Following the Tragedy at Lac-Mégantic shipping Crude Oil by Train in Canada will be more Costly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2014

Week in Review

On July 6, 2013, a 4,701 ft-long train weighing 10,287 tons carrying crude oil stopped for the night at Nantes, Quebec.  She stopped on the mainline as the siding was occupied.  The crew of one parked the train, set the manual handbrakes on all 5 locomotives and 10 of the 72 freight cars and shut down 4 of the 5 locomotives.  Leaving one on to supply air pressure for the air brakes.  Then caught a taxi and headed for a motel.

The running locomotive had a broken piston.  Causing the engine to puff out black smoke and sparks as it sat there idling.  Later that night someone called 911 and reported that there was a fire on that locomotive.  The fire department arrived and per their protocol shut down the running locomotive before putting out the fire.  Otherwise the running locomotive would only continue to feed the fire by pumping more fuel into it.  After they put out the fire they called the railroad who sent some personnel out to make sure the train was okay.  After they did they left, too.  But ever since the fire department had shut down that locomotive air pressure had been dropping in the train line.  Eventually this loss of air pressure released the air brakes.  Leaving only the manual handbrakes to hold the train.  Which they couldn’t.  The train started to coast downhill.  Picking up speed.  Reaching about 60 mph as it hit a slow curve with a speed limit of 10 mph in Lac-Mégantic and jumped the track.  Derailing 63 of the 72 tank cars.  Subsequent tank car punctures, oil spills and explosions killed some 47 people and destroyed over 30 buildings.

This is the danger of shipping crude oil in rail cars.  There’s a lot of potential and kinetic energy to control.  Especially at these weights.  For that puts a lot of mass in motion that can become impossible to stop.  Of course, adding safety features to prevent things like this from happening, such as making these tank cars puncture-proof, can add a lot of non-revenue weight.  Which takes more fuel to move.  And that costs more money.  Which will raise the cost of delivering this crude oil to refineries.  And increase the cost of the refined products they make from it.  Unless the railroads find other ways to cut costs.  Say by shortening delivery times by traveling faster.  Allowing them an extra revenue-producing delivery or two per year to make up for the additional costs.  But thanks to the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic, though, not only will they be adding additional non-revenue weight they will be slowing their trains down, too (see Rail safety improvements announced by Lisa Raitt in wake of Lac-Mégantic posted 4/23/2014 on CBC News).

Changes to improve rail safety were announced Wednesday by federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt in response to recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board in the aftermath of the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

The federal government wants a three-year phase-out or retrofit of older tank cars that are used to transport crude oil or ethanol by rail, but will not implement a key TSB recommendation that rail companies conduct route planning when transporting dangerous goods…

There are 65,000 of the more robust Dot-111 cars in North America that must be phased out or retrofitted within three years if used in Canada, Raitt said, adding, “Officials have advised us three years is doable.”  She said she couldn’t calculate the cost of the retrofits, but told reporters, “industry will be footing the bill…”

The transport minister also announced that mandatory emergency response plans will be required for all crude oil shipments in Canada…

Raitt also said railway companies will be required to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods. The speed limit will be 80 kilometres an hour [about 49 mph] for key trains, she said. She added that risk assessments will be conducted in certain areas of the country about further speed restrictions, a request that came from the Canadian Federation of Municipalities…

Brian Stevens head of UNIFOR, which represents thousands of unionized rail car inspectors at CN, CP and other Canadian rail companies, called today’s announcement a disappointment.

“This announcement really falls short, and lets Canadians down,” he told CBC News.

“These DOT-11 cars, they should be banned from carrying crude oil immediately. They can still be used to carry vegetable oil, or diesel fuel, but for carrying this dangerous crude there should be an immediate moratorium and that should have been easy enough for the minister to do and she failed to do that.

“There’s a lot of other tank cars in the system that can carry crude,” Stevens explained. “There doesn’t need to be this reliance on these antiquated cars that are prone to puncture.”

Industry will not be footing the bill.  That industry’s customers will be footing the bill.  As all businesses pass on their costs to their customers.  As it is the only way a business can stay in business.  Because they need to make money to pay all of their employees as well as all of their bills.  So if their costs increase they will have to raise their prices to ensure they can pay all of their employees and all of their bills.

What will the cost of this retrofit be?  To make these 65,000 tank cars puncture-proof?  Well, adding weight to these cars will take labor and material.  That additional weight may require modifications to the springs, brakes and bearings.  Perhaps even requiring another axel or two per car.  Let’s assume that it will take a crew of 6 three days to complete this retrofit per tank car (disassemble, reinforce and reassemble as well as completing other modifications required because of the additional weight).  Assuming a union labor cost (including taxes and benefits) of $125/hour and non-labor costs equaling labor costs would bring the retrofit for these 65,000 tanks cars to approximately $2.34 billion.  Which they will, of course, pass on to their customers.  Who will pass it on all the way to the gas station where we fill up our cars.  They will also pass down the additional fuel costs to pull all that additional nonrevenue weight.

Making these trains safer will be costly.  Of course, it begs this burning question: Why not just build pipelines?  Like the Keystone XL pipeline?  Which can deliver more crude oil faster and safer than any train can deliver it.  And with a smaller environmental impact.  As pipelines don’t crash or puncture.  So why not be safer and build the Keystone XL pipeline in lieu of using a more dangerous mode of transportation that results in tragedies like that at Lac-Mégantic?  Why?  Because of politics.  To shore up the Democrat base President Obama would rather risk Lac-Mégantic tragedies.  Instead of doing what’s best for the American economy.  And the American people.  Namely, building the Keystone XL pipeline.

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The Left says we need to combat Manmade Global Warming even if the Theory of Global Warming is Wrong

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 21st, 2014

Week in Review

The Democrats say manmade global warming is real.  That the science is settled.  And anyone who denies this is a fool.  So the danger of manmade global warming is real and time is of the essence.  To save the planet.  Destroy the economy.  And our way of life (see Examiner Editorial: Governments resolved to stop global warming even if it doesn’t exist posted 4/21/2014 on the Washington Examiner).

PJ Media’s Tom Harris recently noted that global warming advocates ought to heed that warning. Harris’ observation followed release of the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC cried that fossil fuel energy use around the world must be reduced by as much as 70 percent by 2050 to avoid the apocalyptic “death, injury and disrupted livelihoods” caused by man-made atmospheric warming.

“This will require massive cuts in our use of coal, oil, and natural gas, the sources of 87 percent of world primary energy consumption,” Harris said. It will also require quadrupling the amount of energy generated from renewable and nuclear sources, plus widespread adoption of carbon capture and storage technology that doesn’t even exist yet.

So, to fight global warming will require the kind of spending it took to win World War II.  The cost of energy would soar and leave people with little left to spend on their families.  Crippling our economy.  While leaving us with far less reliable electric power.   Making brownouts and blackouts commonplace.  Changing our lives greatly.  And what will we get in return?  Not a whole heck of a lot.

But the IPCC is crying wolf, according to the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, a voluntary international assembly of scientists and scholars brought together by the Heartland Institute, an American think tank. The NIPCC’s goal is to “present a comprehensive, authoritative, and realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming” independent of the political and economic interests that inevitably drive the analyses of governmental entities like the UN’s IPCC.

The NIPCC’s bottom line is that atmospheric warming comes and goes over time, with average temperatures actually declining over the past 17 years. As a result and contrary to those crying wolf on global warming, the earth’s ice cover “is not melting at an enhanced rate; sea-level rise is not accelerating; and no systematic changes have been documented in evaporation or rainfall or in the magnitude or intensity of extreme meteorological events.” In fact, warmer temperatures and increased carbon content in the atmosphere can be beneficial to human beings, animals and plant life, “causing a great greening of the Earth,” according to the N-GIPCC.

Yes, warm is better.  After all, no one bitched when global warming caused the glaciers to recede and end the ice ages.  Because where the glaciers receded life took to that once frozen wasteland.  And when the glaciers from the greatest ice age (ending about 635 million years ago) receded after nearly covering the planet in ice man wasn’t even using fire yet.  In fact, the greater apes man evolved from didn’t arrive until about 15 million years ago.  After the great glaciers receded back from the equator.  So when the planet warmed and pushed back those glaciers it sure wasn’t man doing it.  Which means if you believe in evolution you can’t believe in manmade global warming.  Because the planet warms and cools.  And has been doing so far longer than man has been around.

Tim Wirth, the former congressman and present vice chairman of the U.N. Foundation, said “even if the theory of global warming is wrong, to have approached global warming as if it is real means energy conservation, so we will be doing the right thing anyway in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.” No matter that jobs, growth and comfort will be lost. Keep that in mind next time President Obama claims Americans must spend billions of tax dollars on “green” energy because global warming is “real.”

So these great costs are necessary even if they are wrong and manmade global warming is not settled science.  Because crippling our economy and causing power brownouts and blackouts are a good thing.  Why?  One reason.  It empowers government.  To further intrude in how we live our lives.  Which is the only thing battling manmade global warming does.

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Energy and Low Taxes reduce Unemployment Rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2014

Week in Review

The Democrats have little good economic news during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  To create more economic activity they argue to raise the minimum wage.  And to provide a pathway to citizenship for those illegally in the country.  But will these help the employment picture?  Well, we don’t have them now and employment is doing very well in parts of the country (see Tight Job Market in U.S. Cities Prompts Higher Pay by Steve Matthews posted 4/16/2014 on Bloomberg).

To hire 10 to 15 project coordinators this year, Sabre Commercial Inc. has boosted pay 10 percent and added a 401(k) retirement plan.

“It is an employee’s market,” said John Cyrier, co-founder and president of the 48-employee Austin, Texas-based builder. “We are definitely seeing a labor shortage in Austin and central Texas. I see it only getting worse.”

Companies across the U.S. from Texas to Virginia and Nebraska are struggling to fill positions with metropolitan jobless rates below the 5.2 percent to 5.6 percent level the Federal Reserve regards as full employment nationally. Competition for workers is prompting businesses to raise wages, increase hours for current employees, add benefits and recruit from other regions…

In New Orleans, where unemployment is 4.2 percent, “we are getting killed on overtime,” said Ti Martin, co-owner of Commander’s Palace, SoBou and Café Adelaide, which employ a total of more than 350 people. “We are doubling up and working extra hours,” and managers are filing in as cooks. The restaurants have a dozen or more openings, mainly for experienced chefs and servers, she said…

In Omaha, with a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, the Greater Omaha Chamber is coordinating a program that will increase the number of internships to more than 300 this year from 135 in 2012 at employers including Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., Union Pacific Corp. (UNP) and ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG) Exposing young people to the city has been an “excellent recruitment tool,” said Sarah A. Johnson, director of talent and workforce initiatives for the chamber…

The labor shortage is expected to worsen in some regions. In Houston and the surrounding area, construction for the oil, gas and petrochemical industries on the Gulf Coast will require about 36,000 more workers in 2016 than in 2013, according to Industrial Info Resources Inc., a Houston-area based research company.

Even with hot labor markets in some cities, twenty-nine metro areas still have unemployment rates of at least the October 2009 post-recession peak of 10 percent, including Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Fresno, California.

Virginia is doing well in the Washington area thanks to lobbyists and those getting fat on the largess of government.  Nebraska is doing well because of some big national companies there.  Which attract people there even though their taxes are a little on the high side.  But the balance of good economic activity is in low-tax states.  Such as Texas.  Which has no state income tax.  And the energy business is keeping the Gulf States doing well.  Thanks to the energy boom in North Dakota.  Which has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate.

So it is clear what is driving the economy.  Energy.  And low taxes.  Put these together and you have low unemployment.  Which is why Atlantic City and Fresno still have unemployment rates of at least 10%.  Because these are in Democrat states.  Which have high tax rates (California and New Jersey are the two of the highest taxed states in the nation).  And prefer green energy over oil and gas.

A higher minimum wage won’t reduce unemployment.  For California and New Jersey have some of the highest minimum wages in the nation.  So a higher minimum wage is not helping their economies.  But energy and low taxes will.  As proven by the healthy economies in areas with them.  And bad economies in areas without them.

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The more Electric Cars people drive the greater the Stress on the Electric Grid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2014

Week in Review

Have you ever noticed your lights dim when your air conditioner starts?  They do because when an electric motor starts there is a momentary short circuit across the windings.  Causing a great inrush of current as they start rotating.  Once they are rotating that inrush of current drops.  During that surge in current the voltage drops.  Because there is no resistance in a short circuit.  So there is no voltage across a short circuit.  And because everything in your house goes back to your electrical panel that momentary voltage drop affects everything in your house.  Including your lights.  The lower voltage reduces the lighting output.  Momentarily.  Once the air conditioning motor begins to rotate the short circuit goes away and the voltage returns to normal.

Air conditioners draw a lot of power.  And during hot summer days when everyone gets home from work they cause the occasional brownout.  As everybody turns on their air conditioners in the evening.  Stressing the electric grid.  Which is why our power bills rise in the summer months.  For this great rise in demand causes a corresponding rise in supply.  Costing the power companies more to meet that demand.  Which they pass on to us (see Electricity Price Surged to All-Time Record for March by Terence P. Jeffrey posted 4/16/2014 on cnsnews).

The average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity hit a March record of 13.5 cents, according data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was up about 5.5 percent from 12.8 cents per KWH in March 2013.

The price of electricity in the United States tends to rise in spring, peak in summer, and decline in fall. Last year, after the price of a KWH averaged 12.8 cents in March, it rose to an all-time high of 13.7 cents in June, July, August and September.

If the prevailing trend holds, the average price of a KWH would hit a new record this summer.

All-electric cars are more popular in California than in Minnesota.  Because there is little cold and snow in California.  And batteries don’t work so well in the cold.  AAA makes a lot of money jumping dead batteries during cold winter months.  So batteries don’t hold their charge as well in the winter.  Which is when an all-electric car requires more charge.  For the days are shorter.  Meaning that at least part of your daily commute will be in the dark and require headlights.  It is colder.  Requiring electric power for heating.  Windows fog and frost up.  Requiring electric power for defogging and defrosting.  It snows.  Requiring electric power to run windshield wipers.  Slippery roads slow traffic to a crawl.  Increasing the time spent with all of these things running during your commute.  So the all-electric car is more of a warm-weather car.  Where people who don’t live in sunny California may park their all-electric car during the worst of the winter months.  And use a gasoline-powered car instead.

As those on the left want everyone to drive all-electric cars they don’t say much about the stress that will add to the electric grid.  If everyone switched to an electric car in the summer it would be like adding a second air conditioner at every house.  Especially after work.  When everyone gets home and plugs in.  Causing an inrush of current for an hour or so as those discharged batters recharge.  A discharged battery is similar to an electric motor.  As it’s the current flow that recharges the battery cells.  There’s a high current at first.  Which falls as the battery charges.  So summer evenings will have a lot of brownouts during the summer months.  As the added electric load will greatly stress the electric grid during the evenings.  A demand that the power companies will have to supply.  At the same time they’re replacing coal-fired power plants with less reliable renewable forms of power generation.  Such as solar farms.  Which will be fast running out of sunshine as these cars plug in.

If people switch from gasoline to electric power in their cars en masse the average price for a kilowatt-hour will soar.  It’s simple economics.  Supply and demand.  The greater the demand the higher the price.  And there is little economies of scale in power production.  Because more power requires more fuel.  And the kicker is that even people who don’t drive will have to pay more on their electric bills when people switch from gasoline to electric cars.  And their gas bills if gas-fired turbines provide that peak power demand.  Raising the price of natural gas.  Making everyone pay more.  Whereas only drivers of gasoline-powered cars are impacted by the high cost of gasoline.

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Thanks to Fukushima the Germans are Returning to Coal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

Germany was going green.  Between renewables and nuclear power they were really shrinking their carbon footprint.  But then along came Fukushima.  And the melting of the core in a nuclear power plant.  Sending shockwaves throughout the world.  Causing the Germans to shut down their nuclear reactors.  Of course, that created an energy shortage in Germany.  And how did they fill it?  By building more new wind farms?  No (see Germany Is Relocating Entire Towns To Dig Up More Sweet, Sweet Coal by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan posted 2/14/2014 on Gizmodo).

Most of us think of Germany as one of the most energy-progressive countries in the world. But in recent years, it’s also increased its dependence on a form of energy that’s anything but clean: coal. And it’s demolishing or relocating entire towns to get at it.

While Germany has some of the largest brown coal deposits on Earth, a valuable chunk of it resides underneath towns that date back to the Middle Ages. Most of these are located in the old East Germany, and in the 1930s and 40s, dozens of them were destroyed to make way for mining. The practice ended when Germany established its clear energy initiatives. But now, dirty brown coal reemerging as a cheaper option than clean energy. And the cities are in the way again.

Sunshine and wind are free.  They may be unreliable but they are free.  But to capture that energy requires an enormous and costly infrastructure.  That could still fail to produce the electric power they need when the wind doesn’t blow.  Leaving them but one option to replace those efficient nuclear power plants.  Efficient coal-fired power plants.  Which is the only option they have.  Because renewables can never provide baseload power.  The power that is always there and can be relied upon.  Like nuclear power plants.  And those big, beautiful coal-fired power plants.  Rain or shine. Night or day.  Wind or calm.  Coal is always there for us.

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Canada is enjoying a Booming Oil Industry because they don’t have a President Obama

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 19th, 2014

Week in Review

The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that for every person that entered the workforce in December seven people left the workforce (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted 1/13/2014 on PITHOCRATES).  In fact, since President Obama assumed the presidency 11,301,000 people have left the labor force.  Despite his policies to create greener and higher-paying jobs to replace the jobs in the coal and oil industries he destroyed.

For America was going green.  Whether we wanted to or not.  Pity, because we’d have a lot more high-paying jobs in the coal and oil industry had it not been for President Obama.  North Dakota is doing really well thanks to natural gas production on private land. Not much he can do to shut that down.  And just to the north things are going very well in the oil business (see Oil patch salaries rise 5 times as fast as rest of Canada posted 1/13/2014 on CBC News).

The average salary of young men working in Canada’s oil patch increased by 21 per cent between 2001 and 2008, more than five times the pace of gain seen by those workers in other parts of the country.

According to a report published by Statistics Canada Monday, men aged 17 to 24 living in the oil-producing provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador were more likely to have a job than their counterparts in other areas, less likely to still be in school, and more likely to earn more.

Kids graduating college with worthless social science and humanity degrees have a boatload of student loan debt.  And little prospect of a job in a high-tech economy.  Had some of these kids had a chance to get a high-paying job in the oil industry instead of getting those worthless degrees they probably wouldn’t be living in their parent’s basement.  With that huge student loan debt hanging over them like the Sword of Damocles.

It’s a pity that the Americans can’t learn a lesson from the smarter Canadians when it comes to energy.  If we had pursued Canadian energy policies instead of Obama policies 11,301,000 people wouldn’t have left the labor force during his presidency.  For a good number of these people would now be in the oil business.  In the oil pipeline business.  In the oil refining business.  In the refined oil distribution system.  And all of the Mom and Pop stores catering to this influx of economic activity all along the way.  That’s what we could have had if we didn’t have President Obama.

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Wind Power for the People and Fossil Fuel for Gold Mines and Hospitals

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2013

Week in Review

Energy firm RWE just backed out of a £4 billion ($6.6 billion) offshore wind farm.  The Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel.  Because of higher than expected costs.  And lower than expected government subsidies.  Meanwhile a new power plant was delivered in the Dominican Republic this year.  A nation that shares an island with Haiti surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  With a lot of sea wind to spin wind turbines.  Just as they filled the sails of the colonial powers’ ships centuries ago.  But they didn’t build a wind farm (see Quisqueya I & II, Dominican Republic posted on Wärtsilä).

Sometimes, one plus one does not equal two. The 25,000 inhabitants of Quisqueya, a small town close to San Pedro de Macorís, in the Dominican Republic, know so.

In September 2011, Barrick Gold Corporation acquired a majority share in a soon-to-be-opened gold mine, some 100 kilometres away from the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo. As soon as the mining company understood the needs of their new power-hungry mine, they decided to place an order for a state-of-the-art Wärtsilä power plant. The way in which Barrick, its host country and Wärtsilä would cooperate for the greater good came to exceed the initial expectations of any of the three involved parties and strike gold in an unforeseen way.

The Quisqueya project is a rare combination of two power plants. Due to clever project design it satisfies not only the gold mine’s power needs, but also those of the local population, who often deals with blackouts and an unstable power grid. The dual function came to be as the largest utility in the country, EGE Haina, decided to jump on the boat of efficient and  reliable power generation, turning the initial project to a synergetic effort where the total value exceeds the sum of its parts.

While Quisqueya I is owned and used by Barrick Gold, its twin sister Quisqueya II is run by EGE Haina. Although ordered by different parties, the plants are being built on the same site and together form the largest power plant complex in the world ever delivered by Wärtsilä at the time of the order, setting a new standard for the 21st century power plants. As an outsider, you cannot clearly draw a line between the power supplied to the mine and that supplied to the local community, nor between the corporate profit and the social one. Quisqueya I & II is a beautiful example of how a sensible and responsible utilization of natural resources can directly improve a community’s way of life.

Both Quisqueya plants will feature Wärtsilä Flexicycle™ combined cycle technology and operate on 12 Wärtsilä 50DF dual-fuel engines each. The primary fuel is to be natural gas with liquid fuel as back-up, and the combined output from the two plants will be 430 MW. Wärtsilä’s scope of supply for the Quisqueya power plant includes full engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC). The power plant will have a net efficiencyof 48 %, which is an astonishingly high figure in tropical conditions, with soaring humidity and temperatures above 35°C.

Lucky are the people living near this power-hungry gold mine.  Because it gets top of the line electric power.  That furnished by fossil fuels.  Which can burn no matter what the winds are doing.  Keeping this gold mine in operation.  And giving the people around it reliable electric power.  And if the winds stop blowing these people will still have their power.  And if a hurricane blows through it may down some power lines.  Which can be replaced to restore electric power.  Whereas if a hurricane takes out an offshore wind farm power will be out a lot longer.  Either until they rebuild those very expensive wind turbines (probably requiring huge green tariffs to cover the costs of building this wind farm twice).  Or until they build a new power plant that uses a fossil fuel.

Interesting when a power plant is to power a million homes like the Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel a government looks to spend $6.6 billion for unreliable power.  But when a power plant is furnishing something that produces revenue and economic output they don’t build a wind farm power plant.  No, when they need to count on that electric power to be there they turn to fossil fuels.  For the same reason hospitals don’t put wind turbines on their roof for backup electric power during a blackout.  They use backup generators that burn a fossil fuel.  Because they need to count on that electric power to be there.

Fossil fuel is reliable.  While wind power is not.  Which is why governments use fossil fuels for gold mines and hospitals.  And wind power for the people.  Because governments can screw the people to meet silly green power targets with little blowback.  Because, hey, it’s for the environment.

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After Fukushima Meltdown shuts down Nuclear Power Industry Japan turns to Solar Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 10th, 2013

Week in Review

Japan shows how easy it is to go green after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.  Nuclear power is unsafe.  Coal-fired power plants are too dirty.  So what to do?  Why, go solar, of course (see Kyocera launches 70-megawatt solar plant, largest in Japan by Tim Hornyak posted 11/8/2013 on CNET).

Smartphone maker Kyocera recently launched the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, a 70-megawatt facility that can generate enough electricity to power about 22,000 homes.

The move comes as Japan struggles with energy sources as nuclear power plants were shut down after meltdowns hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant in 2011.

Set on Kagoshima Bay, the sprawling Nanatsujima plant commands sweeping views of Sakurajima, an active stratovolcano that soars to 3,665 feet.

It has 290,000 solar panels and takes up about 314 acres, roughly three times the total area of Vatican City.

Wow, 70 megawatts.  Sounds big, doesn’t it?  With 290,000 solar panels on 314 acres.  An installed capacity of 0.22 megawatts per acre.  It must have cost a fortune to build.  And they built it on a bay.  At sea level.  In the shadow of an active volcano.  It would be a shame if that volcano erupts and covers those solar panels in a layer of ash.  Or if another typhoon hits Japan.  An earthquake.  Or a storm surge.  For if any of these things happen those 22,000 homes will lose their electric power.

So how does this compare to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant?  Well, that plant sits on 860 acres.  And has an installed capacity of 4700 megawatts.  Or the installed capacity of 67 Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plants.  And an installed capacity of 5.47 megawatts per acre.  Which is perhaps why they built this on the bay.  Because it is such an inefficient use of real estate in a nation that has one of the highest population densities that they put it on the water.  To save the land for something that has value. 

We used the term ‘installed capacity’ for a reason.  That reason being the capacity factor.  Which is the actual amount of power produced over a given amount of time divided by the maximum amount of power that could have been produced (i.e., the installed capacity).  Nuclear plants can produce power day or night.  Covered in volcanic ash or not.  On a sunny day or when it’s pouring rain.  Which is why a nuclear power plant has a much higher capacity factor (about 90%) than a solar plant (about 15%).  So the actual power people consume from the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant will be far less than its 70 megawatts of installed capacity.

So in other words, solar power is not a replacement for nuclear power.  Or any other baseload power such as coal-fired power plants.  Power demand will far exceed power supply.  Leading to higher costs as they try to ration electric power.  And a lot of power outages.  Some longer than others.  Especially when powerful typhoons and/or storm surges blow in.  As they often do in the Pacific Ocean.

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A Renewable Boom means more Expensive and Less Reliable Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The news on our green energy initiatives sounds good.  We’re importing less oil.  And adding more and more wind power.  If you’re a proponent of green energy you no doubt are pleased by this news.  But if you understand energy and economics it’s a different story.  You’ll think the country is moving in the wrong direction.  Ultimately raising our energy costs.  Without making much of an impact on carbon emissions.  And just because we are exporting gasoline doesn’t mean we’re on the road to being energy self-sufficient (see The Renewable Boom by Bryan Walsh posted 10/11/2013 on Time).

Earlier this year, the U.S. became a net exporter of oil distillates, and the International Energy Agency projects that the U.S. could be almost energy self-sufficient in net terms by 2035.

This is not necessarily a good thing.  Being a net exporter of oil distillates.  It means that US supply exceeds US demand at the current market price.  That’s an important point.  The current market price.  The US has been in an anemic economic recovery—though some would say we’re still in a recession—since President Obama assumed office.  During bad economic times people lose their jobs.  Those who haven’t are worried about losing theirs.  And they worry about the uncertainty, too, about the cost of Obamacare.  So people are driving less.  And they are spending less.  Because they have less.  And worry about how much money they’ll need under Obamacare.  So they’re not taking the family on a cross-country vacation.  Some are even spending their vacation in the backyard.  The so called ‘staycation’.  No doubt the 10 million or so who disappeared from the labor force since President Obama assumed office aren’t driving much these days.  So because of this US demand for gasoline is down.  And, hence, prices.   Even though gasoline prices are still high and consuming an ever larger part of our reduced median family income (also down since President assumed office), gasoline prices are higher elsewhere.  Which is why refineries are exporting their oil distillates.  To meet that higher demand that has raised the market price.

But the biggest source of new electricity in the U.S. last year wasn’t a fossil fuel. It was the humble wind. More than 13 gigawatts of new wind potential were added to the grid in 2012, accounting for 43% of all new generation capacity. Total wind-power capacity exceeded 60 gigawatts by the end of 2012—enough to power 15 million homes when the breeze is blowing.

These numbers do sound big for wind.  Like it’s easy sailing for wind power to replace coal.  But is it?  Let’s look at the big picture.  In 2011 the total nameplate capacity of all electric power generation was 1,153.149 gigawatts.  So that 13 gigawatts though sounding like a lot of power it is only 1.127% of the total nameplate capacity.  Small enough to be rounding error.  In other words, that 13 gigawatts is such a small amount of power that it won’t even be seen by the electric grid.  But it gets even worse.

We used the term ‘nameplate capacity’ for a reason.  This is the amount of power that this unit is capable of producing.  Not what it actually produces.  In fact, we have a measure comparing the power generation possible to the ‘actual’ power generation.  The capacity factor.  Which measures power production over a period of time and divides it by the total amount of power that the unit could have produced (i.e., its nameplate value).  Coal has a higher capacity factor than wind because coal can produce electric power in all wind conditions.  While wind power cannot.  If the winds are too strong the wind turbines lock down to protect themselves.  If the wind is blowing too slowly they won’t produce any electric power.

The typical capacity factor for coal is 62.3%.  Meaning that over half of the installed capacity is generating power.  Some generators may be down for maintenance.  Or a generator may be shut down due to weak demand.  The typical capacity factor for wind power is 30%.  Meaning that the installed capacity produces no power 70% of the time.  And it’s not because turbines are down for maintenance.  It’s because of the intermittent wind.

So coal has twice the capacity that wind has.  Does this mean we need twice the installed capacity of wind to match coal?  No.  Because if you tripled the number of wind turbines in a wind farm they will still produce no power if the wind isn’t blowing.  In this respect you can say coal has a capacity factor of 100%.  For if they want more power from a coal-fired power plant they can bring another generator on line.  Even if the wind isn’t blowing.

You could say wind power is like parsley on a plate in a restaurant.  It’s just a garnishment.  It makes our electric power production look more environmentally friendly but it just adds cost and often times we just throw it away.  For if coal provides all our power needs when the wind isn’t blowing and the wind then starts blowing you have a surplus of power that you can’t sell.  You can’t shut down the coal-fired power plant because the wind turbines don’t produce enough to replace it.  You can’t shut down the wind turbines because it defeats the purpose of having them.  So you just throw away the surplus power.  And charge people more for their electric power to cover this waste.  Like a restaurant charges more for its menu items to cover the cost of the parsley the people throw away.

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Green Energy Policies raise the Cost of Heating this Winter in Canada

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 19th, 2013

Week in Review

‘Manmade’ global warming is not science.  It’s politics.  Where those on the left secure their liberal base by pushing costly green energy policies that increase our electric bills (see Ontario electricity rates rising due to Liberal mistakes, opposition says posted 10/18/2013 on CBC News Toronto).

The governing Liberals’ politically motivated interference in the energy sector is hurting ratepayers who are trying to conserve electricity, Ontario’s opposition parties said Friday…

The price for off-peak power will rise by 7.5 per cent for a kilowatt hour, while peak hour rates will rise by four per cent, the board announced Thursday…

It’s another sign that the energy system under the Liberals has become an “expensive mess,” said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

Cancelling two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga — which the province’s auditor general says will cost taxpayers up to $1.1 billion — to save Liberal seats is driving up prices, he said, just like putting wind turbines in communities that don’t want them, then paying to get rid of the surplus power…

The OEB said the Nov. 1 increase is based on estimates for the coming year that include more generation from renewable sources along with a higher price for natural gas.

Sunlight and wind may be free.  But the massive infrastructure to pull the energy from sunlight and wind is not.  That infrastructure is very, very costly.  Because you need a lot of it to produce useable energy.  Unlike a coal-fired or gas-fired power plant.  These plants are very costly.  But they produce so much electric power that the cost per unit of power produced is negligible.  The fuel (coal and natural gas) being the greater cost.   Of course, that’s only when they are running at capacity and people are buying what they produce.

Those two power plants would have produced inexpensive electric power.  Now not only are they going to be replaced with renewable sources the cost of that massive renewable infrastructure has to be added to the people’s hydro (electric utility) bill.  With renewable sources providing a fraction of what coal and gas provide the cost per unit from renewable sources is very high.  Requiring taxpayer subsidies.  And if that wasn’t bad enough because of the intermittent nature of wind those coal-fired and gas-fired power plants have to produce power even when the wind is blowing so it’s there when the wind isn’t.  Creating surplus power.  Very expensive power that no one is buying.

If only manmade global was real.  For if it were we could raise the temperature during the winter so we wouldn’t have to spend so much on costly and polluting power to heat our homes.  Why, the warmer winters would even make it easier for our wildlife to find food.  That’s right.  With manmade global warming everyone would be a winner.  But it’s not.  So we have more and more expensive heating bills to look forward to.

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