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This Week in Energy: Texans Take on Big Oil

‘Crazy’ Texans take on big oil; Australia’s richest miner takes on his own industry; the EU imposes anti-dumping tariff on US ethanol; February pump prices hurt; and two West African venues take E&P center stage ….

We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop in Texas, as Big Oil continues to bully landowners who have traditionally been their friends. This week, a Texas landowner who reported fracking pioneer Range Resources Corp. to the federal authorities for apparently poisoning his well has been sued in kind for conspiring to “harm” the company, while his lawyer has been characterized as “unhinged”.

While Texans fight the acquisition of their land by TransCanada for the Keystone XL pipeline, on the mining front, Australia’s richest man is taking on the state and the mining industry (of which he is a vital part) to stop the exploitation of uranium and sand mining on his half-a-million-acre ranch in the northwest outback.

Andrew Forrest is an Australian iron ore magnate and founder and executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., one of the mining industry’s biggest players.  Forrest knows the rules of the game well, and those rules stipulate that he only owns the top meter of land across his massive ranch. The rest, including the uranium under it, belongs to the people of Australia. You only get compensated for access. The case has also put him in an odd position within his own company: Fortescue Metals has also applied for mineral exploration rights on the ranch and Forrest has objected even though he is a majority shareholder. Forrest’s overall objection seems to stem from his close relationship with the Aboriginal peoples in the remote areas of the outback, who object to the mining plans that would affect their livelihoods and surroundings. 

Australia is a unique case in terms of land ownership. In the US—as well as in the United Kingdom and Canada—the laws of ownership are different: land owners can own the minerals deposits under the surface.

US bioethanol took a hit this week when the European Union imposed a 5-year tariff on US bioethanol imports with which German, French and British producers cannot compete. The EU accuses US exporters of selling below EU cost and thus dumping on the European market. The new tariff is $83.20 per metric ton. The EU already imposes anti-dumping tariffs on US biodiesel. The anti-dumping bioethanol tariff takes effect on 25 February. 

Provoking this anti-dumping tariff was the fact that three US producers in particular--Marquis Energy LLC, Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC and Platinum Ethanol LLC—had managed to significantly raise their share of the EU bioethanol market—from 1.9% in 2008 to 15.7% by the end of 2011, and counting.

This will be a key issue in upcoming free trade talks between the EU and US.

In Washington, congressional bean-counters were in a tither this week when they counted up the costs of a lucrative tax break used by pipeline companies. The phenomenon of master limited partnerships (MLPs) is growing out of control and will reportedly cost the government $7 billion through 2016. This is quadruple the original estimate and apparently no one predicted growth on this scale of tax-free publicly traded partnerships. The problem is that MLPs have already consumed the pipeline business and now they are eyeing other industry sectors. A tax overhaul is clearly in the works.

In the meantime, gas prices at the pump look set to rise even more by the end of this month, as global crude futures soar and refineries conduct their seasonal maintenance. So far, prices at the pump are up 14% this year. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe exchange has increased $6.41 this year to $117.52 a barrel.

Today’s report is from the Inside Investor section of our Premium service and our expert trader Dan Dicker looks at three companies energy investors should be monitoring. These are rather time sensitive plays, but offer very good upside to investors.

Dan was recently interviewed on Bloomberg television talking about how Keystone will affect gas prices. It was a very interesting conversation and you can see the interview here.

This week, in our Premium Newsletter, subscribers can learn about two hot West African venues for oil and gas, as well as unique geopolitical insight into some Middle Eastern pipeline warfare that may see Israel pump gas to Turkey and pits Iran against Qatar in the race to the Syrian pipeline finish line.

I would like to mention that Oilprice.com Premium does more than just give you news and investing advice – it is a MUST read for people in the energy sector. You can receive news and information from the multitude of magazines out there currently serving the sector – but NONE of these publications can offer the level of intelligence and forecasting we are currently providing subscribers. Having spoken to current subscribers from the sector this is a service you need if you are going to compete effectively in the future.

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By. James Stafford of Oilprice.com

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