Seven year ago (seven?!) when I started writing this blog, I would have never believed that a chart like this would be possible:
For 25 straight months, the state’s oil production rate has increased by more than 25 percent year-over-year, notes economist Mark J. Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Management.
“Output in America’s No. 1 oil-producing state — Texas — continues its phenomenal, meteoric rise,” Perry wrote on his Carpe Diem blog. “That production surge has to be one of the most significant increases in oil output ever recorded in the U.S. over such a short period of time.”
It’s hard to say if this output can be sustained for any amount of time, or if it’s a last gasp effort to recover the oil left on the table to profit from the current high price per barrel. This oil renaissance has been happening around us for a few years now, and frankly, I never understood how big it was until today, when I saw this graph. I haven’t been writing about fuel for a while, instead concentrating on driver related safety, but this has my attention again in an unexpected way.
What do you think – is this an “oil bubble”? (Related: Is the word “bubble” being used too often to describe just about everything? Are we just living in a “bubble”, and didn’t know it?)
We’re very happy today to get referenced in a Yahoo Finance post about the winners and losers in the run up on gas prices:
The efficiency complex. When push comes to shove, Americans are really good at figuring out how to do more with less, and how to get more for their money — and then turning those ideas into businesses. When oil soars, websites such as Gasbuddy.com, which points users to cheap gas in the area, experience a surge in traffic. And firms like Propelit, whose software enables trucking fleet managers to monitor the driving habits of employees (and provide incentives for them to drive more efficiently), or FuelClinic.com, which coaches consumers on ways to drive more efficiently, find that their sales pitches go over much better.
We are in the “winners” camp, apparently members of the “efficiency complex”… I’m not sure I renewed membership this year, what with the fuel prices driving up my transportation costs and all.
None the less, very happy to be of service, coaching consumers on ways to drive more efficiently.
What to expect over the next few months… rising food prices that will lag behind fuel prices by a month or two, as most of our food is transported more than 1,500 miles from farm to your local market. Super-commuters will be hit hard, as just getting to work will become more and more expensive.
Will we hit $6.00 per gallon as some predict… what do you think?
Source: Automotive Fleet
Overall, gasoline demand was reported at a little more than 8 million barrels per day, which AAA said is a 400,000-barrel-per-day year-over-year decline and at the lowest level since 2003, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy report.
Despite ample supply and low demand for gasoline, though, the national average for gas prices is still up 10 cents over the previous week, with impending refinery shutdowns and high crude oil prices pushing prices up, according to AAA. The national retail average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline was $3.38 on Jan. 17, a penny more expensive than one week ago, 15 cents more expensive than one month ago, and 28 cents more expensive than a year ago.
The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, says Americans could be paying $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012.
In an interview with Platt’s Energy Week television, Hofmeister predicted gasoline prices will spike as the global demand for oil increases.
“I’m predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices,” he said.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Oil Price Information Service says Americans will see gasoline prices hit the $5 a gallon mark in the next decade, but not by 2012.
“That wolf is out there and it’s going to be at the door…I agree with him that we’ll see those numbers at some point this decade but not yet.” Kloza said.
Gasoline prices have been steadily rising. Last week, gas prices crossed the $3 mark for the first time since October 2008. According to AAA figures, prices are up 4% from a month ago and 16% from the $2.585 average a year ago.
Source: MIT Technology Review
Transonic Combustion, a startup based in Camarillo, CA, has developed a fuel-injection system it says can improve the efficiency of gasoline engines by more than 50 percent. A test vehicle equipped with the technology gets 64 miles per gallon in highway driving, which is far better than more costly gas-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, which gets 48 miles per gallon on the highway.
The key is heating and pressurizing gasoline before injecting it into the combustion chamber, says Mike Rocke, Transonic’s vice president of business development. This puts it into a supercritical state that allows for very fast and clean combustion, which in turn decreases the amount of fuel needed to propel a vehicle. The company also treats the gasoline with a catalyst that “activates” it, partially oxidizing it to enhance combustion.
I am generally leery of any new fuel efficiency technology that requires any additive that “activates” or “catalyzes” anything… but it’s very interesting that this new injection system does not require a spark-plug for ignition, instead injecting fuel directly into the combustion chamber and allowing the heat generated during compression ignite the fuel – much like a diesel engine. (Fun fact: The current crop of small diesel engines available in Europe are regularly scoring 60+ MPG in every-day driving.)
Once the fuel is injected into the piston, the heat and pressure are enough to cause the fuel to combust without a spark (similar to what happens in diesel engines), which also helps provide fast, uniform combustion. Ignition can be timed to happen just when the piston is reaching the optimal point, so it can convert as much of the energy in the gasoline into mechanical movement as possible, without wasting energy by heating up the combustion chamber walls, as happens in conventional technologies. The company has developed proprietary software that lets the system adjust the injection precisely depending on the load put on the engine.
So is this new injection technology a way to use the diesel cycle with widely available gasoline instead? Considering that refineries generally produce much more gasoline vs. diesel from each barrel of oil, this technology might allow us to take advantage of the diesel-engines superior efficiency without off-setting the gas/diesel ratios of production and distribution. Like modern (and prototype) FLEX-fuel engines, this new technology would allow drivers to “work within” our existing “gas station” distribution model, without requiring expensive new “refueling stations” or specialized refining and distribution networks that do not currently exist in any great numbers.
With gasoline prices generally unstable and on the rebound since the “crash” of 2008, modern mobile civilizations are counting on engineers to innovate creative solutions like this one.
“It’s a time of renaissance for internal combustion engines,” says William Green, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT.
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Fuelishness! Feed: Hard to recoup on EV; DOE grants for fuel efficiency programs; Gasoline zips to $3 again; Diesel fuel spike causing trucking trouble
- Study: Buyers unlikely to recoup extra cost of electric vehicles — As automakers aggressively pursue electric vehicles, a study released today shows the cost targets behind the plans are unlikely to be achieved, making it hard for consumers to recoup the extra cost of buying electric.
- Massive DOE grant program aims to boost truck fuel economy — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is spreading $187 million in grants around the truck manufacturing industry to significantly improve fuel efficiency for heavy- and light-duty trucks, all while maintaining current exhaust emission curbs. “Improving the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks can make significant contributions to reducing America’s oil consumption within a short timeframe,” DOE spokesperson Jen Stutsman told FleetOwner. “While heavy-duty vehicles make up only 4% of the vehicles on the road, they account for nearly 20% of the fuel consumed in the U.S.”
- Gasoline prices zip toward $3 mark — Gasoline prices on Monday continued their push toward $3 per gallon. The only question now is when? Prices have been jumping on the back of a strong oil market where the cost for a barrel has spiked 20 percent in the past month on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
- Trucks at Work Blog – Containing fuel costs — Diesel fuel prices are on a tear all of a sudden – not surprising, given the recent deep freeze across the U.S. Diesel, as we all know, is made from the same petroleum distillate as home heating oil, so when the temperature plummets (like it’s doing now), refineries start cranking out more heating oil at the expense of diesel. Thus, you get a crimp in supply even as demand remains the same – thus, a shortage, and thus (tah-dah!) price increases at the pump.
Source: CNET Green Tech
Last year, Lotus announced the development of its Omnivore engine, the name denoting flex fuel capability. Today Lotus released test results for the engine, along with the kind of detail on how it operates only an engineer could love. These test results cover the first phase of testing the Omnivore engine with gasoline. Presumably, testing with fuels derived from alcohol and other sources are in the next phases.
In Lotus’ lab, the Omnivore engine brought in 10 percent better fuel economy than current direct injection engines, which are the most efficient on the market.
Two-stroke engines have twice as many “power strokes” at any given RPM when compared to the common four-stroke engines, making them more powerful and naturally efficient. (The engine is not “wasting” as much energy moving the piston up and down in power-robbing intake and scavenging strokes.) Two-strokes are smaller and lighter when compared to four-stroke engine of similar horsepower, and have fewer moving parts that simplifies the inner workings, making them cheaper to build and maintain.
In the past, the problem has always been pollution – it was considered near-impossible to build a two-stroke engine that could meet modern emission standards. Apparently Lotus is solving this problem:
Omnivore also uses a two-stroke, rather than a four stroke cycle, but still manages to turn in emission levels equivalent to modern production engines.
This Lotus prototype engine uses an ignition system called “homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), meaning that instead of igniting its fuel charge with a spark plug, the compression of the cylinder causes the charge to ignite, similar to a diesel engine.”
More good news – the prototype is a flex-fuel engine, which would allow the owner/operator to choose what kind of fuel preferred to power it with – fossil-fuel gasoline (and diesel?) or bio-mass alcohol (ethanol/methanol) or a combination of the two.
Flex-fuel engines already exist, the problem with the current crop is that they are engineered as gasoline engines, and re-programmed to also run on alcohol blends – meaning that mechanically they are still designed for the lower compression ratios required to run on modern gasoline blends. Alcohol fuels have “less energy” per gallon than gasoline, but can run at a much higher compression ratios, allowing a properly-built alcohol engine to “gain” additional efficiency and reduce the “MPG” gap with gasoline.
The Lotus engine can apparently modify it’s compression ratio thanks to what they call the “puck” – or the “variable compression mechanism…at the top of the cylinder which dynamically changes the displacement depending on running conditions.”
Once again innovative engineering is proving that there still are many ways to improve fuel efficiency with the internal combustion engines, and there are no technical reasons we can’t be driving cars that get 60+ MPG regularly. The “fuel efficiency flat-line” from the mid-1980’s until just recently was due to something else – not because it was “technically impossible” to build more efficient engines.
Fuelishness! Feed: $700B Gains from Energy Efficiency; Bio-Engineering Algea; Cash for Clunkers FAIL; Cellphone Use as Deadly as Drunk Driving; Merits of a Gasoline-Diesel ‘Cocktail’
- McKinsey Tallies $700 Billion Gain from Energy Efficiency – A massive efficiency push over the next decade could save the U.S. economy $700 billion. That is, while efficiency measures would cost about $520 to put in place, they would save $1.2 trillion through 2020. In the process, efficiency could meet 23% of America’s future electricity demand.
- Algae: From Biotech to Frankenfuels? – Algae, say scientists and industrial titans alike, could jumpstart a viable biofuels industry because it reproduces quickly and can be turned into fuel without taking food from the world’s plate.
- Is the Cash-for-Clunkers Program an Environmental Dud? – As Congress debates adding $2 billion to the program, some calculations show that it may have only negligible environmental benefits.
- US safety agency hides dangers of using cellphones while driving – Driving while dialing and driving while texting is more dangerous than you knew. A federal report proves it, with some really scary numbers that show it is as dumb and deadly as drunk driving and DUI, driving under the influence.
- Gasoline-diesel ‘cocktail': A potent recipe for cleaner, more efficient engines – Based on tests by the University of Wisconsin-Madison engine research group headed by Rolf Reitz, would be a diesel engine that produces significantly lower pollutant emissions than conventional engines, with an average of 20 percent greater fuel efficiency as well.
Over the next few year you’ll see a change at your local gas stations as more alcohol-blended fuel pumps are installed across the nation. Alcohol-blended fuels like E85 are already available in some areas, and more are coming to market as more FFVs are sold in the United States.
US based manufacturers have committed to making 50% of their new autos FFVs by 2010 and and 85% by 2012. In addition, there is proposed legislation called the Open Fuel Standard Act which will mandate all cars sold in America meet the same goals, so this will mean that all imports sold in the US will meet the same FFV standard. (You can help support this legislation here.)
Since FFV is an widely available and mature technology (there are already millions of FFVs on the road in the US – you mayÂ be driving one), adding the capability to all new vehicles sold in the US doesn’t add notably to the cost of making new cars (usually about $100) – and provides a way for auto manufactures to “green-up” their product lines.
Drivers of FFVs will be able to choose what fuel to buy, based on price at the pump, performance needs, personal preference, etc. – just like shopping for any other commodity. You’ll be able to mix E85 with E10 (the current flavor of gasoline almost everywhere in the US) and newer alternative blends like E25 or M50. Using FFV technology, your car will automatically adjust your engines settings to run properly on any combination of gasoline and alcohol fuels.
Unlike more exotic alternative fuels like compressed hydrogen or natural gas, drivers of FFVs are not stuck on a virtual “energy island” of specialized refueling stations. You will be able to travel freely, just like today, as far and wide as you like – choosing your favorite blend of alcohol fuels as you go – or using straight gasoline where no other choice exists.
So if your next car has an engine that burns liquid fuel, makes sure it is “future proof” and check that it’s a Flex-Fuel Vehicle before you buy it, or else you’ll be left withoutÂ options at the pump when the alcohol-blended fuels hit the wider market.
Drilling in ANWR is aÂ subjectÂ you’ve probably heard alot about. HereÂ is someÂ perspective about the area in question.Â
Take a quick look at this map. Click on the image to see the original .pdf file, in much greater detail. If you look closely, there is a small red square inside a larger green area that represents the ANWR Coastal Plain. The little red dot is the proposed development area.
By 2010 the US is projected to produce only approx 5 million barrels per day, combined with what we are importing, that leaves us 5 million barrels per day short. Look at the red dot in this picture. http://www.anwr.org/docs/CloseupofareaIII.pdf. That dot is the size of the proposed oil field that could potentially, only drilling will tell, supply the US with what is realistically estimated to produce 18 billion barrels of oil. Do the math, and you will find that means this little red dot could make up our shortage for 3600 days, or approx 10 years. Environmental advances are such that oil production and wildlife can co-exist, the people of Alaska want it, the people of the US want it, and the jobs and economic benefit to our citizenry is undeniable. (Read Source)
ANWR will not solve all of our problems alone.
The recent “plunge” in oil prices since theÂ end of summer has motivated OPEC to call for a cut in members oilÂ production by 4.3% – restricting output to 26.3 million barrels-per-day. This is in effort to halt the fall in price, and “re-stabilize” the market.
OPEC surprises with deeper oil cutÂ
OPEC agreed on Friday to curb its output by 1.2 million barrels per day, its first cut for more than two years, to halt a precipitous fall in prices.
The reduction, amounting to 4.3 percent of OPEC’s September production, was deeper than anticipated and the biggest since January 2002. It trims OPEC output to 26.3 million bpd from November 1.
“The credibility of OPEC is at stake,” Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil told Reuters before the meeting that began Thursday and ended in the early hours of Friday.Â
OPEC believes that the “right price” for a barrel of oil is $55 to $60 USD – which is still 3 times to cost we paid in January 2002.
7-11 is creating it’s own brand of gasoline, and giving Citgo their walking papers. Part of the reason is concern over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s anti-US politics. Citgo is a Venezuelan state-owned company.Â
Convenience store operator 7-Eleven Inc. is dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 locations and switching to its own brand of fuel.
The retailer said Wednesday it will purchase fuel from several distributors, including Tower Energy Group of Torrance, Calif., Sinclair Oil of Salt Lake City, and Houston-based Frontier Oil Corp.
A spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven said its 20-year contract with Citgo Petroleum Corp. ends next week. About 2,100 of 7-Eleven’s 5,300 U.S. stores sell gasoline.
Citgo is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, and the foreign parent became a public-relations issue for 7- Eleven because of comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
E85 is an alternative fuel for many of todays production cars. It’s 85% ethanol that is created from crops, and 15% gasoline. There are many cars on the road in America today that can burn either gasoline or E85 – these are “flex-fuel” cars. You may own one of these cars, and not even know it.Â
E85 is the term for motor fuel blends of 85 percent ethanol and just 15 percent gasoline. E85 is an alternative fuel as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy. Besides its superior performance characteristics, ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline; it is a completely renewable, domestic, environmentally friendly fuel that enhances the nation’s economy and energy independence.
You can find out if your car is a flex-fuel car by contacting the dealer where you bought you car and asking them if your’s is a flex-fuel car, or by checking this resources at this site about E85 fuels.
If your car is a flex-fuel car, you can find a service station in your area that sells E85 fuel. Hopefully there is one close enough to you to be convienent.
E85Â hasÂ one major drawback, it’s that you won’t go as farÂ per gallon. E85 may cost you as much as 30% in MPG, althoughÂ this can be offset by lower pump prices, with a net gain of going farther for less money.Â
E85 is aÂ step in the right direction forÂ drivers who want to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and at the same timeÂ curb the amount of emissions you personally contribute to the global pollution problem.Â
Ever wonder what exactly is in a barrel of oil?
Product Percent of Total
- Finished Motor Gasoline 51.4%
- Distillate Fuel Oil 15.3%
- Jet Fuel 12.6%
- Still Gas 5.4%
- Marketable Coke 5.0%Â
- Residual Fuel Oil 3.3%
- Liquefied Refinery Gas 2.8%
- Asphalt and Road Oil 1.9%
- Other Refined Products 1.5%
- Lubricants 0.9%
One barrel contains 42 gallons of crude oil. The total volume of products made from crude oil based origins is 48.43 gallons on average – 6.43 gallons greater than the original 42 gallons of crude oil. This represents a “processing gain” due to the additional other petroleum products such as alkylates are added to the refining process to create the final products.
Additionally, California gasoline contains approximately 5.7 percent by volume of ethanol, a non-petroleum-based additive that brings the total processing gain to 7.59 gallons (or 49.59 total gallons).
A recent article from America’s cheese-capitol indicates that the sustained high gas prices of this spring and summer have changed the gas-guzzling habits of survey respondents, and that the recent drop in gasoline prices will not change them back. Let’s hope there are similar mid-west sensibilities from the right coast to the left coast.
From Wisconsin State Journal
Survey: Driving won’t climb as gas prices fall
…After more than a year of high prices driven by a range of factors – increased demand, last year’s hurricanes and global instability – gasoline has plunged in recent weeks, selling for $2.51 a gallon at some Madison-area stations. And analysts say prices could drop further, thanks to the end of the summer driving season and stable supply. Natural gas prices also have declined, setting the stage for decreased energy spending for consumers in the coming months.
But area drivers say they haven’t forgotten the summer’s high prices, which saw gasoline approach $3.20 a gallon in Madison, and they say aren’t returning to their old gas-guzzling ways. That’s because many are aware prices could easily go back up…
…Some analysts are forecasting that gas prices will continue to decline, said Pam Moen of AAA Wisconsin. But she said consumers are smart to be wary.”People are relieved and we should be thankful these prices have finally come down,” she said. “But it’s important to understand that nothing really has changed. Until we address issues with our national energy infrastructure, we are going to be vulnerable to the kind of volatility and extreme pricing we’ve seen in the past year.”
Gas prices accelerated the boom in hybrid cars and now play a bigger role in consumer choices, said Neeraj Arora, a UW-Madison professor of marketing research.
“People are going to reflect back on the prices that have changed over the last month or two more than they did three or four years ago,” he said. “My guess is it’s going to become a bigger factor than it has in the past in making a consumer decision on which (vehicle) brand they should buy.”
Jeff Beddow of the National Automobile Dealers Association said it took a long stretch of higher gas prices before sales of less fuel efficient vehicles dropped, and he doesn’t see buyers quickly coming back to gas-guzzlers.
“Typically, changes in consumer buying habits related to gas prices come after a sustained period of time at either a high or low price level,” he said…
Wow… wondering if I should go buy that Escalade I’ve been wanting… maybe some 55 gallon drums…
From The Seattle Times: Business & Technology
Analyst predicts plunge in gas prices
By Kevin G. Hall
September 14, 2006
WASHINGTON â€” The recent sharp drop in the global price of crude oil could mark the start of a massive sell-off that returns gasoline prices to lows not seen since the late 1990s â€” perhaps as low as $1.15 a gallon.
“All the hurricane flags are flying” in oil markets, said Philip Verleger, a noted energy consultant who was a lone voice several years ago in warning that oil prices would soar. Now, he says, they appear to be poised for a dramatic plunge.
Crude-oil prices have fallen about $14, or roughly 17 percent, from their July 14 peak of $78.40. After falling seven straight days, they rose slightly Wednesday in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, to $63.97, partly in reaction to a government report showing fuel inventories a bit lower than expected. But the overall price drop is expected to continue, and prices could fall much more in the weeks and months ahead…
It seems like Christmas in September here in the US. Gas prices are free-falling to levels we havenâ€™t seen in a while. Itâ€™s such a sudden and drastic change that itâ€™s got me wondering â€œwhy?â€â€¦
From USA Today
Gasoline prices continue to tumble, almost free-falling toward levels not seen in five months.
The nationwide average for regular was $2.618 a gallon, the Energy Information Administration reported Monday. That was 10.9 cents lower than a week earlier.
â€œThe reason prices are going down so far so fast is that they shouldnâ€™t have been that high in the first place. Two reasons they were: fear and speculation,â€ says Mike Oâ€™Connor, president of the Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association. It represents gasoline distributors who operate about 4,000 stations.
Oâ€™Connor says $2 gasoline â€œis more likely than unlikelyâ€ if the Gulf of Mexico isnâ€™t hit by hurricanes and if there isnâ€™t a flare-up of tensions in oil-producing regions.
So gasoline prices are likely to be down to $2/gallon as long as there are no oil-platform eating hurricanes or a flare-up of tensions in Venezuela and Canada (or was that some other oil-producing regions they had in mind)? Wow, that sounds greatâ€¦ Iâ€™m not convinced this is the whole story. Letâ’s keep digging and reading’