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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Duke Energy CEO Loses $600K In Pay Over Coal Ash Pollution

AP -- Duke Energy Corp. CEO Lynn Good saw her pay docked about $600,000 in the aftermath of last year's massive spill of collected coal ash that coated 70 miles of a North Carolina river in sludge containing toxic heavy metals.

A portion of Good's $8.3 million compensation was reduced 35 percent in 2014 compensation, according to a proxy statement released this week ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting in May. The compensation of four other top executives that is linked to short-term incentives was also reduced 35 percent.

Directors of the country's largest electric company said the executives were docked because the spill will cost Duke Energy $192 million in cleanup, legal fees, and fines to settle a pending criminal case involving Clean Water Act violations.

 (read more)

Submitted 1 hour ago By:

Obama Pushing Federal Agencies To Buy More Plug-In Cars

Gas 2 -- Since the beginning of Obama’s first term as President, the former Illinois senator has been pushing for more alternative fuel and plug-in cars. In pursuit of that goal, Obama has pushed initiatives like the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (AVTM) that loaned money to Tesla Motors, and now the President is pushing Federal agencies to buy more plug-in cars.

The Detroit News reports that the Obama administration wants federal agencies to make plug-in hybrids and EVs 20% of their fleet purchases by 2020, and 50% by 2025. This isn’t the first time Obama has pushed efficient vehicles onto federal fleets, but this time he is signing an executive order to make it happen. That means the next time you see a DEA or FBI vehicle, there’s a good chance it could be more efficient than your  (read more)

Submitted 2 hours ago By:

China is home to the world’s first hydrogen fuel tram

Hydrogen Fuel News -- New tram uses hydrogen fuel cell to power itself

The world’s first hydrogen-powered tram has been put into service in China. The tram is located in the Shandong Province and will be operated by Sifang Co., a subsidiary of China South Rail Corporation. Liang Jianying, chief engineer of Sifang Co., notes that the tram is unique, making China the only country in the world that has a tramcar that is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell.

Fuel cells continue to gain traction in the global transportation sector

The fuel cell that the tram uses consumes hydrogen in order to produce electrical power. These energy systems have become quite popular in the transportation sector, where automakers are using them to develop new vehicles that produce no harmful emissions. Public transit organizations  (read more)

Submitted 2 hours ago By:

Exxon unit asks for exception to North Dakota gas flare rule

The San Antonio -- A subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp. is asking state regulators to grant an exception to the amount of natural gas companies are permitted to burn off at 140 of its oil wells in Dunn and McKenzie counties.

The state's Oil and Gas Division heard the request from XTO Energy this week in which the company argues it has nowhere to take its gas. This is because OneOK, a gas-processing company, couldn't secure an easement agreement and build a 20-mile pipeline expansion. OneOK said the pipeline would have moved 40 million cubic feet per day to their Garden Creek gas plant in McKenzie County.

The request will now be forwarded to the state Industrial Commission, which earlier this week more clearly defined gas-capture rules, imposing penalties for noncompliance and establishing flexibility to...  (read more)

Submitted 1 hour ago By:

Exports helping Nebraska's ethanol industry to grow

The Independent -- Nebraska’s 2 billion-gallon-a-year ethanol industry is growing in international stature.

Last year Nebraska’s ethanol agribusiness processed 657 million bushels of corn last year. While that corn made more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol, it also produced 18 pounds of distillers grain per bushel of corn.
Distillers grains are a cereal byproduct of the distillation process. The byproduct has established itself not only as an important source of livestock feed, but a growing export product, along with ethanol itself, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

And 2014 was a record export year for distillers grains and ethanol.

According to the RFA, the U.S. ethanol industry produced 14.3 billion gallons in 2014 — a 7.4 percent increase over the previous year.

At the end of  (read more)

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

US drillers are fighting back against OPEC, low oil prices

Augusta Chronicle -- OPEC and lower global oil prices have delivered a one-two punch to drillers in North Dakota and Texas who brought the U.S. one of the biggest booms in the history of the global oil industry.

Now they are fighting back.

Companies are leaning on new techniques and technology to get more oil out of every well they drill and are cutting costs in an effort to keep U.S. oil competitive with much lower-cost oil flowing out of the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere.

“Everybody gets a little more imaginative, because they need to,” says Hans-Christian Freitag, the vice president of technology for the drilling services company Baker Hughes.

Spurred by rising global oil prices, U.S. drillers learned to tap crude trapped in shale starting in the middle of the last decade and brought about a surpris  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

UPDATE 10-Oil dives 5 pct as worries about Iran talks trump Yemen

REUTERS -- * Traders weigh possibility of Iran nuclear deal by next week

* Tehran eager to recover oil market share lost due to sanctions

* Oil prices down on day but up for second straight week (New throughout, updates prices and market activity with further decline after settlement)

Oil tumbled 5 percent on Friday, erasing the previous session's gains, as Yemen's conflict looked less likely to disrupt Middle East crude shipments and investors turned their focus to talks for a potential Iran nuclear deal that could put more supply on the market.

Oil prices still notched their second straight weekly gain, boosted by the dollar's weakness in recent sessions. U.S. crude had its biggest weekly gain in more than a month.

U.S. crude and global benchmark Brent oil spent most of the session in a...  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Alberta releases new plan for managing oilsands tailings ponds

Canadian Press - EDMONTON -- The Alberta government has released a new plan for managing oilsands tailings ponds that it says will encourage companies to generate less of the toxic waste water and clean it up sooner.

Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett says operators will have clear guidelines on how big their tailings ponds can be during mine operations and how large they will be allowed to be when it closes. Those rules will be backed up by possible financial penalties, he said.

That combination of oversight and enforcement over the life of the mine will force companies to keep pushing for the technological breakthrough on tailings cleanup that has so far remained elusive, said Fawcett.

“Technology unlocked the oilsands,” he said. “It will be key to finding the long-term, effective solutions to tailings ponds manag  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

‘Get them off rails now,’ Sen. Cantwell says of some oil tank cars

Curtis Tate | McClatchy and Tribune Newspapers -- WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced legislation Wednesday that would immediately ban the least sturdy tank cars from carrying crude oil after a series of recent fiery train derailments.

The bill also would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to regulate the volatility of crude oil transported by rail, particularly oil extracted from shale formations in North Dakota’s Bakken region.

 (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Computers help Chevy Trax small SUV ace crash tests

Detroit Free Press -- The little Chevy Trax SUV just aced two important safety tests, thanks largely to super computers that allow faster and more accurate simulations of crashes.

The Trax, which is nearly 20 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Equinox SUV, rated five stars in government crash tests and got the coveted "top safety pick" status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Results like that can help a new vehicle attract buyers. The Trax seems to be doing that. Since sales began in December, Chevrolet says 47% of buyers are new to Chevy, 58% are women and 19% are younger than 35.

The Trax is one of the first entries into the subcompact SUV segment, which is poised to take off this year as other new models hit the road. The Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3 will all compete...  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Oil prices ease as market sees little threat of supply disruptions from Yemen

CNBC REUTERS -- Oil prices edged lower in early trading in Asia on Friday as traders estimated that the threat of a disruption to world crude supplies from Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in Yemen was low.

Goldman Sachs said in an overnight note that the strikes in Yemen would have little effect on oil supplies as the country was only a small crude exporter and tankers could avoid passing its waters to reach their ports of destination.

Internationally traded Brent crude futures were trading at $58.88 a barrel at 0121 GMT, down 31 cents from their last settlement. U.S. crude was down 40 cents at $51.03 a barrel.

Prices soared as much as 6 percent the previous day after a Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations began strikes on Shi'ite Houthis and allied army units who have taken over much of Yemen and seek...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 27, 2015 By:

Pothole repair season begins for northern half of U.S.

GasBuddy Blog --
Image From ..state.nj.usLike many states across the U.S. from Oregon to Maine, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has begun a statewide campaign to repair potholes.
To deal with potholes in the most aggressive and efficient manner, the Department will be allowing crews through the state to close travel lanes where necessary during daytime hours, including during peak travel times for priority repairs.  
In addition to the Department’s usual winter pothole repair method of using cold patch material, NJDOT is using 13 state-of-the-art pothole-filling machines, which make a more durable repair than cold-patch. The pothole-filling machine, which was demonstrated today, is a truck that can heat a mix of asphalt and gravel before injecting the mixture into the pothole. These machines require just one person to operate, with another worker operating a safety truck.  ...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 27, 2015 By:

Buckle up! Oil 'could fall to $30' say trading pros

CNBC -- Oil prices continued their downward spiral Friday, falling more than $1, after a short-lived rally of around 5 percent the previous day, as concerns of a disruption to supplies in the Middle East appeared to ease. Against this backdrop, hedge fund managers said the oil price would remain volatile and could even fall as low as $30.  (read more)

Submitted Mar 27, 2015 By:

AWD Ford Focus RS to make U.S. debut at New York auto show

MLive -- The all-new, all-wheel-drive Ford Focus RS, highly anticipated by rally enthusiasts and others, is making its U.S. debut next week at the New York International Auto Show.

The sporty, 4-door hatchback was unveiled last month in Cologne, Germany, where Ford's RS performance label was first born with the Ford 15M RS in 1968.

The new Focus RS debuts the company's Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control system. It will come equipped with a 315-plus-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine.

"Customers have begged for the Focus RS to come to the United States for years" Raj Nair, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said in a release Wednesday. "And now we can say that they are getting one of the most innovative, powerful and best-looking.,.  (read more)

Submitted Mar 27, 2015 By:

North American Railroads Caught by Speed of Crude-Oil Collapse

Bloomberg -- The slowdown that North American railroad companies had been bracing for in crude oil shipments has turned into a rout, with volumes falling faster than executives had predicted.

With energy companies scaling back drilling after prices for the commodity fell about 50 percent since July, industry executives and analysts anticipated that demand for hauling crude and extraction materials such as frac sand and pipes would slow after a four-year surge. They didn’t expect it to slow this much this fast.

“The impact is occurring more quickly than the rails originally projected to investors,” said Matt Troy, an analyst with Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “The consensus view was that very high double-digit growth would moderate to low double digits, and ...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 27, 2015 By:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Americans consuming least amount of gasoline since the 80's

GasBuddy Blog -- A study out by the University of Michigan boldly claims that Americans are consuming the least amount of gasoline since tracking began in 1984.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study by Michael Sivak said average fuel consumption by U.S. motorists dropped in 2013 to its lowest level since 1984, the first year data was recorded.

The drop is astounding, as consumption now stands some 14 to 19 percent lower than when it peaked in 2004, said Sivak. The numbers shows that in 2013 the amount of fuel consumed per person was about 392 gallons, while overall households consumed an average of just over 1,000 gallons- declines of 17 percent and 19 percent, respectively, since 2004- when numbers peaked. Overall consumption by vehicle dropped to 524 gallons while gallons per driver dropped to 583 gallons....  (read more)

Submitted Mar 26, 2015 By:

Oil prices surge after Saudi air strikes in Yemen

Reuters -- Brent crude oil prices shot up nearly 6 percent on Thursday after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies began a military operation in Yemen, although Asian importers said they were not immediately worried about supply disruptions.

The strike against Houthi rebels, who have driven the president from Yemen's capital Sanaa, could stoke concerns about the security of oil shipments from the Middle East.

Oil prices jumped as traders and importers said they were worried the Saudi attack was a sign that fighting in the oil-rich Middle East was spreading and out of control.

Brent crude oil futures rose as high as $59.71 a barrel, up almost 6 percent since their last settlement, before dipping back to $57.80 a barrel at 0402 GMT, still up $1.32. U.S. crude was up $1.64 at $50.85 a barrel  (read more)

Submitted Mar 26, 2015 By:

Cars Mysteriously Break Down After Drivers Fill Up at New Jersey Gas Station

NBC New York -- Drivers filling up their tanks at a New Jersey gas station say their cars are getting damaged and they suspect it has to do with what's being pumped out of the gas lines.

Police in Hopatcong say 10 drivers have reported problems after filling up at the Enrite gas station. Drivers continued to pull up all evening Wednesday to tell NBC 4 New York how their cars have broken down after they filled up there.

Marlene Caprio said her car had to be towed from Bergen County after it was damaged extensively. Leah Keyes said her brand-new car "totally died."

Mechanic Andrew Muns recounted another customer's experience: "It wouldn't start. She said, 'I went to hit the gas and it was bucking and kept stalling and shutting off.'"

The drivers said their mechanics told them their gas tanks were loaded  (read more)

Submitted Mar 26, 2015 By:

Proposal would outlaw holding cellphone while driving in NC

WRAL -Channel 5 - Raleigh -- A state lawmaker wants to close a loophole that makes it very difficult for law enforcement officers to enforce North Carolina's ban on texting while driving.

North Carolina is one of 40 states that have laws against texting while driving. Yet, people still send and read text messages behind the wheel, and punishing them isn't so easy.

A WRAL Investigates report last July found that 1,458 people were cited with texting while driving in Wake County in 2013. Of the 1,367 cases disposed of in the county that year in Wake County, fewer than half resulted in drivers paying the $290 in fines and court costs. Many drivers fought their tickets and won.

The current law applies only to moving vehicles – drivers stopped at a red light can text and email – but drivers are still allowed to type ...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 26, 2015 By:

Why Bombing This Tiny Oil Producer Is Roiling the Energy Market

BloombergBusiness -- While Yemen contributes less than 0.2 percent of global oil output its location puts it near the center of world energy trade.

The nation shares a border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter and sits on one side of a shipping chokepoint used by crude tankers heading West from the Persian Gulf. Global oil prices jumped more than 5 percent on Thursday after regional powers began bombing rebel targets in the country that produced less than Denmark in 2013.

Yemen’s government has collapsed in the face of an offensive by rebels known as Houthis prompting airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Gulf’s main Sunni Muslim power says the Houthis are tools of its Shiite rival Iran another OPEC member and halt...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 26, 2015 By:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

75 mph speed limit proposal to be shelved by Ohio lawmakers -- COLUMBUS, Ohio -- State lawmakers are putting the brakes on a proposed 75-mile-per-hour speed limit for the Ohio Turnpike and rural freeways, according to a top House Republican.

The proposed speed limit increase will be pulled from the $7 billion state transportation budget on Tuesday afternoon by a legislative conference committee, according to House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith of Gallia County.

However, a legislative study committee will examine the merits of raising the speed limit, Smith said.  (read more)

Submitted Mar 25, 2015 By:

Sorry, but there was never an oil storage crisis

Yahoo -- Crude oil storage inventories in the US are at their highest levels in decades. Is that going to cause the price of West Texas Intermediate crude to crash? Rapier writes that "oil producers could continue to add a million barrels a week (which is about the average over the past year) for nearly four years before crude oil storage is actually full."

The best-known storage facility, in Cushing, Oklahoma, would run out of space much sooner than that at the current rate (about four months from now). But that still isn't going to happen, according to Rapier. We are currently in the season when refinery utilization is lowest. Refiners take equipment offline in fall and spring to do maintenance, so they use less crude oil at this time of year. This maintenance usually peaks in March.  (read more)

Submitted Mar 25, 2015 By:

U.S. workers set to return next week to Shell Deer Park refinery

REUTERS -- Striking workers are scheduled to return to their jobs next week at Royal Dutch Shell Plc's joint-venture refinery in Deer Park, Texas, said an official of the United Steelworkers union (USW), ending a near two-month walkout.

Workers will begin returning to work on Monday, said Lee Medley, president of the USW local 13-1. The 800 workers walked off their jobs when the largest refinery strike in 35 years began on Feb. 1.

The national strike spread to 15 plants including 12 refineries that accounted for one fifth of U.S. crude oil refining capacity. Only one refinery, Tesoro's Martinez, California refinery was shut due to the strike.

Three Motiva Enterprises refineries in Louisiana and Texas co-owned by Shell and Saudi Aramco saw workers returning to their jobs this week. The strike at...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 25, 2015 By:

Pipeline industry to review emergency plan disclosures

Calgary Herald -- The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association is moving to head off rising levels of criticism by pipeline opponents over members refusal to disclose details of emergency response plans by forming a task force to look at the issue.
In a news release Monday, the lobby group for Canada’s pipeline industry announced it will develop “guiding principles” around a common approach to disclosing emergency response information by early April.
VP of safety for Calgary-based CEPA, said the move was prompted by a letter in February from the NEB, Canada’s pipeline regulator, to Enbridge regarding its practice of requiring municipalities to sign non-disclosure agreements before being given emergency procedures manuals for its pipelines.
The agreements were criticized by mayors in two Quebec cities, the lette  (read more)

Submitted Mar 25, 2015 By:

Distracted Driving A Factor In 60 Percent Of Teen Crashes

WABE-FM, 90.1, Atlanta -- Young men and women aren’t paying enough attention while behind the wheel.

That’s according to the largest research ever conducted into crash videos of teenage drivers.

A study from AAA shows distractions played a factor in nearly 60 percent of moderate-to-severe crashes involving teenage drivers.

The most common form of distraction was when the driver interacted with other passengers in the vehicle.

Using a cell phone came in a close second.

AAA reports teenagers have the highest crash rate of all demographics in the country.

“Access to crash videos has allowed us to better understand the moments leading up to a vehicle impact in a way that was previously impossible. The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater ...  (read more)

Submitted Mar 25, 2015 By: