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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Gasoline Usage Still Way Down YoY; Oil Prices Rising

According to NDD at the Bonddad Blog, Year-over-Year gasoline usage in the U.S. remains significantly negative: 8167 M gallons this year vs. 8810 M gallons last year this week.  That’s -7.3%.

Yet oil prices increased this week by over $4 to $103.24 per barrel and gas prices at the pump rose $0.04 to $3.52 (national average).

Let ‘s state this clearly: it’s not American demand driving those prices up.  We can attribute part of the increase to other growing economies.  But as more people are figuring out all the time, a not inconsequential part of it is commodity speculators.  Then there’s tension over Iran that the Republican Teabaggers are trying to inflame – they just love them all the war and conflict they can gin up (as long as their family members aren’t required to actually serve, dont’cha know).  Finally, don’t discount the role of the giant fossil fuel industry here – do you think they’re taking the Keystone pipeline decision in peace?

As the folks at Bonddad Blog state, oil and gas prices this high helped act like a choke collar on the U.S. economy last year.  Given the relative growing health of the economy since, and the similarly growing prospects for Obama’s reelection largely as a result, that collar might be forcefully reapplied (or no action taken by some to remove it) in order to dim his electoral chances.


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Choices: Fuels, Efficiency, Transit vs. Drilling

I keep writing that we as a society and a species have choices that we’re continually making today that will affect the climate of tomorrow.  Most choices involve spending some small outlay of money today in order to not have to spend much larger sums just to adapt tomorrow.  The choice I’ll write about today deals with one of the Republican Teabaggers’ favorites: gradually use less fossil fuels in our transportation sector or “Drill, bagger, drill!”  As usual, the Teabaggers are on the wrong side of the issue, as this chart from the NRDC, using data from the Energy Information Administration shows:

The black line on top would be the pathetically measly result of opening up new drilling areas to the dirty energy corporations: less than 1 million more barrels of oil per day by 2025.  Real energy independent, eh?  Aside from the fact that oil corporations will sell that oil to whomever will buy it most expensively (i.e., not in the U.S.), three of the other measures would prevent the use of the same amount of oil by themselves.   Combined with other measures, the total number of barrels of oil that wouldn’t have to be bought and used is 5x the amount made available by opening up new drilling areas.

The results of using 5 million fewer barrels of oil per day by 2025 can’t be understated: less environmental damage in all aspects of the drilling process; real steps toward energy independence; freedom to keep more money in Americans’ pockets (isn’t that what Teabaggers are supposed to be all about, anyway?); more efficient transportation system.  And on and on it goes.

Going the drilling route couldn’t be more stupid.  This choice, as is the case for others, is pretty simple.

[h/t MB @ dKos)

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The American Power Act – First Reactions

The Senate’s version of climate and energy legislation was formally introduced yesterday.  Titled “The American Power Act”, the draft is 987 pages long and includes darn near everything.  Reading any substantial amount of the bill is going to take a while; understanding it will take even longer.  Of course, by the time activists read and understand it, it will probably be in the process of being modified.  Regardless, here are two links that I’m looking at.  The first is the full bill; the second is a section by section summary.

S1733- The American Power Act (pdf)

21 page Section by Section summary (pdf)

Continue reading

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Energy News Tidbits: EVs & Oil

European countries made a decision following the 1970s when OPEC held the world hostage for oil.  They decided they were going to diversify their energy portfolios and reduce the impacts that OPEC would have on their economies.  Renewable energy has found quite the secure home across Europe.  Their problems aren’t completely solved today, but they’re far closer than we in the U.S. are.

In the past few years, a push for electric vehicles has taken root in Europe.  Spain wants 1 million hybrid or electric cars on its roads by 2014.  25,000 charging stations could be in England by 2015.  France is building a national network of charging stations.  Europe is in the growing stages of a race to deploy electric carsThe U.S. continues to lag far behind European countries in fuel economy standards because our domestic auto manufacturers’ executives stuck their fingers in their ears and made fun reality as it passed them by.

Overall, investing in electric cars is up.  Charging stations, regardless of country, will have to be built.  Standards will have to be decided upon.  Our past decisions will heavily and negatively impact our ability to lead the world in future decisions.

Back to OPEC – one of the deciding factors on the acceptance of electric vehicles will be the availability and thus the cost of oil.  World oil reserves are likely only 2/3 that reported by the oil cartel.  With that much of a discrepancy, even $2.80 gas is underpriced.  When shortages appear in the upcoming years, price shocks will result because of OPECs unwillingness to tell the truth.

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Economic Numbers Come Out Just Prior to 2008 Election

What will their effect be?  I think they will act as a final reminder to folks that the cons’ economic policies need go no further.  People do want change.  They want to be able to afford their groceries, their gas and their healthcare.  None of them are more affordable now than they were 8 years ago.  They want to have money to retire with and they have seen their pensions and 401k’s eviscerated by the cons.  The numbers that were released today show nothing different than what we’ve seen over the past six weeks.  Here they are:

The economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.3% from July through September.  The previous quarter’s number was +2.8%, but you can’t really compare the two.  Remember, the 2nd quarter saw all the economic stimulus checks beings sent out and spent.  It was a one-time deal and that’s confirmed by the 3rd quarter number.  Without those stimulus checks, the 2nd quarter GDP numbers were likely closer to 0.  Economists are predicting the next two quarters will likely be negative also.  We’re already in a recession.  Most Americans have come to this conclusion, I think.  I doubt we’ll get confirmation of it from the cons, however.  Bush’s crew is likely to let that announcement slide to an Obama administration.

Jobless claims for the week again totaled nearly 500,000.  Unemployment is September was reported at 6.1%, but is expected to increase in the months ahead, possibly to 8%.  Unfortunately, the official unemployment number neglects some aspects of the true labor market.  The actual unemployment number is probably a couple percentage points higher.  Tack on underemployment and the actual condition of labor can be assessed – it’s likely to be 12% or greater.

Here’s a headline that should surprise no one: State budget gaps widening as economy slumps.  As a result of the insane tax policies of the cons, the federal budget has been over-allocated.  That has left state budgets stretched thin during the “expansion” of the previous decade.  There wasn’t an expansion and services were required to cover additional people.  Something has to give.  Either the tax-zealots win and services disappear or taxes are raised and services survive (at lower strength perhaps).  This illuminates the biggest problem with cons’ economics: if public services are halted, people will be forced to buy services from the private sector.  Umm, real wages haven’t risen in more than 8 years.  Where exactly are people supposed to get the money to buy those services, because their cost will assuredly increase (that’s what happens in a capital economy, after all).  When people vote, they need to think about how they want to pay for services.  If everybody invests in them with tax dollars, the government can provide them at a low cost.  If everybody is on their own, the private sector will provide them at great cost.  Which means those providing the services will get richer while the rest of us get poorer.  Or people will just be plain unable to get those services.  Services that include education; health care.  How about the police and fire deparments?  Should those be privatized?


Let me present one more economic number: Big Oil Profits for the 3rd quarter.  Remember, the economy went into the crapper, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and foreclosures are happening at record numbers.  Along with all of that, ExxonMobil once again posted the largest 3-month profit in human history, beating their own record set in the previous quarter.  Just how much did Exxon make in 3 months?  $14.83 billion.  What was their record last quarter?  $11.68 billion.  How about during the 3rd quarter last year?  $9.41 billion.  Did your income go up 58% in the last year?  Because Exxon’s did.  How about 27% more in July-September than April-June?  Exxon did.  And that is only 1 oil corporation – only 1!!  That’s what $4.00 gas did this past summer: it stuffed the pockets of the most profitable corporations even further.  Remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989?  They finally paid some money on that disaster: $170 million.  That’s only 1% of their profit in the last three months.  Pathetic.  Immoral.

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Additional Economic Figures: Fuels, Unemployment and Housing

As Congress works to pass an immoral bailout of corporatist gambling, activities continue across America.  Demand for fuels was down again in August by about 4% versus last year.  Of particular interest to me was the stockpiles of gasoline stockpiles: they’re down to the lowest level since 1990!  This has gotten no play in the corporate media while House Dems capitulated on off-shore drilling: refineries were operating at only 67% of capacity.  That’s correct: only fuel corporations have refineries operating at only 2/3s of their possible maximum.  What’s the price of gasoline again?  It’s still $3.50 a gallon?  I don’t wonder why.  Do you?  Or more accurately, why does anyone still think that doing nothing about global warming will cost less than doing something?  150 platforms were destroyed since Aug. 2005.  Here’s the ultimate laugher with respect to off-shore drilling: if platforms are being wrecked by moderately strong hurricanes, what incentive do fuel corporations have to build new ones?  Let me complete things here: lack of refining capacity is what has held product from the market, not lack of drilling space.  Even then, refineries aren’t operating where they should be.  Opening up areas off-shore will not decrease the price of gas.  Ever.

More people filed for jobless benefits last week than any time since Sep 2001.  Unemployed people do not expand economies.  Is anyone delusional enough to think that the $700 billion bailout will propel corporations to hire more people?  They won’t.  People will remain jobless, people will continue to lose their homes, which means the bailout will fail.  That means our economy will be in terrible shape for quite some time to come.  And Republicans will be only too happy to point their fingers at everyone else.  Unfortunately, Democrats have left a golden opportunity to properly cast con-servative economic policies as immoral and insane.

Existing home sales fell again last month.  They were down 10.7% compared to a year earlier.  Banks are holding on to all their capital because every bank knows every other bank issued as much crappy debt as they did.  No money flowing between banks means no money in the system.  That brings the system to a screeching halt.  If Congress were to send any portion of the $700 billion they’re handing over to mega-corporations to the citizenry, the wheels of our economy would receive a much needed boost of grease.  Bush’s corporate cronies know they’re causing the system to collapse and they have the audacity to demand a bailout from Americans.  Simply disgusting.


[Update]: MSNBC has an article up citing two of the above and adds a third: manufacturing orders plunged again last month.  The same article says existing home sales were expected to fall only by 1%.  That’s pretty damn far from the 10%+ actual drop.  Good thing economists are more trusted than weather forecasters.  I’d hate to see what would happen if economists were ever wrong…

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Climate and Energy Tidbits 8/31/08

So far this year, the oil and coal corporations spent $427 million on lobbying Congress and advertising. Every one of those dollars could have gone to building oil refineries, which would increase the supply of oil and gas. Or they could have gone to carbon sequestration research. Instead, they went to ensuring our addiction to oil and coal would continue for years to come. Solutions to this problem are available.

Xcel Energy will relay potential costs of doing business once legislation is passed that accounts for climate change to shareholders.