Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Nuclear Technologies: Fusion and Fission

Brian Westenhaus takes a look at Tri-Alpha Energy's approach to Boron fusion:fission. That article complements an earlier piece by Brian Wang on Tri-Alpha.
Tri-Alpha’s position is, “We want to know the energy and location of every outgoing alpha particle.” This is important because in a pB11 reaction the harvest is high energy Helium that can be used to directly generate electricity.

The news from Tri-Alpha is the discovery of two high-energy α-particles (alphas) – that will have a huge impact on pB11 fueled reactor designs because the alphas are much easier to extract and convert more efficiently into electricity.

This is quite significant news and powerful information that may apply to the other two leading pB11 fueled efforts, the Lerner Focus Fusion effort and the Bussard Wiffle Ball work. _Brian Westenhaus

Tri-Alpha's approach is a hybrid form of fusion:fission, where high energy protons are forced into Boron 11, converting it to Carbon 12 in a highly energetic state. The Carbon 12 decays -- or fissions -- emitting up to 3 high energy alpha particles.

79 page PDF document explaining this approach more thoroughly

Brian Wang has more recently discussed a report by Kachan & Co. on new nuclear technologies. Here is the executive summary of the report (PDF).

Below is a talk by Mark Halper on future innovations in fusion and fission (via Brian Wang):

We have barely learned to extract energy from basic matter. Ideological green faux environmentalists want us to reject advanced energy technologies, and to return to primitivist quasi-feudal societies of a subsistence nature. Such an approach, if enacted, would result in the deaths of billions of humans across the planet.

It can be assumed that most intelligent humans -- if properly informed -- would choose an advanced technology approach to a future of abundant energy.

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Without Obama, US Energy & Economic Prospects Improve

US President Obama has big plans for using the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to shut down a large number of US energy projects and enterprises. The EPA's destructive plans are already in the works, and will be enacted over the next few months even if Obama is defeated. Fortunately, a new Romney / Ryan administration would soon be on the job to shut down those shenanigans.

With a new US administration will come a new and brighter day for US energy -- with healthy add-on effects to the US economy at large. Here is a look at the big advantage that the US will have over Europe and East Asia -- if Obama is defeated:
Some fifty new projects have been unveiled in the US petrochemical industry. A $30bn investment blitz in underway in ethylene and fertilizer plants alone.

A study by the American Chemistry Council said the shale gas bonanza has reversed the fortunes of the chemical, plastics, aluminium, iron and steel, rubber, coated metals, and glass industries. "This was virtually unthinkable five years ago," said the body’s president, Cal Dooley.

...The revival of the chemical industry is a spin-off from the greater drama of America’s energy rebound, though a very big one. As many readers will have seen, the US energy department said last week that the country will produce 11.4m barrels a day (b/d) of oil, biofuels, and liquid hydrocarbons next year, almost as much as Saudi Arabia.

...America looks poised to become the world’s biggest producer in 2014. It will approach the Holy Grail of "energy independence" before the end of the decade. This is largely due to hydraulic fracturing - blasting rock with water jets - to extract shale gas and oil, though solar power and onshore wind are playing their part.

Europe is going in the opposite direction, drifting towards energy suicide. So is Japan as it shuts down its nuclear industry after the Fukushima disaster. China is more hard-headed, as it needs to be. The country is adding 20m cars a year. Chinese oil imports are rising by an extra 0.5m b/d annually.

As of last week, US natural gas prices were roughly one third of European levels. The German chemicals group BASF said it had become impossible to match the US on production costs.

Asia is facing an even greater handicap as Japan soaks up supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to offset the closure of its nuclear power stations. Prices on the Pacific rim are near $15 per million British thermal units (BTU), compared to $3 in the US. _Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
H/T Anti-Green

If Obama is re-elected, all of those positive plans could easily come screeching to a halt, as the EPA moves to regulate the shale bonanza out of existence -- as well as a large number of other energy enterprises.

The green movement is composed largely of very impractical ideologues. They have achieved ascendancy in several governments of advanced nations -- including the US, Germany, Australia, and several others -- to a greater or lesser extent. Greens reject reliable forms of energy such as nuclear and hydrocarbons, in favour of the intermittent unreliables -- big wind and big solar.

If Europe does not find a way out of the green miasma of the energy starvationist lefty-Luddite greens, it will find itself growing demographically old in an environment of increasing energy scarcity. It is bad enough to grow old. But to grow old in the dark and cold -- that is a sad legacy for a once great continent.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Will Ohio and Pennsylvania Voters Commit Economic Suicide?

Ohio and Pennsylvania have been enjoying an economic boom as a result of fracking for natural gas in tight rock formations. Good economic times favours the incumbent president in an election. But President Obama and his EPA are predisposed to regulate fracking for oil & gas out of profitable existence, once safely past the next election. They would largely kill Ohio's and Pennsylvania's nascent economic prosperity, as a result.

Obama says that green energy is best, and that "we can't drill our way out of this problem." But a lot of very serious people are saying that, "yes we can drill our way into millions of new jobs!"

Obama is not likely to acknowledge it publicly, but the only entities to profit from a shutdown of US fracking for oil & gas, would be Russia and the OPEC oil states.

H/T Carpe Diem

US Oil Production Reaches 17 Year High, thanks to fracking

More on the US energy boom from horizontal drilling and fracturing

More on shale oil & gas

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Return of Widom-Larsen; Revival of Cold Fusion / LENR

What is Widom-Larsen? Here is brief summary from Discover Magazine
Larsen considered other nuclear reactions that could subtly produce energy. One candidate was radioactive decay, which occurs when unstable atomic nuclei release energy in the form of radiation. Some elements found in nature, like radium, undergo this decay. Could something in the cold fusion apparatus be doing much the same? Larsen formulated a theory showing how that could happen, and in 2004 he recruited Northeastern University theoretical physicist Allan Widom to hone his ideas.

Their theory showed how a film of negatively charged electrons covering the palladium could combine with positively charged protons from the water’s hydrogen atoms to form neutrons. Those neutrons could then be gobbled up by nearby lithium nuclei, disturbing the delicate balance of protons and neutrons that keep the nuclei stable. The lithium nuclei would rapidly decay, first into beryllium and then into helium, and emit radiation. Finally, the film of electrons would absorb the radiation and reemit it as heat. Widom and Larsen called this chain of events a low-energy nuclear reaction, or LENR—a more accurate and palatable term than cold fusion. The European Physical Journal C published their theory in 2006.

The paper did not make a splash at first. By then, scores of wild-eyed papers had claimed to explain cold fusion. Yet Widom-Larsen theory had more going for it. For one, it had the authority of a respected theorist in Widom. It also had the ring of plausibility: It proposed a phenomenon permitted by the known laws of physics, no new science required. “Widom-Larsen theory is the best formulated explanation of what’s going on,” says Ephraim Fischbach, a Purdue University physicist who is not involved in LENR research.

In addition, Widom and Larsen theorized that the same neutron production process could happen in nature. Recently, scientists found one piece of supporting evidence for that. In March a study in Physical Review Letters described a large flux of neutrons during thunderstorms—perhaps, Larsen says, the result of LENRs in the atmosphere sparked by electricity from lightning.

As the Widom-Larsen theory gains traction, more physicists are emerging to put it to the test. In March, Yogendra Srivastava from the University of Perugia in Italy, who worked with Widom and Larsen on their theory, chaired a LENR-themed colloquium at CERN—the institution’s first official examination of “cold fusion” in more than two decades. Soon after, NASA released details on a $200,000-a-year research program on LENRs, led by Zawodny. “The theory made it past peer review in a real journal,” he says. “But I’m always skeptical. I only believe what I can prove.” _Discover
So far, LENR / Cold Fusion has only managed to heat a bit of water, and produce a little steam. But if engineers can take Widom-Larsen -- or something similarly plausible -- and learn to reliably produce significant amounts of heat, they might be able to create devices which could be scaled up and down for a wide range of commercial and scientific purposes.

One is not reassured by the antics of Andrea Rossi, but there are dozens of more sober scientists who are consistently reporting anomalous heat production using similar apparatuses.


LENR Forum discusses this story

Widom Larsen Portal at New Energy Times


Nuclear Energy: Blog Carnival 128 and More

The 128th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is being hosted by Atomic Power Review. Below, we provide a few excerpts:
The Hiroshima Syndrome - Leslie Corrice

Earthquake Phobia Threatens Japan's Electrical Infrastructure

The majority of the currently-idled Japanese nukes are ready to produce the electricity which would alleviate the nation's current electrical shortage. The energy supply situation in Japan is critical, but it seems the majority of the country’s news outlets and politicians don’t really care. They would rather dwell on fear concerning exaggerated assumptions of earthquake impacts on operating nukes. Will the Japanese people ever be made aware of what’s really the case? And, if they are made aware, when will they say “Enough!!” and demand rational recovery from the very real tsunami-spawned, politically-exacerbated economic disaster ravaging Japan?


Meredith Angwin submits two posts this week; one at her own Yes Vermont Yankee site, and one at the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

ANS:  Mind the gap - Vermont's energy supply

There's a 30% gap in Vermont's "committed resources" for electricity because Vermont utilities no longer have contracts with Vermont Yankee. Angwin looks at the probable future price of gas and electricity. She concludes that it would be better for the ratepayers if that gap were still filled by Vermont Yankee.

YVY:  Federal Court Dismisses Vermont Yankee tax case

Next Big Future - Brian Wang

Updated list of new Nuclear reactors expected to start operation from 2013 through 2017

All 20 Canadian nuclear reactors are in operation.


Paul Bowersox submits the following on behalf of the ANS Nuclear Cafe:

Update on Nuclear Waste Confidence Court Ruling

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission will not issue new nuclear plant licenses or life extensions until it addresses issues raised by a federal appeals court concerning long-term spent nuclear fuel storage. Jim Hopf at the ANS Nuclear Cafe brings an update and perspective on the impact of the NRC licensing suspension.

_Atomic Power Review 128th Nuke Blogger Carnie
As expected, the Obama NRC continues to stonewall new US nuclear power development. But elsewhere in the world, nuclear power continues to expand:
There are 65 reactors being built around the world, and 69% of them are in the fast-growing Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Beijing's ambitious programme will increase nuclear from 2% to 5% of the country's electricity supply by 2020, and make China the world's biggest market for new nuclear equipment.

India – which lacks fossil fuel resources and has been growing so fast that its electricity supply is falling 12% short at peak hours, causing frequent blackouts – is also planning a massive expansion programme. The country hopes nuclear will account for 50% of its electricity needs by 2050, up from just 3.7% last year. _Guardian
Hitachi is investing in planned new nuclear buildup in the UK:
Japanese electronics manufacturer and engineering company Hitachi is reportedly close to closing the deal on purchasing Horizon, a nuclear reactor builder with contracts in Britain, for an amount of more than 50 billion yen (approx. $628.5 million). The German owners of Horizon, RWE and E.ON, were said by the Asahi Shimbun this weekend to be making agreements to final terms with Hitachi at this point.

Horizon is said to have plans to build 6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in Britain, as the nation’s government looks to expand its use of the controversial energy, with new plants hopefully coming online by 2025. _JapanDailyPress
US Oak Ridge National Laboratories has debuted the Titan supercomputer, capable of 20,000 trillion operations per second. It will be used for a wide range of energy-related projects, including the design of new nuclear reactors.

Nuclear power is the future of large-scale energy on planet Earth. And while humans continue to develop controlled nuclear fusion, steady advances in safer, cleaner, scalable, reliable, affordable nuclear fission reactors will continue to take place.

The transition from a fossil fuel economy to an electrically grounded economy will continue, with nuclear power taking the central role.

One proviso: Abundant high quality, high temperature process heat from nuclear power will allow for a virtually unlimited supply of high value chemicals, fuels, polymers, lubricants, and other materials. These high value products will be produced from low cost natural gas, gas hydrates, kerogens, bitumens, coal, and biomass. They will be produced centrally, regionally, and locally, as high temperature gas cooled reactors become more scalable and transportable.

It is not just about nuclear power. It is also about the incredible number of abundances that clean, safe, scalable and widely disseminated nuclear power will facilitate.

Faux environmentalist greens of the dieoff.orgiast persuasion will continue to block all forms of reliable energy -- wherever they can. It is up to the rest of us to make sure that the human future has an abundance of reliable power and energy, despite the lefty-Luddite obstructionists.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nicole M Foss' Dose of Reality on Renewable Energy

Nicole M. Foss, peak oiler, climate catastrophist, energy and economy writer, and co-editor of the automatic . . . . makes her case against renewable energy in a 30+ page essay complete with a cornucopia of links and references.

Typically, people who believe in peak oil, climate catastrophe, overpopulation, resource scarcity, etc. etc. will also believe strongly in large scale adoption of renewable energy.

But in her "Renewable Energy the Vision and a Dose of Reality," Foss looks very broadly at the issue of replacing modern electric power generating infrastructure with large scale renewables, and suggests that the goals of Al Gore, Angela Merkel, Julia Gillard, and the rest of the usual suspects cannot be met on any reasonable time scale.

The piece is worth reading for its links and source quotations alone.

Reading Foss, I was reminded of Gail Tverberg's article: "Forget Renewables, We Need Cheap Oil."

Both Tverberg and Foss have been connected to The Oil Drum international organisation in one way or another. Both are well educated, largely in thrall to the peak oil / EROEI hype, participants in carbon hysteria -- and yet both have come out publicly against big renewable energy.

It is at these junctures of intersecting conclusions, that people who hold vastly different assumptions can for a short time meld their mental functions and stretch their congealed attitudes -- if they want to.

Many contemporary sceptics of peak oil and climate catastrophe were once adherents to those ideas. But careful attention to details and demonstrable dynamic trends allowed them to break through the contrictive assumptions that hold so many otherwise intelligent people thrall to those quasi-religious beliefs. One would assume that Tverberg and Foss were once enthusiastic about the potential for large scale renewables, before they were hit over the head by the harsh realities.

Most humans never live long enough to shed their most erroneous beliefs and assumptions. That being the case, most humans are unable to arrive at realistic conclusions, no matter how valid their intermediate chains of logic.

If enough intelligent and articulate humans wake up -- even in a very limited way -- in time to prevent a boondoggle of catastrophic proportions, that may be all we can ask for. If the same humans go on to support other disastrous boondoggles, well, they are only human.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Russia's Deadly Dependency on Oil & Gas Revenues

How dependent on oil & gas revenues is Russia's federal budget? Vladimir Putin recently claimed that his government is only 50% dependent on oil & gas revenues:
President Vladimir Putin said at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.... “Fifty percent of our budget revenue comes from oil and gas sales. _Putin talks to Valdai Discussion Group
But Putin's claim is quite low in comparison with most estimates. In fact, even official numbers place Russia's oil & gas dependency at a higher level than Putin:
Russia’s federal budget is reliant on commodities revenues - according to official data, commodities contribute around 60 percent of the federal budget; in reality, that number is closer to 75–80 percent as much of the service sector depends on money from oil and gas. _Russia's Oil Luck or Curse
So, Putin claims a 50% dependency. Official data puts the number closer to 60%. And "in reality," the number may be as high as 80%. Or perhaps even more.

When discussing the impact of the North American shale revolution on the future of Russia, Russia Today puts the figure at 80%:
Should “a shale revolution” really take place, it’ll seriously reshape the world energy market, where traditional energy sources could be replaced by cheaper shale commodities. This will hit Russia’s budget hard, as oil and gas revenues provide for about 80% of the entire Russian budget. _Natural Gas Europe _ via
Regardless of its exact level of dependency on oil & gas revenues, Russia's government is extremely vulnerable to declines in international oil prices, to international competition for oil & gas sales, and to any threats to domestic oil & gas production and transport within Russia itself.

Russia's oil infrastructure, for example, is relatively old and degrading rapidly. When the Russian government finally makes a decision to divert oil & gas profits away from the federal budget and political cronies for necessary upgrades to production equipment, it may find itself competing internationally for access to limited quantities of state-of-the-art technology.

Russia is undergoing rapid change demographically. Its best young people are leaving:
Emigration jumped 22 percent in the spring of 2011, mainly fuelled by educated youth. Gudkov said that over the past decade, Russia has lost about a million and a half people from the middle class.

“These are the most educated, the most successful, the most enterprising people,” said Gudkov. “They did not leave the country because of insecurity or economic problems, but because of a lack of political possibilities. Those who have been successful in Russia understand that under current conditions, they may not be able to protect their assets or loved ones in the absence of political protection, especially judicial protection.” _Source
A nation's people are its most important infrastructure. And Russia's government is squandering its people through its corrupt and short-sighted diversion of Russia's oil & gas wealth into the bank accounts of the politically well-connected.

Of course, Russia is not unique among nations in that regard.

The pandemic of corrupt government has cursed nations from the US to the EU to Russia, China, Australia, and across the third world. That is not the question. The question is "at what level of corruption does a high quality of life become impossible for most citizens?" Because at that point, your best people are going to get out, if they can.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Energy Wars: Haughty Huns Threaten Pols and Czechs

Germany is conducting an energy war, using the erratic and unpredictable wind as a covert weapon against its neighbors.
Germany is dumping electricity on its unwilling neighbors and by wintertime the feud should come to a head...

...Central and Eastern European countries are moving to disconnect their power lines from Germany’s during the windiest days. That’s when they get flooded with energy, echoing struggles seen from China to Texas over accommodating the world’s 200,000 windmills.

...Renewable energy around the world is causing problems... At times, the glut can be so great that utilities pay consumers to take the power and get rid of it.

...The problem may intensify with the approaching winter. With an insufficient north-south connection, Germany’s power network came close to a collapse last February when high winds in the Baltic sea flooded it with power and the Czech Republic and Poland threatened to disconnect their grids.

...“The Germans are using our infrastructure in an excessive manner,” CEPS board member Zbynek Boldis said in an interview in Prague. “At this point they’re getting a free lunch.”

...“Electricity follows a path of least resistance in the grid, according to the laws of physics,” Boldis said. “The result is that our transmission system is overloaded, we have security threats.” _Bloomberg
Big wind energy generates large and erratic power irregularities in the grid, on an almost instantaneous basis. These large power shifts cause expensive damage to critical power backup infrastructure, and significantly shorten the useful lifetimes of backup systems worth tens of billions of Euros or more.

Wind advocates claim that the problems of big wind can be solved using geographical averaging, supergrids, and energy storage. But a close analysis demonstrates that such is not the case.

The wind does not generally blow at times when the power grid needs the most power. And it tends to blow the most when the power grid is already well supplied -- forcing the grid to dump excess power at significant cost.

This de facto energy war is actually a religious war -- a crusade. Underlying green philosophies which drive the compulsion to overbuild wind and solar infrastructure, are equivalent to religious dogma, unsupported by science or empirical observations.

Over the past hundred years, Germany has had a tendency to start wars that devastated large areas of the world, leaving most of Europe in tatters for decades. Let us hope that this German-instigated war does not achieve the same dismal result. Preliminary analysis, however, does not provide much hope.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bioenergy News Links and Briefs

Cool Planet Energy Systems thinks they can make advanced biofuels for $1.50 a gallon.
The company has a test facility in Camarillo, CA that creates fuel by pressing feedstock between plates under high pressure, and then placing the plates in a device called a fractionator. This process results in a release of a gas which is then captured and then converted, using catalysts, to a liquid. _PO

A Korean team of researchers has managed to increase production yield of butanol from glucose through improved genetic engineering of the microbe Clostridium Acytobutylicum
Using a systems metabolic engineering approach, researchers in Korea have improved the butanol production performance of Clostridium acetobutylicum, one of the best known butanol-producing bacteria. A paper on their work is published in mBio, an open access journal issued by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

A promising new way of breaking down cellulose into cheap sugars earns a patent.

Poet's approach to converting cellulose into sugars is a bit more energy intensive:
The Andritz technology is a two-stage process that includes a vertical reactor, an interstage washer and then the continuous steam explosion technology (Advanced SteamEx, a trademarked process) to draw out available sugars from the cellulose material. It’s those sugars—through Project Liberty’s proprietary enzyme and yeast technologies—that get converted into ethanol. _BiomassMag

Calysta's "Bio-GTL" uses bioengineered organisms to produce chemicals and fuels from methane.

The US Navy continues to develop its ability to produce its own liquid fuels from biomass

The need to develop reliable biomass supply chains

Biomass is a less dense, less concentrated a form of potential energy, as compared to fossil fuels or nuclear energy. But biomass can be grown almost anywhere on Earth, land or sea, year after year after year.

As better biomass crops are developed, better ways of densifying biomass are created, and better ways of converting biomass into energy are perfected, bioenergy becomes more viable in competition with other energy sources -- particularly in geographically isolated areas.

But realistically, for the near to intermediate future, relatively inexpensive energy from conventional and unconventional fossil fuels will remain inexpensive enough to keep most forms of biofuels from the competitive marketplace.

Nevertheless, as breakthroughs continue to be made in terms of better yields and greater efficiencies of supply and production, bioenergy will grow more competitive.

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Guest Article: 20 Bad Things About Wind Power

The following is a guest article written by John Droz, first published at It is also being cross-posted to Al Fin

1 – Wind energy was abandoned well over a hundred years ago, as even in the late 1800s it was totally inconsistent with our burgeoning, more modern needs for power. When we throw the switch, we expect that the lights will go on – 100% of the time. It’s not possible for wind energy, by itself, to EVER do this, which is one of the main reasons it was relegated to the dust bin of antiquated technologies (along with such other inadequate energy sources as horse and oxen power).

2 – Fast forward to several years ago. With politicians being convinced that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) was an imminent catastrophic threat, lobbyists launched campaigns to favor anything that would purportedly reduce carbon dioxide. This was the marketing opportunity that the wind energy business needed. Wind energy was resurrected from the dust bin of power sources, as its promoters pushed the fact that wind turbines did not produce CO2 while generating electricity.

3 – Of course, just that by itself is not significant, so the original wind development lobbyists then made the case for a quantum leap: that by adding wind turbines to the grid we could significantly reduce CO2 from those “dirty” fossil fuel electrical sources (especially coal). This argument became the basis for many states implementing a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) or Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – which mandated that the state’s utilities use (or purchase) a prescribed amount of wind energy (“renewables”), by a set date.

Why was a mandate necessary? Simply because the real world reality of integrating wind energy made it a very expensive option. As such, no utility companies would likely do this on their own. They had to be forced to. For more on the cost, please keep reading.

4 – Interestingly, although the stated main goal of these RES/RPS programs was to reduce CO2, not a single state’s RES/RPS requires verification of CO2 reduction from any wind project, either beforehand or after the fact. The politicians simply took the sales peoples’ word that consequential CO2 savings would be realized!

5 - It wasn’t too long before utility companies and independent energy experts calculated that the actual CO2 savings were miniscule (if any). This was due to the inherent nature of wind energy, and the realities of necessarily continuously balancing the grid, on a second-by-second basis, with fossil-fuel-generated electricity. The frequently cited Bentek study (How Less Became More) is a sample independent assessment of this aspect. More importantly, there has been zero scientific empirical proof provided by the wind industry to support their claims of consequential CO2 reduction.

6 – Suspecting that the CO2 deception would soon be exposed, the wind lobbyists took pre-emptive action, and added another rationale to prop up their case: energy diversity. However, since our electricity system already had considerable diversity (and many asked “more diversity at what cost?”) this hype never gained much traction. Back to the drawing board….

7 - The next justification put forward by the wind marketers was energy independence. This cleverly played on the concern most people have about oil and Middle East instability. Many ads were run promoting wind energy as a good way to reduce our “dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”

None of these ads mentioned that only about 1% of our electricity is generated from oil. Or that the US exports more oil than we use for electricity. Or that our main import source for oil is Canada (not the Middle East). Despite the significant omissions and misrepresentations, this claim still resonates with many people, so it continues to be pushed. Whatever works.

8 – Knowing full well that the assertions used to date were specious, wind proponents manufactured still another claim: green jobs. This was carefully selected to coincide with widespread employment concerns. Unfortunately, when independent qualified parties examined the situation more closely, they found that the claims were wildly exaggerated. Big surprise!

Further, as attorney and energy expert Chris Horner has so eloquently stated:

There is nothing – no program, no hobby, no vice, no crime – that does not ‘create jobs.’ Tsunamis, computer viruses and shooting convenience store clerks all ‘create jobs.’ So that claim misses the point. Since it applies to all, it is an argument in favor of none. Instead of making a case on the merits, it is an admission that one has no such arguments.

See a very detailed critique of the jobs situation at PTCFacts.Info. Listed there are TEN major reasons why using jobs as an argument is not appropriate or meaningful. Additionally there is a list of some 45 reports written by independent experts, and they all agree that renewable energy claims are based on numerous fallacies.

9 – Relentlessly moving forward, wind marketers then tried to change the focus from jobs to “economic development.” The marketers typically utilized a computer program called JEDI to make bold economic projections. Unfortunately, JEDI is a totally inadequate model for accurately arriving at such numbers, for a variety of technical reasons. The economic development contentions have also been shown to be inaccurate, as they never take into account economic losses that result from wind energy implementation – for example agricultural losses due to bat killings, and job losses due to higher electricity costs for factories, hospitals and numerous other employers.

Additionally, as with jobs, economic development in-and-of-itself has nothing to do with the merits of wind energy as a power source. Let’s say we have a transportation RES mandating that 20% of a state’s vehicles be replaced by horse power by 2020. There would be a LOT of “economic development” (making horse carriages and buggy whips, building horse barns, growing and shipping hay) that would result from such an edict. But would that be any indication that it is an intelligent, beneficial policy?

10 – Along the way, yet another claim began making the rounds: that wind energy is low cost. This is surprisingly bold, considering that if that were really true, RES/RPS mandates would not be necessary. For some reason, all calculations showing wind to be “low cost” conveniently ignore exorbitant subsidies, augmentation costs, power adjusting (see next item), additional transmission costs, and so on. Independent analyses of levelized costs (e.g. from the EIA) have concluded that (when ALL applicable wind-related costs are accurately calculated) wind energy is MUCH more expensive than any conventional source we have.

11 – A subtle (but significant) difference between wind energy and other conventional sources of electricity is in power quality. This term refers to such technical performance factors as voltage transients, voltage variations, waveform distortion (e.g. harmonics), frequency variations, and so forth. The reality is that wind energy introduces many more of these issues than does a conventional power facility. Additional costs are needed to deal with these wind-caused problems. These are rarely identified in pro-wind economic analyses.

12 – When confronted with the reality that wind energy is considerably more expensive than any conventional source, a common rejoinder is to object to that by saying that once the “externalities” of conventional sources are taken into account, wind is less expensive than those conventional sources.

To gullible sheeple, this might make sense. But consider the following two points. First, externality analyses posited by wind zealots never take into account the true environmental consequences of wind energy (rare earth impacts [see below], human health effects, bird and bat deaths, the CO2 generated from a two million pound concrete base, etc.).

Second, the “externalities” for things like coal are always only the negative part. If these advocates want a true big picture calculation, then they need to also add in the benefits to us from low-cost coal-based electricity. Considering that coal played a major part in our economic success and improved health and living standards over the past century, such a plus factor would be enormous.

[BTW there is some evidence that the negative externalities (e.g. about coal related asthma claims) are exaggerated. What a surprise!]

13 – A key grid ingredient is Firm Capacity. (A layman’s translation is that this is an indication of dependability.) Conventional sources (like nuclear) have a Firm Capacity of nearly 100%. Wind has a Firm Capacity of about 0%. Big difference!

14 – Since this enormous Firm Capacity discrepancy is indisputable, wind energy apologists then decided to adopt the strategy that wind energy isn’t a “capacity resource” after all, but rather an “energy resource.” Surprisingly, this may be the first contention that is actually true! But what does this really mean?

The reality is that saying “wind is an energy source” is a trivial statement, on a par with saying “wind turbines are white.” Lightning is an energy source. So what? The fact is that your cat is an energy source too. In this Alice-in-Wonderland reality, connecting the cat to the grid (after heavily subsidizing it, of course), makes as much sense as does connecting puff power.

15 - Wind marketers then hit on a new tactic: that we should use wind as it is a plentiful resource. This is a strategy based on a part truth: that we should be utilizing energy sources that are abundant, reliable, and low-cost. There are two major deficiences in this thinking.

First, abundant sources that are not reliable and that are not low-cost (i.e. wind energy), are a net detriment to our economy. Second, if they are really saying that abundance should be our primary focus, then they should be promoting nuclear power and geothermal energy. Both of these sources have something like a million times the available energy that wind does. Both of those are orders of magnitude more reliable than wind is. Both are lower cost when comparing the actual levelized cost of wind energy (e.g. Wind+ Gas).

16 - One of the latest buzz-words is sustainability. One has to give these marketeers credit for being persistently imaginative. The truth about sustainability is:

a) It is totally hypocritical to have wind advocates attacking fossil fuels as unsustainable, when the wind business has an ENORMOUS dependency on fossil fuels for their construction, delivery, maintenance and operation. This article explains some of it.

b) Nothing is sustainable, as this piece accurately explains.

c) Wind energy is our LEAST sustainable option!

17 – A related pitch is that our adoption of wind energy will help us break “our fossil fuel dependence.” Guess what? The reality is that wind actually guarantees our perpetual dependence on fossil fuels! In addition to wind turbines’ dependence on fossil fuels for manufacture, delivery and maintenance, the only way wind energy can quasi-function on the grid is to have it continuously augmented by a fast responding power source – which for a variety of technical and economic reasons is usually gas.

It’s rather amusing that the same environmental organizations that support wind energy are also against shale gas. That’s like saying that you love Italian food but hate tomato sauce. The two are paired together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Realizing that their best defense is a good offense, some of these hucksters are now contending the inverse: that wind actually augments gas! So wind that generates electricity 25±% of the time is “augmenting” gas, which has to supply the 75±%! This immediately brings to mind the British army band playing “The World Turned Upside Down.”

18 – The claim that wind energy is “green” or “environmentally friendly” is laugh-out-loud hilarious – except for the fact that the reality is not funny at all. Consider just one part of a turbine, the generator, which uses considerable rare earth elements (2000± pounds per MW).

The mining and processing of these metals has horrific environmental consequences that are unacknowledged and ignored by the wind industry and its environmental surrogates. For instance, a typical 100 MW wind project would generate approximately:

a) 20,000 square meters of destroyed vegetation,

b) 6 million cubic meters of toxic air pollution,

c) 33 million gallons of poisoned water,

d) 600 million pounds of highly contaminated tailing sands, and

e) 100,000 pounds of radioactive waste. (See this, and this, and this.)

19 – Modern civilization is based on our ability to produce electrical POWER. Our modern sense of power is inextricably related to controlled performance expectations: when we turn the knob, we expect the stove to go on 100% of the time – not just on those wildly intermittent occasions when the wind is blowing within a certain speed range.

Underlying a lot of the wind lobbyists’ claims is a carefully crafted, implied message that there is some kind of wind energy “equivalency” to conventional sources. This assumption is the basis for such assertions that XYZ wind project will power 1,000 homes. Such claims are totally false. They are dishonest from several perspectives: the most obvious error being that XYZ wind project will NEVER provide power to any 1000 homes 24/7 (or really seconds or fractions of a second within each minute of each hour). It might not provide power for even one home 86400/1440/24/7.

Yet we see this same “equivalency” message conveyed even more subtly on EIA tables for levelized costs. Wind and conventional sources should not be on the same table, but they are (defended only by a small footnote). One useful analogy is to consider the cost, speed, reliability and load capacity of a single eighteen-wheeler truck in making daily interstate deliveries of furniture, heavy equipment or other large products. This semi-truck is equivalent to a nuclear plant.

In energy generation terms, the wind turbine equivalent is to attempt to replace the single truck with golf carts. How many golf carts would it take to equal the cost, speed, reliability and load capacity of a single eighteen-wheeler in making daily interstate deliveries? This is a trick question, as the answer is that there is no number that would work: not ten, not a hundred, not ten thousand, not a million. Exactly the same situation exists in the electricity sector: no number of turbines will ever equal the cost, reliability and output of one conventional electricity plant.

20 – A close cousin of the prior illegitimate contention is that “The wind is always blowing somewhere, so spreading wind projects out will result in a combination that has a dependable output.” Like essentially all the wind industry mis-infomercials do, this bald assertion has a soothing, reassuring ring. But this marketing claim is unsupported by any empirical, real world evidence. For instance, in southeastern Australia about 20 wind projects are spread out over a single 1000± mile long grid. Yet the combined result in no way even approximates the consistent dependable performance of our primary conventional sources.

Again, our modern society is based on abundant, reliable, affordable electric power. All these specious claims for wind energy are simply part of a long line of snake oil sales spiels – intended to fool the public and enable politicians to justify favoring special interests by enriching various rent-seekers (which will then return the favor via campaign contributions and other reelection support).

They get away with this primarily for three basic reasons.

1 - Wind proponents are not asked to independently PROVE the merits of their claims before (or after) their product is forced on the public.

2 - There is no penalty for making bogus assertions or dishonest claims about their product’s “benefits,” so each successive contention is more grandiose than the last.

3 - Promoting wind is a political agenda that is divorced from real science. A true scientific assessment is a comprehensive, objective evaluation with transparent real world data – not on carefully massaged computer models and slick advertising campaigns, which are the mainstay of anti-science evangelists promoting political agendas.

So, in effect, we have come around full circle. A hundred-plus years ago, wind energy was recognized as an antiquated, unreliable and expensive source of energy – and now, after hundreds of billions of wasted tax and consumer dollars, we find that (surprise!) it still is an antiquated, unreliable and expensive source of energy. This is what happens when science is relegated to a back-of-the-bus status.

Paraphrasing Dr. Jon Boone:

Let’s see the real world evidence for the lobbyists’ case. I’m weary of these relentless projections, uncontaminated as they are by reality. In a nutshell, what these profiteers are seeking to do, through methodological legerdemain, is to make wind appear to be what it is not. This is a plot lifted out of Cinderella and her step-sisters, or the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s really a story of class aspirations, but one that is bizarrely twisted: giving wind a makeover to make her seem fetching and comely when in fact she’s really a frog.

When you hear that wind opposition is all about NIMBYs, think about the above points, and then reflect on what NIMBY really means: The Next Idiot Might Be You.

_John Droz

For a more thorough discussion of the problems with wind energy, see this slideshare presentation by John Droz


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

US EPA Standing By to Shut Down US Energy Boom

This article was previously published on Al Fin

Today we bring you some good news, and some bad news, about the US shale revolution -- which has been the saving grace in the US economy over the last few years.

First, the good news:
Image Source
The U.S. shale boom... has transformed the U.S. energy sector. Shale gas alone is now 10 percent of the overall energy supply in the country.

A surge in unconventional oil and gas extraction nationwide will trigger more than $5.1 trillion in capital spending and support a total of 1.7 million jobs this year, a number that will swell to almost 3 million by 2020, a leading consultant said in a study released Tuesday. _IBT

Now, the bad news:
...the Obama administration is working to increase federal control over hydraulic fracturing in the United States. In April of this year, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order on hydraulic fracturing that created a working group of 13 executive branch departments to coordinate policies between departments, share research and information on hydraulic fracturing, and ensure that the federal government spoke with one voice on the subject. This was in response to actions being undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency to release new air pollution regulations for shale gas drillers and by the Department of Interior to release new hydraulic fracturing regulations for drilling on public lands.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required drillers to capture emissions of certain air pollutants (volatile organic compounds and methane) from new wells. Drillers can burn the pollutants at the wellhead until the start of 2015, when EPA expects that enough equipment will be available to capture the pollution.[ii] The original proposed rule issued by EPA in 2011... was estimated to reduce oil production from hydraulically fractured wells by up to 37 percent and reduce federal royalties by $8.5 billion and state severance taxes by up to $2.3 billion due to reduced drilling and production.[iii]

While other countries are using hydraulic fracturing to increase production and revenues, the United States – which pioneered the technological breakthroughs that led to the practice — is looking to lower oil and gas production and increase costs by increasing regulations on the technology. To date, hydraulic fracturing has helped to reduce our dependence on imported oil and natural gas, lower natural gas and electric utility bills, and increase employment in states where shale oil and natural gas are produced. It looks like hydraulic fracturing should be a win-win relationship for domestic production and consumption of oil and natural gas, but the Obama Administration has proposed changes that threaten that through increased regulations, despite the fact that the states have successfully regulated that industry for half a century or more. _IER

Obama conveniently (and duplicitously) claims credit for the shale revolution, while his administration works behind the scenes to clamp down on the technologies which made the revolution possible.

Plentiful oil & gas opens the door to a wide range of other industries to grow -- and to return to the US from overseas. No wonder Obama wants to stop it.

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More on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

The future of conventional, large-scale nuclear power in the US is being stymied by the Obama Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Expansion of large scale US nuclear power plants is also being held back by large up front costs and frivolous litigation costs. In addition, current low prices for natural gas make it difficult to justify going through the torturous regulatory, legal, and financial gauntlets that building an old style, full scale nuclear power plant requires.

Consequently, more and more people are beginning to look at small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) as a way out of this impasse.

SMRs are nuclear reactors that are intentionally designed to be less than 300-megawatts, or about one-third of the size of conventional large reactor. By making them small, they have several key benefits not available to large reactors. These issues are discussed at length in a new American Security Project (ASP) report, “Small Modular Reactors: A Possible Path Forward for Nuclear Power.”

First, SMRs offer flexibility. Since they are small, they can be added to the electric grid incrementally. Slow incremental additions better match the slow energy demand growth in the United States, which is projected to be less than 1% per year. Utilities have little interest in building a huge nuclear reactor when demand is not rising quickly enough to justify the investment.

Second, SMRs are designed with several safety features that are an improvement over large reactors. By using simpler designs with fewer coolant pipes and components, the risk of a safety accident declines.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, SMRs have an advantage in cost over large reactors. While a typical large reactor can cost between $6 and $9 billion, an SMR has an estimated price tag of only $250 million for a 100-megawatt reactor. With smaller upfront costs and shorter construction timeframes, utilities can get loans with lower interest rates.

Despite these advantages, no SMR has been constructed to date. Why isn’t the industry building SMRs right now? The biggest obstacle for SMRs is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has licensed no SMR design.

A second impediment is the lack of a track record on performance. Without an example to point to, the burden is on the nuclear industry to prove that the advantages of SMRs discussed above are indeed an improvement over conventional reactors. Until the first plant moves ahead, uncertainty remains.

A third problem is low natural gas prices. The nuclear industry remains bullish on their prospects over the long-term, and with assets that last 60 years, it is essential to not get swept up in the latest hype. However, low natural gas prices present real problems for industry, at least in the near-term.

Whoever occupies the White House come January 2013, the administration will need to lay out an ambitious energy agenda, one that will shape our energy mix for years to come. Nuclear power will likely play a prominent role in America’s energy future, but in order to do so, the nuclear industry must chart a new course. SMRs offer a possible path forward. _The Hill
A new report [PDF download] on small modular reactors (SMRs) is available from the American Security Project.


US Oil Demand Dropping; Oil Production Rising

At the same time that US oil consumption is dropping:
...2012 is on pace to have the lowest monthly average oil consumption since 1996 despite sixteen years of sometimes uneven population, vehicle travel and GDP growth. For the first six months of 2012, US oil demand averaged 18.52 million barrels per day (mb/d), a decline of 11 percent from the 2004 peak of 20.8mb/d. _EnergyPolicyInfo

US oil production is rising:
U.S. production of oil and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. Energy experts say that within just a few years, the United States could top the Saudis. _WSJ

US imports from Canada are around 2.5 mbpd and rising. That means that North American oil is providing roughly 73% of US oil consumption.

Once the Keystone XL and other pipeline infrastructure are built and operating, the numbers should improve even further -- even while US exports of hydrocarbon fuels continue to rise.

More on how unconventional oil & gas are revolutionising the US energy future

Energy is the lifeblood of an industrial economy. Recent US and EU government policies of energy starvation have been counterproductive, based upon ideology rather than upon societal needs or empirically demonstrable scientific facts.

It is time to put an end to political dilettantes and unelected bureaucrats playing ideological games with the energy futures of entire civilisations.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iowa Wants to be the Saudi Arabia of Advanced Biofuels

Iowa is a prolific producer of biomass. It has also long been a focus of innovative design and engineering.

Here is the basic plan devised by Iowa State University engineers:
The Iowa State idea calls for biomass to be transported to small, local fast pyrolysis plants that would convert crop biomass into liquid bio-oil. The bio-oil would be easily transported to bigger, regional facilities where it could be gasified and processed into transportation and boiler fuels.

First, biomass is fed into a fast pyrolysis machine where it's quickly heated without oxygen. The end product is a thick, brown oil that can be divided and further processed into fuels. Researchers sometimes describe bio-oil as densified biomass that's much easier to handle and transport than raw biomass.

Second, the bio-oil is sprayed into the top of the gasifier where heat and pressure vaporize it to produce a combination of (mostly) hydrogen and carbon monoxide that's called synthesis gas.

That gas can be processed into transportation fuels. It can also be used as boiler fuel to create the steam that turns turbines to produce electricity.

"We hope to be able to use cellulosic biomass as opposed to using corn grain for the production of fuels," said Robert C. Brown, the director of Iowa State's Bioeconomy Institute, an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and the Gary and Donna Hoover Chair in Mechanical Engineering. "This helps us move toward cellulosic biofuels." _PO
Iowa State's basic plan helps to solve some of the problems involved in converting biomass to advanced biofuels. But this approach will remain too expensive to compete with cheap natural gas for at least the next several years, if not the next few decades.

Even worse, the Iowa State plan does not address one of the biggest weaknesses in most biomass to biofuels approaches: The cost of collecting the biomass and bringing it together for preprocessing.

There are several viable alternatives to choose from, in solving that and other similar problems. But as long as natural gas remains cheap and readily available, it is unlikely that even the best of biomass to liquids approaches will be able to compete on a large and global scale.

Even so, these technologies should be perfected for many reasons: In geographically isolated regions and islands, hydrocarbon fuels can be extremely expensive. In such areas, advanced BTL may prove viable.

More, as scalable gas-cooled nuclear reactors become available, the cost of BTL will drop due to the availability of cheap, high temperature heat. Finally, natural gas costs are certain to rise sooner or later. It would be best to have your BTL technology ready for scaling up, when that happens.

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Can Shrinking Russia's Decrepit Oil Infrastructure Go It Alone?

“For foreign oil companies seeking to expand production and reserves, Russia is now off limits,” Robbert Van Batenburg, head of research at Louis Capital Markets LP in New York, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The BP accord “is probably scaring the others away.” ...

Since 2004, Putin has been tightening the government’s grip on the Russian oil sector, moves that made it increasingly difficult for foreign producers to establish or maintain footholds in the country, said William J. Andrews, a fund manager at C.S. McKee & Co. in Pittsburgh....

“The Russians are nationalistic and are going to keep the oil reserves for themselves,” said Andrews, who helps manage $14 billion. “They don’t really have a legal system or a political system. It’s a dictatorship.”

...“Ten years ago, Russia was a much more open place to do business,” Molchanov said. “But that is no longer the case, thanks to Vladimir Putin. The international oil companies are having to look elsewhere for opportunities at a time when the set of opportunities is growing more limited and costly.” _BW
But is Russia -- with its neolithic infrastructure and shrinking ethnic Russian population -- in a position to cut itself off from western expertise and the technological advances that are occurring at a rapid pace in the western world? Is this the same phenomenon of a hubris born of backwardness that brought down the Soviet Union?

Russia's Putin has been banking on rapidly rising oil prices. But more and more western analysts -- including Citi and Goldman -- believe that global oil prices will stabilise near present levels through 2020, and possibly beyond. To finance his ambitious military, nuclear, and technological goals, Putin needs for oil prices to approach $150 a barrel. As long as prices stay near $90 levels, Putin must either restrain his ambitions, or draw down his dwindling reserves.

If Putin refuses to open Russia to outside investment and infrastructure upgrades, he is limiting himself to more devious methods of supporting his grandiose goals for Russia. Methods which include starting proxy wars in and around the middle east to increase the geopolitical risk premium of oil -- driving up global oil prices.

It is a type of "painting oneself into a corner," which appears to be a common character failing of Russian leaders down through history.

Between Russia's core population collapse, its disintegrating public health infrastructure, a debilitating brain drain, and the steady drip, drip, drip of capital flight outside the country -- more intelligent and wise Russians must understand the desperate need for a change in direction.

With Putin at the helm, Russia sails perilously through hazardous straits.

More: A Weak Russia is A Dangerous Russia


Monday, October 22, 2012

Nuclear News: Excerpts from Nuclear Carnival # 127

The 127th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is hosted at ANS Nuclear Cafe.

3. Joseph Somsel: Obama’s War on Nuclear Power. Joseph Somsel presents his opinion piece published in American Thinker – a thought-provoking dissertation on the administration’s incentive, or lack thereof, to support nuclear energy.

4. Atomic Insights: Radiation probes indicate NO melt through at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 Tepco has recently released measurements that provide convincing evidence that virtually all of the corium in Fukushima Daiichi unit #1 remains safely stored inside an intact reactor pressure vessel. Despite all claims to the contrary, no substantial quantities of that material have melted through the pressure vessel to fall onto the concrete floor of the surrounding containment structure. (Illustration of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating station prior to March 2011 courtesy TEPCO.)

6. ANS Nuclear Cafe: UK nuclear new build faces new landscape of vendors. Dan Yurman at the ANS Nuclear Cafe updates readers on some important recent developments in industry bidding for Britain’s Horizon new nuclear energy project – a planned 6 GWe of nuclear power at two new sites. Surprisingly, Areva and China’s CGNPG were not among the bidders, leaving consortiums headed by Westinghouse and Hitachi in the running.

7. Next Big Future: Planned nuclear startups for 2012. Brian Wang reviews the list of 14 nuclear reactors that were expected in 2012. So 9 of 14 have started and are generating some power. It is expected that 12 of 14 should be operating by the of 2012. Several of the 2011 grid connections did not generate full power until 2012.

9. Yes Vermont Yankee: San Onofre Steam Generators / guest post. Dr. Ken Schultz, a past ANS President and recent panel participant at an NRC meeting on San Onofre, makes a guest blog post on YVY incorporating his commentary to the NRC indicating that the steam generators at San Onofre aren’t a safety issue.

10. Yes Vermont Yankee: The Latest Law Suit: Is It a Constitutional Case in Vermont? Back in Vermont, Meredith Angwin writes that the legislature passed a seven million dollar tax that applied to only one business in Vermont– Vermont Yankee. Lawsuits will decide if the tax will remain in place. It would be bad for businesses throughout the country if such a tax stands up in court.

11. Atomic Power Review: INL Press Release and Video. Will Davis uses this week’s Carnival slot to spread the word about an excellent INL video describing waste remediation processes and methods which will interest anyone inside or outside the industry.

12. Nuke Power Talk: The Real Waste Problem. Gail Marcus points out that it is not only nuclear power that generates waste. Every energy source has some waste streams. While much has been said of waste from burning coal, few people seem to be aware of the large volumes of poisonous chemical wastes from solar power plants, or the substantial energy requirements to recycle those wastes.

13. The Neutron Economy: “Does nuclear lack a natural constituency?” During the last presidential debate, both President Obama and Governor Romney were practically falling over themselves to highlight their support of both fossil and renewable energy sources – yet nuclear received scarce mention, being practically orphaned from the debate. Is the problem nuclear’s lack of a natural constituency like those held by fossil and renewable sources?


Nuclear Powered Desalination Offers Best Future for UAE

Nuclear Fusion is a worthy goal

Humans will develop cleaner, safer, more affordable and reliable forms of nuclear energy, sooner or later. Better leadership in government would help enormously.

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Fiscal Breakeven: Why War Is Inevitable

Many people are confused between the concept of oil production costs and the concept of fiscal breakeven, for countries that rely on oil production to finance their government budgets. The graphic below looks at fiscal breakeven for a number of oil states belonging to OPEC.
This is how much each nation must charge for a barrel of oil to support its government budget. For Russia -- not a member of OPEC -- estimates for fiscal breakeven vary between $125 and $150 per barrel.
The price of oil is currently around $85 per barrel, which means that all the countries to the right of Saudi Arabia are losing ground. This is where Hulbert sees the a pending instability. He writes:

"A key outcome of the Arab uprisings has been a significant increase in the prices needed by the producers to manage their fiscal position. This is a serious indictment of the producers' failure to diversify their economies away from a dependence on oil revenues over the past 20 years.

“If the oil price goes much lower, three scenarios could ensue sequentially: a price war forcing prices even lower, a period of internal repression as revenues fail to buy compliance among populations, and internal unrest among producers, which could lead to supply disruptions followed by prices bouncing back." _RCE

Contrast fiscal breakeven levels as pictured above, with upstream production costs for various regions:
Costs for Producing Crude Oil and Natural Gas, 20072009
2009 Dollars per Barrel of Oil Equivalent1

  Lifting Costs Finding Costs Total Upstream Costs
United States Average $12.18 $21.58 $33.76
    On-shore $12.73 $18.65 $31.38
    Off-shore $10.09 $41.51 $51.60
All Other Countries Average $9.95 $15.13 $25.08
    Canada $12.69 $12.07 $24.76
    Africa $10.31 $35.01 $45.32
    Middle East $9.89 $6.99 $16.88
    Central & South America $6.21 $20.43 $26.64


Keep in mind that for the US, Canada, most of Europe, etc. the concept of fiscal breakeven does not apply, since these nations do not depend upon oil sales to finance their governments. The concept of upstream production costs, of course, still applies.

The reason that war is inevitable, is that nations such as Iran, Venezuela, and perhaps Russia, are losing money at current oil prices. And yet, oil production is set to increase from North America to Iraq to Brazil to the far East.

Russia is struggling to produce as much oil as it can, using an infrastructure that should have been replaced over 20 years ago. Red Queen Russia is faced with the need to lure more competent international oil companies into the country to upgrade badly deteriorated oil & gas infrastructure. But Russia has a bad reputation of stealing foreign investment outright -- without apology. Getting insurance to do business in Russia can be difficult, for that reason, and due to rampant organised crime, violence, and extortion.

Is there any wonder why Russia is egging on Iran to build nuclear weapons, or supporting Syria's bloody suppression of a popular uprising? Russia thrives on the geopolitical risk premium built into the price of oil -- between $15 and $30 per barrel in some markets. Russia seeks to push that risk premium even higher, to avoid being forced to curtail its ambitious military and nuclear upgrades.

The same dynamic is at work in the thinking of the dictatorships of Iran, Venezuela, and other oil tyrannies. These despots may understand that wars often grow out of control and consume those who sought to gain from them. But some of them may see no other way out of their fiscal trap.

For Europe, North America, Oceania, and East Asia, the lesson is clear: Develop your own energy resources. Conventional and unconventional oil & gas, coal, nuclear, bitumens, kerogens, gas hydrates, biomass, geothermal . . . . Everything must be on the table -- except for the intermittent unreliables which are more destructive than constructive.

It is time for the more advanced nations to decouple themselves from the incredibly unstable OPEC / Russian oil & gas producers -- as much as possible. That is the only way to prevent the inevitable war from spreading out of control.

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The Impending Collapse of Ephemeral Wind

What Happens to Wind Without Massive Government Subsidy
The wind energy lives and dies by its tax credit. That's because there is no money to be made in generating electricity from windmills. They are tremendously materials intensive, consuming steel and concrete in prodigious amounts. Each 40-story windmill produces 2 megawatts at best, so you need hundred of them to equal a conventional power plant. Even then, they generate unpredictably and only 30 percent of the time. The only thing that makes them worth building is the production tax credit. _RealClearEnergy

But the PTC makes them VERY worthwhile to businesses looking for tax write-offs. Before it went bankrupt in 2003, Enron was the country's largest owner of windmills. Later it was supplanted by the Marriott Hotel chain. A major corporation looking for tax advantages can make money from windmills without ever generating a kilowatt of electricity.

So when Congress fails to renew the tax credit, the industry collapses. This is indicated on the bar chart. Before 2005, the renewal was on a one-year cycle. When Congress failed to renew in 2000, 2002, and 2004, production fell by at least 73 percent each time. In 2005 the PTC was extended to a two-year cycle and was last renewed in the Stimulus Act of 2009. With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, however, the PTC will probably not be renewed unless Democrats achieve a remarkable victory in November. As a result, windmill construction is about to end almost completely. Layoffs have already begun. _RCE
It is time to put the faux environmentalist chimera of big wind energy out of the US' misery.

It may be too late for Europe to save itself from the monstrous economic debacle of big wind. But the UK can still save itself.

Beware of politicians bearing gifts of big wind, big sun, and carbon credits. Do what you must to preserve the future for yourselves and your progeny.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

India Plans for 300 MWe Thorium Fueled AHWRs

Over the next five years, India plans to start building a safe nuclear reactor that can be installed in the heart of Delhi or Mumbai without posing danger to people and environment.

The 300-MWe advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR), whose construction will start in the 12th plan period, would be so safe that it can be erected in the heart of any city, said S A Bhardwaj, director (technical), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.

The design of AHWR is such that it does not need any exclusion zone, which is currently a standard practice in nuclear power plant. NPCIL currently acquires 600 acre of land for setting up a nuclear power plant as a large tract of land is used to keep a 5-km exclusion zone around the main plant. _Deccan Herald

Thorium AHWR Physics Design PDF paper
India has the world's largest thorium deposits and with a world hungry for low-carbon energy, it has its eyes on a potentially lucrative export market for the technology.

...the new reactor's trigger will be low-enriched uranium (LEU) – which India is permitted to import under the 2008 Indo-US deal...."The AHWR will eventually have design flexibility, using as fuel either plutonium-thorium or LEU-thorium combinations," said Sinha. "The LEU-thorium version will make the AHWR very much marketable abroad, as it would generate very little plutonium ... making it suitable for countries with high proliferation resistance." _Guardian
The images below provide comparisons between fuel and waste from thorium and uranium, based upon a molten salt reactor design:

The struggle between the uranium cycle and the thorium cycle is likely to go on for several decades, as cleaner, safer, more reliable, and more affordable reactors utilising either cycle are designed and come on the market.

The next 20 years are likely to be a fertile period for nuclear reactor design and manufacture.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Sad Energy Tales of Denmark, Spain, Germany, & California

Renewables are barely halfway to the goal of getting 40 percent of [Germany's] electricity from renewable energy by 2020. (The current 25 percent figure is highly dubious since not much of the old stuff has been shut down and new coal plants are actually being added to keep the lights on.) Germany already pays the second highest electrical rates in Europe, almost twice what France pays with its 70 percent nuclear. (Just who’s #1 we’ll get to in a moment.) German industries are already complaining they won’t be able to compete anymore in the world market.

Spain paved the way to its current financial meltdown by deciding to become the “solar capital of the world” in the middle of the last decade. The government subsidized a huge homegrown industry, with whole new towns springing up around new manufacturing plants. The whole enterprise lasted about five years until high electrical rates started driving industries to France and the government ran out of money. The subsidies disappeared and the entire industry collapsed, leaving ghost towns in its wake. By the time it was over, Spain was on the critical list of Europe’s ailing economies.

Denmark has littered the landscape with windmills so that it is hard to go anywhere in the countryside without being in sight of a 40-story whirling tower. The country claims that wind to provide 20 percent of its electricity but this is deceptive. Wind generates a 20 percent equivalent of Denmark’s electrical needs, but only about half of this is actually consumed in Denmark. The rest is dumped into Sweden and Germany at giveaway prices, leaving wind’s actual grid contribution at only 5 to 10 percent. All this is made possible only because neighboring Sweden has lots of hydroelectric power available for immediate backup when the wind dies. Norway also has lots of pumped storage to handle Denmark’s surpluses. The result of all this is that Denmark is the only county with electrical rates higher than Germany.

Our own domestic version of Germany and Spain is California. The Golden State created the California Electrical Crisis of 2000 by refusing to build anything medium-sized small industrial co-generation plants and pitifully small renewable projects from 1980 to 2000. Since then it has stampeded into natural gas, so that 45 percent of its in-state generation now comes from this one source, double the national average. Californians pay twice as much for electricity as surrounding states and Governor Jerry Brown is now wrestling with an annual budget deficit of $30 billion and a total state debt of $1/2 trillion. Spain, with a 25 percent more population, has an annual deficit of $46 billion and a total debt of $1 trillion. _William Tucker in Nuclear Town Hall

Green idiocy is the bane of Europe and California, not to mention Obama's Washington DC. Green government policies have a way of destroying everything they touch, eventually becoming the victims of their own hidebound ideological thickness.

It would be nice if national electorates were intelligent enough to vote for a better class of political leaders, but that may be asking for two much, given the abominable state of modern journalism, academia, popular culture, and bloated government bureaucracies.

And in the EU, of course, the people have little say about the decisions made in Brussels regardless. Corrupt from the shell to the core.

When governments become so intent on carrying out an ideological agenda that they sacrifice the well being of the people, they are digging their own graves -- one way or another.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Goldman Abandons Peak Oil, Enters the 21st Century

In an abrupt break from its earlier peak oil-esque predictions of near-future astronomical oil prices, giant wall street investment bank Goldman Sachs now predicts an end to the bullish oil price super-cycle.
Goldman was a lead forecaster during the 2003-2008 oil price boom when unexpectedly robust demand in Asia outpaced global supply and prices soared as spare capacity in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries fell close to zero and the refining industry struggled to meet demand.

But just after the bank predicted a "super spike" to $200 a barrel in 2008, financial crisis hit the global economy. Oil prices collapsed from a peak of $147 in July 2008 to below $40.

This year, Goldman was slow to acknowledge bearish trends in U.S. light crude, closing its trading recommendation to buy September 2012 U.S. light sweet crude futures at loss on paper of 10.8 percent.

"Goldman was a little out of kilter with their $130 (Brent) call. We have nudged up to that level on occasion but that's when you see U.S. gasoline go above $4 a gallon and that has a behavioural response," said Will Riley, who helps co-manage $284 million at the Guinness Global Energy Fund.

Gregory Cain, portfolio manager of Ebullio's eFED Commodity Fund, agreed that the market was becoming more and more aware of increasing supplies. _Reuters
In making this change, Goldman abandons other peak oil analysts making wild predictions, such as Canadian Jeff Rubin, to fend for themselves against the oil bears and wolves.

In a related story, we see an economy awash in oil, with "political peak oil" as the only type of peak oil to be seen over the next few decades.
As the U.S. defies oil-patch decline, the prestige of global peak oil theory must inevitably evaporate. Fracking has, as yet, barely gotten a toehold abroad; it faces high regulatory hurdles and exaggerated fears in many places. But no one really believes that China, to take only the most obvious example, will let itself be influenced by a few low-budget documentaries. The new talk of increasing American energy self-sufficiency sets a much more powerful example, as do the environmental numbers. China is just beginning to apply Western technology to its large reserves of shale gas and shale oil.

Academic economists never did buy into peak oil. It is hard to get them to accept a model of resource extraction that doesn’t give at least an implicit role to price signals. The University of Calgary’s John Boyce is one of the few economists who has put the Hubbert model to serious statistical tests. They are fairly obvious ones that, if peak oil had been taken more seriously by his profession, would have been performed 40 years ago. Hubbert’s curve turns out to be not much use as a source of predictive power—the ultimate test of any scientific hypothesis. It is not only that Hubbert’s own 1956 estimate of remaining U.S. oil was much too low—this turns out to be a general feature of his oil-extraction model, no matter where you look in the past and no matter what region you study.

...Part of the reason the peak oil hypothesis keeps hanging around, Boyce showed, is that Hubbert’s doomsaying successors operate with a pretty movable set of goalposts. When estimates of future oil reserves increase, theorists like Colin Campbell are quick to claim jiggery-pokery on the part of OPEC. (It is not that OPEC is above that sort of thing, and individual exporters have been caught red-handed fudging reserve estimates, but in general it is in the interests of folks sitting on oil for everyone to believe that it is scarce.) Less justifiable is the tendency to simply discard inconvenient data from the distant past that would throw off the model. Hubbert’s estimate of the U.S. peak was calculated using production figures beginning only in 1930, though he had access to a longer series, and later theorists have repeated the practice.

What is most comical about the popular peak oil phenomenon is that Hubbert was much more of a natural optimist than his acolytes. You would never know, seeing the uses to which his theory is applied, that his grand-scale vision of the human energy future originally had a happy ending. In the 1956 paper, he discussed both shale oil and the Canadian oil sands, showing that he understood their scale and promise. Moreover, he noted that “by means of present production techniques, only about a third of the oil underground is being recovered . . . secondary recovery techniques are gradually being improved so that ultimately a somewhat larger . . . fraction of the oil underground should be extracted than is now the case.” That is a clumsy but otherwise excellent description of fracking.

But all of that, Hubbert observed, is small potatoes. The title of the paper he delivered, which is something else his fans often skip over, was “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.” Hubbert gave his talk in March; the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor, Calder Hall, would not be switched on by Queen Elizabeth II until October. But the geologist’s discussion of uranium and thorium was well-informed, and even at that early date it was clear “that there exist within minable depths in the United States rocks with uranium contents . . . whose total energy content is probably several hundred times that of all the fossil fuels combined.” On the scale of millennia, Hubbert said, “the discovery, exploitation, and exhaustion of the fossil fuels will be seen to be but an ephemeral event.” _Macleans
I was interested to learn how much of an energy optimist M. King Hubbert happened to be. One would never know that from listening to latter day peak oil doomers and their apocalyptic predictions.

But peak oil doomers -- much like carbon hysterics and resource scarcity catastrophists -- are pretty much in it for the doom, rather than for any rational reasons. Much less did the doomers join their particular movements of doom out of any ability to marshal facts, master trends, and put them all together in logical arguments and realistic scenarios.

So, should you be worried? Sure. But not about any type of peak oil other than "political peak oil."

Worry instead about the abysmal state of government leadership and bloated government bureaucracies and exploding government debt. Then go do something about it.


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