Category Archives: History of Energy and Electricity 1850-1980

History of Energy and Electricity

Part 3, 2010-2022, by Dick Storm



My intention for the first two parts of the “History of Energy and Electricity Generation” was to outline the importance that energy and electricity played in improving our quality of living & growing our economy to become the largest in the world. America is still the world’s largest economy, but if we continue on the Net Zero Carbon Path of the “Green New Deal” then America will become weaker and China’s influence in the world will exceed America’s. Perhaps not a problem if China was run by Boy Scouts with high morals. But, the CCP does not share our values.

At current trends of economic growth, China’s GDP is likely to surpass the U.S.A.’s before 2030. The Sub-Title of this post is a reminder that during the Obama Presidency America’s Energy Policy was essentially committed to a Self-Inflicted path of energy euthanasia for our great country.  Meanwhile, China ramped up energy production from All Fuel sources. I have written before on the relationship of energy and economic prosperity. That was the theme of parts 1 & 2 of this series. Abundant, reasonable cost energy fueled America’s economy for all of the 20th Century as America became the most productive country in the world with the world’s largest economy.


On a positive note, let’s start with a description of two magnificent Ultra-supercritical clean coal plants. Made in the U.S.A. and amongst the best coal plants ever built. We should have more like these being built now!

AEP Company’s John Turk Ultra-Supercritical Power Plant
Turk Plant Boiler Island and Some of the Air Emissions Control Equipment

The Best Clean Coal Plants Ever Built, Sadly amongst the last ones Built in the U.S.A.

In December 2012 one of the finest examples of American Clean Coal Plants started up. The 600 MW John W. Turk Plant in Arkansas. Power Magazine(3) awarded the plant the highest honor in 2013 for clean, reliable and efficient power generation. Here below is an excerpt of the article in POWER Magazine.

AEP’s SWEPCO requested proposals in December 2005 for new generation to meet long-term capacity needs, and by August 2006 the company settled on coal-fired technology for a new plant site in Arkansas. Construction began in early 2008, and the new plant entered commercial service in December 2012. For overcoming numerous legal and regulatory obstacles and for building the first ultrasupercritical plant in the U.S., the John W. Turk, Jr. plant is awarded POWER’s 2013 Plant of the Year Award. 

The new 600-MW John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant owned by American Electric Power’s (AEP) Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) is located on a 2,800-acre tract near Fulton, in Hempstead Country, Arkansas, about 20 miles northeast of Texarkana. The Turk Plant, the first modern plant in the U.S. to commercialize ultrasupercritical (USC) boiler technology, was officially declared commercial on Dec. 20, 2012.”

The specifications are impressive. The steam generator is rated at 650 MW power generation capacity. The steam generator evaporates 4,420,000 pounds per hour of water to superheat to 1,100 degrees F. Think about what that means. Four million pounds per hour, if it is expressed as gallons per minute, the evaporation rate is the equivalent flow in GPM of about 8,800 gallons per minute.  This quantity of water is pumped at a pressure of over 4,400 pounds per square inch and then super-heated to over 1,100 degrees F. every minute. That still impresses me to think about it. Thanks to the American metallurgical and welding technology, the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code and over 150 years of experience, that is one of the American Power Industry’s most magnificent accomplishments, in my opinion.

Plants such as Turk can do this 24/7 constantly and at a high-capacity factor. Unlike Wind or Solar Power, the Turk Plant is fully Dispatchable too.  That is why I describe plants such as Turk and Longview as magnificent! They are truly engineering marvels.

Another example of a modern, efficient supercritical coal plant is the Longview Power Plant near Morgantown, West Virginia. Longview has also attained the accomplishment of becoming the most efficient coal plant in America (different years for Turk and Longview)

Longview Power Plant Located in WVA, Award for Most Efficient Power Plant in U.S. in 2016 by POWER Magazine

Both Turk and Longview are clean coal plants equipped with Flue Gas Desulfurization equipment, Baghouses for particulate collection and Selective Catalytic Reactors for Oxides of Nitrogen correction. Called “Clean Coal because the truly harmful pollutants have been removed.

These two highly efficient HELE Plants, (HELE=High Efficiency Low Emissions) are amongst the last several major coal generating plants built in America. That’s right, about 2012 marked the end of new coal plant design and construction of coal plants in America. Few people outside the power industry understand the implications of what this means for our future. 

Let me state here that I worked my entire career in the pursuit of excellence in coal power generation. Including efficiency and emissions improvements. I believe in clean air and clean water. The EPA was needed in 1970 because acid rain, fine particulates and ground level ozone were problems which large coal fired power plants contributed to. The success of the efforts of the EPA to clean the air is best described on the chart below which is prepared by the EPA(11)

EPA Comparison of Economic Growth and Air Quality 1970-2018

From my viewpoint, cleaning the air of harmful emissions was accomplished by the time that Obama became President. From that point on, the EPA was weaponized against the best interests of America. Weaponzizing the EPA to create what I call, Energy Euthanasia. It continues today with the Climate Policies that are Destroying America. Check reference # 15 below, Donn Dears Book entitled, “NET-ZERO CARBON, THE CLIMATE POLICY DESTROYING AMERICA”

Weaponizing the EPA:

Commiting to the Present Path of Climate Policy has Seriously Wounded America’s Supply Chain for Power Generation Equipment

The Obama years 2008-2016 set a course for American Energy that were very difficult. Especially for coal power. During Obama’s Presidency, he led the EPA to declare that Carbon Dioxide should be regulated. This was later, upheld by the Supreme Court, the COregulations, right or wrong, became the law of the land. Here is a short summary of how the “War on Coal” during the Clinton administration ratchetted up to becoming “The War on Carbon” and becoming lethal for American Energy Independence, the Fossil Power Plant Equipment Supply Chain & the Economic growth and prosperity that Energy Independence provides.

According the WSJ April 18, 2009, “In 1998, the Clinton administration EPA studied the question and determined that the Clean Air Act was “potentially applicable” to CO2 and other greenhouse gases. But despite continued pressure from environmental groups, the Clinton administration never moved to regulate the gases.

The EPA lumped carbon dioxide with five other gases — methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride — into a single class for regulatory purposes. That’s because they share similar properties: All are long-lived and well-mixed in the atmosphere; all trap heat that otherwise would leave the earth and go into outer space; and all are “directly emitted as greenhouse gases” rather than forming later in the atmosphere.”

According to the bulk of somewhat biased scientific research, such as that assembled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the more greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, the more heat is trapped. That leads to rising temperatures. The EPA endorsed the (Politically Biased) IPCC research and specifically said that “natural variations” in climate, such as solar activity, couldn’t explain rising temperatures. For the record, I believe that global rising temperatures have mostly been from natural forces for thousands of years, even before the Ice Age. I am not a Climate Scientist, but there are many highly qualified well credentialed Climate Scientists that I agree with. Such as Professor Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Roy Spencer, John Christy, Steven Koonin and many more. Here below is an excerpt from Koonin’s book, “Unsettled, What Climate Science Tells Us and What it Doesn’t and Why it Matters”(18) His closing thoughts are in green font below:

Dr. Steven E. Koonin is a leader in science policy in the U.S. He served as Undersecretary for Science in the Dept. of Energy under President Obama.

“What we think we should do, in short, is begin by restoring integrity to the way science informs society’s decisions on climate and energy-we need to move from The Science back to science. And then take the steps most likely to result in positive outcomes for society, whatever the future might hold for our planet. As President Biden exhorted in his inaugural address, “We must reject the culture which facts themselves are manipulated, or even manufactured”

In my opinion, Dr. Koonin is correct, we should let science get back to science and that much of the huge volumes of research on manmade climate change has been politically inspired, not science inspired.

The current policy of “Net Zero Carbon” has been based on politically biased science and is driven by special interests, but not in the best interests of America.

Further, the Chinese for one country outside the U.S. have worked to  influence alarm with American University students to go green. See reference below (10) where Professor Lindzen of MIT writes on China’s recent actions.

China is Fortifying Their Supply Chain, While We are Self-Inflicting Harm on Ours

The Weaponization of carbon became very effective during the Obama Administration. Interrupted by President Trump and then intensified under the Biden Administration. The path to harm the Fossil Power Systems and Fossil Power Production was ratcheting up to becoming more and more lethal. (Lethal to the Made in U.S.A. supply chain) Electricity prices were kept reasonable and the Greenhouse Gas emissions reduced during this time, thanks to the Shale Gas Revolution.

The Shale Gas Revolution Aids the War on Coal

As the War on Coal progressed, the public was insulated from electricity price rises due to enormous natural gas productivity and falling natural gas prices. The graph below shows the path of natural gas prices/million BTU’s from 2006-2012. Ultimately, gas prices dropped to levels below coal prices on a $/million Btu basis. This illustration was used for a training class I was involved with in 2012 to a coal plant staff to emphasize why excellence in O & M and best Heat-Rate operations were important for competitive power generation from coal. At the time, natural gas fueled power generation had suddenly became less expensive than coal. This is because in a Thermal-Power Plant, most of the electricity generation cost is for fuel. In GTCC (Gas Turbine Combined Cycle) plants the fuel cost component is about 90% of the production cost of electricity. Thus, doubling fuel cost/million Btu’s by itself nearly doubles the production cost of electricity. Conversely, halving the fuel cost nearly halves the production cost for electricity generation.

Also during this time Gas Turbine Combined Cycle Plant technology had improved to approach 65% Thermal Efficiency. The most efficient Heat-Engines in History. Thus, it appeared between 2010 and 2020 that America could wage war on carbon and enjoy economic prosperity including the lowest electricity costs in the world.  We also had the largest drop in Carbon Dioxide emissions in the world. A 52% drop.

The following charts will illustrate the path from 2005 forward of reducing carbon emissions and keeping electricity prices reasonable.

First, fuel changes from coal to natural gas created drastic COemissions, because natural gas generated electricity produces about 50% of the COthat coal fueled plants do. 

Because electricity produced by natural gas creates about half the carbon dioxide as coal generated electricity, the first 50% reduction in Greenhouse Gases was painless. Low natural gas cost (Thanks to the Shale Gas Revolution) plus high efficiency GTCC plants provided this huge first step.

The increase in natural gas power production replaced coal power production. Together, coal, gas and nuclear still provide over 80% of our electricity. The chart above is 2004-2019. The one below is the actual (Dispatchable too!) generation across the U.S.A. in September-October of 2021:

The two pie charts of generation by Fuel (below) are from the Midwest Independent System Operator ( and the PJM Interconnection ( for January 26, 2022. Note the importance of coal power generation. Again, coal, nuclear and natural gas are providing over 80% of our nation’s electricity generation when it is most needed. Many of the coal plants providing this power are planed to be shut down in the next few years. They will be missed. Note reference(17) below, list of coal plants to be retired in the next few years.


US Department of Energy, EIA

The U.S. Supply Chain for Manufacturing Fossil Power Systems Equipment

Besides the importance of reliable, reasonable cost electricity, there is the Supply-Chain which we should all be concerned about.

The Supply Chain of Coal Plant Components includes thousands of tons of components. Once manufactured solely in the U.S.A., these components provided hundreds of thousands of jobs. For example, when I worked for B&W in 1969, B&W employed over 35,000 employees. Combustion-Engineering also employed over 35,000 employees. General Electric and Westinghouse Electric back then employed hundreds of thousands of employees. America was the world’s #1 manufacturer and this served our country very well. Take a look at the illustrations below of major coal plant components during construction.

A large clean coal plant involves tens of thousands of tons of steel manufacturing, seamless high alloy tubing, high pressure piping, hundreds of miles of copper wire, transformers, steam turbines, large pressure vessel manufacturing, pumps, heat exchangers, motors, generators and many other components. Manufacturing of these components involves hundreds of thousands of jobs for skilled engineers, technicians and craftsmen. The Supply-Chain is very large and spreads all across the U.S.A. Here below is a list of the suppliers to the Turk Plant. This is from the POWER Magazine article.

We stopped building large coal plants about 2014. With that comes a withering and loss of our productive manufacturing capacity. Recently, our Supply-Chain woes have been in the news. My friends ask me, How could we invent computer chips and then lose the capability to produce them here in the U.S.? How about steel tubing, steel shapes, aluminum, Rare Earth minerals and EV components? Pharmaceuticals? Where do most of these come from now? Most, come from China. China is the World’s largest manufacturer, so it seems reasonable to accept the published data that shows China using more energy than any other country.

China Energy Consumption, compared to the Rest of the World

From BP Statistical Review

Meanwhile, China is Getting a Lot of Practice in Building Large Coal Power Plants, All of the Equipment Involved and Many Other Products…..

Pakistan Power Plant, Financed and Built by China
From LinkedIn Post by Mike Caravaggio

Boston University has a web site that tracks China Coal Plants:

Closing Summary

In my life-time I saw America as the top Industrialized Country of the world. We shared our wealth and technologies with other countries in good faith. Then for whatever reasons, the people of great influence, mostly from the American Democrat Party, sought to weaken our productive capacity and to cede that capacity to the Chinese Communist Party. The Mainstream News, Entertainment and most Democrats have all been part of this transfer of productive capacity and with that productive capacity comes influence in the world.

It is my hope that sometime soon, our President and Congress will wake up and see the importance of energy to power our economy. The U.S. Senate Report, “Europe’s Energy Crisis, A Warning to America” should be read by all elected officials.(15) The other references below are also informative.

Dick Storm, January 30, 2022


  1. How Carbon Dioxide Became a Pollutant, April 18, 2009, WSJ :
  2. COP-26 Climate Conference article, Oct. 30, 2021, WSJ :
  3. John W. Turk Power Plant wins POWER Magazines highest honor for clean coal:
  4. Longview, Rehabilitated Coal Power Plant Most Efficient in U.S. POWER Magazine, August 2016:   
  5. China to Build 43 new coal plants, “Time” August 2021:
  6. China could build more coal plants even after Xi promises not to, Bloomberg Oct 2021:  
  7. China’s Coal Plant Capacity More than 3 X the Rest of the World’s, Reuters, Feb 2021China’s new coal power plant capacity in 2020 more than three times rest of world’s: study:
  8. Hassyan Power Plant in Dubai:
  9. Hassyan Power Plant ACWA Power web page:
  10. China Warming, Tablet Magazine by Richard Lindzen, October 19, 2021:
  11. EPA Progress in Cleaning our Air:
  12. Mid America Independent System Operations, MISO Energy:
  13. PJM Interconnection, Independent System Dispatch of Electric Power for much of the Northeast and west to Chicago:
  14. Boston University Global Development Policy Center:
  15. U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Report; “Europe’s Energy Crisis, A Warning to America”:
  17. Reuters, List of Coal Plants Scheduled to be shut down:
  18. Steven E. Koonin, “Unsettled, WHAT CLIMATE SCIENCE TELLS US,WHAT IT DOESN’T, ANDWHY IT MATTERS” 2021, BenBella Books, Inc.

A Short History of Energy & Electricity and How Our High Quality of Living Came to Be (High Human Development Index) Part 1, 1850-1955

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. 

Until the Internal Combustion Engine was Applied to Improving Agriculture and Transportation, Horsepower was the Norm

Benz gets credit for the first automobile produced with an Internal Combustion Engine

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.

Mechanization of Farming Made Food Producton Much More Productive with Far Less Labor The Fordson Tractor was introduced about 1915

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. 

Siemens Factory in Germany for producing electric motors, Carbon-Arc Lamps on the streets of Berlin. Inset photo of Charles Parsons Steam Turbine

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.

Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse. Three important people regarding theapplication of electricity for practical purposes

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.

Fire-Tube Boiler (Left) B&W Water-Tube Boiler (Right)

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.

Fire-Tube Boiler Construction, before welding was developed and applied to pressure vessel fabrication

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.

Reciprocating Steam Engine Drive for a D/C Generator about 1890 at the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades

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.

From Storm Technologies, Inc. Library of Educational Slides on Power Generation

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.

American Bombers being assembled at Ford Motor Company Plant during WWII, Packard Automobile Plant becomes a Manufacturing Plant for Aircraft Engines

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.

U.S. Dept. of Energy, Energy Information Administration Chart of Total Energy Use of U.S. 1775-2009

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Our economy progressed and quality of life improved as more muscle labor (human and animal muscle) saving machines were invented, produced and utilized.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Willis Carrier invents modern air conditioning and humidity control 1902.
  6. Henry Ford revolutionized automoble transportation starting about 1903.
  7. Agricultural production is vastly more productive by the replacement of horse muscle power with mechanized tractors powered by gasoline or Diesel internal combustion
  8. Carnegie and United States Steel become the largest steel manufacturers in the world after 1901
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. About 1928 General-Electric produces home refrigerators for preservation of food.
  12. Texas begins development of the Permian Basin oil fields, 1928
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. President Eisenhower launches “Atoms for Peace” Initiative for Peaceful uses of atomic energy. Begins at Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva, 1955

This is Part 1. Part 2 to follow in the near future. The purpose of this post is to show the importance of reliable, reasonable cost and abundant energy. Energy to power our high quality of living. Our energy has been reliable, low cost and abundant for decades. My observation is that people have become accustomed to reasonable cost and reliable energy for so long that we take it for granted. The environmental extremists on the other hand, have attacked all conventional forms of energy including Fossil Fuels and nuclear which together comprise about 90% of the energy that we depend on.

The foregoing list of 15 accomplishments is intended to show the relationship of energy to high quality of life and economic prosperity. If energy availability is reduced, then our quality of life and economic prosperity are harmed. Up to this point in history, we have always increased energy production to meet the demand of our growing population.

Dick Storm, January 13, 2022

King Coal is Dead. Long Live the King!

Coal has been important to lift people from poverty to good lives for about 150 years. The Developed world made great progress from 1900 to present day thanks to reasonable cost coal power. The Electric Utilities once educated the public on power generation and “Living Better Electrically” Any of us born before 1950 can remember the Edison Electric Institute Mascot, “REDDY KILOWATT”. What a wonderful benefit that was for Humankind. As a high school student I actually knew where electric power came from and the basics of Thermal Power Plants.

Then ironically, about the time of the 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo, I was working for Carolina Power and Light Company. A responsible and efficient Electric Utility headquartered in Raleigh, NC. I remember as a fact, CP&L cut the Public Relations Budget which included killing programs in schools to teach Home Economic Students the benefits of “Living Better Electrically”. Also, TV and Newspaper articles to explain the importance of electricity. So, what filled the void? The Environemntal Extremists filled the void. Then in the 1990’s Bill Clinton’s Presidency began the “War on Coal”. Later the war on coal morphed into the war on carbon.

Thank you Ron Clutz for writing your article. I will post a couple pictures of life without Fossil Fuels. As John Kerry flies around the world professing to save the Planet, I suppose this is what he and the Biden Administration wish for us to do, return to muscle power. This is preposterous considering we are well into the Digital and Space Age!

An Amish Teenage Girl with Team of Horses Plowing circa 1960

energy and notable people who contributed to the rise of america

 Here are some Achievements that Made America Great. Much has been written lately on the “Rise of China”. I thought I would write a short history of the application of energy in America. This is a short history of America’s rise over the last 130 years and some of the pioneers that I wish to lift up as being major contributors to our high quality of life. Quality of life and energy use grew in direct proportion.


America remains a beacon for freedom and hope to many in the world. Being born and raised in America for me, was my greatest Blessing, perhaps equal to the Blessing of being raised by caring parents. Now as a retired senior citizen, I have time to read, study history and reflect on my good life and the advances that America accomplished in the last Century. 

The purpose of this document is to highlight some of the great inventions and achievements done by Americans during the last hundred and thirty years. I am hopeful that the next Generation of youth will read and contemplate these components of the Foundation of our Society. During these difficult times that our country is divided and the main stream Media, entertainment personalities and politicians seem to be more interested in cancelling history, I thought it is appropriate to highlight America’s progress as leader of the Free World. General Electric’s slogan of the 1960’s could be used to sum up what America showed the world, “We Bring Good Things to Life”.

Energy and Economic Prosperity is what I wish to discuss. However, there are, in my view, some important pre-requisites to the continued success of our nation:

Freedom, Basic Judeo-Christian values of the citizens, Law and Order, Protection of Private Property, Capitalism that rewards risk and innovation, a sound public education system including Colleges and Universities, a caring Philanthropic citizenry that with our Christian-Judeo heritage, care for others. You could say, this is a reminder of where we came from and some of the reasons why the U.S.A. became the world’s strongest and best country of the world.

My 50 entire year career involved energy use and electricity generation. As I reflect back on my life and my parents lives, I can not help relating the correlation of American ingenuity, creativity and the need to use energy to power the ever improving quality of life that we enjoy.

I should also add, over my life-time I have had the privilege and advantage of visiting dozens of countries around the world in both business and as a tourist. I have seen for myself, both Developed and Developing countries and the impact of available and reasonable cost energy. Reasonable cost, abundant energy makes a huge difference in the lives of any society. I have seen so myself.

Let’s review some notable inventions (and the need for energy to fuel them).

1859 Drake’s First Oil Well in Titusville, PA

Whale oil was used for illumination and hundreds of whales were slaughtered to provide fuel. The Drake oil well began a replacement source of energy. Oil refining to distill crude oil into different useful fractions of naphtha, gasoline, kerosene began after 1859. John D. Rockefeller founds Standard Oil Company in 1865 and ultimately becomes the world’s largest oil refiner.

Babcock & Wilcox the premier water tube, steam boiler manufacturer is founded in 1867 by the two Americans, Stephen Wilcox and George Babcock. B&W Boilers were widely applied to provide steam for Westinghouse and General Electric steam engines and steam turbines.

In the year 1900 kerosene lights were popular all across America, soon to be replaced. 

Edison begins the electrification of America at Pearl Street Station in NYC in 1882.

General Electric is founded in 1892. Production of Edison’s incandescent light bulb and the electricity distribution systems grew across the country.

Westinghouse Electric formed in 1886 and shortly thereafter invents the transformer which became critical for distributing Alternating Current electricity over long distances.

Although they were reliable, the early steam engines were huge, heavy devices that were not very efficient. Thus, nearly all companies in the electric equipment business seized the opportunity to develop the steam turbine as an alternative. In 1897, GE entered into an agreement with Charles Curtis, who directed turbine development work at GE until 1900, to exploit his patent (No. 566,969) for the Curtis steam turbine. In 1895, Westinghouse acquired rights to manufacture reaction turbines invented and patented in 1884 by the English inventor, Thomas Parsons. Allis-Chalmers also acquired rights to manufacture under Parsons` patents, so early machines of these two manufacturers were quite similar.

The Curtis and the Parsons turbine designs were based on different fundamental principles of fluid flow. The Curtis turbine was an impulse design, where the steam expands through nozzles so it reaches a high velocity. The high-velocity, low-pressure steam jet then impacts the blades of a spinning wheel. In a reaction turbine such as the Parsons design, the steam expands as it passes through both the fixed nozzles and the rotating blades. While the difference appears subtle, it affects the shape and size of the nozzles and blades. In most modern steam turbines the high-pressure stages are impulse blades. The steam pressure drops quickly through these stages, thus reducing the stress on the high pressure turbine casing. The many subsequent stages may be either impulse or reaction designs. 

The Internal Combustion Engine and Energy for Transportation

After 1900 the invention of the Internal Combustion Engine drove oil demand higher as more vehicles were manufactured.

This is the time when the inter-relationship of energy and economic prosperity becomes apparent.

At the turn of the Century, over 60% of Americans lived in Rural areas and worked on their farms. It took about 40% of the population to grow food for our nation1. Horses were the main motive power for farm power and transportation.

Willis Carrier7 invented air conditioning in 1902.  As a resident of South Carolina I often think of this marvelous invention and what it means for comfort during the summer heat and humidity.

Orville and Wilbur Wright begin the journey of American aviation industry 1903.

 Henry Ford invents the automotive Assembly Line about 1913. Tractors become a farm productivity factor about 1920. Henry Ford increases worker’s wages to $5.00 per day and begins the migration of rural families to the city.

Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse vigorously compete to electrify the nation. Serbian immigrant, Nickola Tesla invents the poly-phase motor and other inventions while working for Edison and Westinghouse.  Motors designed by Tesla and manufactured by Westinghouse power the manufacturing boom in America.

Low cost, abundant coal becomes the primary fuel for electric power generating plants across the U.S.A. 

Coal and native iron ore fuel the American Steel Industry. US Steel was founded in 1901. At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of businessmen were involved in the formation of United States Steel Corporation, including Andrew CarnegieElbert H. GaryCharles M. Schwab, and J.P. Morgan. Carnegie had founded Carnegie Steel Company.

The “Roaring ’20s” was a period of prosperity and expansiveness. The United States produced 40 percent of the world’s supply of iron and steel. 

In 1927 Juan Trippe, another American entrepreneur, forms Pan American Airways starting as mail service between Florida and Cuba. About 1931 Trippe and the Russian immigrant aeronautical engineer, Igor Sikorsky develop flying boats called the Pan Am Clipper’s to expand passenger travel across the Caribbean. Later, Trippe becomes a pioneer in purchasing commercial aircraft from Martin and Boeing. Pan American Airways expand to regular service all around the world.

During WWll, America enters and becomes the “Arsenal of Democracy” to defeat the Axis enemies. After WWII, America rebuilds Germany and Japan with the transfer of American expertise, trade secrets and manufacturing know how . Germany and Japan rise to become highly productive countries.

Hydraulic Fracturing is invented by Americans during the Civil War about 1862. Later developed about 1947 and combined with Directional Drilling by George Mitchell about 1999. Directional drilling combined with Fracking in 2017 propelled America to becoming the world’s number one producer of oil and natural gas.

Captain and eventually promoted to Admiral, Hyman G. Rickover invents a nuclear propulsion system for the US Navy. The first nuclear ship, the submarine USS Nautilus is launched in 1954, and traverses the North Pole under the ice in 1957. Later in the 1950’s, Rickover provides a gift of a means for economical and reliable nuclear power generation to all of mankind. President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative promotes peaceful uses of atomic energy worldwide. The American companies, Westinghouse, Babcock & Wilcox, General Electric, Allis Chalmers, General Atomics and more all contribute to the building of commercial nuclear power plants around the world. France’s highly successful nuclear power generation began with the gift of the Westinghouse Pressurized Water Nuclear Steam System. The commercial nuclear steam system was perfected by Admiral Rickover for the Navy and later applied to the first commercial nuclear power plant at Shippingport near Pittsburgh, PA. After Shippingport as the expression goes, it is all history and the old nuclear plants in the U.S.A. built in the 1970’s and 1980’s still generate about 20% of America’s electricity. Here is a time line of Rickover’s productive life:

  • 1900 Jan 27th Born in Maków Mazowiecki, Kingdom of Poland.
  • 1922 Received B.S. from the United States Naval Academy.
  • 1929 Received M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University
  • 1929 to 1933 Served on two submarines for the Navy.
  • 1939 to 1945 Worked in the Bureau of Engineering (consolidated into the Bureau of Ships in 1940) in Washington, D.C.
  • 1946 Traveled to Oak Ridge.
  • 1949 to 1982 Served as Director of Naval Reactors.
  • 1954 The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is commissioned.
  • 1958 Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the first full-scale, commercialized pressurized water reactor, is commissioned.
  • 1982 Forced to retire from the United States Navy. (age 82!)
  • 1986 Jul 8th Died in Arlington, Virginia

Thank you Admiral Rickover, your gift to mankind of peaceful uses of nuclear power changed the world!

Energy and Economic Prosperity are Linked

The chart below which uses data from the World Bank and the United Nations reminds us of the importance of energy to support favorable living standards. Note that over 50% of the world’s population lives on a small percentage of the energy used per capita in America.

China’s Rise Powered by Fossil Fuels, for Comparison

In other sections of this Blog, I have written about the rise of China and how China has built more coal power generation capacity in twenty years than America did since Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station first began. That is right, China has built far more electricity generation in twenty years than that accomplished by the U.S.A. in 130 years. Here is a graph of the world’s largest coal consumers and as you can see, China is far ahead of all other countries of the world.

In closing, let me say, I am very thankful to be an American and to enjoy our high quality of life.

The first part of this document was to remind us of some of the fine American inventors, business people and entrepreneurs that built the industries that make our good lives possible.

Wishing you a Blessed and Happy Easter,

Dick Storm

March 31, 2021


  1. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Census Report:
  2. Henry Ford invents assembly line 1913:
  3. ASME Program to Honor Drake’s First Oil Well in the U.S.A. :
  4. History of Oil Refining:
  5. John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Co. :
  6. History of Steel Making in U.S.A.
  7. Willis Carrier, inventor of Air Conditioning 1902:
  8. General Electric History:
  9. Westinghouse Electric History:
  10. Pan American Airways History:
  11. Babcock & Wilcox Boilers:
  12. Our World in Data Fossil Fuels consumption since Industrial Revolution:
  13. McKinnsey and Company Energy and GDP:
  14. World Energy Use and GDP relationship chart:
  15. NPR Economy and Energy explained:
  16. Why Fossil Fuels are so hard to Quit, Brookings Institute:
  17. Shippingport Nuclear Plant, first commercial nuclear power generation plant 1958 as part of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative:
  18. Power Engineering Historical Report on Steam Turbines:
  19. Charles Parsons, 1884 Steam Turbine inventor:
  20. History of Hydraulic Fracturing: