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UPDATE 10-Oil dives 5 pct as worries about Iran talks trump Yemen

REUTERS -- * Traders weigh possibility of Iran nuclear deal by next week

* Tehran eager to recover oil market share lost due to sanctions

* Oil prices down on day but up for second straight week (New throughout, updates prices and market activity with further decline after settlement)

Oil tumbled 5 percent on Friday, erasing the previous session's gains, as Yemen's conflict looked less likely to disrupt Middle East crude shipments and investors turned their focus to talks for a potential Iran nuclear deal that could put more supply on the market.

Oil prices still notched their second straight weekly gain, boosted by the dollar's weakness in recent sessions. U.S. crude had its biggest weekly gain in more than a month.

U.S. crude and global benchmark Brent oil spent most of the session in a...  (go to article)

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A veteran commuter puzzles over Virginia’s I-66 plan

Washington Post -- For me, this summer would mark 50 years of commuting on Washington highways, had I not retired a year ago. I’m so happy to hear that by 2040, at the time I would have 75 years of this joyful experience, the powers that be might widen Interstate 66 somewhat inside the Capital Beltway.
I can’t easily think of any major city where a main highway inbound constricts like I-66 does inside the Beltway. Contrast it even to Interstate 395 (Shirley Highway to us old guys), which is a joy by comparison and much improved since I commuted to summer jobs when LBJ was president. Maybe this will improve by 2040. One can hope.

Virginia’s plan for I-66 is the hottest topic in local highway travel. But whoa — let’s pause the march of progress to consider the changes experienced by a man who spent nearly hal  (go to article)

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Computers help Chevy Trax small SUV ace crash tests

Detroit Free Press -- The little Chevy Trax SUV just aced two important safety tests, thanks largely to super computers that allow faster and more accurate simulations of crashes.

The Trax, which is nearly 20 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Equinox SUV, rated five stars in government crash tests and got the coveted "top safety pick" status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Results like that can help a new vehicle attract buyers. The Trax seems to be doing that. Since sales began in December, Chevrolet says 47% of buyers are new to Chevy, 58% are women and 19% are younger than 35.

The Trax is one of the first entries into the subcompact SUV segment, which is poised to take off this year as other new models hit the road. The Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3 will all compete...  (go to article)

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Alberta releases new plan for managing oilsands tailings ponds

Canadian Press - EDMONTON -- The Alberta government has released a new plan for managing oilsands tailings ponds that it says will encourage companies to generate less of the toxic waste water and clean it up sooner.

Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett says operators will have clear guidelines on how big their tailings ponds can be during mine operations and how large they will be allowed to be when it closes. Those rules will be backed up by possible financial penalties, he said.

That combination of oversight and enforcement over the life of the mine will force companies to keep pushing for the technological breakthrough on tailings cleanup that has so far remained elusive, said Fawcett.

“Technology unlocked the oilsands,” he said. “It will be key to finding the long-term, effective solutions to tailings ponds manag  (go to article)

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US drillers are fighting back against OPEC, low oil prices

Augusta Chronicle -- OPEC and lower global oil prices have delivered a one-two punch to drillers in North Dakota and Texas who brought the U.S. one of the biggest booms in the history of the global oil industry.

Now they are fighting back.

Companies are leaning on new techniques and technology to get more oil out of every well they drill and are cutting costs in an effort to keep U.S. oil competitive with much lower-cost oil flowing out of the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere.

“Everybody gets a little more imaginative, because they need to,” says Hans-Christian Freitag, the vice president of technology for the drilling services company Baker Hughes.

Spurred by rising global oil prices, U.S. drillers learned to tap crude trapped in shale starting in the middle of the last decade and brought about a surpris  (go to article)

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Inhofe on Fracking, Water Contamination

Fact Check -- Sen. James Inhofe says there has never been “an instance of ground water contamination” caused by hydraulic fracturing — fracking — for oil and natural gas. Inhofe’s office told us he is referring only to “the physical act of cracking rocks through hydraulic fracturing.” But drilling operations that involve fracking include other actions that have caused contamination.

A peer-reviewed study published in 2014 found that drinking water wells near fracking sites in Pennsylvania and Texas were contaminated with methane that had the chemical signature of gas normally found only deep underground.

Rob Jackson, a Stanford University professor of earth system science who coauthored the 2014 study, told us that drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing has “contaminated ground waters through chemica  (go to article)

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Savanna Energy Services Corp eliminates dividend, cuts staff, trims salaries

Financial Post - CALGARY -- Faced with a drop in oilfield activity levels, heavily indebted Savanna Energy Services is eliminating its dividend, laying off 200 people, rolling back salaries and closing field offices to survive the oil price collapse.

“We are structuring the company to prepare us to operate in a low commodity price environment as efficiently as possible,” Dwayne LaMontagne, interim president and CEO of the Calgary-based drilling company, said in an email Friday.

Mr. LaMontagne, who took over Feb 4 as interim CEO after the abrupt departure of Savanna’s previous CEO, confirmed that “just over” 200 salaried employees, 38% of those who don’t work on rigs, had been laid off and the company’s remaining employees had taken an average 7% pay cut.

He added that the company is looking at selling real estate  (go to article)

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Enbridge Energy doesn't see oil slowdown affecting Minnesota pipeline projects

Minneapolis StarTribune -- Even as the U.S. oil industry slashes investment, pipeline operator Enbridge Energy isn’t paring back its record five-year $44 billion building program that includes major projects in Minnesota, the company’s CEO Al Monaco said Friday.

Monaco said in an interview that the 50 percent drop in crude oil prices since June “is very dire” for the industry, but hasn’t changed the economics of pipelines like Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper project to deliver North Dakota oil across northern Minnesota to a terminal and other pipelines in Superior, Wis.

“The amount of production that is coming on to our system and the amount of production we forecast from the oil sands or the Bakken is actually well in excess of the capacity we have on our system,” said Monaco, whose company operates the world’s lon  (go to article)

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US Gulf Coast premium gasoline falls 17.69 cents/gal

Platts -- Gulf Coast premium gasoline fell 17.69 cents Friday on refiner selling, a lack of incentive to blend gasoline and pressure from dips in both lower-octane gasoline and the NYMEX RBOB contract.

93-octane gasoline saw its biggest one-day drop since a 25-cent fall on December 22, with the earlier decline tied to a rush to shed gasoline to avoid tax liability.

Phillips 66 drove the market lower Friday for premium at 9 RVP (V2). It improved an offer from 1 cent over futures to 4.5 cents under futures, where Noble and Trafigura agreed to buy 25,000 barrels each.

A selloff of cash-market RBOB has left US refiners with no incentive to blend premium gasoline, a US products trader said. Since Monday, the differential for RBOB at 7.8 RVP (F1) has fallen from 3 cents over the April futures contract  (go to article)

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I-35 Reopens After Fiery 18-Wheeler Crash Kills 1, Injures 3

KWTX -- Interstate 35 northbound and southbound lanes are fully open, the Texas Department of Transportation said early Friday morning.

The highway was closed for almost 18 hours after a fiery crash Thursday.

One person was killed and three others were injured when an 18-wheeler smashed into a highway bridge Thursday morning in Salado, dislodging two beams, which fell onto the highway hitting several vehicles and closing the highway in both directions.

Clark Davis, a 32-year-old Arlington man who was driving a pickup truck on which the beams fell died at the scene.

Davis leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter and girlfriend.

The injured victims were taken to Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Temple with what authorities said were non-life-threatening injuries, but further details weren’t immediat  (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.
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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.
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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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