May 20, 2013 at 7:07 am by Bloomberg
Enron Corp.’s 2001 collapse revealed the extent of its manipulation of spot gas prices. Twelve years later, European Union regulators may discover energy traders never learned the lessons of the scandal.
BP Plc (BP/), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Platts were visited by EU inspectors last week over allegations they “colluded in reporting distorted prices” to manipulate the published prices of oil and biofuel products, the European Commission in Brussels said after the raids.
Shell, London-based BP and Statoil ASA (STL), three of Europe’s biggest oil explorers, are under investigation for potential manipulation of prices in the $3.4 trillion-a-year global crude market. The involvement of McGraw Hill Financial Inc. (MHFI)’s Platts, which publishes pricing data, hearkens back to other pricing scandals including Enron, and more recently, Libor.
“We’re making exactly the same mistakes we did with Enron, just with a different commodity,” Robert McCullough, an energy consultant, said by telephone from Portland, Oregon. “The same manipulation we saw in electricity and gas pricing is what we’re seeing in oil.”
The Enron scandal started in 2001 as traders used trading strategies called “Fat Boy” and “Get Shorty” to create phantom congestion in the California energy markets. Electricity prices rose 10-fold on average and California consumers endured days of rolling blackouts.
Large-volume, rapid-fire trades between Enron and a Reliant Energy Inc. unit’s gas trader through an Enron-run electronic platform triggered price moves that all traders could see without knowing the cause, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found in a 2003 report. The transactions made through EnronOnline influenced daily price indexes used in physical gas contracts and for settling financial derivatives such as swaps.
...refinery inputs averaged about 15.3 million barrels per
day during the week ending May 10, 2013, 73 thousand barrels per day
above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 88.0 percent
of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased
May 20, 2013 at 6:48 am by Bloomberg
The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps rose 11.19 cents a gallon in the past two weeks to $3.6566 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.
The survey covers the period ended May 17 and is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, California-based company.
The average, which reached a year-to-date peak of $3.795 in the period ended Feb. 22, is 12.67 cents below the year-earlier price of $3.7833 a gallon.
The recent increase is “one of the exceptions to the rule that most likely crude oil will be the mover and shaker for change in the direction of gasoline prices at retail,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It was driven by infrastructure problems downstream at the refinery level.”
Wholesale price increases related to refinery issues haven’t been passed fully along to consumers, and some retailers’ profit margins have been squeezed, Lundberg said. Drivers in the U.S. West and Midwest have been among the most affected by higher prices so far, she said. U.S. prices may rise 4 cents to 7 cents in coming days, Lundberg said, and increases may pause before the Memorial Day holiday next week.
Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 8.15 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $2.0969 a gallon in the two weeks ended May 17. It was the highest settlement since April 9.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles rose 2.59 million barrels in the week ended May 10 to 217.7 million, the first increase in five weeks, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.
West Texas Intermediate oil on the Nymex rose 41 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $96.02 a barrel in the two weeks to May 17. Prices have advanced 11 percent since April 17, when they reached $86.68, the lowest settlement of the year.
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How Adding An Electric Car Cut Solar Payback Time In Half
May 18 2013 Nicholas Brown
Do you think that buying an electric vehicle could reduce the payback time of a solar power system by 50%? Let us explore that.
This is the story of a family in Pennsylvania who installed a 9.43 kW solar panel array to offset their electricity usage. They found themselves saving considerably more money than they originally would have.
The solar power system was installed in October 2011. It consists of 41 panels. Each of the panels can generate 230 watts DC.
The quoted cost of the solar system was $5.50 per watt of its generation capacity, which translates to $51,865. Yes, it is a very large system!
Their electric bill was $2,500 per year, and the financial payback time of the solar system after state and federal government incentives was estimated to be 11.7 years.
A year later, they replaced their 2007 Acura RDX with a 2013 Chevy Volt. They used the surplus electricity they generated to power the Chevy Volt, so they were able to eliminate their Acura RDX gasoline bill without incurring any new electricity costs, and now they have a solar-powered car!
They said this cut the payback time of the solar system in half, down to 5.96 years, but the purchase price of the Chevy Volt does not appear to have been factored in.
The Volt’s gas bill is up to $50 per month, while the RDX gas bill was $250 per month. The 2007 Acura RDX crossover achieves 19 MPG combined.
I should note that the gas bills for both vehicles are a bit high. The writer of the story said they added 7,228 miles to the Chevrolet Volt in “only” six months (they drive an average of 1,250 miles per month), and that they “racked up a lot of miles.”
5,255 of the 7,228 miles accumulated on the Volt were on electricity alone (72% of pure electric driving).
The writer of the story said that they fill the Volt’s 9 gal
Florida Governor Urged to Veto Anti-Ethanol Bill
Posted on 13 May 2013 by Andy Eubank
In the wake of a bill passed by the Florida Legislation to repeal a law calling for the use of 10% ethanol blends in the state, automotive technician and talk show host Bobby Likis had an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal over the weekend calling on the governor to veto the bill.“What could be more devastating than ditching 35 years of progress? If the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is repealed, we will haplessly relinquish the fast track to the future while fellow states and countries worldwide embrace strategic biofuels production and use,” wrote Likis.
Who among us foolishly says, “We don’t care about what ‘they’ are doing. We care about Florida?” Well, we’d better care. Because of “them,” more efficient, better-mpg engines, cleaner air, national security and lots of dollars — in Florida — are at stake.
So whose agenda is behind repealing the RFS anyway? Can’t be those who have the economics of the state at heart or interest in lower emissions, lower gas prices and optimized engine performance. All these are attributes of the renewable fuel, ethanol.
And yet, the Florida Legislature would put all of this in our rear view mirror.
Governor Scott, now is the time for one good man to come to the aid of his state—by vetoing HB4001/SB320.
Florida’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act, which requires that all gasoline sold in Florida contain 9-10 percent ethanol, or other alternative fuel, by volume has been in effect for five years. The legislature passed a bill to repeal the act last month but it has not yet been signed by the governor.
BEIJING Wed May 15, 2013 5:47am EDT
(Reuters) - China's environment ministry has given the go-ahead for the construction of what will become the country's tallest hydroelectric dam despite acknowledging it will have an impact on plants and rare fish.
The dam, with a height of 314 meters (1,030 feet), will serve the Shuangjiangkou hydropower project on the Dadu River in southwestern Sichuan province.
To be built over 10 years by a subsidiary of state power firm Guodian Group, it is expected to cost 24.68 billion yuan ($4.02 billion) in investment.
The ministry, in a statement issued late on Tuesday, said an environmental impact assessment had acknowledged that the project would have a negative impact on rare fish and flora and affect protected local nature reserves.
Developers, it said, had pledged to take "counter-measures" to mitigate the effects. The project still requires the formal go-ahead from the State Council, China's cabinet.
China aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2020, up from 9.4 percent in 2011. Hydropower is expected to make the biggest contribution.
It has vowed to speed up construction of dams in the 2011-2015 period after slowing it down following the completion of the controversial Three Gorges project in 2005.
The Three Gorges Dam, which serves the world's biggest hydropower station on the Yangtze river, measures 185 meters.
The 300-m Nurek dam in Tajikistan in Central Asia is the world's highest, though other taller dams are now under construction. China's tallest dam now, at 292 meters, is the Xiaowan Dam on the Lancang River, also known as the Mekong.
On completion, the Sichuan project will have a total installed capacity of 20 gigawatts (GW), with annual power generation to exceed 7 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).
The government said this year that hydropower capacity was expected to reach 290 GW by 2015
By Michael Shepherd mainetoday
AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate rejected a bill that could eventually ban the use of ethanol in motor fuel in the state in an initial vote Wednesday.
The bill, L.D. 115, would ban the use of ethanol in motor fuel in Maine, but only if two other New England states also prohibit the additive.
The 21-14 Senate vote against the bill is in conflict with a 109-32 vote in support of the bill in the House of Representatives last week. More votes are pending in order to reconcile the difference between the legislative chambers.
Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, the bill’s sponsor, has made reducing the use of ethanol, a corn-based additive that many say is harmful to small engines and older car engines, a main priority of his this legislative session.
Another of his bills, L.D. 105, also was passed initially by the House last week. It would allow the sale of gasoline containing only 5 percent ethanol instead of the current 10 percent.
On the House floor last week, supporters of the bill also argued that using corn-based ethanol is essentially putting food in fuel tanks. Opponents said barring the sale of fuel with 10 percent ethanol fuel would put the state at odds with the federal Clean Air Act.
Arguments in the Senate on Wednesday followed that track.
“I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard about people having engines that were ruined” because of ethanol, said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Personally, I would pay a couple cents more (to buy fuel without it), but I don’t believe that’s going to be the case.”
Most gas available in the United States contains 10 percent ethanol, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency has declared a 15-percent blend safe for engines and allowed its sale. Last week, both chambers of the Maine Legislature unanimously passed a resolution imploring the
Maine Gov. signs bill to ban ethanol gas
May 17, 2013
Legislation (LD 453) that prohibits a person from selling or offering for sale gasoline that contains corn-based ethanol as an additive at a level greater than 10% by volume has been signed into law by Maine Gov. Paul LePage.
According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Action Network (SAN), the law would not take effect until at least two other New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) have enacted laws that prohibit the sale of gasoline that contains corn-based ethanol at a level greater than 10% by volume.
Separate legislation (LD 115) to prohibit the sale and distribution of corn-based ethanol if at least two other New England states pass a similar prohibition failed in the Maine Senate by a 21-14 vote. However, the bill remains alive as senators reconsider the initial vote.
LD 115 recognizes that ethanol increases water formation which can then corrode metals, plastics and rubber, especially over a period of time when the vehicle is not used. Current high-performance specialty parts along with pre-model year 2001 cars and parts may be most susceptible to corrosion.
LD 115 recognizes that the life span of vehicles and equipment can be dramatically reduced with the wrong fuel and that owners could be confronted with breakdowns. Anti-corrosion additives are available for each purchase of gasoline but can become expensive, burdensome and require consumer education.
For more information visit the SAN website.
For more on ethanol bans, see Florida bill to end ethanol gas sent to governor.
Refinery woes pushing Midwestern gas prices to all-time highs
Obama Tweets Study Of 97% Scientific Consensus On Manmade Warming, WashPost Confused On What That Means
By Joe Romm on May 18, 2013 at 10:51 am
The story seems simple enough.
First, on Wednesday a study came out that found 97% consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It was by our friends at Skeptical Science, John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli.
Then on Thursday, President Obama tweeted the study to his 31,000,000 (!) followers:
So how does the ever-shrinking Washington Post report the story? With the headline, “Obama tweet gets Australian researcher 31.5 million followers on Twitter.” #FAIL
And just to be clear that the WashPost is in fact as confused and innumerate as their headline suggests, the story asserts:
That tweet, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, led 31,541,507 people to decide to follow Australian climate change researcher John Cook on Twitter.
The Herald didn’t, however, make such a transparently silly claim. Their headline read, “Obama gives Aussie researcher 31,541,507 reasons to celebrate.”
Ten seconds on the interwebs will reveal that Cook has 6,560 followers. But then we’ve suspected for a while that the Washington Post doesn’t employ any fact checkers. Nor does it have a single editor who understood enough about social media to realize instantly that the headline — and hence the story — must be wrong.
No wonder the MSM is collapsing in the face of the new media onslaught. Note: As of Saturday morning, the story is still uncorrected.
SATELLITE GOES Composite - Central U.S. Imagery - Rainbow Loop
12.2 GW of New Solar Approved Until February in Japan
May 17 2013 Published by Karl-Friedrich Lenz
The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Trade just published figures for renewable energy under the new feed-in tariff law in force since last July. Thanks to this tweet by Hiro Matsubara for the link.
To state the result in very short terms, wind is struggling even with the very high tariffs in place, and solar is headed for the “rocket start” former Prime Minister Noda called for last October.
The Japanese figures come in two flavors. One set is for installations that have started producing electricity, and the other one is for installations that have received approval from the Ministry. The latter one is the higher one, it includes capacity that will come online shortly, but is not yet commissioned.
Using those latter figures, solar recorded 12.2 GW until February. That’s not bad, considering that Japan had only about 5.3 GW of solar installed at the end of 2011. Adjusting for the larger population of Japan this is comparable to the German records of the last couple of years. Not bad at all.
On the other hand, the rocket for wind energy is still firmly planted on the ground. The Ministry reports a measly anemic 0.6 GW of approved capacity. The problem with wind is, you need much more time from starting a project to getting it to the approval stage. Anyway, it will take some time for wind to get up to speed in Japan. The numbers are still very disappointing.
The new solar capacity is spread rather evenly all over the country. The interesting thing is that the biggest chunk is located in Hokkaido, the most northern island. It certainly does not have the best solar resources. But I assume it is easier to find the land for megasolar projects there. Hokkaido has about 1.13 GW, with 0.97 of that coming from projects with over 1 MW capacity.
Renewable power generation grew 7 percent in Texas last year
Posted on May 17, 2013 at 7:00 am by Jeannie Kever
Electric generation from renewable sources increased 7 percent in 2012 in Texas, according to the latest figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
The council, which operates the power grid for most of the state, reported that energy from renewable fuel sources reached 33.9 million megawatt-hours, up 7 percent from 2011.
The vast majority of that — more than 32.5 million megawatt-hours — came from wind power.
Solar power had the largest rate of growth, jumping from just 36,580 megawatt-hours in 2011 to 133,642 megawatt-hours in 2012.
One megawatt-hour is roughly the amount of power consumed by an average home in a month, according to the council, which is also responsible for managing the state’s electric market to ensure power is available when it is needed.
Other types of renewable energy included in the tally include hydropower, biomass and landfill gas. Each generates more power than solar but is dwarfed by wind power in the state.
National Weather Service Enhanced Radar Image Loop
Sam Nelson, Reuters | Updated: 05/17/2013
Less-than-ideal yet drier weather this week allowed U.S. farmers to begin catching up their corn planting pace that had fallen to a record low when the week began, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday.
"They probably got quite a lot done," said Andy Karst, meteorologist for World Weather Inc. "There were only scattered showers this week, so many were able to work between showers."
Karst said scattered and light showers would continue Friday into the weekend, with heavier rainfall expected early next week, especially in the northern Midwest.
"Showers will continue next week, but they'll be light, and the last week of May should be fairly dry, so there will be good progress made," he said.
The improved crop planting weather this week allowed farmers in the fields, and very rapid progress is expected to have been made. Some observers are expecting seedings to be half or 60 percent complete by the end of this week, but still at a record slow pace.
"I'm adding 29 percent to my corn planting pace number, so that gets it up to 57 percent by this coming Monday," said analyst Mike Zuzolo of Global Commodity Analytics.
As of Sunday, farmers had seeded 28 percent of their intended corn acres, up from 12 percent a week earlier but far behind the five-year average of 65 percent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a weekly report on Monday.
The planting pace for corn was the slowest for this point in the year in USDA records dating back to the 1980s, lagging 1984, when farmers had seeded 29 percent of their corn.
The figure fell below the average estimate of 29 percent from analysts' surveyed by Reuters ahead of the report.
For soybeans, the USDA said planting was 6 percent complete, up from 2 percent a week earlier. But the pace was the slowest for the 19th week since 1984, when soybeans were only
CLICK over each state to see if Miss America or a contestant is coming to a Walmart near you!
Harry Reid Focuses On July For The 'Nuclear Option'
The Huffington Post | By Gabrielle Dunkley Posted: 05/17/2013 2:33 pm EDT | Updated: 05/17/2013 4:31 pm EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has told top advisers that he is prepared to take action if Senate Republicans block three upcoming nominations, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
Reid is reportedly focusing on the month of July to approach filibuster reform and possibly execute the "nuclear option," which would change the Senate rules and no longer require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
“This would take away the right to filibuster on nominations,” a senior Senate Democratic aide told the Washington Post. “All executive branch and judicial nominations would be subject to majority votes. He would not do it on legislative items.”
A Senate Democratic aide confirmed the Post report to HuffPost and said that Reid met recently with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a leader of the push to reform the filibuster, to lay out his thinking going forward.
Reid has consistently said publicly that he reserves the right to change Senate rules if he considers the GOP to be abusing the ones left in place by the bipartisan agreement in January.
Reid warned in April that he would enact the "nuclear option" if President Barack Obama's judicial nominations are kept from moving forward.
“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary," Reid said.
Corn Rallies as Tightening U.S. Inventories Seen; Soybeans Gain
Tony C. Dreibus - May 17, 2013 1:20 PM MT
Corn jumped for the first time in four days on signs that buyers will compete for tightening inventories in the U.S., the world’s largest grower, before farmers harvest a record crop in September. Soybeans also rose.
Stockpiles will total 19.29 million metric tons in the year that ends Aug. 31, down 23 percent from a year earlier, after the worst U.S. drought since the 1930s cut output last year by 13 percent, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Global reserves will fall 5.1 percent, the USDA said May 10. Corn for delivery in July, before the harvest, is trading at the widest premium to December futures in seven weeks.
“We’re coming off a short crop, so supplies are tight,” Joseph Vaclavik, the president of Standard Grain Inc. in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “It seems like old-crop futures will just not be taken down.”
Corn futures for July delivery rose 1.8 percent to close at $6.5275 a bushel at 1:15 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade, marking a weekly gain of 2.6 percent. The contract for December delivery fell 0.9 percent to $5.195, widening the spread with July futures to $1.3325, the most since March 28.
Production in the U.S. is forecast by the USDA to rebound this year, with farmers expected to collect 359.2 million tons, a jump of 31 percent. The increase will more than double domestic stockpiles before the 2014 harvest to 50.91 million tons.
Soybean futures for July delivery gained 1.5 percent to $14.485 a bushel. Prices rose 3.5 percent this week, the third straight gain. That’s the longest rally since February.