Cheap Natural Gas, but wait – there’s more

Guest post by Ric Werme

One minor sign of fall where I live is the arrival of a letter from the gas utility announcing the “Fixed Price Option (FPO) lock-in price” for the winter season. FPO offers a price which people can accept and can plan on heating expenses for the winter. I haven’t taken advantage of it, I think only once in the last decade it would have saved money. However, it does make a decent estimate of the winter natural gas price.

For some reason or other, I’ve been tracking this along with monthly natural gas and electricity billing. At the very least, it gives me some sense of what’s happening in the industry without paying much attention.

Over the last six years, the FPO prices in US dollars per therm(*) were:

Year "FPO" price
2007   $0.8925
2008   $1.2043
2009   $1.2835
2010   $0.8420
2011   $0.8126
2012   $0.6919

This is stunning – in three years the price of natural gas has fallen 46% – nearly half. This isn’t the whole cost to me. Bills include delivery charges which include a fixed rate per day, different tiers for the first several therms, and a lower rate for the rest, and some “Distribution Adjustment” that is per therm and could be folded into the other rates.

National prices from the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

US natural gas prices

US natural gas prices – with a Y-Axis that starts at $0! I believe the peaks in the residential price are summertime prices that include low prices for the gas, but little consumption so fixed costs boost the unit price.


(*): A therm is a silly unit – 100,000 BTU. A BTU, you may recall, is the heat needed to raise one pound of water 1°F. A gallon of heating oil is 1.39 therms. A therm is about 100 cubic feet of gas, so dividing the EIA prices by 10 will be close to the per therm price.

All in all, it looks like I’ll be paying the equivalent of less that $1.50 per gallon of home heating oil, and that is currently selling for $3.60 per gallon. I can afford a cold winter if that’s what we get.

But wait, there’s more! This letter proved to be a springboard that sent me off to bigger things.


Cheap energy powers economies. Natural gas is more than just energy, it’s also a feedstock to all sorts of important chemical production, from nitrogen fertilizer to plastics. Pierre Gosselin has a couple relevant posts at his No Tricks Zone. 500,000 New US Jobs By 2025 Thanks To Affordable Shale Gas – US Gas 75% Cheaper Than In Europe notes some of the industries moving back to the US or starting from scratch thanks to cheap natural gas. It’s quite a counterpoint to his lament about companies leaving Germany and that Chemicals Industry Bosses And Labor Union Send Angela Merkel Warning Letter Over Skyrocketing Energy Prices.

Good manufacturing jobs naturally based in America. Maybe there’s hope for the middle class after all.

But wait, there’s more….


While it’s nice to be getting a good energy break, I’m amazed that there’s talk about hybrid cars, cars running on waste fry oil, all-electric cars, but there’s only one car available in the US market that runs on natural gas. Someone has to be looking for a way to get rid of all this excess gas (at a profit) and someone has to be looking for cheap energy.

People are looking, of course. I’ve heard a couple notes about exporting liquified natural gas (LNG). Five years years ago you would have been laughed off the web for suggesting such a thing, but people who can make it happen are talking this year and Asian countries, currently paying wholesale prices 4-5X US wholesale prices, are interested.

Cheniere’s Chance To Profit From Cheap Natural Gas says in part:

Many state lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to allow more natural gas to be liquified and shipped overseas. According to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, the administration is hesitant to allow more natural gas to be exported to foreign countries, like China, because they do not want to be responsible for higher prices at home. I’m sure that they are far more concerned about the Romney campaign distorting a decision to export more fossil fuels as an act of treason. I’m sure that soon after elections, exports of natural gas will be allowed to rise.

A LNG facility in Louisana has been approved, and there’s even a specific plan for a site in Oregon:

Developers Seek Liquid Natural Gas Exportation Through Oregon says in part:

Veresen Inc., a Canadian-based utility and natural gas, is currently proposing the construction of a liquid natural gas (LNG) export plant on Oregon’s West Coast. The project would include an updated LNG pipeline system, which would pipe gas into the plant for exportation to Asian markets.

The project is currently in the proposal phase. Veresen Inc.’s $5.4 billion project includes a facility near Coos Bay, Ore., that would liquefy domestic natural gas from a planed pipeline to be shipped via transport vessels overseas to China and India. The facility would be the West Coast’s first LNG export plant and would process about 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Commodities exportation through the Pacific Northwest is nothing new. Coal exportation has been a consistent economic trend since foreign demand greatly increased over the last decade.

LGN [sic] developers as well as their partners and shareholders hope that exporting natural gas overseas will be just as profitable. Currently, Asian markets are demanding natural gas at four times the cost compared to its domestic price tag.

But wait, there’s more….


Another market for LNG is domestic trucking!

Less costly over long haul discusses CNG (compressed natural gas) fueling stations then looks at the nascent LNG infrastructure and trucks:

Clean Energy is spending $225 million to complete 70 stations by the end of this year and another 80 next year, all of them spaced along long-haul truck routes to create a truly viable natural gas support network, Clean Energy’s Feighner said.

Its “America’s Natural Gas Highway” plan to develop the stations came about as Clean Energy executives realized there was serious appetite among the country’s biggest fuel users for natural gas and the savings it could provide them, he said.

But the real game-changer for natural gas trucking has come in Clean Energy’s approach to delivering the gas in a specific form: As liquefied natural gas, or LNG, as opposed to compressed natural gas, or CNG, Feigner said.

LNG trucks are about the same weight as diesel trucks, while CNG tanks can be much heavier and take up more space to offer the same travel range, cutting into the space on the truck for paying freight.

LNG pumps can fill tanks about as fast as diesel pumps can, whereas CNG, which is used in cars and regional fleets, take much longer.

And LNG truck fueling stations cost less than half as much as CNG stations, according to Clean Energy. A four-pump LNG station costs $2 million, whereas a CNG station of the same size would cost $5 million.

The Clean Energy and Shell truck stations will offer LNG pumps. Shell plans to open its first LNG fuel lanes next year.

But wait, there’s more….


The horizontal drilling and fracking that has made this possible is being applied to new and old oil fields. This is opening up places like the Bakken deposit in the Dakotas, but infrastructure for refining and transporting is holding that back at present. Other fields will be coming into play, for example the Eagle Ford Shale in the Western Texas Basin which is close to existing infrastructure.

A “discussion paper” (they want the full cite: Maugeri, Leonardo. Oil: The Next Revolution Discussion Paper 2012-10, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, June 2012) reports in a fragment of its 86 pages:

The Eagle Ford Shale in the Western Texas Basin, another tight oil play that stretches more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the Mexico border south of San Antonio to northeast of Austin. The first horizontal drilling on Eagle Ford shale was done in 2007, but commercial evidence came out only in October 2008, when Petrohawk, an American exploration and production company, was drilling in the midst of the global financial crisis and falling oil prices. Consequently, there was little action until 2010, when new discoveries and unexpected recovery rates similar to those in the Bakken finally attracted an eager crowd of oil and gas independent companies. Activity in the field has even surpassed Bakken;

The low cost and short time for transportation to the Gulf Coast refining complex will likely make Eagle Ford’s shale oil the most competitive American shale oil. What’s more, Eagle Ford tight oil production results to be cheaper than Bakken’s, being profitable at oil prices ranging between $50 and $65 per barrel.

The paper notes that current oil prices are much higher today in part because people aren’t seeing what’s just over the horizon. As infrastructure and production ramps up prices will come down and and I think ultimately stabilize.

And that’s all I have. If you have time, read that discussion paper. There are a number of things that seem to be a bit of a reach, but there’s also a lot of good information collected in one place.

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75 thoughts on “Cheap Natural Gas, but wait – there’s more

  1. US EPA has not yet decided how it will regulate fracking to frustrate production and increase costs, but give them time.

  2. But wait, there is more:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-30/business/ct-biz-0930-nicor-20120930_1_nicor-gas-agl-resources-nicor-customers

    “The heart of the alleged scam turned on what sounded like a win-win for the company and its 2.2 million customers. Nicor makes its money from gas delivery and is supposed to only charge customers the same price it paid to obtain the gas.

    In 1999, Nicor had convinced the commerce commission, which regulates utilities, that it would strive to get customers the cheapest natural gas prices available under a “performance-based” rate plan. In short, the better it did for consumers, the more richly the company would be rewarded.

    To determine the utility’s performance under the plan, Nicor’s natural gas prices would be measured against a “benchmark” price established according to a formula. Beat the benchmark, and Nicor could split those savings equally with consumers. Miss the benchmark, and the additional costs would be shared.”

    “In gaining approval for the rate plan, Nicor insisted it could not manipulate the benchmark. But documents show the company was able to control certain elements used in determining the benchmark, allowing it to more easily meet its goals.

    The most frequently used method was to keep gas it was removing from storage off the books. Gas companies routinely tap cheaper gas from storage during cold months to prevent price spikes. Under the benchmark formula, hiding the withdrawals worked in Nicor’s favor by increasing the price Nicor was attempting to undercut.
    Beyond manipulating the benchmark, the company also figured out a way to further undercut the benchmark. The easiest way was to tap old, cheap gas it had in storage.

    The utility isn’t supposed to tap old gas until the newer gas is gone. Some of its oldest stored gas dated to the 1950s.”

    They are still holding gas that was taken in the 1950’s?????

  3. Ric says
    I haven’t take (sic -you can correct) advantage of it, I think only once in the last decade it would have saved money

    Henry says
    maybe you should re-consider
    looking at my plots for the change in global maximum temps. (who nobody but me is plotting) it looks like you (not me in the SH) are heading for one of the darkest and coldest winters yet in the NH and a few more of those winters are still to come….
    he that has an ear, listens.

    http://blogs.24.com/henryp/2012/10/02/best-sine-wave-fit-for-the-drop-in-global-maximum-temperatures/

  4. The cost of energy is not the only issue. It seems that anything run by a municipality or public monopoly charges extra fees such as delivery charge, infrastructure charge, base fee, debt reduction, service charge, taxes and so on so that your actual bill is much higher than just the cost of the fuel. This goes for my electricity bill as well.

  5. Meanwhile in Europe.. the only thing heard around is a permanent ban on “environmentally dangerous hydraulic fracturing”, even it has not started yet. Dunno whether our politicians are bought by Russians (from which we import the natural gas) or that stupid by themselves or they realize too clearly that fracking has potential to destroy their so-called “green” carbon-tax based dream.

  6. The part about shipping a lot of our inexpensive natural gas overseas may not be as big an issue or opportunity as people think. First of all, it is quite expensive to liquefy, transport and vaporize the gas. The number I’ve heard is nearly $5 per million BTU which still makes sense with $3 per million BTU gas in the US and $12 per million BTU prices in Europe and the Pacific rim. What might slow that down a bit is that Europe and many Pacific rim countries have their own untapped shale gas reserves. (They seem to be located in regions with a lot of coal??) Who wants to invest in all the infrastructure, facilities and shipping to export LNG only to have the price of natural gas fall when the domestic sources come on line. If the price of unconventional gas in Europe, and the Pacific rim drops close to the cost of extraction and refining (~$6-7 per million BTU) then an export bonanza for north American gas could be very short lived. I suspect the energy corporations know this.

  7. I just got a notice from the power company in Reno, Nevada that my natural gas price is being reduced about 9%.
    Since Obama pledged that energy prices would skyrocket under his policies, I’ll assume this price reduction wasn’t his idea. And since it’s not his idea, it has to be a bad idea.

  8. Natural gas isn’t economic for my car yet:

    The Honda Civic GX, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, costs US$5,200 more than a comparable gasoline car. Even with natural gas’s now hefty price advantage over gasoline, that US$5,200 premium could take eight years or more to recoup. http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/09/28/lawrence-solomon-why-gasoline-wins/

    On the other hand, if the cost of gasoline doubles, converting a car to natural gas will be viable. http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/maintenance/should-you-convert-your-car-to-natural-gas

  9. This paper and the older Rand paper demonstrate that North America has a window of opportunity to actually take the lead role in the world’s oil and fuel supply. I’m not convinced that the energy density for LNG is fixed, but, we don’t need it, either. We just need to go get our hard oil. That combine with the traditional oil we have and North America can be the new OPEC.

  10. Ric,

    Like you for some reason I have been tracking the “California Natural Gas Prices sold to Electric Power Consumers” for a few years as I was interested in seeing how the price of natural gas was affecting the price I am paying for electricity from PG&E.

    Year Avg price (1000 cubic feet)
    2007 $6.79
    2008 $8.34
    2009 $4.43
    2010 $5.01
    2011 $4.90
    2012 $3.32

    When PG&E first filed their 2011 General Rate Case (GRC) with the CPUC a few years back they were requesting an 8.6% rate hike in residential rates to cover all their costs. This would of led to an AVERAGE price of $.199 kwh with a marginal price for average usage of $.35 kwh starting in 2011. Luckily for us rate payers the cost of Nat Gas has gone down at the same time as we have added in more RE to meet the 20%RES. The net effect was that the Average price for the residential market actually dropped a tad in 2011 to $.18299 kwh.

  11. Matthew W says:
    October 3, 2012 at 5:46 am
    You do not have even a basic understanding of natural gas underground storage operations. The “old” gas you refer to is called “cushion gas”. It is compressed into the storage facility to a pressure above the maximum pressure of the pipeline into which the storage gas must be delivered. That gas is not removed from storage. The gas which is added to storage through the summer is referred to as “working gas”. It has the same cost as the gas the utility delivers to customers during the same period. Additional gas is consumed during the summer to compress the working gas into the storage facility, but that gas is treated as an operating cost, rather than as gas acquired for sale.

    I understand that “picking on utilities” is fun. Regulators, legislators and the press do it all the time. In the case of legislators and the press, many of them are as ill-informed or uninformed as you are.

  12. I spent some 4 years working on LNG tankers for El Paso Marine and Energy Transportation Corp. The ships carried 125,000 cubic meters at -160 deg. C. The liquefaction process consumes maybe ¼ to 1/3 of the energy of the product. One loading port was in Algeria where previously the gas was flared off. If there is no use for the gas then it is essentially “free”. Loading ports in Sumatra and Borneo were essentially the same.

    LNG is fairly commonplace in the US, or at least it was when I went through training. Gas distribution utilities used small LNG liquefaction/gasification plants for “peak shaving”. We went on a tour of a Baltimore Gas and Electric facility. The plant liquefied gas when it was cheap and then used it during peak usage in the winter. We were told that the savings of just one day’s production in the winter would pay for the entire cost of the plant for one year. At the time, Boston used LNG for gas supply to neighborhoods. It was liquefied at a central facility and trucked around the city to local re-gasification plants.

    The bottom line is that there is considerable experience with LNG.

    Regards,

    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  13. One of the prior problems of relying on Natural Gas has been consistent line pressures. A re-fuel could take five minutes or it can take an hour. Utah is one of the states which has numerous Natural Gas re-fuel stations. When there are multiple re-fuel stations, conversion to a dual use system (Natural Gas and Unleaded) makes sense. However, the cost is between 6 & 8 grand for the conversion.
    The EPA allows the conversion but mandates that conversion must keep all ODBC2 functionality and sensors in place. Which is a good thing. There is a company which sells a at home Natural gas refuel station which hooks in to an existing Natural Gas line.
    As Natural gas re-fuel stations appear and line pressure problems can be resolved, this can be a great daily use fuel for driving!

  14. A few years ago my father ran a regular car converted to run on LNG in the UK. I think there was a government incentive scheme at the time [i.e. less prohibitive taxation], and he definitely considered it worth the conversion cost.

    Filling stations were just about adequate, though not found everywhere, and it helped to locate them in advance for long journeys. It wasn’t much of a problem though, as it could be toggled between the two modes of operation while in motion just by flicking a switch.

  15. @ Ed Reid says:
    October 3, 2012 at 7:06 am
    Maybe you should read the tribune article.
    This is a quote from the story.

    “The utility isn’t supposed to tap old gas until the newer gas is gone. Some of its oldest stored gas dated to the 1950s.”

    If you would read the article, maybe you would understand what the context is
    And if the tribune story is not correct, you can contact them with your expert information.

  16. To clarify for some

    LPG, Liquid petroleum gas, propane or butane, liquifies under storage pressure and is used throughout South East Asia as bottle gas for domestic use and fuel for public cars, taxis and lorries. (Trucks for some)

    LNG, Liquified natural gas, needs both pressure and temperature drop to liquify, thus is more difficult to handle. Is shipped internationally in LNG carriers of between 125,000 and 150,000 cubic metres capacity of liquified cooled gas. It is mostly correctly called termed Methane.

    CNG, LNG without the cooling, new form of motor transport fuel, which is pressurized to minimize storage space but not chilled so remains a gas. As stated above it thus needs bigger and stronger tanks. It is now generally available in Thai petrol stations. Some Malaysian facilities offer it as well.

    South East Asia has huge amounts of LPG And CNG vehicles of all types.

  17. @Michael Hart – A few years ago my father ran a regular car converted to run on LNG in the UK.

    Are you sure it wasn’t LPG?

    LNG (mainly methane) can only be stored as a liquid by keeping it at a temperature below its critical point of -161.5C, so it isn’t really suitable as a fuel for regular cars. You need a tank that is effectively a huge Thermos flask. As far as I know there are only about 10 public LNG refuelling facilities in the UK, and these are for long-distance trucks.

    LPG (propane) on the other hand can be kept as a liquid by the application of a few atmospheres of pressure. LPG filling stations are quite common in the UK – there are around 1,500.

    And CNG is another alternative – natural gas (mainly methane) compressed to 200 atmospheres or so – but again there are only 20 or so of these stations in the UK.

  18. Apparently, most of the 7% reduction in CO2 emissions in the US in the recent past was due to natural gas power plants replacing coal fired units. Just a few years ago coal accounted for around 52% of electricity, but now is down to 32%, almost all of it replaced by natural has generators. The CO2 I’m not so concerned about, but coal does produce emissions that are more harmful than natural gas. I also read the comments of an industry observer who worries that this massive use of natural gas is shortsighted. Nuclear power is the obvious, but so far ignored (at least in this country) way to go for electricity (it’s cheaper than natural gas as well), and better and much cheaper batteries are just around the corner, I believe, which would eliminate the market for a natural gas vehicle. Attempting to switch to natural gas for transportation would be a big mistake down the road, I think.

    [Don't be too confident about new batteries. Pierre Gosselin has a post about electric cars with both an economist, Toyota, and commenters saying breakthroughs, at least adequate breakthroughs, are not in sight. See http://notrickszone.com/2012/09/29/no-future-in-sight-for-electric-cars-says-toyota-german-auto-economics-professor/ -Ric]

  19. There are a number of cars available in Germany either after-market modified or directly from the factory (notably from Opel, GM’s european branch and Volkswagen) running on CNG or LPG as well as gasoline, for which they have smaller gas tanks as a fallback option. Volkswagen has some more plans for CNG engines, including a version that doesn’t offer reduced power when in CNG mode.

  20. In BC two LNG plants are planned for Kitimat. Also in BC we get charged a carbon tax on our fuels, I think they mean a C02 tax, they get confused. Understandable as we have David Suzuki.

  21. All of the post is true and welcomed, but… (there’s always a But Monkey) Very real concerns exist (at least in Northeastern USA) that the increasing reliance on natural gas-fired capacity above other fuel sources (e.g., coal) could expose commercial and industrial customers to an increased likelihood of supply curtailment. ISO New England, which manages the regional electric grid for a large portion of the Northeast, has been concerned to the point its included the reliance concerns and associated topics (e.g., other-fueled generation retirement, increased integration of variable resources or renewables, and resource performance and increased flexibility) in its Electric/Gas Operations Committee meetings – http://www.iso-ne.com/committees/comm_wkgrps/othr/egoc/index.html .

    Gas-fired capacity (no duel fuel capability) in New England has jumped from 16,159 GWh in 2000 to 46,378 GWh in 2011 – a 290% increase – http://www.iso-ne.com/markets/hstdata/rpts/net_eng_peak_load_sorc/energy_peak_source.xls . Today, natural gas (as primary fuel) represents 53% of New England’s capacity and continues to increase. And of this percent, only 13% is duel-fueled with oil.

    ISO New England’s concerns with this increased reliance are focused on (1) the obvious risks associated with reliance on natural-gas-only resources (i.e., placing all you power generation eggs in one basket) and (2) the response from electric generators when the gas supply is not available to meet system demand, (a) during periods of very high seasonal demand (winter) where supply to residential customers is prioritized, (b) under other stressed system conditions (e.g., a regional transmission pipeline dig-in), or (c) when facing incidents associated with larger natural gas supply/transportation system (e.g., an extra-regional decrease or loss of pipeline pressure due to equipment failure). In fact, studies with regional and multi-regional foci have been commissioned to review these concerns in depth – http://tinyurl.com/9rx7pcl (link to ISO New England presentation on gas studies).

    Where new capacity from nuclear fuel has been essentially silenced for the past 30 years by environmental activism and new capacity from coal fuel has been demonized by environmental activism and regulated by the government to economic inefficiency, the only viable alternative for base load (because customers never want to pay more for their electric supply) is natural gas. Fluctuations in the price of oil over the past five years has essentially closed that market as an efficient fuel supply for power generation. But it doesn’t take a climate scientist to realize the increased risk associated with placing your regional power generation capacity into (primarily) one fuel basket, regardless of it’s cheap pricing.

  22. Kent Beuchert says
    Nuclear power is the obvious, but so far ignored (at least in this country)
    Henry says
    Are you serious? get out of here..
    Note that Japan is now officially admitting that nuclear energy is not safe.
    Apparently they have so many claims for clean-up costs that they have decided to halt all plans for new nuclear plants. Germany and Belgium and Holland have stopped using nuclear energy altogether.
    They have also shelved all plans for new plants. \
    These people are not stupid….
    The world is currently still sitting with two enormous problems in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
    Obviously, nobody of those still singing the praises of nuclear energy is prepared to volunteer to clean up the mess that we still have there. The 300 people that were involved in the encapsulation of Chernobyl, have all since died. And that job actually needs to be re-done, but the government in the Ukraine does not have the money for it. Can you believe that? How much can it cost if a whole country cannot pay for it?

    I therefore would like to add my voice to that of Greenpeace and others who are opposed to
    nuclear energy!!!

  23. HenryP says:
    October 3, 2012 at 9:15 am (Edit)
    Kent Beuchert says
    Nuclear power is the obvious, but so far ignored (at least in this country)
    Henry says
    Are you serious? get out of here..

    ———————————————————————————————————

    You are incorrect regarding deaths from Chernobyl . .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster

    There is no lingering radiation danger from Fukushima and it is now thought that there was no need to frighten the people around it as the escaped radiation levels were very low, less than the background radiation in some parts of the world.

    As for abandoning nuclear power the Japanese government seems to not agree with you . .

    http://fukushimaupdate.com/japan-backpedals-on-no-nukes-policy/

    If you had read the threads here on WUWT at the time you would have seen a number of nuclear experts commenting on the radiation levels and the hydrogen explosions. The fear over nuclear power is largely irrational and certainly over hyped by the media. Considering that Fukushima was overwhelmed by a natural disaster larger and more destructive than it was designed for without causing any deaths or property destruction beyond that experienced at the plant I would say the nuclear power held up extremely well.

  24. Henry P, we’re going to need a better resource regarding the Chernobyl workers. I found

    56 employee’s and residents died as a result to direct exposure with the radioactive materials, and some died from being hit with debris and fire. Around 600,000 people were in contact with radioactive material; 4000 of them died from radiacvtive-related cancer.
    About 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children and adolescents at the time of the accident, have resulted from the accident’s contamination and at least nine children died of thyroid cancer; however the survival rate among such cancer victims, judging from experience in Belarus, has been almost 99%.
    Most emergency workers and people living in contaminated areas received relatively low whole body radiation doses, comparable to natural background levels. As a consequence, no evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to radiation exposure.

    Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_happened_to_Chernobyl_employees#ixzz28Frz7EqJ

    This is considerably different than stating the 300 workers involved in the encapsulation died. Way too cherry picked of a number. You’re trying to indicate everyone involved died. No such luck. The same is true stating the country cannot pay for the clean up. The Ukraine was a republic of the Soviet Union during the disaster, and the Soviet Union chose not to pay for clean up. Rather, it was cheaper to abandon the town.
    Was Chernobyl terrible? Yes. As bad the cherry picked numbers indicate? No.
    Also, Chernobyl was a bureaucratic mistake in that someone who was not knowledgeable or experienced tried to play scientist.
    Germany made a pledge to stop but has had to change that pledge since Wind and Solar aren’t so reliable.
    Go sell alarmism somewhere else, we’re all stocked up on crazy here.

  25. Keithab says
    (quoting from wikipedia)
    The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles. The official Soviet casualty count of 31 deaths has been disputed, and long-term effects such as cancers and deformities are still being accounted for.

    Henry says
    obviously the people involved in the encapsulation did not die all at once. It took some which did not get “recorded’. Many more in the area have died since, mostly of “natural” causes/ do you honestly you believe that? either way 31 people is not enough for you? it could have been you, you know.
    The problem with Japan is that they have little or no other alternative but to go back at that (awful) nuclear energy/ they have no other source for energy?

    If you knew me you would know I don’t care too much about the experts. They never look at the right variable….

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/03/cheap-natural-gas-but-wait-theres-more/#comment-1099667

    But I am so glad to hear that you have the money for the Ukraine to re-encapsulate and to help them get on with the job.

  26. RHS says:
    October 3, 2012 at 9:55 am (Edit) . .

    —————————————————————

    Even the 4000 deaths is incorrect. My understanding is that the expected 4000 deaths have not been realised and all but a handful of the thyroid cancers were treated and cured.

    The expected/predicted horrors of Chernobyl were grossly exaggerated by the media and the anti nuclear lobby.

  27. Henry says
    eh eh eh
    I was only talking about 300
    KeithAb says 31
    RHS says 4000

    shall we say it was just 1 and that was 1 too many
    because that person could have been you?

    no more nuclear energy please…

  28. HenryP says:
    October 3, 2012 at 9:15 am

    You need to inform yourself a little better: Holland had two nuclear plants, the smallest one was decomissioned a few years ago (as a test case for full decomissioning of such a plant back to a “green field”). The other one is still going strong (but only delivers 1% of total power in The Netherlands). Belgium still has 51% of all power from nuclear plants (third highest in the world after France and South Korea). There are official plans to shut them all down after their useful life and not replace them, the oldest first, but I will see if that really will happen, as there are no alternatives in the pipeline. The oldest ones are already beyond their “best before” date, and some currently need repair and an upgrade to get in order with the “stress tests” of the EU, but the government receives a lot of money (the “nuclear yield”) from the utilities company because the plants are allowed to go on longer than designed for. Since they need a lot of money, I don’t think that there will be much incentive to stop with nuclear power, except for two of the oldest plants…

  29. Henry P says (and others have commented as well):

    “The 300 people that were involved in the encapsulation of Chernobyl, have all since died.“

    An Impressive number is presented but it is without support. According to a 2005 UN report on the Chernobyl , which built upon work from an earlier 200 UN report on the same, of the about 1,000 people involved in the initial response to the disaster and subsequent encapsulation, only 28 died from acute radiation syndrome (ARS) – http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Chernobyl/chernobyl.pdf . In the intervening years (up to 2004), another 19 people died but not all of these were directly attributed to radiation exposure. So, there were about 1,000 people involved (not 300) and of these 47 have died of causes likely linked to the Chernobyl incident.

    Now, let’s look at this statement, “I therefore would like to add my voice to that of Greenpeace and others who are opposed to nuclear energy!!!”

    Greenpeace was very upset at the 2005 UN report mentioned above. The UN story failed to match their earlier and wildly high fatality numbers, which were well north of 100,000. Greenpeace needed more fear, if only for its motivational abilities. As a result, it released its own Chernobyl report in 2006, which placed the number of Chernobyl-related deaths at a markedly lower yet still wildly high (in comparison to the UN report) 4,000 – http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2006/4/chernobylhealthreport.pdf .

    I mentioned environmental activism or environmentalism in a previous post. This “ism” uses our monkey brain (the limbic system where emotion resides and not to be confused with the lizard brain or brainstem/cerebellum) to process. On the other hand, skepticism (yes, yet another ism) requires use of the brain’s executive control (cerebral cortex) to apply reason in the processing of the emotional. Now, which portion (monkey brain or executive control) is being used more when someone proclaims boldly, “I therefore would like to add my voice to that of Greenpeace and others who are opposed to nuclear energy,” …?

    Enough said there. And as for anything “wiki” as a reference source, don’t trust it complicity – ever.

  30. I am finding that this comment has not been posted…
    Keithab says
    (quoting from wikipedia)
    The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles. The official Soviet casualty count of 31 deaths has been disputed, and long-term effects such as cancers and deformities are still being accounted for.

    Henry says
    obviously the people involved in the encapsulation did not die all at once. It took some which did not get “recorded’. Many more in the area have died since, mostly of “natural” causes/ do you honestly you believe that? either way 31 people is not enough for you? it could have been you, you know.
    The problem with Japan is that they have little or no other alternative but to go back at that (awful) nuclear energy/ they have no other source for energy?

    If you knew me you would know I don’t care too much about the experts. They never look at the right variable….

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/03/cheap-natural-gas-but-wait-theres-more/#comment-1099667

    But I am so glad to hear that you have the money for the Ukraine to re-encapsulate and to help them get on with the job.

  31. Tom Murphy says
    Enough said there. And as for anything “wiki” as a reference source, don’t trust it complicity – ever.
    hnery says
    I know. This is where we agree. But nuclear energy is really a big NO-NO
    believe me. trust me.

  32. Ferdinand Enegelbeen says
    The other one is still going strong (but only delivers 1% of total power in The Netherlands).
    Henry says
    If you are referring to Borselen
    it was recently on the NOS news that it was declared not safe

    NO MORE NUCLEAR ENERGY PLEASE

  33. Ric;
    The Gosselin article ignores the only competent and “all-in” EV company in the world, the US’ own TeslaMotors. Its vehicles are a decade more advanced than any of the token kluges put out by the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) companies. It has just announced inauguration of a FREE transcontinental highway charge station network (thru arrangement with a sister company, Solar City, that will install arrays at suitable stations to sell back to the utilities more power than the units in the n/w could draw running flat-out ’round the clock, all year.)

    Its Model S and X seat 5-7, get 200-300 miles range, and are exquisitely engineered and finished. S deliveries have begun, and about 13,000 are pre-sold, rising rapidly. Gosselin is seriously selective, or uninformed.

    And they go like bats out of hell; one ex-Air Force jockey said he hadn’t experienced the like since the last time he fired up a jet’s afterburners.

    [Germany's plan was to get one million electric cars on the road. While 1.3% is a start, it's quite a ways to get to one million, especially when the selling price is US $50 - $100,000. I have a long commute in New Hampshire, perhaps if I saw one some day I'd be more impressed. -Ric]

  34. Brian H says:

    “The Gosselin article ignores the only competent and “all-in” EV company in the world, the US’ own TeslaMotors.”

    It ignores Tesla probably because it’s very wise to do so – http://jalopnik.com/5887265/tesla-motors-devastating-design-problem . If you let the battery discharge fully on a Tesla (intentional or not), the battery needs to be replaced. And unlike a $2 9-Volt battery, the Tesla’s battery pack costs about $40,000 (without any discounts applied). Oh, and the battery replacement is neither covered under warranty by Tesla (for any circumstances) nor insurable for loss.

    So, buyer beware here!

  35. Re: Ed Reid (first comment): “US EPA has not yet decided how it will regulate fracking to frustrate production and increase costs, but give them time.”

    I would submit that the new regulations have been written and will be published somewhere between Election Day and the end of the year – regardless of the outcome of the election. And they are carefully crafted to ensure that a well enhancement technique used for over 60 years will no longer be used in this nation.

    Regarding HenryP: Leave us not feed the anti-nuclear troll. Cheers -

  36. AGIMARC SAYS
    Regarding HenryP: Leave us not feed the anti-nuclear troll.
    Henry says
    let us not trust agimarc with our life,
    shall we?

  37. Utilities offering a “Fixed Price Option (FPO) lock-in price”, are a sure sign that prices will fall further.

    [Not when it is an annual program. - Ric]

  38. Wake up. I don’t want more nuclear.

    [You've made your point. Multiple times. You're entitled to your opinion, you don't need to chant it. The title of this post makes it clear the topic is primarily natural gas, and I believe I made no mention of nuclear energy. Please get back on topic.

    Personally, I'd rather live next to a nuclear power plant than a LNG plant, coal plant, down stream of a hydroelectric dam, and many other power generation facilities. I'll grant you that Chernobyl's graphite block reactor with many safety devices disabled to do some low power testing proved to be a bad combination, I don't believe any power plants use that design today, at least not in Europe or the Americas. I don't want more of those either. -Ric]

    • HenryP says:
      October 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm (Edit)
      Wake up. I don’t want more nuclear.

      ——————————————————-

      Well Henry I think we get it that you don’t want nuclear but it doesn’t seem to be a rational position from where some of us are sitting. I for one am of the opinion that cheap and ubiquitous electrical energy will save a lot of the natural habitat of our Earth and nuclear seems to be the least destructive way to achieve that.

      However let’s agree to draw a line under this debate for now as it seems to be a bit liturgical and after all that’s just built on opinions.

  39. HenryP says:
    October 3, 2012 at 10:39 am

    If you are referring to Borselen
    it was recently on the NOS news that it was declared not safe

    Quite an accusation… Of course the Borssele nuclear plant is safe, or it would have been closed a long time ago. But the EU “stress test” has shown that the plant is not safe enough to survive a Fukushima size tsunami, neither a similar magnitude earthquake. The latter is very unlikely to occur in the Western part of The Netherlands (no known earth faults in the neighbourhood), but you never know for a tsunami: if Iceland splits around the continental plates and some big chunk gives a huge wave towards Northern Europe (this is a quite unrealistic scenario, but a similar, more realistic scenario may occur at one of the Azores islands, that would be a disaster for the US coastal cities).

    If that was the case, about 2/3rd of The Netherlands would be flooded, probably killing some 10 million people. Something of another order than the flooding of a nuclear plant…

    The same for Fukushima: the tsunami killed 25,000 people, because the government allowed those people to build and live in a tsunami prone area. The same government allowed to build a nuclear plant there, which killed nobody and probably nobody in the future. Everybody blames the government (and the company) for the nuclear disaster by not foreseeing the size of the earthquake and the tsunami. Nobody blames the government for allowing people to live (and die) in the same tsunami area…

    BTW, to upgrade the power plant at Borssele conform the stress test standards will cost a lot of money, but the productivity of a nuclear plant is so high that this only represents a fraction of an eurocent per kWh of production…

  40. In the USA, we had the “Pickens’ Plan” to convert diesel trucks to LNG (more correctly, to replace diesel trucks with LNG-powered trucks) and replace natural gas power plants with windmills.

    Critics realize the primary purpose of the Pickens Plan is to enrich T. Boone Pickens’ pocket. It is fraught with bad ideas — taxpayers subsidizing the purchase of LNG power trucks and taxpayers subsidizing the purchase of electricity from Pickens’ wind farms and no real purpose, as we actually have plenty of oil for diesel in the USA, if only our regulators would get out of the way and let us harvest it. Canada has plenty of oil they would like to sell us as well, if only we get the KeyStone pipleline built.

    That doesn’t mean LNG-powered truck and cars are a bad idea, but there is no real reason for this exercise in central planning and the taxpayer funding of this scheme.

    Often overlooked is gas-to-liquid conversion for fueling our passenger cars and light trucks. If I understand correctly, natural gas can be converted to liquid fuel which can run in conventional gasoline engines without the costly conversion needed to burn LNG.

  41. Matthew W asks above “They are still holding gas that was taken in the 1950′s?????” Ed Reid confuses the issue by responding about storage and pressure. The physical gas is irrelevant. The gas is, for all intents and purposes, co-mingled. With the exception of a few isolated back-up storage facilities, you can not point to a particular cubic foot of gas and say that “this came from X.” The issue described in the article is purely a bookkeeping/inventory issue.

    Bookkeepers match cost of inventory against the price of their resulting product to calculate profit. When inventory is received over multiple periods of time and consumed at a different rate, bookkeepers have several choices in how they will account for the inventory. The most common choices are FIFO (First-In, First-Out) and LIFO (Last-In, First-Out).

    A simple example:
    In January, you buy 10 units of inventory at $1 each and sell no product.
    In February, you buy 10 more units of inventory at $2 each and sell 15 units of product for $3 each. At the end of February, you have 5 units left in inventory. You’re taxed on profits and, depending on jurisdiction, you may be taxed (at a different rate) on inventory. How much did you make and how much is your remaining inventory worth?
    Under FIFO, you count off the first 10 units bought in Jan plus 5 units bought in Feb for total cost of $20 and profit of $25. Your remaining inventory is worth $10.
    Under LIFO, you count off the last 10 units bought in Feb plus 5 from Jan for total cost of $25, profit of $20 and remaining inventory worth $5.

    Neither FIFO or LIFO is automatically correct. In theory, FIFO keeps your inventory value closer to “replacement cost” which is useful for some business decisions. LIFO, on the other hand, keeps your profit closer to “expected future rates” which is better for other business decisions. And you can get much more complicated with “reset-to-market”, various averaging schemes, etc. GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) allows any of those algorithms for inventory accounting.

    The one thing that you are supposed to do (which appears not to have been done based on the description above) is to stay consistent in your accounting treatment of inventory. If you start with FIFO, you stay with FIFO.

    So, no, the gas was not pulled out of the ground in the 1950s. But they have had a rolling inventory balance since the 1950s so there could easily be unconsumed inventory valuations still on the books from then.

  42. Sorry – typo in the first sentence of the second paragraph. “to calculate product” should have been “to calculate profit”.

    [Fixed -Ric]

  43. Less than a decade ago natural gas prices were high enough to trigger significant LNG imports into the country. Here in Louisiana, major companies applied for permits to have the huge tankers tie up to facilities significantly offshore that would use the wamth of the Gulf waters to warm the gas so it could be transported onshore in pipelines. Some environmentalists squawed about that process giving minnows a cold, so the permits were denied. Today we are EXPORTING LNG out of Louisiana to foreign countries where natural gas prices are much higher than here. If we do not take advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities that shale oil and gas are giving us, shame on us…DJ

  44. @Kelvin Vaughan:

    That Deltic ‘out of retirement’ is a beauty! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier_Deltic

    has a nice animation of the design. Three crank shafts with 6 pistons and no heads in a bank ( a delta shape). Multiple banks. More HP/ volume than most things from that era.

    The ‘Deltic’ engines were used in two types of British rail locomotive: classes 55 and 23, built in the 1960s. Because of their engines, these types were nicknamed ‘Deltics’ and ‘Baby Deltics’ respectively.

    The Class 55 used two D18-25 series II type V Deltic engines: mechanically-blown 18-cylinder engines each rated at 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) continuous at 1500rpm.[6] The Class 23 used a single less powerful nine-cylinder turbocharged T9-29 Deltic of 1,100 hp (820 kW).

    FWIW, we’ve made natural gas Rail Engines from time to time. Usually a conversion of a Diesel. Direct injection in some cases (though it is possible to just valve natural gas into the air intake up to about 3/4 power and use the Diesel injection as a kind of spark plug for modestly low compression Diesels. I’ve run mine on propane / LPG that way. )

    Natural gas rail engine tender:

    http://www.energyconversions.com/tender.htm

    New “development”:

    http://www.ngvglobal.com/westport-and-emd-to-develop-natural-gas-fuel-system-for-rail-locomotives-1202

    That are recapitulating history:

    http://qstation.org/BN_LNG/

    The BN #7149 and #7890 were two natural gas locomotives developed for the Burlington Northern by Energy Conversions Inc. The successful demonstration locomotives operated on a commercial coal haul between Wyoming and Wisconsin from 1991-1996. The engines took the idea of natural gas rail out of the concept phase and into reality, proving the reliability, safety, and full-power capabilities of the clean burning ECI system.

    Since the program’s close in 1996, BN #7149 has been sold to Helm Leasing and is now HLCXX #7149, and BN #7890 has gone onto to be placed within Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s Diesel Roster as BNSF #7890, and currently wears the Heritage I paint scheme.

    Peru doing Natural Gas too:

    http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=3757

    This one covers the Peru train but also the Napa Valley Wine Train ( with discussion of dual fuel ability to run on what’s available)

    http://www.lngplants.com/Locomotives.html

    India too:

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/Railways-to-replace-diesel-with-natural-gas-to-reduce-cost/Article1-746706.aspx

    See a pattern here?

    The really interesting thing to realize is that the heavy haulage that depends on Diesel Engines can relatively easily be converted to Natural Gas instead. From trucks to trains to ships. This makes natural gas a direct threat to oil demand on a very large scale.

    This matters.

  45. Talking to E&P folks, they expect oil to also drop over the next few years as the US gets more shale oil wells in production. Some claim that if the government does not get in the way, we could eliminate imports other than from Canada.

    Also, aside from the LIFO / FIFO issues, my experience (limited) with buying and selling storage facilities suggests with some facilities no one really knows how much gas is in the facility or how much can be pulled out in total.

  46. Nigel Harris
    Yes, my mistake, it was LPG, not methane. I wasn’t paying attention. Embarrassing for a chemist.

  47. mikerossander says:
    October 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm
    ================
    I understand the accounting of it but from the article, it sounds like they have the physical gas.
    Even if it is an acounting move, is it good busines to have an asset on the books like that for 60 years that won’t apreciate??

  48. And there’s more…..
    Rather than convert millions of engines to run on LNG/CNG/LPG/etc, it may be better to come at the issue from the other direction.
    Natural gas can be converted into Diesel and Kerosene fuels by well-known and proven processes. Shell built a colossal plant in Quatar – the “Pearl project” – which has been a huge commercial success. Here in the UK the fuel it produces is sold as “V-Max” diesel.
    I believe another similar project is being planned for the US.

  49. Ric Werme, thoroughly enjoyed that article. Thanks to you and Pierre Gosselin for your efforts.

  50. Amazingly I looked at this exact same thing today. I work in the flat glass industry and our furnaces use natural gas. A WHOLE LOT of natural gas, so we are very conscious of the price of natural gas. 2008, we had to shut one of our furnaces off. The price of gas was an all-time high, and that cost just made our product too expensive. Now, gas is back down, WAY down, and our cost to produce is much lower. We can be more competetive with exports again. And we are restarting that furnace we shut down in 2008….

  51. My question is probably one more for the lawyers, but why on earth has the president been given the power to decide how much natural gas can be liquified?

  52. Aside from the billions, probably hundreds of billions, of dollars of benefit to NG consumers from the dramatic decline in nat gas prices ( the price has rebounded recently, but is still at a fraction of what it was less than a decade ago and the bounce may be somewhat of a good thing because prices had declined enough to make new drilling uneconomical) there has also been another, perhaps even more significant, benefit from the innovations in the oil and gas business.

    http://tinyurl.com/8jtnyto

    America’s booming energy industry has emerged as the no. 1 job-creating sector of the U.S. economy
    Mark J. Perry | October 1, 2012, 5:00 pm

    “Overall job growth in the U.S. has been stubbornly sluggish over the last few years, and total payroll employment in August of this year was still almost five million jobs, and 3.4%, below the peak level of payroll jobs at the beginning of 2008 (see chart above). Meanwhile, there’s one sector of the economy that is booming like never before, and creating jobs at a record pace – America’s thriving energy industry, especially the recently emerging shale oil and gas business. Just the direct jobs for oil and gas drilling activities have increased by more than 27% since early 2008 to a level in August of this year that was the highest monthly total since late 1987, almost 25 years ago (see chart above).”

    Aside from the direct jobs in the industry there are numerous examples like the following

    http://tinyurl.com/d4x3s6f

    Sand mining frenzy and controversy hits small Minnesota town where farmers can become ‘sand millionaires’
    Mark J. Perry | September 30, 2012, 10:52 am
    Last July, I wrote about how a new sand boom in Wisconsin and Minnesota (America’s “sandbox”) is creating prosperity, shovel-ready jobs, and “sand millionaires,” but is also generating lots of controversy and community resistance to “frac sand.”

    The sand boom and controversy is now moving to the small town of Saint Charles in southeastern Minnesota, where according to today’s StarTribune “Local investors have floated a $55 million to $70 million proposal — as large as any in the country — to build an industrial processing plant and rail depot that would convert St. Charles into a regional hub for the nation’s burgeoning frac sand industry and open southeastern Minnesota to what could be a sand mining frenzy.”

    Here’s an excerpt from the article “Small town ponders future as sand mining takes off“:

    Wisconsin and Minnesota contain vast holdings of the world’s most sought-after frac sand — the spherical, high-strength Northern White Sand that oil and gas drilling companies use in the process known as hydro-fracking.

    Both states have so-called “legacy” producers who have supplied the ancient quartz to energy companies for generations. The industry was bumping along quietly until just a few years ago, when hydraulic drilling activity exploded in a rush to extract domestic oil and natural gas from vast underground shale deposits in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota and elsewhere.

    Those operations have driven global demand for sand and other “proppants” from 6.5 million tons in 2009 to roughly 30 million tons this year. In that time, Wisconsin counties approved more than 75 new mines and related facilities, while the number in Minnesota remains at less fewer than 10, including a mine in Woodbury.

    Some crude economics help explain the industry’s force.

    For the average farmer in either state who happens to sit on high-grade sand close to a processing plant, payments of $1 to $3 per ton for excavated material can reasonably add up to $200,000 to $800,000 per year in extra income.”

    I can attest to this one as it is occurring all around the town where I have spent almost all of my life. The president likes to brag about the millions of private sector jobs that have been created during his reign, which are still significantly below what is needed just to keep up with population growth in the US job market, but the biggest producer of those new private sector jobs has accomplished the task despite being fought tooth and nail at every step by the Bamster and his minions. As has been pointed out above, production from federal lease properties is at a multi-decade low. If the President and the Dems had had their way, none of this, or at least much less of it, would ever have occurred

  53. Henry@Ferdinand Engelbeen
    If I were you and living below sea level, as many people in Holland do, I would be severely worried about flooding. Going by my graph I predict that a similar situation that occurred in 1953 is most likely to happen again around 2040. OTOH you also sit with the rivers flooding there, which could happen anytime in spring/summer. Remember I predict the bulk of the cooling to be happening in the following 4 or 5 years. That means lots of ice and snow on the Alps…that melt in summer…..
    I would not feel save living there near Borsselen. But I am glad you will fix the problem of that plant and make it flood proof for a “little” bit of money.

    We never even discussed the problem of the waste which is an entire different story altogether -the nuclear waste will be a curse for generations to come.

    Coal also has its problems, so let us stay and stick with the gas, shall we?
    I am glad we are all agreed on that.
    Fracking for gas is great and creates lots of jobs.

  54. Henry P says:

    “I was only talking about 300 KeithAb says 31 RHS says 4000 shall we say it was just 1 and that was 1 too many because that person could have been you? no more nuclear energy please…”

    I was going to let this remark pass, but then decided I’m tired (very tired) of these emotion-based pleas influencing far too important decisions for humanity. If one human death from a nuclear incident is too many for someone, then they had better be (at the very least) an equally vocal advocate for banning motorized vehicle from public roads. Why? They are known killing machines. In the US alone, more than 32,800 people (far more than the bemoaned one you lament) were killed in accidents involving vehicles on a public roads in 2010 (the last year compiled data can be queried) – http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx .

    Compare these 2010 traffic fatalities with a rate of 1.11 deaths per million miles travels to the 2011 nuclear fatalities with a rate of 0.04 deaths per Terra Watt hour (TWh) – a terrawatt is 1,000 billion, and it’s a wonder ANYONE gets in their car to drive in America – http://tinyurl.com/6aqyuhz (link to IBM Research data set on deaths per TWh by energy source). But, I suspect those denouncing nuclear power generation willingly either drive or are a passenger in a car or bus many times throughout a given year.

    Clearly, there is a logical disconnect here.

    My only question to these people then is, “Why travel in a car, given the apparent risk of injury or death?” The likelihood of death by motorized vehicle is far greater than the likelihood of death by nuclear accident (+2,775% greater). And yet some of these people parrot Greenpeace with the cliché “No Nukes”.

    While I’ll forever be curious as to their response to the question, I suspect their reasoning lies in humanity’s monkey brain. We are an emotional species first and rational second; yet, it’s the rational that has permitted us to progress (incredibly so) to our current technological level – and advance before all other known species. The fear-laden messaging associated with a nuclear incident, which has been one of Greenpeace’s money making products over the past several decades, registers with the limbic system before (i.e., subconsciously) the cerebral cortex can process and resolve the emotion. Once it’s processed consciously, though, and the risk is realized not to be all that great – especially compared to other risks, cognitive dissonance manifests – the feeling of discomfort that results from having two conflicting beliefs at the same time. I am fearful of a nuclear incident (which means I should run), but the likelihood of being injured or killed by a nuclear incident is infinitesimally small (which means I can stay).

    What does the brain do to resolve the discomfort – subconsciously at first? It rationalizes why you should follow the emotion of the monkey brain (our brains evolved and are prioritized from the bottom up – lizard, monkey, executive and not top down), “I have to get around as I go about my business; so, I need a car or bus for travel. But I don’t need electricity from nuclear power because there are other fuel sources for power generation.” Discomfort resolved – and with rational thought, too. Yay, me! As an added bonus, your brain rewards this rationalization by giving itself a shot of dopamine, “Right on. No nukes is the way to go. Life is good. I am so smart.”

    The troubling concern here, is that the person fails to control the monkey brain through use of the rational executive function. Had they taken the time to fully and consciously process the emotion, they would have realized that humanity vis-à-vis the utilities needs multiple fuel forms to ensure a reliable power capacity (unless they’re okay with rolling brown outs and outright black outs like those in many developing countries). A determining rational here is that the death rate from a nuclear incident is the smallest of all fuel types. So… D’oh, yes nukes!

    But this isn’t the conclusion for those that permit their rationalized emotions to trump reasoned thought. This is similar to the climate scientists and other experts that firmly believe AGW is not only harmful for the planet but downright catastrophic – even though no empirical data support that fear (although they twist the data to verify their fear because their brains mandate they must). These professionals use a more sophisticated rationalization to validate their emotion (via their education, credentials, and publications), but once the discomfort is resolved, their brain does what it has evolved to do – rewards itself with a shot of dopamine that permits them to think, “I am saving the planet AND I am so smart. Yay, me.” Thus, a Michael E. Mann is born…

  55. Henry@Tom
    You are right that the chance of being in an accident in your car is bigger.
    However, summarized, the whole problem is exactly as what it is now in Fukushima. Thousands of people are claiming money from the utility to pay for the loss of their homes and income (no agriculture anymore possible in that area). The claims are so big that they cannot pay for it. Ukraine cannot pay for re-encapsulation of Chernobyl. They have asked the AEC for help.
    It (nuclear energy) becomes a financial risk that just gets too big. Note also my previous comment about there not being a proper resolve about the waste.
    When God (from a distance) plays around with nuclear explosions (cataclysmic evolution) we get a whole new brand of species. When man drops a few atomic bombs on Japan we have generations of misformed babies….
    ….no more nuclear energy please…

  56. Matthew W asks “…is it good busines to have an asset on the books like that for 60 years that won’t appreciate?”

    Well, it depends on what business decisions you are trying to make using that information. If you want to use you inventory valuation as a proxy for how much insurance you need on the assets, then no, LIFO is the wrong calculation to use. Recalculating inventory to market price is the theoretical ideal for lots of business decisions but when you’re talking about industrial goods, who gets to decide what market price to use? There’s too much potential for gamesmanship. And since that gamesmanship can affect taxation, local regulators tend to take a dim view of recalculating to market (which is what your appreciation comment implies). Actual price paid whether FIFO or LIFO has its failings but the source of the number is undeniable and easy to audit. Just look at the old invoice from your supplier.

    Revaluing to market also adds a lot of administrative costs to your accounting process – and accounting is all overhead so you shouldn’t increase those costs unless you have a good reason.

    Yes, having inventory valuations on the books from 60 years ago introduces distortion into some business decisions and is less than ideal. But so are all the alternatives. Whether you choose FIFO, LIFO or some other accounting algorithm, it’s an accounting compromise. (As a side note, 60 years is not at all unusual. I work for a company that has some inventory valuations still on the books dating back to the 1850s.)

  57. Just saw a new (to me anyway) report-

    “Brattle Report Projects Doubled Coal Retirement Estimates Ascribed to Low Gas Prices”

    http://www.powermag.com/POWERnews/5036.html?hq_e=el&hq_m=2535577&hq_l=4&hq_v=bb09315ba5

    “An update to a 2010 analysis on the market and regulatory outlook facing coal-fired power plants in the U.S. from economists at The Brattle Group forsees that 59 GW to 77 GW of coal plant capacity are likely to retire over the next five years—about 25 GW more than previously estimated—due primarily to lower expected natural gas prices.

    The report titled “Potential Coal Plant Retirements: 2012 Update” notes that as of July 2012, about 30 GW (or 10% of total coal capacity) had already announced plans to retire by 2016. The report’s new estimates take into account how the decrease in spot and forward gas prices, combined with low demand for power, have reduced projected energy margins and costs of replacement power.”………

  58. Henry P says:

    “Thousands of people are claiming money from the utility to pay for the loss of their homes and income (no agriculture anymore possible in that area)… Ukraine cannot pay for re-encapsulation of Chernobyl.”

    Once again, this is the monkey brain ruling the executive function. So, the fear isn’t from death but rather the financial ruin of private utilities and/or associated government due to a nuclear incident…? The financial issues are entirely manmade and will be addressed in one form or another with a manmade solution – history bears witness to that. And even WITH the cost of such nuclear incidents AND the waste concerns, the price for nuclear power generation is STILL the second cheapest (behind hydro) of all power generation sources at $0.02398/KWh (2010 pricing data)- http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/table8.2.cfm .

    With respect to Chernobyl, a consortium funded by 21 nations was established in the late 1990s to ensure the successful closure and containment of Chernobyl. This project employed the use of EKOR foam to seal the radiation within the old sarcophagus composed of steel and concrete – http://www.power-technology.com/projects/chernobyl/ . Work commenced earlier this year on the new, steel sarcophagus, with the Ukraine contributed the largest amount to the decommissioning fund – http://pik.tv/en/news/story/35743-ukraine-begins-building-new-chernobyl-sarcophagus . As stated previously, fear of financial ruin of the private utilities (or even the Ukrainian government) is a rationalized emotion that is not supported by empirical evidence.

    “It (nuclear energy) becomes a financial risk that just gets too big.”

    The historical financial data on nuclear power generation does not support your assertion of “too big” a financial risk – period – http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html . Since 2009, American taxpayers have paid $1,432 Billion for the bankruptcies of a number of green-related projects (FactCheck.org is way off on their limited number of failed projects) – http://tinyurl.com/8tmh889 (link to Townhall Finance article from September 2012). Now, this is a REALIZED financial risk that is far more tangible than a possible financial risk. And anything over a billion dollars (even in today’s trillion dollar deficits) is ridiculously big.

    “When man drops a few atomic bombs on Japan we have generations of misformed babies….”

    Once again, the monkey brain and its desire to embrace the fear win with a statement such as this one – so much for letting the executive function control the more base emotions. Please note that (1) they were a couple (i.e., two) bombs dropped on Japan and not a few (i.e., at least three) and (2) no evidence (through December 2010) exists to support even one (let alone generations) “misformed” was born to survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki aftermaths. In the words of the researchers of a study which began in 1947, “So far, no evidence of inherited genetic effects has been found,” – http://insightsdels.nas.edu/?p=13 .

    It truly is amazing how much the monkey brain will try to overwhelm the executive function in an effort to retain control of our decision-making process. With this, Henry P, I think we’re done in that you will assert once again the no nuke pledge because you must due to the executive function of your brain ceding control to the emotional – so be it for you.

  59. Henry@Tom
    your table only goes to 2010.
    Since then gas has become cheaper : this is what this post is all about. That trend will continue as more sources for gas are opened up.
    With the new safety regulations in force, the price of new nuclear plants will sky rocket.
    That means that a new gas turbine plant will be only a fraction of what it will cost to build a nuclear plant that is flood proof and that can take earth quakes..
    That will bring everything down to the simple arithmetic that will eventually show that nuclear is not the way to go, whether you like it or not.
    I addition the burning of gas puts some carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which is good for the biosphere. It stimulates more growth, like trees and crops and more such things that we desperately need on earth.

    .like….near to the one nuclear plant we have here on the coast in South Africa all the marine life is gone…..disappeared….I wonder why?
    So, let us rather not go nuclear and stick with the gas, shall we?

  60. HenryP says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    .like….near to the one nuclear plant we have here on the coast in South Africa all the marine life is gone…..disappeared….I wonder why?
    So, let us rather not go nuclear and stick with the gas, shall we?

    I’m getting tired of the claim you post without backing it up with credible references. Post one. One that explains why all the life is gone.

    Two notes:

    1) You’re trying to imply that nuclear energy have killed the wildlife. If there’s an impact, I suspect it would be from the plant’s cooling system. Natural gas plants have the same cooling needs. (Perhaps a bit less, as they may run hotter and hence have a higher thermodynamic efficinecy.) So, replace that one nuclear plant with a similar capacity gas plant and ocean life should still be “gone…..disappeared….”

    2) In Florida, environmentalists get all bent out of shape when nuclear and other power plants are shutdown in the winter because the heat outflow is sometime very important to keeping manatees healthy. They’re very cold sensitive and have had some large die-offs in cold winters.

    http://current.com/community/91886882_manatees-huddle-near-power-plant-during-fla-chill.htm

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35079807/ns/us_news-environment/t/cold-kills-dozens-fla-manatees/

    And, while I’m at it, I’ll do a little work for you – here’s what you could have posted about wildlife post-Chernobyl:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120411084107.htm

    Or, more likely (note the expected 4,000 premature human death prospective estimate) you would have posted

    [Oops - I accidentally duplicated the previous URL. I meant to refer to http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/04/pictures/110426-chernobyl-25th-anniversary-wildlife/ . - Ric]

  61. Henry@Ric
    I’m not sure where you are headed with this, but if you are pro-nuclear energy you should have posted something different.
    I am sure that it is the cooling that caused the problem with the marine life, but should they not have taken this into consideration when they did their assessment studies? (as to what it would do to nature?)
    They now want to repeat the same error here at other other side of South Africa where they want to put a 2nd nuclear plant near to the Indian ocean.
    Are you beginning to get the picture now as to why I am anti-nuclear?
    It has nothing to do with being a monkey, or having the mind of a monkey, that is for sure.
    As to your trumped up “research” that nuclear accidents are “good” for life
    I am sure I can find an equal amount of studies that prove the opposite:

    http://eve.enviroweb.org/perspectives/issues/nuclear.html

  62. HenryP says:
    October 5, 2012 at 8:13 am (Edit)

    Henry@Ric
    > I’m not sure where you are headed with this, but if you are pro-nuclear energy you should have posted something different.

    I posted exactly what I wanted.

    I am sure that it is the cooling that caused the problem with the marine life, but should they not have taken this into consideration when they did their assessment studies? (as to what it would do to nature?)
    They now want to repeat the same error here at other other side of South Africa where they want to put a 2nd nuclear plant near to the Indian ocean.
    Are you beginning to get the picture now as to why I am anti-nuclear?

    Not at all. You seem to be saying it’s perfectly okay to “boil” marine life cooling gas or coal fired power plants, but it’s not okay to boil the same life cooling a nuclear plant. Your hatred of nuclear energy is blinding you from seeing that some other power sources have similar problems. Any large scale power source has major tradeoffs to consider.

    As to your trumped up “research” that nuclear accidents are “good” for life I am sure I can find an equal amount of studies that prove the opposite:

    http://eve.enviroweb.org/perspectives/issues/nuclear.html

    You missed that point too. Given your assertion that all marine life near that nuclear plant has disappeared, and that you explicitly pointed out it was a nuclear plant, you implied that something about the nuclear energy was the cause. I tried to point out that even something as horrendous as the Chernobyl disaster hasn’t killed or chased away all the life around that plant, I hoped you would realize that perhaps it isn’t nuclear energy that’s responsible for the void you claim exists off South Africa.

    The radioactive contamination around Chernobyl is not what’s good for wildlife. I thought it was obvious that the lack of humans there is beneficial.

    This post and others have made the point that cheap energy correlates with a higher standard of living. Clearly there’s a responsibility to implement that with a low environmental impact and perhaps the designer of the nuclear plant could have placed the outfall further away from shore or whatever would work better.

    What would you rather have there than the nuclear plant and the one to be built? Gas fired plants? Solar? Lower population? Subsistance farming? Self-sustaining communes? So far all you’ve done is criticize, do you have anything to promote?

  63. Dear Ric
    I made it clear that it is indeed the cooling that seemed to have caused the problem, which, in the case of nuclear reactions, might more easily go out of control (meaning much more cooling required)
    as you, yourself, seem to admit;
    basically you have not got a clue as to the problems of Chernobyl
    where the government is ASKING FOR MILLIONS to re-encapsulate
    \but nobody is reacting…
    it is another disaster that is waiting to happen,
    because you all seem to think it is not (so) serious…
    as I said before…
    get out of here….

    [Sorry, this is my post, not yours. Go be rude on some other blog. Your welcome on this thread is over. -Ric]

  64. We discuss Israel bombing Iran “civil” nuclear plants as we suspect WDM – again. However we are not talking about Iranian revenge – eg a possible tit for tat attack on Israeli nuclear sites like Dimona which unlike Iranian facilities is not underground and in zone full of jihadists willing to die for the cause unlike Iran.

    The problem with nuclear is it comes with baggage; spooks, verification, spy satellites, anti-air missiles, and the occasional air raid. Gas does not.

  65. mikerossander @ October 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    You are correct that the gas in a natural gas storage field becomes co-mingled over time. However, the key issue here is the nature of natural gas storage operations. When a storage field is commissioned, a volume of natural gas is added to the field to increase its minimum working pressure. This volume of gas is referred to as “cushion gas”; and, that volume of gas is not removed from the storage field as long as the field remains in service. Additional gas, referred to as “working gas”, is then stored in the field during periods of low demand, for delivery from the field during periods of peak demand. Therefore, in the case of working natural gas storage fields, the volume of gas which is “first in” is “never out”, even though the molecules co-mingle over time.

  66. One story that is getting a fair amount of attention and misleading spin is about heating costs going up this winter by 10% (gas) and 15% (oil), e.g. http://bostonglobe.com/business/2012/10/10/winter-heating-bills-higher-this-year/9uvzmsao2xoso81A7iDuHP/story.html and http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2012/1010/Staying-warm-could-be-a-bit-pricey-this-winter.-Is-anyone-to-blame

    The radio stories I heard start out implying fuel costs are going up, but then note that last winter was warm and that’s the main effect, at least for gas users.

    If the weather forecasts of a colder, snowier winter come true, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says homeowners who use heating oil – mainly people living in the Northeast – will end up paying $2,494 on average to heat their homes compared with $2,087 last year, up 19 percent. This winter’s expenditures would be a record.

    Natural gas users, the largest proportion of homeowners, will pay about the same price as last year but will need to use more energy to keep the house warm. As a result they will spend $697 compared with $608 last year.

    Who is to blame? The oil companies? The Obama administration?

    “The main reason is the weather, we have very small changes in price,” says Tancred Lidderdale, an energy analyst at EIA in Washington. “Last winter we had record-setting warmth and this winter will return to normal, which means higher consumption.”

    However, some other analysts say there is more than just the weather to blame.

    Gee, I had been hoping CSM would be a good replacement for most of the MSM. I’m not so sure now….

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