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  • Environmental regulations are a tiny sliver of oil refinery costs.

    As expected, one of Bush's complaints in last night's speech was that there haven't been new refineries coming online, thus creating a "bottleneck" in the system. There's some truth to that, but note that he contradicted himself when he said that jawboning other countries to boost supplies would lower the price of gas at the pump. [I should add: high gas prices are generally OK with me because they reduce long-run demand, though I'd prefer that extra money go to the U.S. government in the form of gas taxes rather than, say, into the opaque coffers of Ayatollah Khamenei, Hugo Chavez, or Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.]

    Oh, and cry me a river about the refinery issue and the oh-so-costly regulations. The oil companies are doing just fine, according to the subscriber-only Wall Street Journal:

    Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch/Shell Group both reported huge increases in first-quarter income, benefiting from the industrywide bonanza also swelling the coffers of their peers: high prices for the oil they pump and high margins for refining it. Both companies reported that their oil production declined, however.
    Here's how the NRDC explains the matter:

  • Even Jimmy Carter was braver on energy issues.

    This from an estranged Republican blogger:

    Conservatives love to ridicule Jimmy Carter for wearing a sweater, telling Americans to turn down their thermostats in the winter, and urging them to drive smaller cars. But can anyone imagine President Bush going out on that kind of a limb to set an example? That lack of leadership will be his legacy on this issue.
    Yeah. Shameful.

    It's worth noting that Jimmy Carter was absolutely right on the merits, even though his political approach was (metaphorically) suicidal. For all of his bragging about being willing to take on "tough challenges," Bush has been deeply afraid to address energy issues with even a modicum of probity. Last night he did elevate the role of energy conservation to the level of national policy (rather than mere personal virtue), and that's a step forward rhetorically. But he's been in office for over four years now, and his vaunted energy bill does almost nothing on that front. Talk is cheap, cowboy.

  • DaimlerChrysler’s SMART division not doing well.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news.

    Daimler-Chrysler, which manufactures the very chic SMART cars, posted some dodgy 1q earnings today. The bad news is that the SMART division (smart GmbH) appears to be struggling.

    The press release doesn't say much:

    Stuttgart/Auburn Hills, 04/28/2005 - First-quarter unit sales decreased by 7% to 247,000 vehicles, while revenues were 11% lower at 10.4 billion euros. The operating loss of 954 million euros (Q1 2004: 639 million euros) was affected by expenses of 800 million euros relating to the realignment of the smart business unit. At smart there was an operating loss from ongoing business activities.
    ...nor does this (subscriber-only) WSJ story:
    Mercedes's results are also burdened by Smart, a unit of the division that has been losing money since it started churning out its colorful, two-passenger cars in 1998. DaimlerChrysler earlier this month announced a restructuring of Smart that includes a reduction of the unit's model line and the canceled development of a diminutive sport-utility vehicle. The restructuring is expected to cost DaimlerChrysler as much as €1.2 billion this year, the company has said.
    More below the jump.

  • Is the ‘creative class’ driving green building?

    Worldchanger Jamais Cascio has a long, linktastic post about Richard Florida and his argument that there is an identifiable "creative class" of mobile workers that values, well, urbanism: a high quality of life, culture diversity and tolerance, thick labor markets, etc.

    I live in Pittsburgh, where Florida got his start, so I'm well acquainted with his ideas and his, ahem, penchant for self-publicity. Unfortunately, Florida doesn't actually delve into the relationship between the environment and thriving cities; instead he uses a generalized quality of life measure of somewhat dubious reliability (it's hard to quantify this stuff).

    So I'm glad that Jamais is looking beyond Florida's initial focus and talking about sustainability and the prospect that the "creative class is taking on a distinctly Viridian shade of green." Jamais looks at the top cities on Florida's creative index and wonders if it's the creative class that's driving the growth of LEED-certified green buildings. From my experience here in Pittsburgh, where the city recently unveiled a massive and beautiful LEED-certified convention center, it's actually the presence of several likeminded progressive foundations that has been decisive in these early years. The irony is that the wealth built up during Pittsburgh's famous period of rapid industrial growth--which led to Pittsburgh's equally-famous moniker as the "Smoky City"--is now the primary catalyst for a green renaissance.