Pump Dump

September 3, 2011

After my weekly visit to the laundromat this morning, I put another $20 worth of gas in my old Jeep, this time the price per gallon was back to near-about standard: $4.09 — a dime more than last time, and back to a price where it had seemed to stick for weeks.
Just part of a general upswing , but yet usual for this time of year, the last big get-away for one long, ugly summer.

Who cares if it’s a holiday: Gas prices don’t usually spike over the Labor Day weekend, but this year could become the exception. The average price for a tank of gasoline is already 80 cents higher than it was a year ago. At $3.62 for a gallon of regular, that’s close to the all-time record for this time of year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
And Tropical Storm Lee in the Gulf of Mexico ain’t helping.

(Illustration found here).

As of Saturday afternoon, Lee was about 60 miles west-southwest of Louisiana, carrying max winds of 60-65 miles-per-hour, but was just barely moving at only 4 mph — slowness, also an unsettling characteristic of Irene.
Lee has also caused the evacuation of oil workers, which revealed an interesting footnote: Thirty-eight percent of the total 617 manned platforms and 33 percent of the 70 drilling rigs operating in the Gulf were evacuated, which caused about 60 percent of current oil production in the Gulf and almost 55 percent of natural gas production to be shut down.
Seems the system can’t take much.

This factoid via Reuters: The Mississippi River corridor around New Orleans is home to numerous oil refineries (14 total, pushing out 1,744 bpd). As a whole, the Gulf Coast accounts for more than 40 percent of U.S. fuel production. Offshore, the Gulf accounts for 27 percent of U.S. domestic oil production and 8 percent of domestic natural gas output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Early Saturday evening, the refineries were still operating, though, posed in a so-called ‘Monitoring‘ stage.
And then there’s Tropical Depression Katia, still in the Atlantic, east of Puerto Rico, and could either take a turn for the much-warmer Gulf waters, or pull an Irene, and continue up the eastern US seaboard.
Dr. Jeff Masters at WunderBlog has a good, semi-detail-ish look at Katia here — Masters does say, however, that despite the pitfalls of long-range weather forecasting, folks between North Carolina and New England need to keep an alert eye on the storm as by Tuesday it should be producing  high surf all along the eastern coast.

And even as gas-pump prices start upward again, oil has declined — once again, I ask, WTF?
According to liveoilprices: ICE Brent crude oil futures for October 2011 delivery ended the week’s trading session at $112.65 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange, $1.58 higher than last weeks closing price of $111.07 a barrel.
And WTI: US Light crude oil futures for October 2011 delivery ended the week’s trading session at $86.72 a barrel on the NYMEX, however after six straight trading day gains, US oil futures closed $1.35 higher than last weeks Friday close of $85.37 a barrel.
Despite them gains, Friday’s drop was the biggest since Aug. 18.

All this jumping up and down in trading of crude, and the slight dip, but obvious overall rising gas prices at the pump, has apparently effected/affected US drivers on actually getting behind the wheel.
From the Detroit News:

Faced with high gas prices, Americans drove 15.5 billion fewer miles in the first half of the year — as roadway use fell to its lowest level since 2004.
The Federal Highway Administration said in a new report that U.S. drivers logged 1.453 trillion miles through June 30 — down 1.1 percent over the first half of 2010.
The last time Americans drove less in the first of the year was 2004, when they logged 1.451 trillion miles, the government said.

There’s still a shit load of cars still moving around out there, however.
Now a billion vehicles circumventing the highways and byways of the globe.
From Tom Whipple at Falls Church News-Press:

Last month Wards Auto published a story pointing out that the world’s motor vehicle count was now over 1 billion.
As could be expected, registered vehicles in China grew by 27.5 percent to 78 million last year.
Don’t worry; the U.S. is still well ahead in the who-has-the-most-cars race with 240 million registered vehicles, but I am afraid that the Japanese have fallen into second place.
The thought occurred, that if we squeezed a bit, all seven billion of us currently inhabiting the earth with a little organization might be able to climb aboard a car, truck or bus and go for a simultaneous ride — just before the fossil fuel age comes to an end.
I was curious as to whether Wards could draw any profound conclusions from this milestone, but other than mentioning that it took 24 years to go from 500 million to a billion vehicles and that the global vehicle fleet grew by 35 million last year, there was little of note.
Those 35 million new gas tanks that hit the road last year should give peak oil doubters some insight into why it will become increasingly difficult to keep up with new demand for oil.

Right now that’s a motor vehicle for every 1.3 US person and at least one for every licensed driver — just you never mind the bad weather.

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