Free Markets, Free People

Energy

The most underreported energy related story?

Did most of you know about this?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) June energy report says that energy-related carbon dioxide fell to 5,473 million metric tons (MMT) in 2011.

That’s down from a high of 6,020 MMT in 2007, and only a little above 1995’s level of 5,314 MMT.

Better yet, emissions in the first quarter of 2012 fell at an even faster rate — down 7.5% from the first quarter of 2011 and 8.5% from the same time in 2010. If the rest of 2012 follows its first-quarter trend, we may see total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions drop to early-1990s levels.

Wow.  Victory for the enviro crowd, yes?  Regulation has succeeded, right?  The government has turned the tide?

Nope.  In fact it has nothing to do with the enviro crowd, government or regulation.

Two dirty words: Hydraulic fracking.  Two more for good measure: Natural gas.  And the dirtiest word of all: Markets.

Those three have combined, via a price point that has stimulated demand and made the conversion of coal plants economical to drive down emissions as they produce electricity more cheaply and efficiently.  This trend began in 2007 and is now having a real effect:

Increasingly, power plants are turning to natural gas because it has become abundant, and therefore cheap. And though technology is improving our ability to reduce emissions from coal usage, natural gas is still a much cleaner source.

Natural gas, given the extensive finds and the exploitation, is much cheaper than coal now.  In fact:

Indeed, natural gas has just passed an important milestone. As noted by John Hanger, energy expert and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: "As of April, gas tied coal at 32% of the electric power generation market, nearly ending coal’s 100-year reign on top of electricity markets."

That’s how it works in markets, or is supposed too.  The fact that emissions are down is an actual side benefit of the process.  And it is a process that has managed to work despite government and environmental groups like the Sierra Club’s interference or attempted interference in the process (the Sierra Club has declared war on natural gas and fracking after accepting millions in previous years from the natural gas industry). 

It is a part of the creative destruction of the capitalist process.  Coal will still have its uses, but just as it was replaced as a primary fuel for heating homes last century, it is now being replaced as a primary fuel for generating electricity for the same reason – there is a cheaper and more efficient fuel (which also happens to have fewer emissions) that is easier to produce and deliver than coal. 

At some point coal producers will either have to reinvent themselves or find something else to do.  And on the other side, opportunities will expand within the natural gas industry as more and more demand builds.

But shhhhh.  Don’t want anyone knowing this all happened because of markets.  Why that would hurt the argument that it requires government intrusion, regulation and the pressure of environmental groups to make things like this happen.

Can’t have that.

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Quote of the Day: Which Republican said this edition

Tell me if you know which Republican Congressman said this:

"President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend our way to prosperity and that to in order to create jobs," … "We need to address unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas and enact policies that allow us to take advantage of our vast natural resources such as coal and natural gas in a safe and responsible manner which will lower energy costs and create jobs and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline would be a good first step."

House Speaker Boehner?  Paul Ryan?  Eric Cantor?

Uh, no … it wasn’t a Republican at all.  It was Rep. Mark Critz, D-PA.  The  guy who represents most of John Murtha’s old district.  Does this sound like a guy who is wanting the president anywhere near his district as he runs for re-election?

Meanwhile the President gave a “major speech” yesterday in Ohio that was 54 minutes long and could be boiled down into one sentence – No change: more spending, more taxes, same old failed economic policies and blame Bush.

It was widely panned by the usually supportive media.  Said Jon Healy of the LA Times:

President Obama’s much-anticipated speech Thursday on the economy didn’t lay out any new initiatives or make any new arguments. It often sounded like a recap of his first three years, or another version of the familiar "how we got here" blamefest.

Meanwhile, going back to part of Rep. Critz criticism, the Keystone XL pipeline, something which would mean jobs for this country and a big step toward increasing our energy security, is indeed proceeding – toward China or elsewhere:

While Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, said in an interview that the United States would remain Canada’s “most important customer,” billions of barrels of oil that would have been refined and used in the United States are now poised to head elsewhere. Expansion of Canada’s fast-growing oil-sands industry will be restricted by the lack of pipeline capacity before the decade’s end, he said, which “adds to the urgency of building them so that the resources will not be stranded.”

Three new pipeline network proposals — two that call for heading west and the other east — have been put forward.

If ever there were a blunder of historic proportions, Obama’s petulant and politically motivated disapproval of the pipeline rank up in the top.

As John Sexton writes:

The scale of this blunder, which the President made ostensibly on environmental grounds, is compounded by the fact that there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Once a new pipeline is built, Canada has no reason to return to selling its oil products solely to the U.S. at a reduced price. The decision not to approve Keystone XL makes Solyndra look like a stroke of genius.

Indeed.

Oh and finally, can anyone guess what was required to attend the President’s Ohio speech?

Yeah, that’s right – a photo ID.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Coal powered, er electric cars, not as efficient as EPA claims?

Why I’d be shocked, shocked I tell you if that was the case.

The tease:

The Green Machine is now exposing how the US Government can choose to create data that disobey the laws of thermodynamics so that the worthless government policy of favoring plug in vehicles over gas or diesel powered vehicles can be supported by the public. Yes the US EPA chooses to make 34.4% equal to 100%.

Hmmm … I’m hooked, let’s see why:

The EPA allows plug in vehicle makers to claim an equivalent miles per gallon (MPG) based on the electricity powering the cars motors being 100% efficient. This implies the electric power is generated at the power station with 100% efficiency, is transmitted and distributed through thousands of miles of lines without any loss, is converted from AC to DC without any loss, and the charge discharge efficiency of the batteries on the vehicle is also 100%. Of course the second law of thermodynamics tells us all of these claims are poppycock and that losses of real energy will occur in each step of the supply chain of getting power to the wheels of a vehicle powered with an electric motor.

So the 118 mpg equivalent that the EPA allows the Honda Fit is nonsense?  Tell me it ain’t so!

Well it is simple the US EPA uses a conversion factor of 33.7 kilowatt hours per gallon of gasoline to calculate the equivalent MPG of an electric vehicle.

Dr. Chu Chu of the Department of Entropy is instructing the EPA on thermodynamics in coming up with the 33.7 kwh per gallon. On a heating value of the fuel 33.7 kwh equals 114,984 BTUS which is indeed the lower heating value of gasoline. The fit needs 286 watt hours to travel a mile and the Green Machine agrees with this for the 2 cycle US EPA test with no heating, cooling or fast acceleration. Using this amount of energy per mile and the 33.7 kwh “contained” in a gallon of gas, the EPA calculates the Fit gets 118 MPG equivalent.

All of these calculations are in fact flawed as the generation of electricity, the transmission and distribution of electricity, the conversion of the AC electricity into DC electricity, and the charging and discharging of the vehicle batteries all have energy losses associated with these activities. The average efficiency of power generation is perhaps 42.5%, the transmission and distribution efficiency is perhaps 90%, the AC to DC conversion and the battery charge discharge efficiency is about 90%. Multiplying all these efficiencies one can calculate that the overall efficiency is 34.4% to get electric power from fuels at the power station into stored electrons within the plug in vehicle’s batteries.

On this basis the 118 MPG equivalent is 40.6 MPG actual for the Honda Fit which is not much of an improvement to the gasoline version of this vehicle that has an EPA rating of 35 MPG combined for city and highway driving.

Uh, that’s quite a little downgrade in performance, isn’t it?  Nothing like being 190% off, EPA.

However, I am glad to see the administration has finally taken the politics out of science and has “real” science again serving the public’s best interest.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The new fossil fuel reality

Myth: The US has only 2% of the world’s proven reserves.

Reality:

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

Or, as the article from which those two paragraphs are taken is entitled, “Center of gravity in oil world shifts to America”.

And, given recent finds, there’s more than a “glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency for the United States” there is a real possibility for self-sufficiency if a coherent energy policy is put together that exploits the reserves we have.

Currently the US imports 45% of its petroleum needs.  29% of all imports comes from Canada, 8% from Mexico.  Saudi Arabia supplies 14% Nigeria 10% and Venezuela 11%, with lesser suppliers picking up the rest.

Canada’s supplies of crude oil are going to continue to rise, from a current base of 4.3 million barrels a day to 6.6 million a day in 2035.  But the US is projected to see a big an increase as well.  From the current 10 million barrels of oil a day to 12.8 million in 2035.

But that’s the case only if we tap into it or are allowed to tap into it, much being found under land controlled by the federal government who has been anything but friendly to the idea here recently.

Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and the “tight” rock formations of North Dakota and Texas — basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently

Technology has made the recovery of these resources economically viable and they promise a abundant energy future.

Then, of course, there’s natural gas, something the US is blessed with in huge quantities as well.  It is a distinct possibility that the use of natural gas will increase markedly over the next few decades as it is applied to more and more uses traditionally the realm of other energy sources.  Part of that may come among auto and truck fleets.  If so, then it is more than a “glimmer of a possibility of self-sufficiency” we’re beginning to see.

It is a real possibility.

But only if we use it.  And, only if the government and radical environmentalists get out of the way.

One of those two problems can be helped this November.

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

About the myth that the US only has 2% of the world’s proven oil reserves

With the following quote, which Anu K. Mittal, the GAO’s director of natural resources and environment provided in written testimony to Congress, forever kills the meme that we have only 2% of the world’s proven oil reserves:

“USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions,” Mittal testified.

“The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered,” Mittal told the subcommittee. “At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves.”

Of course the 2% myth has been useful to deny the viability of “drill, baby, drill”.  President Obama has used it repeatedly (and I have no doubt he will continue to do so because he seems to come from the school that thinks if they repeat something that is untrue enough times, well, it becomes true, or something).  The entire argument has centered around the premise, given the 2% figure, that even if we were to drill everything, we’d still be dependent on foreign oil.  And so, the logic then goes, since that is “true” then it would seem we should instead concentrate on alternate energies, especially clean and renewable energies, to displace fossil fuel use, decrease our foreign dependence and replace oil with those alternatives (even if they’re more costly).

Naturally, this works perfectly into a further claim that we’ll also save the planet from warming, increase net job growth by creating domestic green jobs and everyone will live happily ever after.

None of it is true.  Myth after myth has been shattered.  Global warming, despite James Hansen’s insistence, is simply not happening the way he and his alarmists claimed.  He continues to beat the same drum he was beating years ago as if nothing has disputed his initial theories.  Just last week he doubled down with a NY Times op/ed piece that barely yielded a yawn.

Should we be pursuing alternate and so-called “clean” energy sources?  Of course we should.  And we will as necessity and markets guide entrepreneurs.  But this myth that we must be a net oil importer forever and ever and can’t find ways to fully secure our own supply (i.e. not have to import oil from unfriendly or potentially unfriendly countries or be subject to their whims) is a myth.

That is, unless we don’t exploit this resource.  And remember, the estimate Mittal is talking about covers one area in the US.  We’re not talking off-shore, where most of the off-shore area  also holds vast amounts of oil but remains off-limits.  We’re talking right here on dry land.

The Green River formation is near where the state borders of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming come together.  The unfortunate aspect of that is most of the land is owned by the Federal government.  And, under this administration, anyone who has been following the energy policy of the administration knows that’s bad news for Americans.

“The federal government is in a unique position to influence the development of oil shale because nearly three-quarters of the oil shale within the Green River Formation lies beneath federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior’s (Interior) Bureau of Land Management (BLM),” she testified.

Again, with this administration, most know what that means.  If history is a guide, little if anything will be done to take advantage of this petroleum windfall by Mr. “All-Of-The-Above”.

Look at the Bakken oil fields and their impact in this down economy for an example of what Green River could mean in real terms.  Here’s blurb published today from a Billings, MT newspaper:

Thousands of workers chasing quick riches by flooding into the Bakken oil field have helped jump-start home sales in Billings.

And the wave is starting to make Billings houses harder to find — and more expensive.

Well-site geologist Joe Hallgren works under contract for SM Energy of Billings. He and his family live in Williston, N.D., the oil boom’s epicenter. But, they’re building a house in Billings and when it’s finished in July they’ll move here and Hallgren will commute to the oil patch.

“I’ve seen a few boom-bust cycles. This one is crazy,” he said. “We got to the point where, for our family, Billings is just going to be better for us.”

Last week, Bozeman resident Doug Pezoldt, who surveys land for local engineering firm Sanderson Stewart, and his wife started moving into their custom-built Billings home.

“Really, in one year’s time, the boom in the Bakken has increased the volume of work and we just need more people in Billings to support that,” Pezoldt said. “My wife and I just feel like Billings is where we want to make our home long term.”

That is the reality of Bakken and the potential of Green River in a very down economy.

Question: Do you think the administration will bother to take advantage of it?

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

“All-of-the-above” energy policy doesn’t mean just adding “clean coal” to campaign energy web page

This guy is so obvious it amazes even me at times.

He loses 41% of the Democratic vote in the West Virginia primary to a Texas jailbird and suddenly he’s all for “clean coal.”  Does he really, honestly believe that now West Virginia will rally to his cause because he put “clean coal” on his campaign web site where it has been conspicuously absent prior to the primary?  This is “smartest guy in the room” stuff?

After coming under fire for its consistent hostility to the coal industry, the Obama campaign quietly adjusted its energy policy website to include “clean coal” among the president’s energy initiatives.

The energy policy page of BarackObama.com now includes a section for “clean coal,” claiming the stimulus package “invested substantially in carbon capture and sequestration research.”

But until recently, that page made no mention of coal. Its Google cache shows a section for “energy efficiency” where “clean coal” now appears.

The change comes mere days after Obama lost 41% of the vote in the Democratic primary in West Virginia – a state heavily reliant on the coal industry – to a convicted felon and current federal inmate.

The chairman of the WV Democratic Party blamed Obama’s poor showing on his stance on coal energy. “A lot of folks here have real frustration with this administration’s stance on coal and energy,” said state Democratic chairman Larry Puccio. “They are frustrated and they are upset, and they wanted to send Obama a message.”

Of course everyone who has followed how Obama operates knows very well he’ll say anything.  It is what he does (or doesn’t do) that matters.  Just like being “for” gay marriage.  That doesn’t mean he’ll do anything to make it happen. It is about how he calculates being “for” something will benefit him politically.  The same holds true for “clean coal”.

Should he win re-election, “clean coal” will be removed as quietly as it was inserted onto the campaign web page.

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Imagine a president who puts the needs of the country before a political agenda

Jeffery Folks at American Thinker begins his article with:

Imagine a president who gets behind drilling, welcomes the cutting-edge technology of companies such as ExxonMobil, and offers generous 15-year tax breaks to ensure that new drilling projects move forward.  That’s the kind of energy policy America needs in order to achieve energy-independence.

I’d love to imagine that.  In fact and unfortunately, we have a president who does exactly the opposite. 

If you want someone like Folks is wishing for, you’ll have to go to Russia:

Unfortunately, it’s not Barack Obama who’s behind those positive energy policies; it’s Vladimir Putin.

As Russian president-elect, Putin has made it clear that he intends to open his country’s arctic and Black Sea regions to drilling.  The potential is so great, and the necessary investment so immense, that even Russia’s giant state-run oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, lack the resources and technology to proceed.  So, with Putin’s blessing, Rosneft and Gazprom have entered into joint-production agreements with Exxon, Italian major Eni, and other Western companies.  The stakes are huge — not just for these companies, but for the Russian economy.

The arctic and Black Sea fields being jointly developed by Rosneft and Eni contain an estimated 36 billion barrels of oil equivalents.  Those under development by Rosneft and Exxon, which may ultimately require an investment of as much as $500 billion, contain estimated reserves of 36 billion barrels in the arctic Kara Sea fields alone.  (Total recoverable arctic reserves have been estimated at 134 billion barrels of oil equivalent but will likely go higher as exploration proceeds.)  In addition to the arctic and Black Sea fields covered in the Exxon and Eni agreements, president-elect Putin has expressed an interest in the possibility of joint ventures to develop vast Siberian tight shale formations.

The US has an incredible amount of natural resources including huge reserves of oil and natural gas.  We’re already the number 3 oil producer in the world.  And guess who actually leads the world with recoverable fossil fuel reserves?   Yes, that would be the US.  Imagine an energy policy that made extraction of that fuel a priority?  With aggressive exploration and drilling (as well as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline) we could have a 92% secure liquid fuel sources by 2030.  Not to mention, in a time of high unemployment, a jobs bonanza.

But what do we get? 

Not that, that’s for sure.   We instead get a president who talks about an “all-of-the-above” energy policy while his actions belie his claims.  He’s turned lose a executive agency (EPA) on the fossil fuel industry that has already been slapped down numerous times by the judiciary for over-reach.  Drilling and permits on federal land have gone down dramatically.

In an oil market that has seen supplies tightening and prices going up, his administration has done everything to keep it that way.

And voters aren’t happy with his performance at all.

If this is going “Forward”, I’d hate to see backward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Reid: “No Keystone for you!”

Can’t pass a budget in three years, is pretty sure the biggest reason to keep the financially insolvent USPS open is senior citizens like getting junk mail and wants the government paying your tax dollars to keep cowboy poetry alive, Harry Reid is a poster boy for the arguments against seniority as a means of picking leaders. 

But when it comes to screwing over the best interests of the United State, well, you can definitely count on Harry to be on the side of those doing the screwing.

Senate Democrats will hold firm and reject House Republican demands to include approval of the Keystone oil pipeline in transportation funding legislation, their leader said Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would not in any way help Republicans move Keystone approval across the finish line.

“Personally, I’m not — I’m not one of the conferees — but personally I think Keystone is a program that we’re not going, that I am not going to help in any way I can,” Reid told reporters. “The president feels that way. I do, too.”

I’m sure the president does indeed feel the way Reid does.

Which should tell you all you need to know about where the President’s priorities are as well.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Another example of why government picking winners and losers normally ends with #FAIL

The other day this sort of slipped under the media radar:

First Solar Inc. will lay off 2,000 workers and close its factory in Germany following a collapse in solar panel prices that has erased the industry’s profits and forced some smaller companies into bankruptcy.

America’s biggest solar manufacturer said the layoffs amount to 30 percent of its global workforce.

B..b..but why!?  Green shoots, alternative energy, clean energy, what the frack?!

This is the future, the government says so!  How did it all go so wrong?  How in the world could solar panel prices “collapse”?

An influx of Chinese competitors has led to a rapid buildup in supply. At the same time governments in Europe, the biggest market for solar power, are reducing generous subsidy programs that had fueled demand. From March to December last year, solar panel prices dropped 50 percent, said Aaron Chew, an analyst with the Maxim Group.

Oh.

That damn “supply and demand” thingy again, right?

So let me get this straight … cheap foreign product (subsidized by the Chinese government) flooded the market created by government subsidized demand, driving up supply while lowering the price. Meanwhile the false demand that had been supported by “generous [government] subsidy programs” ended (thus ending the “demand”).  Consequently there is no demand for the current over supply and no one is buying the stuff?

Wow … who could have seen that coming?

And the current producer can’t make a profit and thus has to lay off people?

Oh.

You know, when you’ve seen the same thing over and over and over again (see Einstein’s definition of insanity), sometimes you just have to resort to sarcasm.

By the way for the terminally slow – news flash – that supply and demand thingy also seems to work in the petroleum market as well. 

Go figure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO