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Don't Blame Obama for High Gas Prices

Don't Blame Obama for High Gas Prices →

There are a couple of things that I really wish the general public would understand. One is that gas prices (and oil prices) aren't, broadly speaking, under the control of any President. No President gets to take credit for prices falling and no President should take the blame for prices rising.

Is President Obama responsible for spiraling price of gasoline? Republicans say yes, but the facts say no.

Why have gasoline prices increased since the start of the year? The simplest explanation is that the price of crude oil has increased. Specifically, the spot price for Brent (North Sea) crude has increased $16 a barrel since January. Given that there are 42 gallons to a barrel, that works out to a 38 cent increase in the price of a gallon of oil. Spot prices for gasoline trade in New York have increased about 41 cents per gallon over the same time frame. So there you go.

Why is the price of North Sea oil relevant to the price of gasoline in the United States? Well, we import gasoline refined in Europe from North Sea crude. Even though these imports constitute less than 10 percent of U.S. gasoline consumption, they are necessary to satisfy domestic demand and their price sets the market price for all gasoline regardless of whether other cheaper crude sources are used to refine most of our gasoline.

You can also listen to the podcast version of this article.

U.S. oil gusher blows out projections

U.S. oil gusher blows out projections →

I knew things were getting better, but this is unexpected.

The United States' rapidly declining crude oil supply has made a stunning about-face, shredding federal oil projections and putting energy independence in sight of some analyst forecasts.

After declining to levels not seen since the 1940s, U.S. crude production began rising again in 2009. Drilling rigs have rushed into the nation's oil fields, suggesting a surge in domestic crude is on the horizon.

... By the EIA's forecast, the United States will challenge Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer when crude and other forms of liquid petroleum are included. But the U.S. is also the world's top oil consumer, demanding nearly 20 million barrels a day. So even with an oil boom, the nation still falls far short of its energy demands.

I'd love to challenge Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer. I'd love to weaken the power of those terrorist sponsoring, women abusing cowards.

Herb Kohl Wants to Clear Cut the Forests?

I thought clear cutting the forests was a Republican idea. And, yet, this is what I saw in Herb Kohl's latest email newsletter:

It also reiterates the need to increase our use of energy that will never run out. Wisconsin has many great natural resources, but deposits of oil, natural gas and coal are not among them. While there is no doubt that we need these energy sources to fuel our economy, a dollar spent on oil drilling or coal mining undoubtedly benefits other states and other countries. But a dollar spent on renewable energy can support new jobs for Wisconsin.

We don’t have oil, but we do have forest resources that can be turned into biomass for our power plants, and one day into fuel for our cars and trucks.

Because clearly, cutting down Wisconsin's forests is the path to sustainability, prosperity, and responsible environmentalism.

Also, what's with the idea that Wisconsin is made worse off by sending money to other states for oil or coal? I'm currently paying $3.89/gallon for gasoline. If increased drilling in California, Louisiana, and Texas means that I'm buying gas $2.50/gallon or $1.25/gallon, I'm going to be a lot better off. That price cut will save me money on commuting, on buying packages online, on food (reduced shipping costs for supermarkets), and even on my new kitchen. (We had to pay for a fuel surcharge for getting our new refrigerator delivered, may have to pay one for getting new kitchen cabinets delivered, and may have to pay one to the guy installing our kitchen cabinets.)

Multiply my savings by all 5 million residents in the state of Wisconsin and it begins to appear that Senator Kohl is pretty wrong about the idea that money spent drilling or coal mining only benefits other states. It'd have a pretty large benefit to Wisconsin too.

Is Senator Kohl just not that bright?

A Refreshing Sight in Congress

A Refreshing Sight in Congress →

I'd like to see more of this in Congress. Senator Rand Paul harangues the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Efficiency about crappy toilets, low-watt CFL light bulbs, and the desire of busybodies to micromanage our lives.

I think there should be some self-examination from the administration on the idea that you favor a woman’s right to an abortion, but you don’t favor a woman or a man's right to choose what kind of light bulb, what kind of dishwasher, what kind of washing machine.

Increasing Solar Efficiency

Researches keep moving along with solar power advancements. The latest advancement is a new antireflective coating that allows solar panels to absorb more sunlight.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered and demonstrated a new method for overcoming two major hurdles facing solar energy. By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power.

"To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun's position in the sky," said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university's Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. "Our new antireflective coating makes this possible."

... An untreated silicon solar cell only absorbs 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it -- meaning that nearly one-third of that sunlight is reflected away and thus unharvestable. From an economic and efficiency perspective, this unharvested light is wasted potential and a major barrier hampering the proliferation and widespread adoption of solar power.

After a silicon surface was treated with Lin's new nanoengineered reflective coating, however, the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it -- meaning that only 3.79 percent of the sunlight was reflected and unharvested. This huge gain in absorption was consistent across the entire spectrum of sunlight, from UV to visible light and infrared, and moves solar power a significant step forward toward economic viability.

That's exciting stuff. Of course, there's a while to go yet before we have solar panels on our houses. The comments on the original article point out some of the remaining issues. For instance, this new coating requires 7 new layers on top of the solar cell. How expensive are these layers? Does the additional energy offset the additional manufacturing cost? What about converting that extra sunlight into electricity? The sunlight isn't necessarily converted into electricity just because it's absorbed by the panel. What about conversion efficiency? Existing panels convert sunlight to electricity at around 30% efficiency. New panels with this coating will collect more light but still convert it with ridiculously low efficiency.

To have a viable solar infrastructure we need panels that can absorb nearly 100% of the incoming sunlight, convert nearly 100% of the incoming sunlight, and convert the sunlight with much better efficiency. More than that, the final panels need to be relatively cheap or no one will be able to buy and use them. We're not there yet. But we are getting closer. And I look forward to the day that I can power a significant portion of my home's energy needs with solar energy.

This entry was tagged. Energy Solar Power