Feds to resume leasing for fracking in California

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Feds to resume leasing for fracking in California

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will resume issuing oil and gas leases next year for federal lands in California after a new study found limited environmental impacts from fracking and other enhanced drilling techniques, the agency said Thursday.

The move will end a halt that has stood since a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the federal agency failed to follow environmental law in allowing an oil extraction method known as fracking on public land in Monterey County.

Guest Opinion: NAM’s Timmons wants next president to approve Keystone, rein in EPA

Gas prices hover around $4 a gallon in many parts of the nation. With just more than a month to go before Americans head to the polls, energy policy is taking on increased importance.

The campaigns seem to have caught on. Gov. Mitt Romney, who so far has shied away from policy specifics, broke from that trend and released a comprehensive document outlining his energy vision—a plan largely in concert with manufacturers’ priorities. President Barack Obama touted his achievements during his nomination acceptance speech, citing the growth of renewables and decline of oil sourced from abroad.

Energy is the ultimate pocketbook issue, so its prominence on the campaign trail is no surprise. And, just as the public is attuned to the cost of energy, so too are manufacturers. After all, manufacturers use one-third of the energy consumed in the United States, so energy prices have a major impact on our bottom lines and ultimately the prices consumers pay for the goods we produce.

Yet, despite the overwhelming importance of secure and reliable energy to voters and our economy, the United States lacks a clear energy strategy. Republicans and Democrats have set forth bold visions—think energy independence—over the years, but have not achieved their ambitions. Who sets energy policy in the United States? Depending on whom you ask, you’ll probably get a different answer.

When the chief justice swears in our next president on Jan. 20, manufacturers want a leader who will commit to an energy strategy that puts economic growth and job creation over political agendas. President Obama and Gov. Romney have both committed to an energy future that meets the needs of a growing economy, though they would get there through different approaches.

Here are three guideposts for the next president to follow to get our economy—and manufacturing—back on track:

1. No More Missed Opportunities

American energy policy of late has been a catalog of missed opportunities, one of the biggest being the failure to grant approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline is a sure job creator and will provide the United States with secure energy supplies from Canada’s oil sands. There’s simply no excuse to continue the delay. In addition to accessing these oil supplies from Canada, the United States must also explore and develop its own oil resources, such as those on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The United States has also missed opportunities to expand its energy portfolio as a result of misplaced priorities. Instead of seeking ways to expand the nation’s energy portfolio, the current administration has frequently targeted the oil and gas sectors with tax increases, even though the economy relies and will continue to rely on these energy sources. Tax increases would cost jobs, increase consumer costs and make achieving North American energy independence an even steeper challenge. Policymakers can’t let their preference for specific energy sources crowd out valuable initiatives in other areas.

2. Energy Policy by Legislation, Not Regulation

When Congress is gridlocked, the natural tendency is for the regulators to fill the void, and that is exactly what has happened over the past few years. During this administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken an increasingly aggressive regulatory approach and has at times found itself at odds with Congress and the courts. The next president must rein in the agencies by working with Congress to craft legislative solutions to our energy challenges. This includes not only making specific regulations less burdensome but also exploring real reforms to the regulatory process.

3. “All of the Above” Means “All of the Above”

Both President Obama and Gov. Romney have declared their support for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, but their visions contrast. A true “all-of-the-above” policy embraces all energy forms—that means oil, coal, nuclear and natural gas. It also includes alternatives and renewables like wind and solar. It also means a strong commitment to energy efficiency.

Manufacturers want a president, Republican or Democrat, who will demonstrate leadership on energy policy by utilizing this country’s incredible resource wealth to improve our competitiveness.

Of course, as President Obama knows and Gov. Romney may find out, advancing one’s policy priorities is no easy task. Whoever wins the White House must use his bully pulpit to promote policies that encourage energy development and production, putting the advancement of competitive, pro-growth and pro-jobs policies before the appeasement of narrow special interest political constituencies.

Jay Timmons is President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the nation’s largest manufacturing association.

US trade deficit jumps 17.1 percent to $46.6 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit in December jumped to the highest level in more than two years as exports fell and Americans bought a record amount of imports — a potentially worrisome development that could weigh on overall economic growth.

The deficit jumped 17.1 percent to $46.6 billion in December, resulting in the biggest imbalance since November 2012, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The widening trade gap reflected a drop in exports, which retreated 0.8 percent to $194.9 billion. Meanwhile, imports soared 2.2 percent to $241.4 billion.

Crude ban repeal arguments ‘over-ventilated,’ Moniz says

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Thursday threw more cold water on oil industry hopes that the Obama administration will quickly loosen the ban on crude oil exports.

Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum conference, Moniz downplayed the impact of the industry campaign for a repeal and reiterated that the U.S. still imports more than 7 million barrels a day of oil.

Newsmaker: API unleashes military veterans to lobby lawmakers on drilling

In the grassroots equivalent of a military invasion, the American Petroleum Institute is unleashing a platoon of veterans on Capitol Hill this week to press Congress for more favorable policies to expand oil and gas drilling.

The lobbying effort by 29 veterans from 27 states is set for Wednesday and will inject a new messaging element into the oil lobby’s year-long campaign to tie expanded domestic oil and gas production to job creation, a top API executive tells EnergyGuardian.

Low oil prices send chills through oil patchviews.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Marcus Jundt moved to Williston from Minnesota almost four years ago and has opened four restaurants there since. Food isn’t propelling his business, though. It’s oil.

“Everything I’ve done in Williston is a derivative of oil,” he says.

That oil has averaged $96 a barrel over the past four years, fueling more drilling, more hiring, and bigger appetites in North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere. Now oil has hit a rough patch, plunging to $79 from $107 in June on fears of a global glut. Many expect these lower prices are to stick around for a while.

Keystone likely a target of GOP-controlled Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican control of the House and Senate seems tantalizingly close, so leading Republicans are turning to a matter often overlooked in campaigns: how to actually govern.

They say it will be crucial to show the GOP can legislate, lead and solve problems after years of lobbing political grenades at President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.

California authorizes oilfield dumping into drinking water

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — Regulators in California, the country’s third-largest oil-producing state, have authorized oil companies to inject production fluids and waste into what are now federally protected aquifers more than 2,500 times, risking contamination of underground water supplies that could be used for drinking water or irrigation, state records show.

While some of the permits go back decades, an Associated Press analysis found that nearly half of those injection wells — 46 percent — were permitted or began injection in the last four years under Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pushed state oil and gas regulators to speed up the permitting process. And it happened despite warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2011 that state regulators were failing to do enough to shield groundwater reserves from the threat of oilfield pollution.

Battle in east Libya’s Benghazi sets ship ablaze

CAIRO (AP) — Fierce fighting near the port of Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi set fire to a large ship Monday, with witnesses and the country’s military spokesman disagreeing whether it was an oil tanker or a naval warship engulfed in flames.

Mohammed Hegazi, the army spokesman, told The Associated Press that Islamist militias fired rocket propelled grenades from high-rise buildings overlooking the port, hitting an oil tanker.

War of words escalates between Obama, Keystone supporters

For the second time in a week, President Barack Obama dismissed the potential jobs creation from the Keystone XL pipeline, prompting a pointed warning from Canada’s oil minister that the project’s oil may head overseas instead.

In Chattanooga on Tuesday, Obama cited State Department estimates that the much-touted project will create only about 50 permanent jobs. He said that figure shows the weakness of the jobs agenda pursued by Republicans who support the pipeline.

Stocks end lower after day of oil-driven volatility OIL

NEW YORK (AP) — Sudden twists in the price of oil and currency trading turned the stock market into a roller-coaster ride on Tuesday.

Major indexes opened lower as falling oil prices and a plunge in the Russian ruble weighed on markets. Less than an hour later, crude oil recovered and oil and gas producers surged, driving the Dow Jones industrial average up as much as 246 points in the morning. All of the gains were wiped out in the last hour.

The price of U.S. oil settled higher on Tuesday for the first time in a week, rising 2 cents to close at $55.93 a barrel in New York. Oil has fallen by nearly half since June as demand wanes and supply surges. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.20 to close at $59.86 in London.

US oil rig count up, but total rigs down 2 to 874

HOUSTON (AP) — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by two this week to 874. But the total number of rigs drilling for oil is actually up.

Houston-based Baker Hughes said Friday 664 rigs were seeking oil—a rise of five since last week—and 209 explored for natural gas—down seven. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, 1,889 rigs were active.

Qatar energy minister: OPEC monitoring oil’s slide

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar’s energy minister says OPEC is monitoring the drop in oil prices closely following a months-long slide that has left crude trading at its lowest point in more than five years.

Energy and Industry Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada told reporters in Doha on Tuesday that OPEC is “watching the market closely,” but he gave no indication the bloc would change course on current output.

Production up, pump prices down if crude exports allowed: GAO

The Government Accountability Office has given new support to lawmakers and oil companies clamoring to repeal the 1970s-era ban on most crude oil exports.

GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a new report on Monday that a repeal could raise domestic oil prices from $2 a barrel to as much as $8 a barrel, a potential boon to drillers. At the same time, consumers would likely pay less at the pump for gasoline, as much as 13 cents a gallon, because of expanded world oil supply.

Oil, ruble falling though Wall St. poised for rebound

HONG KONG (AP) — The ruble extended its slide to a new record low Tuesday as the slump in oil prices rattled Russia’s economy. Asian stocks slid after Chinese manufacturing contracted this month but European markets inched higher and Wall Street was poised to rebound.

ENERGY: Oil prices are at five-year lows as supply booms while energy demand wanes. Benchmark U.S. crude was down $1.38 to $54.53 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.90, or 3.3 percent, to close at $55.91 on Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.96 to $59.25 in London.

Oil companies frack in coastal waters off Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Companies prospecting for oil off California’s coast have used hydraulic fracturing on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed, and now regulators are investigating whether the practice should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review.

November retrial date expected for former BP engineer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Attorneys are eyeing a November retrial date for Kurt Mix, the former BP engineer charged with obstructing a federal investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Court papers filed Thursday show attorneys are working toward a Nov. 16 date but may seek to push the trial back to Nov. 30.