TCS Daily

Things Worth Investigating

By Kenneth Green - August 25, 2006 12:00 AM

When it comes to fossil fuels, the political class (mostly, but not entirely, on the left) has developed a case of "investigitis." We're seeing this dynamic reappear along with the latest energy problem -- the BP oil pipeline shutdown. Calling for congressional hearings into the situation, Democratic Representative John Dingell, top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, observed that "It is appalling that BP let this critical pipeline deteriorate to the point that a major production shutdown was necessary."[i]

This particular outbreak of investigitis is both ironic, and misdirected. It's ironic because the target of Democratic fury -- BP CEO John Browne -- has been a poster boy for the left's most-ardently sought regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.[ii] Vanity Fair lauded his "environmental conscience" only a few issues ago and Bill Clinton praised him for his responsible commitments to environmental goals in 1999. [iii] The call for an investigation is misdirected because the best target for investigations into irrational energy policy would be...Congress.

In the interest of helping to find some real answers to questions regarding energy, the various committees involving energy and environment should quiz themselves ruthlessly on several questions pertaining to the artificial constraints on supply that are mostly of their own creation.

Why, they might ask themselves, does Congress let a few state legislators prevent exploration and development of the oil reserves of the Outer Continental Shelf and federal lands that are the property of the entire American public? According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service[iv], there are about 86 billion barrels of oil under the Outer Continental Shelf. And according to the Energy Information Administration[v], total US oil imports from OPEC total about 2 billion barrels per year. That means we are sitting on offshore deposits that could replace OPEC imports in their entirety for 43 years.[vi] Such could buffer us against oil price shifts in the Middle East for far longer, even as a partial displacement of OPEC supply.

And how, Congress might ask, did Congress allow so many agencies to get their hand in this particular pie? The approval process for offshore exploration now requires satisfying the regulatory requirements of the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all agencies operating under Congressional authorization. What's that about too many cooks?

Another question Congress might ask itself is why they have restricted the development of known American oil and gas reserves, such as those in ANWR[vii], while consumers endure price spikes and fluctuations that could have easily been averted? It's long been understood that developing such oil can be done without causing significant environmental damage. The Department of Interior recommended developing that oil way back in 1987. Those 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil (a mid-range estimate according to the U.S. Geologic Survey[viii]) would look pretty good coming down the pipe right about now. I'm guessing most motorists would love to hear what an investigation into this question revealed as they fill their tanks with $3.00/gallon gasoline.

Finally, Congress might ask itself how they managed to let the United States EPA and a handful of other states fragment gasoline markets across the country into a crazy-quilt of mini-markets with fragile supplies. They wouldn't have to look hard for the answer: provisions in the Clean Air Act, and state requirements that equal or exceed the Clean Air Act requirements have fragmented the American market for gasoline so that rather than having one formulation of gasoline that can be moved across markets easily, we have 17 different blends, mixed in 3 separate grades, that can only be sold in specific markets. That raises fuel costs and leads to exaggerated regional price fluctuations when supply is interrupted. As the United States Government Accountability Office pointed out last year, "The proliferation of special gasoline blends has made it more complicated to supply gasoline and has raised costs, significantly affecting operations at refineries, pipelines, and storage terminals." Further, the GAO observed,

"The proliferation of special blends the number of suppliers of some of these fuels, posing challenges when traditional supplies are disrupted, such as during a refinery outage or pipeline delay. In the past, local supply disruptions could be addressed relatively quickly by bringing fuel from nearby locations; now, however, additional supplies of special gasoline blends may be hundreds of miles away."[ix]

There are a lot of things that Congress could investigate that might explain how various petroleum-driven parts of the U.S. economy came to be so fragile and susceptible to foreign disruptions. They would be best off starting the investigation by looking in a mirror.

Kenneth Green is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of "Bringing Down Gas and Oil Prices," an AEI Environmental Policy Outlook.

[i] Reuters, "Democrats call on Congress to probe BP shutdown, August 7, 2006.

[ii] Ben Klayman, "BP Amoco to Introduce Cleaner Fuels in Next Two Years," Reuters Limited, January 27, 1999.

[iii] "President Bill Clinton in a statement lauded BP Amoco's cleaner-fuel plan and decision to hold Amoco to the same target as BP to reduce emissions. "These commitments demonstrate that leading corporations can serve their investors and their customers, even as they join us in the fight against global warming" he said. "BP Amoco offers further proof that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand in hand."

[iv] United States Mineral Management Service, cached report (website unavailable directly), "Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Assessment 2006" "The MMS estimates that the quantity of undiscovered technically recoverable resources ranges from 66.6 to 115.3 billion barrels of oil and 326.4 to 565.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The mean or average estimate is 85.9 billion barrels of oil and 419.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas."

[v] Energy Information Administration Basic Petroleum Statistics, updated July 2006:
Oil imports from OPEC = 5,508,000 bbl/dy, or about 2 billion bbl/yr.

[vi] CALCULATION BY AUTHOR: OPEC replacement years in OCS: (86 billion bbl/yr)/(5.5 million bbl/dy*365 dys/yr)= 43 years.

[vii] Elizabeth Shogren, "For 30 Years, a Political Battle Over Oil and ANWR," National Public Radio All Things Considered, November 10, 2005. "In 1987, when Reagan was still president, the Interior Department recommended that Congress allow drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic refuge. It reported that the area represented the nation's best chance to boost domestic oil production."

[viii] United States Geologic Survey, Fact Sheet 0028-01: Online Report. "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum Assessment 1998, Including Economic Analysis", last modified, August 2004. "The total quantity of technically recoverable oil within the entire assessment area is estimated to be between 5.7 and 16.0 billion barrels (95-percent and 5-percent probability range), with a mean value of 10.4 billion barrels. Technically recoverable oil within the ANWR 1002 area (excluding State and Native areas) is estimated to be between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels (95- and 5-percent probability range), with a mean value of 7.7 billion barrels"

[ix] U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Special Gasoline Blends Reduce Emissions and Improve Air Quality, but Complicate Supply and Contribute to Higher Prices (Washington, D.C.: GAO-05-421, June 2005).



Spot on
Great article. Not developing all our own oil & gas resources, even in this time of danger, is insane. The venal government idiots who have let this travesty happen should be boiled in oil, including W & his bro in Fla.

We're on the right track letting the selfish individual states get part of the royalty revenue, we should probably let the greedy SOBs have it all, especially the hoity-toits that whine about drill rigs spoiling their views. National survival is at stake.

BP is already being punished for their shortsightedness
They are loosing oodles of money, every day the pipeline is shut down.

typical for AEI - its just a third of the story
The third they use to prop up their ideology.

The answers to our energy woes are not- drill, drill, drill. It can be part of the solution, but it doesn't even have to be. But I understand, its the easiest answer and it goes along with the ideology (money for rich people and corporations).

At the same time, I agree, Congress should be put to the screws for no energy policy, or worse, an acceptance of the policy created for America by oil companies. But both political parties deserve criticism for letting it get to this point. Republicans are just the most recent failure of government.

Any article about energy policy that doesn't use words like "conservation" and "technology" is worthless pandering.

"conservation," "technology," and "renewables," are red herrings
"Conservation" and "technology" as used by environmentalists are red herrings, as are "renewables." Let's take them one at a time.

Conservation - environmentalists use "conservation" as a euphemism for rationing. If you think about it, "conservation" measures like more efficient appliances, more insulation, fluorescent bulbs, etc, don't lead to reduced energy demand - in fact, it's the other way around. Since most "conservation" measures actually lower the cost of energy by increasing the work we get out of each unit of energy. All that does is free up the "conserved" energy for other uses. This is basic economics: if you reduce the price of a good that's in demand, people just use more of it. The only way to "conserve" energy (as in, to leave it in the ground) is to block development of known reserves, and ration what we have now through regulations, taxes, etc. And the environmentalists don't want to admit that's the real agenda.

Technology - While I'm a techno-optimist, and believe that ultimately, technology will indeed give us all the energy we could want, I don't believe that humans can predict the future, and from past failures, I have no faith in governments ability to pick winners or losers. In other words, while new technology will most certainly appear, and the probability of its appearance grows as the incentive grows, the where, when, and what are not predictable, and therefore have no place in planning.

Renewables - though this wasn't mentioned in the previous post, I'm sure it'll come up. Renewables have been a red-herring in the energy debate since the term was coined. Other than hydro, such sources could not, even with full deployment, offset a significant amount of the energy demand that exists today, much less in the future, and they're not cost-competitive. Thus, when one actually takes the environmentalists up on "renewables" and tries to build dams, or windfarms, geothermal power, wave energy, whatever, you find that damn near everyone winds up opposing them (including other environmentalists) and they never get built. In other words, they're but another red herring.

Ken Green

conservation and technology has been part of the mix for decades

its a red herring to call them red herrings
I don't know Ken, I think your red herrings are such because thats the way you choose to define them. You seem to have a bias against environmentalists, so rather than apply criticism where its warranted, and its warranted plenty, you brand anything "environmentalist" as negative and thus define it that way. Your red herrings is just a red herring.
If a non-environmentalist talks about conservation, technology and/or renewables are they still red herrings? Or is it just when an environmentalist does it?

Conservation - thats the point, to lower the cost of gasoline. I agree with what you're saying, I'd like to see gas go up to $5 or $6 a gallon. It would hurt our economy badly(unfortunately), but it would force the market into more conservation. Or, we could embrace conservation now and forgo the pain to our economy. Its not about rationing or taxes or regulations, its about the status quo- cheap, plentiful fuel, with less pollution as a bonus. Why wouldn't we all value the idea of using energy in the most efficient way possible?

Technology - no kidding you're a techno-optimist. You think we need zero planning for developing new technologies. I personally think government's role is to create incentives, not to pick winners or losers. Put some resources into research and development, grants, tax breaks, whatever resources it happens to be. Promote development of technologies, not specific technologies.

Renewables - first off, geothermal power could offset a huge amount of energy otherwise needed to power homes. Its true that its not affordable for a majority of people at this time. No one is opposing geothermal power. Wind farms are an eyesore to some people, but they are being built. Hydro dams are a mixed bag, it is a good way to get energy, but it does also have a negative affect on the local ecosystem. I think you're wrong that renewables in full deployment wouldn't offset the supply of energy. You referred to demand but I think you meant supply. Even if it offsets 8% of total supply, its a start and it comes with other benefits too. Which, you didn't mention the benefits- less pollution, cleaner air and water. Does that matter at all?

On red herrings...

I was using "red herring," as in "a distraction that draws attention away from the real issue," and yes, these particular herrings are used by more than just environmentalists, however, I think it's safe to say that environmental arguments dominate the discussion of conservation, technology-forcing, and renewables, and is largely an applicable label.

To your points:

1) Unless conservation is about banning access to energy resources, regulation, and rationing (whether by price or by volume), it's unlikely to happen, as history has shown.

2) When government "creates incentives" it is usually taking money from taxpayers, and then yes, picking and choosing what they think is most likely to get the results they want. Governments have an absolutely dreadful history of this.

3) No one is opposing geothermal power precisely because nobody is developing it. If you check a map, and ask where such geothermal resources are, you'll find out why: most of them are in protected areas like state and federal parks.

4) Most "renewables" are for producing electricity, which can be done much more cheaply with coal, or even natural gas. Displacing any percentage of supply of a lower-cost fuel with a higher-cost fuel simply raises energy costs and all the downstream costs that go with it.

5) Yes, some "renewables" offer some environmental benefits (and some liabilities as well, like bird-mincing). However, if the goal is to reduce harmful pollutants (and I don't believe that greenhouse gases fall into that category), that problem is largely solved. If it's to clean waterways (which I think is a huge environmental problem), then it's nibbling at the edges, since non-point pollution is the main problem. Again, a distraction from the real challenge.

I'll probably let the piece speak for itself after this post.

Ken Green

The End of Petroleum
Any Congressmen who think more Petroleum will get us out of our current energy situation surely doesn't undestand basic economics.

For example, the addition of ANWAR's peak output (apx. eight years after it goes into operation) is expected to be between 800 and 1,000 million barrels of oil per year. To put that in perspective -- that's about 10% to 11% of our total petroleum imports in 2006. Which means, it's not enough to replace our foreign dependence on oil OR noticeably improve oil prices.

More importantly, the only way to decrease Islamo-facists terrorism, the only way to alter Global Warming, just so happens to be the only way to sustain energy growth in a booming global market -- ALTERNATIVE ENERGY.

Although it will take decades, the sooner we start the more likely OUR corporations, investors, and scientists will win the battle to patent new technologies and win crucial marketshare in the biggest economic battleground to come.

We need cars powered by endangered species.
I think that one of the main reasons that environmentalists hate oil so much is the fact that there is not an economically viable alternative that will make oil look good. Therefore, I propose the following:

Both government and private researchers need to focus their fuel research on finding a way to produce economically viable energy to power cars by using vital parts of endangered species. For example:

1) Humpback whale blubber. Whale oil has been used for centuries to light the streets of the world, why not use it to move the world's cars?
2) Manatee blubber. They are called "Cows of the Sea," and cows produce a lot of methane. Al Gore has long pointed out the dangers of bovine flatulence, killing manatees en masse would probably be a favor to the environment.
3) Turtle shells. Turtle Wax, a petroleum product, has to come from somewhere, right? Well, lets go right to the source. We'll start a program to farm endangered Sea Turtles, and when they are old enough to produce a sufficient quantity of petroleum, we will feed them deflated helium balloons. I have long heard that this is a highly effective way of choking turtles to death from my friends on the left.
4) Spotted-Owl feather biomass generators. Who needs switchgrass when you can burn the feathers of the majestic Spotted Owl? This one dosen't even require killing them, because we can pluck them every few years! Also, think of all of the trees we'll have to save or plant to make sure there are enough feathers to power all the cars, trucks, buses and whatnot in America alone...

Once the environmentalists see that it is either the Humpback Whale/Manatee/Sea Turtle/Spotted-Owl or burn oil, they will wet their pants with excitement over the possibility of drilling in ANWR.

Conservation, Technolgy and Renewables still miss the larger point.
We need more energy. It is that simple.

Conservation is one option, but it is already in use. Anybody who wants to save money on electricity is already making efforts to conserve. People regularly buy Energy Star appliances, computers, etc. However, conservation does not generate new energy. Conservation simply makes the most of the energy we already have. If by conservation, you mean rationing, good luck.

People need things like cars to get to work. Mass-transit systems are a viable option in major cities, but throughout much of the country we do not have population concentrations that are sufficiently large to make it economically viable. People similarly need things like computers to do their jobs. Much of the economic growth and increase in real wages we have seen lately has occured because people have so much lower costs to locate information that they need. Unless you want to deny people the ability to access the internet or use a computer between the hours of, say, 5PM-9AM, I fail to see how you will actually accomplish anything. People need energy to do their jobs.

Technology can go a long way towards making the use and generation of energy more efficient, but it cannot make new energy. We still need resources of one kind or another (coal, oil, gas, solar, biomass, various lanthanides, etc.) to make energy.

Renewables are a nice thought for power plants, but they are only a partial solution. As Rhampton is so fond of pointing out, solar energy is viable in certain instances. However, it suffers from major problems. We cannot store energy on a major scale, and we cannot generate any energy during nighttime hours. Therefore, solar is only good for daytime power. Also, its efficiency decreases as it moves farther away from the equator. In northern latitudes, solar power is not an option. The same is true anywhere where it is regularly cloudy. So what about geothermal? Nobody has EVER built a functioning and economically viable geothermal plant. This does not mean they cannot, but it does mean that it is an option for the future. Wind? Only if you like minced eagle. Furthermore, only if you have a windy day and an appropriately windy place to put it.

Renewables could be, eventually, a part of the solution, but we are still going to need coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power if we want to have a reliable way of delivering the energy this economy needs.

All of that ignores the problem of cars. Not only does America have a vast number of cars that need fuel, China and India and number of other growing nations are going to need an increasingly large amount of fuel. We need to get that fuel from somewhere. There has never been a renewable car. Electric cars are a nice thought, but they do not exist now, and are not likely to exist in a form that people will want to own for quite some time. The only way to produce the enrgy we need for all of the cars on the road today, and that will be on the road ten years from now is to drill for oil.

As a final thought, saying that ANWR will not solve all of our oil problems is flat-out stupid. Of course, ANWR will not solve all of our problems. However, the combination of drilling in ANWR, opening up offshore-drilling and reducing the number of blends will make gasoline substantially more available and cheaper for the consumer. One drilling rig won't stop the crisis, but a lot will.

In the real world, oil comes from many places
rhampton seems to think that unless a single site is capable of supplying all of the world's needs, then it shouldn't be exploited.

I might add that according to the same experts rhampton is relying on, the Prudhoe Bay should have run out of oil at least 10 years ago. Yet experts are now telling us there is more oil left in Prudhoe, than the experts thought there was in total, before pumping started.

I might add that rhampton's confident declarations are based on smoke and mirrors. We don't know how much oil is in ANWR (not ANWAR), because the liberals won't even let us do exploration there.

As to this magical alternative energy that you so love, just what is it.

Independent Petroleum Assc. of America
The number's I supplied (from memory) need correcting.

The ANWR maximum output will be 800,000 to 1,000,000 barrels a day. It's still just a fraction of our 2006 petroleum imports -- LESS THAN THE 10% I PREVIOUSLY STATED.

IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America)
March 22, 2005

...Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources PETE DOMENICI (R-NM) has fought feverishly to include revenue instructions from ANWR in the FY 2006 Budget Resolution. In a press release Sen. Domenici recognized the need for a diverse energy portfolio and that ANWR was vital to the future of America's energy independence.

Domenici went on to say, "Not allowing exploration of ANWR, with its POTENTIAL TO PRODUCE ONE MILLION BARRELS OF OIL A DAY, means staying on a path of economic arrogance in terms of hanging onto a naïve belief that we can afford to ignore our own assets and rely on foreign imports," he said.


Saudi Arabia: Current Issues and U.S. Relations
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, May 8, 2006

Table 1. Oil Consumption and Imports for 2005
(in millions of barrels per day)
20.587 Total U.S. Consumption
13.527 Total U.S. Imports
_2.172 Imports from Canada
_1.646 Imports from Mexico
_1.523 Imports from Saudi Arabia
_1.506 Imports from Venezuela
_1.000 ANWR [maximum ouput]
Source: DOE.
Note: 2005 U.S. consumption figures based on first 11 months of 2005.

We need cars powered by liberal emotions
They have a never ending supply emoting and hand wringing

Superior Solar Energy
"We cannot store energy on a major scale, and we cannot generate any energy during nighttime hours."

The United States didn't gain its economic strength by letting everyone else solve the hard problems. We became the world leaders because we were the inventors and manufacturers

But perhaps we're too old and fat to hustle after new opportunities. Perhaps the 21st Century belongs to those who believe in technology, like South Africa...

Solar World: S. Africa utility mulls solar
By Leah Krauss
UPI, August 24, 2006

South Africa's only utility, Eskom, is considering building a 100-MEGAWATT concentrator solar thermal power station in the Northern Cape province on South Africa's west coast. It would be the country's first solar energy project, as well as its first project in the field of renewable energy.

...Professor Thomas Harms, of the University of Stellenbosch's department of mechanical engineering, did an electricity generation cost comparison for South Africa's Engineering News. He concluded that competing with a coal-fired power station is virtually impossible. However, looking at morning and evening peak loads changes the whole picture, Harms said in the report.

"A shortage of peak power-generating plant capacity in South Africa means that base-load plants have to run intermittently at, say, 12 cents per kilowatt hour. This is an arbitrary figure and depends on the load factors, such as during which part of the day the coal plant feeds power into the grid -- the shorter the period, the more expensive it is." Therefore, a solar power station in South Africa would have to incorporate energy storage to deliver at these peak load times, Harms told the newspaper.

The solar thermal tower design Eskom is considering is PARTICULARLY GOOD AT ENERGY STORAGE, Harms said. In this design, an array of mirrors reflect sunlight onto a central tower several dozen meters tall. The resulting heat powers turbines, usually by creating steam. Eskom's van Heerden told UPI in an e-mail that the utility would most likely act as a project manager in building the facility, but that the project would be subject to an open tender, with an emphasis placed on using the local workforce.

Ledger said he's optimistic the project will go through, and added that there is also a "big interest" in solar water heating. Van Heerden said that it was not possible at the moment to speculate about the project's chances for success. "The current project phase concludes at the end of 2007, (and) the final investment decision will most likely be taken to the Eskom Board by February 2008," van Heerden wrote. "It is estimated that the construction lead time will be three years," van Heerden said.

South Africa still hasn't figured out how to make the sun shine at night.
"He concluded that competing with a coal-fired power station is virtually impossible."

Hmmmmmmm... Isn't that what I just said?

In fact... solar energy is going to be fed in to the system at peak times. Namely, daylight hours. However, a coal plant is still needed. So solar energy is still going to be a minor portion of the energy generated and used, not the major source. The fact that one particularly sunny area in South Africa can install a solar plant that will work a good chunk of the daytime does not mean that solar is ready to work at all times of day in all parts of the world. Nice try, but it proves nothing but my point.

Heat Storage
"He concluded that competing with a coal-fired power station is virtually impossible. However, looking at morning and evening peak loads changes the whole picture, Harms said in the report."

Do you need that explained to you

"The solar thermal tower design Eskom is considering is PARTICULARLY GOOD AT ENERGY STORAGE, Harms said. In this design, an array of mirrors reflect sunlight onto a central tower several dozen meters tall."

Imagine that -- storing heat from sunlight!

Nightshine and Evolving Markets
To summarize, a 100-megawatt solar plant in South Africa is a tiny part of the energy picture (a trillion dollars per year). Hopefully, that plant will be at least nearly profitable in a market that could use peak air conditioning at a time that matches peak "insolation" in a desert with a high level of insolation. Granted, such plants in most areas are vastly unprofitable at present because they have not gone down the learning curve, and those pesky fossil fuels are still quite competitive. Still, zooming back for a longer historical view, the fossil fuels will increase in price as the best deposits are mined out. Eventually, solar and/or other alternatives, will become conventional power. Making that transition will require a number of Don Quixote's. Thus, though they can be irksome, we should encourage them to stop grousing and work harder on actually building wind farms and solar whatevers and (yes, praise Saint Amory the Lovins) increased efficiency.... And, could everybody give those poor herrings a rest?

Jeb Bush's replacement
None of the candidates to replace Jeb Bush will allow drilling off Florida's beaches. Yet, they all decry high gas prices.

Meanwhile Cuba grants an off-shore lease to China so they can drill off the Florida Keys.

Better to let the Commies get rich than our evil oil companies! (Your sarcasm alarm should be going off!)

Alaska has for a number of years divided the royalties from its oil production among its citizens. I understand that in some years each Alaskan received almost $2,000.

Why doesn't the US government do the same? Each US citizen over the age of eighteen would receive a share in the proceeds from oil-shore drilling and other Federal oil-producing sites.

This proposal would have several benefits. First political support for energy production would mushroom. Oil production in the US would not only drive down energy costs but also increase US employment. A principal benefit in my view would be keeping the money out of the government's hands. I know, I know, they will use the money for "education". Giving the money to the government would be repeating Jimmy Carter's economic blunders again. Remember the "excess profits" tax?

Perhaps we should sell T-shirts: "I paid the excess profits tax and all I got was the Department of Energy.

Thermal storage
And how do you intend to generate electricity from low level thermal energy?

You can store the heat from coal plants as well. Only there's no need to.

that's what they said about Prudhoe bay, and almost every other major find.
As I pointed out, everything regarding ANWR is a guess, because the liberals won't allow even exploration.

Where is the disagreement here?
Based on your article, solar is going to form a small portion of the electricity that will be generated in this particular part of South Africa. I accept this, and have acknowledged it.

However, they still need a coal plant for when the solar plant is not working, and to generate the rest of the electricity. Even if it is good at storing energy, the author makes it clear that the coal plant is still needed, just somewhat less of the time.

My disagreement with you is not about the specifics of this one case. My disagreement is about the possibility of solar replacing more conventional coal, gas and nuclear plants. I suggested that solar could form a part of the power mix, but could not replace all of the other forms for several very good reasons:

1) While South Africa may be sunny much of the time, a large portion of the world is not. Have you ever been to London? How well do you think a solar plant would work in that perpetual-drizzle of a city? How about Canada, where grey skies are common much of the time? The same goes for Norway, Finland, Russia, etc. If you leave the equatorial belt and enter the temperate zones, you are going to get less sunlight, and with less consistency. Solar is simply not a viable option in most of these places. Most of Europe and America also fall in to the category of places where solar is just not a practical option. It might work in the American Southwest or Italy, but it will not work all over the world.

2) Other options are cheaper. Your own article mentions this quite plainly when it notes that solar power is just not cheap enough to use for all power generation, they had to use a coal generator as well. Furthermore, because fo the sunny nature of South Africa, the plant is less expensive per kWh to operate there than it would be in a less ideal location. This example is not applicable to the rest of the world.

Fundamentally, we need to build more power plants. If solar will produce enough energy for the furture in a given area and at a reasonable price, fine. Build away, and good luck to you. If it won't, we will still need coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear plants to make up what we can't produce. We cannot conserve our way out of needing new power.

Is it possible to run a hydroelectric plant...
...from the gush of a bleeding heart?

Liberals might actually fund this sort of thing if you volunteered to power a car by burning American flags.

where will the oil come from? northernguy
Canada has enough oil to supply all of North
America's needs for the next fifty years.

That's not counting very promising massive oil
fields not yet developed due to expense or
political concerns.

Of course it will require sufficient assurance of
access to a robust, open American energy market to justify spending a hundred billion or so on infrastructure etc.

much easier to post meaningless one-liners about liberals than deal with the issue
But I forgot: everyone who dislikes liberals loves shoveling billions of dollars a year into the pockets of Chavez, the Iranians, and the Saudis instead of finding substitute sources.

Look above in the discussion with Rhampton.
I rarely post one-liners. Only when people are obviously insane or flat-out lying would I do so.

I address the problem pretty clearly: We do need alternative energy sources, as well as more conventional fuel supplies. We need fuel, the problem is that we refuse to do what is necessary to get it. We will not drill off of the coasts of California, Florida, etc. We refuse to open up the barren Arctic wasteland referred to as ANWR, along with most other Federal lands, and we force EPA regulation after EPA regulation on fuel producers that makes drilling within the United States too costly to pursue.

Until some substitute is found for gasoline that is economically viable we will have to use oil. Even once an alternative is found, we will have years of changeover time. We will need oil for decades to come. Liberals are actively opposing obtaining that oil at every turn.

Oh, get yourself a sense of humor. It makes jokes easier to understand.

then do the numbers and look at the situation
it's not 'liberals' that are preventing drilling off Florida, it's Floridians, led by Jeb Bush. Same story in California: that's a consensus position in both states. some liberals (from Michigan) have joined with conservatives to oppose stricter fleet mileage standards on cars and trucks -- do you want to attack liberals for that?

>we force EPA regulation after EPA regulation on fuel producers that makes drilling within the United States too costly to pursue.

you mean, air and water pollution laws. Are these really just fuddy-duddy nitpicking?

>We will need oil for decades to come.

Sure. The question is, how much and for what?

>Liberals are actively opposing obtaining that oil at every turn.

See above. The more pressing problem is that the Bush administration (which is not conservative but just oil-industry abetting) refuses to take effective steps to cut oil dependence. And it's not just 'liberals' that recognize this.

> Oh, get yourself a sense of humor. It makes jokes easier to understand.

Maybe you should laugh louder at your own jokes to let everyone know that they're supposed to be funny.

How about Jeb Bush?
This isn't a liberal v. conservative thing in Florida. Floridians don't want it.

But regarding the drilling - the U.S. can't drill its way out of this. Domestic reserves are very small; demand is enormous.

Small Changes in Global Market
If you were to do your homework, then you would know that the 1,000,000 barrels of oil per day is based on much more research and is much more accurate then you try to spin. But for the sake of argument, let's do our best to answer the questions I initially raised:

1. How much oil does ANWR need to produce in order to appreciably lower global petroleum prices?

2. How much oil does ANWR need to produce in order to appreciably lessen our dependence of foreign petroleum?

Given that the U.S. uses over 20 million barrels of oil per day, of which it imports 13.5 million barrels, and given that the world's appetite for petroleum is increasing (largely due to China and India) -- producing another 1, 2, or 3 million barrels of oil per day is not going to make much of a dent in the petroleum markets.

Sure Exxon-Mobil will make more money, but the price at the pump isn't going to budge much, and the Islamo-Fascist Terrorists will still be sitting on trillions of dollars of a very hot commodity.

Solar Curves
Solar is still in its infancy -- efficiencies are on an upward curve and production costs are on a downward curve. It's only a matter of time before coal, gas, and oil are left by the wayside for a cleaner, cheaper, and widely available energy sources.

Boeing wins solar cell order from SolFocus
St. Louis Business Journal, August 28, 2006

The Boeing Co. said Monday that it signed a contract to provide 600,000 solar concentrator cells to SolFocus Inc., which will use the cells to convert the sun's rays into affordable electricity for homes and businesses. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

...Under the 12-month contract from SolFocus, Sylmar-Calif.-based Spectrolab will build and deliver the 600,000 solar concentrator cells. The cells produced for SolFocus will be capable of generating more than 10 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 4,000 U.S. homes. With the AVERAGE SOLAR CELL EFFICIENCY ABOVE 35% AT CONCENTRATION, Spectrolab's concentrator photovoltaic cells generate electricity at a rate that can be more economical than electricity generated from conventional, flat panel photovoltaic systems.

there's only so much energy available in sun light
then you have to figure out ways to create energy at night.
Solar will never be more than a small fraction of energy production.

make a big difference
look at the panic over the loss of the BP pipeline, until the Mexicans and Saudis stepped up their production to cover the loss.

Any reduction in our dependance on foreign oil is worth it.

Given, as you say, the world's appetite for oil is growing, that alone is justification for developing any resource, regardless of how small.

Good point Mark!
"Any reduction in our dependance on foreign oil is worth it."
"Given, as you say, the world's appetite for oil is growing, that alone is justification for developing any resource, regardless of how small."

Including renewables and/or alternatives to oil! The only things that will actually get us past our dependence on foreign oil.

Solar Technophobia
"Solar will never be more than a small fraction of energy production."

I'm sure the horse breeders were saying the same thing about automobiles back in 1906 -- but look how quickly the world can change with the evolution of technology.

Big Eyes, Bigger Lies
"Any reduction in our dependance on foreign oil is worth it."

To sell consumers on the idea that ANWR will reduce our dependance on foreign oil is an OUTRIGHT LIE. At best, ANWR will let us keep pace with our appetite for oil without making any compromises -- but only in the short term (about 5-10 years)

The feverish growth of India and China guarantee a very tight oil market and ever increasing prices.

If solar backers can figure out a way to get 200% of the energy out of sunlight, they will have a ch

As long as the renewables and alternatives are cost effective, they should be used.

rhampton apparently failed first grade math
Apparently rhampton feels that unless a new source can take over all of our oil needs, it should remain undeveloped.

rhampton points out that our oil need is growing faster than ANWR's least case production estimates. And from this he concludes that developing ANWR won't reduce our oil dependence.

Quite obviously, if we don't develop ANWR, our oil dependance will be greater than if we do.

rhampton, of all the brain dead liberals around here, you manage to be amongst the least brain dead. Please don't let your love affair with the sun bake your few remaining brain cells.

The problem with renewables
Nobody has any problem with renewables that can actually make it in the market. The problem with renewables is that those who can't make it are sucking up resources in efforts to subsidize them. If you want to run a windmill on your roof, more power to you. If you want $1000 of my tax money for you to run a windmill on your roof, that's a very different story.

Once the distorting effects of government intervention come in, there is an awful lot to object to renewables.

Powering India with the Sun
"If solar backers can figure out a way to get 200% of the energy out of sunlight, they will have a ch"

Why would they need to do that? Just store the energy you don't use during the day in batteries for later use at night.

Anyway, the opportunities for Solar extend well beyond the American marketplace. The smart ones will get in on the ground floor. So why can't the U.S. be the smart ones?

Solar Firm Orb Gets Funding
Red Herring, August 30, 2006

A solar energy startup company in Singapore, Orb Energy, has secured some unlikely investors and announced its venture into the Indian renewable energy market Wednesday. “There is a chronic, unreliable power problem in rural India,” Orb Energy CEO Damian Miller told “They are really struggling and are willing to pay good commercial prices for the energy. Combine that with the possibility to use solar power for their thermal boilers, and the market becomes very attractive. We see a lot of positive trends in India for solar power.”

The solar energy company will sell core electronics that can be placed between a solar module panel and the end user’s outlets. The electronic systems will provide the solar energy systems with backup power and thermal applications. India has an estimated 80 million rural homes without electricity. Orb is targeting small to medium-sized residential and commercial consumers, many of whom experience chronic power shortages. Orb will initially launch in India, but plans to spread to other Asian markets eventually...

Adapt or Die
"Quite obviously, if we don't develop ANWR, our oil dependance will be greater than if we do."

Not necessarily -- our dependence on foreign oil will be greater only if 1) energy consumers don't adopt greater efficienies in the interim; and 2) energy consumers don't increase their use of renewable energy.

In otherwords, if we keep consuming oil like their is tomorrow, only then we will need more foreign oil.

Thus the only way to decrease the amount of imported oil is to transition off of petroleum as the only energy source to power our vehicles.

No Subject
"The problem with renewables is that those who can't make it are sucking up resources in efforts to subsidize them"

FY 2007 Congressional Budget Request
Department of Energy, February 2006

Fossil Energy
560,852 ..... Fossil energy research and development
126,710 ..... Strategic petroleum reserve
43,000 ....... Strategic petroleum account
36,000 ....... Elk Hills school lands fund
17,750 ....... Naval petroleum and oil shale reserves
4,930 ......... Northeast home heating oil reserve

Renewable Energy
166,772 ..... Hydrogen technology
87,471 ....... Biomass and biorefinery systems R&D
84,255 ....... Solar energy
40,631 ....... Wind energy
25,256 ....... Geothermal technology
4,880 ......... Hydropower

in order to do that, they would need cells that are 400% efficient.

"The problem with renewables is that those who can't make it are sucking up resources in efforts to subsidize them"

The problem is, there are no renewables that don't fit into that category.

so the way to keep oil from getting expensive in the future, is to make expensive today?
Everyone and their brother is adapting more efficient technologies. As they make economic sense.

you got that right Mark
"so the way to keep oil from getting expensive in the future, is to make expensive today?"

Thats the market approach. Gas gets more expensive so people seek alternatives. If our government was smart they would have started pushing us into alternatives years ago, thereby possibly avoiding this step where fuel gets too expensive it causes inflation and hurts the economy, or at least make this step less painful. Instead, the Administration and people who think like them, and their industry puppet masters, solely promote drilling for more oil, thereby ensuring our dependence on oil. Foreign or otherwise.

If it makes economic sense for automakers to make SUV's more efficient, why haven't they done so? The introduction of hybrids doesn't even put a dent in the damage done by all these idiot SUV's on the road. Yeah, people demand their Suburbans and Hummers, that doesn't mean they have to get 7 miles per gallon. The technology exists today to make them more efficient.

No Subject
Nice to see an article by Ken Green, who knows this subject very well.

A bit off-topic, but the following Russian article just came to my attention.

Earlier this year, NASA predicted that "Solar Cycle 25, peaking around the year 2022, could be one of the weakest in centuries".

Russian scientists are also predicting cooling will occur, starting in 6-9 years (see article below).

I also predicted in a 2002 article that cooling would occur by 2020-2030, but I cheated - I asked an expert paleoclimatologist, who based his answer on solar cycles.

Here's a terrific idea: Let's spend hundreds of billions to fight global warming, when there is very limited real understanding of the climate science that has been used to promote (hype) the alleged warming crisis.

Choose your poison - but I think most of us on the planet would prefer global warming to global cooling.

Best regards, Allan :-)

Russian Scientists Forecast Global Cooling in 6-9 Years
Created: 25.08.2006 17:47 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 22:33 MSK


Global cooling could develop on Earth in 50 years and have serious consequences before it is replaced by a period of warming in the early 22nd century, a Russian Academy of Sciences’ astronomical observatory’s report says, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Friday.

Environmentalists and scientists warn not about the dangers of global warming provoked by man’s detrimental effect on the planet’s climate, but global cooling. Though never widely supported, it is a theory postulating an overwhelming cooling of the Earth which could involve glaciation.

“On the basis of our [solar emission] research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth’s climate by the middle of this century and the beginning of a regular 200-year-long cycle of the climate’s global warming at the start of the 22nd century,” said the head of the space research sector.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov said he and his colleagues had concluded that a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century — when canals froze in the Netherlands and people had to leave their dwellings in Greenland — could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2060.

He said he believed the future climate change would have very serious consequences and that authorities should start preparing for them today because “climate cooling is connected with changing temperatures, especially for northern countries.”

“The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times,” he said, referring to an international treaty on climate change targeting greenhouse gas emissions.

“The global temperature maximum has been reached on Earth, and Earth’s global temperature will decline to a climatic minimum even without the Kyoto protocol,” Abdusamatov said.


Remedial Science
"in order to do that, they would need cells that are 400% efficient."

What you said makes no sense whatsoever. For the sake of argument, if a given person in India uses/could use 400 watts of electricity per hour/per day, then their solar generating capabilitiy needs to be in the neighborhood 600-800 watts per hour/per day with battery capacity to hold the excess -- if 24 hour coverage is the goal.

Where does that ridiculous 400% efficiency figure enter?

You know, you should take a few remedial science courses at the nearest community college.

better safe than sorry?
Great post Allan. What a stark reminder that we need to learn ourselves more proficiently on how the Earth's climate works.

I'll push back a little. I believe what the majority of scientists tell us about global warming, that its real and that human activity is having an influence. At the same time I fight myself constantly to keep it from becoming an ideological belief in my own mind. Thats hard to do given 1)common sense, the obvious indicators that warming is happening 2)the right wing's incessant promotion (ideological drive) that its not real, or that its no big deal when they finally accept its happening.

How is one so convinced that global warming is not a crisis when the science is so conflicted? And vice versa?

"Here's a terrific idea: Let's spend hundreds of billions to fight global warming, when there is very limited real understanding of the climate science that has been used to promote (hype) the alleged warming crisis."

I agree, that is a terrific idea. Lets spend money to drastically reduce the effect humans have on our climate. So if the **** does hit the fan we won't have ourselves to blame. America has spent hundreds of billions on a voluntary war in Iraq that is looking at this point like it will be a dramatic failure. Spending it on cleaning up our smokestacks and exhaust systems would only be positive. There are multiple benefits to reducing pollution.
Its only money. Do we gamble with money, or do we gamble with the possibility of dire consequences? You said yourself that we have a "very limited real understanding of the climate science". Are we better safe than sorry?

"Choose your poison - but I think most of us on the planet would prefer global warming to global cooling."

Regardless of what happens, lets make sure that we are not to blame for it. If we're screwed, then we're screwed, we may not have a choice, but lets not screw ourselves.

Your post raises another question too. Would human activity make the global cooling more extreme as well?

The Precautionary Principle.
Thank you for your comments Bob,

If you mean by cleaning up pollution that we should globally reduce SOx, NOx, and particulates then I'm in agreement with you. The costs are generally low and the benefits are high.

If you mean let's reduce CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Protocol or similar measures, then I disagree:
1. Even proponents of the alleged humanmade global warming crisis (AGW) admit that the Kyoto Protocol will have no significant effect on global CO2 emissions or on alleged global warming - a reduction of 0.06C is projected by ~2050 even if Kyoto is fully enforced.
2. The cost of fully implementing Kyoto is prohibitive.
In summary, the costs of Kyoto are very high and the benefits are negligible.

Supporters of Kyoto cite the Precautionary Principle, which is similar to what you have stated. Unfortunately, when you put numbers to it, the Precautionary Principle simply does not work.

Re your question: "Would human activity make the global cooling more extreme as well?"
Not according to the current understanding of the science - if more CO2 causes warming, then more CO2 will offset some of the cooling. How much it would offset cooling is the question: The pro-AGW scientists say temperature is highly sensitive to CO2 and so significant offsetting should occur. The skeptics generally accept that increased CO2 will have some warming effect, but that effect will be minor and not significant.

It is interesting to note that USA summer and fall temperatures have actually declined since 1930 - only the winter and spring have warmed, on average. Could this be a physical manifestation of your question? See:

Regards, Allan

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