Monday, July 13, 2009

Slim Pickens in the energy business

I love the Booner, but come on, doesn’t it make a tad more sense to have the transmission lines in, or at least staged to be built, before you set off on the construction of the power generation??? The man should know something about infrastructure needs in the energy business. Suppose this was really only a ‘soap-box’ opportunity, or a way to gig the taxpayer:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ready, Fire, Aim.......

Quite an entertaining article found this week on the WSJ Online about the proliferation of marvelous ideas regarding solutions to our “dependence” on hydrocarbons to energize our lives. For ease, I’ve summarized below.


Everyone, it seems, has a plan for how the U.S. can be less dependent on foreign oil and contribute less to global climate change. Oilman T. Boone Pickens has one, and so does search giant Google Inc. Proposals have come from a former vice president and the current president. But how to tell one green manifesto from another? Here is a list of energy-plan authors and some of the plans’ key points.

A. Google.
B. Al Gore. Former vice president of the U.S., co-founder and chairman of investment firm Generation Investment Management, author of books on global warming.
C. Amory Lovins. Co-founder, chairman and chief scientist of the energy policy nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, a MacArthur Fellow, author of numerous books.
D. President Barack Obama.
E. T. Boone Pickens. Texas oil and gas executive and an investor in Clean Energy, Seal Beach, Calif., which sells natural gas for transportation.

1. Cut the number of coal and natural-gas power plants to 20 by 2020 from more than 6,000 today. Gore
2. Cover a quarter of home and commercial roofs in the U.S. with solar photovoltaic panels. Google
3. Create a new “Green Vet Initiative” to place veterans in green jobs. Obama
4. Make every new car by 2012 be a flex-fuel vehicle, which means it can run on either gasoline or biofuel. Obama
5. Stop using natural gas for power generating and use it to move trucks and other vehicles instead. Pickens
6. Reduce use of oil for cars by 44% and stop using coal and oil entirely by 2030, spending $3.86 trillion on the effort. Google
7. Replace a quarter of oil use with domestic biofuels. Lovins
8. Generate 10% of our electricity from renewables by 2012, and 25% by 2025. Obama
9. Create a $1 billion award from the government for an advanced vehicle technology that gains market success. Lovins
10. Create “feebates,” or consumer and manufacturer incentives for efficient vehicles, and cash incentives (or vouchers) for retiring old vehicles. Google and Lovins
11. Install 80 gigawatts of offshore wind power. Google
12. Reduce payroll taxes sharply and make up the difference with CO2 taxes. Gore
13. Create an “electranet,” allowing individuals to sell electricity produced on their properties back to the grid and to use smart meters and other tools to manage their electricity usage. Gore
14. Use energy-monitoring products that show consumers each of their appliances’ electricity consumption. Google
15. Create a “Connie Mae,” or Carbon Neutral Mortgage Association, to market new financial instruments for efficiency improvements in homes. Gore
16. Have 90% of new-car sales in 2030 be plug-ins. Google
17. Have 20% to 30% of electricity needs generated by wind. Google (29% by 2030), Lovins (20% in 10 years) and Pickens (22% from wind and solar in 10 years).
18. Increase current transmission lines by 10%. Google, wants to add 20,000 miles of lines, equal to one-tenth of the current total. (Gore’s proposal includes high-voltage lines combined with smart-grid integration.)
19. Establish a Grid Modernization Commission to facilitate adoption of a national smart grid. Obama
20. Generate 15% of electricity needs from geothermal power by 2030. Google, wants to add 80 gigawatts of geothermal. (Gore has it at 3% in 10 years.).
21. Have solar thermal as 13% of electricity generation and solar photovoltaics as 3%. Gore. Google has it reversed, with proportionally more solar PV and less thermal, totaling 12% by 2030
22. Weatherize one million homes a year. Obama
23. Enter into public-private partnerships to develop five first-of-a-kind commercial scale coal-fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration. Obama
24. Use well-established and profitable efficiency techniques to save half the projected 2025 use of natural gas. Lovins

This is all well and good, but it truly doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize how utterly impractical (silly??)and completely unrealistic most of this is. We’ve been “hooked” on hydrocarbons since the Second Industrial Revolution and over the subsequent time frame have built the country’s entire supply/delivery grid based on these fuels. What took nearly 150 years to build, through massive investment and ingenuity, is not easily reversible, particularly in a 10-20 year time frame envisaged by some. These suggestions also conveniently ignore the law of unintended consequences – for example, what actually happens when you build enough windmills or grow enough corn to meet these mandates?? There is no free lunch………

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lance is back!!

Didn’t take all that long to put the team leader issue for Astana up on the front burner. Although laid out as a flat, not particularly exciting route, Stage 3 proved to be anything but. 121 miles along the southern coast of France (cowboy country), the expectation was that the field would bunch up and finish as a group, with the only drama being which sprinter would prevail at the end (just as an fyi, all riders that cross in a group get the same time regardless of actual position – limits calamity). The winds changed all that. Very strong gusty conditions, along with strong pressure from Team Columbia Highroad, forced a big break in the peloton with some 6-7 miles to go. Lance was astute enough to see the possibility beforehand and position himself in the front of the group on the leeward side. When the break happened, Contador and Double L were caught sleeping in the middle, unable to stay up. Very surprising. Bruyneel also anticipated well, leaving a couple of support riders alongside Lance, giving him what he needed to stay in the lead group. By the end of the day, Lance claimed 3rd position, 40 seconds behind Cancellara and Martin. Which really means that Lance is now in the yellow jersey, as both of these riders are done once the mountains appear. Smart and cagy – that’s what wins events like this. This is just great.

By the way, that Cavendish guy is pretty damn fast. Wow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Miscommunication on Misperceptions

Part of the problem in this current Carbon or No-Carbon debate is a lack of a fundamental understanding of how we actually power our lights and fuel our cars and busses. The following excerpt of a recent survey sheds light on this situation:


Survey: Americans Underestimate Role of Oil, Gas in Meeting Demand

A new survey finds that while Americans now recognize that the US will need more energy in the coming years, they continue to underestimate the amount of oil and natural gas that will be needed to meet that demand. The poll, conducted for the American Petroleum Institute (API) by Harris Interactive, also shows that Americans overestimate the role that renewable energy sources like solar and wind power will play in meeting future demand. ..……. According to the poll results, Americans understand that US energy demand will increase during the next 20 years, but they discount the role that fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal will play in meeting demand.

While the federal government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that US energy demand will increase 9% during the next 20 years, only 5% of survey’s respondents chose the correct answer. The majority overestimated this number, believing that US demand would increase 16% to 21%. When asked what percentage of global energy demand will be met by fossil fuels according to government projections, only 10% of respondents gave the correct answer of 85%. Americans understand fundamentally that we need more energy to grow our economy but they continue to undervalue oil and natural gas in meeting expected demand.

The EIA projects that more than 55% of US energy demand in 2030 will be met by oil and natural gas, but only 16% of respondents correctly recognized this. Those surveyed also overestimate the amount of oil and natural gas supplied to the US by the Persian Gulf countries and underestimate the amount that is supplied from North America.

According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), 12% of the oil consumed last year in the US came from the Persian Gulf countries. However, more than 40% of the poll’s respondents believed that over 30% of US supplies came from the Gulf. More than 50% of respondents believed that Saudi Arabia was the largest US supplier of imported crude oil, when in fact Canada is the top supplier.


Our public servants have done a tremendous disservice during this debate. It is clear that the American public wants to believe there is a silver bullet answer to our energy challenges, despite what are pretty clear facts. Those on one side of this issue would have you believe that alternative energy sources are the solutions. This just serves to feed common misperceptions regarding how the energy industry operates and how we’ll generate the energy we’ll need to meet future expanding needs.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Now, that’s Inconvenient…..

Well, this is an interesting one. Seems like our open and inclusive Administration is acting more like a 60’s era Republican administration……… Looks like the EPA has allegedly suppressed an internal report that questioned the science behind global warming.

The 98-page report, co-authored by EPA analyst Alan Carlin, pushed back on the prospect of regulating gases like carbon dioxide as a way to reduce global warming. Carlin's report argued that the information the EPA was using was out of date, and that even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased, global temperatures have declined.
According to internal e-mails that have been made public by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Carlin's boss told him in March that his material would not be incorporated into a broader EPA finding and ordered Carlin to stop working on the climate change issue. The draft EPA finding released in April lists six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, that the EPA says threaten public health and welfare.

Specifically, the report noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend over the past 11 years, that scientists do not necessarily believe that storms will become more frequent or more intense due to global warming, and that the theory that temperatures will cause Greenland ice to rapidly melt has been "greatly diminished."

This surely happened at an inconvenient time for the EPA and the Administration. Looks like science will be decided at the presedential level, along with types and colors of car seat upholstry.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let’s hope the Senate can think its way out of a paper bag…..

The House has passed (barely) Nancy Pelosi’s vision for a better world – the Waxman-Markey energy bill. I won’t belabor the technicals imbedded in this whopper, but some commentary on the sales job undertaken by our rules-makers needs to be made. Essentially the supporters of this tax bill have positioned the global climate issue as a US generated, man-made problem. We are to take at face value the proposition that imposing significant mandatory CO2 emission cuts on our society alone will begin to solve the alleged global warming problem (let’s just ignore that pesky issue of all that belching smog in the developing world). And, amazingly, this huge imposition on our wealth and lifestyle will actually create jobs!!!... millions and millions of them, by golly.

The fascinating thing here is that seemingly intelligent people make this pitch and seemingly intelligent people (some) actually catch it. Mind-boggling. It’s a wonder that reasonable minds can believe the notion that we can actually tax our way to prosperity. The only (loose) analogy that I can come up with was the New Deal, where government spent because there literally was no alternative. We managed to put food on the table through this transfer program, but I don’t really recall any long term industrial benefit derived. It should be clear that the unilateral imposition of an additional cost/tax burden on our industrial base will make us even less competitive globally. Taxation and increased government intervention is and always will be a job killer.