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Friday, December 19, 2014

Montana mulls 85 mph speed limit

GasBuddy Blog -- Will western states let drivers go too fast? That's what John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times is asking. He says U.S. speed limits are rising nationwide, especially in wide-open Western states, reflecting the more-harried lifestyles of a fast-paced nation. But many safety officials are scratching their heads over a perilous trend they say will lead to more — and more ghastly — fatalities. Each year, excessive speed contributes to one-third of highway deaths nationally."The research is clear and consistent on the safety consequences of raising speed limits," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Higher speed limits get people to their destinations faster, but there's always a cost: Ultimately, there will be more severe crashes and more deaths on those roads. At the end of the day, it's simple physics." ...  (read more)

Submitted 4 hours ago By:

Road salt use gets weighed against saving money, environment

Star Tribune -- In a new economic analysis, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says that just a 10 percent reduction in application would save metro area cities and counties at least 35,000 tons of salt and $8 million a year in winter maintenance — along with one or two lakes.
Some 40 lakes, streams and wetlands in the Twin Cities are contaminated with chloride, and that number is expected to rise when the state completes its assessment of another 38 targets later this year.
And after decades of winter salt use, now even groundwater is contaminated. Thirty percent of state monitoring wells in the Twin Cities exceed the standard established to protect aquatic life, and 27 percent are above the level set to protect the taste of drinking water.

Most of the metro area’s drinking water comes from much dee  (read more)

Submitted Today By:

North Sea oilfields ‘near collapse’ after price nosedive

The Telegraph -- The North Sea oil industry is “close to collapse”, an expert has warned, as a slump in prices piles pressure on drillers to cut back investing in the region.

Robin Allan, chairman of the independent explorers’ association Brindex, told the BBC that it is “almost impossible to make money” with the oil price below $60 per barrel.

“It’s a huge crisis. This has happened before, and the industry adapts, but the adaptation is one of slashing people, slashing projects and reducing costs,” he said.

Mr Allan’s glum outlook for oil production and exploration in the UK Continental Shelf came on a volatile day of trading for crude. Brent – a global pricing benchmark comprising crude from 15 North Sea fields – ended trading in London down 1pc at around $60 per barrel after trading up by as much...  (read more)

Submitted Today By:

Motiva backs off hydrocracker expansion at Texas refinery

REUTERS -- Motiva Enterprises has withdrawn its permit request to expand a hydrocracker and diesel hydrotreater unit at its Texas refinery, the largest in the United States.

In a brief letter received by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month, Motiva asked, without explanation, to withdraw its August permit application for the project at the company's 600,250 barrels per day refinery. The company had sought to start construction in April 2015.

Royal Dutch Shell, which operates the refinery it jointly owns with Saudi Aramco, declined to explain Motiva's about-face or say whether the project remains under consideration.

The withdrawal came after global oil prices have fallen nearly 50 percent since June.

"Motiva routinely adjusts our business plans, based on company needs...  (read more)

Submitted Today By:

As winter hits, utilities, railroads guardedly optimistic about coal deliveries

Star Tribune -- WASHINGTON – Representatives of the power and rail industries expressed guarded optimism Thursday about coal deliveries needed to generate electricity for Minnesota this winter.

Speaking to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), officials from BNSF Railway, Minnesota Power and the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator agreed that stockpiles of coal, which had been critically low at many electricity generating plants, have grown recently.

But they warned that unexpected bad weather or unanticipated shipping problems on the state’s overcrowded rail system could change that.

“We’ve got a stockpile that gets us into the coldest months of the winter,” Dave McMillan, Minnesota Power’s vice president of external affairs, told the Star Tribune after his FERC testimony. “But we nee  (read more)

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

You know who's not getting cheap gas? The US military

CNBC -- Yes, the price of oil is in a free fall, and a gallon of gas at the station is falling fast, even below two dollars in some parts of the country. But you know who's not getting cheap gas? The U.S. military.

It's paying 100 times the price the rest of us are. The total cost of getting fuel where it needs to be is skyrocketing the cost for military gas. At a burn rate of 300,000 barrels of oil per day, the Department of Defense consumes 1.5 percent of total national consumption, and is the largest user of energy in America. As a result, it is the biggest proponent of clean energy. Even a total cost of $100 per gallon would be a steal for the military. That's because its calculations on energy costs are very different than for a regular consumer.

The $400 price tag, as spoken by Gen. James  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Wisconsin man blames fried fish for 10th DUI arrest

GasBuddy Blog -- Image From ..wate.comThe saddest thing about this story is that when most media outlets reported it, they played with headlines and made a joke about it... "Beer-Battered Man Blames Beer-Battered Fish".

Yes, it's true that the Wisconsin man recently arrested there for DUI told the arresting officer he hadn't been drinking, oh no... that beer the officer smelled was from the beer-battered fish he ate for lunch.  So, naturally, the media couldn't resist.

But they missed the bigger picture... It was the 75-year old drunk driver's 10th DUI arrest in Wisconsin.  And three of those have occurred since his license was revoked.  Should this repeat offender be incarcerated?  And if not now, when? ...  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Marathon Oil will cut more than $1B from 2015 budget Chronicle -- Marathon Oil Corp. will spend about 20 percent less looking for and producing oil next year, the company said Thursday.

The Houston-based exploration and production company said it expects to spend between $4.3 billion and $4.5 billion in 2014, down from a budget of about $5.7 billion in 2014.

The company said it would tailor its budget to favor high-return investments in the U.S. and pare back exploration spending. Marathon said it expects annual production growth to be in the high single digits in 2015.

Marathon also left open the possibility that its budget could shift before being finalized in February 2015.

“The continuing dynamic change in crude oil markets together with the expected impacts to oilfield service costs warrants additional time before finalizing the 2015 budget,”...  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Enbridge reports crude oil release from a Regina pipeline terminal

CBCNEWS -- The energy company Enbridge has reported a spill of an estimated 1,350 barrels of oil from its Line 4 pipeline at the
Regina Terminal in Saskatchewan.

In a news release issued Wednesday, Enbridge said they shut down a portion of the pipeline around 11:55 p.m. CST Tuesday.

The company said the oil spill occurred entirely within a pumping station and was contained on-site in designated catchment areas.

"There are no impacts to the public, wildlife or waterways," the company said. "Nearby residents and businesses may detect a faint odour."

Enbridge said a cleanup of the oil was expected to be completed Thursday, but there was no estimate for when Line 4 would be restarted.

The company said initial estimates put the volume of the release at approximately 1,350 barrels, although that...  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

U Of M Study Finds Ethanol Worse For Air Quality Than Gasoline

CBS -- MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – For years, the state’s corn and ethanol industries have touted the environmental benefits of burning the alternative fuel in our vehicles.

But newly released research from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering is raising eyebrows.

The study compared pollution levels from gasoline fuel and 10 alternative energy vehicles, including hybrid electric, natural gas and corn-based ethanol.

One of the most surprising findings is that ethanol might actually be worse for air quality than conventional gasoline fueled transportation.

Researchers looked not only at the end result at the tailpipes but also took into account the full cycle of energy production.  (read more)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Citing Health Risks, Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State

New York Times -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of debate over a method of extracting natural gas.  (read more)

Submitted Dec 17, 2014 By:

Do Americans still think gas prices are too high?

CBS News -- Despite a recent drop in the price of gas, 45 percent of Americans still think the price is too high - but that is far below the 92 percent who thought so in 2012. Forty-nine percent now think the price is about right, according to a new CBS News poll.

Sixty-three percent of Americans say lower gas prices have not had any effect on their financial situation, but for a third, the price drop has been beneficial. Majorities say they will use any savings from lower gas prices to pay bills or save; fewer will pay off credit cards, do home repairs, spend more on holiday gifts, or travel more.

Fifty-three percent of Americans don't think a president has much to do with the price of gas, and 58 percent think the Obama administration's policies contributed not much or not at all to the recent pri  (read more)

Submitted Dec 17, 2014 By:

'Pinhole' leak in U.P. gas pipeline raises fears

Detroit Free Press -- A pinhole leak in a controversial petroleum pipeline running through the Upper Peninsula released an undetermined amount of natural gas liquid that dispersed into the atmosphere north of Manistique, near the Indian River, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Tuesday.

A spokesman for Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge, which operates the Line 5 pipeline, however, said it was not a leak, but a "pinhole-sized defect, observed in the weld of the pipe," during a planned investigation of the pipeline Dec. 8.

Leak or defect, the incident heightened concerns among some people about a 61-year-old stretch of the pipeline that runs underwater through the Straits of Mackinac, and what a spill there could do to the Great Lakes.

Enbridge transports light crude oil, light synthetic...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 17, 2014 By:

Enbridge protester guilty in pipeline sit-in

BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER -- A protester who sat in an Enbridge Inc. pipeline for a day in June 2013 could go to jail after his conviction Tuesday.

"If I was getting put away for 50 years it would be worth it to me," Christopher Wahmhoff, 36, of Kalamazoo said after a Calhoun County judge found him guilty of trespassing and resisting police.

Wahmhoff was charged after the Calhoun County Sheriff Department said he entered a pipeline being built by Enbridge near Division Drive and 16-Mile Road in Fredonia Township on June 24, 2013.

He said he was protesting construction of the new pipeline by the company responsible for a million-gallon spill of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River near Marshall in 2010.

Wahmhoff spent about 10 hours inside the open pipe, telling deputies he wanted to stop construction...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 17, 2014 By:

The World's Biggest Car Company Wants to Get Rid of Gasoline

Business Week -- The first thing you notice about the Mirai, Toyota’s new $62,000, four-door family sedan, is that it’s no Camry, an international symbol of bland conformity. First there are the in-your-face, angular grilles on the car’s front end. These deliver air to (and cool) a polymer fuel-cell stack under the hood. Then there’s the wavy, layered sides, meant to evoke a droplet of water. It looks like it was driven off the set of the Blade Runner sequel.

Just as the Prius has established itself as the first true mass-market hybrid, Toyota hopes the Mirai will one day become the first mass-market hydrogen car. On sale in Japan on Dec. 15, it will be available in the U.S. and Europe in late 2015 and has a driving range of 300 miles, much farther than most plug-in electrics can go. It also runs on the m  (read more)

Submitted Dec 17, 2014 By:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oil Storm Has Texas Wildcat Veterans Warning Bakken Rookies to Take Cover

Bloomberg -- Autry Stephens knows the look and feel of an oil boom going bust, and he’s starting to get ready.

The West Texas wildcatter, 76, has weathered four such cycles in his 52 years draining crude from the Permian basin, still the most prolific U.S. oilfield. Though the collapse in prices since June doesn’t yet have him in a panic, Stephens recognizes the signs of another downturn on the horizon.

And like many bust-hardened veterans in this region -- which has made and broken the fortunes of thousands -- he’s talking about it like a gathering storm. The ups and downs of oil are a way of life in Midland and Odessa, Texas, dating all the way back to the Great Depression. It’s as much a part of the culture as Gulf Coast hurricanes, and residents often prepare accordingly.

“We’re going to hunker  (read more)

Submitted Dec 16, 2014 By:

Brent Seen Falling to $50 in 2015 as OPEC Fails to Act

Bloomberg News -- Crude oil prices are poised to fall below half where they were six months ago, before producers begin dealing with a global glut.

Brent, the global benchmark, will slide to as low as $50 a barrel in 2015, according to the median in a Bloomberg survey of 17 analysts, down from the $115.71 a barrel high for the year on June 19. The grade has already collapsed 47 percent since then and needs to fall further before producers clear the current glut, said five out of six respondents who gave a reason.

Brent futures sank in the weeks after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to maintain output even as the highest U.S. production in three decades swells a global surplus. The organization will stand by its decision even if prices fall to $40, United Arab Emirates Energy Mini  (read more)

Submitted Dec 16, 2014 By:

Automakers Hike New-Car Transaction Prices

GasBuddy Blog --
Image From ..philly.comThe analysts at Kelley Blue Book, the only vehicle valuation and information source trusted and relied upon by both consumers and the automotive industry, today report the estimated average transaction price (ATP) for light vehicles in the United States was $33,754 in November 2014.  New-car prices have increased by $165 (up 1.7 percent) from November 2013, while rising $568 (0.5 percent) from last month. 
“Rising transaction prices are a reflection of stronger pricing in truck and utility segments,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.  “Domestic automakers will be the main beneficiaries of this trend, as full-size pickup prices are up by an average of 4.3 percent, with the Big Three making up 94 percent of segment sales.” ...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 16, 2014 By:

Gas and oil officials increasing fines

The Durango Herald --
Denver-State gas and oil officials on Monday considered a proposal that would increase fines related to industry operational violations.
The rulemaking by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission comes after state legislation earlier this year that required a reassessment of fines and penalties.
The bill required the commission to eliminate the prior $10,000 penalty cap for a violation, and increase the daily penalty amount from $1,000 to $15,000 for each violation. The measure also required the commission to assess a penalty for each day that the violation occurred.
But the measure stopped short of requiring mandatory minimum penalties, a contentious aspect that could not make its way through the legislature.

The goal of the rulemaking is simply to deter violations and  (read more)

Submitted Dec 16, 2014 By:

Oil Falls as U.S. Producers Seen Standing Ground Amid OPEC Fight

Bloomberg -- Oil extended losses from a five-year low amid speculation that U.S. producers may further increase output as they battle OPEC for market share and as a Chinese manufacturing gauge missed estimates.

Futures dropped as much as 1.2 percent in New York, after closing yesterday at the lowest level since May 2009. U.S. crude drillers are benefiting as costs fall almost as quickly as prices, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Brent in London, the benchmark grade for more than half the world’s oil, may decline to $50 a barrel in 2015, a Bloomberg survey of analysts showed. A preliminary Purchasing Managers’ Index in China slid to a seven-month low in December.

Oil has slumped almost 45 percent this year as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sought to defend market share...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 16, 2014 By:

Monday, December 15, 2014

National average drops... again

GasBuddy Blog -- Another week, another drop at the gas pump, according to GasBuddy data. In just the last week, prices nationally slid 12.5c/gal to an average of $2.533/gal today. Diesel prices weren't too far behind, falling almost 10c/gal to $3.398/gal.

As of this morning, the number of gas stations charging less than $2.50/gal outnumbered stations charging over $2.50/gal for the first time in years. Overall, 55.5% of gas stations are now charging less than $2.50/gal, with the most common price across the U.S. standing at $2.399/gal, when it stood at $3.199/gal a year ago.

The $1.99 club now includes some thirteen states, up from just three a week ago: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. ...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 15, 2014 By:

New Jersey drivers are skeptical of raising gas tax

Camden NJ Courier Post -- Raising taxes to pay for road, bridge, and rail projects is the only way to solve a thorny transportation issue, some lawmakers say, and educating voters on why that’s necessary is a key part to finding a solution.

It’s just proving to be a hard sell.

That’s a political reality spelled out last week in a Quinnipiac University poll that showed 58% of residents oppose raising the gasoline tax while 39% support the idea.

..Despite such pitch jobs, New Jerseyans chafe at the notion of paying more at the pump. Some complain they’re already saddled with the highest property taxes in the nation while others said there is no wiggle room in their budgets.

“We don’t need it,” Jane Hemmes, of Hamilton Square, said of higher taxes for infrastructure. “I’m on a fixed income, and I cannot afford it.  (read more)

Submitted Dec 15, 2014 By:

NJ Moves Closer to Accepting Electronic Insurance Cards on Smartphones

GasBuddy Blog -- A bill proposed by Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin, D-Middlesex, which would let motorists verify auto insurance coverage with their smartphone, took a step forward last week after the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee cleared it to go to the full assembly for a vote.While some insurance companies offer electronic insurance cards, only a paper insurance card is currently acceptable in New Jersey when a police officer or a judge asks a driver for proof of insurance.
New Jersey is one of 13 states that don't accept e-insurance cards, 37 states now allow drivers to present a smart phone ID card, said Micaela Isler, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America assistant vice president.  ...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 15, 2014 By:

The Drive: Minnesota uses blue lights to combat red light running

Star Tribune -- Traffic signals across the metro area are sporting a new hue.

Tiny blue lights are being added to semaphores to help police catch motorists who run red lights. When a traffic signal turns red, a blue light facing the opposite direction comes on. That allows an officer sitting downstream of the intersection to see that a driver ran the light.

Burnsville was one of the first metro-area cities to use the technology. It has since spread to other cities, including Crystal, Maplewood and Blaine. This fall, Ramsey County installed 120 of the blue lights at 49 intersections along thoroughfares identified as having a significant amount of red light running, said county transportation planner Joe Lux.

“Running red lights has become an epidemic in the last several years,” he said. “If you sit at a  (read more)

Submitted Dec 15, 2014 By:

The Saudi standoff: Oil-rich nation takes on world’s high-cost producers

The Globe and Mail -- In the high-stakes contest between the United States, the biggest shale oil producer, and Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter, America has blinked first.

The OPEC refusal to cut production at its November meeting was widely seen as the declaration of a price war against booming U.S. shale oil producers, which had sent their country’s oil production soaring. Saudis had watched as their market share dropped precipitously in the world’s biggest oil-consuming nation, and they wanted to send a clear message across the global energy market that they weren’t about to back off.

Oil prices have been in freefall ever since. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, sank another 3 per cent Friday to $61.85 (U.S.) a barrel, while West Texas intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped 3.6 per cent...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 15, 2014 By: