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On Are Natural Gas Suppliers Purposely Overproducing?

@John Miller

I am not sure if you are agreeing or not. Sure, there have been innovations in technology, but people had to decide to deploy those innovations and people had to decide to invest the considerable amount of capital required to finance those deployments.

That capital is not repaid immediately, it will be repaid out of the revenue streams that come from selling the product that is extracted.

I am not sure why you think I have said anything about shorting the market. I am talking about physical volume and production, not financial trading.

The EPA war on coal does not come out of thin air. There has been substantial pressure from outside groups, some of which have received strong financial support from key players in the fracking business. I provided the links to the stories about Chesapeake Energy's investments in the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign and the Mitchell Foundation's investments in groups advocating "sustainable energy."

It should not be surprising to learn that some of the antifracking crowd is being supported by other portions of the coal, oil and gas business that don't like the competition. I suspect that there is support for antifracking actions by people that would love nothing better than to see oil and gas prices shoot up -- leading to higher profits for the remaining suppliers --- and to be able to blame that trend on those "darned Environmentalists" who spoiled our chances for cheap energy.

December 31, 2013    View Comment    

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

@Paul O

You are not wrong, but not quite right either. With very few exceptions, there really is no "nuclear power industry". By that I mean that I can only think of a handful of examples of companies that are focused on making the majority of their income from designing, selling, operating or servicing nuclear power plants. Nearly every company that "does nuclear" actually makes more money selling equipment for coal plants, supporting gas extraction, building wind turbines, or operating a varied fleet of power plants.

I've talked with some of the leaders of those companies and spoken with the leadership at the Nuclear Energy Institute. They have almost invariably said that they cannot and will not market nuclear by comparing it to the alternatives with clear, honest evaluation of the negatives of those alternatives.

In other words, they are not willing to fight by using their most potent weapon, which is to emphasize the superiority of nuclear energy in terms of low emissions, fuel costs that are a tiny fraction of the competition, and inventory security that is unmatched. (What other technology can put several years worth of fuel into storage if they are worried about supply interruptions?)

There is no surprise why "the media" is not interested in telling the positive side of nuclear energy. There is nothing in it for them since there are not any advertisers buying ads that tell the good news. Media companies do not exist to provide free information, they provide information to readers and viewers to attract eyeballs that they can market to advertisers. 

Your recommendation to emphasize "safer, more advanced nuclear power" is a risky and somewhat dishonest strategy. It puts existing investments in current nuclear plants into question, and it sides with the opposition by implying, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there is something uniquely hazardous about our existing light water reactor technology. It may not be absolutely perfect, but its record is pretty darned good compared to all other energy alternatives.

The triple play boogiemen of "TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima" have resulted in about 56 fatalities during the 57 years since the UK's first Magnox reactor entered commercial operations. That is impressive and should not be the subject of handwringing. I am not saying it is not worthwhile to do better, after all, I don't drive a car designed in the 1960s, but it does not make sense to claim there is something terribly wrong with continuing to operate exising plants until they are actually worn out.

Rod Adams

Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 30, 2013    View Comment    

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

@Paul O

You wrote:

However I am fundamentally a low Tax guy, and I wonder whether there should be Corporate taxes at all.

I am fundamentally a fair tax guy and have no doubt whatsoever that activities by corporations impose a substantial cost on all of the rest of us. (They also provide some substantial benefits.)

Just like all individual tax payers, corporations should pay their fair share for the burdens that they impose and for the services that they demand. As a retired US naval officer whose tours of duty included several jobs in DC associated with annual budget formation, I have a pretty good idea of the magnitude of the costs borne by taxpayers to enable multinational petroleum companies to continue doing business.

In 1942, Enrico Fermi and his colleagues conducted an important demonstration of a capable replacement for many of the things that fossil fuel does for society today. By 1955, Hyman Rickover showed that the new fuel source could cleanly power one of the most challenging energy demands known - a submerged submarine capable of going more than 60,000 miles without refueling, That was on the first core; subsequent technical improvements have increased that already impressive endurance to about a million miles in modern submarines.

Actinide fission produces reliable heat and has proven its ability to propel ocean going ships, provide district heating, provide heat for industrial processes and produce high quality electricity that enables a stable supply for a very large portion of the time. Fission provides those capabilities with an ultra low total lifecycle emission footprint of about 10-20 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour with the potential for additional reductions at key points of the lifecycle.

I'm pretty sure that certain people associated with the global fossil fuel production enterprise -- including some investors and employees at companies like Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Gazprom, Atlantic Richfield, Aramoco, Peabody, Burlington Northern Railroad, GE, Bechtel, and their friends at banking institutions like CityGroup, J.P Morgan, Chase, and the World Bank -- have helped suppress knowledge of nuclear energy and helped increase irrational fears in an effort to protect their market share from being taken by a more capable and cleaner competitor. 

December 30, 2013    View Comment    

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

Mark - there is no evidence that nuclear plants kill raptors. They do not have rapidly moving parts and are not preferentially located in places where raptors happen to soar. Read the critiques of Sovacool's study, then get back to me.

December 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

@Mark Tracy

I am pretty well caught up on my reading. Here is a critique of the Sovacool study that you have quoted and linked to.

There is additional discussion between the critic and Sovacool.

The bottom line is that Sovacool's analysis is flawed, based on poor assumptions, and based on collisions with cooling towers that are not associated with a nuclear plant.

Besides, I personnally believe that there is a difference between killing a swallow, sea gull, or pidgeon in a city and killing a soaring codor or bald eagle in a windy mountain pass. Those soaring birds of prey are rare and valuable. They were using the thermals in mountain passes long before we decided that the resource belonged to humans and should be captured by gigantic spinning blades.

December 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

@Paul O

Your numbers miss a key figure - ExxonMobil's annual revenue is approximately $450 billion per year.

Sure, its "earnings" after deducting expenses is only about $50 billion, but multinational corporations have many ways of turning huge rewards for investors and management into "expenses" that reduce their taxable income.

In my opinion, a key metric is that ExxonMobil's annual revenue is more than 2 times as large as the US Navy's annual budget. A fair portion of the cost of maintaining that Navy enables ExxonMobil and its colleagues in the global hydrocarbon industry to more safely capture huge revenue streams from their far flung operations.

However, ExxonMobil pays just $3 billion per year in US corporate income tax and about $7 billion per year in additional exise and sales taxes. What a bargain for the investors!

Of course, wind turbines in Nantucket Sound have little or nothing to do with oil consumption, but they will result in electricial power systems that favor responsive natural gas fired turbines. Half of ExxonMobil's annual energy production is in natural gas, the other half is in crude oil.

December 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Reuters Breakout Series Focuses on China's Interest in Thorium

@Bob Meinetz

In one way, my blog on Shippingport is not quite a relevant now as it was 18 years ago. In the period since the final core of Shippingport was built, there has been a revolution in manufacturing automation that would eliminate much of the manual labor and potentially bring down the cost of building light water breeder cores.

After my recent period of employment with a fuel manufacturing company (I'm no longer there), I am even more convinced than ever that molten salt advocates vastly overstate the challenges of solid fuel manufacuturing and underestimate the challenges that would be associated with dealing with constantly mobile fuel.

December 26, 2013    View Comment    

On NuScale Wins Second Round of DOE SMR Funding Under FOA

@Simon Friedrich

Thank you for the suggested additional comparison. It makes sense to also compare nuclear energy research and development to other types of energy research and development.

However, my initial comparison remains valid information. Both nuclear energy and wind energy have proven characteristics and both produce roughly the same quantity of CO2 per unit of useful energy.

It is important for me to tell as many Americans as I can possibly reach how much more direct monetary reward the government is willing to give large, politically well connected, established companies to build massive quantities of industrial wind generation. It is important to compare those direct payments to the bottom line of Siemens, GE, Iberdrola, and Next Era to the amount of money that the government is willing to give to small nuclear plant design teams to defray some of the government imposed costs associated with engineering and licensing an improved version of the same technology that is already well proven by five decades worth of safe, reliable operation.

It is also worth noting the timeliness of the funds transfers and the speed with which the government is encouraging the developments.

In my opinion, it is a great example of why we need to recognize the efforts that the fossil fuel establishment is making to distract the public from supporting a real competitive threat to their dominant position by supporting a weakling that cannot stand on its own two feet, even after 20 years worth of direct subsidies.

December 21, 2013    View Comment    

On NuScale Wins Second Round of DOE SMR Funding Under FOA

@Nathan Wilson

Someone has to lose. Besides, it has been clear since this program was initiated that LWRs had inside track.

Circle W's proposed system too similar to B&W's. My friends in design at B&W kept complaining about that, but I knew my friends in licensing were often immersed in reading AP1000 design certification documents.

December 20, 2013    View Comment    

On Is the Wind Energy Tax Credit About to Expire for Good?

@Bill Woods

Do you have a source for subsidies for nuclear energy? It would be interesting to find out what they really are.

For the record, I ran a tiny nuclear energy start up company for a few years. I looked and looked; every energy program I could find had a virtual sign out in front saying "nukes not welcome here."

Of course, since I could never raise enough capital to build anything the Price - Anderson "subsidy" wasn't worth enough to buy a cup of coffee. Neither was the promised PTC to completed plants. Loan guarantees didn't exist at the time - truth be told, they don't actually exist today except in bureaucratic imagination and press releases. Not a single dime has flowed from the 2005 authorized program amount of $18.5 billion into a nuclear related construction project. Not a single weekly paycheck, not a valve, not a switch, not a pumb has been purchased with money enabled buy the Energy Policy Act promises of 2005.

Rod Adams

December 19, 2013    View Comment    

On Is the Wind Energy Tax Credit About to Expire for Good?

My vote is that it is time for the PTC, especially the section 1603 ITC in lieu of the PTC, to die. It has done its job of making wind turbines construction into as efficient an industrial process as possible.

If they still cannot compete economically because of inherent challenges, so be it. There are other sources of clean electricity that could use some federal encouragement.

In a post today on the DOE SMR award to NuScale, I pointed out that the engineering and licensing assistance under that program will amount to about $75 million per year over a six year period. That is not much more than 1% of the cost of the annual cost of the PTC. It really seems strange to pay major companies like GE, Siemens and Iberdrola $6 billion per year to manufacture a refined product and invest 1/100th of that amount in the development of two innovative designs to produce emission free electricity that will be available about 90% (or more) of the year.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 19, 2013    View Comment    

On 60 Years Ago, Ike, the Most Visionary President of the 20th Century, Gave Atoms for Peace Speech

@John Miller

I'm a patriotic American with 33 years of uniformed service. I believe that gives me the right and responsibility to point out that the US signed a treaty more than 30 years ago in which it promised to disarm and stop threatening other nations with our nuclear weapons.

We're making no real plans to follow through on that commitment and we've never renounced "first use." 


December 11, 2013    View Comment