Oil and the needle done

October 15, 2012

One wonders at the cost, and the why: Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner broke the speed of sound — at one point hitting Mach 1.24, according to a team official — during his record-setting jump from 128,000 feet Sunday over southeastern New Mexico.

This the wonder: Gas prices remain 40 cents above year ago prices and 30 cents below the record high ($4.11/July 2008).  Skewing the national average has been an historic spike in prices in California, where the state average has increased a record 50 cents in the last week to an all-time high of $4.67 per gallon.
Yesterday morning, I visited my local Union 76 and put another $20 worth of gas in the old Jeep at $4.79 a gallon for regular, a big 40-cent jump in just less than a month — the Jeep’s been developing some kind of starting problem, don’t know if it’s the starter, or ignition, or what, and it goes in the shop this Tuesday, hence recently I’ve logged way less miles than normal.
Of course, the price explosion started in south California,  vibrated northward in a matter of hours last week, and along the coast, fuel is hauled up here by barge, not truck, which is less cost prohibitive just a couple hours south.

(Illustration found here).

And I’d been putting off, and putting off, going to the pump — the poor-old Jeep’s gas-gauge needle almost at the red line, running on near-empty — until a trip to the beach required me to swing by the gas station.
I knew what to expect, wasn’t a shock or nothing.
But still — if I had to do some serious driving, it’d take a fortune.

And the view of crude oil prices and the pump numbers sometimes don’t make real sense.
From the Wall Street Journal Sunday afternoon:

Surging U.S. oil production is driving down domestic benchmark crude prices and delivering a windfall to some refiners and their investors.
But the oil boom is providing little relief for consumers at the pump.
U.S. crude production is expected to rise 12 percent this year and 8 percent in 2013, when it will hit the highest level since 1993, according to government figures.
The price of West Texas crude, the U.S. benchmark, has fallen 7 percent this year, held down by rising supplies from new drilling methods.
Yet gasoline prices currently average nearly $4 per gallon nationwide.
Rising U.S. crude production may seem like an attractive antidote, but it is proving ineffective on its own at a time when the world’s appetite for energy remains voracious and Middle East tension is a reminder that supplies could be disrupted.

Benchmark U.S. crude is based on prices at the Cushing, Okla., storage hub, and is known as West Texas Intermediate, or WTI.
That price is now nearly $23 cheaper than Brent crude, the European benchmark.
The gap has more than doubled from $8.55 at year-end, surprising many analysts and investors who expected it to be narrower.
Before 2011, the gap was typically within a dollar or two.
WTI settled Friday at $91.86 per barrel.
Brent has headed in the other direction, rising 7 percent this year amid concerns about tight supplies abroad and Middle East tension.
Brent settled at $114.62 on Friday.

And the pinch spreads into a fist-sized grab as Americans are now spending more than 8 percent of their household incomes at the freakin’ gas pump, up slightly from last year and are shunning clothing, electronics and general merchandise shit: “Consumers were not willing to spend much at the mall since they are feeling the pump price pinch,” said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

Along with the crude, US consumers are mostly still running around in the big banging gas hogs.
Gail Tverberg at Our Finite World:

With vehicles, we are dealing with a mixture of vehicles of all ages.
The average age of automobiles is now estimated to be 10.8 years.
The average age of trucks is no doubt greater.
This data is only through 2010.
While it shows some improvement in efficiency of light duty short wheelbase vehicles, it shows little improvement in efficiency overall.
The big increases in efficiency were in the period between 1973 and 1991.
The mix of cars by type is concerning.
The percentage of automobiles has been dropping, as the number of SUV and trucks has been rising.
The change between 2008 and 2010 reflects the fact that the number of “automobile” registrations dropped by 4.5 percent in that time-period, while the number of other (larger) vehicles rose slightly.
Thus, the long-term trend to relatively more of the larger vehicles continued.
Obviously, this data doesn’t show carpooling and other adaptations, but it is difficult to see any recent big trend toward efficiency.

One of the great dumb-ass horrors of the modern age is the clawing for more oil, which in turn is killing humanity — a vicious cycle which could easily be branded as a type of off-kilter suicide — there’s been an 11 percent increase in US oil production the last two years; 41 percent of oil was imported this year; a 75 percent increase in domestic oil rigs between 2009 and 2011; and on and on (via Climate Progress).
Just plain f*cking’ crazy.

Oil is humanity’s heroin — an addiction if not checked will eventually kill everybody.

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