Oil pipeline shortage puts Jim Carr on the hotseat in Houston

HOUSTON — Investors and analysts have grilled both Canadian politicians and oil executives this week on pipeline projects, and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr tried to soothe concerns over the issue Wednesday.

“The government of British Columbia doesn’t like the pipeline much,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said Wednesday, adding that “the government of Canada is as committed to the project as it was the day we approved it.”

Pipeline constraints have been a theme for both Canadian and, to a lesser extent, Texan oil producers, at Houston’s CERA Week energy conference this year — a sharp contrast to last year, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended and touted his government’s approval of new pipeline export projects.

In Canada, all of the oil export pipelines are full and producers are increasingly shipping their barrels on railway cars given pipeline operators are rationing space on existing lines. The situation has caused the Canadian oil producers to accept discounts as high as $30 per barrel for their oil.

In that context, Carr said his Liberal government remained committed to the project and other export pipelines. He also tried to soothe investors’ fears over Ottawa’s overhaul of the National Energy Board, released last month.

“We think it’s better, it’s more streamlined and it means that good projects will get built,” Carr said.

Still, Canadian oil and gas executives here have spent much of their time fielding questions — from analysts, investors, Canadian and American reporters — about how their businesses have been affected by stalled pipeline export projects.

Cenovus Energy Inc. president and CEO Alex Pourbaix said during a panel discussion Tuesday the cost of the currently large discounts for Western Canada Select to his company was $4 million per day.

Still, Pourbaix told attendees the Canadian energy sector was a stable place to do business relative to other heavy oil-producing regions because “the only issue that needs to get addressed is getting pipelines built.”

The issue was highlighted just as the conference kicked off this week, when the International Energy Agency released its five-year oil outlook on Monday and predicted Canadian oil supply growth would be restrained by full export pipelines leaving Canada.

“Last year, we were here. We were saying, ‘There’s good news for pipelines,’” IEA senior analyst Toril Bosoni said. “Now one year later we’re saying, ‘It’s not so certain.’”

She said the construction timelines of new pipelines — like TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast, Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement and Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — were the biggest uncertainties weighing on the report’s outlook for Canada.

Enbridge president and CEO Al Monaco said some progress is being made.

“I would have to say it’s frustrating, however, let’s not forget that we (as an industry) have been successful at putting projects into the ground,” Monaco said of delays to his competitor’s project, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“We’ve built a lot of new capacity out of Western Canada in the last decade but it’s harder, it takes longer – that’s our job,” Monaco said.

Mark Little, Suncor Energy Inc.’s chief operating officer, said some of the pessimism on Canadian pipelines is overblown and that the situation will improve.

“The pipeline isn’t built but we do view that certainty continues to increase with this (issue),” he said in an interview Tuesday, referring to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion through British Columbia. “We’re seeing it with actions with the Alberta government. We’re seeing the resolve of the federal government.”

Suncor has also secured all the pipeline space it currently needs to move its oil out of Western Canada and to the U.S. Gulf Coast, Little said.

Despite Suncor’s optimism, the company has indicated it would not proceed with new growth projects in the oilsands until additional export pipelines are built.

“We want to see the certainty of the pipelines going in before we start sanctioning a bunch of growth,” Little said.

“It’s not in our shareholders’ interest to sanction growth and then find out we have no way to move it except by rail — that’s not going to be good for the economics of it,” Little said, referencing the increase in oil-by-rail shipments out of Western Canada since the end of 2017.

Financial Post


Oklahoma teachers to lawmakers: Raise pay by April 1 or we shut schools

(Reuters) – The largest union for teachers in Oklahoma gave lawmakers in the cash-strapped state an April 1 deadline to approve pay raises for some of the lowest-paid educators in the country or face a shutdown of public schools, its president said on Wednesday.

Robot smashes Rubik’s Cube record with 0.38-second solve

Rubik’s Cube record.

Hardware hackers Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.

“We noticed that all of the fast Rubik’s Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,” Di Carlo wrote in a blog post.

A custom-built motor controller allows a single turn of the Rubik’s Cube to be completed in around 10 milliseconds. With a a typical Rubik’s Cube solution taking 19 to 23 turns, that should allow a cube to be solved in around 0.25 seconds—but the pair say the current iteration of the machine makes a move every 15 milliseconds instead.

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Quick Takes: Jurassic World Gets New Game, UnitedHealthcare Offers Apple Watch to Members, and More

In addition to our standalone articles covering the latest Apple news and rumors at MacRumors, this Quick Takes column provides a bite-sized recap of other headlines about Apple and its competitors on weekdays.

Wednesday, March 7

Apple Watch soon available through UnitedHealthcare Motion: Apple Watch will be integrated into the wellness program, which provides participants with an eligible plan access to activity trackers that can enable them to earn up to $1,000 in incentives per year by meeting certain daily walking goals.

Select program participants will have access to an Apple Watch starting in July, with full availability later this year. The cost of shipping and taxes on the Apple Watch is due upfront, and then participants can apply their earnings towards paying off the cost of the device in as little as six months.

UnitedHealthcare Motion is available to employers with self-funded and fully insured health plans nationwide. The program enables employees to earn up to $4 per day in financial incentives based on achieving F.I.T. goals:

Frequency: complete 500 steps within seven minutes six times per day, at least an hour apart;

Intensity: complete 3,000 steps within 30 minutes; and

Tenacity: complete 10,000 total steps each day.

Commentary: UnitedHealthcare should benefit from offering this program in the long-run by encouraging its customers to live more active lifestyles, ideally resulting in fewer health insurance claims being filed. Similar programs are offered by life and health insurance providers John Hancock and Vitality.

Universal announces Jurassic World Alive: The augmented reality game enables players to collect a variety of dinosaurs while exploring their own neighborhoods and cities around the world. Players discover dinosaurs by locating them on a map and deploying an in-game drone to collect DNA samples.

Commentary: Jurassic World Alive sounds a whole lot like Pokémon GO. The game is intended to promote the film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which debuts in theaters across North America on June 22. Pre-register here.

Ireland chooses Bank of New York Mellon to manage Apple’s escrow fund: The European Commission ruled in August 2016 that Apple received illegal state aid from Ireland, and ordered the country to collect 15 billion euros (currently $18.6 billion) in back taxes from the iPhone maker.

Commentary: The Bank of New York Mellon will hold the funds while Apple and Ireland both appeal the decision before the European General Court. Apple expects the amount will be reported as restricted cash on its balance sheet.

Macintosh Portrait Display released on this day in 1989: The 15-inch display was released for $1,099 alongside the Macintosh IIcx. The grayscale monitor featured a vertical orientation designed to show full pages on a single screen, making it useful for desktop publishing.

Commentary: Apple discontinued the Macintosh Portrait Display in late 1992, but tech specs are still available on its website for those who want to take a trip down memory lane. Nowadays, we wait for Apple to deliver on its promise of a new pro display to succeed the nearly seven year old Thunderbolt Display.

For more Apple news and rumors coverage, visit our Front Page, Mac Blog, and iOS Blog. Also visit our forums to join in the discussion.

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Congress struggles to find ways to plug infrastructure shortfall

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday said Congress must find a way to pay for a massive looming shortfall in funding to pay for crumbling highways, bridges and other infrastructure.

GOP tries to block state net neutrality laws and allow paid prioritization

Republicans in Congress are continuing to push a net neutrality law that would preempt state net neutrality rules and let Internet service providers charge online services for prioritized access to Internet users.

The Open Internet Preservation Act would prohibit ISPs from blocking or throttling lawful Internet content but clear the way for paid prioritization or “fast lanes.”

US Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) declared that “some cable companies and content providers aren’t going to be happy with this bill because it prohibits them from blocking and throttling Web content.”

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