Vote count: Keystone XL backers one shy in Senate

There are dueling bills in Congress that would clear the way for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States.

The House already has passed a bill, sponsored by Republican Bill Cassidy, who’s a candidate for Senate in Louisiana.

The Senate has its own pro-KXL bill, sponsored by Democrat Mary Landrieu, the other candidate for Senate in Louisiana. They’ll square off in a runoff election Dec. 6.

Landrieu has 59 supporters for her bill, but she needs 60 to prevent it from being stalled by a filibuster threat.

A vote is scheduled for Tuesday.

Bloomberg has more on the horse-trading going on over the Senate bill.


SEMA in review: Ingenuity rules, but fuel choice still missing

Our friend John Brackett, one of the stars of the Fuel Freedom-produced PUMP, attended the giant SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) expo in Las Vegas last week.

What he found was the usual mind-blowing parade: thousands upon thousands of amazing, tricked-out vehicles. And of course ingenious technology, the product of some of the most intelligent minds who are in the business of making after-market car components.

What he found lacking, though, was fuel choice.

Here’s his report:

SEMA Exhibitors have solutions ready:

Fuel component manufacturers made it clear that dealing with ethanol and methanol fuels would be easy on their end. Companies that alter a car’s software said it’d be no problem running several fuels with their devices or programs. The car makers have put fuel choice into vehicles for a century with tens of millions already on the road. Every vehicle sold since the Oil Embargo[hyperlink to wiki Oil Embargo] should have had fuel choice. For the last quarter century, we’ve been able to update a car’s software to adjust to different fuels with no additional parts. There is no reason we can’t run on performance fuels right now.

American “Enginuity” is alive:

No two vehicles looked the same, and everyone had a different interpretation of their ideal driving experience. Even with such ingenuity, what 98.6 percent of the vehicles had in common was no fuel choice. I saw V8 engines installed in series, radial airplane engines, super-turbocharged cars, an ice cream-making Kia Soul, a wagon that unfolds into a beer stand, and a 3D-printed car. With so many options, what is holding us back from fuel choice?

Dollars per horsepower matters:

One could easily double, if not sextuple, the cost of a vehicle with some of the solutions at SEMA. Yet those solutions wouldn’t be displayed if there weren’t a demand. These companies spend millions of dollars to develop some very unique solutions for the aftermarket vehicle enthusiasts. Dollar for dollar, using ethanol or methanol over gasoline gives one a more powerful and exciting driving experience. On a naturally aspirated vehicle, adding 5-10 percent horsepower with an aftermarket intake and exhaust system will cost darn near $1,000. Why not choose a fuel that gives you that same power gain and costs 25-40 percent less to drive on?

Now watch Bracket’s video, and see how many incredible vehicles you can name:

Vox answers ‘9 questions about KXL you were too embarrassed to ask’

Great, informative piece by about the Keystone XL pipeline, which the U.S. House approved yet again Friday.

The Vox post answers “9 questions about the Keystone XL pipeline you were too embarrassed to ask.”

There’s even music!

President Obama is described as possibly leaning toward skepticism about the project, saying in an ABC interview: “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on US gas prices.”

Is that true? As with many aspects of the KXL debate, it depends on whom you ask, and what data set you consult.

Here’s what an op-ed in the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune said in October:

Canada’s National Energy Board anticipates 15 Midwestern states will experience a 10 to 20 cent per gallon increase in gasoline prices if KXL is built. It would happen because an oversupply of Canadian crude now refined for U.S. domestic use will be diverted to KXL for export.

New rules would require treating Bakken crude before transport

North Dakota’s top energy industry regulator unveiled new rules on Thursday that would require oil companies to reduce the volatility of crude  before it is shipped by rail.

The regulator, the mineral resources director Lynn D. Helms, proposed to the North Dakota Industrial Commission that all crude from the state would have to be treated to remove certain liquids and gases to “ensure it’s in a stable state” before being loaded onto rail cars. “The focus is safety first,” Mr. Helms said.

Oil trains in the United States and Canada were involved in at least 10 major accidents in the last 18 months, including an explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.

Read more at: The New York Times

Report declares opportunity for growth in E85 market

NACSonline reported that there are opportunities to grow the E85 market — but only if prices remain significantly below those of regular grade gasoline and the automobile industry continues to produce flex-fuel vehicles at historic rates, according to a new report released today by the Fuels Institute.

Depending upon the likelihood of various scenarios, E85 sales will, at a minimum, double by 2023 — but could experience a 20-fold increase in sales over the same time period, according to the 40-page report, “E85: A Market Performance Analysis and Forecast.”

Researchers evaluated the performance of more than 300 stores that sell E85, also known as flex fuel, and developed forecasts taking into account a variety of factors that could ultimately affect sales. The Fuels Institute projects that E85 sales will increase from 196 million gallons in 2013 to between 400 million and 4.4 billion gallons in 2023.

Biofuels have experienced remarkable growth over the past 12 years, from 1.75 billion gallons sold in 2001 to 14.54 billion gallons sold in 2013. While the bulk of that growth has been from the embrace of E10, future biofuels sales growth will be highly dependent upon increasing the sale E85, a blend of gasoline with 51 to 83% ethanol.

Read more at: The Auto Channel

100 turn out for screening of PUMP in Nebraska

A documentary designed to change the way people think about renewable fuels — called “PUMP The Movie” — has been showing around the country, including this week in Lincoln. Screened at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center for about 100 attendees at an event hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board, the film takes a provocative look at the oil industry, the grip it has on the nation’s motor fuels and what competition might mean if alternative fuels could gain a meaningful share of the nation’s gas tanks.

Read more at: Omaha World Herald

Gasoline will average $2.94 in 2015, feds predict

Are low gas prices going to stick around for a while? The U.S. government thinks so.

The federal Energy Information Administration issued its monthly report on Thursday, and it predicts that gasoline will remain below $3 a gallon throughout 2015.

Specifically, gas prices will average $2.94 in the new year, 45 cents cheaper than this year. That will let consumers keep a total of about $61 million in their collective pockets.

According to AP:

That may not seem like a lot in the context of a $17.5 trillion U.S. economy, but economists say it matters because it immediately gives consumers more money to spend on other things. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

“It would be a reversal of the trend over the last few years where consumers can’t stretch a dollar far enough,” says Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo.

Quinlan says the price of gasoline is one of the three big drivers of consumer confidence, along with stock prices and the unemployment rate. “Lately all three are moving in the right direction,” he says.

Energy analyst Michael Lynch, writing in Forbes, acknowledges that “Some will scoff at the drastic change in the forecast, arguing that such a big revision cannot be credible, and that an economic recovery next year should bring higher prices.”

But analysts usually make predictions based on the current price of oil, and don’t predict wild swings one way or the other. However, increased global supply should keep prices down in 2015, according to Lynch’s own analysis:

A strong global economy next year, combined with slowing shale oil production growth and/or instability in Libyan production should tighten markets, but might not raise prices much, certainly not to $100 a barrel. And a diplomatic agreement with Iran that ends sanctions, combined with rising Iraqi and Kurdish production, will probably turn $80 into the new price ceiling. Longer run, I remain an outlier with a firm belief that even $80 a barrel cannot be sustained in the wake of rising global oil supply.

House approves Keystone XL again, Senate up next

The U.S. House approved, for the ninth time, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry Canadian tar-sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill passed Friday by a vote of 252-161, but prospects in the Senate are unclear. The Senate is due to take up the bill Tuesday, but the measure must beat the 60-vote threshold to move forward.

USA Today reports:

If it overcomes a 60-vote threshold it will head to President Obama’s desk where he will either sign it into law or veto it. The president has delayed a decision on the pipeline, deferring to an ongoing review at the State Department, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Thursday that the president could veto it.

Obama has declared previously that he would only approve the pipeline if it could be demonstrated that the project wouldn’t increase greenhouse-gas emissions.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has been promoting her own bill in the Senate. The bill approved Friday was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. He will face Landrieu in a runoff election next month for the Senate. Landrieu has an uphill battle to win a fourth term: Although she beat Cassidy by 1.2 percentage points on Election Day last week, neither candidate won at least 50 percent of the total, forcing the runoff. Observers expect much of the support of the third-party candidate in that race, Rob Maness, a Tea Party favorite who won 14 percent in the election, to swing to Cassidy.

Why is Landrieu so strongly in favor of Keystone XL? A story on tried to figure that out, as well as why the leadership in the (for now) Democratic-controlled Senate is so willing to bring her bill to the floor for a vote:

What’s befuddling isn’t that the Democrats are playing politics with Keystone—it’s that they’re playing them so poorly. Thanks to their seven-seat-and-counting gain on Election Day, Republicans will take control of the Senate next year for the first time since George W. Bush’s second term. More importantly for the Keystone crowd, the pipeline is all but certain to have a filibuster-proof 60-plus votes in the next Senate, whether Landrieu is there or not.

Pew: Support for fracking slipping, but Keystone XL still popular

A Pew Research Center survey shows that support for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a technique for freeing oil and natural gas trapped within layers of shale rock, is falling among Americans.

As the graphic shows, 41 percent of Americans supported the drilling technique in the recent survey, down from 44 percent in September 2013 and 41 percent in March 2013.

fracking graphicBut the proportion opposed also decreased, from 49 percent in September 2013 to 47 percent. It’s the “I don’t know” response that’s on the upswing, from 7 percent to 12 percent.

The fracking survey was a key data point among a wide-ranging set of opinions Pew solicited from Americans on their views about the midterm elections and about political leaders of both major parties.

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver oil from Canada’s oil-sands formations to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, still enjoys majority support. According to Pew, 59 percent of respondents support its construction. But that’s down from March 2013, when 66 percent supported the project.

Currently, 83 percent of Republicans surveyed support it, compared with only 43 percent of Democrats.


Some experts say China really is serious about climate change

The reaction to President Obama’s climate-change deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping, among congressional Republicans, was swift and negative. The prevailing sentiment is that China didn’t give up as much in the bargain as the U.S., and that China isn’t likely to live up to its end of the agreement anyway.

But Mother Jones magazine quotes some experts on U.S.-China relations, and they say China is indeed serious about cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

MJ’s James West writes:

So I asked experts on US-China relations to explain why this deal was so attractive to the leaders of two countries that have historically locked horns over everything from human rights to lingerie imports. Here’s their explanation of why China really does want to want to act on climate change, and why the bargain makes sense for President Barack Obama, as well:

China has to act on air pollution. If it doesn’t, the country risks political instability. Top Republicans have slammed the US-China deal as ineffective and one-sided. “China won’t have to reduce anything,” complained Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.) in a statement, adding that China’s promises were “hollow and not believable.”

But the assumption that China won’t try to live up to its end of the bargain misses the powerful domestic and global incentives for China to take action. The first, and most pressing, is visible in China’s appalling air quality. President Xi Jinping needs to act now, says Jerome A. Cohen, a leading Chinese law expert at New York University. Why? Because “the environment—not only the climate—is the most serious domestic challenge he confronts.”