On this day in 1979, Supertramp released "Breakfast in America," which I mention because I really dig the clarinet in today's intro tune . . .
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has a new survey of oil-and-gas companies in their region that helps explain why U.S. production — especially from shale formations in the Permian Basin — is slated to keep surging.
Check out the chart above: It shows the range of answers from executives at 65 companies about the price point they need to profitably drill new wells in several regions. WTI is trading in the $64-per-barrel range on Thursday morning.
The bottom line: Even with increased shareholder focus on generating returns from shale producers, the survey is more evidence that the boom has staying power.
Quoted: "As the breakeven price doesn't stay the same as acreage is drilled out and costs change, production growth longer-term will be dependent on changes to this breakeven price and the price of crude oil," Kunal Patel, a senior analyst at Dallas Fed, said in an email exchange.
Huge: Several pieces look deeply at something we only grazed yesterday — the oil-and-gas producer Concho Resources announced plans to acquire RSP Permian in a stock deal valued at $9.5 billion (including debt).
Why it matters: It will make Concho the largest shale producer in the Permian Basin.
One big question: Are more shale patch deals in the offing?
ICYMI: FirstEnergy Corp. said Wednesday that it's planning to close two Ohio nuclear plants and one in Pennsylvania.
Why it matters: It underscores the intense competition nuclear plants face at a time of stagnant power demand, cheap natural gas and falling renewable costs.
Quoted: A top company official said in a statement that they're still hoping to keep the plants open:
"We call on elected officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania to consider policy solutions that would recognize the importance of these facilities to the employees and local economies in which they operate, and the unique role they play in providing reliable, zero-emission electric power for consumers in both states."— Don Moul, president of FES Generation Cos.
Yes, but: The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in its detailed piece on the announcement and FirstEnergy's financial struggles, notes that "So far, lawmakers have ignored FirstEnergy's pleas for special nuclear subsidies."
Axios’ Amy Harder reports…
A trade group representing some of the world’s largest automakers launched a seven-figure campaign Wednesday seeking to raise consumer awareness of electric cars.
Why it matters: The campaign reveals how a single industry can have ostensibly dueling goals — lobbying on fuel-efficiency standards and trying to get its consumers more comfortable with battery-powered vehicles.
One level deeper: The group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, will initially focus the campaign on the Northeast, where it made the announcement at the New York Auto Show. The campaign, which is more than $1 million, includes a new website, advertising, events and strategic partnerships.
Yes, but: The group is also lobbying ahead of the Trump administration’s imminent decision to begin the process of likely scaling back President Obama’s tougher fuel-efficiency standards of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The auto alliance has emphasized it’s not prejudging whether the standards should be loosened, though environmentalists and others claim otherwise.
“Automakers are not evaluated by what models we put in dealerships. We are evaluated by what consumers buy. The proposed standards should address consumer sales trends so they are tethered in reality.”— Alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist
Flashback: The Obama administration did issue a technical report in 2016 predicting automakers would fall short of the 54.5 mpg goal, largely because of falling oil prices and consumers’ preference for other kinds of vehicles. The report nonetheless said manufacturers could still meet the goals, a conclusion unlikely to be made in this new administration.
EPA: HuffPost obtained an internal EPA memo that presses PR personnel to use talking points on climate change that are at odds with mainstream science. One key line:
The big picture on regs: E&E News is out with a helpful piece on the status of Trump administration efforts to unwind Obama-era environment and energy rules.
Offshore drilling: The Interior Department is formally seeking public input on areas to offer in a potential 2019 auction of Arctic drilling blocs in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's coast.
New tally: Bloomberg New Energy Finance has an updated look at sharply falling costs of renewable and storage technologies. A summary is here.
Why it matters: Renewables and batteries are increasingly beating not only coal, but in some markets and situations, they are increasingly eroding the economics of using or building natural gas plants.
What they study: It explores levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) — the all-in costs of building, running, supplying and maintaining different facility types over time. They compare the estimated first half of 2018 with the same period last year.
Bottom line: Solar and wind are becoming the least expensive option for new bulk power generation projects in a number of countries.
Threat level: Storage is shaking up the equation amid a nearly 80% drop in lithium-ion battery costs. Marrying renewables with storage is increasingly competitive with coal and gas plants that provide dispatchable and flexible resources that can respond quickly to demand shifts.
Carbon cost: This paper published by Columbia's Center on Global Energy Policy is a really cogent explainer on the social cost of carbon, how estimates are used in rulemaking, and what it can (and can't) tell us.
Nuclear warning: A new Atlantic Council paper explores the geopolitical stakes as the U.S. nuclear power sector shrinks while China and Russia expand their domestic industries and are "aggressively pursuing global markets," especially in the Middle East and Asia.