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The Wall Street Journal: Oil News Roundup: October 17, 2006 4:19 p.m.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE
October 17, 2006 4:19 p.m.

Crude-oil futures fell to a close of less than $59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on the eve of the release of U.S. data that are expected to show a rise in crude inventories and ahead of a special meeting of OPEC, which will likely result in a production cut from some of the world’s key oil producers. Here is Tuesday’s roundup of oil and energy news:

HYBRIDS TOP FUEL-EFFICIENCY LIST: The Environmental Protection Agency issued its annual gas mileage estimates for the 2007 model year, Washington Wire reports, and the overall leaders in fuel economy were gas-electric hybrids. The Toyota Prius scored 60 miles per gallon on the highway and 51 mpg in city driving. Toyota and Honda took seven of the top 10 overall spots.Vehicles on the lowest overall mileage list might be attracting buyers who don’t worry much about the price of gas. Among them: the Lamborghini L-147/148, the Aston Martin DB9 Coupe and the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.

Google’s New HQ: Google is converting its renowned headquarters to run partly on solar power, hoping to set an example for corporate America. Google believes the sun eventually can deliver as much as 30% of the power at its 1-million-square-foot campus in Mountain View, Calif.

•New Oilfield Could Keep Lid on Prices: Output from the new Buzzard oilfield in the North Sea could boost the world’s supply of a certain benchmark crude and keep oil prices low, Reuters reports.

•Energy Earnings Preview: Independent oil and gas explorers and producers benefited from higher oil prices during the third quarter, but it may not be enough to offset tumbling natural-gas prices and higher costs, analysts say.

•No Buyer’s Remorse: The 20% pullback in oil prices since July isn’t expected to generate pangs of buyer’s remorse among oil giants that paid top dollar for high profile acquisitions in the past 12 months, Dow Jones Newswires reports.

•Fixed-Price Fuel Deals No Safe Bet: Price volatility catches even professional speculators off guard, which is why consumer advocates advise homeowners and small businesses not to bite on long-term, fixed-price fuel deals.

•Indonesia’s Untapped Resource: Indonesia, land of earthquakes and volcanoes, is literally sitting on top of the solution for its energy needs: Vast reservoirs of hot water deep beneath the earth’s crust can be harnessed to generate electricity. What’s more, it’s a clean, renewable energy source. Yet the country continues to import millions of barrels of oil and fuel annually.

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Monday’s Roundup:

OPEC EMERGENCY: The cartel, determined to begin an output cut of a million barrels a day, will hold an emergency meeting in Qatar on Thursday. So far, a deal on a cut has been elusive, but ministers have repeatedly expressed the need for a cut to stop tumbling oil prices. Behind the scenes, the oil czars have failed to nail down the all-important issue of how to allocate the cuts among the membership.

JOURNAL REPORT ON ENERGY: Americans are facing an electricity crisis. While energy prices are high, supplies are tight. Utilities and public officials are finally taking advantage of innovations that could radically reshape the nation’s power consumption without lowering the standard of living. Plus, tips on saving gas and recent alternative-energy deals.

Norway Platform: Norske Shell ASA was allowed to restart its 80,000 barrel-per-day Draugen offshore oil platform after a new review of lifeboat problems. Shell was forced to shut down the platform Friday after the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority rejected its application for a dispensation from lifeboat rules.

Piping Plans: Stock of Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search has been hit hard by uncertainty over its plan to pipe natural gas to Australia’s east coast. But some analysts say the selloff has made the shares a buying opportunity — whether or not the pipeline goes ahead.

Pay Us Back: Algeria will begin imposing a windfall tax on oil companies as it attempts to reap the benefits of the energy boom. BBC reported that the plan will tax “excess” profit when prices average more than $30 a barrel.

GDP Per Barrel: High oil prices have taken the gross domestic product of Arab states to above $1 trillion for the first time, the chairman of a pan-Arab economic council said.

BP Fire Review: Maintenance checks could have prevented a mix-up that caused a refinery fire last year. No one died in the fire, which caused $30 million in damage.

Alternative Risk: The downturn in energy prices puts investors in ethanol on guard as shares of pure ethanol companies rise and fall with crude’s action.

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