Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Gas prices pinch pockets?

Want to have your cake and eat it too? See this graphic. I think that it is self explanatory.

Rising gas prices and Fall of the Dollar Correlated?

I am not so sure, but see here:

[H]ere is the answer to my question about the sudden rise in gasoline prices as it came from Michael Wang, senior vice president of John S. Herold, Inc., a firm that keeps track of world energy prices on a minute-by-minute basis. "It's pretty simple," he said. "And it is directly related to the sharp decline in the value of the dollar on the world markets. If you compute the world price of petroleum in euros rather than dollars, the price of oil is about the same. If you want the price of gasoline to remain steady, the best thing Americans can do is to reduce their government's budget deficit and their nation's trade deficit."

Whether the tax cuts are responsible for budget deficits and if that has any effect on a weak dollar is something I can not say confidently (although I have an opinion). I am becoming more convinced than ever before that I need to take a course in Macroeconomics.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Guzzling Gas...

This was the editorial in Washington Post yesterday. The Boston Globe's article the day before read: The High Cost of Cheap Gas.
My reaction: NO Comments!
Meanwhile, Honda continues to move alongwith Toyota on Hybrid front in Europe.

Monday, March 29, 2004

A closer look at how fuel economy of cars is estimated

This could be important of followed up properly. More later.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Hummer Vs. Prius ??

Ok, I agree that this is only a symbolic debate. Hummer and Prius are only frings vehicles, each selling about 3 to 5 thousands a month. Compare that to average monthaly sales of over a million cars and trucks in the U.S. market. However, there is one distinction: Hummer is so big that the only way for it to go is down. On the other hand, Prius with all is hype is making sure that the hybrids become a well known entity in the american car market.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Americans have yet to learn the hard political lessons of the Arab oil embargo

This Seattle Times Op-ed is worth a read.

Hybrid cars show fuel cells the way

Even I didn't know this!
The effect of new components on resale value is also an issue: the battery is warrantied for ten years or 150,000 miles. This does not equate to the maximum lifetime but public perception is not necessarily in line with this and the technology has not yet been out on the roads long enough to prove its longevity.

What is more important is the following:

At US$5,000 more than a normal gasoline internal combustion engine car, only 18 per cent of those surveyed would consider a hybrid, a result likely to be similar for fuel cell vehicles. Lower that differential to US$1,500 and a more positive 43 per cent could be interested. Make the price equal though and 59 per cent would consider the switch. In the end, one way or another, the customer will make the decision.

So, if Toyota and Honda keep learning from their Hybrid experience even as detroit continues to lag, we might soon come to a point (in a year or two) when the price differential between ICE vehicles and Hybrids will be less that $1500. Will that mean that detroit will really throw in the towel on the cars segment of the market by 2007? (Haven't they sort of already?)

Hear No Diesel, Smell No Doesel

Image of diesel has already undergone a change in Europe. It seems like it's begining to happen in Asia as well. Will it happen in the U.S.? NOx standards are a real problem with Diesels in the U.S. There is a clear trade-off here. Can there a be a freeze in Diesel NOx standards for, let's say, five years to allow car companies to sort their problems out. No doubt, it will cost some more, but if we can get fuel economy AND better air quality performance from diesels, that is worth considering.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Hollywood's in love with the Hybrids?

Perhaps. Does that help. May be.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Nissan Asks U.S. for Relief on Fuel-Economy Rules

This is following up on an earlier story. Nissan has asked for some concessions on observing the "domestic/foreign" rule of the CAFE standards with Big 3 opposing such a move. One thing about foreign manufacturers is that they are now actuallly no longer foreign. Nissan, Toyota and Honda all produce vehicles in the US in large numbers and employ thousands of people. Several southern states have lured Japanese manufacturers with incentives to set up their shop in the South. Now, of course, Nissan can play the politics of fuel economy almost as well as the Big 3!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Alternative engines clouded by politics

It should say policies rather than politics. I don't think that this is a partisan issue. Europeans favor diesels, Japanese go for hybrids but there's room for both here .

Ford will use Toyota's hybrid technology

This piece of news suggests that Ford will use Toyota's hybrid technology in Ford vehicles. I had suggested previously that one of the reasons the Big 3 have not made a hybrid available is because they do not know how to make one well. This may be a corroboration of that statement.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Global Challenges for U.S. Energy Policy: Economic, Environmental, and Security Risks

The summary of a Brookings Institution event held this past Friday can be found here. Excerpts:

...As the demand for energy threatens to outpace supply, the need for reduced oil consumption and alternative energy sources has become more urgent. The rising price of oil and concerns over global warming have created additional pressures to cut consumption.

...After the opening remarks by Reilly and Yergin, the conference's first panel addressed the projected global demand for oil through 2050. Guy Caruso, an administrator at the Energy Information Administration, presented data suggesting that demand will continue to rise at rates that exceed supply.

"The key point isn't so much the specific numbers—it's the trends," said Caruso. "The big picture for the United States is indeed one of growing import dependency—not only for oil—but growing in dependence on natural gas, too."

...(Former CIA Director) Woolsey rejected pushes for fuel cell cars and corn ethanol subsidies, saying that such changes would require a massively expensive and unrealistic conversion of the U.S. infrastructure. He did, however, believe that the United States could eventually become self-reliant, especially if hybrid cars—Woolsey admitted to being on a waiting list for a hybrid car—were promoted and used more aggressively. Hybrid cars can be used in the existing infrastructure.

...Harvard Professor and Co-Chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy John Holdren offered a sharp rebuttal to Felmy's optimistic outlook on global warming.

"Global warming will adversely impact every dimension of human well-being that is tied to the environment," Holdren said. "We are not about to run out of oil; the more interesting question is whether we'll run out of environment."

The event casts a light on the seriousness of the energy challenge faced by the U.S. The real question is: How to move forward?

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Hydrogen: Hype or Hope?

Jonathan Lash of the WRI writes about Environmental stories to watch in 2004. Of course, Hydrogen is one of the :-) In Hydrogen: Hype or Hope? Lash writes about issues discussed previously on this blog here, here and here.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Hydrogen -- Farther away than we think

American Physical Society released a report on the federal government's hydrogen initiative. The recommendations of the panel report are:

  • Major scientific breakthroughs are required for the Hydrogen Initiative to succeed. Basic science must have greater emphasis both in planning and in the research program. The Hydrogen Technical Advisory Committee should include members who are deeply familiar with the core basic science problems.

  • “Bridge” technologies (such as hybrid vehicles & internal-combustion hydrogen engines) should be given greater attention.

  • The Hydrogen Initiative should not displace research into promising energy efficiency and renewable energy areas.

  • The complete report can be found here.

    The critical recommendations are actually the last two which warn the federal program to pay closer attention to measures that can be taken in the short run to address the fuel consumption and the greenhouse gas emissions problem.

    Monday, March 01, 2004

    Hydrogen Dreams

    It is this kind of a language that gets me upset about all of the Hydrogen hoopla.

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's top environmental aide told state lawmakers the governor's vision of a "hydrogen highway" that would usher in an age of cleaner cars is realistic by 2010, and won't even cost the state much money.

    Schwarzenegger pledged to build hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles along major highways, allowing motorists to buy clean-burning hydrogen-fueled vehicles without fear they will run out of gas.

    He chose 2010 because that's when automakers have said such vehicles will be affordable and readily available, said Environmental Protection Secretary Terry Tamminen.

    "California does invent the future," Tamminen said. Though there are plenty of unknowns, "there are no show-stoppers. The only area where some of us disagree is on timing."

    I am not doubting Arnold or California's committment to the Hydrogen dream. However, production ready hydrogen cars are not even on the horizon. The technology in hydrogen fuel cells is improving rapidly, but nobody wants to buy a $500,000 vehicle with an unproven technology. So, the actual number of hydrogen powered cars sold by 2010 will be actually hundreds (at the most a few thousands). Which bozo is going to invest in hydrogen refueling station every 20 miles along the highway for the convenience of a few thousand fuel cell cars?

    Both, the cost and the "chicken and egg problem" with the hydrogen infrastructure are potential show stoppers. How we decide to get hydrogen is the single most important question in my mind. As always, I keep asking "So, what color is your hydrogen"?

    UPDATE : I think that I need to revise my statement about number of fuel cell powered cars on road by 2010. How about a maximum of couple of hundred hydrogen fuel cell cars by 2010? That sounds more reasonable. Why do I say so? Don't believe me, read this. GM says that it will have production ready vehicles ready by 2010 which means that commercial launch will be at least another three to five years away.
    Burns says GM is not necessarily saying it will have a fuel cell vehicle on dealership lots by 2010 -- only that it will have a commercially viable vehicle ready. GM can't control the regulatory and infrastructure issues that have to be resolved to provide a supply of hydrogen fuel, he said.

    In a recent speech, Jeffrey Shane, undersecretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, offered a less optimistic timetable than GM's. Developing global standards for fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen storage probably will mean that "we can develop a marketable technology by about 2015 and achieve widespread commercial availability by the year 2020," Shane said.

    Thankfully, people are talking sensible things about realization of hydrogen powered cars. Considering that the penetration of new technology in fleet and its impact takes at least 10-15 years, we shouldn't really be counting on fuel saving benefits from fuel cell cars until about 2030. That brings us to a point where we should be talking more seriously about what we are going to do with the ever increasing fuel consumption in the meanwhile. Of course, the question about the color of hydrogen still doesn't go away!

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