Money Matters - Simplified

Energy

Locals thwart China's energy campaign

Beijing -- Regional leaders are undermining China's national campaign to reduce its staggering energy consumption, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The thwarting of the energy campaign shows the difficulties of trying to impose reform in a country where regional economic disparities are growing rapidly, the Times said.

The energy campaign required an increase in power prices to discourage the growth of large power-consuming industries. But in China's western region, for example, local leaders fearing the impact on the economy exempted a huge aluminum maker from the price hike, enabling it to keep consuming 20 percent of the region's power supply, the Times reported.

China's energy consumption has more than quadrupled since 1980 making it the world's largest user of coal, the dirtiest type of energy, the Times reported, noting China's coal consumption is projected to double during the next two decades.

Oil prices hit record closing, tops $98

New York -- Crude oil left early losses behind and recorded its highest U.S. closing level ever in a thin, volatile post-Thanksgiving session Friday.

Futures for January delivery gained 89 cents, or 0.91 percent, and ended the day at $98.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

For the week, oil prices climbed $4.34, or 4.4 percent.

The positive market momentum overcame data indicating the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was raising its oil output. Oil prices took a dive after two such reports but managed to come back.

Oil Movements, the British-based consultancy, indicated OPEC will have boosted production by 720,000 barrels a day in the four weeks through Dec. 8.

Heating oil closed up 1.68 cents at $2.7042 a gallon and reformulated gasoline rose 2.99 cents to $2.467 a gallon.

Oil prices down a dollar to $96.29

New York -- Crude oil prices were down $1 to $96.29 a barrel in early electronic trading Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Futures prices for January delivery almost reached the $100 level Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday break at $99.29 a barrel before falling back. Reports said among the concerns that fueled the surge were weak crude supplies and the fading dollar.

Heating oil was 1 cent lower at $2.6774 a gallon. Reformulated gas was down 2.06 cents at $2.4165 a gallon.

Natural gas was running ahead by 0.08 cents at $7.62 per million British thermal units.

The AAA said the average gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at the pump was going for $3.086, down a fraction from Thursday's $3.087.

Russia stops Lithuania refinery oil supply

Warsav, Poland -- Russia has announced it will stop supplying oil to a Polish-owned refinery in Lithuania because its "Friendship" pipeline link was damaged beyond repair.

Poland's PKN Orlen oil company acquired the Lithuanian Maziekiu oil refinery for $2.5 billion in 2006 when it outbid Russian contenders, the Polish News.pl Web site reported Thursday.

Viktor Christienka, Russian industry and energy minister, Wednesday told the Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas the refusal to continue supplying oil via the pipeline cannot be considered as Moscow's revenge on Polish acquisition of the refinery.

Christienka said the repair of the "Friendship" link to the Maziekiu refinery in Lithuania was not feasible and added no "political causes" should be seen in Russia's decision to stop using the pipeline.

U.S. oil draws back from record $99 highs

New York -- U.S. oil prices drew back from record highs of more than $99 a barrel Wednesday amid fears fuel supplies would tighten during the U.S. Northeast winter.

The U.S. dollar fell to a record low of $1.4855 against the euro on the foreign-exchange market before gaining strength. The weaker dollar increased oil's attractiveness to international buyers. Oil is a dollar-denominated commodity.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery rose 33 cents, or 0.34 percent, to $98.36 a barrel in midmorning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had been as high as $99.29 a barrel in electronic trading overnight, breaking the $98.62 intraday record set last week.

Natural gas gained 4 cents, or 0.53 percent, to $7.52 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Heating oil added 0.34 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $2.6935 a gallon.

Thanksgiving gasoline to cost $1.8B

Washington -- U.S. consumers will spend $1.8 billion on gasoline this year's U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, an economic consulting firm said Tuesday.

The figure is 39 percent, or nearly $520 million, more than during Thanksgiving 2006, due to gasoline price increases, Legg LLC said.

"High oil and gasoline prices will cost Americans more than half a billion dollars in travel this Thanksgiving holiday," director John Urbanchuk said.

"That is money that won't be spent at Wal-Mart or online as the holiday shopping season begins in earnest."

The average traveling family will spend $16.80 more on gasoline to travel to a family Thanksgiving dinner this year than last, Legg said.

U.S. consumers will also get pinched at the dinner table, with turkey retail prices up an average 12 percent from last year, "a reflection of the impact soaring oil and fuel costs are having on food items across the board," Legg said.

China's great dam in midst of eco-debate

Beijing -- The year-old Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River has spawned environmental problems such as water pollution and landslides, Chinese officials admitted.

The dam is the world's largest man-made producer of electricity from renewable energy, The New York Times reported Monday. Hydropower is central to one of China's green initiatives, a plan to expand renewable energy by 2020.

The Three Gorges Dam is at the center of an energy challenge. China's economy relies on electricity producers, such as coal-fired plants, that pollute the air. But dams, which are cleaner electricity producers, displaced millions of people and triggered environmental issues, the Times reported.

"It's really kind of a no-win situation," said Jonathan Sinton, China program manager at the International Energy Agency. "There are no ideal choices."

A Stunted Solar Stock

In a previous stage of solarmania, the shares of companies up and down the value chain seemed to press upward in unison. Now this borderline-bubbly market has seen a bit of bifurcation. While the clearest leaders bound higher, the wheels have begun to come off some of the shakier outfits.

Cap-and-trade policies could hurt Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah consumers could face billions in losses from a state or regional cap-and-trade policy approach to climate change, a survey said.

The Utah Farm Bureau reported if the state adopted greenhouse gas emission regulations similar to the stringent ones in California, it would cost the state billions of dollars in household incomes, eliminate thousands of jobs and restrict Utah's competitiveness with other states, the Western Business Roundtable said Monday in a news release.

Because Utah enjoys access to low-cost, coal-fired electric generation, cap-and-trade policies would affect the state more harshly than states such as California that don't have access to affordable coal supplies and may prosper under cap-and-trade policies, the study said.

Oil prices drop to less than $94 a barrel

New York -- Crude oil futures fell 32 cents to $93.77 a barrel in early electronic trading Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Prices had rebounded nearly $3 to more than $94 a barrel Wednesday after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries secretary-general said the cartel saw no need to increase oil production.
Most energy futures were down Thursday. Heating oil dropped 0.62 cents to $2.5672 a gallon. Reformulated gas was down 1.39 cents to $2.3565 a gallon. And, natural gas slipped 0.2 cents to $7.82 per million British thermal units.

AAA said the average U.S. retail price for regular unleaded gasoline at the pump was $3.112, up a fraction from Wednesday's $3.111.

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