Axios Generate

A green lightbulb.

June 28, 2017

Ok way off topic here, but The Ringer has published two separate and entertaining deep-dives (here and here) into the 1989 good-bad movie tour de force Road House. NSFW. Elsewhere, this video of a baby elephant chasing birds is pretty wonderful too.

Hooray internet. Digression over. Let's dive in . . .

McNally interview: What's next for Trump and the oil markets

I chatted yesterday with Bob McNally, whose well-received January 2017 book Crude Volatility traced the history of oil markets and analyzed (among other things) the withering of OPEC's limited power.

He shared his views on the recent attempts by the Saudi-led cartel and other producers including Russia to regain market influence; Trump's policy moves; what's next for prices, and more. Here is my full interview.

Some key takeaways:

OPEC: "They have been more successful at managing sentiment and influencing traders for short periods of time than they have been at their traditional role of a swing producer, which is managing supply," McNally, president of the Rapidan Group, says.

Crystal ball, part 1: Despite the recent blip upwards after falling to their lowest levels of the year last week, the bearish McNally sees prices heading much lower in the not-too-distant future, getting into the low-$30s per barrel by the first half of next year, if not sooner. The recently extended production-limiting deal between OPEC, Russia, and others isn't close to enough to tame the bears.

Crystal ball, part 2: McNally also sees a big uptick in prices after "one more bust phase." He agrees with analysts who say lower industry capital spending in recent years on new projects worldwide will hinder supply in a few years.

  • But there's more to it: McNally says the global thirst for oil is going to be higher than many believe. He believes that five years from now, oil prices will be well north of $100 per barrel.

President Trump's policy: The most significant policy change for the industry is not removal of regulations but rather the administration's favorable view of oil-and-gas infrastructure construction, signified by approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

One big idea

The Harvard Business Review has an interesting piece on lighting with a bright idea (sorry) for a business model that improves efficiency of often-wasteful commercial buildings: offering third-party ownership of lighting systems, the way Xerox owns the office copiers.

How it works: The idea, from Rocky Mountain Institute analysts, is pairing highly efficient LED lighting with remote operation in what they call a "lumens as a service" (LaaS) model. The LaaS provider would pay a fixed fee for "renting" ceiling space, and would design, install and maintain the efficient lighting.

The LaaS providers will most likely choose a highly efficient system design — consisting of LEDs with smart controls — because the service agreement puts them in a position to capture most or all of the value of any lighting-related energy savings, depending on contract structure, the report said.

Why it matters: The idea is to get around a longstanding problem of lack of incentives for efficiency in owner-tenant relationships — owners lack incentive to pay for efficient equipment if they're not paying the power bills, while tenants don't want to pay for upgrades to a property they don't own. Enter the third party.

In their words: Their piece calls it a win-win for the LaaS provider, the building owner, and the tenants.

What's really killing nuclear power

My Axios colleague Amy Harder has a Facts Matter piece about prospects for a nuclear power revival. Here are some highlights:

The issue: President Trump and his top advisers are saying they will revive the nuclear power industry, which is struggling to keep current reactors open or open new ones. They blame federal regulations for the sector's problems. "This industry has been strangled all too often by government regulation," Energy secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday at a White House briefing for the administration's Energy Week.

The facts: Federal regulations are not hurting nuclear power. The biggest cause of nuclear power's struggles is cheap natural gas flooding electricity markets (same goes for coal, by the way). Renewable power, whose use is mandated under some state laws, is also pushing out nuclear power in certain markets. In fact, federal regulations may be the biggest thing the Trump administration could do to help nuclear power.

Possible remedies: Instead of working on the current repeal efforts, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt could back the stalled Clean Power Plan that would require carbon emissions cuts from power plants — potentially helping make the carbon-free nuclear power plants more competitive with cheaper natural gas plants. A more explicit market signal, like a tax on carbon emissions, would help nuclear power more than any other government policy.

A very bullish crude exports forecast

Cleaning out my notebook a's a little tidbit via Scott Sheffield, CEO of shale oil heavyweight Pioneer Natural Resources, who I caught up with on the sidelines of the EIA conference on Monday.

Bullish: Sheffield believes U.S. crude oil exports could potentially grow by roughly five-fold to reach five million barrels per day within 10 years.

  • That's quite optimistic but not impossible, according to a couple of analysts contacted by Axios.

To be sure: Sheffield said he envisions those levels if there's a "decent price environment" of at least $50 per barrel that sends total U.S. production up to 15 million barrels per day (it's around 9.4 million and climbing right now).

He sees several million more barrels serving export markets in the absence of a reconfiguration of U.S. refineries to run more light crude.

Going to (almost) 11: Sheffield told the conference that the Permian Basin alone could eventually produce 8-10 million barrels per day, and that breakeven prices have fallen to the $22-$26 per barrel range in large swaths of the region. He doesn't think Permian production will peak for another 25 years.

On my screen

Exports: The Energy Information Administration has published a handy look at the trajectory of U.S. crude oil and petroleum product exports.

Efficiency: The International Energy Agency is boosting its emphasis on the topic with new resources for policymakers.

  • "This new Global Exchange Hub for Energy Efficiency will be a unique resource for policy makers to learn what sector-specific policies are being applied around the world, what impact they are having, and what lessons have been learned about their design and implementation," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a new column.

Congress: Today a House Appropriations panel will mark up Energy Department spending legislation. It would deeply cut DOE's renewable energy and efficiency programs, but doesn't match the 70% reduction Trump wants.

  • The bill would provide $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2018 for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which would be a roughly $1 billion cut.

Cabinet: The Dallas Morning News has a comprehensive rundown of Perry's briefing with reporters at the White House yesterday, where he held court for 40 minutes.

Buzzwords: Over at The Conversation, Daniel Raimi of Resources for The Future takes a critical look at the Trump administration's pledge to bring out U.S. energy "dominance."