Helping America Navigate a New Energy Reality

Tom Whipple

About Tom

Tom Whipple is the editor of ASPO-USA’s two flagship publications, Peak Oil News and Peak Oil Review. Tom is a former senior analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since retiring from the CIA, Tom has become a well-known researcher and writer on energy and oil issues. Tom writes a weekly column on peak oil for the Falls Church News, a daily newspaper based in northern Virginia. Tom holds degrees from Rice University and the London School of Economics.

The State of Nuclear Power Plants

By on 14 Aug 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

[After two nuclear plants in South Carolina were cancelled:] “We continue to believe that the problem with new nuclear (small modular units excepted) power plants is not that they generate electricity with nuclear fission. The difficulty is economic. The nuclear units are expensive, base load generating units in a world where production of electricity is becoming less expensive and increasingly decentralized. Base load power plants (and especially nuclear ones) are, in general, must-run, inflexible price takers. Going forward there will be less need for those facilities regardless of how they are fueled. Furthermore, the builder of a nuclear plant must bet an enormous sum on the need for electricity a decade hence, when the plant is completed. Given the uncertainty in power demand and prices, that is a gamble uncompensated in the regulatory process.

By Leonard Hyman and William Tilles for Oilprice.com

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Peak Oil Review – 14 Aug 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 14 Aug 2017

It has been two weeks of mixed signals as to the course of oil prices. Last week prices fell around 1.5 percent, closing at $48.82 in New York on concerns that the OPEC/NOPEC collation was not following through on its pledge to cap production. Even though US stocks continue to fall, much of this is due to increasing exports of light oils and finished oil products and not to increased domestic demand. On Friday, the IEA said that although the oil markets were slowly balancing, it is not going quickly. OPEC and other friends of higher oil prices continue to release optimistic reports, but the consensus seems to be that oil prices will stay around their current levels for the rest of the year unless there is a major geopolitical upheaval.

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CEO of Royal Dutch Shell on the future of electric vehicles in developed and developing nations

By on 31 Jul 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“Even if the UK, France and the Western world, in general, will all go to 100 percent electric vehicles, that would be great, but that wouldn’t be enough…We still have less advanced economic economies that cannot do that switch.”

Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell (7/28)

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Peak Oil Review – 31 July 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 31 July 2017

Oil prices were strong last week with New York futures closing about $4 a barrel higher for the week at $49.71 and London at $52.52. Behind the move was another unexpectedly large decline in US stockpiles of 7.2 million barrels. This decline was brought about by a high level of US refinery consumption of almost 17.3 million b/d of crude the week before last. This was 620,000 b/d higher than in the comparable week in 2016. A reduction in Saudi shipments to the US was also seen as responsible for the unusually large decline in inventories.

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Senior Vice President of Maritime Services at Maersk Line Ltd. on Price Break Point for Arctic Oil

By on 24 Jul 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“The fact is, oil at $50 a barrel makes Arctic oil uncompetitive. In terms of what’s going to happen down the road, I saw a World Bank report placed the oil in nominal dollars at $80 a barrel in 2030. That’s still way below break the price for Arctic oil.”

Stephen M. Carmel, senior vice president of Maritime Services at Maersk Line Ltd. (7/21)

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Peak Oil Review – 24 July 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 24 July 2017

The markets remain confused about the future of oil prices as analysts attempt to interpret alternating bullish and bearish signals. Last week prices rose on Tuesday and Wednesday while falling on Monday, Thursday, and Friday leaving US futures at $45.77 or about $1 below where they started the week.  With the US now exporting circa 1 million barrels of oil each day and imports up only about 300,000 b/d over last year, US stocks have been falling of late.  There has been some increase in US consumption, but a rapid rise in US oil product exports is clouding the picture as to whether the high levels of US refinery output are being consumed domestically or being shipped abroad.

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Divergent views on Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles

By on 17 Jul 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“What oil companies and car companies are saying [about future sales of plug-in vehicles] is diverging.  This is a trillion-dollar question, and someone is going to be wrong.”

Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance

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Peak Oil Review – 17 July 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 17 July 2017

Oil prices climbed steadily last week, ending up Friday about $5 a barrel higher in New York at $46.54 with London the usual $2.50 or so higher. Although market concerns about oversupply have not gone away, a 7.6-million-barrel decline in US crude stocks and better demand from Europe and China was enough to keep the markets climbing higher. Rising prices were kept in check, however, by the continuing increases in oil production in the US, Canada, Libya and Nigeria. There are also concerns that adherence to the OPEC production cut is slipping and many traders are losing confidence in OPEC’s ability to balance the markets with the current level of effort.

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US Energy Secretary Rick Perry on the supply and demand dynamics of coal

By on 10 Jul 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“Here’s a little economics lesson, supply and demand: You put the supply [more coal] out there and the demand will follow that.”

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was criticised by economists who point out that, typically, supply follows demand

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Peak Oil Review – 10 July 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 10 July 2017

Last Monday, oil prices rose for the eighth consecutive session closing in New York at $47 a barrel and setting a record for the longest gaining streak in nearly eight years. This surge came on speculator concerns that increases in US shale oil production were starting to slow. The rest of the week was mostly downhill with NY futures closing at $44.23. The slide came among reports that OPEC was not interested in further price cuts; a resumption of the increase in the US oil-rig count of seven rigs, adding to the run of 23 weeks of steady gains before the count fell by one the week before last; US crude production and exports continuing to gain; and OPEC exports increasing by 220,000 b/d in June to 32.49 million b/d.

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President Trump on US Energy Dominance and Exports

By on 3 Jul 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“We will be dominant.  We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe. These energy exports will create countless jobs for our people, and provide true energy security to our friends, partners, and allies across the globe.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a speech [Ed. Note: possible hyperbole?]

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Peak Oil Review – 3 July 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 3 July 2017

After a decline of nearly $10 a barrel since mid-May, oil prices rebounded sharply last week with New York futures climbing from below $43 to close at $46 a barrel.  Although many are still worried about excess oil inventories, most traders are optimistic that the worst is over and that higher oil prices stemming from the OPEC production cut are ahead. Many see the recent surge in US shale oil production slowing due to oil prices being in the $40s.

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CEO of Paris-based Total explaining why he isn’t expanding assets in the hot US shale oil market

By on 26 Jun 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“Shale oil is too expensive. Let’s concentrate on low-cost oil. Don’t tell me I need to invest in the highest technology barrels because low-cost oil is the answer to volatility and peak oil.”

Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of Paris-based Total, explaining why he isn’t expanding assets in the hot US shale oil market.

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Peak Oil Review – 26 June 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 26 June 2017

Oil prices continued to slide last week with Brent falling below $45 on Thursday and WTI falling below $43. Prices have now dropped by more than 20 percent since the start of the year, and Brent crude will likely post its worst first half since 1997. As normal of late, prices fell on increasing production in the US, Canada, Nigeria and Libya with little solid indication that the OPEC/NOPEC consortium is yet willing to make further production cuts.  While the sharp production gains in Libya and Nigeria are recoveries from geopolitical production outages, some are forecasting that the surge in US shale oil production could run on into 2018 provided oil prices remain high enough to support additional growth.

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Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance lead author on the unstoppable expansion of renewable electricity

By on 19 Jun 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“This year’s [New Energy Outlook] report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including those in electric vehicles, in balancing supply and demand.”

Seb Henbest, Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance lead author

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Peak Oil Review – 19 June 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 19 June 2017

In the last month, US oil prices have fallen from close to $52 a barrel to below $45. Partly due to the large exports of US crude which have been around 1 million b/d in recent weeks, London prices have been running only about $2 a barrel higher than the US. Last week a report from the IEA predicting that the oil glut would continue into 2018 or beyond, combined with an unexpected jump in US commercial petroleum stocks, to push oil prices down by $2 a barrel to touch a low of $44.50 on Thursday before a slight recovery on Friday.

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Bloomberg Analyst on Electric Vehicle Battery Cost and Energy Density

By on 12 Jun 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“As battery costs fall and their energy density increases, we could see cheaper battery-electric cars than their fuel-burning equivalents by 2030.”

Nikolas Soulopoulos, a London-based analyst with Bloomberg LP.

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Peak Oil Review – 12 June 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 12 June 2017

During the past month, there have been several important developments which could have a major impact on the course of oil prices and production in the next few years. First was the OPEC/NOPEC decision to extend the current 1.8 million b/d production cut for another 18 months despite increasing evidence that increasing US shale oil output and rebounding Libyan and Nigerian production are offsetting the production cut. Because of the timid nature of the OPEC decision, increasing stockpiles and higher oil production, the price of crude has fallen some 11-12 percent in the last three weeks leaving US futures below $46 and Brent below $48 a barrel.

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President of the League of Conservation Voters on litigation regarding Arctic and Atlantic permanent protections

By on 8 May 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“President Trump is trying to erase all the climate and environmental progress we’ve made. We aren’t about to go down without a fight, and by joining this litigation, we are signaling to Congress our resolute and growing commitment to defending the Arctic and Atlantic permanent protections and halting the expansion of risky offshore drilling.”

Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters

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Peak Oil Review – 8 May 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 8 May 2017

The price slump which began in early April continued last week with NY futures falling below $46 a barrel on Thursday, down from nearly $54 last month. Behind the move are fundamentals saying that a combination of higher US crude production and rebounding Libyan output are offsetting the 1.8 million b/d OPEC/NOPEC production cut. In the past week, several oil ministers supporting the production cut have issued reassuring statements as to how well the cut is being observed; that the cut likely to be extended until the end of the year; and that the 3rd quarter will see substantial progress in easing the oil glut. Outside analysts continue to say that deeper cuts and extending on into 2018 will be necessary to offset booming production in countries not subject to the cut.

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IEA’s executive director on the future of oil markets

By on 1 May 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“The key question for the future of the oil market is for how long can a surge in US shale supplies make up for the slow pace of growth elsewhere in the oil sector.”

–Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director

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Peak Oil Review – 1 May 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 1 May 2017

Oil prices fell again last week on concerns that the OPEC production cut will not be enough to offset increasing US shale oil production. The reopening of two Libyan oilfields which could bring Libyan production back to the vicinity of 700,000 b/d added to the pressure on oil prices. At week’s close, New York futures were below $50 a barrel with London a couple of dollars higher, both down about 8 percent from their April peak of $54-$55 a barrel.

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Arthur Berman (consulting geologist) on global oil inventories

By on 24 Apr 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“Global oil inventories are falling because of OPEC and non-OPEC production cuts, but the road to market balance will be long.”

–Arthur Berman, Consulting Geologist

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Peak Oil Review – 24 Apr 2017

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Peak Oil Review – 24 Apr 2017

Last week, oil prices underwent their biggest weekly decline in a month as the markets lost confidence in OPEC’s ability to reduce the global oil surplus in the near future. The move was supported by reports that a glut was developing in the physical oil market in the North Sea area as lower Asia purchases, increased shipments of US crude to the EU, and more supplies coming out of storage all served to drive down prices. At week’s end, US futures were once again trading below $50 a barrel and London’s Brent below $52.

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Head of analysis at Rystad Energy on new oil discoveries

By on 17 Apr 2017 in quotes with 0 Comments

“The shortcoming of oil replacement by the drill bit has been quite drastic … Discoveries are not keeping up with production.”

Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis, Rystad Energy. Last year, 10 billion barrels of oil were discovered, around one third of global consumption, including well-appraisal activity, said Nysveen. He added that supply could fall short by up to 2 million barrels per day within seven to eight years.

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