Russia is a primary beneficiary of well-marketed, illogical effort to slow nuclear energy
Two articles that appear in the New York Times on June 15, 2011 should help to make it more clear to more thinking people – Russia, the world’s largest natural gas exporter, stands to gain the most money by an illogical, politically driven shift away from nuclear energy.
It baffles me why there is so much reluctance among even my friends and colleagues to accept my assertion that there is a relationship between that monetary gain and the strength of the antinuclear movement that is pushing the ill considered policies. Some sincere antinuclear people are not on the payroll of the natural gas pushers, but they have been conditioned through advertising and repetitive statements by “experts” that gas is “the cleanest fossil fuel” that it is a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy utopia, and that it is “abundant” and “cheap”.
Let me remind you of a fact about methane (aka natural gas). It is an inferior fuel product. Sure, it burns fairly cleanly – for a hydrocarbon fossil fuel. However, it is a GAS, otherwise known as a VAPOR that is difficult to store and expensive to transport. You cannot move it from its place of origin to its place of consumption in simple, atmospheric pressure tanks. You cannot move it from a local storage location into an engine or boiler with a simple liquid pump. You cannot accept minor leaks in piping systems without risk of explosions.
There is a good reason why, even today, there are flares that continuously burn such large quantities of gas that they show up clearly on satellite photos. Without an immediate demand from a large, well-connected market, methane is a dangerous waste product that requires immediate disposal in order to protect workers and equipment.
It was methane that exploded in Middletown, Connecticut on February 7, 2010, destroying the still under construction Kleen Energy Plant, causing a boom that was heard 15 miles away, cracked home foundation more than a mile away and killed 7 workers. It was methane that exploded at the Upper Big Branch mine accident in April 2010 and killed 29 coal miners.
It was methane that exploded at the Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, killing 11 workers and initiating an oil gusher that dumped millions of barrels of toxic, nasty crude oil into a reasonably clean and productive body of water over a period of more than half a year. It was methane running in large pipes directly under a peaceful, unsuspecting neighborhood that exploded in San Bruno, California in September 2010, killing at least 6 people who were simply going about their daily business.
The network of natural gas (methane) pipes in the US and Europe is tens of thousands of miles long. Some sections were installed during or immediately following World War II and have an ever increasing probability of explosive ruptures. Many of those pipes, quite logically, run directly under heavily populated areas as they bring the product from the source to the market.
Natural gas has some very rich and powerful friends who have a keen understanding of the techniques taught in advertising schools. Contrary to popular mythology, natural gas is not produced mainly by “mom and pop” drillers; the industry is dominated by multinational corporations like Exxon (50% of its energy production comes from gas), Chevron, Gazprom, Shell, and BP. The well-funded marketing professionals who work for those companies are skilled at employing distraction as a propaganda technique. They obscure what should be well-known weaknesses and instead emphasize the beneficial aspects of their product.
They deploy carefully conceived messaging designed to take advantage of the chemical fact that oxidizing (burning) CH4 (the molecular symbol for methane) produces about 60% as much CO2 per unit of heat released as oxidizing (burning) C (which is the element symbol that most closely represents coal) because some of the energy that is produced comes from oxidizing the hydrogen to produce H2O.
That improvement is just not impressive enough, so they teach spokesmen to wave their hands a bit more to explain that the heat engines that run on methane can be sophisticated combined cycle gas turbines that use the latest advances in materials and computational fluid dynamics, and those machines can be as much as 50% more efficient than the old fashioned steam plants that run on carbon (coal). They do not like to mention that methane burners can also be simple cycle, highly responsive aeroderivative gas turbines that operate at a LOWER efficiency than many base load coal plants.
When you ignore the effect of potential leaks in the fuel supply chain, it is possible to claim – almost honestly – that the most efficient methane burners produce just 45% of the CO2 of the average coal burners. Not surprisingly, the complexity of that discussion is rarely mentioned in the 10-30 second sound bites published as advertising or as quotes from the energy experts published in advertiser supported media outlets or opined during political strategy and decision meetings in back offices in Washington DC..
By the way, if anyone happens to question that myth and produce honest technical material exposing the reality that burning methane is just about as bad for the environment as burning coal, watch out. The natural gas industry and its fan base will react indignantly and seek to do all they can to discredit the source of information so that it slowly disappears from the public eye. That is part of the strategy taught by marketing experts – suppress negative information in the knowledge that the public memory can be mercifully short if more recent stories (or careful editorial decisions) push the reminders off of the front pages.
Advertising classes also teach, however, that the public memory, however, can be encouraged to be quite long by frequent repetition of myths and legends – like the complete fabrication that thousands of people were killed by a nuclear plant accident in the Ukraine more than 25 years ago. With repetition, the public may also be taught to remember the more recent lie that the spent fuel pool Fukushima Unit 4 experienced a fire that dumped large quantities of radioactive material into the environment. (The truth is that the spent fuel pool at Unit 4 did not burn and did not release any dangerous quantities of material.).
The truth is that, unlike burning methane, fissioning uranium or thorium is not just somewhat less polluting that burning coal; it is so good at preventing gaseous pollution that it can be used as a power source inside sealed submarines. Not surprisingly, people who fight against nuclear energy respond indignatly when anyone claims that nuclear fission is emission-free power, even when thousands of us can offer personal testimony about sharing a tiny volume of air for months at a time with an operating power plant.
Professional nuclear opponents love to make wild calculations about all of the energy that must be involved in the fuel cycle even though it only consumes about 70,000 tons of material every year. They point to the energy invested in the plant construction effort – which uses significantly less material per unit of energy output than their favored sources of wind or solar.
It is odd that when it comes to trying to force the shut down of already built nuclear plants, professional antinuclear activists have no problem forgetting how worried they were about all of the CO2 produced during the plant construction effort. They are quite willing to waste all of that invested energy and to force near term production of even more CO2 by pushing for an immediate plant decommissioning. The logically better plan for the atmosphere would be to allow the plant run for a few more decades while producing emission-free power. Remember the mantra – reduce, reuse, recycle. For a true environmentalist, throwing useful resources away violates a fundamental philosophy.
I have to get back to the main point. When operating nuclear plants are illogically forced to shut down as a result of an overreaction to a natural disaster that destroyed vulnerably located plants but did not cause any negative health effects, the natural gas industry immediately benefits. The consumer demand for the power did not disappear.
Replacing the power output of a large nuclear plant requires burning an additional 180 to 200 million cubic feet (5 – 6 million cubic meters) of methane (natural gas) each day. That means that someone SELLS an additional 180 to 200 million cubic feet that they were not selling the day before the nuclear plant shut down.
Selling more fuel means putting more money in their pocket. The prospect of earning millions of unexpected dollars every day is a strong motivation for working to force the nuclear plant to shut down even if there is no logical reason for taking that action. I refuse to believe that large masses of people will, on their own, make irrational and self-defeating decisions. I can believe, however, that it is quite possible through the skillful use of modern communications tools, to hypnotize large masses into making silly short term decisions that may soon be regretted. That fact has been proven many times by some very nasty people.
Pay attention to the hard sell effort that is working to force nuclear plants to shut down and to delay new plants from being built and operated. FOLLOW THE MONEY!
Ask yourself, do I really want to continue to live in a world dominated by natural gas pushers? Then ask the same question of your neighbors, your colleagues and your elected representatives. Do you want live in a world where the oligarchs at Gazprom or the greedy executives at BP have their hands on the valves that control the fuel supply?
If you are a utility decision maker, ask yourself and your board of directors if you should be planning to build new plants that can only burn gas or distillate fuel oil. Is it really a profitable strategy to be buying cheap gas on short term contracts in a commodity market where prices that have proven that they can follow the pattern displayed in the below graph?
Wouldn’t it be a better strategy to be taking advantage of slack labor markets and low interest rates to be building durable new nuclear capacity as fast as you can so that you are ready when the inevitable price spikes occur? Wouldn’t it be better to be able to be sanguine when the people who have been warning about the negative effects of dumping 20 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year are proven to be close to reality in their predictions?
Why is anyone listening to the methane marketers and the petroleum pushers who have so much to gain from an illogical effort to halt nuclear energy development? Why is it so hard to get people to notice that they are being led down a primrose path into a very dangerous neighborhood?
Energy Tribune (June 20, 2011) Russia End-Winner of Anti-Nuclear Wave
Give a look to the South Stream pipeline http://south-stream.info/fileadmin/download/2505_presentation/ss-presentation-large_V.pdf and to the Nord Stream pipeline http://www.nord-stream.com/en/project/pipeline-route0.html. Fossil Energy? Yes Please 🙂
The thing I like to point out to the gassies is that methane is a terrible, terrible greenhouse gas, much more harmful than CO2 or SO2. Just the losses of methane to the atmosphere during the extraction process offsets the gains in avoidance of CO2 or SO2 or NOx or PAHs from using coal or petroleum. Throw in the danger aspects as you mention and it is a compelling argument. Natural gas accidents have killed scores of the general public. No member of the public has been killed or even injured by nuclear plants. For the enviros who advocate use of gas over nuclear and then claim to be a “friend of the environment”, they are most definitely not that.
Russia is doing well at both ends, supplying gas to Europe and supplying reactors to Turkey, India, China, Vietnam, ..
Here’s a machine translation of an article in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza pointing out how WWF Deutschland, BUND (the German wing of Friends of the Earth) and Naturschutzbund Deutschland have between them received $10 million from a foundation whose sole sponsor is Gazprom-controlled Nord Stream.
No wonder German environmentalists are so anti-nuclear!! Bloody traitors — Erich Honecker would be proud of them.
The name of this Gazprom front organization in English is Conservation Foundation German Baltic.
Rod, this would seem to be beyond a smoking gun, wouldn’t it?
The translation of this sentence is a bit humorous, in a sick way:
“Gazprom ensure that the management of the Foundation is to work honorably.”
Glad someone’s responded to it! I think I may have made a mistake — it’s actually €10 million, but Google Translate for some reason changed euros to dollars…
After a little further thought, I think this group may have simply been set up to manage the environmental impacts of the Nord Stream project.
If this particular group was found to be engaging in stoking the anti-nuclear sentiment of Germany, that would be a serious smoking gun.
Economists that I trust (Krugman, DeLong, Gagnon, …) make a strong case that we are not going to get out of our demand-constrained economy without additional stimulus (monetary or fiscal or both). Cutting spending is not going to help the deficit, which is largely a problem of revenue loss and unemployment benefits from the large number of idle workers. They also make the point that putting off needed infrastructure investments does not save money. As you say, with 20% of construction workers idle, wages and interest rates low it is a perfect time to make these investments. They are mostly talking about roads, water and sewer, bridges, trains etc. But, building a fleet of nuclear reactors would not only serve all the purposes noted above but would go a long way to solving our energy/climate change problems.
It is very painful that it is not happening or even discussed all that much by policy makers.
We can say most of the great hydro dam projects of the New Deal were good decisions – they provide us with water and power to this day. But today, can we trust our politicians to see through the deception of green energy? The environmental movement didn’t exist back then, but it does exist now, and ironically they are campaigning – and succeeding – to tear down most dams built back then, each time proclaiming renewable energy and conservation can replace them.
I live in the Pacific Northwest with its abundance of dams. While I benefit from the power generation, irrigation, flood control, and river navigation aspects of the dams, I also see the damage done to salmon fisheries and loss of freely flowing rivers. I might be persuaded to have at least some of the dams removed — if their power generation were replaced with nuclear power plants.
On the other hand, they can’t be beat for load following power generation. They can go from 0 to full power in 15 seconds, with minimal extra wear on the equipment.
Note that shale gas developments suddenly changed the diminishing outlook on gas and made this new found reserves “the Saviour”. Uranium market is not far behind the oil market in respect of its peak.
Demand growth cannot be sustained. The alternative energy becomes necessity. Check out the “Solar tower” being built in Arizona Desert by Enviromission of Australia or the solar project in Sahara, being funded by EU. The first can produce electricity even after sun down – thanks to thermal-accumulation.
Rod, I would like to at least explain my reasoning for not supporting your position that there is a causal link between fossil fuels and anti-nuclear. For me, it comes down to the dearth of reporting and/or scientific studies showing any causal link. I support your reasoned assumption, but I am ever mindful it is a reasoned assumption and am reluctant to express it myself to any but my most trusted and trusting friends. I would never present it publicly as I do not see the strong presence of evidence which you do.
Please do not take this as a discouragement at all for your expression of this position. I have a suspicion that, over time, the evidence will bear out your position as correct or, at the very least,
present us with no convincing evidence to the contrary.
Good luck with your continued endeavor to promote nuclear power. Irrespective of the presence or lack thereof for a causal link between fossil and anti-nuclear, I do everything I can to promote nuclear including a continued discussion with all my legislators at all levels. Currently, I only have one (maybe two) representatives which do not fully support nuclear power from my districts. The first is my member of the state house and her position is being shown to be a faith position for anti-nuclear/wind/solar. The other, possibly, is the president. I have no idea what his actual position is, but his stated position leads me to believe he is in favor.
Robin…the problem Rod is facing is that this kind of reporting, and establishing a link, requires true *full time* investigative reporting. Almost all the fine, serious investigative reporters are on the left, broadly stated, and are ipsofacto anti-nuclear (Rod is progressive as are many pro-nuclear bloggers but none, to my knowledge, are investigative reporters). The likes of Seymour Hersch, Matt Tiabbi and so on simply don’t exist for our side of this discussion.
Rod has made an incredible effort in establishing the *motive* for fossil fuel opposition to fission. He’s established (he’s not the only one of course) between the quite open, public and provable link between, say, the original 2001 German phase out by the Greens and Social Democracy and their subsequent leaders going to work for the gas industry(s).
The famous Aussie coal industry poster which declared “Nuclear threatens our way of life” should be enough for anyone not to conclude that these fossil lobby’s don’t put their money where they mouths are.
@Robin Holt – The very nature of this sort of thing is that the offending parties work very hard to keep it in curia as these types of activities are considered illegal in many countries. However, I am reminded of an obscure American journalist named Mark Hibbs, who is largely unknown to the public, but must rank as one of the greatest reporters at work in the world today.
It was he that exposed single-handedly A. Q. Khan’s proclivity to export his nuclear wares. Much of what he writes is of short-term interest at best, and only to regulators and nuclear-energy insiders; he has filed thousands of such service reports over the years. Embedded among them, however, are several hundred related dispatches—usually inconclusive, yet accurate and precise—that together tell an ongoing story of the shadowy world of illicit nuclear markets, and the transactions therein.
Much of the business was questionable but not obviously illegal; for the most sensitive items it involved dealings with middlemen who worked through front companies and third-country destinations and provided the sellers with usable explanations. For many years his reports made little impression individually, but over time there emerged a picture that could not be ignored.
The same thing is happening in this case. There may never be a sudden confession of guilt, but if enough circumstantial evidence is presented, it is going to be difficult to deny – and that might be all that is needed.
400 + ppm and rising and with the volcano eruptions and methane release and combustion and cows farting and belching the CO2 and SO2 are changing our weather. Not just a little bit of change but major weather model alterations. I invite all to view just CO2 monitoring satellite data and note the reverse vortex over Labrador and southern Siberia. These circulation changes occured in the last two years. One may blog until the “Day After Tomorrow” and then decide which carries more weight, Nuclear with no aerosol release or Natural Gas which unleashed a very long winter.
I would say that the anti-nuke movement of the environmental left has many shared properties with the more recent anti-vaccine movement that’s caused the re-emergence of measles in countries that had previously stamped it out as well as the anti-genetically modified crops movement.
While there is certainly the possibility that the energy competitors of nuclear play a role in funding these groups, I suspect that they would exist regardless. They have a long pedigree of activist paranoia regarding anything “artificial” and vaguely specified “toxins” poisoning the environment and affecting humans, without scientific evidence and often contrary to the evidence available.
I will agree that there is a financial motive and it certainly seems plausible that fossil fuel producers would attempt to bolster such groups, but I suspect that they would exist with or without support from an interested party. Never underestimate the ability of activist groups to form around a misguided message with no benefit to themselves or any patrons. Rational self-interest does exist, but it’s not a necessary condition for what we see.
We have the “romantic” environmentalists, that dream of a better future by rolling back technological progress on the one hand, and the scientific environmentalists on the other hand, that want to reduce emissions such as CO2 and reduce consumption of limited resources.
Big Oil/Gas is fooling the 2 sides with the utopian promise that they can put up solar and wind installations and that way achieve both a total reduction of emissions and resource consumption, as well as a return to primitive technology. Those plans are always tied to a “transition” period that is powered by fast responding natural gas turbines, and not to forget also continued burning of oil in our vehicles, since electric cars become prohibitively expensive with renewable power, just like 100W incandescent light bulbs. Use of gas and oil are being played down by rethoric and marketing techniques, such as claiming all gas burned is “biogas” and all oil burned is “ethanol” or “biodiesel”.
Once invested and all treasure has been spent on the renewable-natural gas combo, the state will eventually run out of money, and have to stop subsidizing wind/solar, so only gas and oil remains. By then, a return to coal&nuclar will be extremely costly and would take many decades. Meanwhile Big Oil has taken over the electricity market from coal&nuclear and has enough time to come up with a new plan – this is their thinking.
For the record, it was 8 people who lost their lives in the San Bruno explosion and fire. Among them were:
Jessica Morales, 20
Joseph Ruigomez, Jacqueline Greig, 44
Janessa Greig, 13
Lavonne Bullis, 82
Greg Bullis, 50
Will Bullis, 17
The groups might exist, but without support they could be easily ignored. They would not have accumulated four decades worth of successful actions to halt an objectively better and affordable power source.
This is how Big Oil does it. Change climate denial to nuclear denial and it becomes clear.
In Italy energy produced from gas combustion is 48% of total energy. Every year there are methane explosions that destroy entire buildings and kill more people than all nuclear power plants in the world
“The Lancet”, Vol. 370, Settembre 2007, pagg.979-990.
Title: “Electricity generation and health”
Tab.2, page981: “Health effects of electricity generation in Europe by primary energy source (deaths and cases per TWh)”
energy source -deaths – serious diseases- minor diseases
lignite -32.6 – 298 – 17676
coal – 24.5 – 225 – 13288
gas – 2.8 – 30 – 703
oil – 18.4 – 161 – 9551
biomass – 4.6 – 43 – 2276
nuclear – 0.05 – 0.22 – 0.00 (including Chernbobyl)
I forgot to copy the comment from http://www.eia.gov/oog/info/ngw/ngupdate.asp yesterday, but there was a comment that natural gas prices increased due to higher temperatures and air conditioning loads and increasing use of natural gas for electrical power generation. Today, there is a comment at the bottom of the page “EIA Data Show Natural Gas-Fired Generation in March up 5.0 Percent from the Previous Year”. Oil prices seem to rise in the winter due to heating oil demand, and summer due to increased driving. I think the natural gas companies want that too (more heating in winter, more electrical power generation in the summer).
To normalize the costs of natural gas vs nuclear electrical power generation, I wonder if it is possible to get a guaranteed 30-year price for a natural gas electrical power plant. I have heard Russia does long-term fuel assembly sales with new nuclear plants. If the guaranteed 30-year price of fuel was included in the new plants cost, I bet fission would look much better compared to natural gas….
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/6/16/ideological-money-laundering.html“>Ideological money laundering
Sadly, it’s not limited to just the EU. The UN is also infested with such corruption.
I posted a comment on that article pointing out that AGW campaigners aren’t the threat to Big Oil that many people seem to think they are…
Polish magazine: “NordStream buys German “environmentalists” for $10M.” http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?act=url&hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=pl&tl=en&u=http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,9383618,Nord_Stream_kupil_niemieckich_ekologow_za_10_mln_euro.html&usg=ALkJrhj6S4W6zAuVFyUWpX1rxQzLHXDr4Q
“Gas flares emit about 390 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, and experts say eliminating global flaring alone would curb more CO2 emissions than all the projects currently registered under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.”
I just opened a new category “Fossil Greens” on my blog, linking to this post.
I agree completely that it would make sense for the fossil fuel industry to have Fossil Greens on their payroll.
It would be interesting to be able to point to a few clearly documented cases where exactly that happened.
If you do a search on this site with the key word “smoking gun” you will find a number of articles that attempt to do exactly what you have suggested. I am just one guy without a research or investigative staff, but it is a start.
Thank you for that pointer. I just did the search and found quite a number of articles. I am looking ahead to read them all.
Thank you also for your friendly Twitter link.
I think that since the end of the cold war, Russia has benefited greatly from our hegemony stance!
We need more postive PR for this country!
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