NYTimes weekend round-up

I don't often read the full NYTimes, but I happened to this Sunday, and since I haven't posted in over a month, and it's almost the end of June, and my blogging progress seems eerily paused at 666 posts and 7,777 hits, I figured I'd throw out a few links with brief commentary:

  • Insiders Sound Alarm Amid Natural Gas Rush: an interesting article seriously examining the claim that shale gas isn't profitable and is a big bubble. There's certainly some truth to that idea that many shale gas investments aren't making very good returns at $4.30/mmbtu gas; that said, the article would have really benefitted from some actual numbers (even ranges) comparing production costs to current and potential future gas prices. Without those, it's a qualitative discussion of a problem with a largely knowable quantitative answer.

    The one thing I did find intriguing (and again, would love to see real numbers on) is the steep decline in productivity of shale gas wells over the first few years. I would assume that since the technology is not new, this performance has been built into business cases for individual wells, but you never know...

    There's also a fundamental difference between a gas "bubble" (if there is one) and the typical bubble (e.g. internet) in media parlance, which is that North American gas prices have already crashed. This article would be analogous to calling the internet a bubble in 2003, not 1999, and that limits the usefulness of the analogy.

  • Chevy Volt and Future of Electric Cars: A feel-good article from Joe Nocera after he test-drives a Chevy Volt; made me want to try one too. The “it’s like playing a video game that is constantly giving you back your score” comment particularly resonated with me. The lack of that type of feedback is a common motif across consumer energy usage (think about the current opacity of household electric power) and a thematic area for substantial change and impact.

  • Power Drain From Cable Boxes: Striking; I had no idea that "some typical home entertainment configurations eating more power than a new refrigerator and even some central air-conditioning systems." Once again, greater feedback in home energy consumption could help move the needle on consumer behavior here.

  • Ethanol Production Wastes Corn: Steve Rattner is right, but has nothing new to say

6/30 addendum: A colleague told me that Chevy loses $18,000 per Volt it sells. So we are still a ways away from the economic tipping point.

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