King Coal and Freezing in the Dark

michaelbaume_specaus-08-october_postWe talked about the South Australia blackout the other day, but I want to say a bit more. The Spectator AU tells us this:

State governments are sheltered workshops for mediocre politicians rarely good enough to make it in the Canberra big league. They have just one basic task in the Australian federation: to maintain basic public infrastructure that keeps communities going. Roads, rail, schools, hospitals, police, fire, emergency services. And electricity networks.

Last week, the South Australian Labor government of Jay Weatherill delivered an unenviable energy efficiency target: a 100 per cent reduction in the state’s electricity supply. The catastrophic failure of his state’s power grid forced Crow-Eater Mr Weatherill to eat a huge helping of crow.

To be sure, South Australia was hit by a huge weather event. Extremely high winds twisted steel electricity towers like flimsy tinfoil, bringing down key power lines interconnecting the South Australian grid with the Victorian network supplying the majority of its power, especially when demand surges.

True enough, but Andrew Bolt tells us the winds never exceeded 100 km/hr (about 62 mph for Americans). A distribution line that fails to stand up to sixty mph winds is defective, either in design, execution, or maintenance. I note that I once helped replace about 10 miles of heavy distribution after an ice storm because one clamp either wasn’t tightened properly or had vibrated loose. Details matter, and so does competence and honesty. Crony built infrastructure lacks both of the latter.

But South Australia’s internal power generation capacity failed to take the strain for one simple reason: its utter dependence on renewable energy. The irony of wind power is those landscape-dominating wind turbines have to be shut down for safety in high winds. And when there’s no sun and insufficient storage of solar energy, rooftop solar panels and newfangled solar farms are as useful as a tit on a bull.

Bizarrely, just this May the Weatherill government proudly shut down (and blew up) South Australia’s last coal-fired power station, making the state’s dependence on wind and solar for its home-grown energy almost absolute. Adelaide’s basket-weavers deliriously welcomed a new Green Age of progressive power generation and the banishment of Old King Coal.

Oops!

via Stormy Weatherill | The Spectator

The Spectator also tells us that the Australian coal industry has a pretty good future, mostly in exporting to China and India, if the greenies don’t kill it, and several million Asians along the way.

I believe in progress devoutly, but I also believe in reality. And carbon-free energy is a drug induced dream. It can happen if government forces it, but it will force us back at least a century, more likely to the age before electricity, and if we can’t burn wood or coal, well, there always one option. Freezing in the dark.


I hear many of you saying, “So what, that’s Australia, nothing to do with us.” But it does, we’re the people that have bankrolled any number of pie-in-the-sky ideas without a hope in hell of them working, except, of course, to put taxpayers money into the the scammer’s pocket. Anybody remember Solyndra? I have no problem with renewable energy, as long as it is developed by private capital, and can compete on a level field with coal, and gas. It can’t, and I doubt it ever will.

Then there is this from The Weekly Standard:

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard arguments challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan, as it is called, is central to President Barack Obama’s overall Climate Action Plan. West Virginia and Texas are leading the 27 states and state agencies now in opposition to the CPP regulations, and some 120 companies and organizations have filed in support of the coalition’s complaint.

CPP is designed to bring about what the EPA calls an “aggressive transformation” of electricity generation throughout the country. It would do this by systematically “decarboniz[ing]” power generation and ushering in a new “clean energy” economy less reliant on carbon. CPP requires that, by 2030, power-plant carbon emissions be reduced by a third from what they were in 2005.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the plan would drive up electricity costs for businesses, consumers, and families, impose tens of billions of dollars in annual compliance costs, and reduce America’s global competitiveness—without any significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

But whatever you might think of the rule as energy policy, the biggest problem with it is this: The rule is illegal, indeed unconstitutional.

Under the Constitution, Congress makes law, and the executive enforces it. Unfortunately, over the past 80 years Congress has delegated to executive agencies the power to regulate in many areas. But that is not a blank check to the executive: If Congress has not made a specific delegation, then regulations in that area created by the executive branch are not valid. And that is what has happened here.

As Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent in City of Arlington v. FCC (2013), “Agencies are creatures of Congress.” He then quoted what the Court said in an earlier case, Louisiana Public Service Commission v. FCC (1986): “an agency literally has no power to act .  .  . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.”

True enough, and hopefully The Court will recognize that it is so. But my read of it as energy policy is that it will put the United States in exactly the same place as South Australia visited last week. Given the other things that so-called environmentalists support (and oppose) these days, I’m not too sure that is not the goal.

Green Energy, Rent Seeking, Corporatism, and Unintended Consequences

English: Vogtle nuclear power station Cooling ...

English: Vogtle nuclear power station Cooling Towers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Georgia Power is building a nuclear power plant. That would be good if they foresaw making a legitimate profit from it. It doesn’t sound like it.

Georgia Power says the Vogtle project creates lots of jobs and buys lot of building materials.  The same could be said about the construction of a large pyramid. The question should be about the value of the costly project verses other things that might have used the labor and materials.

So how does a society choose between alternative uses of resources? Under market conditions with unhampered price signals, consumers decide with their spending what uses should be made of resources.

That’s not how the decision to build the Vogtle nuclear plant was made. Instead, the drivers were lobbying on the state and federal level for special government favors that would never be granted voluntarily by consumers. The academic term for this is rent-seeking; the more everyday term is cronyism.

Given all the special treatment from government for nuclear plants, it is doubtful they could be built under market conditions. Natural gas and coal, with far less up-front costs and competitive variable costs, are the capacity-of-choice for competitive markets.

Georgia Cronyism: DSM, Nuclear Plague Public Service Commission – Master Resource.

That’s pretty much what always seems to happen when things are built for political purposes.


history-image5In a somewhat different case, I note that there is a proposal for developing an entire straw pellet power plant and a surrounding roughly 50 acres site in Norwich, UK.

It has some good features, I think, such as the use of heated water from the plant for domestic heating, which works well in an urban area. I think they are going to have difficulty finding enough pelletized straw to burn, although the fact that the UK has prohibited burning straw in the field (last I knew that was the most efficacious way to release nitrogen back into the soil, not that the greenies ever cared about that) but pelletizing on that scale is not an inconsiderable process.

From the website it sounds reasonably OK to me but £325 million  without a detailed plan (they haven’t sited their generating station yet, or completed detailed environmental surveys). So there is still a lot of room for the price tag to grow, and unintended consequences to strike.

In addition, it looks to me like they are relying heavily on academics, and rent-seeking government contractors and politically connected people generally. I saw no mention anywhere on the website that they thought anybody, anywhere would make a profit, not even the wheat farmers (switchgrass, anyone?).

Here’s their website.

My best guess at the moment (I haven’t even close to enough information for an opinion) is that it’s not a bad idea but they’ll not get it done in 30 years and the budget will treble (at least).

Wind Energy: The Next Green Black-Hole – Marita Noon – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary

Can you say crony capitalism at its worst? That’s exactly what this is.

I’ve featured Marita Noon before, she is extremely knowledgeable on energy so listen up:

 

The wind energy industry has been having a hard time. The taxpayer funding that has kept it alive for the last twenty years is coming to an end, and those promoting the industry are panicking.

Perhaps this current wave started when one of wind energy’s most noted supporters, T. Boone Pickens, “Mr. Wind,” in an April 12 interview on MSNBC said, “I’m in the wind business…I lost my ass in the business.”

The industry’s fortunes didn’t get any better when on May 4, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote an editorial titled, “Gouged by the wind,” in which they stated: “With natural gases not far from $2 per million BTU, the competitiveness of wind power is highly suspect.” Citing a study on renewable energy mandates, the WSJ says: “The states with mandates paid 31.9% more for electricity than states without them.”

Then, last week the Financial Times did a comprehensive story: “US Renewables boom could turn into a bust” in which they predict the “enthusiasm for renewables” … “could fizzle out.” The article says: “US industry is stalling and may be about to go into reverse. …Governments all over the world have been curbing support for renewable energy.”

Michael Liebreich of the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance says: “With a financially stressed electorate, it’s really hard to go to them and say: ‘Gas is cheap, but we’ve decided to build wind farms for no good reason that we can articulate.’” Christopher Blansett, who is a top analyst in the alternative-energy sector in the Best on the Street survey, says, “People want cheap energy. They don’t necessarily want clean energy.”

It all boils down to a production tax credit (PTC) that is set to expire at the end 2012. Four attempts to get it extended have already been beaten back so far this year—and we are only in the fifth month. The Financial Times reports: “Time-limited subsidy programmes…face an uphill battle. The biggest to expire this year is the production tax credit for onshore wind power, the most important factor behind the fourfold expansion of US wind generation since 2006. Re

Continue reading Wind Energy: The Next Green Black-Hole – Marita Noon – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary.

Solyndra Part 5429? (I’m not sure either)

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.

Image via Wikipedia

I know I’ve written four times about this but, I choose not to write about it every day, I (and you) get bored with it. But Solyndra, like Fast and Furious, and Old Man River, just keeps rolling along.

This installment is from the Washington Post via Hot Air and Melissa Clouthier and details how layoff announcement was delayed till 3 November 2010 at the cost of $40 Billion taxpayer dollars.

The Washington Post broke this story earlier this morning.  Does anyone want to argue that Solyndra isn’t a scandal now?

“The Obama administration urged officers of the struggling solar company Solyndra to postpone announcing planned layoffs until after the November 2010 midterm elections, newly released e-mails show. …

“Solyndra’s chief executive warned the Energy Department on Oct. 25, 2010, that he intended to announce worker layoffs Oct. 28. He said he was spurred by numerous calls from reporters and potential investors about rumors the firm was in financial trouble and was planning to lay off workers and close one of its two plants.

“But in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the layoff announcement until Nov. 3. The midterm elections were held Nov. 2, and led to Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Read the Article.

About the only thing I find even slightly humorous about this debacle is that Hot Air commenters are referring to Michelle Malkin referring to Obama as Icarus and recalling his fate. I’m reasonably certain at this point that if the Republicans had won the Senate, impeachment would be in the air.

But at least its only a year until elections.

Keystone Update

Truck Hauling 36-Inch Pipe To Build Keystone X...

Image via Wikipedia

As we have noted before the Keystone XL pipeline which will run from Canada to Texas has overwhelming support. It will provide lower cost oil (from the Canadian Oils Sands) and increase our security.

I suppose we should note in passing that in Montana they are also building a rail car loading facility to handle part of the Bakken field that has North Dakota booming. (more here)

Anyway the Watermelons (you know: Green on the outside and red on the inside) are filing another frivolous lawsuit to try to stop the pipeline. This time they’re excited because investigations are being done to make sure find and relocate the American burrowing beetle (don’t ask me, I’ve never seen one either) from under the pipeline route.

As part of this they are mowing the grass; the group, which includes; The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth, has filed suit to stop them.

Ben Howe at RedState has the story:

Environmentalists are up in arms and going to court to try to prevent the mowing of grass taking place around the future site of the Keystone XL Pipeline, an oil pipeline connecting Alberta, Canada with Gulf Coast refineries.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth have filed a lawsuit making the charge that the mowing of grass along the proposed route is really the beginning of construction.

“It’s outrageous that TransCanada is already clearing the way for the Keystone XL pipeline before the public has had a chance to have its say and, indeed, before federal agencies have even said it can be built,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It looks like the fix is in on this dangerous project, and the sham public process is nothing more than an afterthought.”

In actuality, the mowing is an effort to find and relocate the American burying beetle from burrowing below where the pipeline is proposed to be built.  Something you’d think the environmentalist whackos would be happy was being done.

But it’s not really about the beetle or the grass.  This is simply a stalling technique, and one that the Center for Biological Diversity is well accustomed to.

Continue Reading

Isn’t that special?

With the Mid east blowing up and all the other problems we have they still want to stop anything that might have to do with safe domestic power if it is derived from fossil fuels instead of their precious, completely inadequate, so-called renewables.

Personally, I don’t think we can afford the watermelons, any more. Western Civilization was built on using mechanical energy instead of animal (including human) energy, and they are trying their best to undo the Industrial revolution. But, of course, only for us peons, not for them.

Solyndra Part IV

First PumaBydesign001 has the video of Washington’s reaction.

Just about what we’ve come to expect.

Scott Walker at Philanthropy Today has an article up in connection with Solyndra where he writes about some of the odd characteristics of the Kaiser Foundation.

For example, it turns out that the “George Kaiser Family Foundation” isn’t exactly a foundation as conventionally understood. Legally speaking, it’s not a “private nonoperating foundation” like, say, the Ford Foundation or the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Instead, it’s a “supporting organization” of the Tulsa Community Foundation.

That fact has several consequences:

– George Kaiser can use a much higher proportion of his donations to lower his personal income tax bill.

– The Kaiser Foundation can own big chunks of for-profit companies like Solyndra, whereas it’s not clear a standard foundation could legally do so.

– Unlike standard foundations, the Kaiser Foundation has no legal requirement to give away at least 5 percent of its assets every year (and so far it hasn’t come close to giving that much away – in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, it contributed just over 1 percent to charities).

You really should read the rest, and his links.

Wapo says Secretary Chu is getting ready to fall on his sword.

Bloomberg says Solyndra should have a bankruptcy trustee because they won’t answer questions.

Hot Air’s Green Room and the Scandal of Tommorrowland.

Megan McArdle, explaining why the federal loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra is more venture socialism than venture capitalism, concluded:

[T]his isn’t much like a VC. Or anything else that makes financial sense in the private sector. It’s like… the government giving money to companies that sound whizzy.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds added: “A more cynical explanation is that the ‘sound whizzy’ is just meant to be a distraction from what’s really no more than a payoff to political supporters.” When the history of the Solydra debacle is fully written, Prof. Reynolds may well be correct about the political payoff angle. However, our sprawling federal government offer myriad opportunities for political payoffs, so it’s worth examining why the Obama administration would throw hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars at things that “sound whizzy.”

Read the rest.

If you’ve forgotten, here is what I’ve said.

Solyndra, and

Solyndra Part II, and

Solyndra (et. al.) Part III.

In other news: PumaBydesign 001 also reports that New Yorkers are getting pretty damn tired of #OccupyWallStreet even if Frances Fox Pivens drops by.

Have a fun rest of Monday.

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