Archive for the General Category

Top websites

Posted in General on April 2, 2008 by poyers

Below are the 12 most popular blogs as measured by the number of lnks to those blogs during the past sixth months (as of October 26th, 2007):

  1. Engadget – review of new gear and electronics
  2. Gizmodo – top blog of Gawker Media and a guide to gadgets
  3. Boing Boing – reviews of cool stuff
  4. TechCrunch – review of new internet products and companies
  5. The Huffington Post – political site
  6. Lifehacker – tech trips, tips, and downloads
  7. Ars Technica – tech business news
  8. Mashable! – blog all about social networking
  9. Blog di Beppe Grillo – current events commentary from an Italian
  10. Icanhascheezburger.com – odd cat photos
  11. Daily Kos – liberal political blog
  12. TMZ.com – celebrity news

Evil Evil Exxon

Posted in General on February 7, 2008 by poyers

Full disclosure: I will never ever buy gas at an Exxon station as I still harbor bad feelings about the Exxon Valdez.  Also, my father-in-law is a Conoco employee so I am a little bit biased in my assessment of which is the better company.

However, I am so sick of hearing about how greedy and evil oil companies are!  Most of the arguments are pure poppy cock and nonsensical.  Profits are up.  However, the true measure of anything rests in profit margins and the profit margins of these companies are flat and very low as compared to other businesses. 

Nevertheless, did you know that last year (2007) Exxon paid $30BILLION dollars in corporate taxes!  Exxon pays taxes at a 41% rate on taxable income.  From a study at findingalpha.com (http://seekingalpha.com/article/63131-exxon-s-2007-tax-bill-30-billion?source=side_bar_editors_picks):

just one corporation (Exxon Mobil) pays as much in taxes ($27 billion) annually as the entire bottom 50% of individual taxpayers, which is 65,000,000 people! Further, the tax rate for the bottom 50% is only 3% of adjusted gross income ($27.4 billion / $922 billion), and the tax rate for Exxon was 41% in 2006 ($67.4 billion in taxable income, $27.9 billion in taxes).

However, the “bottom” 50% of Americans do not pay any income taxes.  Do you think that Google or Microsoft pay as much in taxes as Exxon?  These taxes that are paid by Exxon are in fact passed on to shareholders as a matter of fact.  Just think about how many pensions, retirements, savings, and protection are affected by this?  Try to find a high performing fund out there that does not include Exxon.

On the other side, I understand that Exxon Mobil and other oil and gas companies benefit from amazingly generous tax breaks, credits and discounted federal mineral rights that no other industry even approaches.  In addition, the accounting details are a bit out of my league but I understand that the way they book things is as a “deferred income tax” that allows them to purchase capital assets and offset these deferred taxes ongoingly for basically forever.  I also understand that Exxon tends to get most of its crude from the Gulf whereas Conoco and others do not and thus they add social costs by requiring protection from the Navy, the threat of oil spills on public lands, and other subsidized capital and infrastructue expenses.

That being said, I cannot stand hearing politicians talk about “taking profits” as if they belong to someone other than private individuals and investors.  The oil companies add a HUGE benefit to the world.  Petroleum can be found in one way shape or form in just about every product that we use and it is in great thanks to the refiners that this is possible.  Not to mention all of the jobs that these companies provide, the benefit to our savings, the benefit to communities, the addition of health care to people who need it, and the wealth that they help to create by basically powering the rest of industry thus adding more jobs, products, etc.

Thank goodness God blessed us with such a wealth of natural goodness and thank goodness that He blessed his children with the intellect to harvest that product and help make our lives great and comfortable and free! 

Why are oil prices high?

Posted in General on February 7, 2008 by poyers

It seems that there are 6 real indicators as to why the price of oil, as measured in the price per barrel, is so high.  Those indicators are: The weakness of the US Dollar, Fund Investments, Demand, OPEC, Refining Limitations, and Geo-Political turmoil.According to Pilot Travel Centers, LLC (www.pilottravelcenters.com) “Commodities that trade in USD are viewed by investors – both domestic and international – as cheap.”  The rise in oil is in line with increases in most other commodities like wheat, cattle feed, lead, coffee, etc.  “The trading liquidity provided by crude oil has encouraged oil buying as a hedge against the anemic USD.  Since oil world wide primarily trades in USD, the weakness has impacted the purchasing power of OPEC and has receded in line with the USD.”  They say that a good indicator of the trend in commodities is to track the performance of the US Dollar to that of the Euro; oil moves in the opposite direction.

Secondly, “investment funds – both hedge and pension – have been flooding into commodity markets as they attempt to secure the greatest returns for their investors.  The recent injection of billions of dollars by central banks around the world to provide liquidity in the face of massive write-downs in the credit arena has brought money into energy and commodities.”  Commodities are a very attractive hedge against unstable asset-based funds and oil prices change accordingly.

With low inflation and a strong US economy, demand remains high locally.  Investment into more energy efficient means of transportation and higher performing vehicles in regards to fuel economy typically take between 8-10 years to influence prices.  Throw in the mix the huge growth that India and China have shown in terms of demand and prices are being affected as to be expected.  The supply of oil is affected world-wide and small changes in local demand, no matter where the locale might be, have limited impact on prices due to the nature of oil as a commodity. 

As is to be expected, OPEC continues to dominate the supply of oil to market.  “With world inventories at record high levels in late 2006 (aided by a price structure that encouraged buying and holding), OPEC commenced to reduce oil output to stem the steep fall in prices” in the second half of 2006.  Now that prices are rising and the typical winter demand for oil increases, OPEC has expanded production of an extra one-half million barrels per month.  However, there apparently are no supply shortages as no country or enterprise is being turned away from purchasing oil.  As a result, the expansion in production will not have an effect on the price per barrel of oil.

Refining capacity in the US and abroad have been limited this year as well.  “Extended maintenance programs and unplanned downtime have kept refining capacity below historical levels.  Fall maintenance programs are now ending, so some return to higher capacity is expected.  With short-term fuel demand questionable and growing worldwide capacity, refining should be able to handle supply as we go forward.”

However, one of the most problematic issues behind high oil prices remain geo-political issues.  Middle-East issues continue to add cost to the price per barrel with some estimates around $15-$25 per barrel caused by uncertainties alone.  Iran is the world’s fourth largest exporter of oil, Nigeria is the world’s eighth largest supplier, Iraq used to provide over 3million barrels per day, Turkey’s problematic northern pipeline produces now only 2million barrels per day, and Syria, Pakistan, Israel, and Lebanon are additional suppliers; all of which are under obvious tensions.  In addition, Russia and Venezuela continue their nationalization of oil companies and other shenanigans further adding to the risk in the price per oil.  Thus, oil is a great hedge against these uncertain worldly conditions and is being exploited accordingly. 

That being said, Americans are resilient to these types of price effects regardless of what weaselly politicians may say.  Thanksgiving travel was at an all time high and all reports seem to indicate that Christmas will be the same.  In addition, coal production is going great guns so that the costs to heat our homes this winter will be reasonable and manageable as well.  Just keep those darn loony environmentalists away from the coal industry and power industry and life will go on just fine.  Remember, the internal combustion engine is one of the greatest inventions ever made and there is a reason that it powers almost all of our transportation today.  Efficiency is the name of the game and nothing is more efficient than American and her people.

A new movie

Posted in General on January 4, 2008 by poyers

There is a new documentary out there called “A Mormon President” (www.amormonpresident.com).  It is written and shot by an RLDS person who seems honest enough in his attempts at creating this film.  According to a press release about the film, the director/producer Adam Christing took on this project because, “Romney’s candidacy has heightened interest in issues related to Mormons and politics and created what Christing calls a “focus moment.” “Focus moments are when events and ideas connect to create interest in a particular topic that may have been previously neglected,” commented Christing. “We experienced similar moments about Catholicism and Judaism when Kennedy and Lieberman ran for office. Because of Romney we are now in a focus moment about Mormonism. People are becoming very interested in the history of the Mormon church and its connection to the political culture of our nation.””  http://www.amormonpresident.com/pr_1.html

Interesting enough!

A comment about the steroids controversy

Posted in General with tags , on October 11, 2007 by poyers

Are Barry Bonds and Major League baseball really bad guys? Are Congress the people we want to determine who does and does not compete in our Major League Ball Parks? Why are we so concerned and upset that baseball players may gain an unfair advantage by employing pharmacists while at the same time we don’t seem to bat a Botox-treated eye at people getting cosmetic surgery – or using other “performance enhancing substances” (I would hate to walk in on my grandfather’s newly discovered fountain of youth) now constantly advertised in ubiquitous media outlets – to improve their competitive advantage in landing or keeping a mate or a job? If the A’s, Rangers, and Yankees have to “test clean” before we will be taken out to the ballgame, why not insist on the same natural performances from other celebrity types (like rock stars) and people in other competitive industries?
In an era where free agency and television greatly increase the gains from finishing first, it is not at all surprising that competitors reach over the counter or into the medicine cabinet even if some risk and long-term consequence is involved. There are some of us who choose to work long hours, over exert ourselves, and take to unhealthy diets to better our careers and social agendas – and at the same time force our colleagues to match us hour for hour and pound for pound or get left in our overweight tracks. When the stakes get high enough, taking risks and cutting corners becomes more appealing and rational. Are professional sports leagues more interested in the health of their athletes than other business professions? Should they be?
I don’t know. But, as for me and my house, we’ll bring our gloves to the centerfield bleachers, and see you on e-bay!
Check this out: http://slate.com/id/2116858