Thursday, March 26, 2009

More thoughts while traveling - OPEC, the Tata Nano, and tides

In all fairness, since I was less than totally complementary to British transport services the other day, it is only balanced to note that, while I was hoping to be home in my own bed this evening, I am instead in a hotel in Newark. My flight was cancelled (I presume because of the weather) and despite a heroic effort by one of the Continental reps, because most of the remaining flights out were oversold, here I am. I also discovered that hotels could be oversold, since after being shuttled to this hotel we (the victims) were first told we would be sent on to other hotels. After about ¾ of an hour waiting for a non-appearing shuttle (apparently caught in traffic) the two of us assigned to this hotel were allowed to register.

So with the promise of another early morning (I was at the tube station before the ticket sellers appeared this morning) this will again focus on just a few stories out of the press, rather than the usual. Firstly there was something that I wanted to post from the TWIP that I forgot, and that was this table:

OPEC anticipated production at the beginning of 2009 (Source EIA)

These are the sorts of tables I like to squirrel away for future comparison, since this is the prediction of how close we are to more interesting times. I have always (while blogging) discounted 1 mbd from the Saudi Arabian total, since they count Manifa (at 1 mbd) in these numbers and that field won’t come on stream until they (Aramco) install their own refineries for it. That day is still slipping and how heading beyond 2013. And if you take that number out you might note how close to capacity OPEC was last September before demand, and then supply, was reduced by the recession. If demand picks up this summer, and I need to stare some more at those graphs that I talked about yesterday to see how they develop into the summer, then we may be back under OPEC’s thumb faster than you may realize.

The second thing worthy of note was the story of the Tata, which was in the Daily Telegraph today. It is the promise, for Indian drivers, of an automotive future. With a cost of around 1,300 English pounds ($1,900). The Tata Nano was launched earlier this week, and given a positive test drive result in today’s paper. It is small, barely holds four, without luggage, yet gets 70 mpg, and is within range of a lot of Indian families.
At the test track inside the Tata compound earlier, I struggled to believe it could be possible to get four people inside, with the front passengers able to stretch their legs comfortably. I counted three normal steps as I paced from front wheel to back, and one large Monty Python-style stretch from left wheel to right at the front.

It resembles a bumper car, and its tiny circle means it can turn in a space comparable with a taxi cab in London.

For a skeptic expecting a tinny, bone-shaking ride, it was surprisingly ordinary, an observation which delighted the engineers who created it. Their goal was to create a "proper car", affordable to India's millions of two-wheeler riders, and in that they've succeeded.
The only thing, of course, is that good mileage or not, it will likely provide the avenue into car ownership for a large number of Indians. And with that will come the demand for fuel that must be provided. (The two upper level models will also be air conditioned).

Over on TOD Europe Luis has noted the problems that are arising with the generation of tidal energy from the sea. The first three machines, launched with some fanfare have been out of the water now for some time, and the experiment is losing momentum. Plans for similar units are being made for Morecambe Bay in the UK. A Group of industrial and academic folk has been founded . When three others are added then the total contribution can be as much as 5% of the nation’s electricity demand. But there are some years yet and demanding investments before we see a significant contribution.

Well I am defeated by travel again, so will see you on the morrow.


  1. The most frightening thing about the Tata Nano is its potential to add to the gridlock already strangling major Indian cities.

    While the Nano gets commendable fuel economy by western standards, it will still be thirstier than most of the two-wheelers it's intended to displace. Many of these will just pass to another grateful owner, giving the Nano a net negative impact on air pollution.

    A new comparison test of the latest crop of hybrids appears to favour the 2010 Prius. The control vehicle, an antidiluvean 1990 Geo Metro, seems to win hearts but not minds.

  2. Thanks for the comparison, however in an earlier decision we got the Camry Hybrid over the Prius, and have been quite happy with the choice.

    We're still looking at the Fusion, and posts will walk us all through the process and decision as to what we end up with.