Friday, August 09, 2013

Chevy Volt Owners Have More Money than Brains

It looks like a real car ...

Another $5,000 dollars lopped off the sale’s price of the Chevy Volt. And there are still far more fiducially responsible ways to invest hard earned dollars.  As GM struggles to prove that Obama’s “saving of Detroit” was not a thinly veiled handout to union workers, and that the “green movement” is backed by economical alternatives to cheap fossil fuels, it has decided to cut its Volt prices yet again.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The sticker price on the lowest-cost 2014 Volt will fall to $35,000 from $40,000 and could cost as little as $27,500 after federal tax incentives.” But don’t rush out just yet. . . That tax “incentive” – also commonly referred to as government funded bribery – of $7,500 will show up on your next tax bill; not your dealership receipt.

The price cut is another attempt to convince would-be-green-hearted liberals, with more money than brains, that the Volt is the vehicle for them. While the auto industry has made significant strides in the green-car market, the Volt has been largely absent from that progress.

Altogether, auto makers sold roughly 7,500 battery powered and plug-in hybrids in July. (Which is still less than 1 percent of total light vehicle sales for the month. . . But aside from investors, companies, and dealerships, who’s counting?) GM’s Volt sales, however, represented a 3 percent drop from last year’s July sales. In contrast, Nissan’s Leaf saw a 500 percent increase in sales over the same period. Even Tesla continues to sell almost 1,500 new cars per month.

Much of the Volt’s challenge lies in its ridiculous price point. Starting at $35,000 after the latest price cut (the second this year) it still remains more than $10,000 more expensive than its gasoline powered counterpart, the Chevy Cruze. And, before anyone talks about the additional savings earned because of its electric (if flammable) motor, the battery is over $8,000 to replace. And while those batteries are expected to last an average of 8 years, it does raise the overall cost of ownership.

According to, and other irrefutable sources, the Volt costs roughly 7 cents a mile to operate before the cost of the battery is taken into account. After the inevitable cost of the battery is accounted for, the cost of operation increases to 17 cents per mile. Compare that with the Cruze’s 11 cents per mile. I know I’m just a finance guy who has a fascination with Excel spreadsheets and slide rulers, but it appears to me that 17 is a larger number than eleven.

More than the Volt’s economically challenged consumer base, is its patently dishonest presentation to the American people. Tesla, which has seen an incredible increase in sales (and by extension, stock price) is far more expensive, beginning at $62,000 for their base model. With no thrills, decals, leather, extra cup holders, navigation system, or seat heaters they are nearly twice as much as the newly reduced Volt. And you should expect them to continue to outsell despite their expensive price point. Tesla is a luxury car directed toward luxury consumers. The Volt is an economy vehicle, selling for a luxury price. (All so you too can claim to be an environmentalist.)

Additionally, the Leaf, Fusion, and other competitors that price their cars nearer to the $17,000 mark should also be expected to outperform the Volt. GM’s biggest mistake was taking the concept of an electric engine (or – er – partially electric engine) and placing it in their cheapest car. . . Then charging over 200 percent of the gasoline version’s price for the “satisfaction” of driving a “green” car.

According to Forbes, what the Volt does have “is an increasing base of owners who love the car. It topped the Consumer Reports owner satisfaction survey the past two years running.” I assume this was a survey of people who have yet to experience the Volt’s tendency to spontaneously combust.  And while Volt customers might be thrilled to have their cheaply built car, with poor safety history, for an extremely premium price, most American consumer base their purchases off of value. And value is something the Volt has yet proven to possess.  GM’s attempt at an electric (or – er – partially electric) vehicle is little more than a frantic attempt to appease an environmental agenda without consideration of economic realities.

Of course, Barack Obama should be pleased with Government Motors. . . They’re finally starting to finance like a government agency.


Fish & Wildlife wants protection for desert plants

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is on a collision course with another federal agency by proposing to list more than 100 square miles in Utah and Colorado as critical habitat for a pair of desert wildflowers, threatening oil production in an energy-rich area.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has authorized the same public lands for development of oil shale, a greasy rock that contains fossilized algae. Petroleum companies are trying to extract this primitive form of oil.

The two plants, Graham's beardtongue and the White River beardtongue, thrive on oil-shale outcrops, which are rich in calcium carbonate, a plant nutrient.

A listing of critical habitat would require BLM to consult government biologists before issuing permits for oil-shale works, said Bekee Hotze, a branch chief in Utah for the Fish & Wildlife Service.

"There are definitely conflicts with plants and oil shale development," Hotze said Tuesday. "We're working with people to find out ways we can do both."

The Fish & Wildlife Service announced its proposed listing Monday in the Federal Register. Officials said the plants are already are suffering from conventional oil and gas development, livestock grazing, invasive weeds and climate change.

For Graham's beardtongue, the agency wants to designate a section of land 80 miles long and six miles wide as critical habitat for an estimated 6,200 plants—right through the heart of oil-shale country.

That band extends from an edge of Duchesne County in Utah to a sliver of Rio Blanco County in Colorado. At 106 square miles in size, it encompasses five designated habitat zones.

Overlapping that area are 23 square miles of zones the agency wants designated for White River beardtongue. Much of that land borders Utah and Colorado. The Fish & Wildlife Service believes the three zones hold about 11,400 plants.


Slow-Roasted, Milled Crickets Pitched As 'First Viable Solution' to Global Food Crisis

Except there is no such crisis.  More like a large-waist crisis in the West and a constant warfare crisis in Africa

A Brooklyn-based start-up company says it is ready to roll out its first batch of commercially produced protein bars made of "exceptionally nutritious" crickets.

"Through combining cricket flour (slow roasted and milled crickets) with organic and all-natural ingredients such as raw cacao, dates, almond butter and coconut, we have created a bar that is high in protein, low in sugar, incredibly nutritionally dense, and packed with omega 3 fatty acids, iron and calcium," Exo says in a fund-raising pitch on the KickStarter website. (Kickstarter bills itself as a new way to fund creative projects.)

Two former Brown University students say they started Exo during their senior year when one of them couldn't find a snack that satisfied his high nutritional standards. (Greg Sewitz says he had just returned from a conference on climate change and resource scarcity at MIT hosted by the Dalai Lama, who suggested insects as a protein source.)

Their venture goes beyond food: In a recent interview with Forbes magazine, Exo co-founder Gabi Lewis said the "very core" of their business "is trying to change the way people think about an untapped food source."

"Our mission is fundamentally a social one," he told Forbes, and if it succeeds, "it'll have an incredible impact on the world."

The fund-raising pitch describes insect protein as "the first viable solution to the global food crisis."

Exo says crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle, 4 times less feed than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and chickens to produce the same amount of protein. They're said to produce 80 times less methane than cattle, they reproduce faster, and they "barely require any water or space."

Not only are crickets high in protein, they also have more iron than beef and almost as much calcium as milk, Exo says.

"Our recipe has received phenomenal reviews at CrossFit gyms and on university campuses," the founders say.

Eating insects is not popular among North Americans, but people across Asia, Africa and South America do it routinely.

And for Exo, protein bars are just the beginning, Sewitz told Forbes: "We want to normalize entomophagy (the consumption of insects as food)."


Britain must not miss out on fracking: PM says drilling for shale gas should take place at more sites

David Cameron warned last night that Britain was ‘missing out big time’ on the benefits of fracking by not drilling at enough sites in the search for shale gas.

In his most outspoken comments about the technology, the Prime Minister said it would be a ‘big mistake’ if the Government did not encourage fracking across Britain.

Mr Cameron said the Government would dispel ‘myths’ from green groups that drilling for gas would lead to earthquakes, and he dismissed fears that it could lead to water taps catching fire.

But campaigners last night accused him of lying about the dangers, as he suggested the UK should copy the US, where thousands of wells have been bored.

Addressing a question and answer  session in Lancashire, the Prime Minister said: ‘I will just give you one figure to show how much we are missing out.

'In the whole of the European Union last year there were 100 shale gas wells dug.  ‘At the same time in the United States there were 10,000.

‘Now, the EU has about three quarters as much shale gas as the US so we are missing out big time at the moment and I want to make sure Britain doesn’t miss out.

‘Their gas prices are about half the level of ours. So we would be making a big mistake if we didn’t think hard about how to encourage fracking and cheaper gas prices.’

Forty wells are expected to be drilled before the 2015 general election, half in the North West. But there could be widespread drilling across the South. Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent are thought to contain gas reserves.

Mr Cameron said: ‘Nothing is going to happen in this country unless it’s environmentally safe.

‘There are some myths that  we have to dispel. There is no question of having earthquakes and fire coming out of taps.’

But he mistakenly promised communities where wells are drilled that they will get £1million compensation – ten times the amount actually proposed.  Downing Street confirmed he had been mistaken and that Government policy has not changed.

He also told staff at Crown Paints in Darwen: ‘If people can see a direct benefit from fracking and shale gas, they will be more willing to really look at the arguments about what this will mean for their community if it goes ahead.

‘In that way we can see wells dug and we can see the benefits of shale gas here in the UK.’

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘Any language that implies that a decision has been taken and that people will be forced to accept fracking is bound to raise hackles and increase concerns.

‘Companies drilling the wells are well aware of the need to get people on side and do proper consultations. If they don’t do that in the Weald of Kent or the South Downs, you’re going to have an uprising.’


Perspectives on Honeybees and Pesticides

by Angela Logomasini

If you believe the headlines, honeybees may soon be endangered, pesticides are to blame, and regulations offer an easy solution. Yet headlines belie the truth of the matter: Some honeybees have left their hives to never return, but we really don’t know why.

Referred to as “colony collapse disorder,” the disappearance of honeybee colonies raises concerns that it will be increasingly difficult to produce food without enough of these pollinators. Ironically, the proposed “solutions” involving banning agro-technologies from pesticides to biotechnology, may do even more harm to agricultural production while not helping the honeybees at all.

A key target of the anti-pesticide crowd is a class of chemicals called Neonicotinoids, which were created originally to help reduce stress on honeybees from the spraying of pesticides on crops. Neonicotinoids encapsulate seeds, which eventually produces plants that systemically can fight off pests that otherwise would undermine crop production. The beauty of these products is you don’t need to engage in spraying. Evidence is weak that these products have a significant impact on bee colonies in real life settings, as compared to lab experiments.

If we really want to help the honeybees and ensure continued food production, we need to focus on finding out what’s really happening, rather than playing the blame game, banning products, and crossing our fingers that these policies will help. In fact, bans on some products could harm honeybees if the replacements prove less safe. While most of the news stories on the topic push incomplete information and hyped risks, there is some good information out there for those interested in the issue, ranging from research studies to investigative journalism to helpful opinion pieces. I have added a page to where those interested in this issue can find links to a number of thoughtful perspectives and research on the topic.  Check it out.


Australia: Wipe out Green Party for good of all, says former conservative leader

JEFF Kennett has unleashed a withering attack on the Greens, warning the minority party should be preferenced out of existence to protect the nation's economic and social fabric.

The former Victorian premier said the Liberal Party nationally should preference the Greens and independents last, even if it risked elevating Labor candidates.

His warning came as it emerged that the Liberal Party will almost certainly announce in the first half of the campaign that it will preference against Greens MP Adam Bandt, making it increasingly difficult for him to remain in the House of Representatives. Senior party sources said there was "no argument" within the Victorian party about Greens preferences and that the party would be doing whatever it could to ensure Mr Bandt lost the seat of Melbourne.

Mr Kennett told The Australian that the relationship between the Greens, the independents and Labor had been toxic for Australia in the past three years, undermining the nation's economic and social prosperity by creating unstable government.

Mr Kennett said it was crucial that a government be given the mandate to implement its agenda without the corrosive influence of the minor parties and the Greens.

"Hopefully we will not be about giving authority to minorities; that the public will realise that we have a responsibility to ourselves, for our children and the future of the country to give a government sufficient authority to govern," he said. "To that end, my view is that all independents and all Greens should be placed last, even if it means in some seats from our point of view a Labor candidate might win."

Senior Victorian Liberals said the federal division of the party had intervened in 2010 to preference the Greens, leading to Mr Bandt's election.

Senior party figures have told The Australian that the party has no option but to preference against the Greens.

This, sources said, would be an electorally successful strategy for the conservatives to help wipe out the Greens, which the Liberal Party believes have been given a platform by the Coalition's previous failure to attack the minor party by starving candidates of their preferences.

Another senior party figure told The Australian: "There is no division in the party . . . The Greens will not get our preferences."

In 2010, Mr Bandt received almost 80 per cent of Liberal preferences.

He holds Melbourne on a 6 per cent margin and gained 36.2 per cent of the primary vote in 2010, which, if replicated, is unlikely to be enough given the lack of Liberal preference flow.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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