Mar 9, 2014

The War on Coal Continues

The March issue of Fortune Magazine arrived this week.  I look forward to Fortune because there is usually tidbit or two each article that either informs me with new data, or with a new insight into how the mainstream media perceive our energy supply crisis.  This month I got both.

The article on Coals Last Stand was a particular treat.  There were the obligatory buzzword titles to appeal to those who don't care to think or read informative copy.  There were also a couple of facts that made it hard to see how the environmental left can truly believe the story line they continue to tell.  Like many mainstream writers, we can see the story line try to weave the expected outcome in and out of the facts.  The hard part is that the facts usually can tell their own story.  Let's deconstruct the story. 

The passionate descriptions of the coal business, and the terms and titles that get in the way of understanding what is at stake start with the title "Big Coal's Last Stand".  As if the environmentalist would approve of a little coal plant.  Using the "Big Business" moniker to paint them as an evil big business ends several pages later by describing their product as a "demon rock".

But there is also some good data.  The writer notes that even through the media war on low cost energy (coal), that coal's market share has returned to the 44% which is near it's historical high.  The fact that cannot be denied is that coal is cheap and supplies an enormous amount of our nations energy--44% to be sure.  Low cost coal powered energy powers our economy.  President Obama and the EPA's war on coal is one of the government actions that is keeping our economy stale and stagnant.  The point is also thinly made that the EPA is releasing new rules to end coal power.  This is also true.  The new EPA rules have already driven electricity costs in 2015 higher.  As coal plants schedule to go offline due to the new EPA MACT rules the generation market is showing the capacity shortfall and the prices are skyrocketing.  Capacity (which is about 25% of your power costs) have doubled in some areas. 

The article hints that the replacement technology is renewable energy, but stops short of explaining that the cost of renewable energy as a replacement technology is 3 to 10 times more expensive.  Renewable energy is no where near being capable of providing base-load reliability at a cost that is economically feasible. 

The reality is that coal is one of our best short term options and should be leveraged in the short term energy picture while we search for the permanent replacement high density energy source.  Coal is 93% more clean that it was 40 years ago and we have more coal than anyone in the world--which is another great point in the article.  

If you want to get some great data, I would recommend you visit the Institute for Energy Research at  They do a great job of presenting facts and letting you make up your own mind.  Second, visit the shell energy posts last month to see how much energy we are going to need in the future.  Lastly, get the book named for this blog, because it will help you decode the mainstream writing on the energy topic. 

Best Regards, 

Feb 10, 2014

Shell Develops "Scenarios" to Plan for the Future

This is really cool.  Shell has developed a number of scenarios to project what the future of energy might look like.  Some of the surprises--we will need to produce much more energy than we presently produce.  Energy use is expected to double by 2050.  Where will it come from?  There are several scenarios which indicate in order to meet the growing demand and the specific energy density that much more natural gas and coal will need to be mined and produced.  The natural gas will be required for the high energy density needs such as cars, trucks and planes.

You can look through the Energy Scenarios on YouTube Here;  

You can access the PDFs for the different scenarios here;

There are some perspectives in the scenario presentations that presume global warming to be true and depict some sort of widespread flood.  Aside from those assumptions, it is a very interesting resource.  


Jan 3, 2014

The Irony of Global Warming Scientists Stuck in 10 Feet of Polar Ice

The news finally broke about the stuck Russian science ship at the South Pole.  The research team on board was studying global warming, when an ice flow of 10 feet thick ice trapped thier ship.  In fact the ice was so thick that the Chinese and Australian ice breakers could only get to within 6 and 10 miles of the stuck ship.

I think the media bias can clearly be seen by noting that it took 5 days for the news agencies to identify the research team as a global warming expedition.  Fox News was the first to note the reality.  The other major agencies followed, presumably because the cat was out of the bag.

The captain of the expedition claims that climate change is responsible for the ice flow crashing into the ocean from an iceberg and then blowing across the bay to trap his ship.  Maybe it was carma?  Maybe he could just wait for the global warming to free his ship?

Photo: Courtesy Wikepedia Commons,
The truth of the matter is that the polar ice has grown for the second straight year and is now at a 35 year record high.  That's right the ice is thicker, stronger and reaches farther.  Global warming scientists are baffled--because they have an internal bias towards global warming.  Yet, the stubborn truth and data refuse to line up for them.  

A Washington Post writer noted, "Ultimately, it’s apparent the relationship between ozone depletion, climate warming from greenhouse gases, natural variability, and how Antarctic ice responds is all very complicated. " 

yes, it is all very complicated, and that is one of my points.  The environmental scientists have not been able to make the Bios 1 or Bios 2 projects work, yet they still seem confident that they can predict .4 degrees of warming after 20 years.

Dec 22, 2013

Solar Energy is not a Replacement Technology for Fossil Fuel

The solar and wind energy enthusiasts continue to talk about the cost of the solar energy and the recent declines in cost.  It is important to note that implicit in their discussion is their understanding that solar and wind are not replacement technologies, but rather supplemental technologies.  They fail to explain this, or it is possible they just missed the important technical point themselves.

Before I get into the details, let me say I support solar energy on a where needed as needed basis.  There is a cost point that makes solar energy cost effective for certain applications.  Let's use it there.

In a recent article in Fortune Magazine(1), the cost of solar energy was touted as $.13 per KWh.  First, we don't know how much of that includes subsidies, or if that included profit from the solar energy installer.  But for the sake of my point that is not necessary to know.  The production cost of solar energy is then compared to the $ .17 per KWh purchased cost of energy in the Northeastern States.

The difference between cost of production and cost as consumed is in availability, those two numbers are not apples-to-apples.  The cost to produce fossil fueled energy is still $.05 to $.08 per KWh.  The sun doesn't always shine when you need the energy.  In fact, the availability of solar energy is about 25%, so you would need 4 times as much installed capacity and a way to store the energy for when you need it.  That brings solar energy to a cost as consumed of about $ .52 per KWh.  The solar energy cost doesn't capture frequency regulation, backup costs and a subsidy to provide power for un-collectible utility bills, low income energy subsidies and energy efficiency programs either.  Now before everyone blows a lid, I know it doesn't exactly translate to four times--but neither do the solar energy costs capture all the government programs that burden your utility energy costs.  Evenso, my point is made, it is not $ .l3 per KWh for a large replacement of utility scale energy program.  The cost of solar energy as proscribed in most articles depends on the fact that other energy sources are present and providing services to support solar energy, and the solar energy advocates are not being entirely transparent with you.

(1) Solar Energy Industries  Association, "A Bright Future", Fortune Magazine/Adsections, Dec 2013, p125

Nov 29, 2013

The Fracking backlash will hurt Democrats

Nina Easton recently published an article in Fortune Magazine(1) discussing natural gas fracking and the potential backlash from people.  There are a couple points that occurred to me as I read this and several other articles together.  I want to share these ideas, because the ideas are almost revealed in the mainstream articles--but not quite.  Links to sources are found at the end of this article, please be sure to visit and read them.

First, I think it is important to point out that we seem to be always talking about small groups of people (Environmentalists) organizing "anti-fracking" movements to pressure governments to create laws to limit or control fracking.  Yet, when we talk in more broad terms about backlash, we seem to be talking about the people.  So there are 3 groups of people interested in the issue; a small group of environmentalists, a small group of powerful government regulators, and the rest of us who want low cost abundant energy.  It is important to understand how the pressure and the multiple well funded environmental and political voices make the coverage of the issue unbalanced.  That is how you actually get to a backlash condition.  We the people were not actually worried about it, thus regulators reacted to a small group of people that only seemed to be representative of the majority.  they were not.

Fracking is not new.  There are an estimated 35,000 wells pumped with hydraulic fracturing methods already in the US (2).  The first well was fractured in 1940, so the industry has been around a long, long time.  There are many, many fracking wells.  There are no epidemic of environmental disasters.  The statistics show that the risk just isn't there.

Fracking is becoming more prevalent because of the increased energy costs and the increase in technological advancements in energy recovery--which bring recovery costs costs down.  The environmental and left groups have a goal to increase the cost of energy through regulation and taxation.  President Obama noted back in 2008 when he was campaigning that energy costs will necessarily skyrocket under his plans.  He was not shy at all about revealing that he intended to make fossil fuel businesses uneconomic due to increased costs.  why would he do this?  The environmental groups need to increase the cost of energy that you and I pay, so that renewable energy costs are on par with fossil fuel.  The piece that they did not anticipate was that industry and innovation continue to move forward, creating new ideas, methods, and technologies to drive costs down, quality up, and create new products and services.  This point, the innovation of the american people, is the means by which will will eventually solve our energy supply crisis.  However, the socialist can't see that due to their myopic view of government and industry.

So as costs rise to make renewable energy more competitive, the energy industry will continue to innovate and create new challengers to renewable energy at each price point.

(1) Nina Easton, "The Fracking Backlash will hurt deomcrats (yes, democrats)" Fortune Magazine, Dec 2013, p54
(2) Energy From Shale, "What is Fracking",

Oct 30, 2013

EPA Pushes to Eliminate Coal Power Plants & Create a $40 Billion Dollar Anti-Stimulus

Over 40% of our Nation's Energy comes from coal.  The continued push for elimination of coal fired electricity will necessarily increase our energy costs.  If 40% of our energy costs increase by only 20%, it will drain $40 billion in economic growth from the economy.  See, if people have to pay more for the same service (energy), then they have less to spend in other areas.

Increased energy costs are an anti-stimulus.  

So, while the government claims they are doing things to help the economy and create jobs--they are actually doing more damage.  They spend billions out of one hand to try to create government funded jobs.  Then they spend billions out of the other hand to destroy economic growth and jobs.  Both activities by the government cost the tax-payer billions, and the net effect is zero.  It is like having your air conditioner and your heater on at the same time.  Both cost you money, but the net effect is zero.

Read more from the Washington Times writer  Valerie Richardson . . . . 

Coal advocates press case to EPA

DENVER — Environmental Protection Agency officials received an earful at Wednesday’s listening-tour stop in Denver as most speakers urged the agency to stop what they described as the Obama administration’s war on the coal industry.

“The proposed regulation being considered by the EPA will, without a doubt, be a death penalty to the coal industry,” said Greg Kohn of Count on Coal Montana. “Make no mistake, not only will it destroy the coal industry, it will severely impact other industries, communities, and most importantly, it will severely impact thousands of working-class families.”

The all-day hearing was part of the EPA’s 11-stop listening tour prior to developing proposed carbon-emissions regulations on existing power plants as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The agency plans to issue its proposal by June 2014.

Critics point out that most of the cities on the listening tour — including Boston, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco — are far from coal-mining operations and therefore don’t have a direct stake in the anticipated loss of jobs from additional regulations.

The Institute for 21st Century Energy and 13 state and business groups fired off a letter accusing the agency of breaking its own rules requiring hearings to be held in the geographic area affected by the proposed policies.
EPA has chosen to locate most of these hearings in states and regions that use very little coal, while neglecting states most dependent on coal for affordable and reliable electricity generation,” said the letter.

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Sep 1, 2013

Bad Fracking Sentiment and Media Bias on Fracking Continues

Many media outlets continue to be biased against fracking.  This very apparent bias impacts the tone of their news as well as creates an uneven volume of news available.

I was reading about a small herd (28 cattle) of cows in Pennsylvania that may have gotten into some waste water from a fracking site on the farmers land.  It remains unknown if they actually did ingest any of the waste water.  It also is unknown if or how badly the waste water was contaminated.  Now, I am not pulling for being irresponsible and charging forward.  The waste water contained some metal deposits and was most likely not a good thing to feed cattle.  But, again we don't even know if the cows ingested the water.

So, as a precautionary step the PA Agriculture Department quarantined the cattle until a period of time had passed to insure anything ingested had no effect, and until tests for the cattle health could be completed. That was a prudent and good precautionary step.

The cattle tested fine.  There were no health issues.  Later that year, the cattle produced calves.  That year 8 of the 11 calves died, which is a higher than typical mortality rates.  However, here is where the truth helps guide us when we form our opinion.  The calves were tested and turns out they died from selenium and vitamin E deficiency, and E. Coli bacteria.  The farmer usually gives his herd selenium supplements--but apparently forgot or neglected the calves.

The long and short of the story is this.  The cattle were not affected by the fracking well.   We still don't even know if the cattle ingested any of the water--or if or how the waste water (which is 90% sand and water) may have been unhealthy.  But there were no less than a dozen stories in July of that year all headlining that fracking caused the quarantine of 28 cattle in Pennsylvania.  I had to search very hard to find only two articles that noted that the outcome of the situation showed the cattle were healthy, and that there were no ill effects of the potential fracking water drinking incident.  That is media bias.

You can read the whole story here

In addition, the Department of Agriculture always inspects cattle prior to their being sold for human consumption.  Furthermore they frequently quarantine cattle when there is a potential health hazard.  Only two months later in September, the Dept of Agriculture also quarantined other cows in other States due to draught conditions (which could impact the animal health).  I could only find 3 articles regarding that story.

The fracking story had 13 mentions in July of 2011 alone.  Further news about the potential ill effects of the fracking incident followed for 2 years, some were still talking about the incident in 2013--and still neglected to mention that it was a false alarm.  The media bias and sheer volume of negative conversation on the internet would have you believe that fracking is new, and presents all sorts of new threats to health.

In fact there are over 1.1 million fracking wells in the US.  Because there are so many wells already in operation, and many since 1947, there should be a very clear trail of facts that indicate health problems.  There aren't any trails of health related statistics because fracking has actually been made quite safe over the years.

You can get more details about fracking at