Daily Archives: April 14, 2009

Sheila McNulty

It is often said that ExxonMobil marches to its own drummer. That Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s chief executive, got a raise last year, when other majors cut back, is just one more example of that.

Mr Tillerson received a 10 per cent raise in 2008, to bring his compensation package to $23.9m, as Chevron’s chief executive saw his compensation fall 39 per cent and the head of the third biggest US major, ConocoPhillips,  watched his total compensation fall 42 per cent.

Given the severe drop in commodity prices, combined with a drop in demand for oil and natural gas amid the global ecnomic downturn, cutting back seems prudent. At $19.3m, Dave O’Reilly’s reduced compensation as chief executive of Chevron seems more than enough. And the $29.4m in reduced compensation paid Jim Mulva, chief executive of Conoco, seems just plain out of line, given the company has entered the downturn in worse shape than the other majors, laying off 4 per cent of its global workforce and scaling back capital spending this year to $12.5bn, from $15.3bn in 2008.

Fiona Harvey

The American Wind Energy Association produced an upbeat end-of-year report for 2008 on Tuesday, saying there was strong growth during the year and a sizeable increase in wind turbine and components manufacturing capacity in the US.

During the year, more than 55 new manufacturing facilities were opened or announced, or old facilities expanded, in 24 US states. Ten new manufacturing facilities came online, 17 were expanded, and 30 were announced in 2008, according to AWEA estimates.

Texas led at the end of the year in wind capacity and largest wind farms installed, Minnesota and Iowa both generating over 7 per cent of their electricity from wind, and Indiana was the state with the fastest growth in wind on a percentage basis, the AWEA said.

Kate Mackenzie

On Energy Source today:

China takes the long view on oil

Climate change: The despair edition

Beam me up, Scotty!

The first factual meme on climate change?
Elsewhere:

Demand: Fuel of the past? Are the days of ever-increasing gasoline demand gone for good? (Energy Outlook, WSJ)

Refining: New refineries in the US? How the refining shortage is affecting the US (Platts)

Political donations: Ponying up for politics at Halliburton. “Some companies frown upon their top executives getting too entrenched in politics…” (DealBook/NYTimes)

Deals: Moscow will not sell Sibir stake to TNK-BP just in case you were wondering (Upstream Online)

Hydropower: Time to think about it (American Scientist)

Kate Mackenzie

Things may be looking a little brighter today in the financial world – at least, there are signs of ‘cautious optimism’ – but gloom is beginning to set in about efforts to reach agreement on climate change. A Guardian survey of attendees of a scientific conference in Copenhagen last month suggested that a large majority of climate scientists do not believe that a climate increase of more than 2°c, a threshold which is thought vital to avoid devastating damage, will be averted.

But there are other signs of despondency, particularly focused on the US. Swallowing the inevitable costs of reducing carbon emissions was always going to be more difficult in the face of a deep recession, but the new US administration’s determination to break with the past gave a lot of cause for optimism. Now it seems that some misgivings are creeping in: the New York Times last week suggested the Obama administration had switched to a more cautious approach, and said officials were telling their overseas counterparts “that they need time to gauge the American public’s appetite for an ambitious carbon reduction scheme before leading any international effort”.

Fiona Harvey

Space Solar disk.jpg

Solar power from space – it’s the final frontier.

Well, all solar power is from space – that’s where the sun is – but we earthlings usually gather it up into a useful form down here on earth. That’s not enough, though, for Pacific Gas and Electric, of the US, which is now going to try out gathering solar power through satellites in orbit and beaming it down to earth.

Sounds crazy? Possibly. PG&E admits it’s an experiment, and power won’t begin to flow until 2016.

The company said on Tuesday it was “seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren Corp, a Southern California company that has contracted to deliver 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power over a 15 year period”.

Solaren’s idea is to use solar panels in earth orbit, then convert the energy to radio frequencies for transmission to a receiving station in California. From there, the energy would be converted to electricity and fed to PG&E.

Kate Mackenzie

A book about climate change that gets rave reviews from folk at oil companies, environmental groups and the Number One Blog of All Time has to be worth a peek. The Economist liked it, aforementioned blog BoingBoing calls it ‘The Freaknomics of conservation, climate and energy’ and there’s a free downloadable version, so David MacKay’s book ‘Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air’ seems destined for greatness, at least online.

David MacKay, a professor in the Department of Physics at Cambridge, sets out to answer the question: “can we conceivably live sustainably?”, and to do so not by coming up with new data, new theories or new discoveries but by explaining what is known, in language that a 12-year-old would not find too taxing. That’s not to downplay the quality of the research involved – but from reading the first chapter alone we can say that the book’s sheer readability is really quite impressive. His enthusiasm is endearing – ‘Logarithmic graphs are great for understanding growth.’

MacKay seeks to avoid considering the ethical questions of what economic and social costs should be borne by whom in the pursuit of climate stability, and merely give the reader enough information to make their own decision. This is easier said than done and as he himself acknowledges that his own views sometimes creep in:

Kate Mackenzie

Bloomberg reports China is in talks with Kazakhstan over a $10bn oil accord:

China National Petroleum Corp. plans to buy a minority holding in AO Mangistaumunaigas from state-run KazMunaiGaz National Co., a China National official said yesterday. The two nations may sign an accord on April 15 when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visits Beijing, the official said, declining to be identified because of internal rules.

Last week China (along with Japan and possibly India) talked with Venezuela, although this did not achieve much substantial development in their existing relationship. In February, China struck lengthy oil supply contracts with Russia and Brazil.

Much of the world takes a short-term view of oil prices – even now we are seeing relatively low oil prices despite a widespread view that this will lead to a shortage squeeze next year.

Energy news from elsewhere:

- Shell in talks with Chinese for Iraq oil bid (Reuters)

- Exxon CEO gets pay rise for 2008 but Chevron CEO’s pay off (Reuters)

- UTS shareholders cool to sweetened Total bid (Reuters)

- US commerce department rules against Shell-TransCanada LNG project (Platts)

- Lukoil to seek Kazakh approval to buy BP’s stakes in CPC and Tengiz (Bloomberg)

Energy news from the FT:

- US green policy will kill economy, says Anadarko chairman
Comments reveal rift developing between oil industry and Washington

- Outlook for carbon trading companies improves
Carbon trading prices stabilise

- Short View: Forward oil prices

- Lex: US utilities

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