February 27, 2017

More Miles. Less Gas.

February 27, 2017


And EVs are only getting started.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance:

Americans drove more than 3.2 trillion miles in 2016, an all-time high after years of negative or low growth during and after the Global Financial Crisis. Look inside those trillions of miles – and at vehicles sold and the capital financing them – and US road transport is even more complex than we concluded in our analysis in last week’s Sparklines.

Last November, US gasoline consumption hit its all-time high on a trailing 12-month basis. The last time it did so was in September 2007. Vehicle miles travelled hit their pre-crisis peak just a few months later that same year. Rebase both gasoline consumption and miles travelled to September 2007, and we see something intriguing: Vehicle miles travelled are up 6% in a decade…and fuel consumption is exactly the same as it was almost a decade ago.

After years of recovering consumption, gasoline demand growth is now flattening out; by one measure, as Gadfly’s Liam Denning noted earlier this week, it’s already in recession.

The spread between miles travelled and gasoline consumption, which was narrow during the early years of the financial crisis, keeps widening despite much lower pump prices since late 2014. Even if the US car and light truck are older now than they have ever been, some efficiency gains are baked into the fleet.



One read of the Saudi refusal to prop up the price of oil in recent years, is that they see the writing on the wall, and understand that selling oil cheaply today may be a better choice than not being able to sell it at any price tomorrow.

This reality, is, of course, the driving force behind the for-the-moment successful attempt by Russia to dominate world resources – that’s the meaning of their Hail Mary play attack on the US election – transiently ascendent, with helpers in the FBI, the media, and, knowingly or not, the US Republican Party.

A lot of people have been watching the progress of a Saudi plan to offload its fossil assets and change course toward renewables.  Appears they may already be seeing the outlines of the carbon bubble.


Saudi Arabia has said oil giant Saudi Aramco is worth more than $2 trillion, enough to consume Apple Inc. twice, and still have room for Google parent Alphabet Inc.

The kingdom may have to settle for less. A lot less.

Industry executives, analysts and investors told Bloomberg their analysis — based on oil reserves and cash flow projections under different tax scenarios — suggests Aramco is worth no more than half, and maybe as little as a fifth, of that amount. This means Saudi Arabia would earn a fraction of the $100 billion implied by its valuation if it sells 5 percent to the public in 2018, as planned.

For example, Wood Mackenzie Ltd. came up with a rough valuation of Aramco’s core business of $400 billion, according to clients who attended a private meeting at the oil consultant’s City of London office this month and asked not to be named. The Edinburgh-based company, popular for its analysis and valuation of energy companies and assets, declined to comment.

An Aramco spokesperson said the oil producer doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.

While there’s a lot of guesswork involved in sizing up a company that’s never divulged financial statements and may have its tax rate cut before the initial public offering, this valuation gap reveals the hurdles Saudi Arabia could face in preparing for the post-oil era.

A profitable IPO is meant to anchor a sovereign wealth fund that will, if things unfold as envisioned, generate enough investment income at home and abroad to dominate state revenue by 2030. Demand for oil will peak just before then, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc projections, as alternative fuels and electric cars gain popularity, putting Middle East energy producers on shakier footing.


Washington Post:

Saudi Arabia is a country near-synonymous with the oil industry, but now the kingdom is moving to end what it calls its “addiction to oil” with a new plan.

The plan, known as Vision 2030, was announced Monday by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the fast-rising 31-year-old said to be at the helm of Saudi Arabia’s plans to modernize its economy. In an interview with al-Arabiya news channel conducted in his palace in Riyadh, Mohammed said that under the plan, the country will exist “without any dependence on oil” by 2020 and would soon be a “global player” on the world investment stage.

That would mark a big change. Since large quantities of oil were discovered in the then-nascent Saudi kingdom in 1938, the oil industry has come to dominate the country’s economy. Revenue from the industry earned the Saudi government billions and enabled the ruling royal family to offer generous benefits to Saudi citizens. In recent years, the oil industry had accounted for an estimated 90 percent of the government’s income.

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Bill Paxton passed. This is his most memorable role for me.
I think the movie started something that continues to this day.

Reminded also that this was an important early role for Philip Seymour Hoffman, as a suitably scrubby grad student.

Below, maybe the most dramatic actual footage I’ve seen, must have been made by some people who watched this movie a few too many times. Read the rest of this entry »

Bill points out that as much as the media has failed us over recent decades, this is no time for business as usual.
Everybody’s going to have to up their game.

Hunter Thompson said during Watergate, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”  In that fashion, it seems as though for a decade, comedians have had to do the jobs Journalists no longer do.

That has to end.

Pieces like this show that Maher is one of our sharpest observers, and most important media voices.

Above, a workshop from 2010, training “spontaneous” Tea Party “patriots” on how to skew information on social media.

Especially note, – “80 percent of the books I star, I don’t read. That’s how it works.”

I’m pushing back against the media’s newly minted meme of comparing the current resistance movement against a true home-grown crypto-fascist regime, with the racist, film-flam Tea Party scam of 6 years ago.  Herd journalism is a tough thing to overcome, so just understand this will be require a push, and some very large citizen uprisings in coming months.

Below, Christopher Hirchens on the 2011-ish Tea Party movement.


Raw Story:

Staffers at CPAC quickly scrambled to confiscate Russian flags with the word “TRUMP” written on the front that were being waved by attendees during President Donald Trump’s speech on Friday.

The trouble began when some attendees took out pro-Trump flags to wave during the president’s speech that also happened to have the same white-blue-and-red striped pattern as Russia’s official flag.

Reporter Peter Hamby notes that CPAC staffers quickly realized that its attendees were waving Russian flags, and moved to confiscate them.

“Why Facts don’t Change our Minds” – The New Yorker:

Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the U.S. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention. (Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)

Now, a little history.

Time magazine recently excerpted  Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the GOP – which I guess I’ll have to add to my stack next to Dark Money.

Author  Jeff Nesbit was former communications official at the FDA and George H.W. Bush White House.
He describes his first gig after he lost his White House gig following the 1992 election – working for the Koch Brothers front group, Citizens for a Sound Economy.(CSE)

Nesbit wrote about it in the book “Poison Tea”.

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We are pushing Europe toward China.

Money quote here – “The only thing that this administration will respond to is pressure…words will not suffice, EU has to work together with China to exert maximum pressure.”


Faced with a U.S. retreat from international efforts to tackle climate change, European Union officials are looking to China, fearing a leadership vacuum will embolden those within the bloc seeking to slow the fight against global warming.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to act on campaign pledges to pull out of the 2015 Paris accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, his swift action in other areas has sparked sharp words from usually measured EU bureaucrats.

When Trump’s former environment adviser, until the president’s inauguration this month, took to a stage in Brussels on Wednesday and called climate experts “urban imperialists”, a rebuke from Britain’s former energy minister drew applause from the crowd packed with EU officials.

But with fault lines over Brexit, dependence on Russian energy and protecting industry threatening the bloc’s own common policy, some EU diplomats worry Europe is too weak to lead on its own in tackling climate change.

Instead, they are pinning their hopes on China, concerned that without the backing of the world’s second-biggest economy support for the global pact to avert droughts, rising seas and other affects of climate change will flounder.

“Can we just fill the gap? No because we will be too fragmented and too inward looking,” one EU official, involved in climate talks, told Reuters. “Europe will now be looking to China to make sure that it is not alone.”

Meanwhile, disruptive change continues as Germany, Europe’s largest economy, charges ahead to a renewable future.


Last year at this time, RWE, one of Germany’s largest power producers, announced a surprise annual loss for 2015 and scrapped its dividend for the first time in decades.

That was nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

Below, Exxon’s new Chairman Darren Woods calls for a price on carbon.

Wood’s predecessor Rex Tillerson, well known to viewers of these vids, has gone on to fame, of course as Russian,.. ahem, I mean, US Secretary of State.

Above, and below,  a good time for some reminders of what our expanding slate of options is, from Berkeley’s energy expert Dan Kammen.

Exxon – Energy Factor blog:

We all generally share similar aspirations: jobs and good health, comfortable and safe places to live and a clean environment. That’s true in U.S. cities like Dallas – where ExxonMobil, the company I now have the privilege to lead, is headquartered – and it’s true all over the world. What’s also true, and too often overlooked, is the vital role that energy and energy technologies play in fulfilling these shared aspirations.

Energy is the power behind everything – from our smartphones to our global economy. Growing U.S. energy production has spurred a manufacturing renaissance, adding $20 billion a year to the economy and hundreds of thousands of new jobs, according to estimates by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ExxonMobil’s new projects on the U.S. Gulf Coast are expected to generate more than 45,000 jobs alone.

Most forecasts project that many factors – including global population growth of nearly 2 billion, a doubling of worldwide economic output and a rapid expansion of the middle class in emerging economies – will raise global energy demand by an amount equivalent to the total energy used today in the entire Western Hemisphere.

This growing demand creates a dual challenge: providing energy to meet people’s needs while managing the risks of climate change. I believe, and my company believes, that climate risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us – business, governments and consumers – to make meaningful progress. At ExxonMobil, we’re encouraged that the pledges made at last year’s Paris Accord create an effective framework for all countries to address rising emissions; in fact, our company forecasts carbon reductions consistent with the results of the Paris accord commitments.

The world already has powerful tools for meeting global energy demand while reducing emissions. One is natural gas. Today in America, nearly one-third of the electricity is produced using natural gas. Our role as the country’s largest producer of natural gas – which emits up to 60 percent less CO2 than coal for power generation – has helped bring CO2 emissions in the United States to the lowest level since the 1990s. Increasing use of natural gas means our overall energy mix is growing less carbon-intensive.

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The reason most people have not heard of Ben Santer is that, while his contributions to climate science have been massive and epic in importance, and his courage in standing up to an almost unparalleled barrage of attacks is legendary, Ben himself is one of the quietest, most unassuming people you will ever meet.
My conversations with Ben a few months ago lead me to believe he had decided it was time to be more public in his advocacy, and I guess this is evidence of that.

One of the burrs under Ben’s saddle in the last year has been Senator Ted Cruz’s brazen and dishonest claims about climate science, on display most prominently in a December 2015 Senate Hearing, where a veritable clown car of climate criminals were brought out to repeat some of the most eminently crushable distortions.  And Ben, in truest form, rather than just “arguing from authority” as one of the world’s highest experts, spent a year going thru the various claims, and publishing a point by point rebuttal.

Now see the video that drove Senator Cruz, and Breitbart crazy – Dr. Santer and other key scientists show precisely how this climate denial lie was constructed.

More below from Dr. Carl Mears,  keeper and collector of the data Senator Cruz claims to use. Read the rest of this entry »

Washington Monthly:

Good on Mark Phillips of CBS News for his series this past week on the impact that human-caused climate change is having on our world. After years of US broadcast and cable entities downplaying and dismissing the importance of this issue, it was quite impressive to see Phillips and CBS report on the climate crisis with the extensive focus this problem deserves.

Of course, CBS could have produced this series this time last year, prior to Donald the Denier’s ascension to the White House and the subsequent selection of climate-contemptuous Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. However, had CBS done so, the first-grade dropouts who insist that Trump was right when he labeledclimate change nothing more than chicanery from the Chinese would have assailed CBS for alleged liberal bias, as right-wing media entities and the fossil-fuel industry long taught them to; presumably, they’re too embarrassedby the failure of the fool they elected to go after CBS and Phillips as aggressively as they otherwise would.

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