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  • Archive for January, 2012

    Assorted Links, or, I wish I could think up a better title for this post….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 25th January 2012 (All posts by )

    The US could be almost self-sufficent for energy by 2030, while the EU will be the most vulnerable region for energy security, BP said on Wednesday.
     
    Growth in shale oil and gas production would mean the US needed few imports, while North America as a whole could be self-sufficient, BP forecast at its Global Energy Outlook 2030.
     
    BP forecast that Eurasia could also become self-sufficient, based on the prediction that Europe would being a net importer of energy, and the former Soviet Union countries net exporters by a similar amount.
     
    In practice, this would leave the EU the most vulnerable region for energy security.

    The Telegraph

    Friends, I have no particular knowledge of this subject. If you have anything to add in comments, I’d love to hear it.

    Ah, age. One of the most daring aspects of this novel is that Lively is concerned with the hearts and problems of older characters. Her major players are well past their youth, and a boyish up-and-coming historian (the snake in Lord Henry’s mansion) doesn’t become important until much of the novel has passed. “How much remains when youth is gone?” Lively seems to be asking. And the answer is, “An abundance.” Here middle and old age are times of blossoming identity and possibility, miraculous bursts of sunshine.

    – The New York Times reviews Penelope Lively’s novel, How it All Began.

    Even as a twenty-something, I was fascinated with literary representations of middle age. An odd one, that’s me.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Europe, International Affairs, Middle East, National Security, North America, Predictions | 9 Comments »

    The EPA and You

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th January 2012 (All posts by )

    The Montreal Protocol is a document signed by many nations that gives us in the HVAC industry (and other industries as well) the road map as to how certain chemicals will be phased out over time, due to their ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential). Whether this is scientific or not is a discussion for another day. The fact is that the nations that signed on are obliged to follow the phase out.

    Of particular interest to my industry over the last couple of weeks has been what is going to happen to R-22. Any of you reading this in your homes or office buildings that have air conditioning probably have a machine that uses R-22 within rock throwing distance. With the quicker phaseout of refrigerants R-12 and R-502, many commercial refrigeration applications moved to R-22 as well.

    In addition to this, I have one more sidetrack to make before I get to the main point of this post. A few years ago there were to be no more new units made that used R-22 refrigerant. The Chinese exploited a loophole in the poorly written law and kept making units that used R-22, but shipped them “dry” – in other words, the technician in the field would put the refrigerant in the unit upon installation.

    The OEM’s in the US put up a huge stink and demanded the EPA either close the loophole, or let everyone do it. They let everyone do it. These units were enormously popular last summer. In a central air conditioner for home use, contractors were once again able to “cut ’em out, cut ’em in” like they used to do. Before the availability of the dry R-22 units, contractors were forced to swap out the evaporator coils on the inside of the house since the new condensers, charged with the new refrigerant R-410a, are not compatible with old R-22 evaporators. To be honest, the new dry R-22 condensers aren’t either, but that is a different post for a different day. They worked, for now, and everybody was happy.

    This brings us to January 2012. The previous rule for R-22 phase-out written by the EPA allocated 100 million pounds for 2011 and 90 million pounds for 2012. The EPA decided to accelerate this and was proposing anywhere from 55 to 80 million pounds for 2012. But the EPA sat on its hands and didn’t issue a ruling at all! Worst case scenario. This from one of the manufacturers of R-22 on January 5:

    As of today, no producer or importer has the legal right to manufacture or import R-22 for refrigeration or air conditioning use. Under such circumstances the EPA is expected to issue ‘non enforcement’ letters to allow business continuity.

    Consequently, given the current absence of non-enforcement letters and the possibility of significantly higher than previously expected reductions in allocation rights, (company x) must now evaluate the impact such a reduction may have on our ability to meet customer demands.

    Meanwhile, since then, the EPA has proposed cutting the R-22 allocations by FORTY FIVE percent. This does not help business continuity, to say the least! In addition, no final ruling has been made, and we still don’t know the true allocations.

    So what are the results to the market?

    It is destroyed. Manufacturers are not accepting orders for any price right now. Consequently, guys like me (distributors) are halting all large quantity sales until we can figure out what is going on. Oh, the price? Since the first of the year, it has tripled to the street.

    The market for R-22 is completely locked down and in a total state of chaos. Rumors are flying, and contractors don’t know who to believe or what to do.

    In addition, it is time for us to begin ordering our air conditioning equipment to sell this summer. Nobody has any idea at all what to do about the dry R22 units. Will they be allowed to be sold? Will the cost be prohibitive with the new allocations/pricing on R22?

    All this and more, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Administration.

    So if your air conditioner conks out this summer in your house or business, or if you own a convenience store and a refrigeration unit goes down, or if you work in a restaurant and a walk in cooler goes down, expect that bill to be WAY higher than you thought it would be.

    Not judging, just sayin’.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Environment | 15 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Miami Marine Stadium

    Posted in Photos | 8 Comments »

    “Image Sharpness: Shutter Speed, Handholding and Stabilization”

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th January 2012 (All posts by )

    A new post on my photoblog.

    Posted in Diversions | Comments Off on “Image Sharpness: Shutter Speed, Handholding and Stabilization”

    Across the ocean, a message over the wireless…

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 24th January 2012 (All posts by )

    As the newest Chicago Lass (hardly a boy, last I checked), I want to thank Jon for letting me join in on all the blogging. Briefly, our family moved to Dublin this past August from the United States. That was a blogworthy effort all on its own, with our lives boiled down to 54 boxes on a cargo ship and 27 luggage pieces on a plane (we had a lot of bags to watch over). Of course we also had four kids & Grandma along.

    I am not Irish, although I have a name and face that “passes”. Twelve months ago, I could not have distinguished between Croke Park and Bushy Park, told you what potcheen was good for or understood what “Dia duit” meant. Twelve months ago I would have never predicted life would take our family here.

    It has been an unusual experience – being an American in a city that is very Irish, very engrossed in Europe – and, dare I say it… very British at times (the truth that dare not speak its name). It is at once engulfed in the past, and yearning for the future. In this small island, the last rugged rock until Newfoundland, I have come to understand things about the United States, about Europe and the UK, and most of all, about Ireland – a land filled with magic and contradiction, with sadness, with laughter, and with fear and hope for what lies ahead. I hope to share these discoveries with you.

    With warmest regards,
    Your correspondent from Innisfree

    Posted in Anglosphere | 10 Comments »

    Terminology Proliferation is the Escape Hatch of Politics

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 24th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Adam Elkus has an important post over at Rethinking SecurityAmerica Needs Sound Policy, Not Grand Strategy:

    Every few months since 1991, there is a new op-ed calling for a new grand strategy or bemoaning the fact that the US doesn’t have one. I’ve written a few blogs/articles to this tune myself. But it’s time to realize that the problem lies with the very conception of grand strategy itself.

    In Foreign Policy, Rosa Brooks argues that the US needs a grand strategy:

    Though different scholars and statesmen define “grand strategy” somewhat differently, at its heart, the concept is straightforward: Grand strategy is “the big idea” of foreign and national security policy — the overarching concept that links ends, ways and means, the organizing principle that allows states to purposively plan and prioritize the use of “all instruments of national power,” diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military. A grand strategy can’t be a list of aspirations, wishes, or even a country’s top 10 foreign-policy “priorities.” (When you have 10 priorities, you really have no priorities at all.) Grand strategy is the big idea that guides the tough decisions, helping policymakers figure out which of those top 10 priorities should drop off the list, which aspirations are unrealistic and impossible, and which may seem like good ideas on their own, but actually undermine the nation’s broader goals.

    After this definition, Brooks then criticizes the Obama administration for not formulating one, But with such an expansive definition of strategy, is it ever possible to create one? The problem is that Brooks and other grand strategy writers searching for a “big idea” conjoin policy and strategy together.

    To recap, policy (a condition or behavior) generates a strategy (an instrumental device) that executes it through operations and tactics. Policy, in turn, is the product of a political process. In my post on victory, I gave a Chinese food-flavored explanation of this in practical terms. Strategy is not supposed to be an “idea”—it is an practical method of getting things done, a purpose-built bridge between politics and raw violence. I will concede that sometimes a policy will require a global strategy to accomplish it—which is what Basil-Liddell Hart originally meant when he used the term “grand strategy” to refer to World War II.

    The idea of grand strategy as both policy and strategy is by definition unachievable, and the source of much confusion.  By infusing normative policy elements into strategy, this fusion turns strategy into a manifestation of ideology rather than a technical device for getting things done.  Think, for example, of how debates about regional strategy and even the tactics and operations of COIN, drones, and counterterrorism have become proxies for domestic ideological political battles. This happens, in larger part, because the policy-strategy distinction in American national security circles is extremely weak, as strategy is taken to be politics and politics becomes strategy.

    One sure way to detect politics is signs of desperate efforts to call politics something other politics. Though politics is the most elemental of human endeavors, disgust with overt political machinations is one of the most elemental of human emotions:

    Who likes a brown noser?

    Who likes a squealer?

    Who likes the kid who gathers up his toys and goes home when he doesn’t get his way?

    Who likes the guy who obviously looks out for number one?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, National Security, Politics | 5 Comments »

    A Tale of Two Companies

    Posted by David Foster on 24th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Two old rivals. One is in Chapter 11, the other is thriving. Why?

    Kodak and Fujifilm

    Posted in Business, Management | 6 Comments »

    NYT Has A Decent Article on Taxes

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd January 2012 (All posts by )

    Both our current administration and the New York Times appeared to have little or no understanding how the “real” economy worked or the impact of incentives on tax policy. In more recent years they grasped that changing tax policy can impact economic incentives, which in turn, can increase their chances of being re-elected.

    Their first major foray was “cash for clunkers” which gave a tax deduction for turning in your old car for a new one. Like most one-time incentives, it accelerated purchases into the current period, giving a boost to auto manufacturers and car dealerships (and sticking the tax credit to the deficit). Lately the administration has gotten bolder, offering 100% deduction for capital purchases in the current year for tax purposes (which has the same effect as “cash for clunkers”, except on a wider scale as tax incentives for corporations and private companies), and then giving a 2% “payroll tax cut” which finally eliminates even the concept that social security is anything more than a “pay as you go” system and that there is nothing there waiting for you when you retire.

    My view of tax policy is that the goal of a sound policy is to:

    1) raise the revenue that you set out to achieve
    2) minimize negative effects or dis-incentives of the policy

    Examples abound of a failure of #1, including raising marginal taxes on the wealthy (they change their behavior or move to another jurisdiction) and the distortive effects of #2 are legendary, including over-investment in non-productive housing stock (due to the mortgage interest deduction) and the massive numbers of lawyers and accountants that make a living on the entrails of our bewildering and counter-productive tax system.

    In recent years the NYT, as the sounding arm for the administration, has started to realize that the haphazard and counter-productive effects of our current tax system are legion, and that better core policies could improve revenues while minimizing negative behavior. This article called “A Better Tax System” (Instructions Included) laid our four principles that seem reasonable overall:

    1) Broaden the base and lower rates
    2) Tax consumption rather than income
    3) Tax “bads” rather than “goods”
    4) Keep it simple, stupid

    I would say that their item 1 corresponds to my number 1, above, because a wider base with a less sloped marginal top is the core to a sustainable base of revenues that won’t fluctuate as much over time. Items 2-4 are under the negative minimization principle.

    Of course part of the reason that this article seems to make sense is that it was written by a non NYT staffer who works for an opposition candidate. But I do think that the NYT and the administration are starting to realize that our current tax system is an unholy mess with huge dis-incentives (the highest corporate taxes in the world drive jobs overseas), that doesn’t raise revenue broadly, and has huge dis-incentives in terms of ability for companies and individuals to plan ahead.

    Too bad it is too late in the game for them to do much more than talk about it. Also shame on the prior administration for never spending the political capital to attempt to change the system and reform it. They neglected to wield their power to make America more competitive.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Taxes | 6 Comments »

    Dogue

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd January 2012 (All posts by )

    Who’s the good puppy, then?

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 12 Comments »

    Random Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd January 2012 (All posts by )

    A popular and I suspect effective marketing technique for your Internet-based business is to write blog posts and/or give seminars, post videos, sell books, etc. describing how your business became successful. However, many of the people doing the marketing have been online since before the Internet became big or had successful businesses before they went online, and it’s impossible to know how much of their success came from smart business practices that anyone can use and how much from first-mover advantages and network effects. They may be successful because they started when there was little competition and didn’t make any big mistakes. That’s much different from saying you can be successful if you start now and run your business as they do.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance | Comments Off on Random Thought

    Excellent News

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd January 2012 (All posts by )

    The wit and wisdom of Cassandra has returned to the Internet.

    Temporarily, at least…I see that she still has her notice that “you have reached a blog that has been disconnected or is no longer in service” up on the masthead. Maybe if we all clap our hands, she will stick around. It worked for Tinkerbell, after all.

    Posted in Announcements, Blogging | 3 Comments »

    Nicely Put

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd January 2012 (All posts by )

    The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.

    –Joseph Schumpeter, 1942

    Quoted here: the high price economy

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, History, Political Philosophy | 1 Comment »

    Rubber Duck Car

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st January 2012 (All posts by )

    Seen today in Madison on a grocery run.

    Posted in Photos | 10 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Hobie Beach Sunset

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on

    To The Lifeboats

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Pretty damned ironic, that the Costa Concordia disaster happened almost exactly a hundred years after the Titanic. It’s not all that often these days that a European/American flagged passenger ship becomes a catastrophic loss to their insurance company – although it happens with dispiriting frequency to inter-island ferries in the Philippines and hardly any notice of it taken in Western newspapers. The contrasts and ironies just abound; fortunate that the Costa was so close to land that some passengers were able to swim to safety, and that rescue personnel were at the scene almost before the air-bubbles from the sunken half of the ship even popped to the surface.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Europe, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous | 41 Comments »

    Book Review: Conqueror of the Seas – The Story of Magellan by Stefan Zweig

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Conqueror of the Seas – The Story of Magellan (Amazon) by Stefan Zweig

    —-

    Somewhere buried in a comment here someone mentioned that Stefan Zweig wrote a book about Magellan. I have always loved reading about the famous explorers and with my new found interest in Zweig I had to have it. I went to Amazon and found a used copy for five bucks plus a little freight. The copy I received is a very early edition, as it has a picture of a nice boat on front of the style that Magellan used and the pages had that old book smell and feel.

    To cut to the chase, this book is absolutely fantastic. Zweig is just so easy to read, it is almost like the guy is sitting across from you reading the book for you.

    There are some spoilers below but not too many. If you don’t care for the spoilers, put this one on the top of your reading list. It is a breeezy three hundred pages or so and won’t take long to get through.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 21 Comments »

    You Mean He Doesn’t Really Talk Like This?

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Posted in Humor, Politics, Video | 3 Comments »

    4004 plus 40

    Posted by David Foster on 19th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Missed this by a couple of months….November 15, 2011, was the 40th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the world’s first microprocessor. The history of this extremely influential device provides an interesting case study in innovation.

    Early computers were constructed out of discrete components, first vacuum tubes and later transistors. Early work on transistors was done at Bell Labs…one of the inventors, William Shockley, became dissatisfied with Bell’s management and left to start his own company, which he located in Palo Alto to be near his mother’s house. (If Shockley’s mom had lived in Roanoke, would the term “Silicon Valley” now refer to the Shenandoah valley!?)

    Eight of the new company’s employees (“the traitorous eight”) in turn became unhappy with the way Shockley was running things, and left in 1957 to form Fairchild Semiconductor as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument. The integrated circuit, which allowed several transistors to be placed on a single chip, was independently invented at Fairchild and at Texas Instruments. Large numbers of these chips still had to be interconnected to form the central processing unit of a computer.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, History, Tech, USA | 22 Comments »

    Contact Your Senators and Congress Members: Tell Them You Oppose SOPA and PIPA

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Contact information is here.

    My Congressman is Danny Davis. It appears that he has not announced a position. I left a polite message asking him to vote against SOPA.

    My two Senators are Mark Kirk and Richard Durbin. Kirk has come out against PIPA. Bully for him. I contacted his office and registered my approval.

    I called Sen. Durbin’s office, and the person on the phone gave a well-rehearsed explanation of why the Senator supports PIPA.

    I suggest that Illinois residents continue to call Sen. Durbin, and if possible have good reasons why PIPA is no good.

    He may shift if the volume of contacts is large enough.

    Keep working on this, please.

    Update: I note that this issue seems to be a genuine example of Left / Right opposition to a naked power grab by one element of the Politico-Big Business Complex.

    It is similar to the sliver of overlap on the Venn Diagram between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement: The one thing everyone who is not already an insider is opposed to is Crony Capitalism. See this post.

    Does the Main Adversary at last come into view?

    One can hope.

    Information on SOPA and PIPA here.

    Posted in Big Government, Internet, Politics, Tech, USA | 5 Comments »

    “What The Republican ‘Establishment’ Really Means”

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th January 2012 (All posts by )

    A magisterial post by Baseball Crank (via Rand Simberg):

    There is general philosophical agreement among both Republicans and conservatives about all of this. Where the fault line lies is in exactly how far we are willing to go to do something about it. Many people who got into politics as good conservatives, and still think themselves good conservatives constrained by the limits of practical possibility, are at a loss when it comes to meaningful ways to tame Leviathan. For reasons, some good (the need to use political power to protect national security, preserve control of the courts and restrain regulatory overreach), some less so, they have thrown in the towel on the central issue of the day. That is who we speak of as the “Establishment.” Others – not always with a sense of proportion or possibility, but driven by the urgency of the cause – seek dramatic confrontations to prevent the menace of excessive spending from passing the tipping point where we can no longer save room for the private sector. They are the Outsiders, the ones challenging the system and its fundamental assumptions. The analogy of a Tea Party is an apt one: the Founding Fathers had much in common with the Tories of their day, but disagreed on a fundamental question, not of principle, but of practical politics: whether revolution was needed to protect their traditional rights as Englishmen from being eradicated by the growing encroachments of the British Crown. As it was then, the gulf between the two is the defining issue of today’s Republican Party and conservative movement.
     
    In short, the real “Establishment” and “Outsider,” “anti-Establishment” or “Tea Party” factions are not about who is conservative or moderate, or who is inside or outside the Beltway or public office, or who has fancy degrees or a large readership/listenership or attends the right cocktail parties or churches, or even necessarily who has or has not supported various candidates. The term “Establishment” is used and abused in those contexts, but invariably describes only a division of passing significance. The real battle between the Establishment and the Outsiders is between those who urge significant changes in our spending patterns as a necessity to preserve the America we have known, and those who are unwilling to take that step. It is, in short, between those who are, and those who are not, willing to take action in the belief that the currently established structure of how public money is spent is unsustainable and must be fixed while it still can if we are not to lose by encroachments the all the other things Republicans and conservatives stand for.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Big Government, Political Philosophy, Politics, Tea Party | 9 Comments »

    Margaret Thatcher on Income Inequality

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th January 2012 (All posts by )

    This video clip has appeared on other blogs but it’s worth posting again.
     

     
    How fortunate the world was to have had both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in office at the same time.
     

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Politics, Video | 17 Comments »

    Taking a Stand

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th January 2012 (All posts by )

    I heard on the way in to work this morning that Google was blacking out today in sympathy with Wikipedia, over the legislation currently working its way through the Democratic controlled Senate that supposedly will censor the internet. I haven’t had the time or energy to read what the actual legislation says, so I really don’t have a comment on that.

    I checked over at Wikipedia and they are indeed blacked out.

    So I went over to Google and as of this writing, their NAME is blacked out, but the search engine functionality is working the same as always. Oh huge stand Google.

    I have been using Bing for a while now and it works just fine.

    Posted in Internet | 14 Comments »

    Natural Gas

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th January 2012 (All posts by )

    In a post about interest rates I wrote about being a little kid and over-hearing my grandfather (who was actually “grandfathered” in as a CPA because he was a practicing accountant before they had the exam) talk in the early 1980s saying that he thought interest rates “would never go below 10%”. At the time inflation was rampant (as Volker came in) and interest rates were in the 20% or so range, so this seemed like a valid observation. As we all know, interest rates have fallen to near-zero right now and even a “ceiling” of 10% (rather than a floor) seems far away.

    Along the same lines, when I started in the energy business in the early 1990s, the “rule of thumb” of what a utility would pay for natural gas was about $2 / unit. The price would rise in the winter during the peak heating season and fall in the summer as utilities re-filled their storage, and it would vary around the $2 / unit mark, but not deviate too significantly. At the time there wasn’t a lot of vision forward on prices that I was aware of, but if you mentioned anything like the $14 / unit peak that was hit in 2005-6, you would have been laughed out of the room.

    Today natural gas, propelled by innovation and “fracking”, has dropped to a price level that no one would have foreseen back in 2005-6. Per Bloomberg:

    Supplies may reach a seasonal record of 2.4 trillion cubic feet in March, which is when heating demand usually ends and producers begin piping more gas into storage, Cooper said. Unless production falls or cold weather bolsters demand, prices will drop to $2.40 per million Btu, and perhaps below $2, as gas overflows storage caverns and clogs pipelines, he said.

    To think that natural gas would return to 1990 price levels is amazing. Even using the government’s figures, which I think understate inflation dramatically, in the 21 years from 1990 to 2011, inflation makes the $2 in 1990 the equivalent of $3.51 today, per this inflation calculator.

    What happened? Free enterprise and capital markets happened. Fracking and innovation allowed new natural gas deposits to be found in our country which brought forth huge reserves of US energy and drove down costs even while usage soared.

    This low price for natural gas is not a short-term phenomenon. These reserves are significant and since natural gas is often found alongside oil, with oil at $100 / barrel the fact that natural gas is at a low price won’t impact it as much as you’d think because anything the driller gets is just profit on top of the huge profits for US sourced oil. The largest “threat” to low prices for natural gas in the US is actually the “high” price of natural gas overseas, because US drillers and pipelines can ship it to foreign countries in a liquefied (LNG) format if their high prices make it economical. Per this WSJ article:

    (T)he current low natural gas prices are attracting market demand from around the world. There are already federal permits for 3 trillion cubic feet per year of natural gas exports, Apt said. “Will we export that bounty, and if we do, will that drive up U.S. prices,” he said. Natural gas sells for about $8 in Europe and $14 in Japan, but less than $4 here.

    The real longer-term issue is whether other countries in Europe and Asia will also find large reserves of natural gas in shale just like they did in the US, and whether they will drill for it or avoid drilling out of environmental concerns. The French have already banned “fracking” but my (unproven) opinion is that this really says more about the power of the nuclear lobby in France, since the low price of natural gas has really been the final nail in the coffin of nuclear energy (along with the obvious issue of Japan) because it makes the plants un-economic to build. Likely the Ukrainians (smarting from Russia’s bullying over natural gas pricing), the Poles, and the Chinese will take up this technology in earnest and change the overall economics, even if countries like France are content to wait idly by.

    As far as the US electricity industry, natural gas is causing coal plants to be mothballed or their owners to choose to not spend money on costly “scrubbers” to comply with EPA guidelines, changing the long term footprint of the US market. Since the nuclear boom was a “mirage” anyways (basically we will get a plant out of Southern Company and one in South Carolina, which won’t even keep up with likely decommissioning of units), this lower priced power is killing the market for new plants entirely.

    For heavily indebted companies like Energy Futures Holdings (which bought up TXU assets in Texas), the low price of natural gas spells difficulties, since gas fired “peakers” set the “market price” for energy and with the price of gas at $2 / unit, not $8 or $10 / unit, they will make less money on their “base load” coal and nuclear plants which need to run all the time. Some of these utilities had a great summer in 2011 with high temperatures (especially in Texas) which helped to offset the increasing competitiveness of gas-fired generation.

    The other key item to keep in mind is that when we buy US produced energy, we enrich our OWN country rather than sending wealth overseas, often to countries that despise us (and even if we don’t buy directly from Iran, the high cost of oil overall benefits them just the same whether or not we buy or someone else). The new innovative technologies have enormously benefited the United States, making us more competitive in business and reducing energy bills for tens of millions of households. And while energy companies do have “breaks” in the tax code to some extent, this innovation was not part of a government program and is in stark contrast to the failures of the Energy Department’s “research” and political backing of “green” energy which is likely to be a major campaign issue in 2012.

    If only they’d unleash our oil companies in the US we would likely be able to dramatically increase our production and further reduce our dependence on foreign energy producers, while enriching our own country. The parable of natural gas is plain for all to see, which is that markets work if you let them, and that government intervention is usually far more harmful than inaction.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation | 16 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Bird Flying Low Over Water

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    A Revived Delight

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th January 2012 (All posts by )

    I know that in Louisiana, they are trying to create a culinary demand for nutria, since the wretched beasts have outworn their welcome in the wetlands there. They were once imported from South America for their fur – but I have no idea why American grey squirrels were inflicted upon Great Britain. You’d think they had enough problems of their own without adding imported, fluffy-tailed tree rats to them … maybe it was payback for that fool who wished America to have every critter mentioned in Shakespeare.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Diversions, Environment, Humor, Recipes | 4 Comments »