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Crude Oil Prices Slip As Dollar Rises

NEW YORK, March 25 (UPI) — Crude oil prices for May delivery fell to nearly $80 per barrel in New York as the dollar index gained 0.36 percent.

Prices were also weighed down by Wednesday’s inventory report. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude oil supplies rose by 7.3 million barrels in the week ending March 19.

Light, sweet crude oil prices dropped 33 cents from a recent settlement to $80.28 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

May delivery heating oil futures lost 0.0062 cents to $2.0645 per gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock for May shed 0.008 cents to $2.2145 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices for May lost 0.128 cents to $4.026 per million British thermal units.

At the retail level, the average national price for unleaded regular gasoline was $2.813 per gallon Thursday, down from Wednesday’s $2.816, AAA said.

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Crude Oil Prices Approach $81 Per Barrel

NEW YORK, March 25 (UPI) — Crude oil prices for May delivery climbed to nearly $81 per barrel overnight in New York despite sharply rising U.S. inventories.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday crude oil supplies rose by 7.3 million barrels in the week ending March 19.

Light, sweet crude oil prices dipped lower, then rebounded, gaining 31 cents from a recent settlement to $80.92 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

May delivery heating oil futures added 0.0073 cents to $2.078 per gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock for May gained 0.0049 cents to $2.2274 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices for May lost 0.027 cents to $4.078 per million British thermal units.

At the retail level, the average national price for unleaded regular gasoline was $2.813 per gallon Thursday, down from Wednesday’s $2.816, AAA said.

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Oil Prices Fall As Inventory Rises

NEW YORK, March 24 (UPI) — Crude oil prices for May delivery dropped under $80 in New York Wednesday as equity markets ended a winning streak and the dollar index rose sharply.

The Dow Jones industrial average reached a 17-month high Tuesday with a gain of 102 points, closing at 10,888.83. But the DJIA dropped 52.68 points or 0.48 percent Wednesday to 10,836.15.

With the dollar index rising 1.37 percent, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude oil supplies rose by 7.3 million barrels in the week ending March 19.

Light, sweet crude oil prices dropped $1.30 to $80.61 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

May delivery heating oil futures dropped 0.0298 cents to $2.0845 per gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock for May fell 0.0285 cents to $2.234 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices for May lost 0.03 cents to $4.16 per million British thermal units.

At the retail level, the average national price for unleaded regular gasoline was $2.816 per gallon Wednesday, unchanged from Tuesday, AAA said.

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Solar Projects Shine in North Africa

RABAT, Morocco, March 24 (UPI) — North Africa is taking a shine to solar power in a big way, with plants slated for Morocco and Tunisia as a German-led consortium pushes ahead with the world’s most ambitious solar project in the Sahara Desert.

The $555.3 billion Desertec project is designed to turn the Sahara’s endless sunlight into carbon-free electricity that will supply 15 percent of energy-hungry Europe’s power and lessen its dependence on natural gas from Russia.

Separately, the Moroccan government hopes to invest $9 billion in a solar energy program over the next decade.

This means big-ticket contracts could be up for grabs from major European, mainly French energy concerns, such as GDF Suez; oil giant Total; Areva, which specializes in building nuclear plants, and St. Gobain which manufactures mirrors and photovoltaic panels.

Paris’s Maghreb Confidential online newsletter says the French were lining up to join the program when Moroccan Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra presented her investment program to her French counterpart, Jean-Louis Borloo, March 8-9 in Paris.

The centerpiece of the Moroccan plan is a Franco-Moroccan solar power plant generating 20-40 megawatts and exporting up to 4 MW to France.

That’s a relatively modest project. But the Moroccans are hoping that it will lay the groundwork for more ambitious projects that will boost solar power exports to Europe and beyond.

One project being mooted for Morocca’s Solar Plan is a 500MW solar power station and at least nine international companies are bidding. They include Nexant of California and Fichtner Solar of Stuttgart, Germany, which has won contracts to design power plants at Ain beni Mather in Morocco, Hassi R’Mei in Algeria and Kuraymat in Egypt.

In neighboring Tunisia, the government unveiled a solar plan in late 2009 that includes some 40 renewable energy projects, such as thermo-solar photovoltaic power plants, with a cost of $2.67 billion.

Desertec is by far the most complex of all the solar projects currently under way. It is still in the planning stage and construction isn’t expected to begin for another 2-3 years.

It has big-name partners, such as Deutsche Bank and Siemens, and is still attracting new companies, such as First Solar, a U.S. photovoltaic company that has constructed utility-scale solar plants in the deserts of the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

Using a method known as concentrated solar power it would generate inexhaustible and affordable quantities of energy across the Mediterranean — and even on a global scale if necessary.

One of its big attractions is that it would emit no carbon dioxide, making it the world’s biggest green-energy project. If Desertec does get off the ground, it would be the largest green-energy project on the planet.

In theory, a global system of solar thermal power would also eliminate the prospect of resource wars erupting in the years ahead as the planet’s natural resources that currently produce energy — oil, gas, coal, timber and water — disappear.

The idea for this massive project to harness the sun’s energy on a gigantic scale originated with a group of European scientists and politicians called the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation.

The concept of large-scale solar power has been around for some time but was never able to make the breakthrough because of cheap oil.

Desertec’s backers believe it will open the door to a new era of environmentally friendly generated power on a massive scale.

That would keep Europe at the forefront of the struggle against climate change and help North African and European economies to expand within the limits of greenhouse gas emissions.

Its critics caution that there are numerous pitfalls, among them the vagaries of North African politics and the perception that European projects like Desertec is just another form of economic plundering by the old colonial powers.

According to Nature magazine, the solar-cell market has been growing by an average by 31 percent a year for the last decade, and enthusiasts predict a 20-25 percent growth rate in the next few years.

Every year, the sun produces 630,000 terawatt hours — a terawatt equals 1 trillion volts — of energy in North Africa that is untapped. Europe consumes 4,000 terawatt hours of energy a year. That’s only 0.6 percent of the unused energy that falls on the North African desert.

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Men Set Record in Veggie-oil-powered Van

NEW YORK, March 23 (UPI) — Two Canadians said their record-setting drive in a vegetable-oil-powered van reached 23,697 miles in New York.

Tyson Jerry, 26, and Cloe Whittaker, 24, said they reached the mark — enough to surpass the alternative-fuel driving record set two years ago by a German team using natural gas power — Monday at New York’s Robert F. Wagner Middle School, and they are expecting the drive home to Victoria, British Columbia, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

The pair began their trek in South Carolina in November using a 1993 Delica Mitsubishi, which runs on used cooking oils collected from restaurants along their cross-country route.

They said they hope their accomplishment will spark more interest in biofuels.

“A veggie oil tank is not going to solve all the problems in the world, but we just want kids to start thinking about other ways to get around besides using gas,” Whittaker said.

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Crude Oil Prices Climb Tuesday

NEW YORK, March 23 (UPI) — Crude oil prices for May delivery held above $81 in New York Tuesday as U.S. equity markets posted another positive day.

The Dow Jones industrial average reached a 17-month high, closing at 10,888.83. It was the 10th gain in the DJIA in the past 11 sessions.

Light, sweet crude oil prices hit a midday high at $82.20 per barrel, but settled in recent trading at $81.71 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

May delivery heating oil futures dropped 0.0035 cents to $2.1108 per gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock for May fell 0.0078 cents to $2.2534 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices for May rose 0.006 cents to $4.196 per million British thermal units.

At the retail level, the average national price for unleaded gasoline was $2.816 per gallon Tuesday, down from Monday’s $2.82, AAA said.

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Falklands Oil Drilling Results Awaited

BUENOS AIRES, March 23 (UPI) — First results from the drilling for hydrocarbons in the Falklands waters were at the center of market speculation Tuesday as Argentina took its claim over the islands to the Organization for American States.

Findings from the first drilling operations to the target depth of about 11,480 feet under the sea were expected to be made known this week, officials said.

Desire Petroleum, which has headquarters in Malvern, England, is conducting the current investigation of the seabed, using the semi-submersible rig the Ocean Guardian it leased for the first round of drilling.

Desire participated in the first round of drilling in the north Falkland basin in 1998 when exploration was abandoned amid poor initial results and falling oil prices.

This time around. Desire is operating six licenses in the area, while other areas of the north Falklands basin are set to be explored by Rockhopper Exploration, Arcadia Petroleum Limited and smaller companies.

Desire said its findings showed that the basin has “a proven working hydrocarbon system with an excellent oil source rock. In addition, recent studies have indicated there is also a significant gas potential in the basin.”

Scientific reports, cited by Desire and other companies, the region could be holding recoverable oil in excess of 3.5 billion barrels and natural gas of more than 9 trillion cubic feet, making it potentially the largest oil field outside Saudi Arabia.

Ocean Guardian sailed into the basin area on Feb. 19 and began operations with the spudding of the first well Feb. 23, at the height of an Argentine diplomatic campaign to draw international attention to its claim.

The Argentine approach to the OAS was an expected escalation of its diplomatic campaign to advance Buenos Aires’ claim of the islands, which it calls the Malvinas, are Argentine and Britain has no right to drill for oil in the islands’ waters. Britain rejects the claim, asserting the Falklanders have exercised self-determination on the British overseas territory, which has been under U.K. rule since 1833.

Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, resulting in a 74-day war with Britain that led to the deaths of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen and three civilian Falklanders. Britain prevailed in the conflict but Argentina continued its sovereignty claim.

The renewed Buenos Aires campaign for sovereignty over the islands has led to criticism that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is using the dispute to deflect attention away from domestic economic and political problems.

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Crude Oil Futures Drop Monday

NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) — Crude oil futures opened sharply lower on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday, dropping under $79 per barrel because of supply concerns.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries held production quotas unchanged in a meeting in Vienna last week “presiding over a supply/demand balance that is essentially in surplus,” Edward Meir, a senior commodity analyst at MF Global told Market Watch.

April delivery, light, sweet crude futures on Monday dropped $1.84 to $78.84 per barrel. Heating oil for April delivery was down 0.0448 cents to $2.0319 a gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock lost 0.045 cents to $2.2106 per gallon. Natural gas for April shed 0.113 cents to $4.056 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline was unchanged Sunday to Monday at $2.82 per gallon, AAA said.

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Nuclear Power a Possibility for Indonesia

JAKARTA, March 17 (UPI) — Indonesia’s House of Representatives gave a green light to the government’s plan to build nuclear plants.

That decision Monday came after the parliamentary commission for energy, technology and the environment visited the country’s National Nuclear Energy Agency, which is known as Batan, during the weekend.

“Indonesia can no longer rely on non-renewable energy sources such as gas and coal to generate electricity in future,” said Teuku Riefky Harsya, chairman of the commission, in a statement.

Coal is estimated to account for 44 percent of state-owned utility PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara’s total energy production this year with natural gas another 26 percent.

Hudi Hastowo, head of Batan, told The Jakarta Globe the agency wouldn’t operate nuclear plants but would act as a supporting partner in providing technical advice.

Building a nuclear plant was a long-term project for Indonesia, Hastowo said, that could take at least 10 years.

“We now have to convince all stakeholders to support the plan,” he said.

The agency has carried out a feasibility study on the construction of nuclear plants in Indonesia, covering such issues as safety and the environment. Batan said the country’s uranium reserves in Kalimantan are capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electricity for 150 years.

As for safety, Hastowo said that Indonesia would carefully evaluate safety measures in building nuclear power plants because the agency is party to the 1994 Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety.

Noting that the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency is “very strict” in issuing permits for a country to build a nuclear power plant, he said that an IAEA inspector last November unofficially endorsed Indonesia’s capacity to build a nuclear power plant.

While Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration has yet to present a detailed proposal to Parliament on the building of nuclear facilities, the Antara news agency reported the president as saying, “I believe that nuclear power plants will not leak if managed properly.”

But the nuclear option “carries high-level risks for which Indonesia is not well prepared,” said Richard Tanter, an expert on Indonesia’s nuclear program at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“There are very serious volcanic and seismic risks,” Tanter said.

Indonesia, faced with increasing electricity needs, encounters regular blackouts that hamper industrial production and discourage investors.

Hikmat Soeriatanuwijaya, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said it was too early for Indonesia to embark on the nuclear path, the Globe reports.

Soeriatanuwijaya said the government should first explore geothermal energy. Indonesia’s untapped geothermal energy accounted for 40 percent of the world’s total reserves, he said.

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Oil Prices Ignore OPEC News

NEW YORK, March 18 (UPI) — Crude oil prices were little changed Thursday morning after oil ministers in Vienna said current production quotas would remain intact.

The meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the world’s largest oil cartel, ended with a statement that said “continued positive signs” in the global economy were threatened by “mounting and potentially unsustainable public debt in the most advanced economies.”

OPEC also said trade was threatened by “rising protectionism,” and further noted that the “marginal” rise in demand expected this year would be “more than offset” by increased production among non-OPEC countries.

On balance, “2010 is likely to witness a decline in the demand for OPEC crude oil for the third consecutive year,” the statement said.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, April delivery light sweet crude prices swung down from a recent peak of $82.93 per barrel to $82.29 per barrel, off 64 cents.

Heating oil prices lost 0.0186 cents to $2.1209 per gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock prices shed 0.0177 cents to $2.292 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas futures lost 0.054 cents to $4.249 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price for unleaded gasoline rose to $2.789 per gallon from Wednesday’s $2.776, AAA said.

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