Over the last three decades, author, journalist, and public speaker Robert Bryce has published more than 1,000 articles and five books. His byline has appeared in dozens of publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal and National Review to the Sydney Morning Herald and New York Times. In 2010, he published Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. His most recent book, Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong, was published in 2014 by his longtime publisher, PublicAffairs, and is now available in paperback. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, he lives in Austin.
Of the myriad claims being made about energy, the one most in need of debunking is this: The U.S. is losing out to countries such as China and Germany when it comes to “clean energy.”
The notional cure for America’s lagging performance, of course, is more governmental intervention in the energy markets. That intervention, and the need for more clean energy — which, of course, largely means more subsidies for wind and solar power — are inextricably tied to discussions about climate change, carbon-dioxide emissions, and the supposed need for America to lead the way to a new energy future.
Nuclear energy is suddenly fashionable -- as new companies are looking to supplant the world's large, uranium-fueled nuclear reactors with kinds that use different fuels and coolants or perhaps even replace fission with fusion.
Two weeks ago, Martingale Inc. unveiled its plans for a molten-salt reactor. Last summer, LPP Fusion raised $180,000 on IndieGoGo to finance some of its research. And these two companies are competing with half a dozen other innovators -- some with deep-pocketed backers.
While making a list of my personal goals for 2015, I began thinking about the major energy stories of 2014 as well as the issues that are likely to dominate the headlines this year. There’s no doubt that the plunging price of oil was the biggest energy story of last year. And oil prices — as always — will dominate the economic and political news in 2015. Herewith, my list of three big stories from last year as well as four issues to watch for over the next 12 months.
Oil prices are falling, OPEC is in shambles, and the latest round of climate-change talks (the ones in Lima) once again failed to achieve much of anything.
But for all the headlines about oil prices and climate change, the most important energy story -- indeed, the energy story of the last four decades – has been the growth in global coal demand. Last Monday, the day after the climate talks in Peru concluded, the International Energy Agency released its annual report on the coal market. Their findings: global coal prices are falling and coal demand is rising.
Amid the many explanations offered by New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his various lieutenants about their reasons for imposing a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state, one of them made me laugh out loud.
“We lack the necessary data,” said New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker. I’ll discuss why that claim made me chuckle in just a moment. Before turning to that, let’s be clear: Cuomo’s decision is not surprising, and it’s not very significant either.
If anyone needed proof that subsidy-dependent businesses will always seek more subsidies, look no further than the U.S. wind industry. On Wednesday, the wind sector won a vote in the House on a tax bill that includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC), which gives wind companies 2.3 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce. The companies can collect that subsidy for a decade after they are deemed eligible.
Tomorrow in Vienna, the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet once again to jawbone about oil prices.
But here’s the reality: OPEC is no longer a price maker, it’s a price taker. The price of oil is no longer being set by the cartel, it’s being set by U.S. drilling companies producing oil from shale deposits. And those drillers are thriving largely because of three key advantages, ones that I call the three Rs: rigs, rednecks, and rights.
When viewed as a political grudge match, the ongoing battle over the Keystone XL pipeline remains one of the hottest fights in Washington. Proof of that can be seen by looking at yesterday’s vote in the Senate on the project, which failed to get the 60 votes needed for filibuster-proof passage.
Why Cheap Oil Is Bad for the U.S. Economy
Bloomberg November 17, 2014
Robert Bryce, senior fellow at Manhattan Institute, and Doug Kass, founder and president at Seabreeze Partners, discuss how oil productivity gains in the U.S. and around the world affect OPEC and the adverse economic effect of lower oil prices.
Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian academic who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently declared that we have "the means to limit climate change" and that "all we need is the will to change."
That's a rather glib statement given that just five years ago, Pachauri was lamenting the fact that so many of his fellow Indians were living in dire energy poverty. In July 2009, Pachauri asked reporters "Can you imagine 400 million people who do not have a light bulb in their homes?" He continued, saying "with the resources of coal that India has, we really don't have any choice but to use coal."
Demonize coal. Keep the poor in the dark. And, above all, keep pushing the fantasy that U.S. government action (with or without the approval of Congress) is essential to dealing with climate change.
That — in a nutshell — is the climate-change strategy of the Obama administration and its environmentalist allies.
It has been a curious experience to watch the news about the “largest climate march in history” from Japan. There weren’t any marches here in Tokyo. Indeed, 350.org, the group that was a lead organizer of the march in New York City, doesn’t even appear to have a presence in Japan.