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By Robert Rapier on Aug 19, 2016 with 5 responses

U.S. Gasoline Demand Surges To New Record

In last month’s Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that it now expects record U.S. gasoline consumption this year:

Motor gasoline consumption is forecast to increase by 130,000 b/d (1.5%) to 9.29 million b/d in 2016, which would make it the highest annual average gasoline consumption on record, beating the previous record set in 2007 by 0.1%. The increase in gasoline consumption reflects a forecast 2.5% increase in highway travel (because of employment growth and lower retail gasoline prices) that is partially offset by increases in vehicle fleet fuel economy.

This projected increase follows several years of lower gasoline demand that resulted from persistently rising gasoline prices over the past decade. From 2002 to 2012 the average retail price of gasoline rose nearly every year, from an annual average of $1.39/gal in 2002 to $3.68/gal in 2012. Consumers responded to these higher prices in multiple ways, which cumulatively led to falling gasoline demand. Some even suggested that U.S. gasoline demand had permanently peaked, as a result of more fuel efficient vehicles and increasing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). We can now say those predictions were premature. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on with 5 responses

Is The Tesla Model X The Hummer Of Electric Cars?

Tesla catches fire in France

Tesla catches fire in France

Another Tesla goes up in smoke. I’ve written about some of the other incidents here and here.

When I built my electric bicycle back in 2007, I had been waiting for a battery that was less volatile than what had been available. I didn’t want to risk having a fireball under my seat. Tesla traded volatility for power density.

I think electric cars are great for all kinds of reasons, which is why I bought one in 2011. But like any car, they are not created equal, and as marketers begin the process of differentiating them to get us to buy them, that inequality will grow and diversify as it has for conventional cars. And for any fellow electric car enthusiasts out there who think electric cars are going to make a significant dent in carbon emissions in the foreseeable future, read Robert Rapier’s article on that subject. Even a strongly biased study by the UCS shows that electric cars, on average, presently produce about half of the emissions of conventional cars in a cradle-to-grave analysis. Eliminating fossil fuels instead of nuclear from our energy mix will improve that over time. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Aug 7, 2016 with 3 responses

First Annual Clean Energy Forum at the Columbia (nuclear power) Generating Station

I was recently invited to attend the first annual Clean Energy Forum, hosted by Energy Northwest in Richland, Washington, which included a tour of the Columbia Generating station.

The Tour

We were greeted at the security gate by three polite security guards who inspected the bus and checked our photo IDs against a list. This level of security isn’t unique to nuclear power stations. You would have to go through a similar procedure to take a tour of Hoover dam. We also had to leave our cell phones on the bus (which would also be the case should you ever get the chance to take the highly recommended Boeing, Everett factory tour). CONTINUE»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 29, 2016 with 261 responses

Why I Am Skeptical Of Electric Vehicles

Before you start furiously typing out a retort, hear me out. First, I want to make it clear what I am not skeptical about. I am not skeptical about electric vehicles (EVs) continuing to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. Indeed, I believe that will happen — although growth has slowed in the U.S. in recent years.

I am also not skeptical over the fact that EVs make sense for many people. Indeed, I would buy one myself if I could justify it economically. I have only put about 5,000 miles on my car in the past 2 years, so it’s hard to justify any sort of premium that could be paid off by fuel savings.

I am also not skeptical that EVs will get cheaper, and that improvements in batteries will extend their range. I believe tomorrow’s EV will be much better than today’s.

So far, so good. On these three points, I am on the same page with the most rabid EV enthusiast. But I am extremely skeptical about one thing. CONTINUE»

By Elias Hinckley on Jul 27, 2016 with 2 responses

Opening The Floodgates On Clean Energy Deployment In The U.S.

The biggest constraint to renewable energy growth in the US is the availability of tax equity to support project investment. There is not nearly as much tax equity investment as is needed to support financing and building all of the renewable energy projects in development – as a result the pace of project financing and construction is being severely constrained. Many new investors will begin to enter this tax equity investment space in pursuit of outsized returns with virtually no risk created by a significantly undersupplied investment market. These new tax investors will usher in a period of unprecedented growth in the construction of renewable energy projects.

The Strange Market of Tax Equity Investing

Investment in renewable energy comes from three sources. (1) Project Equity –the investment that actually owns the clean energy facility, this includes the risk of operation and the long-term value of the asset, and there are plenty of investors willing to participate as part of (or all of) this investment. (2) Debt – this is generally traditional project equity lending, and as with project equity there are plenty of lenders – big banks, small banks, private debt funds – ready to lend to all kinds of renewable energy projects. For these traditional sources of project financing project risks are increasingly well understood and, provided there is enough project revenue to cover debt repayment, this money is readily available. (3) Tax Equity – this third, and vital source of capital are investments made in the project that will be repaid primarily through tax credits and other tax savings to the tax equity investor. There simply is not currently enough tax equity to support the pace of growth in renewable power development in the U.S. CONTINUE»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 11, 2016 with 3 responses

Midyear Prediction Check

In January of this year, as I do every year, I made several energy predictions for the upcoming year. (See My 2016 Energy Predictions). Now that half the year is in the books, I thought it might be a good idea to check in and see how these predictions are tracking.

As a reminder, I strive to make predictions that are specific, measurable, and preferably actionable. If forecasts are broad and vague, one can almost always declare victory. I would also remind readers that my predictions are based on what I believe will happen, which isn’t the same thing as predicting what I want to happen. My desire for a particular outcome has absolutely no bearing on a prediction. I am simply trying to accurately gauge the most likely outcome.

Here are the predictions, along with an update through the first half of the year. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 25, 2016 with 27 responses

Did Climate Change Drive the Bramble Cay Melomys to Extinction? Probably

Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola)
Credit Ian Bell/Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

Melomys Rubicola has been declared extinct. Had it been something like a fuzzy koala or panda instead of a rat, the world might have taken more notice, but maybe not. A Google search on the topic goes over 20 pages deep. This seems to have struck a nerve.

It’s possible that an undiscovered genetically identical population exists somewhere else. It’s not unheard of for a species declared extinct to show up again. But if it has been on that tiny island off the coast of Papua New Guinea long enough for speciation to occur, then it is extinct because to repopulate someplace else a pregnant female would have needed to leave the island and establish itself elsewhere, and that is extremely unlikely.

There have been some dubious claims of extinctions caused by climate change, as one would expect, and I’m sure there will be many more. But little by little, the real extinctions will arrive. CONTINUE»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 19, 2016 with 19 responses

Highlights Of The 2016 BP Statistical Review

Each year in June two very important reports are released that provide a comprehensive view of the global energy markets. The highlight of the recently-released Renewables 2016 Global Status Report (GSR) was that the world’s renewable energy production has never been higher. But the biggest takeaway from this year’s newly-released BP Statistical Review may be that the world’s fossil fuel consumption has also never been higher.

Demand for crude oil set a new all time-high in 2015. Despite all the hype about electric vehicles and peak oil demand, the world’s oil demand continues to grow unabated — growing a robust 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) from 2014 (+1.9% year-over-year).

Global Crude Demand

CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Jun 12, 2016 with 4 responses

Nuclear Energy Waste–Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

Contrary to what you read in the lay press, nuclear energy is starting to make major headway around the world with a plethora of new technologies (and attendant potential investment opportunities) on the horizon.

10 New Nuclear Power Reactors Connected To Grid In 2015, Highest Since 1990

Obama is seeking $10.25 billion to expand research for development of nuclear reactors, clean-vehicle technologies, and energy storage.

The International Energy Outlook 2016 report predicts nuclear will be the single largest low carbon source of electricity by 2040.

Nuclear is currently the biggest contributor to the mighty low-carbon energy quatuor: nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. CONTINUE»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 8, 2016 with 9 responses

2015 Was A Record Year For Renewables

The recently-released Renewables 2016 Global Status Report shows that renewables had a record year in 2015, but it wasn’t enough to make a dent in global fossil fuel consumption, which also set new records for consumption.