Part 6: A Thriving Economy and clean air too

In the preceding posts, energy and it’s relationship to economic prosperity are discussed. The clear example of the use of energy and electricity to power economies of entire countries are discussed using the example of the U.S.A.’s economic prosperity from the advent of coal powered central station power plants 1882-2012. During this 130 year period, coal power was America’s #1 fuel for power generation. America’s power since 2012 has been generated with growing use of natural gas from hydraulic fracturing and at the same time, application of advanced pollution controls have been applied to our coal plants. These advancements have drastically reduced pollutants from America’s coal power generation. Both coal plant backend environmental emission controls and use of more emissions friendly natural gas have contributed to the drastic reductions in pollution.

America is also energy independent, thanks to President Trump’s policies to reduce regulations plus America’s treasure of enormous reserves of coal, oil and gas. Fracking and reduced Regulations together have unleashed our reserves of oil and gas. A geologist who specializes in oil exploration once told me, “Wherever there is coal, there is oil and natural gas.” This is true. Take a look at the history of coal, oil and gas production in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota and Texas as four examples. These four states have lots of coal and lots of oil and gas too!

China on the other hand, has built more coal fueled electric power generation plants in the last twenty years than America did in the preceding 100 years. One difference is, American Industry has been responsible and reduced emissions while China has been focused on becoming the largest manufacturer in the world with less emphasis on pollution. Here is a graph of growing economic prosperity, increased population, increased travel and yet ever improving air quality. This is from the EPA website which shows the great progress in cleaning our air over the last 50 years since the EPA was began in 1970.

EPA Comparison of U.S.A. Growth of Economic, Miles Traveled, Population,Energy Production, CO2 and at the same time, Downward Trend of the six major Pollutants. From the EPA web page

Before the Pandemic in December 2019, America’s economy was thriving and manufacturing within our borders was increasing. Yes, President Trump’s policies of reducing regulations was working not only for increasing economic prosperity and jobs, but also resulting in continued clean air trends.

The EPA Chart of clean air trends clearly shows American Industry’s good and responsible progress in pollution reduction. That is not what you will see in the mainstream media. The illustration below attempts to compare the perception of “Dirty American Coal Plants” with reality.

I used the figure above in a recent presentation to our Hilton Head Rotary Club to discuss the “Importance of Reasonable Cost, Reliable Energy and Electricity to South Carolina”. In SC about one third of our electricity is used for the production of primary metals. Namely, steel and aluminum. The NUCOR Steel and Century Aluminum plants are amongst the state’s largest employers. The steel and aluminum is important for American manufacturing. Reasonable cost, clean energy is required for America’s steel and aluminum manufacturers to compete with China. In previous posts I have shown China’s rise in manufacturing since 2001 where they now produce over 50% of the entire world production of steel and aluminum. It is important that America keeps production of primary metals within our borders not only to provide jobs and a thriving economy but also for National Security. Yes, in America, we have proven that when we work together, we can have it all! Economic prosperity, Made in U.S.A. products and clean air and clean water too!

Another illustration I used in the recent Rotary presentation was a photo of aluminum ingots being exported from China and a graph of chinese aluminum production 2005-2016. This is an example of American manufacturers competing in the production of energy intensive primary metals.

During the years 1978-2012 I traveled the world working as a consultant to ALCOA. I saw as the expression goes, “Like a fly on the wall” the decline in ALCOA’s aluminum production as China dumped millions of tons of metal into world markets. Yes, they are over 50% of the world’s production capacity. Being competitive matters to every one of our 50 states, but here in SC (and every other U.S. State) it is particularly important to continue generating reasonable cost, reliable electric power. How does SC do that? It may surprise a lot of folks, but SC nuclear power generation is number 3 in America and provides over 55% of South Carolina’s electricity. In 2019 56.9% of SC’s electricity was generated by nuclear power. Of course, that helps both the clean air and reasonable cost generation factors.

South Carolina Electric Production by Fuel, 2019. From Energy Information Administration

Note that 93.5% of South Carolina’s electricity was produced by traditional, conventional power sources: Nuclear, Natural Gas and Coal. Yes, 93.5%. The reasonable cost power drives South Carolina’s manufacturing economy and provides thousands of jobs. A previous post discusses the “Green New Deal” and the potential harm to the American economy. Imagine the difficulty of attempting to compete with China in manufacturing if we changed to mostly solar and wind power produced at say $0.35/kWh? First of all, it cannot be done in the short term. Not until there are extreme advances in solar panel production and electric storage will reasonable cost electric generation from renewables be possible. Note in an earlier post this year on this Blog, I showed the example of Hawaii Electric which is attempting to become mostly renewable and have planned to shut down their most reliable and least cost source of electricity from their lone coal plant. So, what do they use in the interim? Oil, the most expensive fuel for power generation. No worries for manufacturing in Hawaii, their economy is driven by toursim, government facilities and agriculture. They can use the highest cost electricity in America with not too much pain. This would not bode well in a state with major manufacturing as SC has.

In conclusion, let me state, yes we can compete with the world and China in manufacturing as long as energy and electricity proces remain reasonable in cost. We have proven that not only can we generate relable 24/7 power generation but also do so with clean air and clean water.

Dick Storm, October 23, 2020

Part 5: Dick Storm’s Thoughts on the “Green New Deal”

Energy Part 5:

Thoughts on The New Green Deal and (so-called) Renewable Energy


Energy and economic prosperity go together. In part 4 I posted some facts on the growth of American industry over the last 140 years since electricity became commercialized. China has managed to expand their primary metals and manufacturing production to exceed that of America’s in about 20 years. How? By central planning and using enormous amounts of electricity mostly generated by coal power, just as America did over the 130 years 1882-2012. Reasonable cost electricity is important to power manufacturing and especially primary metals such as steel, aluminum and copper. A large aluminum smelter or Steel Mill will use as much power as a medium sized city. Electric power and economic power are inter-related. Where there is abundant and reasonable cost electricity, so is vibrant manufacturing and of course, jobs. Conversely, where electricity costs are high and electricity supplies unreliable, industry does not thrive. The preceding part 4 was intended to show how China replicated America’s success in expanding electrical production to power manufacturing and their economy. This part focuses on the high cost of renewable power and why a “Balanced Portfolio of All Fuels is Important” All sources of energy are important, including: Natural gas, Coal, Nuclear, Biomass, Hydropower, wind, geothermal and solar.

So, what is “The Green New Deal”?

Most if not all of the Democrats in Congress have been pushing for legislation to change America from being dependent on fossil fuels to changing to renewable fuels and eliminating carbon-based fuels in the near future. Here is an excerpt from the Democrat Party Platform, I deliberately selected red font for a reason:

“To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. We will dramatically expand solar and wind energy deployment through community-based and utility-scale systems, including in rural areas. Within five years, we will install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 wind turbines, and turn American ingenuity into American jobs by leveraging federal policy to manufacture renewable energy solutions in America. Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.”

The Democrat Platform excerpt copied above  ( and it has many more pages) and the Biden-Sanders agreement  basically lean toward eliminating Hydraulic Fracturing and conventional energy production by the U.S.A. America has become the world’s #1 energy producer during the past four years and we have surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil and gas production.  Does anyone remember the Solyndra debacle from the Obama years? An excellent review is provided by the CATO publication, “Solyndra: A Case Study in Green Energy, Cronyism and The Failure of Central Planning”

Recent legislation by the House of Representatives confirms the path toward the Green New Deal if Biden is elected President.  The new legislation is, H.R.4447 – Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act also known as the “Green House Gases Bill” Donn Dears has written a summary of this in his Blog4   I share Mr. Dears concern for this anti-American energy legislation.

Non-Dispatchable renewable power causes problems with electric grid reliability as we have seen with recent California Blackouts . In addition to forcing solar and wind power onto the California grid, the San Onofre nuclear plant was prematurely shut down and regulations for conventional power plants increased. Worse yet, the one remaining nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon is scheduled to be shut down in 2025. So like Hawaii, California also has some foolish energy policies that are causing increased costs and reduced reliability.  These two states are early indicators of what the “Green New Deal” could mean for the entire U.S.A. if Biden and Harris are elected and Democrats also control Congress.

Then there is the skepticism that solar can make a good difference with slowing down climate change. There are studies by some well respected organizations such as Carnegie University and Stanford 5 that solar panels will require huge amounts of Real Estate and can increase the surrounding ambient air temperature just from the solar collectors themselves. Just how much Real Estate you may ask? According to the 2015 study by Carnegie and Stanford, here is the quote in blue font from the Climate Centralarticle:

“We see that ‘big solar’ is competing for space with natural areas,” she said. “We were surprised to find that solar energy development is a potential driver of the loss of California’s natural ecosystems and reductions in the integrity of our state and national park system.”

Finding ways to resolve conflicts between renewable energy development and ecosystem protection may be critical if the U.S. is to rely on more solar power to displace fossil energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Assuming that 500 gigawatts of solar power may be needed to meet a future climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, Hernandez’s team found that a region of California roughly equal to the land area of South Carolina may be needed to accommodate all the new solar power plant development.

There are caveats to that, however: Though a 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goal has been adopted in California, the Obama administration’s current goal for the U.S. is to cut emissions by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels within 10 years. The study also does not account for increasing solar panel efficiency over time, something that is likely to reduce the amount of land needed to generate a megawatt of solar electricity.”

Yes, you read that right, an area the size of the state of South Carolina. Two points, one, I don’t think we will actually do this and two, the solar panels only provide electricity during periods of sunshine.  

So, now lets move on to the real world experiment in Hawaii, which by the way, has the highest electricity costs of all 50 states. 

My post on this blog in June 2020, showed the example of Hawaii which has pretty much accepted the “Green New Deal” and they are shutting down their most reliable and most reasonable production cost coal power plant at Barber’s Point 3 .  Ironically, as Hawaii has regulated to eliminate fossil fuels, their power costs are the highest in the nation and most of the electric power generated comes from oil fuel. Why? Because Hawaii is an island and is not connected to the mainland electric grid. Thus, for reliability the power at night and when the sun is not shining, requires proven conventional forms of energy such as natural gas, coal or nuclear power. Because Hawaii does not have natural gas or nuclear and they are shutting down their one remaining coal plant, the choice for keeping the lights and air conditioners humming depends on oil fueled power plants. The most expensive of all the choices for fuel.

If you wish to check real time power generation for the island of Oahu here is the link: In my opinion, because of Hawaii being an energy island and not connected to the grid, it is an excellent living laboratory to show what the “Green New Deal” could mean for America. They are graced with ample wind and sunshine, but depend on fossil fuels for much of their reliable power. Thus, the highest cost electricity7 in America.

For the rest of America, (not including Hawaii and California) a balanced portfolio of generation has helped keep energy costs reasonable and helped fuel our economy. America’s economy was doing very well until the Pandemic.

In the previous Part 4, the rise of China during the last twenty years is highlighted. China, by utilizing fossil fuels has greatly surpassed America’s use of coal.  The high cost of electricity in Hawaii is discussed above. This may not be a problem for Hawaii because the power is used by government facilities, by hotels, restaurants, commercial and residential customers. But, the high cost electricity definitely rules out heavy manufacturing and primary metals production. 

As a Patriotic American, I would like to see us mine, manufacture and produce most of the products needed for our lifestyles from within our borders. Including aluminum, copper and steel production. Doing so and remaining competitive in the world requires low cost electricity. I have mentioned this before, it takes about 5kWh of electricity to smelt one pound of aluminum metal. If the aluminum is selling for about $0.80/pound and if electricity was to cost at the wholesale rate, about $0.10/kWh then over 62% of the production cost of aluminum would be in electric power. Of course, this does not include the electricity and energy costs for mining the Bauxite, shipping, and for forging, rolling and forming aluminum sheet or bars. Reasonable Electricity costs are necessary to create competitive manufacturing costs. 

National Security has to be considered too. International tensions and Wars have been fought over control of energy resources. Think back to before WWl when Winston Churchill converted the British Navy from coal to oil fuel. Then following WWll the Father of the American Nuclear Navy, Hyman Rickover saw the need for a better fuel for the US Navy. Now, America’s aircraft carriers and submarines are fueled by nuclear and can stay operational without refueling for decades. The American and world fleet of nuclear power plants owe their existence to Admiral Rickover and with some political help from President Eisenhower. So, for National Defense some major ships and submarines are powered by nuclear. However, helicopters, F-22’s, F-35’s, FA-18’s and Army tanks are fueled by Jet Fuel or Diesel. Keeping the abundant fuel supplies within our borders and secure is a part of our promoting Peace from a position of strength. Being against Fracking, against exploring and Drilling is a path that has a very distinct downside. In America we have found a balance of protecting the environment while still producing coal, oil and natural gas. Keeping the balance is important. Kindly scroll up to the EIA chart of energy used in the year 2019. Note that 89% of our energy is from conventional sources. Let’s not elect leaders that will cause harm and unnecessary risk to our country.

The foregoing are some of the reasons why I believe the “Green New Deal” is bad for America.

Another well researched document on why the Green New Deal will not work is authored by Mark P. Mills of the Manhatten Institute 8. Check his article for more details, link below.

Dick Storm October 10, 2020

  1. Democrat Party Platform:
  2. Wall Street Journal Opinion, July 30, 2020 on the Biden-Sanders Manifesto:
  3. “Hawaii, A Glimpse into the Future of the Green New Deal”:
  4. Donn Dears Blog on the Greenhouse-Gas Bill:
  5. Climate Central, Carnegie and Stanford study of impact on surrounding ambient temperature from solar panels:
  6. Forbes article on California Blackouts caused by Climate and anti-nuclear Policies:
  7. Energy Information Administration Electricity costs:
  8. Manhatten Institute, Mark P. Mills, “Magical Thinking” :
  9. EIA (Energy Information Administration) Monthly Energy Review, April 2020
  10. CATO 2015 publication, by David Boaz, “Solyndra: A Case Study in Green Energy, Cronyism and the Failure of Central Planning”

Part 4, The Importance of Energy to Economic Prosperity

INTRODUCTION, The Rise of the American Economy

Economic prosperity and energy use have gone hand in hand for most of history. This blog is about the importance of energy today so let’s just go back about 140 years or so.  The first battery in the world was invented by Antonio Volta at the beginning of 19th century. In 1831, Michael Faraday devised a machine that generated electricity from rotary motion, but it took almost 50 years for the technology to reach a commercially viable stage. In 1878, Thomas Edison (U.S.A) developed the first stable and domestic light bulb which led to the first commercial power plant in 1882. Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla all had parts in developing and commercializing the generation of electricity in America. Edison’s Pearl Street Station, is in my understanding, the first central station power plant in the world. It was started up about 1881. It was Direct Current. Then in 1897 George Westinghouse and Nikolai Tesla completed the first major Alternating Current Power Station at Niagara Falls. Here are excerpts of a speech by Nikola Tesla:

Nikola Tesla’s Speech at Niagara Falls Opening Ceremony

“We have many a monument of past ages; we have the palaces and pyramids, the temples of the Greek and the cathedrals of Christendom.  In them is exemplified the power of men, the greatness of nations, the love of art and religious devotion.  But the monument at Niagara has something of its own, more in accord with our present thoughts and tendencies.  It is a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace.  It signifies the subjugation of natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering”
 – Nikola Tesla’s speech at the opening ceremony of the hydroelectric power station, January 12, 1897.

The Industrial Revolution had already began but now in the 20th Century the Developed World had electricity to drive economic progress forward. Tesla, Westinghouse and Edison had started an incredible Century of Industrial growth made possible by harnessing energy.

When I worked for Carolina Power and Light the CEO at the time, was Sharon Harris, (he, Bill Lee of Duke Power and other Electric Utility Executives) used to give speeches and proudly show a chart of electricity and energy use correlated with economic growth. In previous chapters I have discussed the importance of heat engines. Most electricity in the world is generated from thermal power plants. Large hydro-electric plants like Niagara Falls, Grand Coulee Dam or the Three Gorges Dam in China are huge. However, there are limited sites for hydro-electric power on the planet and most of the electricity is generated from thermal power stations. Vaclav Smil has written a book on the history of “Energy and Civilization”. One of the graphs included is the one below which shows the primary energy used from the year 1800 to 2019. Quality of life and as the investor owned electric utilities coined the phrase in the 1950’s “Living Better Electrically” was indeed true. Industrial output as well as air conditioning, heating and cooking became much improved after electricity became readily available.

Graph from Our World in Data, BP and Vaclav Smil. Primary Energy Use of the World 1800-2019

In America, our manufacturing output dominated the world in with America’s immense productive capacity. Especially during and following WWll when America became the “Arsenal of Democracy” and ramped up steel, aluminum and war materiel production to provide the U.S. Military as well as our Allies with ships, planes and arms. After the war, America turned to manufacturing for building infra-structure, cars, trucks, airplanes and home appliances. Living Better Electrically became a reality.

The manufacturing increases in the U.S.A. 1940-1960 were the envy of the world. These were driven by energy and in particular, coal energy. Here below is a graph from the EIA which I used in a presentation to an ASME meeting in 2015 to discuss the “Importance of Coal” The parallel growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and coal usage were very proportional.

America’s Major Fuels

Coal was the dominant fuel starting about the mid 19th Century until the last decade. Nuclear became important starting about 1960. Then natural gas became competitive and today is the dominant fuel for America’s electricity generation.

2009 data from the Energy Information Administration, correlating coal consumption and GDP

Admiral Hyman Rickover invented nuclear propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy at the end of WWll. Then about 1957 through President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” Initiative, Admiral Rickover was asked to work with the private sector to develop peaceful nuclear power plants. The first of these was Shippingport, near Pittsburgh, PA. Between 1960 and about 1980 over 100 nuclear power stations were built and commissioned in America. After the accident (No one was injured or killed) at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, no more nuclear units were purchased until about thirty years later with the Southern Company Vogel nuclear plant expansion. (Still under construction, expected to startup in 2022). The nuclear plants are important too. Although today there are just under 100 operating nuclear plants, nuclear energy provides about 20% of America’s electricity. Before the Shale Gas Revolution, nuclear plants provided the lowest cost electric power generation.

A Few Words on Solar and Wind Power

My purpose in starting this Blog is to provide information related to energy and economic prosperity with a focus on Heat-Engines that provide most of our (and all of the Developed World’s power) motive force for driving transportation, industrial production and electricity.

Excessive renewable power has been forced onto the Grid because of Laws and Regulations. My friend Donn Dears has an excellent Blog “Power for the U.S.A.” where he addresses regulations and more advanced discussions of why renewable power has caused so many problems. In fact, his book “The Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable” covers much on this topic. Suffice it to say, wind and solar power is being forced onto the Grid by Rigged Auctions. If you wish further information on this, I recommend visiting Donn Dears Blog and buying his book mentioned above. Here is a link to Mr. Dear’s Blog:

In 2019 the fuels used to generate America’s electricity were:

17.5% Renewables of which about 40% was from old hydroelectric generators

The great abundance of our electricity generation comes from Heat-Engines, to be precise about 82%. Now let’s review the shale gas revolution and the part it played in keeping electricity generation costs reasonable to power the American economy.

THE SHALE GAS REVOLUTION, Thanks to Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

It was about 2009-2012 that natural gas became much more abundant in the U.S.A. due to the disruptive technology of Hydraulic Fracturing combined with Directional Drilling. As America progressed into becoming the world’s largest natural gas producer, natural gas power plants started replacing coal power ( and sadly, some nuclear units) generation.

The economics of selecting the fuel to use is based on the production cost of electricity. The cost to produce electricity includes a number of components: Amongst these cost factors are, the cost of the fuel, Capital cost to build the plant, operational labor costs, maintenance costs and environmental reagents and chemicals.

Natural gas plants with a high efficiency are hard to beat for producing the lowest cost electricity as long as gas prices are below $3.00/million Btu’s and providing the gas is abundant and available with operating pipelines. In western PA, gas is an easy solution. In northern Alaska or Hawaii, there are few, if any gas lines. Therefore the fuel choices and equipment choices to produce the lowest cost electricity can vary drastically by states and even within each state.

The correlation of electricity consumption and GDP is very much influenced by industrial production. Producing primary metals of aluminum, copper and steel for example use enormous amounts of electricity. A so called Steel “Mini Mill” will use about 175,000 kW of electricity. An aluminum smelter, depending on the size, about 400,000 kW. It takes about 5 kWh of electricity to produce one pound of aluminum ingot from aluminum oxide. So as more industrial output is built, so does the electricity demand increase. Conversely, as America became de-Industrialized in the late 1990’s after NAFTA and later when China entered the World Trade Organization, then much electricity capacity that was used for primary metals production and manufacturing became available for commercial and residential use. This shift from industrial consumption to residential and commercial consumption helped keep America’s electricity prices reasonable.

Energy Fuels the Rise of China’s Manufacturing and Economic Strength 2001-2020

The reader will likely be well informed on the Industrial Revolution and growth of American manufacturing during the 20th Century. The growth of China’s Manufacturing and Economy between the year 2001 and 2020 is startling. Unfortunately, the growth of China’s manufacturing came at the expense and loss or transfer of much of America’s heavy industry. Especially energy intensive manufacturing of steel and aluminum. China currently produces about 50% or more, of the world’s steel and aluminum. So, let’s explore the growth of China’s aluminum industry and how the energy production paralled that rise.

China’s coal consumption 1980-2018. China uses as much coal as all of the rest of the world each year

Another chart below shows how China’s Electric Production 1980 through 2019:

China built hundreds of large coal plants and also completed the Three Gorges Dam which is the largest Hydro-Electric plant in the world. Much of this electricity production was utilized for primary metals production and manufacturing. The figure below shows the comparison of China’s manufacturing output compared to America’s.

The aluminum ingots on a dock in China ready for export to the world. Production of all primary metals is energy intensive. However, aluminum requires enormous amounts of electricity to produce ingot metal from aluminum oxide. If you correlate the coal electricity prodution increases with aluminum production one can see where a lot of the electricity was utilized.

In July 2016, I prepared a presentation to “The Delaware County Bar Association”. This is in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. My presentation was to show the linkage of energy, electricity, jobs and Real-Estate and how energy impacted the Pennsylvania economy in 2016. Having worked with ALCOA ( a PA based company) as a consultant/contractor from 1977-2012, I had a “Fly on the Wall” viewpoint of how China was over-producing and dumping aluminum metal ingots on the world markets. The full text of my presentation is included in this Blog if the reader is interested. See “Energy and Economic Prosperity, July 15, 2016”. It is one of the first entries to this WordPress site.

Perhaps a stretch on the correlation to PA Real-Estate transactions , but World Competitiveness of primary metals and energy costs are a little more direct. The next graph is Chinese aluminum production during the period that they were accepted into the WTO (World Trade Organization). It is pretty drastic and from my personal experiences, had been working as a consultant/contractor for ALCOA Worldwide Alumina. My first assignemnt with ALCOA was in 1977 at the Mobile, AL Refinery. Now shut down. I worked for ALCOA almost every year since then up to about 2012. The plant shutdowns in the U.S.A. were sickening to observe. ALCOA went from a workforce of about 125,000 in about 2003 to about half that in a decade. Meanwhile, China’s aluminum production ramped up sharply as China exceeded all of the rest of the world’s production capacity. The metal was agressively traded on the Free Markets of the London Metal Exchange and eventually achieving more than 50% of the worlds production. The story for steel production is similar.

China’s Aluminum Production is shown in green and is far above all of the other major world producers of the metal. This graph was copied from the International Aluminum Institute in 2016 when I was preparing for the June presentation that year.
A comparison of Aluminum Production in China compared to the rest of the world. up to 2011. Chart from the Wall Street Journal.
Note the Chinese steep increase in manufactured goods starting about 2004. China was accepted into the WTO 2001
Trucks shipping made in China products to distribution centers in the U.S.A. Chinese manufacturing and exports to America exploded after China entered the WTO in 2001
As of 2018, China became the largest Manufacturing Country in the world.


It was my intention for this section to illustrate how Energy and Economic Prosperity are inextricably linked. The two main comparisons in the foregoing were the rise of the U.S.A. and China. The U.S.A. rise in world status began about 1890, the approximate time that electricity was commercialized, until present. China had the advantage of copying the electric producing equipment and electrification model used by America. When China’s rise began it was as a result of agressive manufacturing, powered mostly from coal fueled thermal power generation plants. The proceeds of exported manufactured products then fueled their economy. This incredible rise took only about twenty years. America’s rise had taken about 100 years. China had the advantage of using American technology and expertise’ with very little Regulations on air and water quality to build their enormous capacity in power generation. This accellerated following the admission of China to the WTO. Following 2001, China rapidly expanded their electricity production capacity. Unfortunately for the U.S.A., the rise of China manufacturing was largely at the expense of American manufacturing capacity and jobs.

My point in this section is to simply show the relationship of energy and economic prosperity. I hope you find it interesting.

Dick Storm, September 21, 2020


The U.S. Department of Energy, through the EIA (Energy Information Administration) keeps up with the energy used by America. The measurement used is the BTU or British Thermal Unit. One BTU is the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit. Thus heating a pound of water from 32 degrees F. to 212 degrees F. requires 180 BTU’s. So, why is it important to know how many Btu’s are utilized? The reason is that 90% of the energy used in America is used by Heat-Engines to provide the motive force for vehicles, airplanes, drive electric generators and power industry. America in 2019 used about 100.2 Quadrillion Btu’s. Here is how these units of heat energy were utilized:

Most folks don’t think about Heat-Engines and their importance to provide our everyday high quality of lives. The facts are that Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Thermal Power from Biomass together consume about 90% of our total energy. Did you ever consider that a Boeing 747 at cruise will consume about a gallon of jet fuel a second and burn about ten tons of jet fuel/hour of flight time. Everyday when you are driving you enjoy the convenience of your personal vehicle and see many large trucks delivering needed goods to local stores or shipping interstate. Electric vehicles are becomeing more common on the highway, but they too are using energy that originated (80+%) as either coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. An electric vehicle such as a Tesla uses stored electricity to power the vehicle. The electricity to charge the batteries (usually) comes from the American electric grid, most of which (about 80%) is provided by conventional energy of natural gas, nuclear and coal.

The intent of this chapter is to describe Heat-Engines. So lets first look at the example of a steam turbine commonly used in thermal power generation plants.

The simplified process of converting chemical energy of fuel to heat, to steam and then converting the heat energy to turn a magnet in a coil of wire to produce electricity

Each Btu is worth 778 foot pounds of mechanical Energy if converted from heat to work at 100% efficiency.

In essence, this is the process that takes place in all steam powered thermal power plants. Whether wood, coal, Biomass, natural gas or nuclear fueled. The heat is used to generate steam and then the steam is passed through a steam turbine to produce electricity. The figure below shows examples of heat engines that we depend on every day. Each of these converts heat energy from fossil fuels into motive force for either transportation or the generation of electricity.

Each of the examples above are heat engines. The auto and aircraft engines are internal combustion engines. The car uses a gasoline engine. The jet airliner uses a jet engine. The steam turbine (is really an external combustion engine) in the lower center has the top half of the shell removed to expose the turbine blading and rotor. The large reciprocating Diesel engine driven generator in the lower right is a drive engine for a ship and uses the Diesel cycle. Another version of a reciprocating internal combustion engine is the natural gas fueled, spark ignited gas engine. A natural gas reciprocating engine will look very similar to a Diesel or gasoline reciprocating engine. The steam turbine uses steam generated in a boiler, thus the combustion is external to the steam turbine and it would be considered an “External Combustion Engine”.

Modern Coal plants use the Rankine steam cycle to generate electricity.

The process of converting coal energy to electricity is shown below. In this example about 0.8 pound of coal is used to generate one kilowatt of electricity. One kilowatt hour of electricity is about the same as using ten 100 watt light bulbs or one toaster for an hour.

A simplified steam power plant fueled by coal

The illustration is greatly simplified. In order to achieve high efficiency a clean coal fueled power plant has lots of complicated equipment and the steam turbine is multiple stages of highly precise manufacture. A typical electric utility scale steam turbine is shown below. This is the prime mover to spin the rotor (magnet) of the generator.

The illustration above is a large electric utility scale steam turbine. A typical 600 MW steam turbine will utilize about 4.2 million pounds of steam flowing through it per hour at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The flow of 4.2 million pounds of steam per hour is equivalent to about 8,403 gallons per minute of water flow entering the steam generator. Therefore, all of the components of the steam generator, fuel handling and emissions control devices are huge in size.

A schematic of a modern coal plant which utilizes the Rankine steam cycle is shown below. This shows the water, steam, cooling water flows through the boiler, steam turbine-generator and condenser. The illustration does not include the enormous amount of equipment for fuel preparation and emissions control. Solid fuels require much more equipment to convert the heat to electricity than liquid or gaseous fuels.

Here below is a modern four unit, 2,400 MW coal power plant. In this example, the four boilers are the tallest structures and are about as tall as twenty story building. The stacks are about 300 ft tall. The plume of gases coming our of the stacks is water vapor. This is steam released as the exhaust flue gases are cleaned from sulfur using limestone slurry of water and powdered lime. Known in the industry as Flue Gas Desulfurization. So the white plumes are simply water vapor from the cleaned flue gases. Also within the plumes are the invisible gases of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen.

A modern coal power plant with four units and including FGD (Flue Gas Desulfurization) and SCR (Selective Catalytic Reactor) to remove oxides of nitrogen emissions

A 2,400 MW power plant when operating at full capacity (depending on the heating value of the coal fuel) will burn about 2,000,000 pounds per hour of coal. Supplied by 100 ton rail cars this is about 10 rail cars per hour of fuel. The raw coal supplied from the mines is pulverized to a fine powder slightly more coarse than face powder and is conveyed to the furnaces using fans to mix the powdered fuel with air. The coal is burned in suspension in the furnaces much like a huge gas flame. A schematic of a typical Utility scale Steam Generator (Boiler) is shown below.

A Typical 600 MW Utility Scale Steam Generator. The furnace is approximately 40 ft. deep by 80 ft wide and about 150 feet tall. A Unit such as this will burn about 133 pounds of coal per second and the products of combustion will be completely burned out and converted to hot gases in about one second in the furnace. The coal particles are an average size of about 60 microns and burn as a gas. The grey device on the lower left of the illustration above represents a coal pulverizer. A boiler this size will usually have five or six large coal pulverizers to supply the fuel to the furnace.

This description is intended for High School students and to provide a brief overview of the various heat-engines that we depend on each day. Suffice it to say, a large coal power plant is a very complicated and very large complex of equipment. In essence a huge “Heat-Engine” that uses solid fuel, coal. The coal is burned in the furnace above reaching peak temperatures of about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the products of combustion pass through the boiler the water entering is heated to steam at up to 1,150 degrees F. and the flue gases (Products of combustion) are cooled to about 300 degrees F. The flue gases are then treated with emissions equipment to remove the oxides of nitrogen, the sulfur and the solid ash particulates. The solid ash particles are referred to as being Flyash and today much of the flyash is recycled to use in high strength concrete. Much of the FGD scrubber slurry waste (calcium sulfate) is recycled into sheetrock for home building.

A modern, clean coal plant such as the above example may require a staff of about 160 full time employees. One of the reasons coal plants have difficulty competing with natural gas plants is the large number of personnel and the costs of fuel preparation, maintenance and cost of chemical reagents to remove the sulfur and oxides of nitrogen from the exhaust gases. A Gas Turbine Combined cycle plant of four units and also producing 620 MW will require a staff of about 25 employees. A four unit 2,400 MW of power will require a much smaller staff than a similar sized coal plant, about 40 full time employees.

The choice of the fuel and prime mover depends on the geography and availability of coal, natural gas or nuclear fuel. Alaska for example is most suitable for coal because there is not a network of gas pipelines. Also, the demand for power is less than would be justified to construct a large nuclear plant. Coal plants are also common and competitive in Developing Nations such as African and Asian countries.

Background on How Natural Gas Plants Using Aeroderivative Gas Turbine Drives Have Replaced Much of America’s Coal Electric Power Generation

Up till about the year 2010 about 50% of America’s electricity was generated from coal and about 20% from nuclear. Then came Hydraulic Fracturing and oil and gas production in the U.S.A. from locations that were not anticipated before, such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania. The U.S.A. after ten years or so of successful and highly productive Hydraulic Fracturing and directional drilling, the U.S.A. has become the world’s #1 oil and gas producing nation. What does this mean? It means economic prosperity for the U.S.A. but also it has been a disruptive economic force in electric power generation. Because about 75% of the production cost of electricity from a coal plant is fuel, the new low cost natural gas has made natural gas a less expensive fuel option for power generation. In addition, the Gas Turbine Combined Cycle Power Plants have become the most efficient “Heat-Engines” ever developed. A GTCC Power Plant has far less components than a similar sized coal plant, thus a much smaller staff and overall has lower operations & maintenance production cost. (GTCC=Gas Turbine Combined Cycle) Because of the small staff the main production cost for electricity from a GTCC plant is fuel. The natural gas fuel is about 90% of the production cost of electricity from a GTCC plant.

Further, not only lower fuel costs than coal, the GTCC plants are now approaching 65% Thermal Efficiency. More on thatin a later chapter on economics of power generation.

How Did Jet Airplane Engines Fit Into Electric Power Generation?

Jet aircraft engines have been used for air travel and military uses since the 1950’s. The jet engine is another form of internal combustion engine. For jet airplanes, the engine creates hot air and gases that are forced out the rear of the engine thus causing thrust, a force to propel the airplane forward. For planes designed to fly less than about 450 mph, such as Regional Air Transportation, a Turbo-Prop is more efficient than jet thrust alone. A derivation of the jet engine is to use the hot air and combustion products to force over a gas turbine rotor and turn a shaft which in turn drives a propellor. This is called a “Turbojet”. Many Regional commuter airliners use propellors driven by a turbojet engine. A turbo-prop engine is shown below.

Turbo-Prop Engine fueled by jet fuel. The jet engine provides hot gases to spin the turbine which creates shaft power to drive the propellor.

The jet engines and turbo prop engines have advanced in power and efficiency drastically since first use during WWll. The advancements have been applied to Gas Turbines used for power generation in stationary power plants. This gas turbine engines which are derived from the best aviation jet engines to power generation have been referred to as “Aeroderivative”. That is because the R&D that was invested in developing the most powerful and highly efficient jet engines has been adapted to electric power generation using natural gas fuels. The G-E “F Class” Series of “Gas Turbine as installed in many modern natural gas fueled power generation plants. A G-E Gas Turbine is shown below. Siemens, Mitsubishi, Rolls-Royce, Pratt-Whitney and a few other world manufacturers also design and manufacture large Utility Scale Gas Turbines.

As described earlier, the gas turbine drives a shaft which is connected to a generator to produce electricity. Here is a schematic of the gas turbine combined cycle plant exhausting heat to a steam generator that then provides steam to a steam turbine. This is called a Gas Turbine, Combined Cycle Power Plant. The combined cycle is using two cycles for power generation, the internal combustion (Brayton) cycle and the external combustion (Rankine) steam cycle. By combining the two cycles overall efficiencies have reached the highest of any other thermal power generatioin cycle or process at up to 65% efficient.

A modern 620 MW Gas Turbine, Combined Cycle Power Plant is shown below. This is the Duke Energy, Buck Plant located near Salisbury, NC.

Duke Energy’s Buck Gas Turbine Combined Cycle Power Plant located near Salisbury, NC

South Carolina has generated about 28.6% of the electricity consumed from natural gas fuel. Most of that is through gas turbine combined cycle plants similar to the Duke Buck Plant in the photo above. FYI, North Carolina generated about 33% of that states electricity from natural gas.

Up to this point we have discussed the reciprocating gasoline engine, the Diesel, coal plants, jet engines and gas turbines. All of these are variations of “Heat-Engines” they convert heat energy into thrust or shaft horsepower that is a motive force for either propulsion of a vehicle, train, ship or plane or for turning a shaft that drives an electric generator. These engines consume a high percentage of the total energy utilized in America. Next covered is nuclear which has generated about 18-20% of America’s electric power for decades. A nuclear plant produces steam using the heat of nuclear fission. The steam is then passed through a steam turbine, much the same as in a coal plant described above. Here below is a schematic of a nuclear power plant using a pressurized water reactor,

An example of a pressurized water reactor system for generating electricity from nuclear power. The Turbine-Generator and condenser are similar to those utilized in a large coal plant.

Electricity generated from nuclear power also utilizes the steam turbine prime mover as a massive heat engine. Instead of using combustion to provide the heat to produce steam, a nuclear power plant utilizes nuclear fission within the reactor vessel. The primary coolant for the nuclear reaction is water under high pressure so that it will not boil. This loop of hot, pressurized water is circulated through the steam generator where the heat is transferred to the secondary cycle which provides the steam flow to drive the steam turbine. Another version of a “Heat-Engine”

Other Heat-Engines that We Depend on

You have heard of renewable power generation which includes Hydro-electric, solar, wind and biomass. Solar and wind usually generate power directly, although there are a couple of hybrid designs that utilize sunlight to boil water and produce steam. These will not be discussed here.

Biomass fuel such as waste wood or processed wood chips is used much like coal in a boiler furnace to produce steam to drive a turbine generator, Then there is Bio-Fuels such as Ethanol made from corn which is added to gasoline and burned in Internal Combustion engines of our cars and trucks.

Another form of Biomass fuel is Landfill Gas which is methane that is generated from decaying garbage in landfills. This gas is collected and piped to power boilers to generate steam and electricity.

Lastly, a small amount of electricity is generated in the U.S.A. by geothermal power. This is usually in the western U.S.A. in California and Nevada where hot rocks below the ground are used to generate steam which is then passed through a steam turbine generator.

The above serves as a primer to become familiar with the importance of heat engines in our everyday lives.

Dick Storm, September 9, 2020

The Importance of Energy, Part 2, Our Energy Sources

This chapter will focus on the sources and fuels of energy for the U.S.A. The average American likely believes our electricity is coming mostly from renewable sources. Why? Because we are all indoctrinated with advertisements and Mainstream News Media reports on massive solar and wind farms. Well the true story is that over 80% of the energy we depend on comes from natural gas, nuclear, coal and old hydroelectric power plants. The EIA (Energy Information Administration ) a department of the U.S. Department of Energy, publishes data to provide access for all who are interested in the facts. The figure below shows American energy sources consumed in the year 2019.

This is Total Energy used for Electricity Generation, Transportation, Industrial Production, Residential and Commercial uses.

The renewables at 11% include 22% old hydroelectric plants such as the Grand Coulee Dam and many other dams in the Pacific northwest operated by the Bonneville Power Authority. The renewables also include Biofuels, Biomass and wood power for Thermal Heat Engines. Digging down into the data of the 2019 energy pie chart shows: About 93% of the energy used in 2019 was in Heat-Engines. Yes, even about 43% of the biomass renewables were utilized in heat engines, such as Landfill gas burned in power boilers, wood fuel and ethanol biofuels burned in internal combustion engines. Heat-Engines play a large part in making our lives productive and good. A friend of mine always reminds me about National Security and keeping our Military strong. Military jets, Surface ships, Armored Personnel Carriers and Helicopters operate on Diesel and Jet Fuel. Peace through strength is important, I believe. More on the importance of combustion and Heat-Engines in a later chapter.

A couple years ago, Ginny and I took a river cruise on the Snake and Columbia Rivers from Idaho to Portland. Often I wondered why citizens in the west were so strong in their voices for renewable power and so against fossil fuels. I figured out part of the answer as we toured Bonneville Power Dams and became aware of the over 22,000 MW of generation capacity of BPA (Bonneville Power Authority). The cost of power is subsidized by the Federal Government and is about $0.02/kWh. Abundant and reasonable cost. Great for the Pacific Northwest, however, there is only one Columbia River in the U.S.A. What is good for Portland, Oregon doesn’t apply to South Carolina or other states. Here is an example of why a diverse generating portfolio for 50 states is important.

The Bonneville Power Authority is Federally run and has over 22,000 MW of capacity. Mostly Hydro-Electric power generation on the Columbia River.

All sources and all fuels are important and should be included in America’s energy mix. Here below is the comparison of South Carolina’s electricity generation during 2019. Over 55% is from nuclear generation.

South Carolina has seven reliable and proven nuclear power plants owned by Duke Energy, Dominion & Santee-Cooper (South Carolina Public Service Authority)

The discussion of electricity production in Oregon and South Carolina show the extreme differences in affordable and reliable power from these two states. Nationwide, electricity generation is the largest consumer of primary energy. “Energy” encompasses much more than electricity production. The next largest consumer of primary energy is Transportation. For the U.S.A. our energy production and consumption is shown on the Sankey Diagram below:

The Sankey Diagram shows the total energy expressed in “BTU’s (British Thermal Units). During 2019 America utilized 100.2 Quadrillion Btu’s. The sources of these Btu’s and the end use is shown on the diagram. The left side shows the energy sources and as the lines move left to right show the utilization of the heat energy. The line thickness is in proportion to the amount of Btu;s for each path.

The Sankey Diagram provides details of energy flows. The chart below by the EIA summarizes the American Energy Sources in 2019;

Data summary by U.S. Department of Energy, EIA

The foregoing charts and data represent energy for America in 2019. Below is the forecast to 2050 for the U.S.A. Renewables are forecasted to be up to 38% of total electricity generation by then.

So, how about electricity generation in China and the rest of the world? Forecasts for the World energy production and demand to 2050 is shown below:

The perspective of the world energy use and production of carbon dioxide is shown in the chart below by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Not to become distracted but forecasts are simply best guesses of the future. One reasonably reliable forecast for the future is, that the world population will grow from about 7.2 Billion on 2019 to something over 9.0 Billion in 2040. These additional 2 Billion people (plus the almost 1 Billion who currently do not have access to electricity) will desire and demand the same advances in quality of life, clean water, clean air, transportation, indoor air quality, cooking, air conditioning and industrial output that those of us that live in Developed countries have. Here is the United Nations projection for world population growth.

This United Nations Data is from the UN website

I show these data on world population and current energy use to emphasize why I believe a portfolio of all fuels are important. The figure below is a reminder of the importance of energy to power high quality of living and the uses of energy in the U.S.A. Please keep in mind, Electricity is very important and I worked my entire career helping to produce the least cost, most efficient and most reliables electricity that I could. Transportation, Industrial output, residential heating, cooling and cooking and commercial buildings together comprise nearly twice as much energy consumption as electricity generation. Electric vehicles like the Tesla electric vehicle shown in the lower left below may change the use of primary energy by 2040 or before.

A typical electric steel furnace as illustrated above will use about 175 MW of electricity. An aluminum smelter, such as the Century Aluminum Smelter in Mt. Holly, SC will use up to 400 MW of electricity. To compare this to small cities, my old town of Albemarle, NC has a municipal electric system that peaked at about 50 MW for a city of 20,000 people. My current town of Hilton Head with a population of about 40,000 and tourists in the summer of about 100,000 uses about 250 MW on a hot August day. I state these examples to illustrate the enormous amount of electricity that is needed for heavy industry. For America to remain economically strong and competitive in the world, we need to maintain industrial output at high levels and heavy industry, especially metals production, is very energy intensive. Later in the chapter on world trade and energy I will expand on the relationship of electricity and trade. Especially important for primary metals such as aluminum, steel and copper. All of these use large amounts of electricity. Aluminum production from aluminum oxide to ingot aluminum requires about 5 kWh to produce. This does not include the energy used to refine Bauxite into alumina or the energy needed to forge or roll the aluminum ingots into finished product.

I will close this chapter with a chart showing energy measurements, equivalents and cost per million Btu’s and a reminder of the importance of Heat-Engines.

Key to comparing energy costs for use in Heat-Engines is to compare the cost per million Btu’s. The chart below provides some commonly used data and terms.

The next chapter will cover common heat engines and a brief description of each type. Why Heat-Engines? Note the illustration below, yes 90%. This is why the Energy Information Administration measures and reports total Btu’s produced and consumed:

Dick Storm, August 28, 2020

The Importance of Energy to Power High Quality of Life, Part 1

The citizens of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia are all accustomed to having abundant, reliable and reasonable cost energy and electricity. Not until a hurricane or extreme weather comes when power lines are downed, do Americans appreciate the importance of energy and electricity to power our way of life. My goal in this Blog is to show the relationship of energy to the Human Development Index and the inter-relationships of energy and our quality of life.

First let’s take a look at NASA’s composite photo of the “Earth at Night”. Remember the dark areas of the Planet as you then scroll through the next few graphs of economic activity and energy.

NASA, A Composite Photo by Satellite of the World at Night

Next, plots of energy and GDP for selected countries of the world. North Korea is not included in the data plot, but the satellite photo showing lights below the 38th Parallel clearly show the distinction of a centrally controlled Socialistic government and Economic Freedom of South Korea.

Total Energy in Total, Millions of Btu’s, consumed per Capita and Relationship with Human Development Index as a Measure of Quality of Life

Satellite view of the 38th Parallel separating North and South Korea

The next graph is from ExxonMobil’s Outlook for Energy and uses data from the U.N., World Bank and other respected references. Note the vertical axis showing energy use in kWh per person/year. Over 50% of the world’s population uses less than 2,000 kWh/year. Americans on average use about 13,000 kWh/year. The electricity is used for residential heating, cooling & cooking. Keeping it into perspective, nearly 1 Billion people of the world do not have access to any electricity. Note the chart which follows, below. This data from the UN, World Bank and the chart was prepared by “Our World in Data”.

There are almost 1 Billion people of the world that do not have access to electricity. If you go back to the NASA composite photo of the earth at night above, you can see by illumination the difference between the Developing countries and the Developed Countries.

So, how do citizens use energy to create better lives? The figure below shows the uses of Total Energy used in the U.S.A. Americans utilize on average about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s (BTU= British Thermal Unit). The 100.2 Quadrillion divided by 330 million citizens comes out to about 330 million Btu’s/person/year. This is total energy use and includes energy used for electricity generation, transportation, industrial production, heating, cooling, cooking.

The highest use of energy in the U.S.A. is for electricity production at 37% of our total. Next is transportation at 28.2%. When all uses of energy are totaled in Btu equivalents, then divided by the population, the average comes out to about 330 million Btu’s per person per year. This includes all uses of energy.

To illustrate what 330 million Btu’s is equivalent to our friends at Storm Technologies created the graphic below:

The energy equivalent of 330 million Brittish Thermal Units could be about 48 barrels of Diesel fuel, 64.5 barrels of gasoline, 14 tons of coal or 778 pounds of propane. This is what Americans use on average. Those of us that travel more or have larger homes use more than the average. An apartment dweller in a large city with no car will use less. Also figured into the average energy use is Industrial production. Primary metals such as aluminum, copper and steel use huge amounts of electricity to produce.

The Industrial production provides jobs and improved economic freedom. The next chapter will cover energy independence and how reasonable cost energy impacts world trade and competition.

Dick Storm

Hawaii: A Gimpse Into the future of the “green new deal”

Hawaii is a model of the impact of applying carbon free electricity generation policies before storage technology catches up. “Green Policies” do not necessarily result in “Green Power” as I will close with the actual power generation in real time.  As an engineer specializing in efficient and clean coal power generation for five decades, whenever a coal plant shutdown is in the news, it catches my attention. So, when I read about the plans to shut down the 180 MW, AES Barbers Point Coal Plant near Honolulu, it caught my eye.

The title of the article in the Honolulu newspaper sums it up nicely: “Our Cheapest Power Is About to Go Away……. In 2016, HECO paid AES Hawaii an average of 5 cents per kilowatt hour. During the same period, wind was about 20 cents per kilowatt hour, solar about 21 to 23 cents.”

Hawaii is a perfect laboratory to show the effect of implementing extreme green policies on electric generation. Why? Because as islands, they are not connected to the US Grid. Therefore, the policies as implemented will create a fairly swift impact on electricity prices. According to the EIA, the highest retail electricity price in the U.S.A.:  Hawaii at $0.3099/kWh.

Digging a little deeper the plans for the future are for 52% Renewables by 2021 and 100% Renewables by 2045.

As the Democrats in congress push for the new Green Deal, Hawaii offers an example of the adverse impact on electricity prices. Later, when Barbers Point is shut down, reliability could also become an issue. 

If you are interested in the fuel mix for generation on the island of Oahu, here is a link for the real time power generation.  As this is written (0700 3/24/2020), I checked and 86% of the power was Fossil Fuels and of the 14% Renewables, they include 9% from the thermal waste to energy facility, 5% wind and because it was early morning, 0% solar.

I have always advocated a “Balanced Portfolio of Generation”. A plan to include LNG, Coal, Renewables, Oil and Waste to Energy would have been wiser, in my opinion.

Dick Storm

South Australia Heatwave Wind Power Collapse, Rolling Blackouts

So much for green power reliability

Watts Up With That?

Wreck Beach, South Australia. Wreck Beach, South Australia. By Jacqui Barker [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsGuest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t AndyG55, JoNova – South Australia, the world’s renewable energy crash test dummy, is once again experiencing horrendous power price spikes and rolling blackouts, thanks to excessive reliance on wind, a lack of dispatchable power capacity, and high demand caused by a Summer heatwave.

Rolling blackouts ordered in Adelaide as city swelters

Widespread power blackouts were imposed across Adelaide and parts of South Australia with heatwave conditions forcing authorities to impose load shedding.

About 40,000 properties were without electricity supplies for about 30 minutes because of what SA Power Networks said was a direction by the Australian Energy Market Regulator.

The temperature was still above 40C when the rolling blackouts began at 6.30pm to conserve supplies as residents sought relief with air conditioners.

Appearing live on Facebook for a…

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Environmentalism as a religion

A very good essay and so true.

Watts Up With That?


The late Dr. Michael Crichton was wonderful writer. In 2003 he presented a wonderful essay in San Francisco equating environmentalism to religion. Nobel prize winning physicist Dr. Ivar Giaver makes the same point in a presentation here. In religion man is meant to be saved from the consequences of his sins. In the environmentalist religion the world was a wonderful, beautiful Eden until man and his technology came along. Man has eaten the apple and lost Eden. Now we must give up our “evil” technology and go back to nature, otherwise all is lost.

As Crichton notes:

“There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40…

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Energy and Economic Prosperity, my thoughts: Dick Storm


Delaware County Bar Association

July 15, 2016

Energy for America

Sunshine, Wind, Nuclear and Fossil Fuels

How Energy Policies and Federal Regulations are Impacting Economic Prosperity

By Richard F. (Dick) Storm, PE, CEM


The name of the seminar series suggests that you might be interested in the inter-relationship of energy, environmental and trade policies that impact the economy, Real-Estate demand and jobs for Middle Class Americans. Here are my observations from my own experiences and travels as to how I think the “Four E’s” are inter-related”. What are the fours E’s? Energy, Environmental, Education of energy and environmental science and Economic Prosperity. These are my personal views which are based on my five decades of working as an engineer in the electric power generation business.

Energy fuels America’s manufacturing, jobs, transportation, heating, air conditioning, lighting and is essential for all of our commercial, industrial production, good paying jobs and financial well-being. In summary, abundant, reliable and reasonable cost Energy is essential to sustain our everyday lives. Just think of the last extreme weather event that cut off your electricity for a few hours or a single day. How about life altering shortages of gasoline as us older folks remember from the Arab Oil Embargoes of 1974-1980?  The purpose of this presentation is to cover the inter-relationship of energy with the economy. An example of energy and primary metals production will be explained to show how rising costs of green power & the war on carbon, combined with International Trade policies has harmed employment by destroying millions of Middle Class manufacturing jobs. Current U.S.A. Regulations and Policies are helping to drive American Manufacturing overseas. Where does our energy come from? How do Renewables fit in? What are the realities of energy supply? The comparative costs? How about National Security? Federal and state regulations are harming America’s competitiveness in manufacturing, driving jobs overseas and causing a decline in American productive capacity. We need policies that will return America to a Nation that Builds and exports products. The notion that America can remain strong as a “Services only  Economy” is wrong, in my opinion. In the following presentation, I will do my best to show the facts of why I believe this. The topics I wish to cover are in two parts:

  1. Energy and the Relationship of Reasonable Cost Electricity to Manufacturing in the U.S.A. (Connecting the dots of energy and environmental regulatory policies to Real-Estate)
  • Relationship of Energy & Economic Prosperity
  • Why the Decline of American Middle Class Economic Prosperity from the loss of Manufacturing Jobs? Trade, Currency Manipulation, Unions, Regulations
  • Manufacturing and Energy Costs Are Related, so where have American jobs gone?
  • Transfer of Manufacturing Capacity Overseas and Trade w/China
  • The Four E’s; Energy, Environmental, Education and Economic Prosperity
  • The loss of “Middle Class American Jobs” is a loss of potential homeownership, contributing to the wide separation of incomes between wealthy and working class folks.
  • America needs to build and export more products made in the U.S.A.
  1. Energy and Electricity Production in the U.S.A.
  • Energy Production in PJM Region
  • Regulations and Energy Costs in U.S.A.
  • Renewable Power
  • Nuclear Power
  • Coal Power
  • Natural Gas
  • Today’s Cost of Competitive Electricity Generation
  1. Relationship of Energy and Economic Prosperity

The NASA Composite Photo, “Earth at Night” shows the world at night. You can see the difference of thriving economies and the Developing World by the level of illumination. The stark differences of lights in Africa and North Korea are striking and for those of us who have traveled to South America, Asia and Africa it is not a surprise. However, Americans take our abundant and secure energy for granted. Public education and the News Media are promoting Renewable “Green” Power and suggesting that we can eliminate the use of fossil fuels in our lifetime. America and the rest of the Developed World depends on Fossil Fuels for over 80% of our energy. This presentation will attempt to highlight the relationship of energy and economic prosperity.

NASA-The Earth at Night a composite photograph

North & South Korea at night. This photo presents a stark contrast of North Korea’s version of Socialism and South Korea’s Freedom and Capitalism. Abundant and reasonable cost electricity combined with Freedom, improves the quality of life.


The figure above was presented by Carl Bauer then of the National Energy Technology Laboratory about 2007. I was impressed with the clear relationship of GDP per person and energy use. This relationship applies to the U.S.A. as well. As our economy and manufacturing boom, people are working overtime spending money for vacation travel and enjoying life, we use more energy than if we stay at home and conserve. Then there are the ever increasing numbers of electrical gadgets that we all love. Soon to come are more attractive electric cars such as the Tesla. Think about where the electricity to power these will come from. I will cover that later.

  1. Why the decline of the American Dream for Middle Class Americans? What does Economic Prosperity have to do with energy or National Energy Policies?

You are a group of lawyers and Real-Estate Professionals and a fair question would be, “What does energy, green energy policies and environmental policies have to do with me?” Well, not directly but the ever increasing Federal Regulations to force green power on the public is harming America’s productive capacity. Of course it is more complicated than just the cost of electric power. There are other important factors that impact America’s competitiveness and manufacturing. Amongst these other factors are: International Trade Policies, Unions, China’s manipulation of their currency, Dumping of primary metals and manufactured products on the world markets and others.

Let me make a point here. This is an Election year and there are two clearly different approaches to the Economic Recovery of America. I submit that the main problem cannot be handled by changing the President or his or her Party, The problem with the decline of American prosperity has much to do with Federal and State Regulations. For example, the EPA, Department of Energy, Department of State, Dept. of the Interior, IRS, Banking Regulators and more remain no matter which party has the office of President. When I contact my Congressman, he politely lets it be known that there is little he can do about the “Professional specialists that are employed in the EPA or other Government Agency”. These people are thought to be as professionals to protect public health and safety. But since the EPA was formed in 1970 and the Dept of Energy in 1977, they have outlived their purposes and simply create new regulations each year, further harming America’s productive capacity. Check the CEI (Competitive Enterprise Institute) web site and Wayne Crews annual “10,000 Commandments”. These provide some further insight to my suggestion that it is an excessive Regulations problem.

My expertise and experience is in power generation so I will focus on where our power and energy comes from and how we use it.  First, let’s take a look at the total energy used in America and the source of that energy. The figure below is called a Sankey Diagram. The thickness of each bar is representative of the amount or percentage of each form of energy flow from the supply on the left side to the use or demand on the right side.

This figure is provided by the EIA (Energy Information Agency) and the above data is from 2014. It shows the total U.S.A. energy consumption of about 98.32 Quadrillion Btu’s. Let’s round it off to 100 Quadrillion Btu’s. What does this represent? Well, if we divide the 100 Quad’s by a population of about 320 million persons then the equivalent visualized energy would be as shown on the next figure. Each American Citizen uses about 334 million Btu’s per year. This is average. Some of us have larger homes, some drive more, some fly more in commercial jet aircraft. Manufacturing to provide jobs, travel, home heating and cooling and Mall lighting and heating all require energy. The intent of the next chart is to illustrate what 334 million Btu’s is equivalent to in coal, oil, gasoline, propane, jet fuel and diesel fuel. This slide was prepared using 2007 data and the total American energy use that year was over 101 Quadrillion Btu’s. The economy was also stronger and growing then. Population was smaller too.

Worth remembering is our high school science class definition of a Btu. A British Thermal Unit is the amount of heat that will raise one pound of water (about a pint) one degree Fahrenheit. Another equivalence that is important is that if each Btu was converted into mechanical energy at 100% efficiency, then one Btu=778 Foot pound of work. This is where the term “Heat Engines” comes in. “Heat Engines” sometimes called “Prime Movers” are at the root of a thriving modern economy. Thus, the government measures and reports “Quadrillion Btu’s” as a measure of America’s and the world’s energy production and consumption.

So, what does this have to do with home sales and the American Dream for the Middle Class Americans? As America has implemented more and more Federal and State Regulations, the cost of electricity and regulations on energy use for manufacturing has crept up. As I stated before there are other factors too. But the cold hard facts of manufacturing employment are less people are employed in manufacturing today than are employed in government. The total “net” number of manufacturing jobs has declined from over 17 million in 1998 to currently, about 12.3 million.  Some have said that up to 8 million manufacturing jobs have been lost to China alone. Therefore, the loss of five million net jobs takes into consideration the new jobs that have been created since 1998. These figures can be checked with the US BLS (Bureau of Labor Standards) and the NAM (National Association of Manufacturers).

Most of these were “Middle Class, head of household” job holders. Think about major Pennsylvania companies alone such as US Steel, Bethlehem Steel, ALCOA, Sun Shipbuilding, Scott Paper and many more.

  1. So where have the jobs gone?

I have lived the last 45 years or so in the south. Once the textile capital of the world, I was told from a retired executive of Wiscassett Mills, that Cannon Mills (Wiscassett Mills was a subsidiary of Cannon Mills)) had about 60% of the world market for towels, sheets and pillow cases in the 1960’s. North Carolina was also the Furniture Capital of the world. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs from textiles and furniture were lost from North and South Carolina over a couple decades. Why? Unfair trade policies under NAFTA. Here in Pennsylvania this was the Steel Capital of the world. This state has also lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the primary metals business.

In 2006 the CEO of NUCOR Steel, Dan DiMicco wrote a book entitled, “Steeling America’s Future” This book sub title is, “A CEO’s Call to Arms, Saving Manufacturing through Free Trade”. An important message focused on our Trade policies and the impact of world trade on the Steel Industry in America.  DiMicco’s   message was prescient and important then and still is now. China’s steel manufacturing capacity has grown to be over 50% of the world production capacity. NUCOR Steel is America’s largest Steel producing company. NUCOR became the largest U.S.A.  Steel producer and outperformed other U.S.A. manufacturers. How?  With higher productivity and lower production costs by introduction and perfecting the Mini Mill concept using scrap steel for feedstock to produce steel alloys and shapes to order, rather than integrated mills using iron ore, coke and limestone. NUCOR is Americas largest steel producer and the world’s largest steel recycler. NUCOR’s furnaces are electric arc and utilize about as much electricity for one furnace as a medium sized city. Upwards of 175 MW for just one steel melting furnace. This is one example of the relationship of reasonable cost electric power and jobs in America.

The demise of Pennsylvania’s high paying jobs in steel production is well known by those of us who are over 60. Pennsylvania is/was the home state of Bethlehem Steel, US Steel, Phoenix Steel, Sharon Steel and others. Only US Steel survives of these and now it is at a fraction of the productive capacity of the 1960’s.

Another fine Pennsylvania company once the size of G-E and now defunct, is Westinghouse Electric Company.

Let’s take a look at a surviving Pennsylvania metals company that is still viable but has been significantly downsized in the last decade. That company is ALCOA. In 2006 Alcoa employed over 120,000 employees. Now according to the 2015 Annual Report they employ about 60,000 worldwide.

The Aluminum Company of America known as ALCOA since about 1998 was founded in 1888 and still has their world headquarters in Pittsburgh. ALCOA currently employs about 28,000 in the U.S.A. the other 32,000 jobs are overseas.  ALCOA aluminum production helped us win WWll, build the best commercial aircraft in the world and have made some of the finest engineering breakthroughs using lightweight aluminum alloys. The newest Ford F-150, latest G-E Aircraft engines and Audi automobiles are three examples of ALCOA assisted engineering breakthroughs. So, if we are so good at engineering, innovation and creativeness, then why are so many of our jobs leaving the U.S.A. ?

Of course, it is not as simple as blaming energy and environmental rules that have gone rogue. It is at least nine factors which include energy regulations, misguided public education and excessive environmental laws for three of the nine:

  • Currency manipulation by our International trading partners
  • Trade Policies such as NAFTA which killed the Textiles and furniture industries in the south
  • Foreign manufacturers “Dumping” of products in America. Especially Steel & Aluminum
  • Unions which contributed to the demise of the US Steel and Aluminum Industries
  • Robots and automation of manufacturing processes to minimize human labor
  • Excessive Federal Government Regulations by non-elected Bureaucrats
  • Excessive Environmental and Energy Rules/Laws
  • Misguided Public education on the fundamentals and truth of energy production and environmental protection
  • Business concerns for the “Uncertainty” of future Federal Regulations


As America’s manufacturing workforce has declined, China’s has increased at an exponential rate. China has dumped steel and aluminum on the world markets and risen to be the largest manufacturer of steel and aluminum in just a decade. This has been done at the expense of American jobs. Here are several figures that illustrate the rise of China and the relationship of energy production/consumption in China.


Reasonable cost electricity is important to power competitive  manufacturing production. China has increased their productive capacity in part because of low cost coal power generation. Also, aided by low wages and currency manipulations. Please note the exponential growth of coal power production. China has built over 150 new coal plants in the last decade. India is also building many new coal plants. The Asian’s get it. Reasonable cost energy is needed to create economic growth and jobs.

The photo above is aluminum ingots for export from China. Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Dumping primary metals is possible with no regard for profitability in a Socialistic/Communist Nation. Full employment is important for the “Subjects” or “Communist Comrades” but unlike ALCOA, US Steel or Nucor Steel, the Chinese do not need to make a profit. They can and do produce enormous quantities of commodities and dump them on the world markets. When competition becomes difficult for them, then they manipulate their currency to make their exports more attractive.

Here are a series of graphs that illustrate the transfer of American Manufacturing Capacity to China. These are from reliable sources including the WSJ, US Government, Congressional Research Service, ALCOA Annual Report and the International Aluminum Institute.



Note the ramping up of Chinese aluminum capacity reached exponential growth rates starting about 2006. ALCOA employment that year was over 120,000 employees.

The world map with total aluminum production below shows China and the world production as of April 2016. China is less than a decade has increased their primary aluminum production capacity to now exceed 50% of the world capacity.

The future for American competitiveness is harmed by the loss of manufacturing in at least six ways:

  • Once a smelter is shut down it is very expensive to restart
  • Skilled craftsmen and technicians are lost
  • Engineering personnel are retired and their expertise is lost
  • Research & Development for new processes and advanced products are reduced because of the lack of funding from profitable manufacturing cash-flow
  • Reduced American jobs drive more College Students to study Humanities and Arts studies that have (mostly) dead end employment opportunities
  • Once prices are driven down by “Dumping” the consumers of aluminum ingot metal become accustomed to the artificially low prices and are reluctant to pay higher prices for American manufactured aluminum.

If you doubt the above, think about what China has done to the United States Steel Industry. It is hard for my son’s company, Storm Technologies to purchase US Made pipe and plate. When he does it is at greatly higher prices and longer lead times than Chinese steel. Even the recently completed San Francisco-Oakland Bridge was constructed of Chinese Steel. Worse yet, Chinese engineering and construction. This erosion of our intellectual and creative capacities, combined with the loss of productive manufacturing capacity is not helpful for our next Generation. This also contributes to the loss of Middle Class jobs and is related to Real-Estate sales.

More worrisome for the long term is the loss of funding for Research and Development of new products, most of which (R&D) has been funded by Industry from a portion of profits of manufacturing. So, as we lose manufacturing we also decline in intellectual property advancement for building products in the U.S.A.

The smelting of aluminum using the electrolytic process pioneered by the Aluminum Company of America uses about 6-7 kW of electricity to produce one pound of metal. It is one of the most electricity intensive manufacturing processes for a common metal. Low cost electricity is imperative to produce aluminum. For example, the aluminum ingot price on the London Metal Exchange is currently about $0.65 per pound. If it takes six kilowatts of electricity to produce one pound of aluminum, then at the US Wholesale electric rate of about $0.06/kW the electricity component for smelting alone is about $0.36/pound or over 50% of the selling cost of the ingot metal. This does not include the energy for refining Bauxite to Alumina and the transportation, labor, cost of Capital, Research & Development and yes, profit. Profit and Dividends to the investors should not be dirty words in America!

The production of aluminum is extremely energy intensive. The figure below illustrates the production of aluminum which requires enormous amounts of energy from the mine to the final use. (Of course the production of all primary metals are energy intensive including steel, copper, titanium, etc.)

The world supply and demand of the light metal has caused a severe drop in pricing from the combined effects of Chinese over-production (Dumping) and the world recession.

Meanwhile in China they have built more than 150 new Coal plants since 2006. America is shutting down about 300 existing coal plants and even more foolish, shutting down some nuclear units. The Chinese are not bound by the Paris COP 21 agreement to reduce carbon emissions. Neither is India. The Asian nations understand that their economic prosperity depends on carbon based fuels and or nuclear generated electricity to power their manufacturing capacity and to lift their people from poverty. So do the African nations. In fact, China is building coal power plants in Africa and other Developing Countries. We have ceded our leadership (and manufacturing jobs in the U.S.A.) of providing power plants to the Developing World to China, Japan and South Korea. When I entered the manufacturing business for power generation equipment in the 1960’s, the U.S. Agency for International Development (US AID) was sending U.S.A. manufactured generating components to build power plants, water purification systems and other infrastructure components to Developing Countries. The American industries that I remember participating in the USAID programs of the 1960’s were Babcock & Wilcox, Westinghouse, Combustion-Engineering, Foster-Wheeler and more.  Now China, South Korea and Japan have that lead. We send our earned wealth to finance Utilities in the Developing World. The manufacturing and jobs however, have been transferred to Asia.

The share of added value of manufacturing of various industrialized countries. Note the steep rise in Chinese Value Added Manufacturing since 2006.

How does China power their Manufacturing?  Same as the U.S.A. did in 2006, with Coal power. The difference is, America uses clean coal plants.  New coal plants for the U.S.A. cannot be built. There is no available and commercially viable technology to capture and sequester the carbon dioxide of coal fueled power plants. In essence, new coal plants (if the EPA so called, Clean Power Plan remains) are illegal to build.


A topic for another day is the discussion of Rare Earth Minerals and their strategic importance for America. The Federal Government rules on mining whether hard rock or coal are incredibly restrictive. Many Federal agencies just say NO to exploration, mining, drilling, Hydraulic Fracturing and any harvesting of natural resources. China, on the other hand, is exploiting the importance of raw materials, Not only in China but around the world including such places as Brazil, Africa, Canada and West Virginia. As I said, that is a topic for another day. Check the National Mining Association website for more information on the difficulties of obtaining a permit for any kind of mine. Remember the “Pebble Copper Mine” proposed for Alaska and killed by Federal Regulators a few years ago. This is just one of many examples. It is not only coal mining that the government regulators excessively regulate.

Back to ALCOA. The company continues to operate but at a much downsized business since the 1970’s when I first became associated with them as a contract engineer.  Alcoa was good to me. I traveled all over the world to four Continents and Jamaica while on contract for them. An example close to my last home town of the last 40 years is Stanly County, NC. In Stanly County when I moved there in 1977 the highest wages were paid by ALCOA’s Badin Woks aluminum smelter. For a small county of about 60,000 citizens the combined payroll of ALCOA and Textile firms was greater than sixty million dollars per year. Since the decline of local manufacturing in Textiles and the aluminum smelting operations about 8,000 jobs were lost in a County with a total population of about 63,000.  Most of the manufacturing and jobs moved to Asia.  The same story of lost middle class jobs can be told of jobs in Pennsylvania steel towns like Johnstown, Bethlehem, Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Fairless Hills.

  1. Pennsylvania Energy

Pennsylvania has become a major energy producing state thanks to the Marcellus Shale Gas formation and Hydraulic Fracturing. The economic boom of western PA is not from wind power or Renewables; it is from abundant natural gas production.  By the way, the EPA and Federal Regulators have more regulations and more restrictions in mind for natural gas. They are Ideologically driven to favor green energy and they over regulate any fossil fuel exploration or production. They hate fossil fuels and regulate accordingly.

Hydraulic Fracturing has revolutionized natural gas production in America. The amazing innovations and productivity of natural gas production has vaulted the U.S.A. to being the leading producer of natural gas in the world.


Quick Facts on Pennsylvania Energy from the EIA web site:

  • Pennsylvania’s annual gross natural gas production, primarily from the Marcellus Shale, exceeded 4 trillion cubic feet in 2014, doubling the state’s 2012 production and making Pennsylvania the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer.
  • Pennsylvania was the fourth-largest coal-producing state in the nation in 2013 and the only state producing anthracite coal, which has a higher heat value than other kinds of coal.
  • In 2014, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation in electricity generation from nuclear power. The state obtained 35.5% of its net electricity generation from nuclear power, nearly as much as the 36.1% obtained from coal.
  • Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards require 18% of electricity sold by 2021 to come from approved renewable or alternative sources, including at least 0.5% solar photovoltaic power. In 2014, renewable energy accounted for 4% of Pennsylvania’s net electricity generation.
  • As of 2013, 51% of Pennsylvania households used natural gas as their primary home heating fuel, while 21% depended on electricity for heat and 18% relied on fuel oil. Other heating fuels used in the state included propane, wood, and coal.
  • Natural gas (38%) provides heat to more Pennsylvania homes than any other fuel, but electricity (29%), fuel oil (20%), and propane (9%) are also widely used in the state, according to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

Last Updated: May 21, 2015                  By the US Dept. of Energy, EIA (Energy Information Agency)

  1. What Were the Top 10 Electricity Producing Plants in the U.S.A. in 2015?

The top 10 generating plants in the U.S.A. during 2015 are:

  1. Palo Verde, AZ 32.5
  2. Brown’s Ferry, TVA AL, 27.5
  3. Oconee, Duke Energy, SC, 21.9
  4. West County, FPL Natural Gas, 20.4
  5. Braidwood Nuclear, Exelon, IL, 19.7
  6. Byron Nuclear, Exelon, IL, 19.4
  7. South Texas Project, Nuclear, 19.4
  8. Limerick Nuclear, Exelon, 18.4
  9. Grand Coulee Dam, Washington State, 18.8
  10. Miller Coal Plant, Alabama Power, 17.8

These are major plants that truly carry the load to supply America with reliable high quality electric power. Notice, seven of the ten are nuclear plants. Not on this list, but important contributing nuclear plants are Exelon’s Three Mile Island, Clinton and Quad Cities Plants. There are now less than 100 operating nuclear plants in the U.S.A. and these provide the most reliable carbon free power. Just a few years ago there were 104 operating nuclear units. Why are they threatened with being shut down? Two reasons. Competitive Generation Economics because of low cost, abundant natural gas and forced subsidies of Renewable power such as wind and Solar. One of the top ten producers above, Byron Nuclear Power Plant has been reported as at Risk for shutdown, due to low competitive power generation costs of natural gas and subsidized Renewables.

The excessive Federal Regulations that favor “Green” energy and are against carbon based fuels combined with declining steady 24/7 industrial power demand has created uncertainty for the Utilities and shutdowns of many reliable power generation facilities. There are now 99 operating nuclear generating units. Most are over 30 years old but have been refurbished to run another 30 years. Two new nuclear power plants are being built in the U.S.A. One each by SCE&G and Southern Company.




  1. Coal Plant shutdowns

Coal has been the main fuel for reliable electric generation for the last 100 years. In fact, as recent as 2014, coal plants generated over 40% of America’s electricity. Due to Federal Regulations including the MATS (Mercury and Air Toxics) and Clean Power Plan (Carbon Limitations), many reliable coal plants are being shut down.

The map below is available from the EIA and National Mining Assoc. This shows the locations of 300 coal plants being shut down by 2020.

Another chart provided by the EIA which shows the electricity generation by type in 2014. Note that as recent as 2014 coal provided 18% of America’s Total Heat Energy. This represented about a Billion tons of coal. Since 2014 the coal consumption has been severely reduced, has Bankrupted many coal companies and reduced mining and coal plant employment.

Coal plant shutdowns have been caused by a number of factors which include:

  • The Hydraulic Fracturing advances that have made natural gas abundant and cheap over the last five years. A very recent and large “Step Change” in gas availability and pricing.
  • Federal Regulations, including The EPA and President’s War on Carbon based fuels
  • International trade policies
  • Shut Down of American factories. Especially primary metals producers
  • Efficiency improvements of LED Lighting, improved building codes for reduced heat losses
  • Low cost and abundant natural gas supplies
  • “Green Power” subsidies that force Renewable power on consumers including Industrial uses
  • Public pressure because of the Demagoguery and mis-information of the importance of coal for America

Last year, 2015 natural gas slightly exceeded coal as the predominant fuel for electric power production.

  1. What About Renewables

The “PA Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requires 18% of Pennsylvania’s electricity to be provided from renewable or alternative sources by 2021. Note that although growing, in 2014 only 4% of PA’s electricity was generated by wind, solar and other renewable sources.

As more and more Solar, Wind and Bio-Mass electric generation is forced on the public, the more the cost is going to increase and the more US manufacturing will be at a further disadvantage in world competition.

A key point to be made about Solar and Wind Power is, these are “Intermittent”. Unlike proven coal and nuclear plants that generate power 24/7 with well over 95% reliability, Renewable Power is intermittent and truly at the mercy of nature.

An example of the cost of solar as compared to a natural gas turbine. This cost analysis is provided by Philip Dowd and published on the “Watts up with That Blog”

The Capital costs of building a solar plant compared to a natural gas plant are compared. Basically, a solar project will cost about 13 times as much as a gas turbine plant of the same size. Also, provisions need to be made for backup power for nights and when the sun is not shining. The example given shows a Capital cost of $200 million dollars for a gas turbine combined cycle plant and $2.6 Billion dollars for a similar sized Solar plant.

As Renewables are being forced on Americans, it is raising the true cost of electricity. Tax credits make it attractive to developers to install solar and wind production facilities, but the fact remains, they are expensive.

Germany and the UK have had recent experiences of escalation of electricity prices and concerns about electric Grid reliability. America should learn from the experiences of these other countries that have forced Renewable power on their citizens. The high cost of renewable power is only reported in trade journals and not widely known by the American public. The abundant and low cost natural gas produced in Pennsylvania, Texas and North Dakota has permitted relatively flat power costs. The low cost and abundant natural gas has masked the rising cost of power generation by the move to Renewables. Natural gas has a history of cost volatility. If the U.S.A. starts exporting our natural gas to sell at world market prices it will be good for America’s trade balance and for jobs in America. But, the world market cost of natural gas is about four times that in the U.S.A. So, with about 80% of the cost of power generation in a Thermal Power plant being the cost of fuel, when natural gas prices rise, so will the production cost of electricity.


  1. Electricity demand on this facility is 4,800 MWh/day, about the demand for a community of 160,000 average households[i]
  2. The “up time” of both plants must be equal. That is, both must be equally reliable and produce the demand for the same fraction of time over the course of one year.

Estimated Capital Cost to Generate Electricity

This does not include the cost of backup power such as natural gas, nuclear, coal and hydropower plants that must be maintained and ready to replace power when the solar plant becomes unavailable. The backup power provided by conventional power plants is a large factor that is causing extreme problems for the Utilities that have much of the current installed capacity that is depended on when needed but not adequately compensated for to keep in first class condition and ready for backup of the “Politically Correct” Renewable Power generation. The most extreme example of the harm being done is the shutting down of perfectly reliable and safe nuclear power plants. Once the lowest cost power production available.

Low production cost of electricity has been the backbone of American manufacturing, Reasonable cost electric power in the past has truly fueled America’s economic prosperity and productive capacity. Here is a perspective on the cost of producing electricity from the Nuclear Energy Institute:

Nuclear electricity production costs are much lower than any other type of generation .  This can be seen from the Nuclear Energy Institute’s website, which provides the production costs for nuclear, coal, natural gas, and petroleum generating units. (Renewable energy sources are not included.)  The costs are based on data submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the FERC Form 1 by regulated electric utility companies. These costs are shown in the graph which follows.  Note, excluding Renewables which are only competitive because of subsidies, Nuclear Power is the least cost generation. Nuclear for those who believe man is changing the climate, is the largest most reliable form of “Carbon Free” energy.

POWER Magazine wrote recently that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, said: U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said the time will come—perhaps 10 to 15 years from now—when “nuclear power is going to have to see a substantial resurgence.”

Moniz was speaking on May 19 at the “Summit on Improving the Economics of America’s Nuclear Power Plants.” He provided opening remarks, framing the challenges facing the nuclear power industry, but not offering a remedy for the problems.

Economics Are Challenging Nuclear Power

“I think the challenge is very clear,” Moniz said. “With the economic challenges facing certainly some of our nuclear plants, we’re seeing—as you well know—some closures before license expirations. We’re seeing the prospect of even more. The importance of incentivizing continued operation, I think, is very clear, but the solutions are less clear.”

Moniz  noted that nuclear power accounts for roughly 60% of the U.S.’s zero-carbon generation. As such, he suggested that it is hugely important in the country’s quest to meet carbon reduction goals by 2030 and beyond.



When Capital cost of installation, fuel costs, maintenance and all operational costs are considered, here is one estimate of power generation costs from new generation technologies.

As you can see, the lowest costs are for conventional coal and natural gas generation. Nuclear power generation reductions, such as premature nuclear plant closings is an unexpected consequence of the “Green Energy” policies. This trend, in my opinion, is contributing to the De-Industrialization and weakening of America’s productive capacity.

  1. What are some of the Issues of Drastically Swinging the Load of Large Coal and Nuclear Power Plants? Reliability of electric power supplies is important to any advanced economy. The issues of reliability and cost is not explained by the news media or by fair public service education by the government. There are disadvantages and risks of forcing green renewable power onto the Electric Grid. Green, carbon free power sounds good but what are some of the hidden costs and challenges? Well, here is a challenge that only electric utility engineers and people close to the industry are aware. That is the fact that when renewable power is forced onto the Grid, the backup power (coal, nuclear and natural gas) must be backed down. Imagine a huge generating unit of say 500 MW running on coal fuel and stable. As the sun comes up or the wind starts to blow the wind generators, the power is forced onto the grid and the load must be immediately reduced to minimum. It may not seem like a big deal to those who have not had power plant operation experiences but a large coal plant usually will take hours to startup and increase load to maximum. Safely shutting down should be a matter of hours to gradually reduce the load and take the equipment out of service. In the real world of forced renewables here is the actual impact of the forcing of solar or wind on the California Independent System Operator:

In this example, as the sun went down 13,000 MW needed to be started up within three hours to replace that power generation loss. This can be done with fast starting natural gas turbines. It is very difficult to do this with the existing coal and nuclear plants that carry most of the load and stabilize the frequency and voltage of the Grid.


From my personal experiences about six years ago in Nevada, we were working at a small coal plant near Las Vegas which had total generation capacity of about 600 MW. The Renewable Power Portfolio laws in Nevada are similar to Pennsylvania and tax incentives were given to encourage the installation of Solar panels by home owners and commercial locations. As the sun came up in the morning a near immediate reduction in power demand was seen on the system. The 600 MW of solar power was equivalent to the entire output of the coal plant. At the end of the day when the sun set, there was a similar sudden reduction in power production by the solar panels requiring that the power plant be ramped up.

Now when we get industrial sized batteries and inverters to cover these swings it will likely be handled with new technologies of storage. But, until then, the quality of power including frequency, VAR’s, voltage and Grid balance is a challenge.  High capacity storage is decades away, in my view. Electric Grid voltage and frequency stability is better with today’s technology by having massive conventional nuclear and coal plants stabilizing the grid.

The sudden drastic increase in natural gas generation has mitigated the effects of Renewable power intermittency.  The Shale Gas Revolution was not planned ten years ago. Inexpensive and abundant natural gas came on us not through good energy policy planning but by Free Markets and American ingenuity.

Likewise, the current reasonable cost of electricity is not due to “Free Power” from the sun and wind. The reason power costs are level is primarily because of low cost natural gas. Other contributing factors are excessive generation capacity due to Industrial Power reductions (less manufacturing) and existing nuclear plants that have a low power generation cost. Remember the old STP Oil Treatment ad where the statement is made, “Pay me now or pay me later” It is an appropriate phrase for forcing green energy on the grid. America  will eventually  pay a high price for these Ideologically driven policies.


  1. What About the Cost of Producing Electricity?

Most of the production cost of a coal or natural gas plant production is fuel. In round numbers about 80% of the cost to produce electricity in a coal or gas plant is for fuel. Nuclear plants have a high Capital cost and low fuel cost. Renewable power is much higher cost production and to be competitive it is given subsidies.

For example, here are two charts that show the cost of European electricity prices and how these compare  to the U.S.A. electricity costs.

The European experiences with shutting down nuclear power plants and forcing green energy has come at a high cost. It would be helpful if American Regulators would study the results of green policies in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

The lowest cost generation is nuclear, coal and natural gas used in Thermal Power Plants as shown in the preceding graphs from the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Institute for Energy Research (IER).




Here is a map of the U.S.A. which shows power costs by state and the percentage of coal generation. This is from the National Mining Association website.

Cost Per kWh & Percent of

Coal Power Sector Generation

Sources: Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, March 2016 (2015 prelim. data); WGL Energy Services, District of Columbia (2015); California Energy Commission (2014 latest available); Washington State Department of Commerce (2014 latest available); Idaho Power (2014 latest available). 2015 data are preliminary.

  1. Summary of How We Got into this Mess and What Can Be Done to Correct it?

The reasons we have such a mess of our energy and environmental policies are many. There is ample blame to go around and one the main reasons has been the natural gas “Boom” that has created abundant supplies of natural gas which have driven natural gas power generation prices downward. This is good for America. Combined with the natural gas boom has been tax subsidies or “Production Tax Credits” for Renewable Power from Biomass, Wind and Solar generation. “Green Power Only” is very harmful and not good for America’s long term interests.

The impact of all of these factors together have created unintended consequences of causing perfectly good, well maintained, safe and carbon free nuclear plants to become economically uncompetitive. Two Exelon Plants have publicly announced they will shut down in 2017. These are the Illinois nuclear plants “Clinton and Quad Cities”. The Three Mile Island plant has been discussed as a possible for shutdown due to current economic conditions. So has the Byron Nuclear plant been discussed as being at risk. To those of us who have been involved in the electric generation industry for decades and understand the long term consequences of these shutdowns, we are concerned for America.

My list of reasons why we have gotten into this mess follows.

Ten Regulatory components of why we have such an energy and environmental rules mess:

  1. Regulations to force “Green Energy” on the public.
  2. Subsidies of green energy with tax dollars
  3. News Media indoctrination of green energy as being the only way to go by the government. Driven by influential persons and groups who basically follow an Ideological “Green Religion”
  4. Use of Federal Agencies to spread biased information on science. NASA, NOAA, Dept. of State, Dept. of the Interior, The Office of the President,
  5. Public education at all levels, including College level, has been incentivized to come on board with the greens to push the renewable agenda by University Grants and Federal Funding. AT least two states (Washington and California) have implemented book destruction if the textbooks do not conform to “Green Policies”
  6. Large corporations, especially Utilities have accepted the push for solar and wind. Why not? They will get compensated just as well by building wind towers and solar farms as with building new coal or nuclear plants. Less risk, good payback. Why fight for right? There are at least two ex CEO’s of major US Electric Utilities that are examples of “Green Ideologues”. Two I know of are thankfully, retired. Both are leftist lawyers. Both lobbied for more green subsidies and a carbon tax. In the case of one Utility that has 17 nuclear power plants, the green subsidies have back-fired on his plan to make carbon free nuclear plants attractive. It was not only the pro-renewable energy policies that is causing problems for nuclear, it is also abundant and inexpensive natural gas generation as is covered below.
  7. Unexpected as all of the “Green Push” was going on came the outstanding success and innovation of Hydraulic Fracturing and enormous amounts of natural gas flooding the markets and causing prices to drop sharply. Ten years ago few people expected natural gas production in the U.S.A. to reach the levels it went to. Prices to drop to less than coal in $/million Btu’s
  8. High Efficiency natural gas generating plants that use Gas Turbines with heat recovery and a steam turbine topping cycle. These plants called Gas Turbine, Combined Cycle are far more efficient than coal plants.  G-E, Siemens and Mitsubishi and more manufacturers around the world, build these plant components like they produce jet engines…assembly line style. Low cost and manufacturing that can be done anywhere from Charlotte to Hanoi to China… The components for one of the   G-E GTCC plants that I am familiar with, were manufactured in locations all over the world.
  9. American manufacturing has declined, especially energy intensive primary metals manufacture like aluminum, steel and copper. This freed up enormous amounts of power generation once needed 24/7 for industry to be available for commercial malls and residential. ALCOA’s dams in Stanly County is an example. The 100 MW of ALCOA Hydro is double the 50 MW used by the city of Albemarle (population about 20,000) on the highest demand day of the year.  Worse yet, industry used to use power at night that flattened the load demand. Now we have sharp swings of load demand from high to low and large coal or nuclear plants cannot be run from 10% to 100% load like a gas turbine can be. This gives gas plants another advantage of being fast to respond to load changes.
  10. Then there is the carbon hating mainstream media in my area the most biased are CBS 60 Minutes and the Charlotte Observer which have hyped up coal ash concerns when the public health issues are not near as bad as reported.

My recommendations for the future are to do whatever is necessary to keep a “Balanced Portfolio” of electricity generating plants that use Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Renewable power.

I have referenced a report by the National Coal Council which prepared a report following the 2014 “Polar Vortex”. The state of Pennsylvania during that extreme cold period was importing 2,000 MW from the Midwest. Luckily, the transmission lines remained capable of keeping power reliable over that long distance. Should a similar extreme cold or extreme heat weather event come to pass in 2017, we may face the true prospect of rolling Blackouts or Brownouts. Why? Because over 300 coal plants and at least five nuclear plants that were operating in 2014 are not likely to be operable in 2017. Concerning electricity prices of the future, it is my prediction that when natural gas supplies and demand come closer in alignment, the price of natural gas will increase to levels comparable to the world markets. The cost of electricity production from thermal plants is about 80% fuel cost. So, if natural gas prices rise sharply, so will electricity production prices. It is the cost escalation of electricity from over regulation that I fear will create more problems for American manufacturing competitiveness in the world markets.  One of the “Root Causes” of escalating electricity prices will be Federal Regulations and the Renewable Power Standards.

I hope this presentation helps you understand where our electricity and energy comes from and some of the complicated policies that create uncertainty for the future. I would point out the National Coal Council Report of 2014 which reported on the near “Blackouts” that we were perilously close to during the Polar Vortex of January 2014. Extreme weather events such as this, will be harder to handle with large coal and nuclear plants shutdown. I have attached references and links for further research. If you only read or peruse one of the listed references, I suggest that you refer to # 34 the National Coal Council Report of “the Value of the Existing Coal Fleet”. Read about the “Polar Vortex” of January 2014 and the many reliability issues that were compounded from freezing lines, gas pipeline choking, transmission line limitations and absence of Renewable power during a time of extreme demand. Next winter could be a “Perfect Storm” for Blackouts if extreme cold weather recurs, such as it did during the 2014 Polar Vortex.  In my opinion, America’s green energy and environmental policies have set us up for some painful and expensive experiences that will be harmful to our Nation’s economic recovery as well as energy security. Current complicated Energy and environmental regulations have contributed to the decline of American manufacturing, a decline of middle class American jobs and weakened National Security.  I hope the foregoing information and references below are helpful to you.

Prepared by,

Richard F. Storm, PE, CEM

Dick Storm

55 Headlands Drive

Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

References and materials for Further Reading and Research:

  1. Competitive Enterprise Institute, 10,000 Commandments by Wayne Crews:
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Manufacturing Employment, May 2016- 12.28 million:
  3. Congressional Research Service, April 2016 Report by Mark Levinson on American and World Manufacturing  Statistics and trends:
  4. Congressional Research Service, Rare Earth Materials for National Defense and the concern of China’s dominance of control of such elements:
  5. International Aluminum Association
  6. Coalition for a Prosperous America web site regarding “Fair Trade”
  7. San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Made in China:
  8. file:///Users/richardstorm/Documents/Economic%20Reports%20and%20Data/World%20Aluminium%20—%20Primary%20Aluminium%20Production%20by%20IAI%20April%202016.webarchive
  9. EIA Annual Energy Outlook Early Release, 2016:
  10. National Mining Association:
  11. NASA Earth at Night composite photo:
  12. NETL’s Carl Bauer Presentation, 2006:
  13. EIA Sankey Diagram of U.S.A. Energy:
  14. S.A. Citizen per Capita Energy Use Figure: Storm Technologies, Inc. Power Point Presentation to Civic Organizations about 2010. Other presentations are available on the Storm Technologies, Inc. website:
  15. Nucor Slide of U.S.A. Manufacturing Jobs, from NUCOR Townhall Meeting presentation about 2008. Update of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.A. in 2015 from National Assoc of Manufacturers (NAM)
  16. Dan DiMicco, CEO NUCOR Steel, Book, “Steeling America’s Future”, A CEO’s call to arms, saving free trade. Vox Populi Publishers, LLC , 2007
  17. World Steel Organization: Facts on China Steel Production
  18. Wall Street Journal article on China production keeping a lid on aluminum prices:
  19. New York Times article on Aluminum Dumping by China:
  20. Metal Miner Blog articles on Steel and Aluminum dumping by China:
  21. Institute for Energy Research (IER)
  22. Pennsylvania Energy Quick Facts: EIA
  23. Top Ten Generating Plants in U.S.A. May 23, 2016 U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
  24. Coal Plant Shutdowns:
  25. Exelon to Shutdown Two Nuclear Power Plants in Illinois:
  26. Power Magazine, June 7, 2016: Exelon Byron and Three Mile Island Plants also at Risk:
  27. S. Department of Energy Remarks, POWER Magazine, May 20, 2016:
  28. Grid Parity for Renewables: An Empty Concept (Parts 1 & 2) Mark Febrizio, March 21, 2016, IER:
  29. Gas and Solar Comparison Costs: Blog “Watts up with That” by Blog owner, Anthony Watts
  30. S. Electricity Generation Production Costs: Nuclear Energy Institute:,-Operation,-Waste-Disposal-Life-Cycle/US-Electricity-Production-Costs
  31. California System Operator Demand Problem with Renewables, “Duck Curve” page 68, Donn Dears book: “Nothing to Fear, A Bright Future for Fossil Fuels”
  32. Donn Dears Blog: “Power For the U.S.A.” Donn is a retired G-E Executive engineer with outstanding credentials and common sense:
  33. World Electricity Price Comparisons:
  34. The National Coal Council May 2014 Report: “The Value of the Existing Coal Fleet”:
  35. A good read of a speech by the father of Nuclear Power, Hyman G. Rickover’s speech to the medical association of Minnesota on peak oil and the future of energy and atoms for peace, 1957: A very prescient genius. Worth the read:
  36. Heritage Economic Freedom
  37. Listing of Countries by  Economic Freedom:





Believer in Freedom to use of Energy for sustainable high quality lives