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4 Comments

  1. The statement that “energy is a zero sum game” really caught my attention. On a world-wide basis, this is certainly not true. There are large populations, perhaps the majority of the world population, still starving for energy. Even if we take just the United States, the energy market is still growing, albeit slowly, due to population increase. Even if one accepts the zero-sum premise, there are still opportunities. Oil is increasingly expensive and scarce, so there is a market for natural gas as transportation fuel.
    Thomas Price seems to be cheering on those forces that drive the energy market to be a zero-sum game. In his talk, he said the his company wants to “deliver premium fuel at prices that are significantly less volitile than in the past”. I am sure he has little problem with price volitility to the high cost side. If the cost of energy were decreasing rather than increasing, the market demand for energy would be expanding, not staying static. That would NOT be a zero-sum game!

  2. Nuclear does seem to do best in countries without PIPELINE gas (e.g., South Korea, UAE). China also needs to improt LNG which makes nuclear attractive for them. Yes, natural gas prices are very volatile, but even a strong nuclear advocate like myself must admit that it is not merely clever marketing that has put natural gas on top (temporarily). They are easy to build and payoff quickly. If you have pipeline gas, then you have cheaper gas for years (well, long enough to make a quick buck and escape…). If it is worth anything, private investors would never have built Hoover Dam by themselves yet it provides a lot of reliable inexpensive power. We need to look the same way at nuclear.
    …and yes, we need to up our marketing game. If solar and wind can claim subisdies are a glorious investment, loan guarantees and research funds for nuclear should be a slam dunk. 🙂

    1. @R Margolis – I would modify your statement to say that nuclear will do best in places (vice countries) without convenient pipeline gas and where the existing pipeline carrying capability is constrained for one reason or another.
      Natural gas is, indeed, quite easy (cheap) to burn as long as you can get it. Gas does have an Achilles heel, however. It is an energetic VAPOR that is hard to store and transport because it takes up so much space per unit of delivered energy. The capital investment required to overcome this physical advantage is rather massive. There are LNG projects being planned today that will approach a total cost of $100 billion.
      The American Public Power Association recently completed a study detailing the capital investment in transmission and delivery pipelines that would be required to support a transition from coal to gas in the United States. What many gas cheerleaders do not understand is that there is no gas infrastructure that delivers sufficient quantities of methane gas to places that are traditionally supplied with coal fired power.
      http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/07/appa-detailed-study-on-effects-of.html
      Finally, I think it is worth the effort to try to shame the supposed nuclear industry leaders who are jumping on the pro-gas bandwagon for exactly the kind of short term gain that you describe. No investor should want a company executive to be solely focused on “quick wins” and the “low hanging fruit.”

  3. Rod – you have just effectively made the case that an alliance made in Hades of the environmentalists and the oil/gas industry is pursuing a Fabian strategy to regain the electric power generation market that the oil/gas industry lost in the oil crisis of 1973 to the nuclear, hydroelectric, and coal power industries.
    The clearest sign that this is happening is manifested in the all-out push for solar and wind, which – as people in the power distribution field note – are both probably the least grid-appropriate of the renewable technologies due to their inherent unreliability. The lack of environmentalist attention for the actually somewhat useful, somewhat cost effective, occasionally situationally appropriate technologies of biomass and geothermal, and the ongoing dam-removal campaigns throughout the country are clear giveaways that the environmentalists either do not want, or are not particularly interested in renewable solutions that actually work.
    Notably, biomass, geothermal, and hydro are all capable of reliable generation that potentially competes with gas. Unfortunately, the enviros don’t know they’re being taken for a ride, and their renewables will effectively (when it becomes convenient) shoved off to the side in favor of total oil/gas domination of the power generation market, along with perhaps some hydroelectric and nuclear stragglers.

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