A new national survey and report by Makovsky, entitled How Americans Make Energy Decisions – And the Sources and Channels They Trust the Most, has been recently released. The full study can be accessed here.

As discussed in the Oil & Gas 360 article, New Survey Shows that Americans Significantly Overestimate Renewable Energy’s Role in Powering the Nation, the results reflect a big difference between perception and reality.

As someone who consistently overestimates things (IE: “my car is parked 5 miles from here;” “that trout I caught was at least 29 inches long;” “I am a whiz, practically a professional, on skis, skates, etc. – you name it,” said while hiding my skinned up and bruised knee), I found the results of this survey particularly interesting.

Here are a few takeaways from the survey and the Oil & Gas 360 article discussing the same:

  1. Americans considerably overestimate renewable energy’s role in the U.S.’s overall energy use and seriously underestimate the role of coal, oil and natural gas now and in the future.
  • The survey found that, “In 2016, solar and wind together made up just 3% of U.S. energy consumption, while survey respondents put the figure at 20%.”
  • “Furthermore, respondents predict that wind and solar will make up 34% of energy consumption in five years; however, the experts predict that they will be less than 5% of our energy consumption.”
  1. The most interesting statistic in the survey was about coal, oil and natural gas usage:
  • “And, although coal, oil and natural gas together comprise 87% of energy used today, survey respondents estimated them at 69% of the mix – underestimating how much these fossil fuels still dominate today’s energy mix by about 20%.”
  1. Biggest takeaway: Americans do not appreciate that coal, oil and natural gas are the primary energy sources in the U.S.
  • “More specifically, Americans viewed the nation’s dependency on oil to be in a trend of decline, providing only 20% of our energy needs in five years, an eight-point drop from current perceptions.” According to the survey, coal is perceived to be experiencing a similar decrease in five years.
  • The survey provides that in reality, however, the EIA’s forecasts tell a different tale. “EIA forecasts that oil and coal use will be about the same as they are today [in five years].”
  1. TV is king.  The good thing is that Americans are interested in news related to the energy industry – TV news rated as our main source of energy information in the survey. The conclusion of the survey is that energy companies must realize these incorrect perceptions and address them head on in their marketing efforts.

Perception can be misleading…it is vital that we understand the roles of oil, natural gas, coal, solar and wind energy.


Pumpkin Bread

This time of year, canned pumpkin seems to line my pantry shelves and people start bringing me zucchini from their gardens to use in my baking. For this reason, nearly everything I bake in the fall contains pumpkin or zucchini – there is something about the leaves changing that makes me long for the smell of warm spices. I even spike my coffee in the mornings with cinnamon and nutmeg. Luckily, a friend’s husband who was recently in Qatar brought her back a bunch of wonderful cinnamon and she has been kind enough to share her cinnamon stash with me…

This all comes from the urge to use what we have. We have fields full of bright orange pumpkins and gardens full of large snake-like zucchini this time of year. While I have been known to bake my pies out of fresh sugar pumpkins, I always seem to have canned pumpkin on hand in the fall to use in my baking. One thing I really love about baking is that it allows me to creatively use what I have.

Speaking of using what you have, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) released an interesting publication on the same topic today. A full copy of the post can be found here. The main topic is coal and how low-cost coal in the Rocky Mountain region has supported coal-fired electricity generation in the area.

The Rocky Mountain region has historically used what it has.

Coal has traditionally been a dominant source of electricity generation in the Rockies due to the resource’s abundance in that location. In fact, the EIA reports that “in the eight Mountain states, coal-fired power generation made up almost 50% of the region’s total generation in 2015, compared to the national average of 33%. A decade ago, coal’s share in Mountain states was even higher, at 63%.”

The EIA publication discusses the following: “In 2015, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico accounted for 79% of the region’s coal-fired electricity generation. The other states in the region—Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada—lack abundant coal resources. Instead, hydropower dominates electricity generation in Idaho, while natural gas plays a bigger role in Arizona and Nevada.”

Along the same lines, renewable energy generation and generating capacity has also been increasing. The EIA reports that, “[w]ind generation increases were mostly in Colorado and Wyoming, while solar generation growth was mostly in Arizona and Nevada.”

Talk about using what you have!

Pumpkin patch

Saddle Up

Lately, it seems like everyone is trying to predict the future of oil prices. I tend to think predicting the future of anything is frankly, pretty darn difficult. See my post last month entitled, “Is Predicting the Future of Energy Like Driving Down a Dirt Road at Night with No Lights On.”

It got me thinking…what would the legendary cowboy, John Wayne, say about the future of oil prices?

Hold your horses, pilgrim…

First, what are energy folks saying about the future of oil prices?

The New York Times (“NYT”) published an article today entitled, “Not Everyone’s So Sure Low Oil Prices Will Stay Put.” The NYT article explains in detail how the predictions are for the average price of oil over the next year vary from the low $50 per barrel range to the $60s based on the fact that “a few experts have gone out on a limb, arguing that the market has become complacent in its outlook, just as it was when the price stayed above or close to $100 from 2011 to 2014.”

As we previously discussed, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) is projecting that Brent crude oil prices will average $51-52 per barrel in 2017.

Also, it should be noted, as always, that many considerations have an impact on the price of oil. From OPEC, international relationships and the value of the dollar to basic supply and demand considerations – there is a lot that could play a role. A good summary of these issues can be found here in an article published today by MarketWatch.

So what would John Wayne say about the future of oil prices?  Oil prices have been such an unpredictable ride lately, and the truth is, the future is difficult to predict. I think if John Wayne was asked what he thought about the future of oil prices, he’d walk into the saloon and say:

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

This and more John Wayne quotes can be found here.


The Best Bar in Sheridan

Two things are on my mind today: (1) winter is coming – I am so ready for some snow, hot cider and a refreshing chill to the air (it is supposed to be in the 80s all weekend in Denver, but I am still ready to unpack my sweaters and snow shoes!), and (2) Wyoming is moving forward with opening a new coal mine near Sheridan, Wyoming.

On the concept of winter being just around the bend, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) released its Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (“EIA Outlook”). The full report of the EIA Outlook can be found here.

What is EIA’s winter forecast?

In general, the EIA’s Outlook is promising for the energy industry in the upcoming winter months. “EIA projects average U.S. household expenditures for natural gas, heating oil, electricity, and propane will increase this winter (October 1 through March 31) compared with last winter.”

Winter is coming – and it is predicted to be a cold one.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, even though controversial as to its accuracy, is predicting “temperatures in much of the nation to be much colder than last winter, but still above normal.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) is also projecting the same, reportedly forecasting temperatures colder than last year, which was 15% warmer than the 10-year average nationally.

What else is the EIA predicting?

  • Crude Oil

The EIA Outlook provides that U.S. crude oil production averaged 9.4 million barrels per day in 2015 and is forecasted to decrease to 8.7 million barrels per day in 2016 and 8.6 million barrels per day in 2017.

Brent crude oil prices are forecasted to average $43 per barrel in 2016 and $51 per barrel in 2017.

As I write this article, the price of oil is sliding slightly, but the consensus is that the price is not so bad right now. Bloomberg Energy is reporting that WTI Crude is currently $50.34 per barrel and Brent Crude is $52.00 per barrel.

  • Natural Gas

The EIA Outlook predicts that natural gas production will increase 3.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017.

This is consistent with other reports that are predicting an increase in natural gas production. For example, Bloomberg released a story yesterday entitled, “Oil Rebound’s Dirty Little Secret Threatens U.S. Gas Bulls,” which discusses an increase in drilling for oil in the Permian will also “unleash” the production of more natural gas.

  • Coal

Coal exports have declined 32% in the first 7 months of 2016 and are expected to decline an additional 5% in 2017, according to the EIA Outlook.

This brings me to the second thing on my mind…Wyoming is opening a new coal mine.

The Brook Mine

High Country News (“HCN”) put out an article yesterday, written by Paige Blankenbeuhler, entitled, “Defying Trends, Wyoming Approves a New Coal Mine: Why a small operation is forging forward despite broader industry contraction.” HCN’s article discusses that Lexington, Kentucky-based Ramaco is going forward with opening the Brook Mine, just north of Sheridan, Wyoming, and that the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council reportedly approved the coal mine proposal.

The vote by the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council to allow the Brook Mine to move forward was reported to be unanimous.

  • More on the Brook Mine…

Despite that coal is on the decline nationwide, there are several distinctions about the Brook Mine’s operations could help it survive the coal industry’s contraction.

What are the things about the Brook Mine that make it different??

  1. It’s on private land. Ramaco reportedly owns the mineral rights to the coal. This is a major difference when compared to other coal mines – this means that no federal royalties will be due to the federal government.
  2. It’s going to be a high-wall mine. According to the HCN article, “[u]nlike most mines in the Powder River Basin, which are open-pit surface mines, the Brook Mine would be a ‘high-wall mine,’ which are less expensive to operate than open-pit or underground mines that require drilling into deep contours with more expensive and complicated machinery.” More on the high-wall mining technique can be found in this Brook Mine Overview power-point presentation prepared by Ramaco in May of 2014 and publically available online through
  3. Little guy. The proposed mine is “starting off small” and Ramaco is reportedly only planning to produce about 8 million tons of coal per year from the location.


hand with coal

Arch Coal has announced that it has successfully completed financial restructuring and has emerged from bankruptcy.  Shares of the reorganized company began trading last week on the NYSE under the ticker ARCH, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The company’s full press release can be found here.

Why is this important?

  • Arch’s footprint across the U.S. is large – the company, and its subsidiaries, reportedly have a leading position in every major U.S. coal basin, including Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.
  • Arch reports that it employs nearly 4,000 employees and reports that “for every direct mining job, it’s said that there are seven indirect jobs that support the mining industry.”  This news hits close to home – Arch’s West Elk Mine is the largest coal mine in Colorado and Arch’s Black Thunder Mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming is one of the largest single coal mining complexes in the world.
  • According to the Denver Business Journal article, Owner of Colorado’s Biggest Coal Mine Exits Bankruptcy, Sheds Billions in Debt, Arch was able to reduce its debt load 93% from nearly $5 billion to $363 million.

Coal in the news…

We all know that coal has been a hot topic in the presidential debates so it is fresh on our nation’s mind…no need to recap the sharp divide between the candidates on the subject.

Also, don’t forget that the Paris Agreement is reportedly set to take effect next month.  More details on that subject to follow…

Champagne Flutes

It’s time for some good news! U.S. oil prices are once again over the $50 mark!

Before you pop the champagne, here is what you need to know to be up to speed:

  • The Wall Street Journal (“WSJ”) published an article today entitled, “How a Saudi Royal Sparked an OPEC Deal and Set Oil Prices Past $50” – that’s right, the bump in oil prices is attributable to the new oil production deal with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Companies (“OPEC”)
  • The basic outline of the deal is to limit production output. Stored oil supply will be tapped into and hopefully past oversupply issues will balance out.
  • In fact, the WSJ reported that “[o]il prices have also been boosted in recent days by significant drawdowns of stored oil in the U.S.”

As of the time this post was published, Brent Crude was at $52.58 per barrel and WTI Crude Oil was at $50.52 per barrel according to Bloomberg Energy.  Break out the champagne flutes!!

The WSJ also reported that the “U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday said U.S. crude inventories declined by 3 million barrels in the week ended Sept. 30, falling for the fifth straight week.  It was another sign that demand is catching up with the oversupply of crude that caused prices to collapse in 2014.”

All eyes are still on non-OPEC members (Russia) to see whether they will join in the production cuts…nonetheless, cheers to the good news!!


Baking Soda

About this time last year, I wrote a little primer on a not very well-known but critically important hard rock mineral, trona – read the full post here.  You may remember that my home state of Wyoming has the world’s largest deposit of trona and that after trona is processed, it is commonly known as “soda ash.”

I have also been writing about the drastic impact the downturn in the energy industry has had on Wyoming. Not just the downturn in oil and gas but also the downturn in coal, has hit Wyoming hard – a state that has been historically heavily reliant on the energy industry for revenue.  Here are some of those prior posts to bring you up to speed:

This morning, trona was in the headlines. The Casper Star Tribune ran an article entitled, “Wyoming Soda Ash Producers Lobby for Level Playing Field.”  Here is a summary of what you need to know:

  1. Trona is critically important to the Wyoming economy.

The soda ash industry in Wyoming provides thousands of stable, safe, well-paying and valuable jobs to the state’s economy. According to the Wyoming Mining Association (“WMA”), the trona industry employed 2,483 people in 2015.  Now that may not seem like many people – but remember that in 2015 the census estimated the entire state’s population to be 586,107.  Also, I think that 2,483 people is a low figure – if you consider all of the individuals that rely on the trona industry in Wyoming for business, from local fabricators, truck drivers, stores that sell boots and personal protective equipment, bus drivers, etc., that number is definitely much higher.

In addition, trona itself is important. The Federal Reserve Board uses soda ash as a national economic indicator and trona is Wyoming’s top international export, according to the WMA.  Baking powder, baking soda, glass, fertilizers, medicines and paper all come from soda ash – it is a very significant piece of rock in our every day lives.

  1. What is the American Soda Ash Competitiveness Act?

It is a bill sponsored by Wyoming Senator, John Barrasso, that proposes a means to keep Wyoming soda ash competitive with China’s product by temporarily reducing the federal royalty rate on soda ash to 2% for a period of 5 years.  The full text of the bill that was introduced as of September 15, 2015 can be found here.

The bill has reportedly sat idle in committee since late 2015 and Senator Barrasso has endeavored to pursue getting the measure passed.  It will prove critically important to the Wyoming economy, which could use a little help right now.

  1. Why is this bill so important to Wyoming?

As stated above, Wyoming is sitting on the world’s largest deposit of trona and there is so much of the mineral underground (about 40 tons of recoverable product) that the WMA predicts that Wyoming’s trona reserves will last over 2,000 years.

The bad news is in the competition. China has been increasing exports of soda ash despite its economy contracting, and this change in market balance has reportedly started to impact Wyoming.  China also produces a synthetic soda ash product.

The bill is aimed to combat market advantages that China has over the U.S.

Stay tuned – we will keep you posted on how this bill progresses.


If you’re anything like me, you have had a crazy busy week. Here, I will hit the highpoints of the OPEC deal to keep you up to speed:

Main Takeaway Point: OPEC agreed to cut output and it prompted big gains in crude prices.

  • Yesterday, OPEC reportedly “agreed to the outline of a deal that will cut production for the first time in 8 years.”
    • Note: It is just a preliminary outline to cut OPEC’s collective output, as noted by a Wall Street Journal article today.
  • OPEC agreed to limit production to a range of 32.5 to 33 million barrels a day to address oversupply concerns.
  • The agreement was reportedly possible because one player was left out – Iran will be exempt from capping production.
  • Saudi Arabia agreed to the deal! Reportedly ending Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with free oil markets…read more on that here.
  • OPEC’s next meeting where they will hammer out more details is scheduled for the end of November. They still need to agree to a quota for individual producing countries.
    • OPEC also reportedly “faces the task of convincing producers outside of the group, most importantly Russia, to cap their own output.”

What does this really mean?

Well, that remains to be seen.

Folks are skeptical of the plan since it is in its preliminary stages. Also, the Wall Street Journal points out: “[e]ven if the premise of the deal holds together until OPEC’s next meeting, ensuring that member countries stick to production quotas has been notoriously difficult.”

What is the price of crude now?

As of the writing of this post, neither price had broken the $50/barrel mark. Brent Crude was at $49.03 per barrel and WTI Crude was at $47.65 according to Bloomberg Energy.

Traveling to Wyoming

Traveling to Casper, Wyoming on business in the oil industry will never be the same.

In the years when I first started practicing law, my boss and mentor would often take me to the Casper Petroleum Club for dinner.  He told me that it was the place where oil and gas deals have been made since the 1950s.  He would recount stories from when he was a young lawyer of how boisterous oilmen would come in and talk shop over a drink and a steak.  He told me about how the Petroleum Club was once an oasis in Casper.  We would often discuss specifics of our oil and gas cases there, and it was always a treat for me to break bread with someone I hold in such high regard in such a fancy and historical place in Wyoming.

I remember feeling a little out of place the first time I dined there – as a young girl from Rock Springs who had recently graduated law school, I wondered what business I had eating at a Petroleum Club. In fact, I remember looking around the room and seeing that I was the youngest person there and that I was the only woman other than the waitresses.  That feeling of being out of place all changed quickly – the other patrons and wait staff welcomed me to dine at the Petroleum Club with open arms.

Although I only dined there a handful times, was just heartbroken to hear that the Casper Petroleum Club will be the next casualty of the energy downturn.  The Casper Star Tribune reported today that the once illustrious club in the “The Oil City” has announced that it will close its doors on Saturday, after serving members of the energy industry for 67 years.  It had planned to try to make it the rest of the year, but it was not economic.

It is truly the end of an era.

The Casper Star Tribune reported “The Petroleum Club began as an elite center for industry leaders, where deals were made over dinner and cocktails. It survived a number of economic busts over the years and bought its current facility in the mid-1980s, when oil had sunk to $10 a barrel.”

It is too bad that the club will not survive this downturn too.

It really is the case that “a piece of Casper’s history and identity as an oil town will disappear with it” – the Casper Star Tribune’s article entitled “With Petroleum Club closing, a piece of Casper’s history is closing, too” hits the nail on the head.

The article went on to succinctly state that “When the club closes its doors, it will close an era where business was conducted around the dinner table.”

Office and sky

Earlier this spring, we wrote about the Denver office market feeling the pinch of the downturn in the oil and gas industry. The full post, “Denver Feeling the Pinch: Denver Office Market Finally Feeling the Effects of Downturn in Energy Industry,” can be found here.

The Denver Business Journal recently ran an article entitled, “Energy slump opens up office space in metro Denver” in which attributed current vacant office space in Denver’s central business district to “low energy prices resulting in consolidation and bankruptcy at energy companies with office space in Denver.”

However, National Real Estate Investor (“NREI”) reports that “Denver’s direct vacancy rate is the lowest reported in markets with heavy reliance on oil and gas industries, at 11.9 percent.”

In fact, one of the older partners that I work with recalled that during the oil downturn in the 1980s, entire office buildings in Denver were totally shut down and locked up because it cost more to operate them than was economically feasible for the few number of office tenants at the time.

  • The good news is – Denver is currently nowhere near where it was during energy downturn in the 1980s.

Therefore, while the downturn in the energy industry has definitely had an impact on Denver’s office vacancy rate, it is not that bad…after all, Denver has the lowest vacancy rate when compared to other markets that depend on the energy sector for occupants.

What about other cities that are reliant on the energy sector? Well, they also seeing an impact on their office markets.

Houston, Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City have also reportedly experienced significant office vacancies.

In fact, NREI reports that Houston’s office vacancies rose alarmingly and that suddenly the office windows reflect that buildings have “become hollowed out as companies leave.” The NREI reports that, “[n]evertheless, sources says Houston is much better positioned to recover from the shock of the oil price plunge than in previous cycles.”

According to the NREI, Dallas is reportedly getting creative when dealing with the extra office vacancies – “Landlords in downtown Dallas are converting old office buildings into hotels and multifamily properties.”

“Real estate insiders, however, remain optimistic about the chances of a fast recovery,” according to the NREI article.