Predictions: Hits, Misses, and Pending

I have made a lot of predictions in my writings, and my own impression is that my track record has been pretty good. But I started wondering a few days ago if that’s because I tend to remember the accurate predictions and forget the inaccurate predictions. So, I decided to dig up all of the predictions I have made in my writings about energy. I will classify the predictions as successful, pending, or failed. If you can think of some that I have forgotten, particularly on the failed predictions, point them out and I will add them to the list.

I do tend to pepper my predictions with caveats, because I think it is important for people to understand the factors that may cause a prediction to fail. I may predict gasoline inventories to fall, but then say that high prices might arrest demand. But my prediction in that case would still be that gasoline inventories would fall.

Successful Predictions

1. Following an enthusiastic endorsement of the virtues of ethanol stocks in Financial Sense, I wrote a rebuttal in June 2006. I wrote that the underlying fundamentals of ethanol stocks were terrible, and that they reminded me of the dot-com stocks before the bubble burst. I wrote “I don’t think the underlying fundamentals warrant the valuations placed on grain ethanol producers”, and I did a case study of Pacific Ethanol. Since that time, ethanol stock values have plummeted. I wrote an update to the article in October of 2006, when most ethanol stocks had fallen by around 40%. Xethanol had fallen by 70%. More on it below.

2. In July 2006, I was interviewed by Sharesleuth reporter Christopher Carey for a story he was preparing on Xethanol. Xethanol was claiming that they would be the first company to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. I told Chris that I thought this was highly unlikely, as this is very difficult to do. I told him I thought the company was essentially a scam, which was the conclusion that he was coming to in his story. I told him “the costs of both [travel to Mars and cellulosic ethanol production] are prohibitive, and the barriers to commercialization are huge.” While not everything I told him made it into the story, after the Sharesleuth story was published, I wrote more about Xethanol on my blog. I wrote:

While I think cellulosic ethanol will eventually be commercialized, I don’t believe it is going to be by a company who just recently jumped into the game with essentially no experience, and then doesn’t invest heavily into R&D.

I also said they were “capitalizing on cellulosic ethanol hype, but … unlikely to have a commercial cellulosic ethanol plant running any time soon.” Now, I did write that I wasn’t making specific predictions on the direction of the stock (I have learned my lessons there. I once advised a friend on his investments. After outperforming the market 2 years in a row, his investments increased the 3rd year, but underperformed the market. He complained constantly about how I should have advised him differently during that 3rd year.), which has fallen from the $8 range at that time to $1.50 today. Also, the company has essentially fallen apart since that time, and it is pretty clear that they will not commercialize cellulosic ethanol. My prediction that they will go bankrupt is still pending, and I stand by it.

3. I made multiple predictions for much higher gas prices throughout the spring, based on the terrible inventory situation. That prediction obviously came true. Here is an example, where the EIA was predicting lower prices and I was predicting higher prices. A week later I did a TWIP update in which I wrote “I expect the price rise to continue.” I was correct, as prices continued to shoot up from that level.

4. With 3 inventory reports to go until the Memorial Day report came out, I wrote “I go out on a limb and say we will hit Memorial Day with record low inventory levels.” We did.

5. As a result of very strong prices, I predicted that imports would come to the rescue and relieve our low gasoline inventories. They did. Since that time, we have had some of the highest gasoline import numbers on record, and this is the only thing that has kept us out of deep trouble with gasoline supplies to this point in the summer.

6. In early March, I sounded the first warning of impending trouble with gasoline inventories in the coming weeks. In subsequent weeks, I continued to sound that warning, as gasoline inventories plunged to all time seasonal lows, causing gasoline prices to reach all time highs.

Failed Predictions

1. I predicted that California’s Prop 87 would pass, as people would see it as a way to stick it to Big Oil. The measure did not pass.

2. On April 19, 2007, I predicted that gasoline inventories would turn upward within 2 weeks. They did not. (They turned upward within 3 weeks). However, my price prediction from that post was spot on.

Still Pending Predictions

1. I predicted that we would break the normal trend and build gasoline inventories June-August of this year. So far, that prediction is on target (although they did reverse direction this week).

2. I predicted that Shell’s shale oil process will fail to be economical.

3. I predicted that oil will not reach $100 in 2007.

4. Xethanol will go bankrupt.

5. I have predicted on various occasions that world oil production has not yet peaked, but will peak by 2016. My own personal belief is that the odds are 90%.

6. I predicted that the economics of grain ethanol via coal would be far superior to ethanol via natural gas, and this would result in more and more ethanol plants turning to coal as an energy source.

7. I predicted that gas prices would rise again this summer after bottoming out. (Prices are on the way back up).

8. In an essay I wrote over a year ago, I wrote about something I called “Peak Lite.” I have elaborated on it a number of times since then, here and at The Oil Drum. The concept is basically that supply growth can no longer support demand growth, which is going to put extreme pressure on prices.

I have made various predictions in relation to this: Spiraling prices, hardship for a lot of people around the world as a result, while oil companies report strong financial results. I have also predicted that it will mean an end to the cyclicality of the oil industry. Most of this prediction is still pending, but in recent days both the IEA and the NPC have released reports in which they endorse the same general idea: Supply growth failing to keep up with demand. In essence, I would say that while the prediction is not yet fulfilled, the mainstream is starting to come around to that viewpoint. (Incidentally, I would put many of my ethanol writings into that category as well – ethanol was loved by the mainstream a couple of years ago, but now more and more people are questioning the wisdom of what we are doing).

9. In May 2005, when West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crossed $50 a barrel, I predicted to my then boss that it would never drop below $50 again. I have repeated that prediction several times since then. I guess never is a long time, so I will revise this one to: We won’t see oil drop below $50 a barrel in the next 5 years. It did flirt with that level back in January 2007, but if the Peak Lite scenario is correct, I think this prediction is safe.

10. I predict that in 5, 10, even 20 years the majority of U.S. ethanol production will still be corn, and it will still be highly subsidized. The reason for this is that there are too many politicians beholden to farm states that produce corn.

11. None of the cellulosic ethanol plants under construction in the U.S. will prove to be commercially viable. See the bottom of this post for a list of those projects.

12. While we will continue making corn ethanol, biodiesel will give way to hydrotreating technology that results in a petroleum diesel equivalent. The technology is cheaper, and yields a superior fuel with a propane (instead of glycerin) by-product. However, hobbyists will continue to produce biodiesel for personal use.

OK, I think I got most of them. Which ones are Nostradamus-like, in that several different scenarios could be hailed as a successful prediction? Which ones were too vague? Which of the pending ones do you expect me to miss on? Also, feel free to share your own predictions.

55 thoughts on “Predictions: Hits, Misses, and Pending”

  1. Nice track record.

    Re hydrotreatment – how similar is the equipment required to the equipment used for processing heavier crudes? I’m just wondering if there’s a way for oilcos to kill several birds with one stone, which would make the investment even more appealing.

  2. I’m not so sure we don’t have another cycle in us, Robert.

    The drillers are building significant new capacity for the first time in decades, and it seems most of it (percentage-wise) is deepwater.

    I think we’re going to see an explosion in the number of holes poked in the ground (land and sea) over the next couple years. As oil starts coming out of said holes, we could repeat the glut of the 1980s.

    I wouldn’t be surprised by a few Cantrell-sized finds by 2010. It is a big ocean.

  3. FWIW, I think those are good sorts of predictions. They are based on fundamentals, data we can see, and do not extrapolate too far into the future.

    (The coal/ethanol thing almost falls into the category of ‘known problem.’)

    The predictions to watch out for most are ones that assume hidden data and/or extrapolate into the far future.

  4. Question for the day: Given the general shape of those predictions, are you as big on conservation/efficiency in your writings as you should be?

    They certainly seem to confirm my world-view that it is not so much about how soon we move to alternates, but how soon we get serious about reducing our need.

  5. 10. there are too many politicians beholden to farm states that produce corn.

    I think it’s because too many politicians are beholden to ADM and Cargil.

    odeograph said: is not so much about how soon we move to alternates, but how soon we get serious about reducing our need.

    This is a really good question. On one hand, a technologically advanced society uses a lot of power. There’s no way around that but on the other hand, we could be much smarter about the power we use. phantom power is a great example of this. There’s no reason for any device consumes more than 100 mW when sitting in idle mode. There’s no reason my server should be running at 60 W when it’s doing nothing. And I’m sure there are lots of other examples we could come up with.

    On the other hand, I’m hearing some energy conserving suggestions that just don’t make it unless you’re young and live in the city like riding a bicycle everywhere. Once you hit 40, cycling is not so attractive especially if it’s hot, raining or the genital numbness that used to be intermittent is now permanent. Also the whole take a shower when you get to work and trying to keep your clothing from stinking gets pretty old too.

    — anon-cm

  6. Making nomnial $ predictions on crude is fraught with peril. You are actually trying to predict a number of things, including the monetary and export policies of countrires.

    Clearly the US $ is undervalued with respect to the Chinese Yuan, Euro, British Pound Sterling, and a number of other currencies.

    The US is enjoying cheap imported goods from China and India, which in turn drives their consumption of crude oil. Both China and India sit safely behind large trade barriers. If these countries weaken their currency or trade barriers, you will see the $ price of crude drop in a hurry.

  7. Given the general shape of those predictions, are you as big on conservation/efficiency in your writings as you should be?

    Seriously? Haven’t you been around here long enough to hear me constantly beating the conservation drum? As I have said before, if everyone in the U.S. and Europe had my fossil fuel footprint, we wouldn’t have any oil supply issues for decades. The U.S. would definitely be energy independent. (Not trying to out-conserve you, because I know you are the same). There are 17 articles on my blog here that have conservation in the label. Here is a link to them:

    Essays on Conservation

    This one might be of interest:

    Walking the Talk

  8. I’m just wondering if there’s a way for oilcos to kill several birds with one stone, which would make the investment even more appealing.

    Yes, the equipment is in fact the same, but some additional pretreatment of the feedstock is required before it can be fed to the hydrotreater.

  9. I think we’re going to see an explosion in the number of holes poked in the ground (land and sea) over the next couple years. As oil starts coming out of said holes, we could repeat the glut of the 1980s.

    Yes, but wouldn’t this deepwater oil still be much more expensive to produce? In addition to higher initial costs, I would expect higher operating costs, such that, if a glut dropped prices substantially, these hypothetical wells would be shut down.

    On the other hand, once the well is drilled, there are first costs that must be amortized. And if the low end of the price cycle was $45, rather than $20, then they might keep pumping even if their profit per barrel is marginal.

    Of course, this is all speculation on my part. Folks who work in the industry can tell me if I’m right, or if I’m full of it.

  10. As I review that “conservation” tag now, I don’t see what I’m really looking for … which is “what we can do now.”

    Or “best bets.”

    FWIW, the best I’ve seen on this grows out of an Economist graphic. The stuff on the left side of that graphic saves us money now. It saves us energy now. It saves us CO2 emissions now.

    We enrgy/environment pundits should all be hitting that harder. They are win-win movements today, without “inventions to be named later.”

    I’ve cut my energy footprint in half, without hardship, and while enjoying a happy life. Maybe if more people knew they could do that, they would.

    (FWIW, I saw a few “hypocrisy” articles under that tag. I find those to be boring, and really expect that they are “disincentives” for the general population. That’s why those who oppose change trot them out so often.)

  11. I find those to be boring, and really expect that they are “disincentives” for the general population.

    Not if they encourage the “hypocrites” to start walking the talk. That’s the whole point. If people are telling us to conserve, I expect them to lead by example. If they do not, their critics will have a field day. But if they wake up and modify their behavior, then they could have a lot more influence in getting people to modify their behavior.

    We look up to role models, and emulate them. We buy products that they hawk on TV. I want to see them calling for conservation, and showing people that it can be done. That might have some impact. Calling for conservation from your mansion just won’t be taken seriously by the vast majority of the people.

    Let me ask you: Don’t you think John Edwards could have a lot more impact with his appeal for conservation if he was really cutting down his energy footprint, yet showing the he didn’t have to live in a cave to do it?

  12. I have a prediction too: We have, or will shortly, see world Peak Demand.
    Crazy? Well, look at fossil oil demand 2004, 2005, 2006. Up 3.1, then 1.4 then 0.7 percent.
    Look what happened to world fossil oil demand after the 1979 price spike (to $100 in current dollars). It fell 11 percent, and did not recover for a full 10 years, and then only when oil was cheap again. What makes anyone think this time is different, except that we have much better technologies at out disposal?
    This is the biggest oil story of our time.
    And it will only get bigger. PHEVs and biofuels will continue to come on. We will see radical reductions in demand in our lifetimes (I am over 50, so this i really the optimist coming out, in many regards).

  13. I’ve stated my opinion.

    I think they do more to undermine public belief in the whole effort.

    I mean, what the heck is one rich guy in this compared to 100 million regular guys?

    And, as a proof from the other direction, how much does Darryl Hannah achieve as a role model?

    The people out there who oppose action (not you) seem to play both sides. One day Edwards is bad because he doesn’t do certain green things. The next day Darryl is a loony environmentalist because she does.

    The bottom line is that I think we can focus on what all of us, the regular folk, can do … and how.

    You do a lot of good numerics on what works and doesn’t for alternative energy. That left side of the Economist’s graph has plenty of fodder for numeric conservation articles as well.

    That’s more useful to me that making rich men change their stripes.

  14. greenengineer wrote:
    Yes, but wouldn’t this deepwater oil still be much more expensive to produce? In addition to higher initial costs, I would expect higher operating costs, such that, if a glut dropped prices substantially, these hypothetical wells would be shut down.

    Of course, same as the tar sands in Canada. As long as the marginal cost of production from _____ source is under the market price, oil will be produced from ______.

    If the price of oil dropped to $20 tomorrow, all those boomtowns in Canada would evaporate.

    I don’t have the exact numbers (and they’d vary dramatically on a buncha factors), but I think around $25 – 30 oil is the break-even for deepwater production and about $45 for tar sands.

    Don’t take those numbers to the bank — Robert or someone can correct them — but deepwater is significantly cheaper than tar sands as long as you can get the drilling dayrates to support it.

    Once you get 100% utilization (where we are now, really), you just start bidding up the price (dayrates of rigs) against competitors.

    In response, RIG, NE, ESV, et al are all building deepwater stuff now, for the first time in decades. These are billions of dollars of capital investment — that weren’t made until the demand (dayrates) was high enough to make it worthwhile.

    In my view, the longer the price of oil stays high, the more drilling platforms get built, and the bigger glut once it all tops out.

    Here are some interesting numbers:
    http://www.bakerhughes.com/investor/rig/excel/Worldwide_6-07.xls

    http://tinyurl.com/2szn5e
    (same link, might click better)

    Now, I’d never say that a 1978 rig is the same as a 2007 rig, or that the mix of land/sea is constant.

    But look at the trend from 1975 to 1982. Then the absolute drop-off in activity when oil prices dropped. Then look at the trend from 1999 (an absolute nadir in drilling due to the extended glut) to now.

    We’re just starting to see the results of a big buildup in drilling activity — that has grown in fits and starts throughout the beginning of this decade.

    The E&P folks are gunshy — they lost their hides the last time this happened. They remember that prices *eventually* reduced consumption…and the bottom fell out of the market, just as all that drilling was paying off.

    So, that’s a really long way to say “yes, greenengineer, exactly.”

  15. I’ve cut my energy footprint in half, without hardship, and while enjoying a happy life. Maybe if more people knew they could do that, they would.

    While I probably won’t get down to Odograph or Robert’s footprint, we have cut our electricty usage by 16% year-on-year and our gasoline by 8%, mostly by working the left side of Odograph’s chart.

    I have installed nearly 1,000 square feet of radiant barrier in the attic, cutting the temperature by 10-15% ($130 in materials). We have replaced most of the incandescent flood lights with CF floods. The old lights generated a lot of heat, which we paid for twice!

  16. Robert,

    In your TWIP post on TOD, you said:

    “I would have to check, but I suspect gasoline inventories are back in record low territory again (for this time of year).”

    Indeed. You can see a graph of 2007 inventory levels compared with the min/max/avg for 2001-2006 here.

  17. You can see a graph of 2007 inventory levels compared with the min/max/avg for 2001-2006 here.

    Nice graph. And note that this is on an absolute volume basis. Because demand is growing, it looks works on a days of supply basis.

  18. FWIW, my heroes and their 800 Watt-Hours a day house.

    I just checked the meter. We are running at 116,000 watt-hrs per day. So am I only 1/145 a hero?

    It is July in Texas with 90 F and 90% RH. So give me a break.

    I plan to go to a gas dryer also. Will probably install a whole house dehumidifier next year. I find we run the A/C sometimes just to knock the humidity down.

    The 800 Whr house is running solar. They are likely paying an equivalent of $0.25-0.30/ kWh. If I had a small nuclear reactor I could probably get down to zero.

  19. As I review that “conservation” tag now, I don’t see what I’m really looking for … which is “what we can do now.”

    It occurred to me that this may be more along the lines of what you are asking about:

    What Are Your Energy Policy Recommendations?

    It is an essay at TOD in which I spelled out what I thought we should be doing, and I asked for others to give their input. These are ideas that would help us lower fossil fuel consumption.

    Or are you looking more for ideas on how individuals can lower their footprint? I have mentioned various things in various essays, but I can’t remember that I have an essay specifically dedicated to this. But based on your earlier comments, my impression is that you are talking about things we can do on a national level.

  20. If I had a small nuclear reactor I could probably get down to zero.

    You are up awfully late. Don’t you have to go to work tomorrow? 🙂

    Today is my day off, and I am taking Monday off as well. I have a load of vacation I need to use up, and I need to finish that diesel chapter.

  21. FWIW, my heroes and their 800 Watt-Hours a day house.

    This aroused my curiousity. I have not tracked my electricity usage in Scotland yet, so I did so this morning. According to my electric bill, between March 1 and June 14, I used 683 kilowatts of electricity. That is over a period of 106 days, so it appears that my usage was 6.4 kilowatts per day.

    Does that sound right? How does that stack up with the average? The only thing I have running 24 hours a day are a small refrigerator-freezer (there was actually a full-sized one as well, but I unplugged it at some point in March), a clock radio, and the phone/answering machine. The house is very well-lit, so I don’t use lights very often.

    However, now that the family is here, we have approximately doubled our usage. It looks like in the past 35 days we have used 12.2 kilowatts per day, as TVs and computers are now on a lot more during the day. (and the full-sized refrigerator/freezer is now plugged back in).

    Do those numbers sound right? According to this:

    Average Electricity usage

    The average annual usage of electricity in the UK is 6,000 kwh for a 4 bedroom house. It looks like even with the family here, we should come in quite a bit under that.

    I haven’t kept track of my gasoline consumption, but I am only filling up my small car about once every 6 weeks.

  22. I might be thinking more about the personal level, especially because those “left hand things” save us money now. No need to wait for the government to come in and spend (or change the incentives).

    I think the 800w house may cheat a little, but they might still show “how low you can go” at the extreme end.

    The numbers I saw skimming yesterday was that American homes are at 9000 kWh per year.

    Changes to national energy policy are important too … but I’m tired of waiting for them … or waiting for something less dysfunctional. I get that we have to keep the pressure on.

  23. oh, on a per-person, rather than a per-household, basis the average is 4500 kWh residential electrical usage

    I suppose that’s better way to look at it.

  24. You are up awfully late. Don’t you have to go to work tomorrow? 🙂

    I was working up in the attic late, and was cooling down.

    I think you meant kWh. Anyway, that is very good.

    My carbon footprint was pretty small when I lived in the UK too. No A/C, small appliances. I had one of those crazy clothes washers that also dried. Could never figure out how to get my clothes all the way dry, so I would just hang them over the heat registers to fully dry them out.

    Would be happy to compare my natural gas bill with yours next winter though!

  25. I dug out my bill. It’s 116 kWh from 5/30 to 6/28. That’s with a full size (the largest in the family?) Sears Kenmore refrigerator (I remember that the freezer part is 6 cu ft, but forget the total … 21 or 24?), large (but not jumbo – they can do queen-size comforters) Whirlpool front-loader washer and dryer, a Hotpoint dishwasher I run about once a week.

    I have a bigish screen tv (32″ Syntax Olivia) tied throuh a Denon home theater. I leave those on with their “vampire” draw.

    My computers are just normal Dells with 20″ widescreens. I run one or the other for a few hours a day.

    That seems like a lot of stuff … not privation.

    My stove, dryer, and hot water are on natural gas.

    Maybe the other interesting thing to do is to divide my gross bill by kWh and see my effective price from Southern California Edison … $14.32/116 = 12.3 cents per kWh

  26. Robert, your numbers look pretty good. I more or less do all the same things you’re doing, and I have the advantage of California’s mild climate. I average about 6.5 kwh per day. A whole family on 12-13 kwh doesn’t sound too bad. I think you’re using a bit more than 1/2 the US average.

    I’ve wondered sometimes if I could cut it further, but it’s not clear how. Like you, I use almost nothing for lighting, a few CF bulbs for a few hours at night, nothing during the day. I replaced an energy-hogging fridge when I first moved in, cutting a whopping 4 kwh/day from my baseline (which was over 11 when I started).

    It’s not clear what’s left to do. I have appliances similar to odo’s, and I’ve been thinking the phantom load from them has to be responsible for a good deal of the remaining draw. I’ll have to hook my kill-a-watt meter (which fingered the old fridge) up to the entertainment cluster for a month to be sure.

    What to do about that load is completely unclear. Hopefully appliance makers are working on the problem. One thought I’ve had is that if appliance makers could agree on a standard for a DC power bus, some savings could be found in powering all components in a system from a single supply. It can’t take much power to maintain programmed settings and “listen” for the IR remotes, so I suspect a lot of the phantom draw is lost in the power supplies.

  27. Odograph – wow, 116 kWh? That is very small. You must not have an A/C unit. That is about the same amount of power we use PER DAY.

    Where we live we average 3,000 hours/yr (8 hrs/day) of A/C load. Our 2 A/C units are rated at 12 SEER. I have one running at 13.4 and the other at 14. Our A/C accounts for 3/4 of our electric bill.

    CFL curly light bulbs are cute, but if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, work the heating & A/C systems for efficiency and improve your insulation.

  28. I think you meant kWh.

    I had to go back out to check. I thought the meter said kW. But it does have the h there, it’s just very small on my meter. And my electric bill just calls them “units”. But you are correct, kWh. I am a BTU guy. 🙂

    So, 6.4 kWh per day when I was alone, and about double that with a family of 5. My kids are always leaving TVs and computers on, so I am sure we can bring that number down. But I am not sure how I could have reduced my own consumption much more. I am in a rented house, so I have to live with the appliances that are here. But I need to look around and make sure I have covered everything. Odograph came in lower than I did, and I can’t live with that. 🙂

  29. A coastal California climate is a big part of it. The ocean moderates things, and much reduces the need for heat or cooling over 10 miles further inland.

    I don’t have A/C, and my sister who is a pretty big consumer in many ways, has never run the A/C that came with her house.

    … makes me think part of a green retirement is choosing a moderate climate.

  30. I’m probably using more natural gas though, right?

    I’m away from home now … I’ll have to look up that part.

    From a dollar standpoint, maybe I spend $40/mo on gasoline, $20/mo on natural gas, and $15/mo on electricity.

    Electricity is no longer the place to optimize (on the assumption that costs are proportionate to PO/GW impacts).

  31. But you are correct, kWh. I am a BTU guy. 🙂

    So, 6.4 kWh per day when I was alone, and about double that with a family of 5.

    OK, so make that 21,843 BTUs per day!

    That is the equivalent of running 2 – 100 watt light bulbs and 1 60 watt light bulbs 24 hours a day.

    Can I buy some offsets from you?

  32. Electricity is no longer the place to optimize (on the assumption that costs are proportionate to PO/GW impacts.
    Not for you anyway.

    The US has a transportation fuel problem subject to peak oil. If you are concerned about GW, then electricity generation is where its at. More specifically, replace older coal fired plants with newer ones, and get rid of fuel oil/jet fuel powered plants.

    Go nuclear.

  33. I had to go back out to check. I thought the meter said kW. But it does have the h there, it’s just very small on my meter. And my electric bill just calls them “units”. But you are correct, kWh. I am a BTU guy. 🙂
    Always tickles me that Americans can’t seem to understand that kW is a unit of power (think horsepower), not energy (think BTU). I’ve heard people quote electic rates in $/kW when they obviously meant $/kWh. Best one was a guy who claimed his equipment saved a certain number of kW/h! Luckily they had one of those speaker evaluation forms.

    Then again, if Robert Rapier can’t get it right, what chance does the average Bozo have?

  34. ” 10. I predict that in 5, 10, even 20 years the majority of U.S. ethanol production will still be corn, and it will still be highly subsidized.”

    I hope you are wrong here, and that politicians are pressured to move to better feedstocks like Foddder beets before people resort to pitchforks & torches.

  35. That is the equivalent of running 2 – 100 watt light bulbs and 1 60 watt light bulbs 24 hours a day.

    I always remember in the movie Soylent Green, when one of the guys was pedaling on a stationary bike and generated power. I wondered if something like this might be possible if one greatly reduced household consumption. I guess I need to figure out how many miles I would have to pedal to generate that much power.

  36. Then again, if Robert Rapier can’t get it right, what chance does the average Bozo have?

    I don’t work much with electricity, and never really have. So, in that respect, I am not much different than the average Bozo when we are talking about electricity. But, I agree with your point: I wouldn’t expect your average Joe to know the difference.

    The funny thing is that I had an internal debate with myself this morning whether it should be kW or kWh. I finally reasoned to myself that kW was the measure of energy. I should have looked it up.

  37. I guess I need to figure out how many miles I would have to pedal to generate that much power.

    You can search out people that make (or sell) pedal generators. In terms of cents per hour pedaling they are horrible. Or a reminder of how useful that power-plant over the hill really is.

    On the other hand, pedaling for transportation displaces far more fuel (not in small part because bikes weigh about a thousand times less than a car).

  38. It is July in Texas with 90 F and 90% RH.

    Why do people always exaggerate humidity? Max relative humidity at 90 degrees is about 70% in the US, and that’s rare. I’m just outside San Antonio and have never even seen 60% at 90 degrees.

    Will probably install a whole house dehumidifier next year.

    Aren’t dehumidifiers basically just A/C units with a heater at the back end so you get warm, dry air instead of cool, dry air? How would that help?

    The 800 Whr house is running solar.

    800 Wh is gross consumption, so it doesn’t matter what they’re running. That said, they cheat considerably by not using electric appliances (even the refrigerator is gas powered!).

    Interesting that KingofKaty consumes 116 kWh per day and Odograph consumes 116 kWh per MONTH!! Climate matters. We had no A/C in coastal CA and used 10-15 kWh/day. Could have easily used less with gas clothes dryer, CFLs, etc. We average 70 kWh/day during San Antonio summers and hit 100 kWh/day during last August’s record heat wave. My neighbors use even more — our radiant roof barriers and “Polywood” shutters help quite a bit.

    I don’t see any way around high A/C usage here. It’s too humid for swamp coolers. My geothermal estimate was $50k+ because the soil is all rock. During spring and fall I open windows at night and cool the house enough to avoid A/C even when daytime highs exceed 90, but in summer overnight air is too warm and humid for that trick. I really don’t know how people lived here before A/C.

    –doggydogworld

  39. You can search out people that make (or sell) pedal generators. In terms of cents per hour pedaling they are horrible.

    I just think about all of those people running on treadmills, pedaling on exercise bikes, and using steppers, and think that we need to turn the power off and have them actually doing some useful work. By that I mean actually generating power. Kills 2 birds with 1 stone. Health would benefit, and fat would be turned into useful power.

    I guess the next best option is to turn the waste at the lipo clinic into biodiesel.

  40. Elite cyclists can generate 350 W for a few hours. I can do 250 for an hour, my wife probably does half that. If I did a hard hour on the bike after each meal I could power that 800 Wh house! Of course humans are only about 25% efficient, so I’d have to eat bigger meals.

    –doggydogworld

  41. doggy … all good, but …

    350w * 2 hours = 700 wh = 0.7 kwh

    at my above mentioned 12.3 cents per kwh … you’ve just earned 8.6 cents

    or 4.3 cents per hour

    That’s what I’m talking about when I say horrible! And why I say use that pedaling to displace car travel.

  42. Doggy –
    Why do people always exaggerate humidity? Guilty, we did have 90% RH, but at only 75 F. High yesterday was only 85 which corresponds to 65% RH. It has rained nearly every day since June 1.

    Aren’t dehumidifiers basically just A/C units

    In principal, yes. We found that we were running the A/C in the winter time just to control RH. Sometimes we would make it uncomfortably cold just so the air wasn’t so stuffy. The other difference is that A/C’s reject the heat to the outside. Humidifiers just remove the moisture and put the heat back into the exiting air. I’m still studying the idea. I can install a dehumidifier for about $1,800. It probably doesn’t pay.

    The 800 Whr house is running solar. 800 Wh is gross consumption

    I read the article again. It doesn’t say net or gross. I assumed net because it talked about solar power but didn’t mention battery backup. If it was gross, then what was the point of mentioning the power source? Would agree you could read it either way. It didn’t say where the house is and whether or not they had A/C, likely not at that consumption.

    Climate matters . . . I don’t see any way around high A/C usage here. During spring and fall I open windows at night and cool the house enough to avoid A/C

    We have a pool, so that uses about 30 kWh per day, but I am working to make it more efficient. Our low usage in Jan-Feb this year (less pool) was 35 kWh/day. That is about 4 times Robert’s use. My wife has severe allergies so we can’t open the windows.

    Our house didn’t have a radiant barrier – I’m fixing that. I also found that the walls on an interior A/C service shaft weren’t insulated at all. The contractor had blown in about 2′ of insulation in the bottom. I have been sealing up air leaks to the attic. There is about 10″ of blow-in, I might add 2-3″ on top of that once I’m finished upstairs.

  43. So, here’s the bottom line: In future we will be buying our biofuels from Big Oil

    You are right. Part of my time lately has been doing association work. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reviewing the National Petroleum Council’s report “Facing the Hard Truths about Energy” . The report was embargoed until today. It runs just over 400 pages, but talks about a lot of things discussed at this and other energy blogs. The report calls on the IOCs to do more on diversifying supplies and moving to lower carbon fuels. I’ll see if I can find a link to it.

  44. Odograph – the economics are indeed terrible, especially if you add in the extra food cost. Pedal power does displace car energy more effectively, unfortunately my bike won’t hold the triplets. Plus I got hit by pickups twice while riding in CA. I limped away from the first wreck but the second time I came to in an ambulance.

    KingofKaty – 30 kWh/day for the pool? For pumps? You don’t heat it this time of year, do you? Some A/Cs can dump heat into a pool (or pond). This saves because pool water is cooler than ambient air. And, of course, you don’t have to run the pool heater as much. But I think in TX the pool would get too hot.

    The article didn’t say the 800 Wh was gross, I read it somewhere else but can’t find the link right now.

    The open window trick is bad for allergies AND thunderstorms. Some commercial HVACs have fresh air intakes and use temp/humidity sensors to switch between “recirc” and fresh air mode. The fresh air is filtered, but perhaps not enough for your wife.

    –doggydogworld

  45. The first thing to say about bicycling safety is that it is “local.” What you see around you is more important than national statistics.

    I live in a beach town where many people cart in their bikes for weekend riding. That helps make it more bike-friendly here than a lot of places.

    If I move, it will be to another bike-friendly community.

    But. This page does slice the statistics a lot of interesting ways.

    The key thing for me is that fatalities per million hours of exposure is actually lower for bicycles than for cars! It is actually about half the risk.

    (I’m glad mountain biking isn’t listed … I don’t want to know.)

  46. KingofKaty – 30 kWh/day for the pool? For pumps? You don’t heat it this time of year, do you? Some A/Cs can dump heat into a pool (or pond).

    There was an error in my calculations. It should be 13.4 kWh/day for just the pumps. I have a 2-hp main and 1-hp booster for the cleaner, I assumed the pumps run at their rated hp. I actually need to pull the panel and measure the amps to see for sure.

    We have an electric heat pump to heat the pool, which made some sense at 8 cents/kWh but not at 14. I’ve only run it a couple of days in the last year – usually if we are having friends over. We also have a solar blanket that heats up the pool by 5-10 F over ambient. With a little boost from the heat pump it has been warm enough in the last 3 years to swim on Thanksgiving day and the week between Christmas and New Years.

    I haven’t seen a pool heat pump that cool the house and heat the pool. That would be great for the Spring & Fall. But in the summer the pool gets up into the 90’s and it wouldn’t work. Maybe I could turn my pool into a cooling tower!

    On the A/C, my other option is like you suggest, running the fan only with a fresh air intake and an electronic air filter. That would allow us to bring in cool fresh air without adding to my wife’s allergies. We need some way of eliminating the heat buildup in the house in the shoulder season months.

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