Category Archives: Energy

WSJ’s Frank: Regulate now

Thought-provoking piece from the Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Frank on gas prices and their cause.

Your thoughts?

CFTC chief ready to crack down on speculators

Some interesting words from Bart Chilton, one of the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission members,  about soon-to-come regulations on the amount of commodities a single investor can control.

“I don’t want commodity markets to become a private jungle gym for speculators,” Chilton said.

A noble goal, subject to a public comment session that doubtlessly will feature untold weeping and wailing from those at various levels of the jungle gym, including the usual suspects at the top.

Oil futures spike earlier this month

Care to guess the cause?

Supply down, demand up?

Uh, no, as this article points out.

Gotta love the free market.

The government jumps in on oil prices as they plummet

Here are a few interesting pieces on the oil price issue.

First is this report that hedge funds and their ilk will have their oil positions publicly disclosed. That can’t be comfortable for the companies who gleefully forecast $300 a barrel oil a year ago.

A more recent story by Bloomberg ratchets up the government’s interest in intervention. Somewhere today, I suspect Dick Cheney’s head has exploded.

Next comes the revelation that supply is up and demand is down for gasoline, ironically just a couple of weeks after speculators pushed the price above $70, claiming just the opposite. Go figure.

Wednesday’s looking like a bad day for the supply and demand canard, eh? You’re going to have to excuse me, but when people opine that high oil prices are the direct result of plummeting supply and skyrocketing demand, my first move is to protect my wallet.

Supply and demand, my eye

It won’t be long until that old canard, supply and demand, will be back to justify the run-up in oil prices.

When it returns, remember this story today from Bloomberg.

While I have little doubt that oil supplies are dwindling, we’re not down to the last drop from the spigot, as some of the people profiting handsomely from the oil futures market would like you to think.

Ethanol’s future

During my recently concluded vacation, the faithful Honda and I ventured deep into southwest Kansas.

It’s hard not to notice two major ethanol plants along the way – one just northeast of Pratt, the other near Liberal. About $300 million, I’d guess, in the latest alternative fuels technology.

And not a solitary thing going on at Pratt, where a motionless cache of tanker cars stands guard. The only thing missing was buzzards.

The Liberal plant’s operational, and it’s got that trademark weird smell that reminds me a little bit of roast beef.

Where do you think the ethanol industry is headed? Is it a viable alternative fuel? Or are the steep start up costs and oil’s volatility a recipe for bankruptcy?

Report: Oil to reach $80-$90 by early 2010

OPEC’s secretary general told Reuters today that oil prices could hit $80 to $90 a barrel by early next year. At the same time, Abdullah al-Badri also said OPEC was not ready to formally increase its output ceiling.

Tuesday, West Texas crude was going for $68.25 per barrel.

In a separate story, Baldri told Reuters that more balance was needed between the amount of oil traded in the physical markets and the “paper” markets. OPEC has blamed that imbalance for driving oil prices to a record-high $147 a barrel last year.

Congress cracking down on oil speculators?

Right on cue, the U.S. Congress is considering a global warming bill that contains a crackdown on oil speculators, as outlined on Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Although this kind of legislation is sure to cause heads to explode in Wichita and points south, it seems like a reasonable hedge against $4 a gallon gasoline cutting a swath through any economic recovery.

However, in a sign that the Apocalypse may be upon us, the article goes on to point out that the Saudis think the current $60 per barrel per price is too high – and may hinder any recovery from the recession.

Poll: Kansans willing to pay to generate more renewable energy

A poll released this week by the Climate and Energy Project showed three out of four Kansans would be willing to pay between $2 to $5 more every month on their energy bill if it means generating more renewable energy.

So what do you think? Is that an accurate reflection of the state’s thinking?

The polling was conducted April 26-29 by Ayres, McHenry and Associates. The poll surveyed 600 registered voters selected randomly throughout the state and had a 4 percent margin of error.

Are the oil price manipulators back?

Ran across this interesting piece from Business Week, which doubles as a fairly strong indictment of business journalism. Sounds like the efforts to force gas prices back up are under way – again.

And, it reminds me of one of my pet peeves about television journalism: During the runup to $4 a gallon gas, invariably you’d find a TV reporter sitting in front of a commodities broker asking them the future of gas prices.

And equally invariably, the answer would be $5 a gallon. Or $6. Or $7. Or something typically self-serving.

Asking a commodities trader about the future of gas prices is a little bit like asking John Dillinger for a projection on bank robbery numbers nationwide.

Forbes: Goldman Sachs had a hand in SemGroup bankruptcy

The ongoing bankruptcy story of SemGroup LP continues to grow. Forbes has a cover story for April 13 that asks, “Did Goldman Goose Oil?” The story says Goldman Sachs, through J.Aron & Co., its commodities trading arm, was in “prime position” to know about SemGroup’s trading positions.

Ex-SemGroup CEO Tom Kivisto has been made the villain of the bankruptcy, which included leaving Kansas oil producers holding the bag for about $140 million in unpaid receipts. The story suggests he may have some company.

Help wanted: certified energy auditor

If you’re looking for a career – new or revised – you might want to consider becoming a certified energy auditor. We’re apparently in short supply of those in the state.

Westar executive V.P. Jim Ludwig estimated Kansas has only about two dozen certified energy auditors. Those are folks who can go out to a home or business and identify the most cost-effective ways to save energy.

In a discussion with Ludwig at this past weekend’s energy conference and fair at WSU, Ludwig talked about Westar’s plans to get involved with a program¬† that allows home owners and small businesses to take savings gained from reduced power use to help pay for energy-saving improvements. It’s similar to the one Hays-based Midwest Energy began offering to its customers about three years ago.

The first step in the process is for an energy auditor to come out to your home or business and identify what the most cost-effective steps are. But Ludwig said one of the big hurdles in getting the program going is lack of certified energy auditor.

So there you go. Opportunity knocks!