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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Minnesota drivers: Get ready for more roundabouts

Star Tribune -- Circle the (station) wagons — more roundabouts are on the way. Roundabouts are taking on a prominent role in Minnesota’s transportation planning. More than 140 have been built since the state’s first roundabout opened 20 years ago in Brooklyn Park, with the pace picking up rapidly in recent years. Another 40 are either under construction or in planning. There are dozens of roundabouts in the Twin Cities, but you’ll also find them in places like Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids, Rochester and Worthington. Blue Earth is getting three, and six are on the drawing board for Mankato. Studies have shown that roundabouts have significant advantages over four-way intersections controlled by traffic signals. Roundabouts have fewer accidents overall, and far fewer that result in death or serious injury. Th  (read more)

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Long-term solution for wastewater disposal eludes shale gas industry

TRIBLIVE -- Defining wastewater disposal in the Marcellus shale fields has been a moving target.

Drillers initially sent millions of gallons to public water treatment plants, until regulators said the plants were not equipped to properly clean the salt- and metal-laden water that comes from shale gas wells. The traditional method of injecting it back into deep wells is less feasible in Pennsylvania, which has few such wells, and Ohio is accepting less wastewater because of potential links between injection and earthquakes.

The search for a solution has spawned an industry of companies and innovators looking for ways to treat or reuse the wastewater that environmentalists feared would foul drinking supplies.

“They can barge all this water somewhere else or reuse it, which is what we're seeing now,”  (read more)

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California considering plan to replace gas tax with charge per mile driven

MercuryNews -- More people are driving electric cars. Gasoline cars are getting better mileage. And California's vehicles are causing less pollution.

But all that good news is generating a major problem: As motorists buy less gasoline, state gas tax revenues that pay for roads have been falling for a decade, leading to more potholes and traffic jams.

Now, in a move that could solve the problem -- or cause a political pileup -- state officials have begun to seriously study a plan to replace California's gas tax with a fee for each mile motorists drive.

"We're going to have to find another way to finance the upkeep of the roads," Gov. Jerry Brown said earlier this month in rolling out his 2015 budget, noting that California has a $59 billion backlog of maintenance needs on state highways and bridges.  (read more)

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The Oil Price Tag That Investors Say Would Signal a Global Recession

Forbes -- The decline of oil prices to less than $50 a barrel has an undeniably positive effect on the global economy. From the U.S. to China, people are driving more and spending more, a much needed economic boost in generally glum times.

But to investors, a too-low oil price can also be a sign of trouble. The price of oil has certainly dropped because of an increase in supply – specifically, OPEC’s refusal to cut production and the vast amount of shale oil and gas being pumped in the United States. But the price of oil is also a product of slowing economic growth and declining demand, especially from China, Japan and the Eurozone.
So what exactly is too low when it comes to oil prices? According to a recent survey of investors, the tipping point may be around $30.

 (read more)

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Canada Report: Collapse in oil prices prompts move to stabilize economy

Tampa Bay Times -- The rapid collapse of oil prices has prompted the Bank of Canada to cut its trendsetting interest rate to stabilize the economy.

"The drop in oil prices is unambiguously negative for the Canadian economy" central bank governor Stephen Poloz said as the rate fell to 0.75 percent from 1 percent, which it had been at for four years.

As an oil-producing nation — the U.S. buys more crude from Canada than from any other country — the economic impact of cheap fuel threatens Canada's economic rebound and a return to a balanced federal budget.

So far Canada's commercial banks have made no move to lower their prime-lending rate still at 3 percent.

The rate cut immediately caused the Canadian dollar to fall by about 3 cents from a week ago to the 80-cent U.S. range, but it boosted stock markets.  (read more)

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Some homes near Montana oil spill report dark ooze after flushing taps -- Residents of a Montana town whose water supply was tainted by an oil pipeline rupture last week got the all-clear on Friday to turn taps back on, though some reported brown or black material spurting from faucets even after their pipes were flushed.

Drinking supplies for some 6,000 people in and around the community of Glendive became contaminated last Saturday when an estimated 1,200 barrels of crude oil was spilled into the Yellowstone River from a pipeline breach several miles upstream from the northeastern Montana town.

Initial testing of Glendive's water, which is drawn from the river, showed levels of benzene, a cancer-causing constituent of petroleum, well above levels considered safe for human health by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Results of subsequent testing...  (read more)

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Exxon gets $1 million penalty for Yellowstone River spill

CBS News -- BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials have issued a $1 million penalty against Exxon Mobil Corp. for safety violations stemming from a pipeline rupture in 2011 that spilled 63,000 gallons of crude into Montana's Yellowstone River.

The Department of Transportation order issued Friday reduces the penalty as originally proposed by about $700,000. That comes after the Irving, Texas-based oil company challenged some claims that it didn't do enough to prevent the accident.

The pipeline break during summer flooding near Laurel left oil along an 85-mile stretch of the Yellowstone, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a cleanup that took months.

Safety regulators said in part that Exxon Mobil had failed to adequately heed warnings that its 20-year-old Silvertip Pipeline was at risk.

The c  (read more)

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Oil Falls to Lowest Since '09 as Saudis Signal Continuity

Kazinform -- Oil fell to the lowest in almost six years on speculation the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia won't signal any change in strategy for the world's largest crude exporter.
U.S. benchmark oil futures slid 1.6 percent reversing an initial gain of as much as 3.1 percent. Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who succeeds Abdullah on the throne, said he would maintain his predecessor's policies. The kingdom will not cut production to boost prices because other producers would fill in the gap, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud said. U.S. crude inventories rose the most since 2001 last week, according to a government report on Thursday.

"There already has been a pretty well established succession plan so it's not a big deal" said Kyle Cooper director of commodities research at IAF Advisors...  (read more)

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$2 gasoline: Good times keep rolling at the pump

Detroit News -- At some point this will end, perhaps even soon. The price of gasoline will not fall to zero.

But for the first time since 2009, most Americans are paying less than $2 a gallon. Just three months ago, experts were shocked when it fell under $3.

According to fuel forecaster, motorists in Michigan are seeing the greatest savings nationwide; on average they’re paying $1.36 less today than they paid one year ago.

On Friday, the average price per gallon of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $1.93.

“It’s crazy,” said Michael Noel, an economics professor at Texas Tech University who studies oil and gasoline prices. “But for consumers it’s very, very good.”

Consumers and the economies of the U.S. and most of the rest of the world are basking in the lowest prices for  (read more)

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TD expert tells Canadian oil producers to brace for a second shock

The Globe and Mail - OTTAWA -- Canada’s oil producers are being told to brace for more bad news, even as they struggle to cope with a collapse that has driven prices down by 60% from their peak last Jun
With global production continuing to exceed demand, crude prices are set to head lower and WTI should average just $41 in the 1st half of this year, TD economist said in a report Fri. She expects WTI prices to sink below $40 as bulging inventories weigh on the market in the next few months
“Oil prices are likely follow more of a U-shaped recovery pattern than the V-shaped pattern that typically follows such sharp price declines. The U.S. benchmark to average just $53 in the 2nd half of the year, and $65 next year
Crude prices fell another 70 cents Fri to $45.60 and lost more than $3 on the week amid further evidence that  (read more)

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Alabama man ticketed in Georgia for 'eating while driving'

GasBuddy Blog -- Image From ..abc13.comAn Alabama man says he was cited by Cobb County police for “eating while driving” under the distracted driving law. Madison Turner said he ordered a double quarter pounder with cheese from McDonald’s last week, and a police officer pulled him over, along Canton Road in Marietta.“The officer explained to me that he observed me eating a burger for 2 miles,” Madison said. “He said specifically three times, you can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger.”According to the ticket, the officer wrote him up under Georgia’s distracted driving law, and under the comments sections wrote “eating while driving.” ...  (read more)

Submitted Jan 23, 2015 By:

Into thin air: Boston pipes leak $90 million in fuel yearly - study -- Boston's aging pipeline network leaks about $90 million worth of natural gas each year, marking a sizeable financial loss and a threat to the environment, according to a study released on Thursday by Harvard researchers.

The findings come as state energy officials struggle with a regional infrastructure shortfall that has left Massachusetts tight on winter heating fuel supplies during harsh cold snaps over the past three years.

"Some 2.7 percent of the gas that is brought to the Boston region never makes it to customers, it escapes into the atmosphere," according to the study, which will be published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using sophisticated air monitoring equipment at locations around the city, researches from Harvard's School of Engineering

 (read more)

Submitted Jan 23, 2015 By:

US crude oil drops 3% to settle at $46.31

CNBC -- Crude oil futures tumbled on Thursday after the Energy Information Administration announced the largest build in U.S. crude stocks in at least 14 years.

U.S. crude settled at $46.31 per barrel, down 3.1 percent on the day, having reached a high of $49.09 earlier in the session. Brent crude futures last traded at $48.50 a barrel, down 44 cents, off a session peak of $50.45.

Crude stocks rose by 10.1 million barrels to a total of 397.9 million, the highest level for this time of year in at least 80 years, the EIA said. The increase was much greater than the 2.6 million barrel build traders predicted in a Reuters poll.

Read MoreOPEC Secretary General: Oil to remain at low levels for a month

The market was waiting for a catalyst like the EIA report to break out either positive or negative,  (read more)

Submitted Jan 23, 2015 By:

Ford Diesel Trucks Are Subject Of US Investigation Over Stalling Problem

IBTimes -- The U.S. government is investigating whether Ford Motor’s recall of nearly 3,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks, used by ambulance services, should be expanded to all of the trucks the company sold from the 2011 and 2012 model years.

Ford Motor’s previous recall involved 2,951 F-350, F-450 and F-550 trucks, that were part of its “Ambulance Package” and are equipped with 6.7-liter diesel engines that would stall or fail to restart because of a malfunctioning sensor.  (read more)

Submitted Jan 23, 2015 By:

What now for oil after Saudi king's death?

CNN -- Oil prices were 2% higher following the death of Saudi Arabia's king, a reaction that was muted by the widespread expectation of a smooth leadership transition and stable oil policy in the world's largest exporter of petroleum.

Crude oil is now trading just above $47 a barrel.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud's health had been deteriorating in recent weeks, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. He was king of Saudi Arabia since 2005 and celebrated his 90th birthday in August.

The transfer of power should be smooth. His half-brother Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud will assume the throne, Saudi state television reported.

"I don't anticipate the Kingdom to make any dramatic changes in its oil policy in the short term," said Fahad Nazer, a former political analyst at the Em  (read more)

Submitted Jan 23, 2015 By:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Montana Oil Spill Renews Worries Over Pipeline Safety -- A second large oil spill into Montana's Yellowstone River in less than four years is reviving questions about oversight of the nation's aging pipeline network.

Investigators and company officials on Wednesday were trying to determine the cause of the 40,000-gallon spill that contaminated downstream water supplies in the city of Glendive.

Sen. Jon Tester said Saturday's spill from the decades-old Poplar Pipeline was avoidable, but "we just didn't have the folks on the ground" to prevent it.

The Montana Democrat told The Associated Press more frequent inspections by regulators are needed, and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.

"We need to take a look at some of these pipelines that have been in the ground for half a century and say, 'Are they still doing a good job?

 (read more)

Submitted Jan 22, 2015 By:

Kansas officials link earthquakes to fracking-related process

FoxNews -- Kansas officials for the first time have said a sharp increase in earthquakes may be tied to a process connected to fracking -- stoking debate in the state over the controversial drilling practice.

Reports of earthquakes in Kansas have shot up recently, particularly in the state's south-central region. Now, scientists are connecting them to the disposal of wastewater that is a byproduct of the oil-and-gas extraction process.

Rick Miller, geophysicist and senior scientist for the Kansas Geological Survey, told the Lawrence Journal-World, “we can say there is a strong correlation between the disposal of saltwater and the earthquakes.”

According to the Kansas Geological Survey, the state recorded more than 120 quakes in 2014, up from none in 2012.  (read more)

Submitted Jan 22, 2015 By:

Russia Presses Ahead With Plan for Gas Pipeline to Turkey

NYTimes -- LONDON — President Vladimir V. Putin surprised the world in December when he aborted long-laid plans for a natural gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Europe, saying Russia would run pipes to Turkey instead.

Many in the West thought it might be merely a bluff, to make the European Union reconsider its opposition to the pipeline project, known as South Stream. But in recent weeks, the Russian state-owned company Gazprom has shown signs that it is serious about proceeding with what it calls Turkish Stream.

Gazprom quickly bought out its European partners in South Stream Transport, the Amsterdam company that was to build the Black Sea leg of the pipeline. And the chief of that Dutch company has petitioned the Netherlands government to let it keep working with Gazprom, despite European sanct  (read more)

Submitted Jan 22, 2015 By:

How did Americans spend their gas savings? We now know

CNBC -- Gas prices went down in 2014. We know that. In fact, the average national gas price in December 2014 was a slim $2.50, down significantly from $3.25 a year prior, in December 2013.
But did that drop in prices lead to fatter wallets, or did Americans spend more on everything else instead?
According to exclusive data provided to CNBC by Cardlytics, a card-linked marketing firm, we now know exactly how those savings were spent. Here's the quick answer:

Fast food and online shopping.
The numbers show that consumers increased their gas consumption by 6 percent, to 33 gallons from 31 gallons for the month on average. Even with that 2-gallon-per-month increase, the cost savings were real, resulting in an extra $18 per month per person. (Quick math shows the product of 31 gallons times $3.25 per  (read more)

Submitted Jan 22, 2015 By:

Low Gas Prices, Incentives Change Math For Electric Cars

AP -- Drivers trying to calculate whether it's practical to own an electric car are facing a new math.

U.S. gas prices have fallen more than $1 per gallon over the last 12 months to a national average of $2.06 according to AAA. That makes electric cars - with their higher prices tags - a tougher sell.

"Fuel savings are not top of mind to many consumers right now" says John Krafcik, president of the car shopping site

Automakers have responded by slashing thousands of dollars off the sticker price of electrics. Incentives averaged $4,159 per electric car last year up 68 percent from 2013 according to Kelley Blue Book. The average for all vehicles was $2,791.

Here's how the numbers break down:

PRICE: Even with automaker's incentives electric vehicles cost more than gas-powered...  (read more)

Submitted Jan 22, 2015 By:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cheaper fuel will help airlines pad profits; passengers unlikely to share through lower fares

Star tribune -- DALLAS — Airlines will save billions this year thanks to cheaper jet fuel, but they aren't likely to share the bounty with passengers — not while so many flights are already full. Instead, the airlines will use their windfall to pay down debt and reward shareholders. Airline CEOs worry that oil prices could just as easily go higher. They hope consumers benefiting from cheaper gasoline will splurge on airline tickets. But the biggest reason airfares aren't falling: Planes are plenty full at current prices. Fuel is the biggest single expense at most airlines, and spot prices for jet fuel have tumbled by half since mid-September. If prices stay around these levels, U.S. airlines could save $20 billion this year by some estimates. The road to fuel savings at an airline isn't always as simple a  (read more)

Submitted Jan 21, 2015 By:

Oil Trades Near $47 as U.S. Crude Stockpiles Seen Worsening Glut

Bloomberg -- Oil traded near $47 a barrel as forecasts for a second weekly gain in U.S. crude inventories bolstered speculation that a global glut that spurred last year’s price collapse may persist.

Futures rose as much as 1.1 percent in New York. Stockpiles in the world’s biggest oil consumer probably expanded by 2.4 million barrels last week, according to a Bloomberg News survey before a report from the Energy Information Administration on Jan. 22. Current prices should slow U.S. production growth in the second half of 2014 and Canadian output after two years, said Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning oil historian.

Oil dropped almost 50 percent last year, the most since the 2008 financial crisis, as the U.S. pumped crude at the fastest rate in more than three decades and the Organization of Pe  (read more)

Submitted Jan 21, 2015 By:

While we await the Ford GT's price, listen to its 600-hp engine

Mlive -- Analysts are speculating that the Ford GT, a supercar unveiled by Ford Motor Co. at the 2015 North American Auto Show in Detroit, is likely to be priced in the $200,000-and-above range.

Ford hasn't released any pricing details yet, and MLive is waiting to get an official response on this front.

In the meantime, though, we've come across a YouTube video of what the GT's 600-horsepower engine sounds like:

The GT gets its 600 horses from a new, twin-turbo, 3.5L EcoBoost V6. It's a rear-wheel drive, mid-engine car, fabricated with carbon fiber, aluminum and other lightweight materials.

Production of the GT will begin in late 2016, arriving at dealerships shortly thereafter. That's assuming they even get a chance to arrive at dealerships.

"Ford is making a clear statement...(VIDEO)  (read more)

Submitted Jan 21, 2015 By:

Residents use fuel rewards, club memberships for huge gas savings

The Augusta Chronicle -- Travis Doss arrived early last week at the Kroger gas station on Washington Road to reserve a pump for him and his wife, Katharine, to share.

For years, the Augusta couple has used their Kroger Plus Card on holiday gift card purchases for friends and family – a Christmas tradition that pays double the savings in gas prices each January.

They were about to find out how much their rewards totaled this year.

“Let’s see,” Travis Doss said, as he looked at the pump’s computer screen. “We earned more than 400 fuel points, enough for 40 cents off a gallon of gas. That drops the price of unleaded fuel from $1.92 to $1.52.”

“Wow, that’s good,” said Katharine Doss, who waited until her sport-utility vehicle was nearly empty before coming to the celebratory fill-up. “I was worried I wouldn’t get  (read more)

Submitted Jan 21, 2015 By:

Citgo Said to Plan $2.5 Billion Debt for Venezuela Dividend

Bloomberg -- Citgo Petroleum Corp. is planning to raise $2.5 billion and transfer the funds to its cash-strapped corporate parent, state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The U.S. oil refining and marketing unit of PDVSA is seeking to sell $1.5 billion of bonds and obtain a $1 billion loan, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. While Citgo’s debt ratings were cut to six levels below investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service last week on concern Venezuela will default, it’s still three steps higher than the government’s rating.

Using Citgo to sell debt would mark a new strategy to raise cash for Venezuela after the government said in October that it had scrapped a plan to sell the Houston...  (read more)

Submitted Jan 21, 2015 By: