Sunday, July 23, 2017

Lawsuit on Climate Change - Marin Co. v Chevron et al

Subtitle:  Saying It Is So in a Lawsuit Does Not Make It True

The lawsuits just keep coming in the climate change "shaky science" arena.  Or, as some would call it "Bogus Science"  where that abbreviates to BS.   This one is actually a triple lawsuit, with California counties Marin and San Mateo filing separate lawsuits, and Imperial Beach (a coastal city near San Diego) filing yet a third lawsuit.   
Attorney; Arguing his Case

This article will address some of the legal claims, the "facts" listed in the Marin County complaint that supposedly support those legal claims, and what grounds, shaky or firm, those facts stand upon.   A few legal defenses that likely will apply are discussed.  The Marin County complaint is the basis for this article.   There are so many issues to discuss, this article will likely be updated over the coming weeks and months.  

For the bare information, the Marin County complaint is Case Number CIV1702586.  It was filed in Marin County Superior Court on July 17, 2017.   The complaint lists eight causes of action and comprises 111 pages.  The named defendants number 37, although many are the same company operating under slightly different names.    The complaint may be found online at this link.  The link leads to a PDF file of approximately 2.1 MB size. 

Overview of the Complaint

Marin County claims that injury or damage will occur to its long coastline due to sealevel rise that is caused, and will be caused in the future, by greenhouse gases that were released by public consumption of fossil fuels oil, coal, and natural gas.  These fossil fuels were produced and sold by the listed defendants, mostly oil and coal companies.  Further, the complaint contends that the production companies knew decades ago that the use of their products would cause global warming and sealevel rise.   Even knowing the global warming would occur, they contend, the defendants produced and sold the products without warning the customers.   Marin County is outraged; and wants compensation from the defendants.  

The County is so outraged, the demand for relief includes this line:  "equitable disgorgement of all profits Defendants obtained through their unlawful and outrageous conduct."  (Complaint p. 82, lines 1-2.)   As an aside, that would amount to many hundreds of billions of dollars, if the court were to agree.  

The Complaint tells a fairly fascinating story, but hardly any of it is true. The story is supported by numerous references and footnotes, however those are cherry-picked to support the story line.  References that completely refute the story line are, of course, not mentioned. 

Marin County is just north of San Francisco, with the Pacific Ocean on the West and San Francisco Bay on the East.   It forms the northern part of the entrance to San Francisco Bay; with the famous Golden Gate Bridge's northern portion located in the county.   It is fairly small in size, only 520 square miles of land, although the county claims another 300 square miles of water (per Wikipedia, so who knows how accurate all that is).   The county is famous, or infamous, in California as having some of the wealthiest residents (more than $100,000 annual income per family) with the kookiest views.   Voter registration records indicate that more than 77 percent of the voters registered as Democrat, 15 percent as Republican, and the rest as Other. 

Situated on the northern peninsula as it is, Marin County has beach and shore on both the Pacific Ocean and the bay.   This is vital to the legal complaint because the County contends serious damage will occur to the shore as climate change causes unstoppable sealevel rise.  

The Complaint lists 8 causes of action, listed here for convenience.

  1. Public Nuisance  - on behalf of the People of the State of California
  2. Public Nuisance
  3. Strict Liability - Failure to Warn
  4. Strict Liability - Design Defect
  5. Private Nuisance
  6. Negligence 
  7. Negligence - Failure to Warn, and
  8. Trespass. 

The complaint then lists what it calls "Facts" that requires 55 pages to describe. 

Likelihood of Success on the Merits

The complaint was, lucky for Plaintiffs, filed in the state court in California.  This allows them a better chance of actually going to trial and not being thrown out for lack of standing.  Recently, federal courts have dismissed such lawsuits on lack of standing grounds.   California has a more relaxed standard for hearing the complaint. 

However, the Defendants must survive a challenge, a Motion for Summary Judgment.   Plaintiff will likely file such a motion, claiming there are undisputed facts that show there is no reason to proceed to trial.  However, with climate science as the subject, essentially every fact in the complaint is subject to dispute.   About the only undisputed fact is that burning fossil fuels does, indeed, produce carbon dioxide.  Whether the carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas is certainly the subject of dispute.   The gas CO2 does absorb infrared heat, or radiant heat, under some conditions; that is not subject to dispute.  However, whether the CO2 absorbs a sufficient amount of radiant energy to make any difference is quite debatable.   On balance, Plaintiffs would likely not succeed on the Motion for Summary Judgment.   That brings the matter to the trial stage. 

There would be intense legal activity in discovery, to find documents and other material that may be suitable as evidence for trial.   There would be intense activity with expert witnesses for both sides. 

Finally, the trial would occur.  

The result would be that a jury would be very confused with some experts claiming one thing while other experts claim the opposite.   SLB wrote on this very subject a while back.  see link   to "Science in the Courts - A Communication Problem; Also a Matter of What is Truth" 1 January 2016, R. Sowell.

The defendants would have a chance of success by showing several things are true about Bogus Science, BS in climate change.  

First, the underlying data has been modified, changed, altered, adjusted multiple times.  Many, many times.   This is true whether the data in question is land surface temperatures, ocean surface temperatures, sealevel rise, and other data sets. 

Second, each time the data is adjusted, climate scientists announce the new results with solemn faces and a plea to trust them, these results are true.   Then, of course, a few years later the data is changed again.  The climate scientists act as if the public has zero memory, that archives do not exist, and their previous announcements simply did not occur.  

Third, the many dire predictions by the BS have not occurred, despite more than 50 years of fossil fuel use in the industrialized era.   With respect to sealevel, no islands have been sent underwater.  No populations have been displaced.   Further, the natural, normal process has sealevel increasing over time.  This itself deserves a full paragraph. 

Fourth, the distinction must be made between natural causes and man-made causes for any climate-related outcome.  Defendants would do well to point to the long-term record of sealevel rise, over many thousands of years.  The fact is very plain that nothing abnormal has occurred in sealevel rise over the past 100 years.   

One of the natural causes that appears to be sealevel rise is actually land subsidence.  Defendants should emphasize this point.  

Another natural cause that appears to be man-made global warming is the normal, natural cycle of climate through mini-ice ages, full ice-ages, and warmer periods.  The Earth is presently in a natural warming cycle after a few hundred years of a mini-ice age that ended in approximately 1850.  It is pure BS (bogus science) to claim a coincidental correlation of increased CO2 emissions with increased average air temperature is caused by the CO2.  The fact is, multiple times in the past, the Earth had similar cold-warm cycles when fossil fuel use was so small as to be trivial. 

Fifth, defendants must listen, and read, closely to determine which points the BS plaintiffs make are based on the results of computer models.  These are extremely faulty, inaccurate, and simply do not predict reality.  The main body of climate scientists, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change), states quite clearly that it is impossible to effectively model the climate because the system is inherently unstable, chaotic, and for other reasons.  

Here ends the article for now.   More will be added, most assuredly. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Saturday, July 22, 2017

US Renewables Output Exceeds Nuclear Plant Output

Subtitle:  Renewables Output Grows While Nuclear Slows

The US electrical grid is going through massive changes as several things happen.  This article shows EIA data for the past few years, with combined monthly renewable energy (electricity) output exceeding the combined output of all the nuclear plants in the US. 
source:  EIA, "Today In Energy" website

The data and chart are from US Energy Information Agency, EIA, covering the years 1980 through first half 2017.  see link

The significance of this chart is how much wind energy (the green area of the chart) has grown since approximately 2008.  In only just under 10 years (2008-2017 inclusive), wind has grown from not visibly noticeable on the chart to approximately one-half the total renewable energy generated in the US.  Many authoritative sources have been saying this for years, of course.  There are, though, many nay-sayers who simply cannot fathom how airplane wings twirling in the wind can produce electrical power into a grid.  And yet, the chart above shows this clearly.   The amount at the far right-hand part of the chart shows approximately 30 billion kWh for the month, just for wind energy.    That is approximately the same output as all the hydroelectric plants produced.  The hydroelectric plants are having a banner year, with the El Nino rains placing an above-average amount of water in the combined reservoirs that feed the hydroelectric plants.  

Meanwhile, the other big trend in the US shows up as a tiny step-change in 2012 in the top line, the line for nuclear plant output.  That downward blip represents the closing of the SONGS nuclear plant in California, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  SONGS had a major leak in the new steam generators they purchased and installed, and elected to shut down the plant rather than investigate the cause of the leaks and report on that cause to the NRC.  The NRC determined that the leaks were from an unknown cause, not seen in all the hundreds of reactor-years in more than 400 nuclear plants world-wide.  

Now that SONGS is shut down, more nuclear plants are also shutting down but for slightly different reasons.  The main reason is they are losing money with each month they operate.  The Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska shut down for exactly that reason at the end of 2016.  More nuclear plants have disclosed they are losing money at a horrendous rate and will also close if they do not receive adequate subsidies from the state governments.   The nuclear plant fleet in the US is rapidly approaching an average age of 40 years.  Almost every nuclear power plant in the US has already closed by the age of 40 years from startup. 

The next decade in the US will no doubt see at least one-half of the nuclear plants shut down.  With 99 still running, that is approximately 50 shutdowns.  

Meanwhile, wind turbines are being built in record numbers and enjoying profitability with power sales prices below 5 cents per kWh.  The design improvements, larger sizes, and taller support towers all combine to make wind energy extremely efficient and economic.  

Thus, when such a graph is created again in 5 years, and 10 years from now, the top line for nuclear power will be substantially lower.  I expect that by 2027, nuclear output per month will be no more than half that of today, or 32 billion kWh per month.   In sharp contrast, wind energy output will likely be 70 billion kWh per month or more.   At that rate of output, 70 billion kWh per month, wind energy would represent only 20 percent of the total US electricity production.  That, 20 percent, is well below the level that any grid stability problems are predicted to occur.  

The long-term business opportunity in the US lies in decommissioning nuclear plants, with an average of 5 per year shutting down over the next decade.   Another long-term opportunity is in the construction and installation of large wind turbines.  The next generation of wind turbines will be the 4 MW, 6 MW, and 8 MW per turbine output.  

A famous singer said it well:  "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind."

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Nuclear Plants at VC Summer in Dire Straits

Subtitle:  The Bad News Keeps Piling On

The bad news just keeps rolling in for the nuclear power industry.  Besides the Vogtle twin-reactor project having long delays and $billions in cost overruns, the twin-reactor project in South Carolina is now being considered for simple abandonment.  see link to article "Economist predicts spike in power bills if SCE&G nuke project moves ahead."  dated 18 July 2017.  

The Summer nuclear plant expansion, like Vogtle, has two Westinghouse AP-1000 pressurized water reactors under construction.   These are supposed to be the best the US has to offer, with the "AP" in the name standing for "Advanced Passive."  These supposedly are faster and lest costly to construct due to their advanced design features.    Apparently not. 

These are pressurized water reactors, PWR, with twin steam generators per reactor.  The Passive portion in the name refers to an elevated water storage tank and dispersion system that is supposed to give the plant operators more time to sort things out when everything goes horribly wrong.  

The cost estimate at Summer keeps increasing, which is normal for nuclear power plants.  However, what is not usual is the call to stop the construction - 30 percent complete at this time - and save all the money that would be required to finish the plant.   

Financing this plant was done by increasing the monthly bill for ratepayers, the customers.  That is unusual in itself.  

The plant's detractors state there is no need for the power from the plant expansion.  The existing generating assets apparently have plenty of capacity without the new reactors.   In practice, that would mean that if and when the two reactors are finished, and they start running, some other plants must either throttle back substantially, or shut down.   That is not a good solution.  

The nuclear power industry is in sad shape these days.  One must wonder about the wisdom of building new reactors in times when existing plants are shutting down because they lose too much money.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A New Blog - Conversation with a Chemical Engineer

 A Conversation with a Chemical Engineer my new blog, is up and running.

In that blog, ACWChE, topics will include areas of interest to engineers and non-technical types.  These will be energy in most forms, renewable, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear, plus grid-scale storage in several forms.   There will be articles on the science and data in climate science.  Other articles will address fresh water issues.   Some articles will address state-of-the art vehicles, such as pure electric vehicles, PEVs.   A few articles will consider topics with political implications, especially where issues that are important to ChEs are involved.

Why a new blog?  A few goals are to have more comments, more interaction with readers, and to disseminate the means and methods used by chemical engineers in analyzing and solving problems.   There are an awful lot of problems in this world that could use solving.  Perhaps the chemical engineers' techniques can help.  

There are major issues with resource development, mineral extraction, chemical production of all types, waste management, recycling, chemicals and fertilizers for agriculture, chemical aspects of renewable energy such as batteries and synthetic methane.  There are also areas of improved chemical materials that have desirable properties of lighter weight, more strength, and more resistant to corrosion.   In these and many other issues, chemical engineers have an important role.  I hope to have a conversation about that. 

Roger Sowell, Esq. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

On the Evolution of Blogging

Subtitle: A Blog is Much Like a Social Club

Some things have become more and more clear to me recently, with the articles that are written, and the comments on various blogs.   This short article goes into what I see happening there and the good and bad ramifications. 

Start with a social club, a private club.  These organizations almost always are very much homogeneous.  People join who are of the same opinions, same social status, same economic level, same skin color, even the same religion in many cases.   It is rare to find much diversity in one of those clubs.  

How are blogs like that?  The topic for a given blog, or even a few topics if it is broadly based, has a certain point of view.   Some, especially in the climate science field, allow no contrary views to those of the blog owner or owners.   The comments also, where commenting is allowed, may have a common theme.  A dissenting viewpoint in comments is typically hooted at, or shouted down - as that is done in writing, anyway.   The dissenter is typically vilified, called various derogatory names, insulted, and sometimes libeled.  

I have watched this happen, in person, on a couple of blogs.   I make no claim to having participated in many blogs, as my time is limited.  I am limited to reading and commenting on just three, beside writing my own.  Those are, in no particular order, Climate Etc., Jo Nova, and Watts Up With That.   Still, although a small data set, there are common elements.  

I read each one, or at least that was my original intention, to keep up with developments in the climate science area.  I wanted to learn things.   Eventually, I gained enough confidence to leave a comment.   However, my commenting was typically to disagree with what was in the article, or with what a commenter had written.   It appears that most of us have a body of knowledge that we feel is true. When someone asserts an opposing position to be true, the choice then is ours whether to respond or not.   Most of the time, I did not.  But occasionally, I would respond to disagree.  I would give my facts and reasons.  I tried to be very courteous, not engaging in the vilification described above.   

I was then that  I found myself the target of the vilification and the rest of it. 

This is true, in my experience, on Jo Nova, where some know-it-all writes prolifically about the wonders of coal-fired power plants.  He claims some engineering background, but the evidence of that escapes me.  I pointed out a few times his wrong statements, for which I was roundly berated as a know-nothing.   After a few rounds of that, I confess I left that site and don't go back.    And that, the leaving the site, is very much what happens in a social club when a non-conformist enters the club.  The existing members will make the non-conformist so uncomfortable that he chooses to leave.   More on that in a bit. 

My experience at Climate Etc. was not much better, although I don't really read or comment there much.  There are a couple of regulars on that site that really blistered me with scathing comments when I pointed out their false statements.   The sad thing is, Dr. Curry allows both of those characters to post guest posts on her blog.   Well, that is her choice.    Again, I chose to stop reading and commenting on that blog, too.  

And then, there is Watts Up With That.   I have made more than a dozen guest posts on that blog, and left hundreds if not thousands of comments since early in 2009.   Anthony Watts, the blog owner and principal author of posts, has graciously allowed me space to write those guest posts.  At one point, Anthony also asked me to take a day off work and drive down to Anaheim to attend a lecture given by infamous Michael Mann, PhD.  see link I was also asked to ask Dr. Mann a question during the question and answer period.   I was happy to do all that, and I did.  The results were several guest posts on WUWT, and many hundreds of comments by dozens of people.  Some were positive, and many were negative, too.   

But, my point is that, over the years, almost all of the commenters that I enjoyed reading and exchanging views with have quit commenting there.  There is an entire new cast of characters.  And, they almost all have the same viewpoint: catastrophic man-made global warming is over-hyped (with that I agree), renewable energy is bad (with that I mostly disagree), and nuclear energy is good (with that I completely disagree).   

What is more of a dismay, though, is the writings as guest posts by three prolific, but usually very wrong writers.  I probably should not name them, but their identities are fairly easy to determine.  They all have one thing in common, though, they agree strongly with the three WUWT positions just mentioned: climate science, renewable energy, and nuclear energy.  

I wrote an article here on SLB about the one-sided statements and articles on WUWT, pertaining to wind energy projects.  see link   As background, several years ago, I had written and Anthony posted an article on the benefits from vertical axis wind turbines. see link  But, that was the only one out of approximately 50 articles on wind that were positive.   It seems that WUWT goes out of the way to scour the news for examples of wind turbine failures.  These are highlighted, for example with a photo of a helicopter in the air, from which a man is spraying some liquid (a de-icing fluid, it appears) onto the frozen, ice-covered blades of a wind turbine.   Another that comes to mind is a photo of smoke billowing from a wind turbine that caught fire.  

More recently, the economic troubles in Australia that supposedly stem from too many wind turbines have received much ink at WUWT.  

So, I sometimes join in the comments and give various facts, such as how no grids are destabilized in the US due to solar or wind energy at grid-scale.  And, how the economics of both solar and wind energy have dramatically improved in the past decade.  Also, how there are yet more technical improvements to be had that will improve the annual output and reduce installation costs.    I also comment, as appropriate, on the nuclear power articles.  

And the vilification, berating, belittling, and sometimes libeling begins again.  At one time, I swore off ever reading or commenting again at WUWT.    I discussed that with Anthony, too.  He encouraged me to stick with it, as he himself has had much worse thrown his way.  On that, he is absolutely correct.   He has been the target of some truly vicious, illegal, and sickening behavior.   

So, how is this like a social club?  And, how does that impact anything?   I'll use the WUWT as the example.  Years ago, as I said, I was a frequent reader and commenter there.  I found lots of kind, friendly commenters, and a few guest authors, that responded to my comments.   However, those commenters are gone, from what I can see.    A few old-timers are still there, but they are not the kind people.  These are the opposite. 

Why would the commenters, and the guest authors, become so very homogeneous?  There are various terms for it in the social science literature, group-think, echo-chamber both come to mind.   More fundamentally, it is simply very difficult to accept that one's personal bias is not correct.   It is very hard to give up long-cherished ideas, to find that what one thought was true was actually false.    A famous quote is along those lines, I'm not sure who said this.  "When new facts present themselves, I change my mind.  What do you do, Sir?"  I like that quote, because I like to discover the facts, and form my opinions based on the facts.  And, it is perfectly ok with me when the facts change.   I don't mind.  

As examples, it was a fact a few decades ago that wind turbines were very expensive to construct and had low output.  Those were the facts.   I would not have wanted huge amounts of electricity input to a grid with those wind turbines.  However, being an engineer and seeing what those designers were up to, I knew that they could do several things to improve the designs.  And, they did.  As the improvements came, so did the cost reductions and efficiency improvements.  As I knew they would.  Their track record now is almost 8 years in a row of reduced costs and improved output.   And the improvement is impressive.  The break-even economics have plunged from 30 cents per kWh 8 years ago, to 4.3 cents per kWh today for wind turbines.  The cost to install has dropped by a factor of at least 6.  Recent figures in the US have installed costs at $1600 per kW of nameplate capacity.  That compares to almost $10,000 per kW just 8 years ago.   The facts have changed, so my opinion has also changed.  I also happen to know (and write about this) that intermittent wind energy on a grid does not harm the grid, nor does it increase prices to the customer.  There are abundant, actual real-life data to support that.  

The same, or rather the opposite, is true for nuclear power.  That industry, over the years, has had an increase in installed costs per kW of nameplate capacity.   In the late 1980s, the plants were being built for $3 or sometimes $5 billion each, for 1000 MWe (electrical output).  Today, they cost $10,000 to $12,000 per kW to build.   Even allowing for inflation, that does not show any cost reductions over time.    

As many readers of SLB know, I have also written a series containing 30 articles on The Truth About Nuclear Power.  see link  (those articles have now had more than 27,000 views to date).    I have made comments at WUWT with references to those articles, as appropriate.  What is puzzling to me is the absolute refusal by the commenters there to scrutinize and dig into the nuclear power data and the issues surrounding it, with the same intensity they devote to climate science data, climate models, and climate predictions.   Instead, the derision, the name-calling, and other insults are flung my way.  

It is more than puzzling, it is astounding to me, that so many people who comment at WUWT have such misplaced faith in the nuclear engineers (they are not making better power plants), and so little (or zero) faith in the renewable power engineers.  This, even though the facts are quite clear that renewable energy trends are better and better.  

In conclusion, it appears to me, based on personal experience, that the blogs have devolved into echo-chambers, just like a social club.  A dissenting viewpoint is met with insults and worse.  Those who at one time contributed greatly to the comments have left.   As have I.  

And that is a thing to invoke dismay.  How can those who are very wrong ever know they are wrong, if there is no one to say so to them?  To put it in literature terms, where will we find the "boy who could see no clothes, and said so?"

Ah, well.  Being blissfully wrong, and not wanting to know it, is probably something that will never change.  As for me, there are plenty of other interesting and rewarding things to do in this life.  Onward, and upward.   SLB will continue with articles on climate science, nuclear power, fresh water, renewable energy, engineering, Free Speech, and a few others.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

President Trump - Six New Energy Initiatives in 2017

Subtitle:  Reflections on the Prudence of the Energy Initiatives

A few days ago, June 29, 2017, President Donald Trump made a speech at the US Department of Energy during which he announced six new energy initiatives for the US.   I have written, and made speeches (1), on many of these same issues, and take this space today to write some thoughts on these.   I hope that Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and President Trump take the time to read these.  Perhaps some of SLB readers can forward this to them.     

In summary, nuclear power can never be economic; US coal reserves cannot be mined profitably for more than 20 years at the present prices; US oil is far too valuable as a strategic resource for military use and must be kept ready for a prolonged world war; natural gas is abundant and therefore low-priced, however exporting LNG will increase the domestic price and erase our competitive advantage.   Each of these is discussed in more detail below. 

The six items listed by the President are:
1.  Nuclear Energy revival and expansion
2.  Coal power plants - financing overseas plants and selling coal to them
3.  Oil pipeline to Mexico for oil sales
4.  LNG sales to Republic of South Korea
5.  LNG exports from Louisiana
6.  Oil and Gas offshore leasing in new areas formerly off-limits

The speech's text includes the following:

[President Trump:]  "Today, I am proudly announcing six brand-new initiatives to propel this new era of American energy dominance.  First, we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector -- which I’m so happy about -- which produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy.  A complete review of U.S. nuclear energy policy will help us find new ways to revitalize this crucial energy resource.  And I know you're very excited about that, Rick.

"Second, the Department of the Treasury will address barriers to the financing of highly efficient, overseas coal energy plants.  Ukraine already tells us they need millions and millions of metric tons right now.  There are many other places that need it, too.  And we want to sell it to them, and to everyone else all over the globe who need it.

"Third, my administration has just approved the construction of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico, which will further boost American energy exports, and that will go right under the wall, right?  It’s going under, right?  (Laughter and applause.)  Have it go down a little deeper in that one section.  You know, a little like this.  Right under the wall.

"Fourth, just today, a major U.S. company, Sempra Energy, signed an agreement to begin negotiations for the sale of more American natural gas to South Korea.  And, as you know, the leaders of South Korea are coming to the White House today, and we've got a lot of discussion to do.  But we will also be talking about them buying energy from the United States of America, and I’m sure they’ll like to do it.  They need it.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

"Fifth, the United States Department of Energy is announcing today that it will approve two long-term applications to export additional natural gas from the Lake Charles LNG terminal in Louisiana.  It’s going to be a big deal.  It’s a great announcement.  

"Finally, in order to unlock more energy from the 94 percent of offshore land closed to development, under the previous administration, so much of our land was closed to development.  We're opening it up, the right areas, but we're opening it up -- we’re creating a new offshore oil and gas leasing program.  America will be allowed to access the vast energy wealth located right off our shores.  And this is all just the beginning -- believe me. 
The golden era of American energy is now underway." 

Sowell Commentary

1.  Nuclear Energy revival and expansion
The President said, ". . .we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector -- which I’m so happy about -- which produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy.  A complete review of U.S. nuclear energy policy will help us find new ways to revitalize this crucial energy resource."

The nuclear power industry is beyond help.  The very nature of nuclear power from fission required certain design decisions - and still requires them - to attempt to produce power that is sufficiently safe, fairly reliable, and at sufficiently low cost to compete with other sources of electricity.   The nuclear engineers are well aware of the issues, and took appropriate steps in every phase of the design and regulatory process to do their very best to meet the goals stated above.  Yet, even with the best engineers and helpful regulators, they failed.  I have written long and often on the various merits and failings of nuclear power, in particular the 30 articles on SLB of The Truth About Nuclear Power (2).   There are many other articles besides the TANP series, also (3).   

The essence has two things:  first, that nuclear power by fission of uranium has inherent physical constraints that do not permit high efficiency (4).  Because of this, the plants must produce and circulate a greater amount of steam to the turbine, which causes the generating side of the plant to be much larger and therefore more expensive.   The second is the hazardous nature of uranium fission that requires multiple layers of expensive safety systems.  Nuclear plants require three layers of containment: the fuel rod contains the uranium pellets, the reactor contains the fuel rods, and the air-tight containment building contains the reactor.   There are, therefore, three physical barriers to uranium and the high-energy radiation particles emitted.  The three are the thin metal wall of the fuel rod, the thick alloy steel wall of the reactor, and the very thick concrete and steel containment building.  In addition to the three barriers, a meltdown has such serious consequences that multiple reactor cooling systems are required by regulations.   Finally, the consequences of radiation release from an enemy missile or large aircraft impact are very great.  To minimize such risk, all new designs in the US must have hardened designs for the reactor, the spent fuel storage area, and the plant's cooling systems.  All of the facts above force the cost to build a nuclear plant ever upward, to the point that a nuclear power plant, output for output, costs ten times as much as a modern natural-gas fired power plant.   (facts: a 1000 MW gas-fired power plant in Lordstown, Ohio costs $1000 per kW output, while the nuclear plants under construction in Georgia at the Vogtle site now cost at least $10,000 per kW.  The Vogtle nuclear plants are more nearly $12,000 per kW)

No future reactor designs, and there are a great many that are or were under consideration, have any hope of reducing the cost to construct.   This is true in other countries also, in particular Finland, France, and UK where the latest and most modern designs are under construction.   It is said that China is building nuclear plants for far less cost, and that may be true given their much lower wages and materials costs.  It is not likely that the US would import Chinese workers and pay them Chinese wages, though.   Such alternative designs are described in detail on SLB, including Small Modular Reactors, Molten Salt Thorium Reactors, High-Temperature Gas Reactors, Fusion by magnetic pinch, and Fusion by laser implosion (5) (6) (7) (8). 

2.  Coal power plants - financing overseas plants and selling coal to them
". . .barriers to the financing of highly efficient, overseas coal energy plants.  Ukraine already tells us they need millions and millions of metric tons right now.  There are many other places that need it, too.  And we want to sell it to them. . . " 

Coal is also a frequent topic on SLB (9).  The essential fact is that coal-fired power plants in the US cannot compete in the electricity markets with the coal coming from the mines at present prices.   Coal mining is just about as efficient and low-cost as it is likely ever to be.  Existing coal-fired plants must spend $millions to install pollution abatement equipment.  New, modern coal-fired plants cannot obtain a reasonable return on investment and are therefore not being built at all.   There is a great amount of coal still in the ground, but no mining company can produce it at a profit.  The choices are then to subsidize coal production or subsidize the pollution abatement portion of new coal-fired plants in the US, or both.  

What President Trump is apparently advocating is selling US coal at higher prices to overseas customers.   That is indeed curious, since the US would then be competing with coal from Australia.  However, there are countries that do indeed need coal.  India is one, China another, and Ukraine is mentioned by the President.   However, the US coal mines have already produced the low-cost coal.  What remains must be sold at a higher price to be profitable.   If the overseas coal consumers are willing to pay that higher price, and the cost of shipping, then good for them.   The end result, though, is that coal-fired power plants in the US will continue to close as they cannot justify the capital investment to meet pollution standards.   The clean air act exemption for grandfathered coal fired power plants has ended (10). 

3.  Oil pipeline to Mexico for oil sales
". . .has just approved the construction of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico, . . ."

What a reversal of fortunes.  It was not many years ago that Mexico exported oil to the US.   It makes temporary sense, though, to export oil from Texas oil fields to Mexico.  SLB has an article on the huge Wolfcamp oil field in West Texas. (11) 

The greater question, though, is the wisdom of exporting oil at all from the US, to any country.  As written before on SLB, the US and our allies won World War II in large part because of the oil reserves in the US.   Not that much has changed in 70 years, even though there are a few nuclear-powered ships and submarines in our Navy.  The other ships depend on oil, and all the Air Force jets depend on jet fuel from oil.  The same is true for the Army's vehicles and tanks, they need diesel fuel from oil.    It would indeed be a sad day for the US to be in a world war, have oil supplies from other countries cut off, and wonder where all that oil went that at one time was safely under the surface in the US.   "Well, we exported it to Mexico.   It seemed like a good idea, at the time."

Mr. President, please ask any of your senior military advisors about how they would proceed to win a prolonged war, without any domestic oil.  Their answers should be quite sobering.  The fact is, no nation can win any war without oil.   Ask the military historians how long Japan could have held out with their oil almost depleted.   The same for Germany.   Ask the historians and military strategists why control of oil is such a crucial element in winning a war. 

4.  LNG sales to Republic of South Korea
5.  LNG exports from Louisiana
These two are both about liquefied natural gas, LNG, so will be combined for the comments. 
". . .sale of more American natural gas to South Korea, [and] export additional natural gas from the Lake Charles LNG terminal in Louisiana."

The ramifications of selling US-produced LNG to overseas customers should be carefully examined.  World prices for LNG are many times higher than US prices, on a dollar per Btu basis.   LNG exporters hope to sell into those markets and reap much higher rewards.  But, the impact on domestic natural gas prices will be an increase.   Electricity from gas-fired power plants must necessarily increase in price as the gas price increases.   Commercial users of natural gas, and residential uses also will be adversely impacted.    It is not a Make America Great Again moment to enrich the few at the expense of the many.    

It is also a solid fact that American process plants have been, and are still being built to process gas liquids (ethane and propane) from the abundant natural gas production in the US.  Those process plants depend on having relatively low-priced feedstocks.  That pricing advantage would evaporate as natural gas prices increase with LNG sales overseas. 

6.  Oil and Gas offshore leasing in  areas formerly off-limits
". . . from the 94 percent of offshore land closed to development, under the previous administration, so much of our land was closed to development.  We're opening it up. . . "

Mr. President, as I wrote above, it is a serious error to produce and sell off the oil from US lands.   Every President since Truman has known the fact of oil and winning a war.  That is why the offshore areas are closed to exploration and drilling.   There is, of course, the extensive drilling in the Western Gulf of Mexico offshore Louisiana and Texas.   And, a bit of the California coast was available for drilling for a while.   We know there is oil offshore in the off-limits areas, and we have a rough idea how much oil is there.  We don't need that oil.  
But, to be fair, there may be larger, geo-political implications. (12) Consider if the US did produce enough oil to drive down the world price of oil, down to half of the present price or even lower.   Russia, a major oil exporter, would have much less revenue.  Middle East countries would also suffer.   Perhaps that is the goal.  

I hope that the need for sufficient oil for a future world war is given careful consideration, Mr. President.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Foot Notes and links:
(1) see link  Speech on Peak Oil and US Energy Policy, R. Sowell

(2) see link   Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 30; Conclusion

(3) see link  Vogtle Nuclear Plant Costs Increase

(4) see link  Cannot Simply Turn Off a Nuclear Power Plant

(5) see link   No Benefits from Smaller Modular Nuclear Plants

 (6) see link   Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process

 (7)  see link   High Temperature Gas Nuclear Reactor Still A Dream

 (8) see link    Power From Nuclear Fusion; Magnetic Pinch and Laser Inertia

 (9) see link    Various Articles on Coal on SLB

 (10) see link   Coal, Wind, And US Energy;  Coal Falters as Wind Excels

 (11) see link  President Trump and the Future of American Oil

 (12)  see link  The Grand Game - Oil in Disarray; Precision Directional Drilling Causes Oil Price Decrease

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Solar Output Exceeds 100,000 MWh per Day in 2017

Subtitle:  Another Renewable Record in California - Zero Problems on Grid

A rather common opinion is that solar power on a grid causes a great many problems, and should therefore never be supported nor considered as a source of electricity.   The facts, though, give the lie to such an opinion.   Here in sunny Southern California, the grid-scale solar generation is approximately 9,300 MW from the photo-voltaic (PV) systems, plus another 500 to 600 MW from solar thermal plants.  These combined during the longest days of this year, late June, to provide just over 100,000 MWh of electricity into the grid.  see photos. 
Fig 1 Renewable Power Output, from CAISO website

The combined electricity from solar, for June 28, 2017, was 101,850 MWh.  For the previous day, June 27, the output was 103,095 MWh. 

That may just be a record for solar electricity production in any state in the US.  
To put that in perspective, the California grid demand was approximately 30,000 MW at the noon hour. Solar provided approximately one-third of that demand.    Parenthetically, the wind provided another 2,600 MW right around noon.   That is approximately another 9 percent of the demand. 

There were no blackouts.   There were no rolling blackouts.   There were no frequency control issues.  There were, in fact, no extra-ordinary occurrences at all that day on the grid.  
Fig 2  Renewable Power Output, from CAISO website

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here