E-85

6:21 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Just to get that out of the alcohol stove thread, I figured I'd start this very OT-for-this-forum thread. Maybe that's not totally accurate, as Exxon would need to buy up all the wilderness so they could plant corn. We wouldn't want any of the Big 3 to lose their monopoly on something that has become such a necessity in America. 'Course, we the people here in USA, are to blame for that.

Unfortunately, the facts about most everything we hear anymore has the 'yes, but' addendum to it. Or the debate about what is correct as far as truth when two people (ususally politicians) talk about a particular thing.

I have heard, mind you my chemical knowledge is pretty ancient, that E85 is the solution to this country's (America) automotive fuel needs. YES, BUT I have also heard it costs more to make the E85, thus offsetting any advantage to using it.

It would be really beautiful if sometime, somewhere, someone would come out with definitive knowledge about something that the people could just say "oh, yeah, that makes sense" after hearing it.

 

Sorry, but in my old age, I get talkative and really would like to see us turn this world around. It's a mess. And most people never even know it unless they get out and smell the smells, and see the sights, and hear the sounds, that are just there and not manufactured.

Blackbeard

6:24 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote
I have heard, mind you my chemical knowledge is pretty ancient, that E85 is the solution to this country's (America) automotive fuel needs. YES, BUT I have also heard it costs more to make the E85, thus offsetting any advantage to using it.
/Quote

That should have been:
it costs more in resources to make the E85.

I'm really getting tired of stepping up on this soapbox. But it's good exercise and helps with my walking.

Blackbeard

7:04 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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I dont think that anyone really feels that the E-85 is the worlds solution to ween us off petro fuels. But more of a choice. If you have alternative fuels, it more often than not creates a less of a monopoly of the petro companies. It would surely take more the just E-85 to fix Americas petro problems. I just seen on the news last night that milk is going up due to the fact that the feed for the cattle is going up due to the Ethonal plants coming up on line.

7:49 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD wrote: "If you have alternative fuels, it more often than not creates a less of a monopoly of the petro companies." - one would think so - however - I understand that oil companies are "investing" in land - lots of it - with ready water supplies. One would almost think they were going to give agriculture a shot.

In order to supply the American trucking fleets with enough bio-diesel to run you'd need a field the size of Florida - dedicated just to growing a crop for vehicular consumption.

When you start to calculate the acres per ton of fuel (processed) it gets serious. Corn isn't at all dense, sawgrass is a bit better, both require lots of water (which is the really critical emerging shortage in the world, not gas - you can live without a car - you cannot live without water) - they've found algae that has over 10X the energy potential of corn or sawgrass AND is much more dense AND requires very little tending - time will tell.

Eventually the reality of the situation will sink in - hybrids, E85, BioDiesel aren't the answer - a lifestyle adaptation is - and that begins with the propogation of an effective public transportation system, the re-concentration of people to urban centers and the redefinition of personal transporation from an F350 4WD to a bicycle.

It wouldn't be easy at first - but in the end we'd be a lot healthier - and so will the environment - and life in general - if not for oil we wouldn't be at war in the Middle East - so consider it a change for the greater good -

Please consider the soapbox to have been vacated - next ?

Peace

Steve

9:22 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote
"Eventually the reality of the situation will sink in - hybrids, E85, BioDiesel aren't the answer - a lifestyle adaptation is - and that begins with the propogation of an effective public transportation system, the re-concentration of people to urban centers and the redefinition of personal transporation from an F350 4WD to a bicycle".

I agree w/Steve I really like the Idea of an urban center.
But getting back to the E-85 and I'm far far from an expert or even having above average knowlege on the subject. It seems to me that E-85 is more of a solution to deal with dependency on forign oil. It does not adress the in my opinion bigger problems. For example Carbon and other nasty emisions, The constant widing and adding of roads to make room for more cars. Where does all that concrete come from? Even just those Center of the road diveders think of all the concrete that those things use. Some where there is a giant hole in the earth.

I see solar, and wind as small part of the solution powering hybrid and electric cars. But our lifestyles need to change. We do need urban centers. My city (Jacksonville Fl) is one Giant sprawling mess. Everybody drives because the bus system is very poor and everything is so spread out. I'd ride a train or light rail to work if there was one. I think I'm going to ride My bike today though. This lifestyle change has to start somewhere.

10:35 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Jeffrey -

I live 60 miles from where I work - there's a rail line that pretty much runs between the two - but to commute by rail I'd have to hop a freight - there are no "people" trains. Quite a contrast from Philadelphia (where I grew up) - you could get danged near anywhere using SEPTA - which - for all its faults (filthy, occasional rude conductor, often over crowded) I really miss.
From what I've been told, until the late 1950's there were regular train schedules along this route for people - but as the car gained popularity, fueld by 19 cent a gallon gasoline, the commuter trains faded into the past.
My question to the government is - when you look at total per mile cost (including the cost of individuals owning, insuring and operating vehicles, the cost of accident cleanups, the cost of accidents in human terms) how can a highway be cheaper than a rail system?
If you build it, I will ride. And I'll ride my bicycle to the station as well!

Steve

11:14 a.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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I am very lucky. I only live 16.2 miles from work and all of the roads are back roads. I ride my bike almost everyday from March to early November. The guys at the shop thinks I am nuts. But I have a sitting HR of 53 bpm and still do mini and triatlons and durathons and come in the top 10 percent for my age group. I have the best of both worlds, staying fit and saving money by not driving. My car is 1.6 litre small car and it still gets 37 mph with 110,000 miles on it (I drive it about 300 miles per month). The RTA in town here isnt very good and hardly nobody uses it. I dont know how it stays in business. Until there is something revolutionary that comes along, it is going to need to be a diverse mix of alternative fuels or we are going to be kept at bay on paying a large amount of monies for our petro fuels from unfriendly neighbors and greedy corporations.

12:22 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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SteveTheFolkie,

You see my point exactly as I wish I had stated it. I live in West Virginia. I travel 35 miles a day to work. I average 30 mph on this trip. It is all done on 55 mph roads and 70 mph interstate, so that should indicate the deplorable planning that went into the WV interstate system.

We have no bus service, no light rail, no train service, no carpool lanes, and no bike ways on any of my trek to work. And it is only getting worse here.

I really feel that it is going to take some college kid, or group of them, to come up with a non-biased, non-political solution to the energy needs. It can't be associated with the current energy suppliers, and for the sake of the country, the technology will have to be unencumbered by patents, copyrights, and the like. I keep thinking that we will have to adopt some technology such as Inductrack (I just can't believe this has stalled so much), and give up our personal cars, but I don't count on that happening.

The price of everything going up due to corn's role in the making of E85 was no surprise. The new technology will almost have to be distinct and separate from most everything we currently depend on.

Blackbeard

2:31 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Saw E-85 in the Chicago area a few weeks ago while visiting. As I understand it and not that I did any research on it, it costs a little less at the pump, not all vehicles can run it without modifications, you get poorer gas mileage requiring more of it to go the same distance as regular gas, it's supposed to be better for the environment.

We never learned anything from the oil crunch in the 70s did we. 35 years and nothing to show for it.

2:50 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Blackbeard - sounds like your area of WVA is the same as where I live - I've spent three hours driving home (20MPH average speed) - at one point I got passed by an Amish family in their buggy (I kid you not).

Adam - it makes sense that you'd get lower MPG on E85 than gas - alcohol has about half the energy per unit compared to gasoline. The difference between diesel and true bio-diesel (not mixed - pure veggie) is less pronounced. My beef with alcohol for fuel is that, in a world where a significant number of people are starving already, more and more land will be planted to grow for fuel than food - as the fuel crops will likely be more profitable. Add on to that the inevitable genetic modifications they'll make to fuel crops working its way into the food supply - which can't be a good thing.

The tough thing for Americans is - we can't spend or invent our way out of this problem - we're going to have to change the way we live.

Me? I'm going to try working from home - as I work in the tech field it should be OK - although I'll miss the human interaction an office environment provides (then again, when it's nice out, it'll be easier to go out and take a bike ride or hike!) -

By the way - it's nice to see an environmental thread here - I mean - if we ignore the environment and develop ever square inch of land ain't none of us gonna be able to do what we love -

Steve

4:37 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve,

I opened this thread because I feel really dedicated to this anti-E85 sentiment I hope I am projecting. It is no answer at all to any type of environmental problem we have. It probably going to turn out to be just another problem in itself. But in our beloved America, if you say it enough, and have enough lobbyists behind it, it becomes fact. I miss the days when people in this country could put men on the moon with little or nothing more than just the idea that anything was possible. Science and technology has come so far since then, and yet, we seem to be stagnant in developing what we need to solve our problems.

Let me step down again.

Blackbeard

6:10 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Ya know, people talk about E85 as if alcohol fuel were a new idea. But the Indy 500 has been run on alcohol (pure, not the diluted E85 stuff) since very early in its existence. Hey, if it works for 250 mph race cars, it can't be all bad. Then again, Indianapolis is in the middle of the corn-growing belt (or what used to be corn growing before it got subdivided with houses for people who have to commute hundreds of miles a week to work, one occupant per car - hmmm, the Indy 500 racers are single seaters, too, though in the early years, a mechanic used to ride alongside the driver).

8:33 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill,

Let's put a new name on something, and say it enough times, and the American people will take to it like .... well, you know.

Indy cars don't really get that great of a rating for miles/gallon, so how many acres of corn will it take for me to drive that 35 miles at 30 mph, even though I could go 250 mph if that little guy on the cell phone would get out of my way. But I still want one. I wouldn't even need to use my gate card to get in our parking building.

I have a feeling that to solve our energy crisis, people who are truly dedicated to the environment, the real outdoors, and anything else related to the health of our planet, will have to be the ones to invent the answer.

Maybe the people of this forum, with all the knowledge we show we have sometimes, could work on the answer. Just a thought.

Blackbeard

6:47 a.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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The reason that the Indy cars (and other race cars) run on alcohol is that it has a higher octane and produces more power. My wife works at a track owned by Tony Stewart and the fuel in the race cars are measured by laps per gallon.

Granted that the E-85 is not the solution to America's fuel problems, but I do feel that a diversity of alternative fuels along with a change in America's attitude on fuel conservation will help ease our petro consumption. From what I read a article on E-85, it will be able to ease up to 20 percent of our petro needs.

Everyone is complaining about the fuel prices going up, yet just take trip on the interstate and you'll see large SUV's pulling traiers, boats, campers etc. I live fairly close to a large fresh water lake and see so many boats out on the water on weekends. Granted, if you can afford it, but dont complain about 3.50 a gallon of petro. This is not even touching on the enviromental impact from all the emissions, oil, tires etc. being generated from all these "toys".

Until the fuel prices reach a 5 dollar per gallon as in many of the other countries, I think we will continue to see a laxed attitude in America as if we are "owed" low fuel prices. And we will continue to see large gas guzzlers on the highways with just one person in it driving to and from work along with a weak public transportation infrastructure.

As in about anything else such as food, exercise, work and family, its all about moderation and diversity.

7:42 a.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Race cars run alcohol because they can run a higher compression ration (typically 14:1 - normal gas cars probably average 9:1 - old flatheads ran 6.5:1 and diesels are arouned 20:1) - and still reach stratospheric RPM's.

A friend of mine and I built a VW beetle to run on pure alcohol many years ago - ran 14:1 compression - had to helicoil the head studs to keep the cylinder heads from blowing off - managed to keep it alive for a few hundred miles before we broke a connecting rod - it flew - but got about 12MPG - or about half of what a similar gas powered VW would have returned. I was getting the alcohol in bulk from the Engineering department at Drexel U - so I didn't care - but at the time it was about 2X the cost of gasoline per gallon - so it was costing me 4X the money to drive - I was just looking to have the fastest VW on the street -

Personally, I see biodiesel as a better alternative fuel than any blend of alcohol - however - it's still diverting agriculture for food production to fuel production - which in a starving world can't be a good thing. For example, I can see Mugabe in Zimbabwe resurrecting the farms that have fallen into disrepair just to grow fuel crops - and to hell with the starving people of his country -

I see Paris France is staring a "borrow a bike" program to try and reduce congestion - and I think I heard (on the BBC) where Italy is trying to get people to give up their two stroke Vespas in exchange for bicycles -

I belive that the bicycle is the way - it's the most efficient means of transportation yet developed to move a single person over a modest distance - I used to love bicycle commuting (distance and paunch are currently my limiting factors - of course - if I were riding 120 miles a day the paunch would be gone in no time). Yet the bicycle rider and pedestrian are ignored when planning development - no side walks, no bike lanes, no place to lock up a bike - the designs are predicated on personal car ownership.

Think about it though - were we to take the radical step to give up our cars, as a nation (I understand that rural America will find this nearly impossible to do - when you live 90 miles from town riding a bike isn't practical - but most Americans do not live in rural areas) our health care costs would drop, you wouln't have as many overweight folks, stress levels would drop - it could be really nice.

So I agree - alcohol isn't the answer (well, a JD on the rocks now and then ...) - it's got to be a commited life style change. Heck - the main resistance to public transportation used to come from the auto industry - perhaps this is the ideal time to resurrect public trans - get GM and FORD to design the system - give them the contracts to install it - sort of turn the tide on 'em (after all, it was GM who convinced Los Angeles to replace trolley lines with busses in the late 1940's / early 1950's, leading to the car taking over as the model for transportaion!) -

Steve

10:21 a.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote
"the main resistance to public transportation used to come from the auto industry"

I don't know if this is true, but I read the book The fast food nation, and in there it said that the ford motor company perchased and dismantled many of the rail lines in the begining of the 20th centry so there would be a greater need for the automobile!

Quote
get GM and FORD to design the system - give them the contracts to install it - sort of turn the tide on 'em

Steve, I don't know if you were joking but this may be a good Idea. Think about it all the americazn car makers are hurting. Many familys depend on them for an income(including my parrents) this would be a non-competitive solution for them. The companys could change their names General transpotation company ETC

11:26 a.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve, I realize that the race cars are running a higher compression than street cars. Actually around 16:1 in a 2.6 litre putting out 800 hp. But you cant run a higher compression without the octane to back it up for a more complete burn. Alcohol is a higher octane than petro. Also, as Bill stated earlier, its "easier" to fight the fires in the pits than gasoline.

Bio diesels is not the answer either. We are finding that the production is slow and with the new EPA emissions law facing use now with the EGR and PDF (Cat converters) on the class 6-8 tractors this year, the bio diesels are interfering with plugging up the EGR and PDF's. Remember where bio diesels come from. Animal fat, vegetable oils and soy oils. Not wheat or grain stock. There is only so much of these oils to go around. Also the projected forcast just for the tractors/trailers on the road today is going to raise by 50 percent in 10 years. I doubt there will be enough of bio fuels out there for even just the tractor fleets alone.

Moderation and diversity along with the attitudes on how we as Americans see ourselfs. The keeping up with the Jones. The "Whoever has the most toys when they die" wins thinking.

Why would you want to give a monopoly to the big three? They cant properly manage what their core business now. Public transportation needs to be kept public for all who needs it, thus it shouldnt be in a private corp. hands. If it does, you'll see something like our health care system today.

11:46 a.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve,
I don't think there'll be a need to worry about people starving so corn can be used for fuel. The hybrids they have now are putting out ~3x the yield on corn than they did back when I used to keep track of it in the mid 80s(grew up in the corn belt). There's still farm land not farmed since the increase in yield dilluted the the prices. (Farmers recvd govt susbsidies to not gorw to reduce the avaialble product onteh market to increase the unit price) (More product avaialble = less $$$). I'm thinking greater yields are just a matter of fact for the future.

As for concerns re: the hybrid grains, it's a bit too late unless you've been eating home growns for a long time. It does kind of make me wonder about eating corn & soy beans that are RR(Round-up Ready). Ru is supposed to be the more environmentally friendly herbicide (it inerts quickly as I'm told) but still...

12:36 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Adam - 14:1 was about all we could squeeze (pun intended) out of an air cooled VW engine by flycutting the head - plus even at that ratio the connecting rods turned out to be the "fuse" in the system .... you're quite correct - fires are easier to deal with - but harder to see (witness the post-crash driver pointing to his (burning) sleeve and trying to get SOMEONE to squirt an extinguisher on it!) -

Jeffrey - I wasn't kidding about GM and FORD - in spite of their recent failures (brought upon them by their marketing guru's who apparently can't even predict into the past) they have some pretty sharp engineers. They also have some rather sophisticated manufacturing facilities - and it'd be nice to keep those open so as to keep that sector of the work force employed. Obviously you wouldn't want to give them either a blank check nor a monopoly - as the bean counters would likely squander the opportunity.

I see it as a national initiative so common dimensions would be the norm, rather than the exception - it'd keep costs lower if the same engine and cars that worked in Seattle could work in Philadelphia - this could also keep little fiscal black holes from being built in different parts of the country that would absorb money by the bagfull but produce nothing.

As for hybrids - I understand that they're the "norm" in our food supply - however - to provide the greatest gain in stock grown for fuel production I can imagine some undigestible or objectionable hybrids being engineered - the accelerated genetic modifications done in the lab rather than in nature would seem to allow for very objectionable mutations to propogate, where perhaps the slower process of evolution and natural selection would never let them flourish. Hybrids using classical methods are one thing - tinkering with the genetic code and inserting new/original/artificial segments is (in my mind) quite another. I suppose I trust the billions of years of natural evolution better than our rather short lived and often short sighted type.

I also don't see biodiesel as "the" answer - but I do see it as a better alternative than alcohol - if only for the energy density advantage the fuel has.

Note - I'm also not a fan of being involved in an accident with an electric vehicle - all those lead plates and all that acid (or worse still, some of the metal hydride batteries that are wandering into the system) could provide for some rather dramatic fires - plus - the energy has to come from somewhere to recharge them - and in peak periods our grid is already stressed - we'd end up building more nuclear or coal fired power plants to accomodate the increased draw to recharge our vehicles - there is no free lunch (inspite of what the politicians tell us).

We also, somehow, need to stop thinking locally - and stop being so damned greedy when it comes to resources - it may be our doing - it may be a natural cycle - but glaciers - those incredible storage vats for fresh water - are retreating - and the polar ice is forming later and breaking up sooner - if we're going to continue to survive as a species we need to adapt to the changing conditions - in many respects our dependence on technology complicates that adaptation. If it's exacerbating the problem of change then we are, as a species, somewhat responsible to attempt to go neutral and not make things worse.

Hmmm ... maybe that Amish guy with a farm behind where I work who is currently raking hay with a horse drawn rig is right after all ...

Steve

2:30 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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I'm not so sure people wouldn't be deprived of food if corn became the fuel of the future. Maybe not directly being kept from people as food, but similar to today's market where you either eat food without purchasing your prescriptions or eat dog food with your Avapro. You either buy gas at a price that is not planned for by many of the nation's less fortunate to get to work and cut back on food, or eat and call in sick, or something like that. No matter how you look at it, higher costs affect people and their eating habits and choices.

It has not bothered the oil industry one bit to raise the price of oil and make such profits. They are either making a very small amount on each gallon but selling a very large amount of gallons, or making a lot on each gallon but not selling a lot of gallons (remember the distillery problems), or making a lot on a lot of gallons. In almost any other industry, where supply and demand are supposed to dictate prices, the retailer never gets his way in both a short supply market or high supply market. Regardless of what formula they are using, the oil companies are not loosing any money and people are struggling to fill their gas tanks each week due to pricing.

So now consider what would happen when corn begins to fill transportation tanks as fuel. Corn becomes more valuable due to the supply, and you can't grow it in winter, so it is very seasonable. Cattle are now eating a more expensive commodity, so the price of dairy goods and beef must rise. And yes, we are starting to deny food from people at the lower end of the pay scale.

Who would control the price? The farmer who grows the corn, or the manufacturer of the alcohol? What happens if farmers form a cooperative and tries to control the price of their part of E85. It would be a product of both the oil industry and the commercial farming industry.

Steve has stated the he thinks the bike is the proper thing for people who can use one physically and practically. I tend to agree (I've been restoring my 74 Scwhinn for quite a while now).

I still think, though, that we will need to use something like the Skytran (www.skytran.net) , with an almost totally passive Maglev concept. Initial cost will be high, but probably less than equivalent dollars per mile here in WV where we have many physical hurdles to overcome with any system.

Blackbeard

10:25 a.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Blackbeard - the price in corn has already risen - the tortilla riots in Meixco earlier this year were attributed to a price increase base, in part, on the diversion of corn crops to fuel production. Meat, milk and many other food stuffs will see higher prices as this trend continues - and (I believe I mentioned it earlier) some oil companies are already buying up farmland - it seems obvious to me that they're not doing this to increase the global food supply but rather to maintain a vice grip on fuels - but perhaps I'm just so anti-government that my views are biased. Suffice it to say that at this point I don't support any of the major party candidates shooting for the oval room in '08.

Maglev and many other designs (including the old fashioned electric train with an overhead power supply) are fantastic alternatives to the automobile - mixed mode (where, for example, you ride your bicycle to a train station, take the train as far as you can to get to your job and then take a trackless trolley or bio-diesel powered bus to the office) would work really well (IMHO).

However, this will require a shift in our cultural values. At this point, at least in America, the assumption seems to be that if you don't have a car you're poor - so the poor spend an inordinate percentage of their wages to acquire and feed a car - so they don't "seem" poor. We have to break the cycle of "you are what you drive" - and that's going to be a hard perception to break. Just look at how resistant most Americans are to buying a small vehicle that gets great gas mileage for thier daily solo commute - I see way more SUV's and pick-em-ups on my 120 mile sojurn that smaller cars -

A co-worker of mine had a real awakening yesterday - he lives about a mile from the office (as the crow flies) - due to traffic light cycles and one way streets it takes him 10 minutes to drive to work. Yesterday he rode his bicycle - taking full advantage of a bike/walking path (paved) - it took him seven minutes - bingo - betcha that on nice days (like today) his Volvo station wagon stays parked in front of his townhouse from now on (it's there today) -

We also have to examine where we live. Most Americans - if asked - will tell you that they love the outdoors - they love unspoiled landscapes. In the next breath they'll brag about the McMansion they're having built "out in the country" - perhaps we should offer tax incentives to re-develop land that's already built up - and should somehow try to convince people that they don't need a 5000 square foot home (which they need to heat and cool).

The answer is simple - at least in my eyes - it existed before the second world war - concentrate commerce in and around major cities with solid public transportation - infrastructure. Encourage small, neighborhood shops and grocery stores and attempt to discourage Sprawlmart and other "super stores" of their ilk. In other words, try to make the country liveable again at a pedestrian pace. It would do us, as a nation, the world of good. We'd be healthier, we'd have less stress, we might even know our neighbors. On a more broad sense we'd consume far less energy and would end up with more money in our pockets - we might even end up with healthier kids. On an international level we'd no longer be seen as greedy b@stards who consume more energy per capita than any other group on the face of the earth - maybe we'd start to feel like Americans again instead of a bunch of individuals hell bent for leather to out spend, out build and out consume each other.

Steve

12:15 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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This is from the commerce dept. and the DOE (energy)

Pay particular attention to the last sentence - seems that the increased demand for corn to produce ethanol is documented as being a causative factor in higher prices -


"So far this year, consumer prices have been rising at an annual rate of 5.5 percent, double the 2.5 percent increase for all of 2006. The acceleration has occurred because of the surge in energy costs and increases in food costs that have been caused in part by higher demand for ethanol fuel, which is produced with corn."

2:16 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve said in part "should somehow try to convince people that they don't need a 5000 square foot home (which they need to heat and cool)"

Lessee now, we have a great example of how we should reduce our footprint in Mr. Green himself, Al Gore (inventor of the Internet). According to the news media, his compact, energy efficient dwelling is 10,000 sq ft, and consumes more electricity per month than the average residence consumes per year. Oh, yeah, that's right, he buys carbon credits (in essence, "let someone else do the actual practice of being green, so it's ok for me to waste resources").

Out here in the West, our Governator Green, Arnie, still has most of his Hummers, but one is run on biodiesel (gee, it's ok to burn biodiesel by the barrel).

On the Vineyard, "leading Green advocate" young Robert Kennedy is one of the leaders of the opponents of the proposed windfarm that would be placed in the waters just offshore from his mansion and the family compound, because it would spoil his views of the natural ocean (many of the times I was on the Vineyard, bicycling by the way, not driving, you wouldn't have seen the windmills anyway because of the fog).

The thing is, as long as the pols and others who purport to speak on our behalf continue to set the examples they do, don't count on much cutback on environmental impacts and waste of resources. They talk a good line, but their actual practices don't set much of an example. (do I hear someone asking, "so what else is new?").

In case you are wondering, we have been using exclusively solar-heated hot water in our house for 23+ years (the thermometer on the storage tank is reading 150F right now). And for a major part of our local travel, we bicycle or walk. Not the best example of "green", I admit, since the car burns up several hundred gallons of petrol per year getting to and from the mountains.

9:02 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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I walk to work, but own a car insured for "pleasure."

11:28 p.m. on June 16, 2007 (EDT)
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The oil company profit issue just had to rear its ugly head...

Oil companies make about 10 cents profit per gallon. So if you completely removed that profit, how much less would gas cost? 10 cents. That's it. What really irritates me is that so many people think it is evil for the oil companies to make a profit on a product the consumer wants, while it is perfectly OK for the government to earn 3 to 4 times as much per gallon, and they did nothing to obtain, refine, and distribute that product. Go figure. And the record profits are due to - you guessed it - record gallons sold. Gasoline demand continues to rise.

E85 is 85% alcohol, mostly ethanol. We can't grow enough corn to replace a whole lot of gasoline usage, although it might be enough to keep gasoline price pressure down. But then there are questions about whether alcohol is actually a positive energy balance when all costs are included.

And it would take far more area than the state of Florida to produce enough biodiesel for our nation's needs. I don't think we have enough land to do it. Besides, because of freezing point problems, you can't use pure biodiesel anyway, it has to be mixed with petroleum diesel.

As for alternative energy, it's great, but someone always has a reason to stop it. Hydro power is great - just not on my river. Wind power is great - just not where I can see it or hear it, or birds will fly into it. Solar power works in some situations, but is still costly and subject to availability of sun. No one wants coal fired power plants (carbon dioxide and all - but don't get me started on that topic), and nuclear is a cuss word to many (remind me why again?). And folks keep buying SUVs and trucks. Something has to give. Everyone is going around saying we have to do something, but everyone is holding onto something and rejecting everything.

11:22 a.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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Chumango wrote:

Oil companies make about 10 cents profit per gallon. So if you completely removed that profit, how much less would gas cost? 10 cents. That's it. What really irritates me is that so many people think it is evil for the oil companies to make a profit on a product the consumer wants, while it is perfectly OK for the government to earn 3 to 4 times as much per gallon, and they did nothing to obtain, refine, and distribute that product. Go figure. And the record profits are due to - you guessed it - record gallons sold. Gasoline demand continues to rise.

 

This is not a true picture. The oil companies are claiming to only make 10 cents per gallon. Lets look at the monies that they are spending in buying back stock and the dividends being paid back. . Exxon for example paid out 37.2 billion in dividens and stock buy backs yet only spent 3.3 billion on its capital investments. And then the oil company wants to blame the slow production and pipeline failures as a reason to raise the gas prices. They are not reinvesting in their productions, maintenaces, pipelines and alternative fuels. The monies is going to themselfs.

Granted that the USA uses 25 percent of the worlds oil and the second largest user is China at 7 percent. That is a LARGE amount of oil for one country. So an attitude ajustment is needed in America today. But, look at the oil compaines profits for the top 5 oil companies in the US. The Presidents 2005 energy bill did nothing but drive up the oil prices. Since that time the top five oil companies posted record profits. The White House explicitly rejected efforts to imporve fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. This is around 60 percent of our fuel usage by the way. Now the Supreme Court ruled that the present administration has failed to adequately regulate car and truck emissions. Now there is a call for bio fuels and better CAFE rules.


One can argue Economics will work better than regulation and when the the price of fuel reaches 5 dollars per gallon, I think then we will see people start buying smaller cars, getting rid of their "gas toys", riding thier bikes to work and just plain changing thier attitudes on our petro usage.

11:56 a.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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Various - if you're waiting for polticians to "lead the way" green you'd better be patient - over multiple generations. Gore is a joke, Kennedy, while quite adept at consuming alcohol, is a bigger joke - they are classic cocktail party liberals - the true "do as I say, not as I do" folks with opinions and positions that sway in the wind.

You can burn 100% bio-diesel - you just need to heat the fuel when the temp goes down - and you need to purge the pump, lines and injectors - a simple enough process from an engineering point of view - probably a real SOB for a production situation.

Gas prices - most people just don't care - oh - they'll moan when they fill up - but if gas prices are an issue how do you explain the horsepower wars going on in the auto industry? Cars are getting bigger and bigger (no doubt to accomodate our increasing national girth) - I see some commpanies bragging about their cars getting 30MPG - big deal - my 22 year old Saab gets 33 - it'll get 36 if I drive like granny.

Diversion of food crops to fuel crops - you may not see the issue crop up (pun intended) in the Western world - at least not in the near future - but in the third world where starvation is a fact of daily life - where dictators rule and line their pockets at the expense of their nations with no shame what so ever, where people like Mugabe are in charge (or Robert Taylor) - given the choice between their bank accounts and their people guess who comes out 2nd - the people. Sorry if I offend anyone, but our current crop of national politicians doesn't really have much of an ethics edge over the likes of Mugabe or Taylor. They seem to enjoy lining their pockets at our expense.

CAFE standards - great idea - so GM makes a bunch of little cars with indequate engines and sells 'em to Hertz or Avis - while it sells Suburbans and C30's to Jack and Jill Common-Schmuck - GM is in "compliance" with the new CAFE standards and it means nothing. Want an incentive to drive higher mileage cars? Tax vehicles - on an annual basis - that get below a certain mileage - unless you can prove why you NEED a big vehicle (and "I don't like little cars" or "I'm fat" would NOT be acceptable answers).

Yet what do we do? In our state parks we construct ATV trails so our ever fatter and more out of shape population can drive to where they used to have to walk - not only burning resources driving the ATV's BUT in the big trucks required to transport 'em.

Me? Once I figure out the issue I'm having with my wireless router I'm going to start working from home three days a week - that cuts out 360 miles a week or 12 gallons of fuel consumption - if it works out OK I may only be in the office when I need to be here - heaven!

Instead of driving three hours a day to/from the office I'll be able to ride my bicycle or walk into town to buy a news paper in the morning - perhaps use my old bicycle trailer to take the recycling to the center on Saturdays -

Then I'll feel like I'm doing something!

Steve

9:54 p.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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Who started this thread, anyway? Whoever started it should be severely punished ;-) It's alot like debating religion.

I'm 55 years old now. For some reason, I want to make a difference in the world. Maybe it's because I feel I don't have decades left. Maybe it's because I gave myself a second chance in life by stopping smoking after 35+ years. Whatever it is, I feel strongly about the issue.

SteveTF, I get the feeling you and I have been through a lot of similar things in life, because you speak what I feel most of the time. I don't think E85 or any fossil fuel, any bio-diesel, any corporate driven fuel company, will be the answer.

I read Mother Earth News ages ago. I study home wind power solutions and solar heating solutions. I have the electrical engineering experience to solve some of this, but not alone. It gets so frustrating. I remember my 1964 Triumph Spitfire getting 30+ mpg, and gas was 29 cents or so. That's a penny a mile!

You can't tell me the gas companies aren't gouging the American people. The raw price of crude oil goes down, but not the price at the pump. We're paying futures prices, and no one really monitors the bidders or the oil company. But this is their right, this is capitalism. It is up to the American people to change that, not the government. I pray that we become 'smart' again.

In my state, I feel I don't have the opportunity to do the right thing all the time. I can't take public transportation because there isn't any (at least not this far from the big city where I work). I can't move in closer because I can't afford the higher prices of premium property. And I mentioned previously, there is no bike lane to take for my 35 mile trip in every day. There is not always an easy solution for everyone.

I will mention again that I feel that we need to take the 'Man on the Moon' approach and do what is considered nearly impossible, because we can lick this thing.

But we need to elect officials that are not pro politians, that really are there as servents to the people, and who feel the pressures that we speak of on this list.

Blackbeard

9:56 p.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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Forgot to mention the ATVs.

Not only are we building the roads for them, but in this state, people use them as local transportation and toys. They are dangerous vehicles, and it saddens me to hear of all the deaths they cause here in WV. The so very, very young are dying.

OK, I'll shut up for a while.

Blackbeard

5:13 p.m. on June 25, 2007 (EDT)
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Yeah, lets have E-85 so the price of all other produce sky rockets. Corn is what farmers feed animals to get them ready for slaughter, so of course with an increased demand for the production of E-85 corn feed prices will dramatically increase. And who do you think will pay for that, you of course. I believe we should utilize E-85 and increase its production, but it's by no means an answer.

And FMD, there is no way companies like ExxonMobil make only 10 cents per gallon. Taxes are huge but not that big. Rather it is more about 10 cents per DOLLAR, not gallon. I'm pretty sure anyway.

The sun gives off so much energy per day I find it ridiculous we don't pour billions upon billions into solar energy development.

5:14 p.m. on June 25, 2007 (EDT)
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Sorry, I mean Chumango, not FMD

6:31 p.m. on June 25, 2007 (EDT)
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MTB416 said "The sun gives off so much energy per day I find it ridiculous we don't pour billions upon billions into solar energy development."

Problem is that solar energy is limited by the energy density. That is, the energy per square meter. (so you will know, all the hot water for my house is solar-heated). Solar (and wind, geothermal, hydro including low-head hydro, co-generation, etc) can and should make a larger percentage contribution than they do. But there is a limit. Where I live, we do get a significant contribution from all those I mentioned.

Another problem is that at present solar electric still is not cost-effective in terms of dollars (that's because the environmental costs are ignored in setting rates). I am in the process of building a new house and looked hard at including photovoltaics as part of my roof. The average house in this area can see a payback with the current tax breaks, subsidies, and feeding the excess back into the grid (effectively using the grid as your battery) in 7-8 years. But the net cost of installation for a house of the size we are putting up, after subsidies and tax break is about $30,000, vs our annual electricity bill of $250-300, or a bit under 3000 kw-hr at about 7-8 cents/kw-hr. That's a full century for payback, which is longer than the expected lifetime by quite a few decades. Even with the quality we are building into the house, the house probably won't last that long. According to the DoE, the average US household uses 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year.

Yes, we were using more electricity when we lived in Mississippi and used A/C and an electric stove (6000-8000 kw-hr annually), but this would still be a 50 yr payback, again longer than the lifetime of the photovoltaic system by a lot.

Don't misinterpret me. I am strongly in favor of developing alternatives to coal- and petroleum-based fuels for transportation, electric generation, etc. I spent some time professionally researching alternative energy sources and energy conservation, and as you can tell from our energy usage being way below the average per household for a house of the present size, practice what I preach. Photovoltaic systems will continue to drop in price. But they are a long way still, and there will still be that limit.

The Earth intercepts 21.3 kW/person at the present population of the Earth. This sounds like a lot - 187 thousand KW-hr per person per year. But that has to support all life on Earth, including all the food we raise or capture, all the transportation of that food, and all the electronic widgets we use (including the computer you are reading this on right now). Conversion rates into the movement of that car you drive to work are currently so low that solar-powered cars are only capable of carrying a single person (the solar challenge for cars takes place each year about 3 miles from my house, plus another event in Australia). Absorbing all that energy into the electric grid would require shutting down all weather (no more wind power, no more hydroelectric) and no more fields of corn to feed the cattle and hogs (a poor, extremely inefficient way of converting sunlight energy into food, anyway).

This again is not to say forget about solar energy. It is, rather, only a part of the solution. The most important part is reducing the impact per person. As long as you have politicians like Al Gore (excuse me, "environmental advocates") "setting the example" by using nearly 221,000 kWh (his 2006 usage) of electricity (plus an average $1,080 per month in gas bills in 2006), it is going to be hard to convince the average person to cut his usage. Our "green Gubernator" Arnie here in California still has a fleet of Hummers - yet another example for the average person to "look up to".

I am not that great an example myself. My household use may be below average, but last year I did rack up something like 40,000 miles of air travel (though commercial jets use less fuel per passenger mile than a Prius), and 20,000 miles in my cars (getting to climbing and skiing areas mostly, plus something like 4000 getting to and from the OR Shows). At least we get to the supermarket mostly by foot or bicycle.

An exercise for the reader - how many kW-hrs do you use in driving a 200 horsepower car to your local hills for a hike? For simplicity, assume you average half the power of the engine for the trip. I think you will be surprised. Then figure out how many hours you can run your house for the energy consumed on that trip.

10:24 p.m. on June 25, 2007 (EDT)
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MTB416 - check your sources. About 10 cents profit per gallon is correct, or at least close. And taxes - check the pump the next time you go. State and federal taxes on gasoline are 30-40 cents per gallon in most areas.

The issue is that most people only hear what the "news" stations say, and it is always about "Big Oil." And all they report is the record profits. Now, I have not read up on recent annual reports from the oil companies, and perhaps the profits are record, but why is that? It's because they can sell all they can produce, and production is at record levels. Refineries are operating near capacity, and no one will allow more refineries to be built. The result is a scarce resource. Also, a small event, like an unplanned shutdown at a large refinery, can cause the price of fuel to rise. Some refineries produce 300,000 barrels per day (42 gallons per barrel), so if they go down it affects the supply. And when a large event disrupts supply, like the hurricane season of Katrina and Rita (many refineries affected), fuel prices rise dramatically. Perversely, the prices in California were not affected much, since CA has refineries dedicated to the special fuel makeup mandated there, and they are not in the gulf area.

Every spring, and every fall, the refineries have to go through a turnaround to shift to the appropriate fuel for the season (mandated fuel compositions in many locations). This shutdown period affects the prices.

FMD - the definition of profits is the money left after paying expenses. And some of the expenses are dividends. The dividends are paid to stock holders, who by and large are mutual fund investors, not the oil company executives. Dividends are paid as an incentive to get people to invest in the company.

According to ExxonMobil's 2006 annual report, of a sales volume of $365 billion, it spent $19.9 billion on capital and exploration expenditures, $7.6 billion on dividends, and $29.6 billion on stock purchases. Net income was $39.5 billion. I don't know what business you're in, but many businesses would not be happy with net income only 11% of sales.

Disclosure: I am a chemical engineer with an MBA. While most of my career has been consulting for the chemical industry, some in my company (a group of chemical engineers) have spent their careers working for oil companies, and I have validated the basic content of the above with them.

9:20 a.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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Chumango-

You are correct with your statement of profits is the monies left after paying expense. This is the problem I have with the oil companies. Look at your own numbers. 19.9 billion on capital expense and explortation and then 7.6 billion on dividends plus a whooping 29.6 billion on buying their OWN stock purchases TO BOOST THIER SHARE PRICES. Then they want to raise the price of gas because of production problems (lack of maintenace, slow productions, old equipment et al). Why not REINVEST in thier company more with spending it on updating thier old pipelines, more on oil exploration (instead of relying on OPEC nations for the oil) and alternative fuels. The business that I am in, our profit margins is only 5 percent and that is without using 29.6 BILLION in buying our own stock back to boost the company profit margins for bigger dividends.

12:12 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD -
It appears you don't really understand how the financial markets work. As for the huge dividends you are talking about for the oil companies, a few numbers - Chevron pays 2.85% of the current stock price in dividends, Exxon 1.7%, ConocoPhillips 2.03%. I get better returns than that at my credit union.

Do you have a retirement plan - pension fund, 401k, 403b - at your work, or an IRA? If so, part of your retirement is from the oil companies. These days, the largest holders of stocks in oil companies and other stock corporations generally are in fact the pension funds and 401k and 403b funds. Another thing you overlook - the exploration in OPEC countries (and Russia and the other former Soviet countries) is in fact done largely by the big oil companies you are condemning under contract or in partnership with those countries. Some of the countries, like Venezuela, take over the operations (ConocoPhillips just abandoned their Venezuelan operations). I assume, by the way, that you know that Citgo is owned by the Venezuelan government, and that a number of the "independent" gas stations are actually owned by companies based in the countries in the Middle East (here in California, this includes "World" and "USA" stations).

Why is there not more spent on exploration and refineries? In large part, it is because of environmental restrictions, legitimately legislated because of pressure on our legislators by people like me wanting to preserve places like ANWAR and the coast of California, partly because the available oil is getting much harder and more expensive to get at (no more drilling down 20 feet to get a gusher - it's now 20,000 feet, and that's not an exaggeration), and mainly because the rate (not absolute amount, the *rate*) of new discoveries has been diminishing worldwide (US peaked in the mid-1970s, and the Mid-East appears to have reached or passed its peak just after 2000). Oil (and coal and natural gas) are limited resources and are, as you surely know, non-renewable. The world is running out. Hey, that's good! It means the input of CO2 into the atmosphere will decrease and people will *have* to develop alternative energy sources.

Since Chumango made a disclosure - I am retired and living on pensions and Social Security. My pension from the State of Mississippi is funded by the state pension fund's holdings in oil companies, among other companies, as are the other pension funds that pay my spouse and me. I have some mutual funds in my IRA and 401k, all of which hold oil stocks. See, I read the prospectuses (prospecti?) to see what they hold. Which is why I am shifting the funds I can control to socially conscious mutual funds (some of which return close to 10% per year, better than the oil companies pay in dividends.

As Chumango said, you should check your facts.

2:56 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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. Josef Hebert
Associated Press
Nov. 10, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The chiefs of five major oil companies defended the industry's huge profits Wednesday at a Senate hearing where they were exhorted to explain prices and assure customers they're not being gouged.

There is a "growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in opening the hearing.

"The oil companies owe the American people an explanation," he said. advertisement


Lee Raymond, chairman of ExxonMobil Corp., said he recognizes that high gasoline prices "have put a strain on Americans' household budgets," but he defended his company's huge profits, saying petroleum earnings "go up and down" from year to year.

ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, earned almost $10 billion in the third quarter. Raymond was joined at the witness table by the chief executives of Chevron Corp.; Con- ocoPhillips; BPAmerica Inc., which is a division of BP PLC; and Shell Oil Co., a division of Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Together, the companies earned more than $25 billion in profits in the July-September quarter as the price of crude oil hit $70 a barrel and gasoline surged to record levels after the disruptions of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Raymond said the profits are in line with other industries when earnings are compared with the industry's enormous revenues.

But senators pressed Raymond to explain why in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina some ExxonMobil gas station operators complained the company had raised the wholesale price of its gas by 24 cents a gallon in 24 hours. Is that not price gouging? they asked.

Raymond said he could not confirm the specific price increase, but that ExxonMobil had issued a directive "to minimize the increase in price while at the same time recognizing if we kept the price too low we would quickly run out (of fuel) at the service stations."

"It was a tough balancing act," said Raymond, who said it was not price gouging.

Although only 28 states have price-gouging laws, the head of the Federal Trade Commission cautioned against enactment of a federal price-gouging law.

"Price-gouging laws that have the effect of controlling prices likely will do more harm than good" and would be difficult to enforce, FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras told the hearing held jointly by the committees of energy and commerce.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., made the issue personal, noting that the executives were reaping multimillion- dollar bonuses on top of multimillion-dollar salaries as "working people struggle" to pay for gasoline and face the specter of soaring home heating bills this winter. "Your sacrifice appears to be nothing," Boxer told the executives.

A number of Democrats, joined by a few Republicans, have called for a windfall profits tax on oil companies.

James Mulva, chairman of ConocoPhillips, said "we are ready to open our records" to dispute allegations of price gouging. His company earned $3.8 billion in the third quarter, an 89 percent increase over a year earlier. But he said that represents a 7.7 percent profit margin for every dollar of sales. "We do not consider that a windfall," Mulva said.

 


A 89 percent increase of profits over a year ago! Yet, only a 7.7 percent profit. If they arent reinvesting it, where is the money?

3:03 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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Why aren't the big oil companies reinvesting their huge profits?

Consider the following data, taken from the Exxon-Mobil 2004 annual report. The company earned $26.1 billion in 2004 and reported capital and exploration expenditures of $14.9 billion. Looking casually at the two numbers, this might sound exactly like what we'd expect to find, namely, a company plowing a good deal of its profits back into the investments necessary to help increase future global oil and gasoline production. But when you look at the numbers more closely, it appears to be a surprisingly low level of investment spending.

2004 Exxon sources of cash flow (billions of dollars)
For one thing, oil companies face a significant degree of depletion of existing oil fields and depreciation on previous capital investments, meaning huge investments are required just to maintain the status quo. Standard accounting conventions recognize this by subtracting depreciation and depletion as an operating expense, with the presumption being that the investment that would be necessary in order to maintain current production would be counted as a regular business expense rather than something one needs to pay for out of profits. In addition, Exxon sold off $2.8 billion in investments in 2004, which we would need to subtract if we wanted to calculate the net productive assets that the company added during 2004. Exxon also charged off $1.1 billion in dry-hole exploration as a cost before calculating profits, meaning that these funds didn't come out of the $26.1 billion profit, either. Finally, the notes to the annual report indicate that Exxon followed the accounting convention of including in capital expenditures a proportion of capital spending by interests in which Exxon holds equity, which again require no funds directly out of profits.

2004 Exxon uses of cash flow (billions of dollars)
One way to keep track of all this is to look at the "Summary Statement of Cash Flows" in the annual report. We can calculate the cash Exxon had available to spend by starting with the $26.1 billion net income earned in 2004 and adding the $9.8 billion that Exxon imputed to depreciation and depletion expense, plus $4.7 billion in other items such as an increase in accounts payable (which, because the funds are net yet disbursed, means such items also add to cash in hand). These three magnitudes come to $40.6 billion, Exxon's calculation of the net cash provided by operating activities.

Exxon reported its 2004 actual cash expenditures for additions to property, plant, and equipment to be $12.0 billion, which, if we subtract the $2.8 billion sales of assets, implies $9.2 billion in net capital additions. This is actually less than the $9.8 billion depreciation and depletion figure, which one might interpret as meaning that virtually none of the tremendous 2004 profits were used to acquire net new assets. So what did Exxon do with all the rest of the money? Seven billion went to dividends, $9 billion to net stock buybacks, and an incredible $12.5 billion was just hoarded as cash.

Source: Oil Drum
Nor was Exxon alone in this behavior. For example, ChevronTexaco had 2004 net income of $13.3 billion, which it used to accumulate $5 billion in cash and buy back $2.1 billion of its stock.


How are companies that behave in this way going to succeed in increasing oil production? The answer is, they aren't. The graph at the right, taken from the Oil Drum, displays production over the last 3-1/2 years for the top 10 publicly traded oil companies. Half of these giants have seen their production fall over this period.

And prices and profits have continued to surge in 2005. The table below summarizes how much profits and capital spending went up in the first three quarters of this year compared to the corresponding quarters last year for three of the companies that reported big profit gains this week. Only a modest fraction of the increase in profits for these companies is showing up so far as additional investment.

Change in profits and capital expenditures between first three quarters of 2004 and first 3 quarters of 2005 Company Δ profits
($ billions) Δ profits
(percent) Δ capex
($ billions) Δ capex
(percent)

Exxon-Mobil 8.5 50.3 1.7 16.7
Royal Dutch Shell 7.0 49.9 1.4 13.8
BP 4.7 32.8 0.3 3.8
So what's the story? Maybe the oil companies are hoarding the cash in preparation for big investments just down the road. But we really could have used those investments several years ago, not several years from now. Or perhaps companies see enough danger of an oil price collapse that they are unwilling to make investments that would only pay if oil prices remain high. But if that's the explanation, it's unclear why they don't take the sure profit and hedge that's available from using futures prices. Alternatively, some might say that the only remaining plays at this point are in the control of governments, not oil companies, with the incipient decline in production by the international majors another milestone on the path to peak oil.

I must confess that I find it puzzling why it would make sense in the current situation to hoard cash and buy back shares. If anyone has a good explanation, I'd be very interested to hear.

3:22 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill S. wrote:

FMD -
It appears you don't really understand how the financial markets work. As for the huge dividends you are talking about for the oil companies, a few numbers - Chevron pays 2.85% of the current stock price in dividends, Exxon 1.7%, ConocoPhillips 2.03%. I get better returns than that at my credit union.

Perhaps you should re read what I wrote Bill. I didnt say huge dividends. I said huge profits. For someone as worldly as yourself, you should know there is a difference.

3:30 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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Blame the government, we haven't had a new refinery in decades. Ride a bike!

3:30 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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My problem with all of this boils down to two situations.

Firstly, the profits thing is out of hand. I have heard the supply-and-demand cause and effect so much, I could vomit. Crude oil prices go up, and so do pump prices. Crude oil prices go down, and slowly do the pump prices drop. But still I imagine there are other industries that run low on raw materials and as the price of that raw material goes up, the particular industry makes less because they can't pass on the cost in such an immediate, monopolistic way. Here in my state, there is an association for gas station owners, and imagine this - they all raise their prices the same amount at the same time, regardless of major company affiliation. Independent owners are nearly non-existent, and most of the stations are company owned. Smacks of the old company stores the coal owners used to have. Gasoline is a necessity in the USA, so demand will always be there, and I imagine it is pretty constants seasonally.

The second, and most important, problem I see with all this still seems to be that we are allowing this to happen. Not that the oil company is making any profit, that resources are getting scarce, that the sun only shines in the daytime, that corn give us gas, whatever. It's that we, as Americans, or wherever you live, are not developing a replacement to cure all of this. I stated once before how amazed I was all through the 60s when we put a man on the moon. We didn't have the technology originally to do that, but we found a way. And as I researched what we used, the primitive computers, the basic knowledge all tied together to make this happen, and the huge amount of luck, I still am amazed even more. Where is this drive today? Why are we letting all of this happen to our pocketbooks, our environment, our conscience, and whatever else it affects?

Blackbeard

5:19 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD wrote to Bill - "Perhaps you should re read what I wrote Bill. I didnt say huge dividends. I said huge profits. For someone as worldly as yourself, you should know there is a difference."

Hmmm, I could swear that you wrote - "The business that I am in, our profit margins is only 5 percent and that is without using 29.6 BILLION in buying our own stock back to boost the company profit margins for bigger dividends."

That sure sounds like you are saying "bigger dividends" is a significant motivation for the oil companies buying back their own stock. What am I missing in "buying our own stock back to boost the company profit margins for bigger dividends."?

7:54 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD - in 2006, ExxonMobil had total assets at end of year of $219 billion, and spent $19.9 billion on capital expenditures and exploration. That's 9% of total assets. The equipment lasts a lot longer than 11 years, so they ARE paying attention to upgrades, maintenance, and capital improvements. They would be foolish not to. It is extremely expensive for the plant to be shut down - it represents lost profits. So they work at uptime. Check the statistics on operating rates, and all the refineries are operating at well over 90%, closer to 97% if memory serves me. Those operating rates do not come easily, and require dedicated effort to maintain the assets.

I don't have the time to look through the financial statements of the various companies, but I think some of the information presented in the run-on sentences above are misleading (especially the bit about subtracting the sale of assets (assets in what?) from the cash expenditures for additions to property, plant, and equipment). So let's look at it in a different way.

Crude oil is about $70/barrel, which is 42 gallons. So to buy the crude, it costs $1.67/gallon. They then must transport the crude to a refinery and refine it to gasoline, which is no easy task. I don't know if you have ever seen what is involved, but there is a lot of capital investment. The crude tower and the vacuum crude tower give the straight run gasoline, along with other cuts such as diesel, kerosene, LPG, and heavy oils. But since the most valuable commodity is gasoline, they do everything in their power to convert the fuel to gasoline. This involves splitting larger molecules and combining small ones through a variety of processes - crackers, isomerization, alkylation, hydrotreating, reforming, etc. - and I'm only naming a few of the operations. All this costs money.

So we have $1.67/gallon to purchase the crude. Add at least $.40/gallon for tax (current tax in TN - and that is on the low side, California's total gasoline tax is $.60/gal). That gets you to $2.07/gal.

The price of gasoline here in east TN right now is about $2.80/gal. So that leaves about $.73/gal to cover crude transportation to the refinery, refining costs, distributon costs to the consumer, oil company profit, and service station profit.

This analysis does not take into account the fact that not all of the crude is converted to gasoline. A certain percentage goes to other, less valuable (in some cases significantly less valuable) products. So if we assume that 90% of the crude is recovered as gasoline equivalent (which may be optimistic, but I don't know the number off hand), it costs $2.25/gal, leaving $.55/gal for all the above costs.

My point is that the profits are NOT obscene. Sure, they make a profit, but it's not that much, and all the folks that whine about the "obscene" profits made by oil companies do not blink an eye when they spend a far higher percentage on profits for other items - like clothing, for example, which typically has a 100% markup.

What would you consider to be a "fair" profit? And why is it up to you or the government? You are quite willing to pay it as it is. No one is forcing you to do so, it is just terribly convenient to be able to drive your own car whenever and wherever you want. I have lived in a part of the world where few people own automobiles - so I have seen first hand that it is not a necessity to survive. Convenient, absolutely. But not necessary.

If you think the price is high now, just wait. The Chinese and Indian economies are growing very fast, and they are going to be buying an ever larger share of the fuel supply. I have seen very large increases in the price of industrial equipment in the last few years, due in large part to the incredible hikes in the price of steel and stainless steel. The above named economies are sucking up a lot of the world's supply of these materials, and it shows in the prices here.

Yeah, I've been on a soap box about this issue - you can tell it really gets under my skin. It's just that the powers that be use it as a political tool to rile up their constituents, who will then see them as doing something to "help" them where they will really notice it, in their pocket book every time they are at the pump. But they capitalize on the common ignorance of many people who do not understand the cause of the price of gasoline, and understand even less the fact that the governement has very little power to change it in a meaningful way, at least in the short run (short run being the next 5-10 years).

8:02 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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I'll once again state what I wrote above. I just do not understand why people think it is evil for a company to make a profit on a product you want, and the company has gone through a great deal of trouble to provide, yet it is perfectly fine for the government to make 4 times as much profit on the same product which it did nothing to provide. Go figure. That mentality is mind-boggling.

If the oil companies are making obscene profits, what does that say about the government?

11:43 p.m. on June 26, 2007 (EDT)
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This thread is really starting to bother me. It yells READ ME! everytime I log on. The sad fact is that oil will be exploited till its very end. It is the most valuable resource ever discovered by man, and the price gouging and ridiculous government takes on it should come as no suprise. So when will things change? When mother nature is all tapped out and refuses to provide. It makes sense to fight it, but keep in mind you're battling the richest of the rich in the entire world.

12:36 a.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Sorry, MTB416, we are not "battling the richest of the rich in the entire world." We ARE the richest of the rich. As Pogo once said - "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Every time any one of us turns on his/her computer, or sends an email, or adds to this thread, or drives by him/herself to work or the supermarket, we consume energy and we are exploiting other resources. The plastic that is the case of the computer, or the dashboard or seat of the car, or synthetics that are the clothes we wear comes from oil (or in some cases coal, and a very few cases corn). The paints we use to paint our houses mostly come from coal and oil. The fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel for the tractors that raise the crops we eat directly as plant products or indirectly as meat products, all come from oil.

I asked the question earlier in this thread of how much energy is consumed in driving to the hills for a hike (or commuting to work or to the grocery store, or just in one year of driving), counting the gasoline only. Nobody answered. Was it that hard to figure out? Or were people too frightened by the answer? Well, here's a partial clue - commuting 10 miles each way to work consumes as much energy in half a year as the average US household consumes in electricity in a year. Our biggest energy usage is our cars. Why? Because, despite the cries of "price gouging", gas is cheap, and far cheaper in the US than elsewhere in the world (except for a few heavily subsidized countries like Iran and Venezuela).

In the first Arab Oil Embargo, when we were living in Boston, gas was 29 cents a gallon before, then jumped to almost 50 cents a gallon. Predictions were that people would switch to mass transit if gas ever got to 75 cents, or, horrors, to $1/gallon. A couple years ago, it was said that people would stop driving if gas hit $2/gallon, then a year ago, the magic number was $3/gallon. Yet the decrease in driving has been miniscule. People keep driving in Europe at $5/gallon. The median family income in the US is something like $50,000, so driving the average of 12,000 miles per year at 20 mpg, means 600 gallons, which is only $1800 per year in gas (the other car expenses are much greater, especially the loss through depreciation). That's less than 4% of the average family's income. That's trivial, miniscule, negligible. People think nothing these days of buying a $2000 flat screen TV to hang on the wall, plus over $100/month ($1200/yr) for the cable connection. Why should they worry about less than $2000/year on gas. Ok, so the SUV consumes 10 mpg, or $3600 per year for gas. That's still less than 10% of the average family income. For the 20 mpg car, if conversion were 100% efficient, that's 21,000 kw-hr/year, or about twice the average US household uses in electricity in the house (the 10 mpg SUV uses about 4x the average household use in energy).

In other words, gas is cheap (just under 9 cents/KW-hr for $3/gallon gas), but everyone likes to complain while continuing to fill up. Frankly, I don't believe it will change until gas gets to $10-$20/gallon (and maybe not even then).

12:46 a.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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I completely agree with Chumango (yeah, in the spirit of full disclosure, he is my twin brother). I do not work for the oil industry in any way, I am on the other side of things working in the waste treatment, disposal, and recycling industry.

In the end, the thing we should all consider is how much of a socialist state we want. Show me the article in the constitution (federal or any state) that gives the government the power to dictate price. And don't give me the line about monopolies. If there were even a hint of evidence of illegal activity under the various anti-monopoly legislation, don't you think that some politicians would have already exploited it for their own gain?

The bottom line is that we are voracious consumers of oil-derived products, and no one is forcing us to make a single purchase. We are going down that path quite willingly. I'll never forget the time a couple years ago when I was at the gas station, and the woman across from me pumping gas into a monstrous SUV was complaining that Bush wasn't doing anything about gas prices. I asked her just what he could do, given the legal limitations of his power. If she was really serious about the cost of gasoline, why was she driving a gas guzzler? For a while last year when gas prices shot up, the sales of large vehicles slowed down, but as we have gotten accustomed to the higher prices those sales are on the upswing. It seems that size and horsepower trump fuel efficiency for far too many people. Will we never learn?

1:21 a.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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The baby boomers have done quite a job with our country...

9:45 a.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill S. wrote:

Sorry, MTB416, we are not "battling the richest of the rich in the entire world." We ARE the richest of the rich. As Pogo once said - "We have met the enemy, and he is us."


Very Ironic Bill.

POGO is also the Project On Goverment Oversight. They investigated the oil companies several times.

10:06 a.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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lambertiana wrote:

In the end, the thing we should all consider is how much of a socialist state we want. Show me the article in the constitution (federal or any state) that gives the government the power to dictate price. And don't give me the line about monopolies. If there were even a hint of evidence of illegal activity under the various anti-monopoly legislation, don't you think that some politicians would have already exploited it for their own gain?

 

Umm, remember Enron the energy company with 111 billion in revenues? Formed in 1931, voted Fortune 100 best company to work for. It took some time, but it caught up with Enron.

Yeah, lets preserve our "democracy" and let capitalism run away with price gouging on our precious commodities without any goverment oversight. Do you think the farmers should gouge our food sources and we go hungry because they want a higher return on thier profits. Hey, its our choices to purchase food products or not, right? Without a car, how are ya going to get to work. Ride a horse to work like our ancestors did?

10:17 a.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Chumango: your anti-government argument is simplistic and largely irrelevant. While you may be technically correct that the government does nothing to produce the oil, its difficult to envision a world in which there would be any market for oil without governments, ours in particular. Our government built the roads that created the demand for gasoline in the first place and over which the petroleum products are transported to that market. Our government grants leases and/or licenses to drill for oil on public land. Our government grants tax breaks for oil exploration, etc.

To equate oil company profits with taxes is equally fallacious.

MTB: its easy to blame the baby boomers for the way this country has turned out, but such facile explanations don't square with reality and are not helpful. I'm a baby boomer, but I don't recall my father or people of my father's generation ever caring much about how much oil they consumed or how much exhaust they spewed into the air. Similarly, a large part of the market for large SUVs comprises people born after the end of the baby boom.

12:08 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim and FMD - Both of you have cause and effect turned around, though in quite different ways.

rexim said: "Our government built the roads that created the demand for gasoline in the first place and over which the petroleum products are transported to that market."

Not quite. The demand for gasoline existed before Otto and Diesel invented their petroleum-powered engines, which in turn enabled practical automobiles and airplanes, which increased and expanded the demand. The roads were built in response first to an intense campaign by the predecessor of the American Automobile Association demanding a nationwide road system and better roads for the increasing number of private automobiles (roads at the turn of the 19th-20th Centuries were frequently mudholes that cars could hardly get through), with the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System being built post-WWII (championed by Eisenhower for national defense) basically as a copy of the Hitler autobahns, which Hitler promoted as a means of rapid transport for the Wehrmacht and blitzkreig. "Easy" commuting in the privacy of your own car allowed the spread of suburbs, which increased the demand for extended roads and freeways, which fed back to more suburbs, and so on in a still-continuing infinite loop (an amazing number of people in my part of the world commute daily from the Central Valley into San Francisco and Silicon Valley, 2 hours and 60-100 miles each way). To repeat, the roads were built in response to the demand and perceived need for "better" roads, which enabled the suburbs, which allowed the increased use of cars (and resulting increase in fossil fuel consumption), which further increased the demand for an expanded road system, which allows more use of cars, and so on and so on and ... To say the "the roads that created the demand for gasoline in the first place" is quite inaccurate.

Which talks to FMD's comment about "Without a car, how are ya going to get to work" - at this point in history, yeah, many people are stuck without a car. Although, there are daily bus service commutes from places like Stockton and Merced into San Jose and Cupertino, plus a train service. Despite the availability of the mass transport, the majority choose to drive one person per car. Still, when I was still working, a large fraction of the people working in the Stanford Research Park part of Palo Alto (where among others, HP's corporate headquarters is located) walked, bicycled, or rode the bus or CalTrain to work. Both Barb and I bicycled almost every day (on the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake, we were able to get home in the usual time of 15 minutes, while those who drove took hours to go the same distance or even less). So the answer to your comment "Without a car, how are ya going to get to work" is bicycle or walk if it is within a couple miles, or carpool or use public transportation. Around here, much of the public transportation is private companies (yeah, capitalism), with some government support (but the government-supported systems like BART and the light rail have to show a profit that goes to pay off the construction bonds bought by mutual funds and pension funds and to pay for extensions of the lines - which again is capitalism).

FMD said "Very Ironic Bill. POGO is also the Project On Goverment Oversight. "

That comment indicates that FMD was probably born after 1970, hence does not know who and what Pogo was. Pogo was the lead character in a long-running comic strip by the late Walt Kelly, a possum who lived in a swamp with other characters who often made ascerbic comments on the world. Pogo inspired such later cartoons as Doonesbury, Dilbert, and others. And for your edification, the name of the Project on Government Oversight was created from using Pogo's name as the acronym and then figuring out the words to make the name. Ya gots cause and effect turned around again - "POGO" the project was named for Pogo, the swamp creature who commented on such things, after Pogo, the comic strip had been around for years.

Sigh! As a certain philosopher several centuries ago said "those who forget history are condemned to repeat it." So we continue down the path followed by so many civilizations before, with the priests and kings failing to recognize that they are repeating the same mistakes again and again.

1:13 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill: I disagree that I have cause and effect turned around. My point was that if we did not have the road system we have, we would not have the demand for gasoline that we have nor the market that we have and the oil companies would not have the means of transporting their product to market. Of course the increased use of automobiles created demand for more roads; however, the construction of those roads increased the ability to travel which in turn increased the demand for gasoline which in turn increased the amount of travel which in turn increased the demand for gas which in turn increased travel which in turn increaseed road construction which allowed us to move from the cities to the suburbs which in turn created even higher demand for gas, and on and on. I don't think that can reasonably be denied, and I stand by that statement.

I was not trying to engage in a chicken vs. egg dialogue, but simply trying to counter the simplistic argument that the government does nothing to produce oil or gas. In doing so, I was guilty of oversimplification, and you rightly called me out.

However, I don't think you can deny my main point, which is that it's easy to blame the government for every evil in society, but it's neither productive nor true. By the same token, it's equally easy, and equally counter-productive, to blame corporate greed for every perceived evil in the world.

1:16 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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From POGO's own website. They used to be called Project on Military Procurement.


about us: history
The Project On Government Oversight follows a rich tradition of assuring that the government continues to work for the people it represents. Our nation was founded on the very principle that representation and accountability are fundamental to maintaining a strong and functioning democracy. Today, these principles espoused by our founding fathers are under attack as our federal government is more vulnerable than ever to the influence of money in politics and powerful special interests.
In the beginning, POGO (which was then known as Project on Military Procurement) worked to expose outrageously overpriced military spending such as the $7,600 coffee maker and the $436 hammer. After many successes reforming the military, POGO expanded its mandate to investigate systemic waste, fraud, and abuse in all federal agencies.

 


So if you will Bill, help me understand what you are saying. The oil comapnies could raise the oil prices to 20 dollars per gallon overnight and there should be no cause for oversight invesigations and the American people should not question it because we are a capitalistic nation and we just need to make a decision as to either keep on paying for the fuel at 20 dollars per gallon or dont pay for it because we either cant afford it or want to boycott the oil companies? That because of the demand of petro, due to "gas guzzling Americans, the oil companies has a right to raise the petro prices as they see fit? Is it really that easy?


Oh, BTW 1963 and I did/do know who POGO the cartoon strip is. And Commodare Perry actually is due recognition for your quote that you mentioned earlier. I dive ship wrecks in lake Erie and Commadore Perry fought a many battles in my area.

2:17 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim -
You got my point - availability of gasoline made possible Diesel's and Otto's inventions, which made automobiles possible, which created a demand for better roads, which promoted suburbs, which allowed commuting farther, which allowed more suburbs and exurbs and longer car-driving leisure travel, which created more demand for extending and improving the roads, which encouraged more use of cars, and ... ad infinitum (add in the defense function of the roads).

The question is how to break the infinite loop. I believe Chumango is right - it will only come with the increasing scarcity of cheap fuel. Not just scarcity of cheap gasoline, but any kind of fuel including a limit on electricity to charge the batteries for electric cars or, God forbid, electrolyzing the whole ocean to get hydrogen for fuel cells.

I can point to all sorts of examples of how people waste resources for amusement. Right now, we have a controversy going on at Discovery Bay (part of the Sacramento River), where people are demanding that the proposal for restrictions on tows (waterskis and wakeboards) and on the speeds they can run their powerboats through a fairly narrow section of the channel be rejected (there is a major safety issue with a number of injuries and drownings) - "I have the *right* to run my boat at whatever speed I want!" Yeah, recreational boating uses only a tiny fraction of gas that cars do, but what is the point of cruising at 30 knots for 5 miles up and down a river while downing six-packs?

2:39 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Since people like to correct every statement here to make themselves feel smarter I'll do the same. The richest people in the world are either techology providers or in retail or publishing. They might be diversified into oil but their primary income did not come from oil. At least not in the top 10. Anyways, forget this forum dominated by a few people that think they have all the answers. I'm gone as fast as I came. And blaming baby boomers is very right in my opinion. I'm younger, of course, and have heard my whole life about baby boomers critique on my generation. They have screwed our country and government in so many ways. War, corporate scandals, ridiculous spending, the list goes on. Maybe the boomers will fix something before they die and my generation won't have a lifetime of fixing the BS you all started.

3:08 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Sorry MTB, my statement meant that we in the US, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are, as a whole, the richest people in the world. Compare any of these countries to any country in Africa, or SE Asia. The poverty line in the US is considered to be something like $25k/year. In most of the world, the incomes are well under $1000/yr, and under $100/yr in many places.

Unfortunately, "wealth" is measured by the academics in terms of money and income. "Necessities of life" are considered to include a car and a TV set. I would question whether in reality having a car, TV set, or material goods in general, or whether having a million dollars makes someone any happier or "rich" or "wealthy".

I personally do not have "the answers". I do know that a lot of things have been tried and not worked. I do know that a lot of "civilizations" have failed and collapsed over time, and that most of the world (rich nations and poor alike) are doing the same things that led to the collapse of past societies (and I see some of these being espoused in posts here). I think it is clear that a societal attitude change is needed, but I have no idea how to do this, or even in the end what the right attitude should be beyond taking care of what limited resources this Earth provides us and not wasting it.

So, don't go away. You have made some very good statements, MTB, along with some I disagree with. I wish I had your optimism that maybe the boomers will fix something and that maybe in your lifetime your generation will fix the rest. Ya gotta keep the faith that solutions are out there, and we all have to keep seeking them.

3:23 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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MTB, it sounds like you're taking your toys and going home. I've been tempted to do the same.

But why wait for the boomers to die before you try to fix something? If you wait until then, you won't have much of a lifetime left in which to fix it. I don't know which generation you're in, but it sounds like you have no idea what the world was like before the baby boom. War? There was war long before the baby boomers came on the scene; although in Vietnam it was the boomers who did the dying, it was the holdovers of the "Greatest Generation" who designed and led that campaign. Corporate scandal? Go back and read some of the writings of the muckraking journalists of the early 20th century if you want an intimate portrait of corporate greed from long before the first baby boomer was born.

Bill: Chumango's posts were primarily a defense of oil company profits, not a discussion of how to break the infinite loop.

5:26 p.m. on June 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Juxtaposing pre-WWII's industrial society to today's modern society can be done but not very well, it's simply too different. I'm just upset with all this regulation that people seem to want. America is well on its way of becoming a socialist nation, and that just scares me. I can't wait till we enjoy 14% unemployment and a government telling you where to get medical attention (can you say, "lowest bidder").

1:12 a.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD - The only time capitalism runs away and sets the stage for price gouging is when there are artificial limits placed on the market (i.e., government regulations). The days of robber barons are past. You talk about food price gouging. In fact, if the government didn't have various artificial price controls in place, food would be less expensive here. Look at sugar - we pay significantly more than the world market price because the government controls the price here. With gasoline prices, the primary reason we have high prices is not lack of crude oil, it is lack of refining capacity. Regulations and environmental lawsuits have effectively prevented the construction of new refineries for many years. So as Americans satisfy their urge for more, bigger, and faster, the supply of refined fuel remains essentially unchanged. This means that whenever there are serious production shortfalls - unplanned maintenance, severe weather, etc - the supply of gasoline takes a hit. To answer why the prices jump so quickly in such situations, one reason is that smart business owners do not charge the cost of purchasing stock, they charge the replacement cost. That is not a defense of oil company tactics, that is simply business 101.

When there are major developments that lead to dramatic long term changes in prices, the market moves to produce more. There are plenty of entrepreneurs and investors more than happy to take advantage of a market, and this will drive prices down. Short term it will be painful, but the market will correct itself. And we have to be intellectually honest enough to realize that some things get pushed out of the market because they no longer serve the market the way they once did. The problem with gasoline is that the investment to enter the market is so large, and the regulatory burden also makes it exceedingly difficult.

What really disturbs me is the public outcry for the government to step in and control businesses and redistribute wealth. Again, I challenge anyone to point out where the constitution grants this authority to the government. We are headed toward socialism, and that is not something that I want. It seems that the ones who clamor the most for socialism are the ones who stand to be on the receiving end of the redistribution, living off the work of others. As the saying goes - the government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

And before you label me as a greedy, non-caring person, let me tell you my position. There are two schools of thought: One is that people should willingly give to causes that they feel are worthy, and the other is that something should be done and everyone should be taxed to make it happen, whether they think it is a worthy cause or not. I happen to belong to the first school of thought. And I would be willing to bet that I give a higher percentage of my income to charitable causes than you do. Instead of saying that there ought to be a government program, I do on my own.

Off the soap box now. This has really turned into a political discussion, which, in today's world, all too often becomes nothing more than personal attacks. I hope this is taken as merely an expression of my sincerely held political beliefs. You are entitled to yours.

6:07 a.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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It has indeed turned into a political discussion, again like I suggested earlier, and very similar to a religious arguement that no one every wins. But I have to admit, it's been a very informative discussion.

Now back to the subject. I have learned lots from this thread, and still feel even more that E-85 is not the answer. My mind has not swayed one bit from the way I feel about big oil, government intervention, etc. Personal opinions are one of the great parts of life.

So it appears we have some really intelligent members on the list. I'd like to hear, sort of like a poll, what you feel would replace and fix the oil/greenhouse/price problems we have created. Make it a specific item, for instance, fuel cells, or a general technology, say maybe magnetic levitation. Tell me which way you think it will go, or which way you would like for it to go. I'd just like to get away from this oil company thing for a while. My head is hurting.

Please and thank you.

Blackbeard

10:08 a.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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Blackbeard - I think it will have to be a multi-prong attack. First, we have to get away from our drive to have the biggest and fastest, and look for ways to make our habits more fuel-efficient. Car-pooling, combining errands, simple maintenance (like tire pressure, oil change, and tuneups) would make a big change in total fuel consumption.

Energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro need more development. I live in the San Joaquin valley, and solar is a real possibility here. I have been thinking about putting solar panels on my roof, but the cost is a big barrier. And the best new idea that I have heard in a while is the installation of large underwater turbines in undersea locations that have significant tidal currents, like San Francisco bay.

But in the long run, with existing technology, we have to look for other energy sources. I am of the opinion that the best solution for large scale energy production with existing technology is nuclear, it has the best cost to benefit ratio. I know others will disagree with that, but that is what I think.

10:11 a.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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And I forgot a big one - just get out of your car! Walk, bike, etc. I used to ride my bike to work when I lived in the Bay Area. I was risking my life every day, those drivers did not exactly like me there, but I saved on gas. I am always amazed at how lazy people are, burning a lot of gas going just a block or two, or orbiting a parking lot just to find a spot two spaces closer to the door.

We also need to evaluate our consumption of other products that require petroleum - plastics is a big one. I am also rather disappointed that the few options for purchasing truly recycled plastic products are so expensive. If it costs too much, I can't do it.

12:33 p.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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Blackbeard, Lambertiana and others,

Perhaps we're thinking at a macro level when we should be concentrating on the micro level of personal impact. I don't care what kind of condition I may be in, my daily commute is 120 miles round trip. Even when I was racing bicycles back in the early 80's that would have been excessive daily mileage (and I'd have had little or no energy to get any work done either!).

I get looked at funny because I'll walk the mile from the office to the post office to send mail or purchase stamps (as I did today) - yet some of those same folks who look askance at me brag about spending time walking on a treadmill. Personally I'd rather sweat outside! But it's little changes like that which can really add up.

Switch to more eco-friendly lightbulbs, turning off appliances, computers, TV's and the like that aren't being used, walking on short errands, take your bicycle on those within riding distance, combine trips if you must take your car out - if the majority of people would start to do those rather simple things, our energy consumption rates would drop.

I know people who keep their homes at 74 in the winter and 68 in the summer - what's the purpose in that? Then there are the drivers where every red light is a drag race in waiting -

We can reduce our national energy consumption just by doing some simple, easy and minimal impact things - and - as a nation - get in better shape while we're at it.

As for vehicles - funny as gas prices continue to rise vehicles get bigger and more powerful every year - who'd have imagined in 1974 when gas had done what, skyrockted from 30 to 50 cents a gallon, that at 3.00 a gallon we'd have muscle cars and big trucks as our most popular vehicles? It's insanity. Reduce the size and weight of a vehicle and it requires less energy to move (basic, simple physics) - and when compared to a heavier vehicle in a collision the lighter one will do less damage (as it will impart less energy, being lighter) - so by going smaller on the highway we could eventually go safer as well.

How about a graded drivers license system like they have in some European countries? Your initial license let's you drive up to a 1300CC engined vehicle - to get a bigger engine you need to go through additional training and licensing - which is expensive - plus that more powerful vehicle is taxed at a different rate - making the smaller, less powerful vehicle that much more attractive to a consumer - but our domestic auto industry, hopelessly stuck in the late 1950's "bigger is better" school of thought will buck that like a bull in a rodeo.

There's a lot that can be done.

Recycled plastic - interesting fact - China is the largest consumer of our domestic recycled plastic bottles. Think about that one - there is a shortage of recycled plastic soda and water bottles, yet many municipalities don't have a recycling program (we don't have one where I live - however - there is a mission that does recycling - they use it as a training ground for some men who've gotten into various problems with substance abuse - so every weekend I take our household recycling over there - most recently in an old cannondale trailer behind my bicycle!).

Take it in baby steps and it's not bad -

Steve

1:41 p.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve:

You're right, of course, and all I can add is my own recent personal baby steps. I work from home, so most of my driving is now recreational--to dinner, hardware store, 20 mile to a park to paddle or hike 5 miles, etc. However, four weeks ago my car died on the freeway and I had it towed home. Although I have since had it repaired, I haven't really driven it in four weeks. I now take the bus 5 miles downtown to dinner, and walk home. Instead of driving to a park, I take an evening walk from home: 2 1/2 miles out, 2 1/2 miles back. I'm lucky to live on the edge of a city where I can north and be in the country or walk west and head downtown. I really enjoy driving less, and I'm certainly saving money and using less gas.

2:26 p.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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Rexim - yeah - that's the ticket! As I see it - go ahead and look at me funny - pondering why I'm walking to the post office rather than driving - I'm still walking (it is, after all, how we evolved to move ourselves, is it not?).

I'm looking forward to being able to work from home come the fall - have already discussed it with the boss - I'd love to be able to rid my family of one vehicle (we've got three cars) - I recall those days of no insurance, gas or car payments with great fondness!

5:22 p.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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Until folks in this country lose their taste for large vehicles and inefficient transportation (single person in the car) the oil situation will not change. And that neglects the increasing impact China and India will have on the price of oil. That event does not appear in the near future, as far as I can tell.

A colleague at work lives about 30 miles from the office, and he rides his bicycle regularly. Not every day, but regularly. That's somebody who is doing something about it.

Wind, solar, hydro, and ocean power are all great, but I don't think they will be able to meet the growing energy demands of this country, or the world in general. The cost is high, and the land area they would require is also high. In my mind the only logical conclusion is nuclear power. I know that is a very sore subject to many, but what alternative would you suggest? Coal (we have lots of that) and oil, apart from being non-renewable, are "evil" in that they produce carbon dioxide. Would you have everyone take a significant cut in standard of living or of freedom to move around? That's what it would take, and I don't see anyone lining up to volunteer for that, most notably those who are clamoring the loudest about the state of the environment (ask Al Gore about his mansion and the energy it uses, or about his zinc mine).

7:16 p.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD said - "And Commodare Perry actually is due recognition for your quote that you mentioned earlier."

Not quite. Perry wrote in a dispatch from the US brig Niagra, on the back of an old letter, 10 Sept 1813, "We have met the enemy and they are ours - two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and a sloop."

Walt Kelly wrote, in 1953, "Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts and tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us." While this was derived from Commodore Perry's dispatch (and as a tribute), as it appeared in the Pogo Papers, it is changed, and has a different meaning.

Then, in 1970, on a poster for Earth Day, and in the Pogo comic strip for 8 Aug 1970, he wrote, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Note that the first appearance of the exact quote I posted was on a poster for Earth Day, and thus in the context that I borrowed the quote.

7:46 p.m. on June 28, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD asked (I think it was a question) with wording that totally baffles me and has no connection to anything I posted, as far as I can tell: "So if you will Bill, help me understand what you are saying. The oil comapnies could raise the oil prices to 20 dollars per gallon overnight and there should be no cause for oversight invesigations and the American people should not question it because we are a capitalistic nation and we just need to make a decision as to either keep on paying for the fuel at 20 dollars per gallon or dont pay for it because we either cant afford it or want to boycott the oil companies? That because of the demand of petro, due to "gas guzzling Americans, the oil companies has a right to raise the petro prices as they see fit? Is it really that easy?"

Hunh???? What does that mean? The only thing close to anything I said (by lifting a couple pieces out of whatever context there is in FMD's question) is that I strongly suspect that people will continue to buy and burn gasoline whether the price is $5, $10, or $20 a gallon, complaining all the while, but still paying it. I said that maybe people would stop buying the gas and use alternatives, perhaps supporting the research needed to develop the alternatives (like mass transport, bikeways, fuel cells). This has nothing to do with who sets the prices, whether the government, the corner gas station, the "big, evil corporations", or who. People apparently pay hundreds and thousands to feed their drug habits. People spend more on a big screen TV to hang on their walls than a year's worth of fuel for their SUV at present prices.

Is it evil for the drug dealers to charge hundreds for a small amount of some potent drug (I happen to think so)? The drugs, according to the news media, cost pennies to make and distribute for that hundred dollar dose. Is it evil for the TV set manufacturers to charge $2000 or $4000 for the big scren TV, just because people are willing to pay for it? I don't see much outcry here, and no calls for Congressional investigations (yeah, I have a big screen, 27-inch, that gets used for History, Discovery, Animal Planet, and OLN, er, VX, when the Tour de France is on). Something I have been meaning to find out - how much energy is consumed by my neighbor's 60-inch plasma when on and when in stand-by?

Ok, Steve and others want to know what we each are doing to wean ourselves from oil and coal. I have already said some of this - we use pretty much exclusively solar for our hot water, walk or bicycle most of the time to the stores for groceries and other things, drive a 25 mpg car, except use CalTrain when we go into the city (that's San Francisco, where the SF Symphony plays and the SFMOMA and Exploratorium are located). We buy mostly produce grown within 150 miles (that's the farthest reaches of the California Central Valley), so reducing the trucking costs. That does include corn, but wheat comes mostly from the MidWest and a lot of trucking miles. As much as possible, we buy locally grown poultry and locally caught fish (no beef in this household). This is not because of PC environmental considerations, it's just the way we were brought up. We used to have a garden for some of our own produce (that's the WWII generation for you - Victory Gardens).

It's actually easy to reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint. Recall that I posted earlier that we consume under 3000 kw-hr of electricity per year, 70 times less than Mr. "Green" Al Gore, and this has held steady for the 24 years we have been in this house, not because it is fashionable, but because we don't need any more. Yes, we use more than our fair share in jet fuel and frequent long drives to the Sierra and other climbing and skiing areas. Maybe we could cut back there.

9:58 a.m. on June 29, 2007 (EDT)
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One thing we should keep in mind with fossil fuels - we're not "creating" carbon - we're releasing it it back into the atmosphere. Those carbon atoms, out of circulation for millions of years, aren't "new" - they're just being set free!

Al Gore - if he's an environmentalists then Pol Pot was a great humanitarian. You cannot buy your way green - you're either releasing C02 into the atmosphere or you're not. Now - it IS a nice thing to plant a bunch of trees - but I don't buy into this "carbon offset credit" line of - well - this is a "G" rated forum - so - garbage.

Convincing people to not do stuff like drive to the store for a soda (a 20 oz bottle of soda), not to drive to the local cafe for a cup of coffee, not to make thirty trips when you can combine them into one or two - those lessons are simple, easy to absorb and make a big difference. Purchasing low consumption appliances can make a big difference, including not buying a huge 'fridge when a smaller one will do just fine. There's a load of small things we can do - recycling among them - that help to reduce our individual consumption with little if any real personal sacrifice -

As for fuel consumption - I agree - people will pay whatever they have to to drive their own personal vehicles. Tighter emissions standards and enforcement can be used to get older low mileage vehicles off the roads - but few if any in congress have the courage to take on that battle. It would be nice, however, if the domestic car companies offered small high quality vehicles. I recently drove a small chevy (an Aveo, I think) while my '85 Saab was getting some chassis welding done - now it matched my Saab on gas mileage (around 33-35MPG on my commute) - but I felt like I was sitting in a teabag tin - with less than a thousand miles on it the Aveo had more rattles than my 250,000+ mile Saab - that's pathetic. High quality small cars will attract buyers - tin can crappy cars will not - when's Detroit going to get that message?

Off the soapbox - have some real actual work to do -

Steve

1:15 p.m. on June 29, 2007 (EDT)
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We're living in a country run by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Al Gore is the number one environmental demon on everyone's mind? Let's get real.

8:10 p.m. on June 29, 2007 (EDT)
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It's run by Cheney, not Bush. And Bush has had an environmental house for years, unlike Gore.

1:06 p.m. on June 30, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim, you missed the point about Gore. He claims to have been an environmentalist for years (and to have invented the Internet). And he made An Inconvenient Truth. But at the same time, he has a huge house, a large fleet of cars (one or two of which are hybrids, but not the others), and consumes several times as much electricity and gas than the average US household that doesn't even claim to be energy efficient. He claims that he buys "carbon credits" to offset his usage. But he still is generating lots of CO2 himself. Some would use the term "hypocrite" to characterize this.

Cheney we know about. He doesn't pretend to be an environmentalist, so we already know he is not even pretending to help the environment. That doesn't mean I support or even feel even the least bit favorable toward him. But I do know where he stands (in a different universe than the one I inhabit).

What I worry about is that if people are going to look to Gore as the example of environmentalism, they won't even try to cut back on their energy usage. If they look to Robert Kennedy, Jr, as another of the champions of energy efficiency and protecting the environment, they too will oppose wind farms as "spoiling the view" (as Kennedy does for the proposed wind farm that will be off Martha's Vineyard on the side that the Kennedy compound is located.

What I ask is that if you are going to bill yourself as an environmentalist, then walk the walk, don't just talk the talk. We used to have an old saying, "If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck." Unfortunately, too many of the self-proclaimed environmental leaders only do the "talk", not the "walk" and not the "look".

7:34 a.m. on July 1, 2007 (EDT)
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I did not miss the point; that's why I made no attempt to defend Gore's conduct. But he is trying to move the country in the right direction, even if his personal conduct does not exemplify this. Still, he seems to be public enemy number one on this forum, which I don't believe is justified.

1:55 p.m. on July 1, 2007 (EDT)
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I have to agree with Rexim on this point. While Gore obviously could stand to reduce his own energy consumption first (then explore renewable energy options and finally off-set whatever is left over), I think he has done a lot of good by raising the public awareness of global warming, primarily through "An Inconvenient Truth."

Yes, Gore and his excessive energy usage are obviously far from perfect. I think he could use this opportunity to show the public ways to reduce their own usage. But, finally mainstream America is talking about an issue that scientists and environmentalists have been concerned about for many years. Hopefully that awareness can be transformed into positive action, major lifestyle changes, and consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly products.

However, while I'm really glad that environmental concerns are finally in the public spotlight (and are even fashionable), I do worry about the potential for "greenwashing" by companies that simply put an enviro/green spin on themselves and their products without making any real changes. There are a lot of sincere companies and consumers who want to do the right thing, but there's not enough oversight or transparency yet for consumers to be able to easily determine what is the best choice. Making the right choices still depends on a lot of self education.

I agree with all the previous posters who said we each need to make sacrifices and lifestyle changes, in addition to exploring alternative renewable energy sources. I do not think there is any single silver bullet energy idea that is going to fix all of our energy and climate problems. I wholeheartedly agree that the first step is reducing energy usage across the board.

There have been a lot of different, passionate opinions offered above, which keeps me optimistic since it shows that people care deeply about this issue. Gore may not be responsible for that passion among environmentalists and scientists who already were well aware of the issues, but I do think he’s had a positive effect in making global warming/climate change an issue worthy of serious discussion. So, yes, he should lead by example and has an opportunity here to do so, but I’m not going to put him down (yet).

Also, I have to say that Gore actually did not claim to “invent the Internet” as has been widely reported. He said, “During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet…” Many may say that’s just semantics, but Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn wrote the following about the controversy:

“[A]s the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time. Last year the Vice President made a straightforward statement on his role. He said: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet." We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he "invented" the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it is timely to offer our perspective. As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. Though easily forgotten, now, at the time this was an unproven and controversial concept.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Gore_controversies)

9:56 p.m. on July 1, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim, what I take issue with is your statement that Gore "seems to be public enemy number one on this forum..." At least for me, what I tried to say is that he doesn't practice what he preaches. That is far from saying he is public enemy number one. Actually, public enemy number one in the environmental arena is the widespread attitude of NIMBY, and the attitude that "cutbacks and sacrifices are fine for everybody else, but don't try to take away my toys (hot cars, hot boats, giant screen TVs), and don't make me sacrifice my comfort (thermostats set to run the HVAC 24 hours a day to keep cool in summer and warm in winter, etc).

And as I tried to say, I see far too many self-proclaimed "environmentalists" who do the same thing as Gore - talk one way in public, and act another in their private lives. As you may know, among other volunteer activities I do in my retirement, I do workshops for the Sierra Club (my land navigation workshop is coming up two weekends from now, at Clair Tappaan Lodge near Donner Pass - expect to hear a lot of LNT mixed with the map and compass, if you attend the workshop). I see far too many large SUVs when I go to Sierra Club events and parked in the parking lot of Clair Tappaan. Many of these arrive with one occupant.

By the way, I don't think most of the changes that the average American should make are really sacrifices. If people would just cut back on waste and excess, my guess is that energy usage in this country could be cut by over half, and everyone would be just as comfortable, and have even more enjoyment in their lives.

11:47 p.m. on July 1, 2007 (EDT)
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Can't a guy engage in a little hyperbole anymore?

It seems our differences are more stylistic than substantive.

9:48 a.m. on July 2, 2007 (EDT)
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Al Gore is trying to be an environmentalist on the "American Plan" - not willing to make the personal sacrifices to reduce consumption (smaller vehicle, no private plane, smaller house) he's making himself "carbon neutral" by investing in "carbon credits" - an inevitable but absurd way to "go green" - at least in my opinion. If we're going to allow politicians and corporations to be green based on their trading carbon credits, why not allow them to be "honest" based on trading ethics credits? How about taking care of past environmental issues based on "superfund cleanup credits" ??

Real, genuine solutions do not come from paying others to make sacrifices in your name, but come about through making those personal sacrifices. True leadership means setting the example. By claiming to be green through the purchase of carbon credits, Gore is setting the wrong (but popular) example.

1:07 p.m. on July 2, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim asked "Can't a guy engage in a little hyperbole anymore?"

There are a couple of problems here. First is that the "sound bytes" (I chose the spelling "byte" intentionally), especially the short comments that are dictated by posts or email, lack real context, and second, because of this tend to be more extreme than perhaps intended. Part of this is that the world generally, and the US in particular has become more polarized, with a lot of comments being, intentionally or unintentionally, provocative and extreme. Middle ground, logic and rationale, and just plain reasonableness and civility seem to have vanished. The shortness dictated by web posts and email results in short attention spans and lack of context (I was at the memorial last week for the son of a close friend, a delightful young man, but who was described as having "the attention span of a gnat"). Thoughtful discussions seem to have disappeared. While the "Silent Majority", supposedly those holding moderate views, may have been silent at some point in the past, at least the impression from the media and especially the Web is that there are no moderates anymore on any topic, only extremists. "You are either with me 100% or against me 100%". No more "I agree with you on some points, but disagree on others" or "I agree with what you say, but not with the way you say it."

The "Caesar's wife" rule is a fundamental one for public figures and self-proclaimed spokespersons. For those who don't know what the Caesar's wife rule is - Caesar's wife must not only conduct herself properly, but she must have the appearance of conducting herself properly. Public figures are held to a higher standard than the rest of us, in part because we entrust them to lead us and provide wisdom, and in part because they are the examples people follow. When I was finishing grad school, I taught at a community college nearby. On my first day, one of the greybeards took me aside and repeated this to me, with the explanation that a teacher in a public school system must not be seen in a bar, "even if you are not having a drink." There was a clause in our teaching contracts that included among the causes for firing "moral terpitude", which was explained to me to include the appearance of moral terpitude, not just actual immoral acts (recall this was in the 1960s, when everyone "knew" that college students were all "hippies" and did all sorts of questionable things). In the current terms, this means that if Gore is to be the spokesperson for the environment, he must practice very visibly what he preaches.

11:35 a.m. on July 3, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill -

Bingo - it's all well and good for Gore to preach environmental responsibility, but to be taken to heart he should walk the walk.

In like fashion, it would be well for organizations like the Sierra Club to stop giving membership gifts manufactured from nylon and other (typically) non-recycled material and to print the Sierra magazine on non-glossy paper (which my local recycler refuses to take).

But that doesn't let US off the hook! On a small, individual basis we can each do our part by using human powered transport where possible, making our material purchases with an eye to both the origin of the item and how it will be disposed of when it's worn out, on recycling all that we can, turning out lights, dressing logically (sweaters when its cold, light clothing when its hot, for example), fixing, rather than replacing things when they break, gardening and purchasing food from local sources - it all adds up, and none of it requires government intervention (which makes the old hippie/ folk singer / environmentalist / activist in me darned near giddy with delight!).


Peace

Steve

9:27 p.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)
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Is anyone suggesting that we would be better off if Al Gore had not raised these issues and engaged in this debate, just because his carbon footprint doesn't match his rhetoric? If so, I think that demands a degree of perfection that we rarely see in anyone, let alone politicians.

I am reminded of Colin Fletcher in the Complete Walker railing against litterbugs but then admitting to having thrown a bottle out into the desert in a moment of weakness.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone . . . .

2:17 p.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim, are you suggesting that we should unquestioningly accept public figures, politicians, and self-anointed spokespersons who talk the talk, but don't walk the walk? Are you suggesting that we should not set high standards for our politicians, public figures, and self-appointed spokespersons, and particularly, higher standards than we set for the general population, especially when these folks are held up as role models for the rest of us? Are you saying we should not point out the "feet of clay"? Since Gore is casting stones, are you saying he is "without sin"?

There is another saying - "Physician, heal thyself first"

The reality is that simply by being alive, every human being has an effect on the environment. Every human being exhales carbon dioxide and emits methane - it's part of the life process. When we walk, we leave footprints. When we ride our bikes, we are using natural resources, most of which are non-renewable (the steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber composite of the frame, the petroleum that went into the tires and plastic parts). When we drive the car to the mountains to go hiking, climbing, skiing, or just sitting around admiring the view, we add to our carbon footprint and use non-renewable resources (this holds for electric cars and hybrids as well as gasoline-powered cars). When we eat the food that nourishes us and simply keeps us alive, we are using the petroleum and other resources that got it to us, and ran all the machinery to grow, fertilize, de-pest, and process it (including the cans and plastic bags, as well as the wooden pallets that don't get re-used). Using the computer you are reading this on and the one I am writing this on, as well as all the servers of the internet consumes non-renewable resources in the plastics, metals that were mined (metal doesn't regenerate itself on this planet), and the coal, oil, and uranium in the nuclear power plants that was used to generate the electricity that propels the electrons carrying the information.

The idea here is to minimize our individual impacts. Each and every one of us has this responsibility to future generations. Yes, we all contribute more than we could to the problem. I already mentioned that I consume a lot in my many trips to the hills, and I am sure I could improve (not the least by canceling the far too many magazine subscriptions I have and reading the many books I read at the library instead of buying them).

rexim, I think your question is another example of, to quote you, "Can't a guy engage in a little hyperbole anymore?" It isn't a case of expecting perfection - no one is perfect, and as I said, every human has an impact just by being alive. It is rather that we have a right to expect that those exhorting us to do better (including me) to make a serious effort to reduce our impacts, most especially those who are held up as the role models and those who are acting as the public face of environmentalism. The problem with Gore is that his consumption is so far in excess of the average in the US, which in turn is far in excess of most of the rest of the world, while he is publicly calling for a solution. Remember, his house is consuming a full order of magnitude more resources than the average US household (and over 30 times my household).

My expectation is that, if he is to be the spokesperson, then his household consumption should be no greater than the average US household. Yes, I know, his house is 10,000 sq ft, and he has a large heated swimming pool with a pool house that is as large as the average US house. His usage is reported as 110,000 kw-hr per year in electricity alone (his natural gas usage is also way up there). If I scale my usage to his house size, he could be at 22,000 kw-hr per year, one fifth what it actually is. If I scale our Mississippi house usage (all electric, no gas), to his size house, just to have a similar climate where A/C was "necessary", I still get 66,000 kw-hr, 2/3 of what his electric alone is.

My problem is that he clearly has lots of fairly easy improvement available, while he is casting stones at the rest of the US. Buying carbon credits doesn't cut it - that just throws the burden onto someone else who was already working hard to do their part. That's just another version of NIMBY.

10:38 p.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill,

You really don't answer my question: would we be better off if Al Gore had not addressed these issues?

I don't think so.

Would we be better off if her reduced his consumption? Of course. But don't demonize him for his private consumption while ignoring those who set public policies that have a far greater global impact than a thousand Al Gore's could ever have.

If you follow your reasoning to its logical conclusion, then we should just ignore the message because the messenger isn't performing as we expect he should.

I never suggested that we should not point out Al Gore's faults--but neither should we forget the valuable service he has performed and continues to perform.

"Physician, heal thyself" indeed. Would you refuse necessary heart surgery from an overweight but highly skilled surgeon? I think not.

1:19 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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Sigh! rexim, you still miss the point.

"would we be better off if Al Gore had not addressed these issues?"

No, and we may be worse off. As I said before, at this point, the US (and most of the world) is completely polarized by radicals on both sides. Gore just added to the divisiveness, with both sides digging their heels in and yelling louder, while the rational voices are getting drowned out. (putting on my "plague on both your houses hat") both Gore (in his books and "Inconvenient Truth") and his opponents are selectively distorting the actual science and using a lot of pseudoscience, such that those doing the real science can't get the real truth out, and the politicians are coming up with half-baked solutions without considering the consequences (just like the Australian colonists who introduced rabbits to control the "weeds", and now, a century later, are suffering serious environmental consequences, just to take one example).

"...don't demonize him for his private consumption ..."

Sorry, I am not "demonizing" him. Read what I wrote more carefully. To clarify - Gore would have made a significant contribution (and still can) if he had set an example, rather than engaging in polemics. Think about the message any public figure sends when preaching that everyone should reform or sacrifice, while at the same time very visibly practicing the very opposite of what they are demanding of everyone else. Your choice of words like "demonizing" and your earlier choice of "Can't a guy engage in a little hyperbole anymore?" is precisely what I was referring to in my comment above (and earlier) about society (American and worldwide) being polarized. Raise a question and the interpretation is the most extreme negative condemnation possible - "How DARE you question ..." and "How DARE you point out that the Emporer is naked?" In a very real sense, this is the same thing as Bush said - "if you're not with me, you are my enemy." Nooo, I don't blindly support either side in this polarized argument. There are serious environmental problems, one part of which is excessive energy use (or more directly, energy wastage), but most of the solutions being politically promoted will just worsen the situation.

How can the problems be corrected or practices of the general population be changed, if the public spokespersons and role models do not themselves practice "green" and show by their examples that life is indeed far more enjoyable by doing so? As long as Arnie drives his fleet of Hummers around (even if one uses biodiesel), Hummers and huge SUVs will be sought after and envied by a large segment of the population (I note that Hummer is now advertising that the H3 gets "20 miles per gallon" - hunh? coasting downhill with the engine shut off and the transmission in neutral?).

"If you follow your reasoning to its logical conclusion, then we should just ignore the message because the messenger isn't performing as we expect he should."

Excuse me??? siiiggghhh ..... yet another example of twisting things to the most negative possible interpretation. What I said was simply that we hold public figures to a higher standard than the general population, and should do so, since these are the role models. People follow the examples more than the rhetoric. If Gore and many of the other self-styled public spokespersons were really sincere, they would make the effort to reduce their own personal environmental impact. Yes, I know that Gore is buying carbon credits, and that he "plans to install solar energy" systems (different reports have said different things about whether this is hot water for the pool, which is larger than my closest municipal swimming pool, or photovoltaics). But I have seen nothing about efforts to reduce the very high consumption rates, figured on either a per square foot or per person in the household.

See, I don't take the view that anyone is either an angel or a devil. Humans are just that - human. What I hope for (but maybe don't expect) is that people make the effort to act in the best long-term interests of the species, and that the leaders will lead by example. I do not believe that "some animals are more equal than others." Public figures are subject to more scrutiny than other people and hence are (and should be) expected to make more of an effort to set the desirable examples.

Would I refuse necessary heart surgery from an overweight but highly skilled surgeon? Yes, especially since I have the choice of a large number of highly skilled heart surgeons who practice what they preach and are trim and in shape, having taken personal steps to lower their own personal risk factors. And because I would fear that the guy would have a heart attack himself in the middle of surgery and fall over on me on the operating table, crushing me to death. Anyway, I already know how I am going to die - crushed into a grease spot by a giant redwood that topples over on me during one of my bike rides here in Earthquake Country during the Big One.

On that, my Primary-Care Physician and his wife ski with Barb and me in the backcountry a couple of times a season, as does my sports-medicine orthopedist. And one of my climbing partners from college days and frequent cycling companion is the head anesthesiologist in the hospital that I would be most likely to be operated on.

3:58 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill,

Now it's my turn to sigh.

Does it make you feel smarter to repeatedly say that I don’t get your point?

I really do get your point. Really. I am not stupid and am fairly adept at reading and logic. I got your point sixty or seventy paragraphs back.

If you want to decry extremism and polarization, look at my posts and then your responses. My little two-sentence reference to hyperbole, intended to be humorous, generated a response of 448 words. Your last post was over 900 words! "Sigh."

If weight of words alone was the determining factor, you would be the clear winner.

My reference to demonizing was not aimed at you, personally. But you are not the only poster on this thread and others have castigated Gore, with no, attempt to praise him for the good he has done. How is that for polarization?

I have always taken the middle ground in my posts here, although not necessarily in real life. I have done so precisely because I see too much strident and pedantic rhetoric in this thread and too few real attempts at communication.

I know you know what I meant by my refernce to the overweight surgeon, and to be honest I expected you to respond as you did.

I'm happy for you and your primary care physician, as well as your anesthesiologist, but not everybody has your options.

Chumango was right--and I too will pack up my toys and go home--er, move on to another thread.

7:05 p.m. on July 6, 2007 (EDT)
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If you got my point, your responses didn't show it. If they were the middle ground, then I would hate to see the ones that would be more extreme.

4:20 p.m. on July 8, 2007 (EDT)
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Enviro Laws for sale

Seems this may be a good spot for this & along the lines of Carbon Credits...
In South GA last week spotted a billboard advertising Wetland Credits for sale. As in communities wanting to fill in their wetlands and destroy their local ecosystem can buy & preserve land in S GA. Seems a bit contrary to to me creating local imbalances in the environment but with some percieved balance to the whole.

Can all environmental laws be sidestepped?

4:55 p.m. on July 8, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill:

(Sigh) I see you still don't get my point. But if it makes you feel better or smarter to lable my positions extreme, go for it. You're only fooling yourself.

But the brevity of your post is an improvement.

8:20 p.m. on July 8, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim said - "I see you still don't get my point"

And what is your point (in 50 words or less, since you claim to be brief and to the point)?

After that, how about answering the four questions I asked earlier (about 7 posts back)? Each one only requires a simple "yes" or a simple "no", nothing further. To repeat them -

1. are you suggesting that we should unquestioningly accept public figures, politicians, and self-anointed spokespersons who talk the talk, but don't walk the walk?

2. Are you suggesting that we should not set high standards for our politicians, public figures, and self-appointed spokespersons, and particularly, higher standards than we set for the general population, especially when these folks are held up as role models for the rest of us?

3. Are you saying we should not point out the "feet of clay"?

4. Since Gore is casting stones, are you saying he is "without sin"?

And to add one variation on the questions -

5. Do you really believe (multiple choice),
A. as your posts imply, that the majority of people in the US will enthusiastically embrace the message from Gore and as promoted by the Live Earth concerts, or
B. that the majority of people will continue to admire and desire to emulate the lifestyles and practices of the politicos and rock stars?

Please, no spin, no digressions to avoid the answers, just a simple yes or no for 1 through 4 and choose 5a or 5b.

9:02 p.m. on July 8, 2007 (EDT)
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Let it go, Bill. Let it go.

Gore's no saint, but he's done more than any other individual to increase public awareness of climate change.

12:47 a.m. on July 9, 2007 (EDT)
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This thread has devolved into a clash of personalities, rather than an exchange of ideas. If I am responsible, I apologize.

If you remember my posts, you should already know the answers to your questions 1-4: no, no, no and no, as my previous posts make clear.

However, because you resort to distortion by stating an implication I never made, I will not answer number 5. You choose whichever answer you like, since you're going to do so anyway.

7:44 a.m. on July 9, 2007 (EDT)
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rexim" I think that you hit a nerve with Bill S.

 

Bill:

You shouldnt talk down to people just because they dont agree with you. I realize that you are a retired teacher, but giving a quiz to someone on a forum. Perhaps you should take a people skills work shop for moderators.

I am done with this forum.

1:33 p.m. on July 9, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD - rexim didn't hit a nerve with me. Rather, my fear is the same as it long has been - the stream of films and concerts will only temporarily "raise awareness", which has a high probability of triggering the politicians to enact "solutions" which will produce, as always, unforeseen consequences that will exacerbate the problems, rather than wake the US and rest of the world to the real problems and rational, long-term productive solutions. The political "solutions" will, of course, as always, include "mark-ups" and exemptions to protect the special interests. "Hero worship" leads people to follow examples, not words.

Dave, I was about to give up, anyway. Words, whether on Trailspace or on worldwide live television, won't change anybody's mind or behavior. Only when the consequences of the current waste, pollution, and just plain disregard for the environment become personal and the connection of personal actions become painfully visible for a majority of the world's population will there be change.

1:39 p.m. on July 9, 2007 (EDT)
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How fuel efficient is a Toyota Prius at 100mph anyhow?

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