Crude oil prices declined by more than 2 percent in early trading Friday, as the U.S. dollar posted significant gains against foreign currencies and OPEC announced rising production in April.
Benchmark crude for June delivery fell 2.7 percent in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Since oil is traded in dollars, a stronger greenback makes crude -- and other commodities – more expensive for investors with other currencies. The dollar also pressured the Euro this week and broke above 100 yen for the first time in four years.
Meanwhile, OPEC announced its crude production gushed to a 5-month high in April of 30.5 million barrels per day. But the U.S. average price for a gallon of gasoline ROSE a penny on Friday, to $3.56. That’s about 4 cents higher than a week ago, but it’s also 18 cents lower than in May of 2012.
OPEC noted Friday that global crude supplies increased 450,000 barrels per day last month as production from non-OPEC nations like the U.S. and Canada also rose.
And against that backdrop the battle continued this week over a controversial plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Jerry Heithoff, Elgin, NE:"If I could say, ok, go ahead and put this pipeline through. But oh by the way, could you keep 75 or 80 percent of that refined product in the United States? That would be no...because they want to export it."
The waiting game is far from dull where the Keystone XL pipeline is concerned. Though the door has closed on the public comment period in response to the U.S. State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, another has opened.
For several years, TransCanada Corporation has sought a U.S. Presidential Permit to deliver oil sands crude from Canada to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. But American landowners, national environmental groups and grass roots opposition have opposed the plan every step of the way.
Jerry Heithoff, Elgin, NE:"This is some of the soil that are our natural resources that we don't want to be contaminated."
TransCanada claims the $5.3 billion project will require 9,000 skilled American workers to construct portions of the 1100-mile pipeline.
Though assembly of the conduit is already underway in some states, the Nebraska portion has met the most resistance. Because of the route’s proximity to environmentally sensitive areas, many voices in the Cornhusker State have come together to be heard.
Bruce Boettcher, Nebraska Sandhills Rancher: “What the hell is the matter here? We are being asked to accept a pipeline and jeopardize our environment for a measly 35 permanent jobs. The generations that live here and work this land have created more economic growth and more jobs than this pipeline ever will.”
While Nebraska’s leadership approved a revised route early this year, opponents held out hope that President Obama would reject TransCanada’s request. But a March report by the State Department, involved because the route crosses the border with Canada, found “no significant impacts” to Nebraska’s environmental resources.
Those for and against the pipeline were on hand in Grand Island, Nebraska last month to voice their opinions of the State Department’s environmental analysis.
Andy Black, CEO, Association of Oil Piplelines: “Right now trains carrying bitumen from the Canadian oil sands are headed to the Gulf Coast. Keystone XL should take many of those barrels off of rails and onto pipelines, which again, are the safest method of transporting them.”
On the final day of the public comment period, the Environmental Protection Agency weighed in, calling the State Department’s findings “insufficient”. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, EPA could promote the interagency dispute to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, setting the stage for even more legal wrangling.
For its part, Congress has been working on legislation to circumvent the President’s authority and push forth efforts to green-light the project. In a memo to Republican Congressmen last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlined a May legislative agenda which pushes forth the Northern Route Approval Act. Cantor said the bill would ensure the pipeline is built without any further delay.
Brad Stevens, Americans For Prosperity: "There are three pipelines in Nebraska that have gone across the aquifer and have done so for over 50 years. And they've done so safely. I mean when you start looking through the logistics of that argument...of having an export pipeline that's going through the Gulf of Mexico, it doesn't make economic sense. It doesn't pass the common sense smell test.”
Jerry Heithoff, Elgin, NE: "Yeah there's thousands of pipelines across Nebraska. I realize that. But you know, life's all about change. And we have to change the way we're doing things."