Nov. 26, 2008
03:55:50 pm , by ThinkTalk TradeNews
, 1359 words, 2677 views
Antonia Juhasz, author of the new book "The Tyranny of Oil," spent some time recently answering our questions. Juhasz's book chronicles the history of the petroleum industry, from its outlaw beginnings to the modern-day excesses which pervade our culture now. Below is Part One of our Interview
BidForGreen: You compare the oil companies of today to the amazing empire controlled by Standard Oil in the 19th Century. What are the biggest similarities?
Antonia Juhasz: Since 1990, there have been more than 2600 mergers in the U.S. oil industry alone. These mergers have brought mass consolidation and concentration in the U.S. refining and marketing (i.e. gas stations) sectors, and in some states and regions more than others. In California, for example, we have an oligopoly â€“ just a small handful of mega oil companies control production of oil and the refining and marketing and gasoline. Nationally, we have an incredibly concentrated market within which, I argue, there is tremendous collusion among the leading companies. The closest similarity in our history would be the monopoly control exercised by Standard Oil.
While Standard's monopoly control was greater than that of today's giant oil companies (most of which are what I refer to as "the spawn of Standard Oil), the economic heft and political power that the companies exercise over our (and other nations) government(s) truly has just one historical precedent: that of Standard Oil.
A good case in point is the description of a newspaper cartoon from the Standard Oil era (likely around the 1870s), which depicts the U.S. Senate. Towering above the seated senators, three times their individual size, stand grossly obese men representing the corporate trusts. Each man is dressed in top hat and tails. Standard Oil, the most dominant, is the only company depicted by name among the "copper," "iron," "sugar," "tin," "coal," and "paper bag" trusts. Above them a sign is posted: "This is a Senate of the monopolists, by the monopolists, for the monopolists!" Off in the far left corner is a small sign that reads "People's Entrance," below which is a bolted and barred door marked "closed."
A great groundswell of citizen action emerged in response to this political power being exercised by the nation's corporations over our government, with people across the nation coning together in what has since been called the Populist and Progressive movements to bring about change. Some groups sought revolution, but what they got was regulation: the first regulations on corporate activity implemented in the U.S., including new laws on campaign finance, workers' rights and protections, public health, and the first national antitrust laws. The intent of the antitrust laws was to break the power of the trusts over the government. Through organizing at the local, state, and national levels, activists across the United States ultimately succeeded in 1911 when the Supreme Court upheld the breakup of Standard Oil into 34 separate corporate parts.
Well, its taken about 100 years, but those pieces have slowly but surely put themselves back together again, and, together with a few other companies, we now have just a few mega-oil giants dominating the U.S. oil industry, and in many ways, the global industry as well: ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Valero, and Marathon (the largest oil companies operating within the U.S. and those with the greatest influence on U.S. government policy).
BFG: You clearly support the idea of doing some modern-day trust busting. How realistic do you think that is?
AJ: I think its very realistic today, even more realistic then when I began writing the book given the state of the U.S. and global economy and the election of Barack Obama as President. Of course, I spend a good deal of time describing the failures of the Standard Oil breakup and what we can learn from those mistakes to do a better job of it in the present. And, breaking up the companies is just one among many policy prescriptions I make for dealing with the industry and the four interrelated problems of war, global warming, the worsening global economy, and the reclaiming of an American democracy. The entire last chapter of the book is dedicated to "what we can do."
BFG: Similarly, you say on page 280, "Big Oil knows that it is in trouble." Given the enormous political divide in our country and all the inherent governmental support, do you really think they know or care about Al Gore and a few protestors?
AJ: I refer to the fact that, for all of its unequaled financial power (not only the largest profits in world corporate history, but profits which utterly dwarf those of any other U.S. industry) Big Oil is in trouble because the resource on which it makes its money -- "oil" -- is running out, at the same time that public anger against the industry is at all time highs and real and meaningful strategies for moving off of its product altogether are being explored, advocated for, and implemented the world over. The movements against global warming, war, and corporate concentration and power over elected government are far stronger and broader than Al Gore or "a few protestors." That said, never underestimate the power of a few protestors to jump start mass movements for change.
BFG: Your book points out both the galling imperialism of the post-World War I division of oil resources in the Middle East and the injustices still practiced by major companies in places such as Nigeria and Indonesia. How much do you think the actions of the oil companies have led to the world's opinion of America?
AJ: The actions taken by U.S. corporations around that world have and continue to contribute significantly to the negative view of American policy held by far too much of the world. I describe historical actions and the impact of companies such as Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Gulf and others around the world, as, following World War I, country by country, region by region, the companies took control of the world's oil. The money from the oil companies supported the governments that in turn supported their work, often some of the most notoriously corrupt governments in the world. Oil production pushed out other forms of economic development, increasing the role of oil in the countries' economies. The companies controlled production levels for each country and determined the value of every barrel of oil sold in the world, effectively dictating to governments how much income they would receive for their oil. Thus, as oil grew in importance and value, the oil companies were determining not only the size of government budgets but also the very growth of national economies. The companies made their production decisions based as much on politics as on economics. Exxon Mideast Coordinator Howard Page told a U.S. Senate commission that the oil companies actively punished uncooperative countries with production cuts while raising production elsewhere to reward good behavior. These decisions radically impacted the economic well-being of the host nations and the power of the host governments. Whether the companies decided to produce from wells in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela determined the federal budget available to those nations. Therefore, it may not be surprising that nations around the world rose up to take back control of this vital resource and nationalized the holdings of the corporate oil giants. But, the memory of the power exercised by the giants over the fate of nations remains strong in countries around the world.
Moreover, the problems continue, as evidenced in the many cases that I draw on in the book, including Chevron in Nigeria and Ecuador, Exxon in Indonesia, and the role of U.S. oil companies in the war in Iraq, a threatened war against Iran, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and that the Bush administration has put in place the largest realignment of the U.S. military since the end of the cold war--expanding the presence of the U.S. military around the world to those places where oil is found and transported -- and that the threat of more wars, be they in the Middle East or Africa, has grown accordingly.
Nov. 14, 2008
04:07:00 pm , by ThinkTalk TradeNews
, 158 words, 3952 views
BidForGreen is proud to have provided biodiesel to Widespread Panic's 2008 Fall Tour. Based in Athens, Georgia since the late 1980's, Widespread Panic is notorious as one of America's most predominant touring acts and a steady keeper of loyal fans. We would like to congratulate them for being honored at the 5th Annual Billboard Touring Awards on Nov. 20. "Widespread Panic will receive the first-ever Road Warrior Award, a recognition for their work ethic, steadfast dedication to touring year after year, and a commitment to the art and craft of live performance."
This award is long deserved for a band that has put so much time and miles on America's roadways. BFG powered their 3 coaches and 3 big rigs throughout the multishow, 11 city tour, which kicked off October 10th in Austin, TX. BidForGreen made it possible for them to use American produced fuel, benefiting America's industry while negating their impact on the environment.
Nov. 12, 2008
08:52:52 pm , by ThinkTalk TradeNews
, 1075 words, 952 views
NASCAR Sprint Cup officials will leave it to a green car to lead the field to the green flag next Sunday at the season-ending Ford 400 – marking a NASCAR Sprint Cup first.
The all-new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, featuring the debut of Ford’s next-generation hybrid system, along with the all-new Fusion Sport will pace the Ford 400, which concludes Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Miami is an international city with a flair for what’s new,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray. “And with the evolution of Ford Championship Weekend into one of the highest-profile events in sports, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami is the perfect spot for a historical racing first—the Fusion Hybrid Pace Car.”
The Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion Sport will both be in NASCAR-inspired camouflage for the race. Miami-area race fans and the national television audience on ABC will be the first to see the cars, since they won’t be officially unveiled until the Los Angeles International Auto Show three days later. They will be available in dealer showrooms in the spring of 2009.
After the Fusion Hybrid leads the field to the green flag, the 263-horsepower Fusion Sport will be the pace car for the remainder of the Ford 400.
“The new Ford Fusion ups the ante in the mid-size sedan segment with outstanding fuel economy but retains what made it standout from the competition from the beginning – the fun-to-drive factor,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas, who will wave the green flag at the start of Sunday’s Ford 400. “The Fusion Hybrid pacing the Ford 400 showcases exactly what our customers want, fuel economy and fun – and we’re pleased to be able to offer racing fans a glimpse of what’s to come at Sunday’s race.”
The new product teases are welcome news to Ford NASCAR star Carl Edwards, a winner of eight NASCAR Sprint Cup wins this year and currently second in the championship standings.
“It’s really appropriate that Ford is bringing the 2010 Fusion Hybrid to pace the Ford 400,” he said. “The Fusion already gets great fuel mileage. And I sure know that my NASCAR Fusion gets great fuel mileage after the way we recently won the Texas race. But for Ford to come out with a hybrid version of the Fusion, that’s best-in-class in terms of fuel economy, is really cool.”
“It makes a great car even better,” Edwards continued. “I just hope that I can be on the pole next week at Homestead, so I can be running up right behind it at the start of the race.”
More than 700 Miles of City Driving
The Ford Fusion Hybrid can operate in electric mode at speeds up to 47 mph with a range of more than 700 miles of city driving on a single tank of gas. A smaller, lighter high-volt battery has greater charge capacity and range than Ford’s current generation battery, as found in the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid, which is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet.
“Because our hybrid can run at a much higher speed in electric mode, you can do so much more in city-driving situations,” said Gil Portalatin, Hybrid Applications Manager. “Under the right conditions, you can drive in your neighborhood or mall parking lots without using a drop of gasoline.”
The more efficient next-generation hybrid system delivers a more seamless driving experience and is expected to achieve class-leading fuel economy, besting the Toyota Camry hybrid by at least five mpg in city driving.
The 2010 Fusion Hybrid has already been recognized for its significance in advancing “green” technology and improving environmental performance by the Green Car Journal. The Fusion Hybrid has been named one of Green Car Journal’s Top 5 for 2009, being a finalist for the magazine’s top award, Green Car of the Year, which is scheduled to beannounced at the L.A. Auto Show.
The Innovation of SmartGauge with EcoGuide
Pushing a vehicle to the limit takes on a new meaning in the new 2010 Ford Fusion, thanks to Ford’s SmartGauge with EcoGuide – an innovative new instrument cluster that provides real-time information to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency.
The instrument cluster’s unique design uses two, high-resolution, full-color liquid crystal display (LCD) screens on either side of the analog speedometer that can be configured to show different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels, average and instant miles-per-gallon.
“SmartGauge with EcoGuide gives the customer real-world feedback to make the most of their hybrids,” said Portalatin. “Unique to Ford and Mercury hybrid sedans, this instrument cluster acts as a good ‘coach,’ engaging drivers real-time to help them achieve maximum fuel economy.”
Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed in two ways – either as a traditional chart or using an innovative display that shows “efficiency leaves,” which is an animation of growing green leaves on vines projected on the right side of the cluster. The more efficient a customer is, the more lush and bountiful the leaves become, creating a visual reward for the driver’s efforts.
The “efficiency leaves” were the inspiration for the Fusion Hybrid Pace Car’s camouflage design, which showcases green leaves growing from the front grille down the length of vehicle.
EPA-Smart Way Cars
The 2009 Ford Fusion is among the vehicles that have received SmartWay certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a partner of NASCAR. The SmartWay designation is earned by vehicles meeting EPA-set Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Scores.
Among NASCAR’s vehicle partners, a variety of makes and models have received the EPA SmartWay designation, providing drivers with a range of options whether they’re looking for a compact car, mid-size sedan or sport utility vehicle.
Consumers visiting the Ford displays at Homestead will see a variety of these EPA SmartWay vehicles, including the 2009 Fusion, 2009 Taurus and the 2009 Focus.
Fusion in NASCAR
Ford has sponsored a racing version of the Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2006. It has captured 22 series wins since its debut, including 10 this season.
The 2010 model NASCAR Fusion will make its competition debut at the 2009 Daytona 500 in February and will be unveiled to consumers during Ford Championship Weekend.
The Fusion made its debut as a pace car in the series on Oct. 9, 2005, at Kansas Speedway. It also paced the field prior to that season’s Ford Championship Weekend.
Ford has 591 wins overall in NASCAR’s top division. Seven different drivers have captured eight Cup championships, and Ford has won 15 manufacturers’ championships
08:07:42 am , by ThinkTalk TradeNews
, 96 words, 309 views
President-elect Barack Obama made environmental initiatives one of the most important part of his successful campaign.
In preparing for his first 100 days, there are several indications of where energy policy will take him. The campaign's video outlines his goals in broad (and somewhat vague) terms. Obama is more specific in his plan's outline, which can be found on the Energy page of his site.
Obama's presidency promises more economic opportunity for green businesses than any in history; it remains to be seen what deflated oil prices will do to the general public's opinion of green initiatives.
Nov. 04, 2008
08:25:40 am , by ThinkTalk TradeNews
, 849 words, 619 views
Pushing a vehicle to the limit takes on a new meaning in the new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, thanks to Ford’s SmartGauge with EcoGuide – an innovative new instrument cluster that provides real-time information to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency.
“SmartGauge with EcoGuide gives the customer real-world feedback to make the most of their hybrids,” said Gil Portalatin, Hybrid Applications Manager. “Unique to Ford and Mercury hybrid sedans, this instrument cluster acts as a good ‘coach,’ engaging drivers real-time to help them achieve maximum fuel economy.”
Ford collaborated with IDEO and Smart Design, two world leaders in helping consumers connect with technology, to develop the instrument cluster. Job One was properly integrating the driver with the cluster’s science and technology.
“The main question hybrid drivers had was, ‘How do I know I'm getting the most out of my hybrid?’ ” said Jeff Greenberg, Ford senior technical leader. “We needed to create a system that better communicates with drivers and gives them the tools to maximize fuel efficiency. That’s what SmartGauge with EcoGuide does.”
The driver is immediately engaged by the SmartGauge displays, on either side of the center-mounted analog speedometer, with a special greeting that combines illumination and graphics.
EcoGuide then uses a multi-layered approach to coach the driver to maximum fuel efficiency. A tutorial mode built into the display that helps the driver learn about the instrument cluster and the hybrid in a whimsical way that does not overpower.
For instance, drivers can choose one of four data screens to choose the information level displayed during their drives. They are:
* Inform: Fuel level and battery charge status
* Enlighten: Adds electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer
* Engage: Adds engine output power and battery output power
* Empower: Adds power to wheels, engine pull-up threshold and accessory power consumption
All levels can show instant fuel economy, fuel economy history, odometer, engine coolant temperature, what gear the car is in and trip data (trip fuel economy, time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty). The engine coolant temperature indicator turns green when engine conditions are warm enough to allow engine pull-down.
At the core of the instrument cluster’s design was an understanding that the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) experience evolves and deepens over time and the technology needed to reflect that.
The four levels of information can be customized to fit each driver’s needs or situation. If cruising on the highway, for instance, only basic information may be desired. Once a driver moves off the highway into a city, additional information to optimize fuel economy may be desired and can be easily accessed.
Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed in two ways – either as a traditional chart or using an innovative display that shows “growing leaves and vines” on the right side of the cluster. The more efficient a customer is, the more lush and beautiful the leaves and vines, creating a visual reward for the driver’s efforts.
Additionally, the real-time system feedback allows drivers to assess or modify their driving habits to achieve maximum fuel economy. A shutdown screen reviews important information from the latest trip, including fuel economy performance and comparative data from previous days.
Extensive customer research was completed to ensure the instrument cluster is as driver-friendly as possible. Prototype testing was done in Ford’s Virtual Text Track Experiment (VIRTTEX) simulator, the industry’s largest driver distraction laboratory operated by an automaker. Test drivers were able to safely interact with the new technology as engineers gathered data and helped refine SmartGauge, aiding drivers in making informed decisions without being distracting or overwhelming.
“When you’re driving, you have a second or so to look at your display,” Greenberg said. “A dense display isn’t going to work. SmartGauge with EcoGuide is designed to minimize distraction caused by multiple displays. We did a lot of work to eliminate extraneous movement and create a smooth, fluid display.”
The instantaneous fuel economy gauge, for example, can be shown or hidden at each of the EcoGuide levels to suit the needs of individual drivers. “We did a lot of research and modified our designs along the way to make SmartGauge with EcoGuide unobtrusive, using subtle cues to relay information,” Greenberg said.
The brainstorming sessions with the IDEO team proved invaluable. “We received more than 100 ideas about information to display – that was our input to our studies with VIRTTEX,” he added. “In VIRTTEX, for example, we learned that you can’t overlay multiple levels of information. One of our design goals then became to geographically separate the information so it can be better understood while driving.”
The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids join the already successful Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids – the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the planet. With the addition of the two new hybrid sedans, Ford will double its annual hybrid volume and be the largest domestic producer of full hybrid vehicles in North America.
The Fusion and Milan Hybrids will be built at Ford’s Hermosillo (Mexico) Stamping and Assembly Plant and a will arrive in dealer showrooms in the first quarter of 2009.
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