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An aerial of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve storage at the Bryan Mound site seen on October 19, 2022 in Freeport, Texas. The main casualties who will suffer the brunt of high energy prices is neither the United States nor Europe — but emerging and developing nations, said the head of International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Biden administration is considering tapping additional reserves of heating and crude oil as winter nears and uncertainty over market prices worsens, according to four people familiar with the matter.  

The U.S. currently holds about 1 million barrels of heating oil — a form of diesel fuel used primarily to heat homes — in three commercially leased locations in the New York and Connecticut. The White House is weighing whether to call on Congress to raise the storage limit, potentially doubling it, to build additional reserves the administration could release if supply tightens or prices rise again, according to two sources familiar with the matter. 

“While improving, industry-held fuel inventories are still below average and the administration continues to engage with industry on asking them to increase fuel stocks,” the Department of Energy said in a statement to CNBC. “The administration continues to work with lawmakers and industry to identify all options that can help American consumers.”

Industry heating oil inventories have risen slightly in recent weeks, now sitting about 10% below the five-year average, according to Energy Information Administration. But with a 54% jump in heating oil prices in the last year, any hiccup in supply could mean a headache for consumers. 

Crude oil, meanwhile, has dropped to prices last seen in early 2022 before Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to speculation the administration could move to replenish the stocks, which stand at half the total capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the lowest level since the mid-1980s. 

But the White House is bracing for a potential price spike, with Europe’s oil embargo and the G7’s price cap on Russian oil possibly disrupting supply when they go into effect next week. Two senior administration officials say the option remains open to release additional oil from the reserves in early 2023. 

“I think we want to make sure that we take the right steps in a measured way,” Amos Hochstein, a senior energy advisor to President Joe Biden, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The goal has been consistent — to have prices that are fair to the industry but fair to the consumers as well.” 

The White House could face additional pressure from a Republican-led House of Representatives to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when the new Congress begins its session in January. In June, the leading Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee suggested the Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s falling level was becoming a national security risk.

“It is imperative that DOE maintain the nation’s petroleum reserves in a manner that does not limit our ability to prevent or reduce the adverse impacts of true energy supply shortages,” wrote Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

The White House has said it plans to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices are between $67 and $72 a barrel, and it hopes to enter into fixed-price contracts with producers by the end of 2023.  

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

Swedish wind turbine maker SeaTwirl got the go-ahead to test its 1 megawatt (MW) S2X vertical-axis floating offshore prototype in Norway.

Vertical-axis floating wind turbine pilot

In March 2022, Norway’s Ministry of Energy gave approval to SeaTwirl and Norwegian offshore wind test center Marine Energy Test Centre to pilot the vertical-axis floating wind prototype for five years at a former fish farm in Boknafjorden, northeast of Lauplandsholmenoff, 700 meters (2,297 feet) from the coast.

But four groups – the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, and two campaign groups – appealed against SeaTwirl’s permit, and so the project was put on ice.

Yesterday, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate rejected the appeal, so SeaTwirl’s S2X pilot can now proceed, and no further appeals will be considered.

CEO Peter Laurits said:

Our main focus is the commercialization of large turbines, SX, in floating wind farms. The outcome provides freedom to choose and plan the installation of S2x in the way that best supports that goal.

How S2X works

SeaTwirl says that “multiple S2xs can be placed in a dense pattern for increased output.” The company’s reasoning for building vertical (instead of horizontal) axis floating turbines is this:

The simplicity of the design and low center of gravity are the big advantages. All moving parts and electrical systems are easily accessible [and] close to the water’s surface, lowering maintenance costs.

The S2X prototype is 55 meters (180 feet) above sea level, and it’s around 80 meters (262 feet) below sea level. The turbine diameter is 50 meters (164 feet). Its rotor blade height is around 40 meters (131 feet). Its optimal operating depth is 100 meters (328 feet) and deeper.

SeaTwirl isn’t the only company testing vertical-axis wind turbines off the Norwegian coast – earlier this month, aluminum and energy giant Hydro and floating wind specialist World Wide Wind announced that they’re going to test a vertical-axis wind turbine made out of aluminum.

Read more: These companies will build a floating wind turbine out of aluminum


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Audi hints at luxury electric 4×4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

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Audi hints at luxury electric 4x4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

The luxury electric 4×4 you’ve been waiting for is set to emerge in 2027, and no, it’s not the Mercedes Benz G-Class or Land Rover Defender. It’s a new secret project from Audi.

A luxury electric Audi 4×4 coming in 2027

In a first from Audi, the German automaker is showing interest in the luxury 4×4 segment. The secret new electric SUV will feature a top-notch interior with the ability to perform its best on and off the road.

Audi unveiled its new activesphere concept Thursday, a four-door crossover coupe that doubles as a truck. The concept combines a luxury SUV, sports car, and off-roading pickup into one versatile EV.

Although this is a separate concept from the planned electric Audi 4×4, the off-road EV gives us an impression of where the automaker is headed.

In an interview with Autocar, Audi’s head of design, Marc Lichte, hinted at the idea of a new 4×4, saying:

I think there is space [for a rugged SUV in Audi’s lineup]. There is potential because there are only two premium players, and I think there is space for a third one.

Lichte didn’t give up details other than mentioning it will ride on one of Volkswagen’s platforms other than the Audi-Porshce co-developed PPE platform like the activesphere concept.

Since Volkswagen’s next-gen SSP platform designed for all segments has been delayed until at least 2028, there’s a good chance Audi’s new 4×4 will share technology with VW’s recently revived Scout off-road brand of vehicles.

electric-Audi-4x4-2
Audi activesphere concept, a separate project from the 4×4 (source: Audi)

Following Volkswagen’s announcement last year that it would revive the Scout brand for an all-electric lineup and bring rugged SUVs to the United States, reports surfaced VW was considering Canadian parts manufacturer Magna (which also builds the Mercedes Benz G-Class) to help build the vehicles.

The initial plans called for Audi to build Scout models in a new US facility but were later scrapped. According to Autocar, the two brands may still benefit from each other.

Audi is already working with Magna to develop electric vehicle batteries for the Scout brand. With VW reportedly leaning toward having the part supplier build 100,000 Scout EVs, there could be room for an additional 50,000 electric Audi 4×4 models to be built alongside.

Audi is already familiar with electric off-road technology with its beastly RS Q e-tron rally car (and Quattro four-wheel drive tech) and is well known for its premium luxury interior. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.

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VW will install up to 25,000 EV chargers globally in 2023

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VW will install up to 25,000 EV chargers globally in 2023

The Volkswagen Group announced today that it will install up to 25,000 EV chargers globally along with its partners this year.

How many VW EV chargers are coming

At the end of 2022, Volkswagen Group had installed more than one-third of the 45,000 EV chargers that it intends to install by 2025 – that’s around 15,000 EV chargers with a charging capacity of up to 350 kW.

Geographically, the total of 45,000 will break down to 10,000 EV charging stations in North America, 18,000 in Europe, and 17,000 in China.

VW is planning for around 10,000 of its EV chargers – what it calls “high-power charging points,” in corporate speak – to be online in Europe, and up to 25,000 in total globally by the end of 2023.

Who’s installing them and where

Electrify America (EA) is in charge of VW Group’s electric infrastructure in the US. EA’s website says it currently has 3,551 fast and Level 2 EV chargers online and that 90 are “coming soon.” So it’s going to take quite an effort for VW and EA to reach its North American goal of 10,000.

In Europe, IONITY, a joint venture between Audi, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, and Porsche are doing the EV charger installations.

The VW Group launched Ewiva with the Enel X Way in Italy last year to install EV chargers, and it’s going to install around 8,000 of those 10,000 European chargers with BP and Iberdrola. The latter will focus on the main traffic arteries in Spain.

In China, the EV charger installation work is being performed by the joint venture CAMS.

Electrek’s Take

OK, I admit it: I’ve got skin in the game here. My 2023 VW ID.4 comes with three years of free Electrify America charging. But I’ve got just one EA fast charger near me, in New Hampshire, and really annoyingly, there are ZERO EA chargers in the state of Vermont.

If you think about it, 25,000 EV charger installations globally in what is now just 11 months is a monumental effort. If they reach their target of 40,000 by the end of this year, they’d only need to install another 5,000 to reach their 2025 target. Hopefully they’ll bump up that 45k number.

Read more: Here’s how many EV chargers the US has – and how many it needs

Photo: Electrify America

Click here to find a local dealer that may have the VW ID.4 EV in stock.


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