jubilee field, 60 kilometers (37 miles) off Ghana’s western coast, output has averaged 110,000 barrels a day over the last three months, he said.
Driven by the biggest, fastest growing energy demand in the world, a major transformation is taking place in China. But this exciting, dynamic country faces environmental challenges, too, as the recent big smog in Beijing dramatically demonstrated. Our summit, co-hosted by WEC and the China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning Association, will help us to understand, within all the big-picture developments, whether there is a change or refocus of energy ambition within the new government.
NEW DELHI: India has slashed import of crude oil from Iran by over 26.5 per cent in the financial year ended March 31 as US and European sanctions made it difficult to ship oil from the Persian Gulf nation.
The nation imported about 13.3 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2012-13 fiscal, down from 18.1 million tonnes shipped in the previous financial year, official sources said.
The United States' promised $10-billion arms deal with Israel and two Arab allies sends out a clear signal and further increases the pressure on Iran, but where is all this tension leading?
As "clear signals" go, this one could hardly be clearer. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced over the weekend that the US was preparing a $10-billion (7.7-billion-euro) arms deal with Israel and two key Arab allies - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Hong Kong (CNN) -- The fragile relationship between China and Japan came under fresh strain Tuesday as ships from both sides crowded into the waters around a disputed group of islands and nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers visited a controversial war memorial.
The two suspects in the alleged al Qaeda-backed plot to blow up a rail line between the United States and Canada appeared in court on Tuesday, as revelations emerged that the Muslim community helped foil the potentially deadly plan.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Monday that it had arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, of Toronto, over what sources said was a plan to derail a train from the United States after it had crossed the border.
A Dutch businessman who sold Iraq's former regime chemicals that were used in deadly gas attacks against Kurds in Iraq and in Iran was ordered on Wednesday to pay 400,000 euros ($520,000) in compensation to some of the victims.
The court ruled that Frans van Anraat must pay 25,000 euros plus interest to each of the 16 plaintiffs in the case.
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Increasingly polarized as the bitter fight over the Keystone XL pipeline drags on, backers and opponents of the 1,700-mile project met in the same place Thursday for the only federal public hearing scheduled before the Obama administration decides whether to allow its construction.
The gulf between them was larger than the ice-and-snow-covered Heartland Events Center, the state fairgrounds and arena complex where nearly 1,000 people braved a late April snowstorm to testify to State Department officials. Even the smallest points were hotly contested throughout the all-day hearing and in dueling news conferences that preceded it.
Keystone XL critics said they amassed more than 1 million comments against the pipeline to carry oil from Canada, showing what they called grassroots opposition to the $5.3 billion project.
Keystone will “contribute dramatically” to global warming and pose an “unacceptable risk to water,” according to a letter posted on the website of environmental group 350.org that visitors could electronically sign and submit to the State Department, which is reviewing the comments.
The Environmental Protection Agency objected Monday to the State Department’s latest review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, suggesting that more work must be done before the Obama administration can determine whether to approve the 1,179-mile northern leg of the project.
The EPA recommended that State reassess the amount of greenhouse gas that would be emitted by the development of oil sands in Alberta, Canada, as a result of construction of the pipeline, which eventually could transport as much as 830,000 barrels of diluted bitumen crude to refineries in Texas.
(Reuters) - British shale gas explorer Cuadrilla Resources has been criticised by the country's advertising watchdog for exaggerating the safety of fracking, increasing concerns over the disputed extraction method.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Cuadrilla's assertion in a 2012 brochure that it uses "proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas" were misleading, exaggerated and not substantiated.
FracFocus, the website used by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and other energy companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, fails as a compliance tool for the 11 states that rely on it, a Harvard Law School study found.
Using the voluntary registry for compliance with state disclosure requirements is “misplaced or premature” because of spotty reporting, lack of a searchable database and an “overly broad” allowance for trade secrets, according to the study published today by the Environmental Law Program at Harvard.
OSLO (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace launched a website on Wednesday seeking to attract whistleblowers from within oil companies to reveal risks with drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic.
Greenpeace wants governments to ban oil and gas firms from the fragile Arctic environment.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, is blocking a vote on the nomination of Ernest Moniz to be energy secretary over proposed funding cuts to a nuclear processing facility in his home state.
SENDAI – Tohoku Electric Power Co. has started talks to seek compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., manager of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, over losses from dropping electricity sales in Fukushima Prefecture, sources said Wednesday.
Tohoku Electric saw the amount of electricity sold in Fukushima drop by up to nearly 30 percent in a single month after the March 2011 disasters triggered the nuclear crisis that forced residents from their homes. The amount sold has yet to recover.
Soviet radiation biology took a different trajectory from science in the United States. American researchers at that time were working with the highly politicized medical studies of Japanese bomb survivors. They narrowed the list of radiation-related illnesses to leukemia, a few cancers, and thyroid disease. Soviet doctors in formulating chronic radiation syndrome had grasped the effects of radiation on the body more holistically. They determined that radiation illness is not a specific, stand-alone disorder, but that its indications relate to other illnesses. They determined that radioactive isotopes weaken immune systems and damage organ tissue and arteries, causing illnesses of the circulation and digestive tracts and making people susceptible to conventional diseases long before they succumb to radiation-related cancers.
TOURNEMIRE, France (Reuters) - A long slow retreat from nuclear power in France or indecision over policy could be very risky as skilled staff retire and young people reject careers with an uncertain future, the state-funded atomic safety research institute said.
If France does decide to pull out of atomic energy it should follow Germany's example and do it quickly, or face operating with inadequate personnel, said Jacques Repussard, who heads the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).
Ford and General Motors are reviving two familiar nameplates at the Shanghai Auto Show this week in a bid to make inroads in China, where the auto market could soon eclipse the U.S. and European markets combined.
Demand for hybrid and battery-operated cars may be increasing – the Toyota Prius accounted for 3.1 percent of the total U.S. new car market last year – but that doesn’t mean car buyers are trading in their eco-cars for another “green” model.
According to industry reports, only about one in three hybrid owners buy another gas-electric model when they trade in.
A new synthetic type of biofuel created by mixing and matching bits of DNA from different organisms could one day replace diesel and jet fuel, scientists say.
Brazil, the biggest ethanol exporter, will give tax deductions and extend low-cost credit to mills in a bid to lift output and reduce fossil-fuel imports.
The government will grant 970 million reais ($480 million) in credits to offset a 0.12 real per liter tax on ethanol and offer 4 billion reais in loans for crop renewal this year, Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters in Brasilia today. There will also be a 2 billion-real line of credit for ethanol stockpiling and tax credits for the chemical industry, he said. Shares of energy and petrochemical companies rallied.
Harnessing the wind's energy is the objective of a new project, which aims to provide an important breakthrough in offshore wind industrial solutions.
The EU-funded project, called SUPRAPOWER, is working on a more powerful, reliable and lightweight superconducting offshore wind turbine. The four-year project has the expertise of nine European partners from industry and science under the coordination of Tecnalia in Spain.
“We must look beyond 2020 to come to a next level of binding energy targets up to 2030 and to agree common energy and climate change policies” – these were the words of the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who was speaking in Dublin this morning at an informal meeting of EU energy ministers.
The ministers are convening in Dublin Castle for the second day of the informal energy meetings to discuss everything from unconventional oil and gas to ICT and energy innovation, energy efficiency and the integration of variable renewable sources in Europe.
More than half the U.S. states with laws requiring utilities to buy renewable energy are considering ways to pare back those mandates after a plunge in natural gas prices brought on by technology that boosted supply.
Renewable energy companies moved a step closer to accessing a tax financing structure that’s worth more than $350 billion as the American Petroleum Institute said it would back Congressional plans to expand the program.
Allowing wind farms and solar-power plants to organize under a corporate structure known as master-limited partnerships would help wean them from federal subsidies, Jack Gerard, president of the oil industry’s main lobby group, said today at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit.
Introspection is healthy within limits. And yes, saving the planet is more complicated now than it seemed 40 years ago. But analysis and what-ifs shouldn’t obscure a simple point: Without an environmental movement, the United States would be a lesser country.
1. Strengthening nation’s economy 86%
2. Improving job situation 79%
3. Reducing budget deficit 72%
4. Defending against terrorism 71%
5. Securing Social Security 70%
6. Improving education 70%
7. Securing Medicare 65%
8. Reducing health care costs 63%
9. Helping poor and needy 57%
10. Reducing crime 55%
11. Protecting environment 52%
12. Dealing with nation’s energy problem 45%
13. Strengthening the military 41%
14. Dealing with illegal immigration 39%
15. Strengthening gun control laws 37%
16. Dealing with global trade 31%
17. Improving infrastructure 30%
18. Dealing with global warming 28%
A crackdown on slaughterhouses has helped cut rates of certain types of food poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. But other causes of stomach upset are on the rise – a trend that indicates better regulation of meat from hoof to plate is needed, as well as stricter regulation of produce and processed food, the CDC says.
One type of stomach bug called Campylobacter, carried in chicken and unpasteurized milk and cheese, is becoming more common, the CDC’s regular survey of foodborne illness finds.
Pollan shows us the folly of our decision to hire food corporations and other industrial forces as our live-in cooks. The consequences include the gluten intolerance that he suggests might be tied to modern flour cultivation and processing, and the compromised immune systems that might be related to our diet’s relatively recent absence of live-culture foods. What’s the most reliable predictor of a nation’s obesity rate? It’s not income. It’s not the share of women in the labor force. Quite simply, the higher the percentage of a country’s residents who cook, the fewer of them who are obese.
And about that time crunch that keeps so many of us ordering takeout? Time for a recalculation. Pollan cites Richard Wrangham’s fascinating theory, espoused in “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human,” that it was the control of fire to help make food more digestible that allowed us to develop smaller jaws, teeth and guts, and a larger brain. In Wrangham’s calculation, cooking gave humans an estimated four hours of extra time a day, time that we once spent chewing food to prepare it for digestion — and time that now, Pollan points out, happens to be about what we spend watching TV. We have plenty of time to cook; we just don’t choose to spend it that way.
At the international level, the relative impact of effort vs. luck is even more biased in favor of luck. A recent New York Times story pointed out that household incomes in Manhattan are as evenly distributed as in Sierra Leone — in both places, the wealthiest fifth make 40 times more than the lowest fifth. The difference, of course, is the average around which that income lies. The median household income in Manhattan is around $67,000. Gross domestic product per capita—a measure of mean incomes in a country — is $1,131 in Sierra Leone and the median will be significantly lower. According to Branko Milanovic, about two thirds of total global inequality can be explained by geography. Put the two factors of locational and parental determinants together and about 80 percent of your income as an adult, compared to the global average, can be explained by where you were born and to whom you were born.
Our one-floor-of-a-brownstone apartment is just too small for a family of four. We are fortunate to have two children and three bedrooms, though the rest of our living space is limited. There is little room for movement, and any movement is mitigated by the fact that we have neighbors downstairs who don’t want to live below the circus. “Please stop jumping,” is the sentence I repeat more than any other while at home (followed closely by “Do we have any more wine?”). Like most of our peers, we have no outdoor space safe for children, nor a basement or even a room dedicated to games. We do have a front door and weekends, but what’s outside our door isn’t much better.
There are not a lot of easy options for parents and their young children in the city. Most schoolyards are closed on the weekends. Many neighborhood parks are open concrete, with tiny playgrounds bursting with toddlers through teens. The big city parks, for most, require a hike beyond physical means of a child or a time-consuming trip via public transportation. People do it, but having an active small child along severely complicates matters. Riding bikes on the sidewalks or bike lanes is too perilous for my son. Simply walking around can be scary. On three separate occasions, he has bolted across a busy street. Once in the park, he can run till near collapse, but there’s nowhere for him to explore on his own. Neither in the park nor on our way there can I let him out of my sight for a second.
Levels of deadly pollutants up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit in Beijing and other cities have struck fear into parents and led them to take steps that are radically altering the nature of urban life for their children.
Parents are confining sons and daughters to their homes, even if it means keeping them away from friends. Schools are canceling outdoor activities and field trips. Parents with means are choosing schools based on air-filtration systems, and some international schools have built gigantic, futuristic-looking domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing.
“I hope in the future we’ll move to a foreign country,” Ms. Zhang, a lawyer, said as her ailing son, Wu Xiaotian, played on a mat in their apartment, near a new air purifier. “Otherwise we’ll choke to death.”
She is not alone in looking to leave. Some middle- and upper-class Chinese parents and expatriates have already begun leaving China, a trend that executives say could result in a huge loss of talent and experience. Foreign parents are also turning down prestigious jobs or negotiating for hardship pay from their employers, citing the pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to revoke a mining permit to protect streams and wildlife, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The decision was a victory for the agency, which in 2011 retroactively vetoed a permit granted by the Bush administration in 2007 to allow a subsidiary of Arch Coal of St. Louis to dump tons of mining waste into several West Virginia rivers and streams.
PYRAMID LAKE, Nev. — For most fishermen a 20-pound trout is a trophy, but for Paiute tribe members and fish biologists here the one Matt Ceccarelli caught was a victory.
That Lahontan cutthroat trout he caught last year, a remnant of a strain that is possibly the largest native trout in North America, is the first confirmed catch of a fish that was once believed to have gone extinct. The fish has been the focus of an intense and improbable federal and tribal effort to restore it to its home waters.
The Federal and Alberta governments are putting a present under Canada's 'Earth Day tree' today, as they open up a new website that will give the public access to environmental data from the Athabasca oil sands.
There is no real debate about whether climate change is occurring. The only dissent comes from the fringes, and generally from those whose research institutions or blogs are devoted, for ideological or other reasons, to attempting to debunk the notion that human activities are altering the planet's climate. But for many, the discussion, such as it is, can seem confusing. Is the Arctic Ocean predicted to be ice-free by the summer of 2100, or 2050, or 2030? And what exactly does ice-free mean? Are hurricanes supposed to become more frequent, or less frequent but more intense?
For scientists studying the impacts of climate change, such questions - and answers - are constantly being revised and refined as more information is gathered, models are fine-tuned, and feedbacks are better understood. But even as they focus their forecasts, those scientists are increasingly seeing the evidence of global warming happening right now, many of them in line with predictions and some of them even more severe and more rapid than anticipated. The following list provides a sampling of some of the key pieces of evidence that climate change is not just a prediction, it is already underway.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Tuesday blamed the widespread insecurity in different parts of the country on the phenomenon of climate change.
He said there was a link between the disruption of local economies and the insurgence of the Boko Haramm sect, the activities of the Niger Delta militants and other groups involved in violence and criminality across the country .
OSLO (Reuters) - The United States should do more to fight climate change and help industry catch up on missed economic opportunities in clean energies, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat said on Tuesday.
Christiana Figueres, speaking during a visit to the United States, welcomed President Barack Obama's plans to promote wind and solar power or to set tougher emissions standards for power plants in the coming years.
Saudi Arabia is leading calls for climate change to be omitted from the UN’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At an SDG meeting in New York last week attended by over 70 nations the Saudis, together with fellow oil producers Venezuela and the UAE called for discussions of climate change to be separated from those on energy.
The rate of heat building up on Earth over the past decade is equivalent to detonating about 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs per second. Take a moment to visualize 4 atomic bomb detonations happening every single second. That's the global warming that we're frequently told isn't happening.
There are periods when the ocean heats up more quickly than the surface, and other periods when the surface heats up more quickly than the oceans. Right now we're in a period of fast ocean warming and overall, global warming is continuing at a very fast pace.
The confusion on this subject lies in the fact that only about 2 percent of global warming is used in heating air, whereas about 90 percent of global warming goes into heating the oceans (the rest heats ice and land masses). But humans live at the Earth's surface, and thus we tend to focus on surface temperatures. Over the past 10–15 years, Earth's surface temperature has continued to rise, but slowly. At the same time, the warming of the oceans – and the warming of the Earth as a whole – has accelerated.