Posts Tagged ‘energy prices’

Holy smokes, has anyone seen energy prices lately?

April 8, 2011

With the DC posturing over the budget and an Iowa man on the 31st day of his beer-only fast dominating the news, I wonder how may people has noticed what’s going on with energy prices.  Oil nosed up to $112/barrel.  And I paid $3.90 a gallon for regular yesterday.  And all this before the summer season when gas prices usually go up.  People are starting to get nervous–and rightly so–about heating their homes next winter.   I wonder if as consumers we’ll plan ahead and take action now to make the home economics work, or if we’ll put things off like Congress.


Natural gas prices climb

March 23, 2011

The extended colder weather has pushed up natural gas prices—reflecting price rises we’re seeing at the gas pumps.  With some electricity generation shifting toward natural gas, we’ll continue to have demand pressure, even as more supplies are found.  Add to that, the fact that the pipes are only so big, and we can only squeeze so much natural gas through them.  This is part of the reason we saw natural gas shortages in several states this winter.  And it’s not going away.  Even with more supply of energy—gas, electricity, oil—we would still have an expensive distribution problem.  New electric lines, and bigger gas pipelines aren’t free.  The cost gets reflected in the energy bills we pay.  However, by increasing efficiency, we help solve both the supply and the distribution question.  Individually and collectively, we decide where our money gets spent.  To me, it just doesn’t make sense to burn it when there are so many other things we could be doing!  And that’s why energy-efficiency makes sense.  And cents.  And lots and lots of dollars.


Chinese impact on oil prices?

December 14, 2009

It’s well worth thinking about this post from Keith Johnson of the WSJ’s “Environmental Capital” blog:

Chinese demand for oil seems to be recovering rapidly. Bloomberg reports that Chinese crude imports surged 28% in November. For the year, oil imports are up 11% compared with last year—already a high-water mark for China’s oil appetite.

Resurgent demand in China—on the back of a strong manufacturing rebound–is the main reason the International Energy Agency is revising upward its forecast for 2010 global oil demand. The IEA increased its global demand forecasts by 130,000 barrels a day—with almost 100,000 barrels coming just from China, the WSJ reports.

Read the whole post.  And remember that increasingly oil prices won’t be driven by the U.S. demand.   And U.S. supply–even with offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR–would have a very minor impact.   Oil is hovering at around $70/barrel right now.  But the U.S. can’t control energy costs.  However, we certainly can do a much better job improving efficiency and controlling how much energy we need–and protect ourselves from big impacts due to energy prices.  That’s smart.

Volatile Oil Prices Cause Uncertainly

July 6, 2009

A NY Times story today talks about the volatility in oil prices, including the impact rollercoastering oil prices have on consumers’ and businesses’ abilities to predict costs.  Whether in their homes, or in their businesses, people like to know what to expect.  Oil moving between $50 and $150 per barrel makes that difficult.  But there is a way to rein that uncertainity in–and get bigger returns for doing it, standing the risk/return tradeoff on its head.  And as goes oil, so goes gas and electricity, even if those changes get smoothed out a bit be utility regulatory processes.

Let’s say you heat with oil (could be gas–or we could be taking about electricity and A/C).   If you spend $1,500 per year at “normal” prices, but that could double to $2,500 per year, you’re looking at a large swing–up to an additional $1,000.  Now let’s say you improve the efficiency of your home by 50%, reducing your “normal” costs to $750.  If prices spike, your bill goes up to $1,250–still less than you’re paying now, and $1,750 less than you’d spend on energy in your current inefficient house!  And if prices don’t spike, you save $750/year.

You cannot control wars in the Middle East, bickering between Russia and Europe over natural gas pipelines, oil price speculation, or hurricanes that disrupt production.   You cannot control the price of oil, gas, or electricity.  But you can have an enormous impact on how these prices affect you.  The choice is to ride the stormy seas and risk getting sunk–or protect yourself from changing prices.  It’s better than insurance though, because you save if energy prices go up, and you save if they don’t!  That’s just plain smart.

So how does reducing your home energy use by 50% sound?


Oil Price Creeping Up?

May 31, 2009

Has anyone else noticed that oil closed at $66/barrel on Friday, up almost 30% so far this month and the highest it’s been in six months?  Yikes!

Investing in Your Home

October 1, 2008

Wow!  The financial markets are a mess.  My 401(k) has tanked this quarter. The economy is reportedly in dire straits, and Congress hasn’t agreed on a bailout or any other action plan yet.
A lot of people are wondering what to do with their money. You have to go somewhere else for financial advice about your portfolio and your retirement plan.  I would like you to think about one arena, though, that still can deliver a big Return on Investment (ROI).  Home energy improvements. Even with recent declines in oil, home energy prices are still quite a bit higher than they were a year ago and forecasted to rise again this winter. Smart investing in your home can deliver returns better than the current bond market and extremely volatile stock market.
Here are a few examples to quickly illustrate the potential.

Let’s say you invest $2,700 in attic insulation and air-sealing.  (Remember, never think about insulation without thinking about air-sealing, too.)   And let’s assume that insulation is able to help you save $400 per year off of your gas bill based on last year’s prices.   Your first year ROI is $400 divided by $2,700 or 14.8%.  When natural gas prices rise this winter, you save more and your ROI is even higher.
Another example, with a simple calculation tip for your furnace.  If your present furnace is at 70% efficiency (AFUE), and you install a high-efficiency system with an AFUE of 95%, then the projected saving is 25% of the fuel you burn.  Or, said differently you save $25 per $100. If your annual fuel bill is $1,400, then your total annual savings would be about $25 x 14 = $350.  If that new furnace cost $3,850, you’ve got a 9.1% ROI—plus, you won’t be wasting money on service calls to fix your old furnace. Like the earlier example, as energy prices go up, your return goes up.  
Now these are just simple examples.  You might want or need a combination of several home energy improvements.  You’d need a comprehensive assessment like GreenHomes offers to determine exactly which improvements make the most sense for you and your home.  And a GreenHomes Advisor can more accurately estimate your savings.  The take away, for you, is that now more than ever, energy-reducing improvements are a smart investment that will deliver consistent returns for years to come.

Whew! It looks like we dodged a bullet with Gustav!

September 1, 2008


Hurricane Gustav has been downgraded to Category 1, and New Orleans was spared the worst as the heart of storm landed further west.  Although it’s not over yet, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it doesn’t look as bad as it might have been.  Thank goodness!


Kudos to CNN Money for making the connection between Gustav and heating our homes this winter.  They were right to look at the two. 


However, they missed the boat by focusing on what fuels you use to heat your home.  Oil, natural gas, propane, wood, pellets, etc are all commodities, and the price goes up and down.  Some are cheaper for a while, but they often change places.  And the price of all fuels continues to climb.  Further, as the story does mention, it can cost thousands of dollars to switch equipment.  CNN should have read my earlier posts for a better answer!  Efficiency is almost always a better place to start than switching fuels.  Pick the fuel that makes the most sense for you, but invest in efficiency first. 


Visit the GreenHomes Interactive Home to see what sort of savings you could expect from different home improvements.



Hurricane Gustav

August 27, 2008

It looks like we may not have to wait for winter for more energy woes.  As Hurricane Gustav moves toward the Gulf, oil prices are moving upward.  At this point there’s no telling what will happen there.  Could be minor.  Could have a big impact.  This just reinforces my last point:  It’s better to insulate yourself from weather driven energy prices!


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