Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

April 26, 2008

How can we handle these skyrocketing fuel costs?

What can we do?

More so than any other country, Americans love to travel in their personal vehicles. We own 30 percent of the world’s vehicles while we have 4.5 percent of the world’s population. Our country uses 25 percent of the world’s petroleum, of which two-thirds is imported.

The cost of gasoline in America is about half that in Europe, primarily because of the difference in taxes (in some countries, taxes are more than half of the cost of the gasoline). For our passenger vehicles and light trucks, our average miles per gallon is 16.7, with the average licensed U.S. driver covering 15,000 miles per year.

Of our new personal vehicles sold each year, cars make up half and trucks, SUV’s and vans the remainder. In this area, parking lots reveal that two-thirds of the vehicles are SUV’s and light trucks. Presently, the amount of petroleum produced each day has remained steady for over 32 months at 84 million barrels with little surplus capacity. This lack of extra capacity means that if there is an interruption in oil from one of the key oil producing countries, prices are likely to shoot up as demands remains constant while supply shrinks.

Since the first oil well in Titusville, Pa., in 1859, humans have extracted a trillion barrels of petroleum. Conservative estimates suggest that there’s about that amount of petroleum in existing reserves. (We are at the peak of the oil supply curve as the production of petroleum has been fixed for nearly three years.) Few significant discoveries of conventional oil have been made in the past few decades.

At our present rate of consumption, we will extract our second trillion barrels in only 33 years! If the cost of petroleum rises only 10 percent a year, the price will double every seven years! So by 2015, petroleum will cost $230 per barrel! 2022 will see petroleum at nearly $500 per barrel. Then by 2029, the price will be in the vicinity of $1000 per barrel! If the price of gasoline grows proportionately, then you can expect gasoline in the United States to be about $25 per gallon in 2029; this is the same price that some of us in small vehicles fill up gas tanks every week at current prices.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014

  • A long and winding road faces our food

    Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.

    July 6, 2014

  • Here’s a look at what goes on inside you

    In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.

    June 28, 2014

  • Moon-watching easy when you know how

    Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.

    June 21, 2014

  • Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets

    How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).

    June 15, 2014

  • Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one

    At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!

    June 8, 2014

  • Think a little more and be less frazzled

    Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.

    May 25, 2014

  • Technology helps with learning, but take care

    Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.

    May 18, 2014

  • Here are numbers that apply in our lives

    One of the best exercises is walking. Cardiologists suggest that each of us walk 10,000 steps per day. Assume each step is 0.5 meters or 19.7 inches. Then 10,000 steps would cover 5,000 meters or 3.11 miles. But studies find that the average American (from age 4 and up) takes only 2,000 steps/day or 1 kilometer.

    May 11, 2014

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