Purposeful price pumping by constraining supply
James Conca recently published a commentary on Forbes titled Closing Vermont Nuclear Bad Business For Everyone.
A major thrust of Conca’s initial post was highlighting the rapidly rising prices of electricity in New England that are being driven by an increasing reliance on natural gas as reliable power generators like the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and the Brayton Point coal plant are being encouraged to shut down by a number of activist campaigns and political actions. Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee published a post titled Soaring Prices in New England: An Update that includes additional details about the recently announced price increases and the ones that have not yet been announced.
Those electricity price increases are going to hurt all consumers and most businesses, but the pain will be greatest on those who can least afford to take corrective action. Businesses that sell or transport natural gas, produce equipment associated with burning natural gas, supply the wind and solar industry or build transmission lines will probably book increases in revenue that significantly outweigh their increased power bills.
Many consumers and businesses are going to be uncomfortably surprised; their elected and appointed leaders didn’t mention the costly effect that closing nuclear and coal plants would have on electricity prices. Many of them purposely obscured the effect that closing emission-free nuclear would have on the environment.
Conca’s article has attracted an active comment thread that is worth reading. One particular segment of the comment thread offers a clear view of a disturbing response to Conca’s concerns about higher power prices that deserves its own discussion. That segment starts with the following comment:
As a practical matter, there is no other way to achieve significant near-term reductions in US carbon emissions but to greatly reduce demand for energy in all of its forms. In turn, there is no other practical way to enforce these energy conservation measures except through policies which significantly raise the price of energy, including the price of electricity.
Constraining the supply of energy is one very effective means of raising its price. The US Northeast has chosen the pathway of enforced energy conservation as its primary energy management policy. Its conservation enforcement approach is being implemented through a series of environmental and regulatory policies which will inevitably result in ever-rising energy prices, which will in turn significantly dampen industrial and consumer demand for energy in the region.
The hard reality which we have to face is that providing cheap electricity to industry and to the public simply feeds a wasteful energy consumption monster. Unless energy prices rise significantly, forcing large changes in America’s energy consumption habits, it will not be possible to transform the American economy in ways that will make it truly sustainable for the long-term future.
The US Northeast and the US West Coast are the first major geographical regions in the United States whose political leadership clearly understands that if the American economy is to be transformed in ways that will greatly reduce its wasteful use of energy, the only approach that can possibly work is to raise the price of energy in all of its forms, thus making energy conservation not only an option, but a necessity.
People who have been following the energy discussion for many years will recognize that this philosophy has its gurus in people like Paul Ehrich and Amory Lovins who have produced several pithy quotes about the hazards of developing clean, abundant sources of power and making them readily available to average people. The energy conservation gurus like high energy prices because price serves as a way to ration power, which is apparently a product that the elitist gurus think most people should not have.
Another commenter supplied a response that is not uncommon among some participants in energy discussions.
“As a practical matter, there is no other way to achieve significant near-term reductions in US carbon emissions but to greatly reduce demand for energy in all of its forms.”
I can think of another way to significantly reduce US carbon emissions in the near term. Don’t shut down generating stations that produce base load electricity with zero carbon emissions.
I appreciate the noble ideals of the rest of your post but if purposely raising electricity prices to achieve reduced carbon emissions is your goal, shouldn’t you start by reducing the supply of carbon emitting sources?
In my opinion, Mr. Gower is being far too kind by crediting Beta Blocker with noble ideals. Raising prices for electricity, a vital commodity that is virtually impossible to live without in a modern environment, is not a noble goal; it is an elitist objective that will inevitably make life more difficult for people who are already struggling to make ends meet in a rather unsympathetic economy full of lowered expectations. Beta Blocker doubled down with the following comment:
Joshua Gower, the only way to guarantee that energy conservation measures are diligently pursued in this country is to make energy a very precious and expensive commodity.
If this means sacrificing low cost energy resources in the short term as one highly effective means of squeezing out wasteful energy consumption habits on the demand side of the equation, that is what has to be done.
Once base load demand for electricity has been significantly reduced through a combination of high electricity prices and government-imposed restrictions on expanded electricity production, the renewables will then have a much easier time of it competing against fossil fuel sources of electricity, primarily natural gas.
Regardless of what they might say publicly about why they are raising energy prices and are eliminating low-cost sources of electrical energy, reducing base load demand is what the political leadership in the US Northeast has to do in order to build a lasting foundation for going forward with the renewables.
Making these kinds of tough short-term decisions is the only practical way in which America’s total carbon emissions can be permanently reduced for the long term.
A skeptical part of me hopes that Beta Blocker’s comments are satire aimed at opening eyes so we can make progress on goals that align with my mission of abundant clean power for people, but I fear that the person writing that comment might have been completely serious about his ultimate objective.
Here is the comment I posted notifying Beta that I intended to start a new conversation based on his clear statements of intended purpose.
Thank you for stating your motive and end goals so clearly. I just wish you had been willing to post that comment under your real name.
Even if you are sincerely motivated and believe that higher prices will achieve the emissions reductions you desire, have you thought a little more deeply about the people who will receive enormous benefits from your actions?
An energy market with a supply that is constrained enough to result in higher sales prices generates massive cash flows directly into the pockets of the remaining suppliers. The multinational petroleum companies that supply most of the nation’s natural gas will be raking in the dough under the system that you want to impose. So will companies that own the pipelines, speculators trading on Wall St., and companies that are fracking the heck out of rural Pennsylvania and trying to do the same to New York.
Those companies are run by people who have excellent math skills and a keen understanding of the role of supply and demand. I am quite certain that they will applaud your efforts and supply continuing donations to the “non-profit” groups that adhere to your mission statement.
Coal, oil and gas interests have been funding the opposition to nuclear energy for at least 50 years because the thing that scares fossil fuel interests the most is energy abundance that drives prices down and reduces their profits to levels where they “just get by.”
I’m planning to copy your comments and produce a post on Atomic Insights later today to try to help a few more people understand exactly who they are working for if they take actions motivated by your philosophy of constraining supply to achieve emissions reductions.
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I believe “Beta Blocker” is essentially (without saying it directly or realizing it) saying that we need to live the way humans did 100+ years ago. Our modern lifestyle, whether we want to admit it or not, requires high amounts of energy.
More like 300+ years ago, as that’s roughly the length of time we’ve been using fossil fuels in a big way.
And wasn’t the world’s population 300 years ago less than 10% of today’s value, and over 90% of that living in miserable poverty?
No, I think he’s saying we have to put ourselves in a position to take advantage of declining renewable costs sooner rather than later. Appropriately high fossil fuel costs will force us to make a swift and much less awkward transition to clean energies that can ensure long term growth is possible. It’s the cheapest long term path towards keeping global warming from getting so expensive that economies collapse outright under the impossible weight of adaption.
Care to rebuild NYC, Boston, Tampa, or Miami outright on land 20 feet higher, somewhere else? Who’s paying for that? Who is paying for the water our agricultural lands are finding increasingly difficult to acquire, under more challenging heat and less dependable rain patterns? The increasingly scarce fish the oceans are struggling to provide for a growing population? The storm damage rebuilding necessitated by increasingly violent weather?
If we pretend the costs of a climate disrupted world are insignificant, we will be in for a horrible surprise we may ultimately never recover from. That is difficult, if not impossible to insure against under even current economic stresses. The sooner we extricate ourselves from 30+ gT of CO2 emissions/year, the less expensive it will be overall, and the more we will have preserved of our current standards of living for the duration.
When I read Beta Blocker’s comments I find it hard to believe this person cares that much about carbon emissions because if they did they would be displeased that a zero carbon energy source is shutting down. These are the words of someone that probably has large investments in renewable energy. I see an underlying message saying, “there is no way the unreliable energy sorce I have invested in can compete with an established infrastructure that does its job very well. I will just use the government to force them out of the market.”
Delusion, to put it politely. Extremely high energy costs mean 2 things: electricity, fuel, etc become luxury items; and extraction of the cheapest sources of energy, usually abundant coal and unconventional oil, becomes stupidly profitable within what little demand remains, while making derivative or over-regulated alternatives are unable to compete without mandates.
Except they won’t be luxury items in the way that a massage recliner or steam shower are. These forms of energy are intrinsic to social stability and upward mobility of men, women and children, with the promise of expanded opportunity for each successive generation.
What happens to the value chains and economies of scale that ultimately provide us with a choice of affordable domestic appliances and efficiency/productivity-improving consumer electronics, in a world of enforced energy scarcity? No more social media-coordinated grassroots climate change marches? Have these advocates informed their wives and girlfriend’s that women will likely be going back to daily manual laundry?
War is deceit.
It goes beyond that, though. If energy is needed to clean up CO2 to mitigate climate change, making energy too expensive will cause untold damage. How much energy will be required to de-acidify the oceans and prevent further extinctions?
It goes further than that. Poor people neither can afford, nor usually care about the environmental causes that these people claim to celebrate. A man with a freezing child will cut down the last tree in the world, if it will keep his child warm for another day. A man with a starving child will kill the last whale in the world to feed him.
Making everyone poor will also cause ecological disaster on a scale that these people can not imagine.
In Europe we have an actual example of this dynamic. Greece was (and still is) hit hard by the economic crisis, and the poor people of Greece have indeed turned to burning forests for heat due to lack of affordable energy.
Contrary to the obtuse ‘philosophy’ of people like “Beta Blocker”, expensive energy will make environmental protection harder, not easier, simply because expensive energy makes *everything* harder. Investments in clean technologies, efficient housing, pollution prevention measures, electric rail, etc, are more expensive when energy is more expensive. It is crazy to suppose that such investments become more affordable when energy costs rise so much that demand for energy is materially destroyed, as “Beta Blocker” is promoting.
Like Mr. Adams, I’m not 100% sure that “Beta Blocker” is providing his real opinion. He may indeed be engaging in satire. I’m rather hoping he is. However, “Beta Blocker’s” opinion is not new to me. During the course of seeking out discussion about energy and our common future with anyone who is up for it, I have come in close personal contact with a number of people who honestly seem to believe that sabotaging the global economy by cutting off the supply of cheap energy is the “only way” to prevent disastrous environmental destruction.
You are exactly right. In 2008 when the price of propane spiked in Asia, cooking gas became a large portion of a families monthly income. I watched while forests were literally turned into charcoal to provide heat to cook. It still makes me made.
Amazing. Pricing health and education beyond the reach of of a huge segment of our population, now we get to add energy to the list of assets available only to the elite. At least, that seems to be the future that this “beta” yahoo covets.
Last night on the news I saw film of whole neighborhoods having their water shut off in Detroit due to overdue payments. Although I believe in personal responsibility, there is something terribly wrong when large blocks of people in our inner cities are unable to afford basic services. Does this Beta jackass have a plan for providing energy to our nation’s impoverished citizens, or does their low societal standing render them undeserving?
Beta’s philosophy aligns quite well with that of the people who considered Ehrlich a guru because of his book The Population Bomb and subsequent work. One of his primary colleagues, John Holdren, is now the President’s Science Advisor.
Underlying the population control movement was a great deal of money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and directly from John D. Rockefeller III who thought that a growing human population was a grave risk to the planet. This movement was no some sort of fringe group; it spread throughout the halls of power and included such luminaries as Henry Kissenger, Jimmy Carter, and James Schlesinger. The philosophical roots of the adherents of population control can be readily traced to the eugenicists of the 1920s and 1930s who produced “master race” thinking and the idea that there should be forced sterilization of undeserving people.
In other words – yes, to people like Beta, human beings of low societal standing and poverty are seen as part of a scourge that should be encouraged to disappear.
Too bad he’s too cowardly to come here and comment. I note you kinda extended an invite to him in your responses. I think it would be sorta fun to poke him in the ribs.
May I assume you distinguish between “population control” and “population reduction”? Given sufficient access to education, family planning, and (ahem) cheap, plentiful energy, many societies appear willing to effect population reduction on their own.
I am in favor of individuals making their own decisions about the size and timing of their families. It is not a decision that should be made on a societal level. I’m well aware of the fact that human populations tend to stabilize in places where there is plentiful energy, a prosperous economy, good access to health care, and low rates of childhood mortality. That stabilization is the result of individual decision making.
Some people want large families and are good at being parents. Others are good at being parents but desire small families. Some don’t want the responsibility of raising a family. People who don’t want a family should have plenty of access to the means to ensure that situation without being forced to give up one of the best god-given parts of being a human being.
Thanks Rod. Yes, “voluntary reduction” is what I meant.
Rod said; “I am in favor of individuals making their own decisions about the size and timing of their families.”
I agree Rod; do you agree with me on this. “Individuals should pay the full cost resulting from the decisions they make.”
Imagine a man and a woman who produce 8 children and put them in the public school at $15,000 per kid, a $120,000 per year lifestyle subsidy. Do you agree that they should be paying that cost, at least after the first two?
I’ll have to take a pass on that question for some serious thought. All three of the families I know with 8 or more children have homeschooled most of their children through most of their pre-college years. My sample is by no means representative of the public; I went to a pretty high-powered school that produced some rather high achieving graduates. (In one of those families, it was the mother who was my classmate.) I also view public education as a potentially high-return-on-investment activity; but I have grave concerns about the trend that has been in place for many decades.
Here is another question for you – should people who choose not to have any children be fully responsible for all of their care as they enter into ages where they depend on others?
I think it depends on whether you feel any responsibility to your culture/civilization.
Children are our future; our society’s future. If you feel responsibility to your society, then you should be happy to help educate its future members. Of course, if that money is being used inefficiently, there’s plenty of room for complaint….
I learned a while back that economies depend on land, labor and capital. Capital is fluid in today’s world so I don’t think any country has a competitive advantage there. Other countries still have a significantly lower labor rate than the US. Cheap energy is somewhat equivalent to helping our labor rate be competitive with other parts of the world. A diminished supply of energy as Beta Blocker advocates will lead to US industries becoming less competitive. This, in turn, will lead to both lower wages and layoffs for US workers. This leads to decreased tax revenues. This leads to further deterioration in US infrastructure since there is no money for upgrades. It’s a widening downward spiral. Yeh – It’s bad news. I guess everybody else here said the same thing in different ways.
The whole country could end up like Detroit.
Beta Blocker could raise my blood pressure.
Whale oil used to be very expensive and that didn’t stop the over-hunting of whales.
I remember going into college feeling this way about energy use, that consumption is bad, that using things in general was something to feel guilty about. I blame this on “An Inconvenient Truth” and the ensuing criticism of gas-guzzling, big American SUVs and the like. I think it’s fair to criticize excessive use of anything, but raising the price of energy is abhorrent; it just hurts the people who DEPEND on energy, not the wealthy people who can afford to waste it.
I suspect that most students believe in doing more with more, but they just don’t know how. I believe they would be open to nuclear power from this perspective; most people already know that they don’t know much about it.
It’s funny, John D. Rockefeller probably did more to save whales from extinction than any other person alive before or since. His company cut the price of oil to such a level that whale oil became uncompetitive and so became a thing of the past. All through voluntary trade.
We need a Rockefeller of nuclear power to move us away from coal through producing a superior product at a much lower price.
If oil exploration and exploitation had been as over-regulated as nuclear electricity is today, then Rockefeller would never have managed to sell oil and the whales would be extinct.
There are plenty of folks who would be a “Rockefeller of nuclear power”. There are ridiculous societal obstacles in the way. The people who brought forth those obstacles are shooting society in the foot ( or maybe the gut).
I completely agree.
@Smiling Joe Fission
You’ve bought into the myth. Rockefeller eventually became the world’s richest man by doing whatever it took to capture control over the market availability of refined oil products. He brought “discipline” to the business of refining and transporting a raw material that was far easier to tap by following Drake’s advice than it was to hunt for whales. Without Rockefeller, the oil business would have still displaced whale oil. In fact, it probably would have happened sooner.
Hmm I’ve never heard this one before. Could you provide any source material for this claim?
Daniel Yergin, The Prize. PBS U-Tube video adapted from Yergin’s Pullitzer-Prize winning book. Chronicles journalist Ida M. Tarbell’s revenge take-down of John D. Budget the full 53 minutes — its absolutely riveting.
Talk about a doc trying to push a viewpoint. Great spooky organ music every time Standard Oil is mentioned. If that was a doc about nuclear power we would all be up in arms about its bias portrayal. I see no reason for me to take anything in that doc, or that book, for anything more than its entertainment value.
Ida Tarbell was a competitor to Rockefeller, of course she is going to produce articles with a negative view of Standard Oil. Pure Oil could not compete with the low prices Rockefeller could sell his oil for. But of course, Rockefeller was the devil and the Tarbell’s were God gifts to the world.
@Smiling Joe Fission
I recommend reading Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. It was written by a sympathetic biographer who had excellent access. Rockefeller was quite proud of his successful control schemes that ensured profitable prices by limiting competition and market access.
He did not run the best refineries or invent breakthrough technologies to enable more efficient drilling or conversion. He bought the pipes and railroads and ensured his competitors received inferior service at higher prices.
During my conversations with students about nuclear energy, I notice a consistent pattern. Practically all of them initially believe that nuclear power has issues that prevent it from being worthy even of consideration as a tool of environmental protection and bona fide economic development. But – probably due to their youth – they are almost always open and responsive to information that lays waste to their incorrect assumptions about what nuclear power is, is not, and can, and cannot do. The nuclear industry and (true) environmentalists alike should regard youths/students as a primary focus for the provision of reliable and objective information about nuclear power. It may well be there that the ongoing battle to save our common future is either won or lost.
It must be admitted that the suburban lifestyle of Britain’s colonial children (in the United States and Canada, and to a lesser extent in Australia and New Zealand) is highly wasteful. For example, Americans waste an area the size of Maine just on their (usually legally-mandated) large front lawns, along with an annual expenditure on lawn care of $40bn, 800 million gallons of gasoline per year for mowers, and 25 hours per householder.
However, US environmentalists tend to focus too much on measures which contribute little to solving actual environmental problems, but which at least are doable on an individual basis (which is very much not true of anything to do with nuclear power, for example).
The problem of excessive car use (for example) is not going to be solved by wealthy environmentalist spokespersons spouting anti-car propaganda while sitting smugly in their legacy walkable neighborhoods which ordinary people could not possibly afford to live in. It would need a wholesale revision of zoning laws (following the Japanese model perhaps) to eliminate car dependency by encouraging high-density mixed-used development in the vicinity of train stations.
Great point there about whale oil though — the whales would have been hunted to extinction had it not been for the development of alternative forms of lighting.
Re: George Carty
I pretty much disagree with everything you’re written here.
Having a pleasant environment in which to live is not wasteful. Having plenty of room for kids and pets to roam outside and play is not wasteful.
Is it physically possible to cram everyone shoulder to shoulder in high rises? Yes. Is it a good idea? Absolutely not.
The only reason we’re seeing a bump in the popularity of high density living at the moment, is because there’s a bump in the mid-20s, “Friends”-age population. Give them ten years, and there’ll be a similar bump in the popularity of suburban living. Right now they’re crowding together, trying to find mates, After they’ve found mates, they’re going to want homesteads where they can have a little land and raise some kids and vegetables.
This is a part of the environmental screed that I think is every bit as pernicious as the anti-nuclear portion. It encourages city planners to abuse the residents who are paying most of the tax base, and encourage policies designed to create water, electrical and service shortages. Of course, in that manner, it plays right into the hands of the commodity traders who benefit from scarcity.
Forgot, — not to mention the wealthy who don’t want to pay a fair share of the taxes to maintain infrastructure.
IIRC in most American suburbs the front lawn is completely open to the street (as householders are not permitted to fence it off), so it would be much less suitable for kids’ play than the back yard due to the danger that they will run into the street and be hit by a car.
Do the disadvantages of moving to car-free or car-lite living really outweigh the high costs of retrofitting American car culture for the post-petroleum era? Electric cars are very expensive to buy (especially if you live in an utterly unwalkable suburb and therefore need a car for every adult in the family) and synthetic fuel production is also extremely expensive (especially if it has to be carbon-neutral), not to mention inefficient. And the disadvantages of high-density living may well be overestimated in the popular imagination, due the memory of failed “towers in a park” experiments which were generally built in edge-of-city locations with poor transit access. Building high-density housing in car-dependent locations leads to the worst of both worlds — “towers in a parking lot”.
What exactly are you trying to say with your “It encourages city planners to abuse the residents who are paying most of the tax base, and encourage policies designed to create water, electrical and service shortages. Of course, in that manner, it plays right into the hands of the commodity traders who benefit from scarcity” ? Aren’t infrastructure costs generally higher in suburbia because everything is more spread out? And the only “scarcity” which inhibits the transition to a car-lite lifestyle is the scarcity of walkable real estate — which is why I suggested liberalizing zoning laws (note that although Houston doesn’t have zoning in the Euclidean sense, it still has minimum lot sizes and parking minimums, which is why it is still a car-dependent city).
The only reason we’re seeing a bump in the popularity of high density living at the moment, is because there’s a bump in the mid-20s, “Friends”-age population.
While a majority of the American population still prefers suburban living, there are still between 30 and 40% of the population who would prefer to live in a walkable urban area, but less than 10% of the total housing stock is in such areas.
That’s why pretty much any walkable urban neighborhood that isn’t overrun with gangbangers is insanely expensive. Developers cannot meet this demand (and thus make such areas more affordable) largely due to pro-sprawl government intervention (zoning laws, minimum lot sizes and parking minimums).
Beta Blocker, a quick path to becoming a third world country is to hold back on energy production. Nations that subsist with limited energy have the worst environmental conservation practices and the lifespan of their inhabitants is short. Energy is the basis of every economy. Increasing the cost of electricity in order to reduce consumption is nuts.
Two schools of thought have developed on the issue of a sustainable future. One, I dub the “high energy” approach and the other the “soft energy” approach. The “soft energy” approach proposed by Amory Lovins and supporters including Paul Erlich, and Jeremy Rifkin relies on renewable energy sources and conservation to meet our future energy needs. Paul Ehrlich, author of the bestseller, The Population Bomb (1968) predicted a major starvation event before 1985. The catastrophe he predicted didn’t happen because Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution prevented the loss of millions of lives to famine. In 1978, Ehrlich, apparently still pessimistic, wrote: “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
Amory Lovins, who was named by Time magazine as one of the world’s one hundred most influential people said, “We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the Earth or to each other.”
.Jeremy Rifkin, who Time magazine called, “the most hated man in science,” but who nevertheless exercises genuine influence in stemming acceptance of the application of molecular genetics principles in public policy debates wrote: “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”
Stewart Brand, producer of the Whole Earth Catalog, advocates a “high energy” approach. He de¬scribes his view as that of an Ecopragmatist. The Ecopragmatist shuns romantic notions that modern society might be guided back to an era when people lived simpler lives, or that a vastly less consumption-oriented world is possible. Instead he seeks real, high-capacity solutions to environmental challenges—such as nuclear power. Rather than buying into gloom and doom and skimping on energy, we should concentrate on making affordable energy available in developing nations. The people who want to maintain the deception that there is something bad about developing clean, safe, incredibly abundant, and emission free nuclear power to share with as many of the world’s people as possible, need to be challenged. If clean, cheap energy is available developing nations can manufacture goods for bettering their standard of living and also their environment. Developing countries gain wealth by selling goods to the rest of the world. The only clean energy source that is abundant and cheap is nuclear fission. It is not a sin to embrace nuclear fission power or to have a growing economy.
Prosperity and urbanization cause birth rates to drop. The solution to the world’s over-population problem is abundant, cheap, clean power. The world is experiencing a slowing of population growth. The actual annual growth in the number of people fell from a peak of 88.0 million in 1989 to a low of 74.6 million in 2009, and is projected to fall steadily to about 41 million per annum in 2050.
Electricity is the commodity that separates developed countries from the rest. Access to electric power is a key component of alleviating poverty and “an indispensable element of sustainable human development,” according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). “Without access to modern, commercial energy, poor countries can be trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment.”
Your comment deserves promotion to the front page. It will fit nicely as a reference in a piece I am developing that traces the deep involvement of the Rockefeller family with the science of molecular genetics, eugenics, the linear no-threshold dose response assumption, and the population control movement.
Did you know, for example, that the Rockefeller Foundation funded Hermann Muller’s 1920s vintage fruit fly experiments at the University of Texas, that the Rockefeller Foundation initiated the 1955 request to the National Academy of Sciences to study radiation risk, that the Genetics Committee of the BEAR 1 panel that the NAS formed in response to that request was chaired by the grant maker from the Rockefeller Foundation who funded molecular biology and genetics from 1932 to 1959, and that at least four additional members of the 9 person committee were Rockefeller Foundation grantees?
Norman Borlaug’s work in Mexico was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation
After a trip to Mexico, Vice-President Henry Wallace asked the Rockefeller Foundation to support a nurture nourishment program in the central highlands, the poorest region in Mexico. The Rockefeller Foundation felt obligated to make a token response to the Vice-President. The Foundation offered to pay the salaries for four young agronomists. Borlaug, who had not worked with wheat was assigned make improvements in the Mexican wheat crop.
Initially, Borlaug’s work was concentrated in the central highlands, where problems with rust and poor soil were most prevalent. Borlaug realized that he could speed up breeding by taking advantage of the country’s two growing seasons. In the summer he would breed wheat in the central highlands and then immediately take the seeds north to Sonora.
Big shots at the New York Foundation did not like Borlaug. His bosses at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York send committees to investigate, and more than one reported back that this rookie wheat breeder doesn’t know what he is doing and is wasting the sponsor’s dollars and everyone’s time. Since the Rockefeller Foundation had not authorized the growing a second crop, the group of young agronomist kept Borlaug’s work at Sonora a secret from the Rockefeller Foundation bosses. Borlaug paid for his own transportation to and from Sonora and at Sonora he used none of the tools or equipment provided by the Rockefeller grant.
Borlaug’s employer, the Rockefeller Foundation is quitting its fling with Mexician agriculture after15 years. In the words of Noel Vietmeyer, Borlaug,vol 3,”Peering down from the hazy heights of a Manhattan skyscraper, both the foundation’s president and agriculture director fail foresee their wheat man lifting food globally, winning a Nobel Prize or conferring eternal credit on themselves. With no qualm they end his program and abolish his position.”
At that point he had well trained Mexican hands to take over the project leadership and he had nearly completed his gift to world’s malnourished. The gift was a short straw, rust resistant high milling quality, wheat that thrives in a wide range of climate conditions and produces fantastic yields. Later the work in India and Pakistan was jointly funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Always nice to see your articles detailing your experiences in online discussions about nuclear energy, Mr. Adams.
Mr. “Beta Blocker” is quite a find. People who are as outspoken as him are rare, in my experience, though people who share his opinion are not as rare. I’ve run into them too often for comfort.
One thing that “Beta Blocker” has not explained is why he insists on raising the cost of energy by destroying our capacity to produce cheap energy. Why does he not insist on doing what we do in Europe: i.e. raising taxes on energy. This is an economically far more targetted, controllable and efficient way to encourage the efficient use of energy than his crude method.
I think that this may be a good counterargument to all who insist that energy must become more expensive in order to stimulate energy efficiency and curb ‘waste’. If they think rising energy costs are the be-all and end-all of sustainable development, why don’t they simply lobby for increasing energy taxes?
Another thing “BetaBlocker” has not explained is how he intends to deal with the “Green paradox” which is roughly the theory that whenever one region reduces it’s consumption of fossil fuels through subsidies, laws, mandates or even simply greater efficiency, this will primarily result in a reduction of the international market price of that fuel and hence to a greater consumption of that fuel in other regions.
(in German: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_gr%C3%BCne_Paradoxon:_Pl%C3%A4doyer_f%C3%BCr_eine_illusionsfreie_Klimapolitik)
What would “Beta Blocker’s” response to that be? Would he not agree that the enabling of energy-cheaper-than-fossils – which can only credibly be nuclear energy(!) – is a far more effective, global, and permanent method of making sure that fossils stay in the ground?
@Joris van Dorp
I’ll attempt to speak for Beta. The “Green Paradox” is avoided when the actions are focused on pushing cheaper supplies out of the market. That action, when successful, lowers the overall supply of energy around the world without immediately altering demand. The resulting higher prices bring about demand destruction by pushing the customers who can least afford the new prices out of the market. Shutting down coal plants in developed countries might enable cheaper coal to be burned somewhere else, but shutting down nuclear plants or preventing them from being built in the first place only lowers overall energy supply.
The cheaper uranium made available from Fukushima related closures, for example, has merely impoverished uranium mining companies. It has not resulted in any real incentive for new nuclear plant construction and does not allow any existing plants to be operated at any higher rate of production because they are generally already running at full power as much as possible.
I read most of what Beta Blocker wrote. I think that he is not expressing his own opinion as much as reflecting the opinion of the voters in VT. They voted for governments who gave them what they asked for – higher electricity costs. I also think he accurately reflects the opinion of the voters and government of VT. Not all the voters but enough to elect the current majority.
Do you have any evidence that the elected officials or the campaigning officials stated that their actions would result in higher electricity prices? From what I can tell from the outside, the published communications were all about how quickly wind and solar costs were falling and how collecting “free” energy would lower, not raise rates.
In other words, the voters were flim-flammed and the victims of a hoax. I roger that they might bear some responsibility for not properly questioning the pitch, but the real responsibility is on the liar, not the people who were told the lies.
I understand that the Politicians were lying. But the content of those lies was challenged often and clearly, at least by Meredith, yourself and others. There was opportunity to make a different decision about the people that were elected. There was an opportunity to join in loud protest. There was enough of a debate for people to take time to read both sides, if they were interested. For me the lie starts with the assumption that many make – that Corporations are evil because they have a profit motive. This assumption lends bias toward the Entergy Louisiana meme. In other words, if the debate had been clearly about price, yes I agree that the politicians were selling “free wind.” Most of it methane from the smell. But they were selling more than free wind. They were selling a rural utopia and those with an inclination toward that type of thinking were quick to buy and not look too closely at the product. They were selling fear of radiation, fear of big corp, fear of being guilty for the generations to come who would have to “deal with the waste.” They were selling fear of those who calmly explained the difference between Sv and micro sieverts. They were selling cookies, fun and mockery. Fear of the evil and fun – what is not to like?
People who buy these things are the type who vote consistently for politicians who promise flimflam and who tend to deliver.
I agree with your overall analysis, I just believe people are smart enough to find the truth if they really want to. For the last 35 years when I read the paper I ask myself – how does the reporter know that? I don’t assume something is true because it is written. This goes back to a basic curiosity and an bad experience with an interview I gave when I was still in college.
You are right that Meredith and others were doing what they could without any financial support to get the word out. Unfortunately, we are not yet in an age where the majority of people turn to the internet and search engines for their information. Atomic Insights is one of the most well-read and longest lasting nuclear focused sites on the internet, but the monthly readership here is only about 15,000-20,000 people and they are spread all over the world. I doubt that more than a few hundred are from Vermont. Meredith reaches more people in that state, but a pretty fair portion of her audience probably comes from the plant’s employee base.
The liars had much larger megaphones amplified by the ability to take advantage of mass media coverage. They also had professional organizers who could afford to wage actions and put on shows that the Meredith and Howard team could only dream about or view with some jealousy.
Even when I was looking for a site like Rod’s a few years ago, it took me several months to find it. My initial searches on what I thought were decent nuclear related keywords turned up very little — although I was probably doing Austin-centric searches, being interested/agast in/at the “reasoning” behind Austin’s energy choices.
All I managed to find that came close was Robert Bryce’s blog. He lives in Austin. Eventually Bryce referenced Brave New Climate and that led me here.
But even being a curious, pro-nuclear person, it was not easy to find my way here.
@Jeff : Looking for good information about the Fukushima situation in March 2011, it did not take me long to find out that the best I could see was on the brave new climate site, and then to arrive to atomic insight from there.
@Rod: I agree 100%. But consider a moment Abe’s Axiom:
Not to be confused with Niccolo’s Notion:
Now, It is my observation (and Niccolo’s as well) that the number of people you can fool all the time is generally considerably smaller than the number you think it is, and in fact the only person you can reliably fool all the time is yourself. Niccolo warns against that.
So when I look at, and occasionally engage with, followers of for example Drs. Mark Jacobson and Mark Cooper and Helen Caldicott, all of whom appear to genuinely believe their own… distortions, I wonder: how did it all start? How do these intelligent, thoughtful people so back themselves into an ideological box and then so paint over their last window into reality they can no longer recognize that is what they have done? Where do the con artists lose sight of what they are, and justify continuation of the hoax on what they sincerely believe are moral, ethical, and economic grounds?
Yes, I realize the amateur historian in you has asked the same question, and regularly dumpster-dives the dust-bin of history in an attempt to find out. Good articles. But I mean, I’ve just visited another
worldthread where someone was citing a UCS argument to the effect e.g. when EDF had to curtail nuclear output summer 2003, that as we’ve already lost the battle and global warming is inexorable, we will never be able to afford the river water to cool new nuclear plants, nor indeed the ones we have now. He did admit the existence of mitigation technology. But it’s too expensive.
It’s always funny how energy issues discussions drift off into general political views.
I hope that is especially true here on Atomic Insights, which is hosted by a guy who earned the nickname of “Fuels” from his Naval War College classmates. In almost any class discussion about history, geopolitics, or warfighting capability, I could divert the discussion to the influence of fuels in motivating or resolving the issue.
Energy is one of the fundamental underpinnings of modern society. It has motivated a large percentage of major political actions for the past 175 years, including the American Civil War.
I thought you were the rear gyro from a propensity for getting spun up?
I had a long naval career. Left my Engineer Officer tour in 1990 and attended War College from 2000-2003.
There was plenty of time for several nicknames.
As a JO — circa 83-84 — some shipmates called me “The Thinker.”
@Rod Adams, yes, families should be given their own choice as to it’s size. But family planning offers these families the choice that my own grandparents didn’t have (both landed me with about 10 aunts and uncles *each*). My own wife comes from a family of 9. One of the things that *society* provides is education and that *choice* is what separates us from the instinct driven animals of lesser species.
Population stability does in fact come from higher development (i.e.: higher energy usage per capita) though there are some notable exceptions: Ireland & Italy, for one, which has a high birthrate despite development. But overall ‘steady state’ growth is always good and allows society to adapt to incremental growth in all areas.
Energy, however, is not and should not be a question of individual choice, but a societal one. The successful nuclear nations have had massive pro-nuclear governmental intervention into the energy economy. We much repeat that here.
Don’t you mean had a high birthrate? Italy now has a very low birth rate, in common with most of Southern and Eastern Europe.
Rod asks; ” should people who choose not to have any children be fully responsible for all of their care as they enter into ages where they depend on others?”
Yes, as should people who have children. The decision to help ones parents, relatives, friends or a stranger is a gift, not an obligation.
A question for you Rod.If the government gave every 18 year old a new car and a free gas card, would they maintain it as well as if they had to earn the money to buy it through hard work? Or would they drive it until the engine seizes from oil starvation and demand a new car from the government.
Raising a child without subsidy would be an expensive lifestyle. Only people who strongly want a child would choose that lifestyle, and they would be most likely to love it and instill a sense of ethics and responsibility.
Each time the government cheapens child rearing it condemns more children to a life in homes where these qualities are diminished. Look at the kids selling drugs, stealing cars and striping houses in Detroit. Would more subsidies have made them model citizens?
You’re asking the wrong guy. The government paid for my public education 1-12 (no K back then). I was fortunate enough to be raised by an engineer and an English teacher in a house full of books. One of the rules in our house was that we could only watch TV 2 hours per week but we could read books for entertainment as often as we wanted. I got good grades without working very hard at all and had time to participate in a very time consuming sport. I was again fortunate to be born into a house where there were adequate resources to pay the costs of being on the swimming team.
Then I was lucky enough to have a guidance counselor at my public high school who pointed out that the US Naval Academy was a good place for a kid who was interested in nuclear energy, had good grades, good test scores and was a reasonably fit athlete with no disqualifying handicaps other than needing corrective lenses. With a waiver for the nearsightedness — and a good deal of patience in filling out all of the required paperwork — I was lucky enough to earn an appointment.
Then the government paid all of the costs of my undergraduate education — including room and board — along with a small paycheck. The government even helped to arrange a low interest loan for my first car. The payback — I had a guaranteed job for the next five years whether I wanted it or not.
Later the government paid for my full time resident graduate education — again for the low price of agreeing to keep working at a pretty good job for a few more years.
I like to think that the taxpayers have received reasonable value for their investment in me, but I am hardly an example of someone who had to work hard and earn the money to pay for things like education before I received the benefits.
By the way, my dad came from a very poor farming family, but had the “good fortune” to be 17 years old in 1942. He served as an IC technician in the Navy from 1942-46 and then went to college on the GI bill. That opportunity made a world of difference in the prospects for me and my siblings.
“Each time the government cheapens child rearing it condemns more children to a life in homes where these qualities are diminished. Look at the kids selling drugs, stealing cars and striping houses in Detroit. Would more subsidies have made them model citizens?”
These are conservative times in many areas. Maybe pumping a little money into those kids would be like watering the seed corn. Some may still wither and grow stunted, but those others will make the investment worthwhile. Is there anything wrong with a helping hand?
It really depends whose child-rearing is being supported. Parents tend to have children like themselves. Subsidizing the industrious and law-abiding is going to have very different results than subsidies for the shiftless and criminal.
Depriving people of energy is also a tool of oppression, and can be used to demoralize and dehumanize a foe, or a segment of society targeted due to its ethnic, religious, or racial make up………
Why must Gaza wait in the dark?
When I asked my colleague in Gaza about her biggest dream, her answer made an impression on me: “I dream of what life would be like with 24-hour electricity.” This was the answer of a single, mid-career, western educated, professional woman who lives in the more affluent part of Gaza City. Her response suggests the depth of despair among Palestinians throughout Gaza.
Day-to-day life in Gaza between Israeli attacks is unworthy news for Western mainstream media. As a result, few people are aware that electricity in Gaza is a luxury, with blackouts lasting 16-18 hours—every day. This bitter reality has warped people’s lives for years now, as they must plan their daily activities around the 4-6 hours when they anticipate electricity, even if that means waking up to put laundry in the washing machine in the middle of the night.
Contrary to common belief, the severe undersupply of electricity in Gaza is not new, and not a result of the latest military aggression. Gaza has not had uninterrupted electricity since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. In an attempt to compensate for the Israeli disruption of Gaza’s power supply, the Palestinians established their first power generation plant in 2004. Ever since, Israel has regularly limited the supply of electricity and industrial fuel needed to operate this only power plant in Gaza. Israel’s ability to deny families in Gaza the energy they need is nothing less than collective punishment of Palestinians—punishment whereby an entire community is made to pay for the acts of a few.
Who do you think will suffer worse from the end of the Petroleum Age — the Americans with their sprawling, car-dependent suburbia, or the Arabs with their near-total dependence on imported food paid for by oil revenue?
Almost all of my mileage is electric now. I’d suffer almost not at all.
Rod Adams says
Those companies are run by people who have excellent math skills and a keen understanding of the role of supply and demand. I am quite certain that they will applaud your efforts and supply continuing donations to the “non-profit” groups that adhere to your mission statement.
Coal, oil and gas interests have been funding the opposition to nuclear energy for at least 50 years because the thing that scares fossil fuel interests the most is energy abundance that drives prices down and reduces their profits to levels where they “just get by.”
The fossil fuel industry would not have been able to kill the nuclear industry without the assistance of Big Green. Imagine if GM wanted to shut down Tesla; no one would listen to them. However if GM could convince Big Green to demonize silent electric cars that run over blind people, the optics are completely different. It’s not a greedy corporation trying to beat its competitor via regulation, instead a noble organization is trying to save blind people by regulating dangerous electric cars.
Big Green spends $3-4 billion per year demonizing nuclear, coal, US natural gas and oil (offshore and ANWR), and the Canadian oil sands (Keystone XL pipeline). Big Green’s opposition to nuclear is not just historical. The recent shut down of Vermont Yankee, opposition to India’s Kudamkulam reactors , and the hype surrounding Fukushima are Big Green projects.
If Big Green had not shut down the US nuclear industry, all the US coal plants would have been replaced by now and US CO2 emissions would be below 1990 levels. CO2 is just the next attempt to shut down the coal industry after acid rain failed. France and Ontario are the only examples of successfully curtailing CO2 emissions and both implemented nuclear. If Big Green was serious about CO2 emissions, they would be promoting nuclear rather than demonizing it.
Look at the different treatment of LNG exports versus coal exports. Coal terminals on the West coast to export Wyoming coal have been blocked by Big Green. Rather than allow US coal, displaced by natural gas, to compete with natural gas in other countries, Big Green is protecting foreign natural gas suppliers; 25% of the world’s coal reserves are in the process of being sidelined.
US LNG export terminal licenses have been issued equal to the increase in natural gas production from fracking. The world price of natural gas is $12 -$16 per tcf versus $4-6 per tcf in the US. By allowing US LNG exports, the US price of natural gas will be tied to the European/Asian price of natural gas just as the US price of oil is tied to the world price of oil. Even if no US NG is exported, US NG prices will rise to $12-16 per tcf because if they do not rise the NG will be exported to get the higher price.
The major natural gas producers, Russia, Qatar, and Iran are trying to tie the price of natural gas to the price of oil and to form a cartel like OPEC. Thus the effect of US LNG exports will be to set the price of US natural gas equal to the price of oil and OPEC controls the price of oil.
If natural gas increases from 25% to 50% of the supply for electricity and its price increases from 200% to 400% ie. to the European/Asian price, then the price of electricity will rise from 50% to 150% ie. from 10 currently to 15 – 25 cents per kWh. A $150 per month electric bill would become $225 to $375 per month. This will certainly reduce the demand for electricity (Big Green’s objective) and push the poor further into poverty.
It doesn’t matter if electricity from nuclear or coal is cheaper, utilities will be prevented by regulation from using the cheaper fuel. After the US burns thru its supply of natural gas to produce electricity, OPEC and the natural gas cartel will control the US price of electricity as well as the US price of gasoline. Consider the power that Russia has over the Ukraine and Europe by supplying the natural gas they need to produce electricity. Imagine if OPEC becomes an agent of foreign policy rather than just an economic agent. Or maybe it already is. The price of oil dropped after Russia (a major oil exporter) invaded Afghanistan and it rose after the US (a major oil importer) invaded Iraq.
Consider a different alternative. In the US, coal is replaced by nuclear and the use of natural gas for heating is replaced by electricity (electricity already meets 50% of the US heating needs). What happens to all that extra natural gas from fracking and substituting electricity for natural gas in heating? The natural gas could be converted to methanol and used as a substitute for oil in transportation (see Olah The Methanol Economy 2006 ; Olah has a Nobel prize in Chemistry).
The effect of making natural gas competitive with oil in the transportation market is to cap the US price of oil at the US price of natural gas with a lot of the US natural gas demand eliminated. In effect the price of oil would be capped at around $2.50-$3.00 per gallon with natural gas at $4-6 per tcf. At $12-16 per tcf, methanol from natural gas is not competitive with $6 per gallon oil.
When the supply of natural gas is used up, coal can also be converted to methanol. If the supply of coal is used up (after hundreds of years or for environmental reasons), nuclear can produce hydrogen from water that can be combined with CO2 to produce methanol. If the methanol is fed to a fuel cell in an electric car, the output is water and CO2. Water and CO2 are the input to the methanol energy cycle, along with uranium. This is an energy cycle with no pollution and conservation of its major inputs, water and CO2. Surely this is what Greens mean by sustainable.
This strategy can be implemented globally to reduce oil from a strategic commodity essential to the survival of all developed nations to just another commodity like salt, iron, or cocoa beans. Before refrigeration, salt was a strategic commodity essential for the preservation of food. Now nobody cares about salt. Nuclear and methanol have the potential to produce the same effect upon oil. (see Korin Turning Oil into Salt 2009).
Big Green has played a major role in protecting foreign oil and natural gas from US competition. Big Green has demonized nuclear, coal, offshore US oil and natural gas, is starting on fracking and the Canadian oil sands, and promotes renewables which is an indirect method of promoting natural gas (unreliables require natural gas to overcome intermittency; natural gas without renewables, produces less CO2). Big Green also opposes natural gas to methanol for transportation.
And for the record, Big Oil is small fish compared to the national oil companies ie. OPEC. OPEC pulls in almost $1 trillion per year with a 95% profit margin. It would certainly make sense for OPEC to spend a few billion dollars per year in a campaign to cripple their competition. The Organization of Islamic Countries, with 56 members, is the largest voting bloc in the United Nations. The Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change is a creation of the United Nations. The IPCC Summary for Policy Makers is prepared by a group of government representatives. The IPCC proposal is for the developed countries to give the developing countries $100 billion per year and for the developed countries to limit the growth of their economies by giving up cheap energy in favor of expensive intermittent energy.
It doesn’t make much sense to me but for some reason Big Green is promoting it.
You have provided a lot of thoughts and information, but I am not sure if you have tied it all together.
IMO “Big Green” is a creation of very wealthy and powerful interests that seek to maintain their wealth and power by frustrating progress. I reached that conclusion by recognizing that “Big Green” does not produce a product or service that people routinely purchase in free trade, so its ability to attract resources has to come from somewhere.
When I point to oil and gas interests, I am not limiting my aim to the four multinational oil companies remaining from what used to be called the Seven Sisters. My term is meant to include a much broader universe and certainly includes the countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kuwait, and Norway for whom oil and gas are a major source of income and world influence.
I’m not a fan of methanol because the same raw materials and heat input could just as easily be used to produce synthetic diesel or gasoline that would be indistinguishable from the products that are in world wide use already. I want to change the underlying power structure, not waste time and money by needing to modify a few billion internal combustion engines or the vast infrastructure that transports and delivers the relatively clean and very useful fuels to customers.
Unlike you, I am a small-scale fan of methanol. It’s much more efficiently produced from syngas than long-chain hydrocarbons, and can be burned in downsized engines using very high compression (more efficient on the consumption side). If we are working with a limited supply of feedstock (e.g. biomass), efficiency is critical.
For those end-uses which need liquid fuels, methanol is probably a better option for anything that is not weight-critical (like aviation).
Thanks for the comment.
When natural gas is converted to gasoline, the first step is to convert it to methanol and then convert the methanol to gasoline. The gasoline vs methanol discussion becomes whether or not the cost of the fuel conversion from methanol to gasoline outweighs the advantages (billions of gasoline engines, distribution infrastructure, and higher energy density) that gasoline has over methanol. If it weren’t for the OPEC cartel, I doubt that anyone would support methanol as a substitute for gasoline.
Conversion of an existing gasoline car to methanol is trivial from an engineering perspective. Some rubber seals and the software in the engine control unit require modification. However the EPA made methanol engines illegal in 2012 despite methanol being less polluting than gasoline. The auto companies also oppose this conversion by voiding your warranty despite almost all cars currently being produced being flex fuel capable. The sovereign wealth funds of the OPEC countries have acquired significant positions in the auto companies.
In another article Zubrin, who is literally a rocket scientist, made the following points:
“If we assume the conservative five-to-one elasticity ratio, it would take the addition of the equivalent of 3.3 billion barrels of oil per year (10 percent of the world’s supply) to decrease oil prices by 50 percent (which would incidentally bankrupt the Iranian government, thereby stopping its nuclear-bomb program dead in its tracks).
If all of this were to be contributed by methanol, an additional production of about 122 billion gallons per year would be needed. To make this from natural gas would require 8.7 trillion cubic feet per year. Currently, world natural-gas production stands at 120 trillion cubic feet per year, with the United States contributing about 29 trillion cubic feet of the total. At our current 6 percent per year rate of increase of natural-gas production, the entirety of the needed expansion of natural-gas capacity could be developed from American sources inside of five years.
The result would be the effective elimination of oil as a significant factor in our balance-of-trade deficit, the marginalization of the Islamist and other petroleum-financed tyrannies, and a worldwide advanced-sector economic boom driven by cheap oil.”
The global methanol industry currently produces 100 million metric tons or 33 billion gallons per year mostly from natural gas. To produce an additional 122 billion gallons of methanol for transportation is about a 400% increase in industrial capacity. While this level of increased capacity is certainly a challenge, it is also doable as we are talking about a construction project rather than a research project.
The Open Fuel Standard Act of 2013 promotes fuel competition by mandating that by 2016, 30% of manufactured cars be (1) a vehicle that operates on natural gas, hydrogen, or biodiesel; (2) a flexible fuel vehicle capable of operating on gasoline, E85, and M85; (3) a plug-in electric drive vehicle; or (4) a vehicle propelled solely by fuel cell or by something other than an internal combustion engine. The easy route for the auto industry is flex fuel vehicles that are already being produced. Good sources of info about this proposal are Open Fuel Standard, the Fuel Fredom Foundation, and the Institue for the Analysis of Global Security. There is even a movie called Pump, similar to Pandora’s Promise, coming to theaters soon.
While I oppose government mandates on principle, the correct role for the government in free market system is to ensure competition. The anti trust laws are an example of how the government can promote competition. Under US law, the OPEC cartel is illegal. However there is no way to enforce anti trust law against the OPEC cartel. Even the military option seems completely useless in this regard. Forcing the auto companies to produce cars that support fuel competition appears to be a minimally intrusive approach to dealing with the OPEC cartel.
“Which would incidentally bankrupt the Iranian government, thereby stopping its nuclear-bomb program dead in its tracks”
Iran has a “nuclear bomb program”???? Gee, I guess you know more than the IAEA, huh? Maybe ya better clue them in.
IMO the fundamental energy policy issue is whether the natural gas bonanza that fracking has produced will be used to substitute for coal or for gasoline. If OPEC is the problem, then substitution for oil is the solution. If CO2 is the problem then substitution for coal is the solution provided that nuclear is not used to replace coal.
If nuclear is used to replace coal for environmental reasons, then natural gas is available to break OPEC’s ability to set the price of fuel for the transportation sector. Natural gas converted to methanol or gasoline can not completely displace gasoline from oil because the cost of oil from the Middle East is less than $5 per barrel. However, natural gas can cap the price that OPEC sets for oil because otherwise the market share of natural gas in the transportation sector will increase.
If you agree with the above then whether natural gas should be compressed or converted to methanol or gasoline is a secondary issue that should be decided by the marketplace without the outcome being predetermined by regulation.
IMO nuclear is a direct threat to OPEC’s control over the price of oil and this is the reason that Big Green is fanatically opposed to nuclear.
That connects the dots in a logical and compelling, if highly disturbing, way.
@Stephen DuVal and Engineer-Poet
If you want to be really disturbed, I highly recommend reading the chapter from Engdahl’s “A Century of War” titled “Running the world’s economy in reverse: Who Made the 1970s Oil Shocks?” It start on page 155 in the paperback edition published in 2012.
“Imagine if OPEC becomes an agent of foreign policy rather than just an economic agent. Or maybe it already is”
Man, for providing such a lengthy comment, with so much consideration to detail, your “maybe” is surreal.
How the hell have you kept yourself so informed about earthly matters while maintaining your residence on Mars?
You have well summarized what I have been thinking for some time. This is a market share battle – not a green / environmental battle. Folks who pump stuff out of the ground want back into the electricity market. They want to control the global prices so their product is overvalued.
I understood what was happening back in 2009 when I began to understand that
1. Nuclear power had replaced diesel fuel on the grid in the 70’s and 80’s
2. That Natural gas is the backup for solar and wind
3. That the companies were carefully shaping the term renewable to only mean solar and wind
4. That CO2 was not really the goal but making power expensive was the goal.
At that point Nuclear power became a social justice issue for me. I understood that Nuclear power could be extremely inexpensive if it was allowed to be built on the same scale as other power producers and regulated to the same levels in terms of the number of people actually dying as any of the fossil fuels, or even the same levels of people actually dying from wind and solar in the total process of manufacturing.
Nuclear is scaleable to an amazing degree and high temperature reactors can produce gasoline and diesel.
The fuel is so cheap per million BTU it might as well be free. Rod has calculated that the current price is just 60 cents / million BTU. With breeder reactors the fuel portion of the cost will drop to nearly nothing per million BTU – it will all be capital and O&M.
This is an existential threat to the business model of Oil, Gas and Coal as they are currently structured. Nuclear is the quad core processor in an age of vacuum tubes.
Once Nuclear is allowed to build at a capital cost that is similar to a coal plant -everyone will switch over. Therefore, it is most urgent for the competitors to make sure that costs for building and operating – security etc – and Maintenance are as high as possible. They cannot compete against such a cheap fuel.
“At that point Nuclear power became a social justice issue for me”
With such a mindset, your view of Citizens United seems inexplicable to me. The advantage gained by the Citizens United decision is enjoyed by the big money players, who are spending copious amounts of dark money on political ads, buying the loyalty of elected officials. There is no denying that the Citizens United decision put a huge smile on the faces of those who have amassed their wealth on the backs of the dinosaurs.
I disagree about the effect and I challenge your assertion that the large beneficiary was existing large wealthy corporations. They already had plenty of outlets for their wealth and influence. It is called advertising, lobbying, and non-profits.
Citizen’s United gave back some of the power to people who want to oppose those existing and previously overwhelming establishment powers. You mock me when I say these things but you are not providing any evidence that large corporations are more influential than prior to Citizen’s United.
What means would you use to empower people to speak out? Send them to jail if they oppose the establishment within 30 days of an election?
@David and POA
Wealthy individuals could always do what Citizens United enabled “corporations” to do. There are examples in history, for example, of a party choosing a wealthy person to be a running mate on a ticket so he could spent freely to support the ticket.
As the owner and former majority shareholder in two tiny “corporations” I have a personal understanding that the word “corporation” says nothing about size or power. Often forming a “corporation” as a legal entity is the first step in bringing together the resources of a small group of people to cooperatively create a product or service that will change the world. Why not allow a corporation to create a campaign movie that reveals truth or perception about a candidate?
You’re right it really isn’t a green/environmental battle. If it were it would be long over and we’d have nuclear plants of every shape, size, and type humming along nicely pumping out the megawatts. Rod Adams and many others on here and other sites have made a convincing case that it really is a contest between old moneyed interests and the new technology (nuclear) that challenges that. The tossing in of wind, solar, biomass, wave power, geothermal, pixie dust, unicorn flatulence, whatever, are simply tools to flood the zone and overwhelm the challenge.
Not only is “Big Green” a creation of very wealthy and powerful interests, but the whole modern “environmentalist movement” can trace its roots to that. Not a lot of people know it, but the first incidence of “environmentalist” action in the modern age goes back to the middle of the last century in the Hudson River valley of New York State, and a proposed project called Storm King Mountain. Very wealthy landowners along the Hudson River whose properties had uncluttered, sweeping vistas of the river valley were protesting against the visual pollution this project would create for their properties because of the high voltage transmission lines that would be built to transmit the power generated by the facility.
Now, here is the irony. If you ask people today what Storm King Mountain was proposed to be, almost everyone would say it was a nuclear plant. It was not. What is was to be was a pumped storage reservoir that would be used to “store” excess power generated by hydro plants in the Niagara Falls area and elsewhere. The irony is that pumped storage is one of the things always suggested by advocates of unreliable power for their main darlings of energy production, wind and solar. So here we have the genesis of the environmentalist movement today founded on a protest by very wealthy people against, not nuclear, but energy storage for hydro (or wind, or solar). I guess irony can be pretty ironic.
All of this may sound familiar and it should. You had very wealthy people in the Northeast protesting the Cape Wind project for the very same reasons. Robert Kennedy Jr. says “we” don’t have to change our lifestyles to have a “clean” environment. What he really means is that he doesn’t have to change his lifestyle, because he doesn’t want to and is wealthy enough to make that happen.
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