Robert Bryce's articles have appeared in dozens of publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal toCounterpunch and Atlantic Monthly to National Review. He’s the author of five books, including Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy, and the Real Fuels of the Future, which was published in 2010. His most recent book, Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong, was released in May by his longtime publisher, PublicAffairs. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, he lives in Austin.
Energy policies are faddish. From the energy-independence moonshine of the corn-ethanol scam to the latest 645-page slate of regulations the EPA wants to inflict on the domestic electricity-generation sector, the supposed threats have varied.
Back in the 1970s, the claim was that we were too dependent on Arab oil (a claim that we continue to hear today). These days, in addition to the never-ending blather about “energy independence,” we have the spurious claim from the Obama administration that yet another layer of EPA rules on U.S. industry will make a dramatic difference when it comes to global climate change.
When it comes to the issue of climate change, it’s easy to bash the United States. Yes, the U.S. emits a lot of carbon dioxide — about 5.9 billion tons in 2013 alone, second only to China’s 9.5 billion tons.
But it’s also easy to overlook this fact: The U.S. is leading the world in reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. And those reductions are largely due to the innovation that is happening not in green energy, but in the oil and gas sector’s ability to produce hydrocarbons from shale deposits.
Rasheed Wallace gained notoriety during his 16-season NBA career for being a hot-headed power forward. If called for a foul (or, as was often the case with him, a technical foul) that he thought was undeserved, and the opposing team missed the ensuing free-throw attempts, Wallace would often holler, “ball don’t lie,” as if the basketball itself was pronouncing judgment on the ref’s call.
In April, at a conference in San Antonio, an official from ConocoPhillips made an aggressive prediction: he said that by the end of 2014, oil production in Texas could hit 3.4 million barrels per day. That figure seems inflated given that the latest data from the Texas Railroad Commission shows that in March, oil production was about 2 million barrels per day.
Facebook’s initial public offering was all about superlatives. The May 2012 event was the largest-ever IPO for a US technology company and the third-largest in US history. It marked, or so the hype claimed, the coming of age for social media companies. But amid the hype over the company’s stock price, revenues, and growth potential, the media paid almost no attention to the vast quantities of electricity that Facebook and other tech companies need to operate their business.
On July 1, Alan Mulally will retire as CEO of Ford Motor Co. And when he cleans out his office in Dearborn, Mulally will leave behind him one of the most remarkable comeback stories in US industrial history.
The former Boeing executive took over Ford in 2006 and mortgaged it to the hilt, borrowing $23 billion. Doing so helped avoid bankruptcy and finance a company-wide overhaul. By late 2008, Ford’s stock was selling for as little as $1.39. But Mulally stuck to his knitting. In 2013, the company’s profits hit $7.2 billion and today, Ford stock sells for about $16 per share.
In the wake of the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, it may sound odd to say so, but here goes: The prospects for nuclear energy have never been brighter.
Reactor technology is improving fast, the nuclear sector is getting significant private-sector investment, and mainstream environmentalists are embracing nuclear like never before. To be clear, nuclear faces many challenges -- it’s too expensive and there are too many old plants -- but with the right policies in place, nuclear should become more affordable and safer over the coming decades.
Many critiques have been written about the foolishness of America’s mandates and subsidies for biofuels. But the most savage was almost certainly published last year in the Strategic Studies Quarterly, a U.S. Air Force journal, by Ike Kiefer, who launched this barrage:
Imagine if the U.S. military developed a weapon that could threaten millions around the world with hunger, accelerate global warming, incite widespread instability and revolution, provide our competitors and enemies with cheaper energy, and reduce America’s economy to a permanent state of recession. What would be the sense and the morality of employing such a weapon? We are already building that weapon -- it is our biofuels program.
In January 2011, during his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama called oil “yesterday’s energy.” Here’s the reality: Oil has been “yesterday’s energy” for more than a century. And yet, it persists -- because of continuing innovation that allows drillers to produce more oil and gas faster and more cheaply than ever before.
The shale revolution has fundamentally changed the American energy scene. Over the last five years or so, domestic production of oil and gas have soared. And some analysts are claiming that the US oil production could soon surpass that of Saudi Arabia.
The Obama administration is gambling “recklessly” with America’s bald and golden eagles.
That’s the claim of the American Bird Conservancy, which on Thursday announced its intent to sue the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service over the agencies’ plan to grant wind-energy companies permits to kill eagles for up to 30 years.
Solar energy can solve global warming. That’s what Paul Krugman claims in his April 18 column in the New York Times, “Salvation Gets Cheap.”
Krugman extolled “the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular.” He used to dismiss the claim that renewable energy would be a major source of global energy “as hippie-dippy wishful thinking.” But now, he says, thanks to the falling price of renewable energy, the process of decarbonization can be accelerated and “drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are now within fairly easy reach.”
Some of America’s biggest and most influential environmental groups are not only out of touch with reality, they are actively promoting an agenda that would harm the security of the U.S. and its allies in Western Europe.
Last week, during the climate-change talkathon held by Senate Democrats, Al Franken of Minnesota said, “I rise to suggest that we in this body talk more about climate change so that we can agree on taking action to address it.” Franken’s fellow Democrats offered similar pleas. Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal described climate change as “implacable, relentless,” and said that “only we can stop it.” Hawaii’s BrianSchatz said, “Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable.”
The complaints about the South by Southwest Interactive conference have become as reliable as the blooming of the redbud trees that line Austin’s Lady Bird Lake.
Every spring, there are articles declaring that the event is, choose one of the following: “over,” “not a tech conference anymore,” suffering from “growing pains,” that it has “has lost its compass,” and that, well, it’s just too big. As a long-time Austin resident (nearly 30 years) I can verify that the last item on that list is true. Last year, more than 30,000 people attended SXSW Interactive. (Another 30,000 are in town for this year’s event.) The swarm of “digital creatives” who swarm the city during the five-day conference, along with the hordes who come for the SX film, music, and .edu events, choke the city. They snarl traffic, overwhelm the restaurants, crowd downtown sidewalks, and convert big swaths of the city into no-go zones.
For the U.S., Western Europe, and Ukraine, the best weapons in the ongoing power struggle with Russia won’t be bullets and tanks. They will be natural-gas wells and gas pipelines.
Indeed, amidst all the hand-wringing and speculation about how the U.S. and its European allies should respond to Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the best non-military maneuver is obvious: They should launch a natural-gas-drilling campaign in Western Europe and Ukraine. And they should start immediately.