Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

Recommended Photo Store
 
Buy Through Our Amazon Link or Banner to Support This Blog
 
 
 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Archive for the 'Energy & Power Generation' Category

    Access, Access, Access

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd July 2017 (All posts by )

    “Access, Access, Access” Rick Perry repeated to Bret Baier. It seemed a grilled candidate’s non sequitur to Baier’s question: weren’t many Texans uninsured? But I was struck by its truth. Insurance is of little use if no doctors take it, no medicine is available, deductibles and premiums are unmanageable. Positive rights – to food, to medicine, to jobs – are not rights. The theory never stands up to experience.

    Perry’s run was brief; now, his task is encouraging access to energy – of all kinds. Trump seemed an example of excess – still is, I guess. But a nation not just energy independent but energy dominant is one empowered, free. And we can free others: a Europe not beholden to Russian oil is a healthier Europe. Neither Trump nor Perry invented fracking nor could Obama stop its success. But this administration respects it, clears the way for its natural flow.

    Access, access, access – how much does access to energy change our lives each day? How many are alive today because of access to energy forms unknown or at least unused 300 years ago? (Without air conditioning, I would have left my husband years ago. Then, again, he might have come with me.) Consider, though, the other extreme: we would be shocked to hear of elderly couples found frozen in the depth of winter, not uncommon in other times and places. How much more food is generated because of cheap energy? How broadly is food distributed?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Health Care, Human Behavior | 12 Comments »

    Planning for Failure

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd May 2017 (All posts by )

    When I worked in the power industry everyone understood that the cost of a power outage was high, but it was impossible to put a precise value on it. There is the reputational damage, the specific costs of payouts to businesses and residences that are impacted (depending on your jurisdiction), the cost of restoring service (typically it is “all hands” in terms of available personnel and equipment), and finally the loss of trust by your all-important regulator when you come back later and ask for an inevitable price increase for your customers.

    The other, more subtle, cost of outages is the fact that businesses and residents must plan for unreliable power sources, and invest in backup generation which includes fuel, testing, etc… I would call this “planning for failure”. Over time, this also causes businesses to consider exiting the grid entirely in one form or another when they are large and capable enough, causing the remaining fixed costs to be borne by the remaining customers.

    Here in Portland right now we are dealing with a major outage, as a fire caused a power outage to over 2000 customers downtown near the Pearl district. This isn’t 2000 customers… most of these meters are large businesses and buildings and not individual houses. In practical terms, the downtown Target is probably closed, Powell’s bookstore (a major tourist attraction) is closed, and many, many other smaller businesses and restaurants. It would be similar to a power outage taking out most of River North in Chicago where I used to live.

    Luckily I live in a building with a backup generator, and they have fuel for 3 days, so we likely will be unaffected. That’s what you get when you pay more for a recently built class A apartment rather than an older vintage walkup. But many, many folks are going to be impacted by this (it was over 90 degrees yesterday) and many restaurants are going to have to throw out their food on top of losing a couple of days’ worth of customers.

    As we re-think electricity and the grid entirely it is important to consider reliability in the equation. I believe that many individuals and businesses just take power for granted until it isn’t there anymore. This challenge will likely be exacerbated by renewables and solar power… in this outage it is a distribution system failure, but intermittent generation of power is another variable in the reliability equation.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Oregonia | 20 Comments »

    Hydrocarbon drilling in national parks

    Posted by TM Lutas on 7th May 2017 (All posts by )

    Here are the basics. There are 59 national parks operated by the National Park Service. 17 are owned both on the surface and subsurface by the Feds with 42 having split ownership with private subsurface ownership of mineral rights. 12 parks currently have oil/natural gas drilling already occurring on them, or more than one fourth of the 42 split rights parks.

    The National Park Service has been ordered to review the rules as to what is necessary to drill for oil and gas within a park, or in certain circumstances next to a park, if the subterranean horizontal section includes NPS administered park lands.

    There’s a lot of confusion about what exactly has changed. Right now it’s only a rule review.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Trump | 23 Comments »

    Obama’s “Nuclear Renaissance” Hit Again By Bankruptcy

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Since it was first announced almost a decade ago I’ve followed the “nuclear renaissance” that Obama touted and noted that it would likely end in failure due to the poor economics of these projects given our current, failed regulatory climate. The Federal government provided loans to get some of these projects off the ground. Now, with the bankruptcy of Toshiba’s Westinghouse unit, the whole process is collapsing and leaving half-built reactors and rate payers (and investors) in many jurisdictions likely to hold the bag for huge investments that aren’t going to generate power any time soon.

    Toshiba Corp’s U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors on Wednesday, just three months after huge cost overruns were flagged, as the Japanese parent seeks to limit losses that threaten its future. Bankruptcy will allow Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse, once central to Toshiba’s diversification push, to renegotiate or even break its construction contracts, though the utilities that own the projects could seek damages. It could even pave the way for a sale of all or part of the business. For Toshiba, the aim is to fence off soaring liabilities and keep the group afloat.

    These partially built reactors in Georgia and South Carolina were commissioned because local laws and regulations allowed for the costs of these investments to be passed on to the rate payer (local folks paying electric bills). In other states with different sorts of regulatory models, these sorts of investments would have been uneconomic, which is the primary reason why everyone else in the USA balked at the nuclear renaissance, even when it was partially underwritten by the Federal government with loans.

    There are now two problems for rate-payers in Georgia and South Carolina:

    1) the companies now have to build these reactors without price guarantee from Toshiba, meaning that the (likely) giant costs of the overruns will be borne by local ratepayers or the companies themselves. If the unit is in bankruptcy and walled off from the funds of the parent corporation (which is the purpose of the bankruptcy, I am assuming), it seems unlikely that anyone else would step up and backstop such a guarantee.

    2) this bankruptcy is likely to cause significant delays in construction, meaning that the long, miserable process of getting certified to start up the reactor is going to be pushed out further into the future. This means that it will be that much longer until the unit starts generating power and “earns back” the investment, and all the costs of the reactors will accrue interest and financing charges for that much longer while construction proceeds (rate payers)

    Note that there is precedent for taking gigantic write downs and abandoning abandoned reactors. Here is a link to the abandoned reactors in Washington and the famous Shoreham debacle in New York.

    None of this seems to be impacting the stock prices of Southern Company (SO) and Scana (SGC) this morning so maybe the market knows something that I don’t. Scana is holding a press conference to describe their next steps in the process today and I didn’t seen anything yet scheduled on Southern Company’s web site.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Obama | 15 Comments »

    Two Very Poor Analyses

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    Forbes ran an article with the headline “Solar employs more people in US electricity generation than oil, coal, and gas combined” and goes on to say “It’s a welcome statistic for those seeking to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that green energy projects are bad news for the American economy.”

    Unmentioned in this article is the point that energy production is not done for the purpose of energy production; it is done for the purpose of energy use…and production modes which are more expensive tend to cost jobs downstream.  If an excessive emphasis on solar and wind cause electricity prices to rise significantly, the negative impact will fall on those who work in manufacturing and other fields that are energy-intensive.

    To take an extreme case, one could easily create millions and millions of jobs in energy generation by requiring that all electricity be generated by human beings turning cranks connected to generators.  It is silly to look at job-creation as a good thing in isolation, without considering factors other than the number of people hired.  The Forbes article also neglects to mention the point that in most technologies, and certainly in electricity generation, the construction phase of a plant generally requires a lot more labor than does the ongoing operation of that plant.

    An even lower depth of mediocrity is reached in this International Monetary Fund article:  Counting the cost of energy subsidies.  This study considers traffic congestion and vehicle accidents as ‘externalities’ from fossil fuel usage.  In reality, of course, the replacement of all gasoline-and-diesel-powered vehicles with electric vehicles recharged from solar/wind…or even their replacement by unicorn-powered vehicles requiring no other energy source whatsoever…would by itself have no effect whatsoever on traffic congestion and vehicle accidents.  And while the elimination of automobiles and trucks completely would certainly eliminate traffic congestion, it would also lead to delays in travel which would greatly exceed the magnitude of the congestion-caused delays.

    Putting lots of math in a study is not a substitute for common sense.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 12 Comments »

    Obama’s “Nuclear Renaissance” Receives Its Final Obituary with Toshiba’s Write Down

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 28th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Back in 2009 at the start of Obama’s first administration he proclaimed that a “nuclear renaissance” was coming. Although I am a fan of nuclear power, I knew right away that this effort was doomed to failure by a lack of structural incentives in the USA and the ability of NIMBYs and lawyers to drag out and kill any project by a thousand cuts. I wrote that it was doomed here and summarized the players here.

    Yet 2 companies plowed along with their nuclear projects – Southern Company (big in Georgia and the south) and SCANA (a South Carolina utility), mainly because their state rate environment was favorable and allowed them to include the cost of assets in their “rate base” rather than being forced to price energy at something close to market prices. Eventually those that pay for electricity in these jurisdictions are going to be soaked with the enormous costs of these plants and / or the finances of Southern Company and SCANA will be seriously impacted. Southern Company has a market cap of around $50B and SCANA has a market cap of around $10B. For context, the Southern Company nuclear project is currently 3 years behind schedule and $3B over budget and likely to cost up to $20B (although costs are borne by many parties, not just Southern Company) and the SCANA project is likely to cost up to $12B (although not all borne by SCANA).

    These nuclear projects, already non-competitive due to price declines in natural gas (caused by fracking), became even MORE non-competitive as their completion dates were extended and costs ballooned due to inevitable and completely predictable delays. The history of nuclear power projects is littered with failed efforts and those that were completed often had huge cost overruns, especially those completed near the “tail” of the initial nuclear building effort which petered out in the ’80s.

    Now Toshiba is being hit with part of the overrun costs. Their stock recently went down 20% (the most that it can fall in a single day trading session) with discussion of potentially billions of dollars in write downs tied to their work on nuclear power projects.

    What is sad about all of this is that the debacles that will hit rate payers in the south (predominantly Georgia and South Carolina) and / or shareholders were completely predictable, although the situation could get even worse if delays stretch on indefinitely and the plants are never even completed (which is always possible in the litigious USA). As the current administration leaves their utterly failed nuclear policy should be something that they accept responsibility for, as well as their ameteur-ish ignorance of history and the predictable consequences of these sorts of mega-projects (in our current legal and regulatory environment). However, I highly doubt that will occur.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 6 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 15th December 2016 (All posts by )

    A USAF jet fighter pilot flies a WWII P-51 Mustang.

    An argument that China will never be as wealthy as America.  (‘Never’ is a long time, though)

    A huge database of artworks, indexed on many dimensions.

    An ethics class that has been taught for 20 years (at the University of Texas-Austin) is no longer offered.  According to the professor who taught it:

    Students clam up as soon as conversation veers close to anything controversial and one side might be viewed as politically incorrect. The open exchange of ideas that used to make courses such as Contemporary Moral Problems exciting doesn’t happen. It’s not possible to teach the course the way I used to teach it.

    At the GE blog:  Direct mind-to-airplane communication…and, maybe someday, direct mind-to-mind communication as well.  Although regarding the second possibility, SF writer Connie Willis raises some concerns.

    Also at the GE blog:  The California Duck Must Die – a very good explanation of the load-matching problems created when ‘renewable’ sources become a major element of the electrical grid. Media discussion of all the wind and solar capacity installed has tended to gloss over these issues.

    The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945.

    Posted in Academia, Aviation, China, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Education, Energy & Power Generation, History, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Cyber Warfare

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 5th June 2016 (All posts by )

    Col. Michael Brown, USMC, Retired:

    The Russians and Chinese are the most active in offensive attacks. I worry a lot about the vulnerability of our electrical grid and even our water supply network.

    SCADA Systems

    Supervisory control and data acquisition – SCADA refers to ICS (industrial control systems) used to control infrastructure processes (water treatment, wastewater treatment, gas pipelines, wind farms, etc), facility-based processes (airports, space stations, ships, etc,) or industrial processes (production, manufacturing, refining, power generation, etc).

    Posted in China, Energy & Power Generation, Military Affairs, Russia, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Powering Down

    Posted by David Foster on 4th June 2016 (All posts by )

    Everyone is aware of Obama’s suppression of the Keystone XL pipeline project.  But the legal, regulatory, and PR assault against critical infrastructure construction goes far beyond this. WSJ reports that:

    Many major fossil-fuel projects across the U.S., from pipelines to export terminals, have been shelved or significantly delayed because of a confluence of new regulations, grass-roots opposition and a drop in energy prices.  Overall, more than a dozen projects, worth about $33 billion, have been either rejected by regulators or withdrawn by developers since 2012, with billions more tied up in projects still in regulatory limbo.

    Among the projects that the WSJ article identified as ‘cancelled’ were the $875MM ‘Constitution’ gas pipelines for the Northeastern US and the $3 billion “Northeast Direct” for the same region.

    Natural gas is, of course, a major source for generating electricity, and the only practical way of getting the gas to the power plants is via pipeline.

    (The CEO of New England’s power grid operator), said pipeline) projects are badly needed. Residential consumers in New York and New England paid between 5% and 41% more than the national average for natural gas in March, the latest month for which data were available. They also paid more for electricity, which itself is increasingly made with natural gas. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Obama, Politics, USA | 9 Comments »

    Frack-Log…ACTIVATED!

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd June 2016 (All posts by )

    In my two previous blog posts here and here I talked of a new extended flow oil fracking technique coming on-line that resulted in a lot of drilled uncompleted wells (DUC) and the population of such wells (~5,000). In the comment section of one of those columns I speculated that we have a top end on oil prices where “turn on a dime fracking” will cut in at a price point of $50 a barrel

    We now have a “flaming datum” for that speculation, oil having just bumped -HARD- into the $50 a barrel roof for world oil prices. The 5,000 DUC Frack-log is being activated with — I strongly suspect — the new extended play oil fracking technique.

    It is being reported in various places that the US rig count jumped from NINE RIGS in mid-May to 325 last week and there was no change from 325 rigs this week. That is a 36 fold increase in rig count in a week!!

    Based on figures I’ve gotten from those in the industry, the range of production you can expect from those wells, depending on the geology, length of the laterals (6,000 to 8,000 feet) and the number of fracking stages (200′, 300′ or 400′) will result in initial barrel per day production of between 400 and 800 barrels a day per fracked well (with a very, very rare 1,300 barrel a day play from time to time). So we are looking at between 130,000 to 260,000 barrels a day of American oil fracking production arriving in the next few months.

    Compared to Saudi production, 130,000 to 260,000 barrels of oil a day represents between 1.3% and 2.5% of the Saudis’ daily oil flow. The number of DUCs activated to provide that production amount to 6.5% of the frack-log. And all that for what amounts to Zero “CAPEX” (capital expenditure), plus the operating expenses of worker wages, the rental price for existing, out of service, oil fracking rigs, and oil tanker trucks to move product to rail heads or oil pipelines.

    Now you know why the Saudis didn’t agree with OPEC oil production cutbacks this week. The Saudis maxing out their oil production is no longer about stopping American oil frackers. The Saudis’ long term regime survival strategy amounts to being the Last Petro-State Standing.”

    The Saudis — like everyone else inside the Big Oil economic paradigm — simply cannot compete with that sort of rapid to market, low cost & low risk oil. The Saudis’ highest priority now is to keep their customers as long as they can, because if they lose them they may never get them back.

    Posted in America 3.0, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Middle East, National Security | 8 Comments »

    When Texas DUCs Go Quack, Quack, Frack

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 26th May 2016 (All posts by )

    The “DUC” in this case being _D_rilled but _U_n_C_ompleted shale oil & gas wells

    I ran into this article by Seeking Alpha energy analyst Gary Bourgeault over on Real Clear Energy which gave a figure for how many drilled but ‘unfracked’ wells are available for the new extended oil flow fracking technique I mentioned in May 15th 2016 post Texas Fracking and the Death of Big Oil.

    The key passage from “U.S. Shale Oil Boom Over Says CSMonitor – Hahahahaha” below —

    DUC wells waiting in the wings
     
    Another major reason the shale boom isn’t over is the large number of drilled but uncompleted wells waiting to be brought into production. There is an estimated 5,000 in the U.S. which can be quickly brought to market when the price of oil is high enough to reward it. Some companies have been completing them for some time, and more are being completed in 2016.

    There are a lot of implications in that number. Starting with the fact that new oil & gas rig counts are going to be minimal for some time. And the hard economic fact that major politically event driven oil price spikes are going to be extremely short and will drop below 50 dollars a barrel within weeks to three months, given how fast these North American “DUC” wells can be fracked to bring product to market.

    This new age of “banked” cheap oil plays, and the resultant oil price stability, will see off both the “Big Oil” economic model and the political/corporate elites that live by it.

    Update May 27 2016:

    It looks like Zerohedge has come to the same set of conclusions about the “Big Oil” economic model with his post “Peak Petro-State – The Oil World In Chaos”

    Posted in America 3.0, Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, USA | 14 Comments »

    Texas Fracking and the Death of Big Oil

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th May 2016 (All posts by )

    It isn’t often you see the death of a major worldwide industry. Last week I saw the death of the “Big Oil” economic model. It just died at the hands of Texas oil frackers who have developed a new “disruptive technology” that has made obsolete all the pillars of technology underpinning large, vertically integrated oil companies. More importantly, the same is true of all the petro-states that nationalized Big Oil’s assets in the 1960s to make all the state oil companies around the world today.

    I found this out doing my day job last week as a Defense Department quality auditor visiting a mid-sized oil service company diversifying into federal contracts. The meeting was about issues with the contract they won and touched on others they have bid on. As a side bar at lunch the following points about their main business came up:

    1. Oil field spending has died. Rig count in the USA is the lowest it has been since 1940.
     
    2. One oil rig controller company these folks worked with saw a year over year drop of 72% in its business.
     
    3. Another company they supplied had their “Cap-X” budget drop from ~$400 million for 2015-2016 to little over $30 million for 2016-2017.
     
    4. One drilling company they supplied went from 120(+) new wells last year to _12_ this year.
     
    5. This supplier sold a lot of copper tubing for “frack-log” drilling. That is the drilling of holes in good oil-bearing rock without fracking rock for oil immediately — and here is the new part — to take advantage of a new long-flow fracking technique.

    While most of the points above are due to the Saudis’ oil price war on Texas frackers. An ex-Big Oil geologist I know put it this way —

    The entire reason for the price drop was because the Saudis wanted to destroy fracking in the United States in order to keep us dependent upon them in order to keep them getting a free defense. The Saudis will have to diversify and start spending money on defense before the price goes back up, or they will be in serious trouble.

    The technique in Point #5 above marks another “fracking revolution” that is of growing importance to the USA. This new fracking energy revolution will upend the world order as we know it. Political winds willing, America may well be a net hydrocarbon exporter in five to eight years.

    Explaining why that is requires some background in Texas oil fracking.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Miscellaneous, National Security | 42 Comments »

    New Developments between Israel and the Saudis.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th April 2016 (All posts by )

    Saudi Egypt

    Obama has pretty much abandoned the Sunni Arabs in the Middle East in favor of Iran. This has been noticed, of course, and some new alliances may be forming.

    Egypt’s April 9 announcement of the transfer of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabian sovereignty came as a complete surprise to many in the Middle East. The only country that was not surprised was Israel. A top-level official in Jerusalem told Al-Monitor on April 12 that Israel had been privy to the secret negotiations.

    The islands have a history that is interesting.

    These islands originally belonged to Saudi Arabia, which transferred them to Egypt in 1950 as part of the effort to strangle Israel from the south, and prevent the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from taking control of them. Israel embarked on two wars (the Sinai War in 1956 and the Six Day War in 1967) for navigation rights in the Red Sea. It took over these islands twice, but then returned them to Egypt both times. Now events have come full circle, and the Egyptians are returning the islands to their original owner, Saudi Arabia.

    And Israel is privy to the negotiations and approves.

    In the past, several proposals were raised regarding regional land swaps, with the goal of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The framework is, in principle, simple: Egypt would enlarge Gaza southward and allow the Gaza Strip’s Palestinians more open space and breathing room. In exchange for this territory, Egypt would receive from Israel a narrow strip the length of the borderline between the two countries, the Israeli Negev desert region from Egyptian Sinai. The Palestinians, in contrast, would transfer the West Bank settlement blocs to Israel. Jordan could also join such an initiative; it could contribute territories of its own and receive others in exchange. To date, this approach was categorically disqualified by the Egyptians in the Hosni Mubarak era. Now that it seems that territorial transfer has become a viable possibility under the new conditions of the Middle East, the idea of Israeli-Egyptian territorial swaps are also reopened; in the past, these land swap possibilities fired the imaginations of many in the region. In his day, former head of Israel’s National Security Council Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland led a regional initiative on the subject. But he was stymied by Egypt.

    Moving Gaza away from Israel would solve the rocket problem and the terrorist problem.

    In light of America distancing itself from the region and the cold shoulder that Egypt has received from Washington in recent years, Saudi assistance and Israeli support to Egypt are viewed as critical to Sisi’s continued grip on the regime. And to complicate the situation even more, we can add the reconciliation attempts between Israel and Turkey; these have continued for many long months in marathon negotiations between the sides.

    A highly placed Israeli official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Egyptians don’t want to see the Turks in the Gaza Strip, and are strongly opposed to a rapprochement between Jerusalem and Ankara.

    The Turks may have enough trouble with Syria and the Kurds to keep them busy. Meanwhile, a new alliance may be appearing as Obama arms Iran.

    Another factor may be the new Israeli natural gas supplies.

    There are even more interesting possibilities.

    On this background, a revolutionary concept has been floated recently regarding the establishment of artificial islands opposite Israel’s coast; these would host the state’s main infrastructure facilities. The idea was proposed by two close Netanyahu associates. One is Shaul Chorev, who until recently headed Israel’s Atomic Energy Committee and was a former brigadier general in the navy, and the other is Zvi Marom, founder and chief executive of the Israeli technology firm BATM Advanced Communications. Netanyahu worked under Marom after Netanyahu lost the 1999 elections; since then, the two are considered to be close associates.

    The artificial-island proposal contains an additional, even touchier idea: the option for civil nuclear energy in Israel.

    Interesting times in the Middle East now that Obama has abandoned the Sunnis and Israel.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama | 1 Comment »

    Some Hopeful News

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 7th April 2016 (All posts by )

    Conservatism Is Winning In The States

    What Alexis de Tocqueville observed over 150 years ago remains true today—states are laboratories of ideas. It’s here on the state level where ideas are created, fought over, tested, implemented, and either succeed or fail. When it comes to conservative ideas in the states, we are winning.
    While presidential candidates were insulting each other’s appendages, West Virginia became the 26th Right to Work state. While the FBI was investigating candidates, North Carolina passed major tax cuts. While pundits cried that both major parties had lost their way, Missouri passed paycheck protection. Conservatism is winning in the states. Don’t let it go unnoticed.
     .
    There is no state that highlights conservative victories better than Wisconsin. Just five years ago Wisconsin turned a billion-dollar deficit into a multi million-dollar surplus. Act 10 may have grabbed headlines across the country as protestors occupied the capitol for months, but the story did not end there.
     .
    Over the past year conservatives have passed reforms less controversial than Act 10 but just as important to taxpayers across the state. Last year they passed Right to Work to guarantee workers the freedom to join a union or not. Wisconsin reformed the prevailing wage law, which will save our local communities millions of dollars on the cost of building new schools and roads. Wisconsin reformed the marriage penalty to reduce taxes on working families, froze tuition at the UW for the forth straight year, and passed occupational licensure reform that gives a hand up to some of the hardest working Wisconsinites.

    A newly-released Gallup survey indicates that a solid majority of students at America’s colleges and universities supports free speech on campus. However, a strong contingent of students wants to limit “hate speech” and speech that intentionally offend people based on some aspect of their identities.

    .

    A full and extensive report about the poll, which Gallup conducted for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, shows that 78 percent of U.S. college students believe their campuses should be serious, grownup places where students experience all manner of speech and myriad different viewpoints.

    .

    Other findings within the study showed that students with Republican and independent political leanings were far more tolerates than their Democratic counterparts. It also found that a majority of students (54 percent) believed their professors and administrators were also stifling free speech on campus.

    Those are hopeful signs. The most important changes begin at the grassroots level. To my mind, the single most tasks facing the American people are reigning in the vast behemoth that is the federal government and reforming public education. That the majority of college students are not yet ready to toss out the Bill of Rights is a positive indicator. But schools are increasingly petri dishes for incubating leftist and far leftist ideologues, and the indoctrination seems to become more radical as time goes by. That needs to stop. Yesterday.

    Meanwhile, in nuclear power development, a long discussed idea of deploying factory built and tested small reactors seems to be capturing imaginations around the world again. The Chinese had plans several years ago to build SMRs from Westinghouse, but I have no idea how that is progressing, if at all. The UK now seems interested as well. I’m interested in seeing how well this technology works out but it seems completely straightforward and doable to me. The US Navy has been using small nuclear reactors safely and effectively for more that 50 years now. And as reactors become less custom one-off designs and more of a standard product, safety and reliability should increase and cost should come down. For reactors to ever be fully accepted by the public, however, the designs must fail-safe. Which is to say that the nature of the process is one where if there is a facility failure, the physics of the reaction process simply stop.

    There will be a competition to identify the best value design of mini reactors – called small modular reactors (SMRs) – and paving the way “towards building one of the world’s first SMRs in the UK in the 2020s”. There is no shortage of contenders, with companies from the US to China and Poland all wooing the UK with their proposals.

    With a crucial UN climate change summit in Paris imminent, the question of how to keep the lights on affordably, while cutting emissions, is pressing.

    SMRs aim to capture the advantages of nuclear power – always-on, low-carbon energy – while avoiding the problems, principally the vast cost and time taken to build huge plants. Current plants, such as the planned French-Chinese Hinkley Point project in Somerset, have to be built on-site, a task likened to “building a cathedral within a cathedral”.

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Energy & Power Generation, Politics | 11 Comments »

    Electricity and Ethics and Europe

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th December 2015 (All posts by )

    When I was a young auditor I was on an airplane heading out to a utility client in Iowa. I sat next to a woman and her grade school aged child. I was making small talk with them and the kid asked me what I did. I said I worked with the electric utility. And he said

    Are you the guy who comes over and turns off the power?

    The child’s mom was embarrassed and the conversation was muted after that but I never forgot that exchange – the reality that, for the poor, electricity was a bill that had to be paid, and frequently it came ahead of other key necessities which then was brutally enforced by pulling the plug. Electricity is a big bill for the poor.

    This discussion is completely relevant to what is occurring in Europe today, as these countries move to wind and solar renewable energy instead of economically efficient coal, natural gas and nuclear power. This great article from Forbes summarizes the current debacle:

    To illustrate, Denmark and Germany are the proud wind capitals of Europe, but they also have the highest home electricity prices on Earth, 42 and 40 cents per kWh, respectively, against just 12.5 cents in the U.S…. Undeniably non-sensically, Germany has been paying over $26 billion per year for electricity that has a wholesale market value of just $5 billion

    This sort of mass economic distortion (possibly suicide) has a real, human toll:

    higher cost electricity (and energy) is horrible for our health. That’s because, since electricity is so indispensable, meaning that it “cannot not be used,” higher cost power drastically erodes our disposable income, which is the very basis of our health – while also disproportionately hurting the poor most. As a percentage of income, poor families pay 5-9 times more for electricity than rich families do. Predictably silently, higher cost electricity in Europe is killing tens of thousands of people a year, ”Excess Winter Deaths,” where older residents on fixed budgets in particular are forced to turn their heat down to avoid overly expensive utility bills. For example, there were 44,000 Excess Winter Deaths in England and Wales in 2014-2015

    It is amazing that while Europe is able to penalize the poor and elderly on fixed income in the name of clean energy, their same economic champions, the car companies, ran elaborate schemes to defeat emissions limits on diesel cars in a massive scandal that we’ve all heard about. The cost of remediation and penalties will be in the billions.

    Finally, in perhaps the bitterest pill, moving to expensive and unreliable energy sources means that the reliable blood-money energy available from Putin and Russia becomes even more important to maintaining their grid. While Western Europe has been making a (relatively feeble) effort to punish Putin for his atrocities in the skies and in Ukraine, they ignore the obvious morality issues linked to filling his coffers so that he can buy weapons and pay his soldiers that are used for repression and dictatorship in the east. It is amazing that there will be sit-ins for climate change and animal rights but the rights of Ukrainians and fellow European citizens apparently count for nothing if it enables their energy fantasies to be supported.

    The Europeans are breathtaking in their ability to unilaterally punish the poor and the elderly and increase their payments to Putin while cheating on emissions testing and pursuing their odd goals of “clean” power. These issues apparently do not keep them up at night despite their real-world effects.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Europe, Germany, Russia | 51 Comments »

    “How fracking has helped the US lead on climate”

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Unexpectedly:

    Without adopting stringent policies such as the Kyoto treaty or cap-and-trade, the United States, the largest economy in the world, has the distinction of being the only country in the world to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why, in his address to world leaders at COP21, President Obama was able to tout that the “advances we’ve made have helped drive our economic output to all-time highs, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades.”

    The free market, that Obama and his minions are working to destroy, again bails him out politically.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Obama | 18 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Bookworm attended an awards dinner for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and reports at length on the honoree’s speech.  For those not familiar with Hirsi Ali:  raised as a Muslim in Somalia, she eventually moved to Holland, where she became of member of Parliament and collaborated on a film about Islam with Theo van Gogh, who was murdered.  Although she has been the target of many death threats, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has refused to be silenced.  Be sure to read Book’s well-written post.

    BBC has a new documentary about Ada, countess of Lovelace…computer pioneer of the 1840s, daughter of the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” poet, Lord Byron, and aficionado of gambling on the horses.

    Once, there was an unpleasant political movement called the “Know-Nothings.”  Today, we have the Know-Betters,

    Claire Berlinski writes about the growing phenomenon of ritual humiliations and denunciations.

    Related to the above, a very interesting analysis of the evolution of society from Cultures of Honor–in which the individual must personally avenge wrongs and insults…to Cultures of Dignity–in which people are assumed to have dignity, foreswear individual violence, rely on the judicial system to to respond to major transgressions and sometime simply ignore minor transgressions (there’s no more dueling)…and now to a Culture of Victimhood, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture–but they must not obtain redress on their own, rather, they must appeal to powerful others or administrative bodies.

    Renowned physicist Freeman Dyson says that Obama “chose the wrong side” on the climate-change debate.  His thoughts on the psychology behind apocalyptic climate thinking are interesting,

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Tech | 11 Comments »

    You Can Drown in a Lake Whose Average Depth is 6 Inches

    Posted by David Foster on 29th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Where electrical power is concerned, it seems quite difficult for many people to grasp the importance of peak versus average demand and of  peak versus average supply.

    A letter in today’s WSJ argues in favor of solar power, noting that “unlike large generation plants, enormous wind turbines and especially nuclear reactors, all of which require years of planning, personal and small industrial solar installations can be planned and installed in a month or so”  The writer says that utilities are seeing these installations diminish their income, and hence “understandably are fighting back by charging not just for electricity, but separately for connection to the grid.”  He argues that as utilities raise their connection charges to compensate for the newly disconnected, more and more people will think that utility power is a bad deal and will disconnect totally, which will “ultimately result in electric utilities holding sway only in urban or perpetually cloudy areas.”

    What happens with solar will be largely dependent on the future improvements in battery or other energy storage technologies, but I think it is most unlikely that most people will be comfortable disconnecting from the grid totally.  With any economically-reasonable level of local storage, a run of bad weather is likely to result in running out of power totally, with very uncomfortable consequences.

    What most people who invest heavily in solar are likely to do, IMO, is to maintain a backup grid connection for those exceptional cases.  The problem is that the exceptional conditions will occur for thousands of households and other sites at the same time over a broad area…requiring the utility’s generation and transmission facilities to be sized for these exceptional conditions, with capital expenditures made accordingly.

    Continuing financial viability of the utilities will require these costs to be recovered, either via a connection fee (“readiness-to-serve charge”) or a very high kwh charge for these infrequent and difficult-to-handle customers.  But the solar people will argue vehemently against these charges, asserting that they represent nothing more than corporate greed and hostility to new technology, and are likely to gain considerable political support.

    In this scenario, in those areas with substantial distributed solar power, the utilities will be driven into financial distress or will have to raise rates considerably on their non-solar customers…which in turn will encourage more people to invest in solar, but will create great economic pain from those people and businesses who cannot do this, and eventually result in the costs of the entire vast grid infrastructure and its maintenance being allocated against an ever-declining base.  This seems unlikely to end well.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Tech | 25 Comments »

    Was Ethan Allen a wing nut?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 8th August 2015 (All posts by )

    First Bernie Sanders, now this:

    Now that Vermont has a mandate to get 75 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2032, residents will have to ditch automobiles and embrace a whole new way of life, the state’s top renewable energy CEO says.
     
    “We’re probably going to have to abandon the car,” David Blittersdorf, president of All Earth Renewables, told Addison County Democrats in a recent presentation titled “Vermont’s Renewable Energy Future.
     
    “The idea that we’re going to be flying around in airplanes — it’s one of the worst consumers of energy and emitting carbon. … I tell my kids … if you’re going to travel, travel now. Don’t wait 50 years. It’s going to cost you 10 times as much for every one of those flights.”

    It’s as though Julian Stanley never lived.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Just Unbelievable, Leftism | 12 Comments »

    Our Disastrous Energy Policy, Continued

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd August 2015 (All posts by )

    New Clean Air Act regulations have recently been proposed by the EPA.

    President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.

    What is interesting is that the EPA recently had their ever-expanding mandate struck down by the Supreme court just a few short weeks ago, when their attempt to kill off coal through regulation of mercury and other pollutants was invalidated for not sufficiently weighing the cost of the proposed initiative.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 28 Comments »

    “Report: Federal Oil and Gas Production Down Significantly Under Obama”

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Lachlan Markay in the Washington Free Beacon:

    Oil and gas production on federal land continues to decline even as the United States experiences unprecedented growth in overall fossil fuel extraction, according to a federal report released on Monday.
     
    The Congressional Research Service found that oil production on federal land declined by 10 percent from 2010 to 2014 while production on private land increased by nearly 90 percent.
     
    Gas production on federal land decreased by 31 percent during the same period, while production on private land increased by 21 percent.

    (Via the API SmartBrief)

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, Obama, Politics | 9 Comments »

    The Energy Crisis in Africa.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    india-solar-power-2012-640x426

    This is a powerful piece on the cost of environmental extremism to the world’s poor.

    The soaring [food] prices were actually exacerbated (as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN confirmed) by the diversion of much of the world’s farmland into making motor fuel, in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, for the rich to salve their green consciences. Climate policies were probably a greater contributor to the Arab Spring than climate change itself.

    The use of ethanol in motor fuels is an irrational response to “green propaganda. The energy density of biofuel, as ethanol additives are called, is low resulting in the use of more and more ethanol and less and less arable land for food.

    Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

    South Africa is quickly destroying its electricity potential with idiotic racist policies.

    Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
    In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, International Affairs, Leftism, Politics, Science | 3 Comments »

    Shawyer Space Drive…Arriving.

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    A science fiction writer acquaintance of mine, John Ringo, is already going nuts about this “Shawyer Drive” on his Facebook page, because he
    is friends with one of the scientists involved.

    See power point page and the links below:

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, "Shawyer Drive"

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, “Shawyer Drive”

    Magnetron powered EM-drive construction expected to take two months
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/magnetron-powered-em-drive-construction.html

    Emdrive Roger Shawyer believes midterm EMdrive interstellar probe could flyby Alpha Centauri
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/emdrive-roger-shawyer-believes-midterm.html

    The drive seems to be a quantum “zero-point energy” phenomena that you put electricity into and get reaction massless thrust out of.

    _AND_ it looks to be both scalable and improvable with better magnetrons.

    This is also dovetailing nicely with a Lockheed Martin compact fusion reactor that

    1. Generates more power than it uses and
    2. Produces something on the order of 7.4 megawatts

    See:

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_beta_fusion_reactor

    Given the reality of Space X’s and Blue Origin’s reusable rocket successes, and it seems that Mankind is about to burst out from this planet in a very big way.

    See:

    http://www.spacex.com/news
    http://www.wired.com/2015/04/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-just-launched-flagship-rocket/

    And all of the above is driving John Ringo to despair on his science fiction writing career.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Miscellaneous, Science, Society, Space | 13 Comments »

    Powering Down: “Earth Hour”

    Posted by David Foster on 30th March 2015 (All posts by )

    American Digest:

    Once upon a time we knew enough to curse the darkness. In the aeons long climb from the muck, we have only had the ability to hold back the dark for a bit over a century. Now millions yearn to embrace it and, should they yearn long enough and hard enough, the darkness will embrace them and hold them for much longer than a brief hour of preening and self-regard.

    The Big Picture at the Boston Globe site routinely publishes stunning photographs of what is taking place in the world. But at editor Alan Taylor’s whim after last year’s “Earth Hour”, it went a step further in “celebrating” the rise of mass insanity in our age. “Earth Hour 2009”presents a round-the-world tour of cities with each picture designed to fade from light into darkness at the click of a mouse. Proud of his clever variation on a theme, the editor’s instructions were — without a hint of irony:

    “[click image to see it fade]”

    Of course with a second mouse click the lights came back on. It never seems to occur to the people with the Green Disease, that is perfectly possible to

    [click civilization to see it fade]

    and get no second click.

    ****

    I’ve done four posts with the “Powering Down” heading, all relating to the stream of political and social attacks which are being conducted against the West’s energy sources and industrial base. These attacks are usually justified by “environmentalism” raised to the status of a religion; often, they are also motivated by individual and/or group desires to align themselves with technologies and trends that are considered “cool” and to avoid any connection with technologies and trends that are considered “uncool.”

    Powering Down #1: Here’s the great French scientist Sadi Carnot, writing in 1824:

    To take away England’s steam engines to-day would amount to robbing her of her iron and coal, to drying up her sources of wealth, to ruining her means of prosperity and destroying her great power. The destruction of her shipping, commonly regarded as her source of strength, would perhaps be less disastrous for her.

    For England in 1824, substitute the United States in 2009. And for “steam engines,” substitute those power sources which use carbon-based fuels: whether generating stations burning natural gas, blast furnaces burning coke, or trucks/trains/planes/automobiles using oil derivatives. With these substitutions, Carnot’s paragraph describes the prospective impact of this administration’s energy policies: conducting a war on fossil fuels, without leveling with people about the true limitations of “alternative” energy technologies and without seriously pursuing civilian nuclear power.

    continued

    Powering Down #2: Patrick Richardson: Kansas is ranked second in the nation behind Montana for wind energy potential, a fact which should have environmentalists jumping for joy. Instead, they’re trying to block the construction of transmission lines to wind farms in south central Kansas and north central Oklahoma.

    Why? Well it all has to do with the lesser prairie chicken. According to a story by the Hutchinson News in February of this year, ranchers and wildlife officials in the area are teaming up with groups like the Sierra Club to block the construction of the lines, which would apparently run through prime breeding territory for the bird.

    continued

    Powering Down #3: The California Water Resources Board has ruled that 19 natural gas power plants, located in coastal areas, are in violation of the Clean Water Act for using a technique called “once-through cooling.” According to this article, it appears that this ruling will result in the shutdown of most of these plants. continued

    Powering Down #4:  George Will writes about the the attack that Obama’s EPA is conducting against the Navajo Generating Station, which together with the coal mine that feeds it represents an important factor in Arizona’s economy and an important source of employment for members of the Navajo tribe.

    Will notes that the NGS provides 95 percent of the power for the pumps of the Central Arizona Project, which routes water from the Colorado River and which made Phoenix and most of modern Arizona possible. A study sponsored by the Interior Department estimates that the EPA’s mandate might increase the cost of water by as much as 32 percent, hitting agriculture users especially hard.

    original post and comments

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, USA | 18 Comments »

    Drill, Baby, Drill

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th March 2015 (All posts by )

    yemen-anti-houthi_3242589b

    It looks like the battle for Saudi Arabia has begun and, if it follows the pattern of other Obama wars, it will be soon lost, or so Richard Fernandez believes.

    Even the New York Times sees it.

    President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.

    The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.

    Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

    The stakes are very high for Europe, especially.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Russia, War and Peace | 38 Comments »