Thursday, February 4, 2016

POTUS Proposes Fee on Oil

The President of the United States has proposed $10 per barrel fee on oil used in the United States.  Mr. Obama made the announcement on February 4.  I agree there should be a fee on oil and that $10 per barrel is not as large a fee as I would have proposed but is a correct policy.  The proposed fee is only approximately 24 cents a gallon as there are 42 gallons in a barrel.

What always worries me is that the revenue collected from the fee will simply be wasted.  The US Department of Energy is notorious for funding bad projects and wasting money.  The waste goes back through 40 years and has happened whether the Republicans or the Democrats held the presidency.  This is why I refer to the Department of Energy as the Department of Entropy.

Using the $10 per barrel fee, I estimate that $60 billion a year of revenues could flow to the US government.  The Green Machine could make good science happen with this type of funding.  No silly projects like Solyndra, Ivanpah or Bloom Energy would get a cent from a department of energy that I would run.

I would give any new buyer of a standard hybrid a tax credit equal to the difference in the price of the hybrid versus the price of a similar sized non hybrid vehicle.  I would give folks who carpool, vanpool, or take public transport a subsidy of $50 a month.  For those taking public transport the $50 would be used to lower the cost of a monthly pass on any registered transit or bus agency.  Even if 20 million people became capoooligans , vanpooligans, or public transitooligans this would only cost $12 billion of the $60 billion the fee would raise.

With regard to alternate energy technologies not a cent would be given to Cellulosic Ethanol.  This technology simply does not work.  The US Department of Energy promised us 4.25 billion gallons of Cellulosic Ethanol for the year 2016.  After billions dollars of waste we will be lucky to produce 15 million gallons.  The best alternate fuel for vehicles is Ethane, a technology I have successfully shown to lower CO2 emissions per mile by over 30% compared with gasoline using the same vehicle, on the same route, at the same speed, with the same driver, in the same traffic.  No other fuel comes anywhere close.

We can convert a standard car or light truck to run on ethane for less than $5,000.  If I was the secretary of energy I would convert 5 million vehicles to run on ethane and spend $25 billion of the fee on this.  The US now flares (burns) and wastes so much ethane that 10 million vehicles could be powered by this low carbon fuel.   Petrochemical companies in Europe and Asia want our ethane to make more plastics.  Sending them our ethane borders on eco criminality as the Ethane is such a wonder low cost vehicle fuel with high octane (107), good range, low carbon, low oxides of nitrogen, low carbon monoxide, and negligible hydrocarbons out of the tailpipe.  Yes the Green Machine is gung ho for ethane.  BY comparison the US DOE has wasted several billion dollars to get only 400,000 plugin vehicles on the road in six years.  If I had this money I promise to have 5 million vehicles using ethane on road within five years of launch.

It will be interesting to watch where the POTUS’s proposed fee on oil winds up?  Sadly it will most likely become a football in the 2016 election, and I probably won’t get $25 billion to make a real dent in the CO2 emissions of vehicles using real science and the laws of thermodynamics.  Had I won the big Powerball lottery I could have self-funded the Ethane business.  Instead I have a worthless ticket stub and just a good idea of how to use C2H6.  Yes Ethane has six hydrogen atoms and only two carbon atoms.  Add an oxygen atom to ethane and voila you have ethanol.  Ethane is Vodka without the O.  The Green Machine is a Billionaire without a Billion green backs.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Good news for Green Energy

Many are concerned that lower oil prices will slow down the push to renewable energy.  The green machine believes that lower fuel costs will actually be temporary and will in fact boost the eventual deployment of greener vehicles and power generation.

One might ask why the Green Machine who uses thermodynamics as his guiding principles is optimistic that good will come of these low commodity prices.  With very low prices for steel, copper, aluminum, silver, glass, nickel, cobalt, polysilicon, and other raw materials that are used for the manufacture of new efficient vehicles, PV power stations, wind turbines, batteries, etc. more of these greener systems will be deployed around the globe.

The Green Machine is happy to see that China is embracing small electric vehicles and Europe is moving away from diesel vehicles to hybrids.  Younger people around the world are not that interested in even owning a vehicle.  Younger people are not interested in living in suburbia and the conspicuous waste of resources.  Car sharing will become a norm, car ownership may in fact drop quite considerably.

OPEC knows the world has gone through a sea change and they are now dumping oil on the market in a desperate attempt to continue their domination of the global energy market.  That OPEC is forgoing hundreds of billions of dollars in this futile attempt to turn back the clock is actually good for the world.  The money that otherwise would have ended up in corrupt hands is actually being spent on greener infrastructure in countries from India to Chile.  Money is being freed up for many infrastructure projects as global interest rates are diving.

The Collapse of oil prices and the resulting drop in global stock markets also means central banks will lower rather than raise interest rates.  This will not spur oil consumption but will spur investment is more energy efficient infrastructure.  30 years ago a strike in the coal or steel industry would cripple an economy like the US or the UK.  Now those industries are actually meaningless.  OPEC in 30 years will be meaningless.

The largest arrow in our quiver to green up the world is reduced consumption of fossil fuels and other mined or farmed resources via efficiency and the elimination of waste.  In 30 years I predict we will be using less oil, gas, and coal even with a population of 9 billion people.  In 30 years we will be using a quarter less plastics, steel, aluminum, glass, and cement on a global basis.  In 30 years folks will look back on the mid years of the second decade of the twenty first century and remark how the world woke up to a greener way of living.  In 2045 I will be 92 years old and will be very happy to see that I forecasted correctly.

Monday, January 4, 2016

China Cement

One thing that China produces a lot of is cement.  Bill Gates opined in June of 2014 that in the three years 2011 to 2013 China produced more cement than the USA produced in the entire 20th century.

But the growth in cement production in China is over and 2015 will see approximately a 5% reduction versus 2014.

Steel production is also hitting the skids in China.  In fact industrial production in China is headed south.   The last time industrial output was growing was in February 2015

From a green point of view this is wonderful.  From an economic point of view this is a disaster.   Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and other countries that are the quarries of raw material for China are sucking wind. 

China will dump their steel in other global markets.  Cement is often too expensive to transport too far but I bet that China will dump cement on world markets.  The Pakistanis have been dumping cement in South Africa.  The Chinese are dumping the wheel barrows that carry the cement.

Folks the world is headed into a dumping tailspin and the WTO will be pretty busy with dumping cases.   As for my prediction on China it is quite simple.  For the next two decades, I doubt China will use as much steel or as much cement in a year as they did in 2013.  China will be dumping excess steel and cement on world markets for quite some time to come.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sasol Versus Tesla

Sasol is the South African company that converts coal to gasoline and diesel.  Its stock is traded on the NYSE as SSL.  Its market cap is $17 billion and its book value is $15 billion.  It is suffering now that oil prices are low and that coal to gasoline/diesel is a large CO2 emitter.   Gasoline from Sasol has twice the carbon footprint well to wheels than gasoline from crude oil.

Elon Musk also comes from South Africa and he is the great Green Hope of the future based on his company Tesla.  TSLA trades on the NASDAQ and has a market cap of almost $32 billion which is nearly twice as valuable as Sasol.  TSLA’s book value is only $1.3 billion and less than one tenth that of Sasol.

Investors in the stock market base their valuations by discounting future cash flows they expect the companies to enjoy.  Investors are euphoric and irrationally exuberant about TSLA and are pessimistic and disdainful of Sasol’s future.  I think TSLA is overvalued and Sasol is undervalued as markets are not 100% rational.   Sasol also has a chemicals business and has positions in North America in shale and petrochemicals. 

My guess of the market caps at the end of 2016 for SSL and TSLA are as follows:  SSL will equal $22 billion and TSLA will equal $25 billion.  I estimated these values on my prognostication of oil prices at the end of 2016 being at least $50 a barrel and that Tesla will see stiff competition in the EV market from other auto companies.

Interestingly 9 years ago when Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Fed opined that the US was running out of natural gas, Coal was King and Elon Musk was an unknown.   For sure in 9 years’ time Wall Street will have a new guru and it won’t be Elon Musk.  In 9 years’ time the laws of thermodynamics will still hold 100% true and 2014 will be the bicentennial anniversary of Carnot’s law that Carnot understood was back in 1824.  Carnot will always be remembered for pointing out that entropy happens to 100% of the people 100% of the time.  Musk will be remembered for producing cars for the 1%.  In my view of the world as The Thermonator Carnot’s market cap is worth 100 times Musk. 

Sadly most people have never heard of Carnot.  People have heard of the Car Dash Ians and most people are simply oblivious of science and want the cheap entertainment of fools.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year

2015 is just about gone.  It was a pretty sad year for the world.  But I will focus on what we achieved in the year.

Natural gas was a green spot on the planet.  Yes CH4 not Gore lowered carbon emissions by reducing coal use substantially in the USA and marginally in China.  Solar PV of the silicon variety again did a decent job as did wind power.  These two are the best options for renewable energy.  Concentrated solar and bio fuels were a total bust as was CIGS in PV.

On the demand side LEDs did their wonders and more efficient ICE vehicles also hit the road.  Low gasoline prices moderated the improvement in the CAFÉ average but it is trending up and low gasoline prices are not permanent.  The move to using pad computers and smart phones and away from desktops and even laptops also continued and these smaller devices use far less energy.  Data centers now operate at far higher temperatures and have cut energy use significantly even though the quantity of data circling the planet expanded exponentially.

Paper use decreased again and fewer trees are becoming newsprint and paper for printers.  That folks now read the news on a pad or smart phone has done the world a very good deed.  Toilet paper production certainly increased because of population explosion and increased disposable income.  We know entropy always increases and “shift happens”.  Not the F in shift.

The biggest problem facing the planet is water.  Worldwide use of fresh water is increasing and rainfall is not.  Fresh water has been supplied by solar power since plants first stepped on the earth, but now more and more desalination plants that use grid power are springing up.  Get the pun “springing up”.  I intend to become more knowledgeable on water and will then opine further on H2O in 2016. 

I wish you all a happy new year and let’s hope 2016 is safer, greener, and healthier than 2015.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Global CO2 Emissions Down 2015 Versus 2014

Yes this may have indeed happened.  China is using less coal and more natural gas and oil plus they added a small amount of renewable energy and they did lower their carbon emissions in 2015 versus 2014.

China has also lowered the price of natural gas to force consumers to switch from coal.  On top of this China’s industrial production is not growing rapidly and may have actually declined in 2015.  What this means is iron ore, coal, oil, LNG, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, and other commodities will continue to tank and countries like Australia, South Africa, Chile, Saudi Arabia and Brazil will hurt economically as they are the quarries for China.

My prediction for 2016 is that global CO2 emissions will again drop by approximately 1% versus 2015.  The US may actually join the crowd and lower CO2 emissions by heating homes less this winter thanks to the El Nino.  The El Nino will also increase hydroelectric power generation in the west.  Natural gas will remain the fuel of choice for power generation and coal is a goner.  2015 saw a decline of 10% in US coal production and 2016 will likely see another 5% decline.

The best thing about 2016 though is that we will vote for a new president.  Sadly number 44 was a thermodynamic neophyte of the poultry variety.  Number 45 will not be an Einstein either, but he or she may just surround themselves with as secretary of energy that is not Alfred E Neuman and with someone who actually knows that Ivanpah is Solyndra times three.  Happy New Year to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas and Green Energy

Santa moves his sleigh through the air and on land using reindeer.  If only real life could be that green.  Gevo which is a failed Khosla company claimed they would produce jet fuel from sugar.  Of course the story was thermodynamic BS but Richard Branson of Virgin bought it hook, line, and sinker.  I wrote that it was BS years ago.

GEVO is one of the worst performing stocks in the NASDAQ for 2015.  Last Christmas bio fools were buying the stock at $5.55 a share today the same share can be bought for $0.74.  Khosla has a bigger bio fool bust than GEVO in his KIOR debacle that the state of Mississippi has called fraud.  KIOR shares are worthless.

Perhaps Santa can also run his sled on lithium ion batteries?  He could have a Nissan Leaf sled.  Nissan leads the world in EV production and sales.  The problem for EVs in the USA in 2015 is that gasoline is cheap and sales of all EVs in this country are down compared with 2014.  This is the fifth year on market for the Leaf in the USA and sales of the Leaf for the 11 months through November are only 15,922 versus over 27,000 for the same period last year.  This is a bad omen for a supposed growth market.  Santa will likely stick to reindeer rather than lithium ion batteries.  The batteries in hoverboards are catching alight and Santa has banned the transport of this hot gift in sled for fear of burning his butt while hovering over the North Pole.

At least Santa is not carrying lumps of coal for gifts this year.  Coal production in the US dropped like a black stone.  Low natural gas prices allowed utilities to generate more power from natural gas and less from coal.  Peabody Coal (BTU) the top US producer saw its shares drop from $117 a share to $9.47 over the year since last Christmas.   Oil companies also experienced large drops in their share prices.  Petro Quest (PQ) dropped from $3.85 a share to $0.38.  A portfolio of GEVO, BTU and PQ is worth a dime on the dollar versus last year.

I have no clue what stocks will do in 2016 but I know for sure that Santa will still be using Reindeer to propel his sled come next Christmas.  Also by next Christmas we will know who our next president will be, and the one good thing about this is that Ernie Moniz will be vacating the top spot at the US Department of Entropy.  Ernie might look like Alfred E Neuman and think that hairstyles are still the same as when Jimmy Carter was president, but sadly he is utterly incompetent to set energy policy even for Santa Claus.  He would make a cute elf to assist Santa making toys for tots, but Santa cannot let Ernie have any role in the selection of the propulsion system of the sled.

I do wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  It can only get better.