Monday, June 2, 2014

Stand by for Heavy Rolls.

Electricity is going to continue to go up in price, as cheaper coal fired plants are shut down by the EPA, and no new plants are built to replace the power generation capability.

"The average share of electricity generated from coal in the US has dropped from 52.8% in 1997 to 45.0% in 2009.[9] In the first quarter of 2012, the use of coal for electricity generation has declined substantially more, declining 21% from 2011 levels. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 27 gigawatts of capacity from coal-fired generators is to be retired from 175 coal-fired power plants between 2012 and 2016.[10] Natural gas showed a corresponding increase, increasing by a third over 2011.[11] Coal's share of electricity generation dropped to just over 36%.[11]  The coal plants are mostly base-load plants and account for about 32% of the peak electricity production in the summer, when the electricity demand is the highest and the auxiliary (mostly non-coal) plants are added to the grid."  Wikipedia.\

Obama administration announces more cuts in coal fired power plants.

We get electricity in the United States primarily from coal fired plants,  hydroelectric stations, solar power fields, wind turbines, and nuclear plants.

Solar fields, wind turbines, and similar technology is, at this stage, primarily "feel good" generation. Some big solar fields in the Mojave desert do generate significant power but it's not distributed throughout the country, it services areas near the generation location.   The same is true of wind turbine fields. They generate power but not on a large scale. Hydroelectric stations, particularly in the West, are failing as water flow continues to decrease each year. At some point, the hydroelectric plants shut down or curtail operations for lack of flow through the turbines, and that's it.

Nuclear plants are no longer being built. The last to be licensed and constructed dates to 1974. Only 13 currently operating plants have been able to renew their licenses to replace aging reactors. (Wiki). We won't be getting more power from nuclear plants any time soon, since the time from conception to operation is approximately 10 years, and that does not include the decades lost to inevitable legal action as lawsuits aimed at preventing construction winds through the court system.

Georgia has a power problem, and we tried to solve it by building four new coal fired plants. The government turned down the license applications.  North Georgia gets it's power from the hydroelectric plants operated by the TVA, but South Georgia has always been coal fueled.  No one here knows what will happen as more of our existing coal fired plants are taken off line by the federal government, and the power they generated not replaced. The state is growing, our industrial base is growing, but the amount of electricity to service all this is declining rapidly and we have no plans to replace it.

Natural gas fired plants are touted by the federal government as the way to go.  What's the only commercially viable way to transport natural gas?  We have none here, so it will have to come from a  long way away.  You aren't going to move that with trucks.  Remember the old saw from economics 101. "If it takes a barrel of oil's worth of energy to move a barrel of oils worth of energy, it can't be done."

What that boils down to in layman's terms is that it costs too much to move that much gas in trucks. 

What about a pipeline?  I worked for a company that owned a pipeline.  We operated it from Georgia, with two field hands doing the work in West Virginia, where the pipeline was located. It was less than 40 miles long. The difficulty in getting permits for construction, for crossing land that people did not want you to cross, and compliance with EPA regulations that often were contradictory and conflicting, doesn't bear thinking about.

Nobody is going to be building any natural gas pipelines of any length through this country. The EPA and the courts, along with people who fixate solely on ecological concerns and don't think about how our society will function without power, will see to that.  Review the Keystone Pipeline fiasco if you doubt it.

Now Obama and his coterie of philosophers sans experience are trying to bring back "cap and trade", and get rid of more coal fired plants.  That will, in a few years, put us into the rolling blackout, frequent brownout malaise that most of the world already endures. Americans aren't going to like it when their air conditioning is shut off in the middle of a scorching day.  The power companies know this is coming, and they are preparing.  Has your power company offered you "load management programs?" This is a great deal. For them.  You get a marginally lower rate per kilowatt hour of use at your house. They get the ability to shut off your freezer, refrigerator, air conditioning, washer, dryer, et all remotely when they need to reduce loads.  They aren't going to shut off the chicken plant in the next county, that's a big customer. But you can go soak, especially since your local power company has a monopoly. You can't say "You're fired, I'm buying somewhere else!"  It's the power company that calls the shots. Ever so often they trot out this much ballyhooed scheme whereby they will "soon" let you purchase from other distributors, but "soon" never comes.

The only people who don't have to face the future with trepidation as regards the power supply are those who are completely off grid.  There are some, like Dani in South Africa, who have actually achieved this.  I tried it in 1999 and it was an epic fail.  I put in the whole system, including solar cells, a generator, costly low power Sunfrost appliances. It didn't work.  Now I'm back on the grid. I use my generator when I have to and I think those occasions are going to increase as we lose generation capacity here but the requirement for power continues to go up.

What your situation will be depends on where you are, and what you can do to protect yourself against black or brown outs, and mandated power shutdowns.  The decision makers in DC are driven solely by their personal interests in maintaining their positions. Many of them are complete opportunists and no few of them are just not intelligent enough to understand the system and the law of unintended consequences.

Keep the kerosene lamps ready.


  1. Hey Harry,


    Yeah' I knew it was coming. Our dear leader' and his commie cohorts are crazy about carbon taxes (taxing the air we breath)

    The only thing I can figure is most people are stupid, lazy, ignorant fools for voting for the bastard (he really is a bastard) and all the extra taxes that come with the package.
    Through all the smoke and mirrors all I can figure out is this is the deliberate destruction and de-industrialization of the United States in order to propel a new world order to allow industrialization of several third world countries where there are no labor laws and billions of new customers.
    The commies and the Greenie's (Go green, carbon free nutjobs) think they are getting a new cleaner America when its the industrialist's that are yanking there chain and making them buy solar panels, carbon taxes and other green garbage like battery powered cars.

    In the end run, its the Industrialist's that win out. One way or another, someone's at the end of the money pipeline filling their pockets with your cash.

    What's really funny is that "we" as a nation have fallen for it and think that "paying my fair share" is a civic duty and 'going green" is the moral thing to do.

    This whole thing reminds me of Nazi Germany. Millions of good Germans thought they had the moral imperative to remake Europe. Many in Germany thought that "The Final Solution" for the Jews was also a social and moral imperative. In the end run again, Jewish wealth and property was "confiscated" and a major war run up and war effort made many Industrialist's in Europe filthy rich.

    Then in the "reconstruction" of Europe after the war there was much money to be made.

    Gee' Whiz. History's repeating itself again......

    1. I think the average politician is just a shallow, not very intelligent individual who doesn't understand that the things they do on paper in D.C. have real world ramifications. I'd be ok with getting rid of coal fired plants if we had an alternative. I am not ok with doubling the price of electricity to pay for making power some other way that is not sustainable or practical. I've lived in countries with rolling blackouts, or even worse, period brownouts that burn up your gear, and I'm not up for having that here.

  2. Bring it on Bring it on. I certainly won't be running my AC much I guess but then again I don't use it but maybe 2 months out of the year anyway and only so I can sleep better. I can deal without AC and can run my freezers and fridge off battery power or my generator if needed.

    Ya know I agree with the greenies on some things, namely nuclear plants, they need to go. The technology is not useable when you don't have a safe way of disposing of the spent fuel rods. Having 1500 rods in a pool designed for 400 is not safe even when the power is on what happens when it goes down and no one pays the employees keeping those rods cool anymore?

    The pipelines are getting a bit out of control too. It sounds all nice and good to say we need a pipeline until it's your property they want to run it over or under. Same with all these powerlines if you ask me but no one is going to fund the expense of putting them underground either. There is a lot of acreage around here that is not useable because of powerlines.

    The other side of this coin is that regardless of what Obummer and the Greenies want energy is on it's way out. The easy coal has been mined and the cheap oil has been pumped. Obummer and company are getting away with their agenda because the pay out for anyone building these energy conduits and refineries/plants is questionable at best. Tight oil production is already down everywhere, they just decreased Kalifornias field reserve by 90% or more and the companies that are in the tight oil (shale, sands etc) are showing pretty severe liquidity losses even at oil bouncing around over $100.00 a barrel. Honestly without QE and zero interest rates no one would be investing in those oil plays.

    Honestly if the future profits were there Obummer wouldn't be able to stop it, the big money would find a way. They finger point and talk but they know the risk is really greater than they want to take.

    The decline is here and just like I have always said it's going to hit us where we least want it too at first and that translates into cheap energy.

    1. Well, I sure hope we don't wind up without affordable electricity. If the economy has been bad since 2007 wait til that starts. There won't be any economy. Living without power is miserable. I don't think you will be able to use your generator indefinitely because you won't be able to get fuel for it. Also, there goes your washing machine, freezer, dryer, refrigerator because your generator probably isn't big enough to pull those loads 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and with the freezer and refrigerator shutting the machines off periodically will eventually blow the compressor in the cooling system.

      I understand about not wanting pipelines on your place. That's why putting in a pipe line is damned near impossible and that's why this B.S. about natural gas is just that. Nobody is going to pipe natural gas to Georgia and we don't have any.

      What I genuinely can't understand is that the people in DC are willing to shut down the coal plants, when they have no way to make up the net lose of capacity. Come the hot summer, when nobody can run the air, they'll be sitting up there in D.C. at 65 degrees in their offices.

    2. The problem with nuclear energy is that everyone knee-jerks and tinks "Three Mile Island" or "Chernobyl". To think that nuclear energy technology hasnt advanced by leaps and bounds in forty years is foolish. I was a big fan of the pebble-bed reactors that were being experimented with years ago and now they have even better (and safer) technology available.

    3. No technology is safe as long as it requires a constant paycheck to keep it that way. There are plenty of biological hazards out there no doubt about it but none of them have the potential to kill for centuries like a nuclear meltdown. You are literally looking at 62+ sites across America that can melt down when someone isn't paid and continue to melt for decades.

      Nothing about that is safe.

    4. I'm all for nuclear power as long as it's not upwind of me. Seriously. When I moved here one of the things I checked was no nuc plants. Then a few years ago, the subject came up on the blog I have with my brothers. My middle brother then informed me that there were three reactors in Chattanooga or near it, and I was right in the downwind patter. I was really P.O.'d. I mean, if one of those things blew up and roasted New York City, I'd read the news story and move on to page two. But if it happens in Chattanooga, I'm pretty sure my gas mask and Geiger counter won't save me. >:-(

  3. The only people who will be able to live properly in a few years over here will be people with land. Land to grow fast growing willow to heat their home and solar panels to heat water and run small appliances. We already charge our gadgets with solar power.

    we cant keep digging coal. And if we mess with the Russians anymore, then they will shut off our gas. Consume less of everything is the answer.

    what will happen is people will de-populate desert areas, certain economies will collapse. People who can grow and have good animal husbandry will win out.

    Plan now. Its why I am tying myself in knots over our next home. But we cant afford to live near the sea. So I need a river and water on my land. All very challenging

    Say what you want about the greenies. it is because of them others feel they can over indulge in things. Asia is catching us up. They want all the things we have had for years. Cars, motorbikes, to eat meat every day. We want gadgets, and more gadgets, no problem. Dig it all out of the ground in Australia, more ore? No problem. Need power to make it all happen? No problem dig that out of the ground and ship it to China. Water? Hell no problem. Take that from drought regions in California. Ship that to China as well. Indefinite Growth? It isn't sustainable. Maybe not in your life time or mine, but soon we will have pillaged this planet to death. Naveen Jain is going to make a killing. He is going to mine the moon.

    It will all collapse here before anywhere else. We don't have the land. More people see it coming over here. Hence the huge return to the land.

    what did people do before AC in the US? Fans and stuff or did they just not live in those areas? (that is a genuine question)

    1. You're the second person here recently to postulate a future that mirrors "The Long Emergency". I even got it out and started reading it again. The guy wrote the book in 2009, or so, and his predictions are being borne out left and right. I don't like the author. He says Southerners are hyper individualistic (don't make good drones), violent and aggressive (hard for Uncle Sugar to control) , and while this all may be true he isn't tactful about how he says it ! >;-0

      Living in the South was tough in summer without air. We had higher ceilings in our houses, with big windows that had screens, and electric fans. I can remember being a little boy and laying in the bed on a summer night, with just the sheets on me, and still sweating and being miserable.

      Up here in the mountains , not very many people actually lived here before electricity and air conditioning. There wasn't much to sustain them up here, no work, and they didn't even get electricity until the late 1930's rural electrification program. When I moved here in 1986 there were still plenty of people way back in the woods who had never had electricity or running water and still didn't then.

      Just the idea of living without air conditioning makes me shudder! I guess I have some flaws in my survivalist makeup. There are a lot of things I could do without, but I would sure miss them!

  4. If only we could get those solar powered streets like people have been posting on Facebook. Type it in YouTube, and a video will come up.

    1. I think if you have money, you can probably fix yourself up off grid pretty well. I don't know anybody besides Dani and her husband who really live completely off grid. Most of us are more like me, we rely on the grid for daily living and try to make some provision to carry on if it goes down. But , unless you have something like good solar, or wind, or water you are still going to be done when the last drop of diesel or gasoline you have goes. And even if you have solar or one of the others, when the batteries crap out you are finished. My 1999 era system had banks of purpose built deep cycle batteries. They have to be equalized weekly (that's an intentional, controlled overcharge to burn crude off the vanes in the batteries), and they had to be kept serviced with distilled water. If you did everything right, they lasted about three years. I don't know of any solar powered system that doesn't need batteries to store the power, though I'd be delighted to hear of one. I'll look for that video.

  5. This has been a very good topic. Thanks Harry. Its the old we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. The big cities are screwed as are most industry.

    1. I say, Rob, that we have to build more nuclear plants. But not anywhere up wind of me. I think it was Pioneer Preppy who pointed out that if the grid goes, the plants will start going off line and melting down as the diesel generators run dry. I have to feel like they have some kind of plan to shut down and prevent that, but on the other hand relying on the government or big business to do anything sensible that costs money is a dangerous thing.

  6. 1) Most hard core enviornmentalists are anti power. They nit pick every viable energy option for one reason or another and might as well say we are shutting down coal plants to run our homes, factories and businesses on Unicorn wishes and Pot o Gold Dreams.

    2) Green politics are an excuse to punish supposedly bad people and companies in favor of supposedly good and politically connected companies.

    3) Off grid certainly has merits. However unless you are very wealthy anything like normal American energy consumption/ lifestyle is simply not possible. Serious changes in energy consumption need to be made for it to be realistic for even a dedicated person on a middle/ upper middle class budget.

    1. I agree with pretty much everything you said, TOR. I think there are some people who could be called Greenies who actually walk the walk and talk the talk out of conviction that the current system is not going to last. I've been getting ready for the end game for three decades, and I still dread that it will actually happen and I'll have to live using the alternate plans. When I was younger it sounded adventurous and bold. Now it seems like a last resort that would suck in a major way. Of course, other days I can't wait for it to happen so I don't have to deal with all the B.S. like taxes, paying bills, etc. etc.

  7. Very nice post. I work in the renewable energy field and it is generally understood, that except for certain situations, solar/PV just doesn't provide the 'heavy lift' to support, much industrialized work. Killing off coal in this country will just finish closing the door on the US as an industrial power.

    And I will plug the book "Green Wizards" by Greer. It often has a 'feel good' vibe to it but the ideas are solid. Take the time NOW to study how 2nd & 3rd world countries do their mechanical & industrial work. That is what we need to start understanding now.