Tuesday, June 3, 2008


We just received our contract price for fuel oil for next heating season and the price was $4.90/gallon. Our contract price for the 2007-2008 heating was $2.79/gallon. We used around 1,000 gallons to heat our home. We are not going to pay it! We have purchased a wood pellet furnace and bought 5 tons of pellets which should cover the majority of the heating season. Our pellet furnace, which is listed as carbon free, will be paid for in savings in one season! The pellets, at current prices, will save us some $3700/year. Assuming costs will rise proportionately, the pellets will always save us thousands of heating dollars every year while at the same time adding basically 0 carbon to the atmosphere.

Consumers are going to have to change their spending habits. Since the pellets are produced in Maine, it makes sense to alter our spending and use what makes sense for our region. This same approach would be wise to follow elsewhere. We have become so accustomed to mega-solutions that we have ignored a more rational regional approach to meeting our energy needs. While solar is certainly viable just about anywhere, at least as back-up power, it would seem to make sense to use it as a primary power source in sunnier regions. Wind turbine generators may be more viable in certain regions as would hydro in others.

It is no longer a question of being weaned off of oil imports. That option has passed. We have been hit upside the head by the oil rig 2x4 and the consumers must respond accordingly. While we can hope that a new administration will help our transition to more viable and environmentally friendly power supplies, don’t hold your breath. It could take years before the politicians, regardless of who is elected November, to make any kind of transitional financial support available. The power of oil is too entrenched to think that all will be right when we have a new president. Time is not on our side. If we wait for Washington to act, we will have lost the planet to the cockroaches. Smart money says bite the bullet and find alternative energy sources now. Buy high fuel efficient cars now-unfortunately they will probably have to be foreign since Detroit is still in its own dream world. And, while auto-makers are cutting back on making the big gas eaters, along with job losses, they do not get high marks for coming out with an affordable line of fuel efficient cars. Some of their hybrids to not get as good fuel economy as regular foreign imports and as usual; they will lag behind in innovation. Not sure what will come of it but the BBC had a report of a British auto-maker producing a gas vehicle that gets 80mpg. Apparently this is done by drastically reducing weight by using carbon fibers for the body work. Perhaps this is what we can do with all of the excess carbon, make cars with it.

On another front, the soaring cost of food has at least partly been attributed to the rise in the use of bio-fuels. “The food price index of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) rose by a steep but manageable 8% in 2006, but then much more sharply - by 24% - in 2007, and 53% in the first three months of this year alone - an unprecedented rise.” If you have shopped recently it is clear that prices are going up and as you know, once they are up, they tend not to come down too far. With gasoline basically at $4.00/gallon and a forecast of $5.00/gallon by September, it is clear that the consumer must act now to head off their own demise.

According to Michigan Business (5/31/08) “The steepest run-ups in food prices since 1990 are hurting grocery shoppers, restaurants and school cafeterias, but they're making others rich.
The winners in the new food economy include crop farmers selling corn and wheat for near-record highs after years of crushingly low prices. Ingredient makers like Cargill and ADM are rife with profits. Fertilizer and tractor companies are cashing in. Hedge funds who made big bets on rising wheat, soy and corn were spectacularly correct. Oil and gas companies, too - it takes natural gas to cook those Wheaties and diesel to haul them around the country.” Rising food and fuel prices are here to stay and there may even be spells of shortages. The American consumer will feel the bite, but they do not have to take the pain. Prudent and wise spending decisions now can soften the economic blow that lurks very large around the corner. Australian wheat is suffering under drought conditions and who knows what calamities are in store this summer.

Remember, you cannot rely on government to deal with these issues effectively. Just look at Louisiana and the toxic homes FEMA gave to those poor residents as housing. The recent NPR report about formaldehyde poisoning in the FEMA trailers should be a heads up regarding reliance on government. In my book, RAPING LOUISIANA: A DIARY OF DECEIT, government incompetence in dealing with disaster is well documented. Between energy and food issues, it would be wise to plan on how you will get through a not so short term period of economic contraction and transformation. With the power of the purse, the consumer can drive the changes in a way that makes sense. Time to wake up, read the signs of the times and take control of your life.

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