The U.S. has No Energy Policy in 2022. Only a Decarbonization Policy without a Rational plan to achieve a low carbon Energy supply. Keep in mind, Energy is needed for not only electricity generation, but also for Transportation, Industrial production, Commercial and Residential uses. Currently, about 87% of our total primary energy is provided by conventional sources of natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Wind and Solar provided less than 5% of total Primary Energy in 2021. Yet, there are many influential groups calling for policies to “Electrify Everything”.
Let me digress and quote a highly respected Utility Engineering Manager from the 1970’s. That man is Mendall H. Long, a member of the Greatest Generation who after graduation from NCSU served as the youngest Chief Engineer of the Standard Oil Fleet during WWII. After the war he joined Carolina Power & Light and rapidly rose through the ranks from shift supervisor to Manager of Fossil Plant Engineering. Me and many others loved that man for both his engineering skills as well as his wisdom and leadership. In the 1970’s CP&L and Duke Power’s electricity growth was almost 10% per year with growing industrial load and wide use of residential heat pumps. At CP&L which then was a 4,000 MW regional utility, the Asheville Unit #2 (200MW) was built about 1970, then the 700 MW H.B. Robinson nuclear plant about 1971, 420 MW Sutton #3 in 1972 and the 720 MW Roxboro #3 started up in June 1973. Except for Robinson, all were coal plants and needed to satisfy load growth. That was when Utilities planned for electric load growth and added generation based on projections of future demand. The four new units built between 1970 and 1973 above totaled 2,040 MW and the total peak generation was in the range of 4,000 MW. The quote from Mr. Long that I remember as he motioned toward some Internal Combustion gas turbines that were built for peaking and backup of the large new coal plants, “Those are Monuments to Poor Planning”. So, I wonder what the “Monuments to Poor Planning will be in 2024? I worked with (both as a Riley startup engineer and as an engineer employed by CP&L) and for CP&L during those years and the information provided is from my personal experiences and memory.
Lets take a look at what a Rational plan would be to add generation in anticipation of future Demand. In fact, lets take my adopted state of South Carolina as an example.
South Carolina Electricity Generation Planning 2006-2016
Before I retired from full time employment, I participated in consulting, testing, trouble shooting and design of performance improvements for coal power plants at South Carolina Electric and Gas and Santee-Cooper power plants (as well as many other utilities). During this process I got to know and respect a number of senior managers at these Utilities. One such senior manager was Mr. Bill McCall of Santee-Cooper. I remember one technical conference where Mr. McCall gave a presentation on Santee-Cooper’s load growth from both electricity intensive Industrial plants within the Santee-Cooper service territory, such as Alumax (now Century Aluminum) and Nucor Steel and the rapid growth of housing (like NC in the 1970’s) and commercial enterprises along the coast north and south of Myrtle Beach. Mr. McCall went on to describe how electric demand was growing at unprecedented levels, and it was. He went on to show the need for building the two additional coal units at the Cross Generating Station, increasing the generation capacity of that plant to 2,340 MW and the need for the proposed 600 MW Pee Dee Generation Plant. Then there was the joint effort/ownership of SCE&G and Santee-Cooper to build the two additional nuclear units at Summer Station in Jenkinsville, SC. The significant dates of new units built or planned to be built during this period is shown below:
1984 Santee-Cooper Electric Generation Peak exceeds 5,000 MW
1984 Cross Generating Station Is Commissioned
1995 Cross Unit #2 Becomes Commercial
1999 800 MW Rainy Gas Turbine Combined Cycle Plant Approved for Construction
2004 Two 600 MW Cross Units #3&4 Construction in progress
2004 600 MW Pee Dee Energy Campus is approved by Santee-Cooper Board for construction
2007 New Peak Demand record set at 5,563 MW’s, Cross Unit #3 begins commercial operation
2008 SCE&G and Santee-Cooper File appliction for Summer Unit #3 Nuclear Unit (1,100 MW)
2011 NRC approves second Summer Nuclear Unit for a total expansion of 2,200 MW of new nuclear power generation capacity. This is shared capacity of SCE&G and Santee-Cooper with Santee-Cooper having a 45% ownership share. Now, the foregoing new plants to be added from 2007 on would seem to be a good plan for growth. It was until two major problems: 1. The 600 MW Pee Dee Energy Campus was cancelled in 2009 due largely to outside interference and agitation from environmental extremist groups and 2. Mismanagement of construction of the two nuclear units at Summer by SCE&G. A Rational Plan for new generation capacity of Dispatchable coal and nuclear generation capacity was scrapped. Now, there are continuing and increasing public and government pressures to install only wind and solar and to shut down existing coal plants as soon as possible. The 1,045 MW Winyah coal plant is planned to be shut down in 2028. But, at this writing there is no definite plan (that I am aware) to replace the 1,045 MW of coal generation. The illustration below is from Santee-Cooper’s IRP presentation.
When I first became associated with Santee-Cooper in 1971 as one of the test engineers performing acceptance testing at the Jefferies Coal plant in Moncks Corner, the system peak load was about 3,000 MW. Since then as can be seen from the projections to the future, Santee-Cooper’s service territory will grow to over 6,000 MW by 2037. This is natural growth without the MSM and government screaming, “Electrify Everything”!
Who is Accountable for Poor Planning?
In my opinion, there are multiple reasons and organizations that have brought our country to the absense of proper generation planning. Nine major contributors to “Poor Planning” are the U.N.-IPCC, the World Economic Forum, the Main Stream Media, Public Indoctrination by Politicians that follow the “Green Religion”, the U.S. Democrat Party, Environmental Extremist Organizations, Billionaire activists such as Bezos and Bloomberg and Public School Indoctrination of Green Policies and “Woke” corporations. I presented my views to the ENERUM Energy Forum in Columbus in August of this year. One slide I used is copied below:
On a national level, the slide covers many of the major players that have thrown a monkey wrench into generation planning, as it was once done by responsible regional utilities. Now, with the emphasis on interconnecting all Utilities with Regional Transmission Operators and a Federal War on Carbon, there is No Rational Energy Policy. Only a policy to attempt to kill coal and gas plants. It is un-American. My respected and Patriotic engineering manager friend Mr. Long would be screaming from his grave if he knew the madness that has taken over in the U.S. Oh, how I miss gutsy and knowledgeable managers like Mendall Long!
Getting back to S.C. and the lack of planning here. Here are a couple newspaper reports regarding the cancellation of the Pee Dee Coal plant and the Summer units 2&3 nuclear plant.
America did better generation planning in the 1970’s than we do now. In spite of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, America’s electricity remained reliable, was affordable and it fueled great economic growth 1970-2020.
There is no energy policy today. The “Electrify Everything” policy promoted by many here and in Eurpope is based on the myth that wind and solar can provide sufficient power. It can’t. Many promoting this myth should know better!
The Regional Transmission Operators such as MISO, PJM and ERCOT combined with economic incentives for wind and solar have made the Grid fragile and less Resilient.
The Environmental Extremists have made policies to shut down vital coal plants that will contribute to unreliable electricity generation.
The EPA and government is run by environmental extremists that escape accountability for the actions and harm they are causing.
Europe is an example our elected officials could look too to observe the costs and harm that extreme green policies can cause.
Meanwhile, China is growing their economy and is on track to become the world’s largest economy passing the U.S.A. and doing so with massive amounts of coal power.
In closing let me ask you, what do you think the Monuments to Poor Planning will be in 2024?
America and all Developed countries require Energy to power our lives and our economy. It is time (for the government, energy savvy citizens already know this) to face the facts and reality that nearly 90% of the energy America depends on, including for our Defense of National Security, is sourced from conventional fuels or sources of natural gas, nuclear, oil, coal and old hydropower generation. Wind and Solar cannot replace these forms of energy and the path to Net-Zero Carbon will weaken our country. A Rational Energy Transition is needed over the next few decades. As a reminder, the Sankey Diagram below shows the total primary energy flows by sources and flow for all of 2021 forms of energy . Note that less than 5% of the primary energy provided to the U.S. was from wind and solar.
The two key words are PRIMARY ENERGY! As a couple people have asked me on EV’s…..”You mean the electricity has to be generated somewhere else to charge an electric vehicle?”
Yes, over 89% of the PRIMARY ENERGY we use is from conventional sources of Petroleum, Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Hydroelectric and yes, electricity to charge an EV likely came from conventional sources.
I have met with numerous groups to discuss our energy future and every time I outline the current government path to Net-Zero Carbon the people I talk with are shocked that there is not a planned transition to reduced carbon emissions and sustaining a reliable, affordable energy supply. Why? I believe it is because those that are knowledgeable in all forms of primary energy production are a small minority. Similar for secondary energy production, such as for producing electricity and hydrogen. I estimate that the people who thoroughly understand energy production is less than 5% of American (and the world) citizens. Smooth talking non-energy savvy politicians, the United Nations, the Main Stream Media, World Economic Forum and Public Education have Hoodwinked the Public into Demonizing carbon and preaching and legislating Green Power incentives. These powerful innfluencers have forced wind and solar Green Energy Religion on Americans. It is not possible to switch all of America or the rest of the Free World to Renewable wind and solar energy. It is possible to have a smooth transition to increase carbon free nuclear power and nuclear power produced hydrogen over the next three decades, but not by 2030 or 2035 as is proclaimed by the Biden Administration. America has no energy policy, only a policy of demonizing carbon and forcing the citizens to depend on unreliable, intermittent wind and solar.
Energy Misinformation is World-Wide
My friend Vincent who lives in France has sent me dozens of informative documents on energy. One document he sent yesterday caught my attention. It is the opening introduction of Professor Samuel Furfari’s article published on the Friends of Science Blog of Calgary University. I will quote Professor Furfari as he captures what I believe to be true as well. Furfari is referring to Europe, but much of what he states is applicable all over the Free World:
“Energy is life. Without energy, we could not live. That is why our distant ancestors adopted, then invented ways to create fire. The use of energy is essential for life: animals and human beings eat because their bodies need energy. Moreover, energy is also the blood that runs through the veins of the economic system. In recent years, instead of seeing energy as a vital commodity, environmental activists have succeeded in reversing the logic by blaming energy for all the planet’s ills, to the point where energy is no longer spoken of in negative terms. Energy has become the symbol of pollution and climate catastrophe. A few days ago, at the end of a lecture, a student confessed to me that he had been shaken because I had shown, with data, that the quality of life measured by the UN HDI index and life expectancy at birth depended on per capita energy consumption. This correlation is also valid with CO2 emissions since 82% of the energy used in the world is fossil fuel. He had never thought about it. No one had ever told him that.” Furfari continues….
“Will the current crisis be enough to bring us back to the common sense of the absolute priority of having abundant and cheap energy, as the founders of the EU said in the past? This is not certain, as the population has been so indoctrinated with negative and even catastrophic messages. But if the current crisis was to last and worsen, climate policies could face fierce opposition from the population, since it is true that the population cannot do without abundant and cheap energy, as the current panic demonstrates. Thanks to the development of technology and our energy resources (North Sea hydrocarbons and nuclear energy), the EU was able to escape the oil crises of the 1970s. The energy terrorism that may develop in the near future will have much more far-reaching consequences, as the EU is now much more dependent on energy consumption than it was fifty years ago.”
The foregoing is from a European viewpoint. My opinion/commentary now continues:
We Cannot Electrify Everything!
It is not even possible to install enough wind turbines and solar collectors across the U.S. to “Electrify Everything”. Further, we cannot electricfy everything and still sustain our high quality of living. For such products/materials as fertilizer, ammonia, food production energy, plastics, cement manufacture and steel manufacture. So what would a Rational Energy Policy look like? Here is my shot at offering one:
A RATIONAL ENERGY PLAN
Here is what a Rational Energy Plan would look like:
Maintain Existing Coal & Nuclear Plants as If they will Run for 20 more years….because… we will likely need them.
Reduce Federal Regulations on Oil, Gas, Coal production and all hard rock Mining within the U.S.A.
Reduce Regulations and build more Refinery Capacity
Approve Keystone and other Pipelines for Construction
Reduce Federal Regulations on Coal Plant Emissions to levels in effect in 2020 (except CO2 restrictions that were later vacated by SCOTUS)
Build New HELE Coal Plants, Equipped with Provisions for Future CCUS (HELE=High Efficiency Low Emissions)
Continue R & D for Energy Storage and Hydrogen Production
Increase Hydrogen Distribution Infrastructure
Keep Options of Continuing Internal Combustion Engines Beyond 2035 for those citizens that prefer Internal Combustion Engines
Expand Oil & Gas Infrastructure to meet next 30 year Demand
Increase the pace for designing, NRC Approvals, manufacturing and construction of new Small Modular Nuclear Reactors to be built all across the U.S.A. to replace the 102,000 MW’s of reliable, Dispatchable electric power production capacity that has been shut down since 2010.
Summary and Conclusions
When America’s economy and our productive capacity are restored, it will be with the result of reduced Federal Regulations and increased Domestic Energy production. To sustain life as we know it, each American on average needs about one million BTUs of energy equivalence each day. This includes energy for electricity generation, transportation, Industrial production, National Defense, commercial and residential uses. Over 90% of that energy is sourced from conventional sources of natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear. These numbers are substantiated by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Sankey Diagram I placed as the first illustration. Yes, it shows 95% of the primary energy America runs on is from conventional forms of energy. It is Energy Fiction to believe that the conventional forms we use and depend on now can be provided by wind and solar as the Biden Administration and Congress have advocated. (I suppose we could add to this list of indoctrinators: the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Environmental Extremist groups, the MSM, U.S. Public Education and Woke corporations)
If the Biden Administration and Congress do not create a Rational Energy Policy as I have outlined above, then America’s Infuence in the World and our Economy will go into an ever increasing decline. As outlined by Professor Samuel Furfari, the same is true for Europe. “Energy is Life, Without Energy we cannot live”.
The Developed World runs on energy and America has the natural resources to regain Energy Independence.
Dick Storm, October 12, 2022
Quote of the Week: “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression.” —James Madison (1788)
For those of us middle class folks that have lived the American Dream to enjoy a very comfortable life, it is not hard to imagine using a million Btus each day with the various forms of energy depicted above. Energy used on our behalf goes beyond what we personally use. The pro-rated energy use per Capita (as recorded by the DOE) includes Industrial manufacturing, Military Defense, government, commercial, fertilizer production, food production and shipping transportation uses. Energy does in fact provide for our high quality of life. Perhaps it would be helpful to compare our energy use to the people of other countries. Here below is such a comparison.
Flows of Total U.S. Primary Energy
For anyone who has seen my posts before you will know that I am very enamored with the simple yet clear illustration of U.S. Energy Sources and flows provided by the Department of Energy’s LLNL. This chart shows all major sources of energy which includes renewables and illustrates the quantities of each produced and used by the thickness of the flow lines.
Continental Resources Chairman and founder Harold Hamm detailed on Monday (Mayc2022) what he believes is behind the record prices Americans are facing at the pump, arguing that the Biden administration’s “failed policies on energy are not working. https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/6306265270112#sp=show-clips
Heating the Oceans: By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)An issue with addressing how the earth cools is the mental concept of time. According to the Stefan-Boltzmann law, the earth is continuously emitting infrared energy depending on temperature. Some atmospheric gases, greenhouse gases, continuously interfere with the release of this energy to space in specific wavenumbers (number of wavelengths per centimeter, sometimes called frequency). In clear skies near the surface, most of the gases are well mixed except for water vapor, which varies significantly by region. : http://sepp.org/twtwfiles/2022/TWTW%208-6-2022.pdf
The Modern World Can’t Exist Without These Four Ingredients, They All Require Fossil Fuels, Vaclav Smil
America has no energy policy. We only have a policy to decarbonize. Recently I had an opportunity to meet with my representative in Congress, I brought up the topic of the coming energy crisis and how foolish current energy policies are, etc. My Congresswoman basically responded with this comment: ” I can’t do anything about that until we have a majority in Congress” I could paraphrase her response as “It’s not my job” which was a term I hated to hear from people I worked with.
Congress Abdicates Responsibility
The EPA has 14,581 employees and a 9.6 Billion dollar budget. The Department of Energy another 10,000+ employees. The heads of these departments are basically political appointee’s with no required expertise in environmental science or energy. They are not formulating energy policy or working toward energy independence for the U.S. In fact, they are led by environmental extremists. I have written numerous posts regarding the importance of energy to everything we do and eat. America runs on energy and it takes 100 Quadrillion Btus each year to power our economy, our industrial production, food production, transportation, heating, cooling, refrigeration, cooking, comforts and conveniences.
Failure to Plan Electricity Generation Capacity
The environmental extremists believe that everything can be electrified and that the electricity will be provided by renewable wind and solar power. The EPA and other state and Federal agencies have thousands of employees writing regulations to favor wind and solar and to discourage or cancel the use of coal, oil and gas. The “War on Carbon” has been going on a long time and the extremists have been very successful. The chart below is from NERC, (the North American Electricity Reliability Council). Note that since 2011 the U.S. has lost 102,600 MW’s of electric generation capacity from coal and nuclear plants.
More plants are scheduled to be shut down in the next year or two and until they are shut down, maintenance work is minimized, thus forcing a death spiral to their longevity. However, to keep the power on this summer our country has depended on Dispatchable Fossil Fuels, nuclear and hydro for over 80% of the electricity generation. A typical week of generation by fuel is shown below from the U.S. Grid Monitor website. Total generation 664,749 MW of which, 83% was Dispatchable generation. The totals by fuels on June 14 were: Gas 41%, Coal 20%, Nuclear 14%, Wind 11%, Hydro 8%, Solar 6%.
A Reminder: These are the Fuels that We Depend On Now
Natural gas, coal and nuclear fuels are what produce the most reliable and affordable electricity. This summer, about 80+% of our electricity. Here below is a typical week from the U.S. Grid Monitor website.
Reserve generation was tight and coal power generation was 36.86% for MISO and 21% for PJM as can be seen from the two charts below. Although coal power has been important this summer and will likely be more important in the winter, over 12,600 MW of coal plants are scheduled to be shut down in the next year or two. Natural gas provided the largest generation this summer and will likely be needed in similar quantities at winter peaks. However, in the winter residential heating competes with power generation and supplies due to limited pipeline capacity will likely be an imbalance of supply & Demand.
Fossil Fuels Provide 79% of U.S. Total Energy
Electricity is essential. Just remember the last hurricane or extreme weather event that caused power to be off for a day or two. It has been rare for many Americans to experience loss of electricity but when we have lost it is when we appreciate it the most. However, electricity represents about 37% of America’s promary energy consumption. The rest is used for transportation, industrial production, feedstock for plastics and other materials, fertilizer production, food production, food processing and food distribution. Seventy nine percent is from fossil fuels. When nuclear is included as “Conventional Electricity Generation” then the total conventional electricity generation is over 87%.
The Total Primary Energy Needed by the U.S. is right at 100 Quadrillion Btus per year. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory keeps track of energy sources and use each year. A chart is published to show energy flows by fuel as a form of Sankey Diagram where the thickness of each line represents the portion of each source of energy or fuel.
Note the solar and wind production in 2021. Total of wind and solar as primary energy was less than 5% of America’s total primary energy supply. Fossil fuels plus nuclear are over 87%. Who believes that wind and solar after many years of subsidies and now only produces 5% can replace the 87%? For sure in the next 28 years it is not going to provide energy for jet aircraft propulsion, cement production, steel, ammonia fertilizer and feedstock for plastics. I repeat: There is no energy policy in the U.S.
A Rational Energy Policy
A rational energy policy would be to plan for the future power generation needs of our country and to plan for adequate fuels to be produced from within our borders by reducing Federal Regulations. Basically six goals:
Energy Independence: Coal, Oil, Gas and Nuclear Fuels
Adequate Electricity Generation Capacity with 80% Dispatchable
Minimum 15% Reserve generation during summer/winter Peak generation
Increased Production of coal, oil, gas and nuclear fuels to sustain our economy and high quality of life
Encourage new nuclear, Natural gas production increases and pipelines, clean coal with future CCS
Expand Oil & Natural Gas Production and Refining capacity to meet U.S. Demand
Congress has abdicated their responsibility and delegated too much authority to (out of control) Bureaucrats that are functioning to control Society without oversight. Example, EPA Clean Power Plan and now CSAPR to cause further pain and costs in operating coal plants
America depends on 87% conventional energy but the EPA and DOE are working to create regulations to tax or restrict its use.
The Bureaucrats have created rules and laws to restrict conventional energy production and use which will worsen the energy crisis
The EPA and DOE have top management Extremists that have little understanding or interest in doing what is best for our nation. We should watch what they do, not listen to what they claim. Also, do the math on energy requirements of our society for sustainable “American Dream” living
The EPA and Department of Energy are run by conventional fuel hating Ideologues
Congress will not act until the energy crisis becomes worse. Until then, the Ideoloques in the government will continue to harm our nation.
Dick Storm, August 19, 2022
References and information for further reading & reasearch
Island Pulse, Real Time Power by Fuel, Hawaii Electric. This is cited as an example of a state that is truly an energy island and dependent on self sufficiency. Attempted to be 100% green but because of intermittancy, uses large amounts of high cost Diesel fuel, thus, highest cost electricity in the U.S. : https://www.islandpulse.org
Source Watch Brags on NRDC being responsible for forcing shutting down of Seven major coal plants in Texas in 2007: https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Natural_Resources_Defense_Council#Support_for_coal_gasification
Food Supply, Ammonia, Steel, Plastics and Concrete
This is my personal opinion. My attempt to show how the policies of environmental extremists, some who hold elected office & some who have high Bureaucratic offices have placed America on a perilous path of energy insecurity. These are my personal opinions and they are not related with any other company or organization with which I am a part of or have ever been a part of. I have used references that I have checked and believe to be totally accurate. Many of the references used are listed at the end of this post for further substantiation of my opinions.
The importance of energy is well known by engineers involved in the energy production and electric generation industries. Energy is essential to power our economy, high quality of life, freedom of travel, comforts and conveniences. Also, food production and distribution are impacted by rising energy costs. The MSM has not reported much on the impact of the rising cost of energy to food price excalations. I will here.
According to the EIA, 79% of our total primary energy in 2021 was provided by fossil fuels. When nuclear power is included as a form of conventional energy, then over87% of the energy we depend on is from conventional fuels. So, let’s think about important materials and crops that support our high quality of life, including more than adequate food. Energy is essential to produce the materials we need as well as the abundance of food that Americans are Blessed with.
Affordable, Abundant, Reliable Energy is Essential to Power Life as We Know It
I would like to focus this post on the importance of energy and especially fossil fuels to provide essential materials and food for people of the world. Oil did save the whales (true) with Drake’s first oil well and Standard Oil’s kerosene production. Then Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse’s successes in developing electricity, motors and illumination by about 1898. Now, let’s switch from energy to food production concerns in 1898.
The Relationship of Energy and Food
Interestingly, the Head of the British Scientific Society, William Crookes, gave a sobering talk in 1898 to state that the planet can only support a total population of about two billion people. Why? Because there was not enough guano (sea bird droppings deposits on islands) and imported Chilean nitrate fertilizer to grow crops to support a growing world population over about 2 billion. This is well documented in the book, “The Alchemy of Air” as well as books by Vaclav Smil.
Vaclav Smil is a well-respected energy expert and he has written dozens of books centered on the topic of energy. His latest book is, “How the World Really Works”. I borrowed part of the title of this post from his chapter #4 “Understanding Our Material World”.
The four materials that Smil has selected are Ammonia, Plastics, Steel and Concrete. These are all dependent on vast quantities of energy to produce and yes, we all depend on them for our everyday lives. Let’s start with Ammonia.
Ammonia, A Pre-Requisite to Feeding the World
An interesting book by Thomas Hager, “The Alchemy of Air” chronicles the development of the Haber-Bosch process. The story of how Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch invented and developed the process for producing synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. The book starts out by reminding us of the concern by the head of the British Academy of Sciences, William Crookes in 1898 that the earth will not be able to support a population growing above about 2 billion people, because there simply is not enough fertilizer from natural sources such as guano, manure or Chilean Nitrate to fertilize the world’s crops in sufficient quantity to feed a growing world population. Thus, the prospect of famine was real. That was 1898 and within ten years Fritz Haber a Jewish chemist, living in Germany, invented the process to create ammonia from natural gas and air. Later, Haber teamed up with Carl Bosch then a senior manager at BASF and together the developed and commercialized the Haber-Bosch process for creating ammonia. Fast forward to 1972 and President Nixon’s first trip to China to open doors for trade. What did China want first? They wanted ammonia plants to produce fertilizer after millions(1) of Chinese had died of starvation during Mao Tse Tung’s “Great Leap Forward” of failed central control. According to Smil, China’s first trade deal after Nixon’s visit was to purchase 13 ammonia plants from M.W. Kellogg of Texas. That was the only way that China could produce sufficient food to feed their growing population. Today, as with many other products, China produces more ammonia than any other country.
50% of the World’s People Could Not Exist Without Ammonia
(Smil states on page 83) “I hasten to add that 50% of humanity dependent on ammonia is not an immutable approximation. Given prevailing diets and farming practices, synthetic nitrogen feeds half of humanity—-or, everything else being equal, half of the world’s population could not be sustained without synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers”.
Of course, the point is, food production is related to fertilizer production and fertilizer production depends on natural gas as a feedstock. About 1.2% of the world’s total primary energy is used for fertilizer and about 3-5% of food production depends on fossil fuels. Thus, Vaclav Smil picked energy intensive Ammonia as the number one material of the four materials that are (his ranking) pillars of modern civilization.
The Cost of Energy for Food Production & Distribution is About 50%
The IEA published a chart to show the cost components of energy for nine selected crops. The chart is copied below. Note that total energy cost for the nine selected crops range from a low of about 40% for cotton to almost 60% for wheat and sorghum, over 50% for corn. The cost of production for all food crops in the U.S. is about 50%. Most of this fuel is from fossil fuels. Energy is important for all of the people of the world and reasonable cost, abundant energy is crucially important for crop production and processing. Escalating energy costs will increase the costs of food and in some cases, reduce the quantity of food production due to limited fertilizer (ammonia based) availability. The fuel for Diesel tractors and food processing is significant. The final point: Solar and Wind cannot create fertilizer and both are impossible in the near term to power tractors and intercity or Global transportation.
Sources of World Energy about 86.25% Conventional Fuels, oil, gas, coal and nuclear
From BP-Statistical Review of World Energy Consumption:
Oil 184.21 EJ 31%
Natural Gas 145.35 EJ 24%
Coal 160.10 EJ 27%
Nuclear 25.31 EJ 4%
Hydro-Electricity 40.26 EJ 7%
Renewables 39.91 EJ 7%
Total Primary Energy 595.15 Exajoules
World Consumption of Primary Energy-BP Statistical Review-2022
The world’s energy consumption does inrease year after year, except during the Pandemic of 2020 as can be seen on BP’s graph above. If we extrapolate and expand the forecast to 2050, then increased energy will be required for the estimated 9 Billion world population that is expected in 2050. For now, 86% of the world’s energy and 87.4% of the United States Energy is provided by conventional fuels of oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear fuels. Solar and wind provide only about 7% of the world’s primary energy and less than 5% of the United States Energy for 2021. The U.S. energy flow chart is shown below:
Energy Flow Chart for United States, 2021
No! We Cannot Electrify Everything!
Government officials for the last 18 months have been scolding and attempting to scare the general public into getting rid of our internal combustion engines and buy EV’s. Claiming we need to “Decarbonize our society”. In essence, they are literally saying, “Electrify Everything”. In fact, I did see at least one article on electrify everything. The two charts above which show the reality of the energy needs of the United States and the world, should help explain: NO, We Cannot Electrify Everything! For sure, plastics, concrete, steel, air transportation, aluminum and fertilizer cannot be produced from windmills and solar panels. I contributed to an article by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center in December 2021. Our goal was to try to set the record straight on “No, We Cannot Electrify Everything”.
Let’s get back to the relationship of energy and food production. Fertilizer production for a start, uses about 1.2% of the world’s total primary energy. As mentioned above, literally half the world’s population would suffer famine if ammonia fertilizer production was stopped.
Fertilizer and Food
The IEA chart above showed the energy cost component for food production. Much of the energy used is natural gas for fertilizer production. Here below are some fertilizer facts to consider. This reference is for the year 2010 and this is the most recent document I could find. I think it is reasonable to estimate that the 1.2% energy use for fertilizer production has tracked about the same trend for the last twelve years as the world population has grown and the nutrition for the people of the world has generally improved.
Energy, The Pre-Requisite for a High HDI (Human Development Index)
Here are three illustrations to show the importance of energy for both improved HMI (Human Development Index) and Economic Prosperity:
The first chart below is from a Power-Point presentation I prepared in 2016 for a course on energy and power generation at Williamson College of the Trades. This clearly shows the relationship of energy and economic prosperity as well as the relationship of energy to HMI.
Another chart by ExxonMobil’s Energy Outlook in 2017, also captures the relationship of energy, HMI and economic prosperity. As quality of life (including adequate nutrition) goes up, so does the demand for energy.
The final chart is the NASA composite photo entitled, “The Earth at Night”. This shows the earth’s illumination from space and the photo clearly identifies the countries that have a higher standard of living (HMI) and that tend to use more energy to provide their higher quality of life.
The modern world’s people need food, transportation, indoor cooking, refrigeration, materials for manufacturing and construction, manufactured products and much more. Over 86% of the world’s energy to provide crucially important materials, travel, shipping, industrial output, heating and airconditioning comes from conventional fuels. This includes fossil fuels of oil, natural gas & coal. When nuclear is included as a conventional fuel, then the total primary energy from conventional fuels is about 87% for the U.S.A.
The abolishment of fossil fuels may be possible someday, but in my opinion and observations, not until far beyond 2050.
Fertilizer and food production use between 3 and 5% of the world’s total primary energy. Much of this is required to come from fossil fuels.
Aircraft with batteries or hydrogen fuel may in fact be possible, someday. However, replacing the fleet presently flying of jet fuel powered Boeing and Airbus planes is not possible by 2050 and there are many of us that would prefer the proven safety of flying jets powered by jet fuel.
Steel made from hydrogen is possible, but not at a competitive cost with coke. China produces over 50% of the world’s steel now and they will continue to use the lowest cost production methods.
Aluminum is a very important metal for aircraft, automobiles and many other utilitarian uses. Aluminum uses the most electricity of all metals for production. Smelting alone uses about 5 kWh per pound and this is in addition to Bauxite refining, transportation, rolling and forming. Reasonable cost, reliable and abundant electricity is required to produce aluminum. China produces over 50% of the world’s aluminum also.
Plastics and synthetic fibers are used in everything we depend on through the day. Auto parts are largely plastic, so are many utility pipes. Many textiles are based on fibers from oil or natural gas.
The government “War on Carbon” is destroying America. It is contributing to inflation and shortages of critical materials that we depend on.
The United Nations, the World Economic Forum, The Main Stream Press, Entertainment is interested in power and influence over the citizens of the U.S. It is not about climate
Environmental Extremist organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund (and many more) have extensive funding of Billions of dollars obtained from Bloomberg, Bezos and others that is tax exempt and used against the best interests of American citizens.
The overall “War on Carbon” is making energy and electricity prices higher in the U.S. This makes America less competitive with China and it increases the job losses here and increased off-shoring of manufacturing
America does not have an “Energy Policy” per se’. America has an a “Hate Carbon Policy” that has progressed far enough to create an energy crisis, possible Rolling Blackouts, Brownouts and excalating food prices.
Here is my personal opinion along with some facts to attempt to show how the policies of environmental extremists have placed America on a perilous path of energy insecurity. These are my personal opinions and they are not related with any other company or organization with which I am a part of. These are my personal thoughts regarding my concern for the future of the U.S.A.
I have had a number of discussions and presented courses on energy and electricity generation. These presentations and discussions of the Net-Zero Carbon path forward with folks (People not involved with the energy industry but concerned citizens) have raised the questions of “How can our energy policy be so stupid?” and “Are Zombies or Unicorns Planning our Energy Future”. “How can the greatest country in the world have such a foolish and impossible path forward on energy and electricity generation? “
Most of my engineer/manager/business owner friends who have worked and are familiar with electricity generation share my dismay that our great country has gone far astray from planning and building a better future for our chlidren and grandchildren. As one friend, a senior nuclear engineer stated (paraphrasing), “Our predecessors did great things, in many cases, rather than build on or advance these items, our generation has allowed them to be destroyed (think the World Trade Center towers, NASA, or in my personal case – the nuclear power industry). Our successors/followers seem to be more “lost” than ever, they accept the position that “feelings” and “beliefs” overcome scientific facts. This will be our legacy.”
The six major pollutants of sulfur, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, lead, particulates and volatile organic compounds were controlled. The EPA illustration below shows progress on cleaning the air from 1970 when the EPA was formed.
CLEANING THE AIR, A JOB WELL DONE!
78% Less Pollutants in 2020 than in 1970
According to the EPA, between 1970 and 2020, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10, SO2, NOx, . VOC’s, CO and Lead) dropped by 78 percent. This progress occurred while U.S. economic indicators remain strong, as shown on the chart above. This is tremendous progress that all Americans can be proud of accomplishing. America has amongst the cleanest air when compared to other Developed nations.
OK, The Task of Cleaning the Nation’s Air Has Been Accomplished, So Now Let’s Keep American Business and Industry Productive, Energy Independent and Remain Competitive as the World’s Strongest Economy
If we look at the Total Primary Energy that we use, the quantitative measurement of fuels that power our total economy (Total Energy! Electricity, Industrial, Transportation, Residential and Commercial) and our high quality of living are represented on the Energy Information Administration chart below. Yes, 79% is fossil fuels. This is for the year 2021 and renewables are less than 5%. America depends on about 87% conventional fuels when nuclear power is included as a conventional fuel.
The extremists include many participants in the “World Economic Forum”. These wealthy people and organizations have funded extremist organizations with Billions of dollars in assets to fight against Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing, Exploration, Permitting, Drilling, Pipelines , New Refineries, Upgrading of older Power Plants and Refineries, Shutting down efficient, clean coal plants, Stopping construction of or shutting down of safe Nuclear power plants, stopping energy plant expansions and any part of improving the use of conventional fuels that power our country. Perhaps begun with good intentions, but in my view this is un-American. Where do these IRS 501(c) 3 and 4 tax exempt organizations obtain these generous funds? A good question. However, here are just a few of their sources of funding, based on Press Releases of public information. This is a sampling of how extremist, un-American organizations stay so well funded. Jeff Bezos awards NRDC $100 million dollars.Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies awards Sierra Club $174 million. The Sierra Club and Bloomberg Philanthropies brag on the Sierra Club and Bloomberg Philanthropies websites that, They have caused to shut down over 60% of America’s Coal Plants.
Tom Steyer another Billionaire starts a Climate Action Fund. I repeat, well funded to fight against us common folks achievement of the American Dream. Worse yet is the denying of needed energy for Developing countries of the world. Take a check of the Capital Research Center’s “Influence Watch” website. You won’t need to scroll through many major environmental organizations to tally up over a $Billion dollars in assets. This is mostly used to create political opposition to coal, natural gas, pipelines, Refineries, nuclear power plants and nearly all forms of conventional energy. Sure, they all were begun with good intentions of protecting the environment, that was in the Good Old days of 1892, when the Sierra Club Founder, John Muir began a movement and founded the Sierra Club to improve the environment. Like I said, it started with good intentions. However, now the extremists are endangering the future of our country. This may seem like hyperbole to those not closely involved with the energy industries. The screen shot below is from the Sierra Club, “Beyond Coal” website. Yes, they brag on shutting down 357 coal power plants. Some of these, such as Zimmer near Cincinatti should still be operating, so should some in Texas and many other states. If you have rolling Blackouts or job losses in your state, thank Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, the World Economic Forum, Tom Steyer, Movie star Celebrities, The MSM, the U.N. and the activist environmental extremists that have brought us to this crisis. Some community and state leaders proudly proclaim, “Coal is in a Death Spiral”. Maybe it is, but if so, who or which countries will benefit?
However, I am very concerned. We should look east toward Europe and Asia to learn some of the challenges that occur when energy becomes scarce. A world renowned energy expert and author Dr. Vaclav Smil has coined the phrase, “Energy is the Universal Currency”. Sadly, as this is written, the countries that understand and act on that best are Russia and China.
Environmental extremism has progressed to the point that America is likely to continue with an energy crisis that will be worse than the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Yes, I am old enough to remember 1973 and carrying precious five gallon cans of gasoline (knowingly unsafely) in the back of our station wagon we used to transport our family on vacation from N.C. to Florida. The gasoline shortages, the Utility stock value declines and strain on the American economy (and American Families) was difficult and memorable. Perhaps that is why I am so passionate about writing this message. This crisis does not need to happen. However, it appears to be too late to stop it and even the IEA Head, Dr. Faith Birol has admitted that it will likely get worse. In conclusion, these are the major points I wish to make:
The U.S. uses and requires about 100 quadrillion British Thermal Units each year. This is about one million Btu’s per day, per person. During 2021 wind and solar provided less than 5% of that total energy. It is impossible to replace the over 87% conventional energy with wind and solar power any time soon. America is the Saudi Arabia of Coal and we should use this resource as well as nuclear, natural gas and all other fuels within our borders.
Environmental Extremists have done a very effective job of stopping progress for America’s economy and productive capacity. They have caused us to lose our position of being energy independent in 2020. They are part of a five headed Monster. The five monster heads are; Public Education, The Media, Entertainment, Government and Extremist organizations that operate (protected from paying taxes) as non-profit organizations.
Nuclear Power is one form of carbon free energy that can significantly increase our energy independence with proven technology (if we are concerned about carbon) However, most of the Environmental extremist organizations are against nuclear as well as being against coal, gas and oil. There is only one nuclear power plant under construction in the U.S. at this time. Georgia Power/Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle. The cost overruns in my opinion are largely due to over-Regulation.
We need more new HELE Coal plants. ( High Efficiency, Low Emissions). The last two built, John Turk and Longview Plants were commissioned about 2012. Since then, much of the Supply-Chain of engineers, craftsmen and manufacturing capacity have retired or been out-sourced to China. Witness the once great pioneering power generation equipment manufacturing company, “Combustion-Engineering” now gone. Also, the American manufacturing company Foster-Wheeler. Still here in name only.
The future of solving our energy crisis looks bleak due to the momentum of poor decisions and poor priorities. It is not only the U.S. It is also Europe, Sri Lanka, Australia and India. If you have time, peruse through some of the links provided below to review the news of the International Energy Crisis.
My recommendation is that we should be using All Forms of energy and have a Balanced Energy Portfolio. One local example is my adopted state of S.C. Still a Regional Utility (state owned) they have shown in their IRP (Integrated Resource Plan) that they are likely to follow the rest of the U.S. in shutting down existing coal plants before adequate, proven, Dispatchable replacement generating capacity is built and commissioned. I favor building new Coal HELE plants, new nuclear whether SMR or conventional, and of course, the proven Gas Turbine Combined Cycle Units that have done so well at operational efficiencies above 50%.
Provide the infra-structure of pipelines and fuel supply chains to existing plants. Coal trains and pipelines.
Maintain the existing plants as if they are going to run another ten years. Plan new coal plants to replace the old ones that need to be retired.
Most importantly! Educate the General Public and K-12 Students on the true facts about the importance of energy similar to what was done by the Electric Utility Companies in teh 1950’s -1970’s up to the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973.
The preceding opinions are my own, not shared by any other company or organization that I have been associated with. These are my strong personal opinions and this was written solely by the author.
Yours very truly,
Dick Storm, July 13, 2022
References for further research and to refer to more factual information
The recent Supreme Court ruling which trimmed the power of the EPA is important to provide for less government restrictions and for the freedom of future Americans to enjoy the “American Dream”. This post is based on the importance of energy to power our way of life. Each American uses about a million Btus of energy each day. Energy fuels our way of life. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has kept track of the total primary energy use of America for many years. Total primary energy use has held steady at about 100 quads (+/-10) per year for the last 23 years. Total Primary Energy includes all forms of energy. The Energy Flow Chart for 2021 is copied below:
Total Primary Energy Supply 1999-2021 about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s
A fair question is, what does the Supreme Court ruling on the EPA’s right to regulate carbon have to do with living the American Dream? Here is my answer. If we accept that the U.S. requires 100 quadrillion Btus of energy to power our high quality of living, then how can we continue living our good lives if over 80% of the fuel we depend on is considered unavailable by the government? Yes, from the LLNL figure above, (in Quads) 35.1 Petroleum + 10.5 Coal +31.3 Natural Gas +8.13 nuclear power = 85.03 quadrillion Btus which is 87.4 % of the 97.3 Quads of Total Primary Energy.
Thermal energy is important for every American. The 87.4% includes nuclear. Therefore, the total primary energy provided from conventional forms of energy is 87.4%.
The government, “Woke” Business leaders, celebrities and many in the media have pushed the fantasy of achieving American energy needs from 100% solar and wind by 2030 or 2050. To attempt to be polite, thinking we can replace conventional forms of energy within a few years is being detached from reality and delusional. Let me explain why I believe this to be so by looking at the last 23 years of energy use to show where we came from in two decades and to then look into the future to see the next two decades:
The 1999 Sankey diagram (above) shows total energy use in the U.S. of 96.6 quadrillion Btus. I stated above that America’s total primary energy has held pretty steady for decades. So, here is the factual data of energy flows from 1999. Over the years, the fuel sources have changed but the total primary energy required to power our lives and economy has remained fairly constant, right at 100 quadrillion Btus. In 1999 coal was 23.3 quadrillion Btus and natural gas 19.29. The “Shale Gas Revolution” which began about 2010 created production of low cost natural gas which displaced much of the coal used for power generation. This fuel substitution of natural gas for coal was mostly for economic dispatch reasons of a more economical fuel for power generation. By the way, if you compare the natural gas prices/million Btus to coal today, coal looks far more reasonable in cost.
Total Primary Energy is Needed for Electricity Generation Plus… Industry, Transportation, Commercial and Residential
The graph below was prepared by the EIA to illustrate the production and use of total energy in the U.S.A. from 1950 to 2020. This also supports the statement that America has used right at 100 Quadrillion Btus for the last 23 years. This includes all forms of energy and including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, Biomass, geothermal. As can be seen from the graph, energy independence was achieved in 2020. This was largely as the result of increased oil and natural gas production within the U.S.A.
The Fantasy of Wind and Solar Replacing Conventional Energy and Achieving Net-Zero Carbon by 2050
Fossil fuels plus nuclear energy provided over 87% of America’s total primary energy for the year 2021. This is a fact. (as shown on the first chart above from LLNL) It is also a fact that wind and solar together provided about 5% of our total primary energy. The question needs to be asked, Is it reasonable to expect solar and wind to replace the energy currently provided by petroleum, natural gas, coal and nuclear? I say NO it is not reasonable to expect solar and wind to replace coal, oil, gas and nuclear any time soon. Yes, wind and solar are being forced on America by the energy policies and incentives of government, but it is implausible to expect the total of 100 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent of energy to come from wind and solar. In my opinion, impossible until there are major technological advancements.
Here are eleven reasons why Net-Zero Carbon is Not Practical within the next 28 years:
The land area of 100% renewables required is enormous. The energy density of solar and wind is far too low(1)
Electricity storage is not yet technologically advanced for commercial applications at Utility scale for long time periods
If all Internal Combustion Engines for ground transportation are electrified, then it exacerbates the first two points. It still takes about the same primary energy content to move vehicles no matter what fuel or energy source is used. Example, EV’s need charging to provide motive force
Solar and Wind are not Dispatchable. They provide maximum output as nature provides when the wind blows and the sun shines, not as Citizen electricity demand requires
About 8-10% of petroleum is refined into Jet Fuel. Hydrogen fueled aircraft may be safe & practical some day, but that someday is decades away.
Fertilizer and food production uses between 2 and 5% of total primary energy. This cannot be replaced with wind and solar
The Transmission and Distribution network of the electric Grid is not setup for solar and wind systems. It takes time to permit, design and construct T&D systems
Oil, coal and natural gas provide raw materials for textiles, rubber, plastics and many other products that the world depends on
Coking coal is required to produce the best quality steel from iron ore
Cement production requires fuel for production
Nuclear power is the largest provider of carbon free energy, yet there is only one new nuclear plant under construction in the U.S. The Georgia Power Plant Vogtle Units 2 &3
All Fuels are Important and a Balanced Energy Portfolio is Preferred
America has been depending on coal power for many years. Although not appreciated by the media and even some Utility Exec’s, coal remains important. I will cite three examples below: First the U.S. Grid Electric Generation by fuel type for the weeks of September 25 -October 2, 2021 and from June 10- 16, 2022. Note the Dispatchable power of over 80% in both cases, with coal providing a significant portion of the generation. Also shown below are screen shots of actual generation by fuel for both the MISO and PJM RTO’s (Regional Transmission Operators)
The four illustrations above show examples of the importance of coal fuel to electric power generation for the lower 48 states, for the Midcontenent Independent System Operator and for the PJM Interconnection. All four examples show significant generation by Dispatchable power: coal, gas and nuclear. These four charts could be considered “A Balanced Generation Portfolio” By balanced, I mean fuel diversity of nuclear, gas, coal and renewables. This is good, however, the current U.S. Path is to shutdown many of the coal plants that were participating in the above “examples. Take a look at the EIA report that states 12.6 GW of coal plants to retire by 2022. (4)
Also, the recent closures of Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan and the William Zimmer 1300 MW coal plant near Cincinnati.
Coal, The American Treasure of Energy
When I was active in the American Coal Council we had an interesting speaker from the National Coal Council, on the coal, oil and gas reserves within the borders of the U.S. The speaker (Robert Beck) presented a study of using captured CO2 to force oil still trapped beneath Ohio’s old oil fields. As I recall, the presentation summary was that any place that coal is found, so is oil and gas. Thus, if you look at a map of U.S. coal deposits, sure enough, gas and oil has also been produced. Getting back to the National Coal Council presentation, the statement was made that about 3 million barrels a day of oil could be recovered from the “Old abandoned” Ohio Oil fields of decades ago, by using enhanced oil recovery of pressurizing the oil deposits with CO2 captured from the many coal plants in Ohio.(5) Here below is an illustration of world coal reserves. It could be said, the U.S. likely has the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. The statement made by a coal expert that I heard ten years ago seems true, “Wherever there is coal, so is there oil and gas”. Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota all have coal and all have had significant oil and gas production since Hydraulic Fracturing combined with directional drilling has been utilized.
Why should our politicians cripple our economy over the politically inspired (not Environmental protection driven) U.N. -IPCC, Paris agreement?(56,57,58,59)America can be Energy Independent. We were in 2020 and we can do it again!
Meanwhile in China
China is the world’s largest producer of aluminum and steel. They also are the largest manufacturing nation on the planet. This manufacturing might is powered mostly by coal power. China gets it and they are diligently working toward a “Balanced Generation Portfolio” of coal, nuclear, wind, solar and gas.(51, 52, 53) Russia is conveniently in an excellent geographic and economic position to supply coal, oil, nuclear and gas to China to power their industrial output.
China is a large country that is committed to increasing the size of their economy. Powering manufacturing requires large amounts of reliable, reasonable cost electricity generation. China has a truly “Balanced Portfolio of Generation Capacity”, including nuclear as shown above and also enormous amounts of renewable power from the Three Gorges Hydroelectric plant which is over 22 GW in capacity, as well as wind, solar and coal. I thought I should interject the energy facts regarding China’s Bulk Power Generation, because competing with them will require reasonable cost Bulk Power here. Especially for energy intensive manufacturing such as aluminum smelting and other primary metals production.
Conclusions from Excerpts of Vaclav Smil book, “Power Density” on the Use of Wind, Water and Solar to Generate most of Our Electricity
Vaclav Smil has written many books on Energy, Power and Electricity generation. His book “POWER DENSITY” for this discussion is particularly relevant. Copied below are excerpts from the final chapter of “POWER DENSITY”:
“What Would it Take”
“If you are willing to engage in unbounded science and engineering fiction, then acccording to Jacobson and Delucchi (2011), this is what it would take to supply the world with 100% renewable energy in 2030 by using electricity (generated by wind, water and solar PV installations) and electrolytic hydrogen for all purposes: 3.8 million 5-MW wind turbines, 49,000 300-MW central solar plants, 1.7 billion 3-kW rooftop PV installations, 5,350 100-MW geothermal plants, 270 new 1.3 GW hydro stations, 720,000 0.75-MW wave devices and 490,000 1-MW tidal turbines. All of that will require only about 0.4% of the world’s land for its footprint and 0.6% for spacing, and we are assured that the barriers to the plan are primarily social and political, not technological or economic as the energy cost in a new wind-water-solar world should be similar to that today” (The above is quoting from Jacobson and Delucchi)
Smil continues (from pg 244, Power Density)
“These assurances asides, the simplest reality check shows the fictional nature of these assumptions. In 2013 the worldwide capacity in wind turbines reached 330 GW, while 13 TW (40 times as much) would be needed by 2030. Total rooftop and large plant PV capacity reached about 100 GW, but 17.1 TW of these installations would be required (170 times as much); moreover, there was not a single 300-MW solar PV plant (five plants rated between 200-250 MW), whereas 40,000 would be needed by 2030. In 2013 there was only one central solar power facility rated at more than 300 MW, Ivanpah, at 392 MW, but nearly 5,000 such facilities would be needed by 2030 (an increase of four orders of magnitude). There were fewer than 50 geothermal stations rated at more than 100 MW, but 5,350 would be needed (a 100-fold increase). Pelamis (2014, the world’s most advanced wave energy company, produced six 0.75 MW devices by the beginning of 2014, but 720,000 would need to be operating by 2030 (an increase of five orders of magnitude). Finally, by 2013 there were fewer than ten small tidal stations with aggregate installed power of much less than 1 GW, while 490 GW would have to generate by 2030 (two orders of magnitude more).
Such ramping-up of all kinds of capacities-design, permitting, financing, engineering, construction, all going up between one and five orders of magnitude in less than two decades-is far, far beyond anything that has been witnessed in less than two decades-is far, far beyond anything that has been witnessed in more than a century of developing modern energy systems. And that still leaves out two other key facts, namely, that such a gargantuan renewable energy system would need an enormous expansion of high-voltage transmission and would require the creation of an entirely new, hydrogen-based society. I am still not sure how we would fly with hydrogen (or electricity) or smelt pig iron. In any case the chances of a 100% water-wind-solar world to be ready by 2030 are nil, but it is worth while exploring what it would (realistically) take to create an increasingly nonfossil global energy system.” The preceding “What Would it Take” is a direct quotation from Smil’s book, pages 243-245.
Summary & Conclusions:
In my opinion, Vaclav Smil in the preceding paragraphs captured the essence of the fictional engineering that can create a path to Net-Zero Carbon by 2050. In the references that follow, Donn Dears and others have come to similar conclusions on the futility of achieving Net-Zero Carbon.
With regard to Anthropogenic Climate Change, I have included some references from expert Climate and Atmospheric Scientists that know the topic well.(2,7,8,9,10,12,13,15,16,56,58,59)
Climate Policies and the UN-IPCC are driven by politics and not by science or a sincere interest in saving the planet. Some references which support this claim are also included for further reading.(56,58,59)
I will close with seven conclusions, which are:
The Economic Harm to the U.S. if the Path to Net-Zero Carbon with solar and wind and without nuclear power as a major component, will weaken the U.S.A. and harm our capability to compete in world markets. Especially competing with China and the rest of the world in manufacturing.(2, 3, 4, 7, 8 & 9)
Dispatchable Coal Plants should not be shut down until they are replaced by proven and commissioned “Dispatchable” generating capacity. Shutting down 12.6MW of coal plants as planned, will lead to Blackouts and Brownouts(4,22,25, 26, 27)
Depending on wind and solar to replace the existing 2022 still operational coal and nuclear plants will lead to increased electricity costs as well as reduced reliability(14, 36)
China is the world’s largest manufacturer and will remain ahead of the U.S. and gain further if the U.S. continues down the Net-Zero Carbon Path(17, 18, 19, 28)
America invented nuclear power (Rickover) for peaceful purposes and was the world leader in developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. We have lost that lead and China and Russia are building more nuclear power plants in the world than the U.S. Most of our problems are unessessary Federal Regulations(11, 51,53,57)
Energy Independence plus reasonable cost, abundant and Dispatchable Electricity are pre-requisites for a strong economy and a strong National Defense. America should expand and increase our treasures of nuclear, coal, oil and gas forms of energy to reachieve Energy Independence.(5)
The U.S. should use all of the energy resources within our borders to be 100% Energy Independent. This includes the Treasure of Coal Energy which we know how to burn cleanly.(30, 31, 32)
Dick Storm, July 4th, 2022
References for Further Reading:
Vaclav Smil Book, “POWER DENSITY” The MIT Press 2015
Santee-Cooper is a state owned Utility in the Great State of South Carolina. The Total Generation Capacity is about 6,000 MW, though a small Utility it is, I think, a great example of one which currently has a well balanced generation portfolio and it should stay that way.
Myself and others have commented on the importance of a Balanced Energy Portfolio on LinkedIn, other Social Media, in technical presentations, papers and short courses that we have presented. The Wall Street Journal, NERC, MISO, Utility Dive, Power Magazine, Forbes and other respected Technical Journals and magazines have reported that America may in fact, experience Blackouts during the summer of 2022(1,2,3,4,5) This is serious and it shows the poor planning or absence of any planning at all for the future sustainable energy needs of America.
So, If I am so Critical, Shouldn’t I provide My Suggestions? Here they are.
I thought it would be appropriate to take a 6,000 MW Electric Utility as an example and show in detail what I recommend for a Balanced Generation Portfolio should look like for the next 10-20 years. I selected Santee-Cooper as the example because I am very familiar with their coal plants having worked as a field service engineer, a contractor, course instructor and consultant since 1970. I have personally worked at all of the coal plants that they have owned and operated, including two that have been since shut down. Also, Santee-Cooper asked for public involvement in updating their IRP (Integrated Resources Plan), which I volunteered to participate in and was accepted as a member of their SC citizen/customer Stakeholder participants. So, what follows are my suggestions of what a Balanced Generation Portfolio could look like to keep the fine record of reasonable cost & reliable electricity for the territory served by Santee-Cooper and the Co-operatives that are major customers.
Santee-Cooper also known as South Carolina Public Service Authority
The Figure below lists the generating assets that Santee-Cooper currently owns and are operable. The generation assets total are 5,801 MW. Coal plants are 3,530 or 61% of the total generation capacity. Natural gas fueled units at Rainey are the next largest at 1,150 MW and Nuclear capacity of Summer is 322 MW. Solar as of winter 2021-2022 is planned to be 82 MW. Therefore, of the 5,801 total generation capacity over 86% is Dispatchable and of proven reasonable cost and reliable generation.
Load Growth Projections by Santee-Cooper, Supply/Demand Balance 2022-2040
Electricity demand expectations are by 2040 to grow above 6,000 MW. Currently there are plans to shut down the 1,150 MW Winyah coal fueled power station. This, I believe, if carried out will be a mistake. The world situation with energy and power should show us the importance of Domestic energy supply and Santee-Cooper has, up to this point, had a balanced energy portfolio to meet the Demand of the customers with affordable, reliable electricity supply. I have included references below of reasons why coal power is important.
The table below (labeled 2-2) is another listing of Santee-Cooper generating assets. This one is from a publicly available Black and Veatch report dated 2019.
South Carolina is #3 in Nuclear Generation in the U.S.A.
Nuclear Power is Most Dominant in South Carolina but, Many Nuclear Plants are Old and Some Could Shut Down by 2040? Licenses Need to Be Renewed by the NRC to Depend on these for backup.
In my view, Santee-Cooper is a state treasure and that the low cost, reliable generation capacity should be planned to maintain that excellent record using the proven fuels that have served our state so well (My adopted state since moving here full time). Much of the benefits of low cost electricity have come from being interconnected on the Grid with Duke and Dominion Power. They are great neighbors and also have excellent records. However, in my view and based on my experience, I think Santee-Cooper should plan future generation with a balanced portfolio with at least a 15% margin of reserve capacity for winter and summer peak loads. The current stated license expirations for the neighboring utilities and including the Summer Unit #1 which Santee-Cooper owns a portion are:
From Nuclear Energy Institute web site(15)
Duke and Dominion are likely to and in fact, I think they have already proceeded to extend the operating licenses of these nuclear plants. However, the reality is that several sister nuclear units of Duke’s nuclear fleet have already been shut down. The Crystal River nuclear unit and one of the Three Mile Island nuclear units designed and built by Babcock & Wilcox and very similar. ( I know that to be a fact, because I worked at B&W in the 1960’s) These two units performed well for many years, but are now shut down. The age of these wonderful assets must be taken into consideration when depending on the stability and reasonable cost of being dependent on the Grid connection. I feel strongly that the state power generation capacity should be capable of complete independence from neighboring Utility reserve capacity.
The Myth of Green Power
I became interested in participating as a stakeholder in the IRP process as a result of receiving the flier copied below which came with my electric bill from Palmetto Electric. It inferred that the electricity supplied to Hilton Head Island during the Heritage Golf Tournament in April was being provided by “Green Power”. Most of the power that Palmetto Electric distributes to members is provided by Santee-Cooper or from the Grid. It is my understanding that Hilton Head Island uses over 180 MW on a hot summer day. The renewable power generation assets are listed above. The renewables assets are far from adequate to meet the demand of Hilton Head Island during a normal summer day. I have shown above the facts on generating assets and electric power generation statistics for previous years. The load growth projections to 2040 were provided in the Santee-Cooper IRP Presentation. Santee-Cooper and Palmetto Electric have done a wonderful job in providing reliable, affordable electricity to Hilton Head Island. Green power if expanded at the extreme risk and expense of decommissioning Winyah and even one or more of the Cross Units will cause economic harm to our citizens and to this up to now, great state with reliable and reasonable cost power, in my opinion.
Coal and nuclear power have served the great state of South Carolina very well for many years. Coal, Gas and Nuclear power generation are all Dispatchable and with a balanced portfolio economic dispatch can continue to sustain reasonable cost Bulk Power delivery.
Fuel prices fluctuate widely due to world supply and Demand events. Before I retired in 2012, I participated in delivering courses on power generation and power generation economics. My specialty was coal firing and heat rate improvements. The graph below was prepared to present to the O & M Team of a Florida Utility to show the importance of efficient coal plant operation to compete with the then low cost natural gas fuel. In 2012 the Shale Gas Revolution was going strong and over-supply of natural gas drove natural gas prices down to levels below coal fuel cost for equivalent energy. Of course now (June 2022) natural gas prices at the Henry Hub exceed $9.00/million Btu. Thus, coal fuel, if it can be delivered, is much lower in cost. This is my basis for stating that a Balanced Portfolio of generation assets is important.
The majority of generation must be Dispatchable for voltage and frequency stability. Here below is a chart of real time power generation for a typical week in 2021. This is from the EIA website. Note that the majority (80%) of the power generation is from coal, nuclear and gas fuels. All dispatchable forms of electricity generation.
The above is real time generation. Below is the installed capacity by fuel type. Conventional generation is the majority and if this reliable generation is compromised then the entire US and the state of SC capability to deliver reasonable cost, reliable power will be harmed.
Solar power is useful for shaving day time peak load and I support the use of solar for purposes of taking advantage of daytime solar power. In fact, I was part of a team at a College in Pennsylvania where I agreed with the use of roof solar panels on the sports center for purposes of reducing August peak load demand from the local Utility. So, I agree that sometimes solar is practical, but not to replace reliable Base load Bulk Power Capacity such as the Winyah Coal plant generating capacity.
Solar and Wind power is more expensive than coal, nuclear and gas power generation. The chart below is one reference to show that. Below I will offer the example of Hawaii. Texas also should be considered from recent experiences of over building non-Dispatchable renewables.(2,11)
The chart below is Retail Electricity Costs as published on the EIA website(16) . Note the cost of Hawaii Electric which is about three times the cost of South Carolina. Hawaii of course, is an island and therefore they have no interconnections with neighboring Utilities such as Santee-Cooper does with Dominion and Duke. Therefore, the Bulk Power production costs are higher because when wind and solar is not available, Diesel Fuel is used for power generation. In large steam plants the fuel cost component of electricity generation is between 75 and 95% of the production cost at the Bus Bars. Check the Island Pulse website to see real time power generation by fuel.(14)
The continued good economic prosperity of South Carolina depends on a future of reasonable cost electric power. That future, in my strong opinion, should be provided by keeping the existing coal plants and including the coal transportation and supply chain infrastructure. Further, the existing coal plants should be operated, periodically tested and maintained. They should be protected from deterioration from corrosion and other forms of deterioration by operating them at a significant load factor and keeping them in top condition.
Each American that lives an above average life-style in our country uses about a million Btu’s per day. So, if the government wishes to outlaw fossil fuels through ever increasing regulations, then what are we prepared to give up? Politicians are continuing the war on carbon which began under the Clinton Administration in 1993. What freedoms are you and I willing to give up? As for me, and my family, I say none! As this is written, it is Memorial Day weekend and many fine Americans gave all so that we can enjoy our lives. The 2020 election created serious consequences for Americans to continue to live the American Dream.
Freedom & Sustainability
Joe Biden and the Democrats are doing their best to outlaw fossil fuels. This is un-American and in fact, anti-American sustainability. Sustainability to me, means to sustain our high quality of life and for our children and grandchildren to have an ever increasing quality of life. That is the way my God gifted life has gone, each year in general, became better with more manual work performed by energy. Some examples, modern electric appliances, power tools and yard tools. We depend on energy to replace muscle more than any time in history. Our quality of life is a result of using more energy and less muscle power. About a million Btus per day, per person. So, if Fossil Fuels are providing the majority of the energy we depend on (see 2021 LLNL chart below), then the Democrats must want us to scale back our quality of life? Because abundant, reasonable cost and reliable Energy is required to power our good lives. This includes the supply chain, fertilizer and food production, manufacturing, jobs, transportation and just about everything that makes living the American Dream possible. Fossil Fuels currently provide about 79% of our energy.
The illustrations above and below are copied from a presentation I gave to the Annual Meeting of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) in 2011. This was following the Financial crisis of 2008. Remember that? The energy consumption of the U.S. in 2009 actually dropped from about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year to about 94.6 Quadrillion Btu’s/year. The point is, that energy does in fact provide for economic prosperity and our high quality of life. Freedom too!
In 2009 about 50% of America’s electricity was being generated by coal. That was before the Shale Gas Revolution. After the recovery from the 2008 Financial crisis, life became very good again. Actually, we Americans have been Blessed with very good lives for many decades. I have had the gift of living for seven decades of a wonderful life reaching all the goals I could have wished for as a child. Energy has played a big part of America’s rise during the last 100 years. Now each of us uses about a million Btu’s of energy each day.
Coal fuel produced about 50% of America’s electric power up to about 2012 when the Shale Gas Revolution took over and natural gas became so abundant that fuel prices for gas dropped below coal. The graph below shows the trend of natural gas prices from 2006-2012. When natural gas dropped to about $2.00/million Btu it became very competitive with coal and in fact in certain areas of the U.S., a less expensive fuel than coal for power generation.
From Dick Storm OLLI Course , Energy Production Part 1, January 2021
Total Primary Energy Flows
Shown above is the Sankey Energy Flow Diagram for the year 2009. Below is the latest version of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Energy Flow Diagram for the year 2021. If you compare 2009 with 2021 Total Energy Flows, they are very close at 94.58 and 97.3 Quadrillion Btu’s. In 2019 America used right at 100.2 Quadrillion Btus. The economy was improving and 2019 was the year before the Covid Pandemic. So, as the economy improves, more energy is used. When the economy shrinks, less energy is used. This is TOTAL ENERGY which includes energy from all sources, including renewables. It also included electricity generation (about 37%) and Transportation (about 27%). Keep in mind that if we maintain or sustain our current freedoms of travel and lifestyles, likely the total energy use will remain rght at 100 Quadrillion Btus. Population increase and reshoring manufacturing will increase energy use above 100 Quad’s.
Can EV’s for Transportation Substitute Electricity for Petroleum?
There are about 280 million light trucks and cars on our highways today. All but about 11 million of these vehicles are fueled with gasoline and Diesel fuel. Heavy trucks for commerce are mostly Diesel powered and of course, airlines are fueled with Jet Fuel. These comprise fuel for transportation, which is about 28% of the Total Primary Energy used in the U.S. If these were all electrified then the electric power generation would need to vastly increase to use about 65% of the total primary energy. Of course, the about 8-10% of petroleum that is used for Jet Fuel will still be needed even if all other vehicles were replaced with EV’s. This is not practical any time soon. Check the excellent research that Donn Dears has done on this.(3)
Hydrogen as Fuel
Replacing petroleum with hydrogen fuel has been talked about for decades. Yes, it is feasible to use Electrolyzers to separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules from water and thus produce “GreenHydrogen”. However, it takes about 2.5 to 3 times more electricity to produce a unit of hydrogen than what that unit of energy will produce in electric power.
America uses about 100 Quadrillion btus each year. Over 79% of these energy units are provided by Fossil Fuels. Replacing them with renewables in the near term is at the very least, impractical. In my view it is impossible during my lifetime or the lifetime of my children.
Net Zero Carbon Policies are not driven by science or protection of the planet. They are politically driven for the benefit of politicians to wield power over the people.
Climate Policies are being formulated by politicians and non-science trained individuals.
Energy and Economic Prosperity are linked together. As shown in the Energy Flow diagrams above, when there was a recession in 2008-2009 America’s energy use declined. Likelwise during the 2020 Pandemic. As the Economy thrives, we use more energy. Energy is vital for a thriving economy.
America will continue to use 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year and more when our economy is performing at it’s best. As population grows and hopefully, more manufacturing is reshored, energy use will rise. Solar and wind power cannot meet this increase.
New Nuclear plants are needed to keep a Balanced Electric Generation Portfolio(7,8,9)
By not keeping a Balanced Electric Generation Portfolio, America risks energy shortages and Blackouts(10)
All Developed Countries depend on reliable, affordable energy. In my opinion, a significant portion of the 100 Quadrillion Btu’s America has been using for decades, should continue to be supplied by coal fuel.(6, 22)
The Transportation fuels of gasoline and Diesel cannot be replaced in the short term with EV’s or Hydrogen.
If America continues on the Net-Zero Carbon Path, then it will lead to a reduction in our freedoms to live sustainable lives as we have been accustomed to. (11)
Energy is important not only to power our high quality of lives, but reasonable cost, abundant energy is also important to the supply chain and food production(17)
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