Archive for the ‘Washington watch’ Category

The Keystone XL saga: missed chances, shifting sands — Fuel for Thought

If Bill O’Reilly, author of such books as “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy” were to turn his attention to pipelines, his next book might be entitled “Killing Keystone.”

It would be a tale full of twists and turns, conspiracy theories, missed opportunities, miscalculations and bad timing surrounding TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It would not, however, be a book about whether the now-notorious project would have been good simply on its merits.

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Questioning the path of US crude oil exports through Congress

When Congress returns to Capitol Hill on September 8, the expectation is that lawmakers in the House and Senate will have just over three months to get current limits on US crude oil export repealed.

Many analysts feel crude export policy bills will need to be voted on this year, due to reluctance by lawmakers to take on such a controversial topic in 2016, an election year.

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Bumpy road ahead for US infrastructure and steelmakers who create it

Half a loaf is better than none, but what about 1/24 of a loaf? That’s a question the steel industry and other major stakeholders in US infrastructure projects may be asking themselves this week.

Last week Washington legislators rushed out of town after approving a mere three months of federal funding for transportation infrastructure projects — after giving up on a comprehensive six-year plan that authorized the spending of $350 billion.

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Major US oil trend left out of discussion of Iran deal

Secretary of State John Kerry held a question-and-answer session to a packed house Friday in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations to talk about the recently-concluded nuclear deal between Iran and several Western nations, including the US.  It didn’t matter that the breakfast was called on about 24 hours notice on a Friday in the summer; it was a true VIP audience. (For example, among those in attendance: Hess Oil CEO John Hess.)

John Kingston, president of the McGraw Hill Financial Institute and a long-time Platts editorial leader, was in attendance. And as he noted, there was one word that, amazingly, didn’t emanate from Secretary Kerry’s mouth, not even once. You can find out what that word was on the Institute’s blog here.

US oil exports seen as key to security: Regulation and Environment

There’s an economic argument to be made for lifting US crude oil export restrictions, and then there’s the argument that American oil could go a long way toward providing security to the US and its allies. Brian Scheid explains in this week’s Oilgram News column, Regulation and Environment.

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OTC 2015, Day 4: Coming clean about offshore safety systems for US oil and gas

Thursday at the Offshore Technology Conference is traditionally the “safety day,” with sessions and panels bringing together regulators as well as industry professionals to talk about the sometimes uneasy interaction between the two in the offshore oil and gas industry.

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US Quadrennial Energy Report shows the will – but not the way – to modernizing the SPR

Ever since US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz acknowledged at a Platts forum in December 2013 that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve merited a “re-look” at how it is structured, given the boom in US production and the resulting declines in imports and changes in crude flows, US officials have said they were studying the issue and would soon make recommendations on what to do about the 1970s era storage facilities.

So, last week’s much anticipated release of the Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review must have been a disappointment, then, for people who closely follow the SPR, as the report, which included a whole chapter devoted to the reserve, merely recommended … additional study.

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As Capitol Hill erupts over Iran letter, Senator Corker holds fire

The jaw-dropping letter that 47 Republican senators drafted to Iranian leaders as a warning shot over nuclear negotiations has some prominent signatories — the party’s entire Senate leadership team and a few possible presidential contenders in Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

But the letter, first reported by Bloomberg, is missing the signature of one significant senator: Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Will crude prices weigh on the US export debate?

There’s relatively widespread consensus among analysts and academics that the White House is unlikely to do anything on crude exports in the near term, and many believe President Obama may not touch the issue before he leaves office in January 2017.

What’s less clear is how the newly-Republican controlled Congress will deal with the issue and how crude prices will influence the possible debate.

Will the recent plunge in crude oil prices bolster the case for an end to restrictions on US exports or could relatively low prices deflate the argument for loosening the long-standing US crude export regime?

On the other hand, will crude prices have little to no impact on domestic export policy?

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Regulation and Environment: A whole lot of factors in the Keystone XL decision

Beyond the politics, there are a lot of legal reasons that President Obama can–or can not–deny the application to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Gary Gentile discusses some of them in today’s Oilgram News column, Regulation & Environment.


Pop quiz: What factors can President Obama consider when deciding whether to issue a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline?

a) Environmental issues, including the impact of oil sands development on the climate.

b) The relative safety of transporting heavy crude by rail versus pipeline.

c) Maintaining good relations with Canada, one of our most important trading partners.

d) The odds of the New York Mets making the baseball playoffs this year.

The surprising answer is “all of the above.” Surprise again: the correct answer could also be “none of the above.”

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