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Fracking tanker struck by lightning explodes in spectacular fireball

Daily Mail -- A Colorado wastewater facility went up in flames on Friday after a fracking tanker was hit by lightning, setting off a series of explosions and oil fires.
Dale Lyman, a spokesman for the Greeley Fire Department, says firefighters were called to the site northeast of Greeley airport shortly after 1 p.m.
They are working with NGL Energy Partners, the company that owns the site, but had to wait for the explosion risk to subside so they could use fire suppression foam to extinguish the fire, Lyman told The Greeley Tribune.
Nearby homes were evacuated, however no injuries were reported.
The fire began when lightning struck a water storage tank, launching it into the air. It landed 60 feet from the site.
The water contained traces of hydrocarbons and petroleum as a result of hydraulic fracturin  (go to article)

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In plain sight: How the Marathassa oil spill took hours to find

The Globe and Mail -- 'We should have screamed like hell'

A fuel spill in Vancouver's picturesque English Bay has raised serious questions
about the federal government's ability to respond to a marine oil spill.

Around 4:45 p.m., the pair aboard Mr. Arntzen’s 21-ft sailboat spotted a large slick on the water, accompanied by the smell of fresh asphalt. It took them just 15 min of sailing to track the source to the bulk grain carrier MV Marathassa, which was at anchor in the bay after putting in to the Port of Vancouver to begin loading its cargo.

By then, the slick was half a kilometre long and 250 m wide, by Mr. O’Dea’s estimation. Beneath the blue sheen, he could see the water was thick with globules of oil.

Mr. O’Dea called 911 at 5:05 p.m. from his cell phone, and a Canadian Coast Guard official called  (go to article)

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New York woman fills town's potholes with pansies

FOX NEWS-AP -- An upstate New York woman has taken on the post-winter pothole problem in her hometown by filling in the eyesores with pansies.

After months of severe weather left the streets of Schenectady pocked with pavement craters and city public works crews scrambling to fix them, some residents began filling in the holes themselves.

Elaine Santore decided to take it a step further by dumping dirt and pansies into potholes on two streets. She told The Daily Gazette of Schenectady that she decided to plant the flowers to make a statement about the problem and to make people smile after what she called "a horrible winter."

Of the 10 holes she filled with flowers over three days starting Monday, Santore told The Associated Press on Friday that she believed all have now been fixed by city crews.  (go to article)

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Iraq says ISIS beaten in area south of key refinery

CBS-AP -- A senior Iraqi military official with the Salahuddin Command Center said Friday that Iraqi security forces had gained full control over a contested area south of the country's largest oil refinery.

General Ayad al-Lahabi told The Associated Press that the military, backed by divisions of the Popular Mobilization Forces and coalition airstrikes, gained control Friday of the towns of al-Malha and al-Mazraah, located about 1.6 miles south of the Beiji oil refinery, killing at least 160 militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al-Lahabi said security forces were trying to secure two corridors around the refinery itself after the Sunni militants launched a large-scale attack on the complex earlier this week.

The militants had tried for a year to penetrate the vast but well-  (go to article)

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Transportation officials issue oil train safety measures

St Paul Pioneer Press, St Paul, MN -- An emergency order requiring trains hauling crude oil and other flammable liquids to slow down as they pass through urban areas and a series of other steps to improve the safety were announced Friday by the Department of Transportation.  (go to article)

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Truckers sue to end biodiesel mandate

Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN -- Minnesota truckers and other interests sued Minnesota on Friday seeking to end the state’s requirement that diesel sold at the pump contain 10 percent biodiesel.  (go to article)

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Canada’s auto industry could disappear within 15 years, says industry analyst

Windsor Star -- Canada’s share of North American production of cars and light trucks has fallen to 14.1% in 2014 from more than 17% in 2009. Mexico’s share stands about with 18.9% of production.

Canadian light vehicle production rose slightly last year to 2.382 million units, according to auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers. Meanwhile, Mexico saw its light vehicle production rise to 3.2 million vehicles in 2014.

Global automakers invested $7 billion in Mexico last year, according to the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research, compared to $750M for Canada.

Labour costs in Mexico average about $7/hr, including benefits.

Canada’s auto industry may be headed down the same road as Australia’s and cease to exist between 2030 and 2040, says auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers.

“We may not lose it all,”  (go to article)

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Feds order speed limits for oil trains

The Hill -- The Obama administration is requiring freight rail companies to impose a 40 mile per hour speed limit on oil trains that run near major cities that have large populations.  (go to article)

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U.S. to propose higher royalty rates for drilling federal land

Reuters -- WASHINGTON – The U.S. government would get a larger share of oil and gas revenue from federal land under a proposal the Interior Department is expected to announce on Friday.
The federal government is entitled to a 12.5 percent share of oil and gas sold from federal land, chiefly in Western states. The stake for offshore drilling is usually set at 18.75 percent.
 (go to article)

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Strong First Quarter Buoys C-store Retailers’ Optimism About Q2

Convenience Store News -- ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Despite harsh winter weather throughout the country for the first quarter of 2015, convenience store sales were strong. These results are leading c-store operators to be quite optimistic about second-quarter sales, according to the latest Retailer Sentiment Survey released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

Nearly nine out of 10 c-store retailers (86 percent) said they are optimistic about their business in the second quarter, an increase of four percentage points compared to the first quarter of 2015. Only 8 percent of retailers expressed pessimism about second-quarter sales.

A total of 100 NACS member companies participated in the survey, representing 2,519 c-stores.  (go to article)

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San Francisco introduces free, solar-powered electric vehicle charging

cnet -- Electric vehicle proponents cite the cars' zero tailpipe emissions and extremely efficient use of energy, while critics often point out how coal-fired power plants generate electricity used to charge electric cars. Today, San Francisco unveiled a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station to counter the critics' argument and highlight the fact that electricity can come from a variety of sources.

An organization called Charge Across Town secured a grant from the 11th Hour Project to set up three of the solarpowered charging stations in locations around San Francisco: The Stonestown Galleria Mall parking lot, the public parking lot at Embarcadero and Green Street and a City CarShare lot at 17th and Shotwell Streets. Electric car owners will be able to plug in for free Level 2 charging,  (go to article)

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Is Saudi Arabia Setting The World Up For Major Oil Price Spike?

Yahoo -- In order to maintain a grip on market share by pushing U.S. shale producers out of the market, Saudi Arabia (and OPEC) is willing to use up its spare capacity. That could lead to a price spike.

Saudi Arabia produced 10.3 million barrels per day in the month of March, a 658,000 barrel-per-day increase over the previous month. That is the highest level of production in three decades for the leading OPEC member. On top of the Saudi increase, Iraq boosted output by 556,000 barrels per day, and Libya succeeded in bringing 183,000 barrels per day back online. OPEC is now collectively producing nearly 31.5 million barrels per day, well above the cartel’s stated quota of just 30 million barrels per day.
The enormous increase in production comes into a market that is still dealing  (go to article)

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Contentious Dallas council declines to withdraw Trinity toll road support

Dallas Morning News -- The Dallas City Council on Thursday declined to withdraw the most controversial version of the Trinity Parkway toll road, the subject of growing public criticism for months.

But at the same marathon meeting, members also unanimously voted against unconditionally supporting the large version of the toll road, known as Alternative 3C. They said they could build a smaller, meandering parkway recommended by a “dream team” of experts as a first phase on the already-approved footprint.  (go to article)

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Caltrans Goals: Triple Biking, Double Walking and Transit by 2020

Streetsblog -- The new plan includes active transportation and Vision Zero, within its priority number one, “Safety and Health.” It also cites a goal of tripling bicycle mode share and doubling walking and transit mode share by 2020–that means not just the number of trips, but the percentage of total trips in California.

This is a major turnaround for the state DOT, which in the past has focused on motorist safety.

The mode share target is called out under the goal of “Sustainability, Livability, and Economy.” That broad goal also includes lowering vehicle miles traveled (15 percent by 2020) and reducing the percentage of greenhouse gases from transportation (to match current and proposed state mandates).  (go to article)

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Shooting of baby wasn’t road rage, police say

Associated Press/The Spokesman Review. -- SEATTLE – A ?1-year-old girl was shot in the head and critically wounded Thursday as she sat in a car with her parents in suburban Seattle.

Detectives in Kent initially suggested road rage as a motive, but Cmdr. Jarod Kasner told the Seattle Times on Friday that police no longer think that’s the case after further investigation. Police didn’t provide additional details on what they believe led to the shooting.

The baby was shot in the head Thursday while sitting in a car seat in the back of a silver Chevrolet Impala, Kent police spokeswoman Melanie Robinson said. The parents were in the front seat when a black car pulled alongside, and the driver and a passenger in that vehicle opened fire before driving off, police said.

A spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the b  (go to article)

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Worsening drought prompts emergency declaration from Inslee

The Spokesman-Review/Murrow News Service -- OLYMPIA – Nearly half of Washington is expected to face hardships due to worsening drought and snowpack conditions, and state officials say they are on the lookout for problems across the state.

State agencies project the amount of runoff from melting snow this summer will be the lowest since records began to be kept 64 years ago, threatening farmers and wildlife throughout Western and Central Washington and as far east as Walla Walla.

“This is an ongoing emergency and we’re going to have some long, hard months ahead of us,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in an emergency declaration issued Friday. “We’re moving quickly so that we’re prepared to provide relief to farms and fish this summer.”

“Carbon pollution is causing our climate to change. To me, this is a wake-up call to the state,”  (go to article)

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Are earthquakes induced by fluid-injection activities always located close to the point of injection

USGS.gov -- Are earthquakes induced by fluid-injection activities always located close to the point of injection?

No. Given enough time, the injected fluids can migrate
substantial horizontal and vertical distances from the injection location. Induced earthquakes commonly occur several kilometers below the injection point. In some cases, the induced earthquakes have been located as far as 10 km (6 mi.) from the injection well.  (go to article)

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Electric Cars Won't Spread Even With Rapid Chargers: Toyota Engineer

NY Times -- Battery-powered electric vehicles don't have a practical future as a long-range alternative to conventional cars even if technological breakthroughs allow them to be charged quickly, a top engineer at Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday.  (go to article)

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Texas House OKs rules to prohibit city fracturing bans

Midland Reporter-Telegram/AP -- AUSTIN — Oil and gas companies putting Texas awash in money moved closer Friday to stopping cities from banning fracturing, an early victory for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and his sights on what he calls runaway local overregulation.

The Texas House, which Republicans control by a 2-to-1 margin, overwhelmingly passed a bill that would effectively prohibit cities and counties from denying access to natural gas goldmines underground.

 (go to article)

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Texas House approves gutting municipal fracking bans

Reuters -- The Texas House overwhelmingly approved a bill on Friday that would give the state the exclusive right to regulate the oil and gas industry, and gut the power of municipalities to pass anti-fracking rules.

In Texas, the top U.S. crude producer and the birthplace of fracking, the bill also needs to be passed by the state's Senate and signed by the governor before it becomes law.
 (go to article)

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Power plant fight rattles community of Clinton

The State Journal Register -- CLINTON — Community leaders in Clinton are rallying around their nuclear power station.

There are the usual petition drives and phone calls to legislators. Organizers also have turned to Facebook and other social media, as well as traveling to hearings in Springfield, after plant owner Exelon Corp. included Clinton among three Illinois nuclear plants that likely would close if the company fails to win new financial incentives for clean energy.

The Clinton plant, which began operations in 1987, is by far the largest private employer in Dewitt County, with a workforce of nearly 700. Clinton, about 45 miles northeast of Springfield and with a population of about 7,200, is the county seat.  (go to article)

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Les Pétroles Global Inc fined $1 million for fixing gas prices

The Financial Post -- MONTREAL – Quebec’s Superior Court in Sherbrooke has fined Les Pétroles Global Inc. $1 million for its role in a gasoline price-fixing conspiracy.  (go to article)

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Why the Volt is the most important car for Obama and why that hurts GM

The Globe & Mail -- When the history books are written about Barack Obama’s tenure as commander in chief, the Chevrolet Volt will doubtless be remembered as the most important car of his presidency. Like selfies, secular stagnation and the Tea Party, General Motors’s plug-in hybrid is inextricably linked with the America of the last seven years.  (go to article)

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Gas-line blast at California shooting range injures 11

MSN -- A natural gas pipeline explosion at a California sheriff's gun range shot flames well over 100 feet into the air, left 11 people injured and brought traffic on a busy highway to a halt, authorities and witnesses said.  (go to article)

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My three car-free decades in Montreal

Montreal Gazette -- Montrealer Wayne Larsen near his country home in Val-David, where he bikes to the village to do his groceries. He has a simple rule: If it doesn't fit in his backpack, he doesn't buy it.

The last car I owned was a sky-blue 1974 Ford Pinto, which I bought for next to nothing from a friend in Calgary.

Once the paperwork was safely signed over, he congratulated me on being the proud owner of an object of the most infamous recall in automotive history.

“Be careful,” he said. “The gas tank could explode if someone hits you from behind.”

Still, I drove the hell out of that little car for two years.

It was a cranky old heap with a badly cracked windshield and two rust-rimmed bullet holes in the passenger door (don’t ask), but it got me from Point A to Point B — although Point C was often out  (go to article)

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NHTSA cautions owners of 2007 model vehicles (or older) on brake pipe corrosion

GasBuddy Blog -- Model year 2007 and earlier vehicles may be susceptible to brake pipe corrosion that can occur after seven to eight years of exposure to winter road salts. If brake pipe corrosion is not properly addressed, there is the potential of brake pipe failure which could result in a crash. NHTSA says it recently conducted an investigation of brake pipe failures due to corrosion in a large population of 1999 through 2003 model year full-size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles and found that the failures result from end-of-life wear-out. Data show that this corrosion problem is linked to brake line coating materials that several manufacturers used during this time period. Vehicles driven in the following salt states are more prone to corrosion-related issues: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and  (go to article)

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Canada far from meeting committments on greenhouse gas: Environment Canada

Vancouver Sun -- Environment Canada quietly released greenhouse gas figures late Friday that show the country is far from meeting its international commitments and getting further every year.

The country pumped out 726 megatons of CO2 equivalent in 2013, according to Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990-2013. It’s a 10 Mt bump over 2012 and the latest of 4 straight year-over-year increases.

Alberta is the heaviest emitter of greenhouse gases by far, followed by Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, then B.C.

The numbers came out on the same day B.C. Premier Christy Clark said her government is not considering hiking the carbon tax in 2018, when an election-year promise to freeze the tax for 5 years is set to expire.

The premier, invited to Washington to brief G20 finance ministers on the carbon tax, sai  (go to article)

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Is Big Brother a backseat driver?

TRIBLIVE -- Question: I've seen information on TV about how insurance companies can supposedly track how a car is driven. How much information is available about my car and personal choices to someone who is capable of snooping?
Answer: This is a large concern for many people. I'm familiar with what is possible to obtain from a vehicle's data link connector but don't have the resources to be sure of the extent to which it may be collected and used, beyond the examples below.
The onboard diagnostics data link connector beneath the instrument panel of vehicles made in 1996 and on, an OBD-II, can provide two types of information: federally mandated generic diagnostic information and manufacturer-specific, all-vehicle information. Easily acquired data include a couple of dozen powertrain parameters...  (go to article)

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Oil Prices Fall on Doubts About Output

Wall Street Journal -- Oil prices faded, undoing a small rally Friday as traders showed skepticism that a surge of U.S. production is leveling off.

Oil has made gains for five weeks in a row, but analysts are warning that the rally came on a false premise of sputtering production. U.S. producers aren’t shutting down rigs as quickly as they once were, and several countries around the world are trying to put more of their crude onto the market.

“There’s not necessarily a lot of belief in the front of the market,” said Ric Navy, senior vice president for energy futures at brokerage R.J. O’Brien & Associates LLC. “We’re still over supplied.”
 (go to article)

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Les Pétroles Global Inc fined $1 million for fixing gas prices

FINANCIAL POST -- Quebec’s Superior Court in Sherbrooke has fined Les Pétroles Global Inc. $1 million for its role in a gasoline price-fixing conspiracy.

In 2013, the Ontario-based company was found guilty of taking part in a “cartel” of retailers that fixed prices in Victoriaville, Sherbrooke and Magog in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

Les Pétroles Global was charged in June 2008, following an investigation by Canada’s Competition Bureau.

“Businesses that conspire to fix prices drive up costs for consumers,” Commissioner of Competition John Pecman said in a news release Friday. “This fine demonstrates that the risks and penalties of not complying with the law can be very damaging.”

This case was part of a larger investigation that resulted in charges against 39 individuals and 15 companies in 2008, 2010  (go to article)

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New Artificial Photosynthesis Can Convert CO2 Into Useful Substances

Market Journals -- A new method of artificial photosynthesis can easily convert the byproduct in to useful products like biodegradable plastics, liquid fuels and pharmaceuticals. The system can convert carbon dioxide and water into acetate using a hybrid system of semiconducting nano-wires and bacteria, which mimics the photosynthetic process. Acetate acts as a versatile building block in both chemical and biological systems that can then be synthesized into more complex molecules.

In order to remove the CO2 greenhouse gas from power stations and provide an alternate to store it underground. It can rather be used to produce useful substances.
 (go to article)

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Obama's EPA Rule Is Redrawing the U.S. Coal Map

bloomberg,com -- America’s oldest coal plants are retiring like they’re Baby Boomers, and some of them are the same age. About 17 percent of U.S. coal-fired power generation will vanish in the next few years — some 7.5 percent this year alone, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Obstacles facing coal plants include their age, the abundance of cheap natural gas and a new EPA rule that begins taking effect April 16.

The new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards requires that coal plant owners limit poisons such as mercury, arsenic, and metals, which have previously freely spilled into the atmosphere and waterways.

The Supreme Court will weigh in on the rules at the end of this term. But with plants this old and gas this cheap, most of these plants are set for closure or conversion to gas, regardless.

 (go to article)

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It's official: GM's new 200-mile electric car will be called the Chevrolet Bolt EV Read more: http:

Business Insider -- Well, they did it.

General Motors confirmed yesterday that its upcoming 200-mile battery-electric car will be named the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

That's Bolt-with-a-B, not Volt-with-a-V.

An all-new second-generation Volt will go into production later this year as a 2016 model, while the Bolt-with-a-B will enter production roughly a year later and go on sale as a 2017 model.

The name Bolt had been widely criticized as too similar to Volt, especially since many Spanish speakers pronounce the letter V as a B to start with.

In a statement e-mailed to The Detroit News, Chevy director of communications Mike Albano confirmed the name.

The statement said, in part:

"Since unveiling the Bolt EV three months ago, the name has quickly become associated with Chevrolet. Therefore, we will use the name w  (go to article)

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Crude Oil Futures Fall First Time in Seven Days in New York

Bloomberg -- Oil dropped for the first time in seven days, ending the longest stretch of gains since 2013.
Futures slid as much as 2.5 percent in New York, paring the biggest weekly advance in more than four years.
West Texas Intermediate for May delivery fell $1.18, or 2.1 percent, to $55.53 a barrel at 2:21 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent for June settlement slipped 61 cents to $63.37 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.  (go to article)

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Phillips 66 estimates 25,000 gallons of diesel leaked near Wood River Refinery

St,. Louis Post-Dispatch -- Phillips 66 estimates about 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked on Friday into the Cahokia Canal, a waterway that drains into the Mississippi River.

The spill prompted the Coast Guard to close a 35-mile section of the river.

Phillips 66 discovered a leak in a pipeline that runs from its storage terminal to a barge loading dock. The facilities are near the Wood River Refinery, which Phillips 66 co-owns with Cenovus Energy.  (go to article)

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Gas-line blast closes major highway, injures at least 15

AP/msn -- FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A large gas pipeline exploded into a tower of fire Friday in Central California, closing both directions of a major highway in the region and injuring at least 15 people, four of them critically, authorities said.

It was not clear what caused the explosion at the Fresno County Sheriff's gun range that brought traffic in the area to a halt. But authorities say it occurred while a county equipment operator was working with a jail inmate crew to expand a road on the range alongside heavily travelled Highway 99.

The flames shot well over 100 feet into the air, several witnesses said.

Four patients were being treated at Community Regional Medical Center's burn and trauma unit, spokeswoman Mary Lisa Russell said. Three of them are in critical condition and one is in seri  (go to article)

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Oil rig count resumes slide

FuelFix.com -- HOUSTON — Producers idled 26 oil rigs this week, as U.S. drillers continued to pull back amid lower priced crude.

The number of rigs chasing oil fell by 3.4 percent to a total of 734, according to weekly data from oil service company Baker Hughes. The count is now down 55.4 percent since its peak in late October .

Natural gas rigs fell by eight this week, down to 217. The U.S. combined count — natural gas and oil rigs – fell by 34 and stands at 954. That figure also includes three miscellaneous rigs that were unchanged from last week.

The rig count has buoyed the oil market in the past, as traders hope that drilling slowdown will translate to less production and an easing of the current crude oil glut. The price of oil has fallen sharply since last year because of the extra oil.

The m  (go to article)

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Insurance tax, higher fees may pave NC highways

WRAL -- Saying North Carolina's tax on gasoline is an unreliable source of revenue for the state's highway construction and maintenance program, lawmakers on Thursday rolled out a plan that would use higher vehicle fees and a tax on automobile insurance coverage to augment gas tax funds.

The growing number of electric vehicles and hybrids and overall increases in fuel efficiency have cut into the amount of revenue from the state gas tax in recent years, and lawmakers last month put a floor under the tax to prevent a projected loss of $400 million from an expected drop in the tax this summer because of lower gas prices. The formula to calculate the tax includes the wholesale price of gas.

 (go to article)

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Crude Price Back Above Break-even for Canada Oil Sands Producers

Reuters -- Bolstered by a weak Canadian currency and robust demand from U.S. refiners, Canadian heavy oil prices have rebounded off first-quarter lows and surpassed the break-even point for most producers, easing pressure on a sector that has slashed budgets and staff.

The price of Western Canada Select, the country's benchmark crude grade, is trading for around C$55 ($45) per barrel, up nearly C$20 per barrel from its mid-March lows thanks to improved market access and U.S. refinery demand ramping up after seasonal maintenance.

The price rise is balm for an oil sands sector that not long ago was preoccupied with cutting spending and lowering costs.

Though no one is yet forecasting a return to fat profits that producers enjoyed when oil rose above $100, current prices are robust enough to cover co  (go to article)

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Oil CEO wages immune to price slump as shareholders vote on pay

Bloomberg -- Oil’s plunge has forced the world’s biggest energy producers to lay off workers and stall projects. Their chief executive officers have so far proved immune.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, paid CEO Ben Van Beurden a total of $32.2 million last year, almost three times the amount his predecessor Peter Voser earned in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence
 (go to article)

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CN Rail spending $500-million to upgrade network in Western Canada after string of derailments

Reuters -- TORONTO — Canadian National Railway Co , which has seen a string of derailments recently, will spend $500 million to upgrade its feeder network in Western Canada to improve safety, the railway said on Thursday.
A Reuters investigation last month found that CN Rail’s safety record had deteriorated sharply in 2014, reversing years of improvements, as accidents blamed on poor track conditions spiked.
 (go to article)

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Households with more vehicles travel more

EIA -- Based on data from the National Household Travel Survey, households with more vehicles not only travel more, but often put more miles on their most-used vehicle compared to households with fewer vehicles. Households with just one vehicle drove an average of 10,600 miles per year, while households with six or more vehicles traveled a total of 57,700 miles. Sixty-eight percent of households have either one or two cars.
Households with more vehicles also tend to drive their primary (most-used) vehicle more than households with fewer vehicles. While a two-vehicle household travels almost 16,000 miles annually with the most-used vehicle, a six- (or more) vehicle household travels more than 22,000 miles annually with the most-used vehicle. The average use per vehicle within a household is greate  (go to article)

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Obama moves forward on new oil and gas rules for public lands

Fuel Fix -- The Obama administration on Friday took the first formal steps to boosting the royalties that energy companies must pay for oil and gas they pull from public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management’s announcement that it would be proposing changes — and inviting public comment on the scope of them — marks the first major effort in decades to update onshore royalty rates that are among the lowest in the world.

“It’s time to have a candid conversation about whether the American taxpayer is getting the right return for the development of oil and gas resources on public lands,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Royalty rates are currently locked in at 12.5 percent of the value of oil and gas extracted from public land — in contrast to the 18.75 percent charged for production from federal o  (go to article)

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The arrival of man-made earthquakes.

New Yorker -- In the fall of 2011, students in Katie Keranen’s seismology course at the University of Oklahoma buried portable seismograph stations around the campus, in anticipation of a football game between the Sooners and the Texas A. & M. Aggies. The plan was to see if the students could, by reading the instruments, detect the rumble of eighty-two thousand fans cheering for a touchdown. “To see if they can figure out if a signal is a passing train or a cheering crowd—that’s much more interesting for them than discussing data in theory,” Keranen, an assistant professor of geophysics, told me.

But at 2:12 A.M. on November 5th, the day of the game, people in seventeen states felt an earthquake of 4.8 magnitude, centered near Prague, Oklahoma, a town of roughly twenty-five hundred, which is about an h  (go to article)

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Younger Drivers More Likely to See Car Insurance Rates Rise after a Ticket

GasBuddy Blog -- A recent report out claims that younger drivers are more likely to see their car insurance jump after getting a ticket, but only 19% of Americans who received a traffic ticket in the past five years are paying more for car insurance as a result, according to online insurance broker insuranceQuotes.com. This is a decrease from 2013 when 31% of Americans who received a recent traffic ticket saw an increase in their car insurance premium."Insurers typically don't know as much about you as you might think," said Laura Adams, senior industry analyst for insuranceQuotes.com. "Oftentimes, unless you're a young driver, they are unaware of minor tickets and violations you receive on the road."...  (go to article)

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Distracted driving crackdown in Minnesota reveals bad habits

MPR News -- It turns out that texting while driving isn't the only thing that distracts Minnesota drivers.

Law enforcement officers across the state this week ramped up enforcement against all sorts of distracted driving. They reported pulling over drivers who were working on advanced math problems, painting their fingernails or even playing video games.
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GM Car Owners to Fight On for Billions After Bankruptcy Ruling

Bloomberg -- General Motors Co. car owners will still seek $7.5 billion for the diminished value of recalled vehicles, despite a ruling that largely freed the automaker from liability for wrongdoing before its 2009 bankruptcy.

That number was supplied by a lawyer for car owners the day after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber upheld GM’s shield against claims tied to actions taken before its bailout.

The attorney, Steve Berman, said 10 million is a conservative estimate of the number of drivers still eligible to sue for about $750 each after Wednesday’s decision. The litigation stems from last year’s recall of cars for faulty ignition switches, which grew to cover GM vehicles for a number of flaws.

The owners can pursue “claims for economic loss caused by New GM’s misconduct in covering up  (go to article)

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Offshore wells buried during Hurricane Ivan have been leaking oil into the Gulf since 2004

AP via Fuel Fix -- Down to just one full-time employee, Taylor Energy Company exists for only one reason: to fight an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that has gone largely unnoticed, despite creating miles-long slicks for more than a decade.

The New Orleans-based company has downplayed the leak’s environmental impact, likening it to scores of minor spills and natural seeps that the Gulf routinely absorbs.

But an Associated Press investigation has revealed evidence that the spill is far worse than what Taylor — or the government — has publicly reported. Presented with AP’s findings, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that is about 20 times greater than one recently touted by the company.

Outside experts say the spill could be even worse — possibly one of the largest ever in the Gulf, albeit still  (go to article)

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Oil refinery in Longview? That was ‘old info,’ project dropped

Seattle Times -- Abundant supplies of Bakken shale crude spurred a proposal to build a Port of Longview refinery that would have processed oil from 10 tanker trains per month.

Riverside Refining last year submitted the plan to build a refinery to produce diesel and other fuel for regional markets, according to documents released by the Port of Longview to Columbia Riverkeeper under a public-records request.

Ashley Helenberg, a spokeswoman for the port, said the memorandum was never executed. She said the documents are “old info” and “at this point there is no project.”

In a statement Wednesday, Louis Sumas, the company’s chief executive, said the company has decided not to pursue the Longview refinery project.  (go to article)

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Prepare for a 'messy' year-end for oil: Citi's Kleinman

CNBC -- The price of oil could come under serious pressure towards the end of the year if a recent bounce back in prices holds for the next few months, a closely-watched oil analyst has warned.
Both Brent and WTI prices hit year-to-date highs this week, after falling well below $50 a barrel at the start of the year.
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Gasoline, shelter costs lift US consumer prices

Reuters -- U.S. consumer prices rose for a second straight month in March as the cost of gasoline and shelter increased, signs of some inflation that should keep the Federal Reserve on course to start raising interest rates this year  (go to article)

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