The following post was first created as the response to one more article from a “pro energy” guy who does not understand his competition. The original article can be found at the Energy Pulse web site under the title of Oil Now and Oil Tomorrow. In case you do not want to wade through all of the comments to find mine, here it is in its entirety (though slightly edited to get rid of some minor goofs produced by typing too fast without proofreading).
I will admit it up front. I believe that there is a global, loosely coordinated effort focused on restricting the growth of all useful energy sources. That includes new supplies of oil, natural gas, coal, and, IMHO most importantly NUCLEAR power.
This loose effort generally hides under the cloak of “environmentalism”, but if you dig deep enough and think carefully enough, you will begin to understand that the source of funds for the expensive effort comes from fossil fuel interests.
For many people, especially those of a technical bent, this conclusion is not logical, but let me explain. When I try to help my fellow nukes understand their real enemy, they generally react in disbelief. They say, “Why would an oil company or a government dependent upon the taxes collected from the sale of natural gas be quietly providing the funds and gently guiding the actions of environmental groups that focus on slowing the development of new energy sources? Aren’t they in the business that the environmentalists attack?”
The economic fact is that the law of supply and demand works – and that people that really understand and get wealthy in commodity businesses like oil, coal, gas (and grain, steel, plastics, land, etc) understand that the law is an active law, not a passive one. Any action taken to increase demand while restricting supply puts power into the hands of the suppliers and gives them the ability to demand a higher price for their product.
If you are a grain producer using tried and true technology under the benign set of protections and regulations provided by decades worth of lobbying, the idea of a new kind of engineered grain that can allow new competitors to vastly increase production and spoil your market poses a big threat to your ability to remain wealthy.
If you are a coal producer selling hundreds of millions of tons per year of your product in a nice arrangement with electric power utilities that have worked out a regulatory system that allows them to almost invisibly pass on fuel price increases to customers, the idea of new nuclear power plants that do not use a single pound of coal or produce a single molecule of CO, SOx, NOx, mercury, ash or CO2 replacing those coal fired plants is a severe threat to your business model.
If you own producing sources of methane – which you have carefully named “clean natural gas” during extensive marketing campaigns stretching more than a century into the past – the idea of new nuclear power plants replacing the electric power producing combined cycle plants that you were able to encourage during the 1990s by artificially keeping prices low for a while must drive you crazy. Who are these nuclear advocates that want to spoil your carefully laid plans for reaping ENORMOUS profits during an era when supplies do not quite meet the demands? How dare they think that they can get political support from the same people that you have bought and paid for? (You forgot, of course, that politicians are never bought, merely rented.)
None of these commodity suppliers would gain much sympathy if they were really open and honest with their customers. Stating to the public that you do not like competition because it has a negative effect on prices is a non starter from a marketing perspective.
Therefore, being a competitor who can no longer compete fairly, you join the Tonya Harding school of competition and hire someone to break your competitor’s knees. When exposed, you might claim that you really only wanted to bruise them, but that is another story.
The hired guns here are the big, well organized, well funded “Environmental” groups that have a long history of fighting against everything. Their cover story is pretty good, most technologists that develop these exciting new methods of commodity production that threaten existing businesses have long been told that they are reviled by people that want to return to a mythical, pastoral existence. The technologists, being rather straightforward people themselves, project that attitude on to others and never think that someone could possibly be lying to them.
They take at face value a guy like Ralph Nader who claims to not own an automobile and never even ask old Ralph how he gets around the whole country without consuming a bunch of fossil fuel in airplanes, trains, subways, taxis and buses. They believe it when groups like Greenpeace get involved in campaigns against chlorine, never thinking about the interests that might benefit by a world where the easy and cheap way to make water clean is made more difficult to use. They never understand that even a 5% reduction in the demand for oil would have a HUGE impact on the daily income for Saudi Arabia.
(The world uses roughly 80 million barrels of oil per day. A 5% reduction in demand could be achieved by producing the equivalent of 4 million barrels of oil per day, which is pretty close to the current oil equivalent of the US nuclear power industry. Ask a talented commodity trader what it would be like in the oil market if a couple of new IRAQ level oil producers suddenly entered the market.)
It is a long, complicated story, but it is one that more closely meets my understanding of business and the underlying motives for people, especially rich and powerful people, to do all they can to protect their current lifestyles and influential existence.
You can find the evidence on the web sites of organizations like the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Pew Foundation, and Shell Oil company. You just have to know how to look and how to understand actions in terms of “interests”.