Smoking Gun – NCPC & John F. Kennedy
There is a folder in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum titled National Coal Policy Conference that documents an apparently successful effort to influence a rising political star to support national policies that favor coal over natural gas, residual oil and atomic energy.
The NCPC, whose existence lasted from its founding in 1959 until it was disbanded in 1971, was a lobby group representing the complete coal supply chain in the United States. Here is a description of the NCPC from the group itself:
In the National Coal Policy Conference there are combined the strength and prestige of
(1) railroads of this Nation;
(2) the ingenious manufacturers of our mining equipment, who seem to be only on the threshold of things far greater than anything we have contemplated;
(3) the United Mine Workers of America, the labor organization representing the employees of our industry;
(4) major utility companies — those customers of ours who probably have the greatest stake of all in the efficient and low-cost mining of coal and who have joined with us so that a strong, healthy, vigorous coal industry will make it possible for them to produce the tremendous amounts of electrical energy that will be necessary to carry our economic growth to heights never before dreamed of, and
(5) our own group of far-sighted, clear-thinking coal producers.
What a combination!
Paragraph breaks added to original quote.
(The New Image of Coal, NCPC, Page 4)
The folder in the JFK Library contains digital image files of an historically important series of communications between Joseph Moody, President NCPC and Senator John F. Kennedy. The letters and documents were exchanged during the period of February – March of 1960, within months after Senator Kennedy announced that he was running a campaign to become President of the United States. (Kennedy’s announcement was published in the January 2, 1960 edition of the New York Times and other newspapers around the country.)
In date order, the library folder contains the following documents:
- February 12, 1960 Speech by Joseph Moody to Mid West Coal Producers Institute titled The New Image of Coal
- February 12, 1960 Press release from the National Coal Policy
Conference titled National Fuels Policy Held Vital in Cold War Production Race
- February 19, 1960, Letter from Joseph Moody to Senator John F. Kennedy sent with the above two documents as enclosures
- March 6, 1960, New York Times article headlined Oil Men ‘Defect’ in Fuels Dispute. There are three separate subtitles:
- Independent Group Joins Coal Industry in Stand on National Policy
- Studies are Favored
- Texas Producers Call on Others in the Field to Participate as Well
- March 8, 1960, Press release from the National Coal Policy Conference welcoming the support of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association in discussions leading to a Congressional Study of a National Fuels Policy
- March 9, 1960, Letter from Senator John F. Kennedy to Joseph E. Moody, President, National Coal Policy Conference, Inc.
Though the full 17-page collection is intriguing, one part of Moody’s speech titled The New Image of Coal virtually leaped from the page.
Many years ago Adam Smith cynically remarked that whenever a group of businessmen sat down together it could be assumed that they were talking about prices. That may have been true in his day. But I assure you when the group of businessmen making up the National Coal Policy Conference get together they are talking betterment for the whole coal industry — and talking it hard and fast.
We’re doing the same kind of talking to the public these days, and I might add it is certainly time we did so. In the past I have had the unenviable experience of being something of a lone voice lashing out against the farcical waste of taxpayers’ money involved in our government’s efforts to develop civilian atomic energy, even though it wasn’t needed and was certain to be non-competitive with coal and other natural fuels for many years.
I was gratified to read in the Washington Post of January 30 that Mr. David E. Lilienthal, one of the great promoters of the atomic age, had now declared that the United States had been misled by promises that were absolutely impossible of fulfillment and that the whole program of nuclear power, to use his own words, has fallen flat on its face despite appropriations of close to one-half billion dollars in the last few years.
It makes my heart ache to realize that a few million dollars of that half billion, invested in research for coal, might well have given us tremendous advances in the production of power under our private utility system.
That passage provides direct, incontrovertible evidence showing that the roots of the antinuclear movement in the United States, and, by extension, the rest of the world, can be traced to efforts from competitors in the “natural fuels” industry to slow or stop development of the new source of heat for industrial purposes. Those special interests were not concerned about radiation or about safety; they were angry at their government for sponsoring the development of a fuel source that would take some of their markets and reduce their profitability.
The railroads were worried about losing coal shipment consignments. The unions were worried about job losses. The mining equipment companies were worried that there would be less appetite for their innovations if coal consumption kept falling. The mine owners were worried that their capital investments were going to be worth less.
The diverse groups that formed the National Coal Policy Conference decided to band together because they were worried about their survival. The number of coal tons sold fell by 30% during the period from 1945-1960 as diesel fuel replaced coal in locomotives and as heating oil and natural gas replaced coal in the home and commercial building heating market. The only segment of the coal market that grew during that trying period of steady decline was the electricity production market. That was exactly the market that the new atomic energy plants were aiming to service.
However, the folder in the JFK library is not strictly limited to coal. It also contains some hints that the NCPC was working feverishly to develop an alliance with other parts of the “natural fuels” industry, especially the independent, domestic oil and gas producers who shared a mutual dislike of imported oil and atomic energy.
WASHINGTON, D. C., MAR. 8 — (SPL) — Joseph E. Moody, president of the National Coal Policy Conference, Inc., today in a telegram welcomed the support of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association in discussions leading to a Congressional Study of a National Fuels Policy.
Mr. Harry C. Jones, TIPRO president, said in a recent statement that “to be simply against a national fuels policy is little short of absurd,” and that “our most realistic and productive course might well be to participate in such studies and discussions.”
Resolutions calling for a joint congressional study of the need for a National Fuels Policy are now before both houses, and have been strongly supported by the coal and allied industries. Some segments of the oil and gas industries, however, have been in active opposition, and have denied that there is any necessity for Congress to even consider whether such a policy is desirable or needed.
“We have been disappointed and surprised at the determined efforts on the part of some in the oil industry to block even Congressional study of the need for a national fuels policy. We have taken a firm position that we are anxious to have Congress consider this whole question, and are confident that the conclusions reached by such a joint study will be sound and fair to all energy fuel producers. We were interested to read your comment that ‘there is a distinct possibility that this obvious fact (natural competition between fuels) may lead, or have led to an “anti-coal campaign” which does harm to everybody concerned.'”
“We welcome your support of studies leading to establishment of a national fuels policy, and sincerely hope that other responsible spokesmen for independent oil and gas producers, who likewise have many mutual interests with coal, will be encouraged to take a similar position.”
Emphasis added. (NCPC Press release 3-8-60)
An appropriate way to end this post is to quote from the letter from Senator Kennedy acknowledging Mr. Moody’s letter and the speech it included as an enclosure.
Dear Mr. Moody:
I fully agree with you on the importance of coal and other fuels to our economy. I believe that the proper use and exploitation of these natural resources will be one of the real important issues of the 1960 campaign.
Therefore, I am most grateful to you for sending me your very fine speech calling for a national policy. I am sure that it will be most helpful to me in formulating my own views on this vital issue.
With every good wish,
John F. Kennedy
Update: A commenter who goes by “FermiAged” asked a great question about the 1960 West Virginia primary. I was not aware just how important that state was to Kennedy’s nomination as the Democratic candidate.
Here is a video of his visit to a coal mine and a discussion about his policies with a representative of the miners.
Winning West Virginia: JFK’s Primary Campaign
West Virginia Gazette (November 21, 2013) He never forgot West Virginia
Bluefield Daily Telegraph (November 22, 2013) John F. Kennedy wins the hearts of southern West Virginia coalfield voters
USA Today (October 29, 2013) When W.Va. lost its voice: JFK’s death still resonates
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Well, I really don’t see, in Kennedy’s letter, anything other than the typical placating pandering to a special interest that politicians engage in prior to an election cycle. I would bet that he would have responded favorably to the nuclear energy sector as well, given the opportunity.
On the topic of nuclear issues and John Kennedy, were he to have had his way, Israel would never have acquired nuclear weapons. That being the case, I applaud his efforts.
Do we know what his actual stated stance was on the issue of nuclear energy? Did he offer endorsements, or criticisms? During his administration, I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the implementation of nuclear energy enjoying a period of growth?
The point is not that this early influence effort by the NCPC — which continued its well-funded efforts to lobby for increased coal consumption and decreased investments in atomic energy for another 11 years after the exchange documented in the JFK library — had a large impact on JFK. As a matter of fact, Kennedy made numerous statements in favor of atomic energy.
However, this exchange is evidence of an effort to change what had been a very strong push towards atomic energy that had about 7 years worth of increasing momentum behind it. It takes time and forceful use of money in order to achieve a big change in direction.
There will be additional posts on this topic (I’ve discovered other groups of interesting documents) that show how the momentum for atomic energy began shifting after the Kennedy-Johnson administration came into office. As a bit of a teaser, I will say that the space race, with its goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, played a major role in pivoting government support away from atomic energy.
Nice teaser, Rod. I will look forward to that future installment.
When was the all-important 1960 West Virginia primary????
May 10, 1960
Thanks for the question. It led me to several additional pieces of information that have been added to the post as an update and additional reading material. I had not realized the importance of West Virginia and it coal miners to Kennedy’s successful run for the Democratic nomination.
I will remind everyone that this is NOT an example of capitalism – the free market. This is an example of corporate manipulation of the government – nothing more than corporate socialism. In a truly free market, coal would have to compete on a level playing field with nuclear and all the rest. In such a market, where regulations apply equal to all industries (don’t dump your waste into the environment, and don’t pander for taxpayer funding because you won’t get it), nuclear would win hands down.
@Paul W Primavera
With all due respect, I disagree that nuclear would have had the success it had during the 1960s and 1970s without a huge push from the federal government. Of course, part of that push was merely making up for the 8 years from (1946-1954) when the government enforced a monopoly on all atomic knowledge.
Under an entrepreneurial free market model, I believe nuclear energy eventually would have done even better than it did, but early momentum in building large central station power plants definitely did not come from the private sector.
Special interest groups and lobbies trying to influence government are part of capitalism, always have been and always will be. It’s one of the forces they bring to bear, just like competition on price or quality. A free market without those groups is a fancy, nothing more.
Capitalism is an economic theory. Government interfering with the free trade between two voluntary parties is certainly not part of capitalism (assuming the item being exchanged was not attained through the initiation of force to begin with).
Competition on price is a result of voluntary market forces. Special interest groups influence on market forces is the result of government force through violence. There is a BIG difference between the two.
Rod Adams wrote:
“With all due respect, I disagree that nuclear would have had the success it had during the 1960s and 1970s without a huge push from the federal government.”
Darn near everything seems to be like that if you dig a bit. Free land helped build the railroads, the nation and the steel industry. Cheap power out west helped the aluminum industry and probably the aircraft industry. The cheap power came from federal programs. The building of the highways sure helped the car industry. Military spending has spawned multiple industries including the nukes.
I think people used to be smarter about such stuff. I think if ole Adam Smith was around today he’d talk about more than the invisible hand, he’d promote the visible hand of an active government with policies that leads to prosperity for most rather than a few. Socialism? Who cares what you call it if it works?
Socialism doesn’t work. This has been proven everywhere it has been legitimately attempted.
@Smiling Joe Fission
I disagree. Socialism seems to work quite well in Scandinavia and in France.
If I get together with a few of my neighbors and buy some lawn equipment to share, that we either couldn’t afford individually, or that none of us as individuals had a use for 100% of the time, is that socialism?
At it’s base, a well run government is exactly that.
And for those who want pure laissez faire capitalism — the first step will be the elimination of all corporations. Does it still look so attractive? No corporation exists, except as a licensed creation of government interfering in the economic system.
In my experience, most folks who espouse pure capitalism are actually, under the wool, pro-corporations.
No, that’s a voluntary association. Socialism is when some people at the top of the heap decide that lawnmowers will be purchased for all, and those whose yards are landscaped in rock gardens will just have to pay their share.
Exactly why can’t corporations exist in a true laissez faire capitalist society? I don’t follow you here.
Your lawnmower example is silly. No one forces you to chip in for the equipment. How about this:
A few neighbours and I decide to go buy lawn equipment for everyone on the block to use. After we buy it, we go door to door and ask you to chip in for the cost of the equipment. You refuse because you never consented to this and have your own lawnmower. The next day we come back with a gun and tell you that if you do not pay your “fair share” we will force you. That is a more accurate example of government enforced socialism. Your example is voluntary and does not require any initiation of force.
@Smiling Joe Fission
Exactly why can’t corporations exist in a true laissez faire capitalist society? I don’t follow you here.
Forming a corporation requires filing documents with the government and obtaining official recognition of existence from the government. There are continuing requirements to follow certain rules in order to remain a corporation in good standing so that the organization can continue to benefit from the special protections that the government provides to the entity.
Rod, if you have the time, would you mind checking the SPAM filter. My previous reply seems to have disappeared into the ether.
Socialism APPEARS to work better in countries with relatively homogeneous populations. There is more harmony and cooperation. In non-homogeneous populations, there will, inevitably, be sub-groups that will consistently consume more than they contribute. Resentments arise. Cooperation breaks down.
With increased immigration into both Scandanavia and France, socialism will work less well.
I would argue that they are not true socialist states. They are a mixture of capitalism and socialism.
Every society as based in basic social agreement and bound by an agreed legal system is going to be socialistic to some extent. Classic “socialism” also is a over century old academic construct. Its not even worth arguing in beyond political terms without pulling out the topics being discussed and then being more specific.
In terms of freedoms, access, infrastructure and regulations; more is more but sometimes less can lead to much more restriction on individual freedoms and access, and considering the whole mess is based in a collective agreement we should be looking for the highest state of trust, access, freedoms and liberties for the most people possible with always individual special attention and consideration given to cases needing correction where a individual was overly restricted. That seems more in-line with our founding history, principles and agreements. Concepts more formed in old world academia commonly encountered in political discourse like “capitalism” and “socialism” do not.
+1 to what John T. wrote.
Could you point me to where I signed this “agreement”? I don’t remember signing up for any social contract.
You live here. You obey the laws. You utilize the public transport system, even if you drive your own subsidized and standardized vehicle on its subsidized and standardized fuel that you pay for with money that I don’t have enough space to mention all the collective agreement involved.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
– United States Declaration of Independence
It seems pretty straight forward to me. No mention of markets whatsoever either.
I wonder what the reaction would have been if it was pointed out the coal is a potential source of nuclear energy as well as chemical energy. If there was government supported research for separating uranium and thorium from coal, as well power plants that can use both chemical and nuclear heat sources then there could have been a partnership between nuclear and coal.
Some people proposed a different kind of partnership between coal and nuclear. It is a good idea to use nuclear energy to upgrade domestic coal and use that combination to reduce our need to import petroleum based fuels from other places, many of which don’t like us very much. (Some of those places have excellent reasons for not liking the fact that we have taken their natural resources without paying very much for them.)
As a part of the process for upgrading coal chemically to become liquid petroleum, any uranium or thorium would be separated and available for recovery.
Some 40% of US energy currently comes from petroleum, and a similar fraction of carbon emissions.
Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 levels requires on the order of an 80% cut in carbon emissions. Thus, even if nuclear-processed coal completely replaced petroleum in the USA, US coal consumption would still have to fall by at least half. Coal interests cannot abide this. There is no way to buy them off, they have to be fought.
Thus, even if nuclear-processed coal completely replaced petroleum in the USA, US coal consumption would still have to fall by at least half. Coal interests cannot abide this.
Diesel fuel sells for the equivalent of $22 per MMBTU. Most coal sells for about $2-$3 per MMBTU.
I have not done the full economic analysis, but I think there is a strong potential for improving coal industry revenues even with a lower volume of extraction and consumption.
Do you think that half of the UMW’s membership would voluntarily become unemployed, and give up their children’s option for following them on the ladder into the middle class?
Maybe we can have them mine olivine or serpentine, and run the plants to convert minerals into carbonates.
The upgrading process will happen very close to the mines to reduce transportation costs. That may end up requiring even more employees than the mining itself.
I’d rather cooperate with the UMW than fight against it with them believing that our technology will be the death of their entire way of life. Coal is a valuable raw material; it is often more profitable, both for employees and management to use natural raw material to make a more finished product before selling it.
Coal does have value, but once its costs are fully internalized it’s prohibitively expensive.
The point remains that any coal we dig up is going to add its carbon to the atmosphere in short order, and we are already pushing the limits of the ecological impacts we can afford (if not already past them; I suspect that Bill McKibben is right and the IPCC is not alarmist at all but far too complacent). It’s probably easier to put the miners to work mining something else than it is to try to put lipstick on the combustible black rock.
Be real. We are going to be using hydrocarbons at a decreasing rate for many years to come. I’d rather use converted coal from Appalachia than refined crude from Russia, Saudi Arabia, or Nigeria.
Sis you guys catch this one?
Breakthrough founders posted a NYT Oped that was probably titled more to attract controversy, but you have to read it all to get their intent. Especially the end paragraphs. JR over at CP posted a response and completely avoids it. I posted a short response and it hasn’t seen he light of day.
Global Warming Scare Tactics ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/opinion/global-warming-scare-tactics.html?ref=opinion&_r=0 )
The Brutally Dishonest Attacks On Showtime’s Landmark Series On Climate Change ( http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/09/3424593/showtime-years-dangerously-response/ )
I like JRs sense of urgency but I also think the NYT piece is exceptionally good. Despite the unfortunate title.
lol “sis” should be “did.” You see, they put that darn d key too close to the s and I cant find my glasses again.
All it takes is one good battery or NG storage technology to make that rate decrease awfully fast. Petroleum rides high for the moment because it’s the most economic source of liquid transportation fuels. If it suddenly becomes economic to switch to NG or electricity, petroleum becomes just one of two or more fungible energy sources. Substitution of NG in particular eases the glut and has roughly half the per-BTU carbon emissions of coal.
The iron/molten salt/air battery and the carbon/molten salt/air battery are possible ICE-killers (ICE melters?). They have the energy density to operate heavy trucks. Smaller applications like LDVs may be a bit difficult given the need to maintain an operating temperature of 500°C or so, but if people are in the habit of keeping vehicles plugged in that would be less of an issue. A fleet penetration rate of 20% would see petroleum demand dropping as fast as 10% per year. If you can knock 20% off the top by switching most other trucking to NG, it makes no sense to bother with CTL when shale yields cheaper gas anyway.
Speaking from personal experience, the warmer weather has improved the battery performance in my car and I have burned exactly zero gasoline this week. That’s what a puny 7.6 kWh battery allows. Postulate a carbon-salt-air battery at 19 kWh per liter and it doesn’t take much imagination to see that the market for ICEs would just about vanish. Coal demand would stay up for a while, to charge those batteries… but nuclear could replace coal seamlessly and completely. You’d never want CTL for anything; even the remaining demand for jet fuel could be met by existing oil wells. Coal would go the way of whale oil, as it should.
Give the miners jobs helping to pull carbon OUT of the air. A few cubic km/yr of olivine is reputed to be sufficient, but that sounds like plenty to keep them busy for a generation or two.
All. It would take for me to be an NBA star would be an extra 18 inches of height, a 30% increase in hand size, 30 years less age on my body, and several years of repetitive effort honing my skills as a shooter and learning to play defense.
In other words, it’s impossible.
I’ve spent a few hours on the road in the past two weeks, with road trips to Vermont, North Carolina and New Jersey from my home in Virginia. I’ve been on I-81, I-77, I-90, I-91, I-95, and I-97, plus the Pennsylvania, Mass, Delaware and New Jersey turnpikes. You have little to no idea of the scale of the challenge that you think can be solved by one good battery.
@John T Tucker
“Sis you guys catch this one?
Global Warming Scare Tactics ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/opinion/global-warming-scare-tactics.html?ref=opinion&_r=0 )”
Thank you for that. It was an interesting read.
I liked this segment:
“But when renewable energy technologies are offered as solutions to the exclusion of other low-carbon alternatives, they polarize rather than unite.
One recent study, published by Yale Law School’s Cultural Cognition Project, found that conservatives become less skeptical about global warming if they first read articles suggesting nuclear energy or geoengineering as solutions.”
Of course, I enjoy the confirmation bias, but that research supports what I’ve been saying for a while. Many folks resist accepting climate change as a reality, because it is invariably packaged with unworkable, foolish “solutions” in the media.
They should separate the two issues (acceptance of problem vs. chosen solution) mentally, but they don’t. Well, the media never does either, so it’s hard to blame them.
RE: one good battery
Even if a new technology suddenly emerged, which miraculous weight to energy ratio, efficiency, speed of charging, and durability/lifetime-cycles, it still wouldn’t replace petroleum quickly, if at all.
Charging a battery is slow. If you invent a battery which can charge as quickly or even in twice the time it takes to fill a car with gasoline, then there simply isn’t enough power capacity in the electrical infrastructure to do the charging at that rate.
I suppose you could invent a battery that discharges at 48V or whatever, but will charge at 440 KV so that the current is at a manageable level in the time available, but then you have people handling KV systems at ground level.
The infrastructure obstacles of switching to electric cars are daunting, even if a magical battery is invented tomorrow.
People said cars like the Tesla Model S were impossible, but there it is.
Some high-temperature battery chemistries have potential energy densities as high as 27 kWh/liter. Using the 19 kWh/liter figure, 20 liters (a bit over 5 gallons) holds 380 kWh. That’s enough for 1000 miles in a Model S at 380 Wh/mi. Can you drive 1000 miles in a day, with no stops? I can’t.
Rod, I’ve driven from SE Michigan to Limon CO in one day. I’ve driven the Trans-Can from Winnipeg to Vancouver. I drove from Cheyenne WY across to Iowa on one tank of fuel. If you even had a 500 mile range, and Supercharger-class chargers at your stops, a break as short as 15 minutes could add almost 90 miles of charge to the battery. A 1-hour meal stop, about 350 miles. This is doable.
Reaction kinetics are a lot faster at 500°C than room temperature.
Tesla’s Supercharger already has batteries for buffering. This is a solved problem.
Rod, I’ve driven from SE Michigan to Limon CO in one day. I’ve driven the Trans-Can from Winnipeg to Vancouver. I drove from Cheyenne WY across to Iowa on one tank of fuel. If you even had a 500 mile range, and Supercharger-class chargers at your stops, a break as short as 15 minutes could add almost 90 miles of charge to the battery. A 1-hour meal stop, about 350 miles. This is doable.
I apologize for lack of clarity. The scale of the challenge I was talking about was not about my automobile and its capacity or range. I was referring to all of the OTHER cars, trucks, buses and RV’s that I encountered on the road, saw on feeder roads, saw in parking lots, and saw in driveways as I traveled up and down the eastern US megalopolis.
It’s easy to imagine a car like a Tesla S achieving the kind of performance required to meet my needs as a driver — if only I could figure out a way to justify its price tag within my relatively limited budget. (As far as I know, the cheapest Tesla still costs about 2-3 times as much as my Jetta did when brand new.)
What I cannot imagine is the amount of battery materials that would have to be mined and manufactured into automobiles in order to replace even a tiny fraction of the personal transportation vehicles that I saw on the road and that I know exist in thousands of other places that I did not visit on my travels.
I cannot imagine how much material would need to be mined to being making a dent in the truck propulsion market.
The people I saw on the road had reasons for being there. I suspect there were millions of people who were not on the road that had a need or a desire to go someplace and either did not have the time or the resources to make the trip.
Rod, I’ll let you in on a few secrets:
1.) The USA buys around 13-14 million new vehicles per year.
2.) The typical light-duty vehicle covers half its lifetime mileage in its first 6 years.
3.) The material requirements for the battery are small compared to the balance of the vehicle.
4.) The active materials for some of these batteries, like iron/salt and carbon/salt, are ubiquitous and close to dirt-cheap. Even the room-temperature cells look to switch to carbon, silicon and sulfur for the anodes and cathodes, with lithium being the only remaining element with any scarcity issues. Or we can use sodium nickel chloride (nickel is nearly as abundant as iron), and just accept that we’ll have to recycle them every 5 years or so (also to leave the car plugged in when it’s idled for very long or accept a 30-minute delay to thaw the battery before driving).
If our assembly lines started turning out only EVs tomorrow, 50% of all mileage driven would be electric by the year 2020, and 75% by 2026. The EV was the standard 115 years ago. It only takes one battery technology to do it all over again.
The USA buys around 13-14 million new vehicles per year.
There may be 13-14 million vehicles purchased in the US each year, but “the USA” probably buys a few thousand of them. The vast majority are purchased by individual citizens for any number of individual reasons. Price is a big deal to most of us, but other factors include space, safety, cargo capacity, fuel economy, features, style, etc.
With all of the terrific engineering involved, hybrids and electric vehicles together don’t currently add up to more than a few hundred thousand of the 13-14 million vehicles sold.
It can still be done. With the new anti-coal regulations from EPA, the coal industry could well be crying out for the deployment of nuclear:
(1) Low Pressure PWRs provide (in their secondary loop) the feed to a coal-fired super heater for a plant-wide thermal efficiency in the 40+ percent range (and CO2 emissions that meet the new regulations)
(2) maybe the super heater would be “char-fired” instead of “coal-fired” — the coal having been processed with superheated steam in the Karick process (giving about one barrel of oil per ton of coal)
(3) the ash is leached for uranium and thorium
Don’t look for it happening, though. Seems that Coal People and Nuke People are like Cattlemen and Shepherds in the Old West — and nobody wins in a range war.
I suppose we could just give up:
We should give up trying to save the world from climate change, says James Lovelock ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10752606/We-should-give-up-trying-to-save-the-world-from-climate-change-says-James-Lovelock.html )
If that is really what he is up to. I suspect (or really really hope) its more about the “land use” kinda things and preserving habitat and other more complex thoughts and arguments he doesn’t want to publicly make.
Because as is his opinion is looking like one of the most environmentally irresponsible and totally arrogant, selfish and ignorant things I have ever read.
As for coal ash processing part, you are still going to have the other stuff. Which I guess you could use/responsibly place in some type of repository. But I think for existing ash piles its a good idea but not economically viable now as uranium and thorium is so comparatively abundant in higher concentrations.
I don’t know the specifics as regards the economic recovery of uranium and thorium (and, while they are at it, could they take out the radium too, please?) from coal ash. It certainly varies in concentration with the type of coal (some lignite in South Dakota was even burned for the ash itself — the rest just went up in smoke — in order to obtain the uranium), but mining over the past couple of decades has gradually adopted leaching on a broader scope. It is a slow process, but it makes lower grade ores more valuable.
As for the remains after leaching, fly ash concrete is pretty strong and durable stuff. Better to build with it than put it in a repository.
True. I guess the level of contamination depends on the source of the coal and tests so far have indicated it holds them well. Fly ash concrete is rated by the U.S. Green Building Council (LEED) as a recycled material.
I wonder how that works as the ash is usually wet in large storage environments and like you say any reclamation of mineable products is going to involve hydrating it. Can they add the scrubber stuff to it? Do they then have to re dry/process the products or do they just add Portland cement? Seems at this point of energy intensity that reprocessing used cement/concrete would also be viable. (which I and EP were wondering about a while back and I am still looking up). If nothing comes out in a heat processing part, I guess its better than it being in a landfill or retention pond leaching it back into the water.
“Can they add the scrubber stuff to it?”
I think that scrubber sludge can be heated to make a synthetic gypsum.
Not sure if I would want that in my walls, though.
Pozolanic (sp?) concrete that has been relieved of heavy metals?
I’m OK with living around that based on what I know.
“plant-wide thermal efficiency ” isn’t very important for low-fuel cost operations like a nuclear unit. What else are you going to do with the uranium? The capital cost of adding a fossil fired superheater would probably never be recovered.
Indian Point Unit 1 did have an oil-fired superheater. I don’t know if any other nukes had that, I’d be interested to hear of any others.
““plant-wide thermal efficiency ” isn’t very important for low-fuel cost operations like a nuclear unit.”
Saturated steam is hard on turbines. They also seem to be more gigantic for the same amount of power as that from superheated steam.
Pathfinder was a superheated unit.
From the link, “The Fort St. Vrain HTGR was substantially more efficient than modern light water reactors, reaching a thermal efficiency of 39-40%, excellent for a steam-cycle power plant.”
This efficiency indicates superheat.
AGRs produce superheated steam (550C/170 bar or so), getting about 42% thermal efficiency. Not competitive with a PWR on operating costs though, mostly due to the smaller power output and complicated refueling system.
“Seems that Coal People and Nuke People are like Cattlemen and Shepherds in the Old West — and nobody wins in a range war.”
I don’t think so. I’ve known a lot of ex nuclear engineers that move to the coal side to escape the paperwork. If an innovation like the LFTR took off, some may just mosey back to the ranch.
Comment on coal – You could close all the US coal plants and it just might not make much difference. There is a world out there. Link from January talks about the Chinese expanding coal production. They have 1/4 of the world’s population and their needs must be met. Article says they use about 3.5 X more coal than US does now.
” I will say that the space race, with its goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, played a major role in pivoting government support away from atomic energy.”
As a shift in attention? Perhaps, but away from public PR/media access and participation in nuclear weapons development – probably is more correct I would think. Then there was also the LTBT of 1963.
Dont forget Project Orion that is receiving new interest. That never gets dull.
But Rod cutting to the chase, even at the risk of you getting irritated, I hope you are not going to bash / demean the space program for the way things happened. Its depressing enough we are to the point of relying on a lift with the Russians to the ISS. How did something so arguably important to our collective future, and also so technologically promising and challenging get shifted so far to the back burners? And thats where I begin to draw parallels to NP.
I have lost faith in NASA being anything more than a jobs program. I have much more faith in private industry doing much more for space travel in the future.
I guess joe thats the general track we are kinda committed to. It just seems so slow, haphazard, rudderless and lacking the basic needed intense motivation and infrastructure for success.
At NASA specifically Im not sure what happened. The contractor route (always part of the mix to some extent) seems to have killed the motivations and can do attitude with the official (politically agreed upon) goals/regulatory environment, 9 to 5 paperwork and cost overruns? I wonder if there is not another comparison/lesson in there for NP as well.
So perhaps Rod has at least one point I can see at face value in his comment above as well, with respect to motivations and goals, if anyone knows or cares what the hell I am talking about at this point.
@ John T Tucker:
“seems to have killed the motivations and can do attitude with the official (politically agreed upon) goals/regulatory environment, 9 to 5 paperwork and cost overruns? I wonder if there is not another comparison/lesson in there for NP as well.”
Seems like a pretty good comparison to me. NASA was a very innovative group. I wonder if the bureaucracy has killed some of the innovation. That may be another parallel you can draw with Nuclear Power (NP).
“The contractor route (always part of the mix to some extent) seems to have killed the motivations and can do attitude ”
Reagan’s bashing of the bureaucracy and of public employees directly pushed NASA (and other agencies) to the contractor route and made the federal employees into contract monitors instead of staff who were experts at performing the functions of government.
You see, with contractors, NASA could point at itself and say, “See, we only have X employees. We’re not a bloated bureaucracy!” Whereas there was another 4X employees hiding as contractors, but they didn’t show up as employees, just as cost items in the budget which was much less likely to get scrutiny from a press looking for a quick criticisms.
Or so it was explained to me when I interviewed for my position at JSC in 1984…
I would say space became boring to the public and it lost any political points it once held. People stopped wanting money “wasted” on space stuff so politicians stopped wanting to sign off on the NASA budget.
Just imagine what our space program would look like if we woulda sunk the quadrillions we’ve pissed away to the military into it.
POA we would probably all be looking forward to the future now – and want to be involved in it, as opposed to dreading and fearing it.
Coincidentally in testimony before congress NASA laid out their thinking on the matter more clearly.
Two U.S. companies – Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences Corporation – are supporting the ISS under Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts. Purchasing cargo and crew transportation services from U.S. companies allows NASA to focus its efforts on developing the vehicles that will take our astronauts beyond LEO and to multiple deep space destinations.
Seems that they would at least have a working replacement before they retired the space shuttles.
But beyond that I wonder if we, and specifically me, are missing the bigger picture. NASA and Nuclear power for that matter as well, both have been immensely successful in the last few decades. While things dont go as fast as we would like, NASA has racked up an incredible amount exploration and research. Nuclear Power has provided nearly 20 percent of the nations electricity, emission free for decades. even in the onslaught of incredibly cheap and subsidized coal and gas and the sometimes fanatical religious-like support of “renewables” and “sustainability,” which even as is, are failing miserably as concepts.
Sorry, the NASA plan link that the quote came from: ( http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=17809a20-33b2-46ca-8afd-4752d8761e9a )
– not a word about resource economics, colonization, mining or nuclear applications but I imagine all four unutterable concepts figure centrally in the plan.
“How did something so arguably important to our collective future, and also so technologically promising and challenging get shifted so far to the back burners? ”
Does society recognize its importance, any more? Off the cuff, I hypothesize that society does not think deeply nor with a good educational foundation about industry. Society’s concept of industry now days is probably iPhones and their ilk, and with little understanding of the huge, complex foundries at the foundation of their manufacture.
The gritty end of energy just got lost out of the public perception. They’ve lost track of the importance of infrastructure and the scale needed to supply water, power and transportation to the population and its industries.
“The gritty end of energy just got lost out of the public perception.”
Along the same lines, ask city kids about where food comes from.
Most likely answer: “The store”
If it is not an issue (i.e., not a problem) to them, then it is not being pushed to the fore of people’s consciousness. If America had rolling blackouts, THEN people would care about the source of electricity.
Is basic computation and communication an issue then? When I look for technology news on the web, I see the latest andriod or iphone iteration, or maybe a newfangled tablet, or worse, a silly but well displayed cartoon computer game. They’re only delivering what the public wants to see, and so it is true that energy technology is on the burner behind the pot of beans that is smartphones, tablets, or, way too often, the latest computer game.
When I look for technology news on the web, I see the latest andriod or iphone iteration, or maybe a newfangled tablet, or worse, a silly but well displayed cartoon computer game.
We get toys, and the Gov gets new killer weapons, spying hard (and soft) ware, and electronic control of the voting process. Do you really trust Diebold and ES&S to pick your President for you? Ain’t technology, (in the hands of criminals), grand?
Meant to ask, Rod, is this site considered one of the “Free Speech Zones” our government has so charitably agreed to provide for us??
It always amazes me to see these heady conversations about socialism, and whether or not we’ve arrived. Yaaaaawn.
While the prattling drones on, our government scurries forth into an increasingly obscene liason with big business, selling your vote to the highest bidder. And what happens when the highest bidder also supplies the technology to count your vote?
We argue over irrelevent bullshit, because when your government is weaseling its way into your ballot box, your bedrooms, your computers, your bank accounts and and your womb, it hardly matters what label you put upon it.
Blahblahblahblah….while you were blathering, ‘ol Ike had a chuckle, rolled over, and mumbled “Told ya so”.
In other words, every regulation which might help stop the government from climbing into bed with the monied interests (actually, more like becoming their whore) is labeled “socialism” to make sure that a segment of the polity will oppose such measures in a knee jerk fashion.
Actually, I more frequently see the label of “socialism” affixed to regulations (and, especially SPENDING) which does not serve to STOP but serves to ENHANCE the government in climbing into bed with the monied interests. Two examples that spring to mind are the codification of “too big to fail” and the Solyndra (and associated “green” funding) debacle.
“…..and the Solyndra (and associated “green” funding) debacle”
Seems to me that Solyndra was a bad investment. That makes it…. well..uhm…a bad investment. Not an uncommon mistake. As such, I don’t understand the right’s constant braying about Solyndra. Did anyone actually profit by making this bad investment? Was graft involved? Was it recognized as a bad investment prior to the releasal of the funds?
Of far more concern, yet the recipient of far less catterwalling, is the expenditure of billions of dollars through awarding contracts to those entities such as Halliburton or Bechtel. whose criminal performance in Iraq is an uncontested fact.
And we can tie actual profits to the despicable performance of these two entities that damaged the security and the comfort of our troops overseas. To boot, we can tie actual politicians to conflicts of interest in employing the “services” of these corporate entities. And Halliburton, not only criminally irresponsible in Iraq, was also instrumental, through negligence and possible criminal activity, to be a player in the BP gulf spill.
Doesn’t the Solyndra debacle pale when our government’s repeated liason with enterprises such Halliburton becomes part of the debate??? Where’s the hue and cry about our continued business transactions with these sort of irresponsible, unethical, and politically connected corporate criminals?
“Did anyone actually profit by making this bad investment? Was graft involved? Was it recognized as a bad investment prior to the releasal of the funds?”
I found this with a 4 second web search:
Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.
The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra.
The source of this right-wing “braying” about Solyndra?
December 25, 2011, Washington Post
As for Halliburton, that brings up the issue of no-bid government contracts. Are you aware of (even interested in?) the process used to select the website developer for Obamacare?
“Are you aware of (even interested in?) the process used to select the website developer for Obamacare?”
Here we go…..one-upmanship partisan snorting. You misunderstand me. I’m not a left versus right kinda guy, so if thats your schtick, than snort at somebody else, OK? I hope you use better courtroom antics than you do blog behaviour.
Of course the website develpor was selected in a process that had nothing to do with abilities. Thats the way its done now. By both well soiled sides of the aisle. I am well aware of the past history of these web developers ineptitude and incompetence prior to them being picked to screw up the Obamcare website.
So whats your point, lawyer? One side’s graft and incompetency justifies the graft and incompetency of the other side??? Eenie meenie, minie moe, which side gets a go? Thats crap.
Given my druthers, though, I’d select a debacle like the Solyndra fiasco, or the corrupt selection of website developers, over what Halliburton and Bechtel did in Iraq, or the gulf. On a scale of actual cost and damage, Halliburton, and the Washington scum that put Halliburton over there, and had a vested interest in Halliburton being over there, gets the nod in spades.
And now I see “we’ve” decided to allow BP to lease in the Gulf again. No doubt, Halliburton will be adding thier particular talents to BP’s renewed sucking. (Of course, I’m talking about the sucking of oil being done in the gulf. I was by no means referring to that being done by BP in Washington DC.)
Were these two posts by the same person?
One that says “I don’t understand the right’s constant braying about Solyndra.”
(Note that use of the term “braying” is dehumanizing)
And . . . “I’m not a left versus right kinda guy”
POA — is someone else using your account? Which is the real “PissedOffAmerican”?
Oh, and as for the “point” of my last post: it is that slinging around “snarky” comments (or classifying the other guy’s comments as “braying” or “snorting”) on the internet isn’t really too hard. It is really fun to shoot a “zinger” at someone (especially if you are using a pseudonym) — and it can even boost the ego a bit. Still, perhaps that sort of thing is better left to sites like “Yahoo” or “Facebook” — not a site where folks are smart enough to know those rhetorical tactics and where they will accordingly discount the views expressed by the folks using those tactics.
Well, Rick, you really don’t have anything much to say, do you? Except, of course, the usual crap about pseudonyms, snarkiness, etc. Nothing, really, countering my assertions about Halliburton.
Offering some doublespeak shyster BS about buying our politician’s seats being a “free speech” issue. I wonder, did you have the same concern for free speech when that worthless monkey GWB’s administration came up with “Free Speech Zones”?
Yeah, I enjoy an occassional fit of snarkiness. Particularly when I address someone such as yourself. I not only have a total disregard for these lying posturing dirtbags in DC, I’ve got a pretty healthy disdain for 99% of our nation’s attorneys too. I’d say, by the way you’ve managed to make this exchange about me, instead of about the DC hypocrites of which I speak, you’re pretty typical shyster material, and not a member of that 1% I can actually dredge up a bit of respect for.
@POA and Rick Armknecht
Time out. Please take your personal arguments and attacks elsewhere.
While agree that vote fraud is a matter of concern (great concern), I’m missing how the government is “selling my vote”
I see that the government can make my vote irrelevant (by allowing– or participating in — fraud) and I can see how those in the government sell THEIR vote, but the “selling my vote” part escapes me.
I guess you ain’t much for following what the Supremes are doing, eh?
I am a lawyer. I closely follow Supreme Court decisions. But, no, I’m not following along with the hue and cry about Supreme Court decisions maintaining freedom of speech — even where that freedom is expressed in political contributions. I assume that is the topic of your cryptic comment as that has been a popular subject for certain groups and certain media outlets. Even if I were to accept the notion that freedom of speech should be limited as some want, though, I still don’t see how any such contributions constitute the “selling of my vote.” My vote is “bought” by confidence in the person seeking my vote to bring about policies that are beneficial to the United States, my state of residence and my city of residence. What “buys” your vote?
I tend to agree with you on this one. As far as I can tell, there are no instances of actual citizen vote buying. Most of those enormous campaign contributions buy more media time. I tend to believe that the funders would be surprised to find out that many of the people they are trying to reach are negatively convinced by constant advertising to the point that they may become an anti-vote for the candidate with the most commercials that intrude on their time and attention.
Of course, the ad supported media has a huge incentive to do everything they can to encourage larger and larger campaign budgets since they are the recipient of the lion’s share of the spending.
Well…..as the expense of running for high office becomes unattainable except to those who are able to tap the immense funds of often shadowy and un-named sponsors, our choices become determined by a candidate’s ability to buy into the electoral process.
Voila, our votes have been sold to the highest bidder. Whoever can spend the most, gets the most. Not necessarily the most votes, but definitely the most chance to get his/her name on the ballot. High office is bought, not earned.
There are problems with our electoral system. Lots of them. You are interested in campaign funding. Others decry the lack of term limits (another matter that would require a Constitutional amendment to address).
Here is my suggested (partial) “fix”: smaller congressional districts. The Constitution allows representation to be as much as 1 representative per 30,000. The population of the US is a bit over 310 million. If representatives are a apportioned to states at 1 per 31,000, then there would be 10,000 US Representatives. Obviously, they should not get paid huge salaries — how about $10,000 per year, no benefits (if they don’t like that pay, then they don’t have to run)? All but 435 (chosen by each state’s delegation) would stay at home. Those selected to go to DC would get a housing allowance to cover out-of-district service. Those staying in district would vote through the internet. They would only be expected to serve for about 20 hours a week (so they could keep their current job) so a wider variety of Representatives would be available (mothers with school-age children who would not want to leave them behind, for example).
This could all be done by a LAW, not requiring a Constitutional amendment.
How would it affect politics?
With districts set at 31,000 — what Congressional candidate is going to buy TV ads (and Rod’s nearby comment would be enhanced as any candidate who DID run TV ads would elicit thoughts and comments such as “Who does that guy think he is? Why won’t he just TALK with me?”)
K Street would echo with the sound of heads exploding as lobbyists tried to figure out how to influence over 95% of the US Representatives who would be at such a distance.
I don’t know. The problems are easy to see. The fix? Not so much. But as far as smaller contituencies go, I see as much, if not more, graft on local levels, nationwide. The Bell scandal in S. Cal comes to mind, as do a myriad of others. A smaller constituency does not necessarily foster ethical politics.
Ten grand a year? To represent your districts interests? Not spending much time at it, I guess, eh?? Or you are financially independent, and don’t require compensation for your efforts. Or, your motives are pure, you launch into your duties with a passion, and quickly discover that if you wanna keep your house you need to supplement your income by….hmmmm…I wonder what that street cleaning contract is worth to my nieghbor Eddie?
Hell, I don’t know. Perhaps corruption is just the spawn of politics, and thats just the way it is. An “answer” or “solution” to this ever worsening state of american politics seems like a pretty tough goal. Public hangings might do the trick. But the hangman would probably end up just being the guy with the most money, and a profitable plan about who to hang next.
The hangman thing already happened with private prisons.
“My vote is “bought” by confidence in the person seeking my vote to bring about policies that are beneficial to the United States, my state of residence and my city of residence”
So, what propelled Obama into office, except money and lies? The money got him into the position to feed you the lies. Hence, he was “elected”. You offer the standard campaign script as evidence of an uncorrupted process. Obama isn’t what we were told we were getting. “He” bought his way in. Just like the next posturing fraud who will manage to raise the obscene amounts of money required to slither his or her way into the Oval Office.
Don’t forget about the lesser of two evils thing. That may have helped him with some votes at least last election.
Don’t you mean “presented as” the lesser of two evils? In many negative respects, he is Bush on steroids. ,
Not sure where to put this (since there is no mention of it on the site). But earlier this month, US Dept. of Justice made it’s largest settlement to date on an environmental enforcement action against Anadarko and Kerr-McGee for contamination on nuclear fuel and other operations at more than 2,000 sites. $5.15 billion exceeds the criminal fines in the BP plea agreement, and some were projecting a settlement in the range of $14.2 billion. Almost all of it will go to environmental clean-up ($1 billion to clean up uranium mines on Navajo Reservation, and $1.1 billion on other nuclear energy related sites, particularly at the Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma made famous by Karen Silkwood).
Map of contaminated sites located here.
So why bring it up in this thread? One, it’s a noteworthy issue in recent energy related news in the US (and one specifically related to nuclear energy concerns on the site). It seems someone might have something to say about it (perhaps even a lead article documenting relevant issues and concerns related to this significant case … the largest of it’s kind to date in the US). The legacy of environmental contamination and criminal negligence is quite extensive here (as well as the deliberate efforts to avoid responsibility and own up to obligations for clean-up).
Also … there’s a consistent theme on the site (with respect to smoking guns) that oil and natural gas industries are aligned against nuclear power (which is why I am posting this here). This doesn’t appear to be the case with Kerr-McGee. They started as a major oil and chemical company, and picked up extensive operations in uranium mining, milling, and nuclear fuel development (which underpin the environmental concerns in this case). Sure, Kerr-McGee did everything possible to spin off it’s nuclear options prior to sale to Anadarko, and bury it’s liabilities in a defunct and bankrupt subsidiary. But this was long after the fact, and their extensive investment and expansion into nuclear fuel processing (most specifically the uranium and thorium processing facility at their oil refinery site in Cushing, Oklahoma). If guns are smoking, Kerr-McGee certainly doesn’t appear to be firing them. They may have ran their business poorly, and generated significant long lasting liabilities, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to make their investments in nuclear pay off. More likely, it means they ran their company much like an oil company (maximizing short term profits today … and sticking others, including bankrupt shareholders in this case, with a lasting legacy of pollution and a very expensive clean-up bill).
Somehow, Anadarko ended up sitting pretty in the deal. Settlement estimated at 14.2 billion came up at 38% the cost, and Anadarko share price jumps 14% on the news. If there is any logic to this case, I haven’t found it yet.
Maybe I am just more “conspiratorial” than you, but the fact that companies like Kerr-McGee, Exxon, Phillips Petroleum, Gulf Oil, Chevron and Shell were involved in nuclear during the early days only reinforces my theory that the oil, coal, and gas marketers are the logical opponents of nuclear energy. They have the most to lose if it succeeds and have the most to gain from every action that slows its development and its progress in taking market share from their exceedingly profitable enterprises.
There’s an old saying – Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
What better way to sabotage a competitive technology than to buy in and screw it up in such a way as to spread fear, uncertainty, doubt and distrust?
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