Monthly Archives: August 2012

New Panorama Photo of Mars by Curiosity

New panorama of Mars from Rover Curiosity.  To view click here.


Fracked Natural Gas Changing The US Economy

According to a recent report issued(12/2011) by IHC  Global Insight**, shale gas (fracked natural gas) has changed the US energy outlook and the economy.   In 2010, shale gas provided 27% of the US natural gas (NG).  IHC forecasts that by 2035, shale gas will provide 60% of the US NG production.  Without the shale gas, a NG supply shortage would have necessitated the importation of liquefied natural gas(LNG). Today’s price of somewhere around $3 to $4 per million BTUs would likely be in the range of $10 to $12 per million Btus if importation had been necessary.  Longer term,  IHC forecasts 2035 NG price at $7.90 per million Btus (All values in their report are in constant 2010 dollars.) thanks to shale gas.

 The job creation due to shale gas has been outstanding and IHC forecasts continued increases in jobs.   IHC reports that shale gas, by 2010, had supported over 600,000 jobs.  They forecast jobs to grow to 1.6 million by 2035.   

There are other benefits as well.  In 2010 the industry contributed $18.6 billion in governmental tax revenues and royalty payments.  By 2035 the cumulative contribution of taxes and royalties are forecast to be $933 billion.   Additionally,  the capital expenditures made between 2010 and 2035 are forecast at $1.9 trillion.

In the future, electricity prices are forecast to drop by 10%  and parts of the chemical industry will be revived.  Our domestic industries will become more competitive because of the lower cost of natural gas as feedstock and NG’s impact on electrical cost.

Although there will be some redundancy relative to the preceding discussion,  the Key Findings page for IHCs report “The Economic and Employment Contributions of Shale Gas in the United States” is an excellent summary.  It follows:

By 2010, shale gas had grown to 27% of total US natural gas production, and by September 2011,it had reached 34%.

• By 2015, that share will grow to 43% and will more than double, reaching 60%, by 2035.

• Nearly $1.9 trillion in shale gas capital investments are expected between 2010 and 2035.

• Capital expenditures are especially strong in the near future, growing from $33 billion in 2010 to $48 billion by 2015.

• In 2010, the shale gas industry supported 600,000 jobs; this will grow to nearly 870,000 in 2015 and to over 1.6 million by 2035.

Growth in the shale gas industry will make significant contributions to the broader economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and tax revenues:

• The shale gas contribution to GDP was more than $76 billion in 2010. This will increase to $118 billion by 2015 and will triple to $231 billion in 2035.

• In 2010 shale gas production contributed $18.6 billion in federal, state and local government tax and federal royalty revenues. By 2035, these receipts will more than triple to just over $57 billion. On a cumulative basis, the shale industry will generate more than $933 billion in federal, state, and local tax and royalty revenues over the next 25 years.

• The extent of job and GDP contributions reflect the capital intensity of the shale gas industry, the ability to source inputs from within the United States, the nature of the supply chain, and the quality of the jobs created.

The growth of shale gas is leading to lower natural gas and electric power prices and increased productivity:

• The full-cycle cost of shale gas produced from wells drilled in 2011 is 40-50% less than the cost of gas from conventional wells drilled in 2011.

• Without shale gas production, reliance on high levels of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports would influence US natural gas prices, causing them to increase by at least 100%.

• The lower natural gas prices achieved with shale gas production will result in an average reduction of 10% in electricity costs nationwide over the forecast period.

• By 2017, lower prices will result in an initial impact of 2.9% higher industrial production. By 2035, industrial production will be 4.7% higher.

• Chemicals production in particular stands to benefit from an extended period of low natural gas prices, as it uses natural gas as a fuel source and feedstock. Chemicals producers have already signaled their intentions to increase US capacity.

• Savings from lower gas prices will add an annual average of $926 per year in disposable household income between 2012 and 2015. In 2035, this would increase to just over $2,000 per household.


 It is well worth your reading the full report which can be accessed by clicking here. It is intended that the next posting reviews the IHC report on unconv entional gas’s c ontributions by State.  That posting is to be followed by a look at a similar report by the Bookings Institute on Green Jobs.


**IHS  Global Insight is one of the world’s leading economic analysis and forecasting firms.






NASA’s Stereo Mission Captures CME–Fastest Ever Recorded

On 23 July 2012, NASA’s Stereo **Mission spacecraft recorded a coronal mass ejection (CME).   The cloud of solar material ejected from the Sun sped out into space at a speed of “between 1,800 and 2,000 miles per second”.  That translates to about 7.2 million miles per hour or about 1.1% of the speed of light.  NASA says it is probably the fastest CME ever measured by any spacecraft.  Incredibly,  it is said that, on average,  the mass ejected into space is  1.6×1012kg.   A video of the  23 July CME can be seen by clicking here.

From the NASA announcement of this event:

“Measuring a CME at this speed, traveling in a direction safely away from Earth, represents a fantastic opportunity for researchers studying the sun’s effects. Rebekah Evans is a space scientist working at Goddard’s Space Weather Lab, which works to improve models that could some day be used to improve predictions of space weather and its effects. She says that the team categorizes CMEs for their research in terms of their speed, with the fastest ones – such as this one — labeled “ER” for Extremely Rare.”

**The STEREO mission consists of two spacecraft with orbits that for most of their journey give them views of the sun that cannot be had from Earth. Watching the sun from all sides helps improve our understanding of how events around the sun are connected, as well as gives us glimpses of activity we might not otherwise see.


Curiosity Provides Photos from Mars

NASA has posted pictures and drawings from the Curiosity Mars Rover.  There are 120 that you can see and/or download.  To see the gallery click here

Somewhat off my usual topic but I think you will enjoy the view.



Another Fisker Karma fire, this time in Anaheim, California.   The owner had driven to a grocery store where he parked the car and went inside.  The fire occured in the left-front side of the vehicle.   Fisker says the fire was not caused by the battery pack which has been implicated in the previous fires.  Fisker has hired a firm to investigate the cause.

This youtube posting captured the firemen putting out the blaze:

This photo was taken after the fire was extinguished:

Photo from USAToday.

What ever the cause,  this is not good news for Fisker.


Strike Two For Cuba And Gulf Of Mexico Oil

The latest deep-water drilling operation off the West Coast of Cuba has been called off. The exploratory well by PC Gulf, a subsidiary of Malaysia’ Petronas and Gazpomneft of Russia, has been declared not commercially viable.  In May, Repsol’s said their drilling in this field was a failure.

Cuba, as noted in the previous report about this potential oil field, badly needs the money that they hope to obtain from this drilling.  They are also worried about the fate of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as he has been supplying Cuba with below market priced crude.  If he dies or is deposed, it could be a real problem for Cuba.

Some estimates of the crude in the field being explored are as high as 9 billion barrels. The field is in ultra deepwater.  Ultra deepwater is defined as where the seafloor at the drilling site is 5000 ft (1524 m) or more below the sea surface. The PC Gulf well was drilled to 15,300 feet below the seafloor.  The lease cost for a platform to accomplish the drilling is about $500,000 per day according to a report by the Associated Press.  There is only one such unit now available for the Cuban drilling and it will be used by the next company to try their luck—-the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.


Solar Cycle 24 Update July 2012

Solar Cycle24 July sunspot and F 10.7cm radio flux numbers are up slightly from June.  Pretty much in line with the activity projection and much below that of Solar Cycle 23. (Click on Graphs for Clarity)

Large Filament on the Sun

The Sun currently has a filament that stretches more that 400,000km across the face. Filaments are formed in magnetic loops that hold relatively cool, dense gas suspended above the surface of the Sun. Because they are cooler than the photosphere they can look dark.

courtesy of

But when viewed in profile they look like a giant loop, called a prominence.

courtesy of NASA

Occasionally when these filaments collapse,  a coronal mass ejection (CME) can occur.   Because the filament is looking directly at the Earth,  a CME could cause problems.   Lets hope this does not happen.


Gasoline Price and Vehicle Fuel Economy Correlate

The WardsAuto Fuel Economy Index compares the cost of gasoline opposite the average fuel-economy (miles per gallon—mpg) of new vehicles sold each month.   The new vehicle fuel economy peaked in March at 24.1mpg.  It fell to 23.6 mpg in June, the last data point available.  This drop corresponds to the drop in gasoline prices over the past three months.  The chart shown below shows a strong correlation of fuel price and t the fuel economy the car buyers are settling for.

Wards cautions to not assume that the car buyer’s are fickle but it is hard not to draw that conclusion.  Wards cites fleet purchases of Toyota vehicles in March as Toyota was trying to catch up on the losses they encountered in 2011 when the tsunami shutdown a lot of Japanese industry.

Wards notes that the vehicles fuel economy by region looked this way in June: Overall, Asian auto makers combined for a 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) rating, followed by the European brands’ 22.8 mpg (10.3 L/100 km) and the Detroit Three’s 21.2 mpg (11.1 L/100 km).

The Detroit Big Three do move a lot of pickup trucks so that may explain the differences in fuel economy.

To read more click here.


July Global Temperature Anomaly Update

The global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly for July (+0.28 °C) was down from June 2012 (+0.37 °C).  The anomaly stood at +0.37C July 2012. (Click on chart for clarity.)  Data and chart from Dr Roy Spencer.


Volt And Leaf July Sales And How Hybrids Are Outselling EVs

Nissan Leaf July sales fell to 395 from 535 in the previous month.   The Volt sales were up slightly in July at 1849 against the 1760 in the previous month.  According to, plug-in hybrids are outselling EVs by 3 to 1.   The public’s choice of hybrids has not gone unnoticed by the automobile manufacturers.  From the following are the 2012 offerings of hybrids:


Toyota Prius 23,520 51 48
Toyota Prius V 27,160 42 38
Chevy Volt 40,280 95 90
Ford Fusion Hybrid 28,600 41 36
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 25,795 35 40
Infiniti M35h 50,000-55,000 27 32
Toyota Camry Hybrid 27,050 31 35
Honda Civic Hybrid 24,050 44 44
Honda Insight 19,000 40 43
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 51,665 20 23
Volkswagen Touareg Supercharged Hybrid 61,110 20 24
Toyota Highlander Hybrid 38,140 28 28
Ford Escape Hybrid 32,320 34 31
Porsche Cayenne Hybrid 67,700 20 24
Porsche Panamera S Hybrid 95,000 18 27
Lexus CT 200h 29,120 43 40
Lexus GS 450h 58,950 22 25
Lexus HS 250h 36,330 35 34
Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid 91,000 19 26
Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid 55,790 16 20
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 34,645 41 36
BMW ActiveHybrid7 97,000-101,000 17 24

About this chart, things change.  Prices and EPA miles per gallon (MPG) may be different, as time has passed since the chart data was assembled.

To find out how well these vehicles are selling, would require more time than I want to put in.  A reasonable guess is that not a big volume for most of them.  But on the upside, Edmunds reports that Toyota is on track to sell 200,000 Prius sub-brand cars in the US this year.  That is impressive.