Daily Archives: July 10, 2009

Kate Mackenzie

Number of the week:


Crude prices fall below a key threshold as demand realities set in
Quote of the week

“…compared to 1990 or more recent years”

The G8 agrees, signficantly, to an 80 per cent cut in carbon, but based on what?

Image of the week

Sam Foucher posted a fearsome chart of projected energy demand against average peak oil production forecasts at The Oil Drum:

Kate Mackenzie

A couple of novel proposals to climate change dilemmas came out this week:

First: one that seeks to address those difficult moral and philosophical questions of how developing countries should be expected to cut emissions. These countries point out that their wealthier peers got rich by using lots of fossil fuels without regard for the cost of emissions; is it fair that their own economic development should be burdened with the higher costs of making their energy use cleaner and more efficient?

One study proposes to solve this by focusing on the emissions of individuals, rather than nations.

Kate Mackenzie

It is intuitively fairly easy to argue that speculators drive up prices and create volatility: it falls naturally into a sort of good guys/bad guys narrative where the speculators make commodities more expensive for the ‘commercial’ participants, such as oil companies, airlines and manufacturers and those who service them.

The main defence of speculators, for those who haven’t heard, is that commodities users who want to hedge their exposure to future price volatility actually need the speculators – otherwise, who else is going to take the bets required for those hedges?

Interestingly, the CFTC’s own research has so far failed to find evidence that speculation causes price shifts.

Fiona Harvey

The meeting of the G8 and the Major Economies Forum has been derided as a failure in the environmental campaigning community and among non-governmental organisations.

But this is not very fair. Anyone who expected a breakthrough at this meeting on the vexed issue of 2020 targets for emissions cuts, or the question of financing from rich countries to help poor nations cut emissions and deal with the effects of climate change, was deluding themselves. It is too early in the process for these to be decided.

The fact that the meeting did not agree these things is not surprising and should not badly affect progress on these issues before Copenhagen in December.

Kate Mackenzie

On Energy Source:

Markets: Oil retreats below $60

Stern appointment boosts CCS – and Australia’s government

A glimmer of hope for Copenhagen?

IEA a little more upbeat on 2010

US oil: A good time for bad results

Obama to warn Ghana on the curse of oil wealth

Further reading:

Iraq to offer again some fields that weren’t take in last month’s auction (Platts); Indonesia might be interested (UpstreamOnline)

The smart grid, explained (CNet)

An Oxford/LSE study argues for efficiency and clean tech rather than slow, difficult emissions agreements (WSJ, Guardian)

Commodities speculation defended, at length (SeekingAlpha)

Can Barbara Boxer drum up support for the cap-and-trade bill in the US Senate? (CFR)

Solar panels deemed an eyesore in Santa Monica (NY Times)

Drax’s reticent chief executive on that coal plant protest (Guardian)

On the subject of cost-benefit analyses for environmental regulation (Robert Stavins/Harvard)

Kate Mackenzie

Respected UK economist Nicolas Stern has joined the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which was established in Australia earlier this year. This is not only a win for the carbon capture movement but also something of a coup for Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd. The joint announcement with President Obama proved a hit back home for Rudd (though with some outlets more than others).

But as news website Crikey points out, it is one not entirely without self-interest; Australia is after all a big exporter and consumer of coal, and comes third after China and the US in the global production ranks.

And it is also welcome politically.

Oil retreated below the $60 a barrel mark on Friday as crude’s recent weakness slump continued unabated.

A mildly bullish mid-term outlook from the International Energy Agency did little to lift sentiment.

The IEA, the energy watchdog of the developed world, said it expected global oil demand to rise by 1.7 per cent next year as economic activity is rekindled, with demand coming mainly from developing economies.

Wednesday’s US inventories data showing large increases gasoline and distillate inventories continued to drag on the market.

Kate Mackenzie

Desperate bulls won’t get much relief from the IEA, which has kept its 2009 oil demand growth forecast steady.

However its latest monthly oil market report is rather more optimistic on 2010; the demand forecast was upgraded from 1.4 per cent growth to 1.7 per cent, making next year look rather positive:

Source: IEA

If you think it looks too optimistic, however, the IEA points out that the 2010 forecast is based in part on a rebound from a sharp fall in 2009.

Sheila McNulty

Refining is becoming an increasingly problematic segment for the US oil majors. ConocoPhillips warned earlier this week in its interim report that its refining segment suffered difficulties in the second quarter, and now Chevron has confirmed the trend.

In announcing its interims, the US’ second biggest oil company said its refining profits were being squeezed by higher crude prices and the weak demand for petrol and diesel. Refiners are being forced to pay more for rising crude, but cannot pass that rising cost onto customers when demand is low.

On top of that, natural gas prices, another key profit maker for the majors, have been low throughout the quarter.

It does not look like rising oil prices will be enough to pull the majors through to stellar results this time around. But, politically, the timing could not be better.

The majors are under enough pressure from a Congress trying to show it is tough on fossil fuels and easy on renewables. The lower these companies stay under the public radar the better. Not pulling in record-breaking profits probably suits them just fine for now. It’s not as if they don’t have money in the bank.

Related links:

ConocoPhilips’ interims point to refining difficulties (FT Energy Source, 07/07/09)

James Fontanella-Khan

Climate change deal eludes big nations
Leaders of the world’s 16 biggest polluting countries failed to agree on targets (FT)

Venture investors set out terms for Centrica bid
Leading shareholders have agreed not to sell their stakes too cheaply (FT)

Russia majors profit even as oil price falls
Weaker ruble has reduced their costs (WSJ)

Transit states release tension on Nabucco
Pipeline to bring natural gas to the EU from the Caspian region    (FT)

Iraq to decide on Nassiriya oil field EPC in weeks
Oil minister a decision was due very soon (Platts)

Short View: Gilts and oil
How much regulation is needed? (FT)

PetroChina cleared to buy Osaka refinery stake
China has given approval to invest in Nippon Oil’s refinery (Reuters)

Anglo American picks new chairman
Sir John Parker’s appointment to reassure shareholders over miners independence (FT)

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