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Comments by Geoffrey Styles Subscribe

On Fuel Cell Cars and the Shale Revolution

1. Cumulative charts can mislead. Look instead at monthly data from EDTA

http://electricdrive.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/20952/pid/20952

Plug-ins hit 11,000/mo. in 8/13 and haven't matched that since.

2. Rescale to 1.4 million/mo. and graph.

Don't get me wrong; it's a good start, even though $7.5k/vehicle can't be sustained. And I'm glad you like your Leaf. It would fit my personal driving pattern just fine, though not my family's.  It's just too early to think about lock-in.

 

April 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Fuel Cell Cars and the Shale Revolution

Bob,

Suggesting I'm "disproportionately excited" about FCVs gave me a good laugh, since I've been disappointed by their painfully slow progress for more than a decade. What you mistake for excitement is simply keeping an open mind.

For me, this as being about keeping options open when we don't have a satisfactory solution yet. A decade ago, EVs looked DOA and FCVs looked like the answer. Today it's reversed, but EVs seem stuck at 0.5% of the US market, despite massive tax credits, plus free recharging and HOV lane benefits in some places. (How many Leafs would Nissan sell without the $7,500 tax credit?) If that looks like lock-in to you, then perhaps I'm not alone in suffering from disproportionate excitement.

April 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Fuel Cell Cars and the Shale Revolution

It's all about compromises, isn't it? EVs offer one set of compromises vs. conventional cars, mainly in up-front cost and refueling times, while FCVs offer a different set. Neither one is likely to be the sole replacement for all ICE's--that notion is just silly at this point, given the staying power of ICEs that keep improving and shrinking the benfits of switching to something else. FCVs are about expanding consumer choices.

As for Dr. Romm's arguments, if chicken-and-egg conundrums were unbreakable, then the federal government for which he used to work has wasted many billions of dollars attempting to short-circuit them in other technologies, with EVs being the most relevant example for this discussion. It's hard, but not impossible, and there are smarter folks than you or I working on it while we exchange comments.

April 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Environmental Groups Gear Up to Stop US LNG Exports

You're certainly right that the dry gas cost figure is key, since production is currently being driven by the associated gas from liquids-rich plays. $8 seems like the top of the range, with $6 the figure I see more frequently. Other uncertainties include the number of gas wells already drilled and not yet connected to pipelines, and the economics (and regulatory drivers) of gathering currently flared gas, such as in the Bakken, and shipping it to market. Finally, even if gas close to export terminals rose to world prices less freight and processing--call it $9 if the destination in Asia--we still wouldn't have a unified gas price across the US, any more than we do today, due to logistical constraints.

Either way, there are many uncertainties that will only resolve with time.

April 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Environmental Groups Gear Up to Stop US LNG Exports

Roger,

That's an interesting way to look at it, presumed sarcasm notwithstanding. Perhaps they're deeper than you credit them, because the price spike you envision is likely to be self-correcting. Of course that depends on the actual shape of the supply curve, which is currently inferred by many observers to be fairly flat, and on how many of these facilities actually get built. 

April 8, 2014    View Comment    

On How Can US Natural Gas Reduce Europe's Dependence on Russia?

You owe it to yourself to examine the data behind the claims you're making. For example, natural gas ranks pretty low in water consumption among energy sources, even with fracking. Compare that to other fuels, including ethanol, or to numerous other uses of fresh water, including golf courses: http://theenergycollective.com/jessejenkins/205481/friday-energy-facts-how-much-water-does-fracking-shale-gas-consume

 

April 8, 2014    View Comment    

On How Can US Natural Gas Reduce Europe's Dependence on Russia?

Study after study has shown that gas produced using fracking, which is approaching half of US output, is similar to conventional gas in its environmental impact, including methane leakage that at current levels does not outweigh its benefits displacing coal, and that is to a large extent inherently fixable. The main factor behind public concerns over fracking is that energy production has moved into much closer proximity to population centers. Just as with wind and solar power, we're shifting from an era of energy being produced out of sight, to being sourced all around us.

April 4, 2014    View Comment    

On For All the Calls to 'Rescue' Ukraine with LNG Exports, US Should Steady the Course on Terminal Applications

Jim,

A couple of further thoughts. It's hard to gauge how much FERC's review process could be reengineered without a thorough analysis, but at a minimum we should ensure that FERC has sufficient resources to review all the applications that are pending.

As for where eventual US exports will go, it's true that Asian demand and prices exert a strong pull, and many of the terminals now going through the review process have contracts with buyers in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. However, it's worth recalling that the voyage from Houston to Tokyo Bay takes a lot longer and costs more than to the Bay of Biscay; it's not unknown for customers to swap cargoes to save on freight costs. That's just one way in which US LNG will infuence the global gas market, regardless of the contractual buyers of US gas. The prospect of those exports may already infuencing contract renegotiatons with Gazprom.

April 3, 2014    View Comment    

On How Can US Natural Gas Reduce Europe's Dependence on Russia?

If it comes down to cost, Qatar can take as much of the market as they want. However, I understand there's a moratorium on new projects there.

I'd ask the question differently: Is there room in the global LNG market for US exports, and can they compete with the marginal supply? Given the queue of folks lined up to buy US LNG, the answer to the first part seems to be a clear yes. And if the marginal ton in the market is from a grassroots project in Australia, then I think the answer to the second part is also yes, depending on relative proximity to the customer.

April 1, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Oil-by-Rail Safer

Rick,

If you're suggesting that crude by rail should be mainly a temporary measure to be replaced as soon as possible by pipelines, I agree, though I'm not sure the refiners on the east coast and west coast who are buying this oil would. Rail deliveries give them their best option versus imports, and the likelihood of laying pipe from North Dakoto to the Pacific, at least, seems low even if the government gave the idea an immediate green light, which is doubtful.

March 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Oil-by-Rail Safer

Bob,

For starters, I don't parrot talking points; I've been writing about energy security from my own perspective for many years. As for exports, only a small portion of shale production is currently exported. Under existing regulations, the only allowed destination for it is Canada. Such exports averaged 120,000 bbl/day last year, or only about 4% of current light tight oil produciton. In energy security terms, rising LTO production--much of it carried by rail--accounts for about 60% of the roughly 5 million bbl/day reduction in US net oil imports since 2008, with the weak economy and energy efficiency gains accounting for the rest. Meanwhile, the small quantity currently exported still contributes to economic security, by reducing our trade deficit by around $4 B/yr, on top of the $120 B or so attibutable to the portion used here, which backs out imports essentially barrel for barrel.

As for reducing the speed of oil trains, that is already happening, under the voluntary agreement with DOT, as mentioned in the post. You also seemed to suggest that shippers ("the industry", presumably the oil industry) determine speeds and other operating procedures. That's no more the case than you determing the speed of the trucks used by UPS or USPS when you mail a package. The railroads and their regulators make those decisions.

As for your comparision of the pre-2011 DOT-111 tank car situation to an automotive recall, that's a matter of opinion, but I find the analogy weak. It's clearly desirable that the cars provide more protection for highly flammable cargo, but at least as far as I've seen the older cars haven't been found to be defective in the sense you suggest. Or did I miss that?

 

March 24, 2014    View Comment    

On Will Shale Oil Growth Lead to New US Refineries?

Isn't it remarkable, then, how long such temporary things can last? And a good thing, too, because we're going to need to "destroy" a lot more oil while renewables develop further and come down in cost. Despite their rapid, impressive growth, renewables made up less than 10% of US energy last year, with wind and solar at 2%. http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec1_7.pdf 

A good start, but a long way to go.

March 21, 2014    View Comment