Greg Prince's Blog

Musings and pontifications from a reality based progressive

Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

No clue how bad it’s going to get

Posted by Greg on May 5, 2010

A sad but enlightening piece at HuffPo that sheds some light on the BP disaster, and highlights that optimistic rhetoric coming forth from government and industry officials notwithstanding, the harsh reality is we have no clue when, if ever, the spill will be plugged, and therefore no clue how bad the environmental damage will be.  This has potential to be a catastrophic event with impact worldwide.

The Ixtoc disaster, however, is spit in the ocean compared to the British Petroleum apocalypse. Estimates are the current blowout is putting 200,000 gallons or 5000 barrels of crude per day into the waters of the Gulf. Ixtoc’s blowout was not capped until two relief wells were drilled and completed at the end of those nine months, and regardless of optimistic scenarios from the federal government or BP, relieving the pressure on the current flow is probably the only way to stop the polluting release of oil. The only way to relieve that pressure is with additional wells. No one is going to honestly say how much time is needed to drill such wells but consider the scope of environmental damage we are confronting if it requires at least as long as Ixtoc. Nine months of 5000 barrels of crude per day ought to turn the Gulf of Mexico into a lifeless spill pond and set toxins on currents that will carry them to deadly business around the globe.

NOAA apparently believes the situation is on the verge of getting worse. A leaked memo suggests that the tangle of pipes on the ocean floor are covering and constraining two other release points. Pressure is likely to blow those loose and, according to NOAA, the gusher will increase by “orders of magnitude.” In most interpretations, that phrase means a ten-fold rise in the flow, which will replicate the Ixtoc disaster in three days.

It’s not really been discussed enough, but this deep sea drilling is bleeding edge stuff, not the slam dunk that has been sold to the public, and the US regulatory apparatus simply isn’t up to the task of providing adequate oversight and demanding adequate safeguards.

Mr. Obama, can we PLEASE start moving on a sane, defensible, forward thinking energy policy?

Posted in Business, Energy, Environment | Leave a Comment »

Peak oil a lot closer than advertised

Posted by Greg on November 11, 2009

This isn’t new news to anyone who’s been paying attention.  But are we ready to make changes to compensate?

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

Posted in Energy | Leave a Comment »

When will Whitehouse run for the Whitehouse?

Posted by Greg on September 15, 2008

Gotta love his zinger here.

A bit of showboating, but very effective.  And true.

Posted in Bush Adminisration, Energy, Politics in General | Leave a Comment »

Careful what you ask for

Posted by Greg on August 6, 2008

Posted in Election 2008, Energy | Leave a Comment »

Accountability on oil

Posted by Greg on August 4, 2008

Posted in Election 2008, Energy | Leave a Comment »

Getting it right on energy policy

Posted by Greg on July 10, 2008

It’s nice to see the recent cranio-rectal inversion doesn’t extend to energy policy.

Posted in Election 2008, Energy | Leave a Comment »

Artificial costs

Posted by Greg on July 1, 2008

Mark Perry has some interesting graphs comparing average gas price with taxation levels:

It’s important to recognize what this is not.  It’s not to say that gas taxes should be lower, nor does is it an argument in favor of McCain’s asinine gas tax holiday proposal. 

But it is an important reminder that there are regulatory components.

Hat tip: Coyote Blog.

Posted in Economics, Energy | Leave a Comment »

An energy earthquake

Posted by Greg on June 30, 2008

Great piece in the LA Times about the changes that may be in store as energy prices continue to rise:

Besides the obvious effect $7-a-gallon gasoline would have on commuters, automakers, airlines, truckers and shipping firms, $200 oil would drive up the price of a broad spectrum of products: Insecticides and hand lotions, cosmetics and food preservatives, shaving cream and rubber cement, plastic bottles and crayons — all have ingredients derived from oil.

The pain would probably be particularly intense in Southern California, which is known for its long commutes and high cost of living.

“Throughout our history, we have grown on the assumption that energy costs would be low,” said Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles city councilman and a current member of the city Planning Commission. “Now that those assumptions are shifting, it changes assumptions about housing, cars and how cities grow.”

Push prices up fast enough, he said, and “it would be the urban-planning equivalent of an earthquake.”

The thing is, painful and overdue as it is, life will probably be better when it’s all done.

Posted in Economics, Energy | Leave a Comment »

Our kingdom for a coherent energy policy

Posted by Greg on June 9, 2008

Via Autoblog:

With stock markets and unemployment numbers taking their lumps, civilian unrest at oil and food prices, and politicians weighing in with all manner of cures and pronouncements, the Group of Eight nations got together to try and figure something out. The result: they want oil producing companies to produce more oil while they work on creating oil-independent fuel sources.

It’s the equivalent of Wimpy saying to Popeye, “For a hamburger today I will gladly pay you on Tuesday.”

Meanwhile, in a related development, gearheads are faking orgasms over the new Cadillac with 556 horsepower.

Posted in Energy | Leave a Comment »

The reality of eating local

Posted by Greg on June 9, 2008

A new study at Carnagie Mellon raises questions about the “energy” impact of eating locally: Ezra Klein summarizes:

The line, then, is that the prudent environmentalist will eat local in order to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Intuitively, that makes a lot of sense. Bananas shipped from Brazil can’t be good for the environment. But two Carnegie Mellon researchers recently broke down the carbon footprint of foods, and their findings were a bit surprising. 83 percent of emissions came from the growth and production of the food itself. Only 11 percent came from transportation, and even then, only 4 percent came from the transportation between grower and seller (which is the part that eating local helps cut). Additionally, food shipped from far off may be better for the environment than food shipped within the country — ocean travel is much more efficient than trucking.

As Brad Plumer writes, the striking takeaway is that “on average, replacing just 21 percent of the red meat in the ‘typical’ diet with fish or chicken does as much, emissions-wise, as buying everything in that same diet locally.” That’s not, of course, an argument against eating locally. Taste, farming practices, sustainability, and much else point towards local consumption. But buying locally raised meats doesn’t get you off the environmental hook. If you’re worried about global warming, changing what you eat is far more important than monitoring where it’s produced.

Posted in Economics, Energy, Environment | 1 Comment »

Consequences? What consequences?

Posted by Greg on June 1, 2008

Great bit at TMV:

SUV for Sale

By Tom Purcell

“Ah, the summer season has arrived and the wife and I hope to hit the road. That means one thing. I must dump my SUV.”

“Dump your SUV?”

“With gas prices soaring, who can afford to drive such a gas guzzler anymore? What’s worse: My giant hunk of steel is worth several thousand less than I owe on it.”

“Those are the breaks. But isn’t that the risk you took when you bought it?”

“Risk?”

“Surely you know that a third of the world’s crude oil comes from the Middle East, one of the most volatile regions in the world. That volatility has led to erratic gasoline prices before.”

“It has?”

Posted in Economics, Energy, Humor | Leave a Comment »

Twelve dollars a gallon?

Posted by Greg on May 22, 2008

Not yet, but certainly possible.

“The world’s premier energy monitor is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, a shift that reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand.” Previously the International Energy Agency had forecast an ever increasing supply to match ever increasing demand, but times they are a changing. Not one to be outdone by an international agency, “the U.S. Energy Department’s own forecasting shop, the Energy Information Administration, has long stuck to the same demand-driven methodology as the IEA, assuming that supply will keep up with the world’s growing hunger for oil.” After all, for decades that’s how things worked, so why do the hard job of analyzing both supply and demand when only doing half your homework is so much easier? But, since 2004 demand has continued to rise while supply has plateaued. Now, both agencies have been caught with their analytical pants down and are scrambling to cover themselves. While some blame oil speculators for rapidly rising fuel costs, most economists and oil analysts point to increasing world-wide demand combined with the difficulties of finding new oil and the lack of willingness of oil suppliers to spend the money needed to find more of the stuff.

Posted in Economics, Energy | Leave a Comment »

Only getting half of it

Posted by Greg on April 24, 2008

Michael at Balloon Juice talks about ANWR and why it won’t help reduce gas prices.

He’s right, it won’t make a large dent in the worldwide oil prices, but the larger issue is domestic production and reduced reliance on Middle Eastern sources, particularly in a strategic sense.

Posted in Economics, Energy, Environment | Leave a Comment »

The Hood Robin Subsidy

Posted by Greg on May 11, 2006

Twelve cents a gallon?  That's what gasoline costs in Venezuela.

Posted in Energy | 2 Comments »

Crude. Black Gold. Texas Tea. Oil, that is.

Posted by Greg on May 1, 2006

by Sean from Hiding in the Backwaters:

Rising gas prices are getting more press with elections looming and incumbents fearing some backlash from voters. Much is being made of ExxonMobile’s record $36.1 billion profit in 2005 and their record breaking Q1 in 2006 that is putting them on track to break another profit record for 2006. I found this little breakdown of the numbers interesting.

To put things into perspective, Exxon’s profit in 2005 amounted to six dollars for every single human being on the planet. Put another way, this astronomical profit was enough to buy almost 45 gallons of petrol (at $2.75/gallon) for every man, woman and child in the Evil Empire. This is equal to nearly ten percent of overall consumption for 2004.1

While I am not happy with gas prices at the pumps—mostly because my income isn’t even keeping pace with inflation, which wanders between 3% and 5%2, much less the 20% increase in gas prices this year—I’m not necessarily upset with oil companies making record profits. Conditions favor them right now, so bully for them. Of course, you have those who believe that the two oil men in the White House have engineered this crisis in the Middle East to drive oil prices up. I tend to be highly skeptical of conspiracy theories in general. So we’ll just move on.

My biggest issue with the record profits of oil companies is the fact they receive unbelievable handouts from our federal government. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included $2.8 billion in tax breaks for fossil fuel production.3 It is incomprehensible to me that when a single player is posting record profits of $36 billion, they are still able to convince the bone-heads on Capitol Hill they need handouts. They don’t need tax breaks. Multinational corporations like ExxonMobile have plenty of tax shelters of their own.

One recent study by Tax Notes found that subsidiaries of U.S. corporations operating in the top four tax havens (the Netherlands, Ireland, Bermuda and Luxembourg) had 46.3 percent of their profits in those countries in 2001, but only 9 percent of their employees and 12.6 percent of their plant and equipment.4

What a shock, ExxonMobile has a presence in the Netherlands, Ireland, Bermuda and Luxembourg. But Congress still seems to think (or at least seems to believe we’ll buy it) that we can lure companies back to the U.S. by handing them money.

“This bill spends capital at home to produce our own energy, create jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign sources of oil,” said House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo.5

What an idiot. It is always (or at least for the foreseeable future) going to be cheaper to operate abroad no matter how many tax breaks and subsidies we give away. The reason we are dependant on foreign oil is not because there is no oil to be had in the U.S. It’s not because the U.S. extracts exorbitant tax revenues from corporations. It’s cheaper for the same reason we buy toys from China. It’s cheaper for the same reason we buy milk from Mexico. It’s cheaper for the same reason we buy shirts from Indonesia. Cheap labor. No one likes to pay taxes, but I suspect that for companies operating in the U.S. employee salaries and benefits make up a much larger chunk of operating costs than taxes ever have or ever will. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to turn down free money.

Whether I get nailed at the pump or have it added to my tax burden, I am paying for it either way. Frankly, I’d rather pay at the pump because I believe there are fewer pockets to line paying directly at the pump versus paying for my fuel via payroll deduction.

1Ashford, Lindsay, “The Fattest of the Fat: ExxonMobil’s Raymond,” April 18, 2006, BlogCritics.org, blogcritics.org.2“Inflation Rate in Percent for Jan 2000-Present,” inflationdata.com.

3“Energy Policy Act of 2005″, Widipedia.org, wikipedia.org.

4Rattner, Steven, “Why Companies Pay Less,” The Washington Post, May 18, 2004, washingtonpost.com.

5Coile, Zachary, “House OKs energy bill laden with tax breaks: Measure seeks to build up domestic oil production,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2005, sfgate.com.

Posted in Business, Economics, Energy | Leave a Comment »