What will you do when your favorite gas station runs dry, this summer?

Millions of people stuck at home for more than a year are expected to hit the road for much-needed post-pandemic vacations this summer. Good luck finding gas.

Not that there’s a looming shortage of crude oil or gasoline. Rather, it’s the tanker truck drivers needed to deliver the gas to stations who are in short supply.

According to the National Tank Truck Carriers, the industry’s trade group, somewhere between 20% to 25% of tank trucks in the fleet are parked heading into this summer due to a paucity of qualified drivers. At this point in 2019, only 10% of trucks were sitting idle for that reason.

“We’ve been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it,” said Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president of the NTTC. “It certainly has grown exponentially.”…

Not just any truck driver is allowed to drive a tanker truck. It requires special certification, including a commercial driver’s license, and weeks of training after being hired. And while the jobs are more attractive than some long-haul trucking jobs that can keep drivers away from home for days or weeks at a time, it is strenuous, difficult work.

Holly McCormick, who runs the workforce committee for NTTC, said another problem was the shutdown of many driver schools early in the pandemic. The pipeline of new drivers those schools would have produced has yet to be filled, she said. And then there’s a new federal clearinghouse that went online in January 2020 to identify truck drivers with prior drug or alcohol violations or failed drug tests, which knocked about 40,000 to 60,000 total drivers out of the national employment pool.

Oops!

Global gasoline demand has all but peaked

tesla-pickup-truck
Click to enlargeThis is the one I want

❝ After fueling the 20th century automobile culture that reshaped cities and defined modern life, gasoline has had its day.

The International Energy Agency forecasts that global gasoline consumption has all but peaked as more efficient cars and the advent of electric vehicles from new players such as Tesla Motors halt demand growth in the next 25 years. That shift will have profound consequences for the oil-refining industry because gasoline accounts for one in four barrels consumed worldwide…

“Electric cars are happening,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in an interview in London, adding that their number will rise from little more than 1 million last year to more than 150 million by 2040.

❝ The cresting of gasoline demand shows how rapidly the oil landscape is changing, casting a shadow over an industry that commonly forecasts decades of growth ahead. Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second-biggest energy company by market value, shocked rivals this month when a senior executive said overall oil demand could peak in as little as five years.

The IEA doesn’t share Shell’s pessimism. While the agency anticipates a gasoline peak, it still forecasts overall oil demand growing for several decades because of higher consumption of diesel, fuel oil and jet fuel by the shipping, trucking, aviation and petrochemical industries…

❝ For Philip Verleger, president of the consultant PKVerleger LLC in Colorado and a veteran oil-market analyst, the IEA’s outlook is one of the more optimistic outcomes for the global industry.

“Refiners across the globe can only hope that this forecast turns out to be right — because all the indications are today that consumption is going to begin dropping not in 2030, but probably in 2020,” said Verleger. “It’s the best news a dying patient can hope to get.”

Just in case you wondered what the truly global giants of fossil fuels talk about when they tell each other the truth. Quit reading PR releases from the American Petroleum Institute, the Koch Bros. or their flunky on Fifth Avenue.

US new-vehicle mpg ratings continue to climb


Possibly – my next wheels – with the smallish Eco-Boost turbo

The average fuel economy of new cars sold in the US is going back up after dropping for a couple of months. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) calculated a 24.8 mpg average for new light-duty vehicles sold in the US during November 2013. That’s not as high as the 24.9 reported in August, but the numbers have been coming back up. The November rating was up 0.1 mpg from October.

Corporate average fuel economy is up 4.7 mpg since UMTRI researchers began documenting the data in October 2007. The figure is calculated by monthly sales figures of individual vehicle models and their combined city-highway fuel economy ratings published in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s EPA Fuel Economy Guide.

The Institute’s Eco-Driving Index also has seen improvements since the reporting began in 2007. The index tracks greenhouse gas emissions from a US driver who bought a new vehicle during the month. For September, the index was 0.80 for the fifth month in a row. That indicates a 20-percent improvement from the base score of 1 set in October 2007, said researcher Michael Sivak in a statement. The Eco-Driving Index figures in both the fuel used per distance driven and the amount of driving, Sivak said.

Yes, we continue to lag the world in improving the whole pool of vehicles on the road. Part of that is owed to the number of vehicles kept much longer as a result of our mediocre economy. Another sillier part is neurotic reaction to fluctuating gasoline prices. We never seem to learn to commit whole-heartedly to more efficient designs, still hoping to drive like someone in a 1950’s hot rod movie all the time.

I love the fact that if I decide to replace my 19-year-old pickup truck, I have some decent choices – though most of them are different body styles.

Turbo-boosted engines becoming the norm at Ford and VW


Click to enlarge2014 Ford Fiesta Turbo ST

Despite the hiccups associated with any technology, the U.S. automaker Ford says it can see a day when all vehicles are either hybrids, electrics or powered by turbocharged engines.

Ford produced its 2 millionth EcoBoost engine Tuesday and said it plans to add to its lineup of five turbocharged powerplants, ranging from a 3.5 liter V6 to a tiny 1 liter three-cylinder engine, and may include a smaller EcoBoost V6 for the next F-150 pickup…

“Five is not the end of the road,” said Ford Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Joe Bakaj. He said EcoBoost technology would help the automaker meet the federal mileage requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

It was a “big risk for us as a company to go from a big V8 to a V6. We knew on paper it would be great, but until you launch and see consumers vote, you don’t know if the strategy will work,” he said Monday at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich.

About 20 percent of all new Fords have direct fuel injection EcoBoost engines, which generate the power of a larger conventional internal combustion engine via turbocharging and software while delivering improved fuel economy.

Although an EcoBoost engine is more expensive than a conventional gasoline engine it recoups the additional cost in fuel savings four times faster than a diesel engine…

Continue reading

A conservative car nut converts to natural gas


Click the photo to run the video – a commercial likely at the start

Why does someone with Progressive politics feature a video on his site starring one of the founders of the Tea Party movement? Because regardless of politics – and Rick Santelli is about 130 years behind the times – it’s hard to argue about mechanical and thermal facts. They’re reasonably immutable.

We can argue about the rate at which prices, costs, will change as something like this becomes a mainstream option. My usual comparison is with the first gen IBM PC for $3000 coming down to white box equivalent for a couple hundred bucks nowadays. This process is simple enough that Ford could do this on the production line for all their cars and the retail would be less than a hybrid conversion. Much less.

By the time you get to the end of the video you learn this cost about $8k and a home filling station would be about $5K. All today’s prices. That can be reduced 50-95% with the economies of scale. The finished truck runs at the equivalent of 80 mpg and a cost of 66¢ a gallon. That makes this worthwhile even at today’s prices.

I won’t wander off into the questions of which bridge to alternative energy gets us where and how soon. I’ll leave that – for now – to the folks who are members of the ecology “religion”. I’ve been an environmental activist for 45 years and haven’t seen the ivory tower crowd achieve a whole boatload more than folks who start out by trying to save people money in a reasonable timeframe – along with getting us to cleaner air and water.

The video is less than 12 minutes. I hope you have an adult attention span.

Guess who is paying $400 a gallon for gasoline? You and me…

Fed up with the price of gas? We feel your pain. Depending on what state you live in, gas is likely to be found for somewhere between three and four dollars per gallon – and make no mistake, that figure is enough to amount to a sizable chunk of the average American’s monthly paycheck.

A new Pentagon report obtained by The Wall Street Journal suggests that American motorists should consider themselves lucky to have such affordable fuel: U.S. military operations stationed in Afghanistan are paying a lot more than that… up to $400 per gallon of fuel delivered to troops on the ground – 100 times what we are asked to shell out. Yikes.

The astronomical cost of fuel is due in part to how it must be delivered: by parachute. Huge military cargo planes operated by the Air Force fly to a remote drop zone and send dozens of pallets to the ground, containing items like food, water and, of course, fuel.

There’s more bad news. Due to the dangers of setting up ground-based supply convoys, the military fully expects that air-drops will be increasingly necessary in the coming months and years. And that means our military’s fuel bill is only going to get more and more expensive.

We could probably buy one-gallon containers of gasoline in western China and have them delivered by taxicab for less.

Man blows himself up trying to burn ex-girlfriend’s body

An explosive south Fulton County fire was apparently started last month by a man trying to burn his ex-girlfriend’s body…Sarone Bridges perished in the ensuing blaze, but not immediately after the blast that started the quick-burning fire, Fulton County Fire Chief Larry Few said.

“Based on how his body was positioned, I think (the) explosion took its toll on him,” Few said. “The concussion from the blast could have made him disoriented where he fell, and he received the thermal burns afterwards.”

Investigators from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Bridges died of burns and smoke inhalation.

Bridges’ ex-girlfriend, Beverly Bland, 34, was strangled before the fire, police said…

Few said Bridges, 35, doused a sleeping bag with gasoline and laid Bland’s body on the bag to set it on fire. But his plan literally blew up in his face.

“When he threw that match, the vapors of gasoline are what ignited,” Few said. “There was an immediate fireball that blew the windows out…”

Sometimes you get what you deserve.

Mexican gangsters set casino on fire – dozens killed


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

At least 53 people were killed in a fiery attack at a casino in an upscale area of Monterrey, Mexico, government and emergency officials said…

Witnesses have told investigators that up to six people entered the Casino Royale and asked for the manager, according Adrian de la Garza, the state attorney general for Nuevo Leon.

When the manager refused, they set the building on fire, he said. It’s believed a solvent was used to start the blaze, possibly gasoline, de la Garza said…

Between 20 and 30 people were trapped in the casino by debris, said Cmdr. Angel Flores with the Green Cross…

Monterrey is the capital of Nuevo Leon…Nuevo Leon and the neighboring states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas have been the scene of clashes between organized crime groups. The Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas are vying for control of trafficking routes into the United States.

In November 2010, the federal government launched the Coordinated Operation Northeast, which involves sending more security forces to the area to tackle crime.

A tactic which obviously hasn’t had the effect of diminishing violence.

Big 3 benefit from availability of vehicles with better fuel economy

GM, Ford and Chrysler showed much faster sales growth rates in April than Toyota and most other Japanese brands, in a sign that supply disruptions as a result of Japan’s March 11 earthquake are hitting Japanese manufacturers hardest.

Detroit automakers were also helped by the spike in gasoline prices to near $4 a gallon which fed consumer hunger for more fuel-efficient cars… And trucks.

GM sales were driven by its fuel-efficient Chevrolet compact cars and compact crossovers: the Cruze, Equinox and Terrain.

In March, for only the second time since 1998, Ford Motor Co outsold the larger General Motors Co. But in April GM sold 18 percent more vehicles than Ford. Ford came in No. 2 after it showed a U.S. 16 percent sales gain compared with GM’s 26 percent rise…

It was the third straight month that U.S. auto sales topped 13 million on an annualized basis — which had not happened since mid-2008…

Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager with Hodges Capital Management in Dallas, said that a general U.S. economic recovery will allow consumers to continue buying cars at a rate that will also mean a gradual recovery in the auto industry…

Another beneficiary of the desire for cars that can go far on a gallon of gas was Hyundai Motor Co, which posted a 40 percent sales gain for its best showing ever for April. The cars it sold in April carried an average fuel efficiency of 36.2 miles per gallon, the company said.

In another sign of strength of the Detroit manufacturers, Chrysler Group LLC, managed by Italy’s Fiat SpA, increased April sales 22 percent, its 13th straight month of year-on-year U.S. sales growth…

Sales in Canada reported on Tuesday also showed gains linked to sales of fuel-efficient vehicles.

In my neck of the prairie, significant to the process of good sense overcoming habit, Ford’s best-selling F-150 pickup matched national numbers in that half of the sales were with the smaller Turbo V6 rather than the less efficient V8. Good news all-round, though I’d still prefer the small turbo-diesel they offer outside the US. RTFA for details on each manufacturer.

Long range, we’re still waiting and hoping for the Ford Focus EV to get its electric butt to New Mexico before my wife’s ancient Volvo gives up the ghost.

DISCLAIMER: I own enough shares in Ford to buy a breakfast burrito for each of us.