Sign up | Login with →

Comments by Bob Meinetz Subscribe

On Could Congress's Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban Threaten U.S. Energy Security?

John, the Washington Post article is based on a report prepared for Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year titled CHANGING CRUDE OIL MARKETS: Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices, and the Size of the Strategic Reserves Should Be Reexamined.

The report references four studies, two sponsored by non-profits and two by big-profits:

Resources for the Future/University of Nevada Las Vegas (non-profit)
ICF International / The American Petroleum Institute (big-profit)
IHS / "Several oil companies" (big-profit)
NERA Economic Consulting / The Brookings Institution (non-profit)

Consulting companies of all stripes are a bit like professional witnesses at trial - they are paid to lend a reputable veneer to whatever position a party wants to present.  All studies believe gasoline prices will drop, anywhere from 3¢ to 13¢/gallon. Not surprisingly, the industry-funded studies did not address the environment; NERA concluded exporting U.S. crude would increase CO2e emissions by 12 megatons/year;  Resources for the Future saw it being responsible for CO2e emissions increasing by 22 megatons/year by 2035.

Hard to present that in any other light than selling out tomorrow's environment for today's profit. Isn't it?

October 4, 2015    View Comment    

On Could Congress's Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban Threaten U.S. Energy Security?

John, other things equal - when oil prices go down, consumption goes up. According to the Washington Post there is widespread agreement among analysts that it would depress international prices:

In fact, a Government Accountability Office review released in July noted wide agreement among analysts that allowing crude exports would tend to decrease international oil prices, which is the way to depress gasoline prices. That is why analysts counterintuitively predict that lifting the export ban would increase U.S. crude oil prices by $2 to $8 per barrel but reduce U.S. gasoline prices by 1.5 cents to 13 cents per gallon.

Using a marvelously twisted bit of logic, they then suggest lifting the export ban could be good for the environment:

There could be an opportunity for a productive deal here: Adding energy research funding, efficiency programs or, in an ideal world, a charge on carbon dioxide emissions to the package could balance its possible effects on the environment.

Hmm. Kind of like "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face."

Hard to know exactly how much prices would go down internationally, but let's face it: this is a move by oil companies to open vast international markets to fracked (aka, "tight") American oil, which now makes up half of U.S. production - in essence, selling out tomorrow's environment for today's cash. It's reckless, perverse, and irresponsible. We know that oil companies don't give a damn about the environment; they don't give a damn about U.S. "energy security" either:

"What isn’t possible is that global oil giants like ExxonMobil are motivated to help the American people.

Lee Raymond was CEO of ExxonMobil until 2005. According to Steve Coll's book Private Empire, when Raymond was asked if ExxonMobil would build more refineries in the U.S. to help America he replied, “I’m not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”

Not surprisingly, that bit doesn’t make it into the ad campaigns."

October 3, 2015    View Comment    

On Could Congress's Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban Threaten U.S. Energy Security?

John, questions like, "How Best to Lift the Current Export Ban?" implicitly assumes it's a good idea to begin with.

The world's most lucrative business is currently in a full-court press to counter irrefutable evidence that burning fossil fuel has dire implications for the environment. That's a big marketing hill to climb. One technique creates more immediate threats which need to be dealt with immediately: "energy security" and "job security". Another TEC contributor is on a mission to convince her readers lower oil prices will result in Armageddon.

There's not a word here about the emissions impact of lifting the export ban. So without resorting to extremes, maybe climate proponents need to borrow from the API playbook: how would lifting the export ban affect environmental security?

October 3, 2015    View Comment    

On Sorry Environmentalists, Shell's Arctic Decision is All About the Money

Cutler, for the oil industry it is all about the money, as is Keystone XL. 

Give environmentalists credit for working very hard to make it more expensive - by promoting stricter federal drilling standards, by lessening demand for fossil fuel by demanding more efficient, cleaner vehicles; by challenging the value of tar sands extraction in public actions and in court. 

Environmentalists are already fundamentally changing the economics of oil and gas exploration, because it's not "all about the money" for consumers - the other head of that two-headed monster.

October 1, 2015    View Comment    

On The Fallout from Volkswagen's "Defeat Device"

Nathan, it's not just spin. The laboratory emissions tests were very unlike the real world - that's how Volkswagen's software "knew" the cars were being tested. The emissions controls were automatically activated when they were in labs, and defeated when the car was being driven. The software was discovered when regulators began testing the cars while actually driving them:

"One day last summer, the regulators made a startling discovery: A subroutine, or parallel set of instructions, was secretly being sent by the computer to what seemed to be the emissions controls.

Regulators were floored...Regulators set out to cheat the cheat, tweaking lab test parameters to trick the car into thinking it was on the road. The Volkswagens began spewing nitrogen oxide far above the legal limit."

September 30, 2015    View Comment    

On The Winds of Change: Wind Energy PPAs Are the Future for Data Centers

Texas wind, in 2013, generated 36 million megawatthours?!

The figure represents a scant .88% of U.S. consumption for the year - a waste of money and resources about which even Facebook can't get me excited.

September 29, 2015    View Comment    

On Why Are California’s Gasoline Prices So High?

Severin, I'll respond to the rhetorical question with which you conclude your article with another, perhaps more relevant:

[2] If your industry spends a quarter of a billion dollars lobbying and electing state officials to favor your profit margin, is that unfair?

September 29, 2015    View Comment    

On The Fallout from Volkswagen's "Defeat Device"

Nathan, as far as I can tell this is about NOx and not driving habits.

EPA has probably the strictest standard for NOx in the world. But nitric oxides/sulfur dioxide are responsible for some nasty health issues, especially for people living near roadways, as well as ozone and acid rain.

The standard was revised in 2010 to twice as high as it was in 1971 (twice as much NOx is permissible), but the original standard of .053 ppm played a big part in lowering acid rain levels by 65% since 1976. I remember when eastern forests were dying from it, and believe the original standard was justified.

September 29, 2015    View Comment    

On Race to the Bottom: How Renewable Microgrids will Compete with Diesel Power in the Coming Years

Geoff, the times have changed. It sounds like you've found an ideal example of where wind can save impoverished areas of Australia's outback funds which are sorely-needed for more critical supplies.

Like all renewables advocates, however, you leave out important details which are deal breakers for 98% of the world's inhabitants. For example:

  • A 100 kW inverter can't power anything - it merely turns DC into AC, and the DC's gotta come from somewhere (don't worry, I wouldn't dream of trying to collect on your bet).
  • Was the 75kW wind generator free?
  • What makes you think the wind on which you rely would be available in more than a few areas of the world?
  • Re: diesel fuel, you write it costs "virtually nothing when the Microgrid was working". Humor me - what's the aggregate annual cost when the Microgrid isn't working?
  • Whether daytime temps of 32C (90F) are really "bad for learning" I'd like to hear from a student's point of view.
  • What's the lifetime of those batteries vs. a diesel generator?
  • The title of this article is "How Renewable Microgrids Will Compete with Diesel Power in the Coming Years". But instead, your Microgrid is guaranteeing diesel an indefinite role in the school's future, is it not?

My fears are not of solar or wind but of advocates who, through an incomplete understanding of a technology, grossly overestimate its capabilities. They have been around forever, and will continue to be. But there's never been quite so much on the line.

September 28, 2015    View Comment    

On Volkswagen's Shame and Challenge to Sustainability Management

Jan, somehow Carlos Ghosn of Nissan was able to see around the obstacles and innovate.

I test-drove a "mule" Leaf (modified Sentra) for Nissan in March 2010 and was impressed (not sure why you think EV batteries weigh in at "thousands of pounds" - the Leaf's battery pack is 600 lbs.). Its acceleration blows away comparable ICE-powered cars, and trust me - it has no problem getting up to highway speeds. Range is rarely an issue, and every year it's less of one.

The days of sacrificing the environment for cheap "performance" are long over. Languishing in obsolete technology, VW saw a corner they thought they could cut, and will learn the hard way that U.S. consumers don't need their cars. Many other options.

September 28, 2015    View Comment    

On Why the U.S. Urgently Needs to Invest in a Modern Energy System

Hops, if all we did was look to the future, utility-scale hamster wheels run by utility-scale hamsters would solve all of our energy problems.

Past experience with hamsters, however, has shown us that's going to be a disappointing return on investment. Unfortunately, past experience with solar and wind power is not subjected to the same scrutiny.

September 28, 2015    View Comment    

On Volkswagen's Shame and Challenge to Sustainability Management

Mark, it seems BMW buyers would be more influenced by reduced performance issues than price.

WSJ have anything to say about that?

September 27, 2015    View Comment