The 3 Week Diet System

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

At OPEC's Vienna meeting, optics will be key

Myriam Robin

The member countries of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will have a delicate balancing act when they meet in Vienna on Thursday to decide whether to extend an agreed cut in oil production that started in January to the end of the year or beyond.
There are near universal expectations that an extension will be negotiated. If it's shorter than the market is expecting, it could lead to a drop in the oil price, causing financial pain for some of OPEC's more cash-strapped nations. But if OPEC's public comments convince traders it will ensure oil stockpiles are reduced to their five-year average, it may embolden US producers to ramp up shale oil production.
The member countries of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will have to execute a delicate balancing act when they meet in Vienna on Thursday. Photo: ERIC GAY
US shale oil production is due to technological improvements becoming cheaper, but is still more expensive than the production methods of used by OPEC members and so requires high prices to be profitable.
By June, it is forecast shale US shale oil producers, who have boosted production 10 per cent since September, will add 5.4 million barrels a day to the market. This is almost three times the 1.8 million barrels a day being removed through the OPEC production cuts, and could overwhelm the impact of OPEC's supply controls if prices continue to rise.
Optics are key, Citi's analysts told clients in a May 23 note, and will be more important than fundamentals in driving the oil price over the next month, which was on Wednesday trading at $US54.18, after trading below $US48 on May 5.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid Al-Falih told Bloomberg that everyone he's spoken to believed a nine-month production cut was "a wise decision". "We think we have everybody on board", he said. Shortly afterwards, Iran's oil minister indicated his support for a nine-month cut.
Because of this, analysts at Citi expect a nine-month extension, and warn of an upset if it isn't achieved.
"The Saudis have moved expectations towards a nine-month market consensus and thus a six-month extension is likely to be punished," they wrote in a May 23 note.
Citi's analysts believe a six-month extension would be sufficient to tighten oil supplies significantly. But oil prices over the next month are likely to be driven by optics rather than market fundamentals, they wrote. "It would appear that a six-month extension would be a backtracking of sorts."
Citi, like most analysts, expects oil prices to keep their current levels, trading between $US50 to $US60 over the next year.
The big risk to the forecast is posed by US shale oil producers, who are not members of OPEC and may opportunistically add supply to the market if the oil price maintains these levels.
The question of how to keep prices high without encouraging more shale oil rigs to come into production is one that's been assessed by the analysts at Goldman Sachs, who believe the key to achieving this is for the oil market to go into 'backwardation' - a situation where spot prices are higher than futures prices.
Shale oil producers normally hedge their production, while OPEC members do not. As oil spot prices have been lower than futures prices since the end of 2014, shale oil producers have been able to sell their oil at higher prices than major OPEC producers.
Goldman believes futures prices below $US45 a barrel would be enough to halt the growth in shale oil production.
But achieving backwardation would require a coordinated three-part strategy, involving at first. deeper or more extended production cuts. This would then be followed by a commitment to raise production once inventors return to their five-year average (suggesting weaker short-term supply becoming more accommodative in the future) followed by a gradual increase in production, in line with demand to keep spot prices above futures prices.
"This seems quite a tall order," Goldman's analysts admit, "[b]ut it is important to note that this was how OPEC proceeded during the 1990s, with steady production growth, decent compliance with output quotas and a persistent backwardation outside recession."
The US government poses another risk to OPEC's attempts to erode oil stockpiles. US President Donald Trump has proposed selling more than half the country's emergency oil stockpile - which could flood the market with 270 million barrels of oil over the next decade to raise $16.6 billion.


Tycoon Optimistic of Xi-Duterte Energy Deal in South China Sea

by Cecilia Yap
2017 M05 23 17:00 GMT-5

Rodrigo Duterte with Xi Jinping in Beijing on May 15. Photographer: AFP via Getty Images

One of the most prominent tycoons in the Philippines is increasingly optimistic that President Rodrigo Duterte can strike a deal with China to share oil and gas deposits in a disputed part of the South China Sea.
“At some point a commercial deal will be made that will enable us to develop the prospect,” Roberto Ongpin, whose company Atok-Big Wedge Co. Inc. holds a minority stake in a gas field in the South China Sea, said in an interview on Thursday. “It will be astronomical.”
Since taking power last year, Duterte has sought to improve ties with China that deteriorated under predecessor Benigno Aquino. The two countries agreed to work out “mutually acceptable approaches” to the South China Sea at formal talks that began last week, an early step toward reaching a deal to exploit what may be the Philippines’s largest gas field.
Ongpin has a history with Duterte: He was forced to sell his Philippine gaming assets after the president targeted him
in a crackdown on online gaming. Still, Ongpin said he believes the Philippine leader’s approach toward the world’s secondbiggest economy is moving in right direction.
“There’s no way you can bump heads with China,” he said by phone.
Ongpin said his company now owns 20 percent of Forum Energy Ltd., which has a 70 percent stake in the Sampaguita gas field west of the Philippines’ Palawan province. The discovery is estimated to contain 11.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a third-party assessment commissioned by PXP Energy Corp. PXP owns 80 percent of Forum. 

Gas Shortage
That’s more than four times the 2.7 trillion cubic feet of reserves in Malampaya gas field, the largest in the Philippines, which currently fuels several power plants and generated hundreds of billions of pesos worth of royalties for the government. Supply from the Malampaya gas field will last only until 2024, prompting the Energy Department to consider importing liquefied natural gas to ensure stable supplies.
In dealings with President Xi Jinping, Duterte has set aside an international court ruling
last July that said China had no historic rights to the resources in waters claimed by the Philippines. The case was brought by Aquino’s administration, which had criticized a deal in the 2000s between the Philippines, China and Vietnam to cooperate on energy exploration across a large swath of disputed waters.


MARKET REPORT: Emergency home repair giant Homeserve hits a record high after revenues surge 24%

Emergency repairs ╩irm Homeserve hit an all-time high yesterday after beating
expectations with a 24 per cent surge in revenues for the year ended March 31.
The FTSE 250 ╩irm added £234.5million to its value, leading the pack in a strong day
of results for medium-sized companies.
Turnover rose to £785million from last year's £633.2million, while pro╩its rose 20 per
cent to £104.7million.
The ╩irm was given a major boost by its purchase of a 40 per cent stake in online
tradesman directory Checkatrade for £24million in December.
It made the purchase as part of an ongoing effort to offer a more complete home
repair and improvement service.

Analysts at broker Liberum praised the investment and said it will give Homeserve
access to a currently untapped market.
Investors were further enlivened by a shake-up at the company's board. Tom Rusin,
chief executive of Homeserve USA, was made executive director while former
Hastings Insurance chief executive Edward Fitzmaurice joined as a non-executive

director. Shares rose 10.8 per cent, or 75.5p, to 777.5p.


Saudi Arabia Signs $50 Billion Worth Of Oil Deals With The U.S.

By Tsvetana Paraskova - May 23, 2017, 4:00 PM CDT

U.S. companies signed billions of dollars worth of deals with Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas industry during President Donald Trump’s visit to the Kingdom over the weekend, boosting bilateral business ties while the oil market continues to follow the shale-OPEC rivalry.

The US$110 billion worth of U.S.-Saudi defense capability deals made up for much of the value
of the bilateral agreements during President Trump’s visit, but Saudi Aramco also signed an
estimated US$50 billion worth of deals with U.S. companies, many of which envisage

investments in the digitalization of Aramco’s business, o􀃗shore and onshore rig development,and oil eld services.

The flurry of U.S. deals with Aramco comes as the Saudi oil giant is preparing to launch what is expected to be the world’s biggest IPO, in which Saudi Arabia plans to sell 5 percent of its national oil company, listing it on one or more international markets.
GE signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) and agreements worth a total of US$15
billion with Saudi companies, including an MoU with Aramco for a digital transformation of
Aramco’s operations with the goal of generating US$4 billion in annual productivity
improvements. The two companies also agreed to examine the feasibility of new business
developments across the energy value chain, including enablers covering upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas businesses, including the development of Oil eld Services and Equipment (OFSE) manufacturing hubs.
National Oilwell Varco entered into an MoU with Aramco to set up a joint venture in Saudi
Arabia that would manufacture high-speci cation land rigs, rig and drilling equipment, and o􀃗ercertain aftermarket services.
Aramco also entered into a non-binding MoU with drilling services provider Rowan to develop designs of jack-up rigs planned to be produced in Saudi Arabia. The MoU is a follow-up to the November 2016 agreement under which Rowan and Aramco agreed to create a 50/50 joint venture to own, operate, and manage o􀃗shore drilling rigs in Saudi Arabia.
Then, Aramco followed up on its MoU with Nabors from last year and updated it with an
agreement to explore improving and optimizing land drilling supply logistics, services
deployment, and rig moves for the Onshore Rig Ownership & Operations JV. Nabors Industries and Aramco agreed in October 2016 to set up a JV in Saudi Arabia that would own, manage, and operate onshore drilling rigs.


Trump’s NASA Budget Cancels Most Of Obama’s Legacy, Boosts Science By $134 Million Photo of Andrew Follett ANDRE

Andrew Follet
3:54 PM 05/23/2017

President Donald Trump’s NASA budget eliminates Obama-era global warming and earth science missions, while increasing spending on the space agency’s science program by $134 million.
Trump’s NASA budget recommends Congress give the space agency $19.1 billion, or about 0.8 percent less than it received in 2017.
The budget maintains NASA spending on space exploration missions and technology development programs, but reduces funding for earth science and global warming research.
If enacted, the budget will increase spending on NASA’s science missions by $134 million dollars in 2018.

Trump administration draft budget slashes DOE and EPA funding in favour of nuclear

The latest draft of the Trump administration’s 2018 federal budget calls for cuts to clean energy and environmental-related departments, while providing a boost to nuclear power.
From the campaign trail, Trump had pledged to get rid of “burdensome regulations” and the draft budget reflects that in light of the president’s views on clean energy and climate action.
The leaked Department of Energy budget cuts aptly foreshadowed what the administration had in store for the nation’s clean energy, and science-focused departments.
The budget features an overall cut to the Department of Energy (DOE), but an 11.4% financial boost to its nuclear weapons budget. All other DOE energy programmes such as the SunShot Initiative, will get an 18% budget cut. This would reduce funding for the Department’s science and research limb – affecting pioneering clean energy research labs such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 
Source: Draft budget via The White House
Source: Draft budget via The White House
"We were disappointed to see the administration’s proposal to slash programmes that promote American-made clean energy,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), in a statement. “Clean energy research programmes have been priorities of both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses and the investments have paid off many times over.
"Renewable energy innovations in rapidly commercializing technologies ranging from inverters, to storage, to advanced infrastructure have vast promise for American industry, as solar energy becomes an increasingly large part of our nation’s energy portfolio.”


Source: Draft budget via The White House
Source: Draft budget via The White House
Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is destined for cuts under the budget proposal – actually the hardest hit department with a 31.6% decrease on its current budget – stripping it of US$2.7 billion.
The EPA is principally responsible for environmental spending and climate action initiatives – both of which have been a prime target for Trump even before he took residence in Office.
“I will also cancel all wasteful climate change spending from Obama-Clinton, including all global warming payments to the United Nations,” said Donald Trump during a pre-election stump in Michigan on 31 October last year. “These steps will save US$100 billion over eight years, and this money will be used to help rebuild the vital infrastructure, including water systems, in America’s inner cities.”
The EPA was created in fact to protect the environment and US water and air standards by enforcing regulations passed by Congress for subsequent state compliance. Its most notable work is the Clean Power Plan that was designed to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 32% on 2005 levels by 2030. The initiative has been stalled by the Supreme Court since February 2016, with Trump securing a freezing order on litigation at the start of this month.
The percentage cuts featured in the administration’s ‘March skinny budget’ remain unchanged; signalling that the administration was not dissuaded by pressures asserted from Democrats and environmental lobbyists who called for the government to protect environment and clean energy funding.
However, when the March proposal went to Congress, it did not approve the cuts. Regardless, Trump marches on with the same cuts outlined in this latest proposal. The overall budget is still subject to final approval from Congress; of which many Democratic members have already indicated a strong dissent on social media. 
The EPA cuts alone would close 50 agency programmes and eliminate 3,200 agency jobs.
If enacted, the budget would fulfil a key campaign pledge from Trump, who has voiced his disdain for the “unnecessary” environmental and renewable energy regulations implemented by the previous administration. 

Brazil's Eletrobras keeps asset sale program despite political crisis

By Luciano Costa | SAO PAULO
May 23 Brazil's state-controlled power holding company Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras SA is still seeking to sell assets to cut debt despite concern that a political crisis could spook potential buyers, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
Eletrobras CEO Wilson Ferreira was in New York meeting with investors last week when news broke about the plea bargain deal of Joesley and Wesley Batista, owners of meatpacker JBS SA , which set off a political fire storm and calls for President Michel Temer to resign.
Brazilians who have become inured to a massive, three-year corruption investigation were shocked last week by the disclosure of a recording that appeared to show Temer condoning the payment of hush money to a jailed lawmaker.
Eletrobras' meetings with investors had been going well until Thursday when they became worried about the release of the taped conversation between Joesley Batista and Temer and started asking about its consequences, Ferreira said on the sidelines of an event in Sáo Paulo.
He said the company would keep looking for buyers for the assets and not change the sale schedule.
"We may have trouble selling for the prices we were expecting," he told journalists.

Eletrobras plans to raise up to 4.6 billion reais ($1.4 billion) in asset sales to reduce debt. The company expects to raise half of it this year.
Ferreira declined to speculate whether he would stay at the company's helm should Temer resign or forced to leave. But he pointed out that Energy Minister Fernando Coelho Filho had defended Eletrobras' restructuring and new rules to attract foreign investors to the sector.
The minister's party, PSB, is supporting Temer's resignation and also wants Coelho Filho to resign and leave the government.
($1 = 3.2755 reais) (Writing by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Christian Plumb and Richard Chang)

SunPower breaks ground on US Air Force’s largest behind-the-meter solar system

US-headquartered high-efficiency PV module producer SunPower has broken ground on a 28MW solar PV system at California’s Vandenberg Air Force base.
Upon completion, the project is anticipated to be the largest behind-the-meter solar power system in the Air Force, providing a projected 54,500MWh of energy annually. 100% of the energy generated will be consumed onsite and will contribute to the entire Air Force’s goal of meeting 25% of its electricity demand with clean energy.
The Base will purchase energy generated by the plant under a 25-year PPA and will retain all environmental credits associated with the system.
"A solar project that is grid-connected to the Base enables us to meet our electric demand with renewable energy and increase our energy security," said Ken Domako, chief of Portfolio Optimization at Vandenberg Air Force Base. "We look forward to increasing the Air Force's energy independence with competitively priced, dependable solar from SunPower."  
"The Air Force has an aggressive target to meet that requires full energy assurance for key missions," agreed Dan Gerdes, Air Force civil engineer Centre rates and renewables division chief. "By diversifying our energy mix at Vandenberg to include SunPower's high efficiency solar technology, we're confident we'll have the electrons we need, when we need them, creating long-term value for our operations."
It has not been confirmed when the project is expected to be commissioned. It is expected to create around 150 jobs at the peak of construction.

How This Nearly 60-Year-Old U.S. Fighter Is Battling Chinese Jets (And Winning)

Sebastien Roblin

May 23, 2017

The Israelis pioneered the art of Phantom upgrades in the 1980s with the Phantom 2000 Kurnass, or “Sledgehammer.” Though retired from Israeli service in 2004, Israeli firms went on to upgrade Greece’s 41 Peace Icarus Phantoms, equipping them with ANPG-65 pulse-Doppler radars and the ability to fire AMRAAM missiles.
Israeli upgrades contributed to the Turkish air force’s Terminator 2020, which has additional wing strakes for improved maneuverability.
The 2020s have had 20 kilometers of wiring replaced for a net loss of 1,600 pounds in weight. The Turkish versions also feature a diverse array of modern sensors and electronics. Like other modern F-4s, they can deploy advanced ordnance such as Paveway bombs, HARM anti-radar missiles and 3,000-pound Popeye missiles with a range of 48 miles.
The Terminators are primarily ground-attack planes … with some notoriety. They’ve bombed Kurdish PKK fighters in Turkey and Iraq in 2015 and 2016. An RF-4 reconnaissance plane was shot down over Syria in 2012, and three F-4s crashed in 2015 — earning them the appellation “Flying Coffins” in the Turkish media.
The Iranian air force in 2009 claimed to operate 76 F-4Ds and Es, and six RF-4s. Tehran has reportedly modified the planes to fire Russian or Chinese air-to-ground and anti-shipping missiles. They still rely on AIM-7 Sparrows acquired second hand.
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a legendary aircraft — an icon of the Vietnam War and the archetype of the third-generation jet fighter designs that entered service in the 1960s. More than 5,000 of these heavy supersonic fighters were built, and hundreds continue to serve and even see combat in several air forces today.
But the Phantom’s record in air-to-air combat over Vietnam — especially when compared to its successor, the F-15 Eagle, which has never been shot down in air-to-air combat — has left it with a reputation of being a clumsy bruiser reliant on brute engine power and obsolete weapons technology.
This is unfair.
The Phantom’s fundamental flaws were corrected by 1970 — while more recently, Phantoms have had their avionics and ordnance upgraded to modern standards. These modernized Phantoms flown by the Turkish and Greek air forces can do pretty much what an F-15 can do … at a much lower price.
Baptism of Fire:
When the F-4 came out it in 1958 it was a revolutionary design — one that went on to set several aviation records.
Weighing in at 30,000 pounds unloaded, its enormous J79 twin engines gave (and still gives) the aircraft excellent thrust, propelling the heavy airframe over twice the speed of sound at a maximum speed of 1,473 miles per hour.
The early Phantoms could carry 18,000 pounds of munitions — three times what the huge B-17 bombers of World War II typically carried. The weapons officer in the rear-seat could operate the plane’s advanced radar, communication and weapons systems while the pilot focused on flying.
Furthermore, the F-4 came in both ground- and carrier-based models and served in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines. The only other frontline fighter to serve in all three services before or since is the F-35.
(RecommendedHow to Replace the F-35
But when the F-4 confronted the lighter-weight MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters of the North Vietnamese air force in 1965, the Phantom suffered.
In the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force had shot down between six and 10 enemy fighters for every one of its aircraft lost in air-to-air combat. In Vietnam, the ratio was closer to two to one (including other aircraft types besides the Phantom).
The F-4’s primary problem was that it had no built-in cannon. Instead, it relied entirely on newly-introduced air-to-air missiles — the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow, the heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinder and the older AIM-4 Falcon.
The Air Force didn’t realize those early missiles were terrible.
Studies showed that 45 percent of Vietnam-era AIM-7s and 37 percent of AIM-9s failed to either launch or lock on, and after evasive maneuvers, the probability of achieving a kill fell to eight percent and 15 percent for the two types, respectively. The Falcon missiles were even worse, and the Pentagon later withdrew them from service.
The North Vietnamese MiGs, equipped with both cannons and missiles (on the MiG-21), would outmaneuver the heavier F-4, which for all its speed, was not especially agile. Worse, American pilots weren’t trained for close range dogfights, as the Air Force assumed air-to-air engagements would occur at long range with missiles.
Furthermore, the Phantom’s J79 engines produced thick black smoke, which combined with the aircraft’s larger size, made it easier to spot and target from a distance. On the other hand, the rules-of-engagement over Vietnam prohibited U.S. pilots from shooting at unidentified targets beyond visual range, further crippling the advantages of the missiles.
However, the F-4’s problems began to recede. Air-to-air missile technology dramatically improved with later versions of the Sparrow and Sidewinder. The F-4E model finally came with an internal M161 Vulcan cannon.
Before, some Phantom units made do with external gun pods that vibrated excessively.
In 1972, an F-4 piloted by Maj. Phil Handley shot down a MiG-19 with his plane’s gun — the only recorded aerial gun kill performed at supersonic speed.
Eventually, the Air Force upgraded all of its F-4Es with wing-slats that significantly improved maneuverability at a slight cost in speed. New J79 engines even dealt with the problem of the F-4’s visible black smoke.

Tesla Prepares New Model 3 Graphic To Help Sell Model S

May 23rd, 2017 by  
Tesla has prepared a graphic that gives its sales staff a list of talking points they can use when discussing the purchase of a new Tesla with prospective customers. The graphic, first revealed by Tesla Motors Club forum founder Trevor Page and intended for internal use only, definitely seems designed to make the Model S appear more appealing than the Model 3. One flaw in the chart is that it compares the upcoming midsize car in its most basic trim to a fully optioned Model S. That’s a little like putting a BMW 3 Series next to a 7 Series and saying, “See? The bigger car is much better, don’t you agree?”

Tesla Model 3 chart
The graphic confirms some information about the Model 3 that was previously a matter of speculation. For instance, the car will be 184.8 inches long. That’s a little less than a foot shorter than the Model S. The Model 3 has seating for 5. The Model S can seat 7 with the optional rear facing seats. Carrying capacity is a big surprise. The Model S has 30 cubic feet of room when the area behind the seats and in the front luggage compartment are added together. The Model 3 has less than half that amount. Its cargo capacity is listed in the graphic as 14 cubic feet.
From a performance perspective, the base Model 3 is within a whisker of the Model S 85 — 0 to 60 in 5.6 versus 5.4 seconds. Model 3 owners will have to open the trunk manually. No power opening apparatus for them. The biggest news is the company says there will be less than 100 possible Model 3 configurations available to buyers, at least initially. That compares to more than 1,500 possible configurations for the Model S when you calculate all the permutations of paint color, headliners, wheels, tires, roof choices, suspension system, and a myriad of other details available.
Tesla is serious about limiting the production complexity of the Model 3, at least to begin with. The first cars off the line will all have only one battery choice and all will be rear wheel drive. Paint color and interior trim options are few. The company says dual motor cars will not get built until some time in 2018. There will probably be different battery options at some point and choices about Autopilot and autonomous driving configurations. But for now, Tesla is going with the “Keep it simple, stupid” model made famous by Henry Ford, who told Model T buyers they could have their car in any color they wanted so long as it was black.
The upsell guide has created some consternation among TMC forum users, who are annoyed that Tesla is pushing so hard to lower expectations about the Model 3. Many have pointed out the cargo capacity — less than a BMW 3 Series or a Honda Civic — is a disappointment. Others find it rude to suggest that people who ponied up $1,000 to reserve a Model 3 more than a year ago are being made to feel that they will be getting an inferior product.
The likely answer is that more exterior color choices and interior trim levels will be offered eventually, along with battery upgrades, software upgrades, wheel and tire choices, and more. Tesla is focused first and foremost on getting the Model 3 into production on time, calibrating the production line, and ramping up production than it is on offering a blizzard of options.
Yesterday, Elon Musk called himself an idiot for letting the Model X launch turn into a fiasco. Elon may have been an idiot once but he has no intention of being an idiot twice. Tesla’s plan for moving forward with the Model 3 makes perfect sense. There will be plenty of time to improve on the options list once production is well underway and the cars start to add a touch of profitability to Tesla’s bottom line.
For now, Elon and company think customers will be quite happy to have just one touch screen and open their own trunk lid if it means they can own a Tesla for one third to one half the price of a Model S. Watch the TMC video below for more.


Gas vs. Electricity: The True Cost Of Home Heating In B.C.

What's the real cost of heating your home with natural gas or electricity? In British Columbia, there has been much public discussion lately on the relative affordability of these two energy sources. We ran the numbers for a fairly efficient home in the Lower Mainland, and found that gas heating and electric heating can come with similar costs.
It's not always easy to separate the energy used to heat your home from that used to power lights and appliances, heat water, and charge electronics. For example, there are two different electricity rates (or tiers) charged by your utility. After consuming a certain amount of energy each month, you start being charged at a higher rate. Both B.C. Hydro and FortisBC also charge a fixed amount on each bill, in addition to charging for the energy you consume. You can see how it might be difficult to understand the costs and benefits of different heating options.
For the purpose of illustration, let's assume that all the energy used to heat your home is charged at the higher tier. Due to recent increases in the cost of hydro, combined with the continued low cost of natural gas, the cost of electricity at this rate is about four times that of gas (per unit of energy delivered). From this, you might conclude that electric heating must be more expensive, but this is not necessarily the case due to a very important piece of technology: the electric air-source heat pump.
A heat pump costs a little more than a gas furnace (around $8,000 vs. $5,000, after rebates), but it is vastly more energy-efficient. In fact, while a gas furnace is always less than 100% efficient (newer models are usually 92-95%), a heat pump can achieve efficiencies of 300-400% (i.e. 1 unit of energy in = 3-4 units of heating out). This is the key to affordable heating with electricity. Most heat pumps also offer the extra advantage of providing cooling during the summer.
So why the controversy?
Comparisons of natural gas and electric heating often only consider baseboard heaters, which are very inexpensive to install but use more electricity than heat pumps (and therefore can be expensive to run).
Determining when a heat pump costs less to run than a gas furnace depends on a lot of factors. The size of your home makes a difference, as does how well insulated and sealed it is. If you live in a large, old home, it might still be more expensive to use a heat pump. However, if your house is smaller, or has had its insulation or windows upgraded, the economics start to come out in favour of a heat pump. Therefore, making sure all British Columbians have access to low-cost energy-efficiency upgrades needs to be a priority.
For most homes, the costs are comparable and both a gas furnace and heat pump are far cheaper than using baseboard heaters. However, if you live in an extremely efficient home or apartment (such as a Passive House), your demand for heat can be so low that baseboard heaters become the most affordable choice, because they are so cheap to install.
Until rebate programs for heat pumps improve, it will still take a number of years for the energy savings of a heat pump to pay for the added installation cost, but that is only true as long as natural gas prices remain low. The commodity price of gas is set by global markets and unexpected increases are largely out of British Columbians' control. The federal government's plans for an increasing carbon pollution price will also increase the relative cost of gas heating.
Why does this matter?
Heating your home with electricity instead of natural gas reduces carbon and other air pollution. While gas is cleaner burning than heating oil, it is far more polluting (around 17 times more) than our electricity, which comes mostly from hydro. Using electricity instead of gas in our homes and buildings is one of the cheapest ways to reduce pollution. It's also a more sustainable option for the future, because governments at all levels in Canada have committed to reducing the amount of fossil fuels used in buildings by 2030.
The take-away? Electric heat pumps offer safe, reliable heating and reduce pollution -- and these benefits don't have to come at the cost of higher utility bills.

OPEC’s Iraq Problem

OPEC’s Iraq Problem

OPEC is nearing the end of a six-month agreement to cut its collective production (along with 11 other non-member petrostates) to try and cut away at the global glut of crude and kick off a price rebound, but not all of its members are adhering to the plan. The UAE and Venezuela both missed their cut targets, but as Bloomberg reports, Iraq was the worst offender:
Iraq pumped about 80,000 more barrels of oil a day than permitted by Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries curbs during the first quarter. If that deal gets extended to 2018, the nation will have even less incentive to comply because capacity at key southern fields is expanding and three years of fighting Islamic state has left it drowning in debt. […]
“I doubt Iraq will cut any more in the second half than it has already,” said Robin Mills, the Dubai-based chief executive officer of consultant Qamar Energy. It may instead produce more as it completes maintenance at several fields, new ones start production and seasonal domestic consumption rises, he said. There are some signs this has already started.
80,000 barrels per day isn’t much in the grand scheme of things (the petrostate cut plan reduced supply by roughly 1.2 million barrels per day), but it could get worse in the coming months as Iraq’s capacity increases. But this isn’t just a substantive problem—to the extent that it sends a signal to other petrostates that it’s alright to break ranks, it’s a symbolic one as well:
A risk, though, emerges if Iraqi compliance worsens to such an extent that other countries in the 13-member group start cutting corners too, exacerbating a global surplus that’s already erased much of the gains that unfolded after the deal was struck in November.
The Saudis are the only player capable of offsetting this non-compliance by increasing their own cuts, but Riyadh already has its hands full leading this clash between conventional state-run oil producers and upstart, non-conventional suppliers (read: U.S. shale firms). The last thing the Saudis need right now is a scab, but that’s the role Iraq seems intent on playing in this high-stakes drama, and it seems likely things will get worse if and when OPEC & co. agree to extend cuts through March on Wednesday.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Top SpaceX employee throws shade at just about all of his competitors

The price that government programs “charge for their rockets is just ridiculous.”

Enlarge / On March 31 SpaceX made the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket.

About 10 days ago, a founding employee of SpaceX, Tom Mueller, made a Skype call to a group of "fans" of the company with the New York University Astronomy Society. The call was recorded and posted to It garnered little attention until Saturday, when a user on the SpaceX subreddit called attention to it.
Although the provenance of the 54-minute call is not entirely clear, there is no question it is Mueller speaking, and he is doing so in a rare, unfiltered way. The 15-year employee of SpaceX, who is now the company's Propulsion Chief Technology Officer, says things that many of SpaceX's employees probably feel, but which are nonetheless impolitic. In other words, Mueller throws shade at just about everyone. For example, of the company's most immediate rival, United Launch Alliance, Mueller has this to say: "The cost that the government cost-plus programs charge for their rockets is just ridiculous."
During an approximately 30-minute monologue, which was followed by a Q&A, Mueller expands on what it was like to work at a start-up rocket company when the field was populated primarily by large aerospace companies and government entities, and to eventually come out on top. "We really changed the industry," he says. "The other guys are really scrambling. It's pretty funny to watch." The call originates about a month after SpaceX's historic flight of a reused rocket.
Now, Mueller says, SpaceX is having the last laugh. "We were ridiculed by the other big companies in the launch-vehicle business," he says. "At first they ignored us, and then they fought us, and then they found out they really couldn't win in a fair fight because we were successful and were factors of two, three, or even five lower cost than what they could do. So then it becomes an unfair fight where they try to destroy you politically or use other means. And then, at some point, they figure out that they’ve got to do what you’re doing."

Russian efforts “entertaining”

The SpaceX engineer then proceeds to list the ways in which his competitors—except for Blue Origin, which he also credits for working on a fully reusable rocket—are unlikely to catch up.
"There's a lot of talk from these other companies about how they're going to make reusable [rockets]—recover the engines, recover the stages, come up with a much lower-cost rocket so they can compete. There's no way that ULA [United Launch Alliance] would have considered buying engines from Blue Origin except for the pressure that SpaceX put on them. There's no way that the French would have quickly abandoned the Ariane 5 and moved to the Ariane 6 design except for the pressure we’re putting on them... The Russians are now saying that they're going to come up with a rocket that can beat SpaceX, which is entertaining because they've been working on their Angara for 22 years and have launched it once. Suddenly they're going to come up with a low-cost one."
During his remarks, Mueller largely spares NASA from criticism, although he suggests the agency should be doing much more to explore Mars with robotic spacecraft and to accelerate the search for life. He does make one critical comment about a rocket that costs a billion dollars, however, presumably a reference to NASA's Space Launch System, which will cost more than a billion dollars to fly and will not be reused. “If your rocket costs a billion dollars, even if you use it 100 times, it’s still going to be very expensive to use. So we set out to build low-cost rockets from the very beginning."
This call is reminiscent of remarks made a little more than a year ago by a senior-level employee of SpaceX's competitor, United Launch Alliance. During candid remarks at a University of Colorado-Boulder seminar, which Brett Tobey did not know were being recorded, the vice president of engineering said United Launch Alliance could not compete with SpaceX on price. He was terminated almost immediately by the company.
In his visit with the astronomy club, Mueller talks about more than rockets. He says he admires SpaceX founder Elon Musk, but finds him "trippy" to work for. He also said that the boss' mood can swing wildly from day to day depending upon the success of SpaceX and his car company, Tesla. Mueller echoes his boss in regard to concerns (or relative lack thereof) about planetary protection, the effort by NASA to preserve other planets and moons in the Solar System from Earth-based microbes. "NASA has protocols for that which we're following—initially," Mueller said.