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Oil Watchdog http://oilwatchdog.org Insider news and analysis from America's top Consumer Advocates. Fri, 08 Oct 2010 00:37:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Gas Hits $4 in KC Area http://oilwatchdog.org/gas-hits-4-in-kc-area/ http://oilwatchdog.org/gas-hits-4-in-kc-area/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/gas-hits-4-in-kc-area/ It’s Here: Gas Hits $4 In KC Area

Four dollars and rising.

Soaring oil prices have pushed the
average price of premium gasoline in the Kansas City area past $4 a
gallon for the first time. Other fuel grades, including regular, appear
poised to follow.

Premium fuel stood at $4 or slightly more
Thursday on both the Missouri and Kansas sides of the metropolitan
area, according to AAA. The price for regular gas averaged $3.69 on the
Missouri side and $3.74 on the Kansas side.

But many gas stations
were charging a few cents higher than the average, and some were
selling regular fuel for $3.90. Diesel prices were even higher, with
the average as much as $4.54 a gallon.

Asked when, or if, prices will head lower, industry observers appeared to be at a loss.

“There
seems to be no end to it. But obviously there will be,” said Neil
Gamson, an analyst for the Energy Information Administration.

Crude oil and fuel prices have been on a record run in recent weeks for a variety of reasons.

Worldwide
demand, particularly in rapidly expanding economies such as China and
India, continues to grow faster than supplies. There are ongoing fears
of supply disruptions in politically unstable countries such as Iraq,
Nigeria and Venezuela. Speculators hunting fast money are betting on
higher prices. And a weakening dollar, which is used to value oil
worldwide, also is pushing prices higher.

Much-touted ethanol
blends aren’t offering much relief. The rising price of corn also has
pushed ethanol costs higher. And when the lower energy content of
ethanol is considered, it’s an even worse deal financially than
gasoline.

AAA said the nationwide average energy-adjusted price
of E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is
$4.15 a gallon — higher than its pump price.

Rising fuel prices are beginning to affect gasoline consumption.

During
the early 1980s, when oil prices reached about $100 in today’s dollars,
demand declined 8 percent. Although such a dramatic decline has not
happened this time, gas demand this year is down 0.6 percent and is on
track for the first decline since 1991.

David Daniels of Overland
Park said the higher prices have already caused him to make some
adjustments, such as avoiding driving vacations.

“I’m retired and don’t drive much anyway,” he said. “But I do now try to combine as many trips as possible.”

One
bright spot, said the General Motors retiree, is that higher fuel
prices should create a market for electric and fuel-cell vehicles.

Gary
Edwards has a 90-mile round-trip commute and is reducing his speed on
the route by 5 mph. He’s also shopping on the way home instead of
returning to the store later. And he’s more often using the phone and
the Internet to visit with friends and relatives rather than making
trips.

High gas prices also changed his plans for the Memorial
Day holiday. “Not going to the big lake (of the Ozarks) this holiday,”
he said.

As painful as these prices may be for household budgets,
they are not as high as they would be if refiners were booking their
typical profit margins.

Last spring, when tight supplies pushed
gas prices higher, refining profits also soared. Gas prices later
declined after it became clear that supplies were ample enough to meet
demand.

This year it’s different. Refining profits for diesel are
up this year, in part, because of worldwide demand for the fuel. But
refining margins on gasoline are up only slightly, because of lower
demand.

Put simply, soaring oil prices have been the main driver behind the climb in gas prices.

While
it’s possible that refinery margins could still increase on gasoline,
it’s the cost of crude oil that will continue to have the biggest
effect on gas prices.

This month saw a surge in the price of West
Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, which increased $20 to $132.57
a barrel. On Thursday, about $2 of that was taken back, with a barrel
closing at $130.21. Wholesale gas prices also declined slightly.

While
some within the oil industry contend a correction is overdue, others
say growing worldwide demand for oil will keep prices up. One
prediction by a respected Goldman Sachs analyst already has oil
eventually going to $200 a barrel.

So, is there any good news for consumers? Perhaps.

At
least part of the recent increase is thought to have been fueled by
financial speculators. And some increasingly flustered market-watchers
remain convinced that the fundamentals of supply and demand simply
don’t justify $130 oil.

“Professional petroleum suppliers are
saying, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” said Lewis Adam, president of
Admo Energy in Kansas City, which helps businesses, including gas
retailers, manage fuel costs.

Adam said there probably is enough
momentum in oil prices to at least briefly push gas prices past $4 in
the Kansas City area. But he has hopes for relief soon after Memorial
Day. He thinks oil prices could decline to about $100 — so instead of
instead of facing $4 gas, it’s possible we would have closer to
$3-a-gallon fuel.

“It could be huge when it happens,” Adam said.

Consumer groups, trucking association want a ‘hot fuel’ fix

It’s warming up, and “hot fuel” is back in the news.

Two
consumer groups and an organization that represents independent truck
drivers said Thursday at a news conference in Washington that with gas
prices at a record high, it’s high time to fix a problem that gives
consumers less energy per gallon because of temperature fluctuations
that change fuel volume.

Consumers “would be even more angry if
they realized they were paying ($3 billion annually) for gas they don’t
get,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

At recent
prices, hot fuel can cost consumers as much as 10 cents a gallon,
according to estimates generated by the groups. Truckers stand to lose
about $1,200 a year.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is pushing
legislation that would require gas retailers to make adjustments in the
volume of a gallon of fuel to account for temperature fluctuations.

Joining
Public Citizen were Consumer Watchdog, based in Santa Monica, Calif.,
and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, based in Grain
Valley, Mo.

To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send e-mail to severly@kcstar.com.

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$5 a Gallon Knocks Out Truckers http://oilwatchdog.org/5-a-gallon-knocks-out-truckers/ http://oilwatchdog.org/5-a-gallon-knocks-out-truckers/#respond Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/5-a-gallon-knocks-out-truckers/ 5-23-08 by dugan

There’s no one harder hit by fuel prices than the nation’s truckers, and they’re going bankrupt at near record rates. The price of diesel jumped a nickel a gallon nationwide today, to $4.649, which is $1.72 a gallon above the price a year ago. In California, diesel is on average just three cents a gallon shy of $5.00, up $1.82 over the year, according to AAA. (the data changes daily) Who’s going to transport Americans’ stuff?

The trade publication Oil Express (subscription only) today said that "the first quarter of 2008 brought the highest rate of trucking industry bankruptcy filings in seven years, and the second quarter is shaping up to be even worse."

Too bad they can’t all go to Mexico for fillups. News reports put the price of Mexican diesel, as of May 13, at $2.10 a gallon, in part because of national subsidies. Some who’ve tried to do this, though, have run into trouble with U.S. Customs. Is our government, which has only come awake to the fuel-price damage in the last few weeks, in the business of protecting U.S. refiners’ market share?

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'Hot Fuel' Adds To Pump Pain http://oilwatchdog.org/hot-fuel-adds-to-pump-pain/ http://oilwatchdog.org/hot-fuel-adds-to-pump-pain/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/hot-fuel-adds-to-pump-pain/ ‘Hot Fuel’ Adds To Pain At The Pump

A survey shows that Californians could be overpaying as much as $3.4 million a day as heat makes gas expand.

Soaring gasoline prices are bad enough. But this summer, California’s
higher temperatures could add an additional 8-cent-a-gallon wallop
because pumping warmer fuel gives motorists less energy per fill-up.

"Consumers are paying through the nose for gas today, and they’re
really angry," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, who at a
Thursday news conference urged consumers to back proposed federal
legislation that wouldrequire gas pumps to take account of fuel’s
tendency to expand in warm temperatures.

Because of the so-called hot fuel phenomenon, she added, this summer
"just about everyone will be overpaying for the gas that they
purchase." Claybrook said the temperature hit could cost customers an
extra $3 billion nationwide.

In fuel-hungry California, where the statewide average gasoline price
passed the $4-a-gallon mark Thursday, a new survey showed that
motorists could be overpaying by as much as $3.4 million a day during
the summer months.

"It’s a significant number, and one that we shouldn’t be paying," said
Judy Dugan, research director at Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog,
formerly called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "With
every rise in the price of gas, hot fuel becomes a more important
issue."

For consumers and companies struggling with their fuel bills, the added insult of a hot-fuel penalty is unwelcome.

"It irritates me because I don’t think it has to be that way," said Jim
Aasen, who owns Montrose-based Crestmont Appliance Service. Last year,
the monthly gas bill from all his house calls jumped to $425, up $100.

"When that happened… I raised my service call charge by $20," he
said. Now that $4-a-gallon gas threatens to boost his costs further,
Aasen said, "I might have to do it again."

The science behind the hot-fuel controversy isn’t in dispute. The U.S.
government defines a gallon of gas this way: At 60 degrees, a gallon is
231 cubic inches. But when fuel is warmer than 60 degrees, the liquid
expands, yielding less energy per gallon. When it’s colder, the fuel
contracts.

Gasoline expands or contracts 1% for every 15-degree change in the
fuel’s temperature. Diesel volumes change 0.6% per 15-degree change.

The phenomenon — and the economic effects of it — is so well known
that U.S. oil companies and distributors track the temperature of the
fuel they sell one another and adjust the total bill to conform with
the 60-degree standard.

Gas stations and truck stops don’t have temperature-compensating
devices, so the pumps dispense each gallon as if it is flowing at 60
degrees — and the stations charge customers as if they are getting
government-standard gallons.

There is nothing illegal about the practice. It’s been allowed for
decades by measurement regulators who assumed that retail fuel
temperatures stayed close to the government standard most of the time,
and that any losses from hot fuel in
the summertime would be offset by gains in the winter.

California’s new study, which sampled fuel temperatures around the
state during a 12-month period, found that gasoline temperatures were
almost always well above the 60-degree standard. The year-round average
temperature was 71.1
degrees.

Calculating how much money consumers lose in the process isn’t easy,
though, because the amount of the overpayment depends on the
temperature of the fuel and the retail price of gas, and both are in
constant flux.

"It’s the equivalent of the grocer taking your meat into the back room
to weigh it and putting his thumb on the scale," said Dugan of Consumer
Watchdog. "With gasoline, everybody has their thumb on the scale."

Consumer groups and trucker organizations — some truckers have sued
oil companies over the issue — have urged state and federal officials
to force gas stations to install equipment that would rectify the
problem. The possibility is being studied in California.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced legislation in August that
would require all new and upgraded retail fuel pumps to be outfitted
with automatic temperature-compensation equipment.

In Canada, where cold weather would give consumers the advantage at the
pump, most fuel retailers were quick to invest voluntarily in the
devices. And Hawaii requires retail pumps to dispense fuel on the
assumption that it is 80 degrees instead of the standard 60 degrees.

A coalition of service-station retailers and truck-stop operators has
been fighting back, arguing that the equipment is expensive and that
there is no evidence that consumers are being cheated.

"If everybody has to put on temperature correction equipment… that
expense is going to be passed on to the customer in the price of gas,"
said Jay McKeeman, a vice president at the California Independent Oil
Marketers Assn., a trade group for gas station owners and others. "What
we don’t know is whether that cost to the customer will be offset by
the benefit. In our estimation and evaluation, it won’t."

The state has approved one temperature-adjusting device for sale in
California, and measurement rules allow any station to install the
equipment voluntarily. McKeeman’s group wants to prevent that too.

In February, his group wrote state measurement officials urging them to
"immediately adopt emergency regulations" to prohibit any retailer from
installing the temperature-adjusting devices.
—————
Contact the author at: elizabeth.douglass@latimes.com

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Copy-Machine Oil Hearings http://oilwatchdog.org/copy-machine-oil-hearings/ http://oilwatchdog.org/copy-machine-oil-hearings/#respond Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/copy-machine-oil-hearings/ 5-22-08 by dugan

 

 

Watching the same pack of oil executives troop to the House of Representatives today and the Senate yesterday was mostly a deja vu experience. The execs’ canned testimony was from the same outline they used earlier this year and in 2005 and 2006
hearings–high prices aren’t our fault; everything will be better if
you let us drill in the Arctic and off the California coast; don’t you
dare touch our tax breaks. Only the numbers change, continuously for
the worse.  Today brought the added nonentertainment of a House hearing
to question federal Energy Secretary Samuel  Bodman, arguably
the most boring and inactive member of President Bush’s cabinet. He
hewed straight to the oil company line: prices are just supply and
demand; there’s no speculation driving the price of oil; there’s no
reason to sell oil from the federal reserve, even though Bill Clinton
did it in 2000 and prices fell. Bodman’s statement about the
"globalization of energy" sounded straight from a Chevron ad.

The
most unexpected statement in the two days of hearings came from Shell
President John Hofmeister, who allowed that his company could turn a
profit on oil at $35 to $65 a barrel. Here’s the Senate exchange:

With light, sweet crude for July delivery soaring $4.19 a barrel
Wednesday to close at a breathtaking $133.17 on the New York Mercantile
Exchange, and gas prices — according to AAA — averaging nearly $3.81 a
gallon nationwide for regular, lawmakers wanted to know where the oil
executives thought oil prices should be.

Shell’s Hofmeister said a price range of $35 to $65 a barrel would be consistent with "our ability to run a successful company."

But Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson argued a company can’t
produce oil from the kind of areas now available to them for that kind
of price. And ConocoPhillips’ Lowe argued that price would be north of
$90 a barrel.

 Hofmeister, the first to answer, spoke an insiders’ truth. After
all, the same companies made record profits in 2005 and 2006, when oil
was exactly within that range.

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"Hot Fuel" Fix Urgent http://oilwatchdog.org/hot-fuel-fix-urgent/ http://oilwatchdog.org/hot-fuel-fix-urgent/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/hot-fuel-fix-urgent/ NEWS RELEASE

Zooming Oil Price Makes "Hot Fuel" Fix More Urgent as Memorial Day Approaches

Consumer Groups Criticize Oil Industry Resistance to Fixing
Hidden Charge at Pump That Costs U.S. Drivers Close to $3 Billion Yearly

Washington, D.C. — As Memorial Day kicks off the summer driving season
and gas prices scrape and sometimes exceed $4 per gallon, U.S. auto and
truck drivers are paying $3 billion a year in hidden charges at the
pump for fuel that expands and loses value as it heats up. (For
information on audio news conference at 11:30 a.m. see note at end of
release.)

"A ‘hot fuel’ surcharge of up to a dime a gallon is concealed from
motorists because they have no way to tell if the fuel they’re buying
is 60 degrees, 90 degrees or more," said Judy Dugan, research director
of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog. "Fuel at gas stations
across the street from one another can vary by 10 or 15 degrees, so
drivers have no way to judge the actual value of what they’re buying,
no matter what the posted price."

The nation’s leading advocate for independent truckers, the Owner
Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), is also protesting
the failure of national regulators to fix this rip-off in the face of
oil industry lobbying. A number of individual truckers are pursuing a
national lawsuit against the deceptive practice.

"The hot fuel scam costs our members at least hundreds of dollars per
year," said John Siebert of OOIDA. "Fuel prices are adjusted for
temperature at every point in the sales chain except the final one to
consumers. It’s high time to end this hidden oil industry subsidy."

Gasoline is sold by volume, and it expands as the temperature rises,
a bit more than 1% for every 15 degree Fahrenheit increase in
temperature. A century-old oil industry standard fixes the assumed
temperature at point of sale at 60 degrees. Yet the average year-round
temperature of gasoline sold in the U.S. today is near 65 degrees.
Summertime temperatures are often drastically higher, especially in
warm states. At 90 degrees, a 20-gallon fill-up costs a driver $1.60
more than it should, because the expanded "hot fuel" loses energy.

A comprehensive investigation by the Kansas City Star published in
August 2006 estimated that U.S. consumers are shorted about 760 million
gallons of gas and diesel per year by hot fuel sales. At the current
average national price of $3.81/gallon, (for today’s prices see www.fuelgaugereport.com), that’s $2.88 billion per year. As U.S. prices increasingly cross the $4 barrier, the hot fuel tab will exceed $3 billion.

At current prices, in hot months in Western and Southern states, car
drivers pay an extra 7 cents to 9 cents per gallon. Even in the
unlikely event that the 18.4 cent a gallon federal gas tax was
suspended for the summer, drivers would be paying half their savings
back to oil companies for hot fuel that has been robbed of its full
energy value.

"Adjusting fuel price to temperature is a matter of simple fairness,"
said Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen. "Sending customers
away with less than they paid for is unacceptable in any industry."

Simple, moderately priced technology that adjusts the price at the pump
to account for temperature has existed for decades. In Canada, where
average gasoline temperatures are lower than 60 degrees, the oil
industry lobbied for, and obtained, the right to adjust price to
temperature so consumers wouldn’t benefit from "cold gas." In the U.S.,
however, the industry has lobbied successfully against state
legislation or national regulations mandating temperature-adjusted
pricing.

"The oil industry has taken a classic "heads-we-win-tails-you-lose"
position when it comes to temperature-based differences in fuel value,"
said Judy Dugan, research director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan
Consumer Watchdog (formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer
Rights). "In the U.S., oil companies and gasoline marketers argue that
retail temperature-adjusted pricing is unnecessary, even though the
dealers buy wholesale gasoline with a temperature adjustment. In
Canada, they have been more than willing to install retail temperature
adjustment, prompted only by their own profit calculations."

In February, a Federal District Judge in Kansas City denied a motion to
dismiss the national "hot fuel" lawsuit. Sen. Claire McCaskill of
Missouri is sponsoring legislation that would require retail
temperature adjustment over a period of several years.

Independent truckers are hit hardest by the hot fuel premium (large
trucking companies buy their own fuel in bulk and demand that it be
temperature adjusted). The Owner Operator Independent Drivers
Association, based in Missouri, supports the hot fuel lawsuit.

– 30 –

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Blame Exxon for Housing Crisis, Too http://oilwatchdog.org/blame-exxon-for-housing-crisis-too/ http://oilwatchdog.org/blame-exxon-for-housing-crisis-too/#respond Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/blame-exxon-for-housing-crisis-too/ 5-22-08 by dugan

The link between skyrocketing oil prices and food prices, for instance, or airline bankruptcies, is obvious and immediate. But the housing crisis? A new study makes the case: a direct correlation between commuting distances and collapsing prices. The group CEOs for Cities, which encourages urban revitalization, says:

A new analysis shows that high gas prices are not only implicated in
the bursting of the housing bubble, but that the higher cost of
commuting has already re-shaped the landscape of real estate value
between cities and suburbs. Housing values are falling fastest in
distant suburban and exurban neighborhoods where affordability depended
directly on cheap gas.

A news release has the short version and the study itself (big pdf alert) has the data and backup. 

Here’s what we used to call in the news business the "nut paragraph"–no, not crazy talk, but the heart of the matter: 

The run-up in gasoline prices has re-written the calculus of suburban housing economics in two key ways.  First, there has been an income effect:  suburban households spend more of their income on transportation and gas and have therefore taken the biggest hit to their budgets.  As a result, they have less income to spend on housing.  Second, there has been a price effect:  because living in distant suburbs requires more driving, potential buyers are now willing to bid less for houses at the suburban fringe.

Yeah, in 1990, with gasoline just above $1.00 a gallon, that 4-bedroom 2-bath out in the fringe ‘burbs made economic sense. At $4.00 a gallon, even $3.00, it can be a choice between commuting and falling behind on the mortgage.

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Chevron Can Hike Water Rate 89% http://oilwatchdog.org/chevron-can-hike-water-rate-89/ http://oilwatchdog.org/chevron-can-hike-water-rate-89/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/chevron-can-hike-water-rate-89/ Commission Votes to Allow Casmalia Water Rate Increase

Rates May Rise 89 Percent

The California Public Utilities Commission has decided that the utility
supplying water to the tiny community of Casmalia can raise its rates
to produce an 89 percent increase in revenue.

Casmite Corp. was
granted the increase Thursday on 5-0 vote of the commission. There was
no discussion, according to commission staff.

Residents of the
community, many of whom are on fixed or low incomes, have been fighting
the increase that they say could push their water rates out of reach.
The utility company, which is owned by Chevron, has said the increase
is needed to cover the cost of operating the small, rural system.

There
was no immediate comment from the Casmalia Community Services District
following the ruling, but the board is planning a special meeting
Tuesday to discuss the decision, said Terri Stricklin, CSD secretary.

She noted that she is disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.

Casmite officials say the rate established by the PUC allows the utility to recover the cost of the system.

“Unfortunately,
in a small rural area like Casmalia, the cost per customer is high due
to the high fixed costs and small customer base,” Brian Kelly, Casmite
vice president, said in an e-mail. “The only ways to alleviate the high
cost is to operate as efficiently as possible and/or to merge with a
larger agency or utility to create a larger customer base.

“Casmite has been pursuing both paths,” he added.

Initially,
Casmite petitioned the PUC in October 2007 to raise water revenue by
138 percent, or $99,500 for 2008. However, PUC staff recommended a
phased in 89.73 percent increase, or $52,767, over the next three years.

According
to the PUC resolution, Casmite has been providing water for the
community of roughly 200 people since the 1940s, when the company began
oil operations in the area and constructed a water system.

In
1953, Casmite was purchased by Unocal, and the new oil company
continued to serve the nearby community as a “courtesy.” In 1994,
Unocal sold its oil fields in the area but kept the water system.

When
Unocal was purchased by Chevron in 2005, Casmite became a wholly owned
subsidiary of Chevron. In 2005, Casmite was certified as a public
utility and brought under the regulation of the PUC.

The system
has six metered customers, including the community services district,
which then serves 52 residential and two commercial customers.

A Casmite official could not be reached for comment.

Following
the issue in Casmalia, John Simpson, consumer advocate with the
nonprofit consumer rights group Consumer Watchdog, criticized Casmite
and its parent company for even seeking the revenue increase,
especially in light of record oil profits.

“We’re talking about
amounts that aren’t even pocket change for Chevron, but an 89.7 percent
water rate increase could kill Casmalia,” he said. “PUC regulations may
allow Chevron to do this, but that doesn’t make it right.”

Malia Spencer can be reached at 739-2219 or mspencer@lompocrecord.com

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Brits' Cold Shoulder to Exxon http://oilwatchdog.org/brits-cold-shoulder-to-exxon/ http://oilwatchdog.org/brits-cold-shoulder-to-exxon/#respond Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/brits-cold-shoulder-to-exxon/ 8-19-08 by dugan

The shareholder revolt against Exxon is going global. Four big institutional investors in Britain have joined a shareholder resolution demanding that Exxon have an independent chairman of the board, and the new support should bring the chance of passage to about 50-50. Currently, the chairman title is just another perk for CEO Rex Tillerson, whose attitude is from aloof to hostile about renewable energy and climate change. Exxon faces numerous shareholder rebellions at its annual meeting May 28 in Dallas. Another significant one by pension funds and other large investors seeks to fire board member Michael Boskin for ignoring the investors’ multiple requests for a meeting on climate issues.

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Thanks Again, Goldman Sachs http://oilwatchdog.org/thanks-again-goldman-sachs/ http://oilwatchdog.org/thanks-again-goldman-sachs/#respond Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:00:00 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/thanks-again-goldman-sachs/ 8-18-08 by dugan

Just as the White House grudgingly agreed to stop buying record-priced oil for the federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve and Saudi Arabia grudgingly agreed to put 300,000 more barrels a day of oil into the market, the investment bank Goldman Sachs made another self-serving prediction. It called Friday for $141-a-barrel oil for the next several months. Oil prices promptly spiked above $126.00. 

Everyone else gets to pay Goldman Sachs and its investors. Gasoline prices roared Sunday to above $3.75 a gallon for regular nationwide and Connecticut had the painful distinction of an average price for regular above $4.00 a gallon. Diesel hit $4.80 in some areas, adding to inflation across the board, to say nothing of the truckers barely able to stay in business.

The only sure thing about such a prediction is that Goldman Sachs will make money as speculative investors rush to make it come true. Many "commodity funds," like those that Goldman sells, have a majority investment in energy futures. But they also blend in agricultural commodities, like wheat, corn and soybeans. So investors rushing to get in on the gusher are also continuing to drive up food prices.  

Not everyone is on the Goldman wagon, as a chief Canadian news outlet, the Globe and Mail, reported yesterday:

Lehman Brothers analysts are as exceptional in their bearish sentiment as Goldman is for its bullish forecast. Lehman forecasts the oil prices will peak this year, then slump to as low as $70 (U.S.) by the final quarter of 2009.

In an interview yesterday, Lehman energy analyst James Crandall said his bank believes Chinese demand is artificially inflated as the country stockpiles supplies to avoid shortages during this summer’s Olympics.

He said Lehman is also more optimistic that Saudi Arabia will succeed in boosting supplies, in defiance of more hawkish OPEC members like Iran.

But Mr. Crandall noted that the Saudis have a massive capital expenditure plan designed to boost output from 10 million barrels per day to 12.5 million by 2012.

"Many of our competitors don’t believe it. But we think there are reasons to believe it will occur," he said.

And finally, Lehman Brothers suggest that exploration and production costs have flattened out, after rising for several years, a fact that will encourage more non-OPEC production to come on stream.

Goldman Sachs sees $150 and up next year. Lehman sees $70. The gap mocks any idea of a competitive market. Even if Lehman is right, billions of dollars of damage have been done, to families and the staggering economy. Getting a regulatory handle on purely financial energy trading (Goldman and hedge funds obviously aren’t selling or buying real oil) has to be the top priority for a new Congress and and new president.  

 

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Bush Forced to Cap Oil Reserve http://oilwatchdog.org/bush-forced-to-cap-oil-reserve/ http://oilwatchdog.org/bush-forced-to-cap-oil-reserve/#respond Fri, 16 May 2008 15:26:02 +0000 http://server11.fusednetwork.com/~oilwatch/2008/05/bush-forced-to-cap-oil-reserve/ White House Forced to Cap Oil Reserve; Should Embolden Congress to Push for More To Drop Energy Prices

Consumer Watchdog Calls for Sales from Reserve, Warning to Refineries, Swift Action on Oil Trading Curbs

Santa Monica, CA — The Energy Department’s announcement that it will
cap taxpayer-funded additions to the federal Strategic Oil Reserve is a
small first step, and a late one, said Consumer Watchdog. Even so, it
is a symbolic move that could drop gasoline prices by several cents
this summer.
 
President Bush, in an abrupt about-face, was forced to act by
Congressional votes to cap purchases for the reserve, and by oil prices
that leaped today above $127 a barrel.
 
Even with this first step, motorists nationwide are likely headed
toward $4.00 a gallon gasoline nationwide this summer, said Consumer
Watchdog. If refineries continue on a path of cutting back production
to increase gasoline prices, any effect from capping the reserve would
be canceled out at the pump.
 
“Both parties in Congress were forced to hear drivers’ anger at both
unaffordable pump prices and the ‘oil tax’ that consumers are paying on
everything from groceries to air travel,” said Judy Dugan, research
director of Consumer Watchdog. “Now Congress has forced the White House
to listen, too. Capping the reserve will signal at least awareness of
the magnitude of the economic problems caused by oil and fuel prices.”
 
It will also save taxpayers at least $90 million over six months, given
the program’s $187 million budget for this year, said Consumer
Watchdog. The actual savings would probably be much larger, given that
the budget was decided long before the rise to even $100 a barrel oil.
 
The effectiveness of this first belated move will depend on whether
government keeps pushing to get speculative markets under control and
prevent refinery profits from eating up any savings from lower oil
prices, said Consumer Watchdog.
 
“At a minimum, the White House should also state its willingness to
“loan” some of the reserve into the market as it did after Hurricane
Katrina, which effectively dampened oil prices,” said Dugan. “Congress
and the White House must also put newly enacted regulation of
speculative trading on a fast track, and hire the financial cops to
detect manipulation.”
 
– 30 –
 
Consumer Watchdog is California’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer policy advocacy group.
For more information visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org  and www.oilwatchdog.org

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