Now THAT’S a commencement speech

This speech at the 22nd Annual UVU Symposium on Environmental Ethics, held April 1st and 2nd at Utah Valley University is one of the most sensible and pragmatic ones I have ever read. It would have made a better commencement speech in my view. Some in the crowd must have been ready to bust. But let us hope some of the soon-to-be graduates took away something from this other than a desire to pummel the speaker because it went against what they “know”. This is well worth the  read. – Anthony

The original PDF is here (h/t to Kate at SDA)

https://i0.wp.com/www.businessweek.com/bw50/2007/image/STR.jpgEnergy Myths and Realities
Keith O. Rattie
Chairman, President and CEO
Questar Corporation
Utah Valley University
April 2, 2009

Good morning, everyone. I‟m honored to join you today.

I see a lot of faculty in the audience, but I‟m going to address my remarks today primarily to you students of this fine school.

Thirty-three years ago I was where you are today, about to graduate (with a degree in electrical engineering), trying to decide what to do with my career. I chose to go to work for an energy company – Chevron – on what turned out to be a false premise: I believed that by the time I reached the age I am today that America and the world would no longer be running on fossil fuels. Chevron was pouring money into alternatives – and they had lots of money and the incentive to find alternatives – and I wanted to be part of the transition.

Fast forward 33 years. Today, you students are being told that before you reach my age America and the world must stop using fossil fuels.
I‟m going to try to do something that seems impossible these days – and that‟s have an honest conversation about energy policy, global warming and what proposed „cap and trade‟ regulation means for you, the generation that will have to live with the consequences of the policy choices we make. My goal is to inform you with easily verifiable facts – not hype and propaganda – and to appeal to your common sense. But first a few words about Questar.

Questar Corp. is the largest public company headquartered in Utah, one of only two Utah-based companies in the S&P 500. Most of you know Questar Corp. as the parent of Questar Gas, the utility that sends you your natural gas bill every month. But outside of Utah and to investors we‟re known as one of America‟s fastest-growing natural gas producers. We also own a natural gas pipeline company. We have terrific people running each of our five major business units, and I‟m proud of what they‟ve done to transform this 85-year old company. We‟re the only Utah-based company ever to make the Business Week magazine annual ranking of the 50 top-performing companies in the S&P 500 – we were #5 in both 2007 and 2008, and we‟re #18 in the top 50 in Business Week’s 2009 ranking, just out this week.

At Questar our mission is simple: we find, produce and deliver clean energy that makes modern life possible. We focus on natural gas, and that puts us in the “sweet spot” of America‟s energy future and the global-warming debate. Natural gas currently provides about one-fourth of America‟s energy needs. But when you do the math, the inescapable conclusion is that greater use of natural gas will be a consequence of any policy aimed at cutting human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). You cut CO2 emissions by up to 50% when you use natural gas instead of coal to generate electricity. You cut CO2 emissions by 30% and NOx emissions by 90% when you use natural gas instead of gasoline in a car or truck – and here in Utah you save a lot of money. You can run a car on compressed natural gas at a cost of about 80 cents per gallon equivalent. You also cut CO2 emissions by 30-50% when you use natural gas instead of fuel oil or electricity to heat your home.

But you didn‟t come here for a commercial about Questar and I didn‟t come here to give you one. Let‟s talk about energy.

There may be no greater challenge facing mankind today – and your generation in particular – than figuring out how we‟re going to meet the energy needs of a planet that may have 9 billion people living on it by the middle of this century. The magnitude of that challenge becomes even more daunting when you consider that of the 6.5 billion people on the planet today, nearly two billion people don‟t even have electricity – never flipped a light switch.

Now, the “consensus” back in the mid-1970s was that America and the world were running out of oil. Ironically, some in the media were also claiming a scientific consensus that the planet was cooling, fossil fuels could be to blame, and we were all going to freeze to death unless we kicked our fossil-fuel habit. We were told we needed to find alternatives to oil – fast. That task, we were told, was too important to leave to markets, so government needed to intervene with massive taxpayer subsidies for otherwise uneconomic forms of energy. That thinking led to the now infamous 1977 National Energy Plan, an experiment with central planning that failed miserably. Fast-forward to today, and: déjà vu. This time the fear is not so much that we‟re running out of oil, but that we‟re running out of time – the earth is getting hotter, humans are to blame, and we‟re all doomed if we don‟t stop using fossil fuels – fast. Once again we‟re being told that the job is too important to be left to markets.

Well, the doomsters of the 1970s turned out to be remarkably wrong. My bet is that today‟s doomsters will be proven wrong. Over the past 39 years mankind has consumed nearly twice the world‟s known oil reserves in 1970 – and today proven oil reserves are nearly double what they were before we started. The story with natural gas is even better – here and around the world enormous amounts of natural gas have been found. More will be found. And guess what? The 30-year cooling trend that led to the global cooling scare in the mid-70s abruptly ended in the late 70s, replaced by a 20-year warming trend that peaked in 1998.
The lesson that we should‟ve learned from the 1970s is that when it comes to deciding how much energy gets used, what types of energy get used, and where, how and by whom energy gets used –that job is too important not to be left to markets.

Now, I‟d love to stand here and debate the science of global warming. The media of course long ago declared that debate over – global warming is a planetary emergency, we‟ve got to change the way we live now. I‟ve followed this debate closely for over 15 years. I read everything I get my hands on. I‟m an engineer, so I tend to be skeptical when journalists hyperventilate about science – “World coming to an end – details at 11”. My research convinces me that claims of a scientific consensus about global warming mislead the public and policy makers – and may reflect another agenda.

Yes, planet earth does appear to be warming – but by a not so unusual and not so alarming one degree over the past 100 years. Indeed, global average temperatures have increased by about one degree per century since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age 250 years ago. And, yes CO2 levels in the upper atmosphere have increased over the past 250 years from about 280 parts per million to about 380 parts per million today – that‟s .00038. What that number tells you is that CO2 – the gas we all exhale, the gas in a Diet Coke, the gas that plants need to grow – is a trace gas, comprising just four out of every 10,000 molecules in the atmosphere. But it‟s an important trace gas – without CO2 in the atmosphere, there would be no life on earth. And yes, most scientists believe that humans have caused much of that increase.

But that‟s where the alleged consensus ends. Contrary to the righteous certitude we get from some, no one knows how much warming will occur in the future, nor how much of any warming that does occur will be due to man, and how much to nature. No one knows how warming will affect the planet, or how easily people, plants and animals will adapt to any warming that does occur. When someone tells you they do know, I suggest Mark Twain‟s advice: respect those who seek the truth, be wary of those who claim to have found it.

My perspective on global warming changed when I began to understand the limitations of the computer models that scientists have built to predict future warming. If the only variable driving the earth‟s climate were manmade CO2 then there‟d be no debate – global average temperatures would increase by a harmless one degree over the next 100 years. But the earth‟s climate is what engineers call a “non-linear, dynamic system”. The models have dozens of inputs. Many are little more than the opinion of the scientist – in some cases, just a guess. The sun, for example, is by far the biggest driver of the earth‟s climate. But the intensity of solar radiation from the sun varies over time in ways that can‟t be accurately modeled.

Another example, water vapor is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. [The media now calls CO2 a “pollutant”. If CO2 is a “pollutant” then water vapor is also a “pollutant” – that‟s absurd, but I digress]. Some scientists believe clouds amplify human CO2 forcing, others believe precipitation acts as the earth‟s thermostat. But scientists do not agree on how to model clouds, precipitation, and evaporation, thus there‟s no consensus on this fundamental issue.

But the reality for American consumers is that whether you buy that the science is settled or not, the political science is settled. With the media cheering them on, Congress has promised to “do something”. CO2 regulation is coming, whether it will do any good or not. Indeed, President Obama‟s hope of shrinking the now the massive federal budget deficit depends on vast new revenues from a tax on carbon energy – so called “cap and trade”. Harry Reid has promised cap and trade legislation by August.

Under cap-and-trade, the government would try to create a market for CO2 by selling credits to companies that emit CO2. They would set a cap for the maximum amount of CO2 emissions. Over time, the cap would ratchet down. In theory, this will force companies to invest in lower-carbon technologies, thus reducing emissions to avoid the cost of buying credits from other companies that have already met their emissions goals. The costs of the credits would be passed on to consumers. Because virtually everything we do and consume in modern life has a carbon footprint the cost of just about everything will go up. This in theory will cause each of us to choose products that have a lower carbon footprint. Any way you slice it, cap and trade is a tax on the way we live our lives – one designed to produce a windfall for government.

The long term goal with cap and trade is „80 by 50‟– an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Let‟s do the easy math on what „80 by 50‟ means to you, using Utah as an example. Utah‟s carbon footprint today is about 66 MM tons of CO2 per year. Utah‟s population today is 2.6 MM. You divide those two numbers, and the average Utahan today has a carbon footprint of about 25 tons of CO2 per year. An 80% reduction in Utah‟s carbon footprint by 2050 implies a reduction from 66 MM tons today to about 13 MM tons per year by 2050. But Utah‟s population is growing at over 2% per year, so by 2050 there will be about 6 MM people living in this state. 13 MM tons divided by 6 MM people = 2.2 tons per person per year. Under „80 by 50‟ by the time you folks reach my age you‟ll have to live your lives with an annual carbon allowance of no more than 2.2 tons of CO2 per year.

Question: when was the last time Utah‟s carbon footprint was as low as 2.2 tons per person per year? Answer: probably not since Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley (1847).

You reach a similar conclusion when you do the math on „80 by 50‟ for the entire U.S. „80 by 50‟ would require a reduction in America‟s CO2 emissions from about 20 tons per person per year today, to about 2 tons per person per year in 2050. When was the last time America‟s carbon footprint was as low as 2 tons per person per year? Probably not since the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

In short, ‘80 by 50’ means that by the time you folks reach my age, you won’t be allowed to use anything made with – or made possible by – fossil fuels.

So I want to focus you on this critical question: “How on God‟s green earth – pun intended – are you going to do what my generation said we‟d do but didn‟t – and that‟s wean yourselves from fossil fuels in just four decades?” That‟s a question that each of you, and indeed, all Americans need to ask now – because when it comes to “how” there clearly is no consensus. Simply put, with today‟s energy technologies, we can‟t get there from here.

The hallmark of this dilemma is our inability to reconcile our prosperity and our way of life with our environmental ideals. We like our cars. We like our freedom to “move about the country” – drive to work, fly to conferences, visit distant friends and family. We aspire to own the biggest house we can afford. We like to keep our homes and offices warm in the winter, cool in the summer. We like devices that use electricity – computers, flat screen TVs, cell phones, the Internet, and many other conveniences of modern life that come with a power cord. We like food that‟s low cost, high quality, and free of bugs – which means farmers must use fertilizers and pesticides made from fossil fuels. We like things made of plastic and clothes made with synthetic fibers – and all of these things depend on abundant, affordable, growing supplies of energy.

And guess what? We share this planet with 6.2 billion other people who all want the same things.

America‟s energy use has been growing at 1-2% per year, driven by population growth and prosperity. But while our way of life depends on ever-increasing amounts of energy, we‟re downright schizophrenic when it comes to the things that energy companies must do to deliver the energy that makes modern life possible.

We want energy security – we don‟t like being dependent on foreign oil. But we also don‟t like drilling in the U.S. Millions of acres of prospective onshore public lands here in the Rockies plus the entire east and west coast of the U.S. are off-limits to drilling for a variety of reasons. We hate paying $2 per gallon for gasoline – but not as much as we hate the refineries that turn unusable crude oil into gasoline. We haven‟t allowed anyone to build a new refinery in the U.S. in over 30 years. We expect the lights to come on when we flip the switch, but we don‟t like coal, the source of 40% of our electricity – it‟s dirty and mining scars the earth. We also don‟t like nuclear power, the source of nearly 20% of our electricity – it‟s clean, France likes it, but we‟re afraid of it. Hydropower is clean and renewable. But it too has been blacklisted – dams hurt fish.

We don‟t want pollution of any kind, in any amount, but we also don‟t want to be asked: “how much are we willing to pay for environmental perfection?” When it comes to global warming, Time magazine tells us to “be worried, be very worried” – and we say we are – but we don‟t act that way.

Let me suggest that our conversation about how to reduce CO2 emissions must begin with a few “inconvenient” realities.

Reality 1: Worldwide demand for energy will grow by 30-50% over the next two decades – and more than double by the time you‟re my age. Simply put, America and the rest of the world will need all the energy that markets can deliver.

Reality 2: There are no near-term alternatives to oil, natural gas, and coal. Like it or not, the world runs on fossil fuels, and it will for decades to come. The U.S. government‟s own forecast shows that fossil fuels will supply about 85% of world energy demand in 2030 – roughly the same as today. Yes, someday the world may run on alternatives. But that day is still a long way off. It‟s not about will. It‟s not about who‟s in the White House. It‟s about thermodynamics and economics.
Now, I was told back in the 1970s what you‟re being told today: that wind and solar power are „alternatives‟ to fossil fuels. A more honest description would be „supplements‟. Taken together, wind and solar power today account for just one-sixth of 1% of America‟s annual energy usage. Let me repeat that statistic – one-sixth of 1%.

Here‟s a pie chart showing total U.S. primary energy demand today. I “asked” PowerPoint to show a wedge for the portion of the U.S. energy pie that comes from wind and solar. But PowerPoint won‟t make a wedge for wind and solar – just a thin line.

Over the past 30 years our government has pumped roughly $20 billion in subsidies into wind and solar power, and all we‟ve got to show for it is this thin line!

Undaunted by this, President Obama proposes to double wind and solar power consumption in this country by the end of his first term. Great – that means the line on this pie chart would become a slightly thicker line in four years. I would point out that wind and solar power doubled in just the last three years of the Bush administration. Granted, W. started from a smaller baseline, so doubling again over the next four years will be a taller order. But if President Obama‟s goal is achieved, wind and solar together will grow from one-sixth of 1% to one-third of 1% of total primary energy use – and that assumes U.S. energy consumption remains flat, which of course it will not.

The problems with wind and solar power become apparent when you look at their footprint. To generate electricity comparable to a 1,000 MW gas-fired power plant you‟d have to build a wind farm with at least 500 very tall windmills occupying more than 30,000 acres of land. Then there‟s solar power. I‟m holding a Denver Post article that tells the story of an 8.2 MW solar-power plant built on 82 acres in Colorado. The Post proudly hails it “America‟s most productive utility-scale solar electricity plant”. But when you account for the fact that the sun doesn‟t always shine, you‟d need over 250 of these plants, on over 20,000 acres to replace just one 1,000 MW gas-fired power plant that can be built on less than 40 acres.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently celebrated the startup of a 14 MW geothermal plant near Beaver, Utah. That‟s wonderful! But the Tribune failed to put 14 MW into perspective. Utah has over 7,000 MW of installed generating capacity, primarily coal. America has about 1,000,000 MW of installed capacity. Because U.S. demand for electricity has been growing at 1-2 % per year, on average we‟ve been adding 10-20,000 MW of new capacity every year to keep pace with growth. Around the world coal demand is booming – 200,000 MW of new coal capacity is under construction, over 30,000 MW in China alone. In fact, there are 30 coal plants under construction in the U.S. today that when complete will burn about 70 million tons of coal per year.

Why has my generation failed to develop wind and solar? Because our energy choices are ruthlessly ruled, not by political judgments, but by the immutable laws of thermodynamics. In engineer-speak, turning diffused sources of energy such as photons in sunlight or the kinetic energy in wind requires massive investment to concentrate that energy into a form that‟s usable on any meaningful scale.
What‟s more, the wind doesn‟t always blow and the sun doesn‟t always shine. Unless or until there‟s a major breakthrough in high-density electricity storage – a problem that has confounded scientists for more than 100 years – wind and solar can never be relied upon to provide base load power.

But it‟s not just thermodynamics. It‟s economics. Over the past 150 years America has invested trillions of dollars in our existing energy systems – power plants, the grid, steam and gas turbines, railroads, pipelines, distribution, refineries, service stations, home heating, boilers, cars, trucks and planes, etc. Changing that infrastructure to a system based on renewable energy will take decades and massive new investment.

To be clear, we need all the wind and solar power the markets can deliver at prices we can afford. But please, let‟s get real – wind and solar are not “alternatives” to fossil fuels.


Reality 3:
You can argue about whether global warming is a serious problem or not, but there‟s no argument about the consequences of cap and trade regulation – it‟s going to drive the cost of energy painfully higher. That‟s the whole point of cap and trade – to drive up the cost of fossil energy so that otherwise uneconomic “alternatives” can compete. Some put the total cost of cap and trade to U.S. consumers at $2 trillion over the next decade and $6 trillion between now and 2050 – not to mention the net loss of jobs in energy-intensive industries that must compete in global markets.

Given this staggering cost, I hope you‟ll ask: will cap and trade work? If Europe‟s experience with cap and trade is an indication, the answer is “no”.
With much fanfare, the European Union (EU) adopted a cap and trade scheme in an effort to meet their Kyoto commitments to cut CO2 emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012. How are they doing? So far, all but one EU country is getting an “F”. Since 2000 Europe‟s CO2 emissions per unit of GDP have grown faster than the U.S.! The U.S. of course did not implement Kyoto – nor did over 150 other countries. There‟s a good reason why most of the world rejected Kyoto: with today‟s energy technologies there‟s no way to sever the link between CO2 emissions and modern life. Europe‟s cap and trade scheme was designed to fail – and it‟s working as designed.

Let‟s do the math to explain why Kyoto would have failed in the U.S. and why Obama‟s cap and trade scheme is also likely to fail. Americans were responsible for about 5 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions in 1990. By 2005 that amount had risen to over 5.8 billion tons. If the U.S. Senate had ratified the Kyoto treaty back in the 1990s America would‟ve promised to cut manmade CO2 emissions in this country to 7% below that 1990 level – to about 4.6 billion tons, a 1.2 billion ton per year cut by 2012.

What would it take to cut U.S. CO2 emissions by 1.2 billion tons per year by 2012? A lot more sacrifice than riding a Schwinn to work or school, or changing light bulbs.

We could‟ve banned gasoline. In 2005 gasoline use in America caused about 1.1B tons of CO2. That would almost get us there. Or, we could shut down over half of the coal-fired power plants in this country. Coal plants generated about 2 B tons of CO2 in 2005. Of course, before we did that we‟d have to get over 60 million Americans and a bunch of American businesses to volunteer to go without electricity.

This simple math is not friendly to those who demand that government mandate sharp cuts in manmade CO2 emissions – now.

Reality 4: Even if America does cut CO2 emissions, those same computer models that predict man-made warming over the next century also predict that Kyoto-type CO2 cuts would have no discernible impact on global temperatures for decades, if ever. When was the last time you read that in the paper? We‟ve been told that Kyoto was “just a first step.” Your generation may want to ask: “what‟s the second step?”

That begs another question: “how much are Americans willing to pay for „a first step‟ that has no discernible effect on global climate?” The answer here in Utah is: not much, according to a poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates published in the Deseret News. 63% of those surveyed said they worry about global warming. But when asked how much they‟d be willing to see their electricity bills go up to help cut CO2 emissions, only half were willing to pay more for electricity. Only 18% were willing to see their power bill go up by 10% or more. Only 3% were willing to see their power bill go up by 20%.

Here‟s the rub: many Europeans today pay up to 20% more for electricity as a result of their failed efforts to sever the link between modern life and CO2 emissions.

So, if Americans aren‟t willing to pay a lot more for their energy, how do we reduce CO2 emissions? Well, here are several things we should do.
First, we should improve energy efficiency. Second, we should stop wasting energy. Third, we should conserve energy. Fourth, we should rethink our overblown fear of nuclear power. Fifth, if we let markets work, markets on their own will continue to substitute low-carbon natural gas for coal and oil.
Indeed, 2008 will be remembered in the energy industry as the year U.S. natural gas producers changed the game for domestic energy policy. Smart people in my industry have „cracked the code‟ – they‟ve figured out how to produce stunning amounts of natural gas from shale formations right here in the U.S. As a result, we now know that America and the world are “swimming” in natural gas.

U.S. onshore natural gas production has grown rapidly over the past three years – a feat that most energy experts thought impossible a few years ago. America‟s known natural gas resource base now exceeds 100 years of supply at current U.S. consumption – and that number is growing. Abundant supply means that natural gas prices over the next decade and beyond will likely be much lower than over the past five years. While prices may spike from time to time in response to sudden, unexpected changes in supply or demand – for example, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico or extreme cold or hot weather – these spikes will be temporary.

Indeed, the price of natural gas today is less than $24 per barrel equivalent – a bargain, even without taking into account lower CO2 emissions.
Greater use of natural gas produced in America – by American companies who hire American workers and pay American taxes – will help reduce oil imports. Unlike oil, 98% of America‟s natural gas supply comes from North America.
And get this: we don‟t need massive investment in new power plants to use more natural gas for electric generation. I mentioned earlier that America has about one million MW of installed electric generation capacity. Forty percent of that capacity runs on natural gas – about 400,000 MW, compared to just 312,000 MW of coal capacity.

But unlike those coal plants, which run at an average load factor of about 75%, America‟s existing natural gas-fired power plants operate with an average load factor of less than 25%. Turns out that the market has found a way to cut CO2 emissions without driving the price of electricity through the roof – natural gas‟s share of the electricity market is growing, and it will continue to grow – with or without cap and trade.
Sixth, your generation needs to focus on new technology and not just assume it, as many in my generation did back in the 70s – and as many in Congress continue to do today. Just one example: there‟s no such thing as “clean” coal, though I should quickly add that given America and the world‟s dependence on coal for electric generation, we do need to fund R&D aimed at capturing and storing CO2 from coal plants.

To be sure, CO2 capture and sequestration (underground storage) will be hugely expensive and it‟ll take decades to implement on any meaningful scale. The high costs will be passed through in electricity rates to consumers. To transport massive amounts of CO2 captured at coal plants we‟ll have to build a massive pipeline grid that some estimate could be comparable to our existing natural gas pipeline grid. Then we‟ll have to drill thousands of wells to store CO2 in the ground. The facilities required to inject CO2 into the earth will use huge amounts of energy – which ironically will come from fossil fuels, negating some of the carbon-reduction benefits. And where are we going to put all this CO2? Questar owns and operates underground natural gas storage facilities. Gas storage is in high demand – we‟re always looking for suitable underground formations. But I can tell you that there aren‟t many.

Seventh (for anyone who‟s still counting!) it‟s time to have an honest conversation about alternative responses to global warming than what will likely be a futile attempt to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. What about adapting to warming? In truth, while many scientists believe man‟s use of fossil fuels is at least partly responsible for global warming, many also believe the amount of warming will be modest and the planet will easily adapt. Just about everyone agrees that a modest amount of warming won‟t harm the planet. In fact, highly respected scientists such as Harvard astrophysicist Willie Soon believe that added CO2 in the atmosphere may actually benefit mankind because more CO2 helps plants grow. When was the last time you read that in the paper?

You‟ve no doubt heard the argument that even if global warming turns out not to be as bad as some are saying, we should still cut CO2 emissions – as an insurance policy – the so-called precautionary principle. While appealing in its simplicity, there are three major problems with the precautionary principle.
First, none of us live our lives according to the precautionary principle. Let me give you an example. Around the world about 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents – about 3,200 deaths a day. At that pace, 120 million people will die this century in a car wreck somewhere in the world. We could save 120 million lives by imposing a 5 MPH speed limit worldwide. Show of hands: how many would be willing to live with a 5 MPH speed limit to save 120 million lives? Most of us won‟t – we accept trade-offs. We implicitly do a cost-benefit analysis and conclude that we‟re not going to do without our cars, even if doing so would save 120 million lives. So before we start down this expensive and likely futile cap and trade path, don‟t you think we should insist on an honest analysis of alternative responses to global warming?

Second, the media dwells on the potential harm from global warming, but ignores the fact that the costs borne to address it will also do harm. We have a finite amount of wealth in the world. We have a long list of problems – hunger, poverty, malaria, nuclear proliferation, HIV, just to name a few. Your generation should ask: how can we do the most good with our limited wealth? The opportunity cost of diverting a large part of current wealth to solve a potential problem 50-100 years from now means we do “less good” dealing with our current problems.
Third, economists will tell you that the consequence of a cap and trade tax on energy will be slower economic growth. Slower growth, compounded over decades, means that we leave future generations with less wealth to deal with the consequences of global warming, whatever they may be.

In truth, humans are remarkably adaptive. People live north of the Arctic Circle where temperatures are below zero most of the year. Roughly one-third of mankind today lives in tropical climates where temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees. In fact, you can take every one of the theoretical problems caused by global warming and identify lower-cost ways to deal with that problem than rationing energy use. For example, if arctic ice melts and causes the sea level to rise, a wealthier world will adapt over time by moving away from the beach or building retaining walls to protect beachfront property. Fine, you say. But how do we save the polar bear? I‟d first point out that polar bears have survived sometimes dramatic climate changes over thousands of years, most recently the so called “medieval warm period” (1000-1300 A.D.) in which large parts of the arctic glaciers disappeared and Greenland was truly “green”. Contrary to that heart-wrenching image on the cover of Time of an apparently doomed polar bear floating on a chunk of ice, polar bears can swim for miles. In addition, more polar bears die each year from gunshot wounds than from drowning. So instead of rationing carbon energy, maybe the first thing we should do to protect polar bears is to stop shooting them!

Let me close by returning to the lessons my generation learned from the 1970s energy crisis. We learned that energy choices favored by politicians but not confirmed by markets are destined to fail. If history has taught us anything it‟s that we should resist the temptation to ask politicians to substitute their judgments for that of the market, and let markets determine how much energy gets used, what types of energy get used, where, how and by whom energy gets used. In truth, no source of energy is perfect, thus only markets can weigh the pros and cons of each source. Government‟s role is to set reasonable standards for environmental performance, and make sure markets work.

I‟ve covered a lot of ground this morning. I hope I‟ve challenged your thinking about your energy future. Mostly, I hope you continue to enjoy freedom, prosperity – and abundant supplies of energy at prices you can afford! Thank you for your attention, and now I‟ll be glad to take rebuttal!

166 thoughts on “Now THAT’S a commencement speech

  1. What a speech! He’d be hung by his thumbs and set alight by biodeisel at the University of Oregon,but great to hear common sense..

  2. Awesome. Finally a rational viewpoint. Most people live the way Keith’s description, the fringe zealots included. This is the sort of level-headed discussion we will see more and more of in the months and years to come.

  3. This will be source bashed into the dirt by the AGWers. In the words of my father “this dog won’t hunt.”

    Amazing that something so accurrate and true will be relegated to praises on conservative and honest science sites ( with some minor critiques on some points) but never see the light of day more broadly except to be riduculed by the faithful.

    Sort of off-topic but the new Repower America Ad makes me crazy, first it accuses big oil of “belly aching” and polluting and fixing gas prices (like the endless hours of testimony in congress last year did not disprove that little gem of modern folklore in regards to price being controlled by oil companies) then once again equates wind energy to the end of oil.

    That connection is so far removed from reality that it makes me laugh every time ( ok I get the map, soon as we perfect electric cars, and soon as we perfect electrical storage, soon as we replace the grid, soon as we install 40 million turbines then we get to oil ) then tells me it is time to get real, all told by an elderly farmer type in a diner like that is supposed to convince the “old white farmer guys who cling to guns and religion” that the solution is not energy but sticking it to the oil guys.

    No shame, no credibility, no purpose, no clue…. time for The Alliance for Climate Protection to “Get Real”.

  4. This layman agrees: Conserve (include ALL sectors not just res.), efficiency, stop wasting energy and get better at alternatives.
    Just go grab Joe Resident off the street and ask them what they would like to see done. You’ll get 2 out of 4 above most of the time.
    Try it on a national level.
    The public isn’t stupid: They know what will work and that they are getting bamboozled once again.

  5. It is interesting that nuclear got such short shrift here.

    Combining the French reprocessing techniques and one of the ‘Travelling Wave Reactor’ techniques would seem to be a complementary set of solutions to the spent fuel.

  6. The truths spoken by Mr. Rattie must have felt like a dagger to the heart of the faculty. I hope that the graduates have not been so thoroughly brainwashed that they could still hear the ring of truth in those words.

  7. That was an amazing read! Thanks for posting it. I wonder if there is video of the speech available?

  8. I disagree on needing the wind power,it’s ugly,and not needed.It’s a sop to the environmentalists.At a time when the population is growing,the powers that be decide to use land for windmills.Solar is ok,but not when it takes up acres of desert or land,for little gain.The UN will fail on AGW hysteria because they set the bar too high.They are asking the impossible.I would have loved to see the rebuttal,there really couldn’t be a rebuttal,but some would have tried.

  9. God Bless America! Finally someone speaks the truth in all of this insanity… I can’t bear it any more. To cut our 2050 emissions levels by 83% of 2005 as the Waxman-Markey bill states would mean that we are going to cut our energy use by over 90% from where we are at now. Al Gore wants us to live like a caveman. Please someone tell me I am wrong. This can’t possibly be? Have we been invaded by ALIENS in a few short months?
    http://nofreewind.blogspot.com/2009/05/al-gore-wants-you-to-live-like-caveman.html

  10. I found this a while back. It is, I think, the Westminster of AGW (for those who have no clue what I’m talking about, I mean Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech “The Sinews of Peace” at Westminster College, Fulton Missouri-ignored and derided at the time but extremely influential and in the end dead on).

  11. A man of courage, nice to see. The engineer in me appreciates his research and brutal fact-based honesty. I am optimistic that we’ll be hearing more honesty in the coming years as the house of cards that is the AGW theory falls…

  12. Wow! I’ve been an active reader of WUWT for the past few years and this was one of the best reads yet! Great perspective and very thought provoking. Thanks for posting and bringing to our attention.

  13. very encouraging and appropriate speech . would he consider an independent campaign for the white house ?

    OT – has this site ever considered a public ” recycle bin” where we could deposit the continued emails from the site ( think it was repower america ? ) that allowed us ‘deniers’ the opportunity to counter the PR they were trying to push to the media ? I’m getting refuse also from sites such as WWF because I commented on one of their silly climate initiatives. Typically, I could use my email forward button and the email could come here and be allowed to pile up for composting and at the same time, others could look at the stuff. Oh, at the classic stuff that comes back from Murray and Cantwell – two senators that are “past the science” !

  14. Wow! How come we can’t elect this guy president? With the current batch of politicans running the show we are in for some very very difficult times.

  15. More and more people are becoming aware of the facts and it is becoming very difficult for the consensus-mongers to continue to dismiss them with petty insults. More scientists are becoming emboldened to speak their minds and more media outlets are giving them a platform to do so. Skepticism is returning to its rightful place, as a badge of honor.

    More good news from the other side of the pond:
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/environment/pouring-cold-water-on-global-warming-14299972.html

  16. A subtle but important change in the intellectual wind has happened in the last 2-3 years: when Climate Audit began, there would have been no-one, especially the head of a fossil fuel company, who would have dared make that speech. He or she would have been shouted down, called all sorts of vile names, falsely accused of partipation in an evil fossil fuel funded conspiracy, hounded from town by a mob. Probably that person would never have been invited in the first place, the University authorities would never have allowed it.

    I’m not saying that CA or WUWT caused the change, but slowly over time the tide has turned and the extraordinary propaganda campaign is in retreat. This is good news for democracy and science in general but bad news if you’ve chained your scientific career to the axle of the AGW hypothesis.

  17. That is the very best Commencement Address I’ve read, heard, or heard of. The WUWT URL linking to it is now enroute to nearly everyone in my address book.

    Keep up the great work Anthony.

  18. I have spent the last 13 years of my life doing research in solar energy. My experience tells me, much to my chagrin, that Keith Rattie’s comments are on the mark.

    I have great fear that government efforts to save us from CO2 will destroy the economy for generations to come.

    Best regards,
    Tom

  19. I began working for an oil and gas company in 1974, and every oil and gas man knows these fundamental truths that Mr. Rattie spoke so eloquently.

    I have only one issue to disagree on with him, and that is the role of nuclear power. It is far too expensive to build those plants, especially with abundant (and growing) natural gas that is very cheap and domestically available. He is not kidding about the world swimming in natural gas. Nuclear plants now cost around $9 billion per 1000 MW.

    He is also right on in his assessment of renewable energy storage. Some very bright guys have been working on this for decades, and nobody has a solution yet that is economic.

    see http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/energy-storage-key-to-renewables.html

    Finally, he is absolutely right about the high cost of CO2 sequestration. It takes a lot of energy to compress CO2 and shove it deep underground into a leak-proof cavern, plus there are not that many suitable caverns around.

    I hope every young person at that commencement paid attention, because they will not get that information from the media or their professors.

  20. In contrast, in the same month, Utahn’s get to see an ad of three western governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT), challenge Congress to cap America’s global warming pollution. (Paid by Environmental Defense Action Fund, sorry but the link is http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=17039)

    Every time I see Governor Huntsman say “Bring new jobs and exports”, I think how does adding costs (carbon tax) bring new jobs and exports? Perhaps Huntsman should read Keith O. Rattie’s address made in his own state!

  21. Excellent speech! Keith got right to the point.

    Regarding Keith’s calculation on the carbon print of an Utahan by 2050, he obtained an estimated amount of 2.2 tons per year per each Utahan. It’s interesting the resulting numeral when we reduce the annual production of CO2 from the breathing of each Utahan off from the planned carbon print by 2050:

    One adult human being exhales about 0.05 g of CO2 in each breath. He/she breathes, in average, 18 times per minute, which means one adult human being would exhale about 0.9 g of CO2 per minute, and about 475 Kg per year. That’s about one half ton of CO2!

    2.2 tons – 0.475 tons = 1.73 tons left for cooking, driving a car, etc.

    Ha-ha-ha…

  22. Energy Myths and Realities
    Keith O. Rattie

    RIGHT ON! “Applied science” is the science of things that work. you can’t lie about mother nature and get away with it.

    We need more real people, like Mr. Ratti telling collage people the truth about how the real world works. Maybe one of them actually listened and heard the message. I’ve been telling educated people the same thing for over 40 years and rarely do they understand. They keep telling me I don’t understand the wonderful things that are available if there were just enough extra incentive ( money ) to make it marketable. And I try to explain to them the laws of physics that make these things unlikely. Oh well, we must keep shouting, perhaps someone will hear.

  23. An excellent speech, surely. But I cannot agree with his statements about fear of nuclear energy being “overblown.” The fears are perfectly justified:

    Nuclear energy is NOT clean — nuclear power plants have short lifespans because the very shields intended to contain the radiation eventually become radioactive themselves. Then the facility must be shut down and cordoned off for a few decades.

    Worse, any container you place the residuals into eventually becomes radioactive as well and contaminates the environment in which it is placed. There simply is no way to deal with nuclear residuals… in the long term the harmful radiation enters the biosphere and adversely affect life.

    Nuclear energy is suicidal.

  24. A fine illustration of the difference in clarity of thought and intellectual capability between the commercial world and the political world.

    Methinks the wrong people have all the power in our societies.

  25. Roger Sowell (22:23:01) :

    I began working for an oil and gas company in 1974, and every oil and gas man knows these fundamental truths that Mr. Rattie spoke so eloquently.

    I have only one issue to disagree on with him, and that is the role of nuclear power. It is far too expensive to build those plants

    As another person working in the oil and gas industry from the seventies. I whole heartedly agree.

    Nuclear Power plants are bogged down with so much red tape and regulative conformity that over a third of that estimated cost is wasted before a sod is turned.

  26. Nominate this man for the Nobel Prize ! A clear simple scientific explanation of the myths we have been told . Can this guy please come to Australia to live & work?

  27. A most excellent read. That’s the kind of speech that everyone should hear or read – send it to Rush Limbaugh or maybe the Wall Street Journal should make it a front page piece: The Harsh Realities of Energy.

  28. I came across this on another site a couple of weeks ago and watched the video. I heartily agree with what Mr. Rattie says and put him on a par with the UK’s Daniel Hannan for blunt speaking and old fashioned common sense.

    What struck me was the fact he wasn’t heckled by members of his audience. The tide seems to be turning at long last. :D

  29. The smartest ones are not in politics, but in the business. Plus, do not forget that the world is actually cooling, making the cap-and-trade look even more stupid.

  30. I have some criticle comments in regard to this speech.

    Yesterday evening I have watched five short video’s covering a complete speech of Professor Ian Plimer.

    In his presentation, Plimer puts a bomb under the CO2 consensus stating that the pre industrial level of 280 ppm is entirely wrong for starters and should be much higher.

    The second remark he makes is that the change in the method of measuring CO2 during the sixties has put us in a position that we have a totally corrupt record that represents the equivalent of comparing hot potatoes with grasshoppers.

    The third remark is aimed at the CO2 producing sources which in his opinion are underestimated or not included by the IPCC.

    He mentions that the IPCC assessment only takes the low end emissions estimates of approx. 15 % of the world’s volcano’s (only visible) land based volcano’s into account and forgets the emissions of the remaining 85% of undersea volcano’s.

    He also mentions the biggest emitters of CO2 “bacteria”, not mentioned on the IPCC list.

    Both examples result in a (much) smaller percentage of human induced CO2 emissions in regard of the total budget.

    If an higher pre-industrial CO2 level would be used, the myth of AGW would cease to exist entirely.

    The reason I mention the comments of Plimer is to make clear that what Keith O. Rattie calls “consensus” in realty is not consensus.

    Another remark I would like to make is the apparent need for “carbon capture technologies”.

    Why would Mr. Rattie be in favor of carbon sequestration if he believes CO2 emissions are not a problem?

    This is because he is preaching for his own church promoting the use of natural gas.

    At this moment in time natural gas is in competition with coal.

    Sequestration of CO2 would double the use of coal in relation to the power output and triple the costs of coal generated electricity.

    Besides that, the oil industry at this moment in time makes use of natural gas to pressurize oil fields. The industry could replace natural gas by CO2 to do the same job. And that is a very attractive business.

    A third argument why he is in favor of CO2 sequestration? Think of big fat government funding for research projects and applications while at the same time “killing” a competitor.

    Mr. Rattie has made an interesting speech and I applaud his general opinion but he clearly follows the red threat of an agenda that is aimed at the elimination of coal as a primary energy source for electricity production.

    In this regard he levels President Obama.

    I think that natural gas has a big future world wide, but in order to keep a healthy market, coal should stay in order to keep the consumer prices low.

    We know what happens to market prices if the competition ceases to exist.

    One other remark about the automotive application of natural gas in practice.

    In Europe the use of natural gas for small cars, taxi’s etc. is a disaster.
    The problem is that the pressure is very high and it takes much longer to fuel a car compared to (for example) gasoline, diesel or Liquid Petrol Gas.

    The second problem is range.

    A full tank buys you between 125 and 150 miles and that is not much.

    For big trucks and buses it’s a different story because there is more place to install bigger tanks.

    End of comments

  31. Very good, great arguments, I can agree with most of them. However, there are some minor errors that we should be aware of. The alleged “consensus” about the upcoming cooling back in the 70s was rather opinion of a minority of the climatologists, despite the media hype. Melting of the arctic ice (except Greenland) will not influence the sea level either. Greenland was probably not much greener in the MWP than today – the name “Greenland” in fact served rather as and “advertisment” of Erik the Red to attract more people to settle in “green” land in 10th century. The big Greenland glacier was almost at the same place then. When arguing for reasonable policy regarding the (A)GW/(A)CC, we should avoid these mistakes that can be (and will be) used by the alarmists.

    The minor errors should not lessen the weight of the arguments regarding the energy policy that are very convincing. I hope that the audience was listening carefully.

  32. “….Thank you for your attention, and now I‟ll be glad to take rebuttal!”

    How about “La,La,La,La! (puts fingers in ears), You’re evil…”?

  33. Fantastic! After an awesome speech like this everyone in the audience must realize why things like ‘carbon pollution’, ‘carbon capture and sequestration’ or ‘cap-and-trade’ don’t make any sense.

  34. Everyone should read, “Global Warming: A closer look at the numbers.” by engineer Monte Hieb which is available at::

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhoue_data.html

    In a series of easy-to-follow calculations, he shows that the emission of all greenhouse gases by human acitivies contributes only about 0.28 % to the natural greenhouse effect for the year 2000. Carbon dioxide emission by humans contributes only 0.11 % to the natural greenhouse effect.

    If a copy of this paper was givien to every US congressman and senator, the IPCC would out of business in about a day.

  35. He had me nodding along until his diversion into CO2 sequestration. He points out that CO2 helps plants grow, but then says, “we do need to fund R&D aimed at capturing and storing CO2 from coal plants.” Eh?!

  36. What a tremendous speech. It would be interesting to track any responses from the usual suspects. Personally I can’t hang around their websites for more than a few nanoseconds, but the hardier of WUWT’s readers may be able to provide feedback.

    Meanwhile, in the “real” world, the AGW camp and followers seem to be ramping up the propoganda. Today’s BBC website is chock full, including this beauty: Climate ‘biggest health threat’ Note the slightly oblique reference to Hurricane Katrina, with the implicit connection to Global Warming. If you’re tough enough, have a look at the Hadow’s Heroes story; Ice Sheet Melt Threat Reassessed; Coral reefs disappearing etc etc. Looks like they are bringing out the big guns in the run up to Copenhagen, but maybe a little early, tactically. Perhaps the “global temperature” / icecap anomalies are getting them worried.

  37. I endorse pretty much everything that has been said above. What a man of courage & vision, I though those words were usually left for the adornment of politicians, but hey, go the engineers!

    One minor point, I can officially state that the world’s population has grown by 600,000,000 in ONE month! On the BBC’s daily light magazine programme The One Show, this week that darling of the environmental movement, Sir David Attenborough, during the brief interview, the interviewer asked about world population & the planet etc, now that the world’s populations was a staggering 6.8 billion, a 0.6 billion increase to the above quoted 6.2 billion from April to May! Would I be right in thinking this could be the start of the ratcheting up of a number first thought of in the greem room to make it all sound more scarey? Has the UN started to play with the numbers again? I see wikipedia has it pegged at 6.77 billion so that is most likely where the number came from. However, I am still haunted by being told as a teenager at school, that western european populations, as that of North Amercia would change very little of the coming years. Certainly the UK’s pop’n seems to have increased little over the last 30 years, which suggests a bucking of the forecast trend!

  38. Great speech!

    I should note however, that in addition to the several errors already mentioned, his statement that wealth is finite made my hair stand on end.

  39. Great speech, but it is not a commencement speech. It is from an energy symposium held on April 2.

  40. Too long to read this a.m., I’ll get to the rest of it later today. So far, excellent…

  41. To distil the energy debate into political action:

    Energy is Life.
    Cheap Energy is Prosperity

  42. (…) you‟ll have to live your lives with an annual carbon allowance of no more than 2.2 tons of CO2 per year.

    Which, if rigorously enforced in the absence of any viable alternative energy source, means you won’t be living your lives in any form at all especially in the colder States.

  43. Or … “they” could stop murdering and suppressing inventors who create zero point energy devices that could power the entire planet with 0 emissions.
    But “they” dont want that because “they” lose control.

  44. Fantastic speech. Logical, understandable, reasonable in tone. Can’t wait for the backlash!
    BTW — the link to Monte Hieb’s piece doesn’t work.
    O/T but relevant to timbrom’s posting:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/5324337/Australias-wine-growers-facing-ruin-unless-the-rains-come.html
    I really thought the message had got through to the Telegraph that this is yet another example of the enviro-nutters opposing development at all costs and then blaming everything on climate change. Sheesh!

  45. Alan the Brit. The 6.2 billion was non-Americans. 300 million Americans. Hence 6.5 billion total….fm

  46. I suppose his final comment “Thank you for your attention, and now I‟ll be glad to take rebuttal!” would be the key clue that it was for an energy symposium, not a commencement, but, yes, a great speech.
    As some have pointed out, it was marred only by his foray into CCS, which by his own reasoning would not only not be necessary but prohibitively expensive, to the detriment of coal, the biggest competitor to NG, which happens to be his field of work. If the future of NG is as bright as he seems to think (and I hope it is), then it does not need to make energy from coal more expensive.
    I give the speech an A-.

  47. Pro From Dover (03:13:38) :

    Great speech, but it is not a commencement speech. It is from an energy symposium held on April 2.

    Really? The speech appears to have been given to graduating students and the faculty of Utah Valley University.

  48. I posted a link to this speech several articles back. I agree with the comments here – a fantastic speech, brave at some level, but a lot of ground truths and great for someone with a backbone to stand up and tell a largely accurate story of the real world, our climate and our energy options going forward. A good dose of reality for those students.

  49. 1. This was not a commencement speech (details on commencement can be located here: http://resource.uvsc.edu/pressreleases/2009/05may09.html ); also, the last line (that and the the paragraph-long commercial for Questar) should’ve made it obvious that this was given in a different setting than a commencement.

    2. As much as I may agree with him, I really wouldn’t want to hear a speech like this at a celebration of my graduation from college. So I’m actually a bit relieved that it was not a commencement speech.

    That being said, there are some great lines in here:

    “The media now calls CO2 a “pollutant”. If CO2 is a “pollutant” then water vapor is also a “pollutant””

    “Over the past 30 years our government has pumped roughly $20 billion in subsidies into wind and solar power, and all we‟ve got to show for it is this thin line!”

  50. Awesome speech!

    While it’s clear the tide is turning against the AGW crowd, it may not happen in time to stop drastic government intervention [read pillaging]. We need more voices like Mr. Keith Rattie and Mr. Anthony Watts.

    MikeEE

  51. Ron de Haan (00:46:59)
    when I read his comments I to thought he was in favor of sequestering CO2 but if you continue in his statment he talks about how massivly expencive it would be and that there is no place to store it, it would seem he is a realist when it comes to this subject.

    Gilbert (02:54:52)
    maybe i read it differently than you but my take was that there is limited cash to work with at any given time truley he is an example of wealth creation himself.

  52. I can’t do math, for some reason, but (being -like Lief- a stubborn Scandinavian), I persist…

    He converts 380 ppm to 0.00038%. I see it as .038%. What am I doing wrong?

    1,000,000 ppm = 100.0000%

    so

    0,000,380 ppm = 000.0380%

    ???

  53. ‘Sequester’ into market greenhouses, the produce will reduce the power bills, and drying and storing the remaining biomass is ‘carbon capture’ for saner times.

  54. He fudged on the Sun statement. He says the Sun is the primary climate driver. True to that point. The Sun warms us. But the Sun is NOT the primary driver of VARIATION, which he seems to want to say it is with his comment about TSI. It was a strange comment about it not being well understood. What part?

    As for the rest of the speech, I tend to agree with him.

  55. I’ve recently reached much the same conclusions myself with some exceptions:
    1. Like others I’d say nuclear isn’t worth the hassle or cost except for the molten salt thorium reactors.
    2. You can gasify coal in situ just like shale oil and you then don’t need to capture CO2 expensively from the stack.
    3. Geothermal home heating/cooling has a very bright future, even if wind and solar don’t.

    So if you combine 50% extra efficiency of using natural gas and 50% reduction in electricity bills from geothermal heating/cooling I’d say that even if 80% by 2050 is not sensible, we could still make a big efficiency increase at low cost.

    And frankly a little extra cost for our fuel is sensible too because when it’s too cheap we buy gas-guzzlers or keep our air-conditioners on freeze all day. Idiotic energy wastage like that does need to be discouraged and a fair carbon tax would do that.

  56. JamesG (07:08:33)
    there are many taxes that started as attempts to create a fair tax, the problem is those taxes once established never go away and can be changed in the future to unfair taxes. NO carbon tax is good period.

  57. Carlos

    He didn’t express it as a percentage

    … 380 parts per million today – that’s .00038

    He’s expressing it as a fraction of the total atmosphere. As a percentage it is indeed 0.038%

  58. In Hieb’s article it mentions that water vapor was much lower during the ice ages. Has anyone ever seen any studies that tie ice ages to reduced atmospheric concentations of water vapor? Could it be the cause or is only an effect?

  59. Carlos (06:42:55) :

    I can’t do math, for some reason, but (being -like Lief- a stubborn Scandinavian), I persist…

    He converts 380 ppm to 0.00038%. I see it as .038%. What am I doing wrong?

    1,000,000 ppm = 100.0000%

    so

    0,000,380 ppm = 000.0380%

    Dear Carlos… Let’s examine what he said:

    have increased by about one degree per century since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age 250 years ago. And, yes CO2 levels in the upper atmosphere have increased over the past 250 years from about 280 parts per million to about 380 parts per million today – that’s .00038

    The figure he introduced is unitless. 0.038% divided by 100 gives an index of 0.038%/100 = 0.00038.

    Best,

    Nasif

  60. ATTN: JamesG

    Boats, planes, frieght trains and trucks, heavy machinery used in agriculture, construction, forestry, and mining, emergency vehicles, cars with spirit and muscle, recreational vehicles and so forth will always require and use hydrocarbon fuels because these fuels have high energy densities and are primarily prepared from readily-available crude oil, which exists free in Nature, by fractional distillation, a low energy process that does not involve the breaking of chemical bonds.

    In the heavy industries, only fossil fuels can provide the high process temperatures and enormous amount of heat enegy required by lime and cement kilns, smelters, steel mills and foundries, metal casting and fabrications plants, all plants manufacturing ceramics (glass, bricks, tiles
    pottery, china, crystal ware, etc) and so forth.

    I could go on at lenght with many more examples in the commercial and the residential sectors of the ecomony that will always require and use fossils like for space heating in the cold northern countries.

    I don’t want to hear any foolish and silly comments about replacing fossils fuels. It ain’t evergoing to happen and fossil fuels are forever!

  61. UVU commencement was held Friday 01-May-2009, with commencement speaker Thomas S. Monson.

    Rattie’s speech was at the 22nd Annual UVU Symposium on Environmental Ethics, held 01-02 April 2009 at Utah Valley University.

    Excellent speech. Great news about advances in natural gas.

    He should have mentioned that CO2 sequestration is not only expensive, but also poses a danger. CO2 leakage could be devastating for low-lying areas.

    I personally like the nuclear option. It creates ridiculously small amounts of waste per unit of energy produced. The use of fast breeders and fuel reprocessing would also give us a productive way to get rid of all our “spent” fuel rods – turn them into electricity! If the costs of the lawyers and overregulation were removed, you would find the nuclear option to be a very attractive option. Unfortunately, that won’t happen. Too many people have been brainwashed (see Greg’s comment at 23:24:05), and too many lawyers and politicians make too much money and accrue too much power by obstructing truth and progress.

    We need to send more engineers to Congress. Get rid of the lawyers.

    REPLY: Thanks Pops for finding that, I’ve updated the text to reflect the correct context. – Anthony

  62. I have an idea: let’s ditch Mr. Obama and put this guy in the White House.

  63. Greg, you have a severe misunderstanding of radiation.

    Radioactive decay does not and cannot make something radioactive.
    Alpha particles are helium nuclei.
    Beta particles are electrons.
    Gamma rays are merely high-energy light.
    Effectively, they whiz around, burn whatever they hit, and then stop. Unfortunately, that includes DNA, so it can cause lots of havoc with living things.

    What makes something radioactive is being bombarded with neutrons. Neutrons are only released by nuclear fission (ie: a bomb or active reactor). They fly around and attach themselves to the nucleus of any molecule they hit. A lot of the time, this forms an unstable nucleus, which then sends off A, B, and Y radiation until it manages to find a stable point.

    Only the innermost lining of a reactor becomes radioactive, even if the neutrons make it all the way through the water to the wall, they can’t penetrate into the lead walls. You could remove the radioactive portion with sandpaper (if that’s even necessary). Anything non-living thing that it comes into contact with after the reactor stops will be completely unaffected by the fact that the stuff is radioactive.

    Radiation isn’t the safest thing on the planet, but it isn’t something to panic over.

  64. Susan P: “How do you type a one person standing ovation?”

    Like this.
    O O O O O O
    | | |
    ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

    Re: the speech – Yay! Score one for truth, justice and the American way.

  65. This is pretty basic knowledge to people who understand the actual problems associated with supplying energy. (I’ve been in the energy industry about 15 years myself.)

    What is sad is the media’s basic failure to educate people on these (as Rattie points out) easily verifiable facts.

    People simply do not understand the scope and nature of our energy needs, and how much effort people are currently making to meet them. And how much more it would cost to meet them using less efficient means. And, after you’ve spent these trillions to adopt these less efficient forms of energy you’re just back to where you already were. You hit the light switch, and the light comes on.

  66. Rats! The ovation emoticons don’t work with HTML enabled. The less than and greater than siymbols don’t display. They were the clapping hands. Sigh…

    Sorry, everyone. ‘Twon’t happen again.

  67. I bet the faculty released some methane during this terrific speech!

    The Boy of John

  68. A great speech, but I noticed a couple of things that weren’t in the comments already that we have to keep in mind here with natural gas vs. coal power generation.

    Mr. Rattie says that about 40 percent of the electrical generation in the US is natural gas, compared to about 31 percent for coal. He also mentioned that that load factor was 75 percent for coal but only about 25 percent for natural gas. Both are true, but the reasons are due to different technology and use patterns.

    First, coal and natural gas power use different technologies. Coal uses a conventional closed Rankine cycle–a boiler turns water to steam, the steam drives a turbine, then gets condensed back into water for another trip through the boiler. The turbine is connected to a generator that produces electricity. (There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the basics.) This type of power plant is pretty efficient thermodynamically but takes a long time to start up and shut down–hours or days. That makes coal plants best for baseline power, so they run all the time–hence the high load factor. (Nuclear power works the same way, with the reactor “teakettle” replacing the boiler.)

    Natural gas power plants, on the other hand, tend to use gas turbines–essentially giant jet engines–connected to generators. Gas turbines can spin up and down quickly, so they can supply power quickly when it’s needed. These plants are “peaker” plants–they supply electricity at high-demand times, and they’re shut off the rest of the time (they don’t idle). That’s why their load factors are low, not from inherent efficiency. I don’t know for sure, but there are probably some continuous load natural gas plants, maybe even converted coal or oil boilers, although I would guess that a boiler for burning a solid or liquid fuel might not work as well with a gas. I’m a lot more familiar with the “peaker” plant use.

    Second, gas turbines are notorious fuel hogs–ask the airlines, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy (which uses them in all of their warships except aircraft carriers), Union Pacific Railroad (which tried gas turbine-electrics in the 1960s), and pretty much every other user. An internal combustion engine uses a lot less fuel in idle than at full power, but a gas turbine’s difference is a whole lot smaller–in some cases, effectively zero. If you’re trying to sell natural gas, you’ll sell more if it’s going to gas turbines. (That’s another reason gas turbines are used for peaker power–you only use fuel when you need the power, not all the time.) They’re also LOUD, and lots of clean air is necessary to make them work.

    In short, substituting natural gas for coal is not a “quick” conversion, and the typical plant design for natural gas is for a different purpose. This wouldn’t be cheap or quick.

    Also, while Mr. Rattie is claiming that using natural gas would immediately reduce CO2 emmisions, I’m not so sure. The fuel use could be higher, not lower, and CH4 burned in air produces NOx, SOx, and other stuff a whole lot worse than CO2. I’d need to see the numbers to know for sure–and I’m sure someone here will supply them in short order. I know airports are “polluters” of the first order when it comes to transportation–both air and noise pollution–and they use gas turbines heavily.

    Again, I thought it was a great speech in general.

  69. Good summary of the state of the artistry, if not the artistry of the state.

    Shame he must spend the rest of his days avoiding book depositories, grassy knolls and restaurant kitchens.

  70. KZimman, (09:19:55)

    Your description of gas peaker plants is not far off. But natural gas is the most efficient of all power plants these days, when used in CCGT plants (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine). These plants achieve around 57 percent thermal efficiency, and even higher when a portion of the steam is used for process purposes.

    CCGT has two gas turbines in parallel, with a HRSG (heat recovery steam generator) that produces steam from the gas turbine exhaust. That steam then turns a steam turbine to produce more electric power.

    California recently mandated that no new power plants can be built (or power imported into the state) unless the plant is as efficient as the CCGT described above.

    Therefore, your statement “Also, while Mr. Rattie is claiming that using natural gas would immediately reduce CO2 emmisions, I’m not so sure. The fuel use could be higher, not lower, and CH4 burned in air produces NOx, SOx, and other stuff a whole lot worse than CO2” results in much lower fuel use (57 percent efficient for natural gas, vs 42 percent at the best for a coal-fired plant).

  71. rational work and speech … but I don’t agree with the emphasis on natural gas for electricity production … natural gas is somehow storable and can be used for instance for transportation, where easy storage is a main problem … electricity atm is all but storable … the battery has hardly changed since Volta … nuclear power should be used to produce our electric energy needed … it can be cheap, and the reactor can be simply regulated to produce just the amount needed … natural gas and oil, since in finite supply, should not be stupidly burnt to produce electric energy …

  72. Steve Fitzpatrick (08:06:53) :
    “I have an idea: let’s ditch Mr. Obama and put this guy in the White House.”

    Apart from Obama’s gullible acceptance of global warming alarmism, the USA should be very grateful to have at last an intelligent and incorruptible intellectual in their White House. Your gratuitous comment invokes doubt as to your power of judgement and reeks of political bias. A Democratic president is not per se bad nor is a Republican per se good and vice versa.

  73. An excellent objective and rational presentation! I wish everyone would investigate the reality of what Mr. Rattie presents and seriously look into what is up the sleeves of those pushing cap and trade.

    I did diligence to read the full text version of the proposed Cap and Trade Bill (a.k.a. American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 or ACESA) and was stunned to discover what it is and isn’t.

    Full Text Version of the Bill discussion draft

    Bill Summary (the document senators and public read)

    There is a huge disparity between what the Bill Summary states and what the Bill actually contains. The summary hypes up job creation as a main benefit of the Bill. However, if you do a search for the word “Job” or “Jobs” in the Bill, the word is found only a half dozen times or so, always in reference to how to mitigate the loss of jobs caused by the Bill and retraining of the American workforce once dislocated from companies that can’t compete in the cap and trade scheme. Nowhere in the Bill is there any analysis of what jobs it proposes to create.

    The section of the Bill titled “Exporting Green Technology” isn’t about exporting technology at all. Its stated purpose is “to provide United States assistance” [pp 568, line 21] to developing countries and to fund the UN. Later the assistance is described as funds from an International Clean Energy Fund established by the Bill [pp 570, line 10] and paid for by “allocation” fees levied on U.S. industry. That’s not technology export; it’s a crafty way to give money taken from U.S. industry and citizens to foreign governments.

    Finally the Bill proposes to raise “trillions of dollars” of revenue [read taxes here]. Guess who gets to pay for that? You do. Carbon Cap and Trade = really bad idea for America.

  74. To Greg: Ben is correct, you have a severely limited understanding of “Radiation” and of how Nuclear (Fission) reactors operate.
    -First of all you are being bombarded by “Radiation” 24-7 no matter where you are. Heat is “radiation” (Infared), visible light is “radiation”, you are constantly being hit by random “radiation” from outerspace not to mention the Sun, your I-POD emits “radiation”, so does your TV, microwave, stereo, laptop, stove heating elements, etc… you need to get out of this radiation is bad mindset. (BTW, Plants GROW because of “radiation”)
    – Nuclear power plants have LONG lifespans, not short ones. The very first plants ever built can still run today if they hadn’t been shut down due to politics.
    – Quick FACT: If you add up all of the known deaths caused by the generation of Nuclear power how many is that? Answer: The two greatest Nuclear accidents: 3-mile Island and Chernobyl resulted in approximately 2032 deaths total. (That’s being generous) Now, compare that to say.. oh, the number of deaths caused by driving these new super small, super efficient cars (made out of plastic, I might add.) “A 2002 National Research Council study found that the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year through their restrictions on car size and weight.”
    2032 total vs 2000/yr. Hmmm. Interesting.

    To Anthony: Since this thread deals with energy production and -somewhat- on nuclear power… have you done any looking into Polywell fusion reactors like the one built by Dr Robert Bussard and the US Navy? Looks promising. Here’s a link:
    http://www.emc2fusion.org/
    Really interesting stuff.
    Doc

  75. Ben (08:23:38) I liked your explanation. But what about the water/ “even if the neutrons make it all the way through the water” does it get radioactive?

  76. Roger:

    Thanks. I forgot about the COGAS plants (combination gas and steam–there are a lot of different abbreviations out there) when I posted, and they are a lot more efficient because they effectively use the heat twice. They’re also easier to start up. The coal-fired plants use cogeneration and other advanced techniques, too, and it was my understanding that some of these plants could get into the 60s in thermal efficiency–but maybe not.

    The big problem is still substituting gas for coal, because of the difference in equipment and the necessary pipeline infrastructure. It’s not cheap, but it would probably be a better use of our public money that solar, wind, etc. (Although you may have trouble selling that to the railroads. They generate a lot of revenue moving coal–sort of their “continuous power” revenue stream–but they wouldn’t move much gas, if any.)

  77. Ron de Haan at (00:46:59) demonstrates a more objective look at the facts and improves Keith O. Rattie’s talk by pointing out Rattie’s bias in favor of the natural gas industry at the expense of coal and nuclear energy. That bias is natural and obvious so I don’t find it particularly offensive.

    Mr. Rattie is clearly against a political intervention in the market via cap-and-trade but sees it as a done deal. The Democratic party and more generally our government and media are committing the populace to dramatic economic and social changes at a time when belief in their basis is waning. This seems a particularly dangerous course. As much as I like to see fools proved wrong, I tremble at the possibility of a cooler climate, economic collapse, or both.

    Our government and media, lacking credibility, will not serve. Why are they so willing to gamble with our future?

  78. Good to have some energy realism with integrity. It would be good to see some more articles in this line. What about Lawrence Solomon for instance?

    It would be good if Keith Rattie could go to the June Heartland conference.

    Ohioholic thanks for the Joanne Rowling speech URL. Every time I get speechless with crazy AGW, her words are a great solace and usually pretty close to the mark – and in a safe environment, “fiction”.

  79. Great posting. Utah Valley is in my back yard and I had to come to you to get this. :)

    Carlos, the speaker was correct with the 380 ppm = .00038. 380/1,000,000=0.00038 Move the decimal 6 places to the left.

  80. Apart from Obama’s gullible acceptance of global warming alarmism, the USA should be very grateful to have at last an intelligent and incorruptible intellectual in their White House.

    Gullible does not equal intelligent in my book.

    A politician from Chicago incorruptible? As a former resident of that city I’d say the odds of finding an incorruptible politician there is very unlikely. They weed out the incorruptible as soon as they can. It makes the rest of them nervous.

  81. Everyone of his major points I have hammered home to the boards I frequent that discuss this issue and they just simply refuse to accept the reality of the situation. Its like they are living on another planet or something. Glad to see another engineer like me “gets it”.

  82. Great Speech. However, we should put much energy in looking for other energy source besites fossil fuel. Nucleair power is still the best alternative.

  83. Henry Galt (09:29:16) :

    “Shame he must spend the rest of his days avoiding book depositories, grassy knolls and restaurant kitchens.”

    Henry, your suggestion that Mr. Rattie is somehow endangered by this speech gives succor to the alarmists. While true there are heavy handed alarmists out there – it is doubtful they would be angered to murder by this bit of common sense.

    The breakup of the alarmist camp and the blowback contributing to it suggest that hardened alarmists consider the grisly ends met by regime “sympathizers” in the past.

  84. “”” Doc_Navy (10:01:59) :

    To Greg: Ben is correct, you have a severely limited understanding of “Radiation” and of how Nuclear (Fission) reactors operate.
    -First of all you are being bombarded by “Radiation” 24-7 no matter where you are. Heat is “radiation” (Infared), visible light is “radiation”, you are constantly being hit by random “radiation” from outerspace not to mention the Sun, your I-POD emits “radiation”, so does your TV, microwave, stereo, laptop, stove heating elements, etc… you need to get out of this radiation is bad mindset. (BTW, Plants GROW because of “radiation”)
    – Nuclear power plants have LONG lifespans, not short ones. The very first plants ever built can still run today if they hadn’t been shut down due to politics.
    – Quick FACT: If you add up all of the known deaths caused by the generation of Nuclear power how many is that? Answer: The two greatest Nuclear accidents: 3-mile Island and Chernobyl resulted in approximately 2032 deaths total. (That’s being generous) Now, compare that to say.. oh, the number of deaths caused by driving these new super small, super efficient cars (made out of plastic, I might add.) “A 2002 National Research Council study found that the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year through their restrictions on car size and weight.”
    2032 total vs 2000/yr. Hmmm. Interesting.

    To Anthony: Since this thread deals with energy production and -somewhat- on nuclear power… have you done any looking into Polywell fusion reactors like the one built by Dr Robert Bussard and the US Navy? Looks promising. Here’s a link:
    http://www.emc2fusion.org/
    Really interesting stuff.
    Doc “””

    Well Doc, I would quibble with some of your statements. “Heat” is a process (verb) not a product (noun), and it certainly isn’t radiation.

    My stove burns me; but not because of any radiation; but because the hot plate agitates the molecules in my skin when I touch it. What we call “heat” is the mechanical molecular vibration that comes from absorbing “radiation” that is electromagnetic in nature, and converting that radiant energy to mechanical energy.

    But I’m in agreement with your principal point that radiation as it relates to nuclear reactors is not as much a hazard as it is cracked up to be.

    I’m not sure that there is actually any documented case of a death resulting directly from the 3-mile island accident; though Chernobyl is a different story. With TMI, the :”deaths” happened on the same playstation screen that global warming occurs on.

    I believe any ordinary coal fired steam power station emits more radioactivity type radiation than a comparable sized nuclear plant.

  85. nofreewind (20:45:31) :

    “Al Gore wants us to live like a caveman. Please someone tell me I am wrong. This can’t possibly be? Have we been invaded by ALIENS in a few short months?”

    Shirley, you jest. Except February, each month is 30 or 31 days.

  86. @doc-navy, George E. Smith, and others pro-nuclear:

    Nuclear power is not safe. It is not affordable. It is not reliable. It is not the answer to increasing energy demands.

    See http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/nuclear-nuts.html

    The nuclear industry spokesmen have misled the public for decades. Recently, GE stated their Mod III reactor plants would only cost $1 billion for a 1000 MW plant. False. They cost $8 to $10 billion. This is well-documented.

    They state that power from a nuclear plant is the cheapest of all sources. False. That statement includes the cost only from variable costs such as fuel. Yet on the same basis, hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, and wave power are much cheaper. Nothing is cheaper than free. On a fully-costed basis, including capital charges, nuclear power must be sold for 30 to 40 cents per kwh. That does not look very cheap next to power from natural gas at 10 to 12 cents per kwh.

    They state that France produces 80 percent of their power from nuclear, and sell it for 5 cents per kwh. True, but very misleading, as France subsidizes their nuclear power industry. France also must sell huge amounts of power to neighboring countries each night as their reactors “react” badly to sudden changes in power production.

    No natural gas power plant’s waste materials ever were used to make a bomb. CO2, NOx, and H2O just do not make bombs. If nuclear power plants were so benign, why do so many countries have so much angst and heartburn over certain other countries building and running nuclear power plants (Iran, North Korea).

    I could go on and on. Nuclear power is not the way to go. Our generation knows better. Our generation can do better. Future generations will not thank us for creating a legacy of toxic radioactive wastes for them to deal with.

  87. “more polar bears die each year from gunshot wounds than from drowning”

    Quote of the week! (year, even)

    Maybe I’m being naive, but didn’t fossil fuels get their carbon originally from the atmosphere, and if so, doesn’t that make them carbon neutral? A long time scale, I admit, but the same mechanism as in planting trees to ‘offset’ carbon…

  88. Ron de Haan

    In Europe the use of natural gas for small cars, taxi’s etc. is a disaster.
    The problem is that the pressure is very high and it takes much longer to fuel a car compared to (for example) gasoline, diesel or Liquid Petrol Gas.

    The second problem is range.

    A full tank buys you between 125 and 150 miles and that is not much.

    For big trucks and buses it’s a different story because there is more place to install bigger tanks.

    I ran a Volvo estate on LPG and found it to be a clean and economical way to travel. Fueling didn’t take very long, and a 40 litre toroidal tank replacing the spare wheel in the back would get me 200 miles from home to Edinburgh. I never once ran out and could have replaced the petrol tank with a larger lpg tank for more range.

    Oil changes were less frequent becaise the fuel was much cleaner and less particulates ended up in the engine oil. I raised the compression ratio and could start on LPG no problem.

    Saab converted one of their pre GM turbo cars and got 15% more power from LPG than petrol. :PG is a much higher octane fuel than unleaded gasoline.

    It’s a pity the price has doubled in the last 5 years.

  89. Expressing percentages like unitless indexes or unitless coefficients:

    Blackbody emissivity: 100% = 1.00
    Water emissivity: 78% = 0.78
    Carbon dioxide emissivity: 0.1% = 0.001
    World population growth rate: 1.2% = 0.012
    Gross percentage of atmospheric CO2: 0.038% = 0.00038
    Real percentage of atmospheric CO2: 0.034% = 0.00034
    Percentage of atmospheric water vapor (variable): 5% = 0.05

    Formula:

    i = %/100

  90. Formula for converting ppmV of CO2 to miligrams of CO2:

    mg of CO2 = ppmV (12.187) (44.01) / 300.15 K

    For example, 385 ppmV of CO2 are equal to:

    mg Of CO2 = 385 ppmV (12.187 mg K/ppmV) (44.01) / 300.15 K = 687.9 mg

    Expressed in kilograms = 0.00069 Kg

  91. Being a skeptical engineer myself, I must ask, if domestic Natural Gas reserves are as abundant as Mr. Rattie implies, why is there such an urgent push from some quarters to build LNG terminals to import Natural Gas into the U.S.? Wouldn’t large domestic supplies make such projects uneconomical? Don’t most analysts project NG shortfalls in the future?

    Rattie makes a lot of good points, but a few items (eg. practically unlimited domestic gas supplies, advocacy of CO2 sequestration, etc…) just don’t quite add up.

  92. Should be required reading for all members of both Houses of Congress, the SCOTUS, and the administration.

    …of course there are none so blind as they who will not see.

  93. @SemiChemE, re natural gas abundance.

    It is a matter of timing. Planning, designing, constructing, and starting up LNG facilities around the world takes years. In the U.S., obtaining permits for LNG gasification ports requires even more time. Meanwhile, natural gas drilling companies made enormous progress in drilling and producing gas from shale.

    As it turns out, more than one LNG plant either has started up, or will start up later this year. The combined effect of more domestic gas (remember when Jimmy Carter told us we were out of gas?) plus the foreign LNG plants seeking a market for their product has led to the very low price of natural gas. It is currently around $4.29 per million Btu on the NYMEX.

    It all adds up. Markets don’t lie. Prices tell the story. Low prices are here, and are here to stay for a very long time.

    http://energyguysmusings.blogspot.com/2009/04/lng-cheaper-than-ever.html

    http://www.wtrg.com/daily/gasprice.html

  94. Viva Mr. Rattie

    @ Roger Sowell (22:23:01)
    Regarding your comment about how the university students won’t be taught this information in school.

    While that may be true on the whole please note that some of us here following WUWT are the professors and we do teach this (At least I do and yes I have tenure at a major university).

    @ KZimman (09:19:55)
    Please note that Combined cycle GT’s can be made quite efficient although as you note GTs on their own aren’t terribly efficient but are quite cheap (about 6 x less) thus non-combined cycle GTs are typically constrained to peak loads. There are baseloaded GT combined cycles out there. For the simple combined cycle (no reheat) (Gas turbine [GT] plus rankine steam bottoming cycle [Rank]) Total efficiency = GTeff + Rankeff – (GTeff*Rankeff)

    “Dr.” APE

  95. Not bad, but he doesn’t have much of a sense of humo(u)r. Here’s the kind of speech that keeps people awake:

  96. My God, what a speech!

    I was especially fond of the line:

    I suggest Mark Twain‟s advice: respect those who seek the truth, be wary of those who claim to have found it.

    My only “complaint”, and it’s a minor one, is that the “problem” of getting rid of CO2 is overstated. The oil industry desperately needs CO2 to support their “enhanced oil recovery”. No single disposal well needs to be drilled. ALL CO2 can be “disposed” of in existing oil wells to produce more oil…

  97. Being a skeptical engineer myself, I must ask, if domestic Natural Gas reserves are as abundant as Mr. Rattie implies, why is there such an urgent push from some quarters to build LNG terminals to import Natural Gas into the U.S.? Wouldn’t large domestic supplies make such projects uneconomical? Don’t most analysts project NG shortfalls in the future?

    a) Most shale gas plays require gas prices of about $5 to $6/mmbtu to be worth drilling

    b) LNG is a strategy to monetize gas where there is no nearby market. Places like Qatar and Trinidad have huge amounts of gas and no domestic market in which to use it. They are happy to take a realitively low price at the well-head for it ($2 per mmbtu, perhaps). The difference between what the host country is willing to take for gas and what overseas markets are willing to pay is what drive the investment in LNG. Most of the investment is actually in the producing country. Re-gas terminals are cheap (relatively). Once the gas has been liquefied, it will go where the best market is. As it turns out, of late this have been Europe or Asia. Most of the new LNG re-gas terminals in the US are sitting idle.

    c) The emergence of the shale plays has been a fairly recent phenomenon. The Barnett Shale took off when prices stayed high enough for a while and better horizontal drilling and fracture stimulation techniques were developed. Then, those techniques began to be applied to other shales with great success – Woodford, Fayetteville, Haynesville, Marcellus, etc. Circa 2002 you might have read a story that we were having trouble replacing gas production. Circa 2008 you will find no one who doesn’t say we have a domestic glut, even as we are just starting to tap the Haynesville and Marcellus which are expected to be the most productive shales yet. Of course, a few months ago we had 2000+ rigs working. Now we have less than half that.

  98. @George Smith: It’s all good, but I’d have to call this one a draw. While heat is *an* expression of vibrations of molecules in a medium (like atmosphere, or liquids) AND it can be argued that to reach absolute zero requires no molecular vibration of any kind… Heat is transmitted through a vacuum as radiation, Infrared radiation to be exact. (Otherwise known as Thermal Duality) In an atmosphere that radiation takes on the properties of a wave (Hence your molecular vibrations) yet that very same wave that is causing all those vibrations is detectable via an infrared camera. What is the camera picking up? Vibrations? Sound is a vibration… can a camera pick up sound? Answer: No, It is picking up ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION in the infrared band. (Even in an atmosphere)
    Easy explanation here:
    http://science.hq.nasa.gov/kids/imagers/ems/infrared.html
    Other than that, I got no argument with ya. ;)

    @those folks who think Nuclear Power is evil…Before you get you knickers in a bunch KNOW what you are talking about. Here’s some decent sites to start with:
    http://www.nucleartourist.com/
    http://joanpyeproject.org/
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/

    Finally, did you go to the Polywell fusion site??? You Pro-Environment, Anti-Nuclear folks should LOVE it. Zero Radiation, Zero Emissions, Zero Harmful waste, inexpensive and abundant fuel…
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606
    http://www.science.edu/TechoftheYear/TechoftheYear.htm

    Get hot!!
    Doc

  99. Chris Schoneveld

    Steve Fitzpatrick (08:06:53) :
    “I have an idea: let’s ditch Mr. Obama and put this guy in the White House.”

    Apart from Obama’s gullible acceptance of global warming alarmism, the USA should be very grateful to have at last an intelligent and incorruptible intellectual in their White House. Your gratuitous comment invokes doubt as to your power of judgement and reeks of political bias. A Democratic president is not per se bad nor is a Republican per se good and vice versa.

    Ummm… I don’t know what Keith O. Rattie’s political affiliation is do you? He could be a Democrat… I think the thinking here is that Kieth showed more ability to be an intelligent and incorruptible intellectual then Obama has to this point. Not to say that I do not think Obama is trying his best to do what he feels is right but I am sorry the intellectual side of me cringes at many of the proposals Obama has made to date. So if that was your argument did you simply assume that Keith was a Republican? I think Steve’s idea actually has some merit regardless of Keith’s political beliefs because he seems to have a somewhat good head on his shoulders ( though as pointed out on other posts here not a perfect one lol ).

    Just saying one mans intelligent and incorruptible intellectual is another mans fool…

  100. diz (20:50:51)

    You make excellent points.

    And that is why we will never run out of oil, or natural gas. As a temporary shortage develops, prices rise, and more exploration leads to finding more oil and gas. The additional finds create a temporary glut that reduces prices, so competition intensifies and only the best and brightest can remain in the game. Technologies improve under those conditions, because technology gives a company an economic advantage. A little later, the glut diminishes, and prices begin to rise and the cycle repeats. However, in the new cycle, the explorationists use far better technology, so oil and gas are found in places where they would not have been economic before.

    To name just a few of the technological advances in oil and gas exploration, there are improved seismic data interpretation (3-D graphics), directional drilling, and deep-water drilling rigs.

    Peak oil is a huge myth. Ain’t ever going to happen.

    What is far more likely to happen is the same as “Peak Wood” during prehistoric days. One can imagine one cave-man saying to another, “Dude, we should conserve on the wood, because we are quickly running out of forests to cut down.” (or however they talked back then).

    Then somebody discovered the black rock that burns, and named it “coal.” The forests got a reprieve instead of all being chopped down for heating fuel.

    Then somebody discovered the black liquid that can be refined into gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, and diesel fuel. Coal reserves got an instantaneous longer lease on life.

    Modern man is on the same path, and as conventional oil gets sufficiently expensive, tar sands and later, shale oil, will become economic.

  101. KZimman (09:19:55) :

    Yes, natural gas is a natural for peaking gas turbines but I was involved with the conversion of a coal fired power to being natural gas fired in the 1960s. We also converted some smaller coal fired units to being oil fired. Therefore it’s not a given that natural gas can only be used for power generation in gas turbines.
    We should have been building nuclear power plants for the past 20 years. The nuclear plant I was working on finally went on line in1987 as I recall after being delayed because of constant re-engineering due to problems encountered at other operating nuclear power plants.

  102. Doc_Navy (10:01:59) :
    To Anthony: Since this thread deals with energy production and -somewhat- on nuclear power… have you done any looking into Polywell fusion reactors like the one built by Dr Robert Bussard and the US Navy? Looks promising. Here’s a link:
    http://www.emc2fusion.org/
    Really interesting stuff.

    You might be interested in the Artemis Project as well.

    http://www.asi.org/adb/02/09/he3-intro.html

    Roger Sowell (14:50:31) :

    Nuclear power is not safe. It is not affordable. It is not reliable. It is not the answer to increasing energy demands.

    It would seem that the anti-nuke disorder is taken from the same imaginary world as the AGW disorder.

  103. Roger said:

    The truths spoken by Mr. Rattie must have felt like a dagger to the heart of the faculty.

    What blatant balderdash. On what basis do you say that? I’ll wager you can’t even find UVU with both hands, let alone explain what the faculty might think — or even who they might be.

  104. Not the commencement speech:

    UVU’s 68th annual graduation celebration will be held May 1, 2009. Two types of graduation ceremonies will be held: Commencement (main ceremony for all graduates) and Convocations (school/college ceremonies – individual graduate recognition). There is no cost to attend any of the ceremonies, seating is open to the public (no tickets required), and parking is located in the McKay Events Center parking lot. Due to limited seating and space, guests must remain in guest seating and will not be allowed in the graduate line-up or seating areas. In order to reduce the amount of distraction during this important event, the attendance of small children and babies is strongly discouraged. Please contact the student/graduate to verify the times and locations of the ceremonies in which they are participating.

    SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

    Commencement:
    10:30 am (McKay Events Center)
    President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be speaking during commencement.

  105. Roger Sowell (14:50:31) :

    Roger, as a spectator here (lurker I believe is the term) you have made the point on several occasions that the French nuclear industry is subsidised. I would like to know where you get this information from because this is not my understanding. In fact from what I have read the French nuclear industry is highly profitable and safe. At 1993 costs these reactors ( 59 of them) cost $1 billion/1000MW. Now you imply that this will now be 10 times this.

    These 59 reactors produce 430 billion KWhrs which they sell for around 7 cents/KW. So if they do subsidise and your fully costed figure of 30 to 40 cents is correct then using your low figure of 30 cents the subsidy would be 23 cents on 430 billion Kwhrs. This comes to a grand annual total of $99 billion and that is just so unrealistic.

  106. I would suggest everyone who reads this, post it somewhere. I have already posted it at Huffington Post. Haven’t gone back to see the replies. I am probably verbally crucified by now.

  107. Not only has nobody ever produced any evidence for the claim that French nuclear is subsidised, which I grant is par for the course among “environmentalists, but it goes against all sense. The French are selling their nuclear power to Germany, Italy, Spain & Britain. If they aren’t, for some unexplained reason, fiddling their figures they are making a decent ptofit from this. If they are are fiddling the figures they are significantly subsidising the economies of their neighbours. Anybody who says the French would subsidise the Germans, let alone do so without taking credit for such generosity, either knows nothing of either country or knows their claims are untrue.

    But then these same “environmentalists” claim to believe the LNT theory that low level radiation is harmful rather than accept the pverwhelming evidence for the hormesis theory that it isn’t too so who can believe a word they say?

  108. cost $1 billion/1000MW

    The problem with nuclear is that the initial costs are usually dwarfed by the decommissioning costs a few decades (and governments) later. Here in the UK, these have been generously underwritten by the taxpayer in an effort to get privately financed projects off the ground, which probably tells you all you need to know about the real cost.

    I don’t know what the French position is on the ultimate disposal of hazardous waste, but I notice that they have some large installations (and a reprocessing plant) at Cap de la Hague on the northern tip of the Cherbourg peninsula, where the prevailing wind would carry any airborne contamination in our direction!

  109. @ Ed Darrell (23:38:11) :

    “Roger said:
    The truths spoken by Mr. Rattie must have felt like a dagger to the heart of the faculty.
    What blatant balderdash. On what basis do you say that? I’ll wager you can’t even find UVU with both hands, let alone explain what the faculty might think — or even who they might be.”

    I believe you have confused me with Mike Bryant (20:32:26), who actually did write the “dagger to the heart” line. ;-)

  110. James P (06:01:54) :

    And by the way James I think we are dealing with Cherbourg, not Chernobyl. If your intimated fear of nuclear keeps you awake at nights then living in the UK you need to be worried about radon. Or the next bus. But don’t worry apocalypse doesn’t work like that. He told me so!

  111. David Porter (02:00:10) :

    “Roger Sowell (14:50:31) :

    Roger, as a spectator here (lurker I believe is the term) you have made the point on several occasions that the French nuclear industry is subsidised. I would like to know where you get this information from because this is not my understanding. “

    From EDF’s website “On April 8, 1946, the law nationalising 1450 French electricity and gas generation, transmission and distribution companies gave birth to the industrial and commercial public undertaking (EPIC) Electricité De France, an enterprise with an innovative corporate model: gender equality, single salary scale, internal training etc. Marcel Paul, the Communist minister of Industrial Production, was the main architect of this law.” From this can be seen that the French electric utility was state-owned. France built their nukes while in the state-owned mode.

    The EDF website is here:

    http://group.edf.com/the-edf-group/presentation-of-the-group/profile/history/1946-1962-95139.html

    However, in 2004 EDF became public: “ On July 1, 2004, 70% of the electricity market was opened up to competition. On November 19, EDF changed status and became a Public Limited Company. This new status created new opportunities for EDF by making it possible to create multi-energy offers combining the supply of gas and electricity.

    In 2005, EDF signed a new public service contract with the French Government on October 24, and on November 21 the Initial Public Offering took EDF into the Stock Market, with 5 million private individuals taking the opportunity to buy shares. Between 2006 and 2010, EDF Group will be investing €40 billion in the context of the total opening up of the electricity market, which takes place on July 1, 2007. “

    “In fact from what I have read the French nuclear industry is highly profitable and safe. “

    At this time, with the nuclear power plants depreciated or nearly paid for by some mix of revenue from power sales, plus subsidies as a government-run entity, EDF can state that the power plants are profitable. With no cash payments to banks to repay loans, or bond payments to bondholders, their profit/loss statements merely indicate ongoing operating costs. On that basis, nuclear power plants (and the company that owns them) will appear profitable.

    This is one result of the nationalization – then – privatization maneuver. Entities that would not be built in the private sector due to very high initial costs are built by the government, with no (or very lax) requirements to control costs. Then, these entities are sold to private investors at a fraction of what it would cost to construct them.

    “At 1993 costs these reactors ( 59 of them) cost $1 billion/1000MW. Now you imply that this will now be 10 times this.”

    *I don’t imply it, I flatly state it as a fact. A detailed (and very accurate) cost study was published by Craig A. Severance, CPA, which shows the costs are as I stated, $10,000 per MW. I have some expertise in designing, estimating, and financing large projects (multi-billion dollars) and concur with Mr. Severance’s results. Also, several utility companies have submitted similar cost estimates to their regulating Public Utility Commissions.

    see http://energyguysmusings.blogspot.com/2009/02/nuclear-power-costs-2008.html

    and see http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/nuclear-plant-cancelled-in-missouri.html

    “These 59 reactors produce 430 billion KWhrs which they sell for around 7 cents/KW. So if they do subsidise and your fully costed figure of 30 to 40 cents is correct then using your low figure of 30 cents the subsidy would be 23 cents on 430 billion Kwhrs. This comes to a grand annual total of $99 billion and that is just so unrealistic.”

    I doubt if France’s power plants were built at $10,000 per MW, as those are 2007 costs. It is more likely their plants cost between $2000 and $4000 per MW in then-current dollars. However, a modern, new nuclear plant will cost $10,000 per MW. Although the Chinese are claiming they are building nuclear plants for around half that price. I question their (the Chinese) numbers.

    Next, leaving aside the irrefutable facts that nuclear bombs are made from nuclear plants’ spent fuel, and the spent fuel is a toxic, radioactive waste that endures for generations, why would anyone want to build electric power plants that must charge 30 to 40 cents for the power, when so many less-expensive alternatives abound?

  112. @Neil Craig (04:34:48) :

    “Not only has nobody ever produced any evidence for the claim that French nuclear is subsidised, which I grant is par for the course among “environmentalists, but it goes against all sense. The French are selling their nuclear power to Germany, Italy, Spain & Britain. If they aren’t, for some unexplained reason, fiddling their figures they are making a decent ptofit from this. If they are are fiddling the figures they are significantly subsidising the economies of their neighbours. Anybody who says the French would subsidise the Germans, let alone do so without taking credit for such generosity, either knows nothing of either country or knows their claims are untrue.

    But then these same “environmentalists” claim to believe the LNT theory that low level radiation is harmful rather than accept the pverwhelming evidence for the hormesis theory that it isn’t too so who can believe a word they say?”

    I invite you to refute my earlier reply to David Porter, re French subsidies for nuclear power.

    And I have worked extensively in both France and Germany, plus Italy, Spain and the UK. I worked with their energy industries, so I hold myself out as fairly knowledgeable. No figures need be fiddled, once the plants are paid for by taxpayers’ subsidies, as they clearly were in France.

  113. Yet another article on the very high cost of nuclear power plants at around $10,000 per MW, this time from today’s AP (similar articles occur almost daily):

    “With the cost of a new nuclear power plant now at more than $9 billion and credit markets reluctant to commit to such projects in the current economic climate, utilities have virtually ruled out construction of a new plant without government loan guarantees.

    On Friday, John Rowe, chairman of Exelon Corp., which operates 17 nuclear reactors, told reporters after a speech at the National Press Club that he had no intention of proceeding with the construction of two new reactors near Victoria, Texas, without government loan guarantees.” [emphasis mine – RES]

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jPKRdG1M4Dbw2iuD7_4Io9zEE5oQD986U6P80

  114. From the speech:

    there‟s no such thing as “clean” coal, though I should quickly add that given America and the world‟s dependence on coal for electric generation, we do need to fund R&D aimed at capturing and storing CO2 from coal plants.

    No, we don’t.

  115. David Porter

    If your intimated fear of nuclear keeps you awake at nights then living in the UK you need to be worried about radon.

    Neither bothers me too much, although I wonder why the French chose to site their facilities quite so far from their own population centres and so close to ours! I appreciate that nuclear power stations are carefully desiged not to be hazardous in normal use, but AFAIK, there is little agreement on how to handle (or pay for) their decommissioning, and there remains the problem of their defence against terrorism. If the 9/11 bombers had really done their homework, they would have flown airliners into Three Mile Island…

  116. James P (10:00:18) :

    “If the 9/11 bombers had really done their homework, they would have flown airliners into Three Mile Island…”

    And what do you think would have happened if they had?

  117. Suppose we ran an experiment on the scale of a major industrial state to see if nuclear power would be a disaster or not. If, over 30 years or so, that country could successfully reach the point of generating some 90 percent of its electrical power by nuclear means, wouldn’t the naysayers just have to cry off? I mean, what more convincing proof could they realistically ask for, assuming their worries about CO2 are genuine?

    Oh, right.

  118. Roger Sowell (08:09:30) :

    I have read your through your response several times but nowhere do I read that the French nuclear industry was subsidised. It seems to me that you have this opinion simply because it was a nationalised industry it must therefore be subsidised. My impression of nationalised utility industries is that they were labour intensive an incredibly inefficient. I think you are so anti nuclear you believe anything negative about this industry. Your comments and opinions on a recent “climate progress” blog debating the exaggerated costing of Craig Severance illustrate my point admirably.

    As to your last point:

    “Next, leaving aside the irrefutable facts that nuclear bombs are made from nuclear plants’ spent fuel, and the spent fuel is a toxic, radioactive waste that endures for generations, why would anyone want to build electric power plants that must charge 30 to 40 cents for the power, when so many less-expensive alternatives abound? “

    When was the first and last nuclear bombs dropped? Who and how many people have been killed, maimed, destroyed, liquidated, evaporated, due to nuclear power since 1946. If you don’t mind me saying so but you have a fear of nuclear power some 70 years after the two and only nuclear bomb were dropped that is irrational. If it is such a great threat why is it still only in the minds of people like you. You have mentioned many times that you have worked in the energy industry, including nuclear, and yet you continue to shower us with apocalyptic views, which would only make sense if we were in the 1950’s.

    Nuclear energy is safe, in my opinion, and I think that you are just as much a fear monger as those alarmists who advocate CO2 as a dangerous substance.

    Let me also say that having read many of your comments on this blog and others, I know you will do your best to win this argument. For me it’s not about who can argue the longest and hardest but who is right at the end of the day. My fear is that people like you will win, but for all the wrong reasons.

  119. Bill Befort:

    Great idea! How about finding an island, say, one that has a demand during peak hours of 1,000 MW? That would be a perfect fit for a 1000 MW nuclear power plant. GE has them ready to sell, just place a phone call.

    Then, ask the islanders why they have not built just one solitary nuclear power plant, as that is “obviously” the most economic source of power? Surely, it will be less costly than importing diesel fuel for diesel-generators, or importing LNG for natural-gas fired power plants. Or importing coal, if that is what they are using…

    Does anyone know of such an island?

    Here’s your chance, greenies and nuclear advocates. Show me the island. I am willing to learn. Let’s help these islanders obtain the “cheapest source of power there is.” After all, that is the prevailing wisdom from the pro-nuclear crowd!

    Only a couple of rules, here. First, the islanders must pay for the nuclear-generated power. No subsidies allowed. Second, no selling any power to any other customers. All power is to be consumed strictly on the island.

    I can’t wait for this one.

  120. “And what do you think would have happened if they had?”

    Hard to predict with any accuracy (assuming that the containment vessels hadn’t been pre-fitted with explosives, of course!) but I imagine that it would be very messy, with the widespread distribution of fissile material and consequent contamination of sea and land for miles around. It might not have killed quite so many immediately, but I would expect the long-term effects to be profound, or are you more sanguine..?

    Chernobyl did a lot of damage, I seem to recall.

  121. @David Porter (12:02:49) :

    “Roger Sowell (08:09:30) :

    I have read your through your response several times but nowhere do I read that the French nuclear industry was subsidised. It seems to me that you have this opinion simply because it was a nationalised industry it must therefore be subsidised. My impression of nationalised utility industries is that they were labour intensive an incredibly inefficient.”

    Let’s start with how a country operates a nationalized industry. I do not know what country you are from, or in presently, so I will use the United States as an example. There are very few nationalized industries in the U.S., but we can point to an equivalent, the interstate highway system. These highways were built using federal dollars, at taxpayer expense, then some fees were and still are collected from those who drive on them. More fees are collected in the form of gasoline taxes that are designed to pay for repairs and upkeep. (I leave aside for the moment the increasing ownership and involvement of the U.S. federal government under President Obama into banks, car companies, and who knows what next).

    The construction of the interstate highways, in contrast to private toll-roads, was paid for by taxes without obtaining investors or bank loans. To the extent the federal government sold Treasury bills and went into debt, one could say these roads were financed, however there was no clear one-for-one loan for highway. One could therefore say, and be correct, that the state subsidized the building of the interstate highway system. Clearly, they were not built with private funds (except for some small tollroads).

    Similarly, the French government (as shown above) built nuclear power plants when EDF was a part of the state. Whatever amount of taxpayer’s funds were spent, they were not built privately to my knowledge. Now, the French government has privatized EDF, as described earlier. When the government builds it for a lot of money, then sells it for a small amount, the new owners have a capital asset that was, indeed, subsidized by the government.

    If you can find evidence to the contrary, perhaps the French government took out loans to fund the plants’ construction, and paid them back, or issued bonds for their construction, and paid the coupons and the face value upon maturity, then please, I would like to see this.

    Or, if the French government sold the EDF assets for fair market value, then please, show me the evidence of such a sale and the resulting cash deposit into the French treasury.

    ” I think you are so anti nuclear you believe anything negative about this industry. Your comments and opinions on a recent “climate progress” blog debating the exaggerated costing of Craig Severance illustrate my point admirably.”

    I state my grounds for being opposed to nuclear power, and I try to carefully research the various claims pro and con by and about the industry. If you have read my blog post on Nuclear Nuts, then you should be aware of my grounds. To date, no-one has refuted any of my points. None.

    As to the “exaggerated” costs stated by Mr. Severance, that is your opinion, and apparently, you are standing alone with that view. Serious players in major utility corporations have publicly corroborated those costs. By public statements, I refer to submissions to public utility commissions. If those costs were exaggerated, as you maintain, why would a utility company not just tell the PUC the real numbers, perhaps $1 billion for a 1000 MW new plant? Why are so many utility companies going with the Severance figures?

    Next, you take issue with my statement about high power prices, but you duck that one and go into apocalyptic consequences of nuclear bombs. I clearly stated I would leave that aside, but I will answer this since you focus on this point.

    I wrote: “Next, leaving aside the irrefutable facts that nuclear bombs are made from nuclear plants’ spent fuel, and the spent fuel is a toxic, radioactive waste that endures for generations, why would anyone want to build electric power plants that must charge 30 to 40 cents for the power, when so many less-expensive alternatives abound? “

    “When was the first and last nuclear bombs dropped? Who and how many people have been killed, maimed, destroyed, liquidated, evaporated, due to nuclear power since 1946. If you don’t mind me saying so but you have a fear of nuclear power some 70 years after the two and only nuclear bomb were dropped that is irrational. If it is such a great threat why is it still only in the minds of people like you. You have mentioned many times that you have worked in the energy industry, including nuclear, and yet you continue to shower us with apocalyptic views, which would only make sense if we were in the 1950’s.”

    I am dumbfounded at this. Nuclear bombs, the proliferation of them, and threat of nuclear war are not subjects to gloss over so lightly. Yes, only two such bombs (and they were very small ones by today’s standards) were ever used in a military or aggressive manner. And yes, they were used roughly 60 years ago (not 70). Since then, the number of nuclear warheads worldwide has grown rather alarmingly. While there have been some efforts to reduce the numbers, there are still a great many remaining.

    If this were not such a great issue, why then did (and some still do) heads of state make nuclear arms treaties and disarmament such major items in their agendas?

    Let me try to put this in some perspective for you. The horrific terrorist attacks on New York, and the Pentagon, on 9-11-2001 resulted in two skyscrapers destroyed, the Pentagon damaged, and approximately 3,000 lives lost. Yet, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs wiped out far, far more lives and caused far more property damage. Remember, those were very small explosions by today’s standards.

    The disruption to not just the USA, but much of the world as a result was, to say the least, intense. One can only imagine what the resulting panic would be from a nuclear bomb explosion instead of airplanes smacking skyscrapers.

    You may not know, or remember, what it was like to live in the U.S. and have nuclear air raid drills, or to watch the news and listen to the radio while President Kennedy navigated through the Cuban Missile Crisis. I know, and I remember only too well. I suspect that many European countries have and had similar anxieties knowing that various missile systems were and are deployed near them.

    This is the problem with so many decades of relative peace, with respect to nuclear weapons. People (and I include you in this) diminish the importance and the threat and horror of these weapons. I believe that those groups that maintain the memory of the Jewish holocaust, and never let that memory die, have the right idea. Such a program should exist for the horrors of a nuclear weapon.

    This is far too important to be dismissed lightly, as if this is all a big game. I have serious concerns about nuclear power plants, not only for their outrageous costs and subsequent high prices for power, but because those plants produce plutonium.

    I pose the question directly to you: If this is no big deal, then why do so many countries devote so much time, money, and energy in dealing with nuclear power and associated programs in Iran, and North Korea?

    You state that nuclear power is safe, and you are of course entitled to that view. You accuse me of being a fear monger. If you consider what I write fear mongering, you have that right. I leave it to others to judge. I, on the other hand, try very hard to stick to the facts, to the evidence, and valid arguments based on those facts and evidence.

    As it turns out, the high price of nuclear power plant construction appears to have stopped the plants, for now, in the U.S. However, our government has pledged at least some money as loan guarantees, which is a form of subsidy.

    My clients and I are working as hard as possible to bring reliable renewable power at a lower price than nuclear. When that day arrives, we can finally begin dismantling them, hopefully world-wide.

    As the bumper stickers said in the 1960’s: One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Entire Day.

  122. James P (14:32:14) :

    I would very much be interested in the views of a Cumbrian farmer. Please be good enough to find one.

  123. Roger Sowell (15:02:15) :

    I have heard all your arguments before so your this diatribe does not come as any great surprise. However I stick with my view that you are wrong on nuclear, for whatever reason.
    I would certainly hate to have your imagination. It must frighten you to death. And by the way I live in the UK directly in the line of fire, sitting next to the Trident warheads on your US airforce bases. So please don’t give me any crap about how dangerous they are. For most of us they were there for our protection and since there has never been another bomb dropped you might say they were highly successful.

    I will end on this:

    “As the bumper stickers said in the 1960’s: One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Entire Day.”

    That statement speaks volumes. You are just out and out anti nuclear and you sure as hell aint going to change your mind.

  124. Roger Sowell (12:06:00) :

    I think Bill had it right. We had a rather large country do the experiment so there is no need to consider a small island. The country in question is doing fine. It hasn’t gone bust (which of course it should have done by your calculations) and continues to supply the UK with electricity at less than half the price of our domestic product. Incidentally we pay almost 20 cents for our electricity, something to with the Renewables Obligation Certificate (fancy title for subsidy).

    Vive la France.

  125. What a crock! I am always amazed at how easily people who are uninformed or little informed form strong opinions and listen to distortions and half truths as though they were gospel. We have a group of very enlightened people on http://www.theoildrum.com that believe in AGW and a parallel group here that believe in no energy problem and let the markets rule. In fact, the same arguments against cap and trade were presented 2 decades ago before the clean air treaty was passed. (See: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/us/politics/17cap.html?_r=1) At the end of the day costs were less than 10% of what the Cassandras predicted, American industry was not ruined, and we got much cleaner air and almost complete elimination of acid rain. Also the idea that there is no probl;em with oil and NG supplies is ludicrous. Sure the reported reserves have remained high, biut consider stocks and flows. For North American NG, most of the remaining reserves are in “tight sands” and shales. there’s lots there, but it won’t flow fast and wells deplete very quickly. Production will decline only slowly, but it will decline. For petroleum, reserves have remained high because many reporting countries have reported unchanged reserves in spite of 2 decades of production and no significant new finds, and OIl sands have been reclassified as reserves. Oil sands production rates are low and will remain so, and non-existatnt reserves don’t flow at all. This whole talk is a very large load of old codswallop. Murray

  126. Roger Sowell-

    In 2007, Exelon’s nuclear fleet delivered power to the bus at an average cost of 1.7 cents/kWhr here in the U.S. It was the cheapest source of electricity in their generation fleet. Availability has now routinely exceeded 90%.

    Progress Energy is planning to build two more nuclear reactors in Florida where I live (1200 MW) for $14B, plus $3B for a new transmission line and substations. It will take at least 8 years. People are wringing their hands over the modifying of 0.007% of Florida’s remaining swamp, err natural watershed area for the plant and transmission line right of way. I expect pallets of lawsuits from the greenies.

    Meanwhile, China is building nukes at a record pace-

    http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=1696

    “China’s nuclear power sector will triple in size over the next decade. According to the latest data from the National Energy Administration, China will activate 24 new reactors by 2020.”

    “The three-phase scheme, with an investment of more than $5.9 billion earmarked for the first phase, will incorporate the application of the third-generation pressurized water reactor technology AP1000 introduced from US-based Westinghouse. The first phase project will include two units each with a generating capacity of 1.25 GW, which are slated for completion in 2013 and 2014.”

    That is half the price estimated by Progress Energy, for the same reactor design proposed by Progress Energy.

    Japan is completing new nuclear reactors in less than 4 years.

    As for capital costs, O&M costs and fuel costs, here is a list of numbers, again generated by EIA, (2006 I think) that gives the costs and subsidies for each of the major newly added sources of energy in our electricity grid.

    A 5% discount rate is assumed throughout. All of this is based on delivered energy, for that is what matters to the customer. As a reminder, electricity generated by existing nuclear plants in the US had a busbar cost in 2007 of $17/MWhr.

    Source…$/MWh…..%capital…..%fuel….%O&M……subsidy($/MWh)

    Coal….$25-50…….35%………..45%…….20%………$0.44
    Gas…..$37-60…….15%……….80%………5%……….$0.25
    Nuclear.$21-31…..50%……….20%……..30%………$1.59
    Wind….$35-95……60-85%…..0%………15-40%…$23.30
    u-hydro.$40-80…90%…………0%………10%………$0.67
    Solar..$150-300…90%…………0%………10%………$24.30

    Intermittent sources like wind and solar need spinning reserves to keep the lights on. Those costs are not included. Typical next-day scheduled wind in Texas is 8% of nameplate capacity. The numbers above assume unscheduled wind farms (opportune energy sources), with availability from 18% – 45%.

    Decommissioning costs are not some infinite unknown cost, but have an average cost of $325M per reactor. The utilities have a self-funded reserve fund that is constantly growing, to pay for decommissioning.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf19.html

    From that report’s summary-

    “To date, 100 mines, 90 commercial power reactors, over 250 research reactors and a number of fuel cycle facilities, have been retired from operation. Some of these have been fully dismantled.
    Most parts of a nuclear power plant do not become radioactive, or are contaminated at very low levels. Most metal can be recycled.
    Proven techniques and equipment are available to dismantle nuclear facilities safely and these have now been well demonstrated in several parts of the world.
    Decommissioning costs for nuclear power plants, including disposal of associated wastes, are reducing and contribute only a small fraction of the total cost of electricity generation.”

    “Even allowing for uncertainties in cost estimates and applicable discount rates, decommissioning contributes a small fraction of total electricity generation costs. In USA many utilities have revised their cost projections downwards in the light of experience, and estimates now average $325 million per reactor all-up (1998 $).”

    “In USA, utilities are collecting 0.1 to 0.2 cents/kWh to fund decommissioning. They must then report regularly to the NRC on the status of their decommissioning funds. As of 2001, $23.7 billion of the total estimated cost of decommissioning all US nuclear power plants had been collected, leaving a liability of about $11.6 billion to be covered over the operating lives of 104 reactors (on basis of average $320 million per unit).”

    “An OECD survey published in 2003 reported US dollar (2001) costs by reactor type. For western PWRs, most were $200-500/kWe, for VVERs costs were around $330/kWe, for BWRs $300-550/kWe, for CANDU $270-430/kWe. For gas-cooled reactors the costs were much higher due to the greater amount of radioactive materials involved, reaching $2600/kWe for some UK Magnox reactors.”

    It is apparent that utilities have solid fiscal reasons for continuing to invest in new coal, gas, hydro and nuclear.

  127. chris y (20:46:32) :

    Most of what you have reported above is the most blatant propagandizing for the now-desperate nuclear power industry. As I have written many, many times, those “bus-bar” costs do not include capital charges. On the same basis, a solar or wind powered plant would have zero bus-bar costs. That is the French nuclear cost-hiding maneuver.

    The sole exception is the Progress Energy figures, at $14 billion. That works out to far more than the $200 to $500 per kWe, as discussed below.

    And, your cost estimates of $200 to $500 per kWe are pure propaganda. GE has published their number of $1000 per kWe for an AP-1000, and had to eat crow when the real numbers were estimated by those who know what they are doing, with the result of $7,000 to $9,000 per kWe, i.e. $18 billion for a 2,000 MWe plant. Those do not include interest on construction (add another $2 billion for that), nor do they include the just-mandated NRC requirement that every new nuclear plant in the U.S. shall be designed to withstand an impact from a large commercial aircraft. One can add 10 to 20 percent for that aircraft impact alone.

    These numbers (mine) also do not include additional interest on construction that will occur (note the word WILL) due to lawsuits to block, delay, or terminate construction. A 2-year delay with, as an example, $7 billon invested, will require an additional $1.6 billion on a construction loan charging 10 percent interest per annum.

    Please, do not continue to spread such utter falsehoods.

    If nuclear power plants are as cheap as you say, then why does any utility anywhere (except the U.S., where we have the NRC to protect the public) build anything else? Why is China building coal-fired power plants? Why is any utility anywhere building natural-gas fired plants? Why did not any islands build a nuclear plant instead of opting for expensive oil-burning or diesel-generator plants?

    For a list of 15 islands that are ideally suited for a single-reactor nuclear power plant, see below. (this list is based upon the Oahu values for kwh per capita, from January 2009) Note that Hawaii residents paid an average of 26 cents per kwh in January, 2009. Surely, a utility should step up to reduce Hawaiians’ power costs to 1.7 cents per kwh, as you claim a nuclear power plant would do! Why, then, does nobody do this?

    Island ……………….population, millions

    Okinawa…………………1.25

    Mauritius…………………1.245

    Bohol…………………….1.23

    Hong Kong……………….1.18

    Mindoro…………………..1.16

    Xiamen Island…………….1.08

    Sao Luis Island……………1.08

    Trinidad……………………1.03

    South Island (NZ)…………1.008

    Oahu……………………….0.876

    Tenerife……………………0.865

    Cyprus……………………..0.855

    Grand Canary………………0.815

    Majorca……………………0.814

    Reunion (France)………….0.793

    Finally, let me propose you perform the following: take a nuclear-power plant business plan to any investment group, tell them you want them to advance the $20 billion in funds to construct a two-reactor AP-1000 plant to generate 2200 MWe, and that you have a sales contract for all the power, at 2 cents per kwh sold. Make it 3 cents, if you like. Make sure they understand that no revenue will be had until at least 7 or 8 years from the groundbreaking ceremony. Then let me know how many investors take you up on that. Good luck.

  128. Roger- you say “Please, do not continue to spread such utter falsehoods.”

    Quite an accusation.

    The table for expected busbar costs includes capital costs (not including, of course, schedule delays due to the NRC feet-dragging on permits, spurious lawsuits from nuclear power hand-wringers and enviro-wackos chaining themselves to construction equipment), operating costs (O&M costs) and fuel costs. They are all included. Since these numbers were estimated in 2006 for projects planned world-wide over the next 5-10 years, the busbar prices in $/MWhr of capital-intensive plants (nuclear, solar, wind, micro hydro) need to be scaled up by about 20 – 40% to account for increased materials and labor costs that occurred in 2007-2008. That may increase nuclear to $31 – $45/MWhr (3.1 – 4.5 cents per kWhr).

    Hawaiians paying 26 cents/kWh includes, of course, all of the transmission, distribution, taxes, fees, assessments for renewable initiatives, enviro-impact assessments. This is not busbar costs at the generation facility. You are comparing apples and oranges.

    you say “If nuclear power plants are as cheap as you say, then why does any utility anywhere (except the U.S., where we have the NRC to protect the public) build anything else? Why is China building coal-fired power plants? Why is any utility anywhere building natural-gas fired plants? Why did not any islands build a nuclear plant instead of opting for expensive oil-burning or diesel-generator plants?”

    All good questions. I sigh with sadness every time another nuclear power project is delayed or canceled. I conclude that the major reason is an unwarranted fear of nuclear power created in the public’s mind by the media, hollywood and environmental groups. That one factor has driven up costs for nuclear. China is building every energy source possible, including coal, gas, nuclear, solar and wind.

    I think Progress Energy’s cost estimate of $7B per reactor is padded for expected delays based on bitter past experience, and for other system upgrades. As I said, other countries are building brand new nuclear plants for half the money in half the time.

    You say “And, your cost estimates of $200 to $500 per kWe are pure propaganda.”

    I assume you are referring to this paragraph-
    “An OECD survey published in 2003 reported US dollar (2001) costs by reactor type. For western PWRs, most were $200-500/kWe, for VVERs costs were around $330/kWe, for BWRs $300-550/kWe, for CANDU $270-430/kWe. For gas-cooled reactors the costs were much higher due to the greater amount of radioactive materials involved, reaching $2600/kWe for some UK Magnox reactors.”

    Once again you are misreading what I quoted. The $200 – $500 per kWe is the cost to decommission the plant when it reaches end of life (which, by the way, may turn out to be much longer than 40 years). It is not the cost to build a new plant.

    As for investment comparisons, the financial tradeoff between energy source investments is one of time horizon. You can build a gas fired generation plant in a couple of years, for low cost, but have to live with fuel cost fluctuations. You can build wind and solar farms in a few years, with buckets of government subsidies (also listed in the table), but must rely on spinning reserves to maintain grid stability. Why would an investor invest in a long-term project like nuclear, when the government dangles rebates and subsidies for short-term projects like wind and solar, for which specious lawsuits from greenies are less likely to occur?

    If natural gas prices are going to stay low, as the speech indicated, then why would anyone not build new gas turbine facilities? It is by far the least expensive capital equipment outlay. Draw a map of the US power grid, overlay a map of the US natural gas pipeline grid, and build natural gas plants at all the intersections.

    If subsidies went away, solar and wind construction would stop. We already have historical data to support this conclusion. If insurance and loan guarantees for nuclear went away, nuclear construction in the U.S. would stop, even though the government, as far as I know, has never paid an insurance claim related to the nuclear power industry. Gas and coal would continue to be built, unless cap and tax rolls in.

    There are lots of other infrastructure projects that, without government guarantees, would stop or never be started. For the most part, we take them for granted every day.

  129. Keith Rattie has literally given a speech for the ages. Would that we could get everyone to read it. Politicians will never bother to; they voted trillions of dollars worth of legislation this year without even reading it.
    I’m going to send this speech to all the people I possibly can.

  130. Roger- I missed where you say “My clients and I are working as hard as possible to bring reliable renewable power at a lower price than nuclear. When that day arrives, we can finally begin dismantling them, hopefully world-wide.”

    So, now I understand your position on nuclear power. You are a shill for big renewables. And, you agree that nuclear power is still cheaper than renewable power.

    Any comments on the economic disaster in Spain caused by its eight-year experiment with renewable energy, specifically wind and solar?

    http://powermag.com/issues/departments/speaking_of_power/Spain-Is-Tilting-at-Windmills_1851.html

  131. chris y,

    I have never agreed at any time that nuclear power is cheaper than renewables. Do not attribute words to me that I did not write.

    You miss the key word in what you quoted, and that is “reliable.” That is the only criteria at this time where nuclear has an edge over solar and wind. As I have written before, the energy storage systems are quickly closing that gap.

    As a matter of fact, in California, wind power plant owners were paid between 2.5 and 5 cents per kwh, according to Berkeley Labs in their wind power analysis. These are from new wind power plants, against which a new nuclear power plant can never hope to compete.

    New nuclear power, at 30 cents per kwh, is clearly vastly more expensive than wind power at 5 cents. What part of this do you not understand?

    You would have far more credibility, if you used actual data.

    I am no shill for anything.

    However, I do have clients, and personal interests, in many fields, including coal, natural gas, petroleum, wind, solar, wave, ocean current, climate change, advanced batteries, CNG vehicles, and certain renewable energy storage technologies. I also have a few confidential matters that one day will make significant changes through innovation.

    I cannot comment on Spain’s troubles, if any. However the California experience is positive with renewable power, including wind, geothermal, bio-gas, and to a limited extent, solar. Texas’ experience with wind power is also positive. Perhaps the Spanish would be willing to visit for an information exchange.

    I will say this, in closing, you have established quite clearly that you are a nuclear nut, and beyond anyone’s ability to persuade you with facts.

    Therefore, good day to you sir.

  132. New nuclear power is not 30 cents per kWhr. This is absolutely nonsense.

    I provided you the link on Spain’s 8 year renewable fiasco. Its worth spending 5 minutes to read up on what they did and what went wrong. The full report contains actual data.

    you say “I will say this, in closing, you have established quite clearly that you are a nuclear nut, and beyond anyone’s ability to persuade you with facts.”

    I’m always open to actual data and facts. Anthony’s website is a fountain of information that brings surprises every day, not just through the posts but through the myriad of excellent comments. I’m a big fan of inexpensive, plentiful energy supplies to help society grow and improve. Nuclear already plays a role, and it should be playing a much bigger role.

    I usually let disinformation about nuclear power slide by, especially when it is off-topic. But your claims about nuclear power are such specious drivel, I was compelled to provide actual data on nuclear costs.

    Good day to you as well.

  133. Roger Sowell you have asked me to “refute” your assertion that French nuclear must be massively subsidised. our assertion is that because it was originally wholly state owned it could not have been financially viable. This is a nonsensical argument – consider yourself refuted.

    May I also point out that you made no attempt to refute my point that, human nature beinmg what it is, the French would be unlikely to spend hundreds of billions secretly subsidising German, Italian, Spanish & British electricity. I would be interested in seeing you try to refute that.

    Finally may I point out that the cost figures you give are hogwash.

    “Westinghouse claims its Advanced PWR reactor, the AP1000, will cost USD $1500-$1800 per KW for the first reactor and may fall to USD $1200 per KW for subsequent reactors. They also claim these will be ready for electricity production 3 years after first pouring concrete.”
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2323
    Or perhaps Westinghouse are also secretly nationalised & under communist control.

    Nor is it an “irrefutable fact” that all plutonium for nuclear bombs came from commercial nuclear reactors.

    Once again we see that the Luddites are willing to say absolutely anything, irrespective of the truth. I suspect it is an irrefutable fact that at least 99% of the anti-nuclearists are willing to tell any lie but would be interested in seeing Mr Sowell trying to refute it.

  134. Neil Craig (03:33:04) :

    You are in the same category as chris y, a nuclear nut. None of your assertions are true.

    Published nuclear power plant cost estimates, based on AP 1000 reactors, show what I wrote earlier.

    It is indeed an irrefutable fact that plutonium is made by nuclear fission, and nuclear fisson is the process in nuclear power plants. Your knowledge of physics needs upgrading.

    You are a nuclear nut. Good day to you sir.

  135. Decommissioning costs for nuclear power plants, including disposal of associated wastes, are reducing and contribute only a small fraction of the total cost of electricity generation.

    I wish I could believe that, but here in the UK, the only way our (state) Atomic Energy Authority can get any new installations funded privately is by promising to underwrite the clean-up costs, i.e. getting the taxpayer to foot the bill. Why would that be if decommissioning is as cheap as you say? AFAIK, they are still looking to somewhere the bury the waste from our old Magnox reactors and taking the Dounreay reactor to bits is proving a bit of a headache:
    http://www.nce.co.uk/bringing-down-the-curtain/1571066.article

  136. I loved this easily-verifiable essay on so-called global warming but Mr. Rattie got one thing wrong: He writes that natural gas, used as a heating fuel, is 30 to 50 percent cheaper than electricity.

    Here in British Columbia natural gas and electricity are approximately equal in cost when used to heat homes.

  137. How much hould I discount the opinions of those who missed the fact that this was NOT a commencement speech?

  138. probably as much as those who don’t proofread their submissions and incorrectly spell should as hould.

  139. As a German Engineer reading a rant like that gets me all warm and fuzzy inside :-)

    Of course he is right – but the last time I checked, the guys in the White House had democratic party books. And contrary to the other side (in deep denial about their loss and unwilling to change to attract a mayority of the vote – except for Arlen Specter following his 200,000 Pennsilvania Republican members that switched to the dems in the last year) chances are that will stay that way for the next 8 (yes, eight) years.

    So ranting against the legislation that comes with it is futile – instead one should adjust and profit from it. Someone as Questar Corporation for example. Must be hard for these guys with natural gas prices in the cellar. As I see it, Questar should invest jointly with their sunnier piers like Southern CAL Edison here into giant dirt-cheap solar farms (not mentioned by the author) in the Mojave desert and build a power line up to Utah. Simple as that. Hey – they can even get the feds to pay for most of it under the green stimulus package.

    So – as I see it, the current course of events will lead to another 1 million green jobs generated in Germany. Denial of the opportunities by corporations and people like Mr. Rattie will only accelerate that imbalance. Thank you.

    So what does nucular energy (W speak – he did very well for us folks!) have to do with it? As an industry insider I can confirm statements here in the comments about how new nukes are outragously expensive, somewhere North of $5,000 per kWe (net). Not even 24/7 operation will ever return that money, UNLESS the feds grant carbon tax credits for it. The power producers are not dumb. Higher prices are there for all of us to pay for energy, just depends who will profit from it. Case in point: Southern Nuclear is already pouring concrete ahead of the NRC decision: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=25028&terms=shaw

    But quietly and without much of a noise we are adding the equivalent of about one big nuke to the existing fleet through power uprates. And run the fleet at more than 90% efficiency and last time I looked at less that 2 cent per kWh. Go figure.

  140. Important point: The addition of about one big nuke to the existing fleet through power uprates is PER YEAR. How is that possible? Well, thirty years ago, hand calculations carried a large margin to allowables (better be!), which nowadays can safely be reduced by something magical called “computer analysis” ;-) Of course, that requires NRC regulators to eat piles of (computer generated) papers and wave the uprates through. This is not rocket science, but we’re getting there. Now, as can be expected, some uprates have undesired side effects like cracks in pipes in boiling water reactors (which caused TVA to delay indefinitely the planned 15% updates of Browns Ferry Units 2&3), but overall, the “silent build” continues well.

  141. Rattie’s speech did not impress me as much as it impressed others who have commented here. He is saying we do not need to worry about carbon dioxide. Not clear to me why not. One reason he cites is that it will be hard and costly. Well, so are a lot of things. That’s life. Does not mean it is not a problem. Then he points to how few parts per million. Well trace amounts of lots of poisons are lethal at very small concentrations. No, CO2 is not a poison. But it apparently does play a role in climate change, according to a lot of scientists. Rattie says he looked at a model ten years ago and found it wanting. Well, the climate scientists at IPCC apparently came to a simlar conclusion and revised and revamped their models to fix problems like the ones he notes. He says he reads everything he can get his hands on. I wonder if the has reviewed the most recent IPCC material from 2008.

    Rattie is not a very reliable source. I tried some spot-checking. He said the 1977 National Energy Plan “failed miserably”. That was Jimmy Carter’s MEOW speech that introduced it. Nowhere in there did Carter talk about global cooling, even though Rattie implies that the consensus at that time was that the planet was cooling and fossil fuels were to blame. So wrong. Carter was pointing to a peak in oil and gas. He thought oil would peak by 1985. He was off on that. It now looks like it peaked in the 2005-2008 period. But only time will tell. Gas we have plenty of for now. But Carter was not wrong about there being an eventual peak. Carter also called for a DOE (check, done, good idea) and a Strategic Oil Reserve (ditto) in that speech. He also talked about the importance of letting prices reflect the true costs of energy. Sounds like a call for letting markets work to me, which is what Rattie is saying Carter did not do.

  142. Government seems generally to use science in order to expand their reach. What I read between the lines with the 80 by 50 Cap and Trade is that the Federal Government has structured a means of collecting energy tax forever. It may appear that some in our government want us to go back to the horse and buggy but they could never collect enough taxes at such limited production capacity to remain operational so it appears to me that the program is designed to create a permanemt income stream through collection of a yet another energy tax.

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