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)
Each person that lives in a Developed Country and enjoys our high quality of life uses well over a million Btu’s per day. This post is a reminder of the importance of energy to power our lives and the sources of the energy we depend upon.
The war on carbon has been going on for a long time. I have written my thoughts on the start of the war on carbon which has been escalating since the Clinton Presidency and was ramped up during Obama’s. The Biden Administration has further ramped up Climate Policies (aka war on carbon) which encompass the entire government, making the Clinton and Obama attacks on carbon compare as small nuisances. Then the United Nations Secretary General has piled on with his urging to ban investment in any fossil fuel production and to use the world’s financial institutions to cut off investment through ESG policies. The Main Stream Media and Entertainment and many “Woke Banks and large Businesses” have joined in to create a serious indoctrination program for the people of the world and tightened up the available financial investment to expand or modernize energy production facilities of any type. Not only the U.S., but the Climate Policies of the world to attain Net Zero Carbon by 2050 now has much momentum. The purpose of this post is to simply lay out the facts of the energy needs of today for anyone living in the Developed World.
The Importance of Energy
Energy use, economic prosperity and Quality of life go hand in hand. The title of one of Mr. Donn Dears recent books is: “NET-ZERO Carbon, The Climate Policy Destroying America”.
At first glance, the sub title, “Climate Policy Destroying America” may seem to be an exaggeration. The intention of this short essay is to show that Mr. Dears is correct, if we move toward Net-Zero Carbon too quickly, it will destroy the American way of life and will cripple our economy. The word “Sustainability” means to me, that we sustain our quality of life as Americans have enjoyed for many years. Energy, quality of life and economic prosperity are all related. Kindly stick with me and read to the end to review the importance of conventional energy.
100 Quadrillion Btu’s Per Year Energy Use
America has used right at 100 Quadrillion Btu’s (+/- 10) annually of energy for the last twenty years. The EIA and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have calculated and published this data for decades. Here is an excerpt of the LLNL description from their website.
“The national economy is reenergizing, quite literally”
Each year, LLNL releases flow charts that illustrate the nation’s consumption and use of energy. In 2021, Americans used 97.3 quads (quadrillion BTU) of energy, which is 4.4 quads more than last year’s 92.9 quads, equivalent to a 5% increase. Both 2020 and 2021 annual energy consumption totals are less than 2018 and 2019, where Americans used more than 100 quads per year. A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement for energy; a BTU is the amount of heat it takes to raise 1 pound (~1 pint) of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. 3,412 BTUs is equivalent to 1 kilowatt-hour, which is the amount of energy it takes to light an efficient LED lightbulb for a week. “ The chart below includes all forms of energy, including wind and solar which are included as the thermal equivalents of the electric power they produced. The chart shows “Total Primary Energy” which includes electricity generation, residential, commercial, industrial and transportation. This is my favorite chart for illustrating energy sources and uses. Suffice it to say, it is a lot of information in one chart.
Please note the quantities of solar and wind which are 1.5 Quads for solar and 3.33 Quads for wind. Yes, this is an increase from previous years. However, the total wind and solar is 3.85 Quads or right at 4%.
My point is that Electrifying Everything if it were possible to take a magic wand and change all energy use to electric power, including heating, cooking, transportation and industrial production, then it will take a growth of 25 times what is installed now by nameplate power. When considering capacity factors of wind and solar it will actually be more like 75-100 times current installed capacity plus, technological advancements in energy storage would need to be accomplished. In essence, it is impossible to get there within 8 to 28 years (2030 or 2050) and still sustain our high quality of life and yes, our high standard of living. Not to mention Dispatchability, energy storage limitations and land use requirements. Also, the practical limitations of changing energy use for transportation, the second largest use of total primary energy after electricity generation, to electric or hydrogen power. How many of us would be willing to fly on a hastily developed hydrogen fueled jet aircraft? Change our lives to use EV’s for long distance drives? Give up the plastics, textiles and numerous other products that are created from oil, gas and coal? Let’s get back to what we do and enjoy through the use of today’s forms of energy.
So, How Much Energy, in Btu’s Does Each American Use per day?
The illustration below was prepared to show a Middle School class the equivalent forms of energy they would use in a day. For our high quality of living, it is not hard to see how we depend on an average of about a million Btu’s of energy each day.
Not shown in the illustration is the energy that is used on our behalf to provide industrial production, military defense and transportation of food and products to our local stores or even deliveries to our door via Amazon, Walmart, UPS, FedEx or other delivery services. Also, about 1% of America’s energy is used to produce fertilizer for farming, not including the fuel for tractors and processing food. All of these energy uses averaged out come to (in a good year) about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s. Remember, up to now, 4% are from wind and solar.
Does it seem reasonabe to expect that we can electrify everything? Including aircraft propulsion, all light vehicles, trucks, ships, trains, fertilizer and more? I don’t think so.
Think about your day and both the necessities and the conveniences made available through the use of energy. My heading stated we use an average of about a million Btu’s per person each day. For those that will read this post, I suspect each of you are using far more than a million Btu’s per day. For example if a person takes a two hour flight on a airline, even at 80 miles per gallon per seat mile, the per person fuel for a 1,000 mile flight is about 12.5 gallons of Jet A. The plane trip alone uses about a million five hundred thousand Btu’s. The LLNL and EIA data that show our “average use per citizen” include children and folks that live very modestly and do not travel much. Also, the importance of energy used for Industrial production (including producing products from oil feedstock) which provides jobs and a productive economy cannot be underestimated. Industrial production to compete with China cannot be powered by solar and wind any time soon.
Summary and Conclusions
Where extreme priorities have been imposed to switch to renewables such as in Germany, the UK, Hawaii and Texas, there have been issues of high costs, unreliability and economic impact. Some references for further reading are provided below.
I agree with the Title of Donn Dears book, “NET-ZERO CARBON, THE CLIMATE POLICY DESTROYING AMERICA“
Dick Storm USCB-OLLI Courses, Energy and Electricity, History of Energy and Electricity and the Future of Energy and Electricity. The four parts of the “History of Energy and Electricity” are on my website: https://dickstormprobizblog.org
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:
Helping our youth to understand the importance of energy and electricity to energize our good lives
Why Should We Invest Time with the Public School Students?
From a personal viewpoint, I have always considered it a high priority to do my best to support energy education of the public and especially our public school students. A great group to start with if we wish to improve the general public’s understanding of the importance of energy. Perhaps if we start with the youth, they will educate their parents on the facts; That conventional sources comprise about 90% of the total energy that makes our high quality of life possible. By conventional, I mean, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Coal and Hydroelectric.
All of us who have been employed in the supply chain of producing energy understand the rarity of energy savvy people we meet who are not or have not been closely involved with our industry. So, when an opportunity to present a short class on energy and electricity generation came up at our local Middle School, I accepted the invitation. Here are some of the slides I will use for this group of 8th Graders.
The general public’s knowledge of energy and it’s importance seems to be limited to gasoline prices. When in a social setting and I discuss the U.S. need for 100 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy and where it comes from, most people’s eyes glaze over and are not very interested. However, with the Russia-Ukraine war, it seems folks are more interested now than they were a few months ago. Perhaps timely to give a course on energy fundamentals.
Each American uses about 800,000 to 1 million Btu’s every day
How did I come up with 800,000 – 1,000,000 Btu’s per person, per day? Here is how: America uses right at 100 Quadrillion Btu’s annually. If 100 Quadrillion (15 zeros) is divided by the population of the U.S.A. of about 330 million people, the result is about 303 million Btu’s per person. This is the average energy use for each of us. Then, divide 303 million by 365 days per year and it is 830,000 Btu’s per day. The above illustration shows how we may use our portion of fuels to consume our share of the Nation’s energy. If we are traveling by car for an interstate trip, we can easily use more than a million Btu’s in a day. Likewise, ordering a large shipment of furniture or heavy goods from Amazon or other on-line Retailer will require energy to be used on our behalf to deliver our products to the door. You get the picture.
Another way to illustrate 300-330 million Btu’s is to show the equivalence in barrels of gasoline, Diesel Fuel, propane or coal. Also, nuclear. This is shown below.
So Where Did You Come up with 100 Quadrillion Btu’s?
The U.S. Department of Energy has been measuring, calculating and reporting total primary energy use for decades. I have been watching this and America’s energy use has held right at 100 Quadrillion Btu’s +/- 10%, for the last twenty years or so. Below is the Sankey diagram which shows 2019 total primary energy flows. The sources are on the left and uses are on the right. This is how the breakdown of uses was established: 37% electricity generation, 28.1% transportation, 26.4% Industrial, 11.4% Residential and 9.41% Commercial.
I stated above that the U.S. has used right at 100 Quadrillion Btu’s for decades. The chart below published by the EIA (Energy Information Administration) shows the total energy used 1950 to 2019. The differences in “Production and Consumption” are imports. As of December 2020, America produced as much energy as we consumed. Again, right at 100 quadrillion Btu’s.
Let’s Drill Down to See Where the Energy Is Used in SC to Generate Electricity
Currently and at least through 2030, over 50% of South Carolina’s electricity will come from nuclear power generation.
S.C. has four large nuclear power plants with a total of seven generating units. Here is a map of where they are located.
The second largest source of our electricity is natural gas fuel. This is burned very efficiently in power plants such as this. The newest natural gas generating plants can obtain thermal efficiencies over 60%.
Coal fuel was over 50% of Santee-Cooper’s electric generation about ten years ago. Since then, natural gas fuel became lower in cost and abundant and has replaced much of the coal power generation. However, today natural gas prices are increasing and it is likely that coal fuel will be more economical to generate our electricity not generated by nuclear and renewables.
The Santee-Cooper coal plants that provide electricity to our local electricity distributor, Palmetto Electric Co-Op are shown below.
Isn’t Most of Our Power Provided by Solar, Wind and Hydro-Electric?
No! That is a popular misconception. Even the Wall Street Journal has misled people into thinking that most of our electricity is generated by renewables (wind, solar and hydro). The data above show the true facts of the sources of our electricity and total energy.
Note that of our total energy in 2019, wind and solar together only provided about 3.8% of America’s total energy. The 96.2% was provided by conventional forms of energy such as nuclear, natural gas, coal and hydro-electric. The WSJ Headline is accurate in stating that 90% of the New Electricity Generation in 2020 came from Renewables. That is because they used “Nameplate Capacity” for the Renewables and the simple fact that the “Old coal, Nuclear, Coal and Hydroelectric” plants are very robust, reliable and have long lives when properly maintained.
The Santee-Cooper Pinnopolis Dam, Hydro-Electric plant is shown above. When I use the term “Old Hydroelectric plants”, this is where I was coming from. If you look at “Total Renewables Energy” on the Sankey diagram above, you will see that most of the renewable generation is from old hydroelectric plants. In 2019 that was about 2.5% of our total primary energy as compared to 1.04% solar.
These are the hydro plants operated by Santee-Cooper. Located about 100 miles north of Hilton Head near Moncks Corner, SC.
Much is written in the news about solar and many people are of the impression that solar is a major source of Bulk Electric generation. The fact is that yes, much money is being invested in solar but the total generation is very small when compared to nuclear, gas and coal. Here below is a much hyped solar farm on the east side of I-95 about 50 miles north of Hilton Head. It is about 15 acres and during a bright sunny day will produce about 3.5 MW.
By the way, if 3.5 MW seems like a lot of electric power consider that on a hot summer day Hilton Head Island uses about 180 MW during peak Demand.
Palmetto Electric Co-Op distributes electricity on Hilton Head Island. They obtain most of their Bulk Power wholesale from Santee-Cooper which is owned by the state of SC. Generation capacity of Santee-Cooper power plants is listed below. Note, most generation capacity is coal, nuclear and natural gas.
Electricity is Secondary Energy and uses about 37% of America’s total Primary Energy. The other 63% of Energy is Important to Fuel Our High Quality Lives!
The Federal government, at this point in time, is stating and making policies that would “Electrify Everything”. Especially transportation. Most large automobile manufacturers have stated that they plan to phase out the Internal Combustion Engine by 2035. That is only 13 years into the future.
Think about the chart above. Yes, 96% of our Primary Energy comes from conventional sources. (I consider nuclear, coal, gas, biomass and hydroelectric all conventional sources) The highest percentage of primary energy is from petroleum. America uses about 20 million barrels per day of oil. To illustrate what 20 million barrels per day looks like, take a look at the photo below. This is a picture of me standing in front of a portion of the above ground Aleyeska pipeline in Alaska. It is above ground because of passing through frozen tundra and the heated oil must be above ground for environmental and pipeline integrity concerns. This pipeline is capable of moving about 2 million barrels of oil per day. So, to imagine the quantity of oil that America uses, picture 10 of these pipelines side by side. Yes, 10 pipelines like this. At 42 gallons per barrel, that is a lot of oil.(2)
Most rimary energy is used in “Heat Engines” that convert heat energy to motive force. Another point to imagine, is if the about 275 million light trucks and cars registered in the U.S. were converted to EV’s…..This could create Demand for an enormous amount of electricity. However, in some cases the electricity needs to be “Dispatchable” when it is needed, such as in charging EV’s on a road trip. In other cases such as long range aircraft and ship propulsion, electricity is not an option with current technology. Fossil Fuels are important to fuel our lives.
Heat Energy from fuels is enormous. Just a reminder of the definition of a “Horsepower” and a BTU (British Thermal Unit).
A horsepower is equivalent to the work accomplished by lifting a weight of 550 pounds in one second or 33,000 Foot pounds per minute. One BTU converted at 100% thermal efficiency to work is equivalent to 778 Foot pounds. A gallon of gasoline contains between 115,000 and 125,000 Btu’s. So one gallon of gasoline is worth over 90 million foot pounds of work.
Perhaps a reminder of agricultural productivity is timely. At the turn of the 20th Century, about 40% of our population was required to work on the farms to feed our nation. Then, we changed from muscle power of animals to mechanized farming, using tractors. The work of a team of horses could be accomplished with a single gasoline powered tractor.
A reminder from U.S. history…..Our Economy became the largest in the world as America switched from muscle power of draft animals and humans to mechanization powered by fossil fuels.
Summary and Conclusions
Energy and Economic Prosperity are inter-related
America has used about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s annually for decades and to preserve our high quality of life, will continue to require 100 Quadrillion+ Btu’s each year into the future
Fossil fuels provide about 80% of our total primary energy
Conventional forms of energy, including Gas, Nuclear, Coal and old Hydroelectric plants, provide over 90% of our primary energy
The Mainstream News, Entertainment and Misguided Politicians are wrong to attack fossil fuels. Donn Dears book(4) “Net Zero Carbon, Climate Policies Destroying America” lays out facts and policies to support the title
When I am in the classroom, I will not discuss the politics of “Climate Change”, only the facts on energy and electricity. I hope all of my friends employed in energy industries do likewise to attempt to set the record straight on the importance of energy and electricity.
Yours very truly,
Dick Storm, March 9, 2022
References for further reading and research:
Dick Storm USCB-OLLI Courses, Energy and Electricity, History of Energy and Electricity and the Future of Energy and Electricity. The four parts of the “History of Energy and Electricity” are on my website: https://dickstormprobizblog.org
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.
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.
Yesterday I looked at a recent article in POWER Magazine on power generation capacity additions planned for 2022-2023. I have always respected POWER Magazine and I even give them credit for sparking my interest in electric power generation when I started reading POWER while in college. I have been a contributing editor for POWER and have had numerous articles I wrote published. So, when I see POWER Magazine becoming Politically Correct or “Woke” like many other respected publications, I become concerned.
Here below is the chart they published:
It looks innocent enough and it is backed up by the EIA as being factual. I think it is more important to lift up what is not said. That is that 78.3 Gigawatts is about 7% of the U.S.A.’s total generation “Capacity” but renewables are not Dispatchable and have low capacity factors when they are producing. For example, let me show a graph (below) from the EIA Real Time Grid in October 2021. Note that of the total generation of about 534,000 MW only about 5% is generated by solar and of course, this was during the daytime. Wind was slightly more but 80% of the generation of Bulk Power was from conventional gas, coal and nuclear. These are all Dispatchable forms of Bulk Power. Conventional, Dispatchable Bulk Power Generation is what powers American Industry and our lives. America depends on reliable power.
Lets go back to last January in the PJM Interconnection (Northeastern U.S.A.) Here is a screen shot of the electric power production during January 31, 2021. Remember January 2021? It was colder than normal and just a few weeks later Texas had their Backouts largely because of dependence on too much wind and solar capacity that was not available (not Dispatchable and not available due to ice and snow). The PJM Interconnection total generation at this moment was 123,512 MW. Renewables were 6,864 MW and most of the renewable power generation was from Hydro.
Also in January of 2021, another publication that I have great respect for, the Wall Street Journal produced a video on energy and electricity generation. I took a screen shot of that video and used it in my course at USCB-OLLI. It is copied below:
Facts matter and even respected publications seem to have become Politically Correct or as is commonly referred to today as “Woke”. My concern is that irreparable harm has been done to America’s energy infra-structure and planning for the future. Why do I say this? Because if we look back on the past year, and the list of ten items below are from Andy May’s Blog site (11) these are some of the policies that have been thrust on the people:
European wind died, and they had already closed their coal plants, thus forcing natural gas prices to skyrocket.
In Texas, windmills providing 30% of their power froze and the Texas grid came within minutes of total failure. More than 200 people died due to the storm and four million were left without power.
The UK Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, called on the world to “consign coal to history.” Instead, Russia, China, and India put off ending coal until after 2060. Joe Manchin ended Biden’s plan in the U.S.
In one of the worst timed policy moves in history, Biden promised to ban fracking and he canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. He ended up on his knees begging U.S. oil and gas companies, the Saudis, and anyone else he could find to produce more oil and gas.
The U.S.-based Nature Conservancy sold phony carbon offsets to publicly traded companies, like Blackrock, Disney, and JPMorgan.
Joe Manchin vetoed Biden’s plan to federalize the U.S. electricity grid, which would have allowed him to outlaw producing electricity with fossil fuels.
Western wildfires burned up Microsoft’s carbon offsets, which were forests in Oregon.
Blackrock says sustainability (environmental) investing is nonsense.
The Federal Reserve staff says no to Biden’s idea to use the Fed to kill lending to the fossil fuel industry.
An Associated Press poll says the public is not interested in paying more to stop human-caused climate change.
I joined the Hilton Head Chapter of the “World Affairs Council” and as a member, I get daily Newsletters. Today I received the message below on the world’s addition to coal (36% of Electricity Generation). The article included the SME Link to their web page on the Importance of Coal to the World. Energy, Food Production and Economic Prosperity are all inter-related. America has steadily used about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s each year for about twenty years. Fossil Fuels provide about 80% of the energy we depend on. Our quality of life and Freedom (especially freedom of travel) depends on reliable, reasonable cost energy. You probably already know this, but I suspect most of the Democrat elected officials (except Joe Manchin) and (D) voters do not. Just saw yesterday in WSJ the impact of high fertilizer costs on farming. (High Natural Gas Prices Cause Rise in Fertilizer and Food Prices, Dec. 16, 2021: https://www.wsj.com/articles/surging-fertilizer-costs-push-farmers-to-shift-planting-plans-raise-prices-11639580768?mod=itp_wsj&mod=djemITP_h )
December 17, 2021
The article below is copied from the “World Affairs Council” Newsletter which was published today
Dec. 17, 2021 World Affairs Council
A Global Addiction
At the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last month, more than 40 countries pledged to phase out their use of coal. Richer countries expect to end coal burning in the 2030s, the BBC reported. Developing nations have set a 2040s deadline.
China, India and the US didn’t opt into the agreement, however. India agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal, for example, wrote National Public Radio. Diplomats viewed the shift as a compromise. Environmentalists were deeply disappointed. Coal is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
In the long term, the future of coal is bleak. China has stopped funding the construction of coal plants overseas. The US has done the same. But today, after significant reductions in emissions during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, coal-burning has surged back along with world economic growth, Deutsche Welle reported. Even as the US and Europe decrease their coal burning, Asian countries will likely pick up the slack as they race to develop their economies, added the World Economic Forum.
Low coal supplies helped cause electricity shortages as the pandemic waned in China, which accounts for more than half the world’s coal consumption, CNN wrote. Factories were forced to cut production. Reports of folks stuck in elevators embarrassed leaders in Beijing. It’s not surprising that Chinese officials promptly ordered up more mining.
Such problems are not limited to Asia. North Macedonia is planning to import coal from Kosovo to deal with energy shortages in its antiquated energy grid, according to Reuters. Household electricity prices in North Macedonia, meanwhile, are slated to rise by 10 percent in the new year.
Change is coming, however. In Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison has long defended the country’s powerful coal industry, homeowners are forecast to install rooftop solar panels on nearly half the country’s houses in the next decade, Bloomberg reported. Australia is therefore expected to cut coal consumption faster than earlier estimates suggested. Morrison is now in the odd position of pledging not to shutter coal-fired plants too quickly, the Guardian explained.
He and other leaders are hanging on tightly when many believe it’s time to let go.”
In my opinion the “War on Carbon” is the most successful Hoax ever thrust on World. Perhaps during the coldest months of winter 2022, people will wake up? Memories are short regarding last years Blackouts in Texas and the fact that had over 6,000 MW of coal power generation NOT been retired, the Blackout and resulting deaths did not need to happen. This is my personal opinion, Dick Storm, Dec. 17, 2021
My first assignment to Texas was as a young B&W Results Engineer. I was participating as one of the Results engineers to perform acceptance tests of a large (500 MW class) natural gas fueled boiler at the P.H. Robinson Plant near Houston. That was about 1968. After that involvement I watched with great interest as Texas built dozens of 500-750 MW natural gas and oil fueled plants all across Texas. Built by Foster-Wheeler, Combustion-Engineering and Babcock & Wilcox. Then came the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973 and Texas responded to this true energy crisis with an incredibly successful fuel change to power production changing from oil and gas to Texas and Wyoming coal. The huge build out of coal plants went from the late 1970’s till the mid 1980’s and I was impressed. I had the pleasure of working at many of the coal plants operated by various Texas Utility Companies and what impressed me most was the “Can Do” attitude of Texans. Then about 1978 I became very involved as a Field Engineer to help solve combustion and power generation challenges with ALCOA’s massive Rockdale, Texas Lignite Fueled Power Plant. Also in the mid 1980’s involvement with acceptance testing of the 450 MW Gibbons Creek Coal Plant near College Station.
Why am I writing this? It is because I am perplexed after watching for decades how Texans were so practical and innovative, they became enamored with Renewable Wind and Solar Power to a fault. I was not surprised that California had such foolish policies but found it odd that practical Texas would fall into the trap of too much dependence on unreliable, non dispatchable renewables.
In the 1970’s Texas rallied to successfully change from oil and gas fuel to coal. In 2021-2022 I see Texas rallying again to overcome the problem of over-dependence on renewables.
The Good Old Days of Coal Power and Aluminum Production in Rockdale
Here is how coal power in Texas helped to build some of the most productive aluminum manufacturing in North America. A major contributor to the local economy and manufacturer of critical metals for America at the same time providing over 1600 jobs. A story to document the relationship of reasonable cost energy and economic prosperity.
The following is from the Milam County Archives, 1974:
“On November 24, 1952, something strange happened in the small, agriculturally-oriented Central Texas town of Rockdale. A visitor, seemingly from a different world, changed the living habits of its people along with the general tempo and appearance of its community.
The courting days of the 1950’s has now, nearly 22 years later, turned into a love affair unmatched in many communities between industry and townspeople.
It began innocently enough. The Korean War was raging on and government needed aluminum to make airplanes. Aluminum Company of America needed a new facility to meet the demand. Rockdale, with its large lignite reserves, was the apple in Alcoa’s eye.
Thousands of acres of the “Cinderella fuel” nestled beneath the earth’s crust gave rise late in 1951 to the establishment of the aluminum industry in Milam County. Aluminum production demands electric power to break down ore, shipped in from South America, to form the lightweight, corrosion-free metal.
Demand for the metal by government and this abundance of the electrical energy- producing fuel triggered boom-like industrialization when Alcoa’s multi-million dollar Rockdale Works raced into production only 13 months after groundbreaking.
Tipping the giant vat to cast the first aluminum ingot were the plant’s first boss (now Alcoa board chairman and chief executive officer) John D. Harper and smelting division manager R. T. Whitzel of Pittsburgh corporate headquarters.
Today, Rockdale Works is Aluminum Company of America’s largest worldwide metal producer with eight potlines and the capacity for turning out 280,000 tons annually or 1.5 million pounds per 24-hour, continuous operation day.
The original four-potline plant was expanded by two more lines in 1956 and the Central Texas smelter became Alcoa’s largest in 1969 with the addition of the seventh and eighth lines. For the first time, Alcoa began producing more aluminum in Texas than in any other state. Rockdale Works and Point Comfort Operations down on the Gulf Coast have a joint capacity for making 455,000 tons annually.
Rockdale Works has one of the world’s biggest carbon electrode-making facilities and a diversified ingot plant which converts molten aluminum into extrusion, sheet and remelt ingot. The latter produces everything from a 50-pound to a 22,000-pound product.
A couple of fabricating facilities further enhanced the company’s local investment in the 1960’s. An atomized aluminum powder unit was built in 1966 and has been expanded twice. It’s now the biggest aluminum powder producer in the U. S. Then came a redraw rod facility in 1968 which spews out “raw material” for Alcoa’s electrical conductor-or wire-fabricating plants, primarily its nearby Marshall (Texas) Works. “
The Rockdale story is like many across the Developed World. Reasonable cost and abundant energy is used to fuel a manufacturing facility with the end result of not only manufacturing vital materials but also contributing to employment, funding the local tax base and infra-structure and more. Energy and Economic prosperity go hand in hand. Now, the four power generating units at Sandow Station are shut down. The Rockdale Plant is for sale and aluminum is no longer manufactured here. It was a great run from 1952 till about 2008 when the Chinese took over the aluminum smelting market.
Including the Sandow Plant which was adjacent to the ALCOA Rockdale Plant, there were five other robust, reliable coal plants shutdown. These are:
Sandow 1252 MW, Oklaunion 650 MW, Monticello 1,980 MW, J.T. Deely 932 MW, Big Brown 1,186 MW, TMPA Gibbons Creek 453 MW.
Perhaps the renewable wind and solar power capacity made some folks feel good when it was purchased and installed. I am sure it made the environmental extremists happy to see these coal plants gone. However, the people in the great state of Texas sure could have used the reliable electricity that could have been produced from these plants, had they not been prematurely shut down.
It personally saddens me to see the loss of the aluminum manufacturing in Rockdale which essentially was given up to Chinese aluminum smelting capacity. It saddens me also to see the unneccessary suffering of the people of Texas. The environmental extremists may be happy to have successfully hoodwinked the politicians on the evils of carbon. Perhaps now is the time to account for the costs in the loss of American jobs, economic prosperity, the powering of heat pumps, Refineries and Businesses and often overlooked, contributions to the local schools and government infrastructure & tax base.
The U.S. Department of Energy, through the EIA (Energy Information Administration) keeps up with the energy used by America. The measurement used is the BTU or British Thermal Unit. One BTU is the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit. Thus heating a pound of water from 32 degrees F. to 212 degrees F. requires 180 BTU’s. So, why is it important to know how many Btu’s are utilized? The reason is that 90% of the energy used in America is used by Heat-Engines to provide the motive force for vehicles, airplanes, drive electric generators and power industry. America in 2019 used about 100.2 Quadrillion Btu’s. Here is how these units of heat energy were utilized:
Most folks don’t think about Heat-Engines and their importance to provide our everyday high quality of lives. The facts are that Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Thermal Power from Biomass together consume about 90% of our total energy. Did you ever consider that a Boeing 747 at cruise will consume about a gallon of jet fuel a second and burn about ten tons of jet fuel/hour of flight time. Everyday when you are driving you enjoy the convenience of your personal vehicle and see many large trucks delivering needed goods to local stores or shipping interstate. Electric vehicles are becomeing more common on the highway, but they too are using energy that originated (80+%) as either coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. An electric vehicle such as a Tesla uses stored electricity to power the vehicle. The electricity to charge the batteries (usually) comes from the American electric grid, most of which (about 80%) is provided by conventional energy of natural gas, nuclear and coal.
The intent of this chapter is to describe Heat-Engines. So lets first look at the example of a steam turbine commonly used in thermal power generation plants.
Each Btu is worth 778 foot pounds of mechanical Energy if converted from heat to work at 100% efficiency.
In essence, this is the process that takes place in all steam powered thermal power plants. Whether wood, coal, Biomass, natural gas or nuclear fueled. The heat is used to generate steam and then the steam is passed through a steam turbine to produce electricity. The figure below shows examples of heat engines that we depend on every day. Each of these converts heat energy from fossil fuels into motive force for either transportation or the generation of electricity.
Each of the examples above are heat engines. The auto and aircraft engines are internal combustion engines. The car uses a gasoline engine. The jet airliner uses a jet engine. The steam turbine (is really an external combustion engine) in the lower center has the top half of the shell removed to expose the turbine blading and rotor. The large reciprocating Diesel engine driven generator in the lower right is a drive engine for a ship and uses the Diesel cycle. Another version of a reciprocating internal combustion engine is the natural gas fueled, spark ignited gas engine. A natural gas reciprocating engine will look very similar to a Diesel or gasoline reciprocating engine. The steam turbine uses steam generated in a boiler, thus the combustion is external to the steam turbine and it would be considered an “External Combustion Engine”.
Modern Coal plants use the Rankine steam cycle to generate electricity.
The process of converting coal energy to electricity is shown below. In this example about 0.8 pound of coal is used to generate one kilowatt of electricity. One kilowatt hour of electricity is about the same as using ten 100 watt light bulbs or one toaster for an hour.
The illustration is greatly simplified. In order to achieve high efficiency a clean coal fueled power plant has lots of complicated equipment and the steam turbine is multiple stages of highly precise manufacture. A typical electric utility scale steam turbine is shown below. This is the prime mover to spin the rotor (magnet) of the generator.
A schematic of a modern coal plant which utilizes the Rankine steam cycle is shown below. This shows the water, steam, cooling water flows through the boiler, steam turbine-generator and condenser. The illustration does not include the enormous amount of equipment for fuel preparation and emissions control. Solid fuels require much more equipment to convert the heat to electricity than liquid or gaseous fuels.
Here below is a modern four unit, 2,400 MW coal power plant. In this example, the four boilers are the tallest structures and are about as tall as twenty story building. The stacks are about 300 ft tall. The plume of gases coming our of the stacks is water vapor. This is steam released as the exhaust flue gases are cleaned from sulfur using limestone slurry of water and powdered lime. Known in the industry as Flue Gas Desulfurization. So the white plumes are simply water vapor from the cleaned flue gases. Also within the plumes are the invisible gases of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen.
A 2,400 MW power plant when operating at full capacity (depending on the heating value of the coal fuel) will burn about 2,000,000 pounds per hour of coal. Supplied by 100 ton rail cars this is about 10 rail cars per hour of fuel. The raw coal supplied from the mines is pulverized to a fine powder slightly more coarse than face powder and is conveyed to the furnaces using fans to mix the powdered fuel with air. The coal is burned in suspension in the furnaces much like a huge gas flame. A schematic of a typical Utility scale Steam Generator (Boiler) is shown below.
This description is intended for High School students and to provide a brief overview of the various heat-engines that we depend on each day. Suffice it to say, a large coal power plant is a very complicated and very large complex of equipment. In essence a huge “Heat-Engine” that uses solid fuel, coal. The coal is burned in the furnace above reaching peak temperatures of about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the products of combustion pass through the boiler the water entering is heated to steam at up to 1,150 degrees F. and the flue gases (Products of combustion) are cooled to about 300 degrees F. The flue gases are then treated with emissions equipment to remove the oxides of nitrogen, the sulfur and the solid ash particulates. The solid ash particles are referred to as being Flyash and today much of the flyash is recycled to use in high strength concrete. Much of the FGD scrubber slurry waste (calcium sulfate) is recycled into sheetrock for home building.
A modern, clean coal plant such as the above example may require a staff of about 160 full time employees. One of the reasons coal plants have difficulty competing with natural gas plants is the large number of personnel and the costs of fuel preparation, maintenance and cost of chemical reagents to remove the sulfur and oxides of nitrogen from the exhaust gases. A Gas Turbine Combined cycle plant of four units and also producing 620 MW will require a staff of about 25 employees. A four unit 2,400 MW of power will require a much smaller staff than a similar sized coal plant, about 40 full time employees.
The choice of the fuel and prime mover depends on the geography and availability of coal, natural gas or nuclear fuel. Alaska for example is most suitable for coal because there is not a network of gas pipelines. Also, the demand for power is less than would be justified to construct a large nuclear plant. Coal plants are also common and competitive in Developing Nations such as African and Asian countries.
Background on How Natural Gas Plants Using Aeroderivative Gas Turbine Drives Have Replaced Much of America’s Coal Electric Power Generation
Up till about the year 2010 about 50% of America’s electricity was generated from coal and about 20% from nuclear. Then came Hydraulic Fracturing and oil and gas production in the U.S.A. from locations that were not anticipated before, such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania. The U.S.A. after ten years or so of successful and highly productive Hydraulic Fracturing and directional drilling, the U.S.A. has become the world’s #1 oil and gas producing nation. What does this mean? It means economic prosperity for the U.S.A. but also it has been a disruptive economic force in electric power generation. Because about 75% of the production cost of electricity from a coal plant is fuel, the new low cost natural gas has made natural gas a less expensive fuel option for power generation. In addition, the Gas Turbine Combined Cycle Power Plants have become the most efficient “Heat-Engines” ever developed. A GTCC Power Plant has far less components than a similar sized coal plant, thus a much smaller staff and overall has lower operations & maintenance production cost. (GTCC=Gas Turbine Combined Cycle) Because of the small staff the main production cost for electricity from a GTCC plant is fuel. The natural gas fuel is about 90% of the production cost of electricity from a GTCC plant.
Further, not only lower fuel costs than coal, the GTCC plants are now approaching 65% Thermal Efficiency. More on thatin a later chapter on economics of power generation.
How Did Jet Airplane Engines Fit Into Electric Power Generation?
Jet aircraft engines have been used for air travel and military uses since the 1950’s. The jet engine is another form of internal combustion engine. For jet airplanes, the engine creates hot air and gases that are forced out the rear of the engine thus causing thrust, a force to propel the airplane forward. For planes designed to fly less than about 450 mph, such as Regional Air Transportation, a Turbo-Prop is more efficient than jet thrust alone. A derivation of the jet engine is to use the hot air and combustion products to force over a gas turbine rotor and turn a shaft which in turn drives a propellor. This is called a “Turbojet”. Many Regional commuter airliners use propellors driven by a turbojet engine. A turbo-prop engine is shown below.
Turbo-Prop Engine fueled by jet fuel. The jet engine provides hot gases to spin the turbine which creates shaft power to drive the propellor.
The jet engines and turbo prop engines have advanced in power and efficiency drastically since first use during WWll. The advancements have been applied to Gas Turbines used for power generation in stationary power plants. This gas turbine engines which are derived from the best aviation jet engines to power generation have been referred to as “Aeroderivative”. That is because the R&D that was invested in developing the most powerful and highly efficient jet engines has been adapted to electric power generation using natural gas fuels. The G-E “F Class” Series of “Gas Turbine as installed in many modern natural gas fueled power generation plants. A G-E Gas Turbine is shown below. Siemens, Mitsubishi, Rolls-Royce, Pratt-Whitney and a few other world manufacturers also design and manufacture large Utility Scale Gas Turbines.
As described earlier, the gas turbine drives a shaft which is connected to a generator to produce electricity. Here is a schematic of the gas turbine combined cycle plant exhausting heat to a steam generator that then provides steam to a steam turbine. This is called a Gas Turbine, Combined Cycle Power Plant. The combined cycle is using two cycles for power generation, the internal combustion (Brayton) cycle and the external combustion (Rankine) steam cycle. By combining the two cycles overall efficiencies have reached the highest of any other thermal power generatioin cycle or process at up to 65% efficient.
A modern 620 MW Gas Turbine, Combined Cycle Power Plant is shown below. This is the Duke Energy, Buck Plant located near Salisbury, NC.
South Carolina has generated about 28.6% of the electricity consumed from natural gas fuel. Most of that is through gas turbine combined cycle plants similar to the Duke Buck Plant in the photo above. FYI, North Carolina generated about 33% of that states electricity from natural gas.
Up to this point we have discussed the reciprocating gasoline engine, the Diesel, coal plants, jet engines and gas turbines. All of these are variations of “Heat-Engines” they convert heat energy into thrust or shaft horsepower that is a motive force for either propulsion of a vehicle, train, ship or plane or for turning a shaft that drives an electric generator. These engines consume a high percentage of the total energy utilized in America. Next covered is nuclear which has generated about 18-20% of America’s electric power for decades. A nuclear plant produces steam using the heat of nuclear fission. The steam is then passed through a steam turbine, much the same as in a coal plant described above. Here below is a schematic of a nuclear power plant using a pressurized water reactor,
Electricity generated from nuclear power also utilizes the steam turbine prime mover as a massive heat engine. Instead of using combustion to provide the heat to produce steam, a nuclear power plant utilizes nuclear fission within the reactor vessel. The primary coolant for the nuclear reaction is water under high pressure so that it will not boil. This loop of hot, pressurized water is circulated through the steam generator where the heat is transferred to the secondary cycle which provides the steam flow to drive the steam turbine. Another version of a “Heat-Engine”
Other Heat-Engines that We Depend on
You have heard of renewable power generation which includes Hydro-electric, solar, wind and biomass. Solar and wind usually generate power directly, although there are a couple of hybrid designs that utilize sunlight to boil water and produce steam. These will not be discussed here.
Biomass fuel such as waste wood or processed wood chips is used much like coal in a boiler furnace to produce steam to drive a turbine generator, Then there is Bio-Fuels such as Ethanol made from corn which is added to gasoline and burned in Internal Combustion engines of our cars and trucks.
Another form of Biomass fuel is Landfill Gas which is methane that is generated from decaying garbage in landfills. This gas is collected and piped to power boilers to generate steam and electricity.
Lastly, a small amount of electricity is generated in the U.S.A. by geothermal power. This is usually in the western U.S.A. in California and Nevada where hot rocks below the ground are used to generate steam which is then passed through a steam turbine generator.
The above serves as a primer to become familiar with the importance of heat engines in our everyday lives.
Dick Storm, September 9, 2020
Believer in Freedom to use of Energy for sustainable high quality lives