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  • LNG-Dependent Japan Tries To Gain Leverage Over Pricing

    Japan’s record purchases of liquefied natural gas (LNG) show no sign of slowing as the country continues to try and fill the energy shortfall created when it took its nuclear plants offline three years ago.With its lack of substantial domestic sources of fossil fuel, Japan is cripplingly dependent on imported oil, coal, and natural gas. Before the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan was the third largest nuclear generator in the world, behind the United States and France, with 54 reactors.     Those reactors were critical to cutting Japan’s fuel import bills, and accounted for 20 percent of…

  • How And When Will Saudi Arabia Respond To Low Oil Prices?

    Oil prices (along with prices of many other commodities) have fallen dramatically since last summer. Some observers are waiting to see if Saudi Arabia responds with significant cutbacks in production. I say, don’t hold your breath. Source: FRED.When oil demand fell in the 1981-82 recession, the Saudis cut production by 6 million barrels a day in an effort to soften the decline in oil prices. They also cut production in response to lower demand in the 2001 recession and the most recent recession. On the other hand, the kingdom boosted production quickly beginning in August 1990 and January 2003 in anticipation…

  • Drowning In Oil Again

    For 4 years now the oil price (Brent) has been range bound between $90 and $130 per barrel (Figure 2). This is where it settled after the convulsions of the $148 per barrel peak in 2008 followed by the financial crash. Recently it has dipped to around the $80 mark and although we have seen a slight recovery many analysts believe it could break lower. With the world in turmoil, including OPEC producers Iraq and Libya ± Iran, and Russia cast out by the West, one might expect the oil price to be quite perky. But the opposite is true.…

  • How Oil Prices Affect These Three Major Players

    Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the US will feel the effects of oil prices in radically different ways.It would be logical to think that the emergence of ISIL would have increased oil prices, but Brent crude oil prices have plummeted since July. Having now traded as low as $80 per barrel, oil is at its lowest price since 2012. The steep decline can be attributed to three trends: surging supply led by US fracking production, stagnating European demand, and a strengthening dollar.Declining prices could have a negative impact on oil-producing economies around the world, but some have significantly more risk than…

  • This Copper Major is Staking a New District

    One of the biggest trends going in mining has been less exploration.Especially from major firms, who are cutting costs in the face of lower metals prices.But news this week suggests at least one major miner is taking an interesting departure. And increasing exploration activity--in an unexpected place.The company is Rio Tinto. Which announced it has commenced a new exploration program for copper in northeastern Namibia.Related: Mick Davis has now almost $5 billion to build new mining empireThis represents Rio's first work for copper in the West African nation. Showing that the company isn't afraid to try new ideas--even as most…

  • Is France’s Love Affair with Nuclear Over?

    French President Francois Hollande has promised to limit the growth of the country’s nuclear power, many older reactors have been targeted for decommissioning, and Greenpeace and other environmental groups have been relentless in their anti-nuclear campaigning. But until now, it seemed unlikely that France would ever truly rethink its love affair with nuclear power. Last week, it did. On Oct. 10, France’s parliament voted to begin moving to undo decades of nuclear growth and to reduce its importance to the country’s energy mix. Over the next 11 years, France will reduce the amount of electricity coming from nuclear by one-quarter…

  • U.S. Utilities Facing Fuel Shortage Problems As Winter Approaches

    American utility companies are facing lower-than-average fuel supplies as they begin to stockpile for the winter. Part of the reason is the country’s oil boom. Moving oil by rail has become so widespread that train backups are making it hard for utilities to receive shipments of coal, which in some cases is leaving power plants critically low on fuel supplies.  Coal stocks were inordinately depleted during the unusually long, cold snowy winter in the U.S., which saw an elevated level of electricity demand. Months later, coal-fired power plants are still struggling to replace their coal supplies. “Coal piles around the…

  • Kyrgyzstan Looks to Alternative Fuels Ahead of Looming Winter Shortages

    Each winter in Kyrgyzstan the energy situation seems to worsen; blackouts last longer, and officials seem less able to do anything to improve conditions. This year is expected to be particularly difficult. The winter heating season has not even begun and already lots of people are bracing for months of hardship. A video, posted October 12 on YouTube, depicting Kyrgyz doctors having to perform open-heart surgery amid a sudden blackout, is helping to heighten anxiety about the coming winter. In another alarming signal, Bishkek’s local energy-distribution company, Severelectro, sent out advisories with recent utility bills, describing the situation as “critical” and…

  • Innovation Needed To Provide Zero-Carbon Destination For Gas

    New Nature Piece Tells Us What We Already KnewUse of abundant natural gas across the globe will not “discernably reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions,” concludes a new research letter in Nature, as increased use of natural gas can displace coal and zero-carbon sources like nuclear and solar. But, as their scenarios assume, if natural gas is the cheapest way to meet that demand growth, we shouldn’t be surprised by this result. A carbon price may help motivate us toward non-fossil sources, but such policies fall short. If natural gas is to truly become a bridge to somewhere, substantial innovation will…

  • Falling Oil Prices: Good News for the Pump

    Oil prices continued to fall this week on ample supply and signals from OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that they can deal with lower prices and are unlikely to reduce output.On Monday, Brent crude futures dropped further to $87.74 a barrel—the lowest level since December 2010--while WTI futures were down to $84.68 a barrel. Saudi Arabia, for its part, has suggested it could handle $80/barrel prices. On Tuesday, Brent crude prices slipped further, to $87.03.Kuwait has also said that it will not be cutting output and predicted prices falling to as low as $76 a barrel before winter sets…