Energy news in brief

** Spending by oil and gas companies operating in the UK North Sea fell to the lowest levels since 2004 last year as they concentrated on preserving cash during the pandemic, while production from the more than half a century-old basin has re-entered “longer-term” decline.

** The U.S. Congress is investigating a multibillion-dollar subsidy for chemically treated coal that is meant to reduce smokestack pollution, after evidence emerged that power plants using the fuel produced more smog not less.

** Although Washington has publicly said it will keep working against Nord Stream 2, German officials and EU diplomats believe there is room for negotiation.

** Wall Street and Silicon Valley poured billions of dollars into electric-vehicle and related companies in 2020, betting on their future dominance and in many cases fueling valuations that bear little relation to the companies’ current or expected production and sales.

** Asian fuel exporters are hungrily eyeing Australia as the country’s shutdown of almost all its refineries creates a bright demand spot amid otherwise coronavirus crimped markets. Australia, already the region’s largest fuel importer, will likely boost imports by a third next year to 630,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to energy consultancy FGE.

** Volkswagen plans to halve the cost of power systems for electric cars over the next decade in a massive investment push that could knock Tesla off its perch. The German giant will build six factories capable of producing 240 gigawatt hours of batteries a year in Europe over the next decade.

** An exploration of the battle over a remote northern Nevada lithium mine shows that having a fully domestic lithium supply chain will not be easy to achieve.

** Virginia becomes the first state in the South — and the 15th overall — to adopt California’s clean car standards, which one advocate calls “the single biggest step Virginia has taken to cut carbon emissions.”

** County officials in southwestern Iowa take no action on a proposed wind energy moratorium after finding no evidence that turbines are a public health threat.

** Foxconn officials are considering making electric vehicles at the company’s highly anticipated plant in Wisconsin.

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