On Tuesday evening Congress took a key step toward encouraging the development of this industry when the Senate passed H.R. 2262, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, with bipartisan support. The legislation provides a number of pro-business measures, such as establishing legal rights for US citizens to own resources in outer space as well as extending indemnification for commercial launches through 2025.
"This bill provides the boost America’s private space partners need as they lead the world into the future," said Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. "This bill will keep America at the forefront of aerospace technology, create jobs, reduce red tape, promote safety, and inspire the next generation of explorers."
Space mining advocates, including Planetary Resources, praised the new law. “Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species," said Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of the asteroid mining company—which is backed by several Google founders. "This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space."
In addition to mineral rights and indemnification, the new law also extends the so-called "learning period," which protects space tourism companies by requiring paying customers to fly at their own risk and prevents the FAA from stepping in unless there is a major accident. The bill also extends the lifetime of the International Space Station through 2024, ensuring viability of commercial projects on board the orbiting laboratory.
The rebound in oil prices is still not here, and new data suggests that it will take some more time before the markets start to balance out.
Global supplies are still too large to justify a significant rally in oil prices. The latest indicator that the glut of oil has yet to ease comes from the FT, which concludes that there is 100 million barrels of oil sitting in oil tankers. Oil has piled up in tankers that are floating at sea, as onshore storage space begins to dwindle.
The level of crude oil stashed at sea is nearly double what it was earlier in 2015. “Onshore storage is not quite full but it is at historically high levels globally,” David Wech of JBC Energy told the FT. “As we move closer to capacity that is creating more infrastructure hiccups and delays in the oil market, leading to more oil being backed out on to the water.”
Rising levels of crude stored at sea has more to do with shrinking capacity onshore, rather than traders stockpiling volumes in order to profit from an eventual rebound in prices. Oil tanker rates have surged this year, so it doesn’t exactly make sense to store oil at sea strictly for a trading opportunity. Daily ratesfor very large crude carriers (VLCCs) are around $60,000 per day, although down from a peak of $111,000 per day hit on October 8.Off Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Asia’s main oil hub, around 35m barrels of crude and shipping fuel are being stored on 14 VLCCs.