The per-barrel Oil price hit near record levels of $110 dollars in the market, propped up by the declining US dollar.
The movement of investors into the commodities market looking for a safe place to hedge against inflation and the weakening US dollar was also contributing to the rise in crude prices.
In early morning trading, the New York Stock Exchanges main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery reached trading levels at 110.12 US dollars per barrel before ending trading at $109.85 dollars per barrel.
London’s Brent North Sea crude oil prices for April delivery eased 22 cents to $106.05 US dollars.
“Fundamentals are well and truly out of the window when it comes to oil prices,” said Jan Lambregts, head of regional research at Rabobank in Hong Kong.
“A lot of money’s obviously looking for a place to park and crude oil appears to be one popular destination among commodities in general,” he noted, and then added “the weak dollar doesn’t help one bit at this stage.”
The failing US dollar has also fueled a jump in world oil prices because crude that is priced in US dollars and has become cheaper to buy for purchasers holding stronger currencies abroad.
The US dollar dropped to a new low with an exchange rate of 1.5570 dollars to one Euro on Wednesday.
About 60 percent of Russia’s budget comes from exporting natural gas westward, through the Ukraine and on to Western Europe. The pipeline has long been a risk, protected only by the potential of Russia to retaliate, and by Russia’s ability to turn the gas off at its source. Earlier today, Russia reduced the flow by about 90 million cubic meters, which is the allocation for the Ukraine’s 46 million people. The issue? Money, of course. Money and control.
Preface:Ukraine ceased importing electricity from Russia on December 1, 2008, after repairs to one of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors were completed.
The Ukraine delivered 1.5 billion dollars on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, and considered their bill settled. Russia’s Gazprom now claims that Ukraine must also pay $600 million in late fees before they will restore the flow of natural gas to the nation, which is in the midst of their coldest months of winter now.
Furthermore, Gazprom is demanding that Ukraine pay $250 $450 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2009, 40% 250 percent (2.5 times as much) more than the $179 price paid in 2008.* Ukraine says they cannot pay that price unless Russia offsets the increase by paying Ukraine that same amount more for exporting Russia’s gas through their country on to Europe. Russia has promised that they will continue to export gas to Europe without interruption. Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladamir Putin, said that any interference with Russia’s gas exports to Europe would carry “serious consequences for the transit country itself.”
Russia is putting the Ukraine, a former Soviet Union country which has angered Russia by applying for membership in NATO, in the cruel position of having to surrender to the 40% increase or continue to pump gas on through their country to Europe, while they themselves are freezing but taking none of that gas for themselves.
This isn’t the first time Russia has acted against the Ukraine in this fashion. In 2006, Russia halted supplies to Ukraine for three days, in a similar disagreement over prices. When the pressure in the pipeline dropped by that allotment, the decrease was felt all the way to Italy, because the Ukraine continued to draw gas from the pipeline for their winter needs. Apparently they learned from the experience. Ukrainian authorities say they have stockpiled enough gas to hold out for three months, if the weather holds as anticipated.
Russia has perpetual negotiations with nations they supply energy to. Serbia was also in negotiations earlier this year, and Finland managed a stay of prices on wood purchased from Russia, but only after last year’s increases in Russian Export Tariffs caused Finland to reduce their demand by more than half. At the same time, Russia claims they would like to work with NATO (disagreements aside, of course.) It’s hard to avoid comparisons to a national mafia, friendly with speech, brutal and murderous in dealings with those who defy them.
Threatening millions of people in this fashion demonstrates that Russia cannot be trusted. In a time of global financial crisis, to strongarm the Ukraine for a 40% increase is clearly retaliatory and inhumane. It also demonstrates the importance of removing ourselves from dependency upon fossil fuels of all kinds. It was wise of Ukrainian authorities to stockpile the gas against this sort of threat, but their reserves will run out by very early spring, leaving nearly 50 million people freezing and without gas for cooking, heating or hot water, and electric generation. (Ukraine produces about 45% of its electricity via nuclear reactors, but relies upon fossil fuels to generate the remaining 55%, so their electric may be diminished as well.)
Germany, Italy and Turkey were amongst nations which lowered their demand for natural gas after prices were raised to $460-$520 per thousand cubic meters beginning in October of 2008. Despite that decrease in sales, Gazprom reports record revenues of $75 billion to $77 billion this year.
Energy independence is essential for all nations’ people.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: We were previously misinformed. Russia is actually demanding $450 per 1,000 cubic meters, an increase of two and a half times the price paid last year – 250% increase.
Lithium Ion batteries, several varieties of them, are the mainstream these days, for everything from cameras and laptops to the latest electric cars. They’re good on many levels, but not without dangers. IT’s not common, but sometimes they overheat — VERY abruptly, and catch fire or explode. This puts them into the Danger Zone category, meaning that we still need to be working on something newer, better.
Or do we? Silver-Zinc is the new best thing. It’s not really new, though. The military and aerospace industries have been using silver-zinc batteries for some time now, with tremendous success, but they were never made to be rechargeable.
Whereas a Lithium battery has a cobalt core and uses a highly flammable liquid as their electrolyte, the Silver-Zinc batteries have something far more safe, less volatile, in their center: Pure, simple water. What makes the technology even better is that they can produce about 40 percent more power at the same size. But that’s still not the best part.
ZPower, a California company, is developing a Silver-Zinc battery — with a very responsible twist. They promise to be the first battery manufacturer to buy back the batteries after they’ve been depleted, to recycle the silver. How much? Ross Duebner, CEO of ZPower, isn’t promising, but says it’ll be in the tens of dollars. They can do it, because they find that their battery is about 95% recyclable by weight. Lithium Ion batteries may be recycled as well, but it’s only technically true. What happens with them is that they’re melted down for their lithium and cobalt, and the other parts of the battery help fuel the fires that do it, so TECHNICALLY they’re being recycled… kinda…sorta… right? Meanwhile, Silver-Zinc batteries have no toxic chemicals in them, and no dangerous heavy metals. Moreover, once the silver is mined, by recycling it, silver-zinc batteries become a closed loop, a renewable source of rechargeable batteries.
Their new laptop battery should extend at least two hours beyond a 5 hour Lithium battery’s useable time; ZPower’s Silver-Zinc laptop batteries are expected to run your computer for at least seven hours on a charge.
That’s a pretty big boast. Considering their backers, ZPower may just be able to back it up. Intel and OnPoint Technologies, which is a venture capital fund of the U.S. Army, are amongst those on board with ZPower.
At least at first, these batteries won’t be any cheaper than Lithium. Silver isn’t inexpensive, and they do deliver more power, but we’re hoping that the price will come down. Maybe silver-zinc technology will end up being the standard for all sorts of batteries, a welcome solution for storing alternative energy sources.
A key part of the Green nature of the silver-zinc battery remains that it’s truly able to be recycled, not just burnt to a crisp and then having a few key elements floated back out in a smelting pot. Despite claims to the contrary, that’s pretty much exactly what happens when Lithium Ion batteries are supposedly “recycled.”
But will people do so? Will they return their silver-zinc batteries, or just toss them in the trash? With the buyback program in place and financially viable, it should be a no-brainer that people will turn them in. ZPower cites that large bulky lead batteries are recycled at least 90 percent of the time. Then again, they’re in your car already, and your car’s at the shop so, to the consumer, Recycling amounts to disposing at the same time. There’s minor room for concern, but the buy-back program should ensure that the metals are recycled.
It seems like silver-zinc technology could very well be our next Green thing.
Spain is literally leading the way to solar supremacy over their dead bodies. The country’s habitable regions have limited free space for solar installations, so they’re getting very practical about it all, using up every bit of open space that they can find. ANY space. While Spin has put solar farms in cemeteries before, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a working man’s town outside of Barcelona, has mounted 462 solar panels atop the graves themselves, and is now piping that solar energy back into their local grid that supplies electricity for the 124,000 people who live within a mere 1.5 square miles.
This solar power use in Spain is being heralded as both sensible and noble. That solar array will produce energy to power 60 homes, while eliminating 62 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Esteve Serret, the director of Conste-Live Energy, said “The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations.” Would that the rest of the world would adopt such wisdom. In this sense, using the graveyard for solar power is noble as well.
Spain offers generous subsidies to solar manufacturers. The country has abundant sun, and along with that comes a high demand for air conditioning. To facilitate the jump-starting of solar power, Spain has initiated feed-in tariffs which guarantee up to triple the market price for solar energy — guaranteed — for the next 25 years. New legislation would require all new buildings to include solar technology. Spain really is pushing for solar supremacy, even if that means generating it over their dead bodies.
Finally the people and the governments agree that alternative energy is essential, and are willing to put a bit of money where their mouths are. So why are investments in alternative energy sources diminishing, both from corporations and the government? The problems are legion, and one way or the other, it’s all about taxes.
For the established corporations, the government’s facile use of tax deductions has lost a lot of its value of late. In an economic time such as this, with huge layoffs, losses, and folding giants, there just isn’t much profit to shelter, and developments can’t be bankrolled unless the money is coming from SOMEwhere.
Tax break incentives work on the idea that the government will give the money up in arrears, after the funds have been invested, in lieu of taxes that the company would otherwise have been obligated to pay. But those tax obligations are only levied upon profits, so… no profit, no taxes owed, so no incentive after the investment is made. That part is relatively easy to remedy. The government can use grants instead, since it’s out the same amount of money either way. (This is a bit of an oversimplification, in that the government’s income is also down during times of little or no profit, but the initial concept remains valid.)
Using grants adds an advantage: It allows the little guys, start-up companies with great ideas, abilities and know-how, to become involved in alternative energy solutions. Such companies would otherwise pretty much be out of the running under other circumstances, unless they had huge backing from some invest who expected… well… to get the money back from tax incentives…. you see the problem?
The other way that taxes are an issue is a bit less comfortable to ponder. The government gets a LOT of money from taxes on gasoline. With alternative energy aimed at reducing (or ending) the use of fossil fuels, where will that tax money come from? When people generate their own electricity, that tax also goes away. How can the government continue to run and provide services without that income? Obviously, it will need to levy taxes in some other fashion in the long run. Meanwhile, though, taxing alternative energy producers is counterproductive, even if it could be accomplished, the balance between fossil fuel and alternative energy generation is in nearly constant flux (so a fair new system can’t yet be put into place,) and the governments are bleeding tax losses all over the place.
That we’re all finally getting friendly with Going Green is good news. Unfortunately, a river runs through it, as well – a river of tax dollars. Nobody said the transition was going to be entirely trouble-free. Eventually we will shed the albatross around our necks. The savings found in using alternative energy will help ease the change. Meanwhile, we can take good, sound comfort in knowing that we’re not going through these growing pains for no good reason. Petroleum and Europe’s recent gas crisis both prove that, though transitions may not always be easy, there’s still far more sense in Going Green.
President-Elect Barack Obama has been very assertive in statements about his intentions to get the United States on the fast-track to going Green. One of those goals includes putting a million American-made plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015. That’s GREAT! Now how are you going to make it happen, Mr. President? Enter Heather Zichal, a member of the President-Elect’s Energy and Environment Policy Transition Team, who explains that with the auto industry hurting, they’re more likely to be receptive to helping the people of the United States achieve those goals. To facilitate that, P.E. Obama has proposed providing up to fifty billion dollars in retooling assistance to help build advanced-technology vehicles. She also suggests the P.E. would offer a $7000 tax credit for those who have purchased a hybrid that year, to make the car more affordable to them.
Also on the boards is improving and increasing mass-transit, both so that it is more widely available and feasible, and also to improve its environmental friendliness.
On the Alternative Energy gameplan, Obama is again labeled as aggressive, pushing for us to have 10% of our energy coming from renewable resources by 2012. To assist that, he intends to provide investment tax credit for those involved in building wind farms, solar and transmission infrastructures.
Finally, could the government be made to be Green, to lead by example? This seems like a HUGE concept. Ms. Zichal points out, on Obama’s behalf, that in 2008 the Federal government spent fourteen billion dollars in fuel and energy. Amongst his proposals is a mandate that all new Federal constructions be 40 percent more efficient, and that existing Federal structures be refitted to comply with a demand for 25% higher energy efficiency.
Yes, all of this is going to cost a lot of money. On the other hand, under the Bush administration, Iraq recently LOST (as in cannot find) some 15 billion dollars, so we’ll be able to make up a lot of the cost of these energy investments simply by not being in Iraq any more. More to the point, though, whatever it costs, it will also be saving – both money and our future.
We’re with you, President (Elect) Obama! Get as aggressive as you like, as aggressive as you can, and let’s get serious about Going Green!
Kermit the Frog may know better than most that it’s cool to be Green. Maybe we should look to him for advice on how to avoid being scammed by those who want to make a buck or three off of calling something Green or Alternative. The problem isn’t just one of unscrupulous or self-serving entrepreneurs selling snake oil either. Presumably well-intending government officials are getting in on the act now, too.
It seems no one is above trying to push a product by calling it Green.In Illinois’ Winnebago County, the Soil and Water Conservation District is pitching a 55 gallon rain barrel for $75, and even claiming that the barrels will pay for themselves. Jessica Vandeboom, representing the county, brags that the barrels ”are made out of recycled food grade plastic, so they were once used to ship food products.” One small problem: Barrels like this are found all over the country, used once (as law prohibits their being reused, for some reason,) for $10-20 retail. To a hydrogen perioxide company, they’re a waste byproduct. Dialysis fluids are also shipped in the barrels. A rinse or two, and they’re perfectly safe to drink out of, and certainly just fine for catching run-off. But if you ship them to a Recycling company, cut and melt them down and reform them into the same 55 gallon capacity barrel, then ship them back out, you can buy these $10 barrels for $75. What a deal!
Then there’s the snake oil and pseudo snake oil. Things are just too easy to scam with. The little gadgets that you put in your car, a resistor, this or that, to supposedly give your car an extra 30 mpg.Most of the time, such scams are pretty obvious, and yet we feel the need to warn people not to trust every person — or government agency — who wants to sell you something they’re calling Green. Going Green doesn’t really cost any more. Don’t be deceived.
You can do plenty to Green up your home or life without spending a dime. In fact, going Green usually SAVES you money. Turn off lights when you’re not using them. Switch to florescent bulbs — they last longer since there is no filament to break. Same with heat and air. This winter, consider wearing a sweatshirt or sweater or even warm pajamas and you’ll be able to turn your house down another 5-10 degrees!
When all’s said and done, it’s still keen to be Green!
The people of Missouri have gotten on board with generating energy via wind and solar technologies. Their Easy Connection Act is a law specifically intended to promote alternative energy solutions. just as the people of Missouri are climbing on board, though, the Missouri Public Service Commission imposed a regulation which would most certainly stop homeowners’ and small businesses’ efforts dead in its tracks.
The MO Public Service Commission (MPSC) has instituted a requirement that anyone who generates less than 10 kilowatts must carry $100,000 in liability insurance, while those generating 10 to 100 kilowatts must carry 1 million dollars in liabiliity insurance. This requirement goes directly against the spirit and intent of the state’s “Easy Connection Act,” which encourages generating power by harnessing solar and wind, and prescribes the crediting of electricity put back into the grid. Obviously, whatever the cost of such insurance, it would drive people away from generating their own electricity by forcing them to incur a recurring annual insurance which could very well be more costly than the value of the electricity generated.
Missouri Renew, the citizen’s action group which pushed for the Easy Connect Act, has filed suit against the MPSC. They cite that there has been no incident of loss, no lawsuit, and that there is no basis for the requirement. The Commission counters that they want to be protected in case someone is harmed while messing with the connection box.
If the state wants to be protected, perhaps it should be the one purchasing the policy. It’s certainly not a realistic concern, and obviously moves in direct conflict with responsible generation of electricity. We’re forced to wonder whose side the Commission is on.
The MPSC can be reached at 573-751-3234, by email at: email@example.com, or by mail to the Public Service Commission, Governor Office Bldg, 200 Madison Street, PO Box 360, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0360. The Commissioners are: Chairman Jeff Davis, Connie Murray, Robert Clayton III, Terry Jarrett, and Kevin Dunn.
She gave us a womb to develop in, and then birth. She has kept us warm, sheltered, safe, nurtured, and given us a sense of stability and security. She tends to our needs, while giving us the freedom to wander and explore and figure out our place in life. She provided us with siblings to learn from, to know and enjoy. We take romps with her, we frolic in the sun, in the water, in the rain and snow with her. We play in the mud, and grow into men and women with her. We build our homes with her, and when we pass on from this life, she cradles us again. The earth is indeed our mother.
This holiday season, amidst all the festivities, the kids and decorations and food and parties, let’s pause for just a bit, think of all the times shared with our mother, Earth. Let’s be thankful for them, reminisce a bit, and renew our pledge to protect her as she has protected us.
None of us would intentionally do anything to harm either of our mothers, right? Take a minute to think, now, of the ways we may have hurt either of them unintentionally. Perhaps it was a careless word or gesture, some thoughtless unintentional act. Moms absorb a lot, they take a lot without a word of protest, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt them, and that doesn’t mean we should add to the already heavy burden that they both carry for us.
So call up your mom, tell her you love her. Remind the both of you of the good you’ve shared, thank her, and remember to be gentle with her. Hold your tongue — and your trash. Pitch in, lend a hand, so she doesn’t have so much to do. Remind the both of you that you do appreciate and love her. Make your new year’s resolution early. Vow to be kinder to your mother from now on — not just on the holidays, but every day. It’s gotta be tough. She does so much for all of us kids. Let’s make her life easier from now on.
On June 28, 2010, it was announced that Morocco has inaugurated a $3.13 million USD wind farm in Melloussa, which is near the major port city of Tangiers, just across the Straits of Gibraltar. The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, presided over the festivities of this important event.
In all, the wind farm has 165 turbines able to produce 140 megawatts of power by the wind alone. Like the Spain and the U.A.E., Morocco is demonstrating that they are increasingly forward-thinking about non-petroleum energy sources. A recently released draft proposes another wind plant, at a cost of $3.5 billion USD. This, coupled with the newly inaugurated wind farm near Tangiers, would bring the country’s reliance upon renewable power up to 42% by the beginning of the next decade.
When a more prosperous nation develops such technologies, this is an enlightened perspective. For a country like Morocco to do so, when so much of their nation is much less financially prosperous, it is a noteworthy commitment to a Greener world. Join us in congratulating His Highness for the vision, and the people of Maroc for this milestone development!