Your daily briefing for all the top news in Energy, Technology, Finance, and Politics.


Oil Prices Continue Decline, Pressured by Saudi Action to Defend Market Share
Stanley Reed
[T]he sudden drop on Thursday was seen as a response to Saudi Arabia’s signaling on Wednesday to the markets that it was more interested in maintaining market share than in defending prices. Saudi Aramco, the national oil company, stunned markets by announcing that it was cutting prices by about $1 a barrel to Asia, the crucial growth market for the Persian Gulf producers, as well as by 40 cents a barrel to the United States.


Ethanol Prices Slide Amid Supply Spike
Jesse Newman
A spike in supplies has sent U.S. ethanol prices tumbling to four-year lows and curbed profits for an industry that had posted robust earnings for most of this year. Ethanol futures plunged 28% last month, as falling domestic demand left U.S. producers with the largest inventories in more than a year.


Oil boom gives lift to methane mitigation industry
Jennifer A. Dlouhy
New and potential mandates forcing oil companies to clamp down on methane leaking from wells, valves and pipelines could be a money-maker for the growing industry built around finding and stopping that pollution, according to a report issued Thursday. The analysis by Datu Research, conducted for the Environmental Defense Fund, suggests that the economic benefits of the domestic drilling boom extend to the companies profiting from its regulation.




Google Fiber Leaves a Digital Divide
Alistair Barr
When Google Inc. launched its fast Internet service in Kansas City in 2012, the Web giant said it wanted to spread broadband widely and close the “digital divide.” But a survey conducted for The Wall Street Journal suggests the company is far from achieving that goal. The survey, in six low-income Kansas City, Mo., neighborhoods, found that just 10% of residents subscribe to Google’s Fiber service. An additional 5% use a slower version that is free for seven years, after a $300 installation fee.


Cellphone Boom Spurs Antenna-Safety Worries
Ianthe Jeanne Dugan and Ryan Knutson
The antennas fueling the nation’s cellphone boom are challenging federal safety rules that were put in place when signals largely radiated from remote towers off-limits to the public.


TV Broadcasters Await Spectrum Valuations From FCC
Joe Flint
Kevin Adell has been running WADL-TV in Detroit since he graduated from college, but the 47-year-old might be willing to part with the station after seeing what the Federal Communications Commission estimates his spectrum, or airwaves, would fetch in a government auction. The FCC said his station’s airwaves are worth about $170 million—near the high end of the $100 million to $200 million range Mr. Adell had previously estimated. “It might be time to take the chips off the table,” he said, adding that the FCC’s valuation “is not a bad number and it might go up.”


Facebook Promises to Manipulate Your Emotions ‘Differently’
Brendan Sasso
Facebook announced new guidelines Thursday for future research projects. Any studies that focus on particular groups (such as people of a particular age) or concern issues that are “deeply personal” will have to be reviewed by senior-level managers, the company said. Facebook also promised to better train its employees on appropriate research practices and will post its published academic research online. But in a blog post announcing the changes, the company was defiant about the importance of studying users and didn’t promise to get their consent or even notify them if they are subjects of an experiment.


Don’t convert Internet providers into public utilities
Randolph J. May
In 1999, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard rejected pleas — made by many of those now advocating Title II regulation — that cable broadband providers be required to operate under a nondiscriminatory “open access” regime akin to net neutrality. “This would not be good for America,” Kennard concluded, refusing to dump what he called the utility model’s “whole morass of regulation” on Internet providers. It is even truer today than in 1999 that converting Internet providers into public utilities would not be good for America or its consumers. It is time for the FCC to take the Title II option off the table.


JP Morgan reveals data breach affected 76 million households
Elizabeth Weise
The cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase & Co., first announced in July, compromised information from 76 million households and 7 million small businesses, the company revealed Thursday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.




Disruptive technology will not kill banks
John Authers
Banking is heavily regulated. That makes it prohibitively difficult to enter. Bookshops, publishers and record stores enjoy no similar privilege.


As Fed Retreats From Stimulus, Central Banks Overseas Expand Theirs
Binyamin Appelbaum, Jack Ewing and Neil Gough
The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have watched quietly in recent years as foreign governments and central banks have chipped away at the dollar value of their currencies, strengthening their export industries in the hope of stimulating their economies. The trend is likely to intensify over the next year as the Fed retreats from its own stimulus campaign while the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan expand their efforts. Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, said on Thursday that it would begin a new round of bond purchases this month.


Fannie-Freddie Case Shows Messy Nature of Deal-Making in a Panic
David Zaring and Steven Davidoff Solomon
We wrote in a law review article that we believe that the federal courts should allow the Fannie and Freddie shareholder claims to proceed on the basis that the Treasury’s actions in the 2012 sweep were arbitrary and capricious at the time under the Administrative Procedures Act. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act’s prohibition on this review did not apply because there was a conflict of interest here in that the Federal Housing Finance Agency was controlled by the Treasury Department and both controlled the boards of Fannie and Freddie.


Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes Put Pressure on New York Fed
Nathaniel Popper and Peter Eavis
Lawmakers are scrutinizing allegations that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York went easy on one of the most prominent banks under its watch, Goldman Sachs, despite concerns voiced by those inside the Fed that a deal Goldman was pursuing was “legal, but shady.” Now committees in the Senate and House of Representatives are looking at whether to hold hearings or conduct more extensive investigations into the Fed’s oversight of Goldman and other banks.


What to Do About Student Loan Defaults
The good news in the federal student loan default data released by the Department of Education last Wednesday is that the default rate has ticked slightly downward — to 13.7 last year from 14.7 percent in 2012 — after rising steadily through the recession. The bad news is that 650,000 borrowers who started repayment in 2011 had already defaulted by 2013. The government needs to continue pressing both schools and the loan servicing companies to educate students on affordable partial payment plans that can keep them out of default.


You Know It’s a Tough Market When Ben Bernanke Can’t Refinance
Elizabeth Campbell
Ben S. Bernanke said the mortgage market is so tight that even he is having a hard time refinancing his own home loan.




28 words that Democrats really wish President Obama didn’t say today
Chris Cillizza
“I am not on the ballot this fall.  Michelle’s pretty happy about that.  But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot.  Every single one of them.”


The real reason winning the Senate matters
Charles Krauthammer
Winning control of the Senate would allow Republicans to pass a whole range of measures now being held up by Reid, often at the behest of the White House. Make it a major reform agenda. The centerpiece might be tax reform, both corporate and individual. It is needed, popular and doable. Then go for the low-hanging fruit enjoying wide bipartisan support, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and natural gas exports, most especially to Eastern Europe. One could then add border security, energy deregulation and health-care reform that repeals the more onerous Obamacare mandates. If the president signs any of it, good. If he vetoes, it will be clarifying. Who then will be the party of no? The vetoed legislation would become the framework for a 2016 GOP platform. Let the debate begin.


The President of Inequality
What’s needed now is a return to policies that put growth as the country’s highest economic priority. The wealthy may get richer as a result, but so will the middle class and poor who haven’t benefitted from Mr. Obama’s focus on inequality. The good news is that the public may be ahead of the politicians in seeking this change, and it is certainly ahead of the media. A survey this year by the Global Strategy Group found that by 59% to 37% Americans prefer a political candidate who focuses on economic growth to one who focuses on fairness. Thus is Mr. Obama creating, albeit unintentionally, a new opening for the politics of growth.


Are big three senate races slipping from Dems?
James Hohmann
Now, a month out from the election, Republicans are seeing subtle but perceptible signs that contests in Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana — all three pivotal in the battle for the Senate — are finally breaking their way.


President Obama to CHC: Executive action before year’s end
Seung Min Kim
Obama told the crowd that he will take executive action after the Nov. 4 elections but before the end of the year. Previously, he had pledged to act by the end of the summer until Senate Democrats in tough reelection bids urged him to hold off, concerned about the political retribution from voters in red states. Still, “we have to be realistic,” Obama said, stressing that executive action is temporary and that Latinos will need to keep pushing lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a legislative immigration overhaul.


Growing evidence that Obama’s decision to wait on immigration is hurting Democrats
Ed O’Keefe
Activists in key states say it is increasingly difficult to register would-be Latino voters who would vote for Democrats because of unhappiness over the decision. Poll numbers for Obama and Democrats have also dropped further among Hispanics than the population at large. One group has even launched a campaign against four Democratic senators who backed a GOP proposal to bar Obama from taking any executive action on immigration.


Who Really Lost Iraq?
Mr. Panetta adds that, “To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.” All of this comports with our own reporting from 2011, but it is nonetheless distressing to have confirmed how much Mr. Obama and his munchkin Metternichs in the White House put their political desire to withdraw from Iraq above the U.S. national interest.


Wanted: An attorney general committed to the Constitution
Sen. Marco Rubio
America deserves a nominee to lead the Justice Department who is fully committed to vigorous application of our nation’s Constitution and laws without political bias or personal agenda. I expect the president will nominate a member of his political party to the position of attorney general. That is his prerogative. But Congress also must insist that the president nominate a professional lawyer who recognizes the special mission of the Justice Department and who can win the broad confidence of the American people.


Survey: Common Core standards working well
Greg Toppo
[T]eachers in states where the math and reading standards have been in place longest say that, in spite of the criticisms, Common Core is going well — and that most teachers feel prepared to teach new kinds of lessons. In a new survey underwritten by the children’s publisher Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, both Common Core supporters, 79% of teachers say they feel “very” or “somewhat” prepared to teach under the new standards, up from 71% last year. About two-thirds, or 68%, say implementation is “going well” in their schools, up from 62% last year.