Here are some interesting energy-related tid bits making the rounds this week.

Iran Moving Beyond Oil

With western sanctions against Iran biting and fewer overseas markets for the country’s oil exports, non-oil exports from the Islamic Republic are booming, the Washington Institute’s Patrick Clawson wrote in a recent policy analysis.

“For years, Iran’s leaders called for reduced reliance on oil but did little to meet that goal. Western sanctions have seemingly spurred them to action — in his annual Nowruz address on March 21, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged for the first time that restrictions on the country’s oil exports had made a serious impact: ‘The sanctions have had an effect, which is because of an essential flaw that we are suffering from. The flaw that our economy is suffering from is that it is dependent on oil,'” Clawson wrote.

“While still important, oil is becoming a smaller part of Iran’s trade. In 2012, the country imported $57 billion in goods and exported $34 billion in non-oil products, meaning that non-oil exports covered 60% of the import bill, compared to 24% in 2002 and 14% in 1992. It produced this shift in part by converting more of its oil into industrial products for export; according to the Iranian Customs Administration, the $29.2 billion in non-oil exports over the first eleven months of fiscal 2012/2013 included $9.0 billion in chemical products (mostly petrochemicals such as urea fertilizer and polyethylene) and $3.2 billion in plastics made from oil. But other products are also being exported at high rates, including $8.2 billion in minerals, stone, cement, and related products, $5.3 billion in agricultural products, and $800 million in carpets. The country’s largest market is Iraq, which took $5.6 billion in goods over the same period, including much of Iran’s manufactured exports (e.g., more than $300 million in automobiles). The next-largest customers were China ($4.8 billion), the United Arab Emirates ($3.9 billion), Afghanistan ($2.5 billion), India ($2.4 billion), and Turkey ($1.3 billion).”

The full piece, which goes on to detail Iran’s shifting balance of trade, its budgetary situation and US policy implications, can be read here.

Oil Pipeline Spill Coincides with Keystone XL Protest

The ExxonMobil Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured in residential Mayflower, Arkansas just days before a large Keystone XL Pipeline protest was held at an Obama fundraiser in California.

“An apparent breach in the Pegasus pipeline carrying crude oil occurred late [last] Friday afternoon. The pipeline has been shut in and crews are working to contain the spill,” ExxonMobil said in a statement. Pegasus is a 20-inch pipeline which originates in Patoka, IL and carries crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast.

“Most of the free standing oil has been recovered. Residual oil is being cleaned up through a combination of pressure washing, use of absorbent pads and removal of contaminated soil and vegetation,” Exxon reported as of late Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, roughly 1,000 protesters showed up at President Obama’s DCCC fundraiser in San Francisco to express their disapproval of the Keystone XL Pipeline project and urge the president to keep his climate change mitigation promises.

“Over 1,000 Obama volunteers, voters and donors turned out in San Francisco to remind our president that his legacy will be judged harshly if he approves Keystone XL,” said Becky Bond, Political Director of CREDO, a California-based progressive activist organization.

“CREDO also recently launched a call to activists to pledge to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience if President Obama moves forward with a plan to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Over 53,000 people have signed the pledge to risk arrest in peaceful dignified civil disobedience in their local communities, in front of OFA meetings, State Department offices, TransCanada’s corporate lobbies, banks that are financing tar sands oil development, areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and along the pipeline route,” the group said in a press release.

Engines and Parts Manufactured in China not up to US Standards

The US EPA withdrew its approval of the import and sale of more than 70,000 gasoline-powered on and off road vehicles like dirt bikes and snowmobiles because it believes engine certification information was falsified or incomplete.

“EPA issued the vehicle certificates from 2006 to 2012 to two companies which operate as Snyder Technology, Inc. and Snyder Computer Systems, Inc. (doing business as Wildfire Motors Corporation). As a result of a lengthy investigation, the agency believes that the applications for the certificates contained misleading information and must be voided.”

“All vehicles imported into or manufactured in the United States are required to have certificates of conformity. Manufacturers or importers must submit an application to EPA that describes the vehicle and its emission control system. It must also provide emissions data demonstrating that the vehicle will meet federal emission standards for certain pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and total hydrocarbons (HC)–all of which can harm public health and the environment. These pollutants can contribute to soot (fine particles) and smog (ground-level ozone), which are associated with asthma and heart attacks, increased emergency room visits and premature death,” the Agency said in a statement.

The companies reportedly failed to test the engines on their own after being manufactured and /or imported from China. Small vehicle engines such as these can be significant polluters.

Only the companies are required to take action, not individuals who legally purchased the recreation equipment. “A consumer who owns a model that was covered by these voided certificates is not responsible for these companies’ wrongdoing and can continue to use the vehicle,” said the EPA.