Recently in Energy Category

California utility Pacific Gas and Electric was responsible for the major wildfires last summer. They deferred basic maintenence for twelve years and it was an equipment failure that triggered the blazes. They are facing bankruptcy to try to get out of paying massive claims. And now this - from ABC News:

Bankrupt California utility wants to give $235M in bonuses
Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. sought a judge's approval to pay $235 million in bonuses to thousands of employees despite the California utility's bankruptcy.

The money is intended to provide incentives to workers and will not be distributed if the company doesn't meet safety and financial goals, PG&E said in a court filing Wednesday. It said the bonus program has been restructured with its Chapter 11 case in mind and puts a greater emphasis on safety performance.

"In deliberately designing the plan this way, the debtors are sending a clear message to their workforce that the safety of the communities the debtors serve and of their employees is of paramount concern during the restructuring process and into the future," attorneys for the utility said in court documents.

Talk about poor management - they have to bribe their employees with bonuses for them to comply with safety regulations.

Great article at Forbes Magazine:

Nuclear Power Always Ready For Extreme Weather
As Polar Vortices, Bomb Cyclones and massive hurricanes pummel America more and more often, nuclear power plants keep on putting out maximum power when all other sources can’t.

For the last month, the Pacific Northwest’s only nuclear power plant has been under a “No Touch” order to help keep the heat on as record cold and snow covered the region. I was stuck in my house for eight days.

As reported by Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald, the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the electricity produced at the nuclear plant near Richland, asked Energy Northwest, the operator of the power plant, not to do anything that would prevent the plant from producing 100% power at all times during an unusually cold February across the state that increased the demand for electricity – no maintenance activities, even on its turbine generator and in the transformer yard. Don’t do anything that would stop the reliable and constant power output of nuclear.

“No Touch” is requested by BPA when unusually hot or cold weather increases the demand for electricity, notes Mike Paoli, spokesman for Energy Northwest. Many regional transmission and system operators across the United States ask nuclear plants to keep running during extreme weather because nuclear plants are the least affected by bad weather.

And these reactors are the old designs - first sketched out on cocktail napkins seventy years ago. There are newer designs that have a lot less problems with waste - in fact, they can use conventional nuclear waste as fuel. These designs are also walk-away safe - they can not melt down. If there is a total system failure, they shut themselves down and remain in a stable state. They do not operate at high pressures so no containment vessel is needed - much cheaper to build.

Here is a five minute excerpt on LFTR:

Global warming - a two-fer

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This winter is not giving up anytime soon. Two headlines:

March roars in like a lion: Millions to endure coast-to-coast snow, then 'punishing' blast of record cold

Record-Breaking Cold Blast in U.S. Will Roil Power Markets Next Week

The second links to an article in Bloomberg. Renewable energy does not work well during times of extreme weather - just when you need to have more energy for heating or cooling. There is a lot at the article including this sobering graph showing the cost of energy delivered to Sumas, WA - a town on the border with Canada, about 14 miles from Maple Falls:

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If we were using nuclear power, the cost of power would remain relatively constant regardless of what was happening outside. Not the case with solar or wind.

Some common sense from California

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Nice to see common sense prevail for once - from The Daily Wire:

But Climate Change! Largest California County Bans Mega Solar Farms
If climate change is the dire threat the Left portrays it to be, then the largest county in ultra-left-wing California is definitely not setting the example: Officials from San Bernardino County just killed the construction of a mega solar farm, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"California's largest county has banned the construction of large solar and wind farms on more than 1 million acres of private land, bending to the will of residents who say they don’t want renewable energy projects industrializing their rural desert communities northeast of Los Angeles," the outlet reports.

The ban passed the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors 4-1, putting up a serious barrier for state lawmakers, who passed a law requiring utility companies to produce 60% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and 100% from "climate-friendly" sources by 2045. Those measures cannot be enacted without the cooperation of local governments, the populations of which rarely support big solar and wind farms ruining their communities.

About time the govenments started listening to We The People. They are supposed to be working for us, not the highest bidder. Time for nuclear power with modern reactors. alt.energy does not work without huge government subsidies - our tax dollars.

Major milestone for energy exports - LNG

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Great news from The Tennessee Star:

Trump Admin Ecstatic with Late-Night Deal That Broke Deadlock Over Natural Gas Exports
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) broke a two-year partisan deadlock Thursday night to approve a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Louisiana.

Top Department of Energy (DOE) officials said this was a major breakthrough that will alleviate a growing problem for U.S. energy producers — a lack of export infrastructure.

“We have been promoting US energy around the world and today’s decision by the FERC is a very important one,” DOE Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.

And a bit more:

Once complete, Calcasieu Pass terminal will export up 12 million metric tons of LNG a year. Brouillette said the project already has buyers, including in Europe, waiting for American natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling spurred an oil and natural gas boom over the past decade, making the U.S. the world’s top hydrocarbon producer. However, a limiting factor on oil and gas is the lack of export terminals and pipelines.

And do not forget VP Joe Biden's famous three letter word J. O. B. S.

Russia provides the bulk of LNG to Europe and this is one of their primary sources of cash flow. Offer an alternative and we pull their fangs a bit. Level the playing field.

Great news - Nuclear Reactors

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Hopeful story at Grist:

Next-gen Nukes
Back in 2009, Simon Irish, an investment manager in New York, found the kind of opportunity that he thought could transform the world while — in the process — transforming dollars into riches.

Irish saw that countries around the globe needed to build a boggling amount of clean-power projects to replace their fossil fuel infrastructure, while also providing enough energy for rising demand from China, India, and other rapidly growing countries. He realized that it would be very hard for renewables, which depend on the wind blowing and the sun shining, to do everything. And he knew that nuclear power, the only existing form of clean energy that could fill the gaps, was too expensive to compete with oil and gas.

But then, at a conference in 2011, he met an engineer with an innovative design for a nuclear reactor cooled by molten salt. If it worked, Irish figured, it could not only solve the problems with aging nuclear power, but also provide a realistic path to dropping fossil fuels.

“The question was, ‘Can we do better than the conventional reactors that were commercialized 60 years ago?” Irish recalled. “And the answer was, ‘Absolutely.’”

A bit about the technology (Irish started a company "Terrestrial Energy" which is trying to get a salt reactor online before 2030):

Terrestrial is far from alone. Dozens of nuclear startups are popping up around the country, aiming to solve the well-known problems with nuclear power — radioactive waste, meltdowns, weapons proliferation, and high costs.

There are reactors that burn nuclear waste. There are reactors designed to destroy isotopes that could be made into weapons. There are small reactors that could be built inexpensively in factories. So many ideas!

Good news indeed. These reactors can not melt down - they are walk-away safe.

Great news - nuclear energy

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When they say fleet, they are talking about the installed base of commercial power plants, not ships.
From The Daily Caller:

LAWMAKERS OVERWHELMINGLY VOTE TO MODERNIZE US NUCLEAR FLEET
Congress passed bipartisan legislation that aims to streamline the regulatory process for commercial nuclear plants, bringing relief to an industry that has witnessed decline and uncertainty.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act was approved in the House of Representatives by wide margins Friday, clearing the chamber by 361 to 10. The Senate had already approved the bill on Thursday by a voice vote.

Introduced by Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso and co-sponsored by a number of Republicans and Democrats alike, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act calls for a number of reforms that would unburden the industry. The legislation streamlines how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates facilities by improving licensing procedures and giving licensees more transparency on how the agency spends its money. Additionally, it encourages investment in nuclear research and supports the development new technology in labs around the country.

The end goal of the bill is to make the development and commercialization of nuclear technology more affordable.

Hopefully, there are provisions for modernizing the design and exploring liquid salt reactors - specifically Thorium. Thorium is about as common as Lead in our earth - very common. Uranium is about as common as Platinum - very rare and expensive. These reactors are walk-away safe - they can not melt down.

Some great news - new oil

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A new oil find - from National Review:

Feds Discover Largest Oil, Natural-Gas Reserve in History
The federal government has discovered a massive new reserve of oil and natural gas in Texas and New Mexico that it says has the “largest continuous oil and gas resource potential ever assessed.”

“Christmas came a few weeks early this year,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said of the new reserve, which is believed to have enough energy to fuel the U.S. for nearly seven years.

The report can be found here (four page PDF document): Assessment of Undiscovered Continuous Oil and Gas Resources in the Wolfcamp Shale and Bone Spring Formation of the Delaware Basin, Permian Basin Province, New Mexico and Texas, 2018

I am still waiting for new nuclear power plants - specifically LFTRs but this will tide us over.

Waking up to the reality

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Green energy is an abject lie - from Scotland's The Herald:

Blackouts, deaths and civil unrest: warning over Scotland's rush to go green
A massive gap in the electricity system caused by the closure of coal-fired power stations and growth of unpredictable renewable generation has created the real prospect of complete power failure.

According the Institution of Engineers in Scotland (IESIS), there is a rising threat of an unstable electricity supply which, left unaddressed, could result in “deaths, severe societal and industrial disruption, civil disturbance and loss of production”.

The organisation is also warning that the loss of traditional power generating stations such as Longannet, which closed in 2016, means restoring electricity in a “black start” situation – following a complete loss of power – would take several days.

Its new report into the energy system points to serious power cuts in other countries, which have resulted in civil disturbance, and warns: “A lengthy delay would have severe negative consequences – the supply of food, water, heat, money, petrol would be compromised; there would be limited communications. The situation would be nightmarish.”

Especially now that everything is pointing to another Solar Minimum. Now is not the time to be putting all of our energy generation options into one unstable basket.

From Bloomberg:

Texas Is About to Create OPEC's Worst Nightmare
The map lays out OPEC’s nightmare in graphic form.

An infestation of dots, thousands of them, represent oil wells in the Permian basin of West Texas and a slice of New Mexico. In less than a decade, U.S. companies have drilled 114,000. Many of them would turn a profit even with crude prices as low as $30 a barrel.

OPEC’s bad dream only deepens next year, when Permian producers expect to iron out distribution snags that will add three pipelines and as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day.

“The Permian will continue to grow and OPEC needs to learn to live with it,’’ said Mike Loya, the top executive in the Americas for Vitol Group, the world’s largest independent oil-trading house.

There is more at the site - the two maps show four pipelines opening in 2019 with an estimated delivery from 2,085,000 to 2,670,000 barrels/day with three more pipelines coming online in 2020 with an estimated delivery of more than 2,000,000.

This chart is very telling - plus, it makes me smile. The more energy independent we are, the better for our Nation.

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The price of wind generated electricity

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Interesting article in the London Times:

Too much wind shocks electric bill payers
A record £4.8m was paid to wind farm operators in the space of one day, for switching off turbines when it became too windy.

More than 60 farms — most in Scotland — were compensated after electricity supply outstripped demand on October 8. The bonanza far exceeded the previous reported record of £3.1m, sparking fresh criticism of the Scottish government’s headlong rush towards green energy.

In exceptionally windy conditions, the National Grid cannot cope with the extra energy turbines produce, so firms receive “constraint payments” to shut down. Although most wind power comes from Scotland, households across Britain are funding the payments through their electricity bills.

“The high costs of wind farm constraints result from the Scottish government’s unbalanced enthusiasm for wind power,” said John…

Wind is not profitable without large government subsidies - thanks tax and rate payers... Why people do not go all out for nuclear is beyond me. The designs that have caused problems (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima) are all old designs. The initial development of these designs was done seventy years ago. There are a lot of new designs that are intrinsically safe - pull the plug and they shut down by themselves. No pressure vessel needed so very cheap to build.

Cool news on the nuclear front

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A two-fer - this first one will have wonderful trickle-down effect for small towns and towns in very remote areas. From the Nuclear Energy Institute:

Micro-Reactors Could Power Remote Military Bases Within a Decade
With more than 70 advanced nuclear reactor projects in various stages of development in the United States alone, there is exciting growth in this field. “Micro-reactors” are one class of these innovative technologies, whose particular attributes hold out special promise to the nation’s largest energy user—the United States military.

Working closely with the reactor vendors and with relevant offices at the U.S. departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Energy Institute this week published a road map laying out the actions needed to ensure the successful deployment of a first-of-a-kind micro-reactor at a domestic defense installation by the end of 2027.

A bit more:

In contrast with the large nuclear reactors in operation all over the world that have a generating capacity of about 1,000 megawatts-electric (MWe), micro-reactors are typically less than 10 MWe in size. These smaller reactor designs are well-suited for transportation to and installation at remote military bases, where they can provide both electricity and heat for years at a time without refueling. They are capable of operating independently of external electricity grids that could be vulnerable to threats, natural and otherwise, in areas where DOD bases operate.

Micro-reactors are thus capable of providing the resilient energy the military needs, providing primary power under normal and emergency conditions and enhancing DOD’s range of operations, endurance, agility and mission assurance.

The key thing here is that the fully fueled core inside of its containment vessel and radioactive shielding is small enough that it can be trucked to the site or flown in on a cargo plane. The cores are not refueled in the field, they are returned to the manufacturer for processing so the on-site maintenance is basically nil.

Second - two excellent postings. From Neutron Bytes:

INL’s Rita Baranwal Nominated to be DOE A/Sec of Nuclear Energy
The Idaho Falls Post Register reported this week that Rita Barta the head of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy.

The White House announced the nomination of Rita Baranwal, who heads GAIN, which DOE created in 2015 to support nuclear startups and help universities, industries and other private groups get nuclear technology to the market more quickly. GAIN is managed by Idaho National Laboratory.

Previously, Baranwal was director of technology development and application at Westinghouse. She was a manager in materials technology at Bechtel Bettis. She led research and development in nuclear fuels materials for U.S. naval reactors.

Two very solid and competent postings. We need people like this to advance the next generation of nuclear power. The designs we are using now were first scribbled onto a cocktail napkin over 60 years ago. Time for some more modern designs.

President Trump and coal power

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We have - as a conservative estimate - about 350 years of known coal reserves in the USA and much more in Canada. Enough to meet our energy needs cheaply and cleanly (with proper scrubbers installed). The CO2 by-product is plant food - without CO2, photosynthesis would simply not happen. President Trump is putting coal back into States hands (as per the Tenth Amendment). From the Christian Science Monitor:

Trump plan rolls back Obama-era coal regulations
The Trump administration on Tuesday came out with new rules scaling back Obama-era constraints on coal-fired power plants, striking at one of the former administration's legacy programs to rein in climate-changing fossil-fuel emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called the Obama-era regulations on coal power plants "overly prescriptive and burdensome."

The Trump administration plan broadly increases the leeway given states to decide how and how much to regulate coal power plants. The EPA says it "empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation."

Combined with the EPA's proposal earlier this month to ease mileage requirements for vehicles, the move may actually increase the country's climate-changing emissions, according to some former top EPA officials, environmental groups, and other opponents.

Good! Time we got back to the era of cheap(er) energy. The one thing that lifts people out of poverty is cheap energy - ( even the New York Times agrees) creates jobs, grows the economy, improves health and wealth. The idea of subsidizing expensive intermittent forms of alt.energy just because they are "green" is abject stupidity. The billions of dollars wasted on this rat hole will have future generations scratching their heads.

From Buffalo, NY's The Buffalo News:

Four of NYS Thruway's costly wind turbines stand idle. Why?
Tens of thousands of people every day drive past the towering wind turbines posted at four Thruway exits between Eden and the Pennsylvania state line.

But no matter how windy the day might be, those two-blade turbines stand motionless.

Just a few years after the New York State Thruway Authority spent about $5 million on five turbines, four of them stand dormant. And a spokesperson indicated the Thruway Authority does not know when they will become operational again.

"They are currently offline waiting for replacement parts and/or maintenance," spokesperson Jennifer Givner wrote in an email.

And the timeline and the source:

But between October 2017 and January 2018, all of them except for the turbine at the Westfield interchange were taken offline. Givner said she did not know how much energy the turbines generated while they were operational.

The four inoperable turbines were manufactured by a French company, Vergnet, which declared itself insolvent a year ago.

So they failed in less than one year and now the parts are unavailable. What's more, the turbines were manufactured by a French company so the profit and the jobs went out of the United States.

Don't mess with Texas - oil

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From CNN:

Texas to pass Iraq and Iran as world's No. 3 oil powerhouse
The shale oil boom has brought a gold rush mentality to the Lone Star State, which is home to not one but two massive oilfields.

Plunging drilling costs have sparked an explosion of production out of the Permian Basin of West Texas. In fact, Texas is pumping so much oil that it will surpass OPEC members Iran and Iraq next year, HSBC predicted in a recent report.

If it were a country, Texas would be the world's No. 3 oil producer, behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia, the investment bank said.

"It's remarkable. The Permian is nothing less than a blessing for the global economy," said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group, a consulting firm.

Great news - the idea that we have reached "peak oil" is not based on the numbers. There are a lot of untapped reserves and the technology is always advancing.

alt.energy failure in Germany

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Now this is going to leave a mark (ha ha ha) From World Nuclear News:

Germany to compensate utilities for nuclear phaseout losses
The German cabinet has agreed to grant compensation of up to EUR1 billion (USD1.17 billion) to the utilities forced to shut down their nuclear power plants by the Energiewende, or energy transition, that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan in March 2011. At that time, Germany was obtaining around a quarter of its electricity from 17 nuclear reactors operated by EnBW, EOn, RWE and Vattenfall.

Some of those plants were scheduled to operate for a number of years more - that is a lot of revenue that the utility companies will be missing out on. Nuclear reactors cost a lot of money to build but are dirt cheap to run. Time to switch to Thorium - dirt cheap to build and dirt cheap to run.

People tout alternative energy as being good for the environment. Here is one story with a different outcome - from PV Tech:

‘Countless piles of dead batteries’ are testament to lead acid’s toxic legacy in Africa
Providers of solar-plus-storage into the continent of Africa have said that it is a misconception that lead acid batteries used in off-grid systems are recycled efficiently back into the supply chain.

PV Tech's sister title, Energy-Storage.News spoke with Powerhive and Offgrid Electric, two US-headquartered providers of solar which have both focused on the off-grid sector in Africa to date. Powerhive provides community microgrids and in essence acts as a utility, selling 240V AC power by the kilowatt-hour, while Offgrid Electric leases or sells solar home kits to individual households. The former is active in Kenya, with Rwanda and Nigeria expected to be its next ports of call, while Off Grid Electric is focused on Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and the Ivory Coast at the moment.

The article links to a report that goes into much more detail. There is no infrastructure to recycle the lead acid batteries so they end up as waste.

First, this great article from Forbes:

If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive?
Over the last year, the media have published story after story after story about the declining price of solar panels and wind turbines.

People who read these stories are understandably left with the impression that the more solar and wind energy we produce, the lower electricity prices will become.

And yet that’s not what’s happening. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Between 2009 and 2017, the price of solar panels per watt declined by 75 percent while the price of wind turbines per watt declined by 50 percent.

And yet — during the same period — the price of electricity in places that deployed significant quantities of renewables increased dramatically.

Electricity prices increased by:

What gives? If solar panels and wind turbines became so much cheaper, why did the price of electricity rise instead of decline?

The author puts forward several hypotheses and then says this:

The main reason appears to have been predicted by a young German economist in 2013.

In a paper for Energy Policy, Leon Hirth estimated that the economic value of wind and solar would decline significantly as they become a larger part of electricity supply.

The reason? Their fundamentally unreliable nature. Both solar and wind produce too much energy when societies don’t need it, and not enough when they do.

Solar and wind thus require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.

Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind on the European grid would decline 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity while the value of solar would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent.

The natural gas plants have to be running on hot standby as if they are completely shut down, it takes ten minutes or so for them to start. An interesting read - well worth your time.

Secondly, when the government removes the subsidies (ie: our tax dollars), the economics of alt.energy come crashing back down to reality. From James Delingpole writing at Breitbart:

Germany’s Solar Industry Crashes and Burns
Germany’s solar industry has crashed and burned after the government drastically cut its subsidies.

James quotes from a number of sources showing the spike in cost and has this to say:

Germany’s great transition from fossil fuel power to renewables – its Energiewende – will cost the economy an estimated 520 billion Euros ($635 billion) by 2020. This is roughly equal to 25,000 Euros ($30,500) per family of four.

The collapse of solar industry in Germany puts into perspective EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s recent comments on renewables.

“It’s not the job of this agency, or any job in the federal government, to use regulatory power to favor of one sector of the economy over another. And what you saw with the past administration is just that — an attitude that says fossil fuel … is something that should be diminished in favor of, what, renewables. That doesn’t mean renewables shouldn’t be a part of our electricity-generation mix. It should be. But to use regulatory power to favor renewables at the expense natural gas, oil and coal is just something that’s not within the regulatory powers of this agency. And so we’re fixing that.’

Wise words. The second article is well worth reading too. A harbinger of what we will face if we go overboard with the idea of renewable energy. It is a rat hole. We should be persuing Thorium reactors instead of this.

Interesting news on the Energy front

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From Environment & Energy News:

DOE could use wartime law to help coal. Here's how it works
Invoking a Korean War-era law to aid struggling coal and nuclear units would represent a dramatic expansion of the Trump administration's campaign to rescue the industry, lobbyists and analysts said yesterday.

The Department of Energy is reportedly weighing use of the Defense Production Act of 1950 to prevent the retirement of ailing coal and nuclear units at the request of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The law gives the president broad powers to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials deemed vital to national security. Bloomberg first reported on DOE's plan.

A bit more about the law

The Defense Production Act was passed during the Korean War to ensure the U.S. industrial base could meet the needs of the American war effort. It was later used during the California energy crisis, when the government compelled natural gas suppliers to fulfill contracts with the then-ailing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The idea was controversial at the time.

In a 2001 hearing about the law's use during the crisis, then-Texas Sen. Phil Gramm (R) said, "The Defense Production Act is the most powerful and potentially dangerous American law, in my opinion."

The law was amended in 2009 to restrict its use, said Susan Tierney, a former DOE official in the Obama administration. Two provisions require the law to be limited to scenarios where a scarce material is essential to national defense or to instances where national defense requirements cannot be fulfilled without disrupting civilian markets.

All it will take is one major storm during an unseasonably cold winter to collapse the grid.

Yikes - power outage in Puerto Rico

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From the Chicago Tribune:

Excavator blamed for blackout that left 1.4 million without power in Puerto Rico
An island-wide blackout hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday after an excavator accidentally downed a transmission line, officials said, as the U.S. territory struggles to repair an increasingly unstable power grid nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria.

Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers as outrage grew across the island about the state of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority. It was the second major outage in less than a week, with the previous one affecting some 840,000 customers.

Odd that the grid would be so tender that one incident could take out the entire thing. The last paragraph speaks volumes:

The new blackout occurred as Puerto Rico legislators debate a bill that would privatize the island's power company, which is $14 billion in debt and relies on infrastructure nearly three times older than the industry average.

Hate to think of what combination of corruption and incompetence brought this about. Privatization is the way to go here - establish some standards and stick to them.

The beginning of the end of a big swindle - from Reuters:

Exclusive: EPA gives giant refiner a 'hardship' waiver from regulation
The Environmental Protection Agency has exempted one of the nation’s largest oil refining companies, Andeavor, from complying with U.S. biofuels regulations - a waiver historically reserved for tiny operations in danger of going belly up, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The exemption, which applies to the three smallest of Andeavor’s ten refineries, marks the first evidence of the EPA freeing a highly profitable multi-billion dollar company from the costly mandates of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard. The law requires refiners to blend biofuels such as ethanol into gasoline or purchase credits from those who do such blending.

The decision, which has not been previously reported, raises the question of whether other big and profitable oil firms with small refineries - such as Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp and Phillips 66 -  also have or could receive the waivers, which are granted by the EPA in secret.

Good - the inclusion of corn-derived Ethanol in our gasoline is nothing about the environment, it is pure pork to the US corn growers. Modern automobiles have been formulated to tolerate this but small engines - lawnmowers, string trimmer, generators, etc.... - do not and the ethanol greatly reduces engine life. There is simply no need to use this and it benefits a very small but very politcally powerful section of agribusiness. Time to wean them off the government teat.

Great news - Canadian Nuclear power

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Good news from our neighbors to the North - from the Canadian Government:

Canada Mapping a Strategy for the Next Generation of Nuclear Reactor Technology
Canada has been a world leader in nuclear energy for over 60 years. The nuclear industry in Canada is a vital source of innovation, job creation and low-carbon energy. The next generation in nuclear technology will help Canadians build a cleaner, safer world while meeting our energy needs in a low-carbon economy.

Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd, on behalf of Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Jim Carr, today announced a road mapping process under the Energy Innovation Program to explore the potential for on- and off-grid applications for small modular reactor (SMR) technology in Canada.

Driven by interested provincial and territorial governments and energy utilities, the exercise will be delivered by the Canadian Nuclear Association and engage stakeholders to better understand their views on priorities and challenges related to the possible development and deployment of SMRs in Canada.

I wish that they were doing Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors - those are the wave of the future but still, SMRs are a lot better than the traditional big nukes. A lot less to go wrong and much cheaper to run.

Renewable energy - a three-fer

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Just the headlines - click to read the stories.

Sheesh - I could have told you this ten years ago. Renewables are not cost effective without huge government subsidies and THAT money is coming out of your pocket. If you want to virtue signal, do it on your own dime - not mine. More.

Renewable energy - a scam

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Renewable energy is not economically sustainable without heavy government subsidies. It simply does not fly. Fortunately, clear heads are realizing this - from US News and World Report:

Oklahoma Pulling up Red Carpet Offered to Wind Industry
A battle is shaping up at Oklahoma's Capitol over the burgeoning wind industry that is facing fierce opposition from some oil-and-gas leaders and critics who say the state has been too generous with incentives. Oklahoma rolled out the red carpet for the industry more than a decade ago with subsidies that now cost the state tens of millions of dollars each year.

Now those subsidies have all been ended, but there is still a push to impose a new production tax on wind energy and maybe even cap previously promised incentives.

Supporters of wind say the state is going back on its word and threatening an industry that has proven to be beneficial to the state, offering a new revenue stream for landowners and local school districts.

And to the wind industry? You had more than ten years to make it work. We the People do not want to spend any more of our tax dollars on these boondoggles. If they do not function economically, they need to be phased out with something that does work - clean coal or nuclear.

About that oil shortage in the USA

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Things certainly have turned around with this new President - from Bloomberg:

Oil World Turns Upside Down as U.S. Sells Oil in Middle East
The United Arab Emirates, a model Persian Gulf petro-state where endless billions from crude exports feed a giant sovereign wealth fund, isn’t the most obvious customer for Texan oil.

Yet, in a trade that illustrates how the rise of the American shale industry is upending energy markets across the globe, the U.A.E. bought oil directly from the U.S. in December, according to data from the federal government. A tanker sailed from Houston and arrived in the Persian Gulf last month.

The cargo of American condensate, a type of very light crude oil, was preferred to regional grades because its superior quality made more suitable for the U.A.E’s processing plants, a person with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing a commercially sensitive matter.

Good old Sweet Texas Crude - good stuff and we are sitting on vast resources. What energy crisis?

From the London Daily Mail:

Wind turbine fire risk: Number that catch alight each year is ten times higher than the industry admits
Nearly 120 wind turbines catch fire each year, according to new research - ten times the number reported by the industry.

The figures, compiled by engineers at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, make fire the second-largest cause of accidents after blade failure.

The researchers claim that out of 200,000 turbines around the world, 117 fires take place annually - far more than the 12 reported by wind farm companies.

Renewable energy is a scam - it is so much more expensive than traditional energy and it is we the people who are paying for it. We need nuclear now!

A lot of people who do not know the story (and the technologies involved) are going to run around with their hair on fire. From David Middleton writing at WUWT:

Senate Budget Resolution Creates Pathway to Opening ANWR to Drilling!!!
Guest cheer-leading by David Middleton (from this article at Alaska Dispatch News):

U.S. Senate passes bill that offers a chance to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling
The U.S. Senate passed a budget resolution Thursday that could provide Alaska’s congressional delegation its best shot in four decades to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

The Senate voted 51-49 to pass the budget resolution, along party lines. Republicans defeated a Democratic amendment to strip the ANWR-allowing provision from the budget resolution, by a vote of 52-48.

And it is not just these oil and gas fields - from David:

In addition to being a boon to the US Treasury, the development of ANWR, NPR-Alaska and the Beaufort and Chukchi OCS areas are critical to maintaining the operation of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and avoiding the stranding of billions of barrels of crude oil.

The failure to open ANWR-1002 soon will eventually force the premature shutdown and dismantling of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).

A premature end to TAPS would strand about 30 billion barrels of oil and 137 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under Alaska and its OCS (outer continental shelf).

With the development of directional boring (initial development was patented in 1873), the oil companies can work from a small pad installed at the coastline and drill down and under to reach the oil-bearing strata. There is minimal danger of spilling or blowouts and the development of the harbor will allow better access to ANWR for scientists and eco-tourists. Win/win.

Much more at the site...

Great news from President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency - from the New York Times:

E.P.A. Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule
The Trump administration announced on Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America’s efforts to tackle global warming.

At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.

“The war on coal is over,” Mr. Pruitt said. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Ky.”

Good - we have about 500 years of coal left given our current rate of energy consumption. Clean coal plants can be built, older plants can be retrofitted. Use what we have to bootstrap ourselves into energy of the future - Thorium and LFTRs. The one thing that stands in the way of human progress is expensive energy - cheap energy is what fueled the industrial revolution, the five day work-week, labor saving devices, technology as we know it. All as a direct result of cheap energy.

Great news on the nuclear front

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This is for traditional reactors but still - a big step forward. From Reuters:

U.S. offers Vogtle nuclear plant $3.7 billion in loan guarantees
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said on Friday it has offered an additional loan guarantee of up to $3.7 billion to companies building two nuclear reactors at the Vogtle plant in the state of Georgia.

And the driving force behind this decision:

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has remarked he wants to make nuclear power “cool again,” said in a statement that the “future of nuclear energy in the United States is bright” and that he looks forward to “expanding American leadership in innovative nuclear technologies.”

Very good - renewables are all right but they are not capable of providing reliable baseload electricity plus, when the government subsidies are added in, they are a lot more expensive. I wish that work in LFTR Reactors would go faster - that is the way of the future but conventional nuke is a great start.

Markets for everything - coal

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Obama declared a war on coal. President Trump has reversed this and we are now exporting tons of it. To where? Holier than thou Europe. From Oil & Gas 360:

U.S. Coal Finds Footing In European Markets
A report by the EIA indicated that coal exports—for both steam coal, used for power generation, and metallurgical coal, used for refining steel—have increased by 58 percent from Q1 of 2016 to Q1 of 2017. The majority of the increase was in steam coal, which grew by 6 million short tons (MMst).

Big U.S. coal customer: Europe
The majority of the coal was shipped from ports on the Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast. The U.S. exported a total of 10.135 million short tons of steam coal during Q1. Steam coal exports were bound largely for European markets—which consumed approximately 50 percent of the U.S.’ total steam coal exports in Q1, 2017.

But wait - didn't the European nations do a whole bunch of virtue signalling saying that they were shutting down their coal-burning power plants to save the planet? Why the huge uptick in imports - could it be that smart numbers people are in charge?

Great news from the Department of Common Sense.

Everyone was hyperventilating about his tweets - from Investor's Business Daily:

Trump Launched An Energy Revolution While Everyone Was Obsessing On His Tweets
Last week President Trump announced plans to make the U.S. not just energy independent, but a global energy powerhouse. Too bad everyone was hyperfocused on his tweets.

On Thursday, Trump said he was ushering in a new energy policy that marked an end to decades of fretting about an alleged "energy crisis" brought on by supposed limited domestic supplies and an insatiable demand for fossil fuels.

"We now know that was all a big, beautiful myth," Trump said in remarks at the Department of Energy. "The truth is that we have near-limitless supplies of energy in our country."

Trump had already taken several steps toward unleashing domestic energy supplies, but he announced six more that he plans to take, including reviving nuclear energy, lifting barriers to building coal plants overseas, building more energy pipelines — including one into Mexico — increased natural gas exports, and creating a new offshore-leasing program.

"The golden era of American energy is now underway," he said.

It was cheap abundant energy that lifted humanity out of the feudal middle ages. Energy has done more for absolute equality than anything else. It used to be that only the royals had books and music, now everyone can have them - just a very small example.

India building a breeder reactor

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Different from the LFTR that I like but still a great thing. From Power Technology:

India set to commission nuclear reactor in Tamil Nadu this year
India plans to commission its first fast breeder reactor (FBR) by the end of this year at Kalpakkam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Making India the second country worldwide to commercially produce power through a fast-breeder reactor, the unit is claimed to be “ultra-modern, indigenously designed, and locally mastered', reported Press Trust of India.

Russia owns the other commercially run FBR, the Beloyarsk Nuclear Plant. Countries such as the US, France, and Japan have also experimented with fast breeder technology programmes.

India’s Prototype Fast Breed Reactor will produce 500MW of power. FBRs are claimed to generate more nuclear power than they consume.

They can also burn the leftover nuclear waste from conventional uranium reactors. Win/win. These designs use liquid sodium for coolant meaning that they operate at normal air pressure - no pressure vessel needed. Being walk-away safe is also a nice feature.

President Trump was right - the Paris Climate Accord is nothing. It is just a bunch of brain-dead virtue signaling and a financial shakedown of large nations by non-governmental organizations. Nobody is going to give up their cheap energy - it seems that Coal is having quite the renaissance. From the New York Times:

As Beijing Joins Climate Fight, Chinese Companies Build Coal Plants
When China halted plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants this year, even as President Trump vowed to “bring back coal” in America, the contrast seemed to confirm Beijing’s new role as a leader in the fight against climate change.

But new data on the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants paints a very different picture: China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade.

These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries.

Over all, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent.

A bunch more at the site - renewables are all well and good but they do not provide baseload power to the grid - they are too variable. Coal will be fine until we get thorium nuclear power. Fusion is a nice idea but commercial production has been just 30 years 'round the corner for the last 60 years.

Alt.energy in the news

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And a bit about climate too - first from the UK Guardian:

World has three years left to stop dangerous climate change, warn experts
Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres among signatories of letter warning that the next three years will be crucial to stopping the worst effects of global warming.

Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is still just about possible, but will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists in the next three years, a group of prominent experts has warned.

Warnings over global warming have picked up pace in recent months, even as the political environment has grown chilly with Donald Trump’s formal announcement of the US’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. This year’s weather has beaten high temperature records in some regions, and 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record.

A major point here - the claim of hottest year is from NASA (PDF). Not the 18,000 people who work for NASA, we are talking about one very small agency - the Goddard Institute for Space Studies which has about 140 staff of which, only about 30 are full-time employees of NASA; the rest are from nearby Columbia University or are visiting scientists or interns. This is a very partisan institution. Its founder was James Hansen who was fired because he got involved in more political issues than scientific ones. He had a narrative of global warming to pursue and he did it. Their data is cherry-picked and does not use atmospheric data from the many satellites. These are a lot more accurate and all of them show a 19+ year decline in atmospheric temperatures - concurring with the overall decline in output from our Sun. The data that GISS uses is gathered at the surface and subject to the Urban Heat Island effect.

The Guardian article leads with a photo of Ms. Figueres:

20170629-climate.jpg

What a harpy - such condescension in her face. Bow down before me - I am your better.

Now, two on alt.energy.

First - from the Tulsa, OK Tulsa World:

Frank Keating: I signed wind industry tax breaks, and I was wrong
In 2001, when I served as governor of Oklahoma, I signed legislation creating the Zero Emissions Tax Credit for industrial wind energy. The tax credit was designed to give a jump-start to a wind industry in its infancy in Oklahoma at the time. It was sold to us as a low-cost way to broaden our already robust energy and economic development program. It was supposed to create jobs and develop a more prosperous future for Oklahoma.

Signing this legislation was simply a mistake. What was promised to cost the state less than $2 million annually when I was in office has soared to $113 million for the 2014 tax year and is expected to cost billions in the future. Wind farms average 10 percent to 13 permanent jobs, which hardly lives up to the promised employment growth.

Because the tax credits weren’t limited or capped, the Zero Emissions Tax Credit has warped into a scam costing taxpayers millions to the detriment of other publicly funded services. In 2014, the credits became directly refundable, meaning the state writes wind companies checks for 85 percent of the value of each credit. That’s essentially a blank check funded by taxpayers that goes to multibillion-dollar corporations based outside of Oklahoma and mostly located in foreign countries. It’s the worst kind of corporate handout.

Emh]phasis mine - this is not about manufacturing jobs - the two big turbine companies are  Vestas (Denmark) and Siemans (Germany) - here is a list of all of the manufacturers and only a handful are based in the USA.

Second - some good news from The Daily Caller:

The Western US’s Largest Coal Plant Has A ‘Fighting Chance’ Of Survival
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke hailed the Navajo Nation’s ratification of a new lease with operators of the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S., staving off its immediate decommissioning.

Zinke said the action gave Navajo and Hopi workers a “fighting chance” to keep their jobs at the coal plant and the mine that supplies it.

Navajo Nation ratified a lease agreement with operators of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) Tuesday to extend power plant and mining operations through 2019. This gives the Department of the Interior, which co-owns the plant, and other stakeholders time to find ways to keep the NGS viable.

“Since the first weeks of the Trump Administration, one of Interior’s top priorities has been to roll up our sleeves with diverse stakeholders in search of an economic path forward to extend NGS and Kayenta Mine operations after 2019,” Zinke said in a statement.

Lulu and I saw this plant during our Southwest trip two years ago. They were not giving tours of the plant but we drove around it and visited the mine 80 miles away - the whole operation is clean, no ash, no odor, no visible color to the stack gasses - very complete combustion and it provides solid baseload power to most of Arizona and Nevada.

LFTR Reactors

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Was talking this morning and the conversation turned to generating power - people had not heard about Thorium.

Here is an excellent five minute YouTube compilation:

Wind power - not so much

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A very good metric on a new technology is if people replace it with the same technology when the original installation wears out. From the Canada's Calgary Herald:

Oldest commercial wind farm in Canada headed for scrapyard after 23 years
The oldest commercial wind power facility in Canada has been shut down and faces demolition after 23 years of transforming brisk southern Alberta breezes into electricity — and its owner says building a replacement depends on the next moves of the provincial NDP government.

TransAlta Corp. said Tuesday the blades on 57 turbines at its Cowley Ridge facility near Pincher Creek have already been halted and the towers are to be toppled and recycled for scrap metal this spring. The company inherited the now-obsolete facility, built between 1993 and 1994, as part of its $1.6-billion hostile takeover of Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. in 2009.

“TransAlta is very interested in repowering this site. Unfortunately, right now, it’s not economically feasible,” Wayne Oliver, operations supervisor for TransAlta’s wind operations in Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod, said in an interview.

In other words, wind power is not economically feasible unless it is subsidized by the government. Since the government makes essentially no money of its own, these subsidies come from the taxpayers. TransAlta is asking the Canadian government for a substantial handout.

From National Review:

Wind-Energy Sector Gets $176 Billion Worth of Crony Capitalism
It takes enormous amounts of taxpayer cash to make wind energy seem affordable.

Last month, during its annual conference, the American Wind Energy Association issued a press release trumpeting the growth of wind-energy capacity. It quoted the association’s CEO, Tom Kiernan, who declared that the wind business is “an American success story.”

There’s no doubt that wind-energy capacity has grown substantially in recent years. But that growth has been fueled not by consumer demand, but by billions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer money. According to data from Subsidy Tracker — a database maintained by Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.–based organization that promotes “corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families” — the total value of the subsidies given to the biggest players in the U.S. wind industry is now $176 billion.

That is money coming right out of our wallets - the Federal Government does not make any appreciable money. All of its funding comes from our tax dollars. We are currently $19 trillion dollars in debt and we are spending this kind of money on crony capitalism and alt.energy ratholes.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

'Fast-moving clouds': How CS Energy's Kogan Creek Solar Boost project failed
It was supposed to supply cheaper, greener energy to up to 5000 homes but after six years and tens of millions of dollars, a cutting-edge solar energy project has produced nothing other than a large taxpayer-funded pile of scrap.

Three thousand solar panels sit unused on a concrete pad after the pioneering Kogan Creek Solar Boost project was shelved due to rusting pipes and "rapidly moving clouds".

The idea was invented by a local person:

The plan had been to use thousands of mirrors to focus solar energy to pre-heat steam used to drive power-generating turbines. The technology's inventor, Australian scientist Dr David Mills, in 2014 received an Order Of Australia for his work on solar power from the Abbott government.

But CS Energy scrapped the unfinished scheme last year, blaming "technical and contractual problems". It won't reveal exactly how much it cost, but recorded a $70 million impairment in its 2016 accounts because of the scheme.

And the money?

Half that amount came from the Queensland Government's Carbon Reduction Program.

Commonwealth body the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was to put up an additional $35 million in funding, although it told Fairfax Media it ended up handing over only $6.4 million.

All of these "funds" come straight from taxpayer dollars. Calling them this fund or that fund puts a very thin veneer around that fact. Much more at the site - a perfect fustercluck. Goes to show that alt.energy can never compete on a level playing field. If the technology was so good, we would have plants springing up all over. The only way these can operate is through heavy taxpayer subsidies.

Great news - Japan

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From World Nuclear News:

Japanese reactor restarts after lifting of injunction
Kansai Electric Power Company announced today that it had restarted unit 4 of its Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture. The reactor - which together with unit 3 has been offline since March 2016 - is expected to re-enter commercial operation next month.

The company said the 830 MWe (net) pressurized water reactor (PWR) was restarted at 3.00pm today and is expected to achieve criticality tomorrow. Kansai plans to resume electricity generation at Takahama 4 and reconnect it to the grid on 22 May "as the final stage of the periodic outage inspection following various types of tests". It added that "full-scale operation" of the unit will resume in mid-June after the completion of the comprehensive inspection performed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

I really wish these were Thorium reactors but still - cheap, zero carbon and safer than coal - what's not to love?

Poor widdle arabs - from The Daily Caller:

Saudi Arabia Whines US Has Too Much Control Over World’s Oil
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has asked the U.S. to stop producing so much oil, according to a report Thursday.

OPEC’s report blames the U.S. in particular because hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has greatly increased American oil production. The new production has led a lengthy period of very low oil prices. OPEC claims raising global oil prices will “require the collective efforts of all oil producers” and should be done “not only for the benefit of the individual countries, but also for the general prosperity of the world economy.”

New American oil production is undermining OPEC’s efforts to keep global prices between $50 and $60 per barrel, with current prices hovering around $47 a barrel.

“I think [OPEC] are now acutely aware that they don’t have the kind of influence they used to have 10 years ago, and that shale is now the swing producer in the market,” Tom Pugh, commodities economist at Capital Economics, told CNN Money.

The question that bears asking is what has Saudi Arabia done for the world? The USA routinely spends billions of dollars on foreign aid - what do the Arabs do? Why should we give a rats ass what they think - they are trying to monopolize the cost of energy. Let them learn about free market capitalism. It was cheap energy that drove the industrial revolution and makes our lives what they are today. It is cheap energy that drives down poverty in third-world nations and helps elevate them into first world power.

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