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By Robert Rapier on Dec 28, 2010 with 31 responses

My Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2010

Here are my choices for the Top 10 energy related stories of 2010. I can’t remember having such a difficult time squeezing this list down to 10 stories, because there were many important energy stories for 2010. It was hard to cut some of them from the Top 10; so hard that I almost did a Top 15. But I made some difficult choices, and offer my views on the 10 most important energy stories of 2010. Previously I listed a link to Platt’s survey of the Top 10 oil stories of 2010, but my list covers more than just oil.

Reviewing my list of Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2009, I see that I made three predictions. Those predictions were:

  • China’s moves are going to continue to make waves
  • There will be more delays (and excuses) from those attempting to produce fuel from algae and cellulose
  • There will be little relief from oil prices.

Given that total energy demand from China surpassed that of the U.S. in 2010 (five years earlier than expected), the EPA twice rolled back cellulosic ethanol mandates (and there are still no functioning commercial plants), and we are closing the year with oil above $90 per barrel, I would say I nailed all of those.

For this year’s list, don’t get too hung up on the relative rankings. They are mostly subjective, but I think we would have fairly broad agreement on the top story.

1. Deepwater Horizon Accident

On April 20, 2010 the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 men working on the rig and injuring 17 others. Because of the depth of the rig, there was no easy way to cap it and it gushed oil until it was finally capped three months later on July 15th. In the interim, the leak released almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. In fact, not only was this my top energy story of the year, according to a poll of AP writers and editors it was the top news story period.

2. The Deepwater Horizon Fallout

While the accident itself was the biggest story, there was much fallout from the incident that will continue to be felt for years. Just three weeks before the incident, President Obama had proposed to open up vast new areas off the Atlantic coast, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the north coast of Alaska. Governor Schwarzeneggar was pushing for offshore oil drilling near Santa Barbara County. There was a great deal of momentum that promised to greatly expand the areas available for offshore production. In the wake of the disaster, the debate shifted sharply. President Obama canceled a planned August offshore drilling lease sale in the Western Gulf and off the coast of Virginia, citing that his “eyes had been opened” to the risks of offshore drilling. The administration also put a temporary deepwater drilling ban in place until additional safety reviews could take place. Governor Schwarzeneggar dropped his plans, citing the spill as evidence that offshore drilling still poses too great a risk.

But there were far-reaching impacts in other areas. BP began to sell off assets, raising $10 billion to pay claims of those impacted by the spill. BP CEO Tony Hayward — after a series of gaffes — stepped down from the helm of BP. Around the area affected by the spill, people lost jobs, particularly in the fishing and tourism industries. The long-term environmental impact remains uncertain, with some groups claiming the area has recovered, and others stating that it will be years before the full environmental impact can be determined.

3. China Becomes World’s Top Energy Consumer

For more than a century, the United States has been the world’s top consumer of energy. In 2010, China surpassed the U.S. in total energy consumption. If not for the Deepwater Horizon accident, this would have easily been my #1 story. As I said last year, I believe that China will be the single-biggest driver of oil prices over at least the next 5-10 years.

4. Matt Simmons Dies

On October 8th, I came into my office to the shocking news that Matt Simmons, Peak Oil guru and author of the book Twilight in the Desert, had died. Matt was an important voice on the topic of peak oil, preaching about the dangers of peak oil everywhere he went. I discussed the impact that Matt’s book had on me here. Were it not for his tragic passing, the energy world would now be discussing the results of the famous Simmons-Tierney bet, which would have been settled following the last day of 2010. Tierney just discussed the results of the bet in a New York Times column: Economic Optimism? Yes, I’ll Take That Bet.

5. Oil Prices Back Above $90

One of my predictions for this year was that there would be little relief from oil prices, and that this would make economic recovery from the recession very difficult. Indeed, oil prices traded for most of the year in the $75-$85 range, but by year end broke above $90.

6. Ethanol

Ethanol policy was in the news all year long. There was a long and contentious debate on extension of the ethanol tax credits and import tariffs, but the ethanol industry once more got what they wanted when their tax credits and protective tariffs were extended for another year. The EPA made a decision that E15 could be used in newer vehicles, but it isn’t expected to have much impact as few retailers seem willing to risk the legal exposure of someone putting E15 into the wrong car and damaging it. Cellulosic ethanol mandates were twice rolled back during the year when projected production fell far short of the mandate. The initial mandate called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, but actual qualifying production year to date has been zero.

7. Electric Cars Start Rolling Off Assembly Lines

Electric cars were a hot news item throughout 2010. By year’s end, both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf began to be delivered to customers. At $41,000 and $33,000 respectively, it will be interesting to see whether the market embraces these cars.

8. Russian Crude Output Climbs

Russian crude oil output continued its post-Soviet climb, eclipsing last year’s record production rate. Production for 2010 for crude oil plus condensate was just under 10 million barrels per day. Other countries that were in the news during the year for either increasing output or having very good prospects were Columbia, Iraq, and Uganda. At the other end of the spectrum was Venezuela, where mismanagement has continued to run their oil industry into the ground. While the Venezuelan government has denied the problems, the recent release of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables detailed their troubles.

9. Militaries Acknowledge Peak Oil Threat

Sailors assigned to Riverine Group 1 conduct maneuvers aboard Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X) at Naval Station Norfolk. The RCB-X is powered by an alternative fuel blend of 50 percent algae-based and 50 percent NATO F-76 fuels. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory N. Juday/Released)

There were two major military-related stories on peak oil in 2010. First, the US Joint Forces Command issued a report (story here) that warned of the potential for a 10 million barrel per day shortfall of oil by 2015. Then, in late summer a study on peak oil by a German military think tank was leaked on the Internet. I reported on the translated highlights, which included warnings of the potential for regional shortages, market failures, and a shift in political power toward those capable of exporting oil.

Part of the U.S. military’s response to the threat of Peak Oil has been to carry out a number of initiatives around biofuels and improved energy efficiency. In an interview with Tom Hicks, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Navy for Energy (Link to: Part I, Part II, Part III), he explained that the intent was that by 2012 the navy would put a carrier strike group in local operations entirely on alternative fuels and then in 2016 deploy that strike group on all alternative fuels. By 2020, the goal is that 50% of all of the Navy’s energy consumption will come from alternative sources.

10. The IEA Recognized Peak Oil

In their World Energy Outlook 2010, the International Energy Agency stated that it was possible that conventional oil “never regains its all-time peak of 70 million barrels per day reached in 2006.” However, they did not foresee this as a problem, as they believe natural gas, deep water drilling, and oil sands will avert a supply crunch.

Predictions for 2011

As for predictions for 2011′s top stories, I believe high oil prices will continue to put a strain on the economies of oil-importing nations. I expect that we will see oil prices once again head above $100 per barrel, although I expect the annual average for 2011 to be below $100 because of sluggish economies. I also expect that the bills are going to start coming due for some of the high profile ‘next generation’ biofuel producers, and that we will see bankruptcies from some of the companies I have discussed in this column. Some of them — probably most of them — do not have a sustainable business model, and the length of time they will be able to avoid bankruptcy is going to be solely dependent on how much cash they can manage to get infused into their operations.

  1. By Rufus on December 29, 2010 at 9:05 am

    My Prediction: We will be back to $3.50/gasoline by Summer, and we will be starting back into Recession by year-end.

    A relatively unremarked upon happening this year was an enormous amount (perhaps as much as 150 Million Barrels) of oil brought “Onshore.” And, we still ended up with $91.00 Oil.

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  2. By Walt on December 29, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I predict a small group of congressman and senators will be lobbied and bribed to go to war with Iran and Syria, after some further battles get attention in Asia.  This will change the price of oil as market forces push it higher, and refiners who are not integrated worldwide feel the pressure to considate and/or seek bankruptcy.  The Fed will loan more digital dollars to central banks and the US Treasury/taxpayer to fund the war while lobbiest clean up waiting for massive paydays as a return on the corruption promises.  More tax incentives will removed from the lower/middle class, and distributed to those who can minipulate the system to take bonuses on wall street.  Judges will continue to work around investigations, and jail anyone (like what I saw last night with Dr. Fine) who challenges the flow of money under the premise that politicians should not be the only one’s who can double dip with all this paper floating around…they work just as hard or harder!

    It is a bit negative, but 2010 certainly has awoke me to the massive corruption I thought only existed in Russia, China and Nigeria.  Nope, being in the energy business now for 20 years and working/traveling in almost 40 countries, I will not make that foolish mistake again.  I predict massive, and I mean massive, fraud, abuse, corruption and deception coming out of Washington, New York and LA with a band of lobbyiest and bankers leading the charge. War is a wonderful thing for managing economies, and as they say…there is nothing new under the sun.

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  3. By Wendell Mercantile on December 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    My Prediction: We will be back to $3.50/gasoline by Summer…

    Rufus~

    If that happens, corn ethanol should still be selling for considerably less, right? But I bet Big Ag and the corn ethanol lobby will keep the price of ethanol going up in step with gasoline. That’s what they did in 2008, and they’re smacking their lips just waiting to do it again.

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  4. By Benny BND Cole on December 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Excellent list of stories by my fave energy blogger, RR.
    Might have wished to see something on natural gas in the line-up, it seems to be becoming a more-important fuel everyday. Sheesh, you got a used car CNG lot already in Oklahoma.
    Also, I am deeply dubious about the “military sees Peak Oil threat”–have you ever known a military to study a situation and decide there is no threat? Sadly enough, militaries globally are in the business of hyping threats. That is how they get funding.

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  5. By Kit P on December 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Here is DOE’s 2010 list.

    “The Department of Energy was allocated $32.7 billion in grant authority under the Recovery Act.  By September 30 of this year, we had obligated 100% of that funding.”

    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wi…..plishments

     

    I have always been very impressed with DOE’s ability to spend taxpayer dollars. Some projects are good investments but many are just boondoggles. The proof is in the results. If in 2020 5% of US POVs are BEVs, good job DOE.

    “These auto loan projects will save approximately 282 million gallons of petroleum annually – roughly the same as removing almost 500,000 cars from the road. These loans are supporting three of the world’s first electric car factories in Delaware, Tennessee and California.”

     

    So far, BEV are MIA and PHEV are DOA.

     

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  6. By Rufus on December 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    282,000,000 gallons, annually, huh?

    Let’s see; a couple of weeks ago we produced 940,000 Barrels/Day of Ethanol. That would be 14,410,000,000 Gallons, annually. Multiply by 0.80, and it looks like we’re replacing approx. Eleven Billion, Five Hundred and twenty eight Million gallons of gasoline as we speak. Today.

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  7. By Kit P on December 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Today

    What are you saying Rufus? It is better to do something today, than take credit for what you are going to tomorrow. Since I work in the electricity generating I am a big advocate of BEVs. However, wishing for something and getting it are two different things.

    Duke Energy says all its new vehicles will be electric by 2020.

    http://www.duke-energy.com/plu…..efault.asp

     

     

    Today

     

    What
    are you saying Rufus? It is better to do something today, than take
    credit for what you are going to tomorrow. Since I work in the
    electricity generating I am a big advocate of BEVs. However, wishing
    for something and getting it are two different things.

    Duke
    Energy says all its new vehicles will be electric by 2020.

    http://www.duke-energy.com/plu…..efault.asp

     

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  8. By Rufus on December 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Well, good luck, to’em.

    I think in a couple of years I’m going to be looking for something that gets around 40 mpg, on E85. I can’t seem to make the “battery cars” pencil out, for me.

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  9. By rrapier on December 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Might have wished to see something on natural gas in the line-up, it seems to be becoming a more-important fuel everyday.

    It was on the short list, Benny. One of those hard to cut stories, but it was #2 on my list last year.

    RR

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  10. By Kit P on December 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Pickens
    Scam RIP

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  11. By Walt on December 29, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories…..4381.shtml
    $5 a Gallon Gas on Way, Ex-Big Oil Exec Says
    Former Shell Oil President Predicts that Much Pain at Pump in 2012, with Little Relief Likely

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  12. By Optimist on December 30, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Why so negative on the military, Benny?

    As I see it, the military is taking a very realistic approach, and may well end up only spending money on fuels that could actually deliver. In stark contrast to the prostitutians in Washington, DC.

    The difference being that when the military pursues foolish options, soldiers pay the ultimate price. When prostitutians pursue foolish options, not only do they get re-elected, their re-election campaign gets funded by grateful lobbyists…

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  13. By Benny BND Cole on December 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Optimist:
    The Pentagon is a federal agency, a bureaucracy, like all, deeply interested in its own survival and prosperity. We know spend more on national “defense” than at the height of the Cold War. Let’s refresh the threat then: the Soviets had 4 million men in uniform, a blue-water navy, 10,000 ICBMs, a KGB, supersonic Air Force, and were producing 2,000 tanks per year. That was the given reason we were spending trillions on defense. The Soviets collapsed, and we still spend trillions on defense.
    Now, we face some guys using cell phones and homemade bombs, who pose no military threat to the US. And we spend more now than then.
    The military bureaucracy is looking for “stories” to sell to the public, of dire threats. They will co-opt the Peak Oil story and use it to spend more money. Your money.

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  14. By Kit P on December 31, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    “Your money.”

     

    I think the money is pretty well spent Benny but I am willing to discuss what part of the modest 4% of GDP that you would like to cut. About the same as Russia and China! The United States is the dominate world military power. Who would you prefer to see in that role? Germany or Japan maybe? We have agreed to defend Germany and Japan so that they do not need a large military. Remember lat time Germany and Japan had a large military?

    Tell me you do not think that Russia poses not military threat to its neighbors? Tell me you do not think China would not invade Taiwan if they could? Tell me you do not think that North Korea would not roll south again if they could get away with it? Tell me you do not think North Korea would not sink ships in US harbors if they could?

    “we face some guys using cell phones and homemade bombs, who pose no military threat to the US.”

    That is what most thought before 9/11 when 3000 people were killed in the US. It would appear to be unwise to allow terrorists to openly train in countries that provide a safe haven. When it is the foreign policy of a country to encourage such attacks on the US we have 10 super nuclear power carriers and ten more smaller amphibious assault carriers will show up to change that policy.

    Such ships are also handy if you have a natural disaster such as a earth quakes or floods. They just show up ready to help.

    “The military bureaucracy is looking for “stories” to sell to the public, of dire threats.”

     

    I did not hear any dire threats Benny mentioned Benny by those who serve our country. Are you maybe think about unethical reporting of journalists who only serve there agenda? Of course that agenda is selling papers.

     

    So Benny if you could find something specific, let me know.

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  15. By russ-finley on December 31, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Great article. I was hoping to see the Leaf listed. Keep in mind, the Volt is not an electric car. It is just marketed as one. It is a plug-in hybrid. Big difference there.

    Just an hour ago I drove past a gas station and noted that all grades were above $3.25 a gallon …gave me a little shiver.

    Benny said:

    The military bureaucracy is looking for “stories” to sell to the public,  dire threats. They will co-opt the Peak Oil story and use it to spend more money. Your money.

    Benny, did you catch Friedman’s latest article, The U.S.S. Prius ?

    He used the word out-green five times. It’s officially a new word and I think he’s trying to lay claim to it ; )

    See my article on the subject:

    A New Verb is Born — Out-green

    I seriously doubt that the Taliban could give a rat’s ass about out-greening anybody. Here’s an article where Bryce fisk’s Friedman’s piece.

     

     

     

     

     

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  16. By Benny BND Cole on January 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Russ-

    I am happy if the military figures out how to use much less fuel.

    I am unhappy that we accept an argument that a Department of Defense/VA/State Department complex can consume 5 percent of GDP in a world of declining risks, and a domestic economy that is 150 percent larger than 20 years ago.

    How about 2.5 percent of GDP? That would still leave real spending larger than 20 years ago.

    In the private sector, goods and services get better and cheaper all the time. Compare your TV vs the one I grew up with–I had tubes, b/w screen, and was very expensive to buy. We actually used to take family TV’s to TV repair shops. so expensive was the cost of a new one.

    In contrast, military hardware and services just become more expensive all the time. There is no price signal and competition.

    We have to top down the solution. We need to hire a private sector firm to devise a plan to defend our shores at 1 percent of GDP. See what they come up with, and how compelling are their arguments. I suspect it can be done, but will require a few sacred cows get gored.

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  17. By russ-finley on January 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Benny BND Cole said:

    I am unhappy that we accept an argument that a Department of Defense/VA/State Department complex can consume 5 percent of GDP in a world of declining risks, and a domestic economy that is 150 percent larger than 20 years ago.


     

    I agree. Excessive military spending is a very poor use of government funding. We have a recent real world experiment to fall back on called the USSR. The debate boils down to the definition of excessive.

    One thing is for sure, the military industrial complex will never stop seeking more funding. It has to be held in check by the civilian government that constitutionally controls it. It will never take its hand out of the cookie jar voluntarily.

     

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  18. By Kit P on January 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I
    am happy if the military figures out how to use much less fuel. ”

     

    Benny
    I would be happy if you used less fuel. May we could ration your
    energy use based on your contribution to society. It will make the air cleaner for your neighbors.

     


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  19. By PeteS on January 1, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Kit P,

    Maybe we could ration your internet use based on your contribution to society.

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  20. By Kit P on January 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    “Maybe we ..”

     

    What do you mean ‘we’? Perhaps PeteS have heard the expression ‘you and whose army?’.

     

    That is kind if the point. Benny lives in a country where journalists are not afraid to be very critical of the military. Journalists have a historic role that includes freedom of the press. Freedom of speech is also the right and responsibility of each US citizen. There is no qualifier or contribution that is required to exercise that right.

     

    The cost of liberty is not cheap. It requires a strong national defense.

     

    Benny has also stated that he has the right to clean air and others to not have the right to pollute his air.

     

    Benny is pretty long on demanding rights and pretty short on details about who has the responsibility to maintain those rights. Not him for sure.

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  21. By Benny BND Cole on January 3, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    In 1997, then US Secy of Defense William Cohen said, “Others are engaging even in an eco- type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.
    So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It’s real, and that’s the reason why we have to intensify our efforts, and that’s why this is so important.”

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  22. By carbonbridge on January 3, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    Just an hour ago I drove past a gas station and noted that all grades were above $3.25 a gallon …gave me a little shiver.


     

    Russ:  Gasoline in the Hawaiian Islands is presently selling for $3.99/gallon.  I guess the price of petrol is perceived from the ‘home body’ perspective where in Denver it is selling in the $2.65 to $2.79 range.  Gasoline currently costs more than $3.25/gal in Canada and significantly more in western Europe. 

    My own New Year’s prediction would be to see crude oil prices continue to rise again this year and re-link similar scenarios which brought upon this current 2-yr.+ recession.  I still have not witnessed any significant recovery to the current economic climate despite televised reports of increased consumer spending for highly discounted items at Christmas.  Recently I have been networking throughout western Montana where the unemployment tops 15% and underemployment is at 30% or greater rates.

    Two years ago a drug store owner in Hamilton, Montana, could not find clerks to work in his shop for $12-$15 per hour.  Today, same druggist has over 600 non-solicited resumes on file from people now willing to clerk at minimum wages.  $4 or $5 gasoline prevents any economic recovery.  I think we all might agree on this…

    My genuine hope to one and all is for a beneficial, safe and productive 2011.

    –Mark

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  23. By Kit P on January 3, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    “So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It’s real, and that’s the reason why we have to intensify our efforts, and that’s why this is so important.”

     

    Benny do you think you should provide a link? Benny do you think that when ‘dire’ warnings are not headed but later turn out to be prophetic that it does not support your argument?

    “Secretary of Defense William Cohen at an April 1997 counterterrorism conference sponsored by former Senator Sam Nunn. Quoted from DoD News Briefing, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Q&A at the Conference on Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy, University of Georgia, Athens, Apr. 28, 1997.”

    http://www.thebigwobble.com/20…..t-off.html

     

    When I was in the navy I complained about getting a small pox vaccine although it had been eradicated Older and wiser I now know that vaccinating everyone deployed to the Mediterranean takes that biological weapon off the table.

    Again Benny tell me a line item in the budget that you would eliminate.

     

     

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  24. By Benny BND Cole on January 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Kit-

    I would sunset the entire military, start fresh.

    Hire a private sector group to devise a plan to protect our shores at 2 percent of GDP, and then plan to cut that level of spending in annual increments. Frankly, with a fleet of hunter-killer subs and ballastic subs, we would be safe, probably at a cost of $50 billion a year.

    We could still mobilize if a bona fide threat merged. People forget that America used to demobilize between wars. We even demobilized after the Revolutionary War, and having foreign troops on our soil, so much did our Founding fathers detest standing militaries. George Mason refused to sign the Constitution as it did not flatly declare a ban on standing militaries.
    We demobilized after WWII, almost completely.
    The idea of a permanently mobilized military is in fact anti-American, and not part of our national tradition. It is a bureaucratic wet dream, however.

    In the private sector, they do more with less every year. That should be the goal of all public agencies too.

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  25. By moiety on January 5, 2011 at 3:18 am

    CarbonBridge said:

     

    Russ:  Gasoline in the Hawaiian Islands is presently selling for $3.99/gallon.  I guess the price of petrol is perceived from the ‘home body’ perspective where in Denver it is selling in the $2.65 to $2.79 range.  Gasoline currently costs more than $3.25/gal in Canada and significantly more in western Europe. 


     

    From Europe just for comparison

    http://www.aaireland.ie/AA/Mot…..rices.aspx

    The Netherlands trading at the pump for ~ $7.75 per gallon.

     

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  26. By savro on January 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    7. Electric Cars Start Rolling Off Assembly Lines

    Electric cars were a hot news item throughout 2010. By year’s end, both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf began to be delivered to customers. At $41,000 and $33,000 respectively, it will be interesting to see whether the market embraces these cars.


    On that note:

     

    GM’s Chevy Volt named 2011 Car of the Year

    DETROIT — The Chevrolet Volt plug-in
    electric car, the centerpiece of General Motors’ comeback, was named
    2011 North American Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show Monday.

    The Volt, which already won the 2011 Green Car of the Year and Motor
    Trend Magazine’s Car of the Year, edged out the Nissan Leaf and the
    Hyundai Sonata to win the award.

    Ford Motor Co’s latest incarnation of its Explorer sport utility
    vehicle was named 2011 Truck of the Year, edging out the Jeep Grand
    Cherokee and the Dodge Durango.

    It was the third year in a row that Ford claimed the truck award.

    Forty-nine auto journalists from the U.S. and Canada made the picks.
    The vehicles are judged on innovation, design, safety, handling, driver
    satisfaction and value.

    Awards are often used by automakers in advertising.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40…..ess-autos/

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  27. By Kit P on January 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Previous GM ‘Motor Trend Magazine’s car of the year’ awards.

     

    • Cadillac CTS
    • Corvette
    • Malibu
    • Citation
    • Vega
    • Corvair

     

    Except for the 68′ GTO there is not reason to think automobile journalists at Motor Trend will ever figure out what a good car is when measured a few years later. The closest I cam to a 68 goat was a buddy that I car pooled with in the navy. My first rice burner was a 12 year old Toyota Corona. The ugly duckling was economical and reliable.

     

    When the public has embraced ‘Motor Trend Magazine’s car of the year’ it has not matter very much in the long run because styling and gimmicks does not result in repeat buyers.

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  28. By Albert Z. K. Sanders on January 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Dear Mr. Rapier:

    Your review of 2010 energy developments concluded with predictions for 2011. However, you concentrated on biofuels, which although obviously terribly important, do not have the potential to supply (as I recall) over 50% of the earth’s requirements. And they come in small, widely-separated units requiring much overhead due to individual attention. So what is left? Just solar and its derivatives like wind. Wind, by its nature, also comes in small, widely-separated units like biofuel. Only solar comes in large, utility-grade units. And only concentrating solar power (CSP) at that. Only CSP lends itself to thousands of tracking mirrors aimed (without miles of pipe containing low-temperature oil) at a central water boiler (atop a “power tower” raising steam at standard modern temperature and pressure).

    This arrangement lends itself to the economical generation of electricity. And this in turn leads to the economical electrolysis of water. (GE announced recently equipment of low capital cost that makes possible hydrogen costing only $3 per kilogram. Electricity cost of $.05 per kWh is assumed, which, without transmission, may be realistic. Presumably there is no cost assumed for the water.)

    What excites me about all this is that if the above elements are located adjacent to a power or cement plant emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide, it could be reacted with the hydrogen to produce methanol. “Two birds could be killed with one stone.” All the carbon dioxide would be eliminated (which is perhaps THE engineering problem of our age) plus creating methanol, a liquid fuel for transportation (another huge contemporary problem).

    All the above is introductory to my question to you: what is the estimated eventual per gallon cost of reacting hydrogen with carbon dioxide to produce methanol? If you can answer this question, also add the estimated capital cost of the reactor alone based on the capacity of a 100-mW CSP electric generator. It would be helpful if you could indicate the reaction equation and whether the method is in general use or not.

    If you can’t help me, can you point me in the direction of someone who can?

    I know I’m asking a lot but my impression is that your specialty is chemical engineering, so perhaps you can supply the information without spending too much time on it.

    In any case, thanks a lot!

    I have enjoyed reading your columns for some time now.

    Albert Z. K. Sanders

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  29. By Kit P on January 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Biomass is concentrating solar power and storage (CSPS). Plants concentrates the sun’s energy and store it for later.

     

    “100-mW CSP electric generator”

     

    The CSP makes electricity that somewhat matches peak demand during the summer. However, if you are producing hydrogen to feed to another capital intensive process you want it to run 24/7.

     

     

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  30. By Richard Tuberville on March 12, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Mr. Rapier–impressed with your coverage of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. As a 20-year offshore vetran, I was an Offshore drilling Supt. and carried a US Coastguard Master Seaman License (unlimited tonnage). You would be intreagued to investigate the change that allowed a vessel with a MODU (Mobile offshore drilling Unit) certificate vs a US Flagged vessel. US FLagged Vessels must meet US Coast Guard Inspection requirements. MODU requirements are laughable.

    Thanks–keep digging you are nearing the truth.

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  31. By Kit P on March 12, 2011 at 11:10 am

    “US FLagged Vessels must meet US Coast Guard Inspection requirements. MODU requirements are laughable.”

     

    Richard have you read the the DEEPWATER report? It sound like you are in agree with at least that aspect.

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