April 15, 2011

GasGas prices will

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$5 gallon gasoline next?

We're already at $4 in selected U.S. spots. And, Peak Oil, not just the unrest in Libya, is a cause, it seems.

"Peak Oil" only comes strongly into play if demand is pushing upward fairly rapidly.

And it is.

China has already passed the U.S. in coal use. By 2020, it may pass us in oil consumption.

Since we may well have hit "Peak Oil" three years ago, if China doubles its oil use in a decade or less, that will inevitably put upward pressure on oil, and thus gasoline, prices.

In Canada, where gas prices are fairly similar to those in the U.S., gas is at $5 a gallon in liter equivalents already. That's leading to talk of gas at $2 a liter, or about $7.50 a gallon, being just a year or so away.

In case you think any of that is due to cheap Canadian money, the loonie is trading with the U.S. dollar at rough parity.

So, we could see gas at $5 a gallon in the U.S. heartland a year or so from now, and $6 a gallon in places like New York City and San Francisco.

Now, the one silver lining? Per Rubin's column from Canada, this could mean, if not the end, at least a partial reversal of globalization. He touches on that more in a book, Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization. And, he's not alone. Walmart, when oil prices hit $147 in 2008, was already talking about how some of its supply chain might have to move back from overseas.

That said, U.S. workers wouldn't benefit, in many cases. Mexican maquiladoras would see new spurts ... if U.S. companies could stomach the overhead of armed guards against drug lords.

That then said, such actions could spur Mexico into further disintegration, with major manufacturers extending their security forces outside their factories and creating de facto statelets.

At the same time, don't forget that hear in the U.S. President Obama refused to tackle the need for more regulation of commodities derivatives as part of financial regulation reform. If Peak Oil is here, Enron of a decade ago will seem like nothing.

April 14, 2011

Five myths about news media, especially online

If you asked me to trust Clay Shirky or Tom Rosenthiel more on discussing the future of news media, I know my answer, in a flash, would be Rosenthiel. He's been doing this longer than Shirky, in a more "dedicated" fashion, and more on the ground.

Plus, unlike Shirky, Jeff Jarvis and similar, he's not a mindless booster of the Internet.

That said, here's a short take on his five myths about the news media. They include seeing the need for paywalls, because unlike Shirky et al, Rosenthiel actually is looking at media business/financial models, and, also, he recognizes that ads alone just won't pay the freight.

That said, here they are:
1. The traditional news media are losing their audience.
The 25 most popular news Web sites in the United States, for instance, all but two are “legacy” media sources, such as the New York Times or CNN, or aggregators of traditional media, such as Yahoo or Google News. ... The crisis facing traditional media is about revenue, not audience. And in that crisis, newspapers have been hardest hit: Ad revenue for U.S. newspapers fell 48 percent from 2006 to 2010.

2. Online news will be fine as soon as the advertising revenue catches up.
Such hopes are misplaced. In 2010, Web advertising in the United States surpassed print advertising for the first time, reaching $26 billion. But only a small fraction of that, perhaps less than a fifth, went to news organizations.

3. Content will always be king.
The syllogism that helped journalism prosper in the 20th century was simple: Produce the journalism (or “content”) that people want, and you will succeed. But that may no longer be enough.

The key to media in the 21st century may be who has the most knowledge of audience behavior, not who produces the most popular content.

4. Newspapers around the world are on the decline.
Actually, print circulation worldwide was up more than 5 percent in the past five years, not down, and the number of newspapers is growing. In general, print media are thriving in the developing world and suffering in rich nations.

By and large, American newspapers are suffering the most. Roughly 75 percent of their revenue comes from advertising, vs. 30 percent or 40 percent in many other countries, where papers live and die by circulation. That means the collapse of advertising is not hitting papers elsewhere as hard as it is hitting them here. It also suggests that the need to charge for online access may be even more important abroad.

5. The solution is to focus on local news.
Going “hyperlocal” was the war cry of Wall Street to the news industry five years ago. The reasoning was simple: In the Internet age, when users can access content from anywhere, it didn’t make sense for local operations to compete with the big national news providers.

The problem is that hyperlocal content, by definition, has limited appeal. To amass an audience large enough to generate significant ad revenue, you have to produce a large volume of content from different places, and that is expensive. On top of that, many hyperlocal advertisers are not yet online, limiting the ad dollars.

Now we are entering what might be called Hyperlocal 2.0, and the market is still up for grabs. Google, which garners two-thirds of all search advertising dollars nationally, doesn’t exert similar control over local advertising. Locally, display ads — all those banners and pop-ups — are a bigger share of the market than search ads.

But how to produce local content remains a mystery. ... So far, no one has really cracked the code for producing profitable local news online.
Nos 2 and 5 are pretty much direct blasts at Shirky. And I agree on both. No. 3 is the troublesome one, to a news idealist. That said, much of what the MSM pumped out in the past was news-lite anyway.

Overall, thoughk this is a good overview.

Five myths about news media, especially online

If you asked me to trust Clay Shirky or Tom Rosenthiel more on discussing the future of news media, I know my answer, in a flash, would be Rosenthiel. He's been doing this longer than Shirky, in a more "dedicated" fashion, and more on the ground.

Plus, unlike Shirky, Jeff Jarvis and similar, he's not a mindless booster of the Internet.

That said, here's a short take on his five myths about the news media. They include seeing the need for paywalls, because unlike Shirky et al, Rosenthiel actually is looking at media business/financial models, and, also, he recognizes that ads alone just won't pay the freight.

That said, here they are:
1. The traditional news media are losing their audience.
The 25 most popular news Web sites in the United States, for instance, all but two are “legacy” media sources, such as the New York Times or CNN, or aggregators of traditional media, such as Yahoo or Google News. ... The crisis facing traditional media is about revenue, not audience. And in that crisis, newspapers have been hardest hit: Ad revenue for U.S. newspapers fell 48 percent from 2006 to 2010.

2. Online news will be fine as soon as the advertising revenue catches up.
Such hopes are misplaced. In 2010, Web advertising in the United States surpassed print advertising for the first time, reaching $26 billion. But only a small fraction of that, perhaps less than a fifth, went to news organizations.

3. Content will always be king.
The syllogism that helped journalism prosper in the 20th century was simple: Produce the journalism (or “content”) that people want, and you will succeed. But that may no longer be enough.

The key to media in the 21st century may be who has the most knowledge of audience behavior, not who produces the most popular content.

4. Newspapers around the world are on the decline.
Actually, print circulation worldwide was up more than 5 percent in the past five years, not down, and the number of newspapers is growing. In general, print media are thriving in the developing world and suffering in rich nations.

By and large, American newspapers are suffering the most. Roughly 75 percent of their revenue comes from advertising, vs. 30 percent or 40 percent in many other countries, where papers live and die by circulation. That means the collapse of advertising is not hitting papers elsewhere as hard as it is hitting them here. It also suggests that the need to charge for online access may be even more important abroad.

5. The solution is to focus on local news.
Going “hyperlocal” was the war cry of Wall Street to the news industry five years ago. The reasoning was simple: In the Internet age, when users can access content from anywhere, it didn’t make sense for local operations to compete with the big national news providers.

The problem is that hyperlocal content, by definition, has limited appeal. To amass an audience large enough to generate significant ad revenue, you have to produce a large volume of content from different places, and that is expensive. On top of that, many hyperlocal advertisers are not yet online, limiting the ad dollars.

Now we are entering what might be called Hyperlocal 2.0, and the market is still up for grabs. Google, which garners two-thirds of all search advertising dollars nationally, doesn’t exert similar control over local advertising. Locally, display ads — all those banners and pop-ups — are a bigger share of the market than search ads.

But how to produce local content remains a mystery. ... So far, no one has really cracked the code for producing profitable local news online.
Nos 2 and 5 are pretty much direct blasts at Shirky. And I agree on both. No. 3 is the troublesome one, to a news idealist. That said, much of what the MSM pumped out in the past was news-lite anyway.

Overall, thoughk this is a good overview.

Questioning Obama's stimulus spending

Yes, this is a first for me. My only questioning before has been to say the amount was way too small.

But, on vacation, seeing several U.S. Forest Service jobs aided with stimulus money? I doubt that really saved any jobs. No government jobs were likely to be lost. And, unlike city street departments and county or state transportation departments contracting out highway work, the Forest Service projects surely involved very few private sector jobs.

That said, the stimulus dollars spent on stuff like this were surely small. But, then, why tout them?

Mobile homes in Santa Fe?

Who would have thought? And inside the city limits! And, without a requirement to be abobed over! The City Different is slipping,

April 13, 2011

Oil at $150?

Well, not immediately. Maybe by 2015, though?

China has already passed the U.S. in coal use. By 2020, it may pass us in oil consumption. And, that "surge" cannot but impact oil prices.

Since we may well have hit "Peak Oil" three years ago, if China doubles its oil use in a decade or less, that will inevitably put upward pressure on oil prices.

Per Canadian Liberal MP Dan McTeague, that may open the door to more speculation.
“What that means in normal lingo is that the fundamentals of supply and demand have been thrown out the window,” he said. “If supply and demand fundamentals cannot discipline the price discovery, then price can be whatever it wants to be and any excuse can be used.”

He said tax on fuel in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and New Brunswick is also helping to push the price up, in addition to refineries in eastern Canada who charge between 17 and 20 cents per litre to convert crude into transportation fuel when the actual conversion cost is more like three to five cents per litre.

“Consumers are now vulnerable to the effects of unbridled speculation and subject to potential shortages as a result of restraint in competition at the refinery level,” McTeague said. “We’re flying blind. We have no idea just how serious this situation has become.”
At the same time, don't forget that hear in the U.S. President Obama refused to tackle the need for more regulation of commodities derivatives as part of financial regulation reform. If Peak Oil is here, Enron of a decade ago will seem like nothing.

That said, if this really starts hitting the fan early enough before the general election, we may see Obama forced to choose between continuing to run a $1 billion presidential campaign and working to pass something that's not completely toothless in terms of commodities regulation.

April 12, 2011

Peak Oil raising its head again

The continuing high oil prices are in part due to continuing political uncertainty in Libya. But that's not the only reason.

Shell, as in Royal Dutch Shell, the oil giant, has admitted to more uncertainty about the future of oil supply. By 2050, if current trends continue, it says the supply-demand gap could be as great as the entire industry of 2000.

Of course, on the supply side, the biggest "pusher" is China.

Even if China is the Potemkim village Nouriel Roubini predicts, there's too much of the West invested in it for it to remain permanently that way. U.S fat cat CEOs simply have to have their supply source of cheaply made cheap products and they know it.

So, it will continue to be a driver. So will India.

That said, the Guardian also notes that Japan, post-Fukushima, gives us an image, even a laboratory, of what Peak Oil may be like.

April 11, 2011

Sure Obama will make a big contrast with the GOP on the budget

Let's call him Preznit Pinocchio instead of Preznit Kumbaya now. His own Catfood Commission halfway agreed with Paul Ryan, after all, so why should be believe Obama that he'll be sharply different on the deficit?

This is the same Obama who is once again claiming to oppose the Bush tax cuts, after all.

IKEA ... the e isn't for egalitarian

An occasional post while on vacation.

IKEA decided to open a US manufacturing plant to go along with its explosion in stores here.

Just one problem. Unlike in Sweden, IKEA-US apparently hates unions.

And, maybe black people.

And, consideration for its workers in general.

Just "wow" on this story.