Tag: Energy

Hoover Podcast: The Future of Nuclear Power

 

Over at the Hoover Institution, we’ve recently launched a new essay series on the role that nuclear power can play in the future of American energy production.

In this special podcast to accompany that series, I sit down with William J. Madia, Chairman of the Board of Overseers and Vice President for the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, and Regis Matzie, a consultant to the international nuclear industry and the former Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Westinghouse Electric Company, to talk specifically about one piece of technology that they believe could change the way the U.S. does nuclear: small modular reactors (SMRs). Listen in below to hear how SMRs could potentially address energy, environmental, and national security concerns in a groundbreaking fashion:

Fun with Bubbles: How Elon Musk and the Government are Recreating the Housing Crisis

 

BubbleFor all the arguments between liberals and conservatives on economic issues, most boil down to one core point of contention: conservatives realize that government doesn’t do a lot of things very well. One of those things government is not very good at, compared to the private sector and free individuals, is learning hard lessons. Case in point: bubbles.

The government loves blowing bubbles more than a small child. The difference is that when a child’s bubbles pop, they don’t erupt with enough force to shake the economic foundations of entire industries, regions, or the planet.

The most famous recent example is the housing crisis and subsequent “Great Recession” of 2008. While the media and Common Core-approved textbooks still blame that crisis on the “greedy bankers,” the reality is that the federal government, with some help from local governments, huffed and puffed and blew up the housing bubble through mortgage guarantees, artificially low interest rates, zoning laws, and pressure on banks to loan to people that could never afford standard 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgages.

Uncommon Knowledge: Senator John Hoeven on Energy

 

In the newest installment of Uncommon Knowledge — filmed earlier this year in Washington — I sit down with North Dakota Senator (and former governor) John Hoeven for a master class on energy policy. The Keystone pipeline, fracking, how domestic energy policy affects America’s dealings with the Middle East — Senator Hoeven covers it all in our conversation below.

Exxon CEO Pushes Back Against Environmentalists

 

RexTillersonAt a recent annual shareholders meeting, Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s longtime Chairman and CEO, did something very unusual for a business executive: he questioned the global warming hysteria.

Tillerson said that models predicting the effects of global warming “just aren’t that good,” and that it would be very difficult for the world to meet aggressive emission-reduction targets. He further noted that technology can help deal with rising sea levels or changing weather patterns “that may or may not be induced by climate change.” Tillerson added, “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity. I know that is an unsatisfactory answer to a lot of people, but it’s an answer that a scientist and an engineer would give you.”

To compound his sins, Tillerson then rejected calls to invest in faddish renewable energy schemes such wind and solar saying, “We choose not to lose money on purpose.” According to the above article, the audience broke out in applause.

The Essential King Dollar/Low-Energy Nexus

 

The strong May jobs report — including a 280,000 jump in non-farm payrolls — reminds me of the big debate over the harmful effects of a strong dollar and falling oil prices. But where’s the harm? King Dollar, along with the supply benefits of the oil-fracking revolution, may actually be propping up a subpar economy facing headwinds from heavy business taxes and overregulation.

The entire cost structure of American business benefits from lower-cost imports and the cheaper purchase price of anything when the dollar is king and energy costs sink.

Geopolitical Shocks from Fracking

 

Hydro-Fracking-FieldTechnology is great — we all know that. It has given us longer and far more comfortable lives, and enormous increases in wealth of all kinds. Nevertheless, we often make arguments about geopolitics as if we were in a technological stasis field. This is a mistake, because, of course, technological changes lead to unintended consequences that can change everything.

I am speaking specifically not about incremental technological changes (like better cars or air conditioning), but about disruptive changes — the kinds of things that lead to changes that the inventors never imagined.

One of my recent hobby horses is fracking. People think that it is about cheap energy, which it is. And they think it is an environmental nightmare, which is not so. Fracking in the U.S. has brought down (and will hold down) energy prices. But the geopolitical implications are staggering — and broadly unrecognized.

The False Panacea of Energy Independence

 

Politicians, commentators, and some fellow Richochetti often mention “energy independence” as a solution to the conundrum of Middle Eastern politics. Dealing with the complex mess of that region is a thankless and dirty job, and we’ve been stuck doing it because of the importance of Persian Gulf oil to the world economy. I raised this issue last night in a comment to a post by Claire Berlinski, and it seemed to me that it warranted further discussion.shutterstock_78597688

The United States is not involved in the Middle East because we import oil from the Middle East. Rather, events in the Middle East can have a major impact on the worldwide price of oil. This would be true even if the US doubled its oil production and became a net exporter, as the Middle East would continue to produce a large proportion of the world’s oil. Simply put, American “energy independence” will not change the political importance of the Middle East, nor will it insulate the US from oil price shocks resulting from events in the Middle East.

This is true because a large percentage of the most easily-accessible oil is located in the Middle East. This is a matter of geography, and is not something that we can change (assuming conquest of the oil fields is off the table). In fact, I would not be surprised if falling oil prices increase the proportion of oil produced in the Middle East, as I suspect that the more marginal wells (which tend to shut down when prices drop) are located elsewhere.

The Strategika Podcast: Kori Schake on the Mixed Blessings of Energy Abundance

 

Schake current hi-resThe energy boom has been great for the United States. But in other parts of the world? Not so much. In this final installment of the Strategika series on the international implications of new energy development, I talk with the Hoover Institution’s Kori Schake about the fallout for nations that have traditionally relied on energy resources to prop up their governments. Are places like Venezuela and Russia heading for dramatic upheavals thanks to changes in global markets? Should growing American energy production cause us to rethink our role in the Middle East? Are natural resources just as much a curse as a blessing? You can hear the answers below or by subscribing to the Strategika podcast through iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

The Strategika Podcast: Williamson Murray on the Strategic Implications of America’s Energy Boom

 

WickIn the new series of Strategika podcasts from the Hoover Institution, we’re looking at what the revolution in American energy production means for the US’s economic and strategic future. In this first installment, I talk with Williamson Murray, the Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall Chair of Strategic Studies at The Marine Corps University, about what the implications are for our relationships with Russia, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East. Listen in below or subscribe to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast service.

A Conservative’s Guide To Keystone XL

 

Conservatives need to get their facts straight if they want to win the argument on Keystone XL. In order to do that, you need to understand that there are different types of crude oils that are not all the same physically or chemically. Next, you need to know that not all crude oil refineries are alike or have the same product slates. Then, you need to understand logistics. After that, you can consider sources and stability.

Canada has increased its production of crude oil. It’s not just strip-mined oil sands being converted to synthetic crude oil: the increase in production in Canada comes from very heavy crude oils—think of a can of Kiwi shoe polish at room temperature—being pumped out of the ground. This type of crude oil is high in asphaltenes. Here in the U.S. we have very little of this type of crude oil, though there are some commercially viable deposits in Bakersfield, California and Railroad Valley, Nevada. Outside of Canada, the closest source of this type of crude oil is Venezuela. The API gravity of this oil is between 8 and 12, making it Very Heavy Crude Oil; not just heavy, but very heavy. It won’t even flow unless its temperature is above 130 Fahrenheit (54 celsius).

Guns ‘n Gases

 

shutterstock_64283608When histories of the Obama Era are written — please, God, only two years more! — two great ironies will be noted: that the most progressive president since Johnson, and the most academically cloistered since Wilson, presided over a period of tremendous booms in domestic fossil fuel production and a continued restoration of Americans’ full Second Amendment rights, both of which the president and his allies opposed.

On the latter, it’s really amazing to recall just how far we’ve come of late. The twin decisions of D.C. v. Heller (decided during Obama’s first campaign) and McDonald v. Chicago (decided during his first term and, deliciously, with his home town as the defendant) confirmed that the Second Amendment is an individual right that both the federal government and the states are obliged to recognize. Relatedly, all fifty states now have at least some form of concealed-carry law.

More importantly, crime statistics during the period have overwhelmingly contradicted the predictions of the gun-grabbers, who spent decades arguing that gun control was the only thing preventing America from descending into chaos. This simply has not happened, and there’s strong (if not conclusive) evidence to support the theory that allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves actually reduces violent crime. For an interesting and — given our recent conversations — rather topical take on the matter, consider this piece on Chicago’s down-tick in violent crime since conceal carry permits became available.

Fuel For Humanity

 

The modern environmental movement is guilty of a great many sins — alarmism, data-fudging, it’s knee-jerk embrace of socialism — but the clear winner is its indifference to human well-being. Occasionally, this manifests itself in open misanthropy, complete with comparisons of humans to locusts who decided to ditch their usual standards of social responsibility and just live in the moment. More often, however, it’s simply a matter of ignorance combined with selfishness: fossil fuels hurt the earth; using them makes me feel bad; therefore, we should try to use less of them ourselves and force others to do the same.

Even if fossil fuels are less-dangerous than advertised — as seems to be the case — this ignores the other half of the the ledger: what are the benefits of using hydrocarbon fuels? Only after examining that can one arrive at an informed opinion.

Why Putin Is Less Dangerous Now

 

shutterstock_96507811Many commentators have expressed the belief that Russia is more dangerous now that their economy has collapsed because Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has his back against the wall and may react unpredictably. Perhaps. But I have one question for these prognosticators: with what soldiers will he react?

I ask this question because one of the great sources of Russia’s recent military revival has been the comprehensive military reforms begun in 2008, transforming the Russian military from a large and ponderous conscript army to a modern professional army, like those of the United States or United Kingdom. Because of these reforms, the number of soldiers in the Russian army has dropped to 300,000. For the first time ever, the Russian Army is smaller than its American counterpart.

Though smaller, it is much more capable than before. A large conscript army may be good for repelling a general invasion, but it a poor tool for fighting an expeditionary war such as an invasion of Ukraine. This is because long-serving professionals are more competent and motivated at warcraft than are two-year conscripts, something the US discovered in Vietnam. The proportion of conscripts in the Russian military is at an all-time low. In addition, the period of conscription has been reduced to one year from the traditional two.

Thankful for: Shale Oil

 

It’s nice when good things happen to your friends, but isn’t it nicer when bad things happen to your enemies? From The Guardian:

On Thanksgiving Day, the most powerful oil cartel in the world, the Organization of Petroleum Export Countries, will be facing a dilemma: too much of a good thing.

Has Fusion Energy Finally Arrived?

 

Lockheed Martin has claimed that their famed Skunk Works division made a major breakthrough in developing a nuclear fusion reactor. Their plan is to create several 100-megawatt reactors small enough to fit on the backs of trucks.

As a former submarine reactor operator, I wondered if I would ever see economical nuclear fusion in my lifetime. Fusion has long been a holy grail to nuclear engineers, with research institutions pouring billions into models that produced little energy at exorbitant cost. Many charlatans and cranks have latched onto fusion as a sort of perpetual motion machine, sullying the field for real scientists.

Colorado Anti-Fracking Initiatives Anger Ranchers, Democrats

 

colorado-frackingOn the north slope of the Grand Mesa in Colorado, a cattle ranch sits in the Plateau Valley that has been owned and operated by the same family for four generations. They raise hay and pasture on about 1,500 acres of irrigated ground, both owned and leased, grow alfalfa and grass hay, and set a few acres aside for small grains. During the summer, they run their cattle on National Forest land — 60,000 acres that they share with 10 other ranchers. What many people might not realize about ranches like these is that the energy industry is a big part of their lives.

Carlyle Currier’s great grandfather bought his first farm in 1891, and the current ranch in 1906. “The legacy of such long-term ownership,” said Currier “gives you a real sense of the importance of caring for the land. You certainly can’t profitably farm the same ground for more than a century without taking good care of the resources.” With a son currently studying agriculture business at CSU, Currier is not only taking care of the legacy left to him, but securing that legacy for the fifth generation of ranchers and beyond. Gas drilling is an important part of this legacy, and has been for decades.

“Gas drilling has been a part of the ranch my entire life,” said Currier, “the first well was drilled in 1958 when my grandfather owned the ranch. There were several wells drilled in the late 1970s and then about 20 more in the last decade.” The ranchers and energy companies work together to keep these relationships working. “We have, of course, witnessed huge changes in the way the energy companies operated over the years,” said Currier, “but they have all generally, with a very few exceptions, treated us with respect and tried to work with whatever request we have made concerning well pad locations, timing of drilling, and protection of our property.” These relationships have had incredible benefits for the Currier family and their ranch.

Trick the Bumpkin: Democrats and the EPA

 

Today’s EPA decision to limit the emissions of coal-fired power plants was expected as part of the legacy stage of Obama’s presidency. Our side immediately rushed to declare that middle-class families will be hit with higher electric bills, that we face reduced economic growth, and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

However, today’s most important lesson isn’t that Obama is willing to wreck a sector of the economy in order to build the Tom Steyer Wing of the Obama Presidential Library. It’s that the liberal apparatus in the press, the vast constellation of left-wing advocacy groups, and the Democratic donor class are perfectly comfortable with lying to win, and that the rules they insist everyone else play by are tissue-thin political screens.

War on Coal = War on Freedom — D.C. McAllister

 

In 2008, President Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle, “If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

Obama’s Climate Action Plan clearly states his opposition to coal: “Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production.”