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Wednesday, September 17, 2008
  Off shore drilling passes U.S. House
By Yokota Fritz 
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a compromise bill Tuesday that lifts the Federal off shore drilling ban. The next step is for a similar bill in the works to pass in the Senate, and after that a conference committee must iron out the differences and then it goes to the White House for a signature.


Thursday, September 04, 2008
  Drill, baby, drill
By Yokota Fritz 
I watched the GOP convention speeches last night. This part where Michael Steele enjoins Americans to "Drill Baby Drill" -- likening our thirst for cheap energy to the uncontrollable, hedonistic, libertine, self-destructive frenzy of a disco inferno -- was just freaky, but there's no denying that this gesture resonates with many many voters.

Even George W Bush said in his State of the Nation speech that America is addicted to oil. And here's T. Boone Pickens explaining why we can't drill our way out of the current (and perpetual) energy crisis.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008
  Georgia on my mind
By Yokota Fritz 
Let's talk about Russia's invasion of Georgia.

I generally pay attention to what's going on internationally, but this one caught me by surprise. It also apparently caught the U.S. administration by surprise. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a professor at Stanford University and a recognized expert in the Soviet Union, but she was on vacation when Russia moved into Georgia.

Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised. Russia has been seething at U.S. support of Georgia for years. Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek, "The seeds of Russia's aggression lie in the sense of humiliation that Moscow's proud power elites have felt at the hands of the West going back to the Clinton administration's unceasing efforts to bring what used to be the Soviet bloc—and post-Soviet Russia itself—into the West's sphere of influence."

In the meantime, Georgia president Mikheil Saakashvili apparently thought U.S. approval of his politics meant he had a free hand to reign in the breakaway South Ossetia. This attack by Georgia, which has a large ethnically Russian population and many residents that Russia claims as citizens, gave Russia exactly the justification it wanted to move in on Georgian soil. It's a way for Russia to strike at the United States and Western Europe.

Some, though, believe Russia's invasion is yet another oil war. Until 2006, Russia had exclusive control over oil flowing from the Caspian region to the West. President Clinton sponsored the construction of a new pipeline across Georgia specifically to reduce Russia's influence on regional oil supplies. Georgian President Saakashvili and his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, both saw this BTC Pipeline as crucial to the survival of Georgia as an independent state. The South Caucasus, previously seen as Russia's backyard, is now a region of great strategic significance to other great powers because of the flow of oil through this region. The U.S. and other Western nations have consequently become much more closely involved in the affairs of the three nations through which oil will flow.

The BTC pipeline, which opened in 2006, passes near politically volatile regions such as South Ossetia. Presidents Clinton and Bush provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to help Georgia protect this pipeline. Western Europe is also working to develop more pipelines across Georgia, though this war is calling those plans into question.

Russia, for their part, has gone past securing South Ossetia and invaded into uncontested Georgian territory, seizing the port city of Poti, an oil terminal and headquarters of the Georgia Navy.

What are your thoughts on Russia's invasion of Georgia? Is this yet another oil war?

Oh, and to get on topic for a cycling blog, apparently the BTC pipeline easement is apparently an excellent mountain biking trail. The photo below are members of the Baku Bicycle Club in Azerbaijan riding along the BTC pipeline, which is buried along most of its length. See Robert Thomson's Azerbaijan photos for more. Published here with his permission.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008
  Paris Hilton's energy policy
By Yokota Fritz 

Paris Hilton proposes a hybrid of McCain's proposed energy policy (off shore drilling) and Obama's (incentives for alternative fuels) -- limited off shore drilling that are heavily taxed to support alternative fuel development and incentives.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008
  21.6% inflation
By Yokota Fritz 
The U.S. Labor Department reports that whiolesale prices jumped 1.8 percent in June. I expect the increase to level out a little, but if you maintained 1.8 over an entire year that annualizes to an inflation rate of nearly 22%. Most of this increase is due to the large jump in the price of fuel and food, in case you haven't noticed.

The "core inflation" rate went up a more reasonable 0.2%. This is the price increase of things at the retail level and excludes food and fuel. This means that manufacturers and retailers are really eating their cost increases right now.

Some predictions from me:
  • I think off shore drilling is inevitable.
  • Alaska, too.
  • California voters will approve funding for the LA to SF high speed rail line.
  • Earlier I would have said Obama will win in November, but right now I think McCain is saying the things that most voters now want to hear. That is, "drill, drill, drill."
  • Interbike will be huge this year.
  • Voters will increase calls for mass transit and bike facilities.
  • Unprecedented job losses, either this year or the next.
  • More bicycling all around. More golf carts and other electric mobility devices -- scooters and e-bikes and so forth, too.
Don't forget the contest!


Monday, July 14, 2008
  Benefits of higher gasoline prices
By Yokota Fritz 
Like Brian says, always look at the bright side of life.
With public transit use nationally at a 50-year high, traffic dropped 2.1% in the first four months of this year across the country. That mileage reduction -- along with people driving smaller cars, and more slowly, to save gas -- could mean that 12,000 fewer people will die in traffic accidents this year, according to a study by professors Michael Morrisey at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and David C. Grabowski at Harvard Medical School. Air pollution has been reduced enough, according to UC Davis economics professor J. Paul Leigh, to prevent 2,200 respiratory-related deaths over the last year. Less eating out and more walking and biking could mean a 10% reduction in obesity, according to Charles Courtemanche, an assistant economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. And, apparently, higher gas prices also keep econ professors employed.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times: "The Joy of $8 gas."

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal takes another look at the old national 55 mph speed limit. While Pelosi asks Bush to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and Democratic lawmakers are now joining Republicans writing up bills to open up drilling in Alaska and offshore, Senator John Warner (R-Va) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy and the GAO asking them to look at dropping the speed limit as part of the debate on an energy policy. The WSJ also looks at other impacts of speeding besides energy costs: a $40.4 billion cost to society (way more than those bicycling scofflaws who run lights and ride without helmets!) and 13,000 fatalities, according to the NHTSA.

Back to Los Angeles: the importance of reporting road harassment to the police.

As usual, thanks to Jack for the WSJ article!


Wednesday, July 09, 2008
  T. Boone Pickens plan to reduce oil use
By Yokota Fritz 
Link from Jack.
I'm 80 years old and I've been an oilman for almost 60 years. I've drilled more dry holes and also found more oil than just about anyone in the industry. With all my experience, I've never been as worried about our energy security as I am now. Like many of us, I ignored what was happening. Now our country faces what I believe is the most serious situation since World War II.

If we don't do anything about this problem, over the next 10 years we will spend around $10 trillion importing foreign oil. That is $10 trillion leaving the U.S. and going to foreign nations, making it what I certainly believe will be the single largest transfer of wealth in human history.
Read more In the Wall Street Journal.

Pickens believes the United States can cut oil imports by a third within a decade with wholesale construction of wind turbines across the Great Plains. The electricity produced can then be used to shut down natural gas power plants so we can use natural gas for transportation, though I'm surprised to see Pickens claim that natural gas in the United States is "abundant" and "cheap" since U.S. gas production peaked last year and prices are at record levels.

Locally, more and more people are taking public transportation to reduce their reliance on imported oil. Here's what Caltrain looked like this week during my commutes.

Caltrain is getting crowded

Murph attended the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Bikes On Board subcommittee meeting, where they discussed SFBC's response to Caltrain's Bicycle Master Plan. I plan to attend the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition meeting tomorrow night in Mountain View, where we'll discuss the same thing.

On a related note, bikes on board the Highway 17 Express service is on the agenda for this Friday's meeting of the Santa Cruz Metro Board of Directors. I spoke with Board Vice Chair Dene Bustichi this week about the issue -- he didn't commit to anything but I hope I was able to convey the importance of bikes on board the bus.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008
  Mexico gas tourism
By Yokota Fritz 
I was flipping through the New York Times this morning and saw a couple of interesting articles:
  • "Rethinking life in Denver's far suburbs" discusses the impact that higher commute and heating costs are having on housing prices in the far suburbs around Denver, Colorado. Denver's city center, in the meantime, is seeing a revival of shiny new condos and restaurants around LoDo and along the Cherry Creek River. I used to ride my bicycle in that area and it's indeed become a very nice area over the past 10 years.

  • "Low Mexican gas prices draw Americans" reports that many Americans in border towns cross into Mexico to buy discounted gasoline and diesel. Gasoline in Ciudad Juarez is only $2.66 per gallon, the result of subsidies that costs the government of Mexico over $20 billion this year. Trucking companies fuel their fleets in Mexico. Meanwhile, gas stations in El Paso, TX are empty and pushed to the edge of bankruptcy. Seee the video report for more.

  • A similar article on gas tourism in the Wall Street Journal looks at San Diego and Tijuana, where individuals are installing extra large fuel tanks on pickup trucks and other work vehicles so they can buy subsidized Mexican fuel for resale to friends in the USA.


Thursday, May 29, 2008
  Export Land Model
By Yokota Fritz 
The Wall Street Journal does a good job covering the big reason that oil prices have risen so dramatically over the past year: exports fell 2.5% last year in spite of a 57% increase in prices. The conventional wisdom is that higher prices always lead to technological improvements and more investment. This drop in exports "defies traditional market logic," according to the article.

One of the big factors in decreased exports mentioned in the WSJ article is what geologist Jeffrey Brown calls the "Export Land Model." Picture an oil producing country -- "ExportLand" -- that produces two millions barrels of oil per day. It keeps one million for domestic use and exports the remaining one million to the United States at $50 per barrel. As prices rise to $100 per barrel and more, all of that American cash flowing in to ExportLand leads to more consumption, bigger houses, more roads, more SUVs to drive on those roads, suburbs, big box outlet stores, yachts and private jets. This results in more domestic consumption in Exportland, which in turn results in a drop off in exports.

ExportLand has a finite quantity of oil, so that two million barrels per day production is declining over time. In the real world example of Mexico, production dropped a dramatic 15% from 2006 to 2007 while domestic consumption increased. Similar things are happening in Norway, Russian, Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East.

Another real world example is the United Kingdom, which went from a major supplier to a net importer in only six years. One time exporter Indonesia became a net importer. Mexico is expected to become a net importer within five years. Even Iran -- the world's fourth largest oil producer -- is expected to become a net importer in a few years.

The question to ask yourself: When all of the large oil exporters become oil importers, who will they import the oil from?

"The sense in the market is that peak oil is here and that things will only get worse," says Lehman Brothers oil analyst Adam Robinson. He continues, "the verdict is still out on that," because of ultra deep water drilling planned off the coasts of Brazil, Australia, West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico. Going for the difficult oil that's only profitable when oil is above $100 per barrel is, of course, part of the very definition of Peak Oil -- when the easy stuff is gone, you must spend more time, effort, resources and money in squeezing the last little bit that's left in the sponge.

Read more in the WSJ. The article explains things fairly well, IMO. Thanks to Jack in STL for the heads up on this.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008
  Rockefellers: Change crucial for future of Exxon
By Yokota Fritz 
Members of the Rockefeller family, descendants of the man who founded ExxonMobil forerunner Standard Oil, are calling for changes in governance and is urging the company to cut greenhouse gas emissions and look into renewable fuels in shareholder resolutions sponsored by the family. Exxon management opposes the resolutions.

The family "are concerned Exxon's senior management has tunnel vision and is too absorbed with the challenges of daily management of multibillion dollar oil and natural-gas projects to ask hard questions about the future of fossil fuels. Mr. Tillerson and other Exxon executives have said they believe oil and gas will represent the vast majority of energy consumption for decades," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Although the family does not own a controlling share of ExxonMobil, the Rockefellers symbolic introduction of these resolutions has gotten the attention of management and hope other shareholders will join them.

Read more at The London Times Online also discusses the challenges faced by ExxonMobil as they move into they future:
While the Rockefellers beat their breasts, most shareholders will continue to love the fat Exxon dividend.

Yet underlying the protest from the trust fund Rockers is a big problem for oil companies - their ever-increasing reliance on the support of governments and regulators.

Exxon's riposte to the climate change and peak oil lobbies is that technology rather than regulation will provide answers to our energy problems.

It is a disingenuous argument because the energy industry is at the governments' knees begging for help - big dollops of taxpayer cash to build experimental power stations.
Tip of the hat to Jack for this article.


Thursday, April 17, 2008
  Drop the Federal gas tax and watch Big Oil profits GROW
By Yokota Fritz 
The Federal gas tax is currently at 18.4 cents per gallon. John McCain proposes a national holiday of this gas tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day this summer. Let's say his proposal passes through both houses of Congress and President Bush signs it into law. What happens?

1. The 18.4 cent Federal gas tax is no longer charged.

2. The price at the pump drops, say, 15 cents per gallon.

3. People buy more gasoline because it's cheaper! Hurray!

4. Uh oh, the supply of gasoline hasn't actually gone up. The price at the pump creeps back up to $4 to regulate demand as gasoline follows the law of supply and demand.

5. Big Oil pockets the 18.4 cent difference and makes even more money because they don't have this federal tax expense! Hurray for them and their stockholders! Hurray also for the foreign oil companies from whom the U.S. imports over half it oil.

John McCain says "The effect of this 'gas tax holiday' will be an immediate economic stimulus" -- and he's right. It will be an immediate economic stimulus to the Big Oil Companies who are already making record profits. The proposed Federal gas tax holiday will provide zero benefit to the everyday driver, commuter and consumer. John McCain's proposed tax holiday benefits Saudi Aramco, the National Iranian Oil Company, Petróleos de Venezuela, Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell, Petroleos Mexicano, Petrobras, ExxonMobil, Imperial Oil and all the rest while leaving America with no long term energy strategy.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008
  Energy Wasting Day viral video
By Yokota Fritz 

It's easy to waste energy, especially with the tips provided by You can even win Dan Power's undercrackers.

Via Carlton.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008
  Gasoline elasticity
By Yokota Fritz 
It turns out the gasoline demand does have some elasticity, even outside of the context of large natural disasters. In California, gasoline is now about 50 cents more expensive than a year ago, and gasoline consumption has dropped 4% over the past year in California. That never happens outside of natural disasters, but it looks like Californians are adjusting to some degree.

$3.58 / gallon

That matches the expectation in this Wall Street Journal article. In the United States, gasoline consumption has dropped 1.1% from the previous year, but over the long term consumption is forecast to drop 4% for every 10% increase in gas prices as consumers make decisions about their transportation choices and where they live. Part of the reason gas prices are hitting Americans so hard right now is because of choices we made a decade ago about transportation and housing development, when resources were cheap.

This Grist article has more on the topic, including some mockery of Daniel Yergin (and why isn't Yergin completely discredited yet?), and a hat tip for those already finding solutions to high gas prices:
Anne Heedt, of Clovis, Calif., has been moving toward a more fuel-efficient lifestyle for the past few years. She owns a Toyota Prius hybrid but takes her bike on errands when weather permits.

"We're not always going to have the same accessibility to gasoline that we've had in past decades, so we do have to start thinking about what we're going to do over the next 50 years," said the 31-year-old Ms. Heedt, who used to work at a medical office but is between jobs.
Meanwhile, Terrapass asks Copenhagen Cycleliciousness guy for his expertise in how to get more people on bikes. It's a multipart interview, but the first installment suggests we can get there by opening more commuter-oriented bike shops in America:
Here in Copenhagen there are bike shops on almost every main street and they sell primarily bikes that you call “commuter bikes” in the States.
Which reminds me that I have a followup from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show about this topic -- Amy Walker of Canada's Momentum Magazine led a panel discussion on City Bikes at the show. I took notes, I've talked with Natalie Ramsland and Mike Flanigan, now I just need to organize the notes and post them.

In the meantime, Carlton in the UK asked me to get the word about this meeting on peak oil and cycling policy in Scotland:
Spokes Spring Public Meeting - Climate Change, Peak Oil and Scottish Cycling Policy. Weds 19 March, 7.30 [doors open 6.45 for coffee, stall, mixing]. At Augustine United Church George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.

  • David Somervell, Energy and Sustainability Manager, University of Edinburgh - speaking on climate change.
  • Dr Mandy Meikle, Depletion Scotland - speaking on energy supply and peak oil.
  • Kirsty Lewin, head of the Scottish Government's Sustainable Transport Team - speaking on government cycling policy in the light of the above challenges.
Fat Boy Biking has his thoughts on how more expensive gasoline is changing the driving habits of Americans.


Monday, January 28, 2008
  Sheyrl Crow - Gasoline
By Yokota Fritz 
Sheryl Crow sees a Mad Max future in "Gasoline."
Way back in the year of 2017
The sun was growing hotter
And oil was way beyond its peak
When crazy Hector Johnson broke into a refinery
And the black gold started flowing
Just like Boston tea

It was the summer of the riots
And London sat in sweltering heat
And the gangs of Mini Coopers
Took the battle to the streets
But when the creed was handed down
For no more trucks and no more cars
They threw cans of petrol through the windows at Scotland Yard

Full lyrics at Sheryl Crow discussion board. Via The Drum Beat.


Thursday, January 10, 2008
  Dan Yergin fan club
By Yokota Fritz 
People who know about Peak Oil know the name Daniel Yergin. Yergin founded the Cambridge Energy Research Energy Associates (CERA) to provide analysis and research on energy issues. Every major oil company, most minor ones, and almost any government and private agency with energy planning needs purchases research from CERA.

Apparently, CERA and Yergin are apparently an inside joke among oil experts who seemingly take his numbers and predictions with a grain of salt. Yergin consistently forecasts lower oil prices and consistently gets it wrong. Last June, for example, CERA predicted $60 oil by the beginning of 2008 because that's what the "fundamentals" support. As everybody knows, we're at $100 with no hurricanes or other large disasters affecting our supply. Yergin and CERA consistently promote the fantastic idea that oil companies can producers 110 million barrels per day within the next decade.

In spite of CERA's dismal track record, the media consistently turns to CERA as a "highly respected" expert on oil prices and oil futures, with Yergin cited as "one of the world's foremost experts on energy." There doesn't seem to be a sense of history or accountability for journalists who accept Yergin's credentials (a PhD and a Pulitzer) without checking his history. He's undoubtedly a brilliant guy, but the facts are clear that the numbers from CERA just don't add up.

Inspiring Green Leadership

Speaking of Peak Oil, I met Andre Angelantoni yesterday at the Eco Summit yesterday in Santa Clara. Andre is the founder of Inspiring Green Leadership, which seeks to encourage individuals and businesses to make the changes that will be required in a world that is increasingly resource constrained. Andre introduced the idea of Peak Oil to the program participants.

Angelantoni encourages everybody with an interest in sustainability to become leaders during this time of coming change. He encourages these leaders to help create communities that are self sustaining, with roles in transportation, food production, power use reduction, and health care. Besides his own website, he pointed conference participants to The Oil Drum, Relocalize and Oil Depletion Protocol.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008
  $100 per barrel
By Yokota Fritz 
NYMEX benchmark light sweet crude for January delivery broke through $100 per barrel for the first time ever today.

That is all.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007
  Economist says 'Don't worry, be happy'
By Yokota Fritz 
Dr.Thomas Palley is a Yale educated published economist. I'm just a guy who blogs about bikes. He's evidently a smart guy, but I think Palley misses the point in his essay in Foreign Policy in which he reassures investors that the U.S. dollar will remain the reserve currency of choice around the world. In spite of a growing chorus of doubt around the world on the value of the dollar, Palley tells us that the falling dollar is merely a correction rather than a symptom of something fundamental about the world economy. Here's what he writes:
  • "With an annual GDP of more than $13 trillion and with efficient, liquid capital markets, the U.S. economy operates on a scale and with a vitality that is unmatched." The U.S. economy runs on oil. With fossil fuel in permanent decline around the world, U.S. productivity will fall dramatically in the near future.

  • "Many countries can’t generate enough domestic consumption to spur growth and full employment, forcing them to rely on exports [to the United States]." Our market economy is an economy of excess. We buy TVs from Malaysia and bikes from Taiwan because we have so much extra left over for consumer "stuff." Again, this excess is driven completely by cheap energy inputs into our economy. Conservation and innovation may mitigate the damage (which is why I'm so gung ho about limiting inefficient transportation modes), but the fact is that our economy will stagnate. Permanently.

  • I think Palley also ignores the fundamental fact that the US dollar is a fiat currency -- the US Federal Reserve prints as much as it needs, and its value is underpinned by the requirement that almost all international oil sales are denominated in U.S. dollars. If enough oil producing nations are willing to sell their oil in euros or yuan or pesos, then that will be the end of the American dollar. Palley's "buyer of last resort" theory won't hold water when U.S. consumers can no longer afford to buy plasma TVs and plastic knick knacks.
I think every nation that depends heavily on imported oil has significant economic challenges, and these challenges are coming sooner rather than later. The mother of all paradigm shifts will soon be on us, but with increased awareness of our reliance on a scarce resource I'm hopeful we can rise to the challenge to soften the landing.


Monday, December 10, 2007
  Food prices up by one third
By Yokota Fritz 
I've told a few friends that I expect double digit inflation on food prices for 2008, but according to the Economist, we're already there this year. The Economist's food price index rose by a third over the last year and is at its highest level since they began the index in 1845.

Increased affluence around the world means more people eat meat, but the Economist notes also that the sudden push for ethanol means about a third of the corn crop is devoted to ethanol production. More acreage devoted to ethanol production also means less acreage for wheat, soy, and other crops. Corn is also the primary feed for cattle and chickens, so increased feed costs means we pay more for steak and chicken.

The Economist in seems to predict the exploitation of remote wilderness areas as investors pay to plow them under and build roads to access these new agricultural frontiers. We're already seeing this in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, where millions of acres of rain forest have been replaced with palm oil plantations.

Some predict that rural economies in the developing world will benefit from increased demand for biofuel crops from the west. The reality, though, seems to be different: food crops that used to sold locally are now no longer available, as farmers find it more lucrative to export their crops to the western world than to feed the local population.

This stuff is impossible to predict accurately -- we know farmers are abandoning set asides, for example, and planting record acreage to cash in on the ag bonanza. If there's a boom crop, perhaps there will be enough left over to sell to Mexican tortilla factories and the occasional food aid shipment.

It used to be that I was a little discouraged at my own attempts at conservation -- I realized that imy own cutbacks only enabled somebody else to burn that much more. Now that we're entering an era of real shortages, however, perhaps my savings will allow somebody who's truly in need to use that resource, and I'm a little more hopeful that my example will encourage others to sacrifice a little bit of their comfortable lifestyles to enable the poor to live.

Related stories:

Okay, enough of beating on that horse: A couple of fun links from A Boy on a Bicycle:
Photo: "Manila Three Wheeler" by Jeff Youngstrom.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007
  Robert Hurst on Peak Oil
By Yokota Fritz 
Robert Hurst, author of the popular Art of Cycling book, added a footnote in his second edition about a troubling societal dilemma looming in the near future: the growing inability of of global energy supply to meet global energy supply. In his latest blog entry, Robert takes a look at the current situation, taking input from industry analysts and reviewing what the mass media is now saying about the specter of Peak Oil.

If you haven't yet heard of Peak Oil, Robert's essay is a good introduction. You can read it here on his blog. He also points to a couple of my daily reads: The Oil Drum and oil engineer Robert Rapier's R Squared Blog.


Saturday, November 17, 2007
  $4+ gasoline in San Mateo, California!
By Yokota Fritz 
San Mateo is on the San Francisco Peninsula, just north of where I work. The AP published a photo of the price at the pump at a Shell station, along with a suggested solution to the problem. (Hint: It has two wheels and no gasoline motor). Via Jym.

Other random stuff:
I've been laid up in bed for the past two days with a horrible head cold. I hope the rest of you all have a great weekend!


Friday, October 26, 2007
  Bicycling the Next Big Thing
By Yokota Fritz 
Update: The video story here is on the amazingly popular Velib bike rental program in Paris, France. One puzzling thing is reporter Keith Miller's statement that the only big American city with no interest in the project is San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco is considering a bike share program modeled after the Velib program in Paris.

Word is that NBC Nightly News will report tonight (Friday, October 26) that bicycling will be a major mode of transportation in the near future. Tape at, well, whatever time they show the Nightly News. The NBC is already reporting record high crude oil futures that were reached today. They note that OPEC is "set to boost production by 500,000 barrels a day beginning Nov. 1," but some oil industry experts are skeptical if OPEC can meet that production level.

Props to James for the heads up.


Friday, October 19, 2007
  $90 oil
By Yokota Fritz 
I think everybody has heard that oil pushed through $90 a barrel on trading today. Let's see what everybody has to say: I'm sure that's enough bad news for now, so I'll conclude with this reminder that it's spring in the antipodal regions of planet earth. Australia had it's annual Bike to Work Day earlier this week, with many happy bike commuters enjoying the bicycle ride to work as thousands dusted off their bikes for the event. Treadly also posts a few entries on Bike To Work Day Down Under.

Now's a good time to mention my buddy Jim in Fort Collins, Colorado. Jim is Oil Free and Happy and sells cute t-shirts and patches from his website for you to wear. I have one of his "Powered By Sweat" shirts. Oil Free and Happy -- give him a visit and buy a patch or shirt from Jim. (I don't make a dime from referring you to him.)

Photo: "NYC Bicycle Commuter 79th St @ 5th AVe" by Bicycles Only.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007
  $3.49 per gallon
By Yokota Fritz 
That's the price I saw this morning for regular unleaded at the Shell gas station on Alma Street in Palo Alto, CA. Granted, that's always the most expensive station in town, but it's still a dramatic jump from the $3.20 or so they had last week. Near my home, the nearest gas stations were at $3.19/gallon last night.

Although the current U.S. administration is still in denial and refuses to do anything useful about it, the world is in fact running out of cheap oil. Investors have even woken up to this fact.

Locally, I see more bike commuters than ever although the weather has chilled, the days are shorter, and the California rainy season has started. Many are people I've never seen before on shiny new bikes, and the ones I talk with tell me they've only recently started bike commuting. They started because of high gas prices, but they continue because they discover they actually enjoy riding in to work.

Increased bicycle use for transportation is great to see, but high gas prices are still a concern for me. Higher gas prices mean I pay more for everything. Economic growth comes from growth in energy use. I'm not too hopeful that we'll effectively transfer our energy use from transportation to other, more constructive purposes. Our transition to a low energy economy will be very painful for everybody. We're already seeing pain in Africa and some Pacific Rim countries, where gasoline that once was used to run irrigation pumps, farm tractors, fishing boats and village generators is now shipped to the United States because we're able to pay the higher price for the fuel. Even North Dakota's wheat harvest was threatened because of diesel shortages there.

Many of my anti-car friends rejoice at the prospect of high gasoline prices, but I see pain in all of our futures. I know the readers of Cyclelicious are doing your parts to forestall and maybe even ease that pain. You're doing the right thing by riding your bikes and encouraging others by your example.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007
  Gasoline makes you fat
By Yokota Fritz 
Santa Cruz Highway 1
Here's an interesting study [PDF] from Washington University in St. Louis in which economist Charles Courtemanche demonstrates a causal relationship between the price of gasoline and obesity rates in the United States. According to this study, an additional $1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15% after …five years, and that 13% of the rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during this period. Courtemanche provides evidence that increased gas prices will result in more exercise for Americans as well as fewer restaurant visits. He writes:
If the price of gas rises, the cost of driving also rises, which may affect body weight in two ways. First, people may substitute from driving to walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation. Walking and bicycling are forms of exercise, which increase calories expended. If a person uses public transportation, such as subways, buses, trolleys, or rail services, the need to move to and from the public transit stops is likely to result in additional walking, again increasing calories expended. Second, since the opportunity cost of eating out at restaurants rises when the price of gas increases, people may substitute from eating out to preparing their own meals at home, which tend to be healthier. Income effects may also lead people to eat out less in an effort to save money to pay for the increased cost of gas.
Courtemanche notes that the reduced obesity rates can save 16,000 lives and $17 billion per year in health costs, partially offsetting the pain of paying higher gas prices.

Props to Tim Grahl for this news.

Other news:

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Thursday, September 06, 2007
  Tax credit for exurban car commuters
By Yokota Fritz 
Hey America, did you know that we're at near record low gasoline inventory levels in the United States? What do you do when you're running short of a declining resource? Do you carefully husband the resource so it will last as long as possible? "No!" proclaims Congresscritter Zack Space of Ohio. "Let's pass money around so we can use it up even faster!"
I announced my plan to introduce the Rural Commuters Tax Relief Act of 2007. This legislation could not be simpler: If your household makes less than the national median income, you drive more than 30 miles to work and you work at least four days per week, then you receive a $100 tax credit for each month that the average price of gas is more than $3 per gallon.
The U.S. household median income in 2006 was $48,200. If you're married filing jointly with two children, you can easily find enough deduction to bring your federal tax burden to less than $3000. With this tax credit you can chop your tax bill nearly in half!

It's nice that Mr. Space is pulling for the little guy, but I and others have been warning for years that the affordable house out in the exurban prairie won't be so affordable once oil prices start the inevitable climb right about now.

Read Zack Space's opinion piece here. You have to wonder what they thought on Easter Island when the last tree was chopped down.

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Monday, August 06, 2007
  Signs of the times
By Yokota Fritz 
BP has announced its departure from the retail gas business in North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana and Wyoming. North Dakota has experienced fuel shortages all year.

BP says it is abandoning those markets because it cannot meet its goal of supply reliability. In the United States, BP brands include am/pm markets, Amoco, and ARCO.

BP station operators in the U.S. southeast are also reporting that they've been told to find new suppliers.

Fuel shortages that are already endemic across large swathes of Africa and parts of Asia are beginning to hit more remote areas of the United States, where mass transit and even bicycling is not a realistic transportation option.

Folks, this is our breadbasket. If our farmers and ranchers can't buy the fuel to manage our food supply, we're in for some tough times ahead.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007
  Trilby Lundberg smokes crack
By Yokota Fritz 

I really shouldn't write nasty things about people, but that's the only explanation for what she said on CNN tonight.
Q: As far as conservation, what are the trends you are seeing?

A: I'm hoping that consumers will see through the rhetoric about consuming less, demanding less, as faulty. It is not a given that consuming less will be good for our economy or for our personal freedom. It is not even established for our environment that we [should] deprive ourselves of gasoline for our personal mobility as well our commerce. And to suppose that it is good to do that, and pretend that we have consensus and put our heads together to deprive ourselves of this great product that makes the country go around, commercially and individually, I think is flawed. I'm hoping consumers and voters will see through that and be able to ignore some of the most extreme suggestions.
In other words, Ms. Lundberg supports Trilby Lundbert has surveyed gas prices across the United States since the 1950s, when she founded The Lundberg Survey. She is the source when the media needs information about oil and gasoline retail marketing and trends.

Rather than spending money locally or even spending our cash on something worthwhile, she wants everybody to continue sending their dollars to overseas producers for the product that we'll just spew from our tailpipes, no matter the cost. Yes, gasoline enables tremendous mobility and has fueled worldwide economic growth. It's a tremendously valuable substance that should be managed, not destroyed and used up with wanton abandon.

Found via The Oil Drum.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007
  Nanotech and energy research
By Yokota Fritz 
One of my old high school friends, Suzanne, is an engineer for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. She is in town for Nanotech 2007, so we got together to catch up on old times.

Her department's interest in nanotech is twofold: There's research in using nanotechnology for hazardous waste cleanup, and the nanotech industry itself has its own hazardous materials issues.

More interesting to my friend, however, is the tremendous interest at the conference on using nanotech for energy issues. The keynote speaker at this conference is Shell Oil President John Hofmeister. A great many vendors are apparently investigating nanotech for use in oil extraction, "clean energy", hydrogen manufacture and storage, fuel cells, and gassification.

Suzanne also talked about the multiple detrimental effects of replacing MTBE as an oxygenator with ethanol. I'll post more later, but she touched on the net carbon footprint of using ethanol for energy as well as the effects of using ethanol in gasoline on groundwater pollution.

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Monday, May 14, 2007
  The Great Gas Boycott of 2007
By Yokota Fritz 

We've all heard about the great gas boycott that will occur tomorrow, May 15. I expect many of the True Believers are filling up today in anticipation of this "boycott;" others will delay their purchase until Wednesday.

As many of us realize, delaying gas purchases for only a day does nothing to impact the price of gasoline or the profits of the large producers and distributers. Station operators -- who make pennies on each fillup -- will feel the pinch, as will the hourly wage earners who won't be scheduled to work that day because of the anticipated slow business.

The way to lower the price of a limited commodity -- like gasoline -- is to reduce demand. You reduce demand of gas by using less of it. You can use less gas by driving less -- combining trips, driving a little more conservatively and walking, biking, or using public transportation for some of your trips.

Remember, this week is Bike To Work Week across the United States. If you want to send a message to Big Oil, the best way to do so is to limit your purchase of their product permanently. Human-powered transportation is a great way to do that for many people.

For those who feel they cannot give up their cars, please remember that more people bicycling means there's more gas for you to burn.

Car brain

Somewhat related is this neat essay from Down Under:
I suffer from "car brain" every time I am handed car keys. I lose all sense of logic. Somewhere deep in the reptilian core of my brain, lizard-thinking takes over. When car brain rules, any vague feeling of goodwill I have towards the environment evaporates. I enter a persistent vegetative state where I avoid walking and public transport at all costs.

We need to accept humans are cheap and lazy, and adopt transport policies that reflect this.
Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Also don't miss 6 ways to lower gas prices in CNN Money. Both articles via the Drumbeat.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007
  My gas price conspiracy theory
By Yokota Fritz 
Gasoline prices have risen sharply over the past couple of weeks. On my bicycle ride to work this morning, I saw regular unleaded priced from $3.19 to $3.51 a gallon in my area of California. People are blaming Republicans, Democrats, Big Oil, Environmentalists, and OPEC. The usual proposals to investigate Big Oil, impose price controls, and suspend gasoline taxes all ignore the true conspiracy.

A very large number of Americans -- many of them posing as Patriots, Conservatives, and Liberals -- work together to undermine the American Way of Life by consuming huge quantities of petroleum, a limited resource. Worldwide demand for gasoline has jumped over the last year, while petroleum production remains static to dropping (mostly due to geographical constraints). In the U.S., warm, spring-like weather has induced millions of Americans to drive to their outdoor activities, spiking domestic demand just as refineries make the switch to the summer-blend of gasoline.

Folks, the price of gas has gone up because you are burning so much of it! Reducing the price through price controls or tax suspensions will only increase the demand, resulting in real shortages. Yes, oil companies are making record profits, but in our market economy that's how we control the demand. If price controls are imposed, then quotas must also be imposed on consumers for gas purchases.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007
  Biofuel: First tortillas, now beer
By Yokota Fritz 
The news media reported a while ago on the Mexican tortilla shortage because farmers are shifting production to yellow corn for ethanol production. Then Steve Dubner predicts on the Freakonomics blog that we'll all get skinnier as high fructose corn syrup (used to sweeten everything from ketchup to soda pop) becomes less available or more expensive.

Now comes this news that biofuel production is causing a "structural shift" in beer production. Global stockpiles of barley have shrunk by a third in the past two years and left the barley trade vulnerable to further supply problems this year.

“In the US, land that was cultivated for growing barley has been given over to corn because of the ethanol demand,” said Levin Flake, a grains trade analyst at the US department of agriculture. The US, which in the 1980s was a leading exporter of barley, is now a net importer as barley acreage has shrunk from more than 13m acres in 1985 to 4m this year, said Mr Flake.

Read more about this issue at The Oil Drum. I don't drink (been sober since 1989), but this is one of many examples illustrating the spread of resource scarcity and coming shortages. All our resources are at stake, and it's not going to be easy to reduce demand for one by finding substitutes - we're going to have to learn to do with less of everything.

read more | digg story

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007
  Australia Senate Report: Bicycle to reduce oil dependence
By Yokota Fritz 
An Australian Senate committee released its report Wednesday on the country's future oil supply. This report from the bipartisan Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee warns that the nation must act immediately to reduce its reliance on foreign oil.

Cycling is presented among the options in the report to reduce oil use. Cycling is seen as a “No Regrets” option by the Committee, meaning that even if the onset of Peak Oil occurs later than expected, the community benefits from numerous social, environmental and transport outcomes inherent to cycling.

Photo by Mugley.
Elliot Fishman of the Australia Cycling Promotion Fund highlights that “The Senate Inquiry made it clear that in addition to being an oil-free form of transport, cycling is an effective tool against our obesity and diabetes epidemics.”

While the report suggests various means to increase the supply of alternative fuels, many alternative fuels can have significant environmental issues in themselves. Fishman says “Unlike many of the supply side options provided to the Senate Committee, such as coal-to-liquids, cycling represents a zero emission form of transport. Our current policy environment requires us to propose responses to Peak Oil that are greenhouse sensitive. Bicycles have no exhaust pipe.”

Peak Oil may result in significant hardship for people around the world, but Cycling Promotion's Fishman believes that Australia's current drought shows that Australians can adapt. “We are on the verge of entering a petrol drought. As we approach the point at which less and less oil will be available year upon year, Australian’s will need to become fuel smart and adapt to a low oil lifestyle, just as we have done with water” says Fishman.

Read more at Cycling Promotion Fund.

Spinopsys has in depth details and commentary on this report.

Wheels of Justice hasn't mentioned this report yet, but I expect they'll have something up by the time my USA readers get around to this post.

Discussion at The Oil Drum on this important report.

Another view of Australia's oil-poor future.

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