Monday, February 28, 2005

Gas & Oil At a Glance: A New View of Gasoline Prices

Everyone knows that the toll for oil drives the price of gasoline. But after looking at 14 years of data during the past few months, I've discovered that it's not as straight forward as some might think, especially with the historic highs that have taken place in 2004.

Having a clearer understanding of where gasoline prices stand relative to those of oil should be helpful in looking forward.
So, starting Tuesday, March 1, and every week thereafter, I plan to publish the 'Oil-Gas-Ratio-Spread' Sheet within a feature called 'Gas & Oil at a Glance'. Mainly, I believe that this sheet will serve as a quick way to gain a better sense of where the cost of gasoline will be heading over the near term.


This snapshot will include the current per barrel oil price in the United States for the prior day, using the 'West Texas Intermediate' variety of crude as the benchmark, along with the national average price per gallon for Regular Self-Serve Unleaded Gasoline. Derived from these two figures will be the 'Gas to Oil Price Ratio', that is, the cost relationship between a gallon of gasoline and the same quantity of crude oil, along with the 'Spread', that being the difference in price between retail gasoline and crude oil on a per gallon basis.

You'll also have brief commentary from me, if I believe it will deliver any added value to the data presented. For historical context, figures from the previous week, 4 weeks back, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years ago will also be provided.

The final numbers to be kept for oil and gasoline will be those provided by the U.S. Government's Energy Information Administration. Because there is typically a lag time in the posting of the amount paid for oil on the EIA web site, for each new week I'll use prices provided by Bloomberg.com for that commodity. I don't expect to see a meaningful difference between these sets of numbers, but I will be keeping an eye upon it.

You're invited to check in with this blog each week for this information. It should be posted before 8:00 AM EST on Tuesday, except for those weeks when oil is not traded on Mondays. Let's see how it goes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Saving Money, Saving Lives?

When I read the headline 'Study blames diesel exhaust for deaths' among the top news items on my Yahoo home page last night, it was with more than a casual interest that I clicked on the story. The basis of the article was research released by the Clean Air Task Force, entitled 'Diesel in and Health in America: The Lingering Threat' .

You see, it was the middle of 2004 that I decided to become involved in the marketing of a fuel catalyst known as EnviroMaxPlus, otherwise known by the short hand acronym 'EMP'. That is the reason for all of the attention that I've been paying to energy issues in recent months, and frankly, what is behind my intention to point much of this blog's content in that direction.

EMP's marquee claim is to significantly increase fuel mileage, to the point that savings come back well exceeding its cost. Secondarily, EMP's ability to reduce emissions is touted, the standard benefit statement being that pollutants through the exhaust are reduced by up to 80 percent.

Contemplating the lowering of pollution on a more or less ethereal plane is one thing. But getting a sense of what the difference could be in terms of saving human lives is quite another. And that is the revelation I gained when I got to the article that was referenced in the above AP story. The Clean Air Task Force research estimates that, ”Reducing diesel fine particle emissions 50 percent by 2010, 75 percent by 2015, and 85 percent by 2020 would save nearly 100,000 lives between now and 2030.”

Within the desired free market context, EMP may well be THE most expeditious way available to progress towards this end. Look at some of the studies done with EMP, and you'll find that particulate matter in diesel engines has been lowered by as much as 60 percent. On top of this, with EMP, there is no need to retrofit engines, no need to require massive modifications of fuels, and no need to impose additional regulations.

The bigger – and better – picture is that, right now, you and I can participate in making the world a cleaner place by simply USING THE PRODUCT. Think of it as your charitable contribution if you want, but the chances are that your increased fuel mileage alone will make the EMP's small price an outstanding investment. Add it to any engine that you own. It works not only with diesel and gasoline, but with virtually every motor that requires a hydrocarbon based fuel.



And here's one big plus: EnviroMaxPlus is set up to be marketed by referral, so this is an opportunity that anyone so motivated can take advantage of. If you feel the spirit, spread the word and stand to be well compensated for doing so.

What's more, in this case, the market is wide open. Provisions are in place to not only turn on other individuals to the product but to sell large quantities on the commercial level as well.

Saving, if not making money, while helping to save lives? That's a pretty rare combination. It has been my experience that opportunities to do so well so directly on an individual basis while positively impacting the world don't come around all that often. EnviroMaxPlus presents one of those singular and auspicious occasions.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Five Year Trend: Gas Price 'Spreads' Outpace Inflation

With the gasoline price spikes of 2004, oil companies in the United States have not been shy to point out how little consumers were actually paying, when taking inflation into account. Over the long haul, that point has merit and is well taken.

But look at the data over a shorter term, on the basis of the past six years, and you see a picture containing contrasting colors. The research reported here uses what's known as the 'spread', that being the difference between the acquisition expense for crude oil and the price of gasoline at retail. This approach rules out variations in the cost of crude exaggerating price figures.

Data were derived from weekly crude oil and retail gasoline prices, with 1999 used as the base year. As the chart and table below each reveal, the spread increased well beyond inflation in four of the five subsequent years. The spread gain was greatest in 2004, exceeding inflation by a whopping 13%, followed by 11.72% in 2001, then by 9.90% in 2003 and finally by 8.79% in 2000. In the only year that thespread came in below inflation, 2002, the lag was a modest 1.77%.


Over the half decade from 2000 through 2004, the spread has outpaced inflation by an average of 8.33%, year over year. I think it's fair to say that most businesses would trade their present balance sheets to have such a comparative pricing advantage.

The raw data used to determine the spreads were provided by the U.S. Government's Energy Information Administration. A handy calculator, accessible via the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site, was relied upon to determine annual rates of inflation.





Saturday, February 12, 2005

Shareholder's Lawsuit Inexplicably Dismissed

Just today, I was informed by author and criminal justice system critic Frank Vipperman that a lawsuit filed by him against Las Vegas Tribune founder and editor Rolando Larraz, without notice or explanation to him, has been abruptly dismissed.

The case is of considerable interest to me, because Frank and I both invested substantially in the weekly newspaper, only to see Larraz, devoid of any justification, attempt to vaporize our ownership interests.

Frank's pro se action, seeking damages of one million dollars, has been in the judicial mill since April of 2003. The charges include obtaining money under false pretense, breach of contract, fraud, illegal asset conversion and embezzlement.

A jury trial had been set to begin in short order, on February 14 of this year, but due to severe health problems, Frank requested that the trial date be set back.



Shortly after that, the funny stuff began. Court records online show - reference case # 03-A-465833-C - that on January 26, 2005, less than two weeks after Frank's petition for postponement, presiding Judge Jackie Glass recused from the case. Judge Jessie Walsh receiving the reassignment. One week later, on February 3, the most recent entry on record is, “CASE CLOSED PER DEPARTMENT”. Keep in mind: Plaintiff Frank Vipperman has received no notice of or explanation for these two maneuvers.

The benign explanation is some kind of snafu within the court system. A more sinister possibility is the return of a favor. In late 2002, during her initial run for District Court, Frank informed me that Walsh was the recipient of favorable exposure in the Tribune, something only Larraz would have effectuated.

The receipt of good words would have been timely, as Walsh was not endorsed for the seat by the state's largest newspaper, the LV Review-Journal. Her rejection was due primarily to Walsh having received, by a long shot, the lowest attorney retention recommendation of all peer judges while occupying a chair in the Las Vegas Municipal Court.

Even posing the prospect that clandestine motives are behind this development makes me uneasy. Yet, because similarly sleazy moves happen with such regularity among the good old boys and girls in Vegas, it's impossible to say such couldn't be so.

As this story is breaking news, I will continue looking into the situation.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Vegas Mayor Bails on Boob Bar Revocation Request

Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman copped the plea again. According to Steve Miller, Goodman reiterated the 'no revocation if federal investigation' mantra as the reason for doing nothing to interfere with the continued operation of the Crazy Horse II Gentlemen's Club. The lame excuse was given during a meeting held yesterday (Feb. 7, 2005) that had been requested by Buffalo Jim Barrier. As I documented earlier, Buffalo Jim sent Goodman a letter two weeks ago on January 25th, in which he demanded action against this troublesome business that, over the years, has required police responses in far greater numbers than similar establishments.

Steve, a former city councilman and long time citizen activist - he should be called 'the conscience of Las Vegas' in my view - summarizes the slough off in this manner:

As predicted, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman today presented Buffalo Jim Barrier with several "Happiest Mayor in the Universe" tattoos and casino chips, a miniature bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and a bobblehead doll, but refused to schedule a license revocation hearing against his former clients at the blood soaked Crazy Horse Too.



According to Barrier, the Mayor repeated that he could not schedule such a hearing while a federal investigation is underway. (Goodman conducted a license revocation hearing on Crazy Horse competitor Cheetahs while a federal investigation was underway.)

During the thirty minute meeting at City Hall, Barrier said Goodman told him that his subordinate, city director of business licensing Jim DiFiore, would have to place the license revocation item on the Council agenda. (DiFiore who works at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council was instrumental in closing Treasures, another Crazy Horse competitor.)

In the meantime, the bloodshed continues at the Crazy Horse Too.

An auto shop owner for over a quarter of a century, a former pro wrestler and always a promoter, he has been forced to put up with this dangerous nuisance for years. Well, the mayor slipped out of the ring this time. But don't be surprised if BJ's comeback this time has all the impact of a Hulk Hogan body slam.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Wrongly Convicted Vegan's Crusade Continues

Frank Vipperman and I go back about four years, when he invested in a Las Vegas newspaper which I had also supported financially. Idealistically, we both then believed that this publication would always stand for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’. Now, beyond disappointment and anger, we share the loss of time and money, as we eventually discovered the actual agenda of the one who enticed us in to be distant from ours. Ultimately, these circumstances may well turn around, but that’s a story for another time.

For Frank, his involvement with the newspaper was an extension of a 32 year crusade to shine the light on hard learned truths about the criminal justice system, from the point of view of one who was singled out, tried and imprisoned, wrongly convicted for the high crime of murder.

Frank spent fourteen long years in prison before successfully intimidating the parole system and thereby gaining his release. He classically exemplifies the power of unabridged intellect, motivation and dedication, and any self respecting attorney should envy Frank's accomplishments in the legal arena. Saddled with only a sixth grade education, Frank spent his time in prison educating himself about the law, and became a 'jailhouse lawyer' in the very best sense of the word. Not only did he aid his own cause, he assisted numerous other inmates with their cases. His self taught skills have rightfully struck fear in the hearts of many in positions of authority, while dealing a dose of just desserts to some of them.

Looking at the flaws in the judicial system that terrorize freedom to its very core, those who appreciate the content of ‘Actual Innocenceshould relish Vipperman’s works in contrast. While this worthy work of Barry Scheck and others does well in summarizing a litany of cases about guiltless victims who narrowly escaped state sponsored executions, Frank comes from a different perspective.

On a deeply individual level, he offers extensive details of the insults that he endured, introducing the surrounding characters and circumstances. These tales exist within four books, set against the backdrop of a seedy, officially sanctioned underside that is invisible to most, given the distracting glitter of the 'Entertainment Capital of theWorld', Las Vegas, Nevada.



His first three titles include 'The Deal Makers', 'The Cesspool' and 'TheHell Hole', all of which are promoted on Frank's website. Information about his most recent fourth book, 'Brainwashed' is available on this web page.

Though he has been hampered by health issues recently, Frank continues to hammer away - several more books are in the works - at what has become a lifelong mission: To shake people out of the ignorant bliss that all too often pervades our perceptions of the justice system within the United States.

Because, as has happened to him, at the rate things are going, it's all too likely that you, me, a loved one, a friend or a colleague will also stand accused of some kind of crime, only to be immersed in a process that has been turned upside down. Based upon an Associated Press report of late July, 2004, by now, the U.S.should have exceeded 7 million persons who are either in jail, inprison, on probation or on parole. As the article states, “Put another way, about 3.2 percent of the adult U.S. population, or 1 in32 adults, were incarcerated, or on probation or parole at the end oflast year.” And, although the pace may have slowed a bit, it hasn't stopped growing.

Even the unconvinced must wonder: Does our society REALLY have THAT much of a criminal element? Or has something run terribly amok?

It is with pride that I claim Frank Vipperman as a friend and associate, one who has dedicated his life to take on an ugly issue that most - at their peril - would rather ignore. If you have the gumption to expose yourself to a damning, disquieting and detailed case study, related first hand, I encourage you to take note of and learn from his compositions.