Our feature image was taken in Charleston, South Carolina. This sedate street has the same feel of other streets across the nation. While some areas are re-opening a lot of hunkering down is still happening. We opted for this serene photo to offset the turmoil elsewhere. Let’s look at a few of the issues.

Not sedate are the oil markets. ECC recently wrote about the drop in oil prices with the international supply fight, then the pandemic.

We reached out to The Conference Board, the premier business research organization, and asked about oil prices. “We expect oil prices to remain low for a while both because the OPEC agreement is not sufficient but also because of the demand short fall globally. That could put the US producers, especially  the shale producers, in a difficult position unfortunately. It probably wouldn’t be too surprising to see some changes in those markets,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director, Economics & Global Research Chair of The Conference Board.

Particularity interesting is the chart The Conference Board sent our way, and with its permission, we present to our readers. This shows the price of WTI [West Texas Intermediate crude] during past crises. The chart takes your breath away. Check the downward spike for coronavirus! The headline notes the double hit of supply overage and demand drops.

One solution to stabilize prices was a cut in production by oil producers. No workable agreement happened, but markets may have handled that anyway. With low prices comes a reduction. Some oil is not economical to produce. Bingo.

Balance of some sort will happen. “We therefore expect the oil market to be balanced in third quarter and under-supplied in fourth quarter, and Brent [North Sea crude] to recover to $43 per barrel by end-2020 and to $55 per barrel by mid-2021,” said one market analyst. That may be starting: “Prices have been rising, supported by an acceleration in oil well shut-ins, notably in the United States, and early signs of demand return.” (Source)

Consumers will be able to remember 2020 as largely a year of modest gasoline prices.

Oil markets aren’t the only places for turmoil. Some parents feel panicky as they handle children’s education from home.

Parents may be looking for good teaching tools and the energy industry can help. We found a good resource from St. Louis based Ameren, the regional power company. Ameren has an energy scavenger hunt.

The energy efficiency scavenger hunt takes families through each room in the house to find simple and low-cost ways to cut energy use. Examples:

  • Counting light bulbs and tracking which ones are used more often.
  • Observing when natural light is more abundant in each room and changing lighting habits.
  • Learning which appliances use the most energy.
  • Finding and unplugging chargers when not connected to a phone or tablet.

Terrific family activity! The scavenger hunt helps everyone in the house see energy in new ways.  That is needed, too, when you look at some of the new energy ideas coming up …

When you need gasoline for your vehicle, you go to a filling station. In the future with an electric vehicle, maybe your “filling station” will come to you. Popular Mechanics explained that “peer to peer” car charging may be on the horizon: “Could the Napster of electric cars eliminate the need for charging stations altogether? A wild new concept uses the strengths of autonomous electric car designs to pair them for sharing a charge on the go.”

Researchers say the best way to think of this is like tanker jets that refuel fighter jets – the fuel source goes where it’s needed. University of Florida engineers have designed the system they call, Peer to Peer Car Charging (P2C2) (diagram left). It works when “a car with excess energy sets an indicator that it’s receptive to sharing power. Then, a car looking for some juice lines up right behind, using the kind of safe close-driving algorithms that autonomous car technology has enabled. The two cars link up, and charge flows from the higher to the lower electric ‘tank.'”

As they say in some TV commercials, But wait, there’s more! “Although wireless charging pads already exist for smartphones, they only work if the phone is sitting still. For cars, that would be just as inconvenient as the current practice of plugging them in for an hour or two at charging stations.” The answer – charge cars while they move.  Stanford University researchers are looking at magnetic systems for charging on the fly. “Wireless chargers transmit electricity by creating a magnetic field that oscillates at a frequency that creates a resonating vibration in magnetic coils on the receiving device.” An issue to resolve is how much power can be fetched by a vehicle if it moves over a charging source at 70 mph.

Ironically, and related to our first story, electric vehicle sales may dip by 43 percent in the current crisis, in large part because of the steep decline in gasoline prices. (Source) It is all kind of the whack-a-mole of energy markets, hit one concern and another issue pops up.