In The Pipeline 7/15/11

The UK government in their infinite wisdom and knowledge of the economy has created an energy famine and poor people have been forced to make hard decisions AP (7/15/11) reports: One in five households in the UK were affected by fuel poverty in 2009 official figures showed on Friday with campaigners warning the situation will worsen as electricity and gas prices continue to rise…The number of UK households in fuel poverty rose from 4.5 million in 2008 to 5.5 million in 2009, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) figures showed…The department estimates that the figure was unchanged in 2010 but could rise by 1 million this year. In the UK fuel poverty is when a household spends more than 10 percent of income on fuel for heating, hot water, lights and appliances…But campaign groups warned that recent price hikes by energy companies will leave millions more people struggling to pay their bills and put vulnerable people at risk…The figures come a week after the UK’s biggest energy supplier announced rises in its gas and electricity prices from August…Centrica, which owns British Gas, said it was raising its domestic tariffs for gas by an average 18 percent and electricity by an average 16 percent, with some bills increasing by as much as 25 percent…The company blamed rising wholesale costs, which it said had increased 30 percent since last winter on higher global demand for gas and the impact on supply of unrest in the Arab world…That announcement comes in the wake of sharp prices rises outlined by Scottish Power, which plans to raise the cost of gas by 19 percent and electricity by 10 percent in August…It also comes on the back of increases last winter, when British Gas put its charges up by 7 percent in December, adding £1.50 to the average weekly dual fuel bill.

It’s a damn shame that the world’s two top bio engineers, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, are too busy debating the debt ceiling and cannot help refineries understand their instructions for how to make biofuel practical Wall Street Journal (7/15/11) reports: Today’s pop quiz: What happens if the government mandates the consumption of a product that doesn’t exist? Naturally, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to punish the gasoline refiners because they can’t buy a type of alternative fuel that no one is making. Consumers will be punished too…The 2007 energy bill vastly increased the volume of corn ethanol that must be blended into gasoline, though it also included mandates for cellulosic ethanol. These are the second-generation fuels made from stocks like switchgrass or the wood chips that George W. Bush invoked in his 2006 State of the Union. At the time, no such fuels were being produced on a commercial scale, but cellulosic producers and the green lobby assured Congress they were just about to turn the corner, and both the Bush and Obama Administration furnished handsome subsidies…The EPA set the 2011 standard at six million gallons. Reality hasn’t cooperated. Zero gallons have been produced in the last six months and the corner isn’t visible over the next six months either. The EPA has only approved a single plant to sell the stuff, operated by Range Fuels near Soperton, Georgia. The company used to be a press corps favorite and has been lauded by the last two Presidents, but it shut down its cellulosic operations earlier this year to work through technical snafus…In its wisdom, Congress decided that some companies should be penalized if the targets aren’t met. But they’re not the companies that importuned the government for mandates and corporate welfare. They’re the U.S. oil refiners that make gasoline, which will end up buying six million cellulosic waivers by year’s end at $1.13 a pop. That’s $6.78 million in higher costs at the pump, in return for nothing.

Unlike the Energizer Bunny, the lithium ion battery companies did not keep on going and going and going… Alt Energy Stocks (7/14/11) reports: I hate being wrong, but Mother always taught us, “if you have to eat crow don’t nibble.”…In February 2010 I wrote an article titled “Why I Don’t Expect A Lithium-Ion Battery Glut” that’s shaping up as one of the worst predictions in the history of my blog. This week Lux Research published a report titled “Using Partnerships to Stay Afloat in the Electric Vehicle Storm” that has me convinced that the capacity glut in lithium-ion batteries will be massive for at least a decade…I humbly and sincerely apologize to any readers who bought shares in lithium-ion battery developers based on my starry-eyed optimism for the EV battery market…As I expected, plug-in vehicles are drawing breathless reviews from the press and EVangelicals, and indifference or outright scorn from the car buying public. Automakers are toying with plug-in vehicle concepts that may go into production over the next few years if the plans aren’t scrapped due to customer apathy, but they’re all rushing to make new fuel efficiency technologies like stop-start idle elimination standard equipment. With the exception of Advanced Battery Technologies (ABAT) which makes both ebikes and the batteries that power them, E2W manufacturers are letting their customers decide and the overwhelming majority of E2W buyers are voting with their wallets and deciding that cheap and reliable lead acid batteries are better suited to their needs despite a little extra weight…Can you believe it? Cheap is beating cool. Who could have predicted such an outcome in the depths of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s?…In all seriousness, Lux forecasts a catastrophic supply and demand imbalance in the lithium-ion battery sector over the next decade. On the supply side it predicts that global manufacturing capacity will ramp to about 21,000 MWh by next year (875,000 Leaf-class BEVs) and climb to almost 30,000 MWh (1.25 million Leaf-class BEVs) by 2015. On the demand side, Lux’s optimistic case based on $200 oil predicts annual battery sales of about 6,000 MWh in 2015 (250,000 Leaf-class BEVs) ramping to 22,500 MWh (937,500 Leaf-class BEVs) by 2020. Under their more conservative $140 oil price scenario, demand won’t hit 6,000 MWh until 2020. The low oil price scenario is aggressively ugly. Is it any wonder that France has recently withdrawn €100 million of subsidized loans for a planned Renault battery plant?

The Hill has it on good authority that the GOP isn’t ready to sell out the American motorist with higher energy taxes, yet…. The Hill (7/14/11) reports: Declaring it “decision time,” President Obama is giving congressional leaders until the weekend to determine the size and scope of a package to reduce the deficit and increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit… At a meeting described by multiple officials as “polite” and “cordial,” negotiators finished scouring the potential elements of a deficit-reduction deal, and Obama instructed Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss with their caucuses what kind of measure could pass Congress by the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the debt ceiling…“It’s decision time. We need concrete plans to move this forward,” Obama told the leaders, according to a Democratic official familiar with the meeting. He gave them 24 to 36 hours to consult with each party’s rank-and-file…The House Republican conference will meet Friday at 8 a.m., House Democrats will meet at 9 a.m., and the president has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m…The president and congressional leaders will not meet on Friday, but will probably reconvene over the weekend, an official said.

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