Oil prices declined for the sixth straight day (above) after a long run-up that threatened to engulf President Obama’s re-election campaign. The price of crude fell to $96 a barrel following the longest steady drop since 2010. Analysts say that tensions in the Eurozone over election results inf Gree and France are threatening enough disruption to push down demand. It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good.
Bad news at Chesapeake continued to emerge as Reuters discovered CEO Aubrey McClendon secured a $450 million loan with longtime backer EIG Global EnergyPartners even as the board of directors was preparing to strip him of his chairmanship. McClendon now owes EIG $1.1 billion, secured only by his personal stake in wells that Chesapeake has not yet drilled plus his life insurance. Reuters also took a look at the secret $200 million hedge fund that McClendon operated out of his CEO’s office. Southern Asset Management, Chesapeake’s biggest shareholder, is urging the board to sell the company.
The quiet battle between the coal industry and the EPA continued as the industry began an advertising campaign on YouTube and at NASCAR. A Bloomberg Government Report called “The Twilight of Coal-Fired Power?” says natural gas will likely replace coal as the dominant form of producing electricity. Meanwhile, US coal producers are looking abroad for export markets. This has kicked off another debate as environmentalists attempt to block sending coal to other countries. Meanwhile, West Virginia Congressman David McKinley argues that we should continue recycling coal ash as road construction material rather than classifying it as a hazardous waste.
Energy Transfer, the Dallas partnership that owns 23,000 miles of gas pipelines, reported a healthy 88 increase in profits over the first quarter. The partnership just bought Sunoco for $5.3 billion. Nevada Energy, the Las Vegas-based utility, also reported a profitable quarter and declared a dividend increase of 31 percent. Duke and Progress Energy reached an agreement with their consumer group, clearing the way for the merger of the two companies. And GE announced it will open a deep-water training facility in Houston.
Finally, natural gas prices appear to be rebounding as producers are finding new markets for their abundant supplies. Royal Dutch Shell is considering a natural-gas-to-diesel facility on the Gulf Coast and South Africa’s Sasoil is mulling a similar operation. Reliance cut its reserve estimates by 6 percent for its India operations. The Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued new rules for pipeline safety in response to the 2010 gas explosion in a San Francisco suburb And the Obama Administration told the Senate that over the last few months US pipelines have been the target of sophisticated cyber-attacks.