Sunday, November 30, 2008

GM News re-cap



Let's have a look at the events surrounding General Motors this past week. The biggest news is that the company petitioned the FAA to prevent public tracking of a corporate jet it leases. This is a strange request, don't you think? A GM spokesman, Greg Martin, had this to say, "We availed ourselves of the same option as others have", meaning the ability to ask the FAA for tracking exclusion. He went on to decline giving a reason for the request. Instead, we get to guess at the reason and all I can come up with is that tricky Rick Wagoner wants to jet-set without us knowing. You have any ideas?

In other news, GM is looking to raise one quarter of a billion dollars from the sale and leaseback of some of its European offices and other property assets. Normally, this would seem like a large sum of cash, but these are not normal times for the auto giant. When we last checked, General Motors was burning though 2.5 billion dollars in cash per month and nearing bankruptcy. This 270 million dollars it is trying to raise is apparently part of a push to raise 4 billion in asset sales and capital market transactions. I wish them well and hope they secure these funds to help them through these hard times.

I promise to keep you posted this week as the Big Three make their final pitch (at least the final pitch in 2008) for emergency government assistance. It should be fun to watch!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Toyota Prius Plug-In kit



Yesterday, I talked about OEM plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are currently non-existent. Today, I would like to discuss something more tangible, namely after-market conversion kits for the 2004 to 2008 model year Toyota Prius. The initiative to convert a Prius for plug-in capability can be traced to Felix Kramer and Ron Gremban of the California Cars Initiative. Felix has been the spearhead, mouthpiece and advocate for the benefits of plug-in hybrid vehicles and Ron has been his more-than-capable technical lead. They are tireless and relentless in spreading the word and indeed, have made it all the way to Washington.

What Felix and Ron have proven is that it is possible to convert a stock Prius with extra batteries and control circuitry into a plug-in hybrid vehicle capable of 100 miles per gallon. Obviously, this is significant, especially in light of this past summer's sky high gas prices. At $4.00 per gallon, would you rather commute in a 33 mpg or a 100 mpg vehicle?

Felix and Ron also determined to keep the technology needed to convert the Prius "open sourced". This means it is non-proprietary and free to all. The result? A cottage industry has sprung up around the initiative to supply would be DIY'ers with everything they need to convert their Prius's to Plug-In Prius's. the bottom line is that for about 6 grand, you can convert your own Prius. For about 10 grand, you can convert it using Li ion technology. I am leaning towards my next car being a late model Prius converted to plug-in capability.

Here are a few of the websites involved in plug-in conversions:

Calcars.org
Plug In Conversions
Plug In Supply, Inc.
Hymotion
AutoBeYours.com
Go100MPG

There are many more out there if you look and many new converted Prius's being born all the time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Toyota Prius and Saturn Vue Plug-Ins



There are a couple of cars on the horizon that we may never see. One is the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid and the other is the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, although Toyota may use another name besides Prius. Both vehicles will have about a 10 mile electric only range, which is fairly lame, by anyone's standards. However, 10 miles could easily cover a person's need to run errands and may even get you to work.

The range of these cars is not nearly as important as their ability to be plugged into household current. Instead of topping off the at the Mobil station, we could top with electricity generated on our own rooftops. Thrilling stuff, to be sure.

However, it is always prefaced with "however" isn't it?, it looks like Saturn may be headed for the chopping block, and the Vue with it. Sigh. A smaller plug-in hybrid SUV makes the world of sense and yet, GM cannot get it to market in time.

Speaking of getting it to market in time, why is Toyota waiting so long to give us a plug-in hybrid? All Toyota has to do is add another NiMH battery like the one already in each Prius and add an "EV button" with a receptacle for an extionsion cord and viola', a plug-in Prius. Toyota could have begun production on such a vehicle four years ago. I exaggerate not. Why the delay, Toyota?

GM is without excuse as well. A small 5 kWh battery pack in the Vue would be all that is necessary to give 8 to 10 miles electric range. GM built the EV1 (through Saturn, I might add), over 10 years ago with a range up to 160 miles and yet they somehow cannot make an SUV with a 10 mile range. Something's rotten in Denmark AND Detroit.

I suppose that my point is we need these technologies yesterday but cannot seem to get major automobile manufacturer's to produce them. And now with GM in dire straits and Saturn on the chopping block, we are left with Toyota, who is obviously is in no hurry.

Low Gas Prices and the Oil Free Movement



So what are the prices at the pump in your neck of the woods this weekend? Where I live in central Ohio, they were in the $1.50's on Wednesday and then jumped to $1.75 on Thanksgiving. Inexplicably. Is there any other commodity on Earth that can retail for $4.00 in summer and then $1.50 in the fall? I can't think of any.

What I am already seeing and hearing are consumers who are forgetting the bad gas times and returning to their gas guzzling ways. It has only been two or three months and we are forgetting the pain we felt. How can our memories be so short?

I sincerely hope that we, as consumers, will continue to demand more fuel efficient vehicles, more electric vehicles, more (any) plug-in hybrid vehicles and more alternative energy vehicles. Oil prices are dictated/controlled by Big Oil and as long as we are so addicted, we are their slaves. My biggest fear is that we will completely forget (the past) and then watch helplessly as the auto makers return to their oil soaked ways. Giving us 25/35 (city/hwy) mpg vehicles day after day after day...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What should the Big Three do for their "loans"?



First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to y'all! Hope you enjoy the day and enjoy the family, friends and food.

Have you thought about what the Big Three Automakers should agree to as they pitch their proposals to Congress next week? What are they going to propose as their solutions for the current crisis? It has already been leaked that GM is considering getting rid of some of their brands, like Saab, Saturn and Pontiac and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler has agreed to a salary of one dollar per annum. So what else should they agree to? Let's list some suggestions:

- CEO salary of $1.00.
- Trim or eliminate unprofitable brands.
- Commit to higher MPG standards.
- Commit to produce EV or PHEV autos, IN SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS.
- Discontinue bonuses or other perks.
- Discontinue the use of company jets.
- Force the UAW to make concessions, like the jobs bank.

These are just a few, I am sure you can think of more.

NOTE / RANT: I would like to point out that our Congress has the unmitigated audacity to harass the CEO's of the Big Three for flying to Washington in their corporate jets when every one of the 535 congressmen all do WORSE. They take bribes, are afforded favors on top of favors, work about 6 months out of the year, get golden pension plans and golden health care. All for LIFE. Please, there has never been a bigger bunch of hypocrits than those who "serve" in Congress. Believe me, I write my congressmen all the time to let then know their sins.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

GM considers dumping Saab, Saturn and Pontiac



According to early reports from Bloomberg, General Motors is considering eliminating Saab, Saturn and Pontiac as part of its overall strategy to prove to Congress that it is worthy of government assistance.

From Automotive News:

"The automaker is preparing to submit a detailed turnaround plan to Congress on Tuesday, followed by hearings next week in its quest for a federal loan to avert a cash shortage.

GM already has said it may sell Hummer.

GM's board will meet Sunday and Monday, both regularly scheduled meetings, to review the plan to be presented to Congress, Bloomberg said. Only a small portion of that plan will be made public."

I could see GM dumping Hummer and Pontiac and even Buick, but I would hate to see Saturn go. The Saturn Vue plug-in was supposed to be in production in 2010 and would represent the first plug-in hybrid electric to be sold in the US. I wonder if GM would sell the Saturn brand or just let it die like Oldsmobile?

Don't you wish we were privvy to the meetings this weekend?

Chinese BYD Plug-in Hybrids



Chinese automaker BYD (Build Your Dreams) is producing the types of vehicles we need so desperately to become oil free. The current lineup offerings are models like F0, F3, F6 and F8. Theses are the vehicles we are familiar with that run on gasoline with normally aspirated internal combustion engines. The fun models are designated F3E, F3DM and F6DM.

F3E is a smaller Toyota Corolla-like vehicle that is all electric. This is the best option, in my opinion. It will not use one drop of gasoline and will be able to sport a range of 180 miles. How many people out there drive less than 180 miles per day? I would have to say the numbers are in the 90th percentile.

The F3DM and the F6DM use the same technology but in different chassis'. The F3DM is the same as the F3 in that it is a Corolla look-alike and the F6 is a bit beefier mimicking the Toyota Camry. Obviously, these are very popular car models to emulate. The "DM" moniker designates dual mode and I believe this is the killer app for all automobiles going forward. One of the modes is all electric and the other mode is a hybrid where a smaller internal combustion engine fires up and keeps the wheels turning and batteries charged. The batteries are recharged completely with an extension cord using your home's electricity.

Both dual mode vehicles should have mass appeal as they allow drivers to overcome their "range anxiety". No matter where you drive, there is bound to be a gas station nearby. The DM vehicles sport a range of 60 miles in EV mode and another 200 or so in hybrid mode. The F6DM is supposed to be offered for sale within a month in China. Unfortunately for me, it will not be for sale in the US until 2010. Bummer.

The best part of all? The MSRP for this vehicle is going to be about $25,000. I think I would buy two! BYD's parent company is one of the largest manufacturer's of lithium ion batteries, which may explain the great price.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

US Government should buy Chevy Volt



Lyle Dennis' GM-Volt.com website today has posed a plausible solution for General Motors as well as the Government in this latest plea for help. His idea is quite simple and basically calls for the GSA (General Service Administration) to purchase Chevy Volts in large numbers as fleet replacements. I like the idea a lot, although it leaves the other two automakers somewhat in the lurch.

Here is an exceprt from the website:

"These Chevy Volts should be sold to the government at premium and without a battery warranty. Each vehicle should be sold at a profit. And in so doing, and assuming sufficient battery pack quantities can be produced, they could be released earlier than the November 2010 deadline.

As well, supportive governments of the G8, and US utility companies should also be permitted to purchase these fleet Volts under the same constraints.

The result of this action could lead to contracts resulting in the sale of more than 100,000 Chevy Volts. Indeed, the current US government vehicle fleet amounts to greater than 600,000 cars.

Not only will this effort help ensure GM’s viability but it will help vigorously propel the US towards petroleum independence.

It will act as a stimulus for the eventual electrification of the entire US automotive fleet, will enable large scale public exposure to these US-made vehicles, and permit extensive field testing. Furthermore it well expedite economy of scale cost-reduction for large format lithium ion batteries, and make these cars more affordable for the public."

Do you think this idea has a chance? I believe it would if there was a similar offer made to Ford and Chrysler. One thing is for sure, if something like this were to happen, it would quickly bring down the sales price of the Chevy Volt.

Solar Power



Have you ever considered solar power for your home? I have, but am daunted by the big price tag. It can cost up to 20 grand to have a decent sized solar array installed on the roof and then tied into the grid. With a home equity loan you can keep the monthly costs down but it still would take you 20 years to recoup the initial costs of the installation.

I have done some extensive Internet research for home solar kits and the basic packages run anywhere from 8 to 10 grand. This is obviously much less than the 20 grand but you will not have the capacity to run your entire house. The size of the solar array in these less costly kits will probably supply about a third of your electricity demands. Still, it would be a great start!

Do you think our government should give homeowners a tax credit for installing a solar system? The government gives everyone else money for all sorts of idiotic causes, why not a worthy cause? Probably one of the best reasons to have solar is because one day we will be able to buy electric cars and then have the ability to "fill then up" for free!

Monday, November 24, 2008

News from the Day



A couple of interesting developments for today's news are worth noting. First, Tim Leuliette, CEO of suburban Detroit supplier Dura Automotive Systems Inc., has proposed a caravan of vehicles from the Big Three be dispatched to Washington. Apparently, this would be a show of support for what the US automakers are capable of producing. They would showcase hybrids, diesels, low-emission four-cylinders and possibly electric vehicles. Not a bad idea, in my opinion but the coup de grace would be Rick Wagoner making the entire trip in a Chevy Volt mule. The mule is basically a Chevy Cruze with all the innards of the upcoming Volt. Of course, they would have to make pit stops along the way to recharge the battery pack.

In other news, major automakers are pulling out of upcoming auto shows. I actually think this is prudent, considering the state of the global economy and the incredibly sagging sales of new vehicles.

From Automotive News:

"Nissan North America has canceled plans to participate in the annual Detroit and Chicago auto shows, citing depressed economic conditions. The decision puts Nissan and Infiniti brands onto a growing list of automakers that are skipping out on the major Detroit international marketing event in 2009. Also withdrawing from the January show are Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari. The Chicago auto show is scheduled for February. Both shows draw media attention to new products from all over the world, in addition to displaying the product line-ups to local consumers. Nissan corporate spokesman Alan Buddendeck said the decision reflects the current state of the industry and not the Detroit and Chicago shows themselves."

What do you think? Should the automakers continue to parade around their concept vehicles and gas guzzlers during these trying times?

LA Auto Show 2008



So did you catch any of the press releases from the 2008 LA Auto show? Were yo you able to attend? What were some of your favorite vehicles?

Here is a short list of the few I thought were worthy.

- Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid
- Mitsubishi iMiev
- Dodge Zeo concept
- Jeep renegade concept
- Saturn Flextreme concept
- Honda FC Sport Concept
- Honda Insight
- Mercury Milan hybrid

These are just some of the ones that stand out for me. I wish all these cars were more ubiquitous and they just cannot get to showrooms fast enough in my opinion.

Tell me which cars get you excited and ready to open up the purse strings!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Hyundai Propane Hybrid



I love to write about new and innovative vehicles that will help us become oil free, and the Hyundai Propane Hybrid is one of them. As far as I know, there is no other propane hybrid vehicle in the world, making this one of a kind.

Recently, Toyota announced the natural gas Camry at the LA auto show which will join the Honda Civic GX as the only OEM CNG vehicles available to the public. Having the Hyundai would give us yet another gasoline alternative. You can buy propane fueled vehicles today that have either been converted or have come from fleets, but they originally were not offered to the public.

Here is some info from Greencar.com:

"Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. has developed and will soon market a hybrid electric vehicle that combines hybrid power with an alternative fuel, in this case LPG (liquid propane gas, or propane). This is the first time that a major automaker has moved in this direction with LPG, which is a popular alternative fuel in some countries but a distant candidate for the job in the U.S. Several automakers, including Ford with its E85 ethanol Escape Hybrid demonstrator, are actively exploring ways to remove gasoline from the hybrid equation.

Hyundai's Avante/Elantra LPI (Liquefied Petroleum Injection) model also accomplishes a first with its use of advanced lithium-polymer (Li-Po) batteries with an internal combustion engine. It will use Hyundai's 1.6 liter, four-cylinder Gamma engine. A 20 hp (15 kW) DC electric motor and continuously variable transmission (CVT) are used in a mild hybrid configuration. Hyundai has not provided fuel economy numbers but says they will be competitive."

This car would be PERFECT if it came with a plug and the ability to run on electric for 10 miles or so.

I live in Ohio and there are propane fueling stations everywhere, so having one of these cars would be great. The natural gas vehicles are more difficult to refuel as there are only three stations in all of central Ohio.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What's Next for the Big 3



Well, let's take a look at the highlights of the bill that Congress is dangling for the US automakers. The main stipulation is that the Big Three must submit their plans for using the money and what they will do in the future. Here are the highlights, bulleted from Green Car Congress:

  • The Secretary of Commerce is to establish a program to provide up to $25 billion in direct loans to automobile manufacturers and component suppliers whose failure would have a systemic adverse effect on the overall economy.

  • Any costs of the loans would be covered by funds previously appropriated for auto industry retooling loans under Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140).

  • Loan repayments and proceeds from the sale of company stock will be used to replenish funding for Section 136.

  • Loan recipients must detail how they would use the funds to ensure their long-term financial viability and improve their ability to produce energy-efficient, advanced technology vehicles. Requires cost control measures and performance goals and milestones.

  • Establishes an Oversight Board comprising the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Labor and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Board will review and provide advice, and recommend changes, as necessary, for meeting the goals and milestones under the Financial Viability Plan. The Board also has authority to review significant company transactions (e.g., asset sales or investments valued at more than $25 million) and to give direction to the company with respect to such transactions.

  • The government gets an equity stake in firms that get loans.

  • Prohibits firms who receive loans from paying dividends to common stockholders for the duration of the loan.

  • The companies will be charged 5% interest for the first 5 years and then 9% interest after that.

  • Requires companies that receive the loans to place limits on executive compensation, including prohibiting golden parachutes. In addition to all of the limits placed on EESA beneficiaries, prohibits bonuses to executives whose base pay exceeds $250,000 annually.

The so-called Detroit 3 have until December 2nd to return with their plans. If you are interested, this is formally called the Auto Industry Emergency Bridge Loan Act.

In other news, Nancy Pelosi said that Congress' tough stance against the automakers was "good news". Apparently, she thought their performance this week in front of the House and Senate was not nearly enough and this now gives them another opportunity to prove themselves. Whatever Nancy.

Stock Market reaction



Did you notice the stock market tanked again yesterday? Apparently part of the sell off was a result of the snubbing that Congress gave to the Big Three. There is a bill with parameters that have been given to the automakers so they can submit their plans and thus receive "bridge loans". Of course, these are not real bridge loans as they are used when people are selling one house and wanting to buy another. These are just basic interest loans.

Later on today, I will try to post a summary of the bill and stipulations.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid block US Automaker bailout



In a sickening twist, the two Congressional leaders blocked any bailout efforts until the Big Three submit their plans for the future and outline how they will use the money. You wanna talk about grandstanding, Pelosi is acting like she is the queen bee who is gonna force the automakers into submission. I feel like she is treating the Big Three like they are little children who need to write sentences until they learn their lesson. Here is a quote from Pelosi (whom I dislike more each day):

"Until they show us a plan, we can't show them the money."

This from the person who just pushed through the unprecedented 700 billion dollar banking bailout. So our government will not LOAN 25 billion to our auto companies but will readily SPEND 700 billion on evil, reckless banking institutions? It reminds me of a bible verse that describes hypocrites who can swallow a camel but strain at a gnat.

I am afraid if I were the CEO of GM, Ford or Chrysler, I would tell Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to stick it where the sun don't shine. This, of course, explains why I am not!

Senate compromise reached on US Auto bailout



There is breaking news out of Washington that an agreement/compromise has been reached by US Senators to fund a rescue package for the Big Three.

From Automotive News:

"Key members of the U.S. Senate have reached a bipartisan deal to fund a rescue package for the Detroit 3, according to a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.

It remains unclear whether the senators have enough votes or when the matter will be taken up. It's also unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has signed on to the compromise.

A draft of the compromise was being worked on by Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., among others."

Good news indeed, I believe. There is a press conference at 2:30 and I will report later what is announced. Stay tuned!

Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid



Unveiled at the LA Auto Show, the Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid vehicle is one that is desperately needed. The only other OEM natural gas vehicle currently offered is the Honda Civic GX.

From Green Car Congress:

"The CNG Camry Hybrid concept was designed by the TMS Advanced Product Strategy group and built by Metal Crafters of Fountain Valley, Calif. To convert the stock Camry Hybrid to a CNG vehicle, the gasoline fuel system was replaced with a CNG fuel system including two Lincoln composite Type 4 CNG tanks installed in the spare tire well area.

The CNG Camry Hybrid retains the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with Hybrid Synergy Drive. The concept delivers net (all power sources) 170 hp (127 kW); the production Camry Hybrid delivers net 187 hp (139 kW).

The CNG Camry Hybrid stores sufficient natural gas at 3,600 psi to support a 250+ mile range, with combined fuel economy of 33 mpg gasoline equivalent. (The gasoline Camry Hybrid has a combined fuel economy rating of 34 mpg.)"

I like this car, a lot. The range is very respectable at 250 miles, although I would think a hybrid system could do better. This vehicle should get 40 to 45 mpg gasoline equivalent. Why isn't it able to match the Prius in fuel economy? I feel that the added expense of the hybrid system is not justified in this case.

Also, I would like to see Toyota offer plug in capability with this vehicle to make it even more green!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday's House festivities with the Big Three



Today's hearings in front of the House of Representatives committee for the Big 3 CEO's was an instant replay of yesterday. GM and Chrysler both reiterated that without Government assistance they would likely wind up in bankruptcy. GM, however, has made absolutely no provision for a bankruptcy so they seem to be completely relying on a loan.

There is a new development as Senators Christopher "Kit" Bond (R., Mo.) and George Voinovich (R., Ohio), began work on a plan to speed release of $25 billion in already approved loans. These are the ones intended to help the industry meet higher fuel-economy standards. I have no idea if they can get this on the floor for a vote this week, which seems to be the bigger issue. There simply is not enough sentiment in Congress to undertake the heroic effort needed to to get a bill over to President Bush by Friday.

If nothing happens this week, which I suspect will be the case, then I suppose the lame duck session could reconvene after Thanksgiving, which really cramps the lifestyles of our rich and famous representatives in Washington!

Gas Prices this week



As I am driving across the State of Ohio today, I see gas prices for regular unleaded ranging from $1.67 to $1.79. To be sure, I never dreamed I would see gasoline prices this low again in my lifetime. A couple of questions immediately come to mind, namely, "How long will these low prices last?" and, "How do these low prices effect our nation's resolve to get off foreign oil?"

I suppose that while we are in an economic struggle and recession, the prices may stay low. Also, now that we are hearing of a "global economic slowdown", this could also cause prices to stay low. One never knows with the price of gasoline. I am fearful, however, that these low fuel prices are going to cause Americans to regress to their gas guzzling ways, eschewing the smaller compact vehicles for the big trucks and SUV's once again!

Tell me what you think. Will fuel prices stay at these prices, or are we in for a rude awakening? Also, tell me what the price of gasoline is in your neck of the woods!

What is the Chevy Volt?



In case you have not heard about the Chevy Volt, I would like to tell you a little of what I know. Introduced in January 2007 at the Detroit Auto Show, GM announced it as a concept plug-in hydrid electric vehicle. The car would have a 40 mile electric only range and then a genset would kick on to run the car and charge the batteries afterwards. GM said that most people do not drive more than 40 miles per day, so this would let drivers use the car without having to burn gasoline. Those were educated assumptions.

Since that show, this particular vehicle has become wildly popular and people have clamored for it, so much so that GM has moved it from concept to production. There is also a website dedicated to the Volt and you can view it at gm-volt.com. I personally like to visit that site as the web host now has access to the movers and shakers at GM and gives its readers much useful information. To see what the GM website has to say about the Volt, navigate here. Also, GM now calls the Volt an extended-range electric vehicle, or EREV for short. Apparently, they thought that acronym more descriptive than PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicle).

I think the Volt is a great idea. I think GM could have BEGUN production a year ago using sophisticated lead acid or NiMH battery technology. Instead, they have spent much time and money perfecting a lithium ion pack and now the company is on the brink of collapse. Will the Volt ever make it to market? I am doubtful. What say you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chrysler's CEO Nardelli says he will work for a buck



Taking a page out of Lee Iacocca's book, Robert Nardelli said he is willing to work for a dollar per annum. While this may sound rhetorical, it is extremely significant. Most US taxpayer's have become extremely suspicious of deviant CEO's who bleed a company dry and then fall to earth in their golden parachute's. Ummm, Nardelli himself accepted a $210 million dollar severance from Home Depot in 2007, so he is not exactly hurting.

HOWEVER, please do not let this distract from his gesture. Rick Wagoner, GM CEO, is not willing to do likewise.

From Automotive News:

"Chrysler LLC CEO Bob Nardelli said he would accept $1 per year in salary if it helped Chrysler obtain its $7 billion share of a proposed $25 billion automaker rescue package.

Nardelli said he would make that gesture in response to a question from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who said sacrifice by Lee Iacocca in 1979 helped Chrysler Corp. win a $1.5 billion loan guarantee."

I must admire Nardelli for this gesture and simultaneously sneer at Wagoner for not offering likewise. Personally, I would like to see GM fail and Ford and Chrysler survive as I think their leaders make the difference. Also, Chrysler has some very cool EV and PHEV vehicles in the hopper.

News from Washington



Well, the Big Three automakers got their chance to pitch their cause before the Senate today in hearings concerning the bailout. Rick Wagoner, GM, Alan Mulally, Ford and Robert Nardelli, Chrysler all took their turn at the plate to stake their claims. Basically, it was the same ole' song and dance about 3 million citizens losing their jobs, national crisis, military crisis, ad nauseum. Here are a few nuggets for you:

"Our industry ... needs a bridge to span the financial chasm that has opened up before us," General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee.

Robert Nardelli, CEO of Chrysler, told the panel the bailout would be "the least costly alternative" when compared with damage from bankruptcy. "We just cannot be confident that we will be able to successfully emerge from bankruptcy," Nardelli said.

Alan Mulally, Ford CEO, told senators the auto industry was "a pillar of our economy. We look forward to working with you to be part of the solution" to the financial crisis. "We at Ford are well on our way to transforming our country and building a new Ford," he said.

At least Mulally was upbeat and not as rhetorical as the other two. Also speaking today was Ron Getelfinger, representing the UAW, but he did not mention anything worth quoting. Several Senators expressed their concerns about giving money to the automakers, which did not seem like a sensible decision for their long term success.

Most Senate Republicans are opposed to the bill, almost ensuring its death while in infancy.

Big Three head to Congress to beg



Well, today is the day of groveling for the Big Three automakers. Today the three leaders will appear before our representatives to plead their miserable cause and try to extract more monies for their cause. Nothing much has changed recently and the Senate is trying to craft a bill for an extra 25 billion dollars that can be "lent" to the automakers and auto suppliers.

Here is an update from Yahoo:

"Detroit's Big Three automakers are begging Congress for a $25 billion government rescue, while the legislation clings to life support on Capitol Hill and top lawmakers and the White House suffer from bailout fatigue.

Democratic congressional leaders want to tap the $700 billion Wall Street rescue package for new loans to U.S. auto manufacturers and suppliers, but the White House and GOP lawmakers say the beleaguered industry shouldn't get any new funds.

President George W. Bush and GOP lawmakers instead propose diverting $25 billion in loans approved by Congress in September — designed to help auto manufacturers retool their factories so they can make more fuel-efficient vehicles — to cover the firms' immediate financial woes.

But auto executives, backed by leading Democrats, insist they need another $25 billion in emergency loans to avert a collapse of one or more of their companies before year's end. That would bring the total federal help for the industry to $50 billion this year."

Sorry for the long quote but it sums up the events to data. What we see is that this extra 25 billion is the bone that will apparently keep the US automakers afloat. However, if GM is burning through 2.5 billion every month, then 8.3 billion dollars (1/3 of the 25 billion) would not last them long, do you think?

Most reports are saying that the bill for the extra 25 billion does not have much chance. What happens if they do not get any bailout funds? It looks like GM would have to declare bankruptcy by the time Obama takes office in January. Tell me what you think will happen this week!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday's US Auto bailout news



As expected there is plenty to report from the day.

First off, Congress did not make much headway in putting forth a bailout solution. They are still trying to carve out aid from the 700 billion dollar TARP package and the White House still wants to use the 25 billion dollar auto "re-tool" allotment. In typical Washington fashion, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would hold a test vote this week on a broad economic aid plan that includes everything but the kitchen sink. Then he admits that this will probably fail and so his next effort would be to seek a vote on the auto industry bailout with unemployment benefits package. He has until Friday, so I suppose he knows what he is doing.

Next up,
General Motors will delay incentive payments to dealers next week in an effort to save cash. This is an interesting announcement that can save the company about 300 million dollars over the course of the next two weeks. While this may help GM now, it causes the dealers a delay of up to two weeks to get their cash. Apparently, this is OK with the dealers, but what choice do they have?

Here is my last update for today. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said that automakers who receive federal aid should double the fuel economy of their fleets by 2020. Now we're talkin'! I like how this Senator thinks but I am sure that no such strings will be attached to a bailout. Nelson goes on to say that a fleetwide average of 35 mpg by 2020 is not enough and that he sees no point in handing out more money to automakers that resist higher mpg vehicles.

Whew. Hang on folks!

What happens today in Congress?



Today is a big day in the United States for the auto industry. We have seen fierce lobbying from all sides this weekend for and against any Federal bailout. The White House is saying that the 25 billion earmarked for "re-tooling" the automakers in order to make more fuel efficient hybrids should now be used instead as immediate emergency funds. Nancy Pelosi disagrees and wants to sap some funds from TARP, which of course, was originally designated for the banking bailout. What a mess.

Barack Obama appeared on 60 minutes yesterday and had this to say, ""We need to provide assistance,...But I think that it can't be a blank check.''

Sorry Barack, but every time Congress creates any buyout like this, it winds up being a blank check for someone.

As soon as I hear any news about today's Congressional hearings concerning the blighted US automakers, I will post ASAP.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Look at US Oil Consumption

Today I would like to have a look at the history of US oil consumption and use. It is interesting what has happened as recently as the year 1990. First, here is a graph of total US oil consumption, production and imports:


This is a pretty nifty chart that shows our increasing use of oil, basically quadrupling since 1950, as well as the US production numbers versus the import figures. According to the chart, around 1965 or so, the US needed to import about 25% of the total oil needed per year. Zooming up to the year 2007, we can see that the numbers have been reversed and that we need to import fully 75% of our oil needed every year. Here is another graph that just shows the crude oil imports:


This is a disturbing image showing the linear rise in imports ever since 1984. Obviously, this trend has got to cease and one of the best ways I know is to end our dependence on gasoline fired internal combustion engines. Roughly 15 million barrels of oil DAILY could be saved if our entire fleet ran independent of gasoline. We could almost live on US oil production alone if our vehicles ran on electricity or natural gas or ethanol or bio-diesel. Think about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger pipes up



Everyone is chiming in lately about the plight of the US auto makers and what needs to be done. Well, we are now hearing from the president of the United Auto Workers Union, Ron Gettelfinger. Basically, he is repeating the mantra, asking Congress for the bailout and defending the auto workers.

From Automotive News:

"U.S. automakers urgently need a federal loan to survive, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said on Saturday, but their work force should not be blamed for the industry crisis.

Gettelfinger, in a rare news conference, said General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC were a critical part of the economy and needed the aid before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January.

"We need to get this bridge loan and we need it in this lame duck session," he said, referring to next week's congressional session during which lawmakers will discuss emergency aid for the "big three" car companies.

Gettelfinger said it was unfair to blame UAW workers and retirees for the problems facing U.S. automakers."

I have noticed a lot of union bashing lately and many think the auto worker s are the reason the Big Three is in this mess. Nothing could be further from the truth. Do I think that auto worker's are actually worth the money they make? Probably not, but hey, more power to 'em if they can get that kind of money. Let's face it, the US auto makers are in this mess because they insisted on forcing gas guzzlers down our throats. Instead of working on hybrid technology and making their cars more fuel efficient, they gave us Hummers and Durangos. Sweet.

It takes about 25 man hours to assemble an automobile at the plant. At 50 dollars an hour, this equates to $1,250 dollars in union wages, which is a small fraction of the vehicle's final MSRP. I realize that you need to add in the cost of benefits and retirement but my point is that these relatively fixed costs are NOT the reason for the current failures. There is no reason to blame the UAW or its union members for the financial ills of the Big Three.

I wish journalists would blame the CEO's and Board Members and call them on the carpet. All three US automakers have made high mileage vehicles in the past (like 70 to 80 mpg) and all three have made electric vehicles, so what is stopping them now? I want a bailout to stipulate they commit to resuming production of these vehicles so we can get off oil!

Oil Crisis of 1973 (a look back)



About the only time I look at history is when I know that we are repeating it in ways that I rather we didn't. Today, I would like to have a look back at the not so distant past of 1973. Interestingly, one of my current favorite TV shows, Life on Mars, is set in this year. This is the year of the famous oil crisis that saw long lines and rationing at US gasoline pumps.

So what happened in 1973? In a nutshell, some of the oil producing countries who had banded together as OPEC decided to slow production AND impose embargoes on certain countries. The United States, by virtue of her assistance to Israel during the Yom Kippur War ensured that she would not get oil from OPEC. To be thorough, we need to go back to 1971 and see where the US (President Nixon) eschewed the Britton Woods Treaty/System in favor of a floating dollar. The Britton Woods system tied the value of US dollars to the value of gold, i.e., a "gold standard". Once abandoned, the US dollar (now a relatively worthless paper note) was valued solely by what the market would allow. This is arguably one of the worst days in US financial history. The worst occurred when Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913.

I digress. When the dollar started "floating" and becoming inflated and less valuable, the OPEC nations realized they were not getting their monies worth for their product. The Yom Kippur war then provided them with an opportunity to take the world hostage and get their prices up, which they successfully accomplished. What is interesting to me is that in 1973, we imported roughly 25% of our oil and today we import 75% or so. Can you imagine an oil embargo today? Our nation would simply come to a halt, literally and figuratively. This is why we need to get off oil.

What were the results of the oil crisis?
- More fuel efficient vehicles (less boat sized cars and more compacts)
- CAFE standards were implemented
- more domestic oil production (not near enough to keep up with demand though)
- a cute little electric car from Sebring/Vanguard called the CitiCar/CommutaCar

These cars are still around and their owners are enthusiasts. Designed for urban transport, they will travel up to 40 mph for about 30 miles, all without a drop of gasoline. The only downside is that they were built like golf carts and ride about the same. Nevertheless, thousands were built and bought. It is too bad the trend didn't catch on and the Big Three didn't follow suit.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Utilities offer to be early plug-in hybrid vehicle consumers



Here's a very interesting story from the Wall Street Journal (wsj.com):

"The auto industry's quest to launch a new generation of electric cars may get a big boost from a sector with much to gain from getting advanced vehicles on the road: U.S. electric utilities.

Top executives at several utilities are mulling the possibility of ordering thousands of the vehicles -- known as plug-in electric cars -- as an expression of support for the technology they fear could be derailed by the auto industry's financial traumas. The cars would run primarily on electricity, with gasoline to extend their range, and would recharge by plugging into standard electrical outlets."

This is precisely what the United States needs in these difficult times. Several electric companies, including Xcel Energy Inc., Progress Energy, PG&E Corp., Edison International, Wisconsin Energy Corp. are stating their willingness to help out the ailing auto industry by purchasing thousands of PHEV's. This synergy between auto companies and electricity providers is necessary to ensure the success of electric vehicles.

The article continues:

"Many in the industry are concerned about the stresses such new cars could put on the nation's electric grid. If utilities become early plug-in-car adopters, they'd have a prime opportunity to make sure recharging happens in a way that strengthens the electric grid, rather than weakens it."

I hope that Congress hears this message from the electric companies. Having two industries working together for the betterment of both sure seems like a good idea to me. Plus, I can't wait to get my hands on an electric or plug-in electric vehicle.

As a nation, these United States must come together and rid the plague of oil dependence as soon as feasible. This announcement from the electric companies is a huge step in the right direction.

Continuing Saga of US Automaker Bailout



The pace of news reports from Washington concerning the bailout of the Big Three is dizzying. I have been watching these events unfold throughout the week in amazement. To say that the lobbying efforts of GM, Ford and Chrysler for immediate funds is relentless would be an understatement. Indeed, GM's "bankrupt-free" life is at stake here. What will happen over the course of the next few days? This is what keeps me tuned in. How will this crisis be averted and what heroic efforts will be required?

From Reuters:

"The U.S. Senate plans to take up a $25 billion bailout bill for distressed domestic automakers on Monday, but it remains unclear if proponents can muster the support necessary to pass the legislation.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on Friday that he "plans to press forward" with emergency aid to automakers and a plan to extend unemployment insurance, even though Republican backing is not assured.

Reid plans to begin debate on Monday and hopes the Senate will conduct procedural votes early in the week.

It will be difficult for Democrats to push through an auto bailout if minority Republicans object and throw up procedural roadblocks."

Will this be a partisan debacle resulting in GM's collapse? On the surface of it, one would think that this lame duck session is not going to agree on any emergency aid legislation. Also, is 25 billion really enough money? I thought GM was currently burning through 2.5 billion per month?

I think that the White House is going to put some serious pressure on Congress to try and reach some agreement before next week ends. Stay tuned, we never know what to expect next in these days of uncertainty.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Barney Frank writes legislation for US bailout



Don't you love this picture of US Rep. Barney Frank? He seems to be a college professor mulling over one of his student's attempts at placating him.

These are truly historic times we are living in and the incessant barrage of news stories about the economy (US and global), stock markets, bankruptcies and bailouts testify accordingly. Something I have been watching closely is the US automaker death spiral. The Big Three are anything but and if they do not receive a gratuitous cash injection, they may all be belly up before Barack Obama can get sworn in and work his magic. At least for GM, bankruptcy is as real as death and taxes at this point. Even though Rick Wagoner swears that this is not an option, we all know without government assistance, it will become reality.

The latest manuverings are being perpetrated by the current US "lame duck" session of Congress as it tries to force the Treasurer's hand in doling out some of the 700 billion dollars that was recently authorized. Congress is expected to convene this coming Monday, November 17th.

From Automotive News:

"The government's stake in U.S. car companies would be determined by the Treasury Department, under a House proposal to rescue the Detroit 3.

Taxpayers also would be paid back first when the automakers recover, Steve Adamske, a spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said in an interview today. Frank chairs the House Financial Services Committee.

The terms outlined by Adamske are among the details beginning to emerge as Congress prepares legislation to provide emergency low-interest loans to General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Frank is scheduled to introduce his bill Monday."

Hmmm. So we are supposed to believe that taxpayers are going to be paid back first AND that this would be a loan? I am highly skeptical, at best.

Do you think this will really be a "loan" or will it be monies thrown at the Big Three in a desperate attempt at staving off bankruptcy, only to be lost later when these companies are beyond salvation?

OEM CNG vehicles



Did you know that major auto manufacturer's make vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG)? I have previously written about the Pickens Plan on this blog and how their goal is to convert most of the US fleet to CNG. Today, CNG is abundant and relatively inexpensive in the United States (less than 1 dollar per gallon in Utah), which is in sharp opposition to crude oil and gasoline that we need to import. Furthermore, burning CNG in an internal combustion engine is drastically cleaner than burning gasoline. It is so much cleaner that California will give you HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) status for driving a CNG vehicle.

Here are some examples of CNG burning automobiles:

-- The Honda Cixic GX:
-- The Chevy Cavalier CNG bi-fuel vehicle
-- The Chevy Suburban/Silverado 2500 vehicles
-- The Ford Contour CNG bi-fuel
-- The Ford 150 truck
-- the Ford Excursion

You can see these for sale at various websites which I will list below. These vehicles are made by the auto manufacturers and then sold to fleets but not to you and I. The only exception is the Honda Civic GX, which is a great car. My question is, "Why can't I walk into my local Chevy dealer and buy a new Chevy Cavalier CNG bi-fuel vehicle?" I can buy one used after the fleet is finished with it, but not when the car is new.

If we had more of these vehicles for sale and more stations that sold CNG at the pump, we could march ever onwards towards living oil free.

CNG Cars for Sale
Morris Auto Sales
US Government Fleet Auctions

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gas and Crude Prices



Today, in central Ohio, regular unleaded is selling for $1.79 a gallon. Personally, I never thought that I would see prices this low and they may fall even lower. With the economy in such turmoil and people cinching their belts and purse strings, demand will lessen further. How low will the price of gasoline fall in the US?

From Alternative and Saving Energy:

"Oil prices sank under 55 dollars a barrel on Tuesday to strike a 21-month low as fresh recession jitters fanned fears about slowing global energy demand, traders said.

On London's InterContinental Exchange (ICE), Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December plunged to 54.92 dollars per barrel -- a level last seen on January 30, 2007. Brent later stood at 55.94 dollar, down 3.14 dollars from Monday.

At the same time, on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), light sweet crude for December tumbled to 58.32 dollars, the lowest level since March 21, 2007. The contract was later down 2.91 dollars at 59.50 dollars.

Prices have now shed about 60 percent since scaling historic highs above 147 dollars in July on mounting evidence of slowing global economic growth and energy demand."

While these low prices are great for my wallet, they are not so great for weaning the world off nasty oil. These low prices further compound our cause because of the auto manufacturer crisis. It is like a double whammy. We need oil free vehicles now but low cost gasoline combined with bankrupt manufacturers makes for a grim outlook on the future. I feel that we need a bailout package that forces the major players to produce alternative fuel vehicles.

What is the price of unleaded gas in your neighborhood?

GM suspends S. Korean production



From Financial Times UK:

"General Motors plans to suspend production at its factories in South Korea for about two weeks starting next month, in one of the strongest signs yet that the crisis in carmaking has spread to Asia.

The shutdown will take effect from late December and affect all five of GM's Korean plants formerly owned by Daewoo, which form one of the loss-making US carmaker's best-performing business units.

"The economic crisis is truly global," Jay Cooney, GM Daewoo's vice-president, said. "What we're beginning to see here in Asia is no different from what is going on in Europe and what has already happened in the US."

Company officials said the temporary closure in Korea stemmed from slowing demand and GM's need to manage production and rising inventories rather than a shortage of cash."

These announcements are nothing short of amazing. Every day we see headlines of an automaker in the throes of death. Without being sensational or inflammatory, I would have to say we are watching historic events unfold before our very eyes.

I truly want GM to survive and bring us the Chevy Volt. This car is one of the real answers to living oil free.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

AFS Trinity's XH150 pulled for LA Auto Show



This news is quite upsetting to me. From auto123.com:

"AFS Trinity Corporation has just announced that it will be pulling its XH150 hybrid SUV from the Los Angeles Auto Show and presenting it elsewhere in the city during that period. This announcement follows the decision of the manufacturers and the Los Angeles Auto Show authorities to muzzle AFS Trinity, as the fuel consumption of their vehicle has not been verified by the EPA."

The reason why AFS pulled out is because the LA Auto show relegated the company to the basement floor away from all the main foot traffic. Furthermore, the show prohibited AFS Trinity from using billboards that proclaimed their 150 mpg capabilities.

This tells me one thing. The major automakers are HOSTILE to fuel efficient vehicles and to any and all alternate fuel vehicles. The AFS Trinity AH150 is a plug-in hybrid Saturn Vue that I would love to see in my driveway. Unfortunately, major automakers do NOT want to see it in my drive. A plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius could give me 100 mpg, but do you see them selling these? No.

From the AFS Trinity website:

"The company's decision followed actions by the LA Auto Show to muzzle AFS Trinity from highlighting the 150 miles per gallon fuel economy of its XH150 prototype vehicles. "The suppression by the automakers of information about technologies such as this raises serious questions about the judgment, vision, intentions and capabilities of the leadership of these companies,” said Edward W. Furia, Chairman and CEO of AFS Trinity. “Such conduct by the automakers, who are currently seeking tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, ostensibly to develop fuel efficient vehicle technologies, is evidence they are reluctant to embrace solutions they didn’t invent.”

Something rotten in Denmark...still.

This is the vehicle America needs to live oil free now. Instead, the major auto manufacturer's thwart the technology, produce crappy gas guzzlers, drive their companies into the ground and then have the unmitigated audacity to beg the government for multi-billion dollar bailouts.

Gm cannot wait for Obama



I hate to give so much coverage to GM on this blog, but the news stories that break each day are fascinating. GM's Rick Wagoner was interviewed recently by Automotive News and the following is an excerpt from their website, www.autonews.com:

"General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner says GM's financial distress is so dire that it must line up financial assistance from Washington before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January.

"This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently," Wagoner said during an exclusive interview today with Automotive News. Now is the time to "overshoot, not undershoot" when it comes to assistance for the auto industry, he added."

That's right Rick, God help us if we "undershoot" our bailout funds! Gimme a break. Wagoner also stated that he should not resign, as a solid management team was needed during this difficult period. Whatever. News flash Ricky, the current management team is the BIGGEST part of the problem! If GM would not have bet the farm on SUV's, Hummer's and pickup trucks, then they would not be in this mess.

Wagoner continues his commiseration in the same interview:

"In return for financial aid, General Motors is willing to offer the government preferred stock, set limits on executive compensation and speed the introduction of fuel-efficient vehicles."

Speed the introduction of fuel-efficient vehicles, he says. Isn't it Pat Benatar who belts out those song lyrics, "It's a little too little, it's a little too late"?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another day at the office for GM



With each passing day, headlines mount pointing to General Motor's imminent and spectacular death.

From Wall Street Journal Online:

"General Motors Corp.'s shares Monday plummeted to a price it hasn't seen since 1946, on rising concerns the auto maker will run out of cash in the next few months and that any government bailout won't be beneficial to shareholders.

Shares of GM fell 23% to $3.34 in late-morning trading, after earlier hitting a 62-year low of $3.02, as analysts at both Barclays Capital and Deutsche Bank cut their target prices and investment ratings on the stock.

Barclays now targets GM shares at $1, while Deutsche Bank slashed its target price to zero."

From gm-volt.com:

"It was recently reported that the plug-in Saturn VUE program was being moved from 2009 to 2011 due to GMs financial crisis. While partly true, the statement is not entirely correct.

GM had never stated the plug-in VUE would arrive in 2009.

GM spokesperson Brian Corbett has provided us the following statement:

“Our original statement said that production would begin “as soon as 2010” because we did not want to create artificial deadlines. We have dedicated significant resources to the program and it is progressing rapidly. Now that we are further along in the development process, we can now give a more up-to-date projection.”

Target shares for GM at $1 or less? Wow, that is brutal my friends. What is interesting to me about the plug-in Vue is that it could have been a major step in the right direction. Even though the vehicle is planned to have only a 10 mile EV only range, this is enough to offset many trips that would have required gasoline. If you had the ability to plug in your vehicle at work, then up to 20 miles of your commute could be oil free.

I find it rather comical that GM would talk about a plug-in Saturn Vue for 2011 when it is uncertain that they will make it to February. What is not comical is that it is nearly 2009 and there are NO production EV or PHEV vehicles for consumers. None are scheduled to appear from the major automakers next year either.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

China's automotive crisis

Apparently, US automakers are not alone in their dire straits.

From China Daily:

Chinese automakers are facing their toughest challenge in three years as demand is falling and profitability is plunging amid rising costs. The country’s auto sales fell in August and September as a 64 percent stock-market slump and the economic slowdown curbed demand.

The government held a meeting in Beijing on Saturday of more than 10 automakers to gather industry suggestions, Chen said. “It is possible the government may announce policies" to help revive the industry, he added.

The government is also urging automakers to take advantage of a reshuffle in the global automobile industry and speed up development of vehicles using alternative energies, Chen said. China’s government will help automakers with technology and financial support to make progress in the area of electric cars, Chen added.



It seems that Chinese automakers are trying to rally around their government's assistance, pull out of their slump AND beat the competition to market with alternative energy vehicles. Notice that the quote claims the Chinese would like to take advantage of a "global" automobile industry re-shuffle, which means to me they want to win this race.

So...where is the equivalent US resolve? Why isn't the US government encouraging the Big Three likewise? Why are the Big Three only interested in free handouts and pity? Something rotten in Denmark is the only answer I can find.

Now, how quickly can China produce the goods? This could be the only question that matters, because US automakers may not make it to February '09.

My hope is that they (the Chinese) can get them for sale in the US market! I would love to buy a reasonably priced plug in hybrid electric vehicle soon. Living Oil Free Now! means that citizens actually have a choice when purchasing vehicles that do not burn gasoline.




US Lawmakers at it again!



From the Wall Street Journal online:

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging him to assist the Big Three auto makers by considering broadening the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to help the troubled (auto) industry."

Hmmm. I didn't know the Treasury Secretary had such broad powers, did you? The more I learn of Nancy Pelosi's legislative prowess (or glaring lack thereof), the less I like her. This is yet another bone-headed initiative spearheaded by Pelosi. Lest I digress further into oblivion, let's shift gears.

Where do the handout's end? Exacty how many billions of dollars is enough to assuage the greedy, insatiable executives of the Big Three US automakers? The recent 25 billion dollar "loan" is apparently not even enough to qualify as a tiny Band-aid. I have heard rumours of a 50 billion dollar package recently and now this announcement of unknown proportions gives me tremendous pause. Does NASA even get this much money?

Apparently, we are going to bail out these worthless companies, who squandered big profits when times were good and the SUV's and trucks rolled off the production line, but why can't we attach some strings to these handouts? Here are three ideas I have:

1. All upper management is relieved of duties within 30 days.
2. Fleet mpg AVERAGES must be 35 or greater.
3. Alternative fuel vehicles must be offered and each automaker must have a CNG, PHEV AND EV model for sale.

I realize that we are in some financial hard times at the moment, but I truly believe that foreign oil dependency is killing us. We must turn this ship around and stop the madness of driving around in gas guzzling vehicles while importing foreign oil.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

GM seemingly in freefall, nearly bankrupt



The big news in the auto industry this week is the shocking revelation of General Motor's severe cash crunch. They are currently burning through $2.5 billion in cash EVERY month! These numbers are hard for me to fathom and it is no wonder that the company is near the breaking point. Recently, there were rumors of a merger between GM and Chrysler, apparently so that GM could get its hands on their cash. These merger talks have been suspended.

So why do we care if GM goes belly up? I think the main reason we want GM to survive is so that they can be FORCED to manufacture alternate fuel vehicles and high mpg vehicles. Unfortunately, it looks like the government will have to bail them out if they are to avoid bankruptcy. This aggravates me no end. I wish we could insist that all the upper management employees be fired as part of a bailout. Of course, no such thing will occur.

We need oil free cars to be an oil free country. We need successful auto makers in order to purchase the oil free cars, so get your act together GM!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Drill Baby Drill!



Did you happen to see any of the Republican National Convention or any of the McCain rallies where the crowds would start chanting, "Drill Baby, Drill?" Apparently, the Republicans thought this was really cool and inspiring. They also thought this was a good way to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. The biggest problem, of course, is that oil is a non-renewable resource and drilling for more solves nothing.

In fact, drilling for more only hurts our environment in so many ways that it beggars description. Oil spills, waste, massive electrical consumption and a host of other issues are all overlooked to eke out the remainder of the earth's oil reserves. If the ocean happens to be deep where the company wants to drill, then you are looking at tons of concrete that needs to be poured and this results in even more pollution. Concrete manufacturing is responsible for 7-10% of GLOBAL CO2 emissions, so you see the dilemma.

What is it going to take for the leaders in Washington to find a spine and get some legislation enacted that will begin weaning us off oil? At this point, even if we drill, there is no way to meet our current demand domestically, so another option is needed. Options such as wind and solar and geothermal all come to mind.

At any rate, offshore drilling is not the answer even though so many people call for it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Future of Ethanol



By now I am sure that you have heard the hype surrounding Ethanol. General Motors is one of the biggest advocates of E85 (85% Ethanol and 15% gasoline) and they offer many of their models with this option. Recently, I found out that it costs GM about $150.00 to add the hardware necessary to the engine that allows it to burn E85.

That amounts to a small price to pay for big automaker to claim it is doing its part in the Green movement! Give GM credit though, at least they are trying to give us some alternative.

Currently, E85 is somewhat hard to find, even living in the Midwest. I live in Ohio and I believe there are about 65 or so stations that offer this fuel and I am desperately trying to find all the convenient ones.

E85 use is great for our farmers but basically impossible on a large scale since we need grain to feed ourselves before feeding our autos. Some of the alternatives being studied are cellulosic ethanol, which is being derived in many different ways. The goal is to find a renewable source of ethanol that will not take food from our mouths, Plants such as switch grass are proving to be promising.

I like using E85 as I know that the majority of the product comes from local sources and the monies are not heading overseas. I also like the price at the pump and today I filled up for about $1.61 per gallon.

What do you think? Is Ethanol a boondoggle, waste of time or is it a viable fuel alternative utilized in our quest to live oil free?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What does Obama's election mean?



Well, I am somewhat surprised that America sent a black, former(?) Muslim to the White House. Personally, I would have felt much more comfortable with Hilary than with Hussein as she represents the devils I know as to the complete unknown, aka Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, if he can avoid being compelled by the Federal Courts to prove his US citizenship, what do you think he will try to do for the nation? Inflammatory campaign rhetoric aside, what will be his primary agenda? The one thing I am sure he will push for is higher personal income taxes, so be prepared to bring home less. Will Obama work with Congress to ease the current financial crunch?

More importantly, will Obama try and wean us from Big Oil and insure that US citizens have an alternative to gasoline combustion engines? Alternatives that do NOT burn oil? Personally, I doubt it and I am prepared for four long years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Return of cheap gas!



It's Election Day! I hope you made it to the polls.

As I drive around the State of Ohio this week, I notice that gasoline everywhere is now less than two dollars per gallon for regular unleaded. While this is a boon for my personal finances, what does it mean for our efforts to wean off Big Oil?

Will consumers resume their consumption of gasoline and return to their gas guzzling ways? Will shoppers start looking at big trucks and SUV's for the holidays? Will gasoline prices remain at these low levels or will they shoot back up after the elections? Tell me what you think!

BTW - I filled up with e85 today for $1.65 per gallon!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Pickens Plan



One of my goals for this blog is to consider the means by which the citizens of these United States can kick their addiction to foreign oil. Well, in case you have not heard, there is a southern gentleman by the name of T. Boone Pickens who has a plan.

Pickens is a self made billionaire who made his fortune in oil, of all things, but now is on a crusade to free us from it's bondage. T. Boone has a well thought out plan and is spending a great deal of his own wealth in proving its merits and promoting it nationwide. He has aired commercials, been on talk shows and even been featured on 60 Minutes as he campaigns for his cause.

Here are some of his plan's highlights:

- 700 billion dollars a year leaves the US to pay for foreign oil.
- The US has an abundance of natural gas that could be used to power our automobiles. (only one production vehicle is available today, the Honda Civic GX).
- The middle of our nation is a "natural" wind corridor that would be perfect for windmill generated power.
- Solar power needs to be expanded in in the Southwest.

I couldn't agree more. This man is an inspiration for us all and obviously willing to put his money where his mouth is. Have a look at his website and then sign on if you agree!

http://www.pickensplan.com/

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Exxon Mobil Excess



From CNN Money:

Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500), the leading U.S. oil company, said its third-quarter net profit was $14.83 billion, or $2.86 per share, up from $9.41 billion, or $1.70, a year earlier. That profit included $1.45 billion in special items.

The company’s prior record was $11.68 billion in the second quarter of 2008.

What is your reaction to this news release? It is no mystery that this figure was a direct result of the record oil prices we have seen this past summer. Now that global economies are on the ropes, we have seen the price of oil plummet almost as drastically as it rose. Obviously, Exxon Mobil will not set a record next quarter.

What galls me is that instead of using these staggering profits to diversify their energy portfolio, Exxon Mobil will only look for new oil fields or new oil rich shale deposits. Just imagine these billions being invested in wind farms or solar farms. These energy technologies are not as immediately profitable as oil, but long term could provide generous profits.

Obviously, Big Oil is uninterested in alternative energies and focused solely on massive profits.