Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lets Meet This Challenge...!!!

Gore's answer to energy crisis

"It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil 10 years from now," Gore said.


Oil markets: Bottoming out or taking a breather?

NEW YORK - Oil prices tumbled below $130 a barrel for the first time in more than a month Thursday, as crude's dramatic slide entered a third day accompanied by a sharp sell-off in natural gas.

The declines accelerated amid growing concerns that the weakening economy and creeping inflation are eroding demand for fossil fuels in the U.S. and other large energy-consuming nations.

Oil is now more than 10 percent cheaper per barrel than it was on Monday; natural gas prices are down more than 20 percent just since the Fourth of July. Still, experts are not convinced that prices have turned a corner.

"There's no bell that tells you when the market has turned," said James Cordier, president of Tampa, Fla.-based trading firms Liberty Trading Group and

Light, sweet crude for August delivery dropped $5.31 to settle at $129.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have fallen nearly $16 in just the past three days.

Natural gas futures for August delivery fell more than 8 percent Thursday, marking their biggest one-day drop in nearly a year, according to Nathan Golz, researcher at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis. Prices for the key heating, cooking and power generation fuel settled 86.1 cents lower at $10.537, their lowest point since April.

A number of market observers say there simply wasn't enough support for the recent run up in natural gas prices, and that this week's sell-off of oil has only helped speed the declines.

"Any time oil goes up or down on Nymex, it's going to have a carry-over effect on natural gas," said Michael Rieke, senior managing editor for power and gas at energy research firm Platts.

The immediate cause of Thursday's sharp natural gas decline was a larger-than-expected increase of U.S. supplies.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas inventories rose by 104 billion cubic feet to more than 2.31 trillion last week. Analysts had been expecting supplies to grow by only 86 billion to 91 billion cubic feet, according to a Platts survey.

A similar report Wednesday showed oil, gasoline and other fuel supplies unexpectedly rose sharply. Traders saw both the petroleum and natural gas reports as reasons to sell, as they reinforce data that show consumers are cutting back on their energy use.

"We're seeing some worries about demand destruction in oil, so I think that's creating some fear among investors and leading them to sell," said Tom Pawlicki, commodities analyst with MF Global Research in Chicago.

Some market observers have said last Friday's record above $147 a barrel could represent a peak price for oil, at least for the time being. But like a number of others, Pawlicki was reluctant to say whether the market's latest swoon represented a lasting shift.

"I think it's too early to call a top to this market," Pawlicki said.

Crude's drop weighed heavily on other commodities Thursday, with gold, silver, soybeans, corn and other agriculture futures all ending sharply lower.

Stocks rallied for the second day. That fueled speculation among some analysts that large investors are pulling money out of oil and other commodities — which had been seen as safe havens given the financial turmoil of the past year — and pumping it back into the beaten-down stock market.

Reports of a pre-dawn explosion that damaged an oil pipeline in Nigeria's restive south — the sort of threat to supply that has helped fuel crude's recent rally — did little to prop up prices Thursday.

A Nigerian military official said the blast on a pipeline owned by Agip, a subsidiary of the Italian energy giant Eni SpA, "affected output," although he did not say by how much.

Col. Chris Musa, head of the Bayelsa State military, also did not say how severe the damage was, and declined to comment on what might have caused the explosion. The company said a sudden drop in pressure led it to halt production on pipelines carrying 47,000 barrels of oil a day.

Attacks on oil industry infrastructure in the past two years have slashed oil output by almost a quarter in Nigeria, Africa's top crude producer.

At the gas pump, prices held steady at a record $4.114 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. Diesel rose to a new record of $4.845, up more than half a penny.

In other Nymex trade, heating oil fell 9.72 cents to settle at $3.7438 a gallon, while gasoline futures fell 11.61 cents to settle at $3.1633.

Brent crude for September delivery fell $5.12 to settle at $131.07 on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.


Associated Press Writers William Nsoyoh in Yenagoa, Nigeria, and Stevenson Jacobs in New York contributed to this report.

By ADAM SCHRECK, AP Business Writer
22 minutes ago

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hardest-To-Get Cars

Looking for a new car? Maybe you have your heart set on something fuel-efficient because of $4 gas? Or perhaps you had a good year and feel you're ready to move up to something with a touch of style, luxury or class?

Get in line. Despite tough times for the auto industry in general, there are some car models--across a broad range of classes and sizes--that are so popular that auto manufacturers are selling them faster than they can build them.

The range of hard-to-get vehicles is as diverse as consumer tastes and budgets in general. Case in point: As expected, the most-wanted vehicle on our list is the fuel-sipping $21,500 Toyota Prius hybrid sedan that gets an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) combined estimate of 46 mpg. No. 2 on the list? The not-so-expected gas-guzzling $74,700 Lexus LX Series full-size luxury SUV that gets a combined 14 mpg.

Behind The Numbers

To compile our list of the most-wanted vehicles, we used information provided by Ward's Automotive Group, a publisher of industry trade news and data, as well as automaker-supplied days' supply data as a measure of dealer inventory levels.

A low days' supply and low retail turn rate--the amount of time a car spends on a dealer's lot--means some dealerships may have sold out of a vehicle, have only a few on the lot or may not have the style or trim you desire.

Vehicles with the lowest days' supply made the initial list (Ward's says the industry average is 60 days), which was pared down using J.D. Power and Associates' retail turn rate to determine how quickly a model sold in the month of May. The average retail turn rate for all vehicles is 61 days; we only considered vehicles with a rate of 40 days or less, well below the industry average.

So how did the LX 570, in an age of $4-a-gallon gas, make it to the second spot on the most-wanted list?

Even though the premium SUV seems like an anomaly in a time when consumers are snapping up small cars, auto analysts are quick to note that there's still a demand for luxury vehicles and that the SUV market, while struggling, isn't dead. Furthermore, popular vehicles that undergo a redesign, like the Scion xD and the LX 570, often experience an initial surge in sales, says Tom Libby, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates.

"In fact, Lexus is still working through a pre-sold list of loyal Lexus owners who wanted to get the premium SUV as soon as it hit the market," says Curt McAllister, a Toyota spokesman. "Its new styling and creature comforts appeal to loyal Lexus and premium SUV shoppers."

The LX 570 had an average eight-day supply of vehicles at the end of May and the average turn rate for each model was eight days. It has a more powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine producing 383 horsepower, and leather seats with power extendable front seat cushions for added comfort. It also features new technology, such as wide-view front and side monitors located in the grille and under the passenger side-view mirror to aid drivers with hard-to-view areas.

Waiting List For Luxury

If a high-end SUV isn't your style, but you do hope to make that first step into the luxury segment with, say, the all-new Audi A5, you're going to have to wait a little while before you drive off the lot. The luxury midsize coupe and the high-performance S5 model are selling faster than Audi can make them.

The A5 launched in March of this year (the S5 came out in November 2007) with a base manufacturer's suggested retail price of $41,200, but according to Ward's, at the end of May there was an average eight-day supply of A5s on dealers' lots. Comparatively, the retail turn rate, at 39 days, is higher than that of other cars on the list. But since this is a nationwide average and the days' supply is low, a dealership in one part of the country may have exactly the A5 the customer wants, while a dealer elsewhere has a waiting list.

It's a similar situation for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the more modestly priced Benz ($33,675), with an average 29 days' supply of cars. While the supply is higher than that of other cars on the list, this model sells very quickly, with a turn rate of only 26 days, meaning that, on average, the C-Class is sold faster than it's produced.

Finding A Fuel-Efficient Car

Toyota is preparing to launch an updated and improved Prius later this year and therefore won't increase production of the 2008 model. Typically, sales trail off as consumers wait for the new model to launch, but that hasn't happened as gas prices continued to soar beyond $4 a gallon and threaten to reach $5 a gallon this summer.

Demand for the Prius has increased, but the "limited supply of Prius in the pipeline is due to a product plan based on our overall production limitations at the Prius factory" in Japan, says Sona Iliffe-Moon, a Toyota spokeswoman. "We are currently running at full capacity and have been for two years. All along we said we would have a supply ceiling."

But times were different then.

"We saw a major shift in May to small and compact conventional cars," says Libby. "Automakers started May with lean inventory. But the percent of compact cars sold in May was 20.3%, up over 15.8% in May last year. They will have to increase production of small cars."

Diane Elnick, industry analyst at Ward's Automotive Group, says that "if demand continues at the high pace it did in May for these vehicles, automakers will have a hard time providing them."

A model that may be facing this problem is the Honda Civic and its hybrid version, which are among the most-wanted vehicles. The gas-powered Civic gets a respectable EPA combined estimated 29 mpg; the hybrid version, 42 mpg. Tim Bothell, new car director at Showcase Honda in Phoenix, Ariz., says 75% of his Civic sales are hybrids. And with Toyota capping production on the Prius, demand for the Civic could increase even more.

"We are not quite at a waiting-list point yet, but we are approaching that level," says Bothell. Ward's says there was a nationwide average 21-day supply of all Civics at the end of May; according to J.D. Power, Civics turn quickly, at an average of only 25 days.

Whether you have a taste for a luxury model or a simple fuel-efficient one, the good news is that you have plenty of options. The bad news: You might have to be willing to wait for the one you really want.

By Jacqueline Mitchell,