Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Try to contain yourselves

A funny thing happened on April 22, 2009.

The U.S Energy Information Agency was reporting that demand for distillate fuel oil had declined by more than 315,000 bbl/day from the previous week, and more than 900,000 bbl/day from the previous year. This came after a roller-coaster year of almost comically volatile demand, and after a fairly reliable decline starting around the end of February, 2009. All of this seemed to be occuring on top of a steady stream of surprisingly good news across broad sections of the overall economy.

Put these data next to the same endpoint for motor gasoline, which after shedding 1 million barrels at the end of last summer, recovering about half that around the holidays, and then moping its way downhill for the next several weeks, had started to pick up around February 2009. And as of about two weeks ago, and most notably last week, total motor gasoline consumption was back up around 9.1 million bbl/day. This, for the United States, is fairly healthy, and would have been respectable even in those years when the “summer driving season” sounded still stupid, but not quite as stupid as it does now.

It is the opinion of our analysts in the Man-Bunny Matrix that distillate demand is generally the superior economic indicator. The bulk of these data reflect demand for Fuel Oil #2. This is the petroleum fraction consumed, depending on sulfur content, as on-road and off-road Diesel Fuel, and as Home Heating Oil. High-sulfur heating oil demand is almost exclusively a function of weather and cost, but low and medium-sulfur fuel is what you find on the job, burned in quantity whenever and wherever on the planet money is at work. Gasoline, by contrast, is (with exception) a retail consumer product. While demand for gasoline shows general annual patterns, it is subject to the vaguaries and vacillations of the consumer, whom we know to be especially vague and vacillational. He doesn’t always do what’s best for him.

We in the Man-Bunny Matrix have been mulling these data all week, and now this morning the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is reporting that in the first quarter 2009, U.S. GDP fell by a “surprising” 6.1%, while consumer spending is up 2.1% annually.

Coincidence? Correlation? Hard for us to say. Is distillate demand less negative than it might otherwise be? You mean it could be worse? I guess so. Will we see these patterns persist when the EIA releases the data for this week? We’ll know in an hour.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Respiration

Republican lawmakers argue for the innocuous nature of atmospheric carbon dioxide, as evidenced by the fact that we "breathe" it.

Because we are plants.

And then there's this:

"Do you have any evidence in your findings of illness or death caused by exposure to too much CO2? We have that for SO2, and for mercury; even ozone we know exacerbates asthma, but we don't have that for CO2."

Rep. Joe Barton
R-Texas
April 22, 2009

Never mind EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson being unable to produce a satisfactory response; the fact is, Congressman Barton, with a dozen ounces of propane gas, a used "Mr. Heater", a CO2 partial-pressure meter and a wet towel under the bathroom door you could quickly remedy this apparent defecit in medical science.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pu Pu Head

During Floor Debate on H.R. 411: Protection of Rare Dog and Cat Species:

“We’re going to borrow money from China, and then send it back there, for them to create habitats for their dogs and cats that are rare. Now, there’s no assurance that if we do this we won't end up with--with moo-goo dog-pan or moo-goo cat-pan.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert
R-Texas
April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

In a related story

Royal Dutch Shell has emerged once again as the overwhelming favorite in the daring, high-octane game of three-way petrochicken being played between science, ethics, and innovation in the marketing of retail motor fuels. Coming on the heels of Shell's blockbuster "V-Power" campaign, the energy behemoth's mysterious and apparently scientific new product has literally exploded onto the scene. At a recent industry banquet in Baton Rouge the general sense of shock and awe was palpable, and senior marketing personnel were not mincing words.
"It's like they're kicking us when we're down," said Gus Fangut, Senior Direct Sales Project Manager at Valero Energy in Houston, TX. "They're charging for nitrogen. They're telling people, 'hey, give us money, and we'll give you nitrogen.'"
"And it's working!" added Kathleen Vienneduct, Vice President of Marketing at Chevron, Inc. in Richmond, CA. "How do you follow that?"
What impressed industry observers most about Shell's "V-Power" campaign was their decision to include the new additive only in motor gasoline of the highest octane, and then to advertise this option right at the pump.
"So when you go to fill up, if you want to be like the happy fish people on the TV, even if you're driving an '82 Escort, you're going to spring for the good stuff," Vienneduct explained "And you'll be damned if you don't feel a little extra spring in her step as you drive off the lot."
"But it's all in your head," Fangut added,
Vienneduct went on to explain that gasoline is a generic product in the United States. The only thing that brands it is the small amount of additive each company adds to the base fuel.
"The additive package is mostly detergent," she says. "Like, literally--soap--a petroleum-based soap." As a result, companies advertising a brand of gasoline can only make claims as to the superiority of its soap.
"We can't claim that it goes faster, burns hotter, bangs bigger, what-have-you. We can only claim that it cleans good. It's very limiting."
And since burning fuel with a higher-than-required octane will not harm an engine, Shell is in the clear. "There's no risk to the consumer's vehicle," Fangut explains. "The only thing it breaks is your bank account."
What really made the brand successful, according to Vienneduct, was the ad campaign. "It was their coup de grace. This very genuine-sounding announcer tells you that this fuel 'actively' cleans your engine, as if this is some sort of innovation."
"What does that even mean?" Fangut said. "What does it do, grab onto your valve seats and bust out a loofa? It's a fucking molecule!"
So will "Nitrogen Enriched" gasoline enjoy the same kind of success?
"Probably," said Phillip Maelipeck, Valero's President of Refining Technology. "It sounds great. It sounds bubbly, powerful and sciencey."
"It's a joke," Fangut said.
"It's genius," said Maelipeck.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A note from your pancreas

Fuck that guy.

Dietary Habits

Apples are very good for you, and you should eat a lot of apples. An easy way to do this is to take some of them in pie form.