Thursday needs a song and a few other thoughts

Off the top of my head, I am having a hard time thinking of a song with Thursday in the title or chorus. As I write this, I can remember a few songs for the other days of the week, with Wednesday being the hardest one to recall. So, with a special shout out to Thursday, here are a few odds and ends.

I mentioned in a comment earlier this week that Tesla is on target for rolling out 250,000 of its new affordable electric car. The car sells for US$35,000, is fun to drive and can go 215 miles on a charge. It should be noted that Elon Musk’s Tesla is one of the leading edge innovators on advanced battery storage.

I read yesterday in Reuters that Geely Volvo will only produce electric and hybrid cars after 2019. Let that statement sink in a little. Volvo will not produce combustible engine cars after 2019. I want you to think about that as the President wants to increase fossil fuel production. Apparently, Geely Volvo sees a different future.

At the same time these articles appeared, Scott Pruitt, who heads the EPA decided to spend our tax money in delving further into the climate change is a hoax theory. This is after the EPA removed various research links to papers and work on climate science from its website at Pruitt’s order. This alternative research flies in the face of peer reviewed science that questions the veracity of findings. Apparently “making America great again” means to throw away our advantage and let the world pass us by.

Finally, just to further this point, ice floes off of Antarctica are melting at a faster pace than expected. Now, we should note that when floating ice melts, it does not by itself contribute to sea level rise. But, these ice floes protect the land ice and, once gone, the land ice will melt at a faster pace and that will impact sea level rise.

So, Messers. Trump and Pruitt, are you quite sure we want to leave the Paris Climate Change Accord, focus on climate change denial and invest more heavily in fossil fuels? Yes, this is about the environment, but is also about jobs. The jobs are growing much faster in renewable energy and related industries.

A few mid-week musings

Since we are at mid-week, let me offer a few miscellaneous musings, mostly good with a few bad. Let me start with some good news:

A Federal appeals court in the Chicago area ruled that the LGBT community is protected under the 1964 Civil Rights amendment even though they were not specifically listed. The court case was around a community college professor who contended she was fired for being a Lesbian. The ruling was 8 to 3, but will of course be appealed to the district court in Indiana.

On what appears to be good news, but falls way short, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a repeal to the discriminatory HB2 law, yet left the most important piece of discrimination therein. They rolled back the change on the transgender bathroom issue, yet left in place the exclusion of the LGBT community from protected status for discrimination. Reviewing the above ruling in Chicago, it is apparent that feature is unconstitutional.

The electric car maker Tesla blew past expected deliveries this past week for their first quarter with over 25,400 cars. Tesla is on pace to deliver the high-end of their 45,000 to 50,000 first half of the year estimate. What is interesting the stock market is valuing the future for this company and its current market capitalization value is $48 Billion which is now higher than Ford at just under $45 Billion. Tesla is owned by Elon Musk who is leveraging his battery technology to aid in solar and wind energy storage, working on a key project to help Australia with an outage problem.

Reuters reported today that utility companies are not being influenced by our President’s fight to end the war on coal. With the exception of one of 31 companies, a two-thirds majority said it would not impact their plans to move to cheaper and cleaner natural gas and increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources. The other companies were silent. In a piece I read last year, we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy and it was postulated about utilities why would they invest in an expensive coal-fired plant that will be obsolete before it is completed?

On the bad side, I am increasingly concerned by Bashar al-Assad and his willingness to gas people. This man has a history of doing this and then lying to reporters and other leaders about it. It would be great to see the UN powers come together and say, we will help end this war in your country, but you must step down now or face charges of war crimes. While our former President did many good things, his handling of Syria was not one of them. He and Congress let the world down by not spanking this SOB for his last gassing of civilians. I am a peaceful person, but there are times when you must stand up to evil.

Then, there is North Korea who remains a threat as it is run by a petulant tyrant. China must join with the rest of the world in helping put a lid on this man’s chest beating. Otherwise, we leave it in the hands of our own mess maker. While I trust some of his military advisors in doing the right thing, I have little confidence in our leader solving this problem without some diplomatic help. What at least should scare North Korea is our President is a loose cannon, as it scares me.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great rest of your week.

 

A windy day at sea

On Monday, I read an article written by Bloomberg called “Costs for generating wind power at sea drop.”  The gist of the article written by Jessica Shankleman and Brian Parkin is the cost of building a wind facility offshore is now less than building a new nuclear power plant and getting closer to the cost of building a coal power plant.

It should be noted this is the cost of building and does not factor in the present value costs of retrieval, transportation, environmental degradation, distribution, maintenance, litigation and health-related costs, which make coal energy less palatable than wind energy. Just maintaining coal ash many years during and after the life of a coal-fired plant is something utilities would love to avoid, as it is the gift that keeps on giving, in a negative way.

Per the article, “Across Europe, the price of building an offshore wind farm has fallen 46% in the last five years – 22% last year alone.” The average building cost is $126 per MWH versus $155 for nuclear and $88 for coal. Yet, Henrik Poulsen, the CEO of a Danish utility, noted “If you have a sufficiently large site with the right wind speeds, then I do believe you can build offshore wind at least the same price as new build coal in many places around the world.”

Heretofore, the significant growth in wind energy has been in our plains states, with Texas leading the way. Iowa gets a third of its energy from wind energy. Yet, the US is expected to build offshore wind in a significant way in the future. Our goal is “install 86 GW of turbines at sea by 2050. That’s six times the 14 GW of capacity now in place worldwide, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.”

Wind energy has overtaken hydro-energy as the leading renewable source in the US. Like solar, it is taking off in installation and job growth. And, with the significant efforts from folks like Tesla owner Elon Musk on large-scale battery storage, it will grow even more. As we speak, Musk is helping out Australia with a power outage problem with a goal of setting up a battery storage facility in 100 days or it is free.

This is the progress that needs to be discussed as it is exciting, environmentally needed and job-creating. Investing in an increasingly obsolete energy is throwing money away.

 

 

It is not just surplus oil driving prices down

As many know, the price of gas continues to fall. Drivers have been smiling at the gas pump paying US$25 rather than US$50 each fill-up. It is obviously related to the price of a barrel of oil which is beneath US$30.

A key cause for the falling price per barrel is the glut or surplus supply in the market. It was already high, but Saudi Arabia decided to keep producing. Now, we are about to see Iran release more oil when the sanctions are lifted. This may drive the price down even further.

But, is it only related to the glut? There have been three trends that have and will continue to impact the demand side. First, as started by President George W. Bush and ratcheted up by President Obama, new cars must have increasingly higher miles per gallon (mpg) requirements. In 2015, there were more cars sold in America than ever before, which means buyers’ replacement vehicles will likely have better mileage. Even a new truck will have better mpg than the one it replaces.

Second, an increasing number of hybrid cars are being sold. It is no longer rare to see hybrids on the road. And, electric cars are starting to sell, but the pace is where hybrids were a few years back. It should be noted one of the new Teslas is the highest rated car ever. Once battery storage permits longer usage than today, the electric cars may take off.

Third, there has been a noticeable trend toward fewer licensed drivers, with younger people foregoing the license.  People are choosing to live in urban areas where a car is not needed. Plus, with more transactions online, they can reduce the number of trips to the store or for entertainment. Car sharing, ride sharing, mass transit, and cheaper taxi services are creating downward pressure on demand for gas and, as a result, oil.

So, we are embarking down a path of a new normal. The counterbalance is the growing number of drivers in emerging markets, but even that growth may pull back some with obvious congestion and air pollution. Plus, lower gas prices means more car travel.

The times are indeed a changing. And, our fossil fuel industries may need to accelerate their thinking in renewable energy sources for future revenue. The new normal may cause the recovered price of oil to fall short of the old price level, once the glut is used up.