April 30, 2006
The carnage continues in Carbon
Down 50% for the week. Planet Ark : CO2 Market on Brink as Price Continues to Slide. This could be the end for the whole idea of a commercial market in carbon. The money lost is staggering. Not stock market Black Tuesday type money, but big enough to scare people away from this commodity for some time and take a long time to recover. Remember, this is not a long traded thing that has just hit a temporary lul. There is a question as to the value of this commodity overall. It may be totally worthless. I expect governments to step in soon and make some very supportative words around increased requirements for carbon caps. Maybe the European stock markets will accellerate putting carbon on the balance sheet of all companies. This sure puts a crimp in the US efforts for a commercial system.
Now for something you don't see every day
buy a turn-key solar and biodiesel powered base camp for 10 people. fully 100% off the grid, generates its own water, composting toilets, satellite phone/internet, the whole thing. You haul. Sounds cool...eBay: Solar Powered, Bio Diesel Base-Camp For Sale (item 7613625231 end time May-25-06 10:32:04 PDT)
April 28, 2006
Audi A8 diesel vs A8 gas
Check these stats out on Edmunds.
Consider those for a moment. The diesel-powered Audi A8 4.2 TDI is not only more economical than the gasoline-powered A8 4.2, it also produces fewer greenhouse gases and, most importantly for readers of this Web site, it's also significantly quicker.
check out the hottest diesels in Europe
Business week has a cool click-through slide show. The one I want is the Citroen C6 or BMW 7 series. Europe's Hottest Diesels. Look for most of these cars to be available next year in the US. The key has been getting Ultra low sulfur diesel fuel into US pumps. These cars require clean diesel fuel and ours has been too dirty for these advanced engines. But we will be up to speed with the rest of the world by next year.
JD Powers estimates diesel car demand to double
The President's speech unfairly characterized in the media
This week the President made a major speech on Energy Policy. I would encourage everyone to actually read it. The sound bites that were snipped by the media and the talking heads that followed claimed it was a knee-jerk short term reaction. But the text reveals a much deeper program and more thought. Especially interesting is his plan to end tax breaks for certain oil industry activities noting that at these prices the public doesn't have to subsidize the industry like it has in the pasts. Here are more highlights:
Today, President Bush Discussed The Four Parts Of His Practical Plan To Confront High Gas Prices. The President's plan includes making sure consumers and taxpayers are treated fairly, promoting greater fuel efficiency, boosting our oil and gasoline supplies, and investing aggressively in alternatives to gasoline, so we can eliminate the root cause of high gas prices by diversifying away from oil in the longer term.
America Is Addicted To Oil, And An Increasing Amount Of The Oil We Need Comes From Foreign Countries. Some of the nations we rely on for oil have unstable governments or agendas hostile to the United States. These countries know we need their oil, and that reduces our influence. We must not allow America to be put at risk by the unfriendly leaders of foreign countries.
It Is Important To Understand Why Gas Prices Are High. The market for oil is global, and America is not the only large consumer. Countries like China and India are consuming more and more oil, so global demand for oil is rising faster than global supply. As a result, oil prices are rising around the world, which leads to higher gas prices in America. America's gasoline demand is projected to increase this summer, and our refining capacity is stretched tight, making it difficult for supply to keep pace with demand. To compound the problem, we are undergoing a rapid change in our fuel mix - a transition from MTBE to ethanol in certain fuel blends, and that transition is temporarily pushing up gas prices even more.
Learn from other entrepreneurs at CasePlace
If you are thinking about starting a business, check out the extensive case studies here: CasePlace.org - Business case studies and social impact management teaching materials. Learn just like they do at HBS but for alot less.
EIA estimates higher gas/diesel prices by 25 cents this summer, I think they are WAY low
Regular unleaded is over $2.99 in seattle today with diesel over $3.09. And the huricane season is not here yet.
I predict average prices well over $3 per gallon for regular unleaded and over $3.20 for diesel.
EIA: Gasoline Prices to be Higher this Summer
Retail prices for regular gasoline are projected to be 25 cents higher this summer than they were last year, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA's Short Term Energy and Summer Fuels Outlook, released yesterday, projects summer gasoline prices to average $2.62 per gallon. The high gasoline prices will be largely due to continued high prices for crude oil, which is projected to average $65 per barrel this year. Other contributors to the high prices are a strong growth in demand for gasoline coupled with new requirements for low-sulfur gasoline and voluntary efforts by refiners to phase out their use of the additive MTBE. As noted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the MTBE phase-out is only expected to contribute a few cents to the overall cost. Retail diesel fuel prices are also expected to average $2.62 per gallon this summer, with high prices partly caused by a requirement to phase in ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel beginning in June. See the EIA report and the RFA press release.
Retail gasoline prices have been on a steady rise in recent weeks. According to the Fuel Gage Report, a publication of the American Automobile Association, yesterday's prices for regular gasoline averaged $2.686 per gallon in the United States, up more than 32 cents per gallon from a month ago. See the Fuel Gage Report.
From BC - oil prices drive switch to biofuels
Oil Price Pressure Driving Global Switch to Biofuels
ROME, Italy, April 25, 2006 (ENS) - Worldwide momentum is gathering for a major international switch from fossil fuels to renewable bioenergy, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. The move is driven in part by record high oil prices, as oil jumped to an all-time high above $75 a barrel last week.
"The gradual move away from oil has begun. Over the next 15 to 20 years we may see biofuels providing a full 25 percent of the world's energy needs," Alexander Müller, the new assistant director-general for the FAO's Sustainable Development Department, said here.
Factors pushing for such a momentous change in the world energy market include environmental constraints - increased global warming and the Kyoto Protocol's curbs on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases - and a growing perception by governments of the risks of dependence on oil.
"Oil at more than 70 dollars a barrel makes bioenergy potentially more competitive," Müller said. "Also, in the last decade global environmental concerns and energy consumption patterns have built up pressure to introduce more renewable energy into national energy plans and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels."
His view is shared by a growing number of investors, including Bill Gates, who recently decided to finance a U.S. ethanol company to the tune of US$84 million. Other new entries in the field are a French company better known for making foie gras, and Hungary, which plans to turn one million hectares of farmland over to biofuel crops in the next few years.
PHOTO: Filling up at an e85 pump in Lexington, Kentucky. E85 is 85 percent plant-based ethanol fuel and 15 percent petroleum. (Photo courtesy EIA)
FAO's interest in bioenergy stems from the positive impact that energy crops are expected to have on rural economies and from the opportunity offered countries to diversify their energy sources. "At the very least it could mean a new lease of life for commodities like sugar whose international prices have plummeted," noted Gustavo Best, FAO's senior energy coordinator.
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who is in Doha for the 10th International Energy Forum, said that high oil prices are causing great pain to the U.S. and global economies.
"Clearly these very high oil prices cause great dislocations around the world, they are very painful, they are very painful in every quarter of the world. That is certainly true of my country," he told a press conference.
The three-day forum, which officially opened Sunday, has brought ministers and representatives of some 58 countries together in order to foster dialogue between producers and consumers.
What the rest of the world could do tomorrow, Brazil, the world's biggest producer of bioethanol, is doing now. A million Brazilian cars run on fuel made from sugar cane, and most new cars hitting the road there are powered by flex fuel engines. Introduced three years ago, they use either gasoline or bioethanol, or any mix of the two.
According to senior motor industry executives, the flex engines are spreading faster than any previous innovation in the automobile sector. In Brazil, which started producing biofuel 30 years ago, a barrel of bioethanol is currently half the price of a barrel of oil.
Some 1.5 million farmers are involved in growing sugar cane for fuel in Brazil. And "sun fuel" can be made from a variety of crops including soya, oil-palm, sugar beet, and rapeseed.
Europe lags behind Brazil in bioethanol production and consumption, and European prices are roughly twice Brazilian ones. But the EU has set itself the target of increasing the share of biofuels in transport to eight percent by 2015.
However, if oil prices stay high, things could move even faster. According to studies by the European Union, biofuels grown on available cropland could substitute 13 percent of petroleum-based fuels in the short term.
Diesel can be made from virtually any oil seed. "The world's first diesel engine actually ran on peanut oil," noted Best.
PHOTO: Biodiesel pumps stand beside petroleum diesel at a filling station in British Columbia, Canada. (Photo courtesy BC Sustainable Energy Assn.)
Europe is already the world's largest producer of biodiesel from rapeseed, soya or sunflower seeds, and the sector is growing fast.
Various countries such as Germany, Ukraine and others, and many private and public companies are considering a big move into biodiesel from these crops and other sources.
"The beauty of bioenergy is that production can be tailored to local environments and energy needs," Best said. "Where there's land, where there's farmers, where there's interest, bioenergy may be the best option. And if we add some sound analysis and good business models, we will get that option right."
Farmers, particularly in tropical areas, are seeing new opportunities for increasing production and raising their incomes. "But we also need to be careful," Best warned. "We need to plan. Competition for land between food and energy production needs to be converted to positive common benefits."
One worry is that large-scale promotion of bioenergy relying on intensive cash-crop monocultures could see the sector dominated by a few agri-energy giants - without any real gains for small farmers. But to date no comprehensive attempt has been made to address the complex technical, policy and institutional problems involved, said Best.
In order to fill this gap FAO has set up an International Bioenergy Platform (IBEP), to be officially presented at the United Nations in New York on May 9.
The IBEP will provide expertise and advice for governments and private operators to formulate bioenergy policies and strategies. It will also help them develop the tools to quantify bioenergy resources and implications for sustainable development on a country-by-country basis.
It will further assist in the formulation of national bioenergy programmes, drawing on FAO's experience in promoting national, regional and global bioenergy development.
"The aim is to help us grow both enough fuel and enough food," Müller said, "and make sure that everyone benefits in the process."
Getting into local politics
Site is down right now, but check this out: Following the Dollars: Map Political Campaign Contributions in Your Area. You enter your zip code and it generates a map of political contributions and connections from your zip. Very cool for finding out what your neighbors are for/against. I am in zip code 98119 in case you care.
April 27, 2006
Carbon crashes in Europe
With mandated caps Europe has been a bull market for carbon. But this week it crashed 30% as actual emissions data came out in France that was well below the caps. Planet Ark : Lax EU Emissions Targets Put Carbon Into Freefall. Carbon prices in Europe are still a multiple of the voluntary system in America. And some of the largest polluters are yet to report so there could be a recovery. I predict severe volitility in carbon over the next three months as the actual demand for credits is determined and the speculation is washed out.
April 25, 2006
President speaks on biodiesel
this from the Pres today
"I also support biodiesel fuel, which can -- (applause) -- which can substitute for regular diesel in cars, trucks, buses and farm equipment. Last year I went out to see a biodiesel refinery in Virginia that's making clean-burning fuel from soybean oil. And it was a really interesting process to watch. I don't know if you know this or not, but they're able to use waste products like recycled cooking grease to manufacture biodiesel. In other words, research and development has lead to new alternative sources of energy like biodiesel. So that's one of the reasons why I signed into law the first ever federal tax credit for biodiesel producers. In other words, we're interested in addressing our energy security needs on a variety of fronts. It makes sense for the United States to have a comprehensive strategy to help us diversify away from oil. "
he is spinning, but I hope it results in action. He is beginning more and more to include biodiesel with the ethanol pitch.
April 24, 2006
Biodiesel price inverts again
This from OPIS:
"At the rack, diesel prices added more than 11 cts on average for the week, topping $2.20/gal in many areas. That bolstered biodiesel blending economics, with B100 rack prices lately averaging some 8cts less than diesel, given the federal blending credit."
In seattle you can buy B100 cheaper than diesel at at least three stations. Last summer the inversion lasted 6 weeks and didn't start till after the hurricanes. This summer's hurricane season hasn't even started. I expect prices to be inverted for three or four months this year. We are cranking up production at Imperium!
California RFS gets closer
2% biodiesel by 2008 and 5% by 2010. Go California!
Verizon anti-spam a mess
Ok, I am an investor in Cloudmark, so I am biased, but I have always believed that white and black lists simply don't work at scale and Verizon's new system is showingn that in spades: Slashdot | Verizon's Aggressive New Spam Filter Causing Problems. The real problem is that as spam filtering goes deeper into the network and in fact sucks, users will start missing mails and not even know it. I see a huge user back-lash coming.
wow, ask and you shall receive: gas price monitor
Just this weekend I was thinking to myself: "Self, wouldn't it be a cool application to have a web site that monitored gas prices in your area and alerted you to the cheapest, etc.?" Here it is: Seattle Gas Prices - Find Cheap Gas Prices in Washington. It is a network of gasbuddy. User generated content on gas prices all over the country. A cool map that shows "heat" of prices around the country by county. Of course California is the hottest. Very cool application! Now they just need an RSS feed of say the cheapest price within 5 miles of my zip code.
April 23, 2006
Be affraid, very affraid
If you want to know what it is like on the ground in the mid-east with the CIA read this book. If you want a blow by blow of how the agency (under clinton) eviscerated the human field operatives in favor of “technology”, a move that lead to our TOTAL blindness to 911, read this book. There is no option to human intelligence. Even if you don’t like the thought that America “spies”, it is necessary for us to know what the hell is going on in the world. Even today there are many countries where we have ZERO human intelligence agents, many across the mid-east. When we invaded Iraq we had exactly ZERO on the ground agents. We based everything on ex-pat reports and third hand intelligence and “analysis”. Look what we got.
After reading this book and others I am more convinced than ever we need to strengthen our intelligence services at home and abroad.
I give it a 4 of 5
The Lady in the Lake and other stories
Chandler started by writing short stories for pulp magazines. These are some of the more readable ones. The Lady in the Lake is the best and could have been a whole novel. If you want bite-sized Chandler, this is it! I ate it on the plane back from Hawaii tuesday last week.
I rate 4 of 5 stars.
The Long Good-Bye is not long enough
This is one of those books I didn’t want to end. One of the two best Chandlers (along with The High Window). I have read this one so many times that the middle pages of the paperback came out this time. A note in the front inside cover says I read it first back in 1992. I need to get a hard-backed version. The majority of memorable Marloweisms come from this book. Here are a couple:
on bad TV: “I turned to another channel and looked at a crime show. The action took place in a clothes closet and the faces were tired and over-familar and not beautiful. The dialogue was stuff even Monogram wouldn’t have used. The dick was a coloured houseboy for comic relief. He didn’t need it, he was plenty comical all by himself. And the commercials would have sickened a goat raised on barbed wire and broken beer bottles.”
On marriage: “The other part of me wanted to get out and stay out, but this was the part I never listened to. Because if I ever had I would have stayed in the town where I was born and worked in the hardware store and married the boss’s daughter and had five kids and read them the funny paper on Sunday morning and smacked their heads when they got out of line and squabbled with the wife about how much spending money they were to get and what programmes they could have on the radio or TV set. I might even have got rich – small-town rich, an eight-room house, two cars in the garage, chicken every Sunday, and the Reader’s Digest on the living-room table, the wife with cast-iron permanent and me with a brain like a sack of Portland cement. You take it, friend. I’ll take the big, sordid, dirty, crooked city.”
I rate 5 of 5 stars.
The High Window sets a high bar
This is Chandler’s best. It is a must read for any fan of detective novels. Just re-read it on the plane down to Buenos Aires. I bet the hayday of that town was similar to the time chandler writes about around LA in the 30s. Lots of dark bars with shady people and dangerous women in long silk dresses. Some of them are still there at Asia De Cuba http://www.asiadecuba.com.ar/ Saturday night. One of the things I like the best is Chandler’s description of characters. One of my favorites is a secretary in this book:
“While she was looking up numbers and telephoning hither and yon I looked her over. She was pale with a sort of natural paleness and she looked healthy enough. Her coarse-grained coppery blond hair was not ugly in itself, but it was drawn back so tightly over her narrow head that it almost lost the effect of being hair at all. Her eyebrows were thin and unusually straight and were darker than her hair, almost chesnut color. Her nostrils had a whitish look of an anaemic person. Her chin was too small, too sharp and looked unstable. She wore no makeup except orange-red on her mouth and not too much of that. Her eyes behind the glasses were very large, cobalt blue with big irises and a vague expression. Both lids were tight so that the eyes had a slightly oriental look, or as if the skin of her face was naturally so tight that it stretched her eyes at the corners. The whole face had a sort of off-key neurotic charm that only needed some clever makeup to be striking. She wore a one-piece linen dress with short sleeves and no ornament of any kind. Her bare arms had down on them, and a few freckles.”
I rate 5 of 5 stars.
The lost mystery
By reading other reviews, I found out that this Chandler thriller was “lost” for some time. Just finished it on a trip to Argentina (13.5 hours in the plane you know). This is Chandler’s final novel. While I had read many others, I hadn’t read this one. Still working through the full set of Chandler in Vintage Crime/Black Lizard that I bought in NY a couple months ago.
Playback is a bit darker than his others. Marlowe is getting older and feels it. He gets knocked down more. He also spends intimate time with the pretty woman (a rarity). This part is done in classic Chandler style, no details just “and in the morning” thing. The attention confuses Marlowe:
“What a lot of different girls you are. Now you’re making like a moll. When I first saw you, you were a quiet well-bred little lady. You didn’t like dreamboats like Mitchell making a pitch at you. Then you bought yourself a pack of cigarettes and smoked one as if you hated it. Then you let him cuddle you – after you got down here. Then you tore your blouse at me ha, ha, ha, cynical as a Park Avenue pet after her butter and egg man goes home. Then you let me cuddle you. Then you cracked me on the head with a whiskey bottle. Now you’re talking about a beautiful life in Rio. Which one of you would have her head on th enext pillow when I woke up in the morning?”
I have met women like that.
Leaked memo proves Exxon funding of bad climate research
Thanks Mark for this...
A leaked memo from a 1998 meeting at the American Petroleum Institute, in which Exxon (which hadnt yet merged with Mobil) was a participant, describes a strategy of providing logistical and moral suport to climate change dissenters, thereby raising questions about and undercutting the prevailing scientific wisdom. And thats just what ExxonMobil has done. Lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual universe of global warming skeptics. NYTimes syndicated columnist Paul Krugman.
SNSers have known this for years. Nice to have the details, though. And more shame for Lee Raymond, ex-CEO.
All in one ethanol and biodiesel energy balance page
It seems that critics keep bringing up bad science around the energy balance of ethanol and Biodiesel. This page: Is ethanol energy-efficient?: Journey to Forever gives a very comprehensive list of all available studies and rebuttals (including Pimentel). Read for yourself the weight of evidence in favor of VERY positive energy balance.
My new home page
thanks Kevin for the tip...popurls.com | popular urls to the latest web buzz. All the metafilters in one place. 10 minutes a day and you get all the relevance filters from various different communities in one place. I would like to move the priority around on the screen though.
April 15, 2006
take teh entrepreneur quiz
thanks Dave for the pointer to: StartupJournal | Sound Advice. If you think you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, take the quiz. If you fail miserably, you should have second thoughts. As I took it, it was interesting to note that many of the traits the quiz was honing in on were the same ones I look for in entrepreneurs when I am being a VC. Wouldn't the VC business be so much easier if we could just have a simple checklist of things like this?
Well life is not that easy, but collecting data is very important. And this quiz is one data point. And a good one.
VDMBA ramping up some thoughtful posts
My friend Dave over at: Tech - Startups - Capital - Ideas has been putting up some very good posts lately. I especially recommend the ones on his experiences off-shoring small development projects. Here is a guy who in his spare time while taking a Stanford MBA has built a handful of fully functional sites with developers he has never met personally. And some of those sites are profitable!
I won't ever listen to an entrepreneur again who doesn't walk in with a demo or some kind of skelleton site developed in the first pitch. These things are just too easy to do with VERY little money. You don't need a band of a dozen $100K plus programmers anymore. Just do it!
Keep up the good work Dave.
April 8, 2006
Look out for $4 gas this summer
This from the PI this morning: Latest probable relic of the past: Cheap gas. We haven't started the summer driving season yet. Spring is typically a DOWN time for gas prices. Demand from winter heating oil is tapering off and the summer vacation season hasn't kicked in yet. But already the price of regular unleaded has jumped 41 cents since LAST MONTH in the Seattle area. Overall the West Coast is 27 cents higher than this time last year while the Gulf Cost is 43 cents higher. And we haven't even seen demand or any disruptions from huricanes or war.
Another interesting tidbit from the story, the breakdown of costs. 60 percent of a gallon is the cost of crude, 20% taxes, rest refinery and marketing which is fairly costant. But checking the profits of the refiner and marketer, they are following the percentage up even though their costs haven't changed. Expect another record profit summer for the oil companies.
I also expect more than 6 weeks this summer for biodiesel to be CHEAPER than diesel. Go buy a diesel NOW while still can.
April 7, 2006
Big oil puts its toe in biodiesel
Shell and Aramco have started blending biodiesel in at one of their terminals in Huston: Big Oil Buys Into Biodiesel: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance. They are not today making biodiesel. interesting little nudge.
Mike McGavick visits Seattle Biodiesel
I should have shaved On the road with Mike!
April 5, 2006
Chicago C02 mart links with Europe
Well in trials anyway: Chicago climate mart to try CO2 link with EU - Yahoo! News. Since the US is voluntary and Europe is mandatory, there is a significant price difference as you can expect. About double for carbon in Europe. But why? Is there something wrong with American Carbon credits. Well yes, they are not verifiable by European regulators. But if this hook-up works and we get verfication figured out that will raise the price of carbon credits in the US. GREAT for us. Carbon credits are a major by-product of biodiesel. Go hook-up go.
On the day that Apple Corps vs. Apple Computer is in the courts (Apple the computer guys will loose), The Apple computer guys finally do something good for the world. Run Windows. Welcome to the real world Steve. I hope you display this in your apple retail stores.
April 4, 2006
Stoel Rieves analysis of Alternative Energy tax credit extensions proposed by Sen. Grassley
The big man is extending them all. PTC, Biodiesel and Ethanol. Good stuff.GrassleyAltEnergyExtender.pdf
Bradley Belt resigns from Pension Gaurantee Corporation and leaves BIG hole like I predicted
A major threat to the US economy and major burden to US taxpayers that is today NOT factored into government budgets in any way or it's drag effects on the economy is the underfunding of US pensions. The ability of large businesses to dump their liabilities on the US taxpayer is criminal but continues. I wrote previously about this. This week, mark Andersen over at SNS noted that the new director just gave up and left. You will be hearing more about this next year. There is a MAJOR opportunity for entrepreneurs to start companies that will compete in traditional industries which are weighed down by pensions.
"This past two years has been a particularly tumultuous period for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which has had to confront unprecedented operational, financial and policy challenges." - Bradley Belt, executive director, at his resignation after only two years on the job. The PBGC is now technically bankrupt, $500B in the hole.
"Under-funded U.S. pension programs will become the new black hole in the U.S. economy. Although some of this has already surfaced, its extent will be discovered to be far beyond current estimates. With U.S. healthcare costs completely out of control - and often a key part of pension programs - there will be no way to avoid a crisis. Responses will include cutting health and other benefits, bankrupting pension funds, bankrupting companies, and ultimately requiring a massive bailout by the Pension Guaranty Fund (although this bailout will probably happen a bit further in the future)." -- ***SNS*** "Ten Predictions for 2005," 1.13.2005.