Sunday, October 18, 2015

China growth slows to 6.9%; US rig count declines to 787; Norway as a model for electric car market

1 China growth slows to 6.9% in Q3 (Martin Farrer in The Guardian) China’s economic growth slowed in the latest quarter to a six-year low of 6.9%, despite repeated interest rate cuts and other stimulus measures. The figure released on Monday compared with a year-on-year expansion of 7% in the previous quarter. Although it was slightly better than economists expected, the rate was the slowest since the 6.2% recorded in the first quarter of 2009 during the global recession.

The GDP figures were part of a swath of data giving another snapshot of the world’s second biggest economy, which has seen stuttering growth in recent months after years of rapid expansion. It was also the first official confirmation of investors’ fears about economic growth since a Chinese stock market slump coupled with a surprise currency devaluation in July and August.

The output of China’s huge manufacturing sector cooled more than expected to 5.7% in September, disappointing analysts who expected it to rise 6% on an annual basis after a rise of 6.1%the prior month. Fixed-asset investment growth eased to 10.3% year-on-year in the January-September period, also missing market expectations. But retail sales rose by a better-than-forecast 10.9%.

The communist government has cut interest rates five times since last November in an effort to shore up growth, measures which have helped to ease investor fears that a downturn could trigger a worldwide slump. Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said: “Continued downward pressures from real estate and exports caused GDP growth to drop. But robust consumption and infrastructure prevented a sharper slowdown.”

2 US rig count declines to 787 (San Francisco Chronicle) Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the US this week declined by eight to 787.

Houston's Baker Hughes said that 595 rigs were seeking oil and 192 explored for natural gas. A year ago, with oil prices about double the prices now, 1,918 rigs were active. Among major oil- and gas-producing states, New Mexico lost five rigs, Oklahoma and Texas each declined by two and Colorado and North Dakota each lost one.

Louisiana gained three rigs, Wyoming gained two and California gained one. Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia were unchanged. The US rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.

3 Norway as a model for electric car market (David Jolly in The New York Times) At a time when the Volkswagen emissions scandal has helped expose the drawbacks of Europe’s heavy reliance on diesel cars, Norway has become a global model of how to get the public to embrace electric vehicles, an experiment that is attracting researchers and policy makers from around the world.
No other country can yet match Norway’s proportion of all-electric cars. Though still only 2 percent, the figure is double that of the runner-up, the Netherlands, and is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. More than one-fifth of new car sales in Norway are of electric vehicles.
Some skeptics wonder whether the Norwegian program is cost-effective, or even an efficient way to reduce air pollutants. And some elements of the program simply may not be replicable in other countries. But for many, Norway is showing a path forward. “If there’s anyone in the world who should be using electric vehicles, it’s Norway,” said Julian Marshall, an associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Minnesota. “That’s a place with clean energy.”
Making Norway’s project to shift away from fossil-fuel cars all the more notable is the fact that the country is one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and natural gas. But it is also blessed with an abundance of fast rivers, allowing it to generate virtually all of its electricity from hydropower. That makes Norway’s electricity cleaner and relatively cheap — a further impetus for adopting e-cars. (A country where much of the electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants would not see as many environmental benefits from switching to electric vehicles.)
Proponents argue that electric cars are essential for a transition to a low-carbon economy, as they are vastly  more efficient than conventional autos, transferring about 60 percent of their energy to the wheels. That compares with only about 20 percent for gasoline motors, which waste most of their energy in the form of heat.
After more than a decade of government support, official projections had held that there would be 50,000 e-cars on Norway’s roads by the end of 2017. That number, in fact, was reached this past April, and by September had grown to 66,000 all-electric cars, and an additional 8,000 gasoline-electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
Oslo now has only about 700 public charging spots, although city officials aim to raise that to above 1,000 before the end of the year. For most people, that means most of their charging is done at home. City and regional governments in Norway, meantime, have started to complain of a revenue shortfall from all the free-riding e-cars that are not paying fees and tolls.
Some critics say Norway is not getting its money’s worth from the program. Anders Skonhoft, an environmental economist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, estimates that the total value of subsidies works out to about $13,500 a year per electric car over each vehicle’s life. But for all the money Norway has put into the program, he said in an interview, the country has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by no more than one-tenth of one percent.

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