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!

Politics As Usual

I can see the ad on eBay when I close my eyes, one senate seat, price $500,000.00, pick up only. Sure the news would have leaked sooner, but is this idea really such a stretch? Here we have yet another politician whom we can assume is well educated and intelligent and who is well aware of the watchful eye that follows, and eventually catches up with public servants gone wild. For reasons that escape me, this does not appear to factor into the decision making process, or perhaps it is just that the elitist feels such a sense of entitlement, that their actions play out like the actions of a sociopath, without conscience and with complete and utter narcissism.

I am of course speaking of the scandal of Blagojevich and his alleged participation in the selling of our President elect’s vacant senate seat. What strikes me as even more remarkable then the charges against Mr. Blagojevich, is the defiance he displayed by showing up at his office to work, despite the fact that he was to relinquish his duties while under investigation. This willful act of brazenness reminds me of an old Seinfeld episode, where the character George Costanza gives his boss a verbal thrashing, then quits and walks out the door. Regretting his actions, George shows up at work the following day as if nothing ever happened, thinking no one will notice, including his boss. Okay, maybe not the best example, but you get the point.

Why are we the public, the only ones not shocked by the alleged actions of yet another politician who has allegedly soiled the very foundation that is our government? Certainly, the Washington elite are well aware of the corruption that plagues their inner circle. Is their feigned surprise merely a guise to keep us of their track? Ask yourselves this question, if a politician falls in DC and there is no one around, does he make a sound and proclaim his innocence and do we really want to hear it?

I’m a freelance writer who is a former New Yorker now living in New Mexico. Many moons ago I wrote a legal column “The Legal Eye”, for a major internet provider. I have a background in sociology and am currently in the health field. I am a big fan of the late Erma Bomback and currently enjoy the rantings of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Capital Campaigns – Roadmap to Success

If your nonprofit is considering expanding or renovating, you’re probably thinking about launching a capital campaign. But how do you create an effective campaign? How many donors do you need? How much money should you try to raise? Here’s a quick tutorial to outline the answers to these questions and more.

A capital campaign is a significant project for a nonprofit organization. A successful capital campaign, and the completion of the project for which funds are raised, can be a transformational event. Ideally, when viewed in retrospect the capital project will appear as a logical and inevitable step in the development of the organization as it strives to fully serve its audiences and community.

With careful planning and keen attention to detail, a capital campaign can be a powerful bridge to the future.

A successful campaign is the result of many constituencies working together for a common goal, including the board, staff, volunteers, donors, and community representatives. As the project grows from an idea to a proposal to reality, a Campaign Planis key to success. A comprehensive plan provides a framework for action and a template that is transparent and universally accepted. It is a document that speaks both internally (to those who are managing the campaign) and externally (to those who may be asked to contribute or who may be impacted by the project). As campaigns are multi-year, a clear plan also serves as a guide if key team members drop out and new team members are brought in.

1. The Goal

A key element of success is to accurately estimate the amount of money needed to be raised.

The costs of planning, acquisition, renovation, and endowment must be carefully determined. In addition, the following items need to be added to any actual cost of building, buying, or starting an endowment.

? Ten percent for campaign materials, cost of consultants and staff time, office extras.
? Ten percent for building project extras like insurance, building permits, design costs, and estimates for cost overruns or unforeseen delays.
? Ten percent additional for people who pledge but cannot or will not finish paying, or whose stock gift depreciates.
? An additional ten percent for added protection.

2. Timing

Many nonprofits hesitate to undertake capital campaigns because board members believe that the timing isn’t right; typically, if the national economy is slow, or if the stock market is underperforming. While there may be good reasons for postponing a campaign, board members should remember that the national economy is cyclical, and donors make annual appeal gifts from discretionary cash and capital campaign gifts from assets. Most organizations do not run a major campaign more than once every few decades. Your supporters will be enthusiastic about supporting a transformative project and will plan accordingly.

3. Organization

The nonprofit must have the capacity to undertake a capital campaign. A successful capital campaign must have the full faith and support of the organization’s board of trustees.

However, support grows incrementally. The following action groups are formed as the campaign progresses:

? Steering Committee. Typically composed of not more than twelve, including board members, the executive director, a campaign consultant, and perhaps major donors who are not on the board. The steering committee organizes and spearheads the campaign.

? Outside Consultant. Generally, capital campaigns require the participation of a part-time fundraising consultant who can help manage the campaign, train staff and volunteers, and interview prospects during the feasibility study.

? Campaign Committee. This group may be very large and include board members, donors, and community supporters who want to take an active role in the campaign. The campaign committee grows as the campaign gains traction. Subcommittees may include finance, fundraising, architecture and building, and public relations.

? Volunteers. These are campaign supporters who participate sporadically. They may include community leaders who host fundraising events in their homes, or who have a connection to a potential donor.

4. Campaign Case

The campaign case is the key document that provides a rationale for the project. It is both an internal summation of the organization’s goals and a marketing tool to help inform prospective donors. The case must be prepared early in the process and may be revised periodically.

5. Gift Pyramid

Once the total monetary goal has been set, a gift pyramid is created. This shows the number and size of gifts needed to meet the goal. Gifts may range in size from millions to under a hundred, depending upon the goal of the campaign.

The figures are set to reflect the giving potential of the highest donors and the total number of donors expected.

6. Prospect List

Once the gift pyramid is established, the names of prospects must be attached to each of the gifts. This is the task of the Steering Committee. Acting in complete secrecy, the committee compiles a list of prospects. Next to each prospect name is the amount projected, and the name of a person who will solicit the prospect.

If the prospect list cannot be filled with prospects to reach 50% of the goal, then the project must be reconsidered.

7. Interviews with Prospects

If there is the slightest uncertainty about prospect support for the project, a feasibility survey is required. An impartial consultant who is not directly involved with the organization is selected to conduct confidential interviews with key board members and donors. The interviews are about a half-hour in duration and are conducted at the interviewee’s convenience, in home or office.

8. Solicitation of Key Donors

The “Quiet Phase” is an initial private solicitation. It should begin only after certain conditions have been met, including if the project has been approved by the board of trustees and if the feasibility study is positive. During the Quiet Phase, it is expected that 50% of the goal will be reached.

9. The Public Phase

During the Public Phase, the solicitation effort is broadened to include anyone not directly involved with the organization, including charitable foundations, corporations, and government agencies.

10. Conclusion

A well-prepared organization need not be apprehensive about considering a capital campaign. If the appropriate incremental steps are taken, conditions can be assessed at every stage. If at any time conditions are considered unfavorable the campaign can be postponed. If conditions continue to be positive, the campaign can be allowed to progress to the public phase and then to a successful conclusion.

Thomas Hauck Communications Services provides writing and editing solutions for businesses and nonprofits. Visit us at http://www.thomashauck.net/ for information on how THCS can impact your bottom line.

This is Why Bush’s 700 Billion Dollars Bailout Plan Will Fail

Not long ago, the President stood before the American People to make his case for the massive bailout plan that Congress is now working to approve. With the sincerity and the passion that characterize him, President Bush made it clear that “this time is an extraordinary period for America’s economy”. He then went on to explain why he is urging Congress to support his plan to rescue Wall Street.

According to the President, his bailout plan represents the best we can do to solve the financial crisis and stop the mortgage meltdown.

In his plan, the Federal Government would take over bad assets from Wall Street since these assets cannot be bought or sold. They cannot be sold because they cost essentially more than what they are worth.

In other words, when banks issued loans to homeowners with their homes as collateral, they also converted these loans into financial products called mortgage-backed securities. These mortgage-backed securities were then sold to other financial institutions, therefore allowing banks to get the funds they need to issue more loans. As long as this cycle was repeated, the financial market was moving well.

Then, homes’ values started to go down.

When homes’ values go down, they make mortgage-backed securities become less attractive. This is because the collateral against these mortgages is now worth less than what banks want to borrow or sale the securities for. Here resides the key to the financial crisis.

The President’s plan is to buy those mortgage-backed securities to allow banks to have more money.

The theory behind this is that if banks have more money and less risky assets, they will be more willing to lend to credit-seekers.

The main limit with this approach is that while the bailout may in fact put more money in banks’ hands, homeowners will not see their problem solved. They will not be rescued.

Backers of the President’s plan forget that we are in this crisis because homeowners defaulted. They defaulted because they could no more afford payments. At the same time, they could not refinance their mortgage to get better deals because their home was worth far less than what they owed. This created the feeling of insecurity that is now dragging our economy down. And there is even more…

Supposing that after taking over these bad assets Government allows homeowners to make lower and affordable monthly payments; the economy will still face at least one serious challenge:

Assets removed from the market by Government will still be worth less than their face value. The same will be applied to most of the other assets not necessarily concerned by this bailout plan.

As a consequence, most of the mortgage-backed securities remaining on Wall Street will be, in a certain way, less attractive.

Investors will then continue to prefer non mortgage-backed securities since they not only present prospects of better revenues; but they also provide the security that investors want. Examples of options with prospects of good revenues and security are commodities like crude oil…

And when that happens, our economy will collapse dramatically. This is because the housing market is at the heart of America’s economy.

This is the reason why I think that the President’s plan to bailout Wall Street is a very risky plan that will only delay the collapse of our economy.

I believe that what this economy needs is a more efficient plan capable of solving this financial crisis at the root.

I propose a Program that will reduce homeowners’ debt to 80% of their homes’ market value.

How will this work?

On behalf of homeowners, Government will pay all amounts needed to reduce homeowners’ debt to 80% of homes’ market value.

These loans will be issued against promissory notes signed by homeowners.

Rescued homeowners will be required to make relatively low minimum monthly payments.

In addition to this, Government will be allowed to deduct a percentage of homeowners’ Federal and State tax refunds (if available) to help reduce loan balance. Agency in charge of this program will report accounts to credit bureaus on a monthly basis.

The destiny of America’s economy will be placed, once again, in the hands of those who are more able to make it work again: The American People.

Adopting this plan will do 3 things:

First, when Government pays back part of homeowners’ debt, Wall Street will eventually receive the funds that are so badly needed to continue fuelling our economy.

Second, homeowners’ debt will be reduced to 80% of their homes’ market value, therefore making them eligible, once again, to shop for better rates and affordable deals. Paying less for their homes will free some funds that can be used to purchase more goods.

Third, America’s housing market will be back on track, again. The market will be ready for new buyers and sellers, therefore sealing the revival of our economy.

However, this plan can only produce its best results if Congress complements it with a strong regulation that keeps the market under control. Otherwise, greed will once again destroy us.

Ben Modo is an Accountant, a Management Professional and a Financial Consultant. He has earned degrees in Business and Public Administration and he is the author of many published articles in economics and politics. Ben Modo was born in Cameroon and is married to Lydia. Together, they have two children, Stan and Dave Modo. Ben and his family live in the Washington metropolitan area.
Source

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

Crush the US Dollar and Increase the Debt?

I asked in one of my earlier posts if the US Dollar has bottomed or will the US Dollar crash? What I find fascinating… is that common logic …that the US Dollar should have gotten crushed over the weekend. Well it is 5 am and I am drinking my coffee and looking at the CME Globex…and yes the US Dollar is down…but not CLOBBERRED?

Aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t Western Europe having the same issues as the US? One can’t miss the news and see that Russia closed their markets…eventhough they rebounded almost 25% with last weeks feel good rally.

I assume the US Dollars problem is everyone’s problem.

It is clear the Fed is trying to restore confidence, but it is not rocket science to realize that spending $700 billion dollars on tainted all flavored mortgages and $400 billion on money market funds will boost the national debt even further and put us more into debt.

It is PRINT AND TAX time!

Isn’t or Wasn’t the US Dollar the BASTION of security? Maybe it still is regardless of the fact of all our economic problems. It is extremely unsettling that people who paid their bills ..Saved their money in US Dollars and now stand the potential of losing purchasing parity due to the GREED of Wall Street and the banks.

Where were the regulators restricting banks from lending to speculators who would buy a house with no money down…and look to sell it to potentially other investors?

Ok …let’s say the regulators missed that… which is possible… If someone wants to make a stupid loan… Ok great…that is their issue.. But why should we the tax payer, the hard working saver have to bail the banks out for their GREED?

The dollar fell against 14 of the world’s most-traded currencies on Sept. 19 when the FED unveiled their restructuring plan. The feel good rally of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of 4 percent maybe was just that.

FEEL GOOD!

Confidence building!

But for who?

I will feel good once we have a strong nation again and a responsible govt who supports the US dollar instead of bailout for the most stupid bankers of this century (probably all time).

How many of you realize that this unprecedented government intrusion into the markets will increase the US debt ceiling by 6.6 percent to $11.315 trillion.

Another nice thought in order to protect our money and hoping to get a return of money……not a return on money.. …that just by putting our money in short term US govt interest rate vehicles we are losing money due to inflation and taxes.

Will the Feds plan end the US Dollar rally that began in June and drove the U.S. currency up 10 percent versus the euro, 2 percent against the yen and almost 13 percent compared with Brazil’s real? I have no idea…However. I would not be surprised if people start looking at the Brazilian Real which has a higher interest rate and in many ways a self sufficient economy.

Andrew Abraham

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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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

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.

Why the Right Hates Public Education

by Barbara Miner

In an article about education, it’s appropriate to start with a pop quiz. Today’s question: Republican strategists want to privatize education because:
a) Education is a multibillion dollar market, and the private sector is eager to get its hands on those dollars.
b) Conservatives are devoted to the free market and believe that private is inherently superior to public.
c) Shrinking public education furthers the Republican Party goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
d) Privatization undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party.
e) Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.
f) All of the above.

OK, I admit it, the answer’s obvious: all of the above. But in the debates over education policy, the Republican political agenda (see d and e) is often invisible.

Occasionally, Republican strategists let the cat out of the bag and admit that vouchers–which divert public dollars to private schools–are about politics, not education.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the most influential Republican strategists in Washington, has long recognized the partisan value of vouchers, sometimes euphemistically referred to as “choice.” “School choice reaches right into the heart of the Democratic coalition and takes people out of it,” he said in a 1998 interview with Insight, the magazine of the conservative Washington Times.

Norquist and others see great political benefit in going after the teachers’ unions. During the last thirty years, as private sector unionism has declined, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) have grown in strength. Today, the 2.7 million-member NEA is the country’s largest union. The AFT has one million members, mostly in education but also in health care and the public sector.

While both teacher unions overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party, conservatives especially hate the NEA. It is larger, more geographically diverse, with members in every Congressional district in the country, and more likely to push a liberal agenda that includes social issues such as gay rights.

As the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation complained this fall, the NEA is “the nation’s largest, most powerful, and most political union.”

The teacher unions back up their support for the Democratic Party with money and grassroots organization. After all, public schools exist in every municipality and county in the nation. Unlike manufacturing, teaching cannot be outsourced to Mexico, China, or Bangladesh.

In mainstream publications, conservatives tend to muffle their partisan antagonism toward teacher unions. Not so in conservative publications and documents.

The issue comes down to “a matter of power,” said Terry Moe, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution and co-author of the book Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools, in an interview with the Heartland Institute in Chicago this summer.

The NEA and AFT “have a lot of money for campaign contributions and for lobbying,” he said. “They also have a lot of electoral clout because they have many activists out in the trenches in every political district. . . . No other group can claim this kind of geographically uniform political activity. They are everywhere.”

School vouchers are a way to diminish that power. “School choice allows children and money to leave the system, and that means there will be fewer public teacher jobs, lower union membership, and lower dues,” Moe explains.

For those in the thick of the debate, it’s long been obvious that vouchers are an attack on teacher unions. Even Wisconsin State Representative Annette “Polly” Williams, an African American who helped start the Milwaukee voucher program, the country’s first, now admits as much. “The main motivation of some of the choice supporters was to weaken public education unions,” she wrote in a letter this summer to Governor Jim Doyle.

Eliminating public education may seem unAmerican. But a growing number of movement conservatives have signed a proclamation from the Alliance for the Separation of School and State that favors “ending government involvement in education.” Signatories include such Washington notables as David Boaz and Ed Crane of the Cato Institute; conservative author Dinesh D’Souza; Dean Clancy, who is an education policy analyst for House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert; and Howard Phillips, president of the Conservative Caucus.

Wisconsin State Representative Chris Sinicki, who was a Milwaukee School Board member when vouchers began in Milwaukee in 1990, says there is no doubt that vouchers “are a Republican strategy to take down public education and the unions. This is partisan politics, completely.”

Which brings us back to our pop quiz and, in particular, to Answer e: Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.

In the 2000 Presidential election, Bush garnered only 8 percent of the African American vote and about 35 percent of the Latino vote. (Overall, less than 10 percent of Bush’s votes came from minorities.) The following year, Republican strategist Matthew Dowd outlined a plan to boost African American support to 13-15 percent and Latino support to 38-40 percent for the 2004 election.

While universal vouchers remain the goal, for tactical reasons conservatives have wrapped vouchers in the mantle of concern for poor African Americans and Latinos. Indeed, voucher supporters are fond of calling school choice the new civil rights movement. This plays well not only with voters of color but also with liberal suburban whites who, while they may be leery of allowing significant numbers of minorities into their schools, nonetheless support the concept of equal rights for all.

Conservatives and their front groups in the African American and Latino communities have not been shy about comparing voucher opponents to Southern segregationists. During the Congressional push for vouchers in Washington, D.C., this fall, groups such as D.C. Parents for School Choice launched a particularly vicious campaign against prominent Democrats. “Forty years ago, politicians like George Wallace stood in the doors of good schools trying to prevent poor black children from getting in,” one ad said, comparing voucher opponents like Senator Edward Kennedy to Wallace.

Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, was vague in explaining to the Washington community newspaper The Common Denominator how her group financed the ads. She did admit that over the years her group had received money from the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and Children First America–all prominent conservative organizations supporting vouchers. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group, provided media support. So did Audrey Mullen, a signer of the Separation of School and State proclamation.

Even if Republicans fail to woo African Americans and Latinos to the Republican Party, they may dampen African American and Latino voter turnout–a neutralization strategy, as it were.

“The strategy is to get young black people not to vote,” says Michael Charney, editor of The Critique, the newspaper of the teachers’ union in Cleveland, which also has a voucher program. “These radio commercials are aimed at the hip-hop generation. The goal is to discredit Democrats and breed cynicism.”

The commercials, he continues, “are part of a conscious strategy by the most advanced elements in the electoral Republican machine. It’s smart from their view, even if it is disgusting.”

David Sheridan, an analyst for the NEA, agrees it will be tough for the Republicans to win over African American voters. “But I think it’s different with the Hispanic audience,” he says. “I think they see this as a major effort to get more Hispanic voters into the Republican camp.”

The Republican emphasis on vouchers runs the risk of alienating moderate Republicans who support public education. Such support is strong not only in rural areas where public schools are a vital part of the community and private schools are few, but also in suburban communities with strong, well-funded public schools.

Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, cautions his Republican colleagues that they shouldn’t even use the word “vouchers,” which he refers to as “the deadly V-word.”

“In my state, it’s a pretty divisive word,” he warned them in a speech on the Senate floor this fall.

But that won’t stop conservatives like Norquist, who view vouchers as a key ingredient in their effort to “downsize” government services. “The problem is that the federal government hands out billions of dollars, and people will lie, cheat, steal, or bribe to get it,” Norquist said in an interview with Reasononline, the website of the libertarian Reason Foundation. “If you have a big cake, and you put it under the sink and then you wonder why the cockroaches are in your kitchen, I don’t think any sprays or blocking the holes in the walls are going to get rid of the cockroaches. You’ve got to throw the cake in the trash so that the cockroaches don’t have something to come for.”

The American people do not view public schoolteachers and students as cockroaches. The overwhelming majority strongly support public schools. They don’t want them dismantled; they just want them to work better.

The attack by Norquist and his ilk is nothing less than a highly partisan attempt to undermine teacher unions and the Democratic Party, destroying our American tradition of public education in the process.

— Barbara Miner is a Milwaukee-based journalist specializing in education. via