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Category — Natural gas

Forced Coal-Plant Conversions to Natural Gas: False Hope for "Cheap" Climate Action

[Editor: This MasterResource post from July is reprinted given the 'war on coal' strategy by environmental groups and certain activist strands of the upstream natural gas industry, led by Chesapeake Energy (Aubrey McClendon.]

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance, posits in the Financial Times (July 19) that converting our fleet of coal-fired power plants to natural gas could be accomplished “practically overnight” and will have the effect of “jump-starting our economy….without the expense of building new power plants.” Thus did Kennedy express his new-found love of natural gas: It’s our “bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.” (Where have we heard that before–wasn’t that Enron’s tag line decade or two ago?)

Yet Kennedy’s proposal ignores the extremely high cost of fuel conversion (upwards of $100 million for a medium-size coal plant) and the added fuel cost to burn gas. He seriously mischaracterizes how an electricity market operates. And Joe Romm (Climate Progress) had added to the confusion by calling Kennedy’s proposal a “game changer.” For Romm plentiful gas means “damn easy and cheap” compliance with the Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454).

Environmentalists looking to draft the natural gas industry in a forced conversion effort against coal do not know what the gas industry does: it is highly uneconomic and would overload the pipeline system that was not built with coal conversions in mind.

Gore’s 100% Dream … and Round Two

Late last year Al Gore, self-appointed father of the climate-change movement, astonished his most ardent acolytes with a plan to produce 100% of the nation’s electricity from renewable energy and carbon-free sources within 10 years. In making the announcement, Gore noted that “The quickest, cheapest, and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power, and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.” As always, Gore carefully sidesteps the impact of his proposals to the consumer’s pocketbook and our country’s future economic well-being. [Read more →]

October 10, 2009   5 Comments

Why Natural Gas Should Not Play the Cap-and-Trade Game (the real enemy is mandated renewables/conservation, not coal)

“Waxman-Markey is largely top-down regulation dressed in cap-and-trade clothing.”

David Schoenbrod and Richard Stewart, “The Cap-and-Trade Bait and Switch“, Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2009.

The Environmental Left is pushing hard to provoke a civil war between natural gas industry (its “friend”) against the coal (and oil) industry. John Podesta (Center for American Progress) and Tim Wirth (UN Foundation) have cooked up a menu of bribes (taxes, a.k.a. “incentives,” “credits,” “allowances,” and “expand”) as follows:

Electricity

• Establish incentives to retire aging, inefficient, dirty coal-fired power plants, and replace them with renewable and low-carbon electricity.

• Create a renewables integration credit to offset specific costs associated with producing high levels of renewable energy and to reward those who go beyond the renewable electricity standard.

• Establish a dedicated incentive for development and deployment of “dispatchable” renewable energy to build markets for electricity storage technology.

• Require that the carbon price and other costs are included when determining the dispatch order for moving electricity onto the grid in order to prioritize natural gas and other clean electricity.

• Expand carbon capture-and-storage provisions to include other permanent storage technologies in addition to geologic sequestration. Ensure that carbon capture and storage research and deployment efforts include retrofitting existing coal- and gas-fired power plants.

Transportation

• Expand the market for natural gas as a heavy-duty transportation fuel by increasing incentives for gas-powered buses and heavy trucks.

• Create incentives for communities to develop mass transit systems that employ buses fueled by natural gas.

Decision-makers in the gas production, transmission, and distribution businesses should reject this Trojan Horse. Obama energy policy spanks natural gas, the predominant swing fuel in electric generation, by forcing renewables and conservation (conservationism) in the market. And fair warning: the more natural gas gains in market share relative to oil and coal, the less friendly the environmentalist movement will be. (Take note of the hydraulic fracturing debate between environmentalists and the oil and gas production sector.)

Don’t Take ObamaBait

Low natural gas prices have created a desperate industry, but the answer is not quick-fix politics that create political dependence and hurt the general economy. The modus operandi of ‘Mr. Natural Gas’ Ken Lay back in Enron’s heyday, and Boone Pickens today, should be rejected–as should political (“rent seeking”) capitalism as a philosophy. [Read more →]

September 8, 2009   2 Comments

Forced Coal-Plant Conversions to Natural Gas: False Hope for "Cheap" Climate Action

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance, posits in the Financial Times (July 19) that converting our fleet of coal-fired power plants to natural gas could be accomplished “practically overnight” and will have the effect of “jump-starting our economy….without the expense of building new power plants.” Thus did Kennedy express his new-found love of natural gas: It’s our “bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.” (Where have we heard that before–wasn’t that Enron’s tag line decade or two ago?)

Yet Kennedy’s proposal ignores the extremely high cost of fuel conversion (upwards of $100 million for a medium-size coal plant) and the added fuel cost to burn gas. He seriously mischaracterizes how an electricity market operates. And Joe Romm (Climate Progress) had added to the confusion by calling Kennedy’s proposal a “game changer.” For Romm plentiful gas means “damn easy and cheap” compliance with the Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454).

Environmentalists looking to draft the natural gas industry in a forced conversion effort against coal do not know what the gas industry does: it is highly uneconomic and would overload the pipeline system that was not built with coal conversions in mind. [Read more →]

July 23, 2009   9 Comments

U.S. Gas Resources: Julian Simon Lives! (Malthus, Hotelling, Hubbert are wrong again)

The Potential Gas Committee has issued its new biennial gas resource estimate for the United States and once again raised its estimate, this time by 15%, or from 1,321 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) to 1,525 Tcf. This equates to a  70-year domestic cushion, given annual U.S. consumption of 20 Tcf. The evaluation of available shale gas, production of which is now soaring, played a major role in this re-evaluation and potently demonstrates how new technology (aka human ingenuity, what the late Julian Simon called the ultimate resource) creates resources, refuting the static fixity/depletion view of the mineral-resource world.

Few realize that the PGC has been raising the estimates of conventional resources throughout history, even as the United States has consumed large amounts of natural gas. Thus gas has been and is an expanding resource, not a depleting one. [Read more →]

June 22, 2009   2 Comments

How Much Will Obama's Oil-and-Gas Tax Policy Cost Us? We Can Stop Guessing Now

Over the past year, as the party in power has proposed one restrictive measure after another for the oil and gas production industry, analysts have been busy guessing how much this would cost us in foregone production and tax revenue. In an analysis featuring welcome candor, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated oil and gas production in the United States with and without restrictions. By the end of the next decade (2019), restrictive permitting and tax policies will reduce the potential annual government tax take from oil and gas production by more than the total expected yield of the Obama tax program in the oil and gas sector. In the ten years to 2019, the time-frame used in the government’s tax increase proposal, restrictions and new taxes will have reduced the tax take from oil and gas production by more than $118 billion, or about 4 times the expected yield of the new taxes. Some deal, eh? [Read more →]

June 2, 2009   2 Comments

CO2 Cap-and-Trade Meets the (China) Dragon: Why Legislating Trillions of Dollars in Regulatory Costs Would Be Climatically Inconsequential

[Editor's Note: Projected emissions from China will more than cancel the effects of Waxman-Markey in the year 2050 when the proposed law's 83% cut in U.S. emissions would be fully imposed. This finding, calculated with the assistance of Chip Knappenberger and the MAGICC model, is part of a wide-ranging analysis below. Discussion, comments, and questions are invited by the author.]

The Waxman-Markey climate bill–characterized as a “648 page cap-and-trade monstrosity” by Al Gore’s mentor, James Hansen–is intended to bring the U.S. into line with Europe and Japan on CO2 policy. But as I have explained previously, the current U.S. policy discouraging new coal and new nuclear capacity will:

  1. Make the U.S. more dependent on energy imports,
  2. Drive up generation costs,
  3. Artificially incite demand for fickle natural gas, and related infrastructure such as LNG regasification facilities, and
  4. Increase reliance on old coal and old nuclear for baseload power, resulting in less efficient, less clean, and less reliable electricity.

Such government intervention will block self-interested private investors who would otherwise provide America with more domestic, lower-cost energy, and more modern infrastructure for better reliability. And ironically, our more expensive, imported and unreliable electricity system will hardly make a difference in worldwide CO2 levels and associated global climate change. [Read more →]

May 13, 2009   8 Comments

Questar's CEO on Energy and Climate Realities (A pretty darn good industry speech in our age of T. Boone Pickens, Aubrey McClendon, and other energy interventionists)

Editor’s note: Keith Rattie, Chairman, President and CEO of  Questar Corporation, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, gave this speech at Utah Valley University on April 2, 2009. The full version is on Questar’s website. Subtitles have been added.

Energy Myths and Realities

There may be no greater challenge facing mankind today – and your generation in particular – than figuring out how we’re going to meet the energy needs of a planet that may have 9 billion people living on it by the middle of this century. The magnitude of that challenge becomes even more daunting when you consider that of the 6.5 billion people on the planet today, nearly two billion people don’t even have electricity – never flipped a light switch.

False 1970s Consensus

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

Well, the doomsters of the 1970s turned out to be remarkably wrong. My bet is that today’s doomsters will be proven wrong. [Read more →]

May 1, 2009   4 Comments

Pickens Plan II’s Natural Gas Trucks: Mel Brooks Meets Energy Policy

Mel Brooks, in his classic comedy The Producers, schemed to make money by over-subscribing shares in a sure-to-fail play. Unfortunately for his character, the play became a smash hit, and all the investors wanted their payouts. Since he had sold well over 100% of the interest in the play, he was in a bit of a pickle.

And so it is with natural gas. Clean, easy to use, abundant—natural gas is everyone’s choice for our energy transition away from oil and coal for power generation, industry, homes, and now transportation. Enter oilman-turned-wind-promoter T. Boone Pickens, with a proposal to move U.S. heavy trucks strongly toward natural gas fuel (as compressed natural gas, or CNG). And to enable the offset, the electricity that is currently generated by such gas (about a 21% market share of power generation, according to the Energy Information Administration’s Annuel Energy Outlook 2009, Table 8) would be supplied by new wind farms, built mostly in the Plains States.[1]

The argument is based on simple physical resource reallocation. [Read more →]

March 9, 2009   11 Comments

Hard Questions for T. Boone Pickens

T. Boone Pickens is holding a town hall meeting on the Pickens Plan tomorrow at Rice University. His presentation, hosted by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, deserves some hard questions and frank answers. Here are some suggested questions. [Read more →]

January 5, 2009   9 Comments