Archive: April 2006

Use Less Oil vs. Find More Oil (Part III)

For advocates of finding more oil, like Debater Jon M, the obvious answer to foreign oil dependence is domestic drilling. There should indeed be more oil production here at home, agrees Debater Mike Deal, explaning why he's not surprised at the shortcoming. Among proponents of using less oil, domestic drilling could be a viable option for anyone solely worried about inadvertently funding terrorism. But those concerned with damage to vulnerable ecosystems have two complementary goals: developing alternative energy sources and conserving oil. Debater Chris Ford doesn't think conservation is terribly helpful. He says, "America can influence price a little by reducing our demand, but any conservation moves limited to America will eventually be supplanted" by demand from rapidly developing nations, such as China. But even from an economic perspective, the primary purpose of conservation is not to spend less by deflating prices; it's to spend less by using less. (Biking...

By Emily Messner | April 30, 2006; 2:24 PM ET | Comments (74)

Use Less Oil vs. Find More Oil (Part II)

Why a part II? (And, soon, a part III?) First, it must be noted that when it comes to giving authoritarian regimes undue leverage and financing dictators -- and possibly some terrorists as well -- there's widespread agreement that these consequences of foreign oil dependence are bad. The concern over them differs in intensity and semantics, but the general idea holds. Crystallizing the themes in the comments here, the opinions in the blogs and the ideas of columnists reveals a more fundamental battle: those who want us to conserve and find alternatives to oil vs. those who think we simply need to drill for more. The London-based World Energy Council labels the two sides in the debate over oil resources the pessimists and the optimists. In fact, both could probably be described as realists -- they just happen to rely on radically different estimates of how much oil the Earth...

By Emily Messner | April 28, 2006; 2:26 PM ET | Comments (57)

Use Less Oil vs. Find More Oil (Part I)

One anonymous commenter belittles those concerned about the Alaskan wilderness and argues that the way to bring prices down is to drill in ANWR. That might be a short term solution, but eventually that's going to run out, too. The fundamental problem -- that oil is a finite resource -- remains. Debater Jaxas harkens back to an old Midas muffler commercial: "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later." America characteristically decided "to defer payment until later," Jaxas writes. "Well, now it is later." If your refrigerator was losing more and more of its cooling abilities with each passing day, you wouldn't wait until you were driven from your house by the stench of rotted food, would you? You'd get it fixed -- assuming you had the money to do so, of course. In the United States, we have tremendous financial resources to dedicate to finding alternatives...

By Emily Messner | April 27, 2006; 4:35 PM ET | Comments (63)

The Ethanol-Powered Bandwagon

After years of stubbornly dishing out gas-guzzling SUVs in the face of ever-rising oil prices, American car companies are slowly shifting gears to produce cars that aren't entirely dependent on gasoline. The latest to get on the bandwagon is Chrysler, putting "flex-fuel" engines in some of its models, with the ethanol-capable Jeep Cherokees and Dodge Dakota pickups rolling onto the market in September. (For some background on how American companies fell behind foreign car manufacturers like Toyota when it comes to this sort of innovation, check out this story by the Post's Anthony Faiola.) The Hybrid Car blog looked at GM's move toward hybrids back in June, using the rest of the post to discuss the idea that "cheap gas is a fiction" and our dependence on foreign oil needs to end. There's vast agreement on that -- but much disagreement over the solution. When it comes to getting from...

By Emily Messner | April 26, 2006; 6:28 PM ET | Comments (49)

Should Gasoline Really Cost $5 a Gallon -- Or More?

The Ixian Heresy blog offers a "sobering" post on the hidden cost of gasoline. Those hidden costs include market and social factors such as oil industry tax breaks and the public cost of providing healthcare for people with exhaust-induced respiratory ailments, which some argue should be figured into the price at the pump. As is, these de facto subsidies are just piling on to our already elephantine deficit. Estimates on the "true" or "real" cost of gasoline vary by study and by year -- I've seen numbers ranging from $5 per gallon to $10 per gallon to $14 per gallon and higher. Over at the liberal opinion site AlterNet, Jason Mark notes that it is a conservative think tank whose research put real gas prices above $5 -- and that was a couple years ago. Presumably that number would only have risen since. A top-notch researcher here passed along some...

By Emily Messner | April 26, 2006; 11:29 AM ET | Comments (64)

The Facts: Origins of U.S. Oil Imports

U.S. imports fluctuate month to month, but Canada is consistently one of our biggest sources of crude oil, along with Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Canada is also the single largest supplier of petroleum to the United States -- and the United States is by far Canada's best customer. On the other hand, Persian Gulf countries account for a considerably smaller percentage of U.S. gross oil imports. Of the Middle Eastern oil exported to the States, a significant majority comes from Saudi Arabia. Rounding out the top six suppliers of crude and petroleum to the United States are Venezuela, Nigeria and Angola. The top 15 can be found here. The 11-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries accounts for a little under half of U.S.-imported crude oil, about 40 percent of world oil production and an estimated two-thirds of proven oil reserves. Of OPEC members, only two are outside the Middle East...

By Emily Messner | April 25, 2006; 9:43 PM ET | Comments (28)

The Facts: Oil Company Profits

Major oil companies import crude and petroleum from a variety of sources, including some countries many Americans might prefer not to support. Trouble is, it's next to impossible to determine exactly which country provided the oil that produced the gasoline you're putting into to your car. You can guess -- for example, if you're filling up at a Citgo station, the odds are the gasoline has its origins in Venezuela or elsewhere in the Americas -- but can you be sure? No. We'll look at more of the raw data on where our oil comes from in the next post, but first, let's take a quick look at what we do know about the oil companies that serve as the middlemen between foreign oil producers and American consumers: ConocoPhillips and Amerada Hess Corp. will discuss their first-quarter earnings tomorrow morning. We'll see earnings reports from Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil...

By Emily Messner | April 25, 2006; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (32)

This Week's Debate: Foreign Oil Dependence

In my neighborhood, the highest gas prices can be found at the Exxon on the corner, where a gallon of regular was $3.09 when I left for work Friday morning, $3.15 when I came home, and $3.19 by Saturday evening. And so we dedicate this third installment in our debate on energy to all the gas stations where regular unleaded has topped $3 per gallon. We've already discussed various reasons for the rising fuel prices, but one of the key causes clearly deserves a whole week of its own: the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. A recent poll finds that Americans have a low opinion of the government's performance in weaning the country off foreign oil -- and the fact that U.S. gasoline prices are approaching their all-time high can't be helping. Since the first day of the gas prices debate three weeks ago, the average per gallon cost has...

By Emily Messner | April 24, 2006; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (113)

Take It From the Soviets: Safety First

Back at the beginning of this debate on nuclear energy, Debater Jaxas said we needed to consider "how we are going to regulate it, control it, monitor it and manage it sufficiently to the point that the troglodytes on this planet don't use it to destroy us all." Regulation is indeed fundamental, argues the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board -- and the rules must effectively cover threats from terrorist attacks, sabotage and theft of nuclear materials. The Inquirer editorial highlights a GAO report suggesting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's standards may be well below par. Nuclear energy regulation in the Soviet Union was also not up to par at the time of Chernobyl's meltdown. Mikhail Gorbachev contends it was the weakness displayed then that set the stage for the Soviet Union's downfall a few years later. Although some environmentalists have concluded that nuclear waste is the lesser of two evils when compared...

By Emily Messner | April 23, 2006; 5:37 AM ET | Comments (6)

They're Selling Uranium to Hu?

Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington yesterday reminded me of a deal Australia struck earlier this month to open up its vast uranium supply to Chinese consumption. Even though the full impact of the deal won't be felt for at least another few years, Aussies have jumped right into a fierce debate over nuclear energy. Some think Australia should give in and hop aboard the nuclear energy bandwagon. Others wonder whether they'd be best off following the example of New Zealand -- a country whose anti-nuclear policy is so hardcore that it once banned U.S. vessels with nuclear cargo from transiting through its waters. Specifically because of the China-uranium deal, Australians are facing conflicts between state and federal interests and arguing over just how far their dealings with non-democratic countries should go. But just as U.S. concerns over human rights violations in China tend not to stand in the...

By Emily Messner | April 21, 2006; 5:37 AM ET | Comments (113)

Nuclear Waste Disasters and a Pollution Solution?

A couple debatable points sent in by e-mail: We might learn something from the failures of the levees in New Orleans and the explosions of space shuttles, suggests Debater Dick Griest. They could offer valuable lessons about relying on sophisticated equipment designed to last many years. In other words, even our best engineering (which arguably the levees were not) is not necessarily foolproof. He warns that Yucca Mountain could surpass the levees as the worst civil engineering disaster in U.S. history. "Can we afford to write off the entire southeastern [sic] U.S. like we have written off New Orleans?" Mr. Griest then goes on to wax eloquent about the devastating loss of the pornography industry in Southern California -- but I'm going to assume that was an attempt at humor rather than a serious concern. (Griest also gets snitty with me for not posting a Yucca-related link he apparently e-mailed...

By Emily Messner | April 20, 2006; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (38)

Radioactive Man, Woman and Child

Radioactivity: Just something to think about. What do you think?...

By Emily Messner | April 20, 2006; 7:54 AM ET | Comments (10)

The Facts: Nuclear Energy

Ordinarily, a facts post would be up by the second day of the debate at the latest. But in the case of nuclear power, I've found it quite difficult to find unbiased, non-governmental sources. This facts post has taken a bit longer because I was attempting to clarify the agenda of each source. In the interests of time and clarity, I've decided that when the producer of the material has a pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear bias that could slant some of the facts, that information will be identified as such and included in other posts wherever it fits. Governmental sources might not be perfect in this area either, but since they're the ones making the policy, understanding the information they're working with -- nationally and internationally -- is key to the debate. For research sources into this topic, read on....

By Emily Messner | April 19, 2006; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (45)

The Toxic Waste Version of Shrinky Dinks

AP Photo/Kyodo News, Yumi Ozaki At this nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northern Japan, more than 10 gallons of water containing plutonium and other radioactive material leaked inside the compound on March 12. The plant's operator announced that no radioactivity was released into the atmosphere. One of the dominant themes in the comments yesterday was the safety of nuclear energy. Today's nuclear plant designs are much safer than in the past, notes Debater Ben. Point well taken. But for many debaters, the plants are not the problem -- it's what to do with the highly radioactive waste they produce. Where should it go for disposal? Can we reduce the waste's volume? How about its toxicity? Patrick Moore says reprocessing reduces radioactivity, but he doesn't say by how much. Reprocessing separates the unused uranium and plutonium from the waste left behind. So it extracts the useful bits to reuse for...

By Emily Messner | April 18, 2006; 4:52 PM ET | Comments (19)

Nuclear Power: Think Smaller?

Among many thoughtful comments on the last post, Debater Sully asks us to consider scaled-down plants that power just one small city, saying they would be "safer and easier to control." It's an intriguing suggestion. So, let's consider. Regardless of whether Sully's assumption about safety is accurate, the primary issue is cost. Seems like it would be more difficult to build several small nuclear reactors than one large one; in a large plant, the reactors would share infrastructure, such as the water source, while multiple smaller plants would require infrastructure to be built many times over. Then again, perhaps it is just as expensive to construct and maintain reactors regardless of their size or concentration. Anyone have any insights into this? Another consideration would be that more sites would mean more "not in my backyard" objections. Picture the overflowing city council meetings, the neighborhood petitions, the lawsuits. In the face...

By Emily Messner | April 18, 2006; 11:05 AM ET | Comments (18)

This Week's Debate: Nuclear Power

In an eye-opening piece in the Post's Sunday Outlook section, a founder of Greenpeace explains why he's changed his mind about nuclear power. The former Greenpeace activist who wrote the article, Patrick Moore, discusses his views in a live online chat today -- should be an interesting exchange. Moore argues that Three Mile Island was a "success story" because the containment structure did precisely what it was supposed to: it contained the radiation and no one was hurt. He explains why he believes that nuclear power is safe, cost effective and reliable -- and necessary, if we are to avert the catastrophic effects of global warming. Greenpeace, however, does not agree with Moore's conclusion. This week, we'll debate nuclear energy, including how to handle rogue nations with uranium enrichment capabilities (Iran, anyone?) and overcoming the not-in-my-backyard mentality that could hinder the construction of new nuclear power plants in the United...

By Emily Messner | April 17, 2006; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (135)

Missiles, Pigs and a Punishment Fit for a King

Over the course of the week, I've found no shortage of creative punishments for those convicted of involvement in terrorism. Strapping terrorists to cruise missiles and nuclear warheads aimed at [insert Middle Eastern country here] is a pretty popular theme, as is just about anything relating to pigs and pig entrails. Forcing a sex change operation comes up a fair bit in relation to Osama bin Laden -- often in conjunction with the observation that it would be a sweet irony to make him live as a woman under his own brand of fundamentalist Islam. In the case of Moussaoui, some say to throw him in prison and let his fellow prisoners take care of the punishment, assuming that they would terrorize and/or eventually kill him. Another suggestion that has surfaced involves the method purportedly used to murder King Edward II. (The argument is made here, but don't read it...

By Emily Messner | April 16, 2006; 12:04 AM ET | Comments (15)

Endangering Americans From Inside a Jail Cell?

Over at USA Today's On Deadline blog, a comment by Ray raises the possibility that if Zacharias Moussaoui were sentenced to life in prison, Islamic extremists might one day try to use hostages as leverage to win his freedom.* Earlier this week, Debater on the plantation suggested such a scenario would indeed be likely if Moussaoui weren't put to death. This idea of Moussaoui being the target of a prisoner exchange is a fairly common argument from those who favor executing the 9/11 conspirator. Let's take a closer look. If Moussaoui is dead, is it any less likely that terrorists will take Americans prisoner? The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, for one, doesn't think the lack of a prisoner to bargain over is too much of an obstacle for hostage takers. Even if Moussaoui is alive and ripe for a convict-for-hostage deal, do the followers of fanatical Islam really care about him...

By Emily Messner | April 14, 2006; 3:11 PM ET | Comments (49)

Enigma in an Orange Jumpsuit

Moussaoui took the stand again today, denying claims -- including those by his own lawyers -- that he's actively seeking martyrdom via execution. He lambasted defense attorneys for not requesting a change of venue. He accused them of being more concerned with keeping the high-profile case than with saving his life -- a feat he says would have been more easily accomplished farther away from the Pentagon, in a state that doles out the death penalty a little less often than Virginia. In light of these latest statements, could it be that Moussaoui really would prefer life in prison over "death at the hands of the infidels"? Or has he been baiting the court all along -- trying to goad the jury into choosing capital punishment? If the latter, today's testimony could indicate that he realized people were catching on, and he's now trying to convince the jury that a...

By Emily Messner | April 13, 2006; 3:57 PM ET | Comments (66)

Moussaoui to FBI: I Plead the Fifth

Debater JUDGITO wonders how the government could have reasonably expected Moussaoui to tell the FBI everything he knew about Al Qaeda's plans. "Doesn't the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination apply in this case and, if not, why not?" An intriguing question. The defense has made this point, arguing that Moussaoui was under no legal obligation to confess anything. Mike at LeftFielder.org agrees. He can't see how increasing "Moussaoui's legal liability because he refused to confess his crimes and fully cooperate with the FBI" would not be a violation of the Fifth Amendment. (The Old New Englander notes that the government attorney caught improperly coaching witnesses in the Moussaoui case has invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself.) The relevant clause of the Fifth Amendment reads: "no person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself...." Of course, Moussaoui wasn't a witness until about...

By Emily Messner | April 12, 2006; 5:06 AM ET | Comments (57)

Moussaoui: Dead or Alive?

I admit I was surprised when Debater Will asked, "what is the controversy?" when it comes to punishing terrorists. Debater D. responded to yesterday's post in no uncertain terms: There's nothing murky about it, he said -- terrorists should definitely be punished. Thanks for clearing that up, D. Okay, obviously we're not debating whether terrorists should be punished or simply given a lollypop and sent on their way. The question this week is how they should be punished and under what judicial framework should they be tried. Will, for his part, answered his own question by opining that Zacharias Moussaoui should be put in prison for life. That is indeed the controversy. Unlike Will, many Americans believe Moussaoui should pay the ultimate price for his involvement in the 9/11 plot -- and for withholding potentially life-saving information from the FBI. As of this writing, a Wall Street Journal online poll...

By Emily Messner | April 11, 2006; 5:15 AM ET | Comments (108)

The Facts: Punishing Terrorists

It's not terribly easy to find straight facts on the punishment of terrorists -- most essays on the subject have distinct points of view. Here's a bit of background material to provide context for the debate: Start with this quick Q&A from the Council on Foreign Relations on prosecuting terrorists in post-9/11 America. Next, skim this pre-9/11 overview of domestic terrorism and the legislative responses to it. This document details U.S. law relating to the death penalty, with specific references to how terrorism is treated as a capital offense. Also influencing our laws on dealing with terrorists are the major conventions on terrorism and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. In the case Hamdi v Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court found that a detainee who is a U.S. citizen held on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant "should have a meaningful opportunity to offer evidence that he is not an enemy...

By Emily Messner | April 10, 2006; 7:37 PM ET | Comments (13)

This Week's Debate: Punishing Terrorists

What is the appropriate punishment for Zacharias Moussaoui? Should he be put to death for his involvement in the 9/11 plot? Or would it be a more severe punishment to put him in prison for the rest of his life, denying him the martyrdom he so desires? We'll debate the Moussaoui case and related issues this week as we examine the complexities of punishing terrorists. How should suspected terrorists be tried? By military tribunals? In the U.S. justice system? By an international court designed specifically for this purpose? What sort of punishment would serve as an effective deterrent against terrorism? (Can any punishment deter terrorists?) I will be relying heavily on your discussion as we try to navigate these murky waters. Any other big questions we should debate while we're on this subject?...

By Emily Messner | April 10, 2006; 9:46 AM ET | Comments (47)

Is Ethanol the Answer?

One of the reasons gas prices have gone up lately is a new mandate that ethanol be included in gasoline mixtures, in place of MTBE. This has presented a bit of a challenge for refineries -- nothing they can't handle, but it's slowing them down temporarily. Yet one need only look south (okay, very far south) to see a country that made this shift ages ago. Brazil is now close to having all cars powered exclusively by ethanol made from sugar cane, reports CBS news. For more information, here's a company (with an interest in ethanol) answering frequently asked questions. Scott Shields argues that the United States should have been on top of this ages ago -- now, he laments, "we're falling behind nations like Brazil." That might be in part because Brazil's sugar cane ethanol is cheaper to produce than is ethanol from corn. Over at zFacts, they calculate...

By Emily Messner | April 7, 2006; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (108)

Fuel Economy Standards and the Free Market

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards law includes a method to calculate the average fuel economy of a manufacturer. Fuel economy figures, however, are not necessarily reliable, given that the EPA admits it tends to overestimate gas mileage. Over at the Spread Truth Liberally blog, John Nicosia is pleased at least that the larger light trucks, like the Hummer, will no longer be exempt from CAFE standards. (That said, near as I can tell, the gas guzzler tax still only applies to cars.) The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Sam Kazman says forget standards -- let the market solve! Kazman argues that not only are CAFE standards ineffective, they're also potentially deadly and counterproductive. He says that environmentalists, who campaign for people to drive less, should not support fuel economy rules that will make driving cheaper, thus encouraging even more driving. But there's only so much driving a person needs to...

By Emily Messner | April 6, 2006; 9:04 AM ET | Comments (51)

A Quick Commentary on Connectedness

"Ben Chappel" was the tenth most popular search on Technorati Tuesday night. Just saw it out of the corner of my eye as I was searching for blogs on CAFE standards. I clicked on the name, wondering ... could it possibly be ...? Yes. The same Ben Chappel I had a crush on in sixth grade. I am constantly amazed at how interconnected we all are these days -- due to the Internet, yes, but specifically blogs. Ten years ago -- even five years ago -- there is no way I would have found out what happened to Ben. And I never would have had any idea what a cool guy he grew up to be. (Seriously, how loved must he have been to turn up as one of the top 10 searches on one of the Web's most visited search engines?) My thoughts are with Ben's family and friends....

By Emily Messner | April 6, 2006; 1:06 AM ET | Comments (4)

Are We Serious About Ending Our Addiction?

When Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced the new fuel efficiency standards for light trucks -- the category that includes minivans and SUVs -- some editorial pages lambasted the government for not going far enough. The Peoria Journal Star editorial board noted that the minimum required efficiency now stands at 17.5 miles per gallon, when averaged across the light trucks category. By 2011, that requirement will be up to 24 mpg. The Journal Star's exasperated response? "So, after a quarter-century of trying to wean ourselves off oil, all we will have been able to eke out is a 6.5 mpg increase for trucks." Blogger Gregory Scoblete isn't surprised in the least by the meager move. "I guess we're not really serious about 'ending our addiction' to oil." If we want to get serious, says the Peoria editorial, raising standards by five percent a year until 2010 could result in a savings...

By Emily Messner | April 5, 2006; 3:08 PM ET | Comments (13)

Debate Immigration With Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria's Daily Show appearance the other night made me want to write a post about some of his contentions, presumably sparking a lively and interesting debate. But I wasn't sure how well doing an entire post on a Daily Show interview would go over, so I chickened out. Conveniently, Zakaria also wrote a column for this very paper raising some of those same points. In general, Zakaria bases his arguments on the premise that, Mexico aside, America has quite successful immigration policies already. I've outlined two of his ideas here, but read the piece for the detailed analysis. 1. Immigrant communities in the United States do not tend toward radicalism. On this of all issues, why would we move toward the French model -- deportations, penalties and guest worker programs -- when the recent riots prove it to be a deeply flawed system? 2. The United States and Mexico...

By Emily Messner | April 4, 2006; 7:09 PM ET | Comments (144)

Gas Prices Around the World

Here's a sampling of gasoline prices per gallon outside the United States in 2005: Amsterdam: $6.48 London: $5.79 Paris: $5.54 Tokyo: $4.24 Beirut: $2.63 Riyadh: $0.91 Kuwait City: $0.78 Caracas: $0.12 A lot of the cost to Europeans can be attributed to taxes. The tax rate on gas in France, for example, is about 400 percent higher than that in the United States. For some idea of just how much less U.S. drivers pay for gasoline compared to Europeans, check out this chart. See that line way down below all the others? Yep, that's us. On the other end of the spectrum are several countries with rich oil reserves that happen to be controlled by the government. In oil-producing Venezuela, not only is gasoline not taxed, the government practically gives it away. (At 12 cents a gallon, Venezuelan drivers would get approximately 230 miles per U.S. dollar.) In the United...

By Emily Messner | April 4, 2006; 2:28 PM ET | Comments (14)

Longing for the Gas Prices of Yesteryear?

Many different calculations have been used to figure out the current value of past gas prices in today's dollars. The general consensus is that gasoline prices peaked in 1980-1981, but estimates of what that peak price was in today's dollars vary from just over $2 to just over $3 per gallon. Mark Perry's figures skew to the high end of those estimates. In an op-ed in USA Today last May, the economics professor argued that by historical standards, prices these days "are a bargain." But a scant 11 months after Perry wrote those words, gas prices are approaching the $3 mark -- on par with his estimate of the highest gas prices in U.S. history, in March of 1981. In 2004, two Cato Institute scholars adjusted for inflation and then looked at the cost as compared to GDP. They said the highest that gas prices had ever been, in 2003...

By Emily Messner | April 4, 2006; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (11)

The Facts: Gasoline Prices

This is just a small sampling of the wealth of information out there on the price of gasoline. Plenty more facts will come up with each subsequent post. Start with a primer on how gas prices work. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration outlines which costs -- crude, taxes, marketing, etc. -- make up what percentages of the price at the pump. (The EIA, a division of the Department of Energy, provides a wealth of government statistics and relevant links.) Also worth a read is this FAQ, or this one. Fact sheets on using various alternative fuels for transportation, from the hydrogen fuel cell to compressed natural gas, come courtesy of the California Energy Commission. The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium, affiliated with West Virginia University, also provides fact sheets on alternative energy sources. Wondering what exactly "clean-burning fuel" and "clean-fuel" vehicles are? Here are the legal definitions. CNN provides...

By Emily Messner | April 3, 2006; 10:18 PM ET | Comments (1)

This Week's Debate: Gasoline Prices

As oil refineries undergo spring maintenance, the temporary capacity reduction has helped push gas prices up to around $2.50 nationally for regular unleaded. Media reports quote economists and assorted experts predicting $3 a gallon "this summer." It's not time to panic yet, says the Free Market Project, noting that the media's dire warnings regarding gas prices don't always pan out. That said, more factors are at work here that just the standard seasonal uptick. For one, gasoline additive MTBE is out and ethanol is in, throwing another variable into the production timetable. On the international scene, the U.N. standoff with Iran sparks fears that crude shipments from the oil-rich country could be disrupted. Also not helping: The fact that nearly 23 percent of petroleum production in the Gulf region remains offline after last year's brutal hurricane season. Some economists say that the "sticker shock" of the post-Katrina price spike has...

By Emily Messner | April 3, 2006; 5:17 AM ET | Comments (57)

 

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