Thursday, May 5, 2016

US New Vehicle Sales: Average MPG "Deteriorating" Due To Falling Gasoline Prices -- University Of Michigan -- May 5, 2016

A great chart and I would be the first to "champion" it, but really, is the difference even statistically significant?

It was not until October, 2014, when Saudi Arabia said it was going to "open the spigots." The MPG had actually dropped prior to that. One can argue the fine points.

But the best MPG appeared to be around 25.8 mpg. Now, more than a year later with significantly lower gasoline prices, MPG for US vehicles averages ... drum roll ... 25.2 mpg.

For the full-year periods (October, 2013, to September, 2014; October, 2014, to October,2015), the MPG remained exactly stable: 25.3 mpg. October, 2013: high gasoline prices. October, 2015: low gasoline prices). 

I'm not sure I would call a drop from 25.8 to 25.2 "deteriorating.

If one goes back to 2010 when the Bakken was hitting its stride, the MPG has increased from about 22.0 mph to 25.2 MPG. That seems significant. 

Reason #48 Why I Love To Blog -- May 5, 2016

Back on May Day, I wrote:
Back in 1972, I spent a summer in Alaska -- Barrow, Alaska, to be precise -- at a laboratory there, studying the efficiency of Arctic grasses in utilizing CO2. It was understood that Arctic grasses were more efficient at utilizing CO2 than grasses (e.g., corn) in South Dakota.

The lead researcher felt that if one could transfer that efficiency to corn grown in Iowa, the average cornstalk would be one foot higher and produce six ears of corn instead of the average three for the same amount of soil, nitrogen, and water.
A reader sent me a table that showed just how much better wheat would do in a CO2-enriched environment. If one googles "wheat increased atmospheric CO2" one finds a gazillion articles on the subject. This is typical (for easier reading, I left out all the references; they can be found at the link):
Nearly all crops respond to increases in the air's CO2 content by displaying enhanced rates of photosynthesis and biomass production. Does the same hold true of Triticum aestivum, better known to most of us as wheat? Let's see what some of the atmospheric CO2 enrichment studies of the last few years have revealed about the subject.

In a FACE study conducted in Arizona, USA, wheat plants grown at 570 ppm CO2 exhibited enhanced rates of photosynthesis that led to approximately 8 and 16% more seasonal carbon uptake under low and high soil nitrogen conditions, respectively. Similarly, twice-ambient atmospheric CO2 concentrations stimulated rates of photosynthesis by 20 to 50%, depending upon the prevailing irradiance and temperature.

Because elevated CO2 stimulates rates of photosynthesis in wheat, it should also increase biomass and grain yield. And it does. In the Arizona FACE study, for example, the extra 200 ppm of CO2 increased grain yields by 17 and 14% in water-stressed and well-watered plants, respectively.
[Others] however, reported even larger CO2-induced yield stimulations in their open-top chamber experiment in response to a 300-ppm increase in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration: 54% vs. 40% for water-stressed and well-watered plants, respectively. Likewise, [another researcher] reported that a 550-ppm increase in the air's CO2 concentration increased the plant dry weight of wheat by 50 to 90%. In addition, twice-ambient CO2 concentrations have been shown to increase the grain yield of wheat by 13% and by 10-20%.
Moreover, various crop growth models applied to different climate change scenarios have predicted significant CO2-induced wheat yield increases in Bulgaria and Australia.
A doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration even increased the grain yield of wheat plants infected with a rust-causing fungus by 28 and 42% under conditions of ambient and elevated ozone concentrations.

On another note, [another researcher] reported that wheat plants grown at 550 ppm CO2 in the Arizona FACE experiment maintained more positive (less stressful) leaf water potentials than plants grown in air containing 370 ppm CO2.
Using this same experimental setup, Hunsaker et al. (2000) further noted that the water-use efficiency of CO2-enriched plants was 10 and 20% greater than that displayed by their ambiently-grown counterparts under low and high soil nitrogen regimes, respectively. In addition, [it was] reported that the CO2-induced increase in the water-use efficiency of wheat in their open-top chamber experiment was as high as 77%.

In summary, as the air's CO2 content continues to rise, wheat plants should display increasingly greater rates of photosynthesis and biomass production, which should lead to ever greater grain yields in this important cereal crop, even under conditions of low soil moisture or poor soil fertility.

Why I Love To Blog: Reason #28 -- May 5, 2016; Almost Impossible To Believe

Back on April 28, 2016, just a few days ago, I posted ten reasons why the nation should be "thankful" for North Dakota. I suggested alternatives for two of the ten reasons. For reason # 8, "a dent in the national unemployment" which is "dynamic," I suggested the longer-lasting "Bank of North Dakota as an example of how banking at state level can be done."

Now, today, of all things, a reader sends me a link Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Despite North Dakota’s collapsing oil market, its state-owned bank continues to report record profits. This article looks at what California, with fifty times North Dakota’s population, could do following that state’s lead.

In November 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Bank of North Dakota (BND), the nation’s only state-owned depository bank, was more profitable even than J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
The author attributed this remarkable performance to the state’s oil boom; but the boom has now become an oil bust, yet the BND’s profits continue to climb. Its 2015 Annual Report, published on April 20th, boasted its most profitable year ever.

The BND has had record profits for the last 12 years, each year outperforming the last. In 2015 it reported $130.7 million in earnings, total assets of $7.4 billion, capital of $749 million, and a return on investment of a whopping 18.1 percent. Its lending portfolio grew by $486 million, a 12.7 percent increase, with growth in all four of its areas of concentration: agriculture, business, residential, and student loans.

By increasing its lending into a collapsing economy, the BND has helped prop the economy up. In 2015, it introduced new infrastructure programs to improve access to medical facilities, remodel or construct new schools, and build new road and water infrastructure. The Farm Financial Stability Loan was introduced to assist farmers affected by low commodity prices or below-average crop production. The BND also helped fund 300 new businesses.

Those numbers are particularly impressive considering that North Dakota has a population of only about 750,000, just half the size of Phoenix or Philadelphia. Compare that to California, the largest state by population, which has more than fifty times as many people as North Dakota.
And the article goes on. A must-read. A huge "thank you" to the reader who sent me this. I most definitely would have missed it. 

Pessimistic Lynn Helms -- The Red Queen Has Arrived -- May 5, 2016

The Dickinson Press is reporting:
  • North Dakota crude oil production will take "huge" drop in next report (March, 2016, data)
  • unlikely for North Dakota to ever (?) hit 2 million bopd because core Bakken being depleted now
I did not see the flip side of optimism: the slowdown now will extend the Bakken phenomenon well past 2100, and the North Dakota oil and gas industry will be subject to much less volatility, going forward.

The Dickinson Press is also reporting that oil services may start getting back to business, completing the DUCs as oil prices continue to rise.

Posing A Problem

I had a heck of a time getting this video. Sophia understands "posing" for photographs and saying "cheese" but she is not aware that the same camera can take a movie. She had just learned (by herself) to climb this "ladder." I wanted to take a movie, but she insisted on a "posing" on each step. But we finally got it done.

The video is very short because after all that work, the battery died.


This Is A Huge Story -- And It Has Nothing To Do With The Bakken -- May 5, 2016

If you came here looking for the Bakken, go to the sidebar at the right.

Link here to a huge, non-Bakken story.

The Headline: Jobless Claims Post Largest Rise In More Than A Year -- May 5, 2016; Two Words Incumbents Don't Like To See Paired In Headlines: Layoffs Surge


May 6, 2016: that was yesterday (the original post); today's jobs report was even worse (hard to believe).

May 6, 2016: that was yesterday (the original post); but it got even worse today.

Original Post
It's working:

Such venom, such virulence, such viciousness

From Reuters: US jobless claims rise; planned layoffs surge.

Despite this incredibly bad and unexpected news, here's the Reuters analysis in the very first paragraph: "...but the underlying trend continued to point to a strengthening labor market."

Really? Really?

Then this is in the very second paragraph:
Another report on  Thursday showed a 35 percent surge in planned layoffs by US-based employers last month. Most of the announced job cuts were concentrated in the energy sector, which is reeling from low oil prices that have hurt profits.
Like this, I suppose:

Such venom, such virulence, such viciousness

This from Union Bank in New York after reading the reports that layoffs surged, and future layoffs will get worse: "We are assuming the move in claims is largely technical."

Really? Really?

I guess the war on coal is "largely technical."

The Reuters article concludes:
Claims were generally low in April compared to March. That points to a fairly robust labor market despite a report on Wednesday showing hiring by employers in the private sector last month was the weakest in three weeks.
Reuters continues to read like a blog.

Wait until employers get the 2017 bill for ObamaCare.

Such venom, such virulence, such viciousness

May 5, 2016

Active rigs:

Active Rigs2886186192210

RBN Energy: supply/demand factors impacting the gas storage injection season.

Holy Baloney, Batman! New Unemployment Claims Surge; Completely Unexpected; But Job Market Still In Great Shape -- May 5, 2016

Overnight, the price of oil started to jump. I did not know why. This morning we have the reason and the reason suggests just how fragile the supply is. Yahoo!Finance is reporting that a Canadian wildfire is the reason (hopefully the wildfire was not started by an overturned CBR Bakken oil spill). Based on the comments at the link, most folks think this story is bogus. I agree. But what is oil doing in futures? Up 4% to about $45.50. Okay.


Busy, busy day, so let's get started.

This story and derivative spin will be reported for the next sixty minutes across the media: holy baloney, Batman! Today's seasonally adjusted 274K new claims was up 17K from last week's 257K and above the forecast of 260K. Wow, wow, wow:
  • last week: 257,000
  • forecast this week: 260,000
  • actual: up 17,000 from last week to 274,000 new claims; 14,000 more than forecast
The good news: the rolling 4-week average? Ooohhhh -- not so good -- it was up also, at 258,000, up 2,000 from last week's unrevised 256,000.


Syncor soars! ATT drops Yahoo; signs with Synacor instead. Fifteen-year partnership between ATT and Yahoo comes to an end: $100 million account. One wonders who at Yahoo gets the blame for losing this account. Wow!

It turns out those wind turbine gearboxes need "replacing" every five years

WSJ is reporting that the oil and gas industry is cutting back on billions of dollars worth of "cutting-edge" projects.

WSJ is reporting that health insurers are struggling to offset new costs; companies will propose big premium increases for coverage next year under ObamaCare. The gift that keeps on giving. The best advice for the GOP: run, don't walk, away from this trainwreck.

From Politico a couple of days ago:
The list of troubles for the exchanges remains long. Health plans competing in the overhauled individual market lost more than $3 billion in 2014, the first year of exchange operations, according to financial filings.
Profits at Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, which dominate many state exchanges, plummeted 75 percent from 2013 to 2015.
More than half of the 23 nonprofit startup health plans seeded with Obamacare loans have collapsed after hemorrhaging red ink. And a pair of federal programs that were supposed to protect insurers from big losses during the first three years of exchange operations have instead exacerbated the turmoil, many health plans complain.
Few analysts are predicting an Obamacare “death spiral,” in which soaring premiums scare away all but the sickest customers and the marketplaces implode, but the path forward is rockier than initially forecast.
Analysts at Standard & Poor’s now predict that the Obamacare markets won’t stabilize until 2018, two years later than previously anticipated.
WSJ is reporting that Turkish leaders threaten ties to the west. I think the Turks have pivoted; since WWII, the Turks have looked west; since "shock and awe," they have looked south and southeast.

WSJ is reporting that Tesla's losses widen on lower-than-expected deliveries. Now we know why the vice president for manufacturing and the vice president for production are both departing. Yesterday it was a bit unclear.

Meanwhile, MuskMelon is trying to achieve something the manufacturing world has never seen before: produce 500,000 vehicles per year by 2018, a target that was moved up from 2020.

Tesla: One Man's Opinion

Over at Seeking Alpha:
  • Loss per car sold at near-record high: $19,059
  • negative net margin at record high: Minus 24.6%. Yes, that’s with a MINUS sign ahead of it. A year ago: Minus 16.4%
  • gross margin at near-record low: 22%, down from 27.7% a year ago
  • Tesla promises 500,000 cars for 2018, but guides June 2016 to 17,000 cars, below the 19,438 consensus.
  • absent any incremental government help (subsidies, mandates etc.), Tesla will likely lose almost $20,000 per car for as far as the eye can see
For newbies, generally companies like to have a positive margin, the bigger the better. For example, Apple Inc's margin is about 46% and if it drops to 45% the stock gets hammered. I am aware of very few companies whose net margins are a) negative; b) growing; and, c) the CEO is promising record-breaking results in the manufacturing business.

ISIS And Turkey

From RT (it may take a few moments to load):
An RT Documentary crew filming in northern Syria has seen Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) documents abandoned by retreating terrorists and found by the Kurds that, along with captured IS recruits, provide a stunning insight into the ISIS oil trade.
Only ten days after the town of Shaddadi in Syrian Kurdistan was liberated from the ISIS militants, an RT Doc film crew followed Kurdish soldiers around houses that had been abandoned in haste by fleeing jihadists. There, they found documents shedding light on the ISIS oil trade, jihadist passports with Turkish entry stamps, an instruction booklet - printed in Turkey - on how to wage war against the Syrian government, and more.
The areas surrounding Shaddadi has large natural oil reserves, and until recently, ISIS militants profited from it, forcing members of the local population to work in their oil industry. Piles of detailed invoices used by ISIS to calculate daily revenues from selling oil were found on the site. Local residents attested that intermediaries from Raqqa and Aleppo arrived to pick up the oil and often mentioned Turkey, while a captured ISIS recruit admitted on camera that the terrorist group sells oil to Turkey. He and another foreign fighter from Saudi Arabia also revealed that it had been easy to cross the Turkish border.