Energy and Global Warming News for August 9th: Invest in bicycle and scooter stocks when gas prices rise; Climate talks in Bonn don’t yield “single vision”

The Best peak oil investments: Bicycle and scooter stocks

When gas prices rise, more people turn to bicycles for transportation. Will these bike and scooter stocks ride in the oil price’s slipstream?

A 2008 survey of bicycle retailers found that the vast majority of bike store owners felt that their sales had increased because many people were turning to bicycles for some of their transportation needs because of high gas prices. 95% of store owners reported that they had new customers because of high gas prices.

While few people can completely replace their car with a bicycle, many people can make some trips on two wheels and human power. And 2008 is not the first time we’ve seen a surge in bike sales along with a surge in oil prices: the all time record for annual bike sales was in 1973, during the last oil crisis. If future gas prices return to the levels seen in 2008 and stay there, we should not be surprised to see a sustained increase in the use of bicycles for transport, as well as a rise in the purchase of bikes, bike parts, and accessories.

One fly in this ointment is that the biggest increases in sales for bike retailers during 2008 were in service and repair, followed by new bikes and accessories. Bicycle manufacturers saw increased sales in 2008, but not as large as the increases in ridership, because much new ridership came from cash-strapped individuals dusting off old bikes and getting them in shape to run errands or commute. I think it will take a longer sustained rise in oil prices than we saw in 2008 to permanently shift the transportation landscape towards bicycles; investors should not expect perfect (or even near-perfect) correlation between oil prices and bike company profitability.

Insurance companies find there is money to be made in green technology

HONG KONG “” Every day, national and local officials, municipal utilities, corporations, homeowners and consumers are weighing the risks and rewards of adopting renewable energy. The up-front costs can be daunting.

Sure, putting solar panels on my house might be good for Mother Earth and could save me money in the long term, but what if they break in two years and I’m out $5,000 before I have recouped my investment?

Unfortunately, good karma points are not going to pay the power bill. But insurance might.

Increasingly, insurers are stepping in to bridge the gap between green intentions and actual capital outlays on green technology.

They are backstopping warranties on solar panels, helping start-up companies with short track records offer multidecade guarantees on their products and win over skeptical customers and project financiers. They are studying weather patterns to offer protection in the event of, say, unusually weak winds that fail to spin turbines, or a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland that diminishes the output of a solar energy facility in Spain.

They are advising companies on how best to incorporate renewable energy systems into their factory operations and offering property insurance that will pay not just to rebuild a structure in the event of a loss like fire but reconstruct it in a more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way.

They are even offering coverage to carbon traders. So, if you are a European utility engaged in an emissions offset program in China and a devastating earthquake damages your partner power plant in Sichuan, you have some peace of mind.

Analysis: Climate talks stumble from Page 1

BONN, Germany “” The new climate change treaty under negotiation for the past 2 1/2 years begins with a brief document called “A Shared Vision.” The problem is, there isn’t one.

The latest round of talks that concluded Friday showed that the 194 negotiating countries have failed to even define a common target or method for curbing greenhouse gases “” just one example of the ongoing divide among rich and poor nations.

Talks began in 2007, with the aim of wrapping up a deal in Copenhagen last December. But that didn’t happen, despite the presence of 120 heads of state or government. It ended instead with a three-page statement of intentions brokered by President Barack Obama.

Though less than expected, the Copenhagen Accord scored some breakthroughs. It boiled down the core elements of a deal to 12 carefully worded paragraphs, and it inscribed hard-fought compromises by the main protagonists, the U.S. and China.

Details were to be filled in by the next major conference in Cancun, Mexico, starting in November.

Japan seeking to export low-carbon technologies

TOKYO “” Japan is seeking to export low-carbon technology and equipment to nine mostly Asian countries in exchange for “right-to-pollute” credits, a press report said Sunday.

The Japanese government has already reached basic agreements with Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India on such deals and plans to start talks soon with Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, China and Peru, the business daily Nikkei said.

It will initially provide financial and technical help to 15 projects in which Japanese firms will export energy-efficient technology and equipment to these countries, the report said.

Japan emits some 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. The 15 projects, when fully implemented, are expected to cut five to 10 million tonnes worth of emissions.

Search launched for ‘lost amphibians’ before colourful creatures go extinct

Endangered species of the rainforests like the golden toad, the black and yellow climbing salamander or the scarlet frog may be colourful but none have been spotted by humans for more than a decade.

Other ‘missing amphibians’ include the Turkestanian salamander, that was last seen in 1909.

Conservation International fear such elusive creatures are in danger of going extinct and are trying to track down 100 species that are ‘hanging on’ before they are lost forever.

The ambitious project will require trekking through inhospitable jungles in Borneo to find the Sambas Stream Toad, that has not been seen since intensive logging started in the area 50 years ago.

Others like the African painted frog have never been photographed before, while the hula painted frog has not been since its marshland home in Syria was drained to prevent malaria.

Some species may improve important to medicine as amphibian skins can be used in the creation of life-saving drugs. Many are unique to science, like the Australian gastric brooding frog that gives birth through the mouth or the Mesopotamia Beaked Toad of Colombia with its strange pyramid-shaped head.

As one of the most sensitive animal groups affected by climate change, all the species will cast light on the effects of global warming.

Flywheel power grid storage project gets DOE loan

Beacon Power on Monday said it has closed a $43 million loan guarantee with the Department of Energy for a project to use flywheels to buffer 20 megawatts of power on the grid.

The loan covers 62.5 percent of the estimated $69 million needed to construct the flywheel storage plant in Stephentown, N.Y. The New York Energy Research and Development Authority is also providing $2 million in funding for the plant which is now under construction.

Once done, Beacon Power said that the plant will be the only one of its kind in the world. Rather than use a large battery, it will use a network of flywheels to store electricity from the grid as kinetic energy and disperse it in quick bursts of up to 15 minutes.

Right now, grid operators typically use natural gas power plants to maintain a balance between supply and demand and keep a steady frequency of 60 cycles per second. The Stephentown project, expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter next year, will be able to provide 10 percent of the frequency regulation services in New York needed on a typical day.

The project is significant step up for the technology, which so far has been used in smaller-scale installation of about one megawatt of power.

16 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 9th: Invest in bicycle and scooter stocks when gas prices rise; Climate talks in Bonn don’t yield “single vision”

  1. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    The report of the Bonn climate talks by Arthur Metz of AP is wrong in saying that the negotiations are back where they were a year ago. Following the abortive provision of the “Danish” Text by the US at Copenhagen, they are back where they were before the Bali summit, during the Bush presidency.

    Joe –

    The Guardian article by the veteran climate journalist John Vidal might be worth considering as the subject of a post – it gives a quite rare insight into the perspective of developing nations on the climate negotiations.

    “The poor are used to be being bullied by the rich, but the scandal here, they say, is that the US and Europe do not want to do anything. New research from the respected Stockholm environment institute and academic institutions in the US and Europe shows that rich countries will barely have to adjust their economies at all, indeed could possibly increase their emissions.

    The poorest countries are distraught. Last week the African group, the small island states and many others all got up to berate the rich for dragging their feet and tell the world of the exceptional droughts, floods and disasters they were experiencing. Instead of accepting the broad thrust of the accord, more than 100 of them have now demanded that any agreement limits future temperature rises not to below 2C – as the accord says – but to 1.5C or lower. Equally, many now say that the $100bn a year promise of climate aid (“little more than what bankers pay in bonuses”) is just not enough. They have beefed up the text with what the US and Europe say are outrageous demands.”



  2. “The latest round of talks that concluded Friday showed that the 194 negotiating countries have failed to even define a common target or method for curbing greenhouse gases — just one example of the ongoing divide among rich and poor nations.”

    Didn’t Copenhagen adopt the target of keeping warming below 2 degrees C?

  3. Rob Honeycutt says:

    If there are folks interested in investing in the bicycle industry, they should make an effort to visit the bike trade show in Las Vegas next month. The show is called Interbike and runs Sept 22-24.

    Interbike is a great trade show. Lots of interesting new things going on every year. It’s a very casual but energetic show. Everything from the eccentric (bike made from airliner wheels) to the mainstream (Specialized, Trek, Schwinn). Definitely there are a lot of investment opportunities there for those who are interested.

    I’ve been going for over 20 years.

  4. Not A Lawyer says:

    Charles, you are correct about the non-binding target out of Copenhagen. But there was no agreement on how to reach that target — how much should emissions be cut, by when, by whom? So for now, the 2 degrees C is a destination without a map.

  5. Bob Wallace says:

    Other possible good ‘peak oil’ investments.

    Nissan. Gearing up to produce 500,000 EVs a year and installing thousands of charge points to feed them.

    Compact Power, Inc. The new Holland, Michigan battery plant opening in 18 months. When it comes on line the price of EV batteries will drop to 30% of what they now are.

    Mass transportation companies. Spikes in oil prices cause increased use of mass transit. Perhaps a short term play as people will likely move to high efficiency ICEs, EVs, and PHEVs as time goes along.

    And the oil companies themselves, at least the ones which own wells. They’re going to be able to charge a lot more for something which will cost them no more to produce. Another short term play while people get themselves off oil.

  6. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Charles at 2 –
    “Didn’t Copenhagen adopt the target of keeping warming below 2 degrees C?”

    No, that didn’t happen. The paper produced in a private meeting was not recognised by the member nations, and so was not adopted as the will of the conference. It has no official status.

    Instead, many nations have acknowledged its unnoficial non-binding status, if only as a means of showing their determination that the negotiations will continue.

    The “Accord’s” proposal of a 2.0C ceiling was particularly offensive to many nations that already face catastrophic impacts from the present 0.8C warming, which is off the timelagged effects of 330ppmv of CO2 (and other GHGs) back in the mid-’70s. That ceiling even violates the UNFCCC mandate, which is premised on agreeing action “to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Thus the rising demand for a ceiling of 1.5C or less (unavoidable given the timelagged rise to >390ppmv becoming effective) is scarcely surprising, and is very far from the US characterization of developing nations’ demands as being “outrageous.”

    I guess we should be asking the people of Niger, or Pakistan, or Russia, whether the warming of 0.8C is proving “dangerous”, and just how they feel about a 2.0C ceiling.



  7. Doug Bostrom says:

    In Crackdown on Energy Use, China to Shut 2,000 Factories

    Probably a little easier to choose this path since they’re dovetailing such moves with aggressive jobs creation in modernized power generation systems.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Wow, 20 MW in an array of flywheels is impressive.

  9. Bob Wallace says:

    Here’s an interesting paper on getting peaker plants off the grid by using various storage systems.

    Check the ‘Avoided Costs Realized’ figure, halfway down….

  10. Raul M. says:

    Back in denierville-
    1) it’s up to oneself to secure prosperity.
    It is an interdependant society.
    2) there all types of ways to achieve success.
    There are laws of nature to learn.
    3) i deny weather with cloths, home, transportation.
    It is expensive to buy both ways – the old and the new.
    4) i’m too busy to hear about unfortunate events.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    Frustrated Climate Change Activists to Bombard Senators with Protests

    After no action is taken to avert the biggest threat in human history.

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    Shale Gas Booming Globally, Despite Chemical Dangers
    Fracking debate and apparent new caution in the U.S., but the rest of the world is racing toward natural gas

    When people start putting these energy CEO’s on trial, it will be to late to change the outcome of their pathetic antiquated business model.

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Pakistan floods shows threat from warmer world – scientists

    “The only explanation can be the link to climate change. Because that area very rarely receives monsoon rains,” he told Reuters, pointing to the risk of the monsoon belt shifting as well as changes in the intensity of the monsoon.

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    Extreme weather fuels debate over global warming

    Wasn’t there a debate 35 years ago?