Archive for the ‘gas’ Category


Oil prices up or down? Speculation driving them up?

July 23, 2008

I heard on NPR today that Congress determined rising Oil prices were NOT due to speculation.  Here’s an interesting debate about short & long term future for OilMatthew Simmon‘s, a peak oil advocate, suggests that we should put a floor on the price to prevent short term thinking.  He argues that 1) oil supplies will continue to lag demand and 2) we won’t make the long term changes needed until people stop thinking of this is a oil price bubble.  He says, “stop the witch hunt and start looking for solutions.”

Peak Oil Analyst

Peak Oil Analyst

I believe that our government is highly motivated to find a short term fix to the supply problem.  Inescapable election year politics lead me to predict that we’re likely to have an artificial/short return to low prices to stimulate the economy.  I think this will have much more drastic long term costs.

Alternative energy is the only long term solution .  A price floor will protect investors in alternative fuels because real alternatives need time to reach the mass market.

I’ll suggest again, that we should have a 10+ year “energy independence” initiative like the 1960’s space race where we invest heavily in building the expertise (the people) to solve this problem.  Our nation benefited dramatically from that focus.  A sustainability focus would regain maintain our world leadership.


Beef high in fat and Oil

July 20, 2008

About 10 years ago I stopped eating beef because it was high in fat and that’s not healthy for me.

Now I have a second reason.  Beef is a huge energy waster.  Here’s the chain:

  • Beef comes from cows.
  • Cows from feed lots are fattened up with corn.
  • Corn takes a lot of oil to produce (plus corn for ethanol competes with oil)

Cows also use lots of energy in transport and processing.

Source Federico Mena Quintero

Source Federico Mena Quintero


Rising tide lifts all prices

July 20, 2008

I heard from a friend that coal is now 100% more expensive than last year and that increase is going to show up in our electric bills.  I heard yesterday that wheat is now 200% more expensive than last year because corn prices have skyrocketed based on ethanol demand.

The price of oil has a direct impact on ALL OTHER forms of energy.  Energy is fungable and there are substitutes for oil.

There is no end to the sky and sea.

From "There is no end to the sky and sea."


Peak Oil Meet Up

July 19, 2008

I was invited to the Peak Oil (aka “crude awakening“) meet up today at Lester Germanio‘s sustainable food/water/shelter project deep in the heart of West Lake Hills.  While the project is breathtaking in both actual views and vision.  I’m having trouble reconciling the obvious benefits of “living off grid” aspects of this long term project with seeing this as reproducible model for other people to follow.

I’m looking for ways that the body of society becomes sustainable collectively not just individually.

Lesters courtyard is cool and inviting

Lester's courtyard is cool and inviting

Here are all my pictures.  Lester’s project is very thought provoking.  His designs (will) include double roofs to manage heat and collect rain water.  A huge cistern and water tower.  An integrated garden and root cellar.  The project, boostrapped and self-built, has been going for quite a while and encountered plenty of governmental road blocks.


MPG estimates are NOT linear: please replace your SUV now

June 20, 2008

NPR did an interesting report about bad MPG analysis based on research from a Duke Professor (my alma mater) . The crux of the report is that small MPG improvements (e.g. +5 MPG) at the bottom have a much bigger impact on actual fuel used ($$$) than the same improvement at the top. So replacing a 30 MPG car with a 35 MPG car is a much smaller real consumption difference than replacing a 15 MPG one for 20 MPG.

This is not surprising. If fact, it’s painfully obvious if you present the data as a percentage (33% vs 17%) but we’ve gotten so used to looking at the just the MPG #s.

So, take everything back to $ for your estimations and you’ll be fine. That same analysis may point you away from a hybrid into a small ICE. But now we’re assuming that you can make a logic based decision about buying a car. Most of the research out there says that car buying is a emotional decision for most of us.

Note: cross posted to


And suddenly…it’s a CRISIS!

June 20, 2008

There is some very bad energy MoJo consistently coming from prominent Republicans (McBush & Gov Perry) calling our current energy situation a Crisis. It’s not – it’s our new way of life get used to it.

Calling it a “crisis” is a transparent attempt to link us back to th 70s and the Jimmy Carter era. I believe that McBush wants us to hook that idealistic, but ineffective president to more recent Presidential hopefuls. The word crisis also implies that it’s a temporary situation that we can “fix” and then go back to our regular lives. Sorry McBush, but the days of wasteful consumption are ending. Welcome to the Age of Constraints.


Energy Free Rides

May 6, 2008

On Cinco de Mayo, I was talking to an environmentally minded friend over lunch at Maudi’s and chewing on weighty problems. He suggested that the Free Rider Problem from Game Theory may be part of the struggle for conservation movements to get rolling. The FRP states that when a populate is large enough members can easily opt out of paying their share. By assuming that the majority will contribute they get a free ride. If enough people do this then the market collapses or fails to advance.

This certainly explains some of the behavior that prevents emergent conservation, but I think there is also an overwhelming boil the ocean phenomena at play. It’s currently impossible for individuals to see any practical connection between their drop of wastefulness and a world wide problem.

I believe that it is possible to make this a personal connection if we can:

  1. put the use into personal terms like gallons of gas or hours of TV
  2. allow people to see a measurable (10%?) improvement from conservation
  3. connect them into small enough groups that we overcome the Free Rider problem

There are many instances in which the national zeitgeist shifts from ignoring widespread intractable problems into addressing them aggressively as enforced social norms. For example, littering in the 70s, polyester in the 80s, smoking in the 90s, and recycling in the 00s.

The tide is turning, but it’s still too hard for people to measure the benefit.