In The Pipeline 7/1/11

Good news for the Chevy Volt keeps on coming — Toyota is about to crush the EV game with the forthcoming Prius redesign. Thanks for playing, GM CNN Money (7/1/11) reports: Enthusiasts who are raving about the range assisted, battery-powered Chevrolet Volt are ignoring the 800-pound elephant in the room: Toyota, which in addition to its vast knowledge base and production volume in hybrid cars, has a better idea…It is the Prius Plug-in, it is already in test fleets, and it will be arriving in showrooms in less than a year from now. It will be more efficient and less expensive than the Volt, and Toyota (TM) actually stands the possibility of making a profit on it — something General Motors concedes it can’t do with the Volt… To date, the Prius Plug-in has been ignored by EV enthusiasts who are being revved up by the flood of favorable publicity coming out of Detroit, which for all its pretensions to global sophistication, remains a house of mirrors whose view of the outside world stops at Eight Mile Road…Whenever somebody congratulates Volt for winning multiple car of the year awards, they should remind themselves that those same award-giving bodies passed over the original Prius hybrid in 2001 in favor of the PT Cruiser. Toyota has gone on to sell two million Priuses, the most revolutionary car of the last 75 years; the Cruiser, a novelty car with no technological pretensions, has since gone out of production.

Sure, the oil will be sold from the Sagging Poll Reserve, but will the voters? Reuters (7/1/11) reports: Oil buyers have expressed strong interest in the crude that the United States is selling from its emergency reserves, the U.S. Energy Department said, calling the oil sale “substantially oversubscribed.”…The sale represents half of the 60 million barrels that industrialized nations are releasing jointly to fill a gap in supply caused by political strife in Libya…Analysts have said the global release has been disorganized and has the potential to backfire…The Obama administration was slammed for its decision last week to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) by the oil industry lobby and other critics, who said there was already plenty of oil supplies in the United States and cast the move as a political tactic…”The oversubscription of the (U.S.) SPR auction indicates both that supply disruption is a factor and that we will be able to place all 30 million barrels into the market,” an administration official said…Almost a dozen oil companies and trading firms sought more information about the opportunity on a conference call earlier this week, and the Energy Department said it received more than 90 offers for its 30.2 million barrels of SPR crude.

What’s a few billion between friends? First Solar wins a $4.5. Billion dollar loan guarantee and you’re the guarantor Wall Street Journal (7/1/11) reports: The U.S. Energy Department said it is offering to guarantee about $4.5 billion in loans for First Solar Inc. to finance three renewable energy projects in California that the solar-panel maker is developing… The government’s conditional offer to support the projects drew funds from the stimulus-funded loan guarantee program, which expires on Sept. 30 and currently has less than 25% of its funds remaining…Once built, First Solar, of Tempe, Ariz., said that two of the projects would be the largest capacity solar-panel farms in the world…First Solar’s California plan includes two 550-megawatt plants in Riverside and San Luis Obispo counties that will be supported by $1.88 billion and $1.93 billion in loans, respectively, according to the Energy Department…Under the loan guarantee the department offered Thursday, taxpayers would cover as much as 80% of the borrower’s obligation in the event of a default…A third project, First Solar’s 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, received a conditional offer for a $680 million taxpayer-backed guarantee.

Owl, it’s what’s for dinner — new government plan involves hiring snipers to shoot competing owl. What could go wrong? New York Times (7/1/11) reports: It has been two decades since the fate of a bashful bird that most people had never seen came to symbolize the bitter divide over whether to save or saw down the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. Yet it was not until Thursday that the federal government offered its final plan to prevent the bird, the northern spotted owl, from going extinct… After repeated revisions, constant court fights and shifting science, the Fish and Wildlife Service presented a plan that addresses a range of threats to the owl, including some that few imagined when it was listed as a threatened species in 1990…The newer threats include climate change and the arrival of a formidable feathered competitor, the barred owl, in the soaring old-growth evergreens of Washington, Oregon and California where spotted owls nest and hunt…One experiment included in the plan: shooting hundreds of barred owls to see whether that helps spotted owls recover…Even after all these years since the spotted owl became the cause célèbre of the environmental movement, it is far from clear that the plan is a solution. Advocates on both sides say it will inevitably be challenged, and both sides have expressed frustration with the Obama administration on the issue.


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