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19 Comments

  1. (Sarcastic font) But Rod, didn’t the fracking industry debunk that other similar study that had estimated that the GHG impact of fracked gas was approximately equal to coal by stating that methane releases from fracked wells had been over-estimated/approximated? (/end sarcastic font)

    I can’t quite recall who had done the previous, allegedly debunked study (I think it was a professor from the northeast, maybe an Ivy League school like Princeton or Columbia?), but it sounds like this new data could provide some validation.

    1. @Joel:

      The man’s name is Howarth and he is a professor at Cornell. His work is described in the Nature article with a link to his paper that included estimates of methane emissions. The difference with this study is that it includes methane MEASUREMENTS by NOAA that confirm Howarth’s estimates. In fact, the numbers that NOAA measured provided a range of actual emissions that includes numbers that are even larger than Howarth’s were.

  2. Money does rule America now. Not just in this particular corner of the universe. Of course it always does to some extent. The degree just waxes and wanes over the years but is pretty high right now. The citizenry has itself largely to blame.

    Education is the key. Unfortunately a part of that is when you hurt people…physically, financially, healthwise, whatever … they tend to catch on eventually. What you are doing is helpful in this area, depending on how many you can reach.

    Although the technical facts, and the track record provide a very positive story, I’m hopeful that as the new reactors are completed, in China, in Europe, wherever that there will be even more positive things to say. Pointing out the negatives of fossil fuels is good, but we need both halves of the equation.

    1. “Money does rule” — you are so right. Worst of all, it controls the information and education that people get from the “free” mass media, even PBS, because they’re all dependent on “commercial” support. Notice how much PBS news gets from Chevron, ADM, etc.?

  3. No, here is the best quote from the article:

    Natural gas might still have an advantage over coal when burned to create electricity, because gas-fired power plants tend to be newer and far more efficient than older facilities that provide the bulk of the country’s coal-fired generation. But only 30% of US gas is used to produce electricity, Howarth says, with much of the rest being used for heating, for which there is no such advantage.

    So I guess we can go back to burning coal to heat our houses, eh? Good thing none of the previous owners removed the old coal chute on the side of my house.

  4. I regret that so many in the nuclear industry have become what I call CO2-climate alarmists. The science underlying the scary stories is shoddy. Empowering the alarmists is a dastardly thing to do to the people of the world. The environmental advantages of nuclear are quite significant even without giving a whit of credence to CO2-climate alarmism.

    Rod your headline here emphasizes “not clean”, but the body only seems to deal with methane. Is there anything dirty about methane other than its relatively high ‘global warming potential’?

    1. Steve – yes, methane is a pollutant that has other negative effects when released in sufficient concentrations.

      As is the case with radioactive materials, CO, CO2, SOX, NOX etc, the danger is in the dose. A small amount of methane is aways being released by natural processes like farting, but if the concentration gets too high, it qualifies as pollution.

    2. By the way, I am not an alarmist. The world is not going to experience catastrophic effects anytime in the near future if you have a short term view of the world.

      However, I recognize the importance of inertia and the benefits of taking early action to avoid rocks and shoals when you are driving an enormous “ship” like the entire world economy. It is going to take us a very long time to alter our current course and speed and if we do not start soon, it will take a lot more force and be a lot more painful to make the change happen.

      We have the emission free power source that we need and it is available NOW. Why wait and keep dumping an ever growing quantity of CO2 into the atmosphere and into the ocean just so we do not offend anyone who already has the wealth and power that hyping hydrocarbons can bring?

      1. Rod : “Why wait and keep dumping an ever growing quantity of CO2 into the atmosphere and into the ocean just so we do not offend anyone who already has the wealth and power that hyping hydrocarbons can bring?”

        I don’t think your presentation of CO2 with a conspirationnist tone is honnest.
        CO2 is plants’ food, that’s a fact. There are every good reasons to have more of it in the atmosphere than less. There is eg a meta-analysis of 279 published experiments which all show beneficial effects of CO2 enrichment and NO adverse effect (“FACE” study : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2004.01224.x/full ). If it can’t show that CO2 is good, what can ?

        Besides, the emission of CO2 from burning hydrocarbons is not only to please the rich as you implied but has tremendous advantages for countries which are replete with coal & gas & oil but too poor to afford nuclear electricity and are in need of jumpstarting its carbon based economic growth like rich countries did. Immediate and abundant energy for billions of poor people is not just a matter of politicking, it’s a matter of urgency and often of life and death. Without cheap energy, life is dark and short and those suggesting that cheap energy could be provided now without fossil fuels are lying to themselves and others.

        It’s beyond me that rather intelligent and reasonnable people like you are still on the AGW bandwagon when the science is shown to be so shoddy, the political interference so obvious, the policies based on it so detrimental to growth and prosperity.

  5. I am a nuclear advocate, and I strongly believe that nuclear energy is the way to sustainably produce the energy that human kind requires to sustain themselves at current and future population levels (yes, decision makers can force diffuse energy solutions on the world in ideological arrogance, but people will have to die to make this renewable without nuclear energy policy work).
    If the NRC will not license more than one new nuclear reactor every 33 years, is there a coal technology that is cleaner than natural gas that can produce power for America?
    There is a better way to use coal that produces no smoke, particulates, or radioactive contamination of the air and does so in a single step conversion of the chemical energy in coal directly into electricity without requiring burning the coal to drive a turbine, that better way is Direct Carbon Fuel Cells –
    While probably not that many people have considered it, direct conversion of the chemical energy in coal into electricity could permit facilitating the utilization existing coal resources while producing less GHG and atmospheric environmental impact (no smoke, particulates, NOx gas, or uranium or thorium into the air) than natural gas. Direct Carbon Fuel Cells have been successfully demonstrated to be a very high efficiency (>80% efficient) approach to using coal.
    DCFCs are molten salt technology [Carbonate salt (Na,K)2CO3 eutectic composition is used as an electrolyte – not Fluoride Salt as in a Thorium LFTR].
    Direct Carbon Fuel Cells are the least GHG producing way to use coal (about twice as efficient as the best coal fired power plant)
    [1] – John Cooper – DCFC – https://www.llnl.gov/str/June01/Cooper.html
    Direct Carbon Fuel Cells produce a greatly reduced and nearly pure stream of CO2 and some fully consumed solid carbon char as waste products (No smoke, no particulates, and no radio-isotopes into the atmosphere). Direct Carbon Fuel Cells are more efficient at extracting the chemical energy in coal than the best alternative fuel cells are at extracting energy from their fuels (hydrogen fuel cell. natural gas fuel cell. etc)

    1. Who says that the NRC will not license more than one new reactor every 33 years? I suspect that the rate for 2012 will be something on the order of 6-8 new reactors licensed. There is hope, with continued pressure and based on the integrity of 4 of the 5 sitting commissioners that the rate of approvals might even increase.

      It is a heck of a lot more important to keep working on that issue than to get distracted by other technical choices that are a lot dirtier and technically risky than nuclear fission reactors.

      1. My hope is that Rod is right, and after a long drought, NRC will in fact start granting licenses and approach the 42 month application processing time they promised in 2005 (but did not quite keep on the Vogtle license). It should however be remembered that as recently as 2009 there were no less than 30 applications for new COL licenses initiated as process at NRC and, after the 2011 collapse of projects like Calvert Cliffs expansion in Maryland and the South Texas Project, the field has dwindled to a much smaller number of active license applications (significant attrition). Getting a COL is far from a guarantee that the reactor will ultimately be successfully built, and realistically additional post COL license project attrition could occur as anti-nuclear forces threaten with harassing environmental and cooling technology lawsuits in US court each new nuclear power plant. America could be looking at very few nuclear reactors that make it all the way through the new licensing and construction process. In the early years of the NRC (1975-1979), NRC produced about 11 reactor construction licenses a year. None of those licenses (in excess of 30 NRC granted reactor construction licenses 1975-1979) ended up producing a single new successful operating US nuclear reactor.
        America needs more reliable sources of dispatchable power, and nuclear energy could well provide the power needed if regulatory obstacles were reduced to the level of the regulatory obstacles of our industrial competition (France and Asia). While a nuclear advocate, I am even more an energy advocate (and a bit of an old school non-ideological environmentalist), and feel that a record of efficient production of energy is one of the things that has distinguished the United States and greatly contributed to making the US a super power in the 20th century.
        More efficient and cleaner ways of using the fuel that still produces the largest amount of electricity in the US (coal) is a significant development.
        It is not widely appreciated that coal, when used in Direct Carbon Fuel Cells, is a LESS GHG generating fuel than Natural Gas (even when the Natural Gas is used in the most efficient way, as is the case with Bloom Energy natural gas fuel cells). Currently, one of the largest programs in DOE is carbon capture and sequestration, which attempt to take the smoke, particulates, and CO2 produced from burning coal and somehow store them underground (or even beneath the sea). In excess of $3 billion dollars has been budgeted by the current administration to pursuing Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, with very little to show for this investment to date. Direct Carbon Fuel Cells would cut green house gas emissions from use of coal IN HALF, and do so without requiring burning the coal and using turbine-generators to extract the energy (DCFC use a process that extracts the chemical energy in coal and turns that energy into DC electricity single step). This should be news to anyone who cares about the energy BIG picture, as you get greater benefit more quickly by improving the technology that produces the majority of your energy than you get by devoting the majority of your efforts into improving renewable energy technologies that have not so far shown that they can scale to electricity production percentages above ~2%.
        DCFC fuel cells were demonstrated to work at LLNL and produce energy from coal at cell efficiencies above 80%. This is a significant result for world energy production. The response of the current Administration to this demonstration has thus far been slight, as only a tiny DOE program in DCFCs currently is pursued at NETL Lab, and at at a funding level that will not produce a commercial scale test of this technology in less than 25 years. For the DOE investment of a million dollars (significantly less than the $3 billion DOE has budgeted for Carbon Capture and Sequestration), one industrial Megawatt scale Direct Carbon Fuel Cell could be built and tested. Verifying commercial scale DCFCs would be a valuable thing for the future of worldwide energy production. DCFC could make a significant contribution to addressing the problem of global energy scarcity and to mans long term climate challenges if successful experiments that were made of the technology at laboratory scale could be shown to work at commercial (Megawatt) grid scale.

  6. http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/everything-you-know-about-shale-gas-is-wrong/341

    “I have already shown that we do not have a 100-year supply of natural gas, and that gas production is not profitable at today’s prices. I also noted that the U.S. Energy Information Administration recently slashed its resource estimate by 42 percent.”

    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/End-of-the-Boom-The-True-State-of-the-Shale-Gas-Industry.html

    Very credible sources state that the estimate of a “100 year supply of natural gas in the US” is a lie and fraud; an overestimate by 10x or more.

    Utility executives who invest in natural gas turbines instead of nuclear capacity should be sued for malfeasance.

    1. Paul,

      Your links seem to do a very good job of echoing what Rod has been postulating for well over a year now in regards to the shale gas “boom”, of the present state being a well-conceived price war to get customers locked in to using NG/Methane as their fuel of choice.

      It is a rather brilliant strategy, but it is a shame that it will ultimately injure the level of prosperity of America in relation to what the outcome would be of a major domestic nuclear power plant build-out.

      1. Rather, I think those links provide new information, not an echo: that the purported “100 year supply” of natural gas due to the wonders of “fracking”…are fraudulent. If the information in these links is correct, as it appears, Obama has been taken for a ride (see SOU Speech) in calling for long-haul truck conversion to LNG and urban fleets to CNG, based on this non-existent abundance. On a different aspect of things: these links point to the massive indebtedness of the Gas Drillers who are selling at a loss, hoping they can hold out until prices go up. Well Chesapeake Energy just announced that they are selling off $10-12 Billion in assets to try to reduce their indebtedness! It is interesting to note that even the Saudi Royal Family can do minimal resource utilization planning, and strive to retain oil for exports with their proposed nuclear buildup. Whereas the USA is frivolously burning natural gas to generate electricity when nuclear can do a better job. The wonders of the free market include the generation of large numbers of sociopaths and morons, apparently.

        1. I’m not sure how closely you’ve followed Rod’s blog here for the past several years, but I think he has been postulating for quite a while that the abundance of gas available from fracking has been part of a concerted effort to get demand for NG locked in for a relatively long time. In that regard, this new information would seem to me to provide some confirmation to Rod’s assertion(s).

  7. So TIRED of commercials featuring “eco friendly” electric cars and trucks in happy pristine Disneyland forests! Why not the simple slogan that electric vehicles are only as clean as the power source that juices them?

    This thing about the Fukushima birds; how come I haven’t heard one peep of the idea it’s simply because, like whole towns and bullet trains, all their nests and habitats got royally washed away (and sewage contaminated too) all along that whole shoreline by the tsunami??

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  8. Carbon dioxide is only an indicator of the problem of fossil fuel consumption. Fossil carbon is not the only product for which we can thank the 64 million year Carboniferous Era. For every 12 tons of carbon sequestered underground, there are 32 tons of oxygen that were released to the atmosphere. Burning that carbon costs us the equivalent amount of oxygen.
    Now, the worst effect of burning 16 tons of methane is that it releases 44 tons of carbon dioxide, which makes it just that much more difficult for the Earth to continue getting rid, every hour, of as much energy as all human industrial processes needed in the whole of year 2002.

    We are changing the infra-red albedo of our planet at a rate catastrophic compared with the changes of the Carboniferous.

    But just to make a point, if we could import from Jupiter, for zero cost, as much methane as would suffice for a human population of 70 billion, we’d quite soon run out of oxygen.

  9. James Greenidge is right, and the neatest thing about building a lot of nuclear power plants would be, that when the electrical demand is low, they could be switched to charging batteries, filling hydrogen reservoirs, or possibly refilling pumped hydro storage electricity.

    I suspect, though, that the chief environmental impact of a clean nuclear powered electric battery car world would be the dead battery waste.

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