Congress and our President are in the process of forcing Net Zero Carbon, Green Energy on all of us. In my view what this will do is increase prices of energy, make our energy less reliable, make America less competitive and in general, harm our quality of life. In thinking about this and attempting to explain why I feel this way, it occurred to me that if all of the citizens knew where our energy comes from and how much we depend on it each day, perhaps more of us would pressure our Congressmen/Congreswomen to resist this foolishness. So, here is my stab at explaining where our energy comes from and why the “Green New Deal” is so harmful.
I have been involved in the energy business for many years and the one chart that explains energy flows best, is the DOE Sankey diagram above. This shows the sources of all of our energy and how it is used throughout the economy. I have been watching this for about 20 years and interestingly, the total U.S. energy use has held steady at about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year. In fact, I will show a graph below of the U.S. Energy use by year from 1950-2019.
Where does the 830,000 to a million Btu’s per day come from? If we divide 100 Quadrillion Btu’s by the population of 330 million, then the per capita energy use is about 303 million Btu’s/person/year. Divide the 303 million Btu’s per person/year by 365 days and it comes out to about 830,000 Btu’s/day/person.
This is average and of course, a person living in a small condo that does little travel, will use less energy than a person who lives in a 2500 square foot home, owns a small fishing boat and travels the world. Lets say the latter example would use more than a million Btu’s per day. This energy could be in gasoline, natural gas, propane for the grill, electricity for HVAC of the home and for cooking. Included in the allottmant of per capita energy use is our share of industrial production, commercial buildings, shipments of goods and government use for the military. Below is an illustartion of the forms of energy we might use each day.
So what does this have to do with the “Green New Deal” and the Clean Energy Plan Congress is about to pass? Well, if we are accustomed to living productive lives using conventional energy sources such as outlined above, then how can we sustain our high quality of lives by substituting wind turbines and solar panels for the 96.2 Quadrillion Btu’s provided by conventional forms of energy? Note that on the first figure above, the Sankey diagram I have inserted the total wind and solar in 2019 provided 3.8% of our energy. Petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, coal, biomass, geothermal and old hydropwer dams provided the other 96.2%
Let’s get to electricity. The total energy used in 2019 was 100 Quadrillion Btu’s and 37% of this was used to generate electricity. So if we look into the future of EV’s and eliminating the internal combustion engine, then the energy used for transportation will need to come from electricity. Lots more electricity. How does the “Net Zero 2050” proponents think they will get to zero carbon emissions? By windmills and solar. Lots of windmills and solar. Here is an illustration from the Princeton University Net Zero Path.
My opinion is that if this path is taken, it is totally impractical and harmful to America, our way of life and our national security.
After many years of tax subsidies, wind and solar produced 3.8% of our energy in 2019. Texas, Hawaii and California have their own applications of too much renewable power which resulted in Blackouts in CA and TX and the highest electricity costs in the nation for Hawaii. How can we expect zero carbon based fuels by 2050 and still maintain a strong economy and enjoy our way of life. Perhaps more important to our grandchildren, keep English as our primary language, not Mandarin? The next three charts show the relationship of carbon emissions and manufacturing by a few selected countries.
I will close with the fact that according to a report I saw in S&P Global, China has the four largest banks in the world. The relationship of energy use and economic prosperity cannot be denied. China built more power generation in twenty years than America did since Thomas Edison’s first Pearl Street Station was commissioned.
Vaclav Smil’s quote of “Energy is the Universal Currency” comes to mind.
China loves America’s Net Zero 2050 and the “Green New Deal” Maybe they even wrote them?
I have written before on the “Green New Deal” and why it is wrong for America. However, it is now September and as I understand it, the Princeton University Study, Net Zero Carbon by 2050 is basically about to become law.
Based on my career in power generation and including professional involvement in other countries of the world, my opinion is that “Net Zero Carbon” is wrong for America. Here are some reasons why I believe this:
Climate Change is mostly natural, not caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels. Some references are listed below. These are some of the respected Scientists that specialize in Atmospheric and Climate Science that disagree with the “War on Carbon”.
The U.S.A. is a minor contributor to world emissions of CO2 when compared to Asian countries including China and India.
Economic prosperity and manufacturing is dependent on reasonable cost energy. The Net Zero Carbon Path will increase American energy costs and is impractical.
America uses about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s each year. This is total energy and it includes renewables as well as nuclear and fossil fuels. The total energy use of 100 Quad’s +/- 8 has been pretty steady for over ten years. In my view, America will continue to require 100 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy and more into the future.
Each American citizen on average uses about 800,000 to 1 million Btu’s each day. This is to simplify #4 above.
So, why is there such a rush to destroy America’s economy (and threaten our National Security) if Fossil Fuels do not pose a threat?
I just forund the answer to the question #6. The last lines of Dr. Rossiter’s excellent article in the WUWT Blog, “Follow the Money, It seems to me that the “science” will only be settled (or forgotten) when Mother Nature does exactly what she wants: the temperature may go up and the alarmists will rejoice in having sounded the alarm (even though it has little to do with CO2), or it will stay unchanged or go down, in which case they will either claim success in taming the monster or quietly fade away and find some new cause to dump on the long-suffering public. Whichever way it goes, the Climate Industrial Complex and all that supports it is now probably too big to fail.”
11. WHITE HOUSE BROCHURES ON CLIMATE (THERE IS NO CLIMATE CRISIS)
January 8th, 2021 This is from Dr. George Holliday Environmental Newsletter, January 17, 2021 and are posted on D. Roy Spencer’s website, which is listed above #5
“Late last year, several of us were asked by David Legates (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) to write short, easily understandable brochures that supported the general view that there is no climate crisis or climate emergency, and pointing out the widespread misinformation being promoted by alarmists through the media.
Below are the resulting 9 brochures, and an introduction by David. Mine is entitled, “The Faith-Based Nature of Human Caused Global Warming”.
David hopes to be able to get these posted on the White House website by January 20 (I presume so they will become a part of the outgoing Administration’s record) but there is no guarantee given recent events.
He said we are free to disseminate them widely. I list them in no particular order. We all thank David for taking on a difficult job in more hostile territory that you might imagine.
Introduction(Dr. David Legates)
The Sun Climate Connection(Drs. Michael Connolly, Ronan Connolly, Willie Soon)
Systematic Problems in the Four National Assessments of Climate Change Impacts on the US(Dr. Patrick Michaels)
Record Temperatures in the United States(Dr. John Christy)
Radiation Transfer(Dr. William Happer)
Is There a Climate Emergency (Dr. Ross McKitrick)
Hurricanes and Climate Change(Dr. Ryan Maue)
Climate, Climate Change, and the General Circulation(Dr. Anthony Lupo)
Can Computer Models Predict Climate(Dr. Christopher Essex)
The Faith-Based Nature of Human-Caused Global Warming(Dr. Roy Spencer)
This huge amount of energy is not easily replaced by alternative fuels! My response to an ASME webinar on forcing a “Green Grid” on America.
All Fuels Are Important, but Thermal Power Generation Is Still Number 1
Last month I participated in a continuing education webinar presented by the ASME Mechanical Engineering Magazine. I was upset by the lack of practicality and missing common sense of the presentation. Thus, I wrote a letter to the ASME Magazine’s Editor. The text is copied below.
Throughout my career—and also through the ASME’s long history (ASME’s, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, B&PV Code saved millions of lives and advanced our country!)—thermal power generation has been the greatest source of dispatchable electricity generation. In my view, policymakers have run a very good and smooth evolution of power generation diversity off the rails. The Biden Administration (probably with advisors like Dr. Jenkins) and Democrat Congress policies constitute an anti-American war on carbon. These policies, if continued, will in fact be extremely harmful to the country’s economy, national security, and eventually, when considering bans on oil and gas production and pipelines in the U.S., our freedoms. Further, if continued as Jenkins, Biden, Kerry, Et Al wish, will contribute to the decline of western civilization. (by strengthening China, Russia, Iran and their allies)
There is not space here to debate climate change, whether manmade or natural. Suffice it to say, I believe climate and weather changes are, for the most part, driven by natural forces of solar activity, ocean currents, volcanoes, tilt of the earth, and other uncontrollable dynamics. The pressure to rejoin the Paris Agreement is driven by other countries that wish to see America decline in power and influence in the world. China will gain the most by America’s decline. Princeton’s Dr. William Happer provides an excellent summary with a segment beginning at minute 24 where the effects of CO2 are discussed.https://bit.ly/3zsXcS6
Reasonable cost, and abundant, energy and electricity are crucial for our economy and the functioning of our society. Over the years, it has been well-documented that all advanced economies grow in proportion to energy use. America’s economy grew in direct proportion to its energy use over the 130-plus years since Edison’s Pearl Street Station commenced operation.
China’s economy grew from being a poor and developing country in the year 2000 to now being the world’s largest manufacturer and world’s second-largest economy. China produces more than 50% of the world’s steel and aluminum, as well as being the largest producer of manufactured products. China plans to become larger than the U.S. and is likely to pass America as the world’s #1 economy in a few years. Biden’s policies will accelerate the growth of China’s economy and the decline of America’s. To reach the status of the world’s largest manufacturer and largest producer of steel and aluminum, China built more electric power generation in the past 20 years than America did since Westinghouse and GE were founded. Remember George Westinghouse? One of America’s finest engineers.
Energy and economic prosperity go hand in hand. So, let’s look at where our energy comes from. America has used right at 100 quadrillion Btus per year for about the last 10 years or more. (last year was about 93 Quads due to the pandemic) According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. used 100.2 quadrillion Btus in 2019.
More than 90% of the U.S.’s primary energy consumption in 2019 was provided for use by thermal heat engines. This is comprised of about 36.8% petroleum, 32.1% natural gas, 11.3% coal, 8.4% nuclear, and 4.9% biomass. The total renewable energy consumption (excluding biomass) was 6.4%, and a significant portion of that bulk power (40%) was from hydroelectric. This primary energy use includes transportation, commercial, residential, and industrial use. Electricity consumption of our total primary energy was 37.1%.
When politicians and the mainstream media talk about energy- and planet-saving electric vehicles and renewable power generation, I think it would be wise to consider that, if we like our status in the world, and our current comforts and conveniences, then we will need at least 100 quadrillion Btus of energy per year for the foreseeable future. At present, about 93.5% of our total energy is used in heat engines and only about 6.4% is supplied by non-biomass renewables. That’s right. Check the EIA website to see for yourself.
To say changing from 93.5% heat engines to renewable power generation and electric vehicles will be disruptive is a gross understatement. In time, renewable power advances and green hydrogen from renewables will eventually come. But for the next 10 years or more, America should stay the course with modernizing our current fleet of natural gas, nuclear, and coal plants. These are what we depend on and the mid-February rolling blackout experiences in Texas should be a wake-up call to policymakers.
Another example is Hawaii, which plans to shut down its lowest cost power plant—Barbers Point coal plant. As the state moves toward its version of the new “Green Deal,” Hawaii has the highest cost electricity in the nation. Not a problem for an economy based on tourism and government facilities, but $0.25 kilowatts will not permit competitive primary metals production or competitive manufacturing in the contiguous 48 states.
In my adopted state of South Carolina, about one-third of the total electricity is used by industry. South Carolina has a thriving industrial sector, and it depends on reasonable-cost and reliable electricity. Sacrificing reasonable-cost conventional power generating plants to replace with renewables will drive much manufacturing overseas (again).
As I read the plans for South Carolina’s coal plants, all of which I have worked at and know very well, I see that several more coal units are planned to be shut down in the next 10 years. These are to be replaced with solar or other renewables. Currently, more than 55% of South Carolina’s electricity is generated from nuclear power. Therefore, replacing coal with renewables may not be a problem, if the South Carolina nuclear units keep running indefinitely. However, several of these nuclear units are into their second licenses and will begin shutting down in the 2030s. As I see it, this sets ourselves up to follow California, Hawaii, and Texas into higher-cost power production and less-reliable power supplies. All fuels are important!
Let’s review the last 15 years of fuel changes in the U.S. In 2004, electric power generation was about 92.4% thermal generation. In 2019, the percentage of thermal generation was still the highest at 83.6%. Natural gas made the largest gain at the expense of coal. Wind grew from 0.4% to 7.1% over the 15-year period. Now, if policymakers are concerned about electric reliability and competing in the world with manufactured products, they should rethink the trends toward more intermittent non-dispatchable renewables.
Americans have lived through disruptions before. I lived in a small town in North Carolina, which the county seal showed textiles and aluminum production as being the most important for its economy. Then, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the textile mills closed down, killing about 7,000 jobs in a county with 60,000 people. A few years later, Alcoa Corp. shut down the aluminum smelting plant that had been in operation for more than 100 years, causing another 750 or so jobs to be lost. Aluminum smelting is very energy intensive, it takes about 5 kWh to produce one pound of aluminum. It doesn’t take a world class Economist to understand how China has become the world’s largest producer of steel and aluminum. China uses about 57% of the world’s coal to power their industry. True, China uses more coal than all of the rest of the world put together.
In Texas, I did much work from 1978 onward at an Alcoa plant in Rockdale, as well as at numerous coal plants. Rockdale was the largest aluminum smelter in North America, and it was shut down in 2008 due to oversupply of aluminum from China. Over 6,000 MW of reliable, reasonable-cost coal power generation has been shut down in Texas since 2008. Had these coal plants not been retired, perhaps the events in mid-February may have played out differently.
Energy and economic prosperity are inter-related. The Green New Deal and more renewable power will harm America’s competitive advantage. If we think February was a bad month for electric reliability, imagine what the Green New Deal and further accelerated disruptive changes to renewables will do to the rest of the U.S. Preserving our good lives requires about 100 quadrillion Btus per year. In my view, obtaining this energy from all available fuels within our borders is important.
I suggest that the ASME publications and energy programs consider the facts of All Fuels and why they are important for our country.
The author of several books on energy, Vaclav Smil is quoted as saying “Energy is the only universal currency: one of its many forms must be transformed to another in order for stars to shine, planets to rotate, plants to grow, and civilizations to evolve.”
Most American citizens simply take abundant, reliable and reasonable cost energy for granted. It is not until a major pipeline is shutdown as the Colonial Pipeline was last year by hackers. Or, there is severe weather such as a hurricane that shuts down refineries and/or topples electricity transmission towers. Only then does the average American notice just how important energy is to our lives. As important as energy is to us, we are allowing politicians who know very little about the production of energy, electricity generation, transmission and distribution of energy to, “Completely transform America’s energy infra-structure with the Green New Deal” I wrote last year on Hawaii’s path toward the “Green New Deal”, Here is the link: https://wordpress.com/post/dickstormprobizblog.wordpress.com/32
I used Hawaii as an example, because Hawaii is literally an energy island and is not connected to the American Electric Grid. Thus, it provides a perfect laboratory to expose the results of going green, or at least moving in that direction. Because of the isolation from competitive electricity supplies, the change to more green generation is making a much faster impact on electricity pricing. There is not the ability to import low cost coal or natural gas power from other states as say, California can. Because of the intermittant nature of renewable power (Non-Dispatchable), much of Hawaii’s electricity is generated from oil fuel. In fact, you can get a real time update on the generation source here: https://www.islandpulse.org
Oahu has a very reliable and clean coal plant, Barber’s Point. The real time screen shot above shows 14% of Oahu’s power was being provided at this moment. Unfortunately, because of unreasonable Political reasons, the coal plant is scheduled for premature shutdown. Just because the elected officials have their own war on carbon. Their intentions may be pure but in reality to keep the power supply reliable, much of the electricity generation is from oil fuel. (no natural gas pipelines in Hawaii either, thus, oil backup power) Most of the cost of electricity (about 75% for coal and 90% fuel cost component for natural gas or oil) production from a Thermal Power Plant is for fuel. Therefore, using Diesel Fuel which second only to hydrogen, is the most expensive fuel available. As time goes on, the higher production cost of electric generation must be passed on to the Rate-Payers. Thus, Hawaii has the highest electricity costs in America. Note the chart below provided by the Electric Choice.com web site. The average retail cost of electricity in America is about $0.13/kWh. As shown below, Hawaii’s is $0.327/kWh
Critics can say that electricity is a small cost of our household expenses. That, high electric costs such as Hawaii and California have is not a big deal. Well, in my state of South Carolina, manufacturing (jobs) is still a large part of our economy. We have NUCOR Steel and Century Aluminum manufacturers. The production of vital steel and aluminum that we need is very electricity intensive. So, perhaps Hawaiians can enjoy life and their economy thrive. Tourism and government facilities can absorb the high electric costs, competitive manufacturing cannot. My state cannot. Just for reference, over 50% of our electricity in SC is generated by four well run nuclear power plants. These nuclear plants plus reasonable cost natural gas and coal plants keep our electricity costs below the National average. The generation is “Dispatchable too!” That means, electricity load can be increased or decreased as customer demand fluctuates.
All of us should be aware of China’s dominating world manufacturing. China produces over 50% of the world’s steel, aluminum and concrete. China uses over 57% of the world’s coal production for electric power. Yes, China is the most productive and least cost producer of many products manufactured in the world. China the last time I checked, produces about 28% of the world’s manufactured goods. I submit that electricity prices matter. Reasonable cost electricity is absolutely required for competitive manufacturing.
My presentation to the Delaware County Bar Association in July 2016 has some facts and information on how China crushed ALCOA’s aluminum production. This is at this link:
My personal experiences included working (as a contractor/consultant) for ALCOA all over the world at their Alumina and Aluminum smelting facilities. I made many friends with Alcoans from 1978 till about 2012. Then, huge plants such as the Rockdale Texas Smelting operation, the smelter at Suriname, SA and others were shut down. Why? Becuase aluminum requires about 5 kWh per pound to produce the metal. This is just for the smelting operation. More energy is required for alumina production and transportation. Energy costs matter for economic prosperity. For many of my friends at ALCOA, the Chinese dumping of aluminum on the London Metal Exchange, meant early retirement or job changes.
The “Green New Deal” is anti-American and will weaken America’s competitive capacity. Conversely, the “Green New Deal” will strengthen China’s grip on world manufacturing. Their dominance in solar panel manufacturing is well documented.(4) The Green New Deal if passed will be a (another) huge gift to China.
Donn Dears has an excellent website where he provides information on energy, Net Zero Carbon, Electric Vehicles electricity generation, nuclear power generation, hydrogen and much more. Here is the Power for the U.S.A. Blog address: https://ddears.com/donns-articles/ I strongly recommend reading Donn’s articles. He has a knack for writing short concise posts with ample facts and references.
The changing of America’s electric power generation to becoming carbon free is not practical and in fact, with today’s technology, impossible. I submit the case study of Hawaii’s experiences to show the fallacy of committing to new renewable power sources to quickly. California and Texas have experienced Blackouts because of too much intermittant renewable power and not enough reliable and Dispatchable generation capacity. (Key phrase, Dispatchable Electric Generation capacity) Why would we enact policies and Regulations that make America weaker and less competitive with China?
Dick Storm, August 20, 2021
Island Pulse website by Blue Planet Foundation for real time electric generation data for Hawaii Electric on the island of Oahu. https://www.islandpulse.org
Electric Choice.com for electric rate comparisons of 50 states.
Reducing Reliability and Increasing Prices of Our Energy Supply
Vaclav Klaus was the President of the Czech Republic in 2003. I have a copy of his book, “Blue Planet in Green Shackles” with the sub-title, “What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom”
As I was straightening up my book case, I found this interesting insight from nearly 20 years ago. I started paging through the book and one quote by Klaus caught my attention. “As someone who lived under communism for most of my life, I feel obliged to say that the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century is not communism or its various softer variants. Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism.”
Klaus’ book reminded me of my friend Tom’s experience as a Charlotte, NC, City Ambassador during the 2008 Democrat Party Presidential Convention. Tom, like me was also employed in the energy industry for many decades. So, when energy issues were discussed, his antenna went up. He heard influential leaders of the Democrat Party strategizing on how to wage the war on coal. Their reasoning was, If they could craft policies to increase coal generated electricity prices, then solar and wind power will become competitive. Obviously, President Obama won that election and the war on carbon accelerated during his eight years.
These two examples of green policy intentions on two continents are the inspiration for this article. My last post was a reminder that in America we depend on (including the Btu equivalent of renewable generated electricity) about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s each year to fuel our economy. Over 85% of that energy is used in heat engines. So called, because steam turbines, reciprocating gasoline or Diesel internal combustion engines, jet engines and stationary gas turbine generators are all Heat-Engines. Heat-Engines convert the chemical (or nuclear) energy of fuel to heat that is then applied as shaft horsepower, motive force or jet thrust for producing electricity, transportation or industrial production.
Reasonable cost and reliable energy are important for us to continue our high standard of living.
Below is the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Sankey Diagram which shows the energy flows from 2019. This was a more normal year of economic activity. The total energy used was right at 100.2 Quadrillion Btu’s. If you study the energy flows, you can verify the conclusion that most of our energy is used in heat engines. Heat engines such as; steam turbines which are used to generate electricity from coal, natural gas, nuclear, geothermal, biomass and petroleum. Gas turbines that are used for stationary power generation, ship propulsion, turbo-prop aircraft propulsion. Diesel engines for trucks, buses, farm tractors, railroad locomotives and backup electric power generation, jet aircraft engines, gasoline for automobiles and trucks.
You get the point I am trying to make. To power our high quality of living, we use about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent of energy. American citizens take energy for granted and many, especially the current Congress and President assume that the existing forms of energy can be substituted in the next 15 years with Renewable forms of energy such as windmills, solar panels and Hydrogen. This is the path our elected officials have us on. So, let me ask you to check the chart below and then visualize replacing the nuclear (8.5%), natural gas (32%), coal (11.4%) and petroleum (37%) with Renewables. The total of these four sources of energy is 88.66 Quadrillion Btu’s or right at 89% of our total energy used each year. Note solar and wind was 1.04 and 2.74 Quadrillion Btu’s, totaling 3.78 Quadrillion Btu’s. Right at 3.8%.
Hydrogen is a medium that can be used for storage and is therefore zero on the chart below. Hydrogen is planned to be a large part of America’s future fuels, but it should be pointed out, hydrogen requires more energy to produce it by electrolysis than it will produce in a fuel cell or by combustion in an internal combustion engine.
Current Energy Costs for Various Fuels
I have never liked the word “Cheap” and try not to use it. However, when referring to fuel to produce power or motive force, cheaper energy is better. Example, electricity produced by a gas turbine requires Capital cost to purchase the equipment, construction cost to build the power plant, employees to operate and maintain the plant and spare parts to keep the turbine and all of its auxiliary equipment in top condition. Would you be surprised if I said a gas turbine, combined cycle power plant of say, 600 MW may cost about $ 720 million dollars? The going cost today for a GTCC plant is about $1,200/kW installed capacity. Now, think about the cost of electricity produced by the GTCC plant. It would likely be about $0.02 per kWh if the natural gas fuel was $3.00/million Btu (British Thermal Units). Over 90% of the production cost of a modern high efficiency GTCC plant is for fuel. The raw natural gas fuel is the single most expensive component of electricity production cost. Not the amortization of capital cost, or labor or spare parts. It is fuel cost that governs the production cost of electricity. So, if the natural gas price doubles, so does the production cost of electricity.
Thanks to Hydraulic Fracturing, the War on Coal has not caused a dramatic increase in the cost of electricity because natural gas prices have been very low since about 2012 or so.
Here is a chart of natural gas prices 2006-2012 from EIA data of Henry Hub spot prices, as recorded by the EIA. The war on coal has been going on since the Bill Clinton Administration but accelerated during Obama’s Presidency. The lower cost coal plants equipped with flue gas cleaning Baghouses, Electrostatic Precipitators, Selective Catalytic Reactors and Sulfur Scrubbers were the lowest cost generators. Then came Hydraulic Fracturing and cheap natural gas. The low production cost of electricity production by natural gas made competition by coal nearly impossible. Remember, fuel is 90% + of the electricity production cost for GTCC plants. Thus, cheap gas equals very reasonable cost electricity. America has had a good run of reasonable cost electricity up to now.
The current natural gas prices have increased from $2.00/million last year, to nearly double the price of 2012. Therefore, if this trend continues electricity prices will have to increase or electricity from lower cost producers, such as coal and nuclear will be needed to keep power costs down.
Here below is the natural gas price as reported by Business Insider Commodities.
The figure below illustrates production cost for the fuel component only when comparing a clean coal plant with a gas turbine combined cycle plant:
When fuel cost per million Btu’s increases, so does production cost. Hydrogen cost if you can find it (California prices) is about $142.23/million Btu’s as compared to the comparatively less expensive natural gas at $4.00/million Btu.
Typical Fuel Costs Today
The above is my attempt to explain the fundamental costs of Thermal Power Generation of electricity. Because coal plants have many other costs of flue gas cleaning reagents, more O&M personnel and more maintenance requirements of a solid fuel power plant, the fuel cost component for a typical coal plant is about 75% of production cost. Fuel is still the major cost component for electricity generation for gas, coal and oil fueled thermal power plants.
Gasoline, Regular Octane at $3.00/gallon 116,000 Btu’s/gal. $25.86/million Btu’s
Natural Gas at Henry Hub (July 27, 2021) $ 3.97/million Btu’s
Coal delivered at SC Power plant estimated $ 2.00/million Btu’s
The above shows traditional energy costs for “Heat-Engines”. There is a push by the Democrat’s in government to change to “Green Renewable Power”. Autos, airplanes and trucks cannot be run on windmills or solar. But, the technology to power these heat engines with Hydrogen is technically possible. The amount of power output is conversion of hydrogen into either electricity through the use of fuel cells or by combustion in an internal combustion engine. The cost to operate will be commensurate with the energy contained in a given unit of hydrogen, usually expressed as Btu’s. The equivalent cost of hydrogen is about $16.51 to replace a gallon of gasoline. Perhaps some day the cost of hydrogen will come down to compare with gasoline prices for a given energy output?
Net Zero Carbon will come at a very high cost and the high cost will harm our current Freedoms.
America, the rest of the Developed World and the Developing Countries of the World all depend on Fossil Fuels to power Industry, Quality of Life, Transportation and strong Economy’s. In fact more than 85% of the energy used today is used in “Heat-Engines”. Think about your life today and what you depend on. A car for transportation, air conditioning for summer comfort, Industrial production to provide jobs, economic strength and to continue to fuel our strong Economy, fuel for jet aircraft to shrink the world, Diesel fuel for trucks to deliver our food, Diesel fuel for shipping to transport products around the world. The largest slice of the energy production pie is provided by petroleum. Love them or hate them, the energy density of fossil fuels make them important to power our lives.
In America we use about 20 million barrels of oil each day. America has about 275 million cars and light trucks on the roads. This is peak vacation time in America, summer travel is brisk of people getting away to our favorite beach, mountain retreat or foreign destination. When we travel, we use energy. A lot of it.
Some prominent Americans, the Main Stream Media, the President and elected officials in high office are promoting “Net Zero Carbon by 2050”.
In my opinion, this is wrong for America and impossible to achieve. I will attempt to simplify my reasoning of why fossil fuels are important and the fact that we cannot eliminate them in the next 30 years unless there are major new break-throughs in technology.
Where We Get Our Energy
Each year, America uses about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has kept track of our actual energy sources and consumption for decades. Each year a report is produced to show the previous years energy production and use. Since about the year 2006 America has used between 95 and 103 Quadrillion Btu’s each year. Here below are two charts which show the sources and uses for energy in the U.S.A. during 2020. Note that due to the Pandemic, energy use declined from 2019 to only about 98 Quadrillion Btu’s. This was due to reduced travel and economic production during 2020, because of Covid-19. Chart 1 below shows the sources of our energy and the consumption. Note that the optimistic Renewables in 2050 is about 17 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent. The EIA converts energy from hydroelectric, solar and wind to equivalent energy in Btu’s. Each Btu is equivalent at 100% efficiency of conversion to 778 Foot Pounds of work. Thus, the BTU’s produced and used represent all forms of energy on the charts below.
Sources in 2050 of our energy. Forecast based on the EIA analyses.
38 Quadrillion Btu’s Petroleum
37 Quadrillion Btu’s Natural Gas
17 Quadrillionn Btu’s Renewable Energy
7 Quadrillion Btu’s Nuclear energy
3 Quadrillion Btu’s Hydro-electric
3 Quadrillion Btu’s Biofuels
Total 105 Quadrillion Btu’s projected to be utilized in 2050 (5)
In my opinion, that number is low because our population is growing and I suspect that in order to provide the same quality of life in 2050 as we enjoy now, with a population expected to grow to 390(6) million in 2050, will require more than 105 Quadrillion Btu’s if we continue our high quality of lives.
Let’s discuss Electric Vehicles. Today there are about 276 million cars and light trucks on the road (7). Most are fueled by gasoline or diesel fuel which is provided by over 100,000 conveniently located service stations for refueling. If these are switched to being powered by electric, then the electric power demand will be much larger than 37% of our total energy production.
The electricity production chart below shows current and future trends for electricity production. If the auto manufacturers stop producing cars powered by internal combustion engines, then to preserve our current freedom to travel, the same total energy will be required for a given prosperous population. Thus, driving similar miles per year will require that electricity be produced in proportion to the fleet of EV’s. Study the chart below. In 2050 the projections are for 42% of our electricity to be generated from Renewables. The other 58% then is projected to be generated from traditional sources, natural gas, nuclear and coal. We should keep in mind that the population is expected to increase by about 18% by 2050.
If we continue our high quality of living, then Fossil Fuels will be required through 2050. Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 will be difficult or impossible to achieve, in my opinion.
There has been much talk and writing of proposed laws by Congress to create a transformational change to renewable power. Some of this has been described as the “New Green Deal”. I have checked the Biden Administration proposed Budget and read what the Democrats have proposed for driving America to a “Net Zero CO2 America”(2,3). Based on all of this attention to “Nationalizing American Energy” supply, as one Princeton University Professor referred to it, I thought it would be helpful to create a Blog of information on hydrogen. A place where my friends can visit to learn more about American Manufacturing competitiveness, reliable, affordable electricity and reasonable cost transportation energy. This Blog is my attempt to de-mystify hydrogen as a fuel. Much has been written and hyped for EV’s (Electric Vehicles). Tesla is perhaps the best known. However, VW, GM, Ford, Porsche, Mercedes and other major automotive manufacturers have made promises to eliminate Internal Combustion Engines by as soon as 2035 and switch to EV’s or hydrogen fuel-cells. Personally, I considered purchasing an electric vehicle but decided against it on the limited range of about 300 miles. The hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on the other hand, can be refueled much like a gasoline or Diesel powered vehicle can be. Thus, hydrogen powered vehicles make the most sense for freedom of travel. The cost likely will be much higher but, at least the performance and range is not limited due to technical limitations as EV’s are. Having said that, maybe the U.S.A. will work slowly into a transition from internal combustion engine powered vehicles to EV and hydrogen power.
Let’s Assume that we are on a Path to a Hydrogen Economy
There has been much written and talk about hydrogen as part of America’s path to net zero carbon dioxide emissions. It may or may not be practical? For sure, changing to a hydrogen economy will require many changes of industries, fuel distribution network and the electric power system. All things considered, let’s just take a couple pages to review hydrogen as a fuel.
I have worked as a senior engineer in power generation for many years and even to me, there was (and remains) much mystery on the topic of hydrogen as a fuel. So, I thought I would attempt to de-mystify Hydrogen as a fuel and to present some of the facts and details. In an environmentalist’s “Perfect World”, solar and wind would provide all of the energy needed for our ground, sea and air transportation, home heating, air-conditioning, industrial production powering of our Military planes, ships and vehicles and powering our high quality of life. The proponents of hydrogen hope and believe that if they can install enough excess solar and wind power, then the excess power can be used to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen would be stored and then used in internal combustion engines, gas turbines or fuel cells later. Thus, the hydrogen is not a “Primary Fuel” as Fossil, Hydro and Nuclear are now. Hydrogen is a “Secondary Fuel” which means of storing energy that can be used later to generate electricity. When the hydrogen is produced using “Electrolyzers” powered by renewable power, then the hydrogen is referred to as “Green Hydrogen” because there is no carbon used in its production. Production of hydrogen by electrolyzers has been done for over 100 years and the technology is proven. The U.S. Navy, has used electrolyzers for decades in submarines to produce oxygen from sea water. About 90% or more of today’s commercial hydrogen is referred to as Grey or Brown Hydrogen. That is because the production of hydrogen is not carbon free and the CO2 that is released is not captured. There is a Rainbow of Hydrogen colors which are used to describe its production process. They are ranked in order of environmental friendliness, with the least carbon emitting at the top of the list.
Green Hydrogen is produced by carbon free electrolyzers powered by solar or wind power The stored hydrogen is then utilized for transportation or peak period electricity production.
Red or Pink Hydrogen is produced by carbon free nuclear power used to produce hydrogen from electroyzers, using off peak electric power to produce hydrogen
Blue Hydrogen is produced using natural gas feedstock with steam reforming (S-M-R) of the molecules and carbon dioxide capture and storage.
White Hydrogen is produced using Biomass with CO2 capture.
Grey hydrogen isproduced from methane (CH4) and steam with no CO2 capture. This, Steam-Methane-Reforming (S-M-R) is the most common method commercial hydrogen is produced today (about 90%). The figures below are from the Chemical Engineering Magazine, Hydrogen Guidebook, This article was first published in May 2010(6).
Brown hydrogen is produced using coal as the feedstock with no CO2 capture and of course, this is the greatest carbon emitting process.
Fossil fuels are all hydrocarbons and can be utilized as feedstock to produce elemental hydrogen. Methane with four molecules of hydrogen and one carbon (CH4) is the richest hydrogen fuel that exists in nature and is the most common feedstock to produce hydrogen today, so called grey hydrogen, produced as shown above by S-M-R, (Steam-Methane-Reforming). The ranking of the methods above are listed most environmentally friendly top to bottom. The cost of production is inverse with the least cost from bottom to top. If solar and wind were built at extremely low cost with “free fuel” then of course, the green hydrogen may someday become reasonable cost. However, because hydrogen is a “Secondary fuel”, and requires much energy to produce it, the use of hydrogen for transportation in fuel cells is going to be at a far higher cost than the traditional fuels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Also, hydrogen power will be much higher cost as a stored energy source to power gas turbines during peak electric demand periods when there is insufficient solar and wind such as has recently (California Aug.2020, Texas February 2021) been experienced in Texas and California.
Cost will be discussed more later. Suffice it to say that the equivalent cost per million Btu’s of hydrogen will be multiples of the cost/million Btu’s of gasoline, methane, jet fuel or Diesel fuel. In fact, the commercial cost of hydrogen today (if you can find it to buy) would be in the magnitude of ten times more costly on a dollar/million Btu basis for equivalent energy.
How Much Energy Do We Need?
To try to put America’s energy needs into perspective, we use about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year of energy. This is equivalent to about an average of 300 million Btu’s per year for each American.
The Sankey Diagram below shows the flow of all energy supplied and utilized in America for 2020.
Note the 11.78 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent in the lower left corner. This is the total renewable energy produced in America in 2020 and if you dig down into the EIA data, most of that renewable energy was produced by (old) hydroelectric power such as at Niagara Falls and Bonneville Power out west. If we are to believe that renewables and hydrogen storage can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power, then I think it is important to understand the total energy needs of America. There are prominent politicians, including our President and Speaker of the House of Representatives that believe we can become carbon free by 2035. The Princeton University and National Academy of Sciences(2,3) “Net Zero America” presentation(s) included in the references shows an impractical, highly costly, Ivory Tower path to Net Zero Carbon. Impractical as it is, about 50% of American citizens think it is a desirable path to follow. The energy experts that draw these plans up are smart. They have spent their entire adult lives in America’s finest Universities and they have numerous technical degrees. It is energy “experts” like these that are advising our top levels of government. They believe that increasing the solar and wind production of America and by completely rebuilding our electric distribution system that America’s demand for total energy for electricity, EV’s, trucking, industrial output and maintaining our high standard of living can be achieved. It is my opinion that they have proven the technical feasibility of producing renewable power and hydrogen, but at what cost? How much disruption of our Industry? How much loss of American competitiveness? How much loss of American manufacturing capacity?
Total Energy Used By the U.S.A.
Before getting into hydrogen as a fuel, the Sankey Diagram above and the next one below, show the actual sources and uses of American energy in 2020. Both the sources of our total energy and the uses of that energy. 2020 was an unusual year because of the Pandemic and our total energy use actually declines from the range of 100 Quadrillion Btu’s per year to about 93 Quadrillion Btu’s. Here is the EIA (US Department of Energy Information Administration) (1).
The preceding two charts show the energy flows in America during 2020. This amount of energy is what it takes for us to enjoy, what we would consider, our normal, productive and happy lives. I think it is prudent to show where our energy now comes from before discussing replacement of the fossil fuels with renewable energy. Note the renewable energy total above is about 12% of America’s total energy supply and if you dig down into the data, most of that is from 75+ year old hydroelectric dams and from non-dispatchable wind. I am getting ahead of myself as Hydrogen is thought to be the secondary energy that will provide a means of storing renewable energy from peak times such as high wind power production at night when normal electric demand is lower. More will be discussed in Part 2. For now, try to imagine replacing twenty million barrels per day of petroleum energy plus all the coal and natural gas used in the foregoing charts, with solar and wind as primary sources of energy and hydrogen as a means of energy storage. The huge challenge is to produce enough electricity to eventually charge 280+ million light EV’s (Electric Vehicles) plus our trucking fleet and jet aircraft. Net Zero carbon if attainable, will take numerous technological break-throughs. Yes, the researchers have prepared reports that renewable power and hydrogen storage can technically be achieved. My focus of this Blog will be to help explain the fundamentals of replacing traditional fuels with hydrogen and some basic facts on the properties of hydrogen. Because I have always used US Customary Units and the same for my friends, I will use US Customary units of British Thermal Unit (BTU), Cubic feet, Pounds, Gallons, etc.
Hydrogen Energy and Comparisons to Traditional Forms of Energy
The fundamentals of Hydrogen as a form of energy. We should keep in mind, that although hydrogen is one of the most common elements on the planet, most of the hydrogen is combined with oxygen as H2O. Yes, two thirds of the planet is covered in oceans. The next most available and usable form of hydrogen is in common Hydrocarbon Fuels such as Methane CH4 , Gasoline, Jet Fuel and Diesel Fuel. The most hydrogen rich hydrocarbon fuel is methane with four molecules of hydrogen for every molecule of carbon. The other fossil fuels have much more carbon than hydrogen. The least hydrogen rich Fossil Fuel is coal and may be as little as 3-7% hydrogen most of the additional heating value in coal is carbon. This helps explain the reason why environmental extremists that believe in manmade global warming focus on coal power plants. A rough approximation of carbon emissions of a coal power plant, compared to a natural gas-fueled power plant is, the gas plant will emit about ½ the CO2 as a coal plant of similar capacity. The primary reason for the reduction is the switching from coal to natural gas for electric power production since about 2012 that has drastically reduced America’s total carbon emissions.
Here is a comparison of the heating value and volume of natural gas (which is mostly methane) to hydrogen.
Methane CH4 About 1050 Btu’s per std cubic foot
Hydrogen H2 About 345 Btu’s per standard cubic foot
Hydrogen is the lightest element that exists. Thus, the volume of gaseous hydrogen requires about three times more volume per given heating content as methane. Later the impracticality of the low energy density of compressed hydrogen for transportation becomes a design challenge.
Lets take a Look at the Specifications of a Production Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Vehicle, The Toyota Mirai
The published spec’s on the 2021 Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered Toyota Mirai:
Three carbon-fiber-reinforced high-pressure tanks hold a total of 5.6 kg of hydrogen—hydrogen sells for $13 to $17 per kg—enough to give the Mirai a range of up to 400 miles between refueling. Similar to filling a car with gas, it takes about 5 minutes to fill the Mirai with hydrogen. The automaker estimates fuel economy at 74 MPGe for the XLE trim and 65 MPGe for the Limited trim, putting the XLE at the head of the pack for efficiency among its hydrogen-powered competitors. (MPGe stands for “miles per gallon equivalent” and is analogous to how far a car could travel on a gallon of gasoline. Hydrogen is sold by the kg.)
Hydrogen at a cost of $13/kg which is equivalent in energy as a gallon of gasoline, is about four times the cost of gasoline for a given amount of energy. A kg of hydrogen is roughly equivalent in energy content (Btu’s and Foot Pounds of work) to a gallon of gasoline. So, when a kg of hydrogen costs $13 that is the equivalent of $13/gallon of gasoline. Helping to balance that, is the higher efficiency of a Fuel Cell and electric motor combination which provides the example 74 MPGe. Which in all honesty, is about the same cost per mile as my Cadillac SRX which gets about 25 MPG on a trip. Thus, Hydrogen is three times the cost but is nearly equal in propulsion power per dollar. (That is, if you can find and buy hydrogen.) Check the “Car & Driver” Magazine article referenced here: https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a36003212/hydrogen-mirai-california-shortage/
In time, the distribution network should get better but the transition from petroleum based fueling to EV’s and hydrogen will take a lot of time to be accomplished without disrupting our Economy and our way of life. Let me put aside my personal love of the internal combustion engine and the beautiful sound of a piston powered race car. Let’s take a look at what hydrogen is and what it can do to provide the energy we need.
Chemical Symbol H
Molecular weight 1
Commonly Found as water H2O, Molecular weight 18
Molecular weight of Oxygen 16
Electric power to separate H & O from water/pound 17.7kWh/pound at 100% Efficiency
Typical commercial electrolyzer efficiency 60-80%
At least 9 pounds of water are required to create 1 pound of hydrogen
The 9 pounds of water to create 1 pound of water is a minimum. This just includes the feedstock of water required to create hydrogen by disassociation of the oxygen and hydrogen molecules. It does not include the cooling water for the conversion apparatus or electric power production.
Heating Value (HHV) of Hydrogen 61,000 Btu’s/Pound
Heating Value (LHV) of Hydrogen 51,000 Btu’s/pound
Explosive range in air at ambient temperature 4-76%
Expansion ratio from liquid to gas of Hydrogen 848 X more vol. as a gas than liquid
Green Hydrogen Production
The “Perfect World Scenario” is to use enormous wind and solar farms to produce enough electric power to provide America’s Base load requirements and also have some extra capacity that can be utilized to power Electrolyzers for hydrogen fuel production. The land area needed for wind and solar power is covered by Donn Dears, Mark Mills and others. Suffice it to say, it would take a lot of Real-Estate. One estimation for California to be powered by 100% renewables would require a land mass equivalent to the entire state of South Carolina to do so.
My main points are: There are about 250 million light trucks and automobiles on our roads now. About 37% of our current energy is used to produce electricity. The other 63% of our energy is used for Industrial Production, Transportation and heating. It is impractical and ridiculous to believe that our industrial base and our economy can be converted in fifteen years to power 250 million vehicles, plus millions of heavy trucks, thousands of ships America’s jet aircraft fleet to renewable nergy. Perhaps someday, but not by 2035.
Two Examples: America in the 20th Century and China in the 21st
I prepared for a presentation to USCB-OLLI on the history of Energy and Electricity. Along the way of preparing it hit me. Few professors of either history or engineering discuss the relationship of energy and Economic prosperity or for Developing Countries, the relationship of energy and an improving Human Development Index. My friends that are employed in the energy business know this. But, it also occurs to me that we are a small minority, perhaps only a few million out of 330 million American citizens. Most citizens do not really understand until a hurricane kills electric power or a pipeline shutdown causes gas lines. Only then does the average American appreciate the importance of energy to our way of life.
Here is my shot at helping to connect the dots of the importance of energy:
At the turn of the 20th century, coal fuel was important and remained our largest primary energy source until about the end of WWII. Then petroleum took off as the largest source of primary energy. Why? Of course, because of the popularity and convenience of automobile travel and of course, air travel too. Key point: Our economy grew exponentially as a result of abundant and reasonable cost energy. The chart of GDP per person was prepared by “Our World in Data”. Americans in 2017 had the highest standard of living of any country listed on the chart. A short answer would be Freedom, Capitalism and American policies. In my opinion, the one factor not given proper credit for, is abundant and reasonable cost energy. We reached energy independence by 2020 and America’s electricity costs are amongst the lowest in the world.
Together, reasonable cost energy and electricity fuels a thriving economy, jobs and manufacturing productivity. America’s leadership in the Industrial world is at risk, given the foolish and un-scientifically based policies coming from Washington regarding anti-Carbon and Green Energy.
America was once the most productive manufacturer in the world. From 1900 to about the year 2000, the U.S.A. was the world’s largest manufacturer. Especially for steel and aluminum. Then China was admitted to the World Trade Organization and through foreign investments, including U.S.A. based companies, built their manufacturing base. Now, according to Statista and other references, China is the world’s largest manufacturer.
Energy factored into the importance of America’s economic growth in the 20th Century. Likewise, energy is the pre-requisite for China’s growth in the 21st Century. China built more electric power production power plants in 20 years than America did in the preceding 150 years. Most of these are coal fueled and China now burns about 57% of teh world’s coal. Yes, more coal is consumed by China than all of the rest of the world’s countries combined.
The point is, energy powered not only an improving Human Development Index, but energy is required to power a growing industrial economy. It did so in America in the Century America led the world and energy is powering China’s economy at the beginning of the 21st Century. This is described on the chart below by mcKinsey & Company.
I have written my thoughts, (based on facts) some of the reasons why the Green New Deal is against the best interests of America. Let me stop here for now. The key point I wish to make is, Energy and Economic Prosperity are linked. Reasonable cost, abundant electricity and energy is a pre-requisite for our comfortable life styles as well as National Security. America has a treasure of energy within our borders. It is beyond foolish to not use it.
Some will ask, “What about Climate Change”. Well the best 30 minute presentation I have seen to dispel manmade Climate Change is Professor William Happer’s talk at Hillsdale College.
To Watch the Video Proving there is No Climate Crisis, go to:
How to think about Climate Change
A talk at the National Leadership Symposium of Hillsdale College
Reasonable cost, abundant and efficient energy has improved the lives of billions of people all over the world. The relationship of energy use and Quality of life for humankind has been proven. But, you would not know it listening to Green extremist viewpoints. I do not need to elaborate on who some of them are.
I enjoyed a long career working in the electric power and primary metals industries over 50+ years. I traveled the world and have seen with my own two eyes the difference that energy can make to improve lives. Many of the Blessings we Americans take for granted, such as clean water, clean air, easy mobility to travel, food stores with full shelves of safe, fresh food are not enjoyed by billions of people on the planet. If you can imagine it, nearly a billion souls do not have access to electricity and refrigeration. So, here are my thoughts on energy and Earth Day. Computers are marvelous, this one allowed me to dig back to an Earth Day Ad I placed in the “Stanly News and Press” back in 2015. Things have not changed much since then. My six year old ad is below, published during the Obama Administration:
Some things do not change except this time, the Democrat’s control both Congress and the Whitehouse. In my opinion, the dangerous green and Socialistic policies they are promoting will not serve Americans very well. Nor will they do anything to improve Mother Earth.
I enjoy clean air, clean water and nature. I have seven wonderful Grandchildren, all of which I love and care about. Of course I want clean air and clean water too! The Democrat Party Leftists wish to harm America and make us subservient to China. I do not see that as positive for any soul on the planet.
For further reading of Pro-Science, Pro-American and Common Sense informative articles, I suggest the web sites below:
May God continue to Bless America with all of our many comforts, conveniences and yes, abundant and reliable energy. All Fuels are Important!
Here are some Achievements that Made America Great. Much has been written lately on the “Rise of China”. I thought I would write a short history of the application of energy in America. This is a short history of America’s rise over the last 130 years and some of the pioneers that I wish to lift up as being major contributors to our high quality of life.Quality of life and energy use grew in direct proportion.
America remains a beacon for freedom and hope to many in the world. Being born and raised in America for me, was my greatest Blessing, perhaps equal to the Blessing of being raised by caring parents. Now as a retired senior citizen, I have time to read, study history and reflect on my good life and the advances that America accomplished in the last Century.
The purpose of this document is to highlight some of the great inventions and achievements done by Americans during the last hundred and thirty years. I am hopeful that the next Generation of youth will read and contemplate these components of the Foundation of our Society. During these difficult times that our country is divided and the main stream Media, entertainment personalities and politicians seem to be more interested in cancelling history, I thought it is appropriate to highlight America’s progress as leader of the Free World. General Electric’s slogan of the 1960’s could be used to sum up what America showed the world, “We Bring Good Things to Life”.
Energy and Economic Prosperity is what I wish to discuss. However, there are, in my view, some important pre-requisites to the continued success of our nation:
Freedom, Basic Judeo-Christian values of the citizens, Law and Order, Protection of Private Property, Capitalism that rewards risk and innovation, a sound public education system including Colleges and Universities, a caring Philanthropic citizenry that with our Christian-Judeo heritage, care for others. You could say, this is a reminder of where we came from and some of the reasons why the U.S.A. became the world’s strongest and best country of the world.
My 50 entire year career involved energy use and electricity generation. As I reflect back on my life and my parents lives, I can not help relating the correlation of American ingenuity, creativity and the need to use energy to power the ever improving quality of life that we enjoy.
I should also add, over my life-time I have had the privilege and advantage of visiting dozens of countries around the world in both business and as a tourist. I have seen for myself, both Developed and Developing countries and the impact of available and reasonable cost energy. Reasonable cost, abundant energy makes a huge difference in the lives of any society. I have seen so myself.
Let’s review some notable inventions (and the need for energy to fuel them).
1859 Drake’s First Oil Well in Titusville, PA
Whale oil was used for illumination and hundreds of whales were slaughtered to provide fuel. The Drake oil well began a replacement source of energy. Oil refining to distill crude oil into different useful fractions of naphtha, gasoline, kerosene began after 1859. John D. Rockefeller founds Standard Oil Company in 1865 and ultimately becomes the world’s largest oil refiner.
Babcock & Wilcox the premier water tube, steam boiler manufacturer is founded in 1867 by the two Americans, Stephen Wilcox and George Babcock. B&W Boilers were widely applied to provide steam for Westinghouse and General Electric steam engines and steam turbines.
In the year 1900 kerosene lights were popular all across America, soon to be replaced.
Edison begins the electrification of America at Pearl Street Station in NYC in 1882.
General Electric is founded in 1892. Production of Edison’s incandescent light bulb and the electricity distribution systems grew across the country.
Westinghouse Electric formed in 1886 and shortly thereafter invents the transformer which became critical for distributing Alternating Current electricity over long distances.
Although they were reliable, the early steam engines were huge, heavy devices that were not very efficient. Thus, nearly all companies in the electric equipment business seized the opportunity to develop the steam turbine as an alternative. In 1897, GE entered into an agreement with Charles Curtis, who directed turbine development work at GE until 1900, to exploit his patent (No. 566,969) for the Curtis steam turbine. In 1895, Westinghouse acquired rights to manufacture reaction turbines invented and patented in 1884 by the English inventor, Thomas Parsons. Allis-Chalmers also acquired rights to manufacture under Parsons` patents, so early machines of these two manufacturers were quite similar.
The Curtis and the Parsons turbine designs were based on different fundamental principles of fluid flow. The Curtis turbine was an impulse design, where the steam expands through nozzles so it reaches a high velocity. The high-velocity, low-pressure steam jet then impacts the blades of a spinning wheel. In a reaction turbine such as the Parsons design, the steam expands as it passes through both the fixed nozzles and the rotating blades. While the difference appears subtle, it affects the shape and size of the nozzles and blades. In most modern steam turbines the high-pressure stages are impulse blades. The steam pressure drops quickly through these stages, thus reducing the stress on the high pressure turbine casing. The many subsequent stages may be either impulse or reaction designs.
The Internal Combustion Engine and Energy for Transportation
After 1900 the invention of the Internal Combustion Engine drove oil demand higher as more vehicles were manufactured.
This is the time when the inter-relationship of energy and economic prosperity becomes apparent.
At the turn of the Century, over 60% of Americans lived in Rural areas and worked on their farms. It took about 40% of the population to grow food for our nation1. Horses were the main motive power for farm power and transportation.
Willis Carrier7 invented air conditioning in 1902. As a resident of South Carolina I often think of this marvelous invention and what it means for comfort during the summer heat and humidity.
Orville and Wilbur Wright begin the journey of American aviation industry 1903.
Henry Ford invents the automotive Assembly Line about 1913. Tractors become a farm productivity factor about 1920. Henry Ford increases worker’s wages to $5.00 per day and begins the migration of rural families to the city.
Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse vigorously compete to electrify the nation. Serbian immigrant, Nickola Tesla invents the poly-phase motor and other inventions while working for Edison and Westinghouse. Motors designed by Tesla and manufactured by Westinghouse power the manufacturing boom in America.
Low cost, abundant coal becomes the primary fuel for electric power generating plants across the U.S.A.
Coal and native iron ore fuel the American Steel Industry. US Steel was founded in 1901. At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of businessmen were involved in the formation of United States Steel Corporation, including Andrew Carnegie, Elbert H. Gary, Charles M. Schwab, and J.P. Morgan. Carnegie had founded Carnegie Steel Company.
The “Roaring ’20s” was a period of prosperity and expansiveness. The United States produced 40 percent of the world’s supply of iron and steel.
In 1927 Juan Trippe, another American entrepreneur, forms Pan American Airways starting as mail service between Florida and Cuba. About 1931 Trippe and the Russian immigrant aeronautical engineer, Igor Sikorsky develop flying boats called the Pan Am Clipper’s to expand passenger travel across the Caribbean. Later, Trippe becomes a pioneer in purchasing commercial aircraft from Martin and Boeing. Pan American Airways expand to regular service all around the world.
During WWll, America enters and becomes the “Arsenal of Democracy” to defeat the Axis enemies. After WWII, America rebuilds Germany and Japan with the transfer of American expertise, trade secrets and manufacturing know how . Germany and Japan rise to become highly productive countries.
Hydraulic Fracturing is invented by Americans during the Civil War about 1862. Later developed about 1947 and combined with Directional Drilling by George Mitchell about 1999. Directional drilling combined with Fracking in 2017 propelled America to becoming the world’s number one producer of oil and natural gas.
Captain and eventually promoted to Admiral, Hyman G. Rickover invents a nuclear propulsion system for the US Navy. The first nuclear ship, the submarine USS Nautilus is launched in 1954, and traverses the North Pole under the ice in 1957. Later in the 1950’s, Rickover provides a gift of a means for economical and reliable nuclear power generation to all of mankind. President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative promotes peaceful uses of atomic energy worldwide. The American companies, Westinghouse, Babcock & Wilcox, General Electric, Allis Chalmers, General Atomics and more all contribute to the building of commercial nuclear power plants around the world. France’s highly successful nuclear power generation began with the gift of the Westinghouse Pressurized Water Nuclear Steam System. The commercial nuclear steam system was perfected by Admiral Rickover for the Navy and later applied to the first commercial nuclear power plant at Shippingport near Pittsburgh, PA. After Shippingport as the expression goes, it is all history and the old nuclear plants in the U.S.A. built in the 1970’s and 1980’s still generate about 20% of America’s electricity. Here is a time line of Rickover’s productive life:
1900 Jan 27th Born in Maków Mazowiecki, Kingdom of Poland.
1922 Received B.S. from the United States Naval Academy.
1929 Received M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University
1929 to 1933 Served on two submarines for the Navy.
1939 to 1945 Worked in the Bureau of Engineering (consolidated into the Bureau of Ships in 1940) in Washington, D.C.
1946 Traveled to Oak Ridge.
1949 to 1982 Served as Director of Naval Reactors.
1954 The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is commissioned.
1958 Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the first full-scale, commercialized pressurized water reactor, is commissioned.
1982 Forced to retire from the United States Navy. (age 82!)
1986 Jul 8th Died in Arlington, Virginia
Thank you Admiral Rickover, your gift to mankind of peaceful uses of nuclear power changed the world!
Energy and Economic Prosperity are Linked
The chart below which uses data from the World Bank and the United Nations reminds us of the importance of energy to support favorable living standards. Note that over 50% of the world’s population lives on a small percentage of the energy used per capita in America.
China’s Rise Powered by Fossil Fuels, for Comparison
In other sections of this Blog, I have written about the rise of China and how China has built more coal power generation capacity in twenty years than America did since Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station first began. That is right, China has built far more electricity generation in twenty years than that accomplished by the U.S.A. in 130 years. Here is a graph of the world’s largest coal consumers and as you can see, China is far ahead of all other countries of the world.
In closing, let me say, I am very thankful to be an American and to enjoy our high quality of life.
The first part of this document was to remind us of some of the fine American inventors, business people and entrepreneurs that built the industries that make our good lives possible.