Elon Musk tweet-announces a $78,000 performance Model 3 with all-wheel drive

On Saturday night Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a few announcements via Twitter about new options for the Tesla Model 3. Specifically, the CEO said that in July the Model 3 would be available with options for a dual-motor and all-wheel drive. On a normal Model 3, that addition will come at a cost of $5,000.

Musk also announced a “performance” Model 3, which will also have dual-motor, all-wheel drive. That model will cost $78,000. What you get for all that extra cash will be the ability to go 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, with 155 mph top speed and at range of 310 miles. “Cost of all options, wheels, paint, etc is included (apart from Autopilot),” Musk tweeted.

In 2016, Tesla announced similar upgrades for the the Model S and Model X in the P100D version. The Model S P100D offered 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds and a 315-mile range. The Model X had a similar option available, though the heavier car went from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds and had a 289-mile range. Upgrading those already-pricy cars cost $10,000 at the time. In November 2017, Tesla announced a new Roadster that it says will take 1.9 seconds to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour, with a 620-mile range. That performance vehicle has yet to make it to production.

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Elon Musk talks proof-of-concept tunnel parallel to the 405 in Los Angeles

On Thursday evening in Los Angeles, Tesla, SpaceX, and Boring Company CEO Elon Musk laid out plans for The Boring Company to start building longer tunnels under the city. The first step? A 2.7 mile north-south test tunnel parallel to one of the city’s most congested freeways, the 405. This test tunnel won’t carry the general public, but The Boring Company does intend to do test rides to get user feedback eventually.

The company has buy-in from LA Metro, the city’s public transportation provider. In a short, tweeted statement Thursday evening, LA Metro announced: “Metro leadership and CEO Phil Washington had a great meeting today with the talented staff of the @boring_company. They will coordinate with us as they move ahead with their proof of concept tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard to ensure it doesn’t interfere with our Sepulveda Transit Corridor rail project. We’ll be partners moving forward.”

(The Sepulveda Transit Corridor is in preliminary stages, and could be a public transportation route linking the San Fernando Valley and LAX).

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Energy jobs reports say solar dominates coal, but wind is the real winner

Two updated energy jobs reports have been released, and they paint a picture of how the last year has affected different energy sectors. The news is good for wind and natural gas. The news is less good for solar and coal.

The first report, called the US Energy and Employment Report (USEER), comes from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), and it looks at energy jobs across the US in all sectors of the industry. The second comes from the Solar Foundation, a pro-solar association that tracks jobs with a nation-wide survey from year to year.

According do the USEER, net new energy jobs in the US increased by 133,000. In the “electricity generation and fuels” category, fossil fuels and greenhouse gas-free energy jobs are approaching a half and half split, with 1.1 million jobs in coal, gas, and oil and 800,000 jobs in nuclear and renewable generation jobs.

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‘Ready and prepared to turn off the taps’: Notley issues stark warning to B.C. as pipeline fight escalates

CALGARY – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley threatened to cut off oil shipments to British Columbia “very quickly” on Wednesday, as her government passed its controversial new law that grants the government sweeping new powers over oil and gas shipments.

Notley said she would use the law, first introduced last month and passed Wednesday, if construction does not begin on Kinder Morgan Canada’s $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion soon.

“Albertans, British Columbians and the rest of Canada should understand that if the path forward for the pipeline through B.C. is not settled soon, I am ready and prepared to turn off the taps,” Notley said Wednesday.

The comments are the most direct threat Notley has made regarding the province’s new powers to cut off all oil shipments to B.C. for that province’s opposition to the pipeline.

The law is necessary as all export pipelines leaving Alberta are full and that has resulted in Canadian oil being heavily discounted relative to U.S. and global oil benchmarks, the Alberta Premier said. “Alberta has the right to act in the public interest to reduce the cost to the treasury.”

Canadian heavy oil traded at a discount of $19.19 per barrel on average Tuesday, according to GMP FirstEnergy. Scotiabank estimates that the Canadian economy would lose $15.6 billion this year if heavy oil prices were discounted by US$24 per barrel, and called the situation a “self-inflicted wound” in a report in February.

Notley cited that economic impact when she indicated Wednesday that a move to cut off all shipments to B.C. could be imminent.

“I’m not going to map out our specific schedule on this. It could happen very quickly. It could happen in 24 hours. It could happen over a longer period of time,” Notley said in response to questions about the timing of an oil flow restriction.

If Alberta does turn off the taps soon, the result would be an immediate increase of 30 to 45 cents per litre in Vancouver, GasBuddy senior analyst Dan McTeague said. The current average wholesale price of gasoline in the Vancouver area is $1.56 per litre, he said.

The additional costs would bring the cost to fill up a typical 60-litre-tank car in the area up to $120.

“The numbers clearly show that the market is extremely sensitive to these kinds of disruptions,” McTeague said, noting the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and refineries in Edmonton currently supply most of the oil used in Vancouver and in cities like Kamloops and Kelowna.

When the Parkland Fuel Corp. refinery in Burnaby, which is connected to the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, was under maintenance earlier this year, McTeague said, “Vancouver was importing 900,000 litres of gasoline a month.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on Notley’s plans to turn off the taps, but issued a press release in response to Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s announcement earlier Wednesday that it would indemnify Kinder Morgan for any additional costs relating to the B.C. government’s opposition to the project.

“The federal finance minister is trying to use our government as an excuse, as the federal government puts taxpayer money on the line to backstop risks to private investors, while completely ignoring the risks to B.C.,” Horgan said.

“The fact is, we’ve been issuing permits in a fair and timely manner, and have proposed new regulations that are now referred to court to confirm our jurisdiction,” he said.

Environmental groups sided with the B.C. government, noting that political leaders were grasping at straws in willingness to bail out pipeline company.

“It’s fiscally irresponsible and ignores the growing protests to the project and the federal government’s own promises on Indigenous reconciliation,” Tzeporah Berman, campaigns and communications director, Stand.earth said in a statement.

Business groups in B.C. blasted Horgan for his opposition to the pipeline and said they are preparing for costs to escalate as trucking companies implement fuel surcharges.

“I think Premier Notley is acting out of frustration and desperation and she’s taking the only path that seems to be available to her,” said Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia.

He believes Horgan is responsible for the situation, calling the premier’s actions toward Kinder Morgan “irresponsible” and “reckless.”

At this point, however, he said his member companies have not been stocking up on gasoline and diesel ahead of a potential restriction from Alberta.

“I don’t think anyone is, at this point, making those kinds of preparations. Given that we seem to be at an impasse, I think it’s going to become an issue that’s going to be top of mind at businesses in remote communities,” Gardner said.

• Email: gmorgan@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

Tesla’s new battery in Belgium shows value is in dispatch speed

Tesla Powerpacks balancing the grid in Terhills, Belgium.

Thus far, batteries haven’t taken over grids around the world. Due to the sheer expense of batteries, large installations have generally been government mandated or heavily subsidized. In South Australia, though, Tesla’s giant 100MW/129MWh battery has seen a lot of success—not by selling power to meet general demand but by providing so-called “frequency response services.” And a company called Restore has just partnered with Tesla to replicate that success for itself in Belgium.

In South Australia, Tesla Powerpacks are charged by the energy from a nearby wind farm, and the battery installation dispatches electricity to the grid when grid frequency suddenly drops. Grid frequency—a measure of current that must be held constant for the grid to work properly—is vitally important to the functioning of any grid system.

In Europe, for example, a recent power dispute between Serbia and Kosovo led average frequency on the Continental Europe Power System to drop to 49.996Hz instead of the required 50Hz, which resulted in oven and microwave clocks everywhere across Europe being six minutes slow after just a month of these conditions.

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Ottawa offers financial backstop for Trans Mountain pipeline amid continued pushback in B.C.

OTTAWA — The Liberal government on Wednesday unveiled a financial backstop for the Trans Mountain pipeline, offering to reimburse developer Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. for financial losses that derive from B.C. Premier John Horgan’s “attempts to delay or obstruct the project.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not place a cap on how much would be provided to Kinder Morgan Canada if it fails to complete construction of its $7.4-billion pipeline expansion, but said Ottawa would only backstop any “financial loss that derives from (B.C.) Premier Horgan’s attempts to delay or obstruct the project.”

The government did not provide details around how it would distinguish between “politically motivated” losses and losses tied to market forces.

Morneau did not specify what kind of financial mechanism would be put in place to help Kinder Morgan recoup any costs, saying discussions were ongoing. He said such an indemnification against financial loss “would still be in place for another party,” and suggested that other private sector players might be interested in taking over Trans Mountain if Kinder Morgan decides to scrap the already-delayed pipeline. 

The move — putting public dollars behind a privately-driven infrastructure project — is the starkest evidence yet that Ottawa is keen to ensure the project reaches completion, just as it enters its most capital-intensive phase.

Kinder Morgan Canada stock was up 3 per cent to $17.27 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning.

Ottawa’s decision to intervene comes after Kinder Morgan Canada, the Canadian division of its Houston-based parent, announced on April 8 that it would halt all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline barring assurances that it would not face further political resistance to the project. The company set a May 31 deadline to decide whether it would move ahead, and called on the B.C. government to stand down from its opposition to the pipeline.

The move prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consider “legislative and financial” actions to push Trans Mountain ahead, following an emergency meeting between the B.C. and Alberta premiers, who have sparred for months over delays to Trans Mountain’s construction.

B.C. Premier John Horgan has said he would use all the tools at his disposal to block the project. In mid-April his government filed a reference to the provincial appeals court to determine whether British Columbia had legal authority to restrict shipments of oilsands bitumen across its territory.

That prompted Kinder Morgan Canada CEO Steve Kean to say the project “may be untenable for a private party to undertake” during a conference call last month. He had earlier said the company would require assurances it could “efficiently construct through British Columbia without the threat of additional or new requirements being imposed, or proposed, or announced, that would create further uncertainty.”

Richard Roberts, an analyst at Scotiabank based in New Orleans, LA., said in a phone interview Tuesday the backstop would “provide some level of assurance” for Kinder Morgan, but said various other risks could still hobble the pipeline.

“I still think they would need some more clarity from B.C. that they’re going to be allowed to do it,” he said.

The announcement comes as Trans Mountain enters the most capital-intensive phase of construction, making future delays increasingly costly, according to analysts. The company has already pushed back its completion date for the project by a year to December 2020.

“They’ve kind of gotten to the point now that it’s going to become very big dollars very soon,” Robert said. In April Kinder Morgan said it has already spent $1 billion on the project and plans to spend another $1.8 billion this year.

Observers have speculated over what would happen to the project if Kinder Morgan’s demands aren’t met, including whether Ottawa and Alberta would buy a position in the project, effectively nationalizing the formerly private asset.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters in April the province was considering a range of financial options to assist the project, “up to and including purchasing the pipeline outright if it were to come to that.” Ottawa, for its part, made no such claims.

Even so, such a move would still require an operator like Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. or TransCanada Corp. to take the reins, a move that David Galison, a Toronto-based analyst at Canaccord Genuity Corp. who covers Enbridge, says is unlikely considering that Kinder Morgan would first have to deem the project not worth the risk. However, Canadian midstream players likely would be keenly interested in a pipeline project that is already fully subscribed and has passed regulatory review. 

“I’m sure that Enbridge would love to be able to take on a fully permitted project from Kinder Morgan,” said Galison, adding that the company would likely require solid assurances from Ottawa and from regulators that it could move ahead with the pipeline.

In a statement, Enbridge said it’s focused on the execution of its Alberta-to-Wisconsin Line 3 Replacement Program and other projects, “and we are not engaged in conversations about buying the Trans Mountain Pipeline or taking over the project as operator.”

Kinder Morgan’s decision to fold Trans Mountain into a Canada-based subsidiary was widely seen as an attempt to distance the company from the highly contentious asset, as well as reduce its significant project backlog.

“They’ve ring-fenced the risk around this,” said one person familiar with the project who asked not to be named.

It is unclear whether a new operator would be forced to re-apply for any National Energy Board approvals or whether building permits would be passed along to the new owner.

“The bottom line is that the NEB would have to review any requests from a regulatory oversight perspective,” said James Stevenson, the NEB’s head of communications on the Trans Mountain project. “And what that review would look like would depend on the details.”

Scotiabank’s Roberts said Kinder Morgan has every reason to move ahead with the project, which accounts for roughly half the Houston-based company’s current backlog. But the company could still follow through on its ultimatum and abandon the project if snags persist, he said.

“I don’t think it’s posturing at all… they need assurances that they can get from point A all the way to point Z.”

The Trans Mountain expansion would nearly triple current capacity on the pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day, bringing heavy oil and refined products from northern Alberta to a Vancouver port.

• Email: jsnyder@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

Donald Trump’s policies leading to surging oil prices, trade disputes that threaten U.S. economy

United States President Donald Trump’s freewheeling policies are beginning to damage the American economy as exuberance over tax cuts turns to fear on trade and oil prices, it is claimed.

Crude costs are approaching US$80 per barrel, their highest level since 2014, and analysts fear the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal will make the situation worse. “If a new Iran deal is not reached in the next six months or OPEC/Russia extend production cuts into 2019, global oil markets would likely tighten further,” said Francisco Blanch at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Oxford Economics has raised its forecast for oil prices to an average of US$72 for 2018, which it fears could have serious repercussions for the economy.

“If WTI crude oil prices average US$70 per barrel this year, the U.S. economy could suffer a drag worth half of the 0.7 percentage point fiscal stimulus boost,” said Gregory Daco. “If sustained, rising oil prices could sap global momentum.

“We find that the most severely affected from an oil price shock would be large emerging markets like China, India, Indonesia. Advanced economies with reduced oil usage intensity would also suffer but to a lesser degree.”

At the same time, trade skirmishes between the U.S. and China risk denting growth too, credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has warned.

“As the U.S.-China trade spat drags on, it’s become clear that a prolonged period of iciness between the countries, or an escalation of the dispute, could have notable effects on the world’s two biggest economies,” said U.S. chief economist Beth Ann Bovino.

Planned U.S. tariffs will add as much as 0.2 percentage points to inflation.

“While that level alone isn’t enough to spur the Federal Reserve to raise rates any faster, it does add to inflationary pressures that have been building in the supply chain,” she said.

“Add to this the potential job losses in certain industries — with more than 2 million American workers exposed to Chinese retaliatory tariffs on the export side, according to one estimate — and it’s clear that an escalation in tensions between the two countries would have noteworthy, real-world ramifications.”

The Daily Telegraph

In February, no fossil fuels-based generation was added to US grid

In the US, two types of electricity generation are on the rise: natural gas and renewables. If one of those is set to make a bigger mark than the other this year, it’s natural gas: in 2018, natural gas-burning capacity is expected to outpace renewable capacity for the first time in five years, according to data from the Energy Information Agency.

All that additional natural gas capacity—approximately 21 GW expected this year—could spell trouble for the already-troubled coal and nuclear industries. Once a new gas facility is built, it makes it easier to close down older, inefficient coal plants, even if the price of natural gas rises a little. Coal plant closures have been happening for years already, and the Trump Administration has made a point of promising to bring coal back. But officials are having trouble finding a legal and politically acceptable way of boosting coal at the expense of natural gas, which is also a big US-based industry.

For nuclear, the problem is similar. The EIA wrote this week that the US nuclear energy industry is fighting not just against the falling cost of natural gas and renewable energy, also against the “limited growth in electric power demand.”

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