Friday, September 21, 2007

American Energy Page One

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Private Equity Folly

Worth reading, as all her articles are. Click on title or above cite.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Drought in Northern Hamilton County, Ohio -- Effect on Trees

Long-term Drought Effects on Trees and Shrubs
Recurring and prolonged periods of drought seem to have become commonplace in many regions of the country in recent years. The effects on trees and shrubs can often be seen in both natural and man-made landscapes during the severest of droughts as leaves wilt, show marginal scorch, or prematurely drop from the plant. However, the long-term effects of drought on the health and survivability of woody plants are less obvious.
Furthermore, the perception of drought can be misleading. In 1999, New England experienced one of the worst droughts of the century. Yet, the total rainfall for the year was at or just above normal levels. The "normal" annual rainfall figure could be accounted for by a significant amount of rain that fell in just one event. That was a mid-September storm, associated with fallout from Hurricane Floyd, that deposited up to 9 inches of rain on some areas.
With respect to influence on plant growth and health, it is the amount and frequency of rainfall received during the growing season that is of greater significance than the total amount of precipitation in a given year. When defining a drought year, the pattern and frequency of rainfall are clearly more important than the total amount of rain.
Water relations in plantsTo understand the impact of drought on plants, a review of water relations can be helpful. Without water, there is no plant life. It is the milieu in which chemical reactions inside a plant cell take place. Water is the major component of the protoplasm which makes up the content of cells. Water also serves as a raw material for many metabolic processes, including photosynthesis.Aside from its role in photosynthesis and other chemical reactions, water plays a significant role in the physical processes of plant growth. As new cells form, they expand in response to turgor pressure, that is, the pressure exerted on the cell membranes and walls by water entering the cells. Following this expansion, the cell adds additional layers of cellulose to form a more permanent cell structure. This is a fundamental process in the elongation of newly formed cells and the growth of woody plants.
The uptake and transport of mineral nutrients occurs in water. Minerals dissolved in soil water move into plant roots and then to the vascular system, more specifically the xylem, for transport throughout the plant. There they combine with proteins to form enzymes that control the biochemical reactions essential to plant health and growth.
In the simplest terms, the driving mechanism for the transport of water through a plant is transpiration or the evaporation of water from plant leaves. Tiny pores or stomates in leaves control the amount of transpiration. Stomates open and close in response to water availability as well as other internal and external factors. Transpiration occurs as long as stomates are open. Transpiration sets up a negative pressure that drives the movement of water from the soil to the plant and through the plant via the xylem. The movement of water from soil to roots to xylem to leaves to air can be viewed as a continuum. Interruption at any stage of the continuum stops or reduces the flow of water, leading to wilting of leaves.
Drought effects on plantsDrought conditions, or more specifically, soil water deficits, can influence the normal physiology and growth of plants in many ways. For example, when a soil water deficit exists, the result may be an increase of solute concentration outside the roots compared to the internal environment of the root. Such a situation leads to reverse osmosis, i.e. a net movement of water from the cell to the soil solution. As this happens, the cell membrane shrinks from the cell wall and may eventually lead to death of the cell. This type of injury can also occur when a build up of road salts or excess fertilizer occurs in the soil environment around plant roots.
More commonly, when a water deficit occurs, soil water tends to shrink away from the interface with water-absorbing roots, creating a gap in the soil-plant-air continuum. As the plant continues to lose water via transpiration, water is drawn from root cells resulting in shrinkage of cell membranes.If these conditions persist, the integrity of the cell membrane and the living cell itself may be destroyed.
In the root system of a tree or shrub, the delicate root hairs that extend from epidermal cells and feeder roots at the extremities of the root system are responsible for the bulk of water uptake. Confined to the upper 15 inches or so of the soil profile, they are also the first part of the root system affected by dry soil conditions. With the death of root hairs, the water absorbing capacity of the plant is severely reduced.
The effect of drought is particularly acute for newly transplanted trees and shrubs since they are already devoid of a sizeable portion of their water-absorbing roots - the roots being lost in the digging and transplanting process.
In addition to the potentially catastrophic effect of reverse osmosis and loss of water absorbing ability of roots on plant health and survival, other responses of a plant to drought may also occur. Closing of stomates is usually the first response. There is some evidence that abscisic acid, formed in roots in reaction to soil water deficits, is transported to leaves and initiates the closing of stomates. Recovery from stomatal closing is slow and may not return to normal for hours, days or weeks despite availability of water. Increase in abscisic acid production also leads to an inhibition of bud and leaf development, and to promotion of leaf abscission.
The consequences of stomatal closing are many. Since plant leaves take in carbon dioxide through these leaf pores, it is not surprising that there would be a reduction in both carbon dioxide fixation in photosynthesis and subsequent carbohydrate production. This in turn leads to a decrease in leaf expansion and eventual shedding of leaves. There may be as much as a ten fold decrease in the photosynthetic production for a given plant specimen as a consequence of leaf surface area reductions.
The carbohydrates produced in green tissue by photosynthesis are used as substrate for other synthesis reactions in plant cells. Among the products normally manufactured from these carbohydrates are fats, proteins, growth regulators, and many secondary metabolites. Growth regulators, such as cytokinins and gibberellic acid, are responsible for controlling growth in plants.The production of growth promoting cytokinins and gibberellic acid decreases in plants stressed by drought.
Secondary metabolites are responsible for many of the defense mechanisms a plant needs to thwart infectious diseases and certain insect attacks. These metabolites include oleoresins, tannins and alkaloids. Initially, there may be an increase in the production of secondary metabolites in drought stressed plants as carbohydrates are redirected to the synthesis of these products. However, as the severity of drought persists, the amount of secondary metabolites decreases and plants become vulnerable to secondary attacks by certain insects and diseases.
With prolonged drought, there is also a break down of the photosynthetic machinery itself, further compromising the health of the plant. Before a plant can resume normal growth rates, rebuild damaged plant structures, and resume synthesis of growth regulators and secondary metabolites needed for self-defense, it must re-establish the photosynthetic machinery and normal functioning of the stomates. In the meantime, food reserves are consumed to compensate for reductions of photosynthetic product. Therefore, visible symptoms of drought-related decline in plant health may not be evident for weeks, months, or years after the drought event. Further decline will often take place while repairs to root system, photosythetic apparatus, and morphology are made, again taking months or years depending upon the severity and duration of soil water deficits.
SymptomsIt is hopefully clear from the preceding discussion that the effects of drought can be characterized as short term and long term. Immediate visible effects of drought damage include wilting, scorch, and some defoliation due to loss of turgor in plant cells, irreversible shrinkage of cell membranes, and increased synthesis of abscisic acid. Long-term symptoms of drought include dieback of branches and death of the plant as the plants capacity to absorb water is damaged. These are the primary or direct effects of drought.
Secondary effectsThere are also secondary effects that relate to the reduction in synthesis of secondary metabolites. Susceptibility to disease infections and insect invasions is heightened as the plant's ability to ward off these problems is diminished.It is difficult to attribute plant disease problems to drought a year or two after a drought event, especially if the current year is a moist one. However, there are certain diseases that are more likely to occur because of drought related stress on the plant. These diseases in combination with weather history at the site can be used in the diagnosis of drought related problems. Among the types of diseases likely to occur in response to drought related stress are root rots, cankers, wood rots, and wilt.
A good example of delayed secondary effects of drought on trees and shrubs is Armillaria root rot, also called shoestring root rot because the fungus forms shoestring-like structures called rhizomorphs that invade roots. Armillaria is an opportunistic fungus, that is, it is generally present in soil and on the surface of roots but only invades when roots are weakened or damaged by some type of stress, such as drought. In a healthy plant, the disease can be isolated or compartmentalized. A drought stressed tree with reduced metabolic activity may not be able to compartmentalize the disease. The fungus invades cambium tissue and is capable of killing a small tree in a season or two. Large trees with an extensive root system may not begin to show symptoms of decline until half the root system is killed by the fungus. This may occur several years after the drought event and initial invasion by the Armillaria fungus.
Among the canker type diseases likely to be encountered are Nectria canker and Cytospora canker. These diseases are almost always associated with drought stress. Again, it is the inability of the plant to synthesize protective chemicals and to compartmentalize wounds that allows for infection and development of the diseases. Drought stressed trees and shrubs are also predisposed to several other diseases including Diplodia tip blight, Rhizosphaera needlecast and Verticillium
Insect problemsThe invasion of wood boring insects such as bronze birch borer, black stem borer (Ambrosia beetle), and other bark beetles, noticeably increases in trees that are drought stressed.
Studies have shown a correlation between the levels of the secondary metabolite, oleoresin, and a plant's susceptibility to invasion by wood boring insects. A healthy tree produces oleoresin that acts to deter feeding by borers.When a tree is severely stressed, there is a decrease in oleoresin production and a corresponding increase in borer attacks.
ConclusionWhile drought conditions seem to have been alleviated in many previously stricken areas of the country, plant practitioners need to be aware that the negative effects of drought on plant growth and health may continue to be a problem for years to come. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating the causes of plant problems.Ronald F. Kujawski, UMass Extension Educator9/00
Return to Plant Culture and Maintenance fact sheet index

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European Roaming Charges

Be careful about using your cell phone, or even taking it, to Europe. Click on title or above link.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Subprime Frauds

Click on title or here above.

From the Home Loan Trap -- NYT Today

The penalty “is just an added fee that means more money to the lenders,” said Melissa A. Huelsman, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in predatory lending law. “It is one piece of paper that a borrower signs in a stack of 50 papers. For many people, even if they saw the words, they wouldn’t understand them.”

The Home Loan Trap

Click on Title or the above.

Fill-er Up Ideas

Received from a friend.
I've been in petroleum pipeline business for about 31 years, currently working for the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline here in San Jose , CA . We deliver about 4 million gallons in a 24-hour period from the pipe line; one day it's diesel, the next day it's jet fuel and gasoline. We have 34 storage tanks here with a total capacity of 16,800,000 gallons. Here are some tricks to help you get your money's worth:

1. Fill up your car or truck in the morning when the temperature is still cool. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground; and the colder the ground, the denser the gasoline. When it gets warmer gasoline expands, so if you're filling up in the afternoon or in the evening, what should be a gallon is not exactly a gallon. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and temperature of the fuel (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products) are significant. Every truckload that we load is temperature-compensated so that the indicated gallonage is actually the amount pumped. A one-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for businesses, but service stations don't have temperature compensation at their pumps.

2. If a tanker truck is filling the station's tank at the time you want to buy gas, do not fill up; most likely dirt and sludge in the tank is being stirred up when gas is being delivered, and you might be transferring that dirt from the bottom of their tank into your car's tank.

3. Fill up when your gas tank is half-full (or half-empty), because the more gas you have in your tank the less air there is and gasoline evaporates rapidly, especially when it's warm. (Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating 'roof' membrane to act as a barrier between the gas and the atmosphere, thereby minimizing evaporation.)

4. If you look at the trigger you'll see that it has three delivery settings: slow, medium and high. When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to the high setting. You should be pumping at the slow setting, thereby minimizing vapors created while you are pumping. Hoses at the pump are corrugated; the corrugations act as a return path for vapor recovery from gas that already has been metered. If you are pumping at the high setting, the agitated gasoline contains more vapor, which is being sucked back into the underground tank, so you're getting less gas for your money. Hope this will help ease your 'pain at the pump' =
See what's new at and Make AOL Your Homepage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

AEP & Batteries & Wind Power

Or click on Title hereinabove.

Friedman's Good Writing From Sunday NYT

"One of the most troubling lessons of the Iraq invasion is just how empty the Arab dictatorships are. Once you break the palace, by ousting the dictator, the elevator goes straight to the mosque. There is nothing in between — no civil society, no real labor unions, no real human rights groups, no real parliaments or press. So it is not surprising to see the sort of clerical leadership that has emerged in both the Sunni and Shiite areas of Iraq."

Duke Energy -- Summer

Duke Energy -- Upcoming Winter

This is a continuation of the previous chart, in different format. 2004-'05 was 1227 ccf; 2005-'06 was 905, a very low amount reflecting careful usage and warm weather; 2006-'07 1140 reflects Laurel Avenue, which was determined to mimic Greenville and without the estimating problem at Greenville. Note the oddity in '06-'07 that March was summerlike and April was very winterlike. Ameranth speculators, can you do anything with this re futures for the upcoming season?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Duke Energy -- For Upcoming Winter

You can use this chart to get an idea of the range of usage to expect this winter. 2002-03 was the cold winter. 2001-02, 2004-05, were warmer than normal; 2003-04 was, in the words of The Three Bears, "just right." That is, "normal."

Duke Energy Usages 2006-2007 Winter

Duke Energy Companion Bill

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cramer is Lost

Procter = The Eagles, in his theme this week, which is as though he is drafting his anti-Bernanke draft. One of six draft picks tonight. Since this Blog comes to you from Cincinnai, I mention it.

It seems to me that Cramer is lost. He created a theme -- that the market was heading back up -- which lasted successfully -- for about two days. But really he got optimistic too early 2 weeks ago and then drifted off. Now he's back saying he's been calling a recession all along.

Remember, Cramer cannot tell people to sell short. So he's constrained to guide his patrons into defensive stocks and non-Bernanke segments. So far so good.

Lightning Round:

Wachovia (WB)? Yield is safe. Hold onto he says. Bank of America too.

One question I have of Cramer. Are you 52 or 62. On your clips you say 62. But everything else points to 52. I have no problem with either, or saying both in different circumstances.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Friedman Today in NYT

Today's Friedman starts with a wonderful image/analogy about Iraq. I include this only to show what excellent writing is. Click on Title.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Duke Energy -- For Upcoming Winter

Note that the $8.62 per mcf gas cost, or $.86 per ccf, is way above the near-month futures contract of $5.50 or so. Of course it means virtually nothing to the residential user in a summer month. See my earlier blog explaining how Duke Energy buys its gas only from known suppliers and does not play the futures market except to the tune of 5%. So some times they look good and some times bad.

Duke Energy -- For Upcoming Winter

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Duke Energy -- For Upcoming Winter

Magic Formula: Victorian House heating 3300 sq. ft. During Winter, divide HDD for the day by 3 and that's your cost for natural gas. On a really cold day with HDD @, say, 55, cost will be $18. HDD of 55 is an average temperature of 10 degrees. (65 degrees less 10 degrees = 55 HDD). HDD means Heating Degree Day.

How Were Rates on October 8, 1998?

See below from New York Times of October 9, 1998:

Ohio Governor Strickland's Plan

Click on Title. MSNBC article of September 1, 2007.

Deregulation of Electricity

Click on Title for this year-ago article.

A report that the nation faces more frequent power outages comes just as a decades-long debate over industry deregulation heats up — and shows no signs of resolution.
With roughly half the states stuck midway in a long-term experiment in rate deregulation, consumers in many of those states now face big rate increases next year as rate caps expire. And with billions of dollars of additional investment needed to keep the power grid humming, it’s not at all clear where that money is going to come from.
Until new power plants and transmission lines can be deployed, the reliability of the nation’s power grid will likely get worse before it gets better, according to the North American Electric Reliability Council, which oversees North America's power grid. In a report issued Monday, the group said that a looming power supply crunch will likely worsen over the next decade as power demand outstrips new capacity.
The impact will be felt unevenly but will be widespread, the report said. In the next two to three years, surplus capacity needed to keep the lights on in Texas, New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain regions will drop to levels that make brownouts and blackouts more likely.
And with power demand seen rising 19 percent by 2015, and generation capacity expected to rise just 6 percent, "the adequacy of North America's electricity system will decline unless changes are made soon," the council's president, Rick Sergel said in the report.
In addition to building more power plants, companies need to upgrade transmission systems, improve energy efficiency programs for businesses and consumers and prepare to replace an aging work force, the council said.
It wasn’t supposed to work this way. Under the old, state-regulated business model, electric utilities controlled both the plants that generated power and the lines used to move it to customers. When more capacity was needed, state regulators oversaw those utilities' expansion plans and decided how much of the cost could be passed along to power customers.
Buoyed by the '80s-era deregulation success stories of the natural gas, telecom, airline and trucking industries, the electric power industry, with the help of Congress, embarked on a similar path. The hope was that by breaking up the ownership of power generation and transmission, competition would spur new, investor-funded capacity, drive the development and deployment of new technology and — over the long run — drive down prices for consumers.
But it hasn't worked out that way. After decades of change that included the near-collapse of California's power industry and the power trading scandal at Enron, the industry is stuck halfway between a market-driven future and a state-regulated past.
“We have one foot planted firmly in traditional regulation, one foot planted in competition,” said Ken Malloy, founder of the Center for the Advancement of Energy Markets. “And (we have) very little enthusiasm for going further from regulation to the competition side and very little from the competitive side to back to regulation.”

Much of the savings to date has come from state-mandated caps and rate freezes that will soon expire — leaving power customers facing potential big increases in their monthly bills. If those caps are extended, utilities say they face big losses because competition hasn’t yet driven down the market price of the power they need to buy on behalf of their customers.
Case in point: Last week top executives of the two big Illinois utilities told a committee of the state legislature that their companies will go bankrupt if lawmakers extend a cap on electric rates.
CONTINUED: Election-year battle
With elections just weeks away, Exelon’s Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois are fighting a move by Illinois lawmakers to block a rate increase set to kick in when a 10-year-old law deregulating rates expires at year's end. ComEd Chairman Frank Clark said the state’s rate freeze would make life worse — not better — for consumers.
"They'll pay more all around and have less-reliable service," Clark said.
The move toward market pricing — which was supposed to lower rates over the long term —would mean rate increases over the short term, according to the companies. Starting in January, Illinois consumers face an average increase of between 22 and 55 percent compared with what they’ve been paying for the past decade. But ComEd has said it expects lose $1.4 billion if those increases are blocked. The company also faces cuts in its debt ratings if the freeze is extended.
And Clark said “partial deregulation” was a big part of the current problem. Not enough new power generation players have entered the state to drive down prices — and rate caps are one of the reasons why.
"Competition has not developed, and the reason it has not developed is that rates are so artificially low no competitors can come in here and beat them," he said.
But Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who said the utility’s executives got pay packages of $2.7 million to $7 million last year, blamed the rate increases on "inflated egos with inflated salaries."
The same scenario is playing out in many of the two dozen other states that have moved toward deregulation. Even where deregulation is beginning to take hold, looming rate increases are creating a backlash.
“Even the states that have moved (to deregulate) are being pummeled with lots of concerns about where this is all going,” said Malloy.
All of which has discouraged the kind of heavy, long-term investment needed to add more power generation and upgrade the reliability of the national grid. Power generators now face rising natural gas costs; ironically, one reason for the jump in gas prices is the surge in popularity of the fuel after 1980s-era natural gas deregulation spurred a construction boom of gas-fired power plants. Now, as the industry relies more heavily on natural gas, supplies of that fuel are stained and prices are rising.
That has power companies looking for alternative sources, but the options aren’t cheap. Wind and solar are gaining on fossil fuels, but the amount of power generated by these sources is tiny. They are also only available in limited parts of the country — and then only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

Coal-fired plants are still in widespread used, but eliminating carbon emissions adds to the cost of new plants. And nuclear power, though increasingly attractive to the U.S. utility industry, still faces significant hurdles. Even under the most optimistic timetables, new nuclear capacity won’t be available 2015 at the earliest.
“There’s a finite amount of fossil fuel, and the environmental regulations are getting more and more restrictive,” said Dan Keuter, head of nuclear business development for Entergy, one of the largest operators of nuclear power generators. “But there’s huge demand for energy.”

Citicorp and Conduit SIV's

Click on Title.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mark Hurd

Add names to Cramer's A-list. Hewlett Packard.

Monday, September 3, 2007

How to Read My Blog

You will see that there are a few people I greatly trust in the financial markets. Off the top of my head, they are Jim Cramer, Michael Lewis, Bill Gross, Bernie Schaeffer, anybody from Goldman Sachs, Marty Zweig, anybody who is old enough to have been a stabilizing influence during the market crises of 1987, 1998, 2000, such as Bill Siedman.

I am accumulating (starting today) names from the corporate world, listening to Cramer. But I already have a few: Warren Buffet, A.J. Laffley, Doug Worple, anybody from Goldman Sachs.

And from the legal world: Judge Richard Cudahy.

You will find blogs on some of these people already if you type in their names on my blog here.

Heating Degree Days Important Again

as we go into next winter. If you're trying to figure your upcoming heating bill.

Click on Title here for a random article explaining the concept. Click on my earliest posts for much more discussion, especially tailored to the Cincinnati area.

Also, there is an oddity that will enable somebody brilliant to game the system for the coming heating season, through futures perhaps. "Ameranth-wanna-be's," are you listening? Talk amongst yourselves while a prepare a blog on this -- not necessarily today.

Lew Renieri etc

from recent post.

The world began to change in the late 1970s, when Salomon Brothers, in the person of a banker named Lewis Ranieri, pioneered the mortgage security. This showed a flash of genius. Even though each unit of real estate continued to be a slow-moving, illiquid asset, Ranieri perceived that the underlying mortgages could be traded as rapidly as stocks and bonds. Instead of keeping his mortgages in a drawer, the banker on Main Street could unload his risk by selling them to Salomon. The banker was thus converted from a long-term lender to a mere originator of loans.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hottest August in Duke Energy Territory -- Cincinnati

Cramer on September 2, 1998

Subprime Mortgages vs Casino

From NYT Magazine today. Lew Ranieri mentioned. See Liar's Poker, by Lewis, that explains this too.

Click on Title.

Subprime Crisis Hits the Muni Market

Very good article. Click on Title.

Bill Gross Fund Overweighted in Mortgages

and Bill Gross wants a bailout? Interesting article. Click on title.

Libor Now

Click on Title.

Subprime -- Cleveland Neighborhood

Click on Title here.

Subprime, Bear Stearns, and the Little Guy

in today's NYT. Click on our Title.