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Category — Bryce, Robert

The Coal Train Steams Forward

“But for all of the jousting here at home over natural gas exports and the virtues (or lack thereof) of renewable energy, the global energy story of today is coal.”

The shale revolution has fundamentally changed the American energy scene. Over the last five years or so, domestic production of oil and gas have soared. And some analysts are claiming that the US oil production could soon surpass that of Saudi Arabia.

As the shale gale rumbles forward, the usual battles over renewable energy are continuing. At the state level, policymakers and lobby groups continue tussling over renewable portfolio standards. At the federal level, the White House continues its mindless support for the corn ethanol scam and Congress continues debating subsidies for wind and solar.

But for all of the jousting here at home over natural gas exports and the virtues (or lack thereof) of renewable energy, the global energy story of today is coal.

 The latest example of that: On Monday, energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie projected that China will fall far short of its plans to build 200 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity by 2030. The result: coal will continue its dominant role in China’s electricity generation sector and will account for about 64 percent of the country’s electricity production by 2030. Wood Mackenzie expects that will translate into additional Chinese coal demand of 55 million tons per year by 2030.

Indeed, the soaring use of coal exposes the provincialism – or maybe it’s the willful ignorance — of US policymakers and environmental groups when it comes to the issue of climate change. Back in March, Senate Democrats held an all-night climate-change talkathon.

The Democrats’ all-nighter, which was quarterbacked by Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse and the newly formed Senate Climate Action Task Force, kept the Senate open for only the 35th all-night session since 1915. It gained coverage from all the major media outlets. During the tag-team filibuster, Al Franken of Minnesota said “we don’t need to just talk, we need to take action.”

Franken’s fellow Democrats provided similar sound bites. Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal declared that climate change is “implacable, relentless and only we can stop it.” But the senators offered no specific plans — nor even any hints — as to what they might propose. There was no talk of carbon taxes, carbon-emission limits, or cap-and-trade. [Read more →]

May 6, 2014   3 Comments

“Killing Wildlife In the Name of Climate Change” (Part II: Gas, Nuclear, Little Else)

[Editor note: Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, is a leading researcher and disseminator of the problems of ‘green’ energy. His February 25, 2014, testimony before the Senate Committee on the Environmental and Public Works was published yesterday and today.]

In discussing energy sources, we must cast aside the social marketing of renewable energy and discard pre-conceived notions as to what qualifies as “green.” Instead, we must focus on basic physics and math.

I am an ardent proponent of nuclear energy because of its negligible carbon dioxide emissions and its incredibly high power density. No other form of energy production can produce as much energy from such a small footprint as a nuclear reactor. This is due to basic physics. Allow me to explain this by using a common metric in physics: power density, which is a measure of the energy flow that can be harnessed from a given area, volume, or mass.

The concept of power density can be understood by looking at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California. SONGS has a capacity of about 2,200 megawatts (2.2 billion watts.) The plant, which is slated for closure, covers 214 acres or 866,027 square meters. [18] Therefore, the nuclear plant has a power density of about 2,500 watts per square meter. [19]

Now let’s compare that to the power density of wind energy, which is one watt per square meter. And I can back up that number with a half dozen studies. [20] [Read more →]

March 20, 2014   No Comments

“Killing Wildlife In the Name of Climate Change” (Part I: The Double Standard)

[Editor note: Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, is a leading researcher and disseminator of the problems of ‘green’ energy. His February 25, 2014, testimony before the Senate Committee on the Environmental and Public Works follows today and tomorrow.]

The focus of this hearing is on the economic benefits of ecosystems and wildlife and how they “are valuable to a wide range of industries,” including tourism. The purpose is also to examine “how the Administration is preparing to protect” ecosystems “in a changing climate.” The facts show that federally subsidized efforts that are being undertaken to, in theory, address climate change, are damaging America’s wildlife.

Furthermore, those same efforts have, for years, been allowing an entire industry to avoid federal prosecution under some of America’s oldest wildlife laws. My discussion will focus largely on the wind-energy sector, an industry that has been getting federal subsidies since 1992, and the impact that the wind-energy business is having on wildlife. [1] There are two key questions that must be addressed:

* Are all energy providers getting equal treatment under the law when it comes to wildlife protection? The answer to that question is no. * Is widespread deployment of wind turbines an effective climate-change strategy? The answer, again, is no. [Part II of Bryce post tomorrow]

Part I; Energy companies are not being treated equally when it comes to enforcement of federal wildlife laws. I have been writing about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act since the late 1980s. [2] In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service brought hundreds of enforcement cases against the oil and gas industry in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, for violations of those laws. And rightly so. [Read more →]

March 19, 2014   5 Comments

Robert Bryce Challenges Energy Statism (real energy for real people)

Robert Bryce of Austin, Texas, as he himself will tell you, is a reformed Leftie/greenie. The solar array he installed on his roof was a bust, and he followed the logic of energy density to conclude that wind, solar, water, crops, plants, and wood would not allow energy to be mankind’s master resource.

And as did Julian Simon in his day, Bryce looks at the data and science before he makes up his mind. And like Simon, he changed his mind away from neo-Malthusian notions of resource depletion and climate pessimism.

Energy Views

Bryce’s views took shape on the oil/transportation side with Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of “Energy Independence” (2008) and on electricity with Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future (2010). His encapsulated worldview about energy and energy policy can be read in his Washington Post op-ed, “Five Myths About Green Energy.”

MasterResource has profiled Bryce’s message under the title, Energy Density: Robert Bryce’s Powerful Energy Message. His is a very powerful message, beginning and ending with basic physics. It all gets back to W. S. Jevons, and it continues with Vaclav Smil, Robert Bryce, and others.

Reformed Populist

Bryce is also a reformed populist, having seen too much business in government and government in business. His book on Enron, Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron, chronicled a political company in action, although he did not then quite have the developed worldview to see how political capitalism, not market capitalism, was to blame.

Then came his second book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate (2004), where he stated on the opening page: “I’m all for business, I’m all for government. I just don’t want them to be the same thing.”

Today, Robert Bryce is the most erudite and influential energy journalist in America, with opinion-page editorials in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Huffington Post. Morphing into a bona fide energy scholar, Bryce has respect on both sides of the political aisle and is a reason why politically correct renewable energy is now encountering a hard relook by grass-root environmentalists and open-minded Leftists. And he has the Hard Left mad! [Read more →]

November 21, 2011   3 Comments

Energy Density: Robert Bryce’s Powerful Energy Message

Editor note: Del Torkelson of The American Oil & Gas Reporter covered Robert Bryce’s address talk to the Permian Basin Petroleum Association at its annual meeting in Midland last October. Torkelson’s  summary is reprinted with permission.]

“One of the reasons I wrote Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future (Public Affairs: 2010) is that our discussions are fundamentally wrong-headed,” author and journalist Robert Bryce told the Permian Basin Petroleum Association.

“Politicians generally do not understand the issues of energy and power, and in particular, the issues of scale.”

Bryce expounded on a number of key themes, including density, the distinction between energy and power, and the future of natural gas and nuclear generation. He also pointed to signals that suggested ordinary citizens were losing patience with green energy sources.

Green Backlash

Bryce’s comments touched on topics covered in both Power Hungry and an earlier book, Gusher of Lies. The writer riffed on a number of subjects pertinent to oil and gas producers:

  • On his insistence that the density of traditional fuels made them more environmentally friendly than so-called green energy sources, Bryce calculated, “A well producing 60 Mcf a day–by definition a stripper well–has a power density of about 28 watts a square meter, 23 times the power density of a wind turbine. If you start with a source that has low power density, you have to counteract the lower power density with other inputs such as steel, transmission lines, concrete, land and manpower.”
  • Regarding the suggestion that natural gas is a bridge fuel, Bryce countered that it was more. “A bridge to what?” he asked. “It is clean, it is domestic, it is relatively cheap. This is the fuel we have been looking for.” [Read more →]

January 14, 2011   6 Comments