The Economy and the Job Market – Searching For Growth in Troubled Times

The economy is clearly not in good shape. We may or may not currently be in a recession, and while conditions won’t get nearly as bad as the Chicken Littles of the world would have us believe, they most certainly won’t improve either. Well, dramatically, anyway.

The economy has been under a three-pronged siege of falling housing prices, rising commodity prices and an ever weakening labor market. And each aspect of this siege appears inextricably linked. What makes the current situation so difficult is that all three of these issues are and will continue to have meaningful impact on the average American’s pocketbook. Rising food and fuel costs coupled with lower wages yields a cash flow problem that we will not be able to ignore. That is what makes our current situation so different than that of 2001. That recession, spawned by the “.com” bubble burst, saw peoples overall stock portfolios and retirement accounts diminish or disappear. But in all honesty, who pays any considerable attention to that? Thanks to an increasingly innovative financial market and its willingness and ability to redistribute risk, lenders were right there to lend. And borrowers there to borrow. Consumer spending barely dipped, mortgage applications spiked, and we spent our way out of the 2001 recession.

It seems, then, that the current downturn is much more an extension of the 2001 disaster than a unique, separate situation. Can you ever really exit a recession if you borrowed the money to do so? Our economic doldrums have been a long time in the making, providing a solid base for what figures to be an extended period of zero to slow growth. And that’s why things don’t figure to improve too soon.

To exacerbate all this, the lumbering political machine in Washington has begun talking about the economy, and, more specifically, increased regulation of financial markets. This will only make things worse. It isn’t that taxes and regulations are altogether bad, it’s just that Congress has little, if any, idea how to brandish these tools. What we should expect is a weakened ability for different industries to tap into investment capital, inhibiting their ability to rebound from their current crises, and weakening the outlook overall in financial well-being for fiscal quarters to come.

So which industries stand to improve? To answer this question we need to think critically about what glaring problems the current economic situation has uncovered.

The most striking of these problems is America’s source of and need for energy. As mentioned, oil prices are high and should continue to go higher. China and India, with their burgeoning economies and swarming populations, are now dominant players in the international demand for fuel. And supply isn’t even constant; it’s falling. Our reliance on oil is clearly a very, very expensive habit. Setting aside environmental concerns (which are important), we simply cannot afford to rely on fossil fuels as we once did. The industry with the most long-term growth potential, then, is the renewable energy category.

Renewable energy is comprised of dozens of sectors, each giving rise to yet more sub-sectors. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric power are all growing, not just in the US, but around the globe. Bio fuel seems the heir apparent to gasoline (just look at Brazil), and carbon emission legislation stands on the brink of being passed. Each of these areas, and there are many, many more, represents tremendous job opportunities with long-term growth. And what’s more, they call for a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

Scientists and agriculturalists are obvious. It will become important to devote time and money into research projects, such as ethanol yield from various crops (i.e., corn, sugar, algae, etc.), and what type of return we could and should expect from each.

Carbon emission regulation would force big business to manage a certain number of “carbon credits.” Carbon credits are simply an accounting tool businesses will likely have to adhere to, by law, in an effort to keep their carbon footprint in check. Companies expecting to exceed their carbon credit limit must buy additional credits from companies willing to sell them – companies, of course, who are expecting a carbon credit surplus. Therein lies a marketplace, much like stocks and bonds, where finance and accounting professionals will clearly be in high demand.

Most importantly though, as it relates to career paths and job opportunities, small companies will be born to capture different pieces of this emerging world of renewable energy. And these companies will need the same things as any other company. Human resources, marketing, administration, law, and management are all areas that will see growth – so long they’re within the right business – as these are professional areas that will always be in demand. Exactly how much depends more on a specific company’s positioning within the greater economic landscape than it does the actual current economy.

For my money, any company with a business model that incorporates forward looking thought regarding renewable energy will fare well in the short, medium and long term.

Aiden was born and raised in northern New Jersey. He attended New York University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. He currently lives in New York City and works in the equities trading division of a large investment bank. –Aiden Quinn

The Future of Solar Energy

With the current concentration on global warming, the existence of which is denied by only a few naysayers, developments in solar power are moving at a pace to fill the need for efficient green solutions to our seemingly insatiable desire for energy.

The failure of solar power to be more widely adopted to date seems primarily to be due to cost concerns, where the payback periods are now quoted to be 7+ years, and thus beyond the normal financial horizon for many potential participants, whose average occupancy of any particular house is expected to be 7 years. When a lower cost can be achieved, the benefits of mass production will cause a snowball effect in purchasing systems, and that time would seem to be drawing closer.

Durham University in the UK, ever photovoltaic solar research project, with more than $12M to be spent in the next four years, starting in April. The principal investigator, Professor Ken Durose, has committed to “make a major contribution to achieving competitive photovoltaic solar energy”. Nine industrial partners and eight institutions will be involved in the project, which is aimed at reducing the thickness, and thus cost, of solar cells.

Much as this may seem to be a promising advance, an alternative approach is being adopted by commercial interests, in the form of a company called G24i which is also in the UK, in Wales. They have developed what are called fourth generation solar cells, which are a thin-film product, the latest buzzword in the solar marketplace.

Their invention is a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC), which is, simply, printing a thin layer of titanium oxide on to a thin-film of metal foil, and then performing some molecular manipulations to achieve the desired reaction to light. The product is manufactured on a roll-to-roll process, similar to that used in the textile industry. They commenced production last year, and are planning to expand this year to a production capacity of 200 Megawatts.

The process by which DSSC works has been compared to that of photosynthesis in plants, and it is more sensitive than conventional silicon cells, producing electricity from a wider range of the light spectrum and lower levels of lighting. It is very flexible and one-fiftieth of the weight of conventional glass silicon cells, and can even be produced in designer colors! The initial market is for devices that could not be made with the older technology, supplying power for portable electronics, particularly for mobile phones in the developing world.

With a growth in the traditional solar cell market of 35% per annum, and a continuing global shortage of silicon projected up to 2010, G24i would seem to be very well placed to take away business from the conventional suppliers. Their technology is available at much lower cost, and expansion would seem to be limited only by their ability to grow in a controlled manner.

On what seems to be a more esoteric front, it’s reported that scientists are considering the possibility of a space engineering project that would dwarf any other that has been attempted to date. While the sheer size of the project would require governments to take the first steps at an international level, researchers from the USA, Europe and Japan are proposing building giant solar arrays in orbit and beaming the energy to Earth.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Damphousse of the Pentagon has spoken of the need for “hundreds of sorties every week” in order to move the tons of material that would be required. A recent study by the Pentagon concluded that such a project was nearly technologically possible right now, and that robots could be used to facilitate the construction in space. More realistically, perhaps, Leopold Summerer of the European Space Agency has projected that the generation of power in space may be about 20 years away, but the concept is being actively pursued.

Finally, what may prove to be the most promising current development in solar energy has just been announced by Global Warming Solutions, Inc. of Houston. Successful tests have been conducted on hybrid solar modules, which produce both heat and electricity from one unit. The combined efficiency of the modules is reported to reach 85%, significantly better than the 40%+, then a record, achieved a year ago by Spectrolab using concentrator solar cells to produce electricity only.

The technologies used include some originally developed for industrial lasers, stated Dr. Alexander Kornaraki, the COO. “The quantum pump separates the heat and the electrical photons of the incident solar light”, giving the most efficient spectra to the photovoltaic process. The modules produce up to 28 Watts of electricity and 93 Watts of heat per square foot. The projected payback period is no more than five years.

Global Warming Systems have several pilot systems, and one with 108 square feet of panels provides 100% of the energy, both electrical and heating, to a single family home. Even more promising, these panels are efficient even as far north as Alaska, which is a new achievement for the industry.

Learn more about Solar Power and how you can use it to produce electric power, to heat, or even cool your home!

Hydrogen As a Fuel Source

From water to air, there are a number of ways to energize your car. Alternatives to petroleum are a hot topic today. The growing concern for the environment is steadily increasing. It’s an important issue that many people want to feel personally connected to. Hydrogen as a fuel source is not an entirely new idea. But science is taking a closer look at the impact that using hydrogen could have on both the environment and the economy. The best solutions are the ones that have more benefits than drawbacks.

Hydrogen burns in a vehicle much the same way that petroleum does. This makes it a good imitation even though it is not at all the same thing. Many alternatives are not this easy to work with.

Hydrogen makes a great fuel option for more than just automobiles. It can also be used in airplanes and even bicycles. A bicycle is already a great alternative to driving a car. By powering it, you make it faster and more efficient while still avoiding the use of a vehicle.

Major car companies such as Daimler Chrysler are already investing in hydrogen options for drivers seeking a hydrogen vehicle solution. These types of things certainly do not develop over night but the fact that they are in production at all is a great sign.

Hydrogen is an energy source that can be obtained from both renewable and non-renewable resources. This makes it much more environmentally friendly than some other petroleum alternatives currently being used and studied. It is much more flexible.

One really positive aspect of hydrogen fuel is that it can be produced and used continuously. It is highly renewable which is exactly what many consumers are waiting for. Making a fuel change is not a light decision to make. Benefits like this can help to aid your choice.

Every positive thing always has a negative counterpart. It’s just the way the world works. Hydrogen is not a fool proof fuel option. The burning of hydrogen actually produces more emissions than regular petroleum gas does. Since less emissions is what we really need, that just is not acceptable.

There are economic aspects that do come into play here. Hydrogen without fossil fuels is not economically friendly. When it comes to money, unfortunately that is where a lot of decisions are made. Anything that is not good financially just won’t take off no matter how good a fuel it is. The two must go hand in hand.

If hydrogen was to be a leading fuel alternative to diesel and petrol, then plenty of preparation work would have to be undertaken first. In order to properly produce clean, useable hydrogen, new facilities and systems would have to be built. The cost of that would be substantial. These types of developments cannot be done without intense amounts of study and planning.

Hydrogen is a realistic fuel source that is in use in some places. However, it is not yet ready to become a worldwide solution.

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How to Save a Ton of Money on Your Energy, Power, and Electricity Bill!

We all would like to save more energy each month. Sometimes we are just so busy with are lives that we tend to forget the little things that can save us hundreds of dollars on our energy and electricity bill. As energy rises up during different seasons like the summer and winder, it is important that we save this energy doing seasons like fall and spring. So here are some tips to help you do this!

1) Never run the heater or AC on when no one is home!

2) Always make sure all your air filters are clean!

3) Use the heater and AC only when in occupied rooms (Do this by closing room windows and doors)

4) Use florescent lighting which saves about 50% of your lighting energy bill!

5) Always shut off lights that you’re not using!

6) When buying new appliances, look for the energy star symbol as it is a good indicator of sufficiently saving energy compared to other appliances that don’t have that symbol!

7) If you can use ceiling fans instead of AC, do it! (it is equivalent to lowering the air temperature to a couple degrees)

8) Always close the refrigerator door! (a typical family spend about $10-$20 a year just by opening it 40-60 times per day).

9) Always turn off your computer when not in use! (this can save more than $100 per year)

10) Finally, shut off all other electrical equipment when your not using them!

Hope these ten tips can help you save the earth as well as help you save a ton on your money on your monthly bills! Good luck!

Forget Bailout – Here is My Plan

Anyone facing foreclosure knows that in most cases that they have been snookered. Funny how mortgage contracts will adjust for increasing payments, but none adjust down if the economy goes bad.

Now the government is going to give Wall Street a 700 Billion dollar bailout plan. Now this plan is suppose to help the homeowner. It does not address unemployment and loss of jobs, the adjusting of mortgage rates that are the root causes.

Let us think about this:

• Gas prices are higher than ever
• We spend billions of dollars per month in Iraq
• Unemployment is high
• Food Prices have increased
• Most homes have lost value leaving little to no equity
• Utilities such as gas and electric are higher
• Credit is scarce and refinance market is dead
• Average family income is down
• Bankruptcies are high

Who wins?

• Oil companies recording record profits
• Brokers, who have taken money from the stock and equity markets
• Retiring executives from most markets with golden parachutes
• Those who are operating the banks and brokerage firms

Those responsible will not suffer; the good old taxpayer is coming to the rescue. Okay, so we bail them out and have our government, buy the homes that have lost their value in many ways. Now the government will also have to absorb the cost in foreclosure. That is an additional expense.

Here is the major question, with banks and other institutions having dumped all their bad paper on the government, what is next? The answer to that is who knows.

Here is a solution, when you wean a baby off the bottle; you just take it away from the baby. That is what we have to do to the financial institutions. This has to be fixed in part by government but with a ground floor view.

If you want to help those homeowners and reverse the economy here is the plan

• A 6-month freeze on all foreclosures and those up coming for the next year
• A $ 10,000.00 grant to all unemployed homeowners that need to get back on their feet
• An audit on all mortgage companies that financed the sub-prime market
• Allow modification of mortgage contracts on all distressed property
• Allow 6 months for homeowners to get gainful employment (if they are unemployed)
• Invest 100 billion for new “green” energy jobs
• Invest 100 billion in full scholarships in community colleges for new high tech or “green” jobs
• Financial Institutions that hold vacated property will keep them
• Those pending foreclosures will be turned over to the government
• The government will then administrate the process of implementing the above points.
• The mortgagee when employed will modify their contract with the governmental agency.
• Let the private sector sell the vacated properties through auction or other means

This is what I call trickle up economics. The intention is to assist those who are facing financial distress in most cases this will allow the homeowner to pay off their real estate taxes, allow them to find gainful employment. They will also buy food, pay utility bills, and help offset the price of gas. It is a terrible thing when you must commute 20 to 30 miles and do not have any money for gas. You must go to where the jobs are.

There are three types of people affected here, the employed, the unemployed and the multiple dwelling homeowners. The employed would need a modified contract. The unemployed would need a moratorium and financial aid if not eligible for unemployment. Then there are those who have multiple dwelling units which the economy does not directly effect their primary residence.

Implementation can be administered by HUD, the first action that needs to be taken is an instant moratorium on all forecloses and real estate tax liens.

• Set Up Special Temporary Branch under HUD to implement program
• HUD takes all the recorded default notices
• This program will be voluntary to homeowners
• Residents affected will contact a 1-800 number for the financial grant
• HUD will verify the information given
• Homeowner will fill out application and send to HUD via internet, fax or mail.
• HUD will release half of the $ 10,000.00 grant and in 30 days release the other half.
• If Homeowner is collecting unemployment benefits HUD will reduce the scheduled unemployment benefit amount from the HUD payments for the 6 month period
• Homeowner has 6 months to find gainful employment.
• Within the 4 month period Homeowner will contact HUD for mortgage contract modification
• Homeowners who are employed will contact HUD for assistance in mortgage modification
• When mortgage modification is approved by HUD then the Homeowner will start making payments to the mortgage holder of record.

Mortgage holders are not bailed out, but will be allowed have the distressed properties temporarily moved off their balance sheets into a holding company account. This will relieve their balance sheet on a temporary basis, which will allow them to qualify for appropriate credit. They will report to the SEC (if a public company) and HUD the information on the holding company, with complete details. No other transactions other than that of distressed real estate are to be post to this holding company.

When a homeowner starts to make payments on the modified mortgage contract the mortgage holder will transfer from the holding account the original value back to the mortgage holder’s original balance sheet.

In this way everybody wins, the mortgage holder, the homeowner and the government. This plan will result in more jobs; mortgage holders’ credit restored and distressed properties relieved. Of course, there are more details to work out but overall I believe my plan can be implemented in very little time.

John Tebar Certified Life Coach, Author and Entrepreneur sign up for weekly Ezine at http://holisticlifeplanningandresearch.com

Who is to Blame For High Gas Prices?

With only the possibility of John McCain and Barack Obama, I would say that whose to blame for high gasoline prices has been the most played news story across every media network over the last month or two. The national average for gasoline peaked earlier this month around $4.11 per gallon or regular 87 octane and has recently come down to about $4.03 per gallon. This obviously is a stark increase from the price range around ~$2.50 that we had seen during 2006 and 2007. The issue becomes even more important than “just an extra” $2.53 per gallon as our economy and lifestyle are based on the consumption of gasoline for transportation. The biggest question on everyone’s mind is who is to blame and how can we fix the problem? Like many other questions concerning energy, the answer is not nearly as simple as the media would have you believe. Warning: The information you are about to read may be completely foreign to you as none of the 6 major media networks have ever reported truthfully on this topic in the past.

It must be the E&P companies, right?

Not as much as you would think. While it is true that the exploration and production companies have to make some profit, when you look at the numbers the results are not as horrifying as you may have previously thought. Let’s take a look at the profit margins of some of the larger E&P companies (all of the numbers are for the trailing twelve months):

* Apache Corp. APA – 29.95%

* Anadarko Petroleum APC – 3.78%

* EnCana Corp. ECA – 14.77%

* Occidental Petroleum OXY – 29.2%

* Suncor Energy Inc. SU – 17.98%

* Microsoft Corp. MSFT – 29.26%

Now its time to play the which one of the above is not an oil and gas E&P company game? If you guess Microsoft, you probably have a bright future ahead of you and I wish you my sincerest congratulations.

This is only one example, Goldman Sachs GS has a profit margin of 23.68% and Intuitive Surgical ISRG has a profit margin of 24.68%. Many of the energy companies actually have lower profit margins than companies in other sectors. They are not the ones that are charging you too much for the goods you rely on, they are just participating in the free market economy and helping you achieve economic satisfaction more so than most of the other companies in the world.

Well then it has to be refiners?

This is definitely the last person who is causing your wallet to thin. The refiners (excluding the major integrated companies that incorporate refining and marketing activities into their overall business structure) bring the least to the bottom line when compared to the other sub-sector of the energy universe. The problem with the refiners is that since they do not produce the oil, they are reliant on spot market prices for the input of their product. This difference is called the crack spread. The crack spread is the margin refiners make when the take a barrel of crude oil and “crack” it into another form, either gasoline, heating distillate, diesel, or a number of other products. Generally crack spreads are quoted in the 3:2:1 ratio, or 3 barrels of crude are cracked into 2 barrels of gasoline and 1 barrel of heating distillate. Recently the crack spread has been in a state of free fall as highlighted by the stock prices of Valero Energy Corp. VLO, and Tesero Corporation TSO falling more than 45% each while the rest of the energy sector rallied.

Gas station owners, thats it!

Unfortunately for gas station owners, they fall into a similar category as the refiners. They do not produce the gasoline, so their input prices are out of the control. Because there is a high level of competition and a bunch of stingy consumers, they are not able to raise prices as quickly as they would need to in order to maintain historical profit margins. More than 1,000 gasoline stations closed in the United States last year, many of which were actually losing money every time they sold you a gallon of gasoline because of the rate at which gasoline spot prices were rising over the last year and a half. You should expect more gas station closing through 2008 and maybe into 2009. The business has become so unprofitable that Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM has recently announced that they are planning to sell at least 2,500 of their company owned gas stations in the United States during the next year, mostly likely at steep discounts to their worth even 3 months ago.

What about the government?

If you read my article concerning McCain’s Gasoline Tax Holiday you would know that the government sponsored gasoline tax really has little to no effect on the price of gasoline that consumers pay at the pump. The government definitely has an indirect effect on the price of gasoline due to the current drilling policies. If all United States territory was opened, not only would the markets discount this news into the future and lower energy commodity spot prices but the supply that would come online within 2-3 years would cause the price to be pushed downward in the long run. There is also a counter argument that some day we may actually need those reserves for something truly important, not just saving you a few dollars per fill up. That type of ethical issue is one that is difficult to address because facts will not allow either side to be completely “right” or “wrong” no matter how long the topic is argued. I’ll let you make your own decision on that one.

Wait a second, it can’t be my fault can it?

Actually, yes it can. The unfortunate news is that we as consumers are the cause for almost all of the rise in gasoline price. It is not just “us,” it is actually consumers all around the world who are driving up the price. Because crude and gasoline trade on global exchanges, it is not just the United States thats affects the prices, contrary to popular belief. Increased demand from India and China as well as the rest of the developing world is one of the major factors contributing to the price inflation. For example, an American used 25 barrels of oil per year while the Chinese only use 3 barrels per person per year and the Indians only use 1 barrel per person per year. Gasoline prices could become really frightening if the rest of the world would demand even 25% of the consumption that we have grown accustom to over the past century.

Another important factor is worldwide inflation. Inflation rates are growing at historically fast rates around the world. The United States has year-over-year inflation growth of 5% (if you believe the government data which many experts are suggesting you should not), China is over 8%, Russia is over 9%, so on and so forth. With all of this extra money, it is easy to see that a good portion of the price appreciation is do to the fact that people have more nominal dollars to spend, even if each one is worth less and less every day.

Our modern American economy is so heavily based on petroleum products to function that there is only a certain amount of demand that can be destroyed at these low levels of gasoline prices (I know that sounds ridiculous to say, but bear with me). Children have to go to school and adults must go to work, no matter the price of gasoline. Use yourself as an example. Would you quit your current job because of gasoline prices? At what price would you consider quitting your job? At what price would you have no choice but to quit your job? For most of you, these numbers are going to be much higher than the current price of gasoline. Many of you would be shocked to believe that gasoline spending per capita is actually only half of the historical high percentage that was reached during the 1910s and the 1980s. Do not believe for any moment that gasoline prices cannot or will not appreciate from here.

So what can we do? Are we doomed?

We are not doomed. I for one am long on the idea that the United States will be able to innovate and solve this problem. The solution won’t come from the government, but from the free markets. Only time and extreme necessity can drive us closer to the solution, but I assure you that one day it will come. I will discuss the solutions in another later article, but you should not feel as if there is no hope for America because there most certainly is going into our bright future.

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Making Biodiesel at Home – What Exactly is It?

Petroleum prices are rising across the globe. Escalated prices are giving nightmares to common man. Consequently some people are looking towards substitutes. An excellent alternative to fossil fuel in this category is biodiesel. Biodiesel is a clean burning fuel and more importantly, it is a renewable energy source. Environmentally this fuel has proven to be a much less pollutant than its counterpart, the standard diesel. The regular diesel has components such as sulfur and aromatics. This fuel is made out of vegetable oil and costs considerably lesser than the conventional fuel. Because of this property it is easy to make biodiesel at home.

Biodiesel is outcome of the process called transesterification. In this method the fats are removed from the vegetable oil thus leaving behind byproducts like glycerin and biodiesel. In view of the fact that biodiesel does not contain sulphur and aromatics, it burns cleaner leaving very few traces of contaminants. These characteristics make biodiesel surpass the conventional petroleum fuel.

The most fantastic feature about biodiesel is that you can make biodiesel at home. The equipment required for the entire process is simple and can be accessed at any local store or even from your garage. You would require steel or plastic drums, a pipe, a valve, a motor and a temperature gauging instrument.

Initially you should manufacture little amount of oil so that when you become acquainted with the process, you can make biodiesel at home at a larger scale.

The compounds needed for the reaction to take place are vegetable oil, lye (caustic soda) and Methanol. Lye has to be mixed with methanol first. This mixing should be done quickly because lye absorbs water from the atmosphere. This water content can produce impurities in the entire process. Methanol and lye combine to yield sodium methoxide. Now add vegetable oil to the blend and shake it with the help of a motor. Once the blending has taken place, the mixture is set aside to stand for at least 8-12 hours. This way the glycerin will sink underneath and biodiesel will emerge on top of it. The reason behind this phenomenon is the difference between the specific gravities of the two compounds. The glycerin can be removed from the bottom with the help of a pipe whose flow is controlled by a valve. Glycerin can further be utilized in making soaps and biodiesel for your vehicles.

Using the process mentioned above you can effortlessly make biodiesel at home.

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Oil, Energy, and Congress

Now that Congress has recessed for the end of the summer, what are we to make of the energy situation? At this point, I’m getting tired of hearing that $4.00 gasoline is good for me. How can it be good when Americans are spending less of their money on other goods and investing in their gas tanks? Is it good that transportation costs have sent my food bill sky rocketing? Is it good that many Americans have shortened their vacations and cut back on their entertainment spending? Is it good that the working poor are struggling between putting groceries in their home and fueling their cars to get to work?

Apparently our Congressional leaders and one presidential candidate say the answer is yes. While our Speaker of the House is trying to “save the planet”, the rest of the world is out trying to find more oil & energy. Let’s look at few recent examples:

  • Egypt announced last week the start of a 9 billion dollar oil refinery and petrochemical complex, which will be located on its north coast. The complex is expected to begin operation in 2010 and will be completed in 5 years. The facility will refine 350,000 barrels of oil per day.
  • The Tupi deepwater oil field is located offshore of Rio de Janeiro, one of Brazil’s best tourist destinations. Last November, the Brazilian government announced that the location could contain five billion to eight billion barrels of oil. The Tupi oil field is expected to begin producing 100,000 barrels of oil in 2010, according to Petrobas, Brazil’s national oil company. Petrobas hopes to bring production to one million barrels a day in about ten years.
  • Finland is building a 1600 megawatt nuclear power reactor. The country currently gets 28 percent of it electricity from nuclear power.
  • Japan is working to increase its nuclear power production of electricity from 30 percent to 37 percent by 2009 and 41 percent by 2017.

Now, besides threatening to sue the Saudi’s and adding more taxes to oil, what has the United States government energy policy done? Let’s look at a few examples:

  • From 2000 to 2007 domestic crude oil production fell 12.4 percent
  • Through a congressional mandate, 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf is off limits to oil exploration. It is estimated that the Outer Continental Shelf contains 90 billion barrels of oil
  • The Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is estimated to have 10 billion barrels of oil; in 1995 President Clinton vetoed a bill authorizing oil production on 2,000 acres out of 19.6 million.
  • U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, Colorado, inserted language into the omnibus spending bill last December that places a moratorium on enacting rules for oil shale development on federal lands. The Green River Formation is estimated to have as much as 1.1 trillion barrels of oil shale.
  • As mandated by the 2007 energy bill signed by President Bush, the U.S. is now required to mix 9 billion gallons of biofuels into the gasoline supply. The mandate is met primarily with corn-based ethanol. At the start of the biofuel mandates, corn was $2 per bushel. The price of corn now is a little over $6 per bushel.

It seems the more our government gets involved, the worse the situation becomes. And where did common sense go? If I see that you need water, I wouldn’t send you to a desert to find it. Yet, that’s what we do with our oil exploration. Try to find it where we don’t know if it exists.

From 2000 to 2007 American oil companies increased the drilling of exploratory wells by 138 percent (on those 68 million acres of existing leases); oil production still fell to its lowest level since 1947. The American Petroleum Institute reported that oil companies had the highest second-quarter oil well activity since 1986.

The United States has successfully developed other forms of energy; clean coal plants, nuclear power, natural gas plants, solar & wind energy. Our most efficient and cheapest forms of energy production are under constant assault from the environmental movement. The U.S. uses 760 gigawatts of power plants to meet current needs. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) estimates that we will need 135 gigawatts of new capacity in the next 10 years. As of now, only 57 gigawatts of power plants are planned. Why?

  • 59 coal-fired plants were canceled in 2007 because of anticoal activist.
  • U.S. production of natural gas is beginning to decline because of environmental restrictions on exploration.
  • The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) succeeded in stopping 13 natural gas power plants in southern California.

We have the best scientist, engineers and technicians in the world. Give them the opportunity to solve this challenge and they will. There are many private companies working on new technology to bring to the market. If our government is going to pick winners and losers through subsidies, many companies will not get into the market.

For example, NuScale Power, an Oregon-based startup company, is seeking federal clearance to begin its project to build a mini nuclear reactor. The reactor can power 45,000 homes, is 65 feet long and has no visible cooling tower. NuScale states that these reactors require no maintenance and do not need to be refueled. At the end of its useful life of about 30 years, the plant is returned to the factory.

This type of technology should be welcomed and encouraged by all. With a small footprint & no carbon emissions, these plants could replace many traditional coal and gas-fired power plants.

This situation does not require a billion dollar bail out from our government. Nor does it require raising taxes on the oil companies. Remember, we tried the windfall profits tax with President Jimmy Carter. That led to a 6 percent drop in the production of oil and a 15 percent increase in oil imports, according to the Congressional Research Service.

If congress would step back and allow all of the energy companies to explore and develop energy in a responsible way, we would not have to struggle with high energy costs. Take away all of the subsidies and let the market decide which means of energy is cheapest, environmentally sound and durable. American technology is more than capable of producing efficient energy and protecting the environment.

Instead of trying to spend more of my tax dollars, why doesn’t congress spend more of their time, which we pay them for, to fix the regulatory landscape of energy production. Congress needs to enact some common sense environmental regulations. If they do, the market will give us a diverse supply of energy that is reliable – American made – and affordable

It’s time to streamline & simplify this process, now.

Xander is a writer & researcher of current events. For more information, visit his blog at http://xander-xee.blogspot.com

Unemployment and Housing Data Point to Bleak

Existing home sales fell to 4.86 million units, about 2.6% below consensus estimates of 4.94 million units. The report also cited a huge deterioration in median home prices, down to $215,000 or down over 6% from last year. This highlights the bleak outlook for the housing market, as the housing market has yet to find a bottom. With mortgage rates set to only head higher in the coming months, I would expect more defaults on mortgages as there seems to be no slowdown in the turmoil of the housing market.

Weekly unemployment numbers also came in worse than consensus estimates, at 406,000 for the week ending July 19th, 2008. This can only mean bad things for the overall July unemployment numbers that come out next Friday, as some analysts expect the overall unemployment rate to head higher from the 5.5% that was posted in May and June. If you do not remember what happened the last time unemployment increased, just look back and you will see that the Dow lost well over 300. If we really are in a recession, it is also important to note that unemployment during a recession has always hit at least 6%, if not more. Being that the unemployment number is a leading indicator, it seems as though a recession could be imminent, if we are not already in one. That being said it seems even more likely that we will head into a consumer recession as consumers struggle to receive a consistent stream of income without a steady job, which they have become accustomed to over the past few years.

Spending habits will clearly have to adjust for this change in net income per household, which should weigh negatively on the economy, especially for discretionary companies. The further deterioration of the housing market will continue to weigh negatively on financials and home builders until there is a clear sign that there is a turn around in the hosuing and mortgage industry. It also does not help that commodities have had a huge run up in the past year, weighing on corporate profits along with food and energy prices on the consumer. I would continue to recommend staying in traditionally defensive sectors, such as Consumer Staples and Healthcare, as they seem poised to weather the current downturn since over 70% of Staples and Healthcare companies have reported earnings better than analysts estimates. With the strong possibility of a consumer recession, sticking with staple stocks such as Proctor and Gamble PG, Wal-Mart WMT and medical suppliers such as Becton Dickinson BDX, should continue to prove a beneficial strategy as these companies offer dividends and reduced volatility in one of the most volatile markets in years.

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Outrage Fatigue Seems To Be Settling In As Chronic Condition

www.latimes.com

Mortgaged to the House of Saud

Robert Scheer

August 9, 2005

THE ONLY EVIDENCE you need that President Bush is losing the “war on terror” is this: On Sunday, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said that relations with the United States “couldn’t be better.”

Tell that to the parents of those who have died in two wars defending this corrupt spawning ground of violent extremism. Never mind the ugly facts: We are deeply entwined with Saudi Arabia even though it shares none of our values and supports our enemies.

Yet on Friday, Bush’s father and Vice President Dick Cheney made another in a long line of obsequious American pilgrimages to Riyadh to assure the Saudis that we continue to be grateful for the punishment they dish out.

“The relationship has tremendously improved with the United States,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told a news conference in Riyadh. “With the government, of course, it is very harmonious, as it ever was. Whether it has returned to the same level as it was before in terms of public opinion [in both countries], that is debatable.”

Well, score one for public opinion. It makes sense to distrust the mercenary and distasteful alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. We protect the repressive kingdom that spawned Osama bin Laden, and most of the 9/11 hijackers, in exchange for the Saudis keeping our fecklessly oil-addicted country lubricated.

Yes, it has stuck deep in the craw of many of us Americans that after 9/11, Washington squandered global goodwill and a huge percentage of our resources invading a country that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, while continuing to pander to this dysfunctional dynasty. After all, Saudi Arabia is believed to have paid Bin Laden’s murderous gang millions in protection money in the years before 9/11, and it lavishly funds extremist religious schools throughout the region that preach and teach anti-Western jihad.

“Al Qaeda found fertile fundraising ground in the kingdom,” noted the 9/11 commission report in one of its many careful understatements. The fact is, without Saudi Arabia, there would be no Al Qaeda today.

Our president loves to use the word “evil” in his speeches, yet throughout his life he and his family have had deep personal, political and financial ties with a country that represents everything the American Revolution stood against: tyranny, religious intolerance, corrupt royalty and popular ignorance. This is a country where women aren’t allowed to drive and those who show “too much skin” can be beaten in the street by officially sanctioned mobs of fanatics. A medieval land where newspapers routinely publish the most outlandish anti-Semitic rants. A place where executions are held in public, torture is the norm in prison and the most extreme and expansionist version of Islam is the state religion.

It’s hard to see how Saddam Hussein’s brutal and secular Iraq was worse than the brutal theocracy run by the House of Saud. Yet one nation we raze and the other we fete. Is it any wonder that much of the world sees the United States as the planet’s biggest hypocrite?

As insider books by former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, journalist Bob Woodward and others have recounted, punishing Saudi Arabia in any way for its long ideological and financial support of terrorism was not even on the table in the days after 9/11. Instead, within hours of the planes hitting the towers, the powerful neoconservatives in the White House rushed to use the tragedy as an excuse for a long-dreamed invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, after two wars to make the Middle East safe for the Saudis, wars that cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of American lives, the price of oil is soaring — up 42% from just a year ago. Good thing we just passed a pork-laden energy bill that will do little to nothing to ease our crushing — and rising — dependence on imported oil. Federal officials project that by 2025, the U.S. will have to import 68% of its oil to meet demand, up from 58% today.

There are those who argue that the best rationale for invading Iraq was to ease our dependence on Saudi Arabia’s massive oil fields, which might allow for a more rational or moral relationship. Yet the dark irony is that with Iraq in chaos and its oil flow limited by insurgent attacks and a bungled reconstruction, Saudi Arabia is now more important to the United States than ever.

It’s scary, but these gaping contradictions don’t seem to trouble our president a whit.

As the drumbeat of devastating terrorist attacks in Baghdad, London and elsewhere continue, Bush prattles on — five times in a speech last Wednesday — about his pyrrhic victories in the “war on terror.” This is a sorry rhetorical device that disguises the fact that the forces of Islamic fanaticism in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world are stronger than ever.