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Soaring energy prices bad news for the economy

21 02 08 - 23:50

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Soaring energy prices bad news for the economy

By Ron Scherer

New York - Once again, concern is rising about the price of oil and gasoline.

On Tuesday, the price of oil hit a record $100.01 a barrel, up some $14 in eight trading days. It's the second time since late December that the price has hovered at the $100-a-barrel level.

The sharp rise is already showing up at the gas pump: Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the price of gasoline rose 4 cents a gallon, reports GasPriceWatch.com. Since Feb. 9, gasoline prices nationally are up 10 cents a gallon, for an average price of $3.05 a gallon.

Soaring energy prices bad news for the economy

New York - Once again, concern is rising about the price of oil and gasoline.

On Tuesday, the price of oil hit a record $100.01 a barrel, up some $14 in eight trading days. It's the second time since late December that the price has hovered at the $100-a-barrel level.

The sharp rise is already showing up at the gas pump: Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the price of gasoline rose 4 cents a gallon, reports GasPriceWatch.com. Since Feb. 9, gasoline prices nationally are up 10 cents a gallon, for an average price of $3.05 a gallon.

For the economy, the run-up could not come at a worse time. Many economists believe the US economy is teetering on the edge of a recession. Higher energy prices act as a tax on consumers, absorbing money that would normally be used to buy other things.

If energy prices remain this high - or go higher - they could begin to eat into the rebate checks that the government is planning to start sending taxpayers in May.

"This is bad for the consumer and the economy," says Dennis Jacobe, chief economist at the Gallup Organization in Washington. "It will be an offset to the fiscal stimulus everyone is talking about."

Motorists are paying much higher prices than they were a year ago. According to GasPriceWatch.com, gasoline prices are up 51 cents a gallon from a year ago, when the price of oil was closer to $60 a barrel.

On Wednesday, some of those price increases were reflected in a sharp rise in the Consumer Price Index, which rose by 0.4 percent in January, compared with December. Energy rose 0.7 percent. Yet even with energy and food excluded, the CPI was up 0.3 percent - much higher than the Federal Reserve would like to see.

The last time oil prices reached this level was at the end of December. Then, oil prices fell back to about $86 a barrel. Energy analysts talked about the price of a barrel of oil settling in for 2008 in the low $80s.

But since then, reports have surfaced that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) might cut production when it meets in the first week of March. OPEC currently produces close to 30 million barrels per day. On Feb. 13, the International Energy Agency (IEA) cut its estimate of demand by 200,000 barrels per day to reflect the slowing US economy.

"If OPEC does follow through and cut, it's not very helpful to the market," says John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute in Washington. "Why cut at these prices?"

Mike Fitzpatrick, who heads up the risk management group at MF Global in New York, blames the latest spike on hedge funds or wealthy individuals buying energy futures as an inflation hedge. "The logic is that stock and bond markets are down, so the best bet is commodities," says Mr. Fitzpatrick.

But Fitzpatrick says the market is also being swayed by a number of small events, such as a small refinery fire in Texas, the continued sparring between Exxon-Mobil and Venezuela's president, and news reports that oil field violence is heating up again in Nigeria. "We're all scratching our heads," he says.

While oil traders are trying to understand the dynamics of their market, economists are worried about consumers as they watch oil prices tick up.

In Dayton, Ohio, people are doing less driving early in the week, when prices are higher (prices tend to come down later in the week), says Brad Proctor, founder of GasPriceWatch.com, which is based in Dayton. "People are adapting," he says.

Yet so far, consumers have shown some resilience. On Tuesday, Chicago-based ShopperTrak RCT reported that retail sales in February rose 5.9 percent for the week ending Feb. 16. For the month, it's running at about a 2 to 3 percent increase, says Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

"Call it moderate spending to this point, not too fast and not too slow," says Mr. Martin. "People are continuing to buy things that they need."

But the International Council of Shopping Centers is reaching different conclusions. On Wednesday, it reported no week-to-week increase in sales and it proclaimed in a press release that consumers were not in the mood to spend.

How much gasoline prices rise may have an effect on consumer confidence. "A change of 10 cents a gallon either up or down won't make much of a difference in confidence levels," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center in New York. "Following hurricane Katrina, some gasoline prices went up to $3.50 a gallon, and we had lines at gas stations. So there was much greater apprehension."

But Mr. Jacobe says his surveys are starting to show a sharp deterioration in consumer confidence. "It's down considerably from the first week of January," he says.

How high gasoline prices rise could well determine the effectiveness of Congress's attempt to stimulate the economy. In May, the first checks for $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples (plus $300 per child) will hit mailboxes. Assuming that an average person drives 15,000 miles annually and gets about 17 miles per gallon, Martin estimates that his or her annual gasoline usage is 882 gallons. A rise of 11 cents a gallon would take about $97 out of his or her federal rebate check. A rise of $1 a gallon would take $882. "It is tenuous times we live in," Martin says. Used tags: , , , ,

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Inspiring quest there. What occurred after? Take care!
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Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

Saturday 16 July 2011 at 06:07 am Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

By Pete Spotts

The images are stark: soot-grimed firefighters steering bulldozers or wielding shovels to clear underbrush; curtains of orange flame tracing the contours of summits; aircraft dumping chemicals to slow a fire's progress.

Between Jan. 1 and early July of 2011, slightly more than 38,000 wildfires charred the landscape in the United States at a record pace. So far this year, wildfires have consumed just under 4.9 million acres of forest and grassland, a cumulative expanse the size of New Jersey.

That's 1 million more acres than fires consumed during the same period in 2006, which saw a record 9.9 million acres burned for the entire year.

Beyond the numbers, this year's fires may provide the first large-scale tests of the effectiveness of projects undertaken over the past decade to help forests survive wildfires, several specialists say.

The West's forests are adapted to deal with certain types of wildfires, researchers note. But since the mid-1980s, they add, some of these forests have experienced an increasing number of fires to which they are not well adapted.

Many researchers trace this shift in part to climate change. more

Hybrid Moves Into Housing

Sunday 22 May 2011 at 01:14 am Hybrid Moves Into Housing

By Brenda Krueger Huffman

(Chicago) – Recycling - Check. Conserving energy - Check. Hybrid car - Next car, check. Hybrid home system - What? Yes, it’s here. Hybrid has seamlessly, successfully moved into housing.

Safety Power, Inc. was initially started to provide homes with back up power. The company quickly grew to include renewable energy options and advising commercial and industrial clients with electrical conservation. Recently the company has come full circle and began marketing a new more capable type of renewable energy system for homes.

The award winning firm was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” and continues to grow its residential client base in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Safety Power also serves larger firms on the national level.

Robert Brazzale, President of Safety Power, a master electrician turned entrepreneur, began Safety Power in 2007. An avid member of Local First Chicago, Rob believes in assisting sustaining local economies with green collar jobs and belongs to many green orientated groups in Chicago and around the country. more

Are electric car makers missing the trick?

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 11:12 am Are electric car makers missing the trick?

by Martin Ott

I believe that electric car makers may be driving us all down the road that may result in the same sort of technology failures that we have seen in the past.
I'm not referring to the Sinclair scooter here but cast your mind back to the débâcle of Betamax v VHS home recording systems. The eventual winner was the technically inferior VHS but the battle was not resolved until innumerable consumers had paid out for worthless Betamax systems. Back in the 70's a similar conflict occurred over audio systems when America fell in love with the 8 track tape system that moved magnetic tape in a loop over the player head at a high speed resulting in a better sound. The world market finally dictated that the audio cassette was the way to go but not until millions of consumers had been lumbered with home and in-car systems that went down the technological cul de sac. more

Wind Turbine Manufacturer Acknowledges SGS´s Contribution towards Successful Project Completion

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:57 am by Suresh Varma

The Theni Wind Farm project was developed by CLP India Pvt. Ltd., one of the major wind farm project developers in India. Located in the south western part of Tamilnadu, a southern state of the country, the facility consists of 60 Vestas V82 geared wind turbines. As recognition of its contribution towards the successful execution of this wind power project SGS received Vestas award.

Each turbine at the wind farm has a capacity of 1.65 MW IEC Class IIB machine with a blade diameter of 82 m. After a six-month long completion period, the Theni Wind Farm was officially opened in May, 2010.

Acting as contract engineer during project execution, SGS was responsible for ensuring that all activities were carried out at the site by the contractor in line with the final agreement. In doing so, SGS supervised the quality of construction works, the fulfillment of the technical parameters and kept the project within the scheduled time and contracted price. more

E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:37 am E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

by Power Plus Communications

Mannheim - Power Plus Communications AG (PPC), the leading provider of Broadband Powerline Communication systems (BPL) for smart grids has taken on a key role within an E.ON smart grid project to facilitate an extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution.

E.ON Westfalen Weser AG is currently trialing smart grid technology within its network of 1.3 million inhabitants and PPC's proven medium voltage BPL solution has connected substations in the project using the existing power grid.

Using BPL technology, standard compliant and IP-based data transfer rates of 5-30 Mbit/s can easily be achieved via the medium voltage cable itself. Within E.ON’s smart grid project, PPC's medium voltage technology facilitated the extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution. The Cisco smart grid Router and Switches used in the project are highly compatible with BPL networks, providing a real cost advantage over fiber optic networks – which can be much more expensive where cables are not pre-existing.

By combining their technology at Westfalen Weser, PPC and Cisco have ensured the evolution of fast and efficient smart grids which are controlled on an IP basis. This increases the reliability of the power grid, fulfills regulations and drives down costs. At the same time this modern smart grids communications technology makes it possible to effectively integrate renewable energy into the grid. more

MIT Infrastructure "Life Cycle" Study is Progress Both Left & Right Can Embrace - Part 2, Fiscal Responsibility

Saturday 19 February 2011 at 09:02 am By Brenda Krueger Huffman

Chicago – Perhaps moving to the center is where we all need to be politically on the environment and effective spending compatibility. Not all green technology is crazy, and not all business profit or government expenditure is evil.

Even if you do not believe in man caused climate change, we can all agree leaving a cleaner planet and a more fiscally responsible government for the next generation is preferable to not doing so.

Perhaps green technology can be cost effective, and government fiscal responsibility may realistically include affordable green initiatives. Honest “life cycle analysis” and “life cycle cost analysis” study considerations should be a political compromise starting point both the left and the right can embrace. more

Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

Thursday 27 January 2011 at 11:05 am Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

By Pete Spotts

Washington - A long-term retreat in snow and ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere is weakening the ability of these seasonal cloaks of white to reflect sunlight back into space and cool global climate, according to a study published this week.

Indeed, over the past 30 years, the cooling effect from this so-called cryosphere – essentially areas covered by snow and ice at least part of the year – appears to have weakened at more than twice the pace projected by global climate models, the research team conducting the work estimates.

The study, which appeared online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, represents a first cut at trying to calculate from direct measurements the impact of climate change on the Northern Hemisphere's cryosphere. The study was conducted by a team of federal and university scientists who examined data gathered between 1979 and 2008. more

EPA presents plan on greenhouse gases

Wednesday 05 January 2011 at 10:38 pm By Mark Clayton

Washington - Setting the stage for a New Year battle royal between Congress and the White House over greenhouse gas emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency Thursday laid out a timetable for the nation's largest carbon emitters – power plants and refineries – to begin curbing those pollutants.

Republicans have said all year that they plan to pull out all the stops to keep the EPA from phasing in greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations beginning in 2011, saying they would damage the energy industry, raise prices, and cost jobs.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he opposes the regulations on greenhouse gases and indicated he would lead efforts to revoke EPA regulations in the next Congress. The new regulations, he says, will likely lead to the shut down of coal-fired power plants.

"To protect jobs and fortify our energy security, we should be working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down," Mr. Upton said in a statement. "We are woefully unprepared to meet our nation's growing energy demands, yet this administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Environmentalists lauded the EPA's move. more

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:21 am By Warren Richey,

Washington - The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a major environmental lawsuit that seeks to force six electric power companies to cap and reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The lawsuit - filed in 2004 by eight states, the City of New York, and three land trusts - targets what it claims are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and among the largest in the world.

It seeks a judicial order declaring that the fossil-fueled power plants are a "public nuisance." It also seeks a judicial order capping the plants' greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the plants to adopt a schedule of reduced emissions in future years. more

Outside Cancun climate conference, Caribbean Sea testifies to global warming

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:09 am By Ezra Fieser,

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic - This summer's extreme heat may seem like a distant memory as winter approaches the United States.

But the summer that broke heat records across the Northern Hemisphere is still being felt below the surface of the Caribbean Sea: 2010 will likely be one of the most deadly years on record for coral reefs.

If diplomats attending the two-week global climate change talks that opened Monday in Cancun, Mexico, want more evidence of the negative and potentially devastating affects of warming temperatures, they need look no further than the blue sea outside their hotels. Researchers say that throughout the Caribbean coral reefs are "bleaching," a condition that occurs when they are under extreme stress due to warmer-than-normal sea temperatures. more