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Thursday, June 19, 2008

If you are buying a hybrid - the Prius is the smartest bet

Last month I blogged about my Toyota Prius test drive and how it left me wanting more in terms of fuel efficiency. Well, the following shows that it could have been worse. This nifty table from Edmunds.com shows you a comparison of the hybrid price premiums for all 2008 models, along with the number of years it would take to recoup your investment. One thing I think is worth mentioning - there is no non-hybrid Prius, so I think in terms of ROI the Prius should be an even smarter investment compared to say, a Toyota Camry hybrid, which gets you an extra 7 or 8 MPG for $3k more than the non-hybrid Camry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

21 billion barrels in proven oil reserves won't last long

So John McCain caught wind that the United States has 21 billion barrels of domestic proven oil reserves. That was his justification for lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling during his love fest with the oil and gas industry in Houston earlier today. Regardless, the fact that we do have 21 billion barrels of oil reserves shouldn't give anyone any comfort since the United States will consume that amount within fewer than three years. McCain's solution is a short term fix that chooses political expediency over energy independence for future generations.

Below is a table of the top oil consuming nations. The US consumes about 21 million barrels of crude oil a day. This is a little over 7.6 billion barrels a year, and that figure will rise as our daily consumption rises. It should be clear that 21 billion barrels is not that much crude oil and not worth the cost that comes with offshore drilling and drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

For John McCain and those fact-challenged Republicans who think that drilling in ANWR and off of our shores is the solution, I suggest you start educating yourselves. A good place to start is the wonderfully informative The Oil Drum blog.

World Oil Consumption for 2007

#1 United States: 20,730,000 bbl/day
#2 China: 6,534,000 bbl/day
#3 Japan: 5,578,000 bbl/day
#4 Germany: 2,650,000 bbl/day
#5 Russia: 2,500,000 bbl/day
#6 India: 2,450,000 bbl/day
#7 Canada: 2,294,000 bbl/day
#8 Korea, South: 2,149,000 bbl/day
#9 Brazil: 2,100,000 bbl/day
#10 France: 1,970,000 bbl/day

No longer a Maverick

John McCain, Republican nominee for President and the artist formerly known as "the maverick," now supports lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling. Today, John McCain spoke to the big the oil companies in Houston and has told them that the answer to high gas prices is to drill for oil off the shores of places like Florida, a state the relies on heavily on its beaches and ocean wildlife for its tourism industry. John McCain is now going along with the Republican party line that says the United States should start drilling in federally protected lands, such as the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and said that the individual states should have the right to "choose to permit exploration" on these lands.

The problem that McCain and most Republicans, including my Congressman, Tim Murphy, have is that the volume of oil reserves in places like ANWR is so small that its impact on oil prices in the global market would be negligible. A recent report (May 2008) by the US Department of Energy Report agrees, and concluded the following:

Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States. The opening of ANWR is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light crude oil prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 for the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 for the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 for the high oil resource case, relative to the reference case.
So the DOE report states that drilling for oil now would only move oil prices by about 40 to 50 cents a barrel. What does this do for us at the pump? This translates to an average savings of around how about 5 to 6 cents for a gallon of gasoline. The report also mentions that the crude oil wouldn't even be available to refineries until 2013. So how does that help us now John McCain?

It doesn't, and it should be clear that the negative impact on wildlife in ANWR is not worth the tiny benefits resulting from drilling for oil there. But John McCain doesn't see things this way. Here is an excerpt from his speech to the energy industry down in Houston today:

Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a “refuge” for a reason.

But the stakes are high for our citizens and for our economy. And with gasoline running at more than four bucks a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the far-off plans of futurists and politicians. We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.

We can do this in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection. And in states that choose to permit exploration, there must be an appropriate sharing of benefits between federal and state governments. But as a matter of fairness to the American people, and a matter of duty for our government, we must deal with the here and now, and assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production.

We should set the highest goals for ourselves for the years and decades to come, and I am a believer in the technologies that one day will free us from oil entirely. But to get there at all, a more pragmatic approach will serve us better. In the short term, we must take the world as it is and our resources where they are – even as we press on with new and cleaner sources of energy. We must be bold in our plans to break our strategic dependence on oil, and over the next two weeks, I’ll be offering a vision that will be bold. But we must also address the concerns of Americans, who are struggling right now to pay for gasoline, groceries, and other necessities of life.

What is certain in energy policy is that we have learned a few clear lessons along the way. Somehow all of them seem to have escaped my opponent. He says that high oil prices are not the problem, but only that they rose too quickly. He’s doesn’t support new domestic production. He doesn’t support new nuclear plants. He doesn’t support more traditional use of coal, either.

Each major election year the Republican party call for drilling in ANWR and try to blame the Democrats for the high oil prices since they are blocking drilling on that land. Not too long ago I received a mailer from my congressmen, Tim Murphy, that showed a map of our oil reserves and said that in order to lower gas prices we must drill off shore. This is pure political BS and it shows a lack of knowledge of the realties of the geopolitical world of crude oil. In 2004, a similar report from the DOE said the same thing as the 2008 report, but that didn't stop the Republicans from politicizing high oil prices back then either.

Here is the link to McCain's speech, and here is one to the DOE report on ANWR from May of 2008. John McCain may be one of the few Republicans who believe in Global Warming and Climate Change, but lately it seems like he is more likely to follow the non-leadership of the Bush administration on ending our dependence on foreign oil, since focusing on diminishing domestic oil reserves instead of new forms of renewable fuels is just delaying the inevitable - which is the economic catastrophe that results when global peak oil is reached and oil prices are so high that today's $4 a gallon for gasoline looks cheap.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How has $4 gas impacted your life?

I am a firm believer that we've finally reached a tipping point now that $4 gas is here. Here in Pittsburgh, a region that hates things like car pooling and public transportation, more people are more willing to sacrifice the comfort of their vehicles and morning radio shows for a ride on the bus or light rail. More people think twice about making a trip across town - and making a 2 to 3 hour trip to visit friends or family requires one to consider the fuel implications of doing so.

How have you changed your driving behavior now that gas is $4 a gallon? Below are my observations and some of the things we are doing at the Schultz household.

1. The T station lots in the South Hills are booked to capacity. Finding an open space at 8am is near impossible. When its not too hot out I try to walk to a nearby T station, which is almost 3/4 a mile from my doorstep. The lot there is tiny and its impossible to find a space there after 7:30am so when I can't walk I drive about a mile to the Castle Shannon station which has a much larger surface lot.

2. Do you still fill up while at the tank? Since filling up once a week now eats up about half of my monthly disposable income I only pump enough gas to get me around to where I need to go, so I'm now only putting in $20 to $25 in the gas tank each week. Since the mpg of my car sucks that means I can drive about 100 to 120 miles a week, and hopefully I can stretch that into the next week but when I have to drive to and from the airport each week that's not likely.

3. I am considering buying a bike instead of a car when my lease is up. My wife just took a job in downtown Pittsburgh so during the week she won't need to drive. When I work in town I take the T, but often I work either out of town or somewhere that is not accessible by the T (most of Pittsburgh unfortunately!). We need at least one car, but owning two is now a waste. A bike will allow me to take short trips around town when my wife needs the car on weekends. Again - this will force us to drive less and it will save us a ton of money.

4. When will we start to see real plans for a comprehensive rail system in the Pittsburgh region? I am lucky to live in the South Hills and be within 1 mile from two T stops, but all Pittsburghers - those to the north, east, west, should have access to the T along with those of us who live south of Pittsburgh.

Green is Good is Back!

Following a month long hiatus I am back, I have plenty to blog about. Below is a photo I captured at the airport this afternoon. The thought of some random individual doing some guerilla marketing for my blog just gets me all fired up!