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Remembering Exxon Valdez: Moving Beyond Oil and Keeping Shell Out of the Arctic

Faux News -- Just after midnight, 26 years ago today, the Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. At least 11 million gallons of crude spilled into the sound. The immediate casualties included more than 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 22 orcas and perhaps a quarter of a million seabirds. No one knows how many salmon and herring died, but a once thriving herring fishery has never recovered.

Our country’s three worst oil disasters—the Santa Barbara Channel blowout of 1969, Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico just five years ago—were all consequences of the ever-expanding search for new sources of oil. By the 1960s, when drilling began off the coast of Santa Barbara, the “easy” oil deposits had all been found. Yet  (go to article)

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Millennials Claim They're Better Car Shoppers than Their Parents

GasBuddy Blog -- When it comes to car shopping, it's not uncommon for young adults to turn to their parents for experienced tips and advice. But a new study from car buying platform Edmunds.com suggests that the younger, tech-savvy generation is quickly becoming a more educated and self-sufficient group of buyers due to their prolific use of mobile devices during the car shopping process.According to the study commissioned by Edmunds in early 2015, 73 percent of Millennials (age 18-34) said that they believe they are savvier car buyers than their parents. More than half of Millennial respondents also said they actively advise friends and family on the car buying process, compared to 37 percent of older Americans. ...  (go to article)

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How American frackers plan to beat OPEC

Yahoo Finance -- Gary Evans, CEO of Houston-based energy firm Magnum Hunter Resources (MHR), has a blunt message for OPEC oil ministers hoping to force down prices and drive American competitors out of business.  (go to article)

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US Labor Dept. Presses Gas Stations in N.J. To Pay Employees Overtime As Required

CBS -- Federal labor officials in New Jersey have announced the results of a five-year crackdown on gas station owners who have not paid their employees properly.

According to the feds, more than 1,000 attendants at both major branded gas stations and independents were due a total of $5.5 million in overtime that was not paid.
 (go to article)

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Energy Department study: Shale won’t last, Arctic drilling needed now

AP -- The U.S. should immediately begin a push to exploit its enormous trove of oil in the Arctic waters off of Alaska, or risk a renewed reliance on imported oil in the future, an Energy Department advisory council says in a study to be released Friday.

The U.S. has drastically cut imports and transformed itself into the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas by tapping huge reserves in shale rock formations. But the government predicts that the shale boom won’t last much beyond the next decade.

In order for the U.S. to keep domestic production high and imports low, oil companies should start probing the Artic now because it takes 10 to 30 years of preparation and drilling to bring oil to market, according to a draft of the study’s executive summary obtained by the Associated Press.
 (go to article)

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Tesoro refinery plans $390M expansion as oil train regulations loom

Puget Sound Business Journal -- The six-week steelworkers strike has come to an end and now Tesoro Corp. is turning its attention to $390 million in planned upgrades at its Anacortes oil refinery, partly intended to improve its export capabilities.

But the company at the same time is facing deepening scrutiny of its use of oil-carrying rail cars, including recently proposed federal legislation sponsored by both of Washington state's senators after a series of derailments and explosions across North America.

Tesoro, which is based in San Antonio, Texas and generated $40.6 billion in revenue last year, is planning two projects at the plant.

The Anacortes facility refines crude oil from the Alaska North Slope, and increasingly, from the Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas.

One is a $300 million project to build a facility  (go to article)

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Buckle up! Oil 'could fall to $30' say trading pros

CNBC -- Oil prices continued their downward spiral Friday, falling more than $1, after a short-lived rally of around 5 percent the previous day, as concerns of a disruption to supplies in the Middle East appeared to ease. Against this backdrop, hedge fund managers said the oil price would remain volatile and could even fall as low as $30.  (go to article)

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$60 crude is 'definitely' in the cards: BNP Paribas

CNBC -- Crude oil has surged more than 15 percent from its low last week, and according to one technical-minded trader, the charts are setting up for an even bigger rally.

"I think we are in the process of creating a floor," Darren Wolfberg, head of U.S. cash equity trading at BNP Paribas, said on CNBC.com's "Futures Now" on Thursday. "I don't think we're going to see new lows here."
 (go to article)

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North American Railroads Caught by Speed of Crude-Oil Collapse

Bloomberg -- The slowdown that North American railroad companies had been bracing for in crude oil shipments has turned into a rout, with volumes falling faster than executives had predicted.

With energy companies scaling back drilling after prices for the commodity fell about 50 percent since July, industry executives and analysts anticipated that demand for hauling crude and extraction materials such as frac sand and pipes would slow after a four-year surge. They didn’t expect it to slow this much this fast.

“The impact is occurring more quickly than the rails originally projected to investors,” said Matt Troy, an analyst with Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “The consensus view was that very high double-digit growth would moderate to low double digits, and ...  (go to article)

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Energy regulator engineers investigated by industry group

Reutesr -- Canada’s energy regulator is investigating up to a dozen new allegations of natural gas pipeline safety-code violations at TransCanada Corp, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

The regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), and the company confirmed an investigation is under way but offered few details of the allegations.

It marks the second time in recent years the regulator has probed safety practices at Canada’s second-largest pipeline company following complaints by a whistleblower.
Documents reviewed by Reuters showed the allegations include faulty or delayed repairs, sloppy welding work and a failure to report key issues to the regulator.

TransCanada declined to provide details about the allegations, but noted someone previously raised them within the company, prompting  (go to article)

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New Brunswick bans fracking, plans ‘prudent’ impact study

Reuters - PORTLAND, Maine -- Lawmakers in New Brunswick voted on Thursday to prohibit fracking in the eastern Canadian province, committing to study the controversial method of extracting oil and gas for one year before reconsidering the ban in 2016.

The province’s Liberal-led government said it will require five conditions be met before the moratorium is lifted. These include beefed-up environmental and health regulations, a plan for waste water disposal, consultations with aboriginal groups, a royalty structure, and the establishment of a “social license,” which is the approval by local communities and stakeholders.

“It is responsible and prudent to do our due diligence and get more information regarding hydraulic fracturing,” said Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault.

The province is the latest of several  (go to article)

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As wind power booms, Texas lawmakers consider yanking support

Dallas Morning News -- What began as a goal of 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy in 1999 was eventually increased to 10,000 megawatts, to be met by 2025. But wind boomed far beyond estimates. Texas passed that 2025 goal five years ago and now counts 12,800 megawatts of wind power — at times supplying more than a quarter of the electricity on the grid.  (go to article)

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Taxes on booze, cigarettes and fuel rise in Alberta

Edmonton Sun -- Grab some smokes and booze after you gas up today, because at midnight the province will raise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and fuel.

Effective 12:01 a.m. Friday, tax on gasoline and diesel will rise from nine- to 13 cents per litre, marking the first increase since 1991. Propane will also rise 2.9 cents per litre, to 9.4 cents. The changes are expected to raise an additional $430 million in 2015-16.  (go to article)

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Gas station owner, drivers catch suspected car thief

Deseret News -- Shannon Harris expected Wednesday to be a typical day.

It wasn't.

Harris, the owner of the Sinclair gas station at 3300 South and Main Stree, said a customer left his 2005 Acura running outside near a gas pump about 10 a.m. as he went into the store to get a drink.

Harris then watched as another man jumped into the running car and took off.

Instead of picking up the phone to call police, Harris grabbed his car keys.

“We just jumped in our car and just went after him,” he said.

Harris said he and the customer chased after the Acura, but they didn’t make it far because of a passing TRAX train. The arms at the TRAX stop were down at Washington Street and 3300 South, so the man driving the Acura hit another truck and then jumped out and ran, Harris said.  (go to article)

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House Transportation Committee urged to raise gas tax, vehicle fees during hearing

The Spokesman-Review -- OLYMPIA – A steady stream of business leaders and local government officials urged a House panel to raise the gasoline tax and several other vehicle fees and spend the projected $15 billion on roads, bridges, mass transit and ferries.

Although some listed highway or bridge projects that they think should be added to the proposed list, most speakers who came before the House Transportation Committee in the three-hour hearing said they supported an 11.7 cent increase in the state gas tax that passed the Senate earlier this month. The proposal also has higher fees for vehicle weights, drivers and a new $5 fee on each new studded tire sold after Jan. 1, 2017.

The list of projects in Eastern Washington totals more than $1 billion, with money to complete the North Spokane Corridor  (go to article)

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State grants Spokane seat at oil train hearings

The Spokesman-Review -- With a significant boost in oil trains rolling through downtown possible, city leaders say Spokane’s “voice will be heard” as the state considers a proposed crude oil terminal in Vancouver, Washington.

The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council said Thursday that the city – as well as a number of environmental, tribal and governmental entities – was granted intervention status, meaning the city had shown it will be affected by the facility and will be part of the formal hearings the state will hold regarding the facility’s permitting.

City leaders applauded the state’s decision to include the city.

“To me, it means we at least get a voice and we’re treated as a partner,” said Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart. “Our voice will be heard.”

 (go to article)

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The Only Thing Oil Analysts Can Agree On Is Disagreement

Bloomberg -- Standard Chartered Plc’s Paul Horsnell forecasts oil will rise to $90 a barrel in the fourth quarter. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Francisco Blanch predicts $58. Six months ago, they were just $1 apart.

That sudden divergence highlights a growing trend: Energy analysts are the most divided in at least eight years on the direction of Brent crude, the global benchmark. Forecasters failed to predict the plunge that cut oil prices by more than half after the U.S. shale boom boosted output to a three-decade high. OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, relinquished its traditional role adjusting production to moderate price swings in an effort to maintain market share.

This has left analysts split over how much and how quickly low prices will force U.S. producers to  (go to article)

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Oil falls more than $1 as Middle East supply fears ease

Reuters -- Oil prices fell more than $1 a barrel on Friday as worries receded over the threat of disruptions to Middle East supplies due to Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in Yemen.

Goldman Sachs said the bombing of Yemen would have little effect on oil supplies as the country was only a small crude exporter and tankers could avoid passing its waters to reach their ports of destination.

North Sea Brent crude LCOc1 was down 90 cents at $58.29 a barrel by 0640 EDT after hitting an intraday low of $57.76. U.S. crude CLc1 was down $1.00 at $50.43 a barrel.

Oil jumped around 5 percent on Thursday, its biggest daily gain in a month, after air strikes in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies sparked fears that escalation of the Middle East battle could disrupt world crude supplies.

The Saudi-led  (go to article)

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Trans-Eurasian Belt Development superhighway would connect Russia and U.S.

CBC NEWS -- Vladimir Yakunin, the head of government-owned Russian Railways, envisions a superhighway linking approximately 20,000 kilometres of roadways in Asia, Europe and North America. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters) . . . "It could be the ultimate road trip — on a proposed superhighway that would wind halfway round the world connecting Russia and the U.S., and travelling through major European cities like London, Paris and Berlin.

" . . . and providing a crossing over or under the Bering Strait.

"The proposal, although short on specifics, was presented recently at a Russian Academy of Sciences meeting, the Siberian Times reported. ...  (go to article)

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Pothole repair season begins for northern half of U.S.

GasBuddy Blog --
Image From ..state.nj.usLike many states across the U.S. from Oregon to Maine, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has begun a statewide campaign to repair potholes.
To deal with potholes in the most aggressive and efficient manner, the Department will be allowing crews through the state to close travel lanes where necessary during daytime hours, including during peak travel times for priority repairs.  
In addition to the Department’s usual winter pothole repair method of using cold patch material, NJDOT is using 13 state-of-the-art pothole-filling machines, which make a more durable repair than cold-patch. The pothole-filling machine, which was demonstrated today, is a truck that can heat a mix of asphalt and gravel before injecting the mixture into the pothole. These machines require just one person to operate, with another worker operating a safety truck.  ...  (go to article)

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Texting while driving ban could face opposition in state House

KCRG.com -- DES MOINES — Rep. Gary Worthan believes Iowa roads would be safer if the rule requiring him to use only a hands-free phone when he’s driving his truck applied to all drivers.

However, politics being the art of the possible, the Storm Lake Republican will settle for a ban on texting while driving.Read more at http://www.kcrg.com/subject/news/text deleted  (go to article)

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Oil prices ease as market sees little threat of supply disruptions from Yemen

CNBC REUTERS -- Oil prices edged lower in early trading in Asia on Friday as traders estimated that the threat of a disruption to world crude supplies from Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in Yemen was low.

Goldman Sachs said in an overnight note that the strikes in Yemen would have little effect on oil supplies as the country was only a small crude exporter and tankers could avoid passing its waters to reach their ports of destination.

Internationally traded Brent crude futures were trading at $58.88 a barrel at 0121 GMT, down 31 cents from their last settlement. U.S. crude was down 40 cents at $51.03 a barrel.

Prices soared as much as 6 percent the previous day after a Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations began strikes on Shi'ite Houthis and allied army units who have taken over much of Yemen and seek...  (go to article)

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Oil and gas health risks low in northeast B.C., report finds

The Globe and Mail - VANCOUVER -- A long-awaited study into the health risks associated with the oil and gas industry in northeast British Columbia has concluded there is a low probability of adverse effects from exposure to contaminants.

The report, part of a larger study the B.C. government initiated nearly four years ago, was released Thursday by provincial Health Minister Terry Lake.

The findings were welcomed by industry, which has long been blamed for releasing contaminants that are harmful to human health, but critics remained doubtful, saying too much is still unknown about long-term effects.

“It’s a comprehensive report and I think it demonstrates that people who live and work in northeast B.C. shouldn’t be concerned about the impact of the oil and gas industry on their health,” said Geoff Morrison, manager of  (go to article)

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AWD Ford Focus RS to make U.S. debut at New York auto show

MLive -- The all-new, all-wheel-drive Ford Focus RS, highly anticipated by rally enthusiasts and others, is making its U.S. debut next week at the New York International Auto Show.

The sporty, 4-door hatchback was unveiled last month in Cologne, Germany, where Ford's RS performance label was first born with the Ford 15M RS in 1968.

The new Focus RS debuts the company's Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control system. It will come equipped with a 315-plus-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine.

"Customers have begged for the Focus RS to come to the United States for years" Raj Nair, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said in a release Wednesday. "And now we can say that they are getting one of the most innovative, powerful and best-looking.,.  (go to article)

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Toyota to make hybrid RAV4

USAToday -- Toyota plans to use the New York Auto Show to introduce a natural extension to its crossover line -- a hybrid version of the RAV4.

Toyota already has a Highlander hybrid, which runs on both electricity and its gas engine. An all-electric plug-in version of the RAV4 was dropped after it was announced last year that Tesla would no longer be supplying the batteries.

For now, Toyota is only showing a hint of the look of the new RAV4. It makes its debut next week.

The new RAV4 is keeping with Toyota's pledge to extend hybrid technology across its line. Because it's a compact SUV, there's a little more space inside to pack in suitcase-sized hybrid batteries than would be found in a sedan. And Toyota is banking that there are plenty of eco-minded families willing to pay a little more for a hyb  (go to article)

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Canadian upgrader maintenance to cut 2nd qtr synthetic crude supply

Reuters -- More than 10 percent of Canada's synthetic crude supply is set to go offline during the second quarter of 2015 as oil sands producers in northern Alberta carry out planned maintenance at four major facilities that upgrade tar-like bitumen into crude.

Royal Dutch Shell, Suncor Energy Inc and Canadian Oil Sands Ltd, which is the largest interest owner in the Syncrude Canada project, all confirmed this week they have scheduled maintenance for this spring.

Maintenance on the upgraders, which convert mined bitumen from the oil sands into refinery-ready synthetic crude, is likely to support prices over the next couple of months.

Light synthetic oil-sands crude for April delivery has been trading at a premium to West Texas Intermediate crude throughout March in anticipation of curtailed supply  (go to article)

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Motiva to integrate Norco, Convent refineries in Louisiana

Reuters -- Motiva Enterprises said on Thursday that operations at its Convent and Norco, Louisiana, refineries will be integrated to take advantage of increased production of lower-cost U.S. shale oil.

Motiva, which is co-owned by Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco, said the first step in the integration project is the construction of the Maurepas pipeline system that will bring advantaged crude to the Norco refinery and connect the production systems at the two plants.

After the three-pipeline system is in place, Motiva plans to idle the 92,000-barrel-per-day gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit at the 235,000 bpd Convent refinery.

The company will also expand by 30,000 bpd the hydrocracking unit at the 238,000 bpd Norco refinery. The Norco hydrocracker currently can process 40,000  (go to article)

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$7 billion transportation budget passes Ohio legislature: Here's what's in it (and what's not)

Cleveland.com -- COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a two-year transportation budget with more than $7 billion for highway projects around the state.

The budget also contains a controversial 30-day vehicle registration deadline and requires the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to accept credit and debit cards, among other measures.

The Ohio House passed the budget 82-13 on Thursday afternoon; the bill previously passed the state Senate unanimously.

Gov. John Kasich has to sign the budget by April 1 for it to take effect when the new fiscal year starts in July. The governor's policy team is currently reviewing the legislation, administration spokesman Jim Lynch said Thursday.

Here are some of the key provisions in House Bill 53:  (go to article)

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Ride-sharing regulations a 'grey zone,' Uber GM says as more drivers plead guilty

Ottawa Citizen -- Two more Uber drivers pleaded guilty in an Ottawa court Thursday to driving unlicensed taxis even as Uber’s general manager for Ontario said he believes regulations around ride-sharing services are a “grey zone” and that Uber’s services aren’t illegal.

Wilmond Celiba and Sedik Said were each fined $400 after reaching plea deals with the city in which a second charge of operating an unlicensed taxi was withdrawn. The two Uber drivers were among eight on the docket at the provincial offences court Thursday. The city withdrew charges entirely against a third driver, Hashim Naziri, because the city bylaw officer didn’t sign the ticket. Five other drivers’ cases were adjourned until April 23.

The drivers fined Thursday are among 25 that the city said it has charged since Uber launched its rid  (go to article)

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Other Passengers, Not Phones, The Biggest Distraction In Crashes For Teen Drivers

CBS Chicago -- In 15 percent of the crashes, the driver was simply interacting with one or more passengers. Cell phone use, from talking to texting, was to blame in 12 percent of the incidents. Just fiddling around in the car – looking at something from the radio to a book – was to blame 10 percent of the time. Even just singing in the car led to accidents 6 percent of the time.  (go to article)

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Americans consuming least amount of gasoline since the 80's

GasBuddy Blog -- A study out by the University of Michigan boldly claims that Americans are consuming the least amount of gasoline since tracking began in 1984.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study by Michael Sivak said average fuel consumption by U.S. motorists dropped in 2013 to its lowest level since 1984, the first year data was recorded.

The drop is astounding, as consumption now stands some 14 to 19 percent lower than when it peaked in 2004, said Sivak. The numbers shows that in 2013 the amount of fuel consumed per person was about 392 gallons, while overall households consumed an average of just over 1,000 gallons- declines of 17 percent and 19 percent, respectively, since 2004- when numbers peaked. Overall consumption by vehicle dropped to 524 gallons while gallons per driver dropped to 583 gallons....  (go to article)

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Bridge collapse reported on interstate in Central Texas

AP -- SALADO, Texas (AP) — Emergency crews are responding to a reported bridge collapse along an interstate in Central Texas.

The Bell County Sheriff's Department says the accident happened late Thursday morning along Interstate 35 in Salado (suh-LAY'-doh), about 40 miles north of Austin.

Lt. Donnie Adams says traffic has been halted in both directions. Adams says he didn't immediately have additional details on possible injuries or what caused the accident.

The Texas Department of Transportation had no immediate information on the incident.  (go to article)

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Has your car been recalled? Eight questions to ask.

The Christian Science Monitor -- Over 60 million cars were recalled in the United States during 2014, more than ever before. There were a total of 700 recall announcements made last year, meaning there were nearly two recall announcements each day.

Though 2015 has, thus far, not had any of the massive recall numbers of 2014, a few weeks ago Kia recalled over 200,000 vehicles while Ford announced a recall just days ago that affects 220,000 models. This all means it's time to refresh our memory on just how car recalls work — and what you should do if your car is affected by one.
 (go to article)

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Auto fleet fuel efficiency rises in ’14

Detroit News -- The fuel efficiency of the nation’s cars and trucks is still rising but the pace of gas-saving improvements is slowing, and automakers are raising concerns that people won't buy enough fuel-sipping models to meet tough government requirements.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in its latest report on fuel efficiency that overall, vehicles that will be sold for model-year 2014 are estimated to be just 0.1 mile per gallon better — at 24.2 mpg in real-world fuel efficiency — than the overall average of all the 2013 model-year vehicles sold.

In contrast, 2013 vehicles on average got 0.5 mpg better than 2012 models, and 2012 vehicles got 1.2 mpg better than 2011 cars.

“These findings are a terrific early success story for President Obama’s historic effort to reduce the pollution that  (go to article)

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Why Gas Could Plunge Below $2 a Gallon This Summer

AOL -- The price of gasoline has plunged 30 percent in the past year to $2.45 a gallon nationwide, giving major relief to American consumers. Plunging oil prices have driven the drop and have given a reprieve to consumers who have been paying nearly $4 a gallon for gas for most of the past four years.  (go to article)

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'Mr. Pothole' Mark Morrell pushes for World Pothole Day on March 25

CBC News -- If Mark Morrell — who goes by the moniker Mr. Pothole — gets his way, March 25, would be declared World Pothole Day.

"Everyone has them in their local streets and local highways and when they're dangerous, then you report them to authorities," Morrell, a U.K. resident, told Daybreak North's Carolina de Ryk.

"Then they don't do anything and then you have to get the police involved. And I thought, 'I'm not prepared to live in a society that accepts that.'"

Morrell worked for more than 25 years in road structures and reinstatement, and has studied roads around the world including Canada

"To some people they're an annoyance. To some people they cost them quite a few buck in terms of paying out for repairs.

"But unfortunately I have met some families of some cyclists who were killed …. so  (go to article)

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U.S. ethanol exports in 2014 reach highest level since 2011

EIA -- According to EIA monthly supply data through December 2014, which EIA released in late February, U.S. exports of fuel ethanol in 2014 reached their second-highest level at a total of 826 million gallons. This level was second only to the 1.2 billion gallons exported during 2011 and 33% more than exports of fuel ethanol in 2013. Similarly, U.S. imports of ethanol, which totaled approximately 377 million gallons during 2013, fell by 81% to a total of 73 million gallons in 2014, their lowest annual level since 2010. As a result, the United States was a net exporter of fuel ethanol for the fifth consecutive year and exported the fuel to 37 different countries in 2014.

In the United States, ethanol is primarily used as a blending component in the production of motor gasoline (mainly blended in  (go to article)

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Gasoline specification changes and price effects

EIA -- While the vernal equinox on March 20th marks the first official day of spring, the transition from winter-grade gasoline to spring-grade gasoline, an intermediate step in the shift to summer-grade gasoline, began much earlier. The transition occurs along the gasoline supply chain, from refineries to retail outlets, and affects spot, wholesale and retail gasoline prices because the cost to manufacture spring and summer-grade gasoline is higher than the cost to manufacture gasoline used in the winter.

Federal and state environmental regulations specify the properties of finished gasoline that can be sold at retail stations across the United States. Many specifications, like octane rating, remain constant from season to season. However, Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), a measure of how easily petr  (go to article)

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Is Yemen the new catalyst for oil?

CNBC -- Oil prices ratcheted up on Thursday on news that Saudi Arabia launched a military operation in neighboring Yemen, however analysts remain skeptical that geopolitical tensions will sustain the rally.

Brent crude oil futures rose almost 6 percent to as high as $59.71 a barrel, before settling around $58.30.
 (go to article)

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Idaho bill raises gas tax, cuts grocery sales tax and credit

The Spokesman-Review -- BOISE – Idaho House Republican leaders introduced complicated legislation Wednesday to make big changes in Idaho’s tax system – lowering the top income tax rate, removing the sales tax from groceries and raising the gas tax by 7 cents a gallon.

The sweeping proposal was introduced just two days before lawmakers had hoped to adjourn their session this year. They acknowledged it will go at least into next week.

House Speaker Scott Bedke said the tax bill, along with other measures that are now moving forward, matches his initial goals for this year’s legislative session: to make significant improvements in education and in transportation infrastructure, and to make Idaho more attractive to businesses. The House already has endorsed a $125 million, five-year plan to boost teacher pay  (go to article)

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Superhighway: Russian official proposes road that could connect London to NYC

Fox News -- One of Russia's most powerful tycoons and a close pal of President Vladimir Putin has proposed a long and winding road that theoretically could connect Great Britain to Alaska, via Mother Russia. And while a nearly 13,000-mile highway sounds like a stretch – a really long stretch – the major roadblock is likely money, not feasibility.  (go to article)

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Temporary closing of steel mill shocks workers, Granite City

St Louis Post-Dispatch -- The “temporary” closing of United States Steel’s Granite City Works, announced Wednesday, sent a wave of worry through 2,000 soon-to-be-laid-off steelworkers and a city that depends on its mill.

“It’s been the heart and soul of this community,” Granite City schools Superintendent Jim Greenwald said.

The move comes as tumbling oil prices hit the country’s second-largest steelmaker hard. Much of Granite City’s steel is used to make pipe for the oil industry at U.S. Steel’s Lone Star Tubular plant in Texas, and demand for drilling pipe is falling fast.  (go to article)

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Ready for the Ford / Petty Garage 627-hp Mustang GT?

GasBuddy Blog -- Ford Motor Company and Petty’s Garage are teaming up to build a new 627-horsepower* Mustang GT – a limited-edition fastback inspired by the popular Petty’s Garage Mustang GT on display at last year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas.“We received a tremendous amount of positive feedback about our Petty’s Garage Mustang GT displayed at the SEMA show,” said Jeff Whaley, Petty’s Garage COO. “With so much interest, we began to explore the possibility of building a limited run of the Petty’s Garage Mustang GT.”Two versions of the Petty’s Garage Mustang GT will be built this year; the Stage 1 version will be limited to 100 units, while the even more exclusive Stage 2 version will total 43 units.  Are you ready for this? ...  (go to article)

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Review: Camry Hybrid is a family car winner

Salt Lake Tribune -- The roomy, fuel-sipping Toyota Camry Hybrid family sedan gets better for 2015 with more appealing exterior styling, upgraded interior, improved ride and handling and quieter passenger cabin.

Coming just three years after the launch of the current generation Camry Hybrid, the changes are more than expected for a mid-cycle refresh of a mid-size sedan. They better position the Camry Hybrid against stylish-looking competitors such as the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans.

Consumer Reports lists the Camry Hybrid as a recommended buy, noting that predicted reliability is better than average.
 (go to article)

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Why Bombing This Tiny Oil Producer Is Roiling the Energy Market

BloombergBusiness -- While Yemen contributes less than 0.2 percent of global oil output its location puts it near the center of world energy trade.

The nation shares a border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter and sits on one side of a shipping chokepoint used by crude tankers heading West from the Persian Gulf. Global oil prices jumped more than 5 percent on Thursday after regional powers began bombing rebel targets in the country that produced less than Denmark in 2013.

Yemen’s government has collapsed in the face of an offensive by rebels known as Houthis prompting airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Gulf’s main Sunni Muslim power says the Houthis are tools of its Shiite rival Iran another OPEC member and halt...  (go to article)

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Proposal would outlaw holding cellphone while driving in NC

WRAL -Channel 5 - Raleigh -- A state lawmaker wants to close a loophole that makes it very difficult for law enforcement officers to enforce North Carolina's ban on texting while driving.

North Carolina is one of 40 states that have laws against texting while driving. Yet, people still send and read text messages behind the wheel, and punishing them isn't so easy.

A WRAL Investigates report last July found that 1,458 people were cited with texting while driving in Wake County in 2013. Of the 1,367 cases disposed of in the county that year in Wake County, fewer than half resulted in drivers paying the $290 in fines and court costs. Many drivers fought their tickets and won.

The current law applies only to moving vehicles – drivers stopped at a red light can text and email – but drivers are still allowed to type ...  (go to article)

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Oil prices surge after Saudi air strikes in Yemen

Reuters -- Brent crude oil prices shot up nearly 6 percent on Thursday after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies began a military operation in Yemen, although Asian importers said they were not immediately worried about supply disruptions.

The strike against Houthi rebels, who have driven the president from Yemen's capital Sanaa, could stoke concerns about the security of oil shipments from the Middle East.

Oil prices jumped as traders and importers said they were worried the Saudi attack was a sign that fighting in the oil-rich Middle East was spreading and out of control.


Brent crude oil futures rose as high as $59.71 a barrel, up almost 6 percent since their last settlement, before dipping back to $57.80 a barrel at 0402 GMT, still up $1.32. U.S. crude was up $1.64 at $50.85 a barrel  (go to article)

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Cars Mysteriously Break Down After Drivers Fill Up at New Jersey Gas Station

NBC New York -- Drivers filling up their tanks at a New Jersey gas station say their cars are getting damaged and they suspect it has to do with what's being pumped out of the gas lines.

Police in Hopatcong say 10 drivers have reported problems after filling up at the Enrite gas station. Drivers continued to pull up all evening Wednesday to tell NBC 4 New York how their cars have broken down after they filled up there.

Marlene Caprio said her car had to be towed from Bergen County after it was damaged extensively. Leah Keyes said her brand-new car "totally died."

Mechanic Andrew Muns recounted another customer's experience: "It wouldn't start. She said, 'I went to hit the gas and it was bucking and kept stalling and shutting off.'"

The drivers said their mechanics told them their gas tanks were loaded  (go to article)

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How changing gas prices impact local businesses

Daily Bulletin -- With new drilling technologies playing a major role in an oversupply of crude worldwide, the resulting lower cost of oil and gas in recent months have brought both benefits and negative impacts to businesses across the spectrum of the regional economy.

Refined gasoline prices did rise dramatically in California over the course of February and into March, primarily from supply issues stemming from the shut-down of two refineries — the first due to a strike at the Tesoro Golden Eagle refinery in Martinez, and the other after an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance.

“There’s a narrow balance between supply and demand, and if something happens with supply, you get an immediate price impact,” said David Hackett, president of the Irvine-based energy consulting company Stillwate  (go to article)

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North Dakota might challenge new federal fracking rule

FuelFix -- North Dakota is considering challenging a new federal fracking rule for US government lands.

The Obama administration is requiring companies that drill for oil and gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing drilling technique. A final rule released Friday also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids. The US Bureau of Land Management rule, under consideration for more than three years, takes effect in June.

State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the rule is an overreach, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple said it could interfere with the work of the state’s Water Commission and Health Department.

“We need to take action,” he said during a Tuesday meeting of the state Industrial Commission...
 (go to article)

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Mexico Expects U.S. Oil Swap, Another Crack in Crude Export Ban

Reuters -- Mexican state oil firm Pemex expects imminent approval from the U.S. Commerce Department to allow it to swap up to 100,000 barrels of heavy crude for a similar amount of lighter U.S. oil, what could be the latest milestone toward loosening the four-decades old ban on exporting U.S. oil.

"Our expectation is that it happens soon," Jose Manuel Carrera, CEO of Pemex's commercial arm P.M.I. Comercio Internacional, said in an interview Friday. "I would like to see the approval tomorrow, or I would have liked to see it yesterday, but the truth is that this is a permit that the United States unilaterally approves."

The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, which oversees the process, on Wednesday declined to comment on the application.

The Mexican company hopes swaps will pave  (go to article)

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