EVs make top news story of the year, What soft oil prices mean for the U.S.

Newsworthy stories:  What made Automotive News’ No. 1 news story of the year for 2017? “Virtually every automaker becomes an EV evangelist,” is the lead story, even though EVs didn’t even make the the top 10 for the previous year. More than 100 battery-electric models will be sent to dealerships globally within five years. Its become easier to list which automakers don’t have big plans for EVs in the near future. Cheaper batteries will drive it, along with several countries saying they’ll ban gasoline-powered vehicles within a few decades…………… LeEco CEO Jia Yueting had been ordered by Chinese regulators to return to China before the end of 2017, but did not make that appearance. Jia had said he’d stayed in the U.S. to do fundraising for his other electric car company, Faraday Future. The Beijing branch of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) issued a notice last week ordering the CEO to return to China to address mounting debt and to protect investors’ rights. Jia said he’d asked his brother, Jia Yuemin, to meet with the commission last Friday to provide a report. “I am deeply sorry and blame myself for the negative impact of LeEco’s debt crisis. The fundraising for Faraday Future in the United States is making significant progress and there are many tasks I need to push forward in order to ensure the production and timely delivery of the FF91,” he said in a statement…………. Lyft will be showing off an autonomous ride-hailing service at CES in Las Vegas later this month, in partnership with Aptiv Plc and its automated driving platform. Aptiv was launched in December when auto supplier Delphi Automotive split into two companies. Lyft and Aptiv will offer rides to attendees at CES in the “point-to-point” ride-hailing system utilizing Lyft’s mobile app and Aptiv’s platform. Lyft is poised to play a leading role in working with technology partners to tap into the ride-hailing firm’s resource of providing about one million rides per day. Analysts predict that autonomous ride-hailing and ridesharing mobility services will lead the way in adoption of self-driving cars.

What declining oil prices mean:  Shale oil drillers have become good enough at what they due to bring record highs to U.S. crude oil production, according to a Washington Post feature.

Shale oil drills can now plunge deep, pivot, and tunnel sideways for miles until they find an oil pocket, said Frank Verrastro, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Here a few trends to follow on the impact of U.S. oil production capacity:

  • Global oil demand is increasing in an expanding world economy, and production cutbacks by Russia and OPEC nations have helped push the price of a barrel of oil above $60 in recent days.
  • Trump administration policies, along with bountiful supply from shale oil drills and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), are expected to keep oil and gasoline prices down in the U.S. Trump administration has approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and may be loosening offshore oil drilling regulations. Another move could come from the tax bill that was just approved on Dec. 22; it allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a potentially rich oil supply but a move that conservationists and environmentalists oppose.
  • This trend will be increasing U.S. energy independence even more, taking away the type of pressure felt during the 1970s during the OPEC oil embargoes.
  • High gas and diesel prices have been critical selling points for the marketing of electric and alternative fuel vehicles. As Tesla and a few competitors have found, there are other strong points to make and experiences to offer car shoppers. Driving one of the cars is the best one, and answering questions about the environmental gains made in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; plus savings in lifecycle costs even if gas prices stay down through this year.

Energy Trends: The latest on oil and gas, fracking, fuel prices, and the future of OPEC

oil drillingOil and gas fields in North America are getting a lot of attention this year as a source for more transportation fuel – keeping gasoline and natural gas prices down and reducing imports of foreign oil. It’s Here’s the latest news and market trends to follow on where all this appears to be heading……

  • The US company credited with combining horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) – which is thought to have unleased the current energy boom in North America – just made the largest US oil and gas industry transaction for the year. Devon Energy Corp. has acquired GeoSouthern Energy’s assents in Eagle Ford Shale, a prolific oilfield in South Texas. The $6 billion cash acquisition brings in 53,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and 82,000 net acres with at least 1,200 undrilled locations. Those reserves may have as much as 400 million barrels of oil equivalent. About 10 years ago, Devon acquired Barnett Shale in Texas, which is credited for helping create a nationwide glut of natural gas – keeping the prices down.
  • The US is poised to become one of the leading sources for natural gas exports overseas. Under the current US regulatory structure, natural gas has to be converted to its liquid form and loaded into tanker ships. That means building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals that are expensive (about $5 billion per export facility), controversial, and difficult to get approved by the US Dept. of Energy and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
  • California Gov. Jerry Brown is getting heckled by environmentalists for permitting fracking in the state. Brown is credited for being stringent on renewable energy powering electricity in the state and for supporting alternative fuel vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations. He’s also been criticized for signing a bill into law this fall that will oversee fracking operations. Senate Bill 4 requires oil producers to notify people leaving near wells, conduct groundwater monitoring, and providing more disclosure on chemicals used in fracking. Environmental groups want to see fracking stopped altogether and say that the bill is way too lenient. Several other states are seeing similar political and litigious battles being fought over fracking, while the federal government is keeping a low profile on it for now.
  • OPEC’s power over oil prices is diminishing. With huge growth in US shale and Canadian oil supply – and the easing of sanctions on Iran – analysts think there will be a sizable boost to global output. The OPEC cartel of Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African oil producing nations, are worried that the profit margins won’t be as good as they were in years past. While meeting last week in Vienna, they decided to maintain their 30 million barrels per day production volume at least through May of next year.