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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

11
votes
Energy firm to pay $1M over issues at Pa. gas well

CBS -- PITTSBURGH (AP) — A landslide, wastewater spill and other issues at a southwestern Pennsylvania natural gas drilling site are resulting in a $1 million fine.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1v9mdrt ) that Vantage Energy of Englewood, Colorado, has to pay the money immediately and clean up the site by the end of 2015.

The newspaper says the company signed an agreement last week with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP tells the Tribune-Review that a landslide at the Greene County shale well pad damaged and blocked streams. State regulators say that was before a contractor dumped wastewater at the site near Waynesburg.  (read more)

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11
votes
Google unveils ‘fully functional’ driverless car

Market Watch -- NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Google Inc. was just messing with you when it unveiled an early prototype of its self-driving car in May. The cartoonish miniature vehicle (which you can see here) didn’t even have real headlights.

But the robotic car just got real. So real, in fact, it is set to hit the streets of Silicon Valley next year.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company announced Monday that the newest prototype of its autonomous car is a fully functional vehicle, replete with the steering, brakes, lights, software and sensors needed to make it Google’s first complete prototype for full autonomous driving.

“We’re going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year,” Google said.

Google said its so  (read more)

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11
votes
Oil patch towns looking to catch up with demands

CBS News -- BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — City officials in the North Dakota oil patch say they are forging ahead with housing and infrastructure projects, despite an expected downturn in drilling in the next year.

Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford said development and land sales are not slowing down because housing needs for permanent oil field workers have not been met, the Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1wBGYl5 ).

"Basically, based on projections for a need of 7,000 permanent housing units, we're only at about 2,000," Sanford said. "We're so far away. We can't let our foot off the pedal here."

State officials expect oil prices to rebound in the long term but the state could see less drilling over the next several months.  (read more)

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11
votes
Electric Cars Hurt Most Among Renewables on Oil’s Slump

Bloomberg -- Electric cars are likely to be hurt the most by lower oil prices within the renewable energy industry, according to a report that predicts a limited impact on wind-and solar-power companies.

The 45 percent plunge in Brent crude oil prices since the end of June also will slow the shift away from fossil fuels in oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia and drive up the cost of natural gas in the U.S., Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

The findings show the effect of cheaper oil will vary from region to region, helping renewables in some parts and hurting the prospects for low-carbon energy in others. Electric vehicles are likely to be the clearest victim of cheaper oil, since they’re less competitive with gasoline-powered cars when oil is cheaper.

“It won’t stop growth, but it will hav  (read more)

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Monday, December 22, 2014

49
votes
Too late to cut Opec output, says Saudi oil chief

The National -- It is too late for Opec to cut its output, the Saudi oil minister said yesterday as a chorus of Arabian Gulf energy ministers blamed non-Opec producers for the collapse in the price of oil.

The comments emerged from a meeting of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries in Abu Dhabi.

The gathering was held against a backdrop of global oil market volatility with the price of crude shedding almost half its value since the summer.

“I think it’s too late” said Ali Al Naimi in reply to a question whether Opec would cut production if non-Opec producers offered to do so. “If they want to cut production they are welcome. We are not going to cut. Certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut.”

Oil futures rallied as much as 5 per cent yesterday as the market reacted to Mr Al Naimi,...  (read more)

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1141 Comments

46
votes
Saudi Arabia says won't cut oil output

Reuters -- Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it would not cut output to prop up oil markets even if non-OPEC nations did so, in one of the toughest signals yet that the world's top petroleum exporter plans to ride out the market's biggest slump in years.

Referring to countries outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters: "If they want to cut production they are welcome: We are not going to cut, certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut."

He added he was "100 percent not pleased" with prices but they would improve, although it was unclear when.

He blamed the fall in prices to half their levels of six months ago on speculators and what he called a lack of cooperation from non-OPEC producers.  (read more)

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808 Comments

44
votes
Gas flares in Eagle Ford Shale continue upward

CBS -- SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Gas flaring in the most profitable shale field in the U.S. is on pace to surpass to 2013 levels of waste and pollution in South Texas, according to a newspaper analysis of state records published Sunday.

The Eagle Ford Shale burned off more than 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the first seven months of this year, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees the oil and gas industry. The tons of pollutants released into the air already exceed levels for 2012.

Experts say plummeting oil prices likely won't stifle Eagle Ford production anytime soon.

The San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1ATJFNW ) also found some of the top sources of flaring in 2014 lacked state-mandated permits to flare natural gas.  (read more)

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41
votes
The most ticketed car in America is

Market Watch -- The Subaru WRX may be an all-wheel drive sport-compact, but the drivers of this car are either driving too fast, or having difficulty parking: It receives the most violations of any vehicle.

More than one-in-three drivers of the Subaru WRX has had a recent traffic violation, according to data on 526 models from more than 557,000 recent customers released by Insurance.com, a car insurance comparison website. Making it three times to the Top 20 most ticketed cars, the Scion was the car brand with the most violations.
t’s no surprise that the list includes other sporty cars like the Mitsubishi 3000 GT and Scion FR-S, says Des Toups, managing editor of Insurance.com, but it also name-checks the hybrid Toyota TM, +1.82% Prius C, three sport-utility vehicles and even the now-defunct Mercury T  (read more)

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1309 Comments

40
votes
Diesel prices remain high as gas prices tumble

Fox -- KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Gasoline prices in West Michigan have tumbled to a more than five year low, but diesel prices statewide remain more than a dollar higher.

“It’s because diesel fuel is also essentially the same as heating oil, and heating oil is used in much of the Northeast,” said Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com. “Most homes there don’t use natural gas, they use heating oil.”  (read more)

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

51
votes
Your car's hidden 'black box' and how to keep it private

Fox News -- Most commercial airplanes have an indestructible flight recorder known as a "black box” — even though the casing is actually bright orange — that records information from the flight computers. Another box records cockpit audio and other sources around the plane. In the event of a crash, investigators can recover the black boxes and find out exactly what happened.

Cars can have black boxes, too. In fact, it's a good bet your current car has one.

(...)

The information includes vehicle speed, throttle position, airbag deployment times, whether the brakes were applied, whether seat belts were worn, engine speed, steering angles and more.  (read more)

Submitted Dec 21, 2014 By:
557 Comments

50
votes
Getting a new car? A few tips are in order

Star Tribune -- “Oh what fun it is to ride” intones the mellifluous voice in the holiday commercial for Mercedes-Benz. We’ve all seen the “December to Remember” TV commercials that make us simple folks wonder, “Why didn’t I think of giving my spouse five years of car payments for the holidays?”

The holiday auto buying promotions do work, said Scott Lambert, executive vice president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association. “Years ago, the holiday time was slow, but I give Lexus a lot of credit for changing that,” he said. “It must work because all the manufacturers have holiday promotions now. It’s generally a good time of year, and with gas prices down, that’s helping too.”

I’ve never thought of giving anyone a new vehicle for Christmas. I don’t travel in the circle of people who can. I don’t even tra  (read more)

Submitted Dec 21, 2014 By:
1430 Comments

46
votes
Oil investors can’t seem to pick the bottom

FINANCIAL POST-Bloomberg News -- Investors betting on a rebound in oil prices are nothing if not tenacious.

They have poured the most money in more than four years into exchange-traded products that track oil as prices fell 18 percent this month. It’s the third consecutive month that the four biggest U.S. funds have received money, during which time futures have plunged 41 percent.

“It’s a testament that after such a wild selloff people are more and more eager to step in and wait for this eventual rebound,” said Stoyan Bojinov, a Chicago-based analyst at ETF Database. “Oil looked cheap a month ago and it’s even cheaper today, that’s why we continue to see these inflows.”

Oil prices have tumbled by half since June amid surging production and slower than expected demand growth. Output in the U.S. is the highest in...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 21, 2014 By:
1190 Comments

45
votes
US says traffic deaths fell 3 percent in 2013

The Charlotte Observer -- The number of traffic deaths nationwide dropped about 3 percent last year, and the rate of deaths per 100 million miles traveled tied a record low, according to government statistics.

But the number of people killed on the roads rose in two categories: Crashes involving big trucks and bicycles.

A total of 32,719 people died in U.S. crashes in 2013, down from 33,782 in 2012, according to figures compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's about 90 deaths per day, compared with 92 in 2012.

People died at a rate of 1.1 per 100 million miles driven, tying a record low set in 2011. Deaths caused by drunken and distracted drivers also fell.
 (read more)

Submitted Dec 21, 2014 By:
548 Comments

43
votes
Red light cameras do not make driving safer, according to a new study

United Press International, Inc. -- According to a new study out of Chicago, red light cameras do not make driving safer and actually cause more rear-end accidents.

The study found there was a 15 percent reduction in cars crashing at a right angle, but rear-end crashes increased 22 percent in the presence of red light cameras, meaning there was an overall 5 percent increase in crashes.

It would appear that red light cameras cause cars to enter intersections after a red light less often, but drivers are more likely to slam on their brakes to avoid entering the intersection, which can cause an accident. Chicago has the most red light cameras of any U.S. city, and this is the first time such a comprehensive study has been done of the program.
 (read more)

Submitted Dec 21, 2014 By:
157 Comments

Saturday, December 20, 2014

50
votes
U.S. Motorists Set October Driving Record As Pump Prices Tumble

Reuters -- Motorists took to U.S. roads and highways in record numbers in October, fueling the fastest rise in miles driven since 2006, according to data released on Friday by the Federal Highway Administration.

Drivers logged 264.2 billion vehicle miles in October, the most ever for that month and a 2.6 percent increase over October 2013, according to the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The data adds to signs the steep tumble in U.S. gasoline prices, coupled with a growing economy, is spurring a rapid pick-up in U.S. fuel demand.

At the current pace, 2014 will rank among the top three busiest years on U.S. roads and highways, following only 2004 and 2005. U.S. pump prices fell from around $3.80 a gallon this summer to around $3.20 in October, according to U.S. Energy Informat  (read more)

Submitted Dec 20, 2014 By:
572 Comments

50
votes
How the world's biggest car company wants to get rid of gasoline

Yahoo -- 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 mo  (read more)

Submitted Dec 20, 2014 By:
1436 Comments

49
votes
How oil’s decline could spatter North Dakota

FuelFix.com-Houston Chronicle -- The abrupt decline in oil prices stands to be bad news in North Dakota, a state that has reaped billions in tax revenue as new drilling techniques made it the second-leading producer in the U.S. behind Texas. But a lot of factors will determine how great that impact is.

PRICE TRIGGERS

North Dakota’s petroleum industry could see a big tax cut if crude continues to slide, and if that happens, it means the state will be missing out on billions of dollars. One of the state’s two taxes on wells is a 6.5 percent extraction tax. A state law forgives that tax if the five-month average price of a barrel of oil slips below a “trigger” price. Legislators first endorsed the concept in the mid-1980s, during a time of depressed oil prices.

The current trigger is $52.58 a barrel based on prices for...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 20, 2014 By:
72 Comments

49
votes
NHTSA promotes 'SaferRide' mobile app to reduce drunk driving

GasBuddy Blog -- With the holidays approaching and festivities and office parties filling our calendars, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has kicked off its annual   “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” holiday crackdown on drunk driving with a new mobile app to help people who have been drinking get a safe ride home. “We will continue to be relentless in our effort to curb drunk driving because each life is precious,” said NHTSA's Anthony Foxx. “Too many lives are still being cut far too short because of drunk driving. We can stop these tragedies by making the decision not to allow ourselves or our loved ones to get behind the wheel after drinking.”NHTSA’s new SaferRide app will help keep drunk drivers off our roads by allowing users to call a taxi or a friend and by identifying their location so they can be picked up. The app is available now for Android devices on Google Play. ...  (read more)

Submitted Dec 20, 2014 By:
3526 Comments

47
votes
Put blind spots in the rearview with this high-tech car

CNBC -- The engineers at Cadillac say they've found the key to further eliminating a driver's blind spot.

Starting with its newest model, the 2016 CT6, the automaker will incorporate streaming video into the vehicle's rearview mirror, which will be fed by a high-definition camera embedded in the center of the trunk.

The technology will give CT6 drivers an immediate view of what's behind them in all lanes, and improve their field of vision by 300 percent, according to Cadillac.
The closest comparison to this kind of rear vision would be driving a convertible with the top down, said Travis Hester, the vehicle's executive chief engineer
The technology eliminates any rear-seat, rear-pillar or passenger obstructions, allowing the driver an unimpeded view of the lanes behind and traditional blind spot  (read more)

Submitted Dec 20, 2014 By:
1137 Comments

Friday, December 19, 2014

53
votes
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 Dec 19, 2014 By:
1762 Comments

45
votes
Chicago Tribune studies city's red light system more than city itself

GasBuddy Blog -- According to a significant investigative piece by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago's massive red light system fails to deliver on the touted benefits long claimed by Chicago's City Hall.The Tribune study included several well respected traffic engineers, being led by Dominique Lord, an associate professor at the Texas A&M University's Zachry Department of Civil Engineering.When I read the study myself it became obvious that the study was so extensive it appeared Chicago's City Hall had little to fight it with, resorting to flawed studies, anecdotal evidence, and other long standing myths....  (read more)

Submitted Dec 19, 2014 By:
3652 Comments

45
votes
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 Dec 19, 2014 By:
769 Comments

44
votes
How Obama (and Bush) helped drive down oil prices

Yahoo -- Few people foresaw the nearly 50% plunge in oil prices this year. But the forces reshaping the oil market have been aligning for nearly a decade, with part of the impetus coming from Washington.

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which President George W. Bush promptly signed. The EISA raised federal mileage requirements for passenger cars for the first time since 1990, in an effort to reduce U.S. gas consumption and make America less dependent on foreign oil.

The new rules required automakers to achieve average fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon among all the new vehicles in their fleet by model year 2020 -- up sharply from a requirement of 27.5 MPG for cars and 22.2 MPG for light trucks (pickups and SUVs) at the time.

President Obama raised the MPG goa  (read more)

Submitted Dec 19, 2014 By:
167 Comments

44
votes
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 Dec 19, 2014 By:
1061 Comments