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Wall St finishes higher in afternoon rally as oil gains

Reuters -- U.S. stocks enjoyed a late afternoon rally and closed higher on Thursday as an upturn in oil prices and a rally in Apple and Boeing shares helped offset some disappointing earnings and lingering questions over U.S. monetary policy.

The S&P 500 had fallen as much as 0.6 percent earlier, led by energy stocks, which then reversed direction along with crude prices.

While the afternoon rise in crude was not huge, it was enough to cheer up the market after two weak days, said Randy Frederick, managing director at Charles Schwab in Austin.

"Technically the market was a little oversold, so we were in a pretty good position to bounce, so we just needed a little bit of positive news to spark an afternoon rally," he said.  (go to article)

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Study: Newer vehicles getting safer

Detroit News -- The chance of dying when behind the wheel of a newer car is falling dramatically as automakers add high-tech safety features, a report released Thursday finds.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said death rates for drivers in late-model vehicles fell by more than one-third over three years — but there is a wide range between the safest models and those with the highest death rates.

Gloria Bergquiest, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and others, said newer vehicles are safer.

“Today’s new vehicles come with many safety advancements, and we urge everyone to consider buying a new vehicle with automatic braking or one of the other advanced crash-avoidance systems,” she said.  (go to article)

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Shell planning to restart Arctic drilling this year

Fuel Fix -- Shell is planning on spending $1 billion to drill exploratory oil wells in Arctic waters north of Alaska this year as long as it clears legal and permitting hurdles, the company’s chief executive said Thursday.

Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, noted the many legal and logistical obstacles standing in the way of the company’s quest to resume drilling in the Chukchi Sea once ice clears this summer. But he stressed Shell’s commitment to the project.

“We are minded to drill this year in the Chukchi,” he told reporters on an earnings call Thursday morning. “We have retained a very significant capability to be ready for this year to go ahead.”

“We have kept all our capability in place, tuned it, upgraded it just to be ready to drill this coming summer season,” Van Beurden added. Sh  (go to article)

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U.S. crude drops below $44 as inventory builds scare market

Yahoo -- U.S. crude oil fell below $44 a barrel for the first time since April 2009 on Thursday while benchmark Brent sharply pared early gains after data showing additions to already record-high U.S. oil inventories.

Oil prices had risen broadly earlier in the session after preliminary U.S. weekly jobless claims data hit a nearly 15-year low, indicating further strength in the world's largest economy.

But crude futures in New York were near a six-year low by midmorning after a report from oil services firm Genscape, which a market source said showed fresh builds of 1.6 million barrels at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery point for U.S. crude in the period of Jan. 23 through Jan. 27.  (go to article)

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Keystone XL bill passes in Senate, faces Obama veto

Reuters -- WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Thursday to approve the long-pending Keystone XL oil pipeline, despite the White House saying earlier in the day that President Barack Obama would veto the measure.  (go to article)

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Ohio, Kentucky to share costs in bridge project

Morrow County Sentinel -- In a joint press conference yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear outlined significant changes in their plans to use road tolls to fund a repair/replacement project for the Brent Spence Bridge.

Opened in 1963, the bridge is one of the busiest trucking routes in the United States. It carries both I-75 and I-71 traffic through Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, and connects the region to eight other states.
 (go to article)

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US crude oil exports up to record 502,000 b/d in November

Platts -- US crude exports rose 126,000 b/d to a record 502,000 b/d in November, Energy Information Administration data showed Thursday.

The prior record high of 455,000 b/d was set in March of 1957.

The bulk of the November volume went to Canada, where US barrels rose 104,000 b/d to 455,000 b/d. This echoes Statistics Canada data released at the beginning of the month, which showed Canadian imports from the US were around 487,000 b/d in November.

EIA data shows the US also exported crude to Switzerland, Singapore and China. Exports to Switzerland -- which, while small, have become a steady occurrence since April -- rose to 20,000 b/d, up from 8,000 b/d.

Exports to Singapore totaled 17,000 b/d, up from zero. Exports to China totaled 10,000 b/d in November. These are the first volumes to China s  (go to article)

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Cheap crude helps Valero, Phillips 66 profits beat estimates

Reuters -- U.S. refiners Valero Energy Corp and Phillips 66 reported better-than-expected quarterly profits as they processed more cheap crude oil amid buoyant demand for gasoline.

Phillips 66 said it processed a record 375,000 bpd of tight oil, nearly 12 percent more than its previous high.

Valero processed an average of 2.8 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter, up 41,000 bpd from a year earlier.

Phillips 66 said total costs and expenses fell nearly 20 percent. Valero's costs fell nearly 21 percent.

Refiners have been enjoying plump profits as growing output from U.S. shale oil and Canadian oil sands has put downward pressure on crude prices.

Still, refining earnings or operating income at both companies fell from the third quarter of 2014, when U.S. gasoline prices had not yet fallen  (go to article)

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Valero beats Wall Street estimates

FuelFix.com -- SAN ANTONIO – Higher margins earned on its products helped Valero Energy Corp. beat Wall Street’s estimates for the company’s fourth quarter, although the company’s net income declined by 5 percent.

San Antonio-based Valero, the nation’s largest refiner, said net income from continuing operations attributable to stockholders fell in the quarter ended Dec. 31 to $1.2 billion, or $2.22 per share, from $1.3 billion, or $2.38 per share, for the year-earlier period.  (go to article)

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Senate on track to pass Keystone XL bill

FuelFix.com -- WASHINGTON — The Senate’s wide-ranging four-week debate over the fate of Keystone XL is set to conclude Thursday, with expected passage of legislation authorizing the pipeline.

But the story is far from over for the legislation or the underlying TransCanada Corp. project.

The addition of an energy efficiency measure, an assertion that “climate change is real” and other provisions mean that the legislation will now head back to the House of Representatives, which could pass the bill and send it to President Barack Obama as soon as next week.  (go to article)

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American Capital Closes $62.7 Million Loan for Jamaica Wind Farm

BloombergBusiness -- (Bloomberg) -- American Capital Ltd.’s BMR Energy unit closed $62.7 million in loans to develop a 36-megawatt wind project in Jamaica.
The financing includes $42.7 million in senior loans from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a $10 million senior loan from the International Finance Corp. and $10 million from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Program, according to a statement Monday from Bethesda, Maryland-based American Capital.
In addition to the loans, BMR Energy will use a $26.9 million equity investment from American Capital to build the wind farm, which will use Vestas Wind Systems A/S turbines. Construction is expected to begin this this quarter and be finished early next year.
Electricity from the wind farm will be sold to Jamaica Public Service Co. under a 20-year contract.  (go to article)

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Florida Power & Light to Triple Solar Capacity by End of 2016

Bloomberg -- (Bloomberg) -- NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida Power & Light Co. is planning to build three solar plants to triple its photovoltaic capacity by the end of 2016.
The utility is adding more than 1 million panels to increase output capacity to about 335 megawatts from 110 megawatts, according to a statement from Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra on Monday.
Florida Power & Light “is optimistic that it could potentially add even more solar energy generation to complement its natural gas and nuclear resources while continuing to meet the electricity needs of Florida’s growing economy and population,” NextEra said.  (go to article)

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Oil crash: 'Drill, baby, drill' loses momentum

CNN Money -- The dash to drill oil in the United States is tripping up.

When oil prices were flying high, producers raced to extract as much oil as possible out of the ground. The flurry of activity fueled the U.S. energy revolution and created tons of new jobs. It also helped spark a massive oil supply glut.

With oil supplies overflowing and demand sluggish, prices have crashed. Crude plunged below $44 a barrel on Thursday and touched levels unseen since March 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession. To put that in context, oil averaged about $93 last year.

Someone has to cut back on production, but there's a global debate about who will blink first. OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, has made it clear it won't scale back.  (go to article)

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Oil slumps to near six-year low under $44

yahoo.com -- New York oil prices tumbled to a near six-year low underneath $44 per barrel on Thursday, as record-high US crude inventories deepened worries over the global supply glut.  (go to article)

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Meet the tiny Colibri, Germany's one-seat wonder

BBC -- The impossible dream of scoring the perfect city parking spot is about to get somewhat more possible – at least in Germany, where the tiny Colibri, a single-seat electric car from upstart Innovative Mobility Automobile (IMA), is headed for production.

Set to become available for test-drives and pre-orders this year, and scheduled to enter series production during 2016, the Colibri is aimed squarely at businesses that operate fleets of service vehicles in densely populated urban areas, where parking is at a premium. But that doesn’t mean IMA isn’t also trying to woo everyday drivers, says Thomas delos Santos, IMA’s founder and chief executive officer.  (go to article)

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Oregon's gas tax alternative- pay per mile- moving forward

GasBuddy Blog -- via Oregon DOTOregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) has preliminary chosen Sanef, Verizon and telematics company Azuga as vendors in the nation’s first large scale pay-by the mile Road Usage Charge  (RUC) program, said Michelle Godfrey, the program’s public affairs officer.

“Vendor relationships are preliminary until the vendor passes ODOT certification,” Godfrey told Toll Roads News. That certification includes a number of tests and performance criteria and “must occur before the vendor can provide services for the Road Usage Charge program,” she said.

Sanef was selected as the ODOT Account Manager (OAM) to provide full turnkey mileage reporting and account management equipment and operations. The company served as the OAM in Oregon’s earlier pilot project....  (go to article)

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Planned gas station point of contention for Curtis Park residents

Sacramento Bee -- Residents of Sacramento’s Curtis Park neighborhood on Wednesday night challenged a developer’s notion that rejecting a gas station would turn a planned upscale retail development into a collection of discount stores, pizza joints and check-cashing businesses.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article8550224.html  (go to article)

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Next for oil: Mergers, layoffs and 'death spirals'

CNBC -- With crude prices nearly 60 percent off their highs, experts foresee a wave of corporate restructuring and acquisitions playing out over the next 12 to 18 months. Oilfield services companies are set to absorb smaller firms, while exploration and production companies could face a "death spiral" as their access to debt dwindles.  (go to article)

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Midwest To Get EV Boost With 1,001 K.C.-Area Public Chargers

Edmunds.com -- There are only 900 electric cars registered in the Kansas City metropolitan area, but by the end of this summer there could be more than 1,000 publicly available EV charging stations to serve them.

In hopes of growing its own business, the Kansas City Power and Light Co. is betting that sales of electricity-consuming EVs and plug-in hybrids will grow substantially in the region if potential customers see that there a rich charging environment.

The strategy, which includes asking regulators in Kansas and Missouri to let the utility company pass the $20 million cost through to its customers, marks the first time a major investor-owned utility has entered the EV charging business in such a big way, although smaller utility-owned networks have been established in Texas and a few other states  (go to article)

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Forget the falling price, US oil industry renews push to lift ban on exporting US oil

Associated Press -- WASHINGTON – Never mind dropping oil prices. U.S. producers are pushing harder than ever for the right to sell U.S. crude oil overseas.

It might seem counterintuitive: Oil prices are as low as they have been at any point since 2009 and the height of the Great Recession, and some predict they could drop further still.
 (go to article)

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Toyota recalls 52,000 Avalon sedans for fire risk

CNBC -- Toyota is recalling 52,000 Avalon sedans because of a wiring problem that could cause a fire.

The recall affects Avalons from the 2011 and 2012 model years.
Read More Brit buys $4.5M supercar 'holy trinity'
Toyota says cargo in the trunk could move the wires connected to the audio system subwoofer. If the wires contact the metal frame of the subwoofer, they could short circuit and cause the subwoofer to overheat. That increases the risk of a fire.

Read MoreFord recalls cars, vans for door latch and seat belt trouble
Toyota says no injuries or fires have been linked to the problem, but it has received two reports of overheating.

Toyota will notify owners, who can get their vehicles repaired for free at dealerships. Dealers will disconnect the subwoofer until a repair is available.  (go to article)

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‘We have all seen this before': In Calgary, end of the oil boom has yet to sink in

Financial Post -- The screeching halt in oil-related spending has raised widespread concern about how badly it will hurt Can’s economy. But in Can’s oil capital it hasn’t sunk in yet that the oil boom is over
The city’s mood is certainly a long way from the dark days of global financial downturn in 2009, when malls were empty
The transition from a super-charged economy to one having to absorb the sudden oil shock has been so quick that decisions made in the executive suites have yet to hit home
Most know there will be consequences from the oil crash in the next 12 mths, but so far lower oil has put more money in ABns’ pockets
The things that have changed right away are mortgage rates and gas that is cheaper, and so far the impact of the so-called crash is it costs us less to live. But that is not  (go to article)

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Crude extends slide to trade close to 6-year low

marketwatch -- Oil futures bounced modestly Thursday, but remained not far off a six-year low, a day after a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. crude supplies.  (go to article)

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Calgary just spent $5.9-million on a pedestrian bridge that’s hundreds of tonnes. One problem: it’s

National Post - CALGARY -- It’s the new City of Calgary riddle: what costs $5.9M, weighs hundreds of tonnes and is about 4 inches shy of being useful?

A pedestrian bridge that’s supposed to go across Shaganappi Trail, but instead is sitting alongside the road

City contractors tried to lift the bridge onto its abutments this weekend, but the connecting parts between the steel span and the landings were about 4 to 5 inches away from being a proper fit, city spokesman Sean Somers said Wed

While officials and contractors seek a fix and try to figure out how the mistake occurred, Somers said the remedial work won’t cost taxpayers
 (go to article)

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As gasoline prices drop, Americans swing to favor oil exports: Poll

Reuters -- Americans are more likely than ever to favor easing a ban on exporting crude oil, so long as it does not lead to higher gasoline prices that have recently sunk to near $2 a gallon, according to a new Reuters-IPSOS poll.

In questions posed to more than 2,000 voting-age Americans earlier this month, around 45 percent generally agreed that oil drillers should be allowed to export domestic crude abroad, while just over 30 percent broadly disagreed. In September, supporters and opponents were both at around 40 percent.
 (go to article)

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House leaders look to boost transportation funding in Georgia -- without raising taxes

Florida Times Union -- ATLANTA | House leaders released the outline Wednesday of a plan they say will boost funding for transportation by $1 billion without raising taxes, although legislators and lobbyists who heard it were scratching their heads.

The complicated proposal includes cutting undisclosed non-transportation expenditures now funded with part of the state’s sales tax on gasoline, converting that sales tax to an excise tax, indexing the new excise tax for inflation and improving mileage, imposing a fee on electric vehicles and borrowing lots of money with bonds.

“It’s really not a sleight of hand,” said House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, a tax lawyer who once chaired the House Ways and Means Committee.

The proposal converts the sales tax on gasoline to a per-gallon excise tax based on th  (go to article)

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Oil giant Shell cuts spending by $15 billion

CNN Money -- More bad news for oil industry workers and suppliers: Royal Dutch Shell has joined the ranks of energy companies who are slashing their spending.

Shell said it was scaling back its planned capital investment by $15 billion over the next three years.

Oil is now trading around $45 per barrel, down from over $100 per barrel this summer.

Shares in Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) fell by about 5% in London after the company said fourth quarter net profit fell 57% versus the same period last year.

"Shell has options to further reduce spending, but we are not over-reacting to current low oil prices," the company said in a statement.  (go to article)

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New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

NY Times -- Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.

Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population.

Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But thei  (go to article)

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As the Cost of Gasoline Shrinks, Small Businesses Think Big

AP -- For small business owners who deliver goods and services via car, truck or SUV, lower gas prices have brought more customers within reach and put more money in their pockets.

As gas prices fell below $3 a gallon, Kristen Harris went back to delivering her desserts to Chicago-area neighborhoods she had abandoned. Harris was able to cut her delivery charge from 70 cents a mile to 60 cents, and win back customers who had balked at the higher fee.

Her revenue during the holidays rebounded 30 percent, and she's thinking about a further expansion.

"We definitely want to saturate the Chicago market," says Harris, whose Homewood, Illinois, based Pizzazzed Plus makes cookies, cake pops and other treats

At a national average of $2.04 a gallon, regular gas is down 45 percent from its 2014 peak of  (go to article)

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ConocoPhillips Sees First Loss Since 2008 on Oil Crash

Bloomberg -- ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. energy producer, reported its first quarterly loss since 2008 as new output failed to make up for the worst oil-price crash in five years.

The fourth quarter loss of $39 million, or 3 cents a share, compares with profits of $2.49 billion, or $1.20, a year earlier, Houston-based ConocoPhillips said Thursday in a statement. Excluding one-time items such as the cost to exit a gas export project, per-share profit of 60 cents was 2 cents more than the 58-cent average of 21 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell 15 percent to $11.2 billion.

ConocoPhillips is the second of the world’s largest oil companies to report earnings for the fourth quarter, a period in which crude prices fell 42 percent. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lanc  (go to article)

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Michigan road funding: Ballot proposal would trigger new fees for electric, hybrid vehicles

MLive -- Michigan’s upcoming road funding ballot proposal contains some fine print for electric and hybrid vehicle owners: new fees.

The proposal, if approved by voters in May, would trigger a separate law creating a $75 annual surcharge on electric vehicles and a $25 surcharge on most hybrids.

The new fees are designed to spread the cost of road maintenance to drivers who pay little or no state gas taxes, which are a major source of infrastructure funding in Michigan.

“They’re not using any fuel, but they’re using our roads. So it’s some sort of a user fee in that respect,” said Senate Majority Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

But critics point out that EV and hybrid owners are already paying higher registration fees, which are based on the purchase price of a vehicle and serve as the state’s othe  (go to article)

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Ford posts 2014 pre-tax profit of $6.3 billion

Detroit News -- Ford Motor Co. on Thursday reported 2014 pre-tax profit of $6.3 billion, down $2.3 billion from a year ago because of a record number of product launches, overseas economic trouble and recall costs that cut into the bottom line.

The Dearborn automaker’s fourth-quarter pre-tax profit was $1.1 billion, down $197 million from a year ago.

Ford also said Thursday about 50,000 hourly workers will receive up to $6,900 in profit-sharing checks, which go out March 12. Last year, Ford hourly workers received up to $8,800.

“2014 was a solid, yet challenging year for Ford — with our investments and a record number of new products launched around the world positioning us for strong growth this year and beyond,” President and CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.

Ford beat analyst estimates by postin  (go to article)

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New highway plan could reduce Denver traffic congestion... for $52 billion

GasBuddy Blog --
Image From ..denverpost.comMuch of the Denver metro-area's traffic congestion could be solved by adding at least $11 billion in new toll lanes on portions of every major interstate and federal highway, the Denver Post reports.
Toll lanes could also speed along traffic on the busiest intersections at Denver's major arterials, says Baruch Feigenbaum, transportation policy analyst, for the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, Los Angeles-based, free-market think tank. "But through tolling revenue we can meet the projects that need to be done to help ease congestion and help mobility in Denver."The overall cost of Reason's plan is $52 billion, which is drastically less than a $133 billion estimate for a plan by the Denver Regional Council of Governments. ...  (go to article)

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Oil holds above $48 a barrel after U.S. stocks hit record high

Reuters -- (Reuters) - Brent crude oil futures held above $48 a barrel on Thursday as investor inflows offset data showing that U.S. crude stocks had hit a record high.

By 0928 GMT on Thursday, U.S. crude CLc1 was trading at about $44.50 a barrel, up 5 cents and off a six-year low hit on Wednesday. Brent LCOc1 was up 26 cents at $48.73 a barrel.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said domestic crude oil stocks had risen by almost 9 million barrels week on week to nearly 407 million, the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1982.

This pushed U.S. crude futures to an intraday low of $44.08 a barrel, the weakest level since April 2009, but Brent held up relatively well.

"It's a tug of war between the non-supportive fundamentals and investor flows -  (go to article)

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Group hopes to ban older diesel trucks

Portland Tribune -- Mary Peveto made her name as an activist prodding Esco Corp. to reduce toxic air emissions near her children’s school in Northwest Portland.

Now Peveto and the grassroots group she co-founded, Neighbors for Clean Air, are tackling a bigger goal: ridding Oregon of dirty diesel engines.

Ever since California moved to phase out the use of older diesel vehicles and off-road commercial rigs there, many have found their way into Oregon — freight trucks, school buses and bulldozers — and some fear those will grow more numerous as more of California’s rolling deadlines take effect.

“We can’t let Oregon be the leading market for dirty diesel engines, and that’s going to happen,” Peveto says.

Older diesel trucks and off-road construction and other commercial rigs spew microscopic particles  (go to article)

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Oil near six-year lows after U.S. stockpiles hit record high

Today -- SINGAPORE - Oil remained weak in Asia on Thursday after data showing record U.S. stockpiles sent prices tumbling to the lowest level in nearly six years in the previous session and analysts said a global glut would continue to keep the market under pressure.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said domestic crude oil stocks rose by almost 9 million barrels last week to reach nearly 407 million, the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1982.

"The market expects stockpiles to keep rising, pushing front-month prices further down as refineries enter maintenance season and are likely run at lower utilisation rates," ANZ said in a note.

Prices on Thursday stuck close to the previous settlement levels. Brent was trading at $48.65 a barrel at 0255 GMT  (go to article)

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Union workers press their case for contract demands at Lyondell refinery

Fuel Fix -- In an effort to show support for ongoing labor negotiations, about 150 employees of LyondellBasell Refinery in Houston fanned out in front of the plant late Wednesday afternoon.

The employees, many still in their blue work jumpsuits, carried signs that read “Fair Contract Now” and “Solidary is Strength” while passing drivers honked their horns.

The rally, which was scheduled for afternoon shift change, was organized by the United Steelworkers union, which is conducting nationwide oil worker bargaining negotiations at an undisclosed location. Local union officials are also trying to hammer out what’s known as “local issues” at each plant.

Current contracts expire at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 1. for most of the 30,000 oil workers – including 5,000 in Houston – covered by the labor agreements.

 (go to article)

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Detroit auto show: What in this world is Toyota's FV2 concept?

MLive -- Is it a glorified motorcycle? A bobsled made for roads? A futuristic transport pod?

Whatever you'd call it, Toyota's FV2 concept was in Detroit for the 2015 North American International Auto Show. Unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the vehicle is meant to signal a future in which driving is not only fun, but a bonding experience between man and machine.

Though a bit of a sideshow at Toyota's expansive stand in the Cobo Center, the FV2 still drew a crowd. At random, it would shift from side to side, while a series of colorful light designs moved across its black, pod-like body.

As explained in the video below, the FV2 is moved by the body balance of the driver, sort of like if you're sledding down a hill of snow. It has no steering wheel.(VIDEO)  (go to article)

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When oil prices fall, Big Oil has an advantage

Marketplace -- It's not that big oil companies love low oil prices, but a part of them doesn't mind. Companies like Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron — which report earnings over the next few days — aren't just producers selling crude oil. They're also refiners, buying crude and selling gasoline. When crude prices drop, that's good for the refinery side of the business.

The big producers have another big advantage: long-term planning. "They're always looking at least 10 to 20 years down the road, so they're not a quarter-to-quarter type company," says James Sweeney, a Stanford University professor who studies energy policy.

On the other hand, thousands of smaller producers borrowed money to finance their drilling. Low oil prices are likely putting some of them "in bankruptcy mode," says David Bellman  (go to article)

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Startling closing argument in Toyota crash case catches automaker off-guard

Star Tribune -- In an 11th-hour bombshell in the federal trial of Toyota Motor Co. on Wednesday, the attorney for the driver unveiled his theory for what caused a Camry to speed up, crashing into another car in 2006 and resulting in three deaths.

Toyota’s attorneys appeared to be caught off guard. Since the car company delivered its closing arguments first, it had no chance to rebut.

Jury deliberations began Wednesday afternoon, and will resume Thursday.

Driver Koua Fong Lee lost control of his Camry, said his attorney Bob Hilliard, because each time he tapped the gas pedal on the long exit ramp off eastbound Interstate 94 at Snelling Avenue, the car accelerated.

The 1995 Camry got stuck at higher and higher speeds, Hilliard said, so when Lee pumped the brakes he was unable to stop and he rear-ended a  (go to article)

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Crude settles at $44.45 after Fed; lowest level since March 2009

cnbc -- U.S. crude prices tumbled on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve reiterated that it will be "patient" in raising rates from record lows but noted that inflation remains well below its target rate.

In a statement after its latest policy meeting, the Fed made clear that no rate increase is imminent. Chair Janet Yellen said after last month's meeting that by saying it would be "patient," the Fed was signaling there would be no rate increase for at least two meetings.

The Fed's statement Wednesday said the factors holding inflation below its 2 percent target rate have intensified since its last meeting in December. Inflation has stayed ultra-low partly because of a plunge in energy prices and a steadily strengthening dollar.

U.S. crude for March delivery hit an intraday low of $44.08 after  (go to article)

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US crude holds near 6-year lows on record stock build

cnbc -- U.S. crude futures were trading near 6-year lows just below $44.50 a barrel in early Asian trade on Thursday, remaining under pressure after data showing U.S. crude stocks surged to their highest on record.

U.S. crude's front-month contract shed 1 cent at $44.44 a barrel as of 0000 GMT. In the previous session, it settled down $1.78, or almost 4 percent, to $44.45 a barrel. It hit a low of $44.08 before the close, the weakest since April 2009.
Benchmark Brent crude closed down $1.13, or 2.3 percent, at $48.47, after a session low at $48.29.

U.S. crude inventories rose by 8.9 million barrels during the week, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Analysts had expected an increase of 4.1 million barrels. The bulk of the rise, 5.5 million barrels, occurred in the Gulf  (go to article)

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Official: ND pipeline that spilled 3M gallons of saltwater not inspected by state

Associated Press -- A pipeline that ruptured recently in North Dakota and spilled nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater produced during oil drilling wasn't inspected by the state before being installed, according to state regulators.

Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, said Wednesday that it's common for officials not to inspect such small gathering pipelines before they become operational.

North Dakota has struggled to find qualified installation inspectors because candidates are often drawn to lucrative jobs in the oil industry, Ritter said. Instead, the state has to rely on the word of companies, which are required to file an affidavit stating that they've followed state-mandated procedures when implementing the smaller  (go to article)

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Where Is All That Excess Oil Going?

NPR -- There's a term traders use when the price of a commodity like oil has fallen because of oversupply but seems guaranteed to rise again.
It's a market that's "in contango,". "It almost sounds like a sort of great oil dance or something."

Some oil speculators see an oil market that is in contango in a major way.

"Some people out there think that oil is going to get more expensive so it's worthwhile now to buy oil, lock it in, and have those supplies, have them stored and have them available to sell a few months down the line, if you actually believe it's going to go up,".

The last time this happened was in 2008-2009, after the price of crude oil plummeted to about $35 barrel amid a global downturn. At least 70 million barrels were stored on tankers until the price rebounded.
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Gas prices finally stop falling

CNN Money -- The steady four-month decline in gas prices which has saved motorists more than a dollar per gallon has ended, at least for the moment.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas edged up a fraction of a penny to take the national average to $2.04 from $2.03 on Tuesday, according to AAA. It marked the first increase in 123 days, the longest such streak on record. Wednesday, the average price stayed unchanged.
Before this week, the last time the average price increased was November 25, when the national average stood at $3.35 a gallon.

This week's slight uptick followed increases in wholesale gas prices and crude oil prices on commodity markets earlier this week. The death of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud last week prompted some uncertainty in markets on whether the Saudi  (go to article)

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Kinder Eyes Pipeline to Export Ultra Light Oil From West

Bloomberg -- Kinder Morgan, the world’s largest pipeline company by market value, is proposing a link that would give the ultra light oil from Texas fields a second path out of the country.

The company is marketing a pipeline that would be capable of carrying 200,000 bbls/day of oil and 100,000 of ultra light crude known as condensate to central California from Texas, Tom Martin, president of Kinder Morgan’s gas pipelines, said in a presentation on Wednesday. From there the condensate could move to Asia, where petrochemical plants are boosting demand for lighter oil.

Condensate has emerged as one of the few exceptions to a four-decade ban that keeps most crude from leaving the country. Federal regulators have been issuing rulings since last year allowing companies to send the processed oil abroad fro  (go to article)

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North Dakota jobs boom in danger as oil prices plummet

AljazeeraAmerica -- The shale oil boom of the last five years has brought soaring housing prices to Williston, North Dakota, where a 700-square-foot apartment costs an average of $2,394 a month. Rootless, job-seeking newcomers have occasionally resorted to sleeping in their vehicles, unable to afford the highest rent in the nation.

“We’ve seen people living in their motor vehicles through the last five years, because of housing prices being expensive,” said Williston Police Department’s public information officer, Detective David Peterson.

But as oil prices have plunged over the last seven months from about $100 a barrel to below $50, the possibility of a bust for this boomtown has raised fears that those who once enjoyed higher-than-average salaries and free housing from oil companies contingent upon emplo  (go to article)

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The Obama oil boom

KITV4ABC -- NEW YORK (CNNMoney) —The greatest oil boom in this nation's history has occurred during the tenure of self-proclaimed environmentalist Barack Obama.Under Obama, the steady drop in U.S. oil production which had occurred virtually unchecked since 1971 has been reversed. Crude oil production has risen every year of his administration. It has jumped 72% since he took office, producing about 3.6 million additional barrels a day during that time.

Oil production has grown so much that last summer the nation caught and passed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. Before Obama leaves office, domestic oil production could top the U.S. record set in 1970.

A combination of new technology, primarily fracking, has unlocked oil that was previously out of reach of drillers...  (go to article)

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Colorado slashes funding for immigrant drivers licenses, shutters four of five offices

fox news latino -- Colorado has dramatically slashed funding to its program granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants – making it almost impossible for any new applicants to receive an appointment before 2016.

As a result of the cut, only one DMV office in the state is now able to offer driver's license appointments to the estimated 150,000 undocumented immigrants who are eligible to apply. The next available appointment is in March 2016.  (go to article)

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Michigan road plan costs taxpayers $410M in lost deductions

Detroit News -- The $1.2 billion road-funding plan endorsed by Gov. Rick Snyder may leave a $102 million pothole in the pockets of as many as 1.2 million Michigan taxpayers who deduct vehicle registration fees on their federal income taxes.

Economist Patrick Anderson's East Lansing-based firm says the "far reaching and complicated" road funding package lawmakers slapped together on the last day of December's lame duck session will likely cause federal income tax bills to rise.

That's because lawmakers changed the tax on vehicle registrations from an ad valorem property tax to a "straightforward excise tax," the Anderson Economic Group said in a report published Wednesday.

But the federal tax code only allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of vehicle registration taxes if it was property tax, meaning taxa  (go to article)

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US House Passes Bill Aimed at Expediting Natural Gas Exports

AP via Downstream Today -- The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at expediting approvals of natural gas exports.

In a 277-133 vote, the House approved a bill giving the Energy Department a 30-day deadline to authorize natural gas exports from facilities after they are reviewed and approved.

It's the third energy-related bill passed by the House this Congress. They have also approved bills authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and fast-tracking new natural gas pipelines.

"Unfortunately, our nation's energy infrastructure, mired in red tape and an outdated permitting process, has failed to keep up with today's growing pace of energy production," said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, whose state which has received three  (go to article)

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