Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who can figure Oil out?

First of all I would like to apologize to my readers for missing last week's post. I was out of the country in a business trip. I would also like to inform you this will be the last post of the year, since I will be, again, out of the country for the next week. So, to all of my (millions and millions of!) readers I would like to wish a happy new year, happy Hanukah, merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, and all the good stuff!

Now, let’s get down to business: Oil is Greentech’s biggest allied and its biggest enemy too!

On one hand its price becomes an incentive or disincentive to new alternative energy technology development. If the price goes up it’s an incentive for greentech.

On the other, it shapes the world economic outlook in a way that it frees or strangles resources flowing into greentech. If the price goes down more resources are available for greentech development (notwithstanding the global crisis).

Are you confused yet? Wait there is more:

What drives the price of Oil? Well this is also a complex answer.

Any traditional product follows the supply-demand curve. As the amounts of supplied product increase and demand diminishes, the price drops. On the opposite end, if supply is low and demand is high the price escalates.


Oil has a couple of added ingredients that make the supply-demand curve bend in different directions.

HIGHER PRICE, HIGHER SUPPLY: Oil has a very particular characteristic. Its supply sources become more abundant as the price goes up. Many heavy oil production fields, as well as other, less profitable sources, become feasible only after oil hits certain price targets. That is the case of the Athabasca Oil Sands a large deposit of heavy crude in northeastern Canada, where “despite the large reserves, the cost of extracting the oil from bituminous sands has historically made production of the oil sands unprofitable” (additional info can be found here)


LIMITED SUPPLY: Oil, as we al very well know, is a non-renewable natural resource. Therefore, its Supply quantity is a finite number. Many different estimates exist as to “how finite” oil is (i.e. when will it run out?), but there is a general consensus that IT WILL in fact run out some day.

As we get closer to the day Oil runs out, the price will skyrocket to levels never seen before. As any other scarce resource it will become a luxury.


SPECULATION AND CRISIS: This is a factor that has altered oil prices recently, it relates to the “market perception” of the above mentioned factors.

When the economy was booming and oil prices escalated, investors started getting into oil to make big profits, pushing the price further up.

Now, the economy has slowed down and demand has decreased and oil is at 30% the price that it was 6 months ago, investors have shun away from oil.

I will not attempt to include this factor into the supply-demand graph, as it is a very volatile and subjective variable.

The reality is that we are facing uncertain times, and as such people are going back and reconsidering their strategies. Will this affect Greentech?

In one sense it will, because the people that were unconvinced will tend to tilt more towards non-green as the price of oil gets lower and resources for greentech gets scarcer.

On the other hand this will be the big trial for greentech because it will test weather the critical mass of believers in a greentech future exists. And, if this critical mass will be able to propel Greentech to the next level (the mass market or mass implementation of green technologies).

I personally believe that people are aware that whereas oil goes up or down we need to do something to get off the “Oil rollercoaster”. Furthermore, people have also realized that oil dependency has very serious political consequences and they are more willing to do something about it. And, last but not least, oil has an environmental impact that many people are aware should be changed before we destroy our planet, and with it: ourselves.

Again, HAPPY HOLLIDAYS and SHALOM! See you in 2009!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Are we there yet?

Depends who you ask.

According to the Saudis, Oil will be the primary source of energy for many years to come (see the interview with Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, in CBS "60 minutes"). In the segment, the reporter shows the new petroleum facilities being developed in Saudi Arabia. They claim they will find DOUBLE the amount of oil they already have in the near future. It makes you wonder weather we are overreacting to the "end of times" for the oil sources.

In addition to the oil conundrum we are facing a challenge in the renewable energy front, and according to the NY Times here in the US we are not doing too good (read "Energy Goals a Moving Target for States").

A mere 10 to 15% goal of renewable sources of energy is an uphill battle for many states to achieve. According to the article: "Nationwide, the hard numbers provide a sobering counterpoint to the green-energy enthusiasm sweeping Washington".

On the other hand

The US will soon have a new president. The general expectation (based on his own words) is that the "Green Economy" will be a priority. This effort towards renewable energy and clean technologies is one of the tools Mr. Obama proposed as a strategy to overcome the current financial crisis (see Obama’s entire plan at Elections and Greentech, are they related?)

Additionally, the same NY Times, did a whole section on the "Business of Green" in September (featured in one of our entries "NY Times Week-in-review"). I believe they were responding to a trend, therefore being optimistic about the growth of the Green Business.

So which one is it? Are we reading too far into the energy and pollution crisis, or are we in the verge of major changes towards the "Green Wave".

Until next week, SHALOM!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This will make it happen!... will it?

I was listening to the radio and they were talking about a controversial law in Norway that mandates all companies to have at least 40% women in their executive board. Then I realized this could be the solution to better legislation for a green world.

If you have read my past entries you would have noticed that I am for free market and against too much regulation. Well, this simple law they introduced in Norway has accomplished what many other laws in other countries have failed to do. It has given women equal rights in the workplace. Whereas you are pro or against women's equal rights, you would have to acknowledge that implementing a single law to modify a trend as strong as that is remarkable.

The key element of this law (and what I think is applicable to greentech legislation) is that it modifies only the ultimate consequence of a desired trend, leaving the process to sort itself out. In other words, the law only regulates percentage of women in executive boards, the law forces companies to create their own process to groom women into the board room and to ensure that 40% of their employees that will be eligible for board positions are women. The law does not bother with employment or compensation factors.

If we translate this type of legislation into greentech we may start thinking about the ultimate consequence of living in harmony with our environment. Then we may suggest the following legislation to be applied:

  • All companies and all households should become progressively carbon neutral every year until reaching 100% neutral by 2020.
  • Water recycling should have a similar goal. 75% recycled water usage by 2020.

Then we should start talking about the consequences of non-compliance.

What if the company or the individual does not comply? Then we shall be as drastic as the Norwegians: they shut down the company. We may want to say: "pay us for the cost and installation of the best technology available, plus a penalty and we will install it for you"

What do you think? Will this work? Will it create the mindset to have a greener world? Will it promote the right technologies to the consumers? Intriguing questions!

Until next week, SHALOM!