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March 31, 2008

Congress to Investigate Big Oil


Baseball, steroids, football, we had trouble figuring out why Congress would poke its nose into that stuff. Big Oil? We’d say it’s about time!

Congress is about to ask sharp questions about why exactly an industry that’s rolling in cash needs $18 billion in tax breaks (over 10 yrs). Wouldn’t those bucks be better spent on subsidizing renewable energy projects?

Inquiring minds at wondered what kind of questions the general public would ask the oil execs.

“Are they going to tell the citizens why gas prices are so high?” said Maryann Mancino, who drove into Manhattan from New Jersey to attend the New York auto show.

An easy one for us: because people will pay them.

High gas prices were also on the mind of Mark Cooper, research director at the Consumer Federation of America a consume rights watchdog.

Cooper said the industry is misusing its massive profits, underinvesting in refineries and failing to keep supplies adequate when entering the high-demand summer driving season and driving gas prices higher.

“We’re talking hundreds of billion of dollars,” said Cooper. “Where do all the profits go?”

Another gimmee: Into the industry’s pockets.

Stayed tuned Tues. at noon for the hearing in the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Thurs., the role of investment money on oil prices.

Filed under:Energy,Fuel cost,Fuel Price Trends,Gas price | by Pump Girl @ 7:51 pm | 

March 27, 2008

Double-Nickels Coming Back in Style?


Well, not quite yet, but truckers are backing a 65 mph speed limit.

Con-Way Freight, a national biggie, has announce they have turned the electronic speed limiters to 62 mpg. Con-Way figures that will save them 3.2 millions of diesel/year. Sure mounts up when fuel prices are in the neighborhood of $4/gal.

American Trucking Association says 65 mpg is not only a matter of cost saving, but also safety.

Every 1-mph reduction in speed results in 0.1 increase in fuel efficiency.

This sounds good on paper, but as our 90-yr old grandma in Michigan told us years ago (yes she is still driving), you just can’t get anywhere at 55 mph.

Filed under:Fuel cost,Fuel Cost Control,Fuel Economy,Fuel Price Trends | by Pump Girl @ 8:20 pm | 

March 24, 2008

Calling Inspiration!


Scheduled to begin Sept. next year, the Progressive Automotive X Prize competition will award $10 million to the first team that can build and bring to market a car that gets 100 mpg. It’s international, so no downsizing the field.

Some of the contestants were shown at the NY International Auto Show. No major US auto company has announced it would compete. VW says it has been there, done that. Honda thinks that the 62 mpg for its hydrogen fuel-cell car is pretty darn good.

“We need a car that is not just a concept but can be made in mass quantities at a reasonable cost for the average American,” says Jack Hidary, chairman of the Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation and a donor to the X Prize’s new effort. “Unfortunately, Detroit has not stepped up to the plate, they have fought CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards every step of the way.”

60 teams from 9 countries have entered the competition, including high school and college students. Sounds like some serious thinking outside the box is going on here.

Filed under:Fuel cost,Fuel Economy,Fuel Price Trends,Fumes,Vehicle News | by Pump Girl @ 7:24 pm | 

March 19, 2008

Why Higher Oil Prices?


Experts are predicting prices from your worst nightmare:

  • Monday Morning Investment Director,Keith Fitzgerald: $187/barrel within 36 months;
  • Goldman Sachs: $175/barrel in the next few years;
  • Matthew Simmons, Simmons & Co. International: could climb as high at $378/barrel:
  • William Patalon, III on his Monday Morning blog, sees four factors fueling oil prices:

    * Obfuscation by OPEC: Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have been misrepresenting their reserve capabilities for years. The key players have reported no new discoveries for decades.

    Terrorism Threats: The odds that a terrorist act will interrupt oil supplies – in the near term or the long term – are higher than most security experts would ever publicly confirm, Fitz-Gerald says. And this is especially problematic because of the double-whammy effect: Damage to a major pipeline or a strategic refinery could crimp supplies just as demand is continuing to escalate.

    * The Dollar Doldrums: Oil is priced in dollars. And the dollar is in the dumper. Indeed, rising inflation and falling interest rates have put the greenback into a steep downward spiral. And if prices keep rising, and if Federal Reserve policymakers keep cutting short-term interest rates, the dollar will continue to lose altitude against other key global currencies. OPEC members will counter the greenback decline by marking up the price of crude, causing prices to increase still more in dollar-denominated terms.

    * Cruising Goes Global: As an increasing number of households in China, India and other advancing overseas economies join the world’s middle class, they’ll start making such basic purchases as electronic goods, houses – and automobiles. The fact that China’s oil imports jumped 18% in one month is evidence enough that this is happening. And the fact that leading India automaker Tata Motors Ltd (TTM) has unveiled a $2,500 car, the Nano, underscores that international carmakers are looking to recruit a whole new group of motorists. The fallout: For U.S. refiners, oil will first get lots more expensive, and then supplies will start to dry up as countries opt to halt exports and keep the precious black gold for themselves.

    Filed under:Energy,Fuel Price Trends,Gas price,Price Shocks | by Pump Girl @ 10:25 am | 

    March 18, 2008

    Hummer More Green Than Prius?


    Fact or urban legend?

    The skeptics’ basic argument is that the Prius’ battery is irredeemably un-green, mostly because of its high nickel content and complex manufacturing process. As a result, “Dust to Dust” contends that a Prius will consume $3.25 worth of energy per mile over its cradle-to-grave lifetime. A Hummer H2, by contrast, will use $3.03 per mile and the Hummer H3 just $1.95.

    All this nickel talk may be misleading. The Hummer’s frame contains twice as much nickel as the Prius. Prius fuel efficiency is 48 mpg in the city. Beat that!

    Of course, there are more complaints about the Prius, but:

    None of these critiques should obscure that fact that the Prius represents a step in the right direction—innovation designed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions and that the market (abetted by tax breaks) seems to be rewarding. Will the car slow climate change all by its lonesome? Of course not, but no one has ever suggested as much. Will it soon be eclipsed by newer technologies? Quite likely, and quite hopefully. But attacking the Prius for not being perfect—especially with lame scuttlebutt masquerading as science—strikes the Lantern [the Green Lantern, Slate Magazine] as dangerously inane.

    Filed under:Alternative Energy,Energy,Fuel cost,Fumes,Vehicle News | by Pump Girl @ 11:10 am |