The Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED) is an informal coalition of over 10,000 individuals and organizations interested in improving government energy & environmental policies. Our basic position is that technical matters like these should be addressed by using Real Science. It’s all spelled out at WiseEnergy.org, which is an exceptional collection of helpful resources.
A key element of AWED’s efforts is public education. Towards that end, every 3 weeks we put together a newsletter to balance what is found in the mainstream media about energy and environmental matters. We appreciate MasterResource for their assistance in publishing this information.
Greed Energy Economics:
Turbine Health Matters:
December 9, 2013 3 Comments
As noted in Part I, EPA’s 1971 sulfur dioxide standard was based on the application of wet scrubber technology. However, most utilities found it was cheaper to meet the standard by switching to low sulfur coal, rather than install expensive wet scrubbers.
Consequently, during the 1970s, demand for low sulfur coal skyrocketed. Western states, primarily Wyoming and Utah, benefitted; eastern coal producing States in Appalachia and the Ohio River valley suffered.
In Congress, lawmakers from eastern coal producing states sought to redress the economic harm resulting from fuel switching precipitated by EPA’s sulfur standards. Their solution was to require scrubbers at all new coal-fired power plants.
If utilities had to install sulfur controls, these lawmakers reasoned, there would be no incentive to switch to low-sulfur coal. (Of course, this is an absurd waste: From an environmental standpoint, there’s no benefit if a utility installs wet scrubbers and also switches to higher sulfur coal. But that’s a different story of legislative sausage-making. See, generally, Bruce Ackerman & William Hassler, Clean Coal Dirty Air, 1981) [Read more →]
December 6, 2013 8 Comments
High-ranking EPA officials, prominent congressional Democrats, and environmental special interests are peddling a great green lie regarding the Carbon Pollution Standard, the Obama administration’s boldest front yet in its war on coal.
These policymakers and environmental special interests would have the public believe that the Carbon Pollution Standard, which requires carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS), is akin to EPA’s 1970s-era requirements that all new coal-fired power plants install “scrubbers” to control sulfur dioxide. What was good and reasonable then is so now, they reason.
Their analogy, however, is false. As set forth below, the history of the two technologies demonstrates that scrubbers, when mandated by EPA, were indeed commercially viable, whereas CCS is not now so. In fact, the comparison between scrubbers and CCS is even worse than wrong for proponents of the Carbon Pollution Standard, because it actually undermines their legal case for the regulation.
Who Is Making the Great Green Lie?
By EPA’s own admission, the Carbon Pollution Standard will have a negligible impact on climate change, due to the fact that the preponderance of present and future greenhouse gas emissions originate in other countries. Given the rule’s inconsequential impact, its proponents need talking points. Thus, in an effort to make the Carbon Pollution Standard seem reasonable, its supporters compare it to a previous mandate for scrubbers. [Read more →]
December 5, 2013 2 Comments
“It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.”
- Frédéric Bastiat (1850)
Making the news last week was a new “economic impact” study funded by a trade association representing the nuclear industry. The study purports to show that the nuclear industry in North and South Carolina generates $25 billion dollars annually and supports 29,000 jobs. The study funded by the industry group Carolinas Nuclear Cluster would like to believe that such activity is a per se good, the marketplace notwithstanding.
So much for economics, which stresses that ends are greater than means and that good activities should be done at least cost. [Read more →]
December 4, 2013 3 Comments
“Many people point to the mandates of Ohio Senate Bill 221 or other such legislation in other states, which require the use of fashionable generation methods for electricity, as justification for subsidizing investment into economically questionable energy generation projects.
To me this is an exercise in circular logic, mandating that we have to use more expensive means of generating electricity, and then using the rising cost of electricity to justify subsidizing more expensive means of generating electricity.”
Jerry Graf – Effective Energy Strategy (March 2013)
In an editorial response printed in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (10/21/2013), four co-authors make the following points with regard to the Blue Creek Wind Farm and wind energy in general.
I have rearranged their words for brevity and direct the reader to the Journal Gazette website to read verbatim. Our rebuttal letter follows:
Electricity from wind is very high in true cost and low in true value
Electricity from wind turbines is low in value because it can’t be counted on to be available when needed, and it is most likely to be produced at times when it is least needed. Wind turbines tend to produce most of their electricity at night in cold months, not on hot weekday afternoons in July and August when demand for electricity is highest. Furthermore, the electricity from wind tends to be low in value because the output can’t be counted upon to be available at the time of peak demand, unlike reliable (“dispatchable”) generating units that can be called upon to produce whenever needed. [Read more →]
December 3, 2013 5 Comments
“Truth is, we don’t need utility regulation at all…. Rather than solving problems utility regulation creates competing interest groups that lobby to gain advantage and handicap competitors. The whole monopoly-regulatory system, root and branch, needs to be abolished.”
It was another day of hearings at the Georgia Public Service Commission for Georgia Power’s 2013 rate case. The various representatives for the fifteen or so parties to the case are filing into the hearing room. Usually I just endure. But today I take mental notes; this is worth penning to share.
The Players (and me)
There’s some camaraderie among the familiar but antagonistic players from previous cases. There’s long tall Alan, who will be representing big retail power users. There’s Terri with a smile and a ready joke. Woe be the man that blushes, she will tease him unmercifully.
Kevin, the top utility lawyer, looks old. Good thing he’s training children to take his place.
Here comes Everett, smiling and shaking hands with individuals who contribute to his campaign fund. Doug Everett is the dumbest Commissioner. This is quite a distinction considering the formidable competition he faces for the title. There are five elected Commissioners in Georgia; and they are all power-hungry, deal-making politicians with little concern for electricity customers. The regulated utilities are their friends, and it shows. [Read more →]
December 2, 2013 8 Comments
“One must wonder when the climate-damaging effects on agriculture will appear. Maybe rising agricultural production is like rising polar bear populations—the decline begins tomorrow.”
The year 2013 has been a great year for global agriculture. Record world production of rice and healthy production of wheat and corn produced strong harvests across the world. These gains were achieved despite continuing predictions that world agricultural output is headed for a decline.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that world rice harvests for 2012/2013 were a record 469 million metric tons. Corn and wheat harvests were also strong, following record harvests for both grains during the 2011/2012 season. The USDA is now projecting world record harvests for corn, wheat, and rice for 2013/2014.
These numbers cap a 50-year trend of remarkable growth in world grain production. Since 1960, global wheat and rice production has tripled, and corn production is almost five times higher. [Read more →]
November 29, 2013 1 Comment
“In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. At a time of economic uncertainty and growing political paternalism, it is worthwhile recalling this beginning of the American experiment and experience with freedom.”
The English Puritans, who left Great Britain and sailed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620, were not only escaping from religious persecution in their homeland. They also wanted to turn their back on what they viewed as the materialistic and greedy corruption of the Old World.
Plymouth Colony Planned as Collectivist Utopia
In the New World, they wanted to erect a New Jerusalem that would not only be religiously devout, but be built on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism. Their goal was the communism of Plato’s “Republic,” in which all would work and share in common, knowing neither private property nor self-interested acquisitiveness.
What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked the land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood. [Read more →]
November 28, 2013 2 Comments
“Greater energy consumption, higher economic growth, and more people are not increasing air pollution but reducing it in the world’s leading capitalist societies. More people mean more solutions …. What appears to be a paradox is really a Simon truism.”
- Robert Bradley, Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability, p. 85.
This concludes a two-part (Part I yesterday) look-back at the major points made in Rob Bradley’s 2000 primer on energy sustainability inspired by the worldview of Julian Simon.
“In terms of work-time pricing, conventional energy has become dramatically more affordable throughout this century … for electricity. The average U.S. worker needed over 20 minutes of labor to purchase a gallon of gasoline in the 1920s. In the 1990s a less polluting, higher performing, and more taxed gallon of gasoline cost a worker close to 6 minutes on average. The work time price of 100 kilowatt hours of electricity (approximately the power needed to run today’s average home for three days) dropped from over ten hours in the 1920s and 1930s to under a half hour in the 1990s.”
Robert Bradley Jr., Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability, p. 50.
“There is little reason to believe that natural resource prices behave differently than a basket of other (non-depletable) goods over long time periods. And even if real prices increase in certain periods, work-time prices can be expected to fall in a growing economy.”
Ibid. p. 53.
“Energy intensity (measured as energy used per unit of Gross Domestic Product) dropped by one-third in the U.S. between the 1950s and the 1990s. Yet energy consumption per person has increased almost 50 percent in the same period.”
Ibid., p. 54.
“Next generation gas-fired turbines will crack the 60 percent efficiency threshold—called the ‘four minute mile’ of turbine efficiency—compared to existing aged gas and coal units that average around 40 percent efficiency.”
Ibid., p. 55. [Read more →]
November 27, 2013 No Comments
“Innovation does not appear to be a depleting resource but an expanding, open-ended one. Instead of encountering diminishing returns, new advances appear to be expanding the horizon of new possibilities.”
- Robert Bradley, Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability, p. 40.
A decade ago, I worked for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as Director of the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Task Force. Energy was a critical part of this area for state legislatures, covering such issues as
- Global warming issues such as the Kyoto Protocol, carbon pricing schemes (cap-and-trade, etc.) in light of the precautionary principle;
- Oil and natural gas affordability for domestic industry (U.S. manufacturers were going overseas for cheaper labor and fuel); and
- Gasoline taxes
ALEC was a free-market resource for state legislators. My task force’s crucial energy work had been done by Ross Bell and Chris Doss before me, and Dan Simmons and Todd Wynn came after me. It is still active today on such hot-button issues as state mandates for politically favored renewable energies and net metering mandates.
A highlight of my tenure at ALEC was a book project, a rarity for us. It is with pride and a sense of celebration that I recall the publication of Bradley’s Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability in 2000.
The 150-page primer originated from some conversations I had with Rob the year before. We lamented the lack of an effective, concise primer that countered the still-popular notions of increasing resource scarcity and other negative notions that too often became a rationale for government activism. We also missed the great Julian Simon, who had recently died. [Read more →]
November 26, 2013 1 Comment