Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links, News, And Views -- Part I (There May Or May Not Be A Part II)

Active rigs: 183

RBN Energy: CBR in Canada. A great series. In the past week or so there have been a lot of stories coming out of Canada about all the CBR and now the possibility of shipping heavy Canadian sands oil into the pristine Arctic at Churchill because activist environmentalists did not want, what now turns out to be, a rather inconsequential pipeline in the big scheme of things running through a corner of Nebraska. Wow, that has to bite.

WSJ Links

Maybe it's just  my imagination but the WSJ seems to be thinner and lighter. Sort of like the new iPads.

However, there are a number of interesting stories in the Journal today, including one a huge new pipeline being built in the east. But it won't be for crude oil. It will be for fresh water to be used for fracking. And we also learn which the ONE ethanol plant out of 143 ethanol plants got special favors from the US government.

And a great article on surfing, from my brother-in-law's home town: Huntington Beach.

Let's get started:

BMW, Audi, and Land Rover are now among the luxury cars of choice in China

For investors in the oil and gas sector, this is a great article, talking about winners and losers if Mexico opens up the Gulf to foreign companies. Winners: Chevron, Statoil, EOG, HAL, and SLB.

Now, that story on a water pipeline for fracking.
Antero Resources Inc., an energy company backed by New York private-equity firms, plans to spend more than half a billion dollars on a pipeline. But the 80 miles of pipe won't transport oil or gas: They will carry water from the Ohio River to fracking sites in West Virginia and Ohio.
The project is a costly wager that the hydraulic-fracturing industry's thirst for reliable sources of water will grow over the next few years. Fracking, an oil-field technique driving the nation's current energy boom, involves injecting vast quantities of water into the earth, along with other materials, to break up rock formations and unlock trapped oil and gas. 
And it continues, in a very interesting story:
Colorado-based Antero, which has announced plans to go public, had oil and gas revenues of about $265 million last year, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  
The company says it is the most active driller in the Marcellus Shale, a gas-rich rock formation that stretches across Pennsylvania and into New York, Ohio and West Virginia. It is also pushing into Ohio's Utica Shale as well. The company uses a total of about six million gallons of water to frack each of its wells.
The proposed pipeline would slash the company's water costs by two-thirds, or about $600,000 per well, Chance Richie, a water consultant to Antero, said at an industry conference in March. The trucks that now deliver most of that water are a "very, very large expense," he said.
John Kerry's former company, Heinz, will cut 600 jobs in North America.  Say what?
The new owners of H.J. Heinz Co. are using the same tactic with the ketchup maker that they did with Burger King Worldwide Inc.: job cuts.
A Heinz spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the company is eliminating 600 office positions in the U.S. and Canada, or 9% of the company's workforce in North America. The cuts include 350 jobs in Pittsburgh, where Heinz is based.
The idea is to simplify the organization, enabling faster decision making, increased accountability, and accelerated growth, the spokesman wrote in an emailed statement.
It looks like they are simply cutting jobs to cut expenses. Ahead of O'BamaCare. This story received a lot of comments. Let's see the gist of those comments: pretty scathing of Kerry, O'Bama, Hillary, all of which have nothing to do with this story. But that's the way it is these days.

The Tea Party was not able to delay O'BamaCare but corporate America has all but derailed the entire program.
Republicans opposed to the health-care overhaul have had scant luck in overturning or delaying the law, but corporate America has succeeded in persuading the Obama administration to temporarily postpone a growing number of its provisions.
In February, the administration delayed part of a requirement that some employer health-insurance plans cap employees' out-of-pocket costs. In June, a rule that small businesses offer either a single plan or allow employees to choose among different plans was delayed, and a month later, the administration postponed until 2015 a mandate that larger employers offer health insurance.
The delays come as the White House ramps up efforts to promote the health-insurance law among uninsured Americans in advance of the Oct. 1 opening of health-insurance marketplaces.
At the same time, public support for the law has waned and Republican opposition has held steady. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, in July, 47% of respondents said the law was a bad idea, nearly the highest number recorded on that question since 2009, a year before the measure was passed.
It turns out that "identify theft" and "security" at the website-based exchanges will be the next huge channel. I don't think folks will feel comfortable putting all this sensitive information into the system. Next time you visit Wal-Mart, see if you can spot the shopper that is likely to register on-line for O'BamaCare.  The answer: they all will. It's counterintuitive. Maybe we can come back to this discussion some time; I've discussed it before.

Lots of international stories, but not one on Syria. Whatever happened to Syria.

One of my favorite columnists, Holman Jenkins, Jr, weighs in on the phoney war between Time Warner Cable and CBS.
The slugging match between Time Warner Cable and CBS bears similarities to the Agadir Crisis of 1911. As with the Agadir Crisis, in a few short years it will require a supreme effort of imagination to remember why anybody gave a darn.
For those who don't live in Dallas, New York or Los Angeles, you don't know what you're not missing—namely the local CBS affiliate on your Time Warner Cable system.
The two sides are locked in one of those "retransmission" showdowns that Congress ordained in the 1992 Cable Act, when it gave local broadcast stations the option of demanding that cable operators pay them for the same signal the broadcast operators put out free over the public airwaves.But here we struggle to find the right metaphor.
These battles are like Burger King and McDonald's fiercely battling over a prime corner in Atlantis 15 minutes before the city sinks beneath the waves.
Get ready for sequester #2.
Only a few short months have passed since administration officials canvassed the country lamenting how automatic, across-the-board spending cuts would constrict important government services. We were told that programs like Head Start and food safety hung in the balance as the spending reductions known as sequestration kicked in (to do what Congress wasn't able to do through budget cutting).
Unfortunately, Senate Democrats seem to have forgotten their warnings because they are now all but ensuring that there will be a second act to this drama later this year.
The Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee is spending $91 billion above and beyond levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011. This irresponsible behavior sends us careening toward a new round of sequester cuts and fails to fulfill our obligation to responsibly allocate taxpayer dollars, opting instead to keep spending beyond our means.
The Budget Control Act didn't impose arbitrary caps. These are legal levels that all but two of the 16 Democrats on the Appropriations Committee voted for in 2011. Under the law, if the government spends more than the allotted limits set forth in the Budget Control Act, automatic government-wide spending cuts will be triggered—blindly trimming nearly every government account by the same margin, without regard for the services affected.
But this is the one we have all been waiting for: which ethanol refinery of 143 got special favors from the US government?
Why does the public demand transparency in government? Read on.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency issued its annual renewable-fuels mandate, telling refineries how much ethanol they must blend into the nation's gas supply. This quota, which grows each year, is becoming a horrific financial burden on the industry, forcing many refineries to buy federal ethanol "credits" to satisfy the rules. The skyrocketing price of those credits is adding hundreds of millions of dollars to refineries' annual costs.
So it was more than a little curious that the EPA, as part of its rule, announced it was exempting just one mystery refinery (out of 143) from this year's mandate. The dispensation amounts to a significant financial favor to one lucky player, as I wrote in the Journal on Friday. Further reporting has revealed that the refinery is Alon USA Energy's Krotz Springs facility in Louisiana. There's reason to wonder why Krotz Springs alone got a deal.
The EPA maintains a program that allows "small refineries"—those with an average capacity of less than 155,000 barrels of crude daily—to apply for a hardship exemption from the mandate. Krotz Springs was one of four refineries that applied for 2013. The other three—Hunt Refining in Alabama, Kern Oil & Refining in California and Placid Refining in Louisiana—are small, privately held concerns. The biggest, Placid, has a capacity of about 57,000 barrels a day, according to January statistics from the federal Energy Information Administration.
Krotz Springs has a capacity of 80,000 barrels, so it meets the definition.
Then again, Krotz Springs is just one of Alon's five refineries, which are located in Louisiana, Texas and California, and have a combined capacity of about 215,000 barrels. A New York Stock Exchange-listed company, Alon isn't exactly a mom-and-pop outfit.
So what's so special about Alon?
If nothing else, it appears to understand how Washington works.
Lobbying disclosure records show Alon paid $60,000 in the second quarter of 2013 to the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips firm. This was the same quarter when Alon filed for its exemption. The records show that Manatt lobbied in the House and in the Senate for Alon on the sole issue of "renewable fuel standards." Alon didn't report any appreciable lobbying expenses for the year preceding the quarter. The records also did not turn up similar lobbying efforts by other refineries applying for an exemption.
Republican Sen. David Vitter's office acknowledged on Tuesday that he had joined other Louisiana politicians in sending a letter to President Obama supporting the Krotz Springs exemption. Sen. Vitter's co-signers were Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, and Republican Reps. Charles Boustany and Rodney Alexander. Mr. Vitter's spokesman said the office had not been approached by other refineries for support, and noted that the senator has been pushing to waive the 2014 ethanol mandate for every refinery.
And so it goes. It appears the EPA simply decided to grant one favor, and the luck of the draw was a company in Senator Mary Landrieu's backyard.

There are several women in the Democratic Party that continue to get the headlines: Hillary; the Native American from Massachusetts whose name I can never remember; Ms Landrieu; Caroline Kennedy; and Rosie O'Donnell. 

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