Challenging Master Resource’s implication that Enron was the only rent seeking manipulator

The people who operate Master Resource believe to the bottom of their pocketbooks that hydrocarbons are THE prime energy product. They often attempt to disguise their assumption; here is their explanation of the etymology of their chosen blog title:

MasterResource is a blog dedicated to analysis and commentary about energy markets and public policy.

Precisely because energy is the lifeblood of the modern economy – the “master resource” that affects the production and use of all other resources – energy markets are often thought of as “different” and thus deserving of special political direction. We believe that the economic rules governing energy are no different from those governing other markets and are thus skeptical about government intervention.

Reading that description, one might legitimately believe that the blog principles treat all energy sources and all efforts to direct energy market decisions by government intervention with the same critical view. However, I have engaged in enough interactions with Robert Bradley and Jerry Taylor to know that they do not like to admit that people interested in promoting petroleum are working hard to use government rules and regulations to maintain their own market dominance and drive prices in directions that are favorable to energy producers, not energy consumers.

Enron’s market manipulating behavior is a frequent topic of discussion on Master Resource. Part of the interest there is that at least one of the principles at Master Resource had a ringside seat at Enron and watched how his colleagues manipulated the political system to their own benefit.

A frequent reader and commenter on Atomic Insights pointed to a recent post by Robert Bradley, Jr. at Master Resource titled Rent-Seeker Glee: It Did Not Begin with Solyndra (remembering Enron’s triumphant Kyoto memo) and described it as a must read article. I believe the point that commenter wanted to make was that the article provided support for my frequent assertions that well-established “environmental” groups have made alliances with surprising partners in the fossil fuel business. Here is the passage providing that support:

Solyndra’s orgasmic glee in Vice President Biden’s office reminds me of the dreamy memo by John Palmisano, Enron’s lobbyist in Kyoto, Japan, written the day after the Kyoto Protocol was ratified in late 1997.

“Through our involvement with the climate change initiatives, Enron now has excellent credentials with many “green” interests including Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, GermanWatch, the US Climate Action Network, the European Climate Action Network, Ozone Action, WRI, and Worldwatch. This position should be increasingly cultivated and capitalized on (monetized).

“(Parenthetically, I heard many times people refer to Enron in glowing terms. Such praise went like this: “Other companies should be like Enron, seeking out 21st century business opportunities” or “Progressive companies like Enron are….” Or “Proof of the viability of market-based energy and environmental programs is Enron’s success in power and SO2 trading.”)….

The message that Bradley wants his readers to take away from the memo, however, is not that profit seeking behavior in the energy markets often creates some strange bedfellow alliances. Instead, what he really wants people to remember is that worries about global warming were pushed as a business opportunity by one particular, politically well-connected energy trading company. Once again, this slant supports my assertion that his view, and the view of his fellow primary contributors to his blog, is that hydrocarbons are the real master resource, not energy in general:

With the tenth anniversary of Enron’s bankruptcy filing just weeks away, this is an opportune time to remind one and all of just what the whole global warming crusade meant for the most rent-seeking of all rent-seeking companies, Enron. Excepts follow….

My view of global warming, climate change, and ocean acidification is that they are real problems being caused by freely dumping about 20 billion tons of waste products into our shared atmosphere every year. I share some common ground with the authors at Master Resource – I believe that there have been plenty of opportunists who have manipulated and exaggerated legitimate concerns about over-reliance on fossil fuel combustion as a way to gain government handouts to support a lot of unreliable, uneconomic “solutions” to the crisis.

Where I part ways is in my recognition that we have a better energy alternative that happens to have nearly zero emissions as one of its many beneficial advantages over fossil fuel. If you understand that energy clean enough to run inside a submarine is also cheaper than coal when it is properly designed and not artificially constrained by government overregulation, it is hard to escape the conclusion that there is some competitive pressure being applied against that energy source. I left the below comment on Bradley’s blog.

Rod Adams { 11.25.11 at 5:11 am }
Here is a thought exercise for you. Just suppose that the science really is correct and that dumping massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere is going to cause uncontrollable and mostly undesirable changes in our shared and only atmosphere.

Then postulate that there is a source of reliable energy that does not produce any CO2 at all and does not require extraction, processing, distribution, or consumption of massive quantities of valuable hydrocarbon based materials. In this particular thought experiment, that other reliable source of energy has already started making inroads into the fossil fuel market and is starting to refine the machinery needed to take advantage of its properties to the point where costs should be coming down if they were not being pushed higher by ever increasing regulations.

If that situation existed, wouldn’t the right thing to do for future profits and for the general prosperity of the world economy be to begin shifting emphasis to that other, more reliable and cleaner energy source? Of course, that would be the logical course of action if one assumed that Enron was the only rent seeking player in the hydrocarbon business.

Instead, the actual decision in the real life case of having an energy source that is so close to zero emission that it can safely be operated inside sealed submarines full of people was to demonize that new power source, allow the spreading of massive amounts of misinformation designed to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt, and to allow the ratcheting of regulations with every little misstep, even the highly publicized ones like Three Mile Island that did not cause any injuries at all.

Sure, Enron and its leaders were seeking unearned income by driving up market prices and establishing trading products whose prices they could control and manipulate. However, the rest of the hydrocarbon industry played along with the movement that arose against atomic fission because they knew that their profits were going to be under severe pressure if they allowed fission to flourish and drive down the price of energy fuels due to the inevitable interaction between an abundant supply and a moderately growing demand.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

PS – I happen to believe that the science on fossil fuel emissions of all types is pretty clear – we should be seeking to minimize the need to dump waste products into the environment. We certainly should ensure that the people who use other people’s property as a waste dump pay for the service instead of assuming that the cost is zero.

(Note: Above was slightly edited from original comment.)

About Rod Adams

30 Responses to “Challenging Master Resource’s implication that Enron was the only rent seeking manipulator”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Merchant Power plants love to do their preventive maintenance work during peak demand period. It jacks up the market price per kilowatt. This from Blees’ book.

  2. Brian Mays says:

    Rod – The problem with the “science on fossil fuel emissions” is that the official source that summarizes all of this so-called “science” is the IPCC, a thoroughly corrupt organization that appears to become more corrupt each week as new information about how they operate is finally revealed to the public.

    For example, observe the “special report” that they published earlier this year on energy. The press release led off with the following:

    Close to 80 percent of the world s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

    This amazing result, highlighted in the media blitz surrounding the report, came from just one “study,” which was published by … Greenpeace. It underwent no peer review, but the author of this “study” was also a lead author of the chapter of the IPCC report that highlighted the study. This person’s only qualifications for the job of lead author, as far as I can tell, is his association with the “environmental” organization. He has held no job other than working as a career Greenpeace campaigner since leaving school, not with a PhD, but with a Master’s degree in engineering.

    The IPCC’s Assessment Reports are nearly as bad, relying a little too much on such “gray literature” as non-peer-reviewed reports (i.e., propaganda) published by organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In fact, it’s amazing how much influence the WWF has over what goes into the IPCC reports and, perhaps more importantly, the summary for policymakers.

    Let’s not forget who we’re dealing with here. WWF is not your friend. Rod likes to point to “smoking guns,” so let’s take a look at the WWF’s record. In their publication Climate Solutions: WWF’s Vision for 2050, natural gas shows up early as “Solution” Number 5:

    Displacing High-Carbon Coal with Low-Carbon Gas — Natural gas as a “bridging fuel” offers an important opportunity to avoid the long-term lock-in of new coal power stations, providing significant carbon savings in the near term, while other energy sources and technologies are grown from a smaller industrial base.

    ConocoPhillips could not have put together a better sales pitch.

    What about nuclear? Well, here is what that document has to say about that (emphasis from the original):

    Interest in nuclear energy has seen a resurgence as the technology increasingly is presented by proponents as a low- or no-carbon energy source. This study shows that there are more than sufficient benign technologies available, without embarking further on nuclear power with its many associated risks.

    They go on to advocate for a world-wide nuclear phase-out.

    These are the folks who have a huge influence on the IPCC process and the “science” that defines “climate change” or “global climate disruption” or whatever the flavor of the day is for silly alarmist rhetoric.

    • Paul Lindsey says:

      During the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade broadcast, Coca-Cola in concert with the WWF ran multiple ads. Here’s WWF’s press release:

    • George Carty says:

      More on WWF:

      “WWF does not consider nuclear power to be a viable policy option. The indicators “emissions per capita”, “emissions per GDP” and “CO2 per kWh electricity” for all countries have therefore been adjusted as if the generation of electricity from nuclear power had produced 350 gCO2/kWh (emission factor for natural gas). Without the adjustment, the original indicators for France would have been much lower, e.g. 86 g CO2/kWh.”

    • quokka says:

      You are conflating separate issues – the science of climate change which is a scientific matter and what to do about it which is a matter of science, engineering, politics, economics, ethics and so on.

      The report by IPCC Working Group 1 – The Physical Science Basis – is not based on gray literature. It is based on peer reviewed science and science that in general has been accepted by every national academy of science, scientific society, professional body and research agency of international standing that has issued a public position. None dispute the general assessment.

      The IPCC report on renewable energy is disappointing and the publicity surrounding it’s release even more disappointing. It does appear that Greenpeace exercised undue influence. In fairness it should be pointed out that the 80% of energy from renewables by 2050 nonsense is just one of, from memory, 164 scenarios, though you wouldn’t guess it from the publicity surrounding it’s release.

      The whole notion of a renewables only report by IPCC was probably wrong to start with. It should also have covered (properly) nuclear and as much as I dislike it, CCS.

      On the topic of natural gas, Tom Wigley of NCAR recently published a paper modelling the effect on global temperature of a transition from coal to gas. He found that there was little if any benefit this century due to the reduction of cooling aerosol production by coal burners and the effects of fugitive methane emissions. It might even increase warming. Greenpeace, WWF etc need to do some serious thinking about gas.

      It should also be recognized that some climate scientists are definitely not buying the romanticized renewables only position. James Hansen recently described it as drinking the kool aid and quite strongly supports nuclear power as an absolute necessity.

      • Brian Mays says:

        The report by IPCC Working Group 1 — The Physical Science Basis — is not based on gray literature. It is based on peer reviewed science …

        Not completely. In AR4, 431 out of the 6226 references in the WG1 report (about 7%) were not subjected to any kind of scientific peer review that meets IPCC standards. However, it is true that WG1 is much better than the other Working Groups. For example, in the WG3 report, over half of the references had not met peer review.

        What is more worrying than the number of peer-reviewed articles, however, is who is determining which articles get highlighted and which get ignored. All too often, it is the very author of the papers that get highlighted who is the lead author of the relevant chapter. This is not an independent review.

        To those familiar with the nuclear industry, this is like asking the designers of a nuclear plant to review and approve their own Safety Analysis Report (SAR). What do you think their conclusions would be? This is why independent reviews are essential to eliminate huge conflicts of interest, such as researchers promoting their own work.

        Another disturbing question is who decides who is selected to write these chapters and why? Transparency is utterly lacking at this point in the process, which leads me to conclude that these people are selected (or rejected) based on the expectations of the conclusions they will pen. This is supposed to be “science”?!

        … and science that in general has been accepted by every national academy of science, scientific society, professional body and research agency of international standing that has issued a public position. None dispute the general assessment.

        Don’t give me this garbage. The circular reasoning that is required to make this assertion is enough to make one weep. The various scientific societies do not do any kind of independent review of the work. For the most part, these endorsements consist of a rubber stamp from a tiny politically minded minority of the society — i.e., those in the organization with sufficient political ambition to work their way up into the governing organization of the society.

        The members of the society are generally not consulted. Most might not even care, but even when enough critical mass exists in the membership to try to influence the position of the society, it rarely matters.

        For example, when about 160 members of the American Physical Society (a society to which I belong, but I’m letting my membership expire at the end of this year) petitioned the society to alter its official position on climate change, the petition was “overwhelmingly rejected” based on the recommendations of a six-person ad-hoc committee to consider the change. The committee’s brief three-page report (available online as a PDF) relied on only two sources.

        The first source, which the committee “relied primarily on,” was none other than the WG1 contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Thus, rather than the scientific society endorsing the contents of the IPCC report — as quokka suggests — we see that, in reality, the IPCC report is used to justify the society’s position on climate change.

        Or to put it bluntly, the argument that the science in the WG1 report is solid because it “has been accepted by every national academy of science, scientific society, professional body and research agency of international standing that has issued a public position” hinges on public position statements that themselves are justified by referring to the reports of WG1. It’s a completely circular argument.

        The second source used by the APS ad-hoc committee is the 2006 NAS report on the so-called “hockey stick.” This source is so shaky today that it hardly deserves mention. Nevertheless, I’ll contribute a few words to the subject, since it recently resurfaced in the blogosphere, due to emails that were made public earlier this month.

        We already had an admission from the chair of the panel that issued the report that they were “winging it.” Now, we find out that the researcher whose work was being examined was hardly worried about scrutiny from the NAS. In an email to a colleague at the time (never mind that these two probably should not have been communicating on this topic in the first place), he wrote: “The panel is solid. Gerry North should do a good job in chairing this, and the other members are all solid. Christy is the token skeptic, but there are many others to keep him in check: …”

        So we have a “token” who is kept in check, and the rest of the panel is deemed “solid” by the guy who has the most to lose if the conclusions go the wrong way. There’s nothing like staking the deck if you want to win, is there?

        Anybody else want to defend this “science”?

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Brian – what is your view of the reality of the situation – getting past the politics if possible? Should we blithely follow the path that we are currently traveling and continue increasing the rate at which we are dumping CO2 into the atmosphere?

          Or – since we have a reliable alternative that is not being exploited at anywhere near its full potential – should we take logical steps to change our current course and speed?

          I have to ask – what is your real mission in your (welcome) continued effort to contribute to the discussion?

          I simply have not taken the time to delve really deeply into all of the details of the IPCC, but I do recognize that political science is often practiced by bodies like the UN and various National Academies. It does, however, make sense to me to avoid dumping if there is a reasonable alternative.

        • Rich says:

          Perhaps you should read the latest dump of CRG emails.

          My major problem with the whole issue is that even they say that CO2 has 1/10th to 1/4th the effect of H2O vapor in the atmosphere (and the new emails say that it is even less). Many of the so called skeptics have been providing reports for years claiming the GHG effect of CO2 has been exaggerated, perhaps the IPCC will be shamed into accepting these reports.

          As a systems engineer I am well aware of the effects of feedback. I have provided data for computer models of both fossil and nuclear simulators, on the team that determined the cause of the TMI accident, and the design engineer/project manager of the TMI-I simulator ({one of} the first utility owned simulators). When one feedback mechanism is less than 1/10th of the main feedback mechanism then for all practical purposes it can be ignored. This same principle is applied in audio amplifiers to provide excellent audio quality, achieving distortion levels that are almost immeasurable. They have admitted that H2O is more than 10 times greater, thus, CO2 falls out of the equation. Look at the absorption graphs for H2O and CO2 (Google them). Then calculate the magnitude. H2O = 0.4 – 4 %, CO2 = < 0.04%. Now look at those graphs again, H2O covers a much wider spectrum of absorption of the suns energy than CO2. Compare this absorption to the effects of absorption of poisons in a reactor. Even if the quantities were equal, the adsorption spectrum is ten or more times larger for H2O than CO2. Yet all they talk about is CO2, WHY??? They can argue all they want if H2O is positive or negative (or both) but logic tells me it must be negative or we would have reached "the tipping point" years (eons) ago. Reasons – 1. 3/4 of the surface of the earth is covered with water, 2. the warmer it gets means more water in the atmosphere, 3. if positive it would get even warmer – and that would make it hold more and that would make it even warmer, 4. however, if negative it would cool, it would rain, and thus there would be less H2O in the atmosphere so it could then make it warmer – and it would settle out at a balance point.

          Again, why CO2 and not H2O?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Rich – as a modeler and a systems guy, you should recognize the difference between an influence that has both a production term and a removal term that are roughly equal – so it reaches an equilibrium value – and an influence where the production term exceeds the removal term. In the second case, no equilibrium is ever reached, so whatever effect that influence has on the model will continue to grow as its concentration increases.

            H2O has a high rate of production into the atmosphere, but it also has a high rate of removal in the form of rain. It does not remain in the atmosphere very long. CO2, on the other hand, has a natural removal term, but that removal has been overcome by our continuing increased rate of addition.

            Finally, my concerns are not limited to the potential negative effects of a warming climate, but I am also concerned about the chemical effects of adding carbonic acid to the world’s oceans and the effect of adding fertilizer to all plants (including algae and plankton) without distinguishing between those that have beneficial effects and those that are invasive species.

        • Brian Mays says:

          @Brian – what is your view of the reality of the situation – getting past the politics if possible? Should we blithely follow the path that we are currently traveling and continue increasing the rate at which we are dumping CO2 into the atmosphere?

          Rod – Well, of course, I would prefer a massive build-out of new nuclear generation worldwide. It is the only rational course of action. Unfortunately, humans are not often rational.

          I’ll admit that I don’t have as much of an aversion to fossil fuels as some people who comment on this blog. Most of this due to simple pragmatism, however. I think that peaking natural gas plants compliment a mostly nuclear energy infrastructure quite well. Using natural gas for baseload plants is just plain wasteful, however, and should be heavily discouraged.

          Meanwhile, coal is not going away anytime soon, particularly in the US, which has abundant coal supplies. On the other hand, if you look at the statistics for American coal plants, you’d notice that the vast majority of these plants are very small and very old. They are ripe to be replaced with new technology, the only question is, with what?

          Personally, I’m in favor of replacing these old coal-fired boilers with SMR’s, such as the one that your company is working on, Rod, which as I recall was being specifically designed to accommodate the necessary envelope of operating parameters.

          I have to ask — what is your real mission in your (welcome) continued effort to contribute to the discussion?

          Heh … good question.

          At my old alma mater, there is a quote above one of the entrances to the school. It reads: “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

          If we give up on that, then what do we have? More importantly, what have we lost?

          It’s called integrity.

          If you want to be more practical, there’s also the saying, “Don’t bet on a lame horse.” The IPCC has all the hallmarks of a lame horse.

          More importantly, this kind of alarmism hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Sure, it has brought on board a few self-styled “environmentalists,” but if we look at the big picture, we see that, on the state level, many of the big-time Kyoto-protocol supporters, such as Germany, have decided to phase out nuclear power. Meanwhile, countries in Asia, like China, who are ambivalent (to say the least) about carbon reductions, have some of the most aggressive plans for new nuclear builds, not only with existing technology, but by developing new technology.

          P.S. Your name now reads “Afams” in the comments.

        • DV82XL says:

          Brian – While I understand your desire to promote the truth and commonsense in these matters, I do believe that you are taking a slightly myopic view of the situation.

          First I agree that we are not going to give up fossil-fuels as quickly as some think we should, and also that Nat. Gas will have to play a large role in the short to medium term, like it or not. I also agree that the debate over anthropogenic climate change has become far to politicized to the determent of the science that it has become a poor reason for policy change of any kind.

          However having said that, we also must consider that while we may not ever run out of fossil-fuels it is becoming rapidly apparent that the costs and risks of winning new sources is climbing rapidly. Thus the competitive edge that these fuels have enjoyed (largely because of legacy infrastructure) will soon pass and the time to begin a serious shift to a new source like nuclear is now while fossil-fuels are relatively inexpensive. Waiting will only drive the price of conversion up.

          We must also keep in mind that there is overwhelming evidence of climate-change, whatever the cause, and with a large and still growing population on the planet, it matters little if this is due to natural cycles or human actions, or some combination of both. The fact is that we will have to cope with shifts in weather patterns and inexpensive energy is going to be a requirement for doing so. This is going to be particularly true in desalination which is going to become the critical technology of the foreseeable future, as a lack of fresh water would swiftly become a cause for serious unrest, if not war.

          As it stands right now the pronuclear movement is small and politically weak. Unfortunately it is also displaying far too much internal discord on several fronts and this is not helping the cause. While I agree that the environmental arguments for nuclear are not as firm as they might be, and the support of some that consider the environment a major issue is softer than we might like, (“nuclear if necessary, but not necessarily nuclear,” seems to be their credo) we simply can’t afford to take a pure laine stand at this point.

        • Brian Mays says:

          … the time to begin a serious shift to a new source like nuclear is now while fossil-fuels are relatively inexpensive. Waiting will only drive the price of conversion up.

          No, if we’re honest we’ll admit that the time to begin a serious shift to a new source like nuclear was a couple of decades ago. The best that we can do now is to play catch up.

          The wishful thinking engaged in by environmental groups, such as naively assuming that we’ll replace all coal tomorrow or even within the next 20 or 50 years, doesn’t help the situation. It is this kind of naivety that got us in this situation to begin with. It is also this kind of naivety that pervades the “solutions” promoted by the UN and the various environmental NGO’s that drive its agenda.

          It’s time to move on.

          As it stands right now the pronuclear movement is small and politically weak.

          I’m sorry, but I fail to see how this situation is going to improve significantly by embracing the agenda and pseudo-science promoted by organizations like Greenpeace, WWF, EDF, NRDC, etc., which have largely driven this “debate” about climate change, including controlling the way that the “science” is evaluated, packaged, and sold by organizations like the IPCC.

          If you can show me where even one of these environmental organizations has advocated the building of a single new nuclear plant, then perhaps I would reconsider. I know their record, however. Most of these groups are wedded to natural gas and dress it up in a facade of “renewable” lipstick on a fossil-fueled pig.

          The problem with the pronuclear movement is that it has been kicked in the head so many times that it doesn’t recognize friend from foe. It’s so desperate for any kind of positive acknowledgment from outside of its own inner circle — say from a Brand or a Monbiot or a Lovelock — that it is willing to throw all logic, reason, and common sense out the window in exchange for a little love.

          The price for this love is either to embrace a little quackery or to settle for being the “red-headed stepchild,” who will always be last in line behind such worthless technologies as wind and solar. Often the price is a combination of both.

          This situation is pathetic. It’s time for the pronuclear movement to grow a pair and commit to taking its opponents head on. This includes not coddling up to such faux friends as those who most strenuously promote the “science” of climate change and who (surprisingly enough) are often the same people who most strenuously promote “safe, clean” natural gas, although often in rather subtle and crafty ways.

          So sorry. While I value your opinion, I’m afraid that we’ll have to agree to disagree on some of these issues.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Brian – you will get no argument from me that the time to begin building new nuclear plants was at least 2 decades ago. Heck, I left a lucrative job in 1993 to try to start a company do take that very action because I did not see anyone else doing it.

            However, as the old saying goes, the best time to plant a tree if you want shade was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now.

            I also agree that embracing the agenda and pseudo science of organizations like WWF, EDF, Sierra Club, and NRDC is not the way to build support for nuclear energy. HOWEVER, co-opting their agenda and attracting their activist members with a realistic solution and effective tools based on solid science and engineering is a path with some room to run.

            Polls indicate that a large portion of the population in industrial societies where basic needs are relatively well served will self identify as being concerned about the environment. Many will also claim the label of being an “Environmentalist.”

            I always thought it was really dumb of nuclear professionals to make statements like “The Environmentalists do not like nuclear power.” For most people who do not get too heavily involved in the science or the technology, the logical response to that statement is to decide not to like nuclear energy. After all, if you call yourself an Environmentalist and nukes themselves tell you that environmentalists do not like nuclear energy…

            I could be way off base, but I believe that a better course of action is to help people understand that nuclear energy is really beneficial for the environment, especially compared to burning hydrocarbons and dumping the inevitable waste products. Showing them that some of their “Environmentalist” heroes are actually carrying the water for big donors from the petroleum pushers might just help them to make the transition from opposition to support for nuclear energy without causing them to feel like they have to abandon any of their ideals and principles.

            One more thing – how many of the real climate change skeptics are out there pushing hard for new nuclear power plant development? Most of them give very lukewarm support and damn the technology with faint praise. People like Jerry Taylor of Cato is actually quite negative about nuclear power and claims that it is way too costly to compete, but he fails to recognize that there are any artificially imposed costs associated with the way that nuclear energy is selectively regulated. Our own Kit P and Bob Applebaum are in that same camp.

        • DV82XL says:

          You may wish to re-read what I wrote – there seems to be a very large disconnect between what I posted, and what you saw in it.

          In short I mostly agreed with you except that I do not see how being confrontational with those that, while not being perhaps full supporters of the nuclear option, are not dead set against it.

          One of the weaknesses of the pronuclear movement is that it is populated by those that believe that political fights can be won by reason alone, and we have had our heads handed to us by our opponents who seem to know how to play the game better than we do. It is very satisfying to one’s ego to look down on the masses while taking an intellectually ascendant position, but it does not beget change.

        • Anonymous says:

          Some in the warmist camp, like Joe Romm, claim to be all about stopping global warming, yet they ignore the only proven way to massively reduce CO2 emissions out there – nuclear energy, proven beyond a reasonable doubt to work by the French example. They know this, yet they ignore it. It destroys the credibility of their pet theories.

          Some in the nuclear camp claims to be all about developing nuclear energy, yet they ignore the only likely way to make up for the large LWR’s poor and risky (outside of China) construction economics – a high price on carbon emissions to make up for the “damage” CO2 emissions supposedly cause.

          Human caused global warming is very likely typical environmentalist alarmist pseudo-scientific hogwash, but it also represents the best chance the industry has had in nearly half a century in moving product. The only reason the UK is building new plants is because of CO2. The only reason the Japanese and many governments in Europe aren’t going the German route right now is because of CO2.

          Both the warmists and members of the nuclear camp seem to elevate their ideals above their practical goals.

          Do ideals move product, solve problems, pay bills, create jobs, or sign paychecks?

        • Brian Mays says:

          Polls indicate that a large portion of the population in industrial societies where basic needs are relatively well served will self identify as being concerned about the environment.

          Rod – So anyone who dares question the shenanigans going on in the IPCC is not concerned about the environment?!!

          You need to depolarize your views when it comes to environmentalism. You’re half-way there, in that you realize that hating nuclear power is a common, but not necessary, attitude of environmentalists. Now, you have to come to terms with the idea that recognizing the pseudo-science that has been used to promote the global warming scare is also compatible with an environmental outlook.

          One more thing – how many of the real climate change skeptics are out there pushing hard for new nuclear power plant development?

          Senator Inhofe is one of the most outspoken supporters of nuclear power in the US Congress today, especially now that Craig and Domenici are gone. He takes almost as much flak from his support of nuclear power as he does from his criticism of Climate Change.

          The so-called “Environmentalists” hate him for both reasons. If you don’t believe me, google it.

          Meanwhile, how much support for nuclear power have we received from Waxman or Markey?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Brian – Inhofe has little or no political clout. He is a Senator from a small population state and he is in the minority party. His support for the anti science position means that his support for nuclear energy is actually detrimental because it provides visible evidence that Wasserman’s characterization of King CONG (coal, oil, nuclear and gas) is a reasonable portrayal of the energy establishment.

            Markey is an idiot who was captured by the eastern establishment before he got elected. I put him in the same silver spooners camp as his fellow Massachusetts resident named John Rosenthal and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

            Senator Waxman, on the other hand, has been willing to provide at least lukewarm support and recognition that nuclear is a useful tool in the battle against the negative environmental effects of an increasing dependence on burning hydrocarbons.

        • Brian Mays says:

          I do not see how being confrontational with those that, while not being perhaps full supporters of the nuclear option, are not dead set against it.

          DV82XL – You’re not paying attention. That’s what Rod is doing, not me. Observe what he wrote: “One more thing — how many of the real climate change skeptics are out there pushing hard for new nuclear power plant development?” He can’t deny that many skeptics support nuclear power, so the implication is that skeptics are not supportive enough.

          Meanwhile, I’m pointing out how much the Climate Change debate is being driven by people who are absolutely opposed to nuclear energy. Surely someone as intelligent as you can see the difference.

          If what you have written above is really what you think, then you should be turning this question back on Rod and asking: How many of the real climate change skeptics are out there pushing hard against new nuclear power plant development? Furthermore, how many of them do you want to alienate by convincing them that we’re just cheap opportunists who are willing to grab onto any available pseudo-science that will give us some sort of short-term political gain?

          Places like Germany, where Global Warming Alarmism prevails, are lost. Meanwhile, the majority of the US public is on the skeptical side, and it continues to trend this way. The majority in the US also supports nuclear.

          My preference has always been to keep the “global warming” issue out of the picture as much as possible. If some Greens slowly come to their senses, then so much the better.

          I think that Eric McErlain, who blogs at NEI Nuclear Notes, always had the right take: If you believe that carbon emissions are the greatest challenge facing mankind today then there is no reason not to support nuclear power. Tom Blees has also taken the same approach in his book. He crafted his arguments so that, regardless of what the reader thinks about Climate Change, his arguments are still persuasive.

          Being confrontational with those that are full supporters of the nuclear option for pissing on someone else’s sacred cow makes no sense.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Brian – Obviously, I have a different take on the situation. I believe that the virulent opposition to the development of nuclear energy has a very thin bench of passionate people who have a full set of rather irrational, but well reinforced, talking points.

            The vast majority of the people who consider themselves to be environmentalists can be convinced to allow nuclear energy to be developed and can probably be persuaded that they have been lied to for many years. They will also recognize that many of the barriers and additional costs to nuclear energy development have been artificially imposed through actions by people who do not have their best interests at heart. I am convinced that greed and market protecting behavior by some very unpopular organizations has played a large role in the opposition to nuclear energy and that the exposure of that story will shift a lot of hearts and minds.

            I refuse to give up on places like Germany – though it is a nation with a history of massive self delusion, it is also a nation full of engineers and people who can do math. They can be convinced by numbers and those numbers are already starting to show exactly how costly the decision to move from nuclear has been and will be forever into the future.

            With regard to the lukewarm support of the skeptics – if there is any risk at all of them beginning to openly fight against nuclear energy, I say “bring it on.” That would at least expose them for the oil & gas pushers that I believe many of them are.

            Though the oil and gas industry is extremely wealthy and powerful, it is only that way because of its skill in convincing all of the rest of us that we have no choice but to keep buying a few trillion dollars per year of the products that they sell – even though the majority of the value in those products was put there by natural forces over a few hundred million years of cooking inside our planet. All they do is extract those materials from inside the earth and transport them to market. If the markets start going away, the price they can charge for their materials will fall dramatically and their excessive hold on the world’s economy and politics will melt away to a more rational level.

        • DV82XL says:

          DV82XL – You’re not paying attention. That’s what Rod is doing, not me. Observe what he wrote: “One more thing — how many of the real climate change skeptics are out there pushing hard for new nuclear power plant development?” He can’t deny that many skeptics support nuclear power, so the implication is that skeptics are not supportive enough.

          I have no patience tonight for this sort of rhetorical nonsense. I did not read in to Rod’s remarks what you are suggesting, nor do I think he meant you to.

          First I make a distinction between those who are skeptical on climate change, and those that deny it’s happening or if it is, it is not the concupiscence of human actions and/or nothing can be done about it.

          While the case of the former I can understand their concerns, I have no time for the latter.

          To the extent that ether support nuclear energy, it seems to be driven by ideology, rather than anything else, and there are damned few of them. However among those that I consider deniers, it is my observation that the majority are driven by simple greed: they are heavily invested in ‘alternative’ energy, of fossil-fuels. Along with a contingent of simple-minded reactionaries that don’t want to see change, these people are pushing hard against new nuclear power plants because they see them as a threat.

          The effort to generate the sort of substantial changes in several domains in an effort to accelerate the development will need many strange alliances as movements of this kind always do. What is never helpful is taking too doctrinaire a stand about who you consider a friend or foe.

          Thus to the extent that climate-change can be used to further our agenda, it need not be questioned nor those that support it ignored.

  3. Andrew Jaremko says:

    Rod – thanks for this post. I keep an eye on MasterResource and I find some insight there. But I absolutely agree with your evaluation of their attitude. You’ve articulated it brilliantly.

    I also keep an eye on the Oil Drum. I find the posts by GailTheActuary and comments by the Texas oilman “Rockman” especially enlightening. The Oil Drum has a peak oil and economics focus, but they seem to have accepted the idea that the current nuclear reactors are the best we can do. It’s a shame because they could be an ally; nuclear energy powering oil extraction (think of a reactor powering a Gulf of Mexico platform, for example; a situation parallel to your submarine experience) would improve the net hydrocarbon output and could start getting fossil hydrocarbon companies thinking of themselves as energy companies. It could help build Sun Tzu’s “golden bridge for your enemies” that helps win in conflicts.

    Wishful thinking, I know. There are many obstacles but we must try. Keep up the good work, Rod!

    • katana0182 says:

      Ironically, one of the first places I would look to sell SMRs to would be the oil industry. They have needs for large quantities of steam for steam assisted gravity drainage in out of the way places over long periods of time, such as the Alberta oil sands and the Venezuelan Orinoco Belt, and if we ever extract oil from the shales of the Green River Formation in Colorado/Wyoming/Utah, many high efficiency oil extraction processes there will require lots of steam. The oil industry also has the capital necessary to pay for such as well.

      When gas gets costly again, and it will, in 10 years or so, generating steam by burning gas is literally like burning profits.

      This would especially be the case if the SMRs were inherently safe.

      • Joel Riddle says:

        katana, I would probably change “in 10 years or so” to “within 10 years or so”, and maybe even drop it to 3-5 years.

        With global LNG prices of $15-20/thousand cubic feet, $3-4/thousand cubic feet at the Henry Hub simply can’t be a sustainable price point.

        Also, an additional future SMR market that might be very exciting is nuclear-powered coal-to-liquid fuels conversion, as being proposed by frequent Atomic Insights commenter Cal Abel. For that market to develop, many seemingly strange (to some) alliances as mentioned by DV8 will need to be formed. Such a use of nuclear power would be a much better bridge technology (prior to full electrification w/ in 60-120 years) than converting to natural gas powered vehicles, as has been proposed by T. Boone and Chesapeake.

  4. Rod Adams says:

    @Brian and Andrew

    Both of you bring up important ideas. As Brian points out, the multinational petroleum industry has tried to co-opt concern about climate change as a selling point for their “growth” product – methane. They have made a number of strategic investments in organizations like WWF, Sierra Club, and Climate Progress to encourage their support for natural gas as “low CO2” replacement for coal.

    Andrew has been hanging out on the “Oil Drum” with another faction of the global petroleum industry – the one that is trying to leverage logical concerns about Peak Oil into an acceptance of a dismal future with constraints on energy use and ever higher prices.

    In both cases, a strong pro-nuclear message is about as welcome as a fart on an elevator. Neither petroleum pushing faction likes us to point out the we have a FAR lower CO2 power source that has virtually NO limitations on the ultimate supply once we begin tapping the energy content of both U-238 and Th-232.

    Master Resource has writers from both of those branches of the petroleum pushing establishment. The guns are smoking.

  5. Rich says:

    I just don’t get or except this “bridging” B/S. It is not a bridge but a plank (like one a pirate ship). You will not see a 50% savings in CO2 with NG. A few years ago I saw a report on the capacity, efficiency and CO2 output of the TVA plants back when I was working. I have tried to find it or a similar report on the internet but cannot. The most important thing I learned from this report was that, of the TVA plants, even the best NG unit (CCTG) only reduced the amount of CO2 generated per total kW by about 40% and only 1/3 were even close to that. Any electric utility dispatcher can tell you why. 1. You run the least expensive unit the most. 2. You run the second least expensive unit second, etc., etc., etc, to the Nth. 3. Power generated by NG is more expensive than most ( I hate to use the term “all” as there are some exceptions) so NG plants will be used just before the oil fired units. 4. NG units make excellent peaking units, however, when they are not running at 100% they do not provide maximum efficiency, thus more CO2 per kW. CC means combined cycle, which means they make steam from the waste heat to turn a steam turbine with. Lower power means less waste heat means less steam for the steam turbine. And for units that have both methods driving one generator it means more drag and lost power and more CO2.

    I guess when the EPA shuts down all coal plants (think Obama is reelected) then most of the NG plants will be running all of the time to keep up with load and we will see CO2 reduction in the order of 40 to 45%. But that is going to mean that the price of NG at least doubles (look at the price curves for NG in the 90’s when all of the utilities were bringing CCTGs online because NG was cheap when the decided to purchase them if you doubt this prediction) and when all coal plants are gone it will double again. That will also be aggravated by all of the electric cars being charged and many people using NG instead of electric heat pumps. Your electric bill will double also. Buy your woodstove now.

    • Daniel says:

      @ Rich

      Let’s keep one thing into perspective. Pumping sulfur into the atmosphere is a geo engineering technique retained to fight climate warming.

      Coal, as bad as I may sound, achieves this as it spews up a sulphur shield that keeps us cooler. Natural gas does not.

      So gas may be cleaner (no mercury) but it is not cooler than coal.

      As for the sulphur, we have a truck load in Alberta as tar sands extraction produces ‘mountains’ of sulphur as a byproduct. Now all we have to do is pump it up.

      Anyway, we have to go nuclear.

    • Daniel says:

      So my punchline was, other things being equal, a world that burns more natural gas and less coal will experience more near-term warming for the same amount of carbon dioxide.

    • Rod Adams says:

      “But that is going to mean that the price of NG at least doubles (look at the price curves for NG in the 90′s when all of the utilities were bringing CCTGs online because NG was cheap when the decided to purchase them if you doubt this prediction) and when all coal plants are gone it will double again”

      Just think how happy that situation will make the gas extractors and then ask yourself – is it accidental? Are we really that much more aware of the potential effects than the people whose compensation packages include incentives to maximize short term profits?

  6. quokka says:

    George Monbiot, who changed from opposing nuclear power to supporting it following the Fukushima accident has published a demolition of prominent anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Christopher Busby in the Guardian.

    Aside from his well known work finding non-existent cancer clusters, it appears that the good Dr has been flogging “anti-radiation” pills at inflated prices to the Japanese through a Californian web site and offering to test food – for a fee, of course.

    Busby has been a scientific adviser to the UK Green Party and was scientific secretary to the European Committee on Radiation Risk – an organization set up by European Green parties.

  7. Rob Bradley says:

    Tried to respond to your above post at MasterResource.

    Discussion welcomed.

    – Rob Bradley