Friday, January 24, 2014

Jimmy John's Coming To The Bakken

KEYZ is reporting:
Commercial space in the new apartment building on Williston State College campus is almost filled up.
Liza McLean, WSC Foundation Office Manager, says in addition to the new DMV Office that opened yesterday, other businesses on the 1st floor will be opening soon. "Jimmy John's is currently working on their space.  Jason's Barbor Shop is going in one of the spaces and we have another tenant that is looking to go in there."
Jimmy John's website

Finally, Some Common Sense?

A huge "thank you" to a reader for sending me this story, and several stories regarding the energy situation in New England the propane-shortage story in the Midwest.

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald is reporting:
The six New England governors have set in motion a first-of-its-kind plan to increase the region’s natural-gas pipeline capacity by nearly 20 percent in three years and build at least one major electric transmission line to bring renewable energy from Canada.
No new wind farms? No solar farms?
Utility customers would be asked to help pay for the projects, which together could cost billions of dollars, through electricity rates. But the costs soon would be recovered by savings on energy bills as the projects increase supplies of lower-cost power, said Tom Welch, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and an architect of the plan.
It will be interesting how long it takes John Kerry and the president to act on that transmission line from Canada. Let's see, is 2014 an election year?
The plan, made public Thursday, requests that the operator of the region’s electricity grid, ISO-New England, seek permission from federal regulators to charge electricity customers for gas pipeline expansion.
“It’s an unprecedented and remarkable approach,” Welch said. “But it reflects the fact that the price of natural gas drives the price of electricity in New England.”
Natural gas now fuels more than half of all power-generating plants. A shortage of gas in the region on very cold days last year sent wholesale electricity prices up 57 percent over the 2012 average.
But the activist environmentalists won't give up:
Maine manufacturers that use a lot of energy say it wouldn’t bring enough gas into the region to erase the wide price difference between New England and other regions. Environmental activists who support a greater shift to wind, hydro and solar energy say it would make New England even more reliant on natural gas.
In case you missed it, the professionals say the plan is not "enough." New England will still be "short" the energy it needs.

Something tells me the activist environmentalists are quickly going to be marginalized. 

The Propane Story In The Midwest; The Natural Gas Story In New England; Grid Failure? Black-Outs? Regional Spread?

For background to this incredibly interesting story, start with this earlier post: propane shortage, winter of 2013 - 2014.

The stories continue:

First, from SeekingAlpha: Natural gas tops $5 for first time since 2010, demand should remain high.
  • As the U.S. freezes and stocks plunge, benchmark U.S. natural gas futures topped $5/mmBtu for the first time since Aug. 2010 on expectations that continued cold weather would keep demand high for the heating fuel.
  • Natl gas has moved well into overbought territory during the last few days as consumers have pumped up their thermostats, and the spike may last a while longer given that the cold snap is set to continue all of next week.
Second, Texas is responding. Houston Business Journal is reporting:
The widespread propane emergency brought on by freezing temperatures prompted Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to sign a special declaration that allows other states to tap into Texas’ supply.
The 14-day emergency declaration waives the licensing and rules that prohibit the sale of propane to sources outside the state. The Texas Department of Public Safety has waived restrictions on the hours that propane can be transported for truckers helping with emergency relief.
The shortage has affected 33 states from Oklahoma to Maine. An estimated 7 million homes use propane to heat their homes around the country, which makes the shortage a real health and safety emergency.
Third, a personal story from a reader who has a brother in Minnesota in the propane business:
Propane is now over $ 5.00 per gallon. "Lake country" propane is going to be over $6.00 tomorrow (Saturday). This particular propane dealer and probably others have sold their pre-buy contract of $1.49 per gallon. Newly purchased propane would be purchased at cash/spot price, which can be tracked here: http://www.propanecost.com/index.php?p=btu

Cost works out to:
  • electricity at 8 cents/KWH = $23.43/mmBTUs
  • propane (91,500 BTUs/gallon, at $5.00 = $54.64/mmBTUs
That's the update for the propane story in the Midwest. Next we go to the energy challenge in New England. One can start by reading this recent post: natural gas prices soar in New England. It's gotten so bad in New England, we're seeing emergency measures -- in both policy and technology.

First, the emergency policy measures, from Forbes:
The regional transmission operator is also seeking temporary relief from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to temporarily lift the $1,000 price cap it can pay generators through March 1st.   PJM is doing so because available power plants must in fact generate power and submit an offer of no more than $1,000 per megawatt-hour (MWh) into the grid.
However, with natural gas costs so high (a large portion of the generating fleet runs on natural gas), some generators’ operating costs are north of the price cap. Generation costs are high as a consequence of extraordinarily high gas prices. Normally in the $3.50 to $4.50/mmBtu range long-term, spot market gas prices this week have reached$140/mmBtu.
Search the blog for "PJM." 

Earlier in that story:
The early days of yet another prolonged cold weather snap are causing concerns for grid operators along the East Coast.  Daily spot market prices are well above average, but that has not sufficiently dampened demand. Yet again this month, demand response resources have been dispatched. In the PJM power pool that stretches from Chicago to the mid-Atlantic, 150 MW of emergency demand response was called the night of the 22nd.   That number was increased to 500 MW on the 23rd, and it was called upon again this morning, according to RTO Insider, a publication that monitors PJM.
I suppose one question folks might be asking: could a grid failure in New England cascade through the rest of the region? And then spread from there? I don't know. But the next bit from another Forbes article suggests others are asking.

The emergency technology measures being taken. Again, from Forbes:
The grid operators have resorted to some rather unusual steps. Energy Choice Matters reported today that ISO-New England asked Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH – a subsidiary of NorthEast Utilities) to operate its entire generation fleet this week to help keep the lights on. This included firing up several infrequently-deployed combustion turbines which ran on jet fuel.
Why?
The return of the polar vortex has brought the return of grid reliability issues.  The PJM, New York, and New England power grids have seen significant spikes in wholesale market prices, brought on by huge increases in underlying natural gas spot market prices. In many cases, generators do not contractually have access to natural gas, so they cannot generate electricity. This dynamic is exacerbated in New England, where over 50% of the generation fleet is gas-fired.
From The Union Leader:
Public Service of New Hampshire fired up its supplemental, aviation-fueled combustion turbines and planned to run them for about 15 hours Thursday to help meet the demand brought on partly by the cold snap.
“That’s unprecedented,” PSNH spokesman Martin Murray said of the duration of the turbine use.

PSNH has never before been asked a day ahead of time by ISO New England to run the stand-alone units to supplement energy load, Murray said.
The units typically operate 10 to 20 hours over the course of a year, usually when demand spikes, such as a cold snap or a heat wave.
And, of course, this all brings us to the next story, which will have a stand-alone post

Eleven (11) New Permits -- The Williston Basin, North Dakota, USA

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on anything you read here or think you might have read here. 

Friday's like these, it would be nice to hear from Louis Rukeyser. 

Active rigs:


1/24/201401/24/201301/24/201201/24/201101/24/2010
Active Rigs18718820316487


Eleven (11) new permits --
  • Operators: Legacy (4), Whiting (3), Petro-Hunt (3), Sinclair
  • Fields: Red Rock (Bottineau), Clear Creek (McKenzie), Kittleson Slough (Mountrail), Ray (Williams), Dollar Joe (Williams)
  • Comments:
Wells coming off the confidential list were posted earlier; see sidebar at the right.

One producing well was completed:
  • 23020, 922, CLR, Sacrametno 2-10H, Brooklyn, t1/14; cum --
Sinclair canceled a permit:
  • 23190, PNC, Sinclair Oil, Ryan 1-9H, Parshall,

Why I Love To Blog -- Huge Thanks To A Reader -- Hess CAPEX For 2014 In The Bakken

This came in as a comment but because comments are not google-searchable, I have moved the comment to a stand-alone post, and what a great post. The reader wrote:
You had commented on the potential for this to be a big year for Hess in the Bakken. Here is a link that confirms that: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/hess-sets-2014-capex-5-181005580.html

Hess plans on commissioning 225 new wells in 2014!
From the linked story over at Yahoo!Finance reported by Zachs:
Oil and gas producer Hess Corp. intends to spend $5.8 billion on exploration and production in 2014, down 15% from 2013 as it focuses more on greater efficiency in its U.S. shale fields.
The company targets to spend most of its capital in low-risk, high-growth areas such as North Dakota’s Bakken shale as well as focus largely on discovering and developing energy reserves to satisfy activist investor Elliot Management.
Of the total budgeted amount, Hess plans to allocate $2.85 billion (49%) toward unconventional shale resources, $1.475 billion (25%) for production, $925 million (16%) for development and the balance $550 million (10%) for exploration. 
As part of its program, Hess proposes to spend $2.2 billion for the development of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, flat with 2013. Due to lower well costs and reduced investments in infrastructure projects the company plans to operate 17 rigs versus 14 last year and commission 225 new operated wells in 2014 compared to 168 in 2013. Moreover, the company has increased its expenditures in the emerging Utica shale play to $550 million from $455 million last year.
At a very, very superficial level, the 2013 CAPEX works out to $13.095 million/well. For 2014, it works out to $9.778 million/well. 

Again, a huge "thank you" to the reader for taking time to write. 

Amtrak Is Probably Affected -- Another Derailment; Global Warming Will Hinder Re-Opening Of Track

Bloomberg is reporting:
A BNSF Railway Co. train that derailed and blocked tracks in North Dakota may delay crude deliveries by as many as two days from the second-largest onshore oil producing state in the U.S.
Eleven cars carrying corn derailed yesterday while switching tracks at Ross, North Dakota, said Steven Forsberg, a spokesman for BNSF in Fort Worth, Texas. Customers may see delays of 36 to 48 hours, the company said. The main track may reopen at 1 p.m. local time today, BNSF said on its website.
“They’re dealing with extremely cold weather there, so we have to go to winter safety protocols,” Forsberg said. “There’s a limit on how long you can have people out there in severe wind chill. They end up working in shorter shifts.”
North Dakota relies on railways to transport its crude, and the type of oil pumped from shale formations in the state may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by train than crudes from other areas. Last month, a BNSF train caught fire after a collision, leading to explosions and prompting evacuations near Casselton, North Dakota.
The potential delays due to yesterday’s derailment “apply to all trains that would use that route” and not just those carrying oil, Forsberg said. Most of the trains affected don’t originate in North Dakota and are moving between the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Midwest, he said.
BNSF customers load an average of nine crude-oil trains daily across the company’s network of railways in production basins stretching from North Dakota to Colorado to Texas, according to Forsberg.
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A Note to the Granddaughters

There is a lot of talk over at the MacRumors site about the new sapphire glass Apple is rumored to be working with, perhaps for an iWatch or a new iPhone or iPad.

Whenever the granddaughters visit us in Los Angeles we always try to visit the Museum of Natural History. When we do, one of their favorite rooms, at least for the older granddaughter is the gemstone vault. It's almost completely unlit, with only the light of the exhibits providing any meaningful light.

The last time I was there I finally said to myself: this time I'm going to remember the difference between sapphires and rubies. Two days later I had forgotten.

So, we'll try again.

From Wiki: 
Sapphire (Greek: sappheiros, 'blue stone', which probably referred instead at the time to lapis lazuli) is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide (Al2O3).
Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, chromium, copper, or magnesium can give corundum blue, yellow, purple, orange, or a greenish color. Chromium impurities in corundum yield a pink or red tint, the latter being called a ruby.
Commonly, sapphires are worn in jewelry. Sapphires may be found naturally, by searching through certain sediments (due to their resistance to being eroded compared to softer stones) or rock formations. They also may be manufactured for industrial or decorative purposes in large crystal boules.
Because of the remarkable hardness of sapphires—nine on the Mohs scale(the second hardest mineral right behind diamond)—and of aluminium oxide in general, sapphires are used in some non-ornamental applications, including infrared optical components, such as in scientific instruments; high-durability windows; wristwatch crystals and movement bearings; and very thin electronic wafers, which are used as the insulating substrates of very special-purpose solid-state electronics (most of which are integrated circuits).
The sapphire is one of the three gem-varieties of corundum, the other two being ruby – defined as corundum in a shade of red—and padparadscha—a pinkish orange variety. Although blue is their most well-known color, sapphires may also be colorless and they are found in many colors including shades of gray and black.
The cost of natural sapphires varies depending on their color, clarity, size, cut, and overall quality – as well as their geographic origin. Significant sapphire deposits are found in Eastern Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China (Shandong), Madagascar, East Africa, and in North America in a few locations, mostly in Montana. Sapphire and rubies are often found in the same geographic environment, but one of the gems is usually more abundant in any of the sites.
So: nothing more than Al2O3 -- aluminum hydroxide, naturally occurring or man-made.

When Al2O3 is pretty enough to be a gem, it's one of three types: a) sapphire, b) ruby, or, padparadscha.
  • sapphires: blue (generally, as a gemstone)
  • rubies: red (always)
  • padparadscha: pinkish-orange (always)
At another wiki site:
Ruby is the red variety of the species corundum, while any other color of corundum is considered sapphire. 
That's also what the Los Angeles Natural History of Science also says; until now, I had not heard of padparadshas.

I suppose the most prominent color not noted above (blue, red, pinkish orange) is green. I suppose the most commonly-recognized green gemstone is the emerald. I wonder if the Bakken operator Emerald Oil is from the greenish-tint that oil often imparts to water as a fine sheen?

Rubies are rubies, and I guess "padparadshas" are padparadshas, but sapphires can come in a variety of colors.

Impurities in crystals of Al2O3 can cause the different colors of sapphires:
  • iron: blue
  • titanium: yellow
  • chromium: purple
  • copper: orange
  • magnesium: greenish
On the scale of hardness (or resistance to scratching), sapphire glass is second only to diamonds, and thus the interest in sapphire as a crystal layer on the iWatch, iPad, or iPhone.

Why I Could Never Be A Market Timer

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on anything you read here or think you may have read here.

I talked about this earlier as an example of why I could never be a market timer. When earnings came out for XLNX, the shares dropped immediately. I read the report and thought the earnings report was actually pretty good, and expected that eventually the shares would recover. The next day, XLNX rose 4%, trading at a new 52-week high. I certainly did not expect "eventually" to be "less than 24 hours."

Now Investor's Business Daily reports:
Xilinx, a specialist in complex programmable semiconductor chips, has engineered a positive turnaround.
On Tuesday, the San Jose, Calif.-based firm said fiscal third-quarter sales jumped 15% vs. a year ago to $586.8 million. That marked the fastest increase since the September 2010 quarter and an acceleration from 10% growth in the September-ended quarter of last year.
Earnings increased 76% to 67 cents a share. It was Xilinx's fourth straight quarter of growth following a seven-quarter spell of declining profits.
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KC Southern misses by $0.07, reports revs in-line: Reports Q4 (Dec) earnings of $1.03 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.07 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $1.10; revenues rose 8.4% year/year to $616 mln vs the $616.62 mln consensus.

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All that money being pulled out of the market yesterday and today is now in cash (earning 0%) and/or in money market funds (earning 0.1%). I doubt the big movers and shakers will stay on the sidelines for long.

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MPLX LP increases Quarterly Distribution by $0.015 (or +5%) to $0.3125 per common unit: Co announced a cash distribution of $0.3125 per common unit for the fourth quarter of 2013. This represents an increase of $0.015 per unit, or 5 percent, over the previous quarterly distribution and a 19 percent increase over the minimum quarterly distribution at the time of MPLX's initial public offering (IPO) in October 2012. MPLX has increased its distribution every quarter since its IPO. The distribution will be paid Feb. 14, 2014, to unitholders of record Feb. 4, 2014. 

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6:46AM Xerox declares 8.7% increase in the co's quarterly cash dividend to $0.0625 per share from $0.0575 per share.

To The Nation's Utility Companies: Quo Vadis?

A reader sent this very interesting article from The New York Times. I like it for several reasons; as usual, all these articles have multiple story lines. The story focuses on a proposed way to manage utilities going forward ... at great cost to the consumer. The article puts the blame on the glut of natural gas, but in fact, the problem first surfaced in Europe, precipitated not by a glut of natural gas, but a glut of central government planning leading to wind and solar energy projects that a) were not viable financially; and, b) destroyed the ability of conventional utilities to cover their own costs.

The New York Times reports:
The “polar vortex” that swept across much of the nation early this month knocked two North Texas power plants offline just as residents began turning up the heat and revving up power use. Grid operators fixed the problem, but not before warning consumers that they were a step away from resorting to shutdowns.
With that, the weather added fuel to a debate about the state’s electricity market and the demands of its soaring population.
“With low temperatures earlier this week, we narrowly escaped rolling blackouts,” a group of electric utilities warned in a full-page advertisement in the Austin American-Statesman just days afterward. “We won’t be so lucky in the years ahead if we don’t take action now.”
As utility companies and big energy users like manufacturers spar in Austin over how best to encourage the building of new power plants, another important question is getting less public attention: How can Texas curb its energy use?
Utilities are pressing regulators to shift the state’s “energy only” market to a “capacity” model, which would pay power plants to maintain reserves and be ready to meet demand peaks — a multibillion-dollar proposition. The utilities say that low natural gas prices have eroded the economic incentive to build plants.
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Texas Is Country Music

The Highwaymen

For Investors Only

GE's vice chairman John G. Rice said that the global economy "was getting better, not worse," and that beneath lower growth expectations for emerging markets "there was tremendous underlying demand for infrastructure."
In a private interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Rice touched on an array of topics related to GE and its substantial operations in developing markets from China to Turkey. Mr. Rice said that demand in infrastructure in China "remains great."
Mr. Rice said that many governments still haven't figured out the best ways to encourage maximum investment in new energy projects. He cited the U.S., where a controversial wind-production tax credit known as the "PTC" faced annual federal renewals.
"On again, off again approvals was the way to waste billions," Mr. Rice said. "There was no ability to plan."  
It sounds like Mr Rice is really frustrated with the government's energy policy. Geee....no, not "geee" but GE.

Oh, by the way -- he suggests 8% growth in China is a reasonable expectation: lots of conventional energy is going to be needed: coal, natural gas, and oil.

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Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on what you see here or what you might have think you saw here. 

Can we all have an amen? WMB raises dividend again. And again.
WMB board of directors has approved a regular dividend of $0.4025 on the company's common stock, payable March 31, 2014, to holders of record at the close of business on March 14.
The first-quarter 2014 dividend is an increase of $0.0225, or 5.9 percent, from the previous quarterly dividend of $.38 per share. The new amount is an increase of $0.06375, or 18.8 percent, from the first-quarter 2013 dividend.
The company continues to expect to increase the full-year dividend it pays shareholders by 20 percent in each of 2014 and 2015 – to per-share amounts of $1.75 and $2.11, respectively. Williams' full-year dividend for 2013 was $1.44 per share.

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Things Have Changed, Bob Dylan

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A Note to the Granddaughters

Readers should ignore this post. There's going to be some grandfatherly bragging.

Overhead Starbucks is playing a '60's Bob Dylan song. It brings back great memories. This tune must be located immediately next to the neuron(s) that store information from room 102, Solberg Hall, Augustana College, roommate Rich Nelson, 1969 - 1970.

My roommate was probably the smartest person I ever knew, up to that point. He had a photographic memory, or what sophisticates call an eidetic memory. He would stay up all night before a calculus test, a course we shared in our freshman year, looking at the chapter for the first time. I had studied all week. Calculus was at 7:30 a.m., taught by a retired US Navy officer. Rich would fall asleep about 6:30 a.m. after staying up all night. He had three alarm clocks to wake him up which he hid in drawers, and still he might have overslept had it not been for me or others across the hall coming by to wake him up. He would ace the test. I did okay but never scored as well as he did.

So, the video, but, of course, not the one that Starbucks was playing.

Our older granddaughter appears to have an eidetic memory, at least to some extent, in some areas. Like all children her age, she loves to read. When I say "loves to read," it is not an exaggeration. She will read every free moment she finds. She brought home the results of her standardized reading test yesterday. She told us, and checking out the website regarding the standardized test, that she is now reading at college level. She says there are no books in her elementary school library that are "college level." I asked her what she was going to do. She said she would just read "more" books.

She is the one, a fifth grader, who has asked me to leave my library to her when it's time to leave it to someone.

On another note, I accomplished something yesterday I have wanted to accomplish for a long time. Regular readers know that my biggest disappointment coming out of high school (academically) was not understanding/appreciating physics, specifically electricity. [My biggest disappointment coming out of high school, not academically, was not dating a certain young woman.]

But I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes, electricity. I have never understood electricity. Yesterday I took a college text on electricity and started reading. Then, when the granddaughters came home from school we got out the Elenco Snap Circuits kit which their dad got them some time ago. We check it out periodically mostly for entertainment but yesterday it was for learning. Our older granddaughter was thrilled when she saw the difference between circuits in series and parallel, and then tried to understand a diode. It was a great day. I finally understood a bit more. We have quite a bit more to go to get through this kit, but it looks like there's even more available out there. I see there's an Elenco Solar Deluxe Educational Kit -- wow. It's going to be a busy summer. [Later, when I was discussing this with her mom, our older granddaughter pointed out something I had said that was incorrect.]

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It was particularly cold today taking them to school. Our older granddaughter knew it was going to be very, very cold. We never drive; we always walk, no matter how cold. But today, the older granddaughter really, really wanted to ride over to the school because it was going to be really, really cold. I hate waiting in long car lines, so I discussed with her that if we drove, I would take a different route, and that they might have to get out at the cross-walk and walk the last little bit on their own.

It was a nice discussion. It started to turn a bit too philosophical.

The younger granddaughter cut to the chase: "Ride or walk. Decide. I just want to get to school on time."

We walked.

Thunder On The Mountain, Bob Dylan

 

Friday -- Global Warming Kills Three In Michigan City, Indiana

RBN Energy: a continuation of the series on the future of natural gas -- a coming surplus in the United States. Laws with regard to exports of these hydrocarbon products that we are living with today were all put on the books during the decades of shortage. Things have changed.
Here at RBN, we have an often repeated view that the flood of oil and gas being produced from unconventional plays will change everything we once knew about energy markets.  One such fundamental change is that the U.S. is now producing more natural gas, NGLs and some grades of crude oil than we can use (except for the past three weeks of Polar Vortex weather, of course)
Consequently the U.S. has shifted from a position of hydrocarbon shortage to one of surplus.  That is great news.  But just down the road there are potential problems developing – distortions in the markets.  Some of those surplus products can be exported, some can’t.  The rules regarding exports of these hydrocarbon products that we are living with today were all put on the books during the decades of shortage.  When you look closely at what those rules really say, you’ve got to scratch your head.  Today we begin a series to examine those rules.
And, of course, that in bold will be the issue.

Active rigs in North Dakota:


1/24/201401/24/201301/24/201201/24/201101/24/2010
Active Rigs18718820316487


The Wall Street Journal

Investors flee developing countries

Safety Boad asks for tougher standards for shipping crude oil.
Federal safety investigators called on railroads to route oil-filled trains around heavily populated areas as part of a series of recommendations to reduce risks from the growing business of shipping crude by rail.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that transportation regulators should work with railroads to reroute oil trains and should ensure that railroads have plans in place to handle "worst-case" accidents or spills. It also called for new testing practices for oil being shipped by rail, in the wake of several serious accidents recently in which crude oil exploded after trains derailed.
Keystone decisionas
The Obama administration is set to complete a critical phase of its Keystone XL pipeline review next month, setting the stage for President Barack Obama to make a call on the politically charged decision in the thick of the midterm campaign season.
The State Department, which has been studying the project for years, aims to release on the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline extension in early or mid-February, people inside and outside the government familiar with the decision said Thursday. That would put Mr Obama on track to make a decision by May or June.
LOL.

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Microsoft reports better-than expected results
The software giant posted surprisingly strong sales of its Xbox videogame consoles and Surface tablet computers, helping drive quarterly revenue and earnings that topped Wall Street expectations. In response, Microsoft's shares rose about 4% in after-hours trading Thursday.
The numbers were good.
For the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 31, Microsoft's revenue rose 14% to $24.52 billion. Net income climbed to $6.56 billion, or 78 cents a share, compared with $6.38 billion, or 76 cents a share, a year earlier.  
Analysts, on average, estimated Microsoft would post earnings of 68 cents a share on revenue of $23.7 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
Target data breach adds to CEO's sack of woe. One misstep after another. Where's Mr Icahn?

Shale boom forces Pemex to find new buyers.
For decades, Mexico's state oil company, PetrĂ³leos Mexicanos, had the best customer an oil company could want: the U.S. But now the U.S. energy boom is curtailing the country's demand for imported oil, and Pemex is being forced to look farther afield.

For the first time, the company is negotiating to sell its extra-light Olmeca crude oil in Europe, according to Pemex officials. The first shipment will go in the second half of February to the Cressier refinery in Switzerland, the company said.
Where's Jane Nielsen?

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McDonald's CEO concedes loss of relevance. I've blogged about that before -- based on what I've  seen on all my cross-country travels. The country has moved a long way since Ronald McDonald showed up. The CEO says its restaurants got "too complicated." Whatever that means. If it refers to the menu, compare McDonald's with In 'N Out: three hamburger choices, FF, and a few drinks. Each item averages about $2.00. They also have to figure out how to compete for Starbucks customers with regard to mobile access, my biggest complaint about McDonald's.

Chromebooks take other mobile PCs to school. The laptops now have about 20% of the school market after "coming out of nowhere." They're "cheap" and they are "inexpensive," but they work. I wouldn't be caught dead with one, but for a family with two children (or more) in elementary school, they make sense. Our granddaughters each have one and they love them: very, very lightweight; very simple; a bit clunky, but no complaints from them.

Wow, this is not good.
The software behind the attack at Neiman Marcus Group lurked in the luxury retailer's payment system undetected for months, scraping data from as many as 1.1 million accounts and ending its mission before it was discovered. The software was clandestinely inserted into the system and worked from July 16 to Oct. 30. Software to help the program work was slipped in even earlier. Neiman didn't even know the software was there until Jan. 1.
 The Los Angeles Times

40-vehicle pile-up snarls snowy I-94  in Indiana; Chicago to Detroit; 3 killed; 20 injured.

Los Angeles won't allow light trail to reach LAX (the Los Angeles Airport). Too hard to do, too expensive.

Socialists meet capitalists in San Francisco / Silicon Valley.

Percentage of Americans lacking insurance ticks down slightly in January.
The increase in insurance coverage reported by Gallup underscores the slow nature of Obamacare’s rollout. Initial projections by the Congressional Budget Office forecast that some 7 million people would sign up by the time the law’s open enrollment period ends on March 31. Enrollment nationally is behind that forecast, in part because of the breakdown of the enrollment website in October and November. Even if the law reaches the 7-million mark this year, several more years will be needed to make a big dent in the uninsured population. About 45 million people in the U.S. lack insurance, including roughly 29 million potentially eligible for coverage under the exchanges.