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Posts from December 2018

Ethane Rising: Another Fossil Fuel Advances

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 25, 2018

“The impact of ethane is perhaps the most remarkable development in the remarkable story of the shale revolution. Less than three years ago, ethane was a largely unwanted byproduct of oil and gas drilling …. But today, ethane is feedstock for nearly half of U.S. plastics production and a valuable export to chemical companies around the world.”

 – Jordan Blum, “How the Ethane Molecule Changes the Gulf Coast — and the World,” Houston Chronicle,  September 15, 2018.

“Resources are highly dynamic functional concepts; they are not, they become, they evolve out of the triune interaction of nature, man, and culture, in which nature sets outer limits, but man and culture are largely responsible for the portion of physical totality that is made available for human use.”

– Erich Zimmermann, resource economist (1951) [1]

Methane.

Wind Growth after PTC Expiration

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#llinowes">Lisa Linowes</a> -- September 24, 2018

“The US Treasury estimates the PTC will cost taxpayers $40.12 billion in the period from 2018–2027, making it, by far, the most expensive energy subsidy under current tax law.”

“After billions in public hand-outs, the wind industry has never been able to stand on its own and there’s no reason to believe this will change. Tax credits are now a required component of the industry’s economics. The outcome of an expired PTC is evident: wind installations will crawl to a near stop.”

Just twelve months after the PTC phase-out [1] went into effect, the wind industry boasted that thousands of new megawatts were under construction or in advanced stages of development. Confirming specifics is challenging since the industry tends to bloviate, but reports put the number of safe-harbored turbines between 30 and 70 thousand megawatts with the majority expected to be in service before the end of 2020.

Henrietta Larson: A Scholar for the Ages (her business histories are among the greatest energy tomes)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 20, 2018

“What we have done is … to put business in its broader political and cultural setting…. We are not out to defend business, but to try to do an impartial, scholarly investigation of an important American institution.”

 – Henrietta Larson (1894–1983), Harvard business historian

For many decades, corporate histories were dominated by simplistic notions of big-is-bad and capitalist exploitation. Yes, Ida Tarbell documented many innovations and economies from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust, but she jumped to examples to paint the Standard Trust as ultimately evil in its exploitation of competitors.

Much “Robber Baron” history followed in the decades after Tarbell, failing to comprehend the advantages of industrialization and to differentiate free-market entrepreneurship on the one hand from corporate/government cronyism on the other. As Harvard business historian Thomas McCraw would later explain:

Without the benefit of a vocabulary that distinguished conceptually between center and peripheral firms, productive and allocative efficiency, vertical and horizontal integration, economies of scale and transaction cost, these observers had only their personal sensibilities and political ideologies to guide them.

Betting the House on Plant Vogtle

By Joseph Pokalsky -- September 18, 2018

‘Peak Oil’ is Now Demand, not Supply

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#m_lynch">Michael Lynch</a> -- September 17, 2018

The U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation: 1981–86 (yes, federal agencies can be abolished)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 13, 2018

Paying the Price for Renewables (Georgetown, TX power surplus generates cost deficits)

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#llinowes">Lisa Linowes</a> -- September 12, 2018

“Gore’s Greenness Fades” (remembering a 2000 WP article in light of this week’s Global Climate Summit)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 11, 2018

Energy & Environmental Newsletter: September 10, 2018

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#john-droz">John Droz, Jr.</a> -- September 10, 2018

Corporate Cover for the Environmental Left in the 1990s (“Enron Ascending”)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 6, 2018