It's a matter of scale, when it comes to the prospects for alternative energies, emphasized Robert Bryce in his presentation before the 2014 Montana Energy conference. The demand for energy worldwide is simply too great for wind, solar or bio-fuels to remotely begin to address the need.
Also — in the realm of producing and using fossil fuels cleanly and efficiently, the US is finding solutions because of innovations and new technology.
The US is the envy of the world when it comes to shale energy production, according to Bryce, a noted energy author and journalist.
The US has a 20-30 year lead over the rest of the world in oil and gas development from shale formations. Other countries are at least a decade behind the US because of a lack of knowledge and technology.
And, "We have the rigs." The rest of the world will have to come to the US to get rigs, but "ours are being used." Also, "We have the roughnecks," said Bryce, using the term "respectfully." US oil field workers are highly skilled, he said – and the rest of the world just doesn't have that "human infrastructure."
The US also has 2.3 million miles of natural gas pipelines, infrastructure to which no other country comes even close.
"We also have mastered limited partnerships, publically traded companies and putting deals together. No other county has the same access to privately held oil rights and property rights." Having mineral and property rights gives the US an "incredible advantage." They generate all kinds of incentives, said Bryce.
And – the US is not short of shale – it's everywhere.
The world energy needs is the equivalent of 26 Saudi Arabias. No "greens" or "leftests" have any idea from where that is going to come without fossil fuels. Despite all their meetings, conferences and discussions, they have offered "not a single solution," said Bryce, who went on to claim that he is a climate agnostic. "Just tell me what your solution is," he said. "They tell us we have to be worried," but offer no feasible solutions. "Hand wringing is not a climate strategy."
Roberts went on to query, "Why are we having this infantile discussion without discussing scale?"
The greatest increases in demand for energy is coming from undeveloped countries. "Solar and wind can't meet the incremental demand," said Bryce, in part because of the issue of power density. It takes too many resources to generate a small amount of energy.
For example to replace the energy generated by coal, with wind, would require building a wind farm in an area the size of Italy. And, wind turbines make too much noise and kills an "alarming" number of birds. Bryce commented on what he called a "pernicious double standard" when it comes to turbines killing migratory birds. "The wind industry gets a 'get out of jail free' card from the Department of the Interior," he said. The industry does not get prosecuted to the same degree as oil companies do when they cause bird deaths.
"The claim that we are going to limit CO2 emissions ignores two billion people in the world who do not yet have electricity. And these countries — "they have to burn hydrocarbons to bring their people out of the dark."
Bryce questioned the compassion of environmentalists who are attempting to deny poor people around the world an opportunity to improve their standard of living which requires producing more energy from fossil fuels. He said that "green groups" are attempting to thwart financing to countries like Vietnam to build coal-fired generators. "That makes me spitting mad," he said.
The use of low-quality fuels indoors kills four million people around the world each year, said Bryce.
The US is leading the world in CO2 reduction, because of innovations in the carbon fuel industries. "Why would we impose carbon tax and regulations, in light of that?" questioned Bryce. The rest of the world is increasing their use of carbon fuels at such a rate, however, that CO2 emissions in the US could have gone to zero and world emissions would still have increased by ten percent. The world is emitting 2.5 billion tons of CO2 annually.
The biggest percent increase in carbon emissions is coming from Thailand, according to Bryce.
According to Bryce, in 2013, largely due to the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in shale formations, U.S. natural-gas production averaged 70 billion cubic feet a day — a record — and a 41% increase over 2005 levels. Lower-cost gas is (Continued on next page.) reducing the domestic use of coal, which is cutting emissions. Because of the shale revolution, the U.S. is also reducing emissions faster, at considerably lower cost, than the EU. Between 2005 and 2012, U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions fell by 10.9%, according to "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013." During the same period the EU's emissions fell by 9.9%, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
Shale production is adding $473 billion to the US economy. It is bringing $1.4 billion in investments from other countries wanting to produce ethanol, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.
There is a war on coal, said Bryce, who questioned the sense of it. "We aren't the Saudi Arabia of coal, we are the whole OPEC!" As a resource the US has 900 billion barrels of oil equivalent in coal.
In the late 70s Congress thought we were running out of natural gas and thought we should move toward coal. "Now they don't want the coal plants they helped to create," said Bryce.
"Government needs to get the heck out of the way when it comes to determining what competitive fuel we are going to buy," said Bryce.
"Coal knows only one projection and that is up," said Bryce. Global coal consumption could exceed oil consumption in the future – and Bryce called oil "a miracle substance."
China will add 30 gigawatts of coal fired capacity every year.
Germany is building coal fired plants "left and right" burning low quality coal.
"Unless we find an energy source that is cheaper than coal, the other countries will continue to burn coal." Indonesia is leading the world in coal consumption in terms of percentages, China leads in real numbers. CNG (liquid gas propane) will see increases in use in cars because of clean air regulations and costs. CNG will power more cars than bio-fuels and electric cars combined.
Bryce said that he is pro- natural gas and pro-nuclear as the best means of meeting future energy needs. "If you are anti- natural gas and anti-nuclear then you are pro-black outs," he declared.
"If environmentalists want clear, clean safe energy then we have to harness the atom, instead of trying to kill the technology in the crib," said Bryce.
Bryce called upon the industry to be of paramount concern about safety. It's important not only for safety sake but for the image of the industry. "Any accident gets magnified," he said, "Any accident reflects on the entire industry."
Bryce is regularly published in publications like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review, Washington Post, American Conservative, The Nation, Counterpunch and The Guardian.
His most recent book is "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future." He is also author of "Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron;" and "Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas.