National News

6,000 uses for petroleum – and counting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

One 42-gallon barrel of oil produces about 19.4 gallons of gas. But according to a list put out by the oil and gas firm Ranken Energy, gasoline isn't the only thing that comes from a barrel of oil. Some highlights from the 6,000 items on the list:

  • Deodorant
  • Yarn
  • Floor wax
  • Crayons
  • Aspirin
  • Umbrellas
  • Shampoo
  • Balloons
  • Insect repellent
  • Nail polish
  • Footballs

 

6,000 uses for petroleum – and counting

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

One 42-gallon barrel of oil produces about 19.4 gallons of gas. But according to a list put out by the oil and gas firm Ranken Energy, gasoline isn't the only thing that comes from a barrel of oil. Some highlights from the 6,000 items on the list:

  • Deodorant
  • Yarn
  • Floor wax
  • Crayons
  • Aspirin
  • Umbrellas
  • Shampoo
  • Balloons
  • Insect repellent
  • Nail polish
  • Footballs

 

Cuba's open doors don't mean open for business

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

President Obama’s announcement regarding normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba also had a few economic goodies. 

Travelers to Cuba can bring back up to $400 worth of goods to the U.S. ... but only $100 worth of tobacco and cigars. 

Telecom companies can export more to Cuba, in an effort to open the country up to the outside world, and agricultural exports were made easier thanks to an easing of financing restrictions — but the embargo is still in place, and full-blown business opportunities are largely years away.

Click play above to hear more about Cuba's business impact

How the oil boom woke up a Texas town

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

Texas oil companies started tapping into the Eagle Ford shale deposit in 2008, and have since produced millions of barrels of oil. One Texas city affected by this boom is Carrizo Springs. Kai Ryssdal talked with Mayor Adrian DeLeon about the benefits and challenges that come with change.

“There’s a lot of good, and there’s a lot of bad … but when we’re talking about Eagle Ford shale, we’re talking about job creation, and it’s a good thing. It’s a blessing for us,” DeLeon said. “There’s around 60,000 jobs here. It’s lucrative for people who really want to work.”

The biggest change, since before the oil boom, is that local business is thriving.

“We’re just grateful to see so many people who were losing their houses and losing their cars, to [now] paying off their cars and paying off their houses…. It’s a great thing,” DeLeon said.

Benefits:

  • Thousands of new jobs and thriving business
  • Creating a city police department
  • Hiring developers and workers from around the country

Challenges:

  • Highways are not equipped for heavy truck traffic
  • Regulating oil and gas
  • Avoiding water pollution

A circular argument: How cheap oil affects tire prices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

This is a busy time of year for the Goodyear tire store and garage in McLean, Virginia. People want a tune-up before heading out for the holidays, or maybe want to pick up a set of tires.

Store manager Eddie Adiyeh has been selling tires for almost 30 years, so he should know: Do tire prices normally go down, along with oil prices? 

“I don’t remember them going down when the prices went down," he says. "But I remember them going up a little bit when the oil went up.”

Goodyear owns Adiyeh’s store, and sets the prices. So I called a Goodyear spokesman, Keith Price, and asked: Will tires get cheaper?

His response: “I’m not able to comment or speculate on what might happen to the price of tires.”

But Price did say it takes a while for a tire to go from factory to warehouse to distributor to store. He figures tires being made now, with cheaper oil, should be in stores this spring. 

So will they be cheaper then?

“It’s not entirely black and white,” says Nicholas Mitchell, a senior vice president and research analyst at Northcoast Research who follows Goodyear. He says oil makes up about a quarter of the cost of synthetic tires, the kind most consumers buy. Mitchell thinks competition among tire manufacturers will push down prices.   

“Someone will move first and try to lower prices to drive market share,” he says.

But here’s why it’s not black and white: With gas prices down, we’re driving more, and wearing out our tires faster. If demand for tires rises, Mitchell says, prices won’t fall as much. 

Trickle down oil prices?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

This is a busy time of year for the Goodyear tire store and garage in McLean, Virginia. People want a tune up before heading out for the holidays, maybe want to pick up a set of tires.

Store manager Eddie Adiyeh has been selling tires for almost 30 years, so he should know: Do tire prices normally go down, along with oil prices? 

“I don’t remember them going down when the prices went down," he says. "But I remember them going up a little bit when the oil went up.”

Goodyear owns Adiyeh’s store, and sets the prices. So I called a Goodyear spokesman, Keith Price, and asked him: will tires get cheaper?

His response: “I’m not able to comment or speculate on what might happen to the price of tires.”

But Price did say it takes a while for the tire to go from factory to warehouse to distributor to store. He figures tires being made now, with the cheaper oil, should be in stores this spring. 

So will they be cheaper then?

“It’s not entirely black and white,” says Nicholas Mitchell, a senior vice president and research analyst at Northcoast Research who follows Goodyear. He says oil makes up about a quarter of the cost of synthetic tires, the kind most consumers buy. Mitchell thinks competition among tire manufacturers will push down prices.   

“Someone will move first and try to lower prices to drive market share,” he says.

But here’s why it’s not black and white: With gas prices down, we’re driving more, and wearing out our tires faster. If demand for tires rises, Mitchell says, prices won’t fall as much. 

Farmers feel ripple effects of the oil boom

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

The oil boom in Texas has ripple effects that go beyond the cost of gasoline. Kai Ryssdal talked with commercial grain farmer Curt Mowery of Mowery Farms in Rosharon, Texas, to find out how oil is reflected in his business.

As a commercial grain farmer, Mowery estimates that 50 percent of his costs circle around oil. Some examples include the chemical costs on some of the crop protectants, containers and transportation from getting grain from the field to the processor. “Everything’s tied to oil that we do in our business,” he says.

As the cost of oil goes down, Mowery might see savings in 2016, but he doesn’t believe the consumer will see savings for a while. “The price will go down a lot slower than the price will go up," he says.

Oil prices scrape bottom of the barrel

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:00

Crude oil prices fell to 5½ -year lows on Thursday. The price of Brent Crude closed at $59.27 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate Crude closed at $54.11 a barrel.

A barrel of crude oil is a “convenient measure,” says Eric Smith, associate director of Tulane University’s Energy Institute. “It’s 42 gallons because that’s what John D. Rockefeller put it in – old beer barrels, back in the 1890s.” Today, oil moves in pipelines, tanker ships, barges and railcars to get from the oil fields – whether in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria or North Dakota – to the refineries.

Transportation only constitutes a small fraction of the barrel’s cost, according to economist Rayola Dougher of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry trade group. Most of the cost of oil can be attributed to exploration, drilling and pumping.

“Finding the oil is a very involved process,” says Dougher. “Onshore it can take $19 to $20 a barrel, but it could be twice to three times as much offshore.”

In the Bakken shale oil fields in North Dakota, which are pumping out a lot of high-quality light sweet crude (a similar grade to the benchmark West Texas Intermediate), producers can still make a small profit with crude in the $55-a-barrel range, after subtracting the costs of exploration, production and transportation, Smith says.

“You’d probably go down to $30 before somebody shuts in a well. They might not drill a new one. But they wouldn’t stop producing the old one until the price got below that cost.”

White House Says Response To Sony Attack Will Be 'Proportional'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 10:27

The White House won't confirm North Korea is behind the attack, citing an ongoing investigation. Nevertheless, it is mulling over its options.

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NIH Allows Restart Of MERS Research That Had Been Questioned

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 10:20

The National Institutes of Health has approved requests for waivers from a moratorium on experiments that aim to make the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome more infectious in mice.

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6 Things You Should Know About Cuban Cigars

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:42

If you plan on traveling to Cuba to pick up some cigars, here are some facts you should know.

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Boko Haram Suspected In New Round Of Killing And Kidnapping

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:15

The latest killing and kidnapping occurred just 20 miles from where the Islamist extremist group kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in April.

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Tourtiere: A French-Canadian Twist On Christmas Pie

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 09:09

On Christmas Eve, many French-Canadians will gather after midnight Mass for reveillon, a lavish dinner party that lasts into the wee hours. The traditional centerpiece is a savory, spiced meat pie.

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Pakistani Court Grants Bail To Suspect In Mumbai Attack

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 08:35

Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi is one of seven men charged with planning and helping to carry out the 2008 attack that killed more than 160 people. Federal prosecutors had opposed the bail plea.

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Death Comes In Many Different Ways. And Some Are A Bit Surprising

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:50

A new report looks at the top causes of death in 188 countries. Infectious diseases are less of a threat than in 1990 but please, look both ways before you cross the street.

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California Whooping Cough Infections Run High Among Latino Babies

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:49

Public health officials in California are trying to understand why Latino babies are contracting whooping cough at much higher rates than other babies.

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India Tests Crew Capsule, New Heavy-Lift Rocket

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:41

An improved version of India's largest space-launch vehicle carried an unmanned crew capsule that was recovered after splashdown in the Andaman Sea.

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Montana Man Found Guilty Of Killing German Exchange Student

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:27

Markus Kaarma shot 17-year-old Diren Dede, who had entered his garage, over the summer. The case was a test of the state's "castle doctrine," which says a man's home can be defended like his castle.

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Quiz: The art of the academic turnaround

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-12-18 07:18

Low-performing schools reported how they are trying to improve in an Education Department survey of administrators whose schools are eligible for School Improvement Grants funds.

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FIFA Begins Meeting After American Lawyer's Angry Resignation

NPR News - Thu, 2014-12-18 06:55

Soccer's governing body will, among other things, discuss preparations for the 2018 World Cup. But it's the resignation of Michael Garcia over his corruption report that is likely to draw attention.

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