For those of us middle class folks that have lived the American Dream to enjoy a very comfortable life, it is not hard to imagine using a million Btus each day with the various forms of energy depicted above. Energy used on our behalf goes beyond what we personally use. The pro-rated energy use per Capita (as recorded by the DOE) includes Industrial manufacturing, Military Defense, government, commercial, fertilizer production, food production and shipping transportation uses. Energy does in fact provide for our high quality of life. Perhaps it would be helpful to compare our energy use to the people of other countries. Here below is such a comparison.
Flows of Total U.S. Primary Energy
For anyone who has seen my posts before you will know that I am very enamored with the simple yet clear illustration of U.S. Energy Sources and flows provided by the Department of Energy’s LLNL. This chart shows all major sources of energy which includes renewables and illustrates the quantities of each produced and used by the thickness of the flow lines.
Continental Resources Chairman and founder Harold Hamm detailed on Monday (Mayc2022) what he believes is behind the record prices Americans are facing at the pump, arguing that the Biden administration’s “failed policies on energy are not working. https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/6306265270112#sp=show-clips
Heating the Oceans: By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)An issue with addressing how the earth cools is the mental concept of time. According to the Stefan-Boltzmann law, the earth is continuously emitting infrared energy depending on temperature. Some atmospheric gases, greenhouse gases, continuously interfere with the release of this energy to space in specific wavenumbers (number of wavelengths per centimeter, sometimes called frequency). In clear skies near the surface, most of the gases are well mixed except for water vapor, which varies significantly by region. : http://sepp.org/twtwfiles/2022/TWTW%208-6-2022.pdf
The Modern World Can’t Exist Without These Four Ingredients, They All Require Fossil Fuels, Vaclav Smil
Food Supply, Ammonia, Steel, Plastics and Concrete
This is my personal opinion. My attempt to show how the policies of environmental extremists, some who hold elected office & some who have high Bureaucratic offices have placed America on a perilous path of energy insecurity. These are my personal opinions and they are not related with any other company or organization with which I am a part of or have ever been a part of. I have used references that I have checked and believe to be totally accurate. Many of the references used are listed at the end of this post for further substantiation of my opinions.
The importance of energy is well known by engineers involved in the energy production and electric generation industries. Energy is essential to power our economy, high quality of life, freedom of travel, comforts and conveniences. Also, food production and distribution are impacted by rising energy costs. The MSM has not reported much on the impact of the rising cost of energy to food price excalations. I will here.
According to the EIA, 79% of our total primary energy in 2021 was provided by fossil fuels. When nuclear power is included as a form of conventional energy, then over87% of the energy we depend on is from conventional fuels. So, let’s think about important materials and crops that support our high quality of life, including more than adequate food. Energy is essential to produce the materials we need as well as the abundance of food that Americans are Blessed with.
Affordable, Abundant, Reliable Energy is Essential to Power Life as We Know It
I would like to focus this post on the importance of energy and especially fossil fuels to provide essential materials and food for people of the world. Oil did save the whales (true) with Drake’s first oil well and Standard Oil’s kerosene production. Then Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse’s successes in developing electricity, motors and illumination by about 1898. Now, let’s switch from energy to food production concerns in 1898.
The Relationship of Energy and Food
Interestingly, the Head of the British Scientific Society, William Crookes, gave a sobering talk in 1898 to state that the planet can only support a total population of about two billion people. Why? Because there was not enough guano (sea bird droppings deposits on islands) and imported Chilean nitrate fertilizer to grow crops to support a growing world population over about 2 billion. This is well documented in the book, “The Alchemy of Air” as well as books by Vaclav Smil.
Vaclav Smil is a well-respected energy expert and he has written dozens of books centered on the topic of energy. His latest book is, “How the World Really Works”. I borrowed part of the title of this post from his chapter #4 “Understanding Our Material World”.
The four materials that Smil has selected are Ammonia, Plastics, Steel and Concrete. These are all dependent on vast quantities of energy to produce and yes, we all depend on them for our everyday lives. Let’s start with Ammonia.
Ammonia, A Pre-Requisite to Feeding the World
An interesting book by Thomas Hager, “The Alchemy of Air” chronicles the development of the Haber-Bosch process. The story of how Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch invented and developed the process for producing synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. The book starts out by reminding us of the concern by the head of the British Academy of Sciences, William Crookes in 1898 that the earth will not be able to support a population growing above about 2 billion people, because there simply is not enough fertilizer from natural sources such as guano, manure or Chilean Nitrate to fertilize the world’s crops in sufficient quantity to feed a growing world population. Thus, the prospect of famine was real. That was 1898 and within ten years Fritz Haber a Jewish chemist, living in Germany, invented the process to create ammonia from natural gas and air. Later, Haber teamed up with Carl Bosch then a senior manager at BASF and together the developed and commercialized the Haber-Bosch process for creating ammonia. Fast forward to 1972 and President Nixon’s first trip to China to open doors for trade. What did China want first? They wanted ammonia plants to produce fertilizer after millions(1) of Chinese had died of starvation during Mao Tse Tung’s “Great Leap Forward” of failed central control. According to Smil, China’s first trade deal after Nixon’s visit was to purchase 13 ammonia plants from M.W. Kellogg of Texas. That was the only way that China could produce sufficient food to feed their growing population. Today, as with many other products, China produces more ammonia than any other country.
50% of the World’s People Could Not Exist Without Ammonia
(Smil states on page 83) “I hasten to add that 50% of humanity dependent on ammonia is not an immutable approximation. Given prevailing diets and farming practices, synthetic nitrogen feeds half of humanity—-or, everything else being equal, half of the world’s population could not be sustained without synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers”.
Of course, the point is, food production is related to fertilizer production and fertilizer production depends on natural gas as a feedstock. About 1.2% of the world’s total primary energy is used for fertilizer and about 3-5% of food production depends on fossil fuels. Thus, Vaclav Smil picked energy intensive Ammonia as the number one material of the four materials that are (his ranking) pillars of modern civilization.
The Cost of Energy for Food Production & Distribution is About 50%
The IEA published a chart to show the cost components of energy for nine selected crops. The chart is copied below. Note that total energy cost for the nine selected crops range from a low of about 40% for cotton to almost 60% for wheat and sorghum, over 50% for corn. The cost of production for all food crops in the U.S. is about 50%. Most of this fuel is from fossil fuels. Energy is important for all of the people of the world and reasonable cost, abundant energy is crucially important for crop production and processing. Escalating energy costs will increase the costs of food and in some cases, reduce the quantity of food production due to limited fertilizer (ammonia based) availability. The fuel for Diesel tractors and food processing is significant. The final point: Solar and Wind cannot create fertilizer and both are impossible in the near term to power tractors and intercity or Global transportation.
Sources of World Energy about 86.25% Conventional Fuels, oil, gas, coal and nuclear
From BP-Statistical Review of World Energy Consumption:
Oil 184.21 EJ 31%
Natural Gas 145.35 EJ 24%
Coal 160.10 EJ 27%
Nuclear 25.31 EJ 4%
Hydro-Electricity 40.26 EJ 7%
Renewables 39.91 EJ 7%
Total Primary Energy 595.15 Exajoules
World Consumption of Primary Energy-BP Statistical Review-2022
The world’s energy consumption does inrease year after year, except during the Pandemic of 2020 as can be seen on BP’s graph above. If we extrapolate and expand the forecast to 2050, then increased energy will be required for the estimated 9 Billion world population that is expected in 2050. For now, 86% of the world’s energy and 87.4% of the United States Energy is provided by conventional fuels of oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear fuels. Solar and wind provide only about 7% of the world’s primary energy and less than 5% of the United States Energy for 2021. The U.S. energy flow chart is shown below:
Energy Flow Chart for United States, 2021
No! We Cannot Electrify Everything!
Government officials for the last 18 months have been scolding and attempting to scare the general public into getting rid of our internal combustion engines and buy EV’s. Claiming we need to “Decarbonize our society”. In essence, they are literally saying, “Electrify Everything”. In fact, I did see at least one article on electrify everything. The two charts above which show the reality of the energy needs of the United States and the world, should help explain: NO, We Cannot Electrify Everything! For sure, plastics, concrete, steel, air transportation, aluminum and fertilizer cannot be produced from windmills and solar panels. I contributed to an article by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center in December 2021. Our goal was to try to set the record straight on “No, We Cannot Electrify Everything”.
Let’s get back to the relationship of energy and food production. Fertilizer production for a start, uses about 1.2% of the world’s total primary energy. As mentioned above, literally half the world’s population would suffer famine if ammonia fertilizer production was stopped.
Fertilizer and Food
The IEA chart above showed the energy cost component for food production. Much of the energy used is natural gas for fertilizer production. Here below are some fertilizer facts to consider. This reference is for the year 2010 and this is the most recent document I could find. I think it is reasonable to estimate that the 1.2% energy use for fertilizer production has tracked about the same trend for the last twelve years as the world population has grown and the nutrition for the people of the world has generally improved.
Energy, The Pre-Requisite for a High HDI (Human Development Index)
Here are three illustrations to show the importance of energy for both improved HMI (Human Development Index) and Economic Prosperity:
The first chart below is from a Power-Point presentation I prepared in 2016 for a course on energy and power generation at Williamson College of the Trades. This clearly shows the relationship of energy and economic prosperity as well as the relationship of energy to HMI.
Another chart by ExxonMobil’s Energy Outlook in 2017, also captures the relationship of energy, HMI and economic prosperity. As quality of life (including adequate nutrition) goes up, so does the demand for energy.
The final chart is the NASA composite photo entitled, “The Earth at Night”. This shows the earth’s illumination from space and the photo clearly identifies the countries that have a higher standard of living (HMI) and that tend to use more energy to provide their higher quality of life.
The modern world’s people need food, transportation, indoor cooking, refrigeration, materials for manufacturing and construction, manufactured products and much more. Over 86% of the world’s energy to provide crucially important materials, travel, shipping, industrial output, heating and airconditioning comes from conventional fuels. This includes fossil fuels of oil, natural gas & coal. When nuclear is included as a conventional fuel, then the total primary energy from conventional fuels is about 87% for the U.S.A.
The abolishment of fossil fuels may be possible someday, but in my opinion and observations, not until far beyond 2050.
Fertilizer and food production use between 3 and 5% of the world’s total primary energy. Much of this is required to come from fossil fuels.
Aircraft with batteries or hydrogen fuel may in fact be possible, someday. However, replacing the fleet presently flying of jet fuel powered Boeing and Airbus planes is not possible by 2050 and there are many of us that would prefer the proven safety of flying jets powered by jet fuel.
Steel made from hydrogen is possible, but not at a competitive cost with coke. China produces over 50% of the world’s steel now and they will continue to use the lowest cost production methods.
Aluminum is a very important metal for aircraft, automobiles and many other utilitarian uses. Aluminum uses the most electricity of all metals for production. Smelting alone uses about 5 kWh per pound and this is in addition to Bauxite refining, transportation, rolling and forming. Reasonable cost, reliable and abundant electricity is required to produce aluminum. China produces over 50% of the world’s aluminum also.
Plastics and synthetic fibers are used in everything we depend on through the day. Auto parts are largely plastic, so are many utility pipes. Many textiles are based on fibers from oil or natural gas.
The government “War on Carbon” is destroying America. It is contributing to inflation and shortages of critical materials that we depend on.
The United Nations, the World Economic Forum, The Main Stream Press, Entertainment is interested in power and influence over the citizens of the U.S. It is not about climate
Environmental Extremist organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund (and many more) have extensive funding of Billions of dollars obtained from Bloomberg, Bezos and others that is tax exempt and used against the best interests of American citizens.
The overall “War on Carbon” is making energy and electricity prices higher in the U.S. This makes America less competitive with China and it increases the job losses here and increased off-shoring of manufacturing
America does not have an “Energy Policy” per se’. America has an a “Hate Carbon Policy” that has progressed far enough to create an energy crisis, possible Rolling Blackouts, Brownouts and excalating food prices.
The recent Supreme Court ruling which trimmed the power of the EPA is important to provide for less government restrictions and for the freedom of future Americans to enjoy the “American Dream”. This post is based on the importance of energy to power our way of life. Each American uses about a million Btus of energy each day. Energy fuels our way of life. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has kept track of the total primary energy use of America for many years. Total primary energy use has held steady at about 100 quads (+/-10) per year for the last 23 years. Total Primary Energy includes all forms of energy. The Energy Flow Chart for 2021 is copied below:
Total Primary Energy Supply 1999-2021 about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s
A fair question is, what does the Supreme Court ruling on the EPA’s right to regulate carbon have to do with living the American Dream? Here is my answer. If we accept that the U.S. requires 100 quadrillion Btus of energy to power our high quality of living, then how can we continue living our good lives if over 80% of the fuel we depend on is considered unavailable by the government? Yes, from the LLNL figure above, (in Quads) 35.1 Petroleum + 10.5 Coal +31.3 Natural Gas +8.13 nuclear power = 85.03 quadrillion Btus which is 87.4 % of the 97.3 Quads of Total Primary Energy.
Thermal energy is important for every American. The 87.4% includes nuclear. Therefore, the total primary energy provided from conventional forms of energy is 87.4%.
The government, “Woke” Business leaders, celebrities and many in the media have pushed the fantasy of achieving American energy needs from 100% solar and wind by 2030 or 2050. To attempt to be polite, thinking we can replace conventional forms of energy within a few years is being detached from reality and delusional. Let me explain why I believe this to be so by looking at the last 23 years of energy use to show where we came from in two decades and to then look into the future to see the next two decades:
The 1999 Sankey diagram (above) shows total energy use in the U.S. of 96.6 quadrillion Btus. I stated above that America’s total primary energy has held pretty steady for decades. So, here is the factual data of energy flows from 1999. Over the years, the fuel sources have changed but the total primary energy required to power our lives and economy has remained fairly constant, right at 100 quadrillion Btus. In 1999 coal was 23.3 quadrillion Btus and natural gas 19.29. The “Shale Gas Revolution” which began about 2010 created production of low cost natural gas which displaced much of the coal used for power generation. This fuel substitution of natural gas for coal was mostly for economic dispatch reasons of a more economical fuel for power generation. By the way, if you compare the natural gas prices/million Btus to coal today, coal looks far more reasonable in cost.
Total Primary Energy is Needed for Electricity Generation Plus… Industry, Transportation, Commercial and Residential
The graph below was prepared by the EIA to illustrate the production and use of total energy in the U.S.A. from 1950 to 2020. This also supports the statement that America has used right at 100 Quadrillion Btus for the last 23 years. This includes all forms of energy and including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, Biomass, geothermal. As can be seen from the graph, energy independence was achieved in 2020. This was largely as the result of increased oil and natural gas production within the U.S.A.
The Fantasy of Wind and Solar Replacing Conventional Energy and Achieving Net-Zero Carbon by 2050
Fossil fuels plus nuclear energy provided over 87% of America’s total primary energy for the year 2021. This is a fact. (as shown on the first chart above from LLNL) It is also a fact that wind and solar together provided about 5% of our total primary energy. The question needs to be asked, Is it reasonable to expect solar and wind to replace the energy currently provided by petroleum, natural gas, coal and nuclear? I say NO it is not reasonable to expect solar and wind to replace coal, oil, gas and nuclear any time soon. Yes, wind and solar are being forced on America by the energy policies and incentives of government, but it is implausible to expect the total of 100 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent of energy to come from wind and solar. In my opinion, impossible until there are major technological advancements.
Here are eleven reasons why Net-Zero Carbon is Not Practical within the next 28 years:
The land area of 100% renewables required is enormous. The energy density of solar and wind is far too low(1)
Electricity storage is not yet technologically advanced for commercial applications at Utility scale for long time periods
If all Internal Combustion Engines for ground transportation are electrified, then it exacerbates the first two points. It still takes about the same primary energy content to move vehicles no matter what fuel or energy source is used. Example, EV’s need charging to provide motive force
Solar and Wind are not Dispatchable. They provide maximum output as nature provides when the wind blows and the sun shines, not as Citizen electricity demand requires
About 8-10% of petroleum is refined into Jet Fuel. Hydrogen fueled aircraft may be safe & practical some day, but that someday is decades away.
Fertilizer and food production uses between 2 and 5% of total primary energy. This cannot be replaced with wind and solar
The Transmission and Distribution network of the electric Grid is not setup for solar and wind systems. It takes time to permit, design and construct T&D systems
Oil, coal and natural gas provide raw materials for textiles, rubber, plastics and many other products that the world depends on
Coking coal is required to produce the best quality steel from iron ore
Cement production requires fuel for production
Nuclear power is the largest provider of carbon free energy, yet there is only one new nuclear plant under construction in the U.S. The Georgia Power Plant Vogtle Units 2 &3
All Fuels are Important and a Balanced Energy Portfolio is Preferred
America has been depending on coal power for many years. Although not appreciated by the media and even some Utility Exec’s, coal remains important. I will cite three examples below: First the U.S. Grid Electric Generation by fuel type for the weeks of September 25 -October 2, 2021 and from June 10- 16, 2022. Note the Dispatchable power of over 80% in both cases, with coal providing a significant portion of the generation. Also shown below are screen shots of actual generation by fuel for both the MISO and PJM RTO’s (Regional Transmission Operators)
The four illustrations above show examples of the importance of coal fuel to electric power generation for the lower 48 states, for the Midcontenent Independent System Operator and for the PJM Interconnection. All four examples show significant generation by Dispatchable power: coal, gas and nuclear. These four charts could be considered “A Balanced Generation Portfolio” By balanced, I mean fuel diversity of nuclear, gas, coal and renewables. This is good, however, the current U.S. Path is to shutdown many of the coal plants that were participating in the above “examples. Take a look at the EIA report that states 12.6 GW of coal plants to retire by 2022. (4)
Also, the recent closures of Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan and the William Zimmer 1300 MW coal plant near Cincinnati.
Coal, The American Treasure of Energy
When I was active in the American Coal Council we had an interesting speaker from the National Coal Council, on the coal, oil and gas reserves within the borders of the U.S. The speaker (Robert Beck) presented a study of using captured CO2 to force oil still trapped beneath Ohio’s old oil fields. As I recall, the presentation summary was that any place that coal is found, so is oil and gas. Thus, if you look at a map of U.S. coal deposits, sure enough, gas and oil has also been produced. Getting back to the National Coal Council presentation, the statement was made that about 3 million barrels a day of oil could be recovered from the “Old abandoned” Ohio Oil fields of decades ago, by using enhanced oil recovery of pressurizing the oil deposits with CO2 captured from the many coal plants in Ohio.(5) Here below is an illustration of world coal reserves. It could be said, the U.S. likely has the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. The statement made by a coal expert that I heard ten years ago seems true, “Wherever there is coal, so is there oil and gas”. Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota all have coal and all have had significant oil and gas production since Hydraulic Fracturing combined with directional drilling has been utilized.
Why should our politicians cripple our economy over the politically inspired (not Environmental protection driven) U.N. -IPCC, Paris agreement?(56,57,58,59)America can be Energy Independent. We were in 2020 and we can do it again!
Meanwhile in China
China is the world’s largest producer of aluminum and steel. They also are the largest manufacturing nation on the planet. This manufacturing might is powered mostly by coal power. China gets it and they are diligently working toward a “Balanced Generation Portfolio” of coal, nuclear, wind, solar and gas.(51, 52, 53) Russia is conveniently in an excellent geographic and economic position to supply coal, oil, nuclear and gas to China to power their industrial output.
China is a large country that is committed to increasing the size of their economy. Powering manufacturing requires large amounts of reliable, reasonable cost electricity generation. China has a truly “Balanced Portfolio of Generation Capacity”, including nuclear as shown above and also enormous amounts of renewable power from the Three Gorges Hydroelectric plant which is over 22 GW in capacity, as well as wind, solar and coal. I thought I should interject the energy facts regarding China’s Bulk Power Generation, because competing with them will require reasonable cost Bulk Power here. Especially for energy intensive manufacturing such as aluminum smelting and other primary metals production.
Conclusions from Excerpts of Vaclav Smil book, “Power Density” on the Use of Wind, Water and Solar to Generate most of Our Electricity
Vaclav Smil has written many books on Energy, Power and Electricity generation. His book “POWER DENSITY” for this discussion is particularly relevant. Copied below are excerpts from the final chapter of “POWER DENSITY”:
“What Would it Take”
“If you are willing to engage in unbounded science and engineering fiction, then acccording to Jacobson and Delucchi (2011), this is what it would take to supply the world with 100% renewable energy in 2030 by using electricity (generated by wind, water and solar PV installations) and electrolytic hydrogen for all purposes: 3.8 million 5-MW wind turbines, 49,000 300-MW central solar plants, 1.7 billion 3-kW rooftop PV installations, 5,350 100-MW geothermal plants, 270 new 1.3 GW hydro stations, 720,000 0.75-MW wave devices and 490,000 1-MW tidal turbines. All of that will require only about 0.4% of the world’s land for its footprint and 0.6% for spacing, and we are assured that the barriers to the plan are primarily social and political, not technological or economic as the energy cost in a new wind-water-solar world should be similar to that today” (The above is quoting from Jacobson and Delucchi)
Smil continues (from pg 244, Power Density)
“These assurances asides, the simplest reality check shows the fictional nature of these assumptions. In 2013 the worldwide capacity in wind turbines reached 330 GW, while 13 TW (40 times as much) would be needed by 2030. Total rooftop and large plant PV capacity reached about 100 GW, but 17.1 TW of these installations would be required (170 times as much); moreover, there was not a single 300-MW solar PV plant (five plants rated between 200-250 MW), whereas 40,000 would be needed by 2030. In 2013 there was only one central solar power facility rated at more than 300 MW, Ivanpah, at 392 MW, but nearly 5,000 such facilities would be needed by 2030 (an increase of four orders of magnitude). There were fewer than 50 geothermal stations rated at more than 100 MW, but 5,350 would be needed (a 100-fold increase). Pelamis (2014, the world’s most advanced wave energy company, produced six 0.75 MW devices by the beginning of 2014, but 720,000 would need to be operating by 2030 (an increase of five orders of magnitude). Finally, by 2013 there were fewer than ten small tidal stations with aggregate installed power of much less than 1 GW, while 490 GW would have to generate by 2030 (two orders of magnitude more).
Such ramping-up of all kinds of capacities-design, permitting, financing, engineering, construction, all going up between one and five orders of magnitude in less than two decades-is far, far beyond anything that has been witnessed in less than two decades-is far, far beyond anything that has been witnessed in more than a century of developing modern energy systems. And that still leaves out two other key facts, namely, that such a gargantuan renewable energy system would need an enormous expansion of high-voltage transmission and would require the creation of an entirely new, hydrogen-based society. I am still not sure how we would fly with hydrogen (or electricity) or smelt pig iron. In any case the chances of a 100% water-wind-solar world to be ready by 2030 are nil, but it is worth while exploring what it would (realistically) take to create an increasingly nonfossil global energy system.” The preceding “What Would it Take” is a direct quotation from Smil’s book, pages 243-245.
Summary & Conclusions:
In my opinion, Vaclav Smil in the preceding paragraphs captured the essence of the fictional engineering that can create a path to Net-Zero Carbon by 2050. In the references that follow, Donn Dears and others have come to similar conclusions on the futility of achieving Net-Zero Carbon.
With regard to Anthropogenic Climate Change, I have included some references from expert Climate and Atmospheric Scientists that know the topic well.(2,7,8,9,10,12,13,15,16,56,58,59)
Climate Policies and the UN-IPCC are driven by politics and not by science or a sincere interest in saving the planet. Some references which support this claim are also included for further reading.(56,58,59)
I will close with seven conclusions, which are:
The Economic Harm to the U.S. if the Path to Net-Zero Carbon with solar and wind and without nuclear power as a major component, will weaken the U.S.A. and harm our capability to compete in world markets. Especially competing with China and the rest of the world in manufacturing.(2, 3, 4, 7, 8 & 9)
Dispatchable Coal Plants should not be shut down until they are replaced by proven and commissioned “Dispatchable” generating capacity. Shutting down 12.6MW of coal plants as planned, will lead to Blackouts and Brownouts(4,22,25, 26, 27)
Depending on wind and solar to replace the existing 2022 still operational coal and nuclear plants will lead to increased electricity costs as well as reduced reliability(14, 36)
China is the world’s largest manufacturer and will remain ahead of the U.S. and gain further if the U.S. continues down the Net-Zero Carbon Path(17, 18, 19, 28)
America invented nuclear power (Rickover) for peaceful purposes and was the world leader in developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. We have lost that lead and China and Russia are building more nuclear power plants in the world than the U.S. Most of our problems are unessessary Federal Regulations(11, 51,53,57)
Energy Independence plus reasonable cost, abundant and Dispatchable Electricity are pre-requisites for a strong economy and a strong National Defense. America should expand and increase our treasures of nuclear, coal, oil and gas forms of energy to reachieve Energy Independence.(5)
The U.S. should use all of the energy resources within our borders to be 100% Energy Independent. This includes the Treasure of Coal Energy which we know how to burn cleanly.(30, 31, 32)
Dick Storm, July 4th, 2022
References for Further Reading:
Vaclav Smil Book, “POWER DENSITY” The MIT Press 2015
Santee-Cooper is a state owned Utility in the Great State of South Carolina. The Total Generation Capacity is about 6,000 MW, though a small Utility it is, I think, a great example of one which currently has a well balanced generation portfolio and it should stay that way.
Myself and others have commented on the importance of a Balanced Energy Portfolio on LinkedIn, other Social Media, in technical presentations, papers and short courses that we have presented. The Wall Street Journal, NERC, MISO, Utility Dive, Power Magazine, Forbes and other respected Technical Journals and magazines have reported that America may in fact, experience Blackouts during the summer of 2022(1,2,3,4,5) This is serious and it shows the poor planning or absence of any planning at all for the future sustainable energy needs of America.
So, If I am so Critical, Shouldn’t I provide My Suggestions? Here they are.
I thought it would be appropriate to take a 6,000 MW Electric Utility as an example and show in detail what I recommend for a Balanced Generation Portfolio should look like for the next 10-20 years. I selected Santee-Cooper as the example because I am very familiar with their coal plants having worked as a field service engineer, a contractor, course instructor and consultant since 1970. I have personally worked at all of the coal plants that they have owned and operated, including two that have been since shut down. Also, Santee-Cooper asked for public involvement in updating their IRP (Integrated Resources Plan), which I volunteered to participate in and was accepted as a member of their SC citizen/customer Stakeholder participants. So, what follows are my suggestions of what a Balanced Generation Portfolio could look like to keep the fine record of reasonable cost & reliable electricity for the territory served by Santee-Cooper and the Co-operatives that are major customers.
Santee-Cooper also known as South Carolina Public Service Authority
The Figure below lists the generating assets that Santee-Cooper currently owns and are operable. The generation assets total are 5,801 MW. Coal plants are 3,530 or 61% of the total generation capacity. Natural gas fueled units at Rainey are the next largest at 1,150 MW and Nuclear capacity of Summer is 322 MW. Solar as of winter 2021-2022 is planned to be 82 MW. Therefore, of the 5,801 total generation capacity over 86% is Dispatchable and of proven reasonable cost and reliable generation.
Load Growth Projections by Santee-Cooper, Supply/Demand Balance 2022-2040
Electricity demand expectations are by 2040 to grow above 6,000 MW. Currently there are plans to shut down the 1,150 MW Winyah coal fueled power station. This, I believe, if carried out will be a mistake. The world situation with energy and power should show us the importance of Domestic energy supply and Santee-Cooper has, up to this point, had a balanced energy portfolio to meet the Demand of the customers with affordable, reliable electricity supply. I have included references below of reasons why coal power is important.
The table below (labeled 2-2) is another listing of Santee-Cooper generating assets. This one is from a publicly available Black and Veatch report dated 2019.
South Carolina is #3 in Nuclear Generation in the U.S.A.
Nuclear Power is Most Dominant in South Carolina but, Many Nuclear Plants are Old and Some Could Shut Down by 2040? Licenses Need to Be Renewed by the NRC to Depend on these for backup.
In my view, Santee-Cooper is a state treasure and that the low cost, reliable generation capacity should be planned to maintain that excellent record using the proven fuels that have served our state so well (My adopted state since moving here full time). Much of the benefits of low cost electricity have come from being interconnected on the Grid with Duke and Dominion Power. They are great neighbors and also have excellent records. However, in my view and based on my experience, I think Santee-Cooper should plan future generation with a balanced portfolio with at least a 15% margin of reserve capacity for winter and summer peak loads. The current stated license expirations for the neighboring utilities and including the Summer Unit #1 which Santee-Cooper owns a portion are:
From Nuclear Energy Institute web site(15)
Duke and Dominion are likely to and in fact, I think they have already proceeded to extend the operating licenses of these nuclear plants. However, the reality is that several sister nuclear units of Duke’s nuclear fleet have already been shut down. The Crystal River nuclear unit and one of the Three Mile Island nuclear units designed and built by Babcock & Wilcox and very similar. ( I know that to be a fact, because I worked at B&W in the 1960’s) These two units performed well for many years, but are now shut down. The age of these wonderful assets must be taken into consideration when depending on the stability and reasonable cost of being dependent on the Grid connection. I feel strongly that the state power generation capacity should be capable of complete independence from neighboring Utility reserve capacity.
The Myth of Green Power
I became interested in participating as a stakeholder in the IRP process as a result of receiving the flier copied below which came with my electric bill from Palmetto Electric. It inferred that the electricity supplied to Hilton Head Island during the Heritage Golf Tournament in April was being provided by “Green Power”. Most of the power that Palmetto Electric distributes to members is provided by Santee-Cooper or from the Grid. It is my understanding that Hilton Head Island uses over 180 MW on a hot summer day. The renewable power generation assets are listed above. The renewables assets are far from adequate to meet the demand of Hilton Head Island during a normal summer day. I have shown above the facts on generating assets and electric power generation statistics for previous years. The load growth projections to 2040 were provided in the Santee-Cooper IRP Presentation. Santee-Cooper and Palmetto Electric have done a wonderful job in providing reliable, affordable electricity to Hilton Head Island. Green power if expanded at the extreme risk and expense of decommissioning Winyah and even one or more of the Cross Units will cause economic harm to our citizens and to this up to now, great state with reliable and reasonable cost power, in my opinion.
Coal and nuclear power have served the great state of South Carolina very well for many years. Coal, Gas and Nuclear power generation are all Dispatchable and with a balanced portfolio economic dispatch can continue to sustain reasonable cost Bulk Power delivery.
Fuel prices fluctuate widely due to world supply and Demand events. Before I retired in 2012, I participated in delivering courses on power generation and power generation economics. My specialty was coal firing and heat rate improvements. The graph below was prepared to present to the O & M Team of a Florida Utility to show the importance of efficient coal plant operation to compete with the then low cost natural gas fuel. In 2012 the Shale Gas Revolution was going strong and over-supply of natural gas drove natural gas prices down to levels below coal fuel cost for equivalent energy. Of course now (June 2022) natural gas prices at the Henry Hub exceed $9.00/million Btu. Thus, coal fuel, if it can be delivered, is much lower in cost. This is my basis for stating that a Balanced Portfolio of generation assets is important.
The majority of generation must be Dispatchable for voltage and frequency stability. Here below is a chart of real time power generation for a typical week in 2021. This is from the EIA website. Note that the majority (80%) of the power generation is from coal, nuclear and gas fuels. All dispatchable forms of electricity generation.
The above is real time generation. Below is the installed capacity by fuel type. Conventional generation is the majority and if this reliable generation is compromised then the entire US and the state of SC capability to deliver reasonable cost, reliable power will be harmed.
Solar power is useful for shaving day time peak load and I support the use of solar for purposes of taking advantage of daytime solar power. In fact, I was part of a team at a College in Pennsylvania where I agreed with the use of roof solar panels on the sports center for purposes of reducing August peak load demand from the local Utility. So, I agree that sometimes solar is practical, but not to replace reliable Base load Bulk Power Capacity such as the Winyah Coal plant generating capacity.
Solar and Wind power is more expensive than coal, nuclear and gas power generation. The chart below is one reference to show that. Below I will offer the example of Hawaii. Texas also should be considered from recent experiences of over building non-Dispatchable renewables.(2,11)
The chart below is Retail Electricity Costs as published on the EIA website(16) . Note the cost of Hawaii Electric which is about three times the cost of South Carolina. Hawaii of course, is an island and therefore they have no interconnections with neighboring Utilities such as Santee-Cooper does with Dominion and Duke. Therefore, the Bulk Power production costs are higher because when wind and solar is not available, Diesel Fuel is used for power generation. In large steam plants the fuel cost component of electricity generation is between 75 and 95% of the production cost at the Bus Bars. Check the Island Pulse website to see real time power generation by fuel.(14)
The continued good economic prosperity of South Carolina depends on a future of reasonable cost electric power. That future, in my strong opinion, should be provided by keeping the existing coal plants and including the coal transportation and supply chain infrastructure. Further, the existing coal plants should be operated, periodically tested and maintained. They should be protected from deterioration from corrosion and other forms of deterioration by operating them at a significant load factor and keeping them in top condition.
Each American that lives an above average life-style in our country uses about a million Btu’s per day. So, if the government wishes to outlaw fossil fuels through ever increasing regulations, then what are we prepared to give up? Politicians are continuing the war on carbon which began under the Clinton Administration in 1993. What freedoms are you and I willing to give up? As for me, and my family, I say none! As this is written, it is Memorial Day weekend and many fine Americans gave all so that we can enjoy our lives. The 2020 election created serious consequences for Americans to continue to live the American Dream.
Freedom & Sustainability
Joe Biden and the Democrats are doing their best to outlaw fossil fuels. This is un-American and in fact, anti-American sustainability. Sustainability to me, means to sustain our high quality of life and for our children and grandchildren to have an ever increasing quality of life. That is the way my God gifted life has gone, each year in general, became better with more manual work performed by energy. Some examples, modern electric appliances, power tools and yard tools. We depend on energy to replace muscle more than any time in history. Our quality of life is a result of using more energy and less muscle power. About a million Btus per day, per person. So, if Fossil Fuels are providing the majority of the energy we depend on (see 2021 LLNL chart below), then the Democrats must want us to scale back our quality of life? Because abundant, reasonable cost and reliable Energy is required to power our good lives. This includes the supply chain, fertilizer and food production, manufacturing, jobs, transportation and just about everything that makes living the American Dream possible. Fossil Fuels currently provide about 79% of our energy.
The illustrations above and below are copied from a presentation I gave to the Annual Meeting of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) in 2011. This was following the Financial crisis of 2008. Remember that? The energy consumption of the U.S. in 2009 actually dropped from about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year to about 94.6 Quadrillion Btu’s/year. The point is, that energy does in fact provide for economic prosperity and our high quality of life. Freedom too!
In 2009 about 50% of America’s electricity was being generated by coal. That was before the Shale Gas Revolution. After the recovery from the 2008 Financial crisis, life became very good again. Actually, we Americans have been Blessed with very good lives for many decades. I have had the gift of living for seven decades of a wonderful life reaching all the goals I could have wished for as a child. Energy has played a big part of America’s rise during the last 100 years. Now each of us uses about a million Btu’s of energy each day.
Coal fuel produced about 50% of America’s electric power up to about 2012 when the Shale Gas Revolution took over and natural gas became so abundant that fuel prices for gas dropped below coal. The graph below shows the trend of natural gas prices from 2006-2012. When natural gas dropped to about $2.00/million Btu it became very competitive with coal and in fact in certain areas of the U.S., a less expensive fuel than coal for power generation.
From Dick Storm OLLI Course , Energy Production Part 1, January 2021
Total Primary Energy Flows
Shown above is the Sankey Energy Flow Diagram for the year 2009. Below is the latest version of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Energy Flow Diagram for the year 2021. If you compare 2009 with 2021 Total Energy Flows, they are very close at 94.58 and 97.3 Quadrillion Btu’s. In 2019 America used right at 100.2 Quadrillion Btus. The economy was improving and 2019 was the year before the Covid Pandemic. So, as the economy improves, more energy is used. When the economy shrinks, less energy is used. This is TOTAL ENERGY which includes energy from all sources, including renewables. It also included electricity generation (about 37%) and Transportation (about 27%). Keep in mind that if we maintain or sustain our current freedoms of travel and lifestyles, likely the total energy use will remain rght at 100 Quadrillion Btus. Population increase and reshoring manufacturing will increase energy use above 100 Quad’s.
Can EV’s for Transportation Substitute Electricity for Petroleum?
There are about 280 million light trucks and cars on our highways today. All but about 11 million of these vehicles are fueled with gasoline and Diesel fuel. Heavy trucks for commerce are mostly Diesel powered and of course, airlines are fueled with Jet Fuel. These comprise fuel for transportation, which is about 28% of the Total Primary Energy used in the U.S. If these were all electrified then the electric power generation would need to vastly increase to use about 65% of the total primary energy. Of course, the about 8-10% of petroleum that is used for Jet Fuel will still be needed even if all other vehicles were replaced with EV’s. This is not practical any time soon. Check the excellent research that Donn Dears has done on this.(3)
Hydrogen as Fuel
Replacing petroleum with hydrogen fuel has been talked about for decades. Yes, it is feasible to use Electrolyzers to separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules from water and thus produce “GreenHydrogen”. However, it takes about 2.5 to 3 times more electricity to produce a unit of hydrogen than what that unit of energy will produce in electric power.
America uses about 100 Quadrillion btus each year. Over 79% of these energy units are provided by Fossil Fuels. Replacing them with renewables in the near term is at the very least, impractical. In my view it is impossible during my lifetime or the lifetime of my children.
Net Zero Carbon Policies are not driven by science or protection of the planet. They are politically driven for the benefit of politicians to wield power over the people.
Climate Policies are being formulated by politicians and non-science trained individuals.
Energy and Economic Prosperity are linked together. As shown in the Energy Flow diagrams above, when there was a recession in 2008-2009 America’s energy use declined. Likelwise during the 2020 Pandemic. As the Economy thrives, we use more energy. Energy is vital for a thriving economy.
America will continue to use 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year and more when our economy is performing at it’s best. As population grows and hopefully, more manufacturing is reshored, energy use will rise. Solar and wind power cannot meet this increase.
New Nuclear plants are needed to keep a Balanced Electric Generation Portfolio(7,8,9)
By not keeping a Balanced Electric Generation Portfolio, America risks energy shortages and Blackouts(10)
All Developed Countries depend on reliable, affordable energy. In my opinion, a significant portion of the 100 Quadrillion Btu’s America has been using for decades, should continue to be supplied by coal fuel.(6, 22)
The Transportation fuels of gasoline and Diesel cannot be replaced in the short term with EV’s or Hydrogen.
If America continues on the Net-Zero Carbon Path, then it will lead to a reduction in our freedoms to live sustainable lives as we have been accustomed to. (11)
Energy is important not only to power our high quality of lives, but reasonable cost, abundant energy is also important to the supply chain and food production(17)
The United Nation’s Highest Priority In November 2021 to Save The Planet Was COP-26. Which Is More Important , Peace in the World, The Paris Climate Agreement or Avoiding World Famine and Improving the Quality of Life For All of the People of the World, Including Ukraine?
By Dick Storm
Horrible crimes against humanity are being committed in the Russia-Ukraine war. Innocent people are being murdered, homes demolished by military bombardment and artillery, world food production slowed(3,4,5) and what are the leaders of the world concerned about? Manmade Climate Change, the most successful scientific hoax in the history of the world. Three world leaders could improve world peace and start the correction of the mess the world is in today if they would change the priorities of the UN. Who am I referring to: Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau and the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres.
Remember the UN priorities in November 2021? If not, here is a review of what these three leaders considered the most sinister problem the people of the world would face in the future. Flashback to Scotland, November 2021:
What is The Purpose of the United Nations and The Paris Agreement? World Peace? Protection of the Environment?….or One World Government to Control The People of The World?
As the world is on the threshold of nuclear war with a world food crisis likely next winter from reduced fertilizer availability and massive unproductive farmland in a war zone, these three leaders and many other sycophants have the Paris Agreement for Climate Change Policies as their top agenda, instead of the best interests of their constituents, world peace and improving the human development index of the people of the world.
I feel strongly that the top priority of these leaders and the U.N. is not concern for the planet that drives them. It is politics and control of the world’s citizens. In short, power over people. For example, the UN Secretary General’s background is copied below. This is from his Bio on the UN web page, From Mr. Guterres Curriculum vitae: “For many years Mr. Guterres was active in the Socialist International, a worldwide organization of social democratic political parties.”
Let me digress and quote the past president of the Czech Republic on the “Climate Zealots” such as Guterres, Biden, Kerry, Gore, Trudeau and many more.
Vaclav Klaus is Past President of The Czech Republic and grew up under Communism then had to wrestle with policies by the “Greens” of Europe. An Economist by training. His words, from about 2007…..“Global Warming is a false myth and every serious person and scientist says so. It is not fair to refer to the U.N. panel. The IPCC is not a scientific institution: it’s a political body, a sort of non-government organization of green flavor. It’s neither a forum of neutral scientists nor a balanced group of scientists. These people are polititicized scientists who have arrive there with a one-sided opinion and a one-sided argument”(49)
Justin Trudeau also could help guide the United Nations to a truly serious priority, but according to Peter Schweizer’s recent book, “Red Handed”, Trudeau also ranks political power above world peace. See page 187 describing the Trudeau family and links to China: Justin Trudeau is quoted in 2013: When asked which country he admired the most replied “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China….because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime and say, ‘we need to go greenest, fastest—we need to invest in solar’ I mean, there is flexibility that I know Stephen Harper (the Canadian PM at the time) must dream dream about having a dictatorship that he can do everything he wanted, and I find that quite interesting”
It should be blatently obvious that ranking peace and the world food supply should be more important than the Paris Climate Agreement which is based on a scientific hoax anyway. Ukraine alone supplied about 12% of the global wheat before the war, and was the biggest producer of sunflower oil. About two-thirds of the country’s wheat exports had already been delivered before the invasion, but the rest is now blocked, and farmers may be unable to continue with spring planting, or take in grain harvests in the summer. A headline in the “Times of Israel” reads, “Israel scrambles for solutions as Ukraine war chokes off egg, wheat imports”Industry figures predict egg shortage and sky-high wheat prices just in time for Passover holiday. The prospect for the world later this year is shortages of food across the globe. (3,4,5, 30)
Fertilizer costs in the U.S. have also tripled this year. Partly because of Biden’s energy policies and exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The impact of energy on food availability goes beyond higher cost Diesel fuel for shipping transportation fuel in the supply chain. Fertilizer and farmland in areas of conflict are a huge problem. (2,3,4,9,10)
Perhaps better kept as a separate subject to write on, but most people are not aware that between 30 to 40% of the U.S. corn crop is used to produce Ethanol for a gasoline additive that lowers the energy equivalent of gasoline and reduces auto mileage. Suffice it to say, energy and environmental policies that promote burning food for fuel also affects the world food supply.(16,17)
How is Energy Linked to World Peace?
I began this essay on the priorities of the leaders of the world and the priorities they saw as top priority in November 2021. Well, if you think the Mainstream Media has been duped and indoctrinated then you are not alone. While the world’s media attention was on the War on Carbon, very serious problems were brewing and under-reported. Kindly take a look at the six charts below: 1. Total primary energy of the world, 2. Coal Consumption by Region, 3. CO2 Emissions of the World, 4. Total Energy by Source for China and 5. Total End Use of Coal Fuel for Products and 6. China, The World’s Superpower of Manufacturing.
Over 50% of the world’s Fossil Fuel energy is being used by China to manufacture over 50% of the world’s steel, aluminum and just about every other product needed by the free world. These are easily verifiable facts reported by Our World in Data, IEA.org, the United Nations, EIA and Statista. Energy and Economic Prosperity are inextricably related.
So what is driving the recent rapid increase in world CO2 emissions? According to the IEA, it’s mainly China:
The rebound of global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels has largely been driven by China. . . . China’s CO2 emissions increased by 750 Mt over the two-year period between 2019 and 2021. China was the only major economy to experience economic growth in both 2020 and 2021. The emissions increase in China more than offset the aggregate decline in the rest of the world of 570 Mt between 2019 and 2021. . . . With rapid GDP growth and additional electrification of energy services, electricity demand in China grew by 10% in 2021, faster than economic growth at 8.4%. The increase in demand of almost 700 TWh was the largest ever experienced in China. With demand growth outstripping the increase of low emissions supply, coal was called on to fill 56% of the rise in electricity demand.(47)
Total Energy Supply (TES) By Source, People’s Republic of China, 1990-2019
“The South China Morning Post” reported April 1, 2022, quoting “China’s Zhang Jianhua, chief of the National Energy Administration: “It signed an agreement to be supplied with 100 million metric tonnes of Russian crude oil over the next 10 years and a 30-year gas supply contract.
The world’s second largest economy suffered a nationwide energy crunch in September of last year amid local decarbonisation and energy saving campaigns, which has forced policymakers to adjust energy policies.
In the 14th five-year energy plan for 2021-25 released last week, Beijing said it would set annual crude output at around 200 million metric tonnes and lift natural gas output to more than 230 billion cubic metres from 205.3 billion cubic metres.
Coal and thermal power will remain the bedrock of China’s energy security strategy, Zhang wrote in the article.” (31)
The above is a direct quote from the SCMP, except the bold and underlining of the last line which was by me.
A recent post in WUWT stated, “China Continues To Laugh At Western “Green Energy” Foolishness”(47)
Why? The graphs above show China’s energy sources and growth in consumption. Economic prosperity is powered by Energy and China has used a lot of energy to become the world’s largest manufacturer.
Russia is the World’s Gas Station, China is the World’s Largest Manufacturer, Still think the UN Has it Right with the War on Carbon as their Top Priority?
China continues to power their mammoth manufacturing might with coal plants. We should remember our history, do you remember the term “The Arsenal of Democracy” when America provided the remarkable production of airplanes, tanks, guns, ships, arms and materiel to help the Allies win WWll? Some say “History Repeats”…..and if we switch to current events, Russia and China are very cozy with each other at this horrible time for Ukraine.
My point is that energy is a pre-requisite for economic prosperity. China gets it. China, Environmental Extremists, Socialists and Russia have duped the UN and the world leaders into believing the planet is imperiled by 0.041% carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, China burns over half of the world’s coal to power their industries. Russia remains the world’s gas station and holds Europe hostage to Russia’s gas (and more) while the Green’s of Germany shut down safe, proven, reliable and reasonable production cost coal and nuclear power plants, making them beholden to Russian energy. This is nuts.
China has risen from a “Developing Country” in 2000 to the second largest economy in the world. They not only manufacture much of the steel, aluminum, rare earth minerals for batteries, solar panels and wind turbine components, they also manufacture much of the Pharmaceuticals used in the world and in the U.S. Have you tried to purchase a made in U.S.A. Drug lately? This brings me to banking. As a small businessman about thirty years ago, I remember how important banks were to sustain our business. To provide business loans for expansion, cover payroll until the invoice for products or services was paid and for conducting commerce in other countries. Banks and the size of banks is one metric to use to judge a country’s economic prosperity. China seems to me, to be pretty slick in their approach to dominating the world. They quietly support Russia and other rogue nations while they focus on producing products, acquiring world natural resources and taking over the world by using the weaknesses of Democracy & Capitalism to exploit their Financial muscle. Let’s take a look at China’s financial muscle. To be perfectly honest, the ranking of the world banks surprised me and I thought I kept up with world business news.
China and Banking
China now has five of the world’s ten largest Banks. Yes, being the world’s largest manufacturer has it’s advantages. It creates wealth which can then be converted into International Influence. The China “One Belt, One Road” or “Belt and Roads Initiative” is an example that is playing out around the world. Also, I am told by a financial expert, China holds about 4% of the U.S. Treasury debt.
A lot of people who have not run a business do not understand the need for working Capital. When a company cannot get loans to cover everyday costs or to finance future improvements they go out of business. We might ask some questions regarding the ESG Movement and Regulations that are pending with regard to discouraging or demonizing investments in fossil fuels (and suppliers to fossil fuel producers) by US investors. Is there a sinister, foreign influence side to the ESG movement and Federal Regulations? Here is the list of the top ten banks of the world. Yes, five of the top ten are Chinese.
My point is, manufacturing requires lots of energy. Especially primary metals and heavy manufacturing. As seen from the graphs above, China has grown enormously in manufacturing capacity since they entered the WTO in 2001. To put it in perspective, China built more electric generation capacity in twenty years than the U.S. did since the days of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse 100+ years ago.
Getting back to finance, did you catch the small news item last week? As it is related to energy, Saudi Arabia is considering acceptance of the Chinese Yuan for oil and China will be pushing to use other currency than the USD as they continue to grow their economy. (50)
Let’s Review the Sources of the Dependable, Dispatchable and in 2020, Reasonable Cost Energy that We Depend On
If you take what you see in the newspapers and on TV seriously, you would think that we only have a little way to go to convert our economy to zero carbon. This is not true!
I cite the example of a usually conservative Newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. This is a screen shot of a video they had last year which was based on facts, but at the same time misleading the public on the success of “Green Energy”.
Yes, the 90% of “NEW GENERATION” in 2020 was Renewable, but the true useful energy production was less than 4% of the total energy provided to the U.S.A.
This is a reminder, over 90% of America’s energy is provided by conventional fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, waste to energy, biomass and old hydroelectric power stations. The Lawrence Livermore Labs Sankey Diagram, in my opinion, is the best single illustration to show true energy flows from the sources to end use. It is copied below for the year 2019. This is simply the true facts of where we obtain our energy:
America has been using right at 100 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy for decades. The next chart below, shows the historical energy use from 1950-2019. This is a useful chart to consider the transfer of energy from fossil fuels to electric vehicles. Notice that only 3.78% of our Total Energy was provided by solar and wind in 2019. Now imagine the futility of replacing the 37% of our Total Energy now provided by petroleum, with EV’s. The Government Net Zero Carbon plans to replace not only the petroleum but also Natural Gas and Nuclear. The Total Energy supplied by Petroleum is about 37%, Gas 32%, Coal 11.4% and Nuclear 8.5%. These “Conventional sources of energy total 88.9%. Replacing this energy with renewables by 2030 or even 2050 will require an enormous technological breakthrough. The government should not promote policies based on miracles.
To keep our same freedom and high quality of life, it requires each of us 331 million Americans to utilize an average of about a million Btu’s in energy each day. Averages are often misleading, consider the millions of Btu’s used by the world elitists that traveled to Scotland for COP-26. My understanding is that there were over 400 private jets and that the fuel used for these delegates exceeded the total petrol used by Scotland for an entire year. That should provide a clue regarding the sincere interest of the participants in the UN Climate talks to save the planet. It is reasonable for each of us living in the Developed World to continue using our allotment of about a million Btu’s of energy each day.
My Suggestion, On How to Fix this Energy, World Peace and Food Supply Mess
The War of Carbon in my viewpoint is contributing to International conflicts and harming world peace. If Joe Biden would rescind most of his Executive orders including drilling on Federal Lands, Building the Keystone Pipeline and scrapping the Paris Climate Agreement, it would, in my opinion, contribute to world peace and much more.(1,2,3,5,13)
The Biden administration is testing new depths of mind-blowing political dysfunction, by begging OPEC for more oil, while at the same time maintaining their attack on the US domestic oil industry. (28) Speaking of attacks on the energy producers that we depend on…..
ESG, One of America’s Self Inflicted Roadblocks for a Sane Energy Policy
The (ESG) movement is harming U.S. productive capacity of conventional fuels that are needed. (See above Sankey Diagram to show what we need) These actions are pushed by environmental groups, by government and by big business. (33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40) These ESG punitive actions have been ramped up, such as Biden’s “Whole Government Approach to Climate Control Policies” with involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the EPA, IRS Tax policies and more.
Meanwhile, NGO’s also are attacking US Energy producers. Does this look to you like it could be coordinated with America’s world competitors or enemies? It does to me. Check reference #44 entitled, “What Divestment From Russia Means for Activism Against Fossil Fuels” then the sub title: “It’s time to scale up fossil fuels divestment”(44). When 80% of the energy we depend on is from oil, gas & coal, does this seem like a Patriotic and good action? Not in my book. Another excellent reference on the good that Fossil Fuels do to keep America strong and to improve the quality of life for all of the people of the world. The publication by Liberty Oilfield Services is entitled “Bettering Human Lives, 2020 ESG Report”(45)
It could be argued, that keeping America energy independent and the Free World less dependent on rogue nations is important for national security. Look at the mess Europe is in now with their dependence on Putin’s Russian natural gas. The Greens helped push Europe toward Green Energy and they are working hard here in the US too. The environmental extremists were successful in stopping all major new coal plants from being constructed in the US since about 2012. The last major Utility scale clean coal plants I am aware of are Turk in Arkansas and Longview in West Virginia. Even then to obtain operating permits, the environmental extremists were paid off in settlements. These settlements were millions of dollars.(46) Quite honestly, it is extortion which was enabled by the US government. How does this make America stronger and more energy independent?
How About Clean Air?
Before Biden’s Executive orders to push America toward intermittent green energy, our air was and remains amongst the cleanest in the world. The EPA Graphic copied below shows the trends of cleaner air from 1970-2020. This is regarding the six major pollutants that are a real threat to health. I just like everyone else enjoy and appreciate clean air and clean water. I also like my freedom and the American life style that I have enjoyed all of my life.
From my personal experiences of traveling around the world, I can honestly say America’s air is as clean or cleaner than most other countries that I have visited either on business or pleasure. Note the EPA chart above does show the increases in population and GDP from 1970 to 2019, as the six aggregate named pollutants were steadily reduced. There does come to be a point of diminishing returns on air pollution controls just like most other problems. That is, unless you are a Bureaucrat and wish to keep making more and more and stricter yet Regulations. That is the case, in my opinion of the restrictions on CO2 and the Net Zero Carbon and Extreme Green policies. These Regulations and Executive Orders are harmful for American competitiveness and harmful for Peace and Prosperity of the world.
The Net-Zero Carbon Climate Policies are contributing to turmoil in the world by weakening America and NATO Allies. The Paris Agreement for working toward Net Zero Carbon is politically driven, not by concern to save the planet.
The Green Energy Movement in Europe should be an example for the U.S. to learn from. They have had extreme cost escalations and, in some cases, rolling blackouts.
Conventional Fuels of Natural Gas, Coal, Oil, Nuclear, Hydroelectric and Biomass provide over 90% of our energy. Ramping up Renewable solar and wind from about 4% to 100% is unrealistic and impossible to achieve without technological breakthroughs.
The ESG Movement (Environmental Social and Governance) is Discouraging needed investments in oil and gas production as well as harming most all Energy Producers. Check references 33 through 39 for more details.
If Net Zero Carbon was really needed or important, then the Government would encourage the building of more nuclear power plants. Hundreds of them as most of the about 20% of our electricity and over 50% of our carbon free electricity is produced by nuclear now. Most of these nuclear plants were started up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. (41, 42, 43)
World Peace and Prosperity could be better achieved if the world leaders were to focus on the true problems of the world, rather than a war on carbon.
The foregoing are selected facts and data to support my claim that if President Biden were to rescind his 2021 Executive orders and roll back EPA, Dept of the Interior and other Government Regulations to those in effect when he took office, America could begin a recovery of correcting inflation, supply chain issues, increased food production for the world, improved economic growth & Prosperity and even leading the world to peace.
Dick Storm, April 5, 2022
References and Resources for Further Reading to Support My Conclusions:
Vaclav Klaus is a past President of the Czech Republic. Klaus wrote the book, “Blue Planet in Green Shackles” in 2007, published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The sub-title reminds me of the current crisis in the Ukraine. With Russia’s economy being fortified by PetroDollars and the CCP working in earnest to Dominate the World with their influence. I re-ask the question “What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?”
Vaclav Klaus, A Smart and Courageous Man, Also A Great Thinker and Writer!
Václav Klaus, (born June 19, 1941, Prague, Czechoslovakia [now in Czech Republic]), Czech economist and politician who served as Prime Minister (1993–97) and President (2003–13) of the Czech Republic.
Klaus graduated from the University of Economics in Prague in 1963. He was a research worker at the Institute of Economics of the Czech Academy of Sciences in 1968 when he completed his Ph.D. in economics. After working for several years at the Czechoslovak State Bank, he joined the Forecasting Institute of the Czech Academy in 1987. At the beginning of the 1989 Velvet Revolution which brought about the peaceful end of Communism in Czechoslovakia, Klaus entered politics. This Bio from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
Another quote attributed to Klaus: “The climate change debate is basically not about science; it is about ideology. It is not about global temperature; it is about the concept of human society. It is not about nature or scientific ecology; it is about environmentalism, about one – recently born – dirigistic and collectivistic ideology, which goes against freedom and free markets”
Prescient Words from Klaus in 2007
“As someone who lived under Communism for most of my life, I feel obliged to say that the biggest threat to freedom, democracy,the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st Century is not Communism or its various softer versions. Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism. This ideology preaches Earth and nature, and under the slogans of their protection-similarly to the old Marxists-wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning of the whole world.”
“The environmentalists consider their ideas and arguments to be an indisputable truth and use sophisticated methods of media manipulation and (Public relations) campaigns to exert pressure on policymakers to achieve their goals. Their argumentation is based on the spreading of fear and panic by declaring teh future of the world to be under serious threat. In such an atmosphere, they continue pushing policymakers to adopt illiberal measures; imposearbitrary limits, regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions on everyday human activities; and make people subject to omnipotent bureaucratic decision making. To use the words of Friedrich Hayek, they try to stop free, spontaneous human action and replace it by their own, very doubtful human design….”
The above is an excerpt from page 76 of the book’s appendix. This book is only about 100 pages long including the four appendices, the last one being Klaus’ speech to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2007. The U.N. should have paid more attention and acted as Dr. Klaus recommended.
Where is the Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic began its exit from Communism in 1989. The map below shows its position to the south of Germany and Poland.
So What Does The United Nations do for World Peace?
Since about 2007 or so, the Main Stream Media would have us believe the top priority with the U.N. is to save the planet from global warming and climate change. I have written on another post my thoughts on the U.N. Agenda 21 and the IPCC.
The News from the last week or so in Europe is troubling as Russia launches attacks on the Ukraine. The pain, suffering and deaths of the people of the Ukraine is horrible to watch on TV.
So, where is the U.N.? Now a sovereign country has a genuine and true crisis for humanity in Europe. Russia has invaded, waged war and is attempting to take over the sovereign country of the Ukraine, a country of 44 million freedom loving people and a land area about the size of our state of Texas. The U.N. apparently agrees with John Kerry, policies that are related to Climate Change are more important than world peace.
To me this confirms the belief that the U.N. is more interested in a new world government than in promoting peace between nations, promoting freedom, Democracy and improving living conditions for the people of the world. (11)
Fossil Fuels Have Served Russia and China Well
China’s has used coal power to build the largest manufacturing economy in the world. Yes, they lifted millions out of poverty as they did so, but could they have a hidden agenda for world domination? Read about their “Belt and Roads Initiative” and you may find the answer.(9,10,12)
Another country that is fueling their economy on petro-dollars is Russia.
My point: The Peaceful Nations of the World have been duped into signing the Paris Climate Change Agreement while China and Russia appear to be working together on dominating the world with their influence and in the case of the Ukraine, war and atrocities on the citizens only because Putin wants the Ukraine to be within the control of Moscow. As regards Peace in the World, the United Nations has been AWOL, ( like John Kerry), more interested in the war on carbon(11) than a real unprovoked war that has created death and destruction.
Vaclav Klaus writes much in his book of 15 years ago, on the manipulation of science and use of public relations to spread false information. What a genius Klaus is! He saw this a long time ago and tried to warn the people of the world.
Fossil Fuels & Nuclear, The Energy The Developed and Developing World Depends On….or Should Be Depending on!
The Developed Countries of the world depend on abundant, reliable energy to fuel their economies. I have written on China and how they have lifted millions of people from poverty in just twenty years. Amazing progress from a human development standpoint. China did this using fossil fuels, as America did over the last 150 years. As you can see on the chart above, mostly coal.
Fossil Fuels still provide over 80% of the world’s energy. Let’s take a look at the U.S.A. energy supply. We have used right at 100 Quadrillion Btu’s annually for decades. The breakdown by fuel sources is shown below. The Fossil Fuels portion is 80.2%, comprised of 36.7% Oil, 32.1% Natural Gas and 11.4% Coal. Add in nuclear and then the total “Conventional Energy” sources are 88.56%. Solar and Wind even after decades of government subsidies total only 3.78%. A shift to Net Zero Carbon Fuels without a massive expansion of nuclear plants will be incredibly disruptive. In fact, impossible. (13)
Klaus Recommendations in his 2007 Book
Klaus understood the foolishness of net zero carbon and the fact that Climate Policy by world governments is NOT about saving the Planet, it is about government power over the citizens. His recommendations in 2007 were:
The UN should organize two parallel IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change) and publish two competing reports. To get rid of the one-sided monopoly is a sine qua non for an efficient and rational debate. Providing the same or comparable financial backing to both groups of scientists is a necessary starting point.
The countries should listen to one another (and) learn from (the) mistakes and successes of others, but any country should be left alone to prepare its own plan to tackle this problem and decide what priority to assign to its other competing goals.
These two recommendations, offered by Klaus to the U.N. were not considered and certainly not followed.
Net-Zero Carbon, The Climate Policy Destroying America, by Donn Dears
Donn Dears book covers much of what is wrong with current Climate Change Policies. His book is available on Amazon.com or you can write him by email or LinkedIn message. I have purchased copies to provide to friends and educators. Unfortunately, Dears subtitle, “The Climate Policy Destroying America” also seems prescient.
I have written dozens of posts on my Blog which you can easily access. Including a four part series on the history of energy and electricity generation. Part 4 covers China’s Rise over the last twenty years. My conclusions are:
If the current “Green New Deal” policies continue, we will weaken America’s productive capacity.
China is the world’s largest manufacturer and will continue to grow in International influence.(9)
Russia and China seem aligned now and their cooperation together is not likely to favor U.S. interests in the world.
Rejecting the Keystone Pipeline and President Trump’s policies on oil and gas drilling on public lands was a serious mistake by the Biden Administration…
Germany is a couple years ahead of the U.S. on stopping the use of coal and nuclear plants. We should learn from their experiences. (7,8)
The United Kingdom also is struggling with shortages and high costs of energy. Like mentioned for Germany, the U.S. should learn from the experiences in the UK.(14)
America’s current Energy and Environmental Policies are wrong for the best interests of America and the Free World.
I started this post with reference to Vaclave Klaus. Today I have great respect for the man who stood up to the bullying and railroading of poor science to thrust ridiculous energy policies on the free world. Sadly, we of the free world are in a position of weakness compared to where we were when President Trump left office. I am familiar with the famous quote from Ronald Reagan, which goes something like….”Freedom can be lost in one Generation” Many people of the world are losing their freedom only one year after the 2020 U.S. Election.
Dick Storm, February 27, 2022
References for Further Reading:
“Blue Planet in Green Shackles” by Vaclav Klaus and published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2007
China entered the WTO in 2001. Since then it has increased in Manufacturing Might to become the World’s Largest Manufacturer and the World’s Largest Economy. To do so, it has built more electric power capacity in 20 years than the U.S. did in the preceding 150 years. China is a perfect example of how Energy and Economic Prosperity are inextricably related. First the U.S. showed the world how to use energy to replace muscle power by building our Industrialized economy using energy. This post, Part 4 shows how China has powered their manufacturing-based economy.
The relationship of energy and economic prosperity has always fascinated me. Parts 1-3 of this series focus on the America’s progress in energy development, electricity generation advances and rise in economic prosperity from 1850-2000. America during that 150 year period became the world’s largest Industrialized economy. Lifting millions of people from living in poverty to becoming the richest nation on earth.
That to me is impressive, but if we want a more recent example of the inter-relationship of energy and economic prosperity, China provides such an example. China’s climb to lift millions out of living in poverty over a couple decades is an amazing accomplishment. China used an aggressive “All Fuels are Important” policy become the world’s wealthiest country on a PPP basis (Purchasing Power Parity). From last to first in about 20 years.
Like America’s rise a hundred years ago, the best interests of the people and the nation were put first, before restrictive regulations as we Americans (thanks to an out of control Bureaucracy) get hung up on. The following two charts show electricity growth and economic growth of China.
China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 and immediately began ramping up manufacturing facilities for aluminum and steel production. In just fifteen years China went from insignificant steel and aluminum production to becoming the world’s leader and by 2016 was producing more than 50% of the world’s aluminum and steel.(3)
Leadership in Energy & Manufacturing, Creates Wealth of a Nation
China has become the world’s largest manufacturer. This, unfortunately has been accomplished by many American businesses simply partnering or willingly yielding market share (along with 100 years of technological experience) to the Chinese. According to Statista:
China’s Electricity, Energy Sources and Plans for the Future
China has embarked on an aggressive path of “All Fuels are Important”. I have advocated this for many years for the U.S.A. As I covered in History of Energy and Electricity in Part 3, America invented, perfected and produced the first commercial nuclear power plants. We designed and built the best and cleanest coal plants. These U.S. plants were amongst the cleanest and most efficient coal plants in the history of power generation of all the world. Then, we quit. I would like to think “Paused” but with the Bureaucrats in Washington, Pausing means quitting. So, is it any wonder that China has passed us in manufacturing capacity? Worse yet, influence in the world. Getting back to China’s appproach to “All Sources of Energy are Important”.
I personally believe (along with many others(16) that most of Climate Change is from natural forces and that America’s energy security and reliability should be priority #1. Apparently on matters of Climate and Energy, China thinks like I do. Can’t think of much I agree with on China, but on “All Fuels are Important”, China and I do agree. For now, China is using enormous quantities of Fossil Fuels to power their Economy (and wealth, they own about 4% of American Treasury Bonds). Later, more nuclear and renewables will also be applied to their Grid. They already have the largest hydroelectric generation in the world. The Chinese have a good balance of Dispatchable generation and renewables.
China’s Coal Plants
Time Magazine’s August 2021 issue(5) states that China plans to build 43 new coal plants. These are planned to be clean and efficient, but in fact, coal fueled.
Not only are 43 coal plants planned to be built in China, but through their Belt and Roads Initiative, China is financing and building coal plants all over the world.(15) Reminescant of the way the U.S.AID did when I started my career in the 1960’s. Now, China is Financing, Manufacturing and Constructing power generation equipment and installing facilities all over the world.(7)
China does in fact have a forward path of matching electricity Demand with carbon-free nuclear power. Admiral Rickover and the U.S. Navy may have invented and perfected safe nuclear power generation but, China is the largest Benefactor from nuclear power generation. The new Westinghouse AP-1000 Units under construction by South Carolina Electric and Gas were stopped due to mismanagement and nine Billion USD in budget overruns. Southern Company’s Vogtle AP-1000 Units under Construction in Georgia are far over budget and behind schedule. Now planned for startup in 4th Quarter 2022(9)
China, on the other hand, plans 150 new nuclear plants and has already started up their Westinghouse AP-1000 Unit(10) Shandong Nuclear Power Co.’s Haiyang nuclear power plant is pioneering two significant aspects of nuclear diversification in China: district heating and desalination. Some of the other 150 nuclear plants are listed in the World Nuclear Association update of November 2021(11) China is on the way to leading the world in nuclear power generation.
China generates more electricity than any other country from hydroelectric power. The “Three Gorges Dam” at 22.5 GW capacity , is the largest power station in the world.(13) Suffice it to say, China, like America has taken advantage of available river flows to install dams and hydroelectric generation. Still, most of the Dispatchable electric power must come from coal, nuclear and gas plants. The chart below was done by the EIA about 2017 to show what the U.S. Dept. of Energy Forecasted for China electric power generation through 2040.
Solar and Wind Generation
Renewables in China are also huge. (6) China is also the world’s largest manufacturer of solar and wind turbine components. The chart below shows the world renewables generation. Keep in mind, renewables are not “Dispatchable”. The variations in Demand must be handled by Dispatchable power generation capacity such as those conventional systems mentioned above. Namely, coal, gas, nuclear, hydro and to a small extent, oil fueled generators. The two blue lines at the lower right of the chart are wind and solar and worldwide total about 10% of generation. The majority of the Bulk Power generated from renewables is from Hydroelectric power.(13) Hydroelectric power, by the way, is Dispatchable.
China has taken full advantage of All Sources of Energy and especially all forms of energy used to generate electricity. They have used their enormous wealth from exporting manufactured products to provide funding to build more manufacturing capabilities and to expand their influence to other countries of the world. China is a current example of how abundant and reliable energy can be used to accummulate wealth and influence in the world. Another metric of how the rapid build out of manufacturing capacity has increased wealth is to consider that four of the 10 largest banks in the world are Chinese owned.(14)
China understands the importance of “ALL Fuels are Important”. Meanwhile, the U.S. leadership is attempting to crush our major energy producing companies through excessive regulations and restrictions as well as foolish “Woke” social policies.(1) Then there is the foolish ESG Movement favored by the Democrat Party, the World Bank, Blackrock, major U.S. Banks and many U.S. manufacturing and Media corporations. The “Woke” ESG movement is weakening America and strengthening China, Russia, Iran and other countries not aligned with Freedom loving western nations.
It would be wise for our elected officials to wake up. We can only hope and pray that they do so before it is too late.
The purpose of this post is to show the progress of creating America’s huge Grid, made up of Dispatchable Power from coal, nuclear, gas and oil fuels from 1955 through 2010. Also during this time, the EPA came to be and began regulating true pollutants from power generation facilities. America’s designers, engineers and manufacturers of electric generating equipment rose to meet the challenge and provided energy to expand the American economy while at the same time cleaned our air. Nuclear Power grew to be about 20% of our total electricity generation during this 55 years. These years were special for me, because they include my becoming interested in power generation in 1959 as a Freshman at Williamson and then joining the B&W Nuclear and Special Projects Group in the 1960’s when nuclear was believed to be the future of electricity generation.
The First Pressurized Water Reactor, Nuclear Steam System
It was 1954 and the Nautilus, the first Nuclear submarine ever built was launched. The pressurized water nuclear steam system was a prototype for future Navy as well as commercial applications.
“President Dwight D. Eisenhower was determined to solve “the fearful atomic dilemma” by finding some way by which “the miraculous inventiveness of man” would not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life. In his “Atoms for Peace” speech before the United Nations General Assembly on December 8, 1953, President Eisenhower sought to solve this terrible problem by suggesting a means to transform the atom from a scourge into a benefit for mankind. Although not as well-known as his warning about the “military industrial complex,” voiced later in his farewell radio and television address to the American people, President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace speech embodied his most important nuclear initiative as President”. (2)
The Research and Development into peaceful use of atomic energy continued on “Atoms for Peace”. The partnership of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the brilliant minds of employees from the American companies; Westinghouse Electric, General-Electric, Babcock & Wilcox, Combustion Engineering, Allis-Chalmers and other fine U.S. companies brought enormous advancements. In just a few years there was great progress in atomic physics, nuclear safety, ASME Codes for Pressure Vessel Design, Welding, Non-Destructive testing of welded joints and material science. The future of nuclear power looked extremely bright.
So did efficient coal power generation. I love this advertisement (below) for B&W, then a Fortune 500 company (#134 in 1960) and builder of many of the U.S. Navy’s Boilers that helped win two world wars. B&W also built the pressure vessels for the reactors and steam generators used in the Nautilus and many of the commercial nuclear steam systems to follow. Including Duke Energy’s highly successful three Unit Oconee Station which the first unit began commercial operation in 1973.
Nuclear Steam Systems were a logical extension for B&W and Combustion Engineering Company to move into after many decades of building Fossil Steam Systems. I have referred to the importance of Heat-Engines often during my career. Perhaps that is from recollections of working for B&W in the 1960’s. Below is a copy of a B&W ad from 1954:
In 1954 and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Lewis Strauss in his extreme enthusiasm for commercial nuclear power generation, coined the phrase….”Too Cheap to Meter”…..That was in 1954 and of course there was a building boom of nuclear power plants from 1960 to 1990. Over 100 nuclear steam systems were put into operation between 1970 and 1990. Here are the 93 that are still operating:
Yes, Nuclear Power has been a very good invention for America. Although thousands of employees made nuclear steam systems possible, the primary credit for this gift to Humankind should go to one man, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Father of the U.S. Navy Nuclear Fleet and Father of Commercial Nuclear Steam Systems.(8)
The combination of new nuclear units plus ever more efficient and clean coal plants created electric growth with electricity costs amongst the lowest in the world.
This was good for world manufacturing competitiveness (especially good for energy intensive industries such as aluminum and steel manufacture) also good for reasonable household electric costs to power ever increasing labor saving household appliances.
Speaking of reasonable household electric costs and high quality of living. These ads for “Living Better Electrically” were common in the 1950’s to 70’s.
My state of South Carolina continues to enjoy reassonable cost, abundant and reliable power from Admiral Rickover’s invention. According to the EIA and NEI, over 55% of SC electricity is generated from nuclear power. I might add, these are “old nuclear plants” that have been well maintained, well run, proven and reliable. Several of these were started up in the 1970’s like Turkey Point and may have their licenses extended for 80 years. Amazingly robust and well built.
The chart below is from the NRC website. As mentioned above, many of the very reliable and I might add, Dispatchable power generating nuclear power plants are aging and before they are shut down, it would be wise to plan, design and begin construction on the next generation of nuclear plants. Renewables such as wind and solar are not Dispatchable and electric battery storage is not yet feasible. These issues will be discussed in a future post. Suffice it to say for the time period 1950-1990 America had four very good decades of power generation advancements which resulted in an extremely reliable Grid providing some of the lowest cost electricity in the world.
Energy, Economic Prosperity and Living with a High Human Development Index
The 1970’s and 1980’s saw clean coal and nuclear power together, provided about 70% of our electricity. America’s GDP pretty much followed the production and consumption of coal fuel. Coal and nuclear at the time were the most reasonable cost fuels to generate electricity.
The U.S.A. has used about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s annually for many years. Below is a copy of the EIA Total Energy Use by Fuels from 2008. This is getting ahead of 1990 but for reference, the Total Energy Use of America has held very close to 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year for many years. The chart below shows consumption of 94.58 Quadrillion Btu’s in 2008. This reduction in energy demand was the result of the Financial crisis of 2008.
As we move forward keep this in mind. From 1950-1990 the fuel mix was changing. Thsese changes had to do with cost of fuel, pollution and availability. But for the last two decades America has used a total of about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s +/- 10 per year. This includes electricity, transportation, Industrial production, heating, and cooling. The chart reads from left to right with the fuel sources on the left and energy flows to the right.
The 1970’s Were Good Years of Progress…. But Not Perfect
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) began in 1970 under the Nixon Administration. Amongst the first pollutants to be regulated, was sulphur and particulate emissions. The trend of the six major pollutants has been downward every since 1970.
The six major pollutants that were significantly reduced during this time period are: Particulates, Sulfur, Carbon Monoxide, Lead, Ground level Ozone & Oxides of Nitrogen.
The first steps the EPA took to regulate a path for cleaner air was to regulate particulates and sulfur. Some electric Utilities immediately (1970-71) switched from coal fuel firing in their boilers to oil fuel. This was when the fuel cost/million Btu’s of oil and coal were about the same, in 1972 that was about $0.50/million Btu. By switching to oil the switchover downtime was reduced and huge Capital cost of Electrostatic Precipitators avoided. I was working at Carolina Power and Light at that time and remember these times well.
The Neighboring Utility in Virginia, then (1973) VEPCO had switched much of it’s generation to oil fuel, so did Potomac Electric (PEPCO) and Philadelphia Electric and others to the north. They were dependent on the (at that time) reasonable cost, easier to control emissions oil fuel. Well, that was fine until the first Arab Oil Embargo in October 1973.
Arab Oil Embargo, 1973
I was a senior engineer working at Carolina Power and Light Compay’s Roxboro Generating Station. My job was a startup and test engineer for the coal fueled 720 MW, Unit #3 which began commercial operation during the summer. Many mechanical problems were needing to be sorted out and I had job security for the next several years.
The Arab Oil Embargo lasted about a year, 1973-74 and during this time, many Utilities purchased new coal generation capacity. Especially in the southern states where air-conditioning load in the summer and heat-pump load of the winter was growing rapidly. I remember year over year growth in the range of 10% increase in electric demand. Of course, manufacturing was strong back then too.
As time went on in the 1970’s more coal plants and more nuclear plants were started up. The future of clean, reliable Nuclear power looked great until……
Three Mile Island, 1979
The future of nuclear power had a serious setback in March 1979. Although no one was injured, this was pretty much the end of new nuclear steam system orders for U.S. Utilities. It took more than another decade to complete the 100 + nuclear steam systems that were on order. More strict Regulations by the NRC and more built in safety requirements ensured that nuclear power would not be “Too Cheap to Meter” in the U.S.A.
New Clean Coal Plants are Built
To meet the increasing Electricity Demand, and do so with Domestically sourced fuel, more large coal plants were built in the 1980’s. These however were nearly all equipped with Flue Gas Desulfurization and Particulate controls. Later in 1991 the EPA Clean Air Amendment was made into law and Oxides of Nitrogen were significantly reduced and more FGD equipment began being retrofitted on existing large coal plants that did not have FGD. Thus, the ever cleaner air as shown in the foregoing chart. Yes, the EPA was needed in 1970 and the Clean Air Ammendment of 1991 also has turned out to be beneficial.
How The Public Perception of Coal Becomes Tarnished
During the Arab Oil Embargo not only did we have gasoline shortages and gas lines. But the electric Utilities also suffered financially due to the rapid increase in oil costs and with the ramp up in oil costs, so did the price of competitive fuels such as gas and coal. During this time of financial stress, the Utilities drastically reduced Operation and Maintenance Budgets. What was cut first? Tree trimming around high voltage transmission line, painting and maintenance costs such as these. These are expected during volatile times in business and can be recovered from.
The Worst Budget Cut
The worst budget cut, in my view, was the cutting of public education of “Living Better Electrically” and “Better Things for Better Living”. Back in the 1970’s there were Utility representatives that invested time in Public Schools to teach the girls about electric appliances and how to use them. The boy students learned how electricity was generated from coal, oil, gas and hydro-electric sources. There was advertizing on the radio and TV. Remember “Reddy Kilowatt”? Reddy Kilowatt was the lightening bolt stick figure mascot for the investor owned Electric Utilities. Between Reddy Kilowatt and a small army of Home Economics teachers from the Electric Utilities, American Citizens learned the importance of electricity and how it was generated. I personally remember learning that as a teenager in the 1950’s, and I was just an average student.
I gave a presentation to the American Coal Council membership in 2008 on how, in my view, the public perception of coal changed. Here below is the illustration that I used to show the change from pro-active Utility education of the Public to the taking over of this effort by the Environmental Movement. Believe me, I support clean air and clean water as much as anyone. In fact, I worked much of my career exerting my best efforts to reduce particulates, reduce NOx and improve efficiency of power plants. However, the Environmental Extremists took over shaping the Public’s Perception of coal following the Arab Oil Embargo and filling the void of public education left by the exit (regarding public education) of the Electric Utilities. Not all, but most Utilities management were enthusiastic about exiting the Public Schools and Public Education just as many that ran bus services were quick to exit that business as soon as the Regulators would allow them to quit. The chart below illustrates the enormous funding of the leftist Green organizations after 1970. The green groups funding helped to indoctrinate or shape public views against coal and carbon. Now the Green Extremist organizations literally have far more money to spend on public indoctrination than the private sector manufacturers. But, that is a topic for another day.
All Fuels are Important
The Total Energy Flows of the year 2007 are shown on the Sankey Diagram below. This is TOTAL Energy which includes Electricity, Industrial, Transportation, Commercial and Residential uses of energy. The changes of the percentages of each fuel change with the economics of producing the fuels. Such as discussed above when the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973-74 caused oil prices to rise sharply in 1974 and many power generation plants were switched back to coal from oil. We should keep this in mind as the government pushes us toward Electric Vehicles in the future. In my view, we will need over 100 Quadrillion Btu’s annually to support our high quality of life. So, as electricity is substituted for gasoline or Diesel fuel, more electricity generation will be required which more than likely will come from conventional sources of gas, nuclear, coal & hydro-electric. The chart below is 2007. In part 3 I will include more recent Sankey Diagrams of Total Energy Flows.
This will conclude Part 2 of this series on the History of Energy and Electricity Generation in the U.S.A. The next section will cover 2005-2022.
Projections into the future are simply, projections. We can learn from our recent energy history of nuclear being thought to be, “Too Cheap to Meter” and the end of coal just a few years away. In the 1960’s the future of coal was proclaimed Dead….. However during this current cold weather in the U.S. Coal Power is depended on for a large percentage of electricity generation. Just check pjm.com
Likewise, the EIA projection published in 2009 showing an increase in coal going forward did not take into account the Shale Gas Revolution made possible by Directional Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing. The coal consumption dropped off primarily due to the reduction in cost of the newly abundant Domestic natural gas that became available about 2012. Low natural gas prices were helpful for those opponents of coal fuel.
Reasonable cost energy is required to fuel a thriving Economy. Note the drop in energy use after the 2008 Financial Crisis.
Industrial output is particularly linked to reasonable cost, abundant and reliable energy. Especially primary metals like steel and aluminum.
Net Zero Carbon is a disasterous Policy for the U.S. to follow unless a large number of new generation nuclear plants are deployed in the U.S. generation fleet.
Nuclear, Coal, Gas, Oil, Thermal Biomass and Hydro-Electric are the only Dispatchable sources of electricity generation by today’s technology
Reliable, Abundant, Reasonable cost and Dispatchable electric generation is required for a country to remain or to become competitive in the world with a manufacturing based economy. China has proved this over the last 20 years since joining the WTO
America has burned coal and natural gas more responsibly and cleaner than any other country that uses Fossil Fuels for Bulk Power production in Gigawatt quantities
The Net Zero Carbon Policy is a Disasterous path for our country to follow. We should learn from historical events of the past.
My friend a Tinkerer reminded me of the old phrase, “When Tinkering, it is important to save all of the pieces” This old saying should be remembered by the politicians that are “Tinkering with America’s Energy Policy” and allowing reliable and needed coal plants to be shut down and demolished. This has even occurred with reliable nuclear plants. We should be preserving the power generation infra-structure that powers America’s economy and our life styles.
Dick Storm, January 19, 2022
Author’s note on the background and why I write on this Blog:
I said at the beginning this was a special time for me. Well, it was because my life-time career in power generation began in 1962 after graduation from Williamson. I joined Babcock & Wilcox’s Nuclear and Special Products Division in 1965 and worked as an assistant to the Project Manager for Navy PWR’s and on the Oconee Nuclear Steam System. I did not like the rigorous administrative paperwork required by the AEC at the time and many engineers were transferring into the Nuclear Division from the Fossil Power Generation Division, leaving many vacancies in PGD. So, I arranged a transfer to Results Engineering to work for one of the best Mentors ever, Silas Morse. The “Too Cheap to Meter” phrase regarding nuclear power was well known within the walls of B&W and as a 22 year old newby, I was strongly advised that coal plants will be shut down in a decade because nuclear is so clean, has such an extreme energy density and it is highly productive. I went anyway, vowing to study and learn all I could about coal power so that I could remain employed for my future career. It worked.
My stint at B&W provided travel to large Paper Mills from New England to Missoula, Montana, to run acceptance tests on the largest (then the largest steam plants were about 500 MW) coal and gas plants at Baltimore Gas & Electric, Houston Light & Power, Illinois Power, Ohio Edison and more.
Always wanting to be a startup engineer, in 1969 I left B&W to join Riley Stoker as a senior startup engineer at Tampa Electric’s Unit #6 at Gannon Station. Then off to participate in the startup of Riley’s first and only coal-fueled supercritical units at Wateree Station for SCE&G near Columbia, SC. In between, helped with acceptance testing at Santee-Cooper’s Jeferies coal plant in Monck’s Corner. Then back to Florida to startup new oil fueled units at the City of Lakeland and Jacksonville.
My big opportunity to get involved with a major Utility came in 1972 and I was assigned to be the lead Startup Engineer for the 420 MW dual fueled Sutton Unit #3. Then in January 1973 I joined Carolina Power and Light Company as a Senior Engineer in charge of the startup of the 720 MW Roxboro Unit #3. Great learning experiences including the Arab Oil Embargo and the “Wheeling” of Coal Generated Power from CP&L to Utilities in the north that had switched fuels from coal to oil and then were short on fuel with the oil embargo.
In 1977 I left my position, then as Operations Superintendent at CP&L’s Roxboro Plant, to join a newly formed small contractor, Flame Refractories, in Oakboro, NC. Flame was small, only a dozen or so total employees when I joined. The company grew and I started Flame Technical Servives. Flame grew to be a major Utility Specialty contractor with hundreds of employees. My Technical Services Department eventually grew to an average size of about 20 engineers and technicians and became well known all across the U.S.A. and Internationally. Some of the most interesting International trips began in 1978 when ALCOA hired us to correct some boiler problems at the Suriname Aluminum Company in Suriname, South America. Then later to Guinee in Africa, Jamaica, Spain and Australia.
In 1992 after 15 very interesting and growing years at Flame, I started Storm Engineering later to be folded into Storm Technologies, Inc. We continued solving large electric Utility Boiler problems for the next twenty years that I was President of Storm Technologies. Storm Technologies earned a good reputation for solving difficult coal plant problems and we traveled all around the world to work at plants in South America, Asia, Oceana, Africa, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and of course, all across the U.S.A. and Canada. During these travels is when the relationship of Energy and Economic Prosperity became apparent to me. Where we traveled to help sort out problems in coal plants around the world, there was and remains, a higher quality of life. The UN calls it “Human Development Index”. I saw the affects of reasonable cost, reliable energy on the improving quality of life in Developing countries.
I retired from active involvement at Storm Technologies in 2012 when my son Danny became President.
Since then, I have done my best to give back by teaching the importance of power generation and wise use of resources for power generation. I was on the Williamson College of the Trades Board until 2019 where I championed the modernization and upgrades to the Energy Island used for power generation and instructional purposes at the College. Also, have volunteered to teach courses on Energy and Electricity Generation at schools and Colleges. The genisis of this post and others on my Blog are from slides used at the USCB-OLLI courses I have presented here on Hilton Head Island.
One of the biggest problems our country has is a misunderstanding of energy and electricity generation. The current path to Net Zero Carbon is a very hamful path for America because Renewables are not capable of replacing the large, reliable and proven coal, gas and nuclear plants that power our country. Therefore, I continue to do my best to Educate the public on the true facts regarding energy and electricity generation.
Thank you for taking time to read this. Your comments are welcomed.
Energy and electricity have fascinated me ever since I was a teenager. The purpose of this post is to share the progress of energy and electricity from the Industrial Revolution to today. I had the honor of presenting a course at USCB-OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and much of the information presented in that course is presented here.
After presenting the course on energy and electricity generation in February (2021), it occurred to me that it may be interesting for some OLLI members to review of how energy and electricity came to be so important in the lives of all of us. Especially the aspects of Industrial growth, manufacturing and economic prosperity. As I was preparing for the course, the relationship of energy and economic growth became very clear to me. I always thought the relationship of Energy and economic growth was important. Nearly all of the College Professors of Engineering and History simply cover the History of Electricity production or the History of Energy. Few that I have known connect the inter-relationship of Energy and the growth of the “Human Development Index”. If we couple progress in energy production with economic progress, I think it is worth sharing because the application of energy to food production, transportation and industrial output grew geometrically from 1900 to today. Many factors contributed to the sharp rise of America’s HDI (Human Development Index) and manufacturing capacity after the year 1900, but in my view, the importance of abundant and reasonable cost energy has not been taught in Public Education or appreciated by the News Media. So, here is my shot at connecting the dots of the advances in energy and economic prosperity.
I have always loved thermal power plants and spent five decades working in the electric power generation business. Mostly as a “Boiler Engineer”. Over my career I have accumulated a library of old books and technical literature on power generation and most of the illustrations used are from my library.
Let’s start with the importance of “Steam”. We do not hear many references to steam today, but Steam remains important in power generation today and is likely to remain important in the future as well.
So, let’s start with the first steam engines and take a quick trip through the ages of energy and power generation to see how humans have harnessed energy to do our hard tasks and improve our lives.
James Watt is usually given credit for the first commercially applied steam engine of the Industrial Revolution. But, to be fair, there were at least three before him. Hero’s turbine in the first Century and Thomas Savory in 1698 applied steam as a motive force. Then, Newcomen in 1712.
The Industrial Revolution began with the invention of the steam engine. The first version was invented by Newcomen about 1712. This engine uses water to condense the steam vapor beneath the piston which then provides differential pressure between atmospheric pressure and the partial vacuum created upon the collapse of the vapor. A pound of water will expand about 1500-1700 times when changed to vapor. In Newcomen’s engine, it was the collapse of the steam space that created atmospheric pressure to force the piston down and thus operate the pump.
About 64 years later, James Watt invented his version of the steam engine that could generate more force than atmospheric pressure by using high pressure steam.
James Watt’s engine created the potential for greater engine output and became the basis for the Industrial Revolution.
The first electric generation in the U.S.A. was about 1880 by Thomas Edison using a reciprocating steam engine drive. Before getting into electricity generation, it is timely to remember that illumination before the light bulb was provided by whale oil and then kerosene. Thus, it can truly be stated that the oil industry saved the whales.
As we cover the history of energy, I think it is notable to consider the environmental aspects of energy produced in 1850 for illumination. Before Edwin Drake struck oil and started the American oil industry, whale oil or candles were used for night-time illumination. It could be said that Drake, Rockefeller and others involved in the production of oil & kerosene helped to save the whales. Next, the advancements of energy were used to provide transportation. Steam boats and Railroads first used wood and then coal fuel to produce steam power for motive force.
Transportation propulsion systems have been the leader for commercial electric power generation since Edison’s day. First, reciprocating steam engines used as prime movers for steamboats and then locomotives were adapted to stationary generators. Then, steam turbine drives for ships were adapted to stationary power generation. Later, aircraft jet engines were adapted for use as stationary generators and finally, nuclear propulsion systems developed by the US Navy were applied to commercial power generation.
Wood was the primary fuel of the 19th Century and it was used for heating, cooking and transportation via railroad locomotives and steam boat propulsion. The steam engines used for railroads, boat and ship propulsion were later adapted for stationary use in power plants to generate electricity. Interestingly, marine propulsion systems were the basis of technology later adapted to use for power generation. Steam engines, steam turbines, the latest advances in coal boiler developments and even nuclear power generation designs all had their roots in marine propulsion.
Memories and photos of Coal Fueled Steam locomotives of the 19th Century do not help the case for use of coal in today’s power generation plants. The enormous potential power of steam was harnessed for transportation as well as to power the Industrial Revolution. Environmental controls of exhaust gases and particulates came much later.
This is a short course, so there is clearly a compression of a lot of history. It is my hope to take a quick review of the significant inventions of the last 150 years and to show the relationship of energy to the growth of America and our very high quality of living. Until there is a disruption of our energy supply, such as a pipeline shutdown or a hurricane, we tend to take for granted, our place at the top of the “Human Development Index Pyramid”. Energy is at the heart of our high quality of living.
It is true that through the use of our God given energy resources, our lives have progressed to a higher Human Development Index. More on that later when the HDI of other countries is compared to ours.
American civilization grew from an agriculturally based society to an Industrial production-based country in just a few decades. About 1915 and continuing to today, much of the work that our ancestors were subjected to is now accomplished with energy. Heat-Engines lay at the heart of the rapid progress of the last 100 years for food production, transportation, industrial production and Economic progress.
Looking back to the days of my grandfather (born 1895), about 40% of the American population lived in rural areas on farms and it took 40% of the population to produce food for the other 60%.
1900 was a year to keep in mind for both the astounding progress of energy and electricity generation. Also, in that year, the Father of Nuclear Power Generation was born. Hyman Rickover was born in Makow, Poland. It was during his lifetime that he personally developed nuclear power for ship propulsion systems. First for submarines and later for aircraft carriers and then commercial nuclear power generation plants. Rickover’s life was productive and amazing. Truly, this one individual changed the world of power generation over his life-time.
A classic speech given by Rickover in 1957 starts with how man has used energy to improve quality of life. Rickover gave historical milestones in energy going back to the Egyptians. This was part of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative. The genesis of peaceful uses for nuclear power.
Muscle power was being replaced by steam, gasoline and Diesel engines. James Watt created a definition of “Horsepower” by performing various tests. The numbers he settled on to describe a “Horsepower” (still used today) are 550-foot pounds of work in a second or 33,000-foot pounds per minute. This is the definition of one horsepower.
The illustration shows a cartoon of a horse pulling a large bucket of coal vertically upward, representing 1 HP.
The Railroads traversed America in the later part of the 19th Century and provided a platform to further advance the development of boilers and steam engines. It was not long to reach the point that coal fueled locomotives could greatly outrun a team of horses and do so for long duration.
Economic Prosperity parallels the advancements in use of machines powered by steam or internal combustion engines are used to replace muscle power.
Karl Benz is credited with building the first gasoline powered automobile about 1886. Later, Henry Ford invents and develops the assembly line to mass produce automobiles and the demand for petroleum soars. Rockefeller had been producing kerosene for illumination up to about 1900. Rockefeller was concerned that Edison’s electric light bulb invention would reduce the demand for kerosene and it did. However, with the steady increase of mass-produced gasoline powered automobiles, the demand from Rockefeller’s Refinery’s was steadily increasing.
The right panel (below) shows the sharp increase in GDP at about 1900. America’s GDP and individual family earnings led the world. In my opinion, much of this sharp increase in economic prosperity is due to the reasonable cost, abundant and domestically available energy which was replacing muscle power.
As seen above, the American Economy soared after 1900. By 1903, America’s GDP per person was the greatest of all of the Industrialized Countries of the world. The U.S.A. GDP/person $8,941 with the United Kingdom second at $7,482. Nearly double that of France and Austria. This coincides with the introduction of electricity distribution, the start of gasoline powered tractors, trucks, the beginning of U.S. Steel, Aluminum and automobiles. Energy use was multiplying the production of primary metals and manufactured products. Much previously produced with muscle and some hydropower.
At the same time that Westinghouse, Edison, Tesla and Allis-Chalmers were building power plants in the U.S.A., Parsons, Brush, Thompson, Siemens and others were taking similar steps in Europe.
Edison invented the Incandescent Light Bulb in 1880. However, carbon arc, electric lights were used for street lighting about 1870. (Carbon Arc Lighting was invented by Humphry Davy in early 1800’s using hundreds of batteries to produce the voltage needed for an arc)
Werner Von Siemens invented the Dynamo in 1866. Another European, Nikola Tesla became interested in Alternating Current and invented the Poly Phase Motor. Tesla then found work at an Edison Power Plant in Paris. Tesla was able to work out a transfer to Menlo Park to work directly with Edison.
Edison was convinced that A/C power was not as good as D/C power. Tesla correctly favored A/C because of the ability to transform to higher voltages for long distance transmission and also because the Poly Phase A/C system worked well with his Poly Phase Motor.
Tesla leaves Edison’s employment and struggles in business by himself for a while. Then, Tesla and George Westinghouse team up together. By 1890, Westinghouse had invented the Transformer and this plus Tesla’s inventions of Poly Phase Motors and A/C current create a harmonious and productive team effort of Tesla and Westinghouse. One milestone project that Westinghouse topped Edison on was providing the generators for the first hydro-electric plant at Niagara Falls. The advantages of Alternating Current made longer distance power transmission possible. With Direct Current that Edison favored, the wires could only transmit power about a mile.
There is much written on the “Current Wars” between Edison and Westinghouse. The American Juris Prudence System does not look so great in retrospect and especially the harsh handling of the engineering excellence that was applied by Tesla and Westinghouse. J.P. Morgan gets involved as a major investor in Edison General Electric which then becomes, “General Electric” and Tesla’s Patents on the Poly Phase Motor and Alternating Current become the basis for the American Electric Grid. From what I have read, it was the deep pockets of J.P. Morgan that held Westinghouse back.
The disputes between Westinghouse and Edison were not very harmonious to put it mildly.
Steam Power requires a steam generator or boiler. As is the case today, Thermal Power Generation provides most of teh world’s electricity. Steam boilers are important and Babcock & Wilcox invents the inherently safe, water-tube boiler in 1867. I will give a few examples of boiler safety later.
The difference between a “Water-Tube” and a “Fire-Tube” Boiler is the manner in which the heat is transferred from the products of combustion to the water to create high pressure steam. A Fire-Tube Boiler has a large diameter shell (like a Locomotive Boiler) with the hot gases passing through tubes that pass through the large diameter shell. Steam engines are the prime movers for generators of either A/C or D/C and to have steam, so a reliable high-pressure boiler. Is needed to provide the steam supply. There are two types of boilers, Fire-Tube and Water-Tube. The fire tube boiler is a typical design which is similar to steam locomotives of the 19thand 20th Centuries. The products of combustion leave the fire box and the hot gases of about 2,000-2,500 degrees F. enter tubes which pass through a large pressure vessel. Heat flows from the hot gases through the fire tubes and into the water contained in the large cylindrical pressure vessel. The larger the steaming capacity the larger the boiler cylinder needs to be.
This evolution of boilers is taking place in 1850 to 1900 and steam engines for ships, locomotives and stationary power generation systems are getting larger and larger. Thus, the boiler pressure vessels had to grow in diameter as well.
The science of Welding and Metallurgy was in its infancy and steel plates were rolled into cylinders to form boiler shells but instead of welding the seams as is done today, they were caulked and riveted. The many riveted joints were an inherent weakness of large pressure vessels.
The inherent safety risk of Fire-Tube Boilers was that the shell diameter for a large capacity boiler must be very large. In the 19th Century and in fact, until about 1930, boilers were constructed using rivets to attach the shell plates together. Welding was not applied to boiler pressure parts till about 1930. Thus, the rivets combined with relatively primitive advances in steel manufacturing and metallurgy, created a high risk for failure of the pressure parts. Between 1895 and about 1910 there was about one major boiler explosion per day. Often each individual boiler explosion would kill dozens of people. Here are a few examples of terrible boiler explosions.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is Founded in about 1880 and one of the main reasons is to work as an organization to improve the safety of the public. The first edition of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code is published about 1915.
Niagara Falls became the first major Hydro-Electric Plant in the USA and I believe, the largest in the world at the turn of the Century. A beautiful and environmentally friendly way to harness the energy of falling water.
Niagara Falls was an important milestone for power generation. But the enormous demand that began with the 20th Century was satisfied by heat-engines. Reciprocating Steam engines and steam turbines.
Meanwhile, in England, Charles Parsons is experimenting with steam turbine designs. As with steam engines, the first major applications of steam turbines are for ships. One of the notable steam turbine applications was to the Royal Navy Ship the Turbinia.
The British turbine powered “Turbinia” was built about 1894. This ship was demonstrated by Parsons to the Royal Navy as being twice as fast as reciprocating steam engine powered ships of the time. Marine applications tend to lead stationary power plants into the nuclear age with the first of a kind used for ships and the Navy, both in Europe and the U.S.A.
In America, about 1900 the transition from steam engines to steam turbines began. In this figure below there is one huge steam engine with a large flywheel in the foreground. In the back can be seen three smaller, but larger capacity steam turbines. From 1900-1915 numerous manufacturers of steam turbine drives came to be. Among them: Westinghouse, General-Electric, Allis-Chalmers, Charles Parsons, Brown-Boveri and Siemens.
In London and other large cities, Central Stations were built to generate electricity for the surrounding area. With DC current, it was only practical to extend wires for about a mile square. Later, AC was used which can be transformed to higher voltage and transmitted over longer distances. The slide of the London Power Station shows the typical arrangement of equipment in this time. Note the belt drives to the Dynamos located on a level above the steam engines and the water-tube boilers.
Energy use is not just for electricity. Even today, about 63% of our primary energy is used for transportation, industrial production and heating. About 37% of America’s energy is used to generate electricity. Automobiles become common and at the turn of the Century, the Internal Combustion Engine was welcomed as a great improvement for the environment. Cars and trucks powered by gasoline engines were a lot cleaner than horses. Petroleum became the largest portion of our energy use following WWII and continues to this day to be the major source of primary energy. Increased Industrial production, improved comforts and conveniences, improved quality of life and the resulting economic activity after 1900. All of these increased demand for most forms of primary energy and electricity.
Both marine uses and stationary power generation prime movers make progress from reciprocating steam engines to turbines and to advanced boiler designs for safety, improved efficiency and reliability.
The illustration below shows a diagram of how using coal as a source of heat energy is converted to steam which is then converted by a steam turbine to shaft “Horsepower”. Keeping in mind the definition of a horsepower is 33,000-foot pounds of work in one minute. In this example, using coal that has 11,500 Btu’s per pound, the potential work equivalent is 11,500 multiplied times 778-foot pounds per Btu. At 100% efficiency, this one pound of coal would produce about 9-million-foot pounds of potential work. The enormity of this heat energy provides insight into the tremendous energy provided by steam and also, the stored energy within the pressure containment of a steam boiler. This brings us to the advancements in safe design and construction of steam boilers over the next few decades.
The demand for electricity grew sharply after the inventions of motors, air conditioning and home appliances. Refrigerators became commonly used in homes beginning about 1927.
Coal fuel was the predominate fuel during this period for electricity generation. Steam turbine drives as prime movers had grown in size and reliability. The steam boilers larger and larger. Welding of boiler pressure parts was advanced after about 1930 and steam boilers became larger and more safe. Overall, the coal plants became quite large. Here is an article that appeared in “Combustion Magazine” during the 1930’s.
At about this same time, pre WWII, Frank Whittle invented the Jet Engine. This basic design was later used after WWII as the besis for stationary Gas Turbine Drives for generators.
Frank Whittle of the UK is generally given credit for design of the jet engine. It is thought that Von Ohain in Germany had access to Whittle’s Patent before his work.
Only twenty-two years old when he first conceived the idea of a continuous cycle combustion engine in 1933, von Ohain patented a jet propulsion engine design in 1934 that was similar in concept to that of Sir Whittle but different in internal arrangement.
Von Ohain joined Ernst Heinkel in 1936 and continued with the development of his jet propulsion concepts.
He successfully bench tested of one of his engines in September 1937 and a small aircraft was designed and constructed by Ernst Heinkel to serve as a test bed for a new type of propulsion system known as the Heinkel He178. The Heinkel He178 flew for the first time on August 27, 1939.
G-E progressed using Whittle’s design to develop both aircraft and stationary gas turbines for power generation.
Following WWII, America’s Industrial might continued with the rebuilding of Europe and Japan with the Marshall Plan. Energy use increaded as did manufacturing capacity. Along with the energy and manufacturing capacity increases came increased Economic growth.
The growth of energy consumption is shown above. This growth in energy can be compared to the GDP of Economic growth in the chart below which is copied from “Our World in Data” website.
The chart below was prepared by ExxonMobil for their Energy Outlook publication. The data is from the World Bank and the United Nations. The point is, the Human Development Index is related to energy avalaibility and use. More energy use can be parlayed into a better quality of life. The foregoing text and illustrations show how the U.S.A. progressed from an Agrairian Economy in the 19th Century to become the most productive Industrial Economy of the world by the mid 20th Century. Of course, Economic Freedom had much to do with America’s rise, but so did the availability of abundant and reasonable cost energy. This will conclude Part 1 of this post. Part 2 will show the relationship of energy and economic prosperity from 1950 to the present day.
Conclusions and Summary:
America progressed from wood and whale oil fuels to the more abundant and increased energy density of coal and oil in about 50 years, 1850-1900.
Our economy progressed and quality of life improved as more muscle labor (human and animal muscle) saving machines were invented, produced and utilized.
Steam engines and steam turbines were the prime mover of choice for ships, railroads and agriculture until the various versions of internal combustion engines were invented and manufactured. The gasoline Otto Cycle and the Diesel Cycle engines were invented and began production in the late 19th Century.
The first major oil discovery in Texas is Spindletop, 1901. This begins the long and productive history of oil production in the state of Texas.
Willis Carrier invents modern air conditioning and humidity control 1902.
Henry Ford revolutionized automoble transportation starting about 1903.
Agricultural production is vastly more productive by the replacement of horse muscle power with mechanized tractors powered by gasoline or Diesel internal combustion
Carnegie and United States Steel become the largest steel manufacturers in the world after 1901
Charles Martin Hall invents and perfects the Aluminum Smelting process in 1888. The Pittsburgh Reduction Company produces aluminum used in the Wright Brothers “Flyer” 1903. Later the name is changed to the Aluminum Company of America and the acronym, ALCOA
Production of both Steel and Aluminum are both very energy intensive. Thus, abundant, reasonable cost energy is required for the steel and aluminum industries to grow as they did.
About 1928 General-Electric produces home refrigerators for preservation of food.
Texas begins development of the Permian Basin oil fields, 1928
During WWII America becomes the “Arsenal of Democracy” and along with our Allies save Western Civilization. The Allies “Arsenal” was fueled mostly by American produced energy, mostly coal and oil.
Captain Hyman G. Rickover has a vision for nuclear propulsion system for submarines and nearly singlehandedly, designs and then leads a team to build the first nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus which puts to sea 1955.
President Eisenhower launches “Atoms for Peace” Initiative for Peaceful uses of atomic energy. Begins at Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva, 1955
This is Part 1. Part 2 to follow in the near future. The purpose of this post is to show the importance of reliable, reasonable cost and abundant energy. Energy to power our high quality of living. Our energy has been reliable, low cost and abundant for decades. My observation is that people have become accustomed to reasonable cost and reliable energy for so long that we take it for granted. The environmental extremists on the other hand, have attacked all conventional forms of energy including Fossil Fuels and nuclear which together comprise about 90% of the energy that we depend on.
The foregoing list of 15 accomplishments is intended to show the relationship of energy to high quality of life and economic prosperity. If energy availability is reduced, then our quality of life and economic prosperity are harmed. Up to this point in history, we have always increased energy production to meet the demand of our growing population.
Dick Storm, January 13, 2022
Believer in Freedom to use of Energy for sustainable high quality lives