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Energy

Energy

Drillers Pay Hush Money to Keep Their Fracking Secrets

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the art of separating oil from rock, has the potential of turning America into the world's top oil and natural gas producer.

But as with any bonanza it has some secrets oil and gas companies want to keep under wraps. And some companies are willing to put some big bucks behind that.

The industry has injected possibly carcinogenic chemical cocktails underground in more than 150,000 of wells during the fracking process.

U.S. companies have driven more than 30 trillion gallons of fracking liquid underground in the past several decades.

But not to worry: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the situation! It is solely charged with conducting long-term studies of the potential impact of fracking on water.

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Energy Markets

Russia: The Greatest Threat to the Energy Markets

As Yogi Berra aptly put it, It's deja vu all over again.

The Soviet gulag state is coming back and this time it could wreak havoc on the world's energy markets.

I began my energy career in Russia. Back then it was part of a sprawling Soviet Union. For the past 23 years there have been 15 independent countries in its place.

But these days it sure feels like the Beatles song from the late 1960s, "Back in the USSR."

You see, many governments aren't able to work out how to plot the global energy sector because it becomes too wrapped up in local political machinations.

And the bigger the energy producer, the bigger the impact is on the global picture.

Energy Investing

Three Hidden Water Costs That Promise to Boost Energy Prices

This may sound funny, but water availability is becoming an issue in energy generation. And it may start to impact prices.

The issue here is not the environmental impact of water usage. That is quite a different debate.

What I'm talking about today is the water supply/demand issue.

Because water is plentiful in those areas of the U.S. where shale gas and tight oil drilling is most concentrated, the price of the water itself is very low.

But there are three other costs involved with the usage of water, and those are beginning to cause some serious concerns.

Here's what I mean…

Top News

Oil Price Manipulation Awakens Libor, Enron Ghosts

Last July, we warned you that oil prices could potentially be manipulated in similar fashion to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), and now a recent raid of major oil companies highlights this growing danger to the $3.4 trillion-a-year crude market.

The European Commission last week stormed the offices of Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE ADR: RDS.A, RDS.B), BP PLC ( NYSE ADR: BP), and Statoil ASA (NYSE ADR: STO) as part of the ongoing investigation to find out whether companies are manipulating oil prices and, if so, how long it has been going on and the possible ramifications.

"The commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency (PRA) to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products," the EC said in a statement.

Besides major oil companies, big banks are active in the energy market and would likely benefit from any manipulation, David Frenk, director of research at the financial reform group Better Markets and a former commodities analyst, told CNN.

The ordeal has brought back memories not only of last year's Libor scandal but also of the actions taken 12 years ago by Enron to control energy prices.

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Energy

The Next Big Change in the Energy Markets

Thoughts are again turning to the next big change in the energy landscape.

As it unfolds, I have been working on how to exploit this trend and will be rolling out my recommendations when I appear at the MoneyShow in Las Vegas next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Of course, before I sketch my new approach to the Caesar's Palace audience, I'll outline it here first. You can expect more on this in coming Money Morning editions.

Today, I want to extend on Saturday's discussion and set the stage for the revisions I will be begin sketching out in my next article.

This is once again about hedging.

Energy Investing

10 Ways the U.S. Shale Oil Boom has Made North Dakota an "Economic Miracle"

Thanks to the U.S. shale oil boom, some parts of the country are experiencing growth comparable to emerging markets.

The best example of this high-powered economic surge is in North Dakota.

North Dakota is the epicenter of the Bakken shale oil boom. Since 2009, it has had the fastest growth in personal income, tax revenues, jobs and home prices of all the 50 states. The state also has enjoyed both a population surge and the lowest unemployment rate in the country.

According to July 2012 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state's population rose by 4% in just two years – compared to 1.7% for the nation as a whole. The western part of the state, where the Bakken is located, may see its population jump 50% over the next two decades, according to a North Dakota state survey.

For North Dakota as a whole, at the end of 2012 the unemployment rate was only 3.2%. In the 12-county Bakken region of the state, unemployment stood at a mere 1.8%. In Williams County, which is at the heart of the Bakken shale oil boom, unemployment was at a miniscule 0.9%

This is why some have called North Dakota an "economic miracle."

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Energy

Frack or Fail: Is It Time For California's Liberals to Go?

Editor's Note: California is in a LOT of trouble financially. Cities are going under and the state can't balance its budget. It also has almost half a trillion in state pensions to fund and revenue is drying up.

But there is one way out: Tap the largest oil and gas play in the Lower 48.

The question is whether this left-leaning state crowded with special interests like the Sierra Club will actually let oil services companies begin to start fracking on state land.

In our inaugural Money Morning Fight Club brawl, Frank Marchant and Garrett Baldwin square off on this contentious issue. The best part is we are asking you to turn in your scorecard and pick the winner at the end.

So let's get ready to rumble…

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Solar Stocks

The Untold Truth About Solar Stocks

The price of solar energy shares has been spiking, leading to the obvious parallel questions:

Is it sustainable?…Or what prospects exist for the average individual retail investor?

Before we address these questions, it would be best to lay some groundwork.

The increase in solar share prices has been just about across the board. This is most clearly seen in the rise in solar and related exchange traded funds (ETF). Guggenheim Solar (NYSEArca: TAN) has advanced 24.8% this past month, while American Vector Solar Energy ETF (NYSEArca: KWT) is up 15.2%. The iShares S&P Global Clean Energy Index (NasadqGM: ICLN) has improved 11.8%.

However, before you rush out and buy any of these ETFs, consider the longer view.

From December 1, 2012, TAN is down 36%, KWT is off 34.9%, and ICLN is weaker by 10.7%. The recent push up has resulted in some – apparently – better solar plays. Yet the medium-term perspective indicates the run up might not last.

Here's why…

Global Energy Markets

This Dangerous "New" Energy Crisis is Crippling the Middle East

Don't look now, but there are some problems developing in the global energy network.

It's hardly reassuring that the epicenter of all this is the Middle East.

The primary problem is hardly new. Actually, calling it an "old" problem is more accurate because the culprit is a collapsing network of delivery and storage that has been deteriorating for decades.

Unfortunately, this is hitting areas already beset by broad, accelerating economic shortfalls the hardest. That they also happen to be areas of significant unrest hardly improves the situation.

The latest is in Pakistan. There a combination of lower-than-expected water availability and a government powerless to provide the diesel fuel essential for the planting season means a population already on the brink is staring at food shortages.

The picture is very grim.

Energy Investments

The Market for Clean Energy Investments Continues to Move East

While renewables and other "clean" energy solutions continue to lose steam with investors in North America, it's quite another story elsewhere.

Investment capital is moving east at an incredible pace.

Last week, the Pew Charitable Trusts issued the fourth annual "Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race?"

Worldwide, nations increased clean energy generation capacity by 88 gigawatts (GW) in 2012. However, that also complemented an 11% decline in overall investment compared to 2011.

Some of that is explained by the impending end of heavy government subsidies in both the U.S. and the European Union. But despite the drop, 2012 still marked the third straight year in which clean energy investments topped $200 billion worldwide.

The year still ended with more than five times the investment recorded in 2004, the year generally used as the base for calculations.

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