Updated: Sep 16, 2020
In articles past attempts have been made to show the various contrasts and contradictions of Americas sometime questionable energy policy and the country’s seemingly dependence on so called cheap fossil fuel energy. Every president since Richard Nixon has convinced we the people that energy independence would be achieved. Simultaneously seemingly more than any other developed nation America’s consumption of energy fights the logic of moderation and conservation. The companion photos show some of the great lengths and amazing efforts expended to bring petroleum molecules to our proverbial door.
From the extreme conditions of the Middle East desert to the frigid artic the relentless pursuit continues. As offered before, are the true costs calculated, or are many of the external costs ignored. How are the past two decades of war, support of various oppressive regimes, tolerance of gross market manipulations, and global corporate strategies reconciled? In the present moment the result is Saudi Arabia with Russian help is committed to keeping the price of oil at $40+/- per barrel. This action prevents US shale oil from being competitive. Using the COVID crisis to their advantage puts hundreds of thousands related US oil and gas workers in the ranks of the unemployed and a number of our exploration companies facing bankruptcy.
Make no mistake advocating going green and embracing renewables has its own constraints and it is totally unrealistic to believe there are no hidden costs. Ask California, in the past 30 days both planned and unplanned multiple brown outs have occurred. Even before the wild fires, due to the high summer temperatures the state grid ran out of electrons. In a study by the consulting firm ICF it was found imported renewables of hydro and solar power from other states was less than expected, wind generation was below forecast at peak hours, (the wind didn’t blow as hard) and there was insufficient battery storage.
Again there seems to be the need for balance. As a nation there is a new reality we are moving into an era of energy realignment. The ascending view that fossil fuels use has peaked and alternatives are both necessary and attainable will drive the transition to wind, solar, biogas, hydrogen, etc. The intention and the belief that reformation and replacement is required will drive both the cost and the economic justification to do so.
British Petroleum BP just announced the acquisition on September 10 for $1.1 billion dollars to acquire the interests in U.S. off shore wind assets from Norway’s Equinor ASA.
As reported Duke Energy and Dominion have cancelled major gas pipeline investments citing the focus is shifting to renewables.
As the transition continues and the large global companies and domestic utilities attempt to dominate the new energy shift, a new concept is gaining acceptance and viability called micro grids. Instead of relying on electric power from the major utility (Penn Power or Central Electric) and the interconnecting power grid (note the “local” power grid is called PJM which covers 13 states and over 60 million people and is considered too big to fail), companies, businesses, schools, etc. are looking to generating their own electric power on location with wind, solar and supplemental natural gas. The PA Turnpike Commission has just announced a combination solar and natural gas electric generation facility at its Jeanette, PA Maintenance Facility. The greater Pittsburgh International Airport with Peoples Gas, CNX and IMG Midstream have a similar two source facility under construction at the airport.
On September 1, The PA House of Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing on House Bill 531 establishing a community solar program. According to the PA Environmental Digest, “community solar projects allow residents and business owners to sign up to purchase electricity from local solar installations, many of which would be located on nearby farms. There are at least 220 solar projects in 41 counties across Pennsylvania ready to break ground pending legislative action.” The companion bill is PA Senate Bill is 705. There is the potential that a number of these projects could be coupled with natural gas powered generators to guarantee power day and night, and allow independence from the utility and the grid.
In this new era it may still be possible to find consensus that natural gas can be the bridge energy for the next several decades. In all the seeking of fossil fuels from afar, we may come to realize the most abundant, reliable, and least expensive energy is beneath our feet.