China National Petroleum and the South American country of Ecuador have reached an agreement to construct a petroleum refinery on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.

Venezuela spends more than $12 billion a year subsidizing the price of gasoline—which runs less than a 5 cents a gallon.  But with annual inflation running at 56% and the government burning through hard-currency reserves, the gravy train is coming off the rails. Soon, a projected price hike is likely to push gas closer to 17 cents a gallon, at unofficial exchange rates.

Latin American nations are looking to accelerate imports of US refined-oil products after failing to build crude oil refineries to meet demand from a growing middle class. Freight traders booked tankers to send 5.4% more fuels to Latin America than in 2012. Volumes may rise again because demand is expanding and no new regional refining capacity will be added in the short term.

Energy company BP believes the concept of “peak oil”  has peaked. The firm says he idea that global energy supplies are reaching their limit due to rapidly rising consumption is no longer valid as new fuels emerge and energy demand growth is slowing.

Plans to drill for crude oil and natural gas off the North Slope of the US state of Alaska have been delayed by legal proceedings. A federal appeals court ruled the US government acted illegally in opening almost 30 million acres on the continental shelf to energy exploration.  Royal Dutch Shell Shell has devoted about $5 billion and more than eight years of work for its Arctic oil exploration off Alaska’s coast in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

US legislators are calling for a closer look at the regulations governing the rail sector following a series of accidents involving the transportation of crude oil by rail. The past two years have seen a series of high profile accidents in North America involving crude oil transportation by rail. The warning about the dangers of increased use of trains to transport crude oil is giving new life to supporters of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline which would run from Canada’s oil sands to the southern US.

Europe is moving towards an energy future which will not be dependent on one source of supply – Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said by the end of this year her country will be connected with Nord Pool on electricity with Nordic countries and Lithuania will have a LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal which will make it independent from Gazprom for natural gas.

Australian company Icon Energy said it has encountered significant volumes of natural gas in a shale basin in the state of Queensland. The region, it said, could be a “world class” shale gas reserve area.

The European Union has reversed its aggressive policy for renewable energy targets as a percentage of overall energy use. Now there will be no national renewables goals, even though the EU plans to set a region-wide goal of 27% by 2030. The decision to end the national renewables target appears to reflect the fear that energy prices from such sources are overly expensive. Renewable energy has been generously subsidized in the EU, pushing up electricity costs to the point that industrial users are complaining that their factories are becoming internationally uncompetitive. Some companies are moving their manufacturing operations to the US where energy is cheaper.

Germany’s new energy minister has outlined cuts in subsidies to producers of renewable energy as the country wrestles with soaring electricity costs from its 2011 decision to exit nuclear power. Generous state incentives for solar, wind and biogas have driven up electricity prices, now among Europe’s highest. “Falling electricity prices there will not be, but we will finally put the brakes on the increase in electricity prices,” Gabriel said.  Subsidies for new producers of wind energy would be reduced while those for biogas would practically disappear. Producers would also gradually be forced to sell renewable energy competitively on the market from next year rather than enjoying priority treatment with guaranteed prices. The cost of renewable subsidies is high, ranging from €22 to 24 billion. The brunt of these costs are carried by small-scale consumers who pay for the difference between renewables and the regular market electricity price, an amount which has steadily been rising.

Energy poverty in Spain is skyrocketing.  With an unemployment rate of 26% many families are unable to pay their electricity and natural gas bills. By the end of 2012, 18% of Spanish households — more than three million — were unable to adequately warm their homes, according to the National Statistics Institute. The Spanish Red Cross reports that of the families it had helped, 38% were without electricity, “a problem of the first magnitude”. Electricity prices in the country have jumped 40% over the past 5 years for a typical family of 4.

The Middle East could spend up to $50 billion on developing solar power over the next seven years, says the Dubai-based Middle East Solar Industry Association. It estimates the region will install 12 to 15 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2020, with another 22 to 25 GW from other renewable energy sources such as wind and hydro-power. (1 GW is the size of a typical nuclear power station.)

A report from NPD Solarbuzz says solar installations in the US reached 4.2 gigawatts in 2013, representing a 15% increase over 2012 installations. This growth has made the US. the second largest solar market outside of the Asia-Pacific region. Much of the 2013 installed capacity comes from homes throughout the country.

 

with h/t Tom Whipple

 

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