Why are oil and gas prices dropping and will the trend continue?

For the first time in almost 4 years the price of a gallon of gas has fallen below $3.00 on average across the nation, according to AAA. While consumers certainly aren’t complaining about the lower prices at the pump, many are still concerned that it will only be short-lived.

Bob Darbelnet, the CEO of AAA, said in a recent press statement that “The steep decline in gas prices has helped to make driving less expensive for the vast majority of Americans use their car every day,” adding that “many Americans are spending $10-$20 less to fill up the cars on every trip to the gas station compared to what they paid during the summer driving season.”

So when gas prices fall, people pay less money for gas at the pumps. Thank you for that keen insight, Captain Obvious.

Some of the factors that are helping to drive the price of gasoline lower were looked at recently by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and, according to them, one of the reasons is that the domestic production of oil in the United States has grown from 5.6 million barrels per day to 7.4 million barrels per day.

The EIA is also projecting what they say is going to be “rapid production growth” through the end of 2014 and into 2015, but admitted that the pace and duration of America’s oil production boom is uncertain.

Amy Jaffe, the executive director for energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis says that “I don’t think consumers are out of the woods,” in terms of what’s going to happen with gasoline prices.  Jaffe added that “I think we could  see very high gasoline prices again in the next couple of years if something went wrong in the Middle East, for example.”

It seems that, even though Halloween has passed, Ms. Jaffe and Mr. Darbelnet are both still trying to win the prize for best Captain Obvious costume.

Luckily both are optimistic that the prices will continue to fall due to the combination of historic production levels right now in the United States along with a number of new, renewable energy technologies. These new technologies will, if things go well, deliver cheaper and more sustainable supplies of power more dependably.

In fact, once a breakthrough in technology is finally found regarding batteries, as far as their cost and efficiency, Jaffe believes that alternative power like wind and solar will come into its own and give the oil industry a run for its money. She even went so far as to say that, at some point in the future, many communities will voluntarily remove themselves from the local electrical grid and rely on their own alternative power instead.

That being said, the fact is that oil, and the gas prices that depend on it, is geopolitical. It’s impossible to say that consumers don’t have any more worries about the cost of gasoline going back up.

The good news is that, according to Jaffe and other experts, the price of a barrel of oil is going to drop to around $50 in the near future, and prices at the pump will subsequently fall even lower. So, for the time being at least, American consumers have something to be happy about at the gas pumps.

Beware of Faulty Gas Pumps

Normally when you swipe your credit or debit card at the gas station, you expect that the pump is going to work correctly and give you the gas that you paid for. With gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon across the country, the last thing anyone wants is to have to pay extra because of a pump problem, but that’s just what a gentleman in Kansas City faced recently when pumping his gas.

Haley wasn’t too happy after he stopped for gas at a station at North 13th Street and Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, KS, earlier this spring.

Haley says the pump jumped 10 cents before he even squeezed the handle.

“They said, ‘we’ll give you your dime back,’ or whatever, but I said, ‘that’s not the point,'” Haley said.

Haley said he reported it to the station. The clerk offered a refund, but nothing was done to the pump.

“People will see me and share with me different places where it happens to them, it’s probably not just one place where it’s happening,” Haley said.

That was when Haley contacted KCTV5 investigative reporter Eric Chaloux to look into the matter.

KCTV5 News made two trips to the station to purchase gas at the same pump that was giving Haley problems.

During one purchase, the pump jumped 4 cents. The next visit days later, the pump jumped once again by 4 cents.

Chaloux went into the gas station to alert the clerk to the pump jump problem.

“I just used your pump 1, and it jumped before I pumped any gas in,” Chaloux said.

The clerk said he would let his boss know and kindly offered a refund for the pump jump.

At the time KCTV5 was at the station, there wasn’t a bag placed over the problem pump.

Therefore, KCTV5 filed a complaint with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the agency that oversees fuel station inspections.

An investigator was later dispatched to the station, and determined that it was a worn valve at the end of the nozzle that caused the pump to jump.

“They (valve) don’t go all the way shut, which allows product to drain out of there. When the next person comes along, they turn on the device. If the hose has been drained a bit, it records a sale,” said Lewis Hutfles, an inspector with the Kansas Division of Weights and Measures.

With high gas prices, drivers want to make sure what they pay for makes it into their tank.

KCTV5 discovered that it depends on where people live as to how often an inspector checks a pump for accuracy and quality.

If drivers fill up in Johnson or Wyandotte counties, the state has a private contractor who inspects all the pumps within 12 months.

For the rest of the Kansas counties around the metro, an inspector only checks the pumps once every 18 months. There are eight inspectors, including five state workers and three contractors, to inspect the state’s 31,804 pumps at 1,980 gas stations.

The National Conference on Weights and Measures found that during July 2010 through June 2011, Kansas inspectors found a number of miscalculated pumps.

If those corrections had not been made, consumers would have spent nearly $2.3 million on gas they never received.

For the state of Kansas to close a gas pump, there is plus or minus of a six-cubic inch tolerance of gas that basically breaks down to around half a cup of fuel either extra or short before it is shut down.

“I mean it’s pretty strict, and it’s amazing they do hold it, there are some that do need to be calibrated from time to time,” Hutfles said.

In Missouri, gas pumps are checked more often. Under state statue inspectors check every pump, once every six months.

A Missouri Department of Agriculture spokeswoman told KCTV5 that the state has an out-of-tolerance pump rate of 1.94 percent with 64 percent in favor of the consumer, for an estimated additional value of $1 million per year for the consumer.

After Haley’s experience, he feels that every consumer needs to be on alert at the pumps for any possible problems.

“Vigilance is important for the consumer,” he said. “The consumer really has to pay attention wherever you are.”

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

“I’d seen videos on the Internet before where this happened, but I always thought it was fake,” said Josh Ishmael, who lives in Olathe. What Ishmael is referring to is that his pump wasn’t actually working and pumping gas, but the meter was still going and charging him more money. Ishmael said that it wasn’t charging a lot but that the meter was still counting up. As he put it “74 cents is still 74 cents.”

Good point.

Ishmael took a video of the ‘pump shenanigans’ and sent them to a local TV station, KCTV5, who took the video to the owner of the station for an explanation. The owner refused to talk on camera but instead went out and check the pumps personally, finding that the nozzle for the regular gas worked fine but that the E85 gas nozzle indeed was functioning incorrectly. He then made a promise to get the pump ‘checked out’ and bagged it so that no other drivers could use that particular pump.

Unfortunately, what happened that gas station in Olathe, Kansas is something that’s happening at other gas stations around the state, and the country. In other parts of Kansas for example, including Johnson and Wyandotte County, a reporter for KCTV5 found that gas pumps are inspected once a year as opposed to the rest of the state where they are checked every 18 months. This more frequent checking helps to make sure that the pumps are functioning correctly and are charging customers correctly as well.

There have been various reports from around the country about gas station owners actually tampering with their pumps in order to give less gasoline and get more money, but in this case it seems that the pump was actually faulty. However, in many states the top complaint being made by consumers this summer has to do with accuracy of gas pumps, followed closely by fuel quality problems.

All of which means that, even if you find the cheapest gas station in town, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the gas pump while you’re pumping your gas. That will help you to make sure that it’s functioning correctly and actually giving you the right amount of gas for the right price.

The Top Gasoline Saving Tip, Revisited

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island and haven’t been surfing the Internet for the last decade or so, you’ve no doubt seen dozens of articles about how to save gasoline when driving your automobile. In fact, you’ve probably seen a few of those right here on this blog.

Today’s blog isn’t more of the same, per se, but instead a simple reiteration of the very best gasoline saving tip that most people aren’t using.

For example, you’ve no doubt already heard that speeding, jackrabbit starts and letting your engine idle for long periods of time are very wasteful, gasoline-wise. But, here’s the one thing that wastes the most gas; changing speeds.

Here’s a fact; every time you increase speed you use gasoline and, every time you hit the brakes to slow down at have to accelerate again, you use even more. (Duh, right?)

What most drivers don’t realize however is that they waste even more gasoline than they should by speeding up more than they should and then, almost immediately, using the brakes more than they should as well. The reasons for this happening are various, including tailgating, not doing enough to see what’s coming (i.e. red lights) and speeding up as you approach a red light instead of using your car’s momentum to take you to the next stop.

Think about it; how many times have you seen someone speed past you as you approach a red light, only to slam on their brakes and have to slow down abruptly? That nasty little habit is wasting a huge amount of gas, especially when driving in the city.

Simply put, the more you have to use your brakes, the more gas you’re wasting, because you could have used your car’s momentum to get there instead.

Getting to the red light faster and then having to stop abruptly makes no sense whatsoever if you think about it, because it doesn’t get you to your final destination any faster. It’s not all that good for your brakes either, because the more you have to use them the faster they wear down and need to be replaced.

So there you go. Changing speeds is the most wasteful habit when driving, and learning how to use your car’s momentum to your advantage is the best way to save gasoline.

It might take some getting used to, especially if you’re a nervous driver who’s always in a rush, but if saving gasoline is your goal, learning how to use your car’s momentum is the key to achieving that goal.

Top 5 Tips for Purchasing a Used Motorcycle

Riding motorcycles is an excellent pastime/hobby and, for many, a way of life. On the other hand, for most it is definitely not a necessity but instead a luxury and, for those of us on a budget (i.e. most of us), purchasing a new bike should be done as carefully and cautiously as possible.

With that in mind, here are the Top 5 Tips that you should keep in mind when purchasing a used motorcycle so that you get the best cycle for your money, and have the least troubles down the road (pun intended).

Tip #1: When you test drive any motorcycle, make sure the engine’s cold.

The reason for Tip #1 is simple; a motorcycle that’s been running and it is “warmed up” will crank up much more easily then a cold engine will and, consequently, might hide a lot of tuning and engine issues. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t purchase a motorcycle that doesn’t crank up right away, only that you should certainly ask about lowering the price a bit because, if it needs to be tuned, that’s going to cost you extra money.

Tip #2: The more money being asked for the motorcycle, the more questions you should ask as well.

If you’re looking at an older motorcycle at an excellent price, asking a million questions might seem quite rude because, let’s face it, you pretty much know exactly what you’re getting and you’re getting it at a great price. On the other hand, if the price is quite high, you have all the rights in the world to ask as many questions as possible before you spend your money, and should ask those questions before making a decision.

Tip #3: Ask a mechanic to take a look at before purchasing

Just like with an automobile, you should take your motorcycle to an excellent mechanic, (someone you actually know would be a great idea if possible) and get their opinion before making a purchase. Unless you’re an expert mechanic yourself, they’ll be able to point out possible (or actual) problems that you should know about.

Tip #4: Do your research

It takes practically no effort at all today to research something online. Unless you know a brand/model/year of motorcycle very well, researching it online to find out if that model/ brand/year was a good one or not is definitely a good idea, and may save you a lot of misery.

Tip #5: Check with the DMV in your State

Calling the DMV to verify the current titleholder’s name, and making sure that they’re the actual owner/titleholder, is a must. You can also find out how much it will cost to register your motorcycle and, more importantly, make sure it’s not stolen.

Coming Soon to a Pump Near You: Natural Gas

For the last hundred or so years Americans, as well as the rest of the civilized world, have relied on gas powered vehicles to get around. Although there are a number of biofuel programs attempting to lower our gasoline consumption, the fact is that the United States is still overwhelmingly dependent on gasoline.

Several companies however are developing new vehicles that run on natural gas. Called NGVs, they will help Americans to use a type of fuel that is less costly, leaves a smaller environmental footprint and has more energy content than gasoline.

The driving force behind using natural gas is, most obviously, price. A 1 gallon equivalent, meaning enough natural gas to have the same energy as 1 gallon of gasoline, is just about two dollars per gallon, making it the second cheapest fuel source besides electricity. That puts it well below biodiesel, ethanol and diesel and gives it a price that you have to go back over 10 years to match.

Price is a key reason that many commercial trucking fleets are turning to compressed natural gas (CNG) in droves, and, while there is certainly plenty of work that needs to be done before NGVs represent a larger share of the United States commercial transportation fleet, it represents an opportunity to greatly lower the cost of shipping goods across the country.

Nearly one in every five transit buses in service today around the country already runs on natural gas and 2000 are already being used in Los Angeles County, saving over 300 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every single day and over 600,000 per year. This has also reduced particulate matter by nearly 80% in comparison to buses that run on diesel fuel

Another reason that compressed natural gas is such an excellent alternative is that it has a much higher energy content than gasoline. For example, while “premium” gasoline usually has an octane rating of 91, CNG is usually around 130, which is rather impressive if you think about it. It also gets better fuel economy than gasoline even though the technology hasn’t even been perfected yet.

Lastly and, for lovers of the “green movement”, possibly most importantly, is the fact that compressed natural gas leaves a much smaller environmental footprint than gasoline. When compared to other petroleum-based fuels, natural gas;

  • Lowers particulate matter by nearly 77%
  • Reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by almost 94%
  • Has 55% less volatile organic compound emissions
  • Reduces carbon monoxide emissions by almost 90%
  • Has 29% less greenhouse gas emissions

All of these factors make natural gas vehicles a natural, if incomplete, remedy for the problems caused by gasoline powered vehicles. It will take a number of years until they really take over the market but, when you consider the efforts being made to change the infrastructure of the chain from natural gas drillers to suppliers and automakers, that day is fast approaching.

The perfect Mexican road trip

If you’re planning a road trip but you don’t want to blow the bank, Mexico is already on the list. Most people opt for the beach- but it’s hard to choose just one. There are also beautiful mountains, archaeological sites, and culturally rich pueblos. Renting a car in Mexico is the easiest way to experience an incredibly diverse and rich country.

While gas may be cheap in the US, PEMEX controls the prices in Mexico, and it’s certainly pricier than stateside. There are a few tricks to keeping costs down, though. Whether you have 5 days or 5 weeks, renting a car with Fox Rent A Car is easy and cheap, especially with a Groupon Coupon. Groupon Coupons are free, with no upfront purchase necessary. They even cover you at 8,600 other stores.

In addition to hooking up with Fox Rent A Car and Groupon, here are some tips for the road you may want to think about:

 

  1. Gas stations: Mexican gas stations are not self-serve and 90% of Mexicans have lost money at the gas pump to gas attendants ripping them off. Always watch the pump, and be aware of how much cash you hand to the attendant and how much change they hand back. Be sure to check your fuel level after turning your car back on, before pulling away from the pump.
  2. Fuel economy: “topes” and “tumulos,” or speedbumps, are frequent. Look for the yellow signs on the side of the road with an image of a speed bump- it will either say the distance until the speed bump (250 meters, 100m, 50m, etc.), or have an arrow pointing down to the ground, indicating the speed bump is at that location. Speed bumps are often placed together, so no need to jam down the gas pedal immediately after clearing the speed bump- there will probably be another one within 20-50 yards.
  3. Returning your car: Always be sure to fill your tank back to the level you had at the start of your rental. Companies charge a premium for the service of re-filling the gas you used during your trip.

 

Renting a car in Mexico is easier than most foreigners think. Major roads are smooth, well-lit, and very safe. There is even free, I repeat, free, roadside assistance in Mexico. The Green Angels will get you back on the road, all for free.

Keeping your trip affordable is obviously important. Groupon Coupons will help you achieve that. If you are planning a road trip to Mexico and you want the freedom to customize your trip and save money at the same time, book with Fox Rent A Car using your Groupon Coupon. When you’re ready for the next adventure, Groupon will have tons of new coupons and partner stores ready to make your trip possible.

4 Gas Saving Tips Without Merit

Gas prices are (incredibly) dropping steadily, and there seems to be no end in sight. In fact, at some pumps around the country you can now purchase a gallon of gas for less than two dollars!

Still, if you drive a lot your gasoline costs can definitely still eat a good chunk of your income, and it’s still a good idea to do whatever you can to make sure you get as many miles out of every gallon of gas as possible.

There are however a number of gas saving ‘tips’ that, while they sound good, just don’t give you the kind of savings that they’re purported to give. While everyone’s in a good mood about gasoline, seeing as it’s been relatively cheap lately, we thought we’d take a good look at a few of these myths and have a good laugh. Enjoy.

Myth #1: Filling your tank in the morning when it’s cooler.

While it’s true that liquids expand when they get warm, the fact is that gasoline at service stations is kept in huge underground tanks that, even in the dead of summer, don’t experience the 20 or 30 degree swing in temperatures that we feel above ground. In fact, scientists have said that the actual temperature variance in the gasoline stored in those underground tanks is less than 5 degrees during the day. As far as saving you money because you pump your gasoline in the morning when it’s cool, your savings will be negligible at best.

Myth #2: Avoid pumping gas if a tanker truck is at the station filling the underground tanks.

The theory behind this “tip” is that when a tanker truck is filling the underground gasoline holding tanks, it’s also disturbing sediment that might have settled at the tank’s bottom. While this may be true, the fact is that today’s modern gasoline holding tanks, modern engines and modern engine filters can easily filter out any debris that might be floating around down there. The chance of anything making it into your actual engine is extremely slim.

Myth #3: Don’t wait until your tank is empty but instead fill it up when it’s no less than half empty.

The reason behind this so-called tip is that the more space you have empty in your tank the more your gasoline will evaporate. That is, in fact, true to a point. If your gasoline cap isn’t closed correctly, your gasoline can certainly evaporate. If it is closed correctly however, it doesn’t matter how much gas is actually in there, it will not evaporate out. Point being, make sure your gas cap is always closed correctly.

Myth #4: Using your air-conditioning uses more gasoline.

Many of us aren’t exactly using the air-conditioning in our automobiles right now, but we wanted to touch on this one anyway. Simply put, the amount of difference in how much gasoline your car uses between having your windows open on a sunny day and closing them while you use the air conditioner is negligible at best. If it’s brutally hot outside, let that AC do its job baby!

Hopefully gasoline prices will continue to drop to the point where we don’t need to worry about any tips at all for saving gasoline. Wouldn’t that be nice?!

The Case For and Against Ethanol

As gasoline prices continue to hold at a steady and, thankfully, low price across most of the United States, alternative fuels are still being developed at a rapid pace. One of those is ethanol or grain alcohol.

Just like “moonshine”, ethanol is mostly made from grains, usually corn. E85 ethanol is sold at many gasoline stations across the country already, and it’s a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. 1 gallon of E85 contains approximately 80,000 BTUs of energy, as opposed to the 125,000 BTUs in a gallon of pure gasoline. What that means is that it takes just over 1 1/2 gallons of E85 to propel your automobile as far as 1 gallon of gas.

There is a debate raging about the pros and cons of ethanol right now and, since it’s definitely going to be used more and more in the future, today we’re going to look briefly at the case For ethanol and the case Against it. Enjoy.

 

The case FOR Ethanol

A number of excellent features that ethanol brings to the energy table are that it’s extremely clean-burning, is made from plants and, at least as far as the numbers say, should provide higher horsepower than gasoline. Ethanol has a higher octane rating than gasoline as well and it burns cooler.

It’s believed that vehicles running on E85 will potentially have better performance than strictly gasoline vehicles because of the higher octane, higher compression ratio and the resulting increase in thermodynamic efficiency.

Ethanol is also greenhouse gas “neutral” because, as an engine produces atmospheric CO2, it basically makes up for the CO2 that the corn captured when it was growing.

 

The case AGAINST Ethanol

One of the biggest arguments against ethanol is that it takes more energy to actually grow the corn needed to make it, and then distill it into alcohol, then you can actually get from the ethanol itself.

Another major detriment is that ethanol, like all alcohols, is corrosive. That means any parts that are going to be exposed to it in a car need to be corrosion resistant. That usually means stainless steel or special types of plastic, which are more expensive to manufacture.

Growing corn is actually a very intensive process. It requires a lot of water and, even worse, the use of pesticides and fertilizers that are water pollutants. Also, the use of heavy equipment is needed to harvest corn and then transport it to distillation factories, using energy and expelling greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Lastly, the fact is that there simply isn’t enough land in the United States to grow enough corn to replace gasoline completely, even if it was possible.

An acre of corn can only produce 300 gallons of ethanol, which is an absurdly small amount when you consider that 200 million gallons of petroleum products are used every year in the United States. In fact, over 70% of the farmland in the United States would be needed to grow enough corn to replace those petroleum products, nearly 950 million acres of farmland.

Getting a Loan

If you have ever had any trouble getting a loan from a traditional banking system, then you owe it to yourself to find out about the other options that you have for money. Getting a loan does not have to be a humiliating process – you can actually have the money that you need in a timely fashion and keep your dignity as well.

The secret to getting the money that you need is to partner with a loan company like https://www.cashfloat.co.uk that focuses on individual heads of household. When you take a loan from a large bank, you are actually agreeing to terms that are created for international businesses. These terms are definitely not in your favor, nor do you have the cash backing to create leverage if you miss a payment or the terms change.

When you do a business with a company that is geared towards people like you, then you can give yourself a great deal of leverage that is impossible to do with a large bank. This will lead to better customer service. You will not have to put up with being treated like a number. You will not have to wait by the phone for a month just to find out if the terms on your agreement are changing. You will be able to negotiate your own terms with a lender who understands that not everything goes perfectly during a loan.

Because they are more used to giving out small amounts of money to individuals, you will not have to deal with the large interest rates that are put on large companies when they borrow millions of dollars at a time. With all of the advantages that you gain from doing business with a company that is invested in smaller loans, there is really no reason for you to go back to a large banking organization. Do not be fooled by the millions of dollars in advertisements that large banks place into television and radio to make sure that you think that they are the only option. You have other options.

Impacts of Rising Fuel Prices

Americans have driven cars for more than 100 years. Throughout this time, cars have become a major part of the American lifestyle.  Most U.S. families own at least one car.  This may be due to the limited mass- transit options in many parts of the country.  And in some places, weather conditions make walking or bicycling year-round difficult. There are 136 million passenger cars in the United States.  About 97 percent of them rely on the internal combustion engine (ICE).  ICE cars and trucks use 50 to 70 percent of oil produced in the country.  They use so much because their engines are inefficient. But, the engine isn’t the only problem.  Some people prefer fast sports cars, heavy, powerful trucks, or sport-utility vehicles (SUVs).  Moving fast or pulling heavy weight uses additional fuel. So, these powerful vehicles are even more inefficient. Automakers say they would build more efficient vehicles if they knew that more people would buy them.

When fuel is inexpensive, fuel efficiency is not a major concern for most drivers.  However, fuel prices have increased in recent years.  This is partly because the United States largely depends on imported oil.  Yet, much of the world’s oil is located in politically unstable countries.  So, the United States may not always be able to obtain the amount of oil it currently consumes.

In addition, ICE vehicles cause environmental problems.  Their exhaust contains unburned or partially burned fuels. These emissions are poisonous and contribute to smog.  ICE vehicles also emit other harmful gases. For these reasons, consumers and car companies have shown interest in alternative cars.  Some alternatives, such as electric cars, have been around for many years.  Others, such as hydrogen fuel-cell cars, are still being developed.  Despite their differences, alternative cars share a common goal.  They provide more efficient transportation with less harmful effects.

When gasoline prices rise, many people pay closer attention to the fuel economy of their vehicles.  Fuel economy is measured by how many miles a vehicle can travel using one gallon (4 L) of fuel. The U.S. government publishes a list of fuel economy ratings for cars.  However, many drivers report that they get fewer miles per gallon than the listed amount.  This is because the rating system does not reflect how most people drive.

Fuel economy ratings assume people drive no more than 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). And, they assume people accelerate slowly, going from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 18 seconds.  However, the average driver accelerates about five times as quickly. Weather also affects fuel economy.  Federal standards measure fuel economy at 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 30°C), without air conditioning.  In most places, temperatures are well outside that range.

Finally, more energy is needed to move heavy weight.  Today, the average U.S. adult weighs about 25 pounds (11 kg) more than the average adult in 1960.  Compared to the yearly amount of gasoline that U.S. passenger vehicles burned in 1960, they burn an additional 938 million gallons (4 billion L) today.  That extra gasoline would be enough to fuel nearly 2 million cars for a year!

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