Natural Gas, Coal, and Cheap Plentiful Energy

There’s folks in Europe trying desperately to sell the idea that we are “RUNNING OUT!!!” (cue village idiot running around with big frizzy hair and a BBQ lighter stuck in it, rapidly pulling the lighter trigger…)

Well, we are NOT running out. In fact, the “trouble with coal” is just that we have too damn much energy supply. Hundreds of years of it. If and when price gets too high (for any of the competing fuels of coal, gas, oil), we break out the tools to make more available, then prices become too low and shut down exploration. In an ideal world, that would stabilize at a constant rate of exploration and production matched to the rate of decline of existing fields, but discovery (of fields or of methods) is not a continuous process, it is a point process, so the system ‘rings”…

This has been known almost forever. The Railroad Commission of Texas was set up to attempt to stabilize the boom / bust nature of oil “way back when”. It was OPEC before there was an OPEC and in some ways served as the model for OPEC when oil went more global.

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC; also sometimes called the Texas Railroad Commission, TRC) is the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry, and surface coal and uranium mining. Despite its name, it no longer regulates railroads.

Established by the Texas Legislature in 1891, it is the state’s oldest regulatory agency and began as part of the Efficiency Movement of the Progressive Era. From the 1930s to the 1960s it largely set world oil prices, but was displaced by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) after 1973. In 1984, the federal government took over transportation regulation for railroads, trucking and buses, but the Railroad Commission kept its name. With an annual budget of $79 million, it now focuses entirely on oil, gas, mining, propane, and pipelines, setting allocations for production each month.

Then along came the shale oil and natural gas booms… outside of The Railroad Commission of Texas and outside of OPEC.

Now natural gas is incredibly cheap. How cheap? Well, first some “units stuff”. Coal and gas here in the USA (where it is cheapest much of the time) is measured in “Million BTU” chunks. It is a convenient size, so all you folks afflicted with “One size never fits” SI units, get over it. How big is a MMBtu?

will let you turn it into whatever you want. It is 10 therms (what my gas bill from PG&E prices) or 1,055,000 kJoule (so a kJoule is almost the same as a MMBTU… It is also about 293 kiloWatt-hours and about 36 kg of coal (though various types of coal move that around a lot). For natural gas, it is roughly 1000 cubic feet ( 970 of ‘standard’ cubic feet). In short, it’s a lot of energy.

How much does it cost right now?

has natural gas prices, both historical and present. There is a spike about 2003 to near $18 / MMBtu, then a broader topping peak in 2006 at $15, convincing folks it was worth it to “do something”, then all over the continent folks started developing the harder to produce gas (via things like fracking and coal seam gas and more). The price now? The 5 prices are the days of the week for each week:

Henry Hub Natural Gas Spot Price (Dollars per Million Btu)
Week Of 	                Mon  	Tue  	Wed  	Thu  	Fri 
  2016 Apr-18 to Apr-22 	1.76 	1.94 	1.94 	1.96 	1.92
  2016 Apr-25 to Apr-29 	1.97 	1.97 	1.88 	1.88 	1.89
  2016 May- 2 to May- 6 	1.91 	1.94 	2.03 	2.05 	1.86
  2016 May- 9 to May-13 	2.01 	2.01 	2.01 	2.01 	1.96
  2016 May-16 to May-20 	1.91 	

So bouncing around near $2 / MMBtu. How big is a gallon (US) of gasoline? Well, the modern stuff is diluted with alcohol, so not as valuable as it once was, but roughly:

Fuel: liquid, US gallons 	GGE 	GGE % 	BTU/gal 	kWh/gal 	HP-hr/gal 	Cal/litre
Gasoline (base)[3] 	        1.0000 	100.0% 	114,000 	33.41 	        44.79 	        7594.0
Gasoline (conv., summer)[3] 	0.9960 	100.4% 	114,500 	33.56 	        44.99 	        7624.5
Gasoline (conv., winter)[3] 	1.0130 	98.72% 	112,500 	32.97 	        44.20 	        7496.5
Gasoline (ref. gasoline, E10 	1.0190 	98.14% 	111,836 	32.78 	        43.94 	        7452.4
Gasoline (regular unleaded)[5] 	1.0000 	100.0% 	114,100 	33.44 	        44.83 	        7594.0

About 0.11 MMBtu. Since gasoline is presently running about $2.50 / gallon, you can see that it is about 10 x as expensive as natural gas in bulk industrial quantities.

How about coal? Well, coal is driven by price competition against the alternatives, and now by the heavy hand of government destruction via regulation, and what is that price now?

Average weekly coal commodity spot prices
dollars per mmbtu 	Week 	Week ago
                        04/15   04/22	04/29	05/06   05/13 	change
Central Appalachia
12,500 Btu, 1.2 SO2 	$1.69 	$1.69 	$1.62 	$1.62 	$1.62 	$0.00
Northern Appalachia
13,000 Btu,<3.0 SO2 	$1.79 	$1.79 	$1.68 	$1.68 	$1.68 	$0.00
Illinois Basin
11,800 Btu, 5.0 SO2 	$1.34 	$1.34 	$1.34 	$1.34 	$1.34 	$0.00
Powder River Basin
8,800 Btu, 0.8 SO2 	$0.53 	$0.53 	$0.53 	$0.53 	$0.53 	$0.00
Uinta Basin
11,700 Btu, 0.8 SO2 	$1.62 	$1.62 	$1.62 	$1.62 	$1.62 	$0.00 

For high sulphur, low density, Powder River coal, it is 53 ¢ / MMBtu, or roughly a nickle / gallon of gasoline equivalent. Even low sulphur coal is priced 30 ¢ / MMBtu under natural gas due to the hand of regulations. Even there, it is 17 ¢ / Gallon Of Gasoline equivalent.

In any kind of sane world we would be converting natural gas and coal to gasoline. The technology for both is well proven and used in South Africa today. (At one time Mobile Oil in New Zealand converted their natural gas to gasoline, but I believe that project was abandoned when OPEC crashed prices to drive out the competition).

There is exactly zero non-political reason for anyone anywhere on the planet to be paying insane prices for energy, as is happening in the UK and Europe.

Now one could speculate as to why prices are so high… Ever since the start of the Texas Railroad Commission and later OPEC, the single goal has been to drive prices higher and stabilize them there. The families made rich off of oil and coal have not forgotten, nor gone away; yet now they support the “Green Movement” heavily. Think just a moment… Could it possibly be that they have simply found another vehicle to drive consumer payments “way high” for something that is literally “cheap as dirt”? Hmmm?

The raw material from which most of USA electricity is made runs about 190 / 293 ¢/kW-hr or well under a penny. Yet PG&E with summer time of day pricing wants $1 each for it in the Central Valley of California (but “only” 19 ¢ headed for 35 ¢ each other times…)

The simple fact is that we have no shortage of energy supplies at dirt cheap prices.

What we do have is a manipulated sewer of crony capitalists, government graft, organized monopoly cartels, and a long history of “screw the public”. The Green Blob and “Global Warming” scare as just the latest embodiment in a very old game….

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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31 Responses to Natural Gas, Coal, and Cheap Plentiful Energy

  1. Bulaman says:

    The New Zealand plant went through a few different owners and now makes methanol.

  2. The “cost” of energy is different from its “price.” Cost includes the total energy cost of energy production, from mining to recycle and waste management. Cost includes the opportunity costs of choosing one form of energy over another. Cost includes the social costs of energy choices and the placement of energy production facilities.

    The problems we face are due to a singular focus on the price of energy choices, without taking into consideration the costs of energy choices.

  3. Gail Combs says:

    You forgot the cost of regulation.

    The Debilitating Cost of Federal Regulatory Compliance

    …The problem for Logan City is that FERC has the “exclusive authority to license most nonfederal hydropower projects” according to the Federal Power Act and FERC’s licensing processing can be long and costly, requiring permits from as many as 25 different regulatory agencies….

    For Logan, Utah it was indeed complicated, time-intensive, and costly. Despite the fact that the Dewitt pipeline is not new (it was built in 1934 and upgraded in 1949)[1], would not withdraw water from a river nor return water to a river, and the project not require a new pipeline nor new construction outside of existing buildings, FERC required the city to prepare a preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Energy Policy Act (NEPA). Ironically, the city had to do a preliminary EA in order to get a NEPA waiver from a full-blown “environmental impact statement,” or EIS.

    The city also had to analyze the impact of the project on endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, even though the project did not require a new pipeline, or a new building, and did not return the water to the environment.

    FERC also required Logan City do conduct an assessment under the National Historic Preservation Act to determine the potential impact on “historic properties.” This is despite the fact that the only construction would occur within an existing structure…..

    All told, these analyses drove up the cost of installing a 200-kilowatt micro-hydro turbine to nearly $3 million. For sake of comparison, the Mercatus paper notes that a similar project in Canada would only cost between $225,000 and $375,000.

    Sadly, Logan might have gotten off easy. Barre City, Vermont has spent seven years trying to install a 15 kilowatt micro-hydro turbine and Afton, Wyoming has spent $7.5 million ($5.6 million in regulatory compliance costs) to put in a micro-hydro facility.….

    Idiotic regulations and nasty little ‘hitlers’ throwing their weight around cost this country trillions of dollars in lost business alone.

    How many small businesses never made it off the ground because of regulations?
    How many people gave up and decided to just run their business in the ‘shadow economy’ and never report a dime?
    How many businesses never grow? Thanks to the paperwork headaches of hiring especially when you get to the 50 person Obamacare cap?

    In the USA the shadow economy is estimated at $2 trillion, nearly 8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and generates a $450-500 billion loss in tax annually.

  4. Julian Jones says:

    Referring to the demise of waterpower, Blake :

    And all the Arts of Life. they changd into the Arts of Death in Albion.
    The hour-glass contemnd because its simple workmanship.
    Was like the workmanship of the plowman & the water wheel.
    That raises water into cisterns broken & burnd with fire:
    Because its workmanship was like the workmanship of the shepherd.
    And in their stead. intricate wheels invented. wheel without wheel:
    To perplex youth in their outgoings, & to bind to labours in Albion
    Of day & night the myriads of eternity that they may grind
    And polish brass & iron hour after hour laborious task!
    Kept ignorant of its use, that they might spend the days of wisdom
    In sorrowful drudgery, to obtain a scanty pittance of bread:
    In ignorance to view a small portion & think that All.
    And call it Demonstration: blind to all the simple rules of life.

    (Some recent findings funded by Welsh Govt found small hydropower created 20 times more employment in its operation that gas powered generation. One small mill near me, having repaid the capital cost of its 25kW micro turbine in less than ten years, now employs 45 persons turning over £1m per month after a further 30 years of essentially free electricity and a competitive advantage over rivals. Another 26,000 mills unused in UK … their use prevented by regulators – who want the water for fracking).

    … blind to all the simple rules of life for sure.

  5. Gail Combs says:

    I am on a hill 100 feet above a river with two creeks flowing into the river, one year round. My deed FORBIDS me from producing energy from water power!!! And that stricture was put on my deed and all the rest of the deeds in the area in the 1890’s.

  6. Conversion from coal etc. to electricity seems to be around 30% efficient, so the fuel cost of the electricity is going to be a bit over 2 cents/kWh. This does not take into account the hidden health costs for people downwind of the power station, of course, but then that’s rarely taken into account anyway. The cost of the coal itself takes into account not only the wage-bill of the miners but also the costs of returning the environment around the pits to something like it was before the hole was dug, which is likely why Polish coal (less-severe regulations) was so much cheaper than UK coal for the UK power stations and why the UK coal industry shrank so much. The stuff is still there, but it’s cheaper to import it.

    The other name for regulation of energy costs and supplies is of course cartel. Solar power stands a good chance of breaking that cartel as the costs of production of the PVs goes down and the technology gets better. I expect though that solar panels will get taxed in future, and in some places (Florida, Spain) that’s being attempted now.

  7. poitsplace says:

    Indeed, that’s the problem with the idea of “sustainability”. Sustainability usually implies some kind of immediate urgency. In reality we have enough fossil fuel sources to last until just about the entire world is industrialized (doesn’t seem to be too far off)…and before we truly have need to look to even fusion, we have enough nuclear material available to last tens thousands years (indeed, taking it from the oceans we might actually reach an equilibrium and be able to use it for…well, until the plates stop shifting around).

    In such a case, there is simply no way for us to talk “sustainability” for energy with a straight face. The world is awash in reasonable (if not cheap) energy. It is cheaper to buy large quantities of coal than it is to buy large quantities of dirt…it is literally cheaper than dirt. And the ONLY reason to not use it is 100 year projections by academics based almost exclusively on models that have shown zero predictive capability. Let’s be real here, 100 year academic predictions have a rich history of ridiculous levels of failure, with people like Lord Kelvin for example… pointing out that petroleum will be exhausted by 1900.

  8. gallopingcamel says:

    It is amazing that eco-loons have been able to make electricity expensive by demonizing fossil fuels in Europe and some states in the USA.

    Thankfully Florida puts its faith in gas and nuclear. While coal is cheap it is easier to move gas around.

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    Somewhat easier… In Laughlin Nevada had a great little powerplant that used coal delivered by pipeline. Basically made the whole place possible. Looks like it is now shutdown (likely due to political pressures…)

    Mohave Power Station (known also as Mohave Generating Station, or MOGS) was a 1,580-megawatt (2,120,000 hp) coal-fired power plant located in Laughlin, Nevada. Southern California Edison is the majority owner of the plant and was its operator.[2] The plant is currently shut down and in the process of being dismantled.

    The plant was composed of two units capable of generating 790 MW (1,060,000 hp) electrical each. Combustion Engineering supplied the boilers and GE supplied the turbines and generators. Bechtel performed engineering, procurement and construction.

    The Mohave Generating Station was built on a 2,500-acre (1,000 ha) site in the Sonora Desert adjacent to the Colorado River in Laughlin, Clark County. It had supercritical boilers and cross-compound steam turbines. The plant was owned by a utility consortium of operator Southern California Edison Co (56%), LADWP (10%), Nevada Power (14%), and Salt River Project (20%).

    Mohave was the only power plant in the United States that used coal delivered by coal-slurry pipeline. The 18 inches (460 mm) diameter Black Mesa Pipeline ran 275 miles (443 km) to the plant from the Peabody Energy Black Mesa Mine in Kayenta, AZ, and could deliver 660 short tons (600 t) per hour. The land where the mine is located is owned by the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Four 8-million-gallon storage tanks each held the equivalent of 20,000 short tons (18,000 t) of dry coal. The slurry transport water was recycled for cooling tower water makeup; this and all other waste water was reused, making Mohave a zero-discharge facility.
    A natural-gas line run to the facility from a gas main near Topock, Arizona supplied the required heat to start the plant, although the line was too small to run the plant exclusively on gas. The power was transmitted via two 500kV lines to substations in southern Nevada and southern California.

    The plant was shut down on December 31, 2005, with the possibility it might not reopen. With the shutdown of the plant, the mine providing the coal was closed. This closure had a major negative impact on the Hopi.

    The plant was shut to comply with a consent agreement reached to settle a 1998 CAA lawsuit brought by several environmental groups. The plant had been targeted as a major source of pollution in the Grand Canyon and other locations to the east. Furthermore, the Hopi and Navajo signed an agreement preventing the use of water from the local aquifer to make up slurry.
    Various plans were presented, including selling the plant and retrofitting it to burn natural gas, although the latter would have required construction of a second high pressure gas line from Topock, 30 miles (48 km) to the south. Another option would have been to install exhaust scrubbers, which would have cost $1 billion.

    In May 2007, SCE discontinued efforts to restart or sell the plant.

    But the point remains:

    IFF you want to do it, coal can be transported by pipeline just as gas is transported…

  10. gallopingcamel says:

    Simon Derricutt,
    ” I expect though that solar panels will get taxed in future, and in some places (Florida, Spain) that’s being attempted now.”

    I think you have got that backwards. The implosion of the solar industry in Spain resulted from the elimination of government subsidies.

    In Florida FP&L got a huge tax break to build solar facilities. Indictments should have been handed down for this shocking case of crony capitalism (=corruption). Newsweek wrote about it but nothing happened:

  11. GC – yep, it’s gone from subsidies (to start it going) to taxes now they realise it’s not profitable for the utilities to pay the feed-in tariffs. With so much money on offer, I suppose corruption was inevitable. As you note in the article, nuclear power is still good value….

  12. gallopingcamel says:

    Simon Derricut,
    When governments subsidize something the result is corruption and waste. Just a few examples out of thousands:

    – Bailouts from HUD to the banks that were “Too Big to Fail”
    – Solar power in Spain and Germany
    – The EU’s butter mountain
    – The EU’s wine lake
    – ADM’s (Archer Daniels Midland) ethanol from corn scam
    – Elon Musk in general and Tesla Motors in particular

    Virtually all government subsidies are examples of the “Inverse Robin Hood Principle” which robs the poor to feed the rich.

    This election may be different because the “Little People” have noticed that “,,,,government of the people, by the people, for the people…..” has been replaced by “…..government of the elite, by the elite, for the elite”.

    Maybe Donald Trump will be another Reagan but if we are really lucky he may be a populist like Lincoln.

  13. power21visitor says:

    Wittfogel’s theory of Hydraulic Empires (Despotism) applies to energy now and all the social & market distortions associated here.

    ” … intricate wheels invented. wheel without wheel:
    To perplex youth in their outgoings, & to bind to labours in Albion”

    The use of thermal energy has of course enabled huge progress … but it comes with other severe negative associations, regardless of any polluting effects.

  14. Gail Combs says:

    I took the trouble to read a couple of Trump’s books and it is pretty obvious he ‘gets it’ and better yet he doesn’t like it. More interesting, his hotels are frequented by the elite that have been feeding off the poor for years so he has a lot of insider intel. Trump also had to play the game. Fund campaigns to get business ‘perks.’ If you don’t you can’t do business in NYC and anywhere else. The US system now has so many regulations it takes bribery to get anything done.

    Trump’s Mother, Mary Anne MacLeod was an immigrant and his grandfather was Frederich Trump, a German born immigrant so he is well aware of what the American Dream was, how it works and more important, how it has been destroyed.

    The man is a 69 year old multi-billionaire. He does not NEED to run for president and has always refused to get into politics although he has been approached to run for various offices over time. Only the G..D awful mess that Clinton, the Bushes and Obummer have made of this country has caused him to change his mind.

    My biggest fear is that he will have a ‘heart attack’ or be poisoned or shot before the election at which point all hell will break loose.

    Bikers for Trump is a 20,000-strong grassroots collection of motorcycle-riding supporters that showed up after the Soros bribed protestor/ agent provocateurs started showing up at Trump rallies to cause violence. This is a group that has been protecting military funerals from the mindless mob and has experience in handling these paid protestor/ agent provocateurs. Many are military vets.

  15. GC – government funding isn’t always bad. I can also mention NASA, nuclear power, LENR research, the railway system…. Yep, it’s going to involve some graft and money going missing, and may not give the best value for money or have the best people for the job, but for the big projects where individuals can’t get enough resources to do something it may just be the only way things will happen. Although I can’t verify the data, NASA say that for every dollar they spent there was $17 returned to the economy.

    I think the _idea_ of subsidising solar power at the beginning in order to kick-start the industry is good. The detail of who gets the money and who got excessively rich from the subsidies may be somewhat sordid but the results should be cleaner air which is of massive benefit to general health. The results of that in reduced illnesses won’t be visible for years. I know they pushed it on the grounds of CO2 reductions, but I’m looking at the real benefits here.

    For each example of government involvement, we’d have to dig pretty deep to get more than a superficial idea of the value we get for the money expended, and who has made excessive profits in the process. There’s just not enough time in the day…. Although I agree with your basic argument that there’s both corruption and dooH niboR (rich getting richer), that may still be a price worth paying sometimes. As automation erodes the number of man-hours needed for production of goods and services, it’s getting hard to fix a value on money anyway since it represents man-hours needed to produce those goods and services.

    The costs of coal, gas, nuclear etc. are really a measure of how many man-hours are expended in the production of the energy (and of course how well-paid the people are who do the production). The fuel itself is there for free and you just have to get it out and use it. As food for thought here, I think also that we can power our civilisation without needing fuel if we approach the problem a bit differently. Reference for a logical layout of why I think this and some possible solutions to the paradox that we have energy all around us that we can’t use to perform work. It took me around 4 decades to think that one out.

    It looks to me that Trump is the best hope you have of putting things on a better footing and reducing both the size of government and the graft involved. He understands the stultifying effect of too-high tax rates, and has most likely used a lot of the ways of avoiding them and so he knows what needs to be done to both reduce the tax rates and to block the loopholes that exist for those who can afford clever accountants. Poachers make the best gamekeepers.

  16. Gail Combs says:

    Simon Derricutt says:

    “GC – government funding isn’t always bad….”

    It should only be used as the very last resort for things like the Armed Forces because government is ALWAYS more wasteful that private enterprize. Unfortunately it is now ‘Give 10 million in campaign funding and get 10 billion back in government kickbacks.’

    Just as an example George Soros’ son, Alex Soros, bequeathed $1 million and Soros Senior bestowed $6 million to Clinton’s Super PAC. During the Obummer Admin who is also a Soro’s puppet, Soros went from ~11 billion to north of 23 billion. 12 billion is not a bad ROI.

    Here is a neat story from the time when the Romans owned North Africa and the Sahara was not a desert. The Romans built the road, planted olive trees along the road and then LEASED the rights to harvest the olives with leasee required to keep road in good repair.

    IF we do not have most of our earnings confiscated (~80%) then WE would have the $$$ to support the charities or universities we wish. We would also have CONTROL of the purse strings and what those charities and universities are up to. By putting the federal government between the donor and the recipient we lose the control our $$$ should give us. Mutual funds and pension funds do the same thing which is why the financiers have much more power than their $$$ would suggest. — The Network of Global Corporate Control

    This is why it is critical to NOT give someone else control of your wealth.

  17. Gail – “…government is ALWAYS more wasteful that private enterprize”. I couldn’t agree more.

    The government can only however tax you in money. If you don’t use it, they can’t tax it. (Maybe some will tax in goods/services, which has a hint of serfdom involved, but that doesn’t (yet) happen in Western economies.) The non-money economy can however only work when the people you’re dealing with are trustworthy.

    The money system is broken but still staggers on despite the abuses. Whatever we think to put in its place needs to be resistant to those abuses, and I haven’t been able to think of a replacement that is any better. Any replacement system/ideology I can think of would work initially and would then also tend towards making the rich richer and would concentrate power in a few hands. Human nature – there are leaders and followers.

    That ~80% confiscation of earnings (hard to put a solid figure on that, but it’s close enough and I can see at least 60% of it) actually demonstrates just how productive we are now, in that in 20% of the working day (and only a bit more than half the days are workdays) we can generate enough resources to support our needs. This productivity is also set to rise as more automation of production comes in. Projected into the future it’s plain that such automation will cover most of the productions of goods and services. It’s getting urgent that we prepare a system to deal with this, since if the confiscation of earnings gets to 99% I can’t see anyone wanting to contribute.

    People who control the pinch-points of society can (and do) extract high rewards for not pinching them off. Here in France there’s a very obvious exercise of such power by the CGT union who are blocking distribution of fuel. Strikes on public transport, which bring productivity to near-standstill, mean that such workers are overpaid for the difficulty of the job itself. I see a need for removing as many as possible of the knives at our throat by having multiple alternative ways of doing our tasks such that attempting to block one just means we shift to an alternate. For this it’s therefore essential that each householder can produce energy locally, and with that energy we can produce water and food locally. We also need multiple methods of getting onto the net, with most of us now limited to one supplier of the wire. EM has put forward some of those local networking ideas.

    Historically, the bigger the group of people, the more it can (and normally does) dictate what other smaller groups do. We need to put power into the hands of small groups or individuals whilst also avoiding making it possible for a small group to dictate to a larger group. It’s likely that these contradictory conditions will be hard to meet.

    The system is bad at the moment. Can we work out one that is better and won’t break under the stress of dishonesty, greed and the human desire to control other people and tell them what to think and do?

  18. gallopingcamel says:

    Simon Derricutt,
    “As food for thought here, I think also that we can power our civilisation without needing fuel if we approach the problem a bit differently. Reference for a logical layout of why I think this and some possible solutions to the paradox that we have energy all around us that we can’t use to perform work.”

    I read that link in the above quote including the comments. I have a few objections to your take on the laws of physics but in the context of producing low cost electricity PV and CSP both suffer from the same problem. Such processes are low density sources of energy that are useful for niche applications such as “Rooftop Solar” but not suited to replacing high density sources such as fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Here is my take on industrial scale solar power. My apologies if you have seen this before:

  19. gallopingcamel says:

    Germany has made massive investments in “Renewables” while attempting to phase out nuclear power. As a result the stability of the national electrical “Grid” has declined to a dangerous degree:

    Germany has painted itself into a corner so today its best option are to build coal fired plants and import (nuclear) power from France.

  20. gallopingcamel says:

    Simon Derricutt,
    “Here in France there’s a very obvious exercise of such power by the CGT union who are blocking distribution of fuel.”

    From far away Florida the industrial unrest in France looks like a mild case of what is going on in Venezuela. Socialism has a tendency to render national economies uncompetitive and in extreme cases to bring economic collapse.

    Given the abject failure of socialism wherever it has been tried it baffles me that Bernie Sanders is getting huge support for a socialist agenda that can only destroy US competitiveness.

  21. Larry Ledwick says:

    Given the abject failure of socialism wherever it has been tried it baffles me that Bernie Sanders is getting huge support for a socialist agenda that can only destroy US competitiveness.

    Oh that is easy to understand, the 18-34 demographic which is his primary support is totally ignorant of what socialism is and what it does over time. They have been indoctrinated and had the term redefined to the point that they think socialism is getting free college etc. They thing attaching the word democratic to the front of the term makes a difference. The Soviets voted for their leaders too as did the Nazis – they were rigged elections but they were “democratic” elections. They think democratic socialism is identified by the northern European countries which are socialistic but not really socialist governments. They are also totally ignorant of how screwed up things are in those countries right now, and how shaky their economic structure really is.

    The light bulb will not go on for them until one of those socialistic paradises crashes or goes completely comatose, because they have no sense of history.

  22. Gail Combs says:

    Simon Derricutt
    “…That ~80% confiscation of earnings (hard to put a solid figure on that, but it’s close enough and I can see at least 60% of it)….”

    The basis of that is my totaling the overt taxes I paid when I first started a small business.
    Federal tax
    State tax
    Sales tax
    Gasoline tax
    Property tax (If you rent you still pay that tax via the landlord)
    This totaled 64.5% of earnings in 1987.

    Then you add in the hidden tax on the 35 to 40% of your earnings that are left. At 1/2 the cost of the products you buy, your total tax burden is ~ 80% for a middle class American. (If you save, then dollar you saved in 1972 is now worth ~ $0.10 if you are luckly.)

    If people need any more concrete explanation of this, start with the staff of life, a loaf of bread. The simplest thing; the poorest man must have it. Well, there are 151 taxes now in the price of a loaf of bread — it accounts for more than half the cost of a loaf of bread. It begins with the first tax, on the farmer that raised the wheat. Any simpleton can understand that if that farmer cannot get enough money for his wheat, to pay the property tax on his farm, he can’t be a farmer. He loses his farm. And so it is with the fellow who pays a driver’s license and a gasoline tax to drive the truckload of wheat to the mill, the miller who has to pay everything from social security tax, business license, everything else. He has to make his living over and above those costs. So they all wind up in that loaf of bread. Now an egg isn’t far behind and nobody had to make that. There’s a hundred taxes in an egg by the time it gets to market and you know the chicken didn’t put them there! — Ronald Reagan 1975)

  23. Gail Combs says:

    Now the Powers that Be are more sophisticated in election theft.

    Isn’t it great to know Gerge Soros and his buddies owns our voting machines?

  24. Gail Combs says:

    The easiest way to control the vote is with a back door in the voting machines and what do we find? Voting Machine Manufacturer Diebold Charged Over Bribery, Fraud, And “Worldwide Pattern Of Criminal Conduct”

    Inside A U.S. Election Vote Counting Program Bev Harris is the Author of the soon to be published book ” Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering In The 21st Century ” The Walk Right in Sit Right Down & Compose Your Own Tally, Vote Counting System

    Seems there were not one but three sets of books…. but the books were kept on an open access internet website open to any hacker.

  25. Gail Combs says:

    True the Vote had a web page How Widespread is Voter Fraud. 2012 Facts and Figures.
    but it was taken down after she was targeted for persecution by the Obummer Admim.

    There is a copy here:

    This is a really great site I stumbed across. It gives the voting mechanizm, machine manufacturer and whether it is black box or Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Printer by state and by COUNTRY within a state.

    DRE – Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines
    VVPAT – Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Printers
    BMD – Ballot-Marking Device or System

  26. Larry Ledwick says:

    As someone who works in IT I am terrified of electronic voting, there is literally no way to know if the count is correct or even legitimate after the fact. Paper receipt systems are a little better. My local jurisdiction still uses paper ballots that get run through an optical reader so you can go back and at least reconstruct the election if those paper ballots are not destroyed/tampered with.

    Online voting is even riskier than electronic on site voting since there is not iron clad audit system for the code used and all the network traffic to the site.

    A trust worthy election system should stay very far away from electronic voting machines as is already documented with subtle issues like poor mapping of touch screens so that a touch for candidate A may actually register a vote for candidate B. If the voter does not notice or is not given an opportunity to verify the vote recorded it has no reliability. Even if the voter has an option to validate the recorded votes there is no guarantee that some hidden Trojan program in the soft war does not internally modify 1 in 10 votes for one candidate to be for the opposition candidate.

    Unless some trustworthy third party does code audits (code check sums etc.) and the physical devices are sealed to ensure they are not tampered with, there is just no way to be sure.

  27. Jeff says:

    Over here in Europe, where conservatism is about to be outlawed by the outlaws of the EU Commission (Kommisar?), it appears the Austrian election was manipulated to take the election away from the conservative candidate and hand it to the socialist green candidate. It sounds like some Chicago organizers were involved (smells of Soros), as some write-in precincts had 140+ percent of their possible votes tallied. Hmmmm. Up to that point, the conservative candidate was in the lead by a couple of percentage points…

    And, as far as the voting machines go, the CCC (hackers convention) has all but made them into a sporting event, with new hacks discovered almost every day of their conferences.

    The elite will stop at nothing to remain the elite. We are but worthless globs of protoplasm to them, if not just the fabled $1.98 of chemicals…

  28. gallopingcamel says:

    IMHO elections should be replaced by sortition (random selection among eligible members of the population). This approach works well for selecting juries.

    Nobody should be allowed to serve more than one term. This would ensure that the various government bodies accurately reflect “The People”. This would stop ruling elites, bankers, lawyers and academics from lining their pockets at our expense.

    As William Buckley put it:
    “I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”

    Currently Congress is dominated by lawyers which is not much better than having academics in charge.

    We trust computers to randomly select the winners of multi-million dollar lotteries so I am hopeful that people like Chiefio could make sure the computer code does not get corrupted!

  29. Steve C says:

    @Jeff: Hardly had you made your comment than Pierre comes up with this; it seems we are soon to be permitted only officially approved thoughts:
    You can scarcely find the time to draw breath between their affronts these days, so thickly do they come.

    I need hardly mention that, come June 23rd, I shall, absolutely non-negotiably, be voting to correct the appalling error made by “our” government in the early 1970s – though not without a sharp awareness of Gail’s Stalin quote above. That I even feel I have to add that rider, living as I do in the country which invented modern democracy, speaks volumes about the present state of our nation.

  30. GC – your article is apposite. Renewable power does not have enough density or reliability for heavy industry. Solar power should however be adequate for domestic use, where the house-owner has a lot of otherwise-unused roof. Better batteries are needed (and there are quite a few different approaches being researched) and we’d need backup power for those periods where there’s just not enough sun for a few weeks, and as the costs of PVs goes down it is becoming competitive in cost per kWh. On a good day….

    I’d like to see a lot of small, safe, and mass-produced molten-salt type fission reactors as the backbone power generation. The waste problem is far smaller and more tractable, and mass-production would bring the per-kWh costs down to numbers that would really annoy other producers.

    On the physics, I linked the concise exposition where each point must be correct in order to validate the conclusion, but there are other discussions on specific points. As a thought-experiment that could be done physically, take an array of rectennae that are tuned to around a 10-micron wavelength, which is the peak power at around room temperature. This will see somewhere of the order of 1W/m² of radiation (depends on bandwidth receivable) and may thus produce somewhere of the order of 100mW/m² of DC electrical power. Take two containers at room temperature insulated from each other and the environment, and at the start-point they are at the same (room) temperature. Put the rectenna array in one container and connect it to a resistor in the other container. The container with the rectennae will cool, and that with the resistor in will warm. Energy will be conserved, but thermodynamics says that what you see happen is impossible. Therefore the 2nd Law isn’t a law but a rule of thumb that mostly applies but can be got around in very specific situations. Having shown that this law is untrue by a few microwatts is scientifically interesting (and heretical) but not really useful, so the idea is to use similar tricks to get a useful amount of power instead – this is difficult but doesn’t appear to be impossible. Energy is conserved; work isn’t. Although they use the same units and we generally treat work and energy as synonymous in the language, they are very different but this semantic problem tends to blind us to the difference. In practical terms if we have 10 joules of energy we can do a bit less than 10 joules of work before we run out of energy, but when we run out of energy we must actually have the same amount as when we started (conservation of energy). That paradox annoyed me for a long time….

    For the “unrest” in France, it is looking like a fight to the death between one fairly small (but well-placed) union and the government. Yep, shades of Venezuela here. The regulations here (Code du Travail) are extremely extensive and mean that companies are unwilling to take on people it’s going to be hard (and expensive) to sack if there’s a downturn in business. This is good if you already have a job (and it’s also hard to get rid of an incompetent worker) but not conducive to a competitive business environment or to new businesses starting up. Surprisingly, it’s a Socialist government who are trying to reduce this strangulation of industry.

    Gail – I wasn’t disagreeing with your 80% estimate, just saying it’s pretty hard to add up all the hidden taxes once you’ve counted all the ones you can easily see. Since for the average person who needs to hire another person to do something the cost per hour is somewhere 5-10 times what they earn, the real figure is likely over 80%. On top of that, any money you save gradually evaporates at the rate of (real) inflation. That chicken egg also gets more expensive by a few percent a year.

  31. Gail Combs says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    IMHO elections should be replaced by sortition (random selection among eligible members of the population).
    AMEN, now to make sure that system is not hacked.

    Simon Derricutt, I figure we actually lose about 90 to 95% of our earned wealth. I was being conservative using only the numbers I could justify.

    Also consider the bankers are now loaning $$$ manufactured on the spot.
    (I hope that link works, I am now getting URL to large – WTF!)

    So bankers are skimming part of your wealth as you pay interest and principle on creditcards, student loans, car loans, mortgages.
    When I graduated from college, I earned $0.05 over minimum wage. Hubby was a 2nd Lt in the Army and not earning much more, yet in seven years we could have purchased a home with cash saved if inflation had not stolen the value of our savings, inflated housing costs and made it very difficult to live on one salary.

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