Ed Markey, LNG and antinuclear activity
I have frequently wondered why Representative Ed Markey is such a powerful antinuclear activist. The mystery has not been just trying to understand why he is so actively opposed to nuclear energy, but how he accumulated so much legislative power so early in his career.
A few days ago, I started piecing together some interesting connections that may (or may not) be entirely coincidental.
In 1971, when oil was still available on the world market for about $2-3 per barrel, the Everett, MA liquified natural gas terminal began operating. Not only was oil extremely cheap, but New England was one of the more nuclear regions of the country, hosting such plants as Connecticut Yankee, Yankee Rowe, Millstone I, and Pilgrim. The nearby states of New York and New Jersey hosted Indian Point Unit I, Nine Mile Point Unit I, R. E. Ginna, and Oyster Creek.
Several additional plants including Maine Yankee and Vermont Yankee were nearing completion. There were a number of additional construction projects already underway including Indian Point 2 and 3, Shoreham, and Millstone Unit 2.
Looking back with a business point of view, it seems like a strange time and place for any large multinational corporation to have placed a big bet on a capital intensive technology like LNG.
In 1976, during a campaign season in which energy was an important issue, a young lawyer named Ed Markey ran a successful election campaign in the congressional district that includes Everett, the host of the only operating LNG terminal in the country.
During the 35 years that Representative Markey has been actively working to halt nuclear energy development, the Everett terminal has received more than 1000 LNG shipments. It supplies approximately 20% of New England’s natural gas market. Natural gas provides about 60% of the electricity consumed in the region. (Many of the nuclear plants listed above as being operable in 1971 were shutdown before their initial 40 year license period expired.)
The Everett terminal now hosts one of the single largest independent power plants in the country. It mostly burns imported natural gas brought by LNG tanker from Trinidad. The corporate owners of the facility have recently developed an additional LNG reception terminal off shore.
GDF SUEZ, Everett’s current corporate owner is proud of its market success and has published a six page brochure with highlights titled Fueling the Growth of LNG in North America. That brochure includes an interesting quote on page 4:
Throughout the years, GDF SUEZ has consistently championed efforts to expand LNG’s market reach in North America.
The brochure concludes with a proud description that would qualify as a smoking gun if it bothered to mention the fact that LNG’s success has come as a direct result of the success of the antinuclear activists to destroy its main competition.
Since 1971, We’ve Been Redefining the Role of Natural Gas in North America.
GDF SUEZ has been a pioneer in the modern LNG industry both internationally and in North America, where more than three decades ago, the management of our subsidiary Distrigas of Massachusetts saw the future in LNG, a fuel that many in the energy industry summarily dismissed at the time. Since receiving our first shipment of LNG in November 1971 in Everett, Massachusetts, we’ve been a driving force in the adoption of this safe, clean-burning fuel throughout parts of North America. In the 1970s, we employed LNG to mitigate New England’s regional energy crisis.
Perhaps I am just being cynical, but I think I might have figured out where Markey gets his political clout.
Rep. Markey works hard to obtain government funds to protect the vulnerable ships that deliver cargo to the Everett terminal. From an article titled LNG, Oil Tankers are Vulnerable to Terrorist Attacks, More Resources Needed.
Markey, whose district includes the nation’s only urban LNG importation terminal, the Distrigas facility in Everett, said, “We know that terrorists are looking for the weakest link in our security efforts, and this GAO report is a timely reminder that LNG and oil tankers are serious targets. Given the fact that LNG is being transported into Boston harbor every several days on the way to the Everett LNG terminal, an attack on one of these tankers could be devastating. I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security responds to the vulnerabilities exposed in this report and that their efforts are not hampered by a lack or resources. We cannot skimp when it comes to public safety.”
There is a remarkable contrast between the success of the Everett LNG terminal and the market performance of the Cove Point LNG terminal that was built a few years later and a few hundred miles south. While the GDF SUEZ facility in New England was growing and receiving 50% of the LNG shipments received in the US during the period from 1971-2003, the Cove Point facility was virtually mothballed. It stopped receiving any LNG shipments in 1980. It did not start receiving additional shipments until 2003.
Interestingly enough, the only nuclear plant within 250 miles of Cove Point that has been permanently shut down is Three Mile Island Unit 2. No member of the Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania or Virginia congressional delegate has an attitude about nuclear energy that matches that of Rep. Markey.
PS: As a measure of the influence that Rep. Markey has with his colleagues, I want to recount a personal story. Sometime around 2001-2002, I had the opportunity to brief Congressman Mike Bilirakis and Congressman Joe Barton about the potential benefits of closed cycle nuclear gas turbines. At the end of the intense half hour of discussion, Congressman Barton closed the meeting with a memorable question – “Do you know how hard it would be to get any support for this technology from Ed Markey?” End PS.
Our elected officials should be required to wear the insignia of their sponsors (preferably as a tattoo) much like a NASCAR racer. This way there would be no guess work involved in figuring out why they are taking a position.
I was in California last week and I heard an interesting public service announcement on the radio. I wish I could recall the exact wording, but basically it was telling everyone they need to do their part in conserving electricity so as to avoid brown outs or rolling blackouts. I can’t believe Californians accept this a the new norm.
Thanks Rod for another insightful post. For someone who claims he is not an investigative journalist, you sure do a good job of “playing one on TV!”
The problem I saw when I got interested in nuclear several years ago, is that the nuclear industry is “timid” in comparison to the other energy industries when it comes to working for its interests. In the United States there is no strong champion with the same passion for nuclear that there is for natural gas, coal, oil. Up until – what was it – 2 years ago – Senator Pete Domenici was the voice on the Hill for nuclear. A couple of others were somewhat supportive but Domenici was the Man. Now he is gone and I do not see a likely successor.
The association with the highest profile for being pro-nuclear – the Nuclear Energy Institute (bless their hearts) – still cannot go all out with the same kind of vigor and tactics used by, for example, the gas people. Why? Because key members of the NEI also own plants utilizing fossil fuels. The right hand cannot condemn what the left hand is doing. So – tactics and comparisons to other energy technologies, that are available to fossil fuel interests and wind and solar, are strictly “off the table” for the NEI and somewhat even for the other smaller pro-nuclear organizations who have the same dilemma.
I don’t approve of the apparent anti-nuclear shenanigans that you have uncovered here Rod. Yes, we would hope the pro-nuclear team would be able to play the politics game more cleanly than its competition. But, there’s a difference between not playing dirty, and having to play with one arm tied behind your back.
To be successful, the nuclear industry must promote itself with an unbridled passion and expose how it compares to other energies in efficiency, cost and environmental impact. To meet the challenges of the future, we are going to need to employ all types of energy technology – the percentage of each in the mix will be the question. But, nuclear, it would seem to me, has got to step up its game – both in education of the masses and with political clout – or its not going to see its rightful share of that mix.
Right on, Deb.
My fellow Tennessean Lamar Alexander might be a candidate to be the successor as the top nuclear champion on Capitol Hill.
So, what exactly would be the difference of Alexander promoting nuclear? Is Alexander guilty of pro-nuclear shenanigans?
I lived within view of the Everett LNG plant for many years and I hated seeing those ships come in to port. I knew if anything went wrong, my home and all of Charlestown would disappear.
I think many of Rod’s claims and accusations on this topic are baseless and weaken your overall pro-nuclear argument.
The difference is that Markey is a card carrying member and fan of the organized opposition to nuclear energy that seeks to eliminate it as an energy option despite all of its technical advantages and economic potential. There is a very large difference between the way that Lamar Alexander seeks to build prosperity and the way that Ed Markey spreads fear, uncertainty and doubt about a valuable energy resource.
If you think that having me point out economic reasons that explain such antisocial behavior detracts from this blog, fine. There are plenty of other sources that you can read that refuse to “sink” down to my level of recognizing “man’s inhumanity to man”. You might not know this, but I was a literature major before I became a nuke – the human side of our technology stories is very important to me.
The time is long past for the membership of the Atomic Workers Unions to stand up on their hind legs and DO something with their dues that their own union and companies won’t and launch massive nuclear promo ads. It’s so obscene to see all these Gas and oil and even geotherm commercials infesting the airwaves and Zero for nuclear.
Who will pay for these announcements, advertisements, PSAs extolling the virtue of Nuclear Power? Check out your state public utility commission. Find out what yours requires. I have been employed in 5 different states at various nuclear power plants. All but one has restrictions on the utility paying for advertizing related to electrical use other than conservation. Even where the rules are lax, the utility finds it hard to justify any “nuclear Power is Great” campaign. Nebraska has the least, BUT, it is a municipal utility district state (no private electric utilities.) And even they limit themselves to “conservation” and what they are doing on “wind/solar.” These utilities even have to be careful about how the money they give NEI is spent in this regard. I have had to answer questions regarding expenses related to trips made by my department that involved both normal maintenance and new construction at a PUC Prudency hearing. They wanted more facts about the percentage of the time that was spent on “maintenance” (allowable expense) and new construction (not allowable until the plant is considered operable.)
So, if utilities can’t tell the user it is good, who will?
Do you release that you are paying twice as much for a new power plant (regardless of fuel) because the PUC will not let the utility charge the rate payer one dime of expenses related to construction until the project is completed and accepted for operations? This is similar to you borrowing the money for a new house, giving the money to the builder, paying your present mortgage/rent payment and borrowing money on your credit card to pay only the interest on the new home construction loan. In seven to ten years the amount owed has doubled. At least a house can be built in a year (?), but you will still pay 10 to 15 percent more for that house. Another way the PUC hurts you by “helping” you.
I can’t make the link between the LNG and Markey.
Even on the presented video Markey is in favor (and has been generally) of reducing greenhouse gas emission. Not a position one would take if motivated by LNG.
Also, according to this link, GDF SUEZ N.A., hasn’t donated particulaly large sums to Markey.
It seems more likely to
Bob – Markey has been the congressman in that district for 35 years. GDF SUEZ is one of the capital installations in the district and the company has a major revenue stream associated with its continued operation. It would be very difficult to convince me that Markey is NOT interested in that facility or that he has not been influenced in 35 years by any of its managers or executives.
The point of your original post was that Markey’s anti-nuclear position is to be associated with the LNG presence in his state.
It is a red herring to now claim:
“…Markey is NOT interested in that facility or that he has not been influenced in 35 years by any of its managers or executives”
You are now switching the argument from enough influence to cause him to be anti-nuclear, to ANY influence whatsoever.
You have offered no evidence that he is interested in the facility or that he has been influenced by any of its people.
It’s just a baseless claim.
Every denounciation of global warming by Markey (and there are hundreds if not millions) works against that one constituent.
Here is Markey promoting solar (working against that constituent):
Bob – calling solar a competitor to natural gas is like calling me a competitor to Tiger Woods on a golf course. (I’ve played two rounds in my entire life.)
Here is one of thousands of articles quoting Markey touting natural gas as a low carbon fuel source with lots of room for growth.
Not terribly surprisingly, the above also shows Markey asking questions about “unconventional” natural gas – which does offer some competitive risk to imported LNG.
While I agree with you here on burden of proof and to not use guilt by association, I disagree with your point about climate change and solar hurting natural gas. Many of the most ardent climate change activists are actually strong natural gas proponents. The energy source will act as a “bridge” to some (most likely) mythical future where renewables can provide all of our energy needs. As for solar, promote away, you need a backup, which is, big surprise, natural gas. So neither of these statements really are anti-gas (really pro-gas if you think about it), at least on the time scales of decades.
Bob – here is another link to an interview quoting Ed Markey touting natural gas as a low carbon fuel source. He mentions it twice – along with several minutes of ranting about how risky nuclear loan guarantees are and how their existence for nuclear makes us like a communist country. This time, however, it is not printed words, but a video of Markey himself making the claims.
(Sorry, dog knocked my hand on keyboard)
It seems more likely to be a perceived public health issue on his part. Note his wife, Dr. Susan Blumenthal, has a long history of public health involvement.
Brian & Rod –
Nuclear isn’t growing here. That’s a fact. It wouldn’t be here at all if not for Price Anderson guarantees. No one would take the risk.
Markey’s point (from Rod’s recent link) is that Wall Street isn’t chasing nuclear, they’re chasing other sources. The facts support his opinion on that.
Markey is wrong if he thinks natural gas is a low carbon source, just like he’s wrong for his radiophobia. The facts don’t support those opinions.
But just because he’s wrong on the science, doesn’t mean he has been unduly influenced by one constituent. That’s a separate issue. Everything I’ve seen/read from Markey suggests that he would do away with natural gas if there was enough renewable energy to avoid reliance on it.
Bob – you may have little respect for Markey’s basic intellect, but I do not. He is not ignorant enough to think that unreliable sources like wind and solar have any hope whatsoever of making a dent in the market share of natural gas. He does, however, know that nuclear energy makes natural gas far less profitable,
Your analysis of Markey’s 2011 discussion of how Wall Street views nuclear energy neglects the fact that Markey and his eastern establishment friends have been campaigning against that natural gas competitor for 35 years – since the year before I graduated from high school. (I am now a grandfather and graduated from college in 1981.)
I respect Markey’s intellect, I never said I didn’t. Intellectual people are wrong about many things quite often. That’s not the issue.
The issue is whether there is any evidence Markey has been unduly influenced by a constituent.
You haven’t provided any.
As Brain wrote:
“Many of the most ardent climate change activists are actually strong natural gas proponents.”
Markey falls into this category. There is no evidence he is working on behalf of one constituent.
I just watched Markey today on C-Span regarding EPA rules on industrial boiler emissions. He wanted more rules to regulate industrial boilers.
I wonder how many of his constituents utilize industrial boilers?
Here is a letter by Markey being skeptical on natural gas as a resource:
Why would someone on the natural gas “payroll” have such a skeptical view of natural gas???
Bob – the letter you linked to proved Markey is skeptical about domestic shale gas. As I mentioned in another comment in this thread, it is perfectly rational for someone interested in LNG that is imported from Trinidad (and Yemen) to seek to discourage over reliance on domestic natural gas extracted from shale rock.
LNG facilities require steady, long term sales at prices that are at least $5-6 per million BTU for 20-30 years in order to show a decent return on investment.
I know – that statement requires a link. I’ll leave that as a homework assignment. I’ve only been studying energy economics for 20 years and have no real idea what I am talking about.
“I know – that statement requires a link. I’ll leave that as a homework assignment. I’ve only been studying energy economics for 20 years and have no real idea what I am talking about.”
That statement is a logical fallacy called argument from authority.
All you really need to do is provide evidence of Markey engaged in any inappropriate behavior regarding the LNG producer.
That’s all you need to do….but you haven’t.
Markey is being skeptical about LNG generally (as well as shale gas). He will get a response which shows that shale gas LNG is financially attractive (neglecting global warming).
And guess what?
He is pro-LNG….shale gas or otherwise.
When Markey comments about natural gas he doesn’t specifically mention imported natural gas. He is pro natural gas because he thinks it makes sense.
Bob – you are confused. GDF SUEZ is a liquified natural gas (LNG) importer, not an LNG “producer”. The letter you linked to was completely focused on domestic shale gas, not LNG. Virtually ALL LNG is imported; the reason for spending the money to refrigerate and liquify methane, which is a vapor at standard temperature and pressure, is to put it in a tank and transport it. It takes up 1/600th as much space in a liquid form.
You have challenged me to “prove” a direct link between Markey and a specific company. There is no need for Markey to do anything specific for GDF SUEZ – it is a commodity importer into a regional energy market. All anyone has to do to help that company improve its bottom line is to halt production from a competitor or raise barriers to entry for new competitors. The “law of supply and demand” takes care of the rest. Actions that artificially restrain the supply of a vital commodity like energy almost automatically improves both sales volume and price for all remaining suppliers.
Why do you think OPEC gets together every quarter to discuss member production quotas? Why do you think farm price support programs pay farmers to idle otherwise productive land?
Instead of accusing me of arguing from authority, why don’t you do some homework and show me why my logic is wrong? Lack of hard evidence is not proof of anything, especially when there is so much incentive for rather simple efforts to cover tracks. After all, our system of political contributions and non profit group financing is ANYTHING but transparent.
Bob – I do like being challenged. It pushes me to better efforts.
According to opensecrets.org GDF SUEZ was one of Markey’s more generous contributors in the 2009-2010 election cycle. I am not saying that he would sell his soul for a contribution of < $9,000, but …
For the record, GDF SUEZ knows extremely well how cheap nuclear can be. They’ve built one of the earliest NPP of Europe in Belgium (it started construction in 1969, so two years before 1971), operate 7 there and have a shared participation in a few NPP in France.
They currently challenge EDF over what the fair price for operating a NPP is, saying that EDF clearly overestimates the costs (and I think they’re right on that one).
Markey is the western version of a single sector Hydrocarbon Apparatchik this guy is well connected to Green+Gaz nexus.
How else is Penn State water table tainted FRACKED GAS piped down MARITIMES/NORTHEAST PIPELINE to make margin for Markey’s buds?
Although to be fair GDFSUEZ does do nukes but only in Europe. Maybe if the pro-hydrocarbon REP/DEM political DUOPOLY could take a more sober approach to clean energy policy NEW NUKES could provide clean efficent alternate energy. But I doubt the political status quo will not want to stop stuffing oil lobby dollars down their pants.
The top campaign contribution to Markey in 2007-2008 was $36,800 from employees of GTCR Golder Rauner. Edward Markey’s net worth was between $783,021 and $2,070,000 in 2007, according to Markey’s mandated financial disclosure statements. (govtrack.us)
Ok…but who’s GTCR Goler Rauner?
Oh…just a equity firm with $8.5 billion in assets like Ironshore, Inc.
[(“Ironshore”) is a leading provider of broker-sourced specialty commercial real estate property and casualty coverages for risks located throughout the world. Through its platform in Bermuda, including Iron-Starr Excess, Ironshore writes real estate property and excess casualty insurance for commercial real estate risks.]
I guess, if fracking brings law suits don’t bother going offshore after Ironshore ’cause you can’t sue offshore effectively it’s years till trial is settled.
Well here’s another Bob with something to say.
Isn’t it a terrible waste to burn natural gas to generate electricity? I heard they can do many things with gas like they can with oil to make products like fertilizer. If a gas plant is like a coal or nuclear plant, 50-60% of the heat made will go up the chimney/into the river. Meanwhile, if you burn natural gas in a range/grill/furnace/dryer the consumer uses all the heat in the natural gas. If New England states get 65% of electricity from natural gas and knowing how cold it gets isn’t kind of appaulling?
Not as wasteful as burning OIL to generate electricity or desalinate water, as many Middle Eastern countries do.
Bob, you’re basically making the argument that energy sources should be optimized to match end use, as much as possible. For NG, this has some validity. Burning NG to make electricity is somewhat wasteful in that you have losses in conversion and transmission. From an efficiency (perhaps not safety) viewpoint, it would be better to pipe natural gas into your home to burn in your furnace to provide space heating, instead of burning it in a utility boiler to make electricity, transmitting that to you home, then turning it back into heat via resistance heaters or a heat pump. But for baseload electricity for use over a broad spectrum of personal and industrial uses, nuclear is best for a lot of reasons. From a resource utilization viewpoint, its better to use nuclear for electricity because there really is no other large-scale use for uranium, whereas things like NG and petroleum have a variety of uses, things better than burning them up in a utility boiler.
The way things are developing, we will soon have power plants burn natural gas to generate the electricity to charge our electric cars. It’s pure nonsense since natural gas can be used as a transportation fuel directly. It only makes economic sense because of all the restrictions on nuclear and coal.
For the gas suppliers, it makes perfect sense. It is another huge marketing opportunity. Besides, it is generally easier to run power lines than to convince people that they should allow streets to be torn up so that someone can run explosive gas mixtures under their homes and neighborhoods.
Remember the dramatic photos of destruction in San Bruno and the people who died there.
San Bruno was terrible, but it was small potatoes compared to the San Juanico disaster. San Bruno wiped out a neighborhood, whereas San Juanico basically wiped out the entire town of San Juan Ixhuatepec. They had 700-800 people burned to ashes, only 2% of recovered remains in recognizable condition. Yet the press goes bananas over a zero-fatality event like Fukushima, but you never hear a word about hundreds of dead in a LNG/BLEVE explosion.
I have noticed that advertising for gas companies has changed. Now they run commercials saying it is for generating electricity and it seems like a waste. Years ago, when a gas company had a commercial it was to try to get people to cook with gas/buy gas grills/gas water heaters/gas dryers. Also, when my parents bought their first house, it was a big deal because it was an “All Gas House of Savings” I had been looking for an apartment and even then, gas heat is a selling feature. Rod, I understand about the hazard but most existing houses already have gas so why do they insist on burning it up for electricity? Maybe in the future there will be a law against burning oil and gas for electric power except in emergency generators. By the way, didn’t the nuclear power stations we have now take the place of oil burning power stations?
Bans on burning fuel for a certain purpose always have unintended consequences. Many cities have bans on idling your car for more than 1 minute. Fine in summer, but tell that to someone who is trying to de-ice a car from a weeklong snowstorm – too bad the law didn’t consider this, and so you run your engine, get reported by some greenie, and pay a fine.
We don’t need all these bans on inefficiency, so long as the free market is only regulated in a way that fundamentally makes sense. For example, IF we really think burning gas is harmful, then a tax on it is a much better way to have people limit their consumption.
This is where nuclear power is so much better: It’s waste products are so small, it’s hard to associate “guilt” with even massive consumption. That’s why green groups hate nuclear power and want it to be abolished first, even before fossil power plants, because they are fundamentally anti-energy. Nuclear power would relieve us of the atmosphere of “environmental guilt” and let us consume as much as we can afford, to reach as high a standard of living as we can.
Massachusetts has raised profitable political manipulation to a high art. It’s usually only the crass and unsophisticated ones, who stuff bribe money into their brassieres, who ever go to prison.
For the rest, the elaborate contraptions that have been devised in Massachusetts for turning political influence and public money into personal wealth are really breathtaking in their elegance and inventiveness once you start to understand them.
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