Brent falls below $60, NY state bans fracking, shale drillers threaten global financial stability as crisis spreads to banks, Shell recognises a global energy transition is underway: Week 50, 2014

Coral bleaching event spreading across northern Pacific set to become worst ever. Previous worst, in 1998, saw 15% of world’s corals die. All could be gone within 50 years.
Ebay joins Google and others in quitting ALEC over climate denial stance. Many tech companies have now departed the American Legislative Exchange Council.
 
Obama expresses strong scepticism over Keystone pipeline. The President says it will do little to reduce American energy prices, and provide few jobs.
 
Insurance problems add to the woes of ailing US shale drillers. At least six companies have signed up to a type of hedge that does not fix a minimum oil price.
 
UK’s biggest solar farm connects to grid: 46 MW Landmead project. Belectric’s installation on grade 3 (of 5)  agricultural land shares site with grazing sheep.
UK wave power in anger of collapsing for want of c. £200m. Pelamis has gone into administration, and Aquamarine Power is in financial difficulties.
Construction of world’s largest planned tidal project to begin off Caithness. 400 MW, ABB as the onshore contractor, first electricity scheduled in 2016.
 
Nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities transported in delivery vans. So wrote analysts of Pakistan in 2011. We are forgetting the danger, warns US politician.
18.12.14.
“Bankers see $1 trillion of zombie investments stranded in the oil fields”. Goldman Sachs study of 400 oil and gas fields, finds $930 bn unprofitable at $70.
US oil output set to rise into 2015 even as prices plunge. (But for how long?). More oil can be extracted from lowest-cost spots with enhanced techniques, say analysts.
“North Sea oil industry ‘close to collapse’”: BBC. Chairman of independent explorers association says almost no new projects are profitable.
Chevron drops Arctic drilling plans – not even short term – indefinitely. Economics plus regulatory requirements have put them off drilling first well in 2025.
US government plans vividly portrayed in animated time series map video. Post-Carbon Institute’s plot shows 85,000 wells in last 10 years and 675,000 by 2040.
Real danger to global financial system from oil price collapse: credit derivatives. Bill for CD swaps would exceed $$100 bn if worst drillers default. But there is contagion risk.
Health groups confident New York fracking ban will now spread to other states. With bans in two dozen municipalities & two countries, industry is using courts to fight back.
 
UK consumers face £750m extra for subsidy scheme to keep lights on. But £15-20 per kW price in “capacity market” auction is lower than feared.
17.12.14.
Attribution of 2014 heat to global warming boosts prospect of class actions. Oxford researchers conclude chances of 2014 record increased by a factor of ten.
New York state to ban fracking as health officials say “potential risks too great”. No prospect of 6 year moratorium ending now, as governor says he will be bound by experts.
EU Parliament dismays greens by failing to veto oil imports from tars sands. Vote to label tar-sands oil fails by a narrow margin.
16.12.14.
 
China calls Lima deal “balanced”, but is critical of rich countries on finance. Chinese media coverage is broadly positive.
Late meeting of US and Chinese envoys saved the Lima climate talks. They solved dilemma of “who goes first” by inserting text from US-China pre-summit accord.
Brent crude price falls below $60 for first time in >5 years. Gloomy Chinese manufacturing output data offered as explanation for latest phase of slide.
First large oil company merger of this price fall. Repsol agrees to buy Talisman for $8.3bn. Others can be expected, as in the last phase of low oil price.
Cameron wades into green groups “religiosity” for being anti-fracking. He says all subsidies for onshore wind will end, that tax breaks for fracking are not subsidies.
Bond investors are skittish over emerging markets”: New York Times. Once popular bonds of Petrobras, Pemex, Gazprom looking shaky, with contagion possible.
BoE warns that lenders to US shale drillers may not be able to repay their loans. This could have a knock-on effect in the wider junk bond market, Mark Carney says.
Regional utility MVV takes 50.1% stake in German renewables developer Juwi. Condition of takeover, for €99m, is that €300m, raised from 40 financial institutions.
Rouble falls to dramatic new low as Russian rate rise fails. Rosneft bond issue becomes part of the blame-game raging in Moscow.
15.12.14.
“Lima leave Australia, Big Oil, with giant fossil fuel headache.” Complete phasing out of fossil fuels by 2050 had explicit support of more than 100 countries.
“Lima deal represents a fundamental change in global climate regime.” The agreements made end the division of the world into developed and developing nations.
Winners and loser at Lima: the Carbon Brief analysis. No-one hailed the text as a triumph, but there were “small victories scattered throughout”.
 
Tropical rainforests not absorbing as much carbon as expected, scientists find. Studies show CO2 is not meaning faster tree growth, raising question about sink efficacy.
New satellite maps measure detail of Greenland ice loss faster in 21st century so far. 4 cm sea-level rise from 2003-2009 melt from loss measured by lasers at 100,000 locations.
Russian central bank raises interest rate to 17% to prevent collapse of rouble. Decline is 45% against the dollar this year. Russians fear joint US Saudi oil-price plot.
Texas wildcat veterans warn Dakota rookies that an oil bust is on the way. But in the Bakken of North Dakota, many do not seem to agree that a storm is coming.
“Dissecting Denton: How a Texas City Banned Fracking”: Texas Tribune. Too many of the 277 wells near children, and callous disregard by Range Resources et al.
Police ask university for list of attendees at debate on fracking. Canterbury Christ Church University refuses to hand it over.
“Falling oil price poses new threat to banks”: FT. As much as half of outstanding financing may be stuck on banks’ balance sheets.
Oil price fall threatens $1 tn of oil projects, Goldman Sachs says. Echoing Carbon Tracker’s prescient report in May, 7.5 mbd over next decade.
“We recognise that an energy transition is under way”: Shell CEO in letter to FT. But responding to Davey’s warning, Ben van Beurden’s answer is still gas and CCS.