It is the season to make predictions for what is coming next years, so I will gladly jump on board.
OIL PRICES:In 2010 oil consumption reached a record amount, 88.8 million barrels a day. Last time oil consumption got into this range was 2008 and the price of oil went to around $150 a barrel and gas cost over $4 per gallon.
My Prediction: Gas prices will rise through the winter to around $3.50 then back off to under $3 in the spring. This summer oil prices will rise to over $150 again maybe hit a new record and gas prices will rise into the mid $4 range. There is a chance that this might break the political gridlock in Washington in August, and the Republican congress and the Democratic Senate might get behind Obama’s compromise for Cash for Clunkers II in exchange for more incentives for off-shore drilling. Gas prices will drop below $4 a gallon in the fall and the Dems will say it was because of Cash for Clunkers II and the Republicans will say it was because of the promise of future off-shore drilling. They will both be wrong as gas prices always drop in the fall. The final result will be that US oil consumption will be down between 0.5% to 0.8% and the economy will actually get a boost from people buying more efficient cars. The decrease in US consumption will not be enough to offset the growing Chinese demand of between 2% to 3% and prices will start rising over $4 a barrel again in the winter.
SOLAR EFFICIENCY:There will be a breakthrough in solar panels in output, weight and cost of around 10% bringing the installation cost down to around $7,000. Government rebates and tax incentives will make the final cost of installation under $2,000. Enough people will switch so that utilities won’t have to build many new power plants.
BIOFUELS:The increasing price of oil will make biofuels more attractive. Washington will continue to push ethanol, the worst of the biofuels, but algae derived diesel will become economically feasible. Electric utilities will start using algae based carbon capture to make algae derived diesel. Of course they will pass the installation costs on to the consumer in the form of a $0.01/kw rate hike. As they start making money off the algae derived diesel this money will be turned into profit, which a large portion will go to lobbying. King Coal and the utilities will actually start lobbying FOR carbon recycling. They still won’t have the clout of Big Oil and Agrobiz that will keep pushing ethanol but it will be a start.
John Boehner will find it impossible to control the teabaggers that got elected and will have to turn to Nancy Pelosi to get anything done in the House. This will make him cry. Pelosi will get the establishment Republicans to make some good deals on legislation only to have Obama undermine her and have more right wing legislation passed.
The Senate will continue to block any legislation that is put forward until they absolutely have no choice.
Obama will continue to “compromise” and make deals with the Republicans that no Republican President could pass. My only hope is that he stands firm on his pledge to put science in its rightful place of 2% to 3% GDP and continues to fund research. This is possible as science is so vast a subject it can be funded while allowing research to go forward even while caving into the specific objections the teabaggers have.
The pent up demand from 2 years of depression will make the economy grow at a slightly faster rate than most predict in the first half of the year about 2% then the push for energy efficiency will make the economy grow faster in the second half. Record profits for banks and the stock market will get near or break the record high. Unemployment will drop to around or slightly below 9%.
NASA will end the Shuttle missions in spring and in the later part of the year start announcing new plans for rocket engines, they will be under huge criticism for not reusing the old SSME in different configurations that don’t do anything to reduce the cost per launch.
SpaceX will have a few successful launches and start supplying the ISS for NASA. Even though the missions were jumpstarted through NASA, people will use these launches as a reason to demand NASA’s budget be cut.
The DAWN space probe will land on Vesta, an asteroid that is considered to be very boring. People are in for a surprise. It might not make the news but something will be found on Vesta that will change the way we think about the origin of the Solar System. I know this because every other time space probes have visited “boring” sites the results have blown people away. The Voyager probes looking at the moons of Jupiter are the best examples.
Here is where 2011 will get ugly. Wikileaks or one of their clones will release inside information about the big banks, this won’t say anything that isn’t already known. The banks have been screwing their customers and the people in a million different ways and because they bribe all the governments there is no official way to stop them.
Some radicals will take this as a reason to act on their own and launch a terror campaign on the banks. Hopefully it will be directed at property not people, but these things always get out of hand.
These attacks on the banks will make governments respond with even tighter anti-terrorism laws and a call to censor the websites that leaked the information, instead of actually prosecuting the banks.
There will be a few riots but they will be quickly put down with nothing changing just making the rioters anger swell.
2011 will be a year of slight improvement for most people and nothing will be done to address the long-term problems in our society. Not addressing them in 2011 will lead to huge problems in 2012 when all hell will break loose.
By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts