Much of the world’s crude oil production is being sold at prices well below the European and US futures benchmarks which are now around $29 a barrel. This is because either most crude is of lower quality than the benchmark specifications or there are large shipping costs involved in getting the oil to refineries. In the past week OPEC announced that its members were getting an average of $25.69 for their oil. Dubai crude, which is the benchmark for much of the oil going to Asia from the Middle East, was at $25.88. Oil sold at the wellhead for North Dakota’s Bakken shale oil is now down to $20 a barrel, and low-grade oil from western Canada is going for 8$ to $15.

Last week The Royal Bank of Scotland suggested that high quality crude oil may soon fall to $16 a barrel and Standard Charter said oil prices could fall as low as $10. Some are saying that between one-third and one half of the smaller oil producers will be bankrupted in the next 18 months if oil stays anywhere near current prices.

The US Energy Information Administration forecasts the crude oil glut will continue until late 2017 and that global production will likely rise by another 800,000 barrels per day from 95.9 b/d in 2016 to 96.7 b/d next year. Most observers are not forecasting higher oil prices within the next 18 months.

China is forecast to overtake the US as the world’s largest crude oil importer later this year.

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the US has improved over the past few years, standing at 24.9 mpg today.This is an increase of  4.8 mpg since October 2007.

South of Africa’s Sahara desert there are only seven countries in which more than 50% of people have access to electricity (Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa). In a typical year the whole region generates less electrical power than Canada, and half of that supply is in South Africa.

Denmark produced 42% of its electric power from wind in 2015. The northern European nation has an ambitious plan to obtain 100% of its entire energy requirements (electric power and transportation) from renewable energy sources by 2050. The plan was created 40 years ago following the 1973 Arab oil embargo. At that time 99% of its energy then coming from the Middle East and the county decided to pursue energy independence.

US biomass energy plants are closing down being unable to compete with heavily subsidized solar farms and cheap natural gas.  In the state of California 6 of these waste-to- energy facilities have closed in the past two years. Biomass as a renewable energy source was viewed as a way to keep wood waste out of landfills and create new markets for local agriculture byproducts. However, electric utilities companies are now terminating their contracts with the biomass operations and switching to cheaper solar power which offer subsidized rates of 15 cents a kilowatt-hour. Meanwhile, in the east coast state of Maine 2 biomass electricity plants are being shut down in March due to competition from lower natural gas prices that have weakened demand for biomass energy. Biomass currently supplies 25% of Maine’s overall electric power supply.

BCC Research reports the value of the global waste-to-energy market was $26.7 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $35.5 billion by 2019. “Waste” is defined as thermal and biological waste.

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