Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain Offers $300 Million Prize for New Auto Battery

This is actually a good idea. The solution to the energy crisis could very well mean innovation. Necessity is the mother of all invention, after all:

John McCain hopes to solve the country's energy crisis with cold hard cash.

The presumed Republican nominee is proposing a $300 million government prize to whoever can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses existing technology. The bounty would equate to $1 for every man, woman and child in the country, "a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency," McCain said in remarks prepared for delivery Monday at Fresno State University in California.

McCain said such a device should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs and have "the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."

The Arizona senator is also proposing stiffer fines for automakers who skirt existing fuel-efficiency standards, as well as incentives to increase use of domestic and foreign alcohol-based fuels such as ethanol.

Oil Prices Don't Fall Despite Saudi Pledge to Raise Output

The problem is beyond Saudi Arabia's control:

Oil prices fluctuated Monday as traders shrugged off a pledge by Saudi Arabia to increase its production and the dollar gained strength in Europe.

Saudi Arabia said Sunday it would produce more crude oil this year if the market needs it. The kingdom announced a 300,000 barrel per day production increase in May and said before the start of the meeting in Jeddah that it would add another 200,000 barrels per day in July, raising total daily output to 9.7 million barrels.

The announcement had already been factored into oil prices, analysts said.

"The meeting was mildly positive but it wouldn't really deliver anything that would give a heavy correction in oil," said Mark Pervan, a senior commodity strategist at the ANZ Bank in Melbourne, Australia. "They pledged production increases that the market thought was base case."

Light, sweet crude for August delivery traded down 73 cents to $134.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe, falling with the price of gold as the dollar gained strength.

Gold lost about 2 percent of its value and the euro, which fetched $1.5529 early, quickly slipped to $1.5474. The pound also fell, from $1.9652 to $1.9598

Instability in the world markets drive up oil prices. But the greatest factor has been the disastrous conflict in Iraq. And let's not forget the threats coming out of Venezuela that has markets wondering. A threat of a war between Israel and Iran also the oil traders wondering. That also drives up prices.
Saudi Arabia's pledge fell far short of U.S. hopes for a specific increase. The United States and other nations argue that oil production has not kept up with increasing demand, especially from China, India and the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries say there is no shortage of oil and instead blame financial speculation and the falling U.S. dollar.

Analysts said the meeting helped provide some clarity as to the size of spare OPEC capacity available. Saudi Arabia said it is willing to invest to boost its spare oil production capacity above the current 12.5 million barrels per day planned for the end of 2009 -- if the market requires it.

"I think where the market may be a little more comforted, which could see prices drift lower in the medium term, is more clarity and scope on OPEC capacity," Pervan said.

Total worldwide crude production is about 85 million barrels per day, but analysts say supplies remain tight amid disruptions to production from Nigeria, Africa's largest producer.

"The oil summit really has not done much to temper oil pricing," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. "It was a modest output increase and hardly really compensates for the disruption out of Nigeria."