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Quote of the Week

“Significant advances in battery technology, financial support from governments, regulations and values of Millennials will be key factors leading to increases in electric vehicle adoption.”

Jim Burkhard, energy researcher for IHS Markit

Graphic of the Week

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1.  Oil and the Global Economy

On Saturday, OPEC and non-OPEC oil exporters agreed to an additional 562,000 b/d non-OPEC production cut in addition to the 1.2 million b/d cut that OPEC agreed on last week. At the meeting, Mexico pledged to cut 100,000 b/d, Azerbaijan 35,000 b/d, Oman 40,000 b/d, and Kazakhstan 20,000 b/d after strong diplomatic pressure was applied. Some analysts expressed doubt as to whether the cuts pledged by Mexico and Azerbaijan are valid reductions as their production was on course to decline by that much anyway next year due to natural depletion. The Kazakh cut, however, was seen as important as the country was due to increase production in 2017 by 160,000 b/d as its giant new oil field came in production.

Many analysts expect a brief rally this week as the global production cut now seems to be a reality.  Others are skeptical that the countries pledging to make cuts will actually carry through; whether increased production from Libya, Nigeria, Iran and US shale oil producers will offset much of the cuts; and whether a simple rebalancing of the oil markets in the face of “astronomic” excess inventory will help prices. The question is whether the net of all the forces at play will result in prices stabilizing around OPECs’ price sweet spot of $60. This price is seen as high enough to help balance the national budgets of many oil exporters, but not so high as to trigger a major increase in US shale oil production.

The US’s EIA is particularly skeptical, forecasting that oil prices will remain around $50 a barrel and that inventories will continue to climb by 0.8 million b/d during the first half of next year. Before the OPEC deal, the IEA was saying that the markets would balance around the middle of next year. The OPEC cuts are supposed to move the balancing date into the first half.  The EIA does not expect any surge in US oil production for the first nine months of 2017.

Oil prices have risen about 15 percent since the OPEC cut was announced two weeks ago. Prices were up slightly on Friday as optimistic reports about the Saturday meeting with non-OPEC producers began to circulate. Oil prices fell at the beginning of last week leaving US oil futures lower for the week at the close on Friday. New York oil futures closed at $51.50 and London at $54.33.

Oil fundamentals were not particularly strong last week with a stronger dollar; an increase in the crude inventory at Cushing; a drop in US refinery inputs; a jump in OPEC November production of 200,000 b/d in November to 34.16 million b/d; and US shale drillers added another 15 rigs, the largest weekly addition since July 2015.  The drop in the total US crude inventory last week was due to 6.9 million barrels being moved from storage on land in the US to floating storage in the Gulf of Mexico. Floating storage does not seem to count in the size of the US crude stockpile.

The likely nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be US Secretary of State obviously will have major implications for US policies towards climate change, oil production and relations with many oil-producing nations around the world. So far, most of the nominees for key posts in the Trump administration suggest that there will be many major changes in US policies toward energy production.

Despite the optimism that oil prices soon will be higher and that the industry will start growing again, there are still some dark clouds on the horizon for the oil industry. Oil and gas exploration is expected to fall to a 12-year low in 2017 as the industry abandons high-risk, high-cost areas such as the Arctic and looks for less costly opportunities. Efficiencies and the lower costs of oil service contractors that have fallen on hard times mean that wells can be drilled for far less money than at the height of the oil boom. Some say the cost of drilling an exploration well can now be as low as $40 million as compared to $86 million in 2014. BP says its new Gulf of Mexico Mad Dog Phase 2 project will only cost $9 billion as compared to initial estimates of $20 billion.  This means that the costs of new deepwater projects may be as low as $50 a barrel as compared to twice that a few years back. The downside of these “efficiencies” is that a lot less money will be spent by the oil industry.

The conventional wisdom is saying that even with the new production cuts, it will be at least another six months before supply and demand come back into balance. Then the bloated inventories have to be worked through. An unknown in the oil balance equation is just how much oil China will be using in the next few years. Bloomberg is saying that Chinese oil imports are expected to grow by only 5 to 9 percent next year as compared to 11-14 percent in 2016. Part of this growth was due to a sharp cutback in domestic production that was costing too much to produce at today’s selling prices. There are also questions about how much more space China has in its strategic reserve. With oil prices around $30 a barrel last winter, purchases for strategic reserves became very attractive for a time.

2.  The Middle East & North Africa

Iran: As the New York Times sees it “President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is racing to sign as many oil deals with Western companies as he can before hard-liners at home and President-elect Donald J. Trump have a chance to return the Mideast country to cultural and economic isolation.” In the past week deals to help exploit Iran’s oil and gas have been signed with Shell and Total. A delegation from the Austrian energy company OMV was in Tehran for talks.  Whether these agreements will result in the billions of foreign investment that Iran has been hoping for remains to be seen. There is also the issue of what the policies of the Trump administration will be towards Iran.

In a speech last week President Rouhani warned President-elect Trump that there would be consequences if he tries to tear up the nuclear agreement and impose more sanctions in an effort to force Iran into submission to Washington’s demands.  While the US can make trouble for Iran, it is in no position to re-impose sanctions such as those which reduced Tehran’s oil exports by nearly a million barrels a day.

Tehran is delighted with the OPEC deal which it hopes will raise prices and does not seem to have imposed any restrictions on Iran’s exports. Although reports from the OPEC meeting seem to indicate that Iran would be restricted to increasing its production by only another 90,000 b/d, the Iranian government seems to be saying that there are no restrictions and that it can produce and sell as much oil as it wants. It will be interesting to see what the Iranians’ main competitor the Saudis say about this and whether such an attitude of “everybody cuts but us” will lead to widespread cheating.

Syria/Iraq: Except as the epicenter of turmoil in the Middle East, it is not clear what impact the remains of Syria will have on the oil situation. As the “capital” of ISIL is still in the country, fighting there is likely to go on indefinitely leading to deeper hatreds between Shiites and Sunnis. Policies of the Trump administration will likely change the situation and lead the region in unanticipated directions.

The news out of Baghdad last week focused on the need to cut production by 210,000 b/d to comply with the new OPEC agreement. The Kurds have already made it clear that they will not cut their oil production and that any production cuts will have to come from the southern oil fields controlled by Baghdad. With the help of foreign oil companies, Iraq has made considerable progress in exploiting its “easy-to-produce-oil” in recent years and has increased exports considerably. For Iraq to increase oil production significantly, it must install a large and expensive water flooding system that will force greatly increased quantities of oil from the ground. This technique has enabled the Saudis to maintain high levels of oil production for decades. Whether the political/oil price situation will allow Baghdad to build a large flooding system remains to be seen.

Up in Iraqi Kurdistan, Exxon is saying that it will relinquish three of the six drilling blocks that it was leasing. Exxon gave up on working in Iraq proper several years ago and moved its efforts to the Kurdish sector of the country where there was more opportunity for profit. Foreign oil companies working in Kurdistan say they are having a hard time getting paid for producing oil even though the government is starting to receive large payments for its oil exports. As long as the Kurds are at the center of the struggle with ISIL, this situation is likely to continue. The Kurds simply need the money to conduct their multiple wars against ISIL, the Syrian government, and Turkey.

Libya: Not much news from Tripoli last week. The coalition attacking the Islamic State in Sirte seems to taken over the entire city – driving all those insurgents not killed off into the desert where they can continue their struggle. Libya still has three governments that continue to bicker, however. Last week General Haftar’s forces took complete control of the major Ras Lanuf and Es Sider export terminals from the local guard forces that have been using control of the terminals to extort money from the government.

One new development is that General Haftar, formerly a ward of the CIA for his anti-Gadhafi work, has been in Moscow seeking its support in the form of more arms and ammunition for his forces. Haftar is the military commander of those forces still loyal to the original parliamentary government which has been living in the East since being driven out of Tripoli by local militias.

The National Oil Company in Libya is still producing some 600,000 b/d and is talking about increasing this to 900,000. Getting beyond this scale will require more foreign investment and the return of more foreign technical expertise.

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh has decided to maintain its market share against Iran and Iraq in Asia by cutting prices in Asian markets and reducing the amount of oil going to Europe and the US to keep under the production ceiling.  There has been much discussion about “who wins” and “who loses” from the OPEC deal. This Saudis are seen in the middle of this as surrendering to the US shale industry, or maybe to Iran, or maybe to Russia. It will take a year or two to sort this out.

The IPO of Saudi Aramco is coming up soon. Aramco is supposed to have 260 billion barrels of oil in reserve which can be exploited at $6 a barrel. Some believe the company has a total value of circa $3 trillion. If this is the case, if they want to sell 5 percent of the company they will have to find investors ready to pay some $150 billion.

Sunni-Shiite tensions have led Riyadh to sentence 15 of its Shiite citizens to death on charges of “spying for Iran.” The cases grew out of protests against the Saudi government over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric last January. This development serves as a reminder that the country is still an autocratic kingdom that rules by massive bribes to keep is people quiescent and through harsh security policies under which protests against the king can carry the death penalty.

3.  China

Bloomberg notes that China has been soaking up much of the world’s excess oil production during the past year which has done much to support prices. A combination of lower domestic production and opportunity buying of dirt cheap crude for its strategic reserves has led to a marked increase in imports. This situation has been helped by the opening of several large and efficient refineries which have been taking in foreign crude and exporting the products at competitive prices.

Bloomberg now projects that while China’s oil consumption will continue to grow next year, it will grow much more slowly than in 2016. Some believe that China no longer has the room to store additional petroleum and that production of much of its very-expensive-to-produce oil has already to closed down. This suggests that China’s demand for oil in the coming year may be as important a factor in determining world prices as the OPEC cut.

Another interesting development is that Beijing seems to be closing down the oil export quotas that it granted its private refiners last year. This development allows refiners to import oil and export the products without reference to the government. If the export quotas are withdrawn, all exports will have to go through the large state oil companies, forcing independent refiners to sell their oil to the state before it can be exported.  There are conflicting views on this proposition, however. Reuters reports that the independent refiners expect that their oil import quotas will be the same next year.

China, by the way, was awarded two deepwater offshore blocks in the recent Mexican auction. These blocks are in the Gulf close to the US-Mexican demarcation line.  At least one of these blocks is thought to contain 500 million barrels of oil.

Beijing has released a new five-year plan for cleaning up its air, water, and soil. Local governments in the most polluted areas of China have until the end of 2017 to come up with detailed plans to control pollution. Much of the burden will fall on the coal industry which is largely responsible for most of the country’s growth in the last 40 years, but also creates much of the pollution. China has been installing wind generators and solar panels at an unprecedented pace in recent years. Now these programs are being scaled back as the national grid can no longer handle and efficiently transport all the intermittent energy being produced.

Rating agencies believe that China’s economy will continue to slow in 2017.  There is growing concern that some $2 trillion worth of “off the books” loans that Chinese banks have made in recent years and are only loosely regulated may blow up into a major problem for its financial system. On the plus side the rapid inflation of housing prices that has been going on for the past year seems to be cooling as tougher loan restrictions are being instituted.

4. Russia

Russian oil companies are supposed to cut production by 300,000 b/d in the next six months but have had a very spotty record in making production cuts in the past. Since the collapse of the ruble and recent tax breaks Russian oil companies have found it relatively easy to shield profits and keep expanding production. Moscow’s two largest producers are planning to launch large new projects this year. However, Russia’s Oil Ministry is still making optimistic statements that the production cuts will come.

The government announced last week that Qatar and Glencore, the commodities trader, are buying a 19.5 percent stake in Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft. The two will pay $11.3 billion for their stake. BP already owns a 19.75 percent stake, but Moscow will retain the controlling interest. The White House is taking a dim view of the deal due to the sanctions that were imposed on Moscow for its Ukraine intervention.  The new US administration, however, may have its own views.

5. Nigeria

Not much news last week. Oil production is supposedly around 2 million b/d. Nigeria and Morocco have signed a deal to build a pipeline from the Nigeria gas fields, where much of the natural gas is flared, to Europe which is badly in need of more gas. Nigeria is credited with natural gas reserves totaling 5.1 trillion cubic meters. A previous agreement to run a pipeline through Algeria was made in 2009, but there has been little progress.  Given the vulnerability of pipelines in an increasingly turbulent world, it would seem that everybody would be better off transporting the gas via LNG tankers which are far less likely to be blown up on a regular basis. It is about 2300 miles from the Nigerian gas fields to the Straits of Gibraltar giving every dissident in North Africa a shot at blowing it up.

6. Venezuela

Caracas’s pledge to cut 95,000 b/d of production as part of the OPEC deal is already becoming probable as the country has no valid oil production figure as part of a policy of not admitting how little oil it is producing. Many years ago, production hit 3.9 million b/d, but now it is circa 2 million including 500,000 b/d of heavy Orinoco oil that must undergo much processing and blending with lighter oils before it can be sold.   The OPEC “reference level” for Venezuelan production is 2.067 million b/d but, off the record, the government says it is producing 2.31 million or almost 250,000 b/d higher. The actual level makes little difference as production is declining steadily so that the country will likely be producing well below its ceiling in a few months.

Troubling stories continue to come out of the country. Last week the government seized 4 million toys that were being readied for sale at Christmas, arrested the owners of the business, and said it will distribute the toys for free to poor children. The toy owners were allegedly sabotaging the government by selling the toys above cost. The fishing industry is collapsing and unemployed fisherman are turning into pirates who capture the few fishing boats, kill their crews and take their catch and equipment. The police know about this, but have no room in the jails for the pirates. The lines at grocery stores are 12 hours long with little to buy. Patients and inmates in mental hospitals and jails are starving from lack of food. At this rate, the chances that Venezuela will be producing little or no oil in the next year or so are looking better everyday. There is no obvious way out of this situation.

7.  The Briefs

The worldwide active rig count increased by 58 during November to an average of 1,678 units, reflecting an ongoing drilling rebound in the US and Canada, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The latest tally is down 369 year-over-year.  Most of the increase came in the US, where an average 36 units started operations to bring the country to 580, down 180 compared with its November 2015 average. Canada contributed a 17-unit increase and averaged 173, down just 5 year-over-year. (12/7)

Big Oil may have to play a part in cutting supply after the landmark agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers last week. BP has the highest exposure in the 13 countries that have so far said they will cut output, according to Rystad Energy AS data. (12/7)

Oil-hauling supertankers are bracing for the worst earnings year since 2013 as they become collateral damage in OPEC’s quest to trim a global glut of crude. So-called very large crude carriers, 1,200-foot vessels each hauling 2 million barrels, will earn an average of $25,000 a day next year, according to shipping analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That’s 12 percent lower than they were anticipating before the OPEC production cut was announced. (12/9)

Offshore UK, oil major BP will double its production in the North Sea to 200,000 barrels of oil per day, chief executive Bob Dudley said in an interview Wednesday. (12/9)

Middle East net oil exports are less than they were 40 years ago. How could this be? OPEC oil production just reached a new record high of 34.19 million barrels per day. Yet in the past 40 years, Middle East domestic oil consumption surged more than six times from 1.5 million b/d in 1976, to 9.6 million b/d in 2015. This had a seriously negative impact on rising Middle East oil production, leading to the flattening of exports. (12/8)

Oman, the largest Arab oil producer that’s not an OPEC member, plans to sell between $1.5 billion to $2 billion of bonds internationally in 2017 to plug a deficit caused by low crude prices. (12/8)

In India, oil demand growth in the world’s fastest-growing crude market may weaken as the government’s cash crackdown slows the economy. Diesel and gasoline use, which account for more than half of India’s oil demand, will slow or contract this month and possibly early next year.  Expansion in the world’s fastest-growing major economy is widely expected to ease temporarily after Prime Minister Modi last month withdrew high-value currency notes in a country where almost all consumer payments are in cash. (12/5)

In India, state-run oil refiners have called for Nigeria to increase its total term contract volumes next year by more than 20 percent as demand from the South Asian country climbs. India as the largest buyer of Nigerian crude, has always said it should have a longer-term arrangement with NNPC to ensure security of supply. (12/7)

Chinese state-owned oil traders PetroChina and Unipec have chartered ships to load more than 2 million barrels of U.S. crude oil in December, three sources with knowledge of the matter said on Friday. The shipments come on top of nearly 3 million barrels that BP has sent to Asia as oil traders sell growing supplies of cheap U.S. shale oil to the region of the world that consumes the most crude oil. (12/9)

Japan will receive its first shale gas shipment next month.  Tokyo Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power will get its first LNG cargo produced from the US formations in early January. It would be the first supply to reach the Asian nation from Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal. (12/9)

In Egypt, new natural gas discoveries were made earlier this month in its western desert, according to Royal Dutch Shell. Initial estimates indicate that 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas was discovered, with more possible reserves yet to be uncovered. (12/5)

Liberia’s oil industry is holding its breath waiting for the outcome of ExxonMobil exploration efforts by the end of the year. With global oil prices low, and little interest by big oil companies in Liberia’s yet unproven oil reserves, Exxon’s drilling operation may represent Liberia’s last chance of discovering oil for some time. (12/6)

Sudan: For the first time since the world’s newest country gained independence in 2011, hunger is stalking its capital, Juba, because of renewed violence and a deepening economic crisis. Civil war in oil-producing South Sudan has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced 3 million people from their homes since December 2013 in one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. (12/6)

For the three titans of Latin American oil — Pemex, PDVSA and Petrobras — last week’s OPEC-driven price rally won’t be enough to halt a slow descent from the ranks of international crude heavyweights. Even as news of the cartel’s 1.2 million-barrel-a-day output cut spurred the steepest three-day oil gain in 15 months, the biggest Latin American producers remain hobbled by financial, political, technical and structural problems. (12/5)

In Mexico, Australia’s BHP Billiton won bidding Monday to partner with Mexican state oil company Pemex in the Trion deep-water oil field in the Gulf of Mexico in an auction in which 10 other deep-water blocks are also being offered. Billiton outbid BP to become Pemex’s first private partner in exploration and production under Mexico’s 2013 opening of the oil industry. (12/6)

Mexico awarded China Offshore Oil Corporation the fourth block tendered from the Gulf of Mexico’s Perdido Fold Belt off the U.S.-Mexico maritime border in a historic deep water oil and gas auction on Monday. Block 4 is a 725 square mile (1,876.7 square km) area which the energy ministry says contains some 540.5 million barrels of oil equivalent in light and extra light crude. (12/6)

Mexico plans to increase its crude oil production substantially, overtaking both Venezuela and Brazil if its plans work out. This has emerged after earlier this week the country awarded nine major drilling contracts to international bidders for fields in the Gulf of Mexico. When commercial production starts at the nine new fields, Mexico expects the combined output from them to reach 900,000 bpd, adding to the country’s current rate of some 2 million bpd. (12/8)

A Cuban-focused oil company said it was taking a closer look at the business climate there with the goal of accelerating its drilling program next year. Melbana, a company known formerly as MEO Australia, said it had a team on the ground in Cuba coordinating with regulators and international service providers to verify the requirements and the access to local contractors available for a developing work program. (12/7)

In Canada, today marks the end of what has been one of the best weeks in two years for positive news for the nation’s battered upstream oil and gas industry. On November 22, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors released its 2017 drilling forecast which predicted a 31 percent increase next year at 4,665 wells. This looks like a nice bump until you note the figure was over 10,000 in 2014 and every prior year in recent memory. However, this projection was done before the OPEC meeting. (12/5)

Canadian oil sands producers are finally ready to grow again as they are pushing ahead with expansion projects two years into the worst crude slump in decades. Cenovus said Thursday that the company will proceed with its 50,000 barrel a day phase G expansion at its Christina Lake oil sands site. The announcement comes more than a month after Canadian Natural said it was resuming work on its 40,000 barrel a day Kirby North project. (12/9)

Canada’s Liberal government and the bulk of provinces are set to endorse a pact to fight climate change, even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to revive the energy sector with the recent approval of two pipeline projects. The climate pact is expected to endorse a federal carbon-pricing scheme unveiled in October and plans to phase out coal-power electricity, and comes as President-elect Donald Trump signals Washington is moving to lessen regulation in a bid to drum up more investment in US resource development. (12/10)

The US oil rig count increased by 21 rigs, the largest increase since July 2015, extending the seven-month drilling recovery as crude prices rose to a near 17-month high, according to Baker Hughes. The new oil rig count is 498, still below the 524 last year at this time and less than 1/3 the peak of 1,609 rigs in October of 2014 but up notably from the low of 316 last May.  The gas rig count increased by 6 units to 126. (12/10)

2017 prospects: Will the OPEC deal further improve the prospects for the energy sector in 2017? Doug Terreson, head of energy research at Evercore ISI and Institutional Investor’s top-rated analyst for integrated oil, expects oil companies to double their earnings in 2017 on the back of a sustained increase in crude oil prices and low oilfield service costs. (12/5)

BP’s decision to move ahead with the $9 billion Mad Dog Phase 2 project to drill in the Gulf of Mexico is the first step toward major oil companies moving forward with US offshore plans postponed during crude’s price rout. Exploration and development of new wells in the Gulf slowed as crude prices cratered from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to a low of $26.05 early this year. The project is the first new Gulf platform to be sanctioned in a year and a half. (12/5)

Capex for 2017: Analysts at U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said in a note this week that its capital expenditure tracking showed 20 exploration and production (E&P) companies planned to increase spending by an average of 34 percent in 2017 over 2016. (12/10)

Capex for 2017: Consultancy Wood Mackenzie said oil exploration in 2017 will continue its transformation to a smaller, more efficient industry and will become more profitable. Overall investment will at best match 2016 year’s spending of around $40 billion, and may yet fall further. On the bright side, lower costs mean well counts may hold up close to 2016 numbers. Flat budgets should mean exploration’s headcount cuts are now mainly in the past. Wood Mac said drillers will avoid exploration geared toward over-supplied LNG markets or in high-cost regions like the Arctic. (12/10)

CAPEX: Some $11.6 billion of Chevron’s $19.8-billion capital spending plan will target international upstream projects. For a fourth consecutive year, Chevron Corp. will reduce spending in its capital budget, which is expected to make its 2017 capital investment plan less than that for 2016 by about 15 percent and a 42-percent drop from 2015. (12/8)

Chesapeake Energy, once one of the stronger shale gas companies in the US, said it closed on a $450 million deal to sell some of its shale acreage–78,000 acres, of which more than half was considered core acreage, in the Haynesville shale area in Louisiana. (12/6)

Chesapeake Energy, the indebted US energy group that was among the pioneers of the country’s shale revolution, prepared to tap debt markets for the first time in more than two years on Tuesday in a deal that underlined renewed appetite for oil and gas assets. The Oklahoma-based company, which defaulted on some of its obligations this year, was set to secure $750m in financing to repay as much as $1.2bn of its debts. (12/7)

Pennsylvania environmental regulators have fined Rice Energy, a natural-gas driller, more than $3.5 million for violations at 10 well sites and six pipeline locations. Regulators say the violations took place over several years at sites in Washington and Greene counties, in western Pennsylvania. (12/8)

SPR oil: The U.S. government is slated to sell $375 million worth of crude oil from the country’s emergency reserve this winter after Congress passed a temporary spending bill on Friday that contained a measure authorizing the sale. (12/10)

Policy shift: One of the major components of President-elect Trump’s proposed energy plan is to unleash the $50 trillion worth of untapped shale oil and natural gas reserves to contribute to Trump’s vision of energy independence for the United States. Subsequently, the 45th President of the United States believes that this will create millions of new jobs in the energy sector. (12/9)

Dakota pipeline: The Obama administration said Sunday that it would deny an easement needed to complete the last leg of an oil pipeline across the Midwest, prompting cheers and whoops from opponents who have camped in the cold here. The victory could prove short-lived, however, since President-elect Donald Trump said days earlier that he supported the nearly 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. (12/5)

Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. A group of advisors to President-elect Trump proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than a century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on US-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations. (12/6)

In Texas, the newly-minted head of the state’s oil and gas commission said her focus over the next five years was to lower the economic burden for the industry. Christi Craddick was elected to a six-year term as the chairperson of the Railroad Commission of Texas. Texas is the No. 1 oil producer in the nation and lower crude oil prices had put strains on the state’s economy, with some energy companies leaving the Houston area as the downturn dragged on this year. (12/8)

EPA: President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the E.P.A. itself. (12/8)

Enviro kids? President-elect Donald Trump’s children are urging him to seize on environmental conservation as a potentially defining issue for his administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions, an effort that could clash with Mr. Trump’s aim of boosting energy production from fossil fuels and his opposition to many federal regulations. (12/6)

Coal revival? A Donald Trump White House will likely give a boost for the US coal industry and do away with key current and pending environmental regulations, but significant policies need to be put in place to make long-term improvements to the coal business, industry executives said Tuesday. (12/7)

The New England area, despite challenges caused by power plant retirements, should have enough electricity to keep homes and businesses warm this winter, the region’s grid operator ISO New England said Monday. (12/6)

US driving topped 2.4 trillion miles in the first nine months of 2016, an increase of 3.0% compared to the same period last year, lengthening a series of consecutive monthly increases that started in April 2014. (12/6)

EVs: Many carmakers are predicting a significant shift to electric vehicles in the next decade. Advances in battery technology and the growth of autonomous driving and ride sharing – suited to electric vehicles – will power this expansion, they reason. But some oil executives take a different view, predicting electricity will play only a bit part in transport out to 2040 at least. (12/7)

Worldwide EVs: IHS finds that, with the right policies in place, electric vehicles could account for at least 15 percent of total new vehicle sales by 2040. The report finds the current market share is about 1 percent. (12/10)

E-heavy trucks? Officials in Colorado are planning a public-road test of battery-charging technology capable of powering electric trucks while they drive. In the pilot project, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., vehicles equipped with “receiving coils” will draw power from another coil buried in the road. (12/9)

Google plans to buy enough renewable energy next year to match the entire needs of all its data centers and offices around the world, in one of the biggest gestures by a private company to combat climate change.  In 2015, the company used 5.6 terawatt hours of energy — enough, by its own calculations, to power the entire city of San Francisco for the year. (12/7)

Norway’s Statoil said the fight against climate change depends in large part on how oil and gas companies conduct business. Statoil this year was tasked by the government in Oslo to study ways to store carbon dioxide on the country’s continental shelf. The IEA said there are already 15 large-scale CCS projects in operation and six more are on schedule to start next year. Statoil already counts several projects in its renewable energy portfolio. (12/7)