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Old 12-20-2010, 04:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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America guzzles less gas as fuel efficiency rises

America guzzles less gas as fuel efficiency rises, ethanol use grows and people drive less | StarTribune.com

Color me skeptical about this being anything more than a temporary dip... but in this case I would love to be wrong!

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Old 12-20-2010, 06:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Frank -

I think the $4/gallon rumors for summer 2011 will keep us honest, at least for this year. I can't wait for 2016 :

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By the 2016 model year, that number must rise to 35.5 mpg. And, starting next year, SUVs and minivans, once classified as trucks, will count toward passenger vehicle targets.
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Old 12-20-2010, 09:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The fact that the down turn started in 2006 (pre recession) does lend weight to it being the start of a long term trend. I hope that it continues.
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Old 12-21-2010, 12:27 AM   #4 (permalink)
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...beware of "statistics," also collectively referenced as "...lies, damn lies, and statistics."
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Old 12-21-2010, 12:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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60% of the time it works all the time.
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:28 AM   #6 (permalink)
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A friend of mine sent me the Yahoo! news version this evening and I couldn't help but notice a few problems with the "logic" of the article.

First, the US is a nation of 305 million people with a lot of cars; China and India combined have 2.4 billion between the two of them and they're just starting the car craze, so no matter what you do to US demand over the next 20 years, global demand for oil will rise while supply has reached its peak.

Second, "Americans are burning an average of 8.2 million barrels -- 344 million gallons -- of gasoline per day in 2010, a figure that excludes the ethanol blended into gasoline. That's 8 percent less than at the 2006 peak, according to government data." Errm, there is no calculation of the amount of natural gas (for fertilizer) or diesel fuel for planting, harvesting, and transporting the corn to make that ethanol. The best calculations say it's a 1 part energy in for 1.3 parts energy out. The only reason ethanol is cheap is because the government subsidizes the hell out of it.

Finally, "By 2022, the country's fuel mix must include 36 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels, up from 14 billion gallons in 2011. Put another way, biofuels will account for roughly one of every four gallons sold at the pump." Right now it takes roughly 20% of US corn production to produce roughly 5-7% of our gasoline needs. There are global food shortages right now and with a global population of 6.8 billion and an expected peak of 9 billion by 2050, we're either going to have to make more people starve to death so we can keep driving or this projection is just a wild-assed number some politician completely devoid of any sense of reality pulled out of his ass.

This is oil company pulp fiction at its very best. This dip in demand is based on the recession and high gas prices. If it weren't for the rise in oil prices since 2005 and 9.8% unemployment, the demand curve would still be growing. Globally, strong demand continues and will continue for decades to come. If we don't see $5 a gallon gas this year, it'll be next. It's not like they're finding any new Saudi Arabias out there...
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Old 12-21-2010, 12:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by endurance View Post
Right now it takes roughly 20% of US corn production to produce roughly 5-7% of our gasoline needs.
But corn isn't the only source for ethanol. For instance, the local trash company is talking about building a garbage-to-ethanol plant in their (proposed) new recycling center. It's just that corn is a simple, obvious way to produce it, and as with anything else, you somehow need to jumpstart demand. If you don't have a bunch of cars that can use ethanol or ethanol mixtures, there's no incentive to produce it in large quantities, is there?

As to the expected population increase, it'd be a lot easier & cheaper to just hand out free birth control.
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:45 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by jamesqf View Post
As to the expected population increase, it'd be a lot easier & cheaper to just hand out free birth control.
Good luck with that. We already try that (well, when we're not trying to scare them into abstinence with bogey-man stories.)
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:46 PM   #9 (permalink)
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My microbiology prof worked at NREL, trying to create cheap ways to produce cellulosic ethanol. While it may come some day, right now we are decades from any kind of meaningful production. I keep a few thousand shares of Lignol Energy around just in case there's a miraculous breakthrough, but right now, you can pick it up as a penny stock, so that's how much confidence the market has in it.

The short term solution will be coal to oil technology. It's dirty, but it's the only alternative fuel we have in significant quantity that can quench even a fraction of our thirst for oil as the big oil fields lose production and fewer big fields come on line. The next decade or two is going to be very interesting. I suspect it'll be a societal change on the scale never before seen... just like the last century was, after we discovered oil. Unfortunately, the ride down the supply curve won't be as fun as the ride up.
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Old 12-21-2010, 05:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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...hydrocarbons are still hydrocarbons, regardless of where they're derived from.

...the sun emits electrons, not hydrocarbons.

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