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Friday, July 11, 2008

News You Can Use for Friday

Gas Prices Spur Drivers to Cut Use to Five-Year Low

The government released new data showing that drivers have cut back their use of the fuel to levels not seen in five years.

Even through the Fourth of July weekend -- a time when Americans traditionally get on the road -- gasoline consumption dropped 3.3% from last year to 9.347 million barrels a day, according to weekly data released by the federal Energy Information Administration. For the first week of July, that is the least drivers have used since 2003, when consumption was 9.05 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, supplies of gasoline are building even as refiners produce fewer gallons of the fuel. Stocks of gasoline grew by almost one million barrels from the previous week, well above levels last year. Which means there will be plenty of gas available this summer, experts say. "There is no doubt there are no supply concerns for the next two months," says Stephen Schork, president of the oil-and-gas-research firm Schork Group.

Fannie, Freddie sink on government rescue fears

Fears that the government will be forced to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shares of the government-chartered mortgage finance giants plummeted Thursday and are trading at levels last seen in the early 1990s. If the prices don't recover, it will be harder for the two companies to raise more money through stock sales to compensate for losses from the housing bust. Investors are afraid their stakes will vanish if the government is forced to rescue the companies.

Fannie, Freddie `Insolvent' After Losses, Poole Says

Chances are increasing that the U.S. may need to bail out Fannie Mae and the smaller Freddie Mac, former St. Louis Federal Reserve President William Poole said in an interview. Freddie Mac owed $5.2 billion more than its assets were worth in the first quarter, making it insolvent under fair value accounting rules, he said. The fair value of Fannie Mae's assets fell 66 percent to $12.2 billion, data provided by the Washington-based company show, and may be negative next quarter, Poole said.

Gold Climbs on Demand for Haven Amid Iranian Tensions, Slumping Equities

Gold rose the most in a week as mounting tensions over Iran's nuclear program and slumping global equities sparked demand for the metal as a haven. Silver also gained.

Gazprom's Libya Bid Shows Russian Aims for Energy Assets Across the Planet

Russia's use of companies such as OAO Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas producer, to buy energy assets in Africa may thwart U.S. efforts to limit the role of oil and gas as political weapons wielded from Moscow.

Painting Solar Panels May Increase Efficiency, Reduce Costs, Study Shows

Painting a mixture of dyes onto solar cells helps concentrate sunlight, a discovery that may make the renewable energy source more efficient and reduce costs, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said

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