Tag Archives: Oil

The real worst and best cases of climate change

What do you want? The planet Venus? The current degraded Earth? Or a better world we know how to create?

What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?
Joel Pett, Lexington Herald Leader, 18 March 2012, The cartoon seen ’round the world

Mostly I post about solar and wind power winning, which is what I think is happening. But sometimes it’s worth a reminder of what could happen if we do nothing about climate change, and I posted on my facebook page a story about that. Which actually didn’t go far enough to the real worst case. Nonetheless, that story has been attacked by numerous parties of all political and scientific and unscientific stripes for being too doom and gloom. Yet none of the attackers bothered to mention a best case beyond “the same world we have now”. I have news for you: the world we have now is an ecological catastrophe, and we can do a lot better. So here’s the real worst case, the current case, which is far from the best of all possible worlds, and the real best case, as I see it. Plus what we can do to head for the best case.

grinning fossilized skull

First, the story I posted: David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, 9 July 2017, The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think. Notice that word “could”, which a lot of his critics seem to have ignored. He didn’t say “will”, and he clearly labeled what he was presenting as worst case scenarios.

In case anybody thinks he was making any of that stuff up, Wallace-Wells has also linked to an annotated version with footnotes for every substantial assertion. The annotated version notes at the top: Continue reading

U.S. electric power source projections: solar still most by 2023

According to FERC’s own figures from 2012 and 2016, my solar projections from 2013 (and former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff’s) were pretty good, and more U.S. electricity will still come from solar power by 2023. LAKE Solar Table 2017 Since coal and nuclear are already crashing, and natural gas isn’t increasing even as fast as formerly projected, solar could win even faster.

I constructed table below from the 2012 and 2016 summaries of total U.S. electric power generation from all sources, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Look at the 2012 column: only coal and natural gas generated more than 25% of total U.S. electricity.

But in 2016 it’s only natural gas, because coal’s growth rate actually turned negative: utilities are shutting down coal plants, not building them. Back in 2013 I did not predict that to happen so quickly.

Now look at the growth rates, both my 2013 projections (see also the graph on the right) and my corrected 2017 projections. Only wind (and waste heat) is higher than 5%, plus solar alone at more than 50% new installed capacity per year. According to FERC’s 2016 figures (the “actual:” numbers in the 2016 columns), my 2013 solar projection was a little high by deployed utility-scale solar power, but was actually low as a proportion in 2016, because coal and nuclear are already crashing. Sure, one new nuclear power plant opened in 2016, but more than one closed.

And remember, utility-scale solar power, which is all FERC records in its Energy Infrastructure Updates, isn’t the whole story. FERC recorded 7.748 GW of new solar power in 2016, but SEIA added in rooftop and community solar power for a total of 14.6 GW of new solar power in 2016.

You don’t see rooftop coal, or nuclear, or natural gas. You don’t any of those installed in 9-month or less timeframes, as for solar power: they all require multi-year permitting processes because they’re so environmentally destructive. So it’s very unlikely there are any significant additions to coal, nuclear, or natural gas U.S. energy generation beyond what FERC reported.

Solar power has what we could call the personal computer or mobile phone advantage: anybody can own one. Practically by definition, you’ll never see that advantage for utility-scale power generation.

Looking that the 2021 and 2023 projections in the table, of course they’re naive projections, simply taking the old 2013 rate and the new 2017 corrected rate and projecting them forward. The 2013 rate I made by comparing FERC’s 2012 total figures to previous years. The 2017 rate I made by comparing FERC’s 2016 total figures to its 2012 total figures.

By 2021 coal won’t even account for 25% of U.S. electricity generation, and it didn’t even in FERC’s actual 2016 figures. In 2021 natural gas will account for a higher proportion because of coal’s capitulation, even though it’s actually growing slower than my 2013 projection.

Also in 2021, solar and wind will both be greater than 10% of U.S. generation, although wind will not yet reach that by the corrected projection. Since in 2016 according to SEIA solar actually beat wind for new installed capacity, I wonder if wind is already having trouble competing with solar power.

In 2023, by either my old or new projections, solar power will generate more U.S. electricity than anything else. Wind doesn’t grow nearly as fast by the corrected 2017 factor. Maybe 2016 was a glitch for wind, or maybe there’s something deeper going on.

For how naive these projections are, look at the Total row. U.S. electricty demand is unlikely to increase by 20% by 2021 (only four years from now) and it’s even less likely to increase by 52% by 2023 (only seven years from now). What that actually probably means is that coal and nuclear will crash faster and natural gas will follow them down, leaving solar and wind power as the main sources of U.S. electricity.

These projections and this table are just to illustrate some basic points. Other people are doing much more sophisticated projections, such as Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and his research team, which graphically show fossil fuels and nuclear crashing while solar and wind win.

Goldman Sachs already called this a year ago, and many other big financial institutions predicted even earlier that solar and wind will win. This economic sea change is driven by solar prices dropping faster than Moore’s Law, which is accelerated by economies of scale as solar deployment increases. Economics are driving politics. Even Georgia in 2015 revised its antique law so third party power-purchase-agreements are now possible, and Georgia has become the fastest-growing U.S. solar market.

LAKE Solar Table 2017

Data from: FERC Office of Energy Projects
Energy Infrastructure Update For December 2012
Energy Infrastructure Update For December 2016
Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity
Projections by: Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE)
2012 2016 2021 2023
Power Source Projected Rates Installed GW 2012
(% of Total)
Projected GW 2016
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2016 Projected GW 2021
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2021 Projected GW 2023
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2023
Coal 2013: 1.3% 2017: -3.6% 337.71
actual: 291.79 (24.65%)
corr.: 242.79 (17.13%)
corr.: 225.63 (12.74%)
Natural Gas 2013: 1.8% 2017: 1.0% 491.82
actual: 511.74 (43.23%)
corr.: 537.90 (37.95%)
corr.: 548.71 (30.98%)
Nuclear 2013: 1.0% 2017: -0.1% 107.01
actual: 106.58 (9.00%)
corr.: 106.05 (7.48%)
corr.: 105.84 (5.98%)
Oil 2013: 1.0% 2017: 1.9% 41.32
actual: 44.85 (3.79%)
corr.: 48.95 (3.45%)
corr.: 50.82 (2.87%)
Water 2013: 1.0% 2017: 0.5% 98.12
actual: 100.59 (8.50%)
corr.: 102.62 (7.24%)
corr.: 103.65 (5.85%)
Wind 2013: 22.8% 2017: 9.2% 57.53
actual: 81.87 (6.92%)
corr.: 127.03 (8.96%)
corr.: 151.48 (8.55%)
Biomass 2013: 3.7% 2017: 2.6% 15.00
actual: 16.78 (1.42%)
corr.: 18.90 (1.33%)
corr.: 19.89 (1.12%)
Geo- thermal Steam 2013: 4.2% 2017: 1.5% 3.70
actual: 3.93 (0.33%)
corr.: 4.23 (0.30%)
corr.: 4.36 (0.25%)
Solar 2013: 60.9% 2017: 57.0% 3.90
actual: 23.70 (2.00%)
corr.: 226.03 (15.95%)
corr.: 557.14 (31.46%)
Waste Heat 2013: 0.4% 2017: 14.4% 0.69
actual: 1.18 (0.10%)
corr.: 2.32 (0.16%)
corr.: 3.03 (0.17%)
Other 2013: 0.0% 2017: -8.5% 1.04
actual: 0.73 (0.06%)
corr.: 0.47 (0.03%)
corr.: 0.39 (0.02%)
Total 2013: 0.0% 2017: 0.5% 1157.86
actual: 1183.74 (100.00%)
corr.: 1417.29 (100.00%)
corr.: 1770.94 (100.00%)
corr.: LAKE 2013 projection corrected by LAKE in 2017 according to growth rate from 2012 to 2016.
Factor colors: red: < 0%; orange: < 2%; blue: > 5%; green: > 50%. Proportion background colors: darkyellow > 10%; yellow > 25%.

2012 FERC Source: Data derived from Ventyx Global LLC, Velocity Suite.

2016 FERC Sources: Data derived from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc. and The C Three Group LLC which include plants with nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater. The data may be subject to update.

* “Other” includes purchased steam, tires, and miscellaneous technology such as batteries, fuel cells, energy storage, and fly wheel.

Waste Heat

What is the mysterious Waste Heat that FERC does not define in either of the source reports? EPA defines it like this:

Waste heat to power (WHP) is the process of capturing heat discarded by an existing industrial process and using that heat to generate power (see Figure 1). Energy-intensive industrial processes—such as those occurring at refineries, steel mills, glass furnaces, and cement kilns—all release hot exhaust gases and waste streams that can be harnessed with well-established technologies to generate electricity (see Appendix). The recovery of industrial waste heat for power is a largely untapped type of combined heat and power (CHP), which is the use of a single fuel source to generate both thermal energy (heating or cooling) and electricity.

So waste heat is efficiency measures for existing thermal industrial processes. Thus it is unlikely ever to account for a significant proportion of electricty generation.

Putting it another way, waste heat is greenwashing obsolete power generation. Case in point: Status of Waste Heat to Power Projects on Natural Gas Pipelines, November 2009, prepared for Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). Sorry, fracked methane purveyors, waste heat won’t save you.

Solar power will soon account for the largest proportion of U.S. electricity generation.

And that’s just the start. We know how to get to 100% sun, wind, and water power for the U.S. by 2050, for everything, including heating, cooling, and transportation. Solar power will win like the Internet did.

Let the sun rise!


Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!

Pipelines companies don’t detect corrosion or stop explosions

A reminder of why to stop pipeline companies from burying investors’ money in the ground and get on with solar power: the pipeline that exploded in Texas last week was half owned by Spectra Energy, the pipeline company behind Sabal Trail, AIM, Penneast, and numerous other fracked methane invasions and behind thirty years of undetected corrosion resulting in leaks, explosions, property damage, and deaths. The pipeline company didn’t detect it and couldn’t even turn it off quickly. Want to bet that it, like Spectra’s Pennsylvania explosion last spring, was corrosion?

A very Texas report said “no people or cattle were injured” and also notice: “The fire is under control and will burn itself out.” Continue reading

Solar price drops setting invisible price limit for ever-dirtier fossil fuel extraction

A fairly insightful piece on the how oil price rises drive more fossil fuel production, currently fueled by debt because wages of most workers have been falling, still misses two big points: solar prices continually plumetting now undercut all fossil fuel prices, and dirtier fossil fuel extraction and its massive colonial invasion of pipelines are meeting resistance everywhere, including at the regulatory-captured puppet agencies like FERC.

“Tyler Durden”, ZeroHedge, 13 May 2016, Submitted by Gail Tverberg via Our Finite World blog, The Real Oil Limits Story – What Other Researchers Missed, Continue reading

Halliburton says fossil fuels unsustainable, lays off a third worldwide, including management

You know things are bad for fossil fuels when the biggest profiteer of them all takes an axe to itself. The fewer fossil fuel boondoggles (including more pipeline projects going belly-up), the faster investment will keep moving to renewable sun, wind, and water power, for profits, and we get clean air and water and less global warming.

“Tyler Durden”, Zerohedge, 22 April 2016, Halliburton Fires One Third Of Global Staff: “What We Are Experiencing Today Is Unsustainable”,

In a brutally frank and painfully honest first quarter operational update, Halliburton president Jeff Miller poured freezing cold water all over the “oil is stabilizing, and everything is going to be awesome” narrative. After explaining that the firm has laid off one-third of its global employees, and pointing to the collapse in sequential revenues across every business unit, Miller exclaimed: “What we are experiencing today is far beyond headwinds; it is

Due to the deadline of its merger agreement with Baker Hughes Halliburtion has delayed its earnings conference call until May 3rd and so gave an operational update. The healdlines were horrific:

Federal court rules fossil fuels violate constitutional rights 2016-04-08

Our Children’s Trust, Press Release, 9 April 2016, Judge Denies Motions by Fossil Fuel Industry and Federal Government in Landmark Climate Change Case,

Today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, OR, decided in favor of 21 young Plaintiffs, and Dr. James Hansen on behalf of future generations, in their landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The Court’s ruling is a major victory for the 21 youth Plaintiffs, ages 8-19, from across the U.S. in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the “most important lawsuit on the planet right now.” These plaintiffs sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.

Full press release and court order.

In denying the motions of the federal government and the fossil fuel industry, the court’s decision framed the issue as follows:

“Plaintiffs are suing the United States … because the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (C02) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Moreover, Continue reading

Wind and Solar are winning by 2 to 1 over gas and coal

Guess what’s really inevitable, pipeline companies? Solar and wind power.

Utility scare tactics that no coal means pipelines are so much hot air. Scare tactics that no pipelines would mean LNG trains are burnt up by solar power. Stop pipelnes or fracking and stop the other and LNG export along with it. And we’re winning!

Tom Randall, Bloomberg, 6 April 2016, Wind and Solar Are Crushing Fossil Fuels: Record clean energy investment outpaces gas and coal 2 to 1. Continue reading

Moratorium on Palmetto Pipeline goes to GA Gov. for signature on HB 1036

We all won twice against invading pipelines this week in the Georgia legislature. Yes, pipeline companies, advocates of water, air, and property rights work together, too A smashing 34-128 defeat of Spectra Energy’s invading Sabal “Sinkhole” Trail natural gas pipeline, by WWALS, Flint Riverkeeper, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Georgia Sierra Club, Georgia Water Coalition, SpectraBusters, and many others, wasn’t the only win for landowners, environmentalists, and the people in the Georgia legislature this week. Push Back the Pipeline‘s petroleum products moratorium passed the final legislative hurdle in the House and is on its way to Gov. Nathan Deal to sign. You know, if Deal had stood up for the people against Sabal Trail, too, its easements to drill under Georgia rivers including our Withlacoochee River and Okapilco Creek, would have been defeated in the State Land Commission of which he is chair before they ever got to the legislature. But we all won, and won again! Spectra, Kinder Morgan, and even ALEC lost this time.

Walter C. Jones, jacksonville.com, 23 March 2016, Bill to stall pipeline from Belton, S.C., to Jacksonville awaits Georgia governor’s signature: Georgia House adopted moratorium that would impose moratorium on licensing and permitting until July 2017, Continue reading

GA House passes moratorium on eminent domain for petroleum pipelines in HB 1036 at last minute

A moratorium on eminent domain for petroleum pipelines until June 30, 2017 pending study of land use rights, Moratorium on eminent domain for petroleum pipelines a change throughout of right to power of eminent domain, and “natural resources, environment, and vital areas of the state” now mentioned first, in HB 1036, passed yesterday, the last day for either half of the Georgia legislature to adopt a bill before sending it to the other half. A small change from the Georgia Senate could also affect natural gas pipelines.

See also Walter C. Jones, jacksonville.com, 24 February 2016, Senate subcommittee approves moratorium on eminent domain for petroleum pipelines in Georgia, Continue reading

Sun and wind are winning over fracked methane shale gas –Goldman Sachs

Solar PV, onshore wind, electric vehicles, and LED lighting will win for all of us and profit in the next five years, says Goldman Sachs, which just put $150 billion of its own money where its mouth is. How about you, world leaders gathered in Paris?

Chris Martin, BloombergBusiness, 30 November 2015, Wind, Solar Power to Supply More Energy Than Shale, Goldman Says,

New wind turbines and solar panels worldwide will provide more energy over the next five years than U.S. shale-oil production has over the past five, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Four Front Runners

The leading renewable-energy technologies will add the equivalent of 6.2 million barrels of oil a day to the global energy mix, exceeding the 5.7 million barrels a day pumped from U.S. shale oil wells since 2010, analysts including Brian Lee and Jaakko Kooroshy said in a research report Monday….

“Wind and solar are on track to exceed 100 gigawatts in new installations for the first time,” Continue reading