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Woolsey: Inexpensive Fuels, Including Electricity, Can Help Cut Imported Oil Dependence

In yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal, James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA, says the way out of America's addiction to imported oil is going to be supported by the nation's electric infrastructure:
Subsidizing expensive substitutes for petroleum, ignoring the massive infrastructure costs needed to fuel family cars with hydrogen, searching for a single elegant solution--none of this has worked, nor will it. Instead we should encourage a portfolio of inexpensive fuels, including electricity, that requires very little infrastructure change and let its components work together: A 50 mpg hybrid, once it becomes a plug-in, will likely get solidly over 100 mpg of gasoline (call it "mpgg"); if it is also a flexible fuel vehicle using 85% ethanol, E-85, its mpgg rises to around 500.

The market will likely operate to expand sharply the use of these technologies that are already in pilot plants and prototypes and heavily reduce oil use in the foreseeable future. And given the array of Wahhabis, terrorists and Ahmadinejad-like fanatics who sit atop the Persian Gulf's two-thirds of the world's conventional oil, such reduction will not be a disservice to the nation.
That sounds quite a bit like what Ray Learsy wrote yesterday over at The Huffington Post.

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Jim Muckerheide said…
I was surprised to see your support for Woolsey's views. Indeed, I found no reference to nuclear power in his op-ed article. His "inexpensive electric power" is primarily coal.

He also makes the point that DOE's PNNL estimates that no new baseload capacity is needed until until 84% of 220 million passenger cars are plug-ins. It is interesting that he picks up on Ballard's proposal to plug electric cars into the grid to provide peaking power and grid stability! I haven't seen that for a few years. I don't know about "cars are parked 20 hours/day," but Ballard did say that, during rush hour, 80% of cars are parked.

Woolsey's Congressional initiative, with DoD, is primarily on biofuels. It seems that he could well be on the ADM payroll.

Does anyoner have any more info on Woolsey's views re nuclear power?

In producing oil from oil sands, it takes about 3 boe of natural gas to produce 5 bbl of oil (with a lot of carbon emissions). Canada is now producing about a million bbl per day, and Venezuela about 800,000. Using nuclear energy to produce the heat and hydrogen to extract the oil can be a large factor in the quantities of gas delivered to the pipelines; and even more so for shales.

He point out the Synfuels Corp bankruptcy without noting that the synfuels plant itself continues to produce gas for pipeline delivery; and they have compensated DOE for the guaranteed plant cost! (The facility was saved from being bought by Wall Street for its tax advantages by being bought by a real producing rural electric cooperative, which now also produces a range of commercial products from the chemical processing.) They are now producing CO2 to pump (sequester) into depleted oil fields in Canada to enhance oil production.

Consider also that the "oil cartel" will reduce oil and gas prices as they did previously to undercut the economics of nuclear plants, in the absense of an effective national policy. One significant national policy failure was for deep-pocket interests to get to Congress to kill the national proscription on burning natural gas for electricity. This enabled installing low-cost burners at intersections of pipelines and transmission lines, with short-term gas contracts. This left business, industry and residential customers at risk of large increases in power prices and that such investors could simply walk away with their cash when gas prices rose. A few people got rich (Hazel O'Leary, Ivan Selin?)

The dramatic increases natural gas prices (justifying the return of significant LNG supplies) was not just for producing electricity, but for home heating, for chemicals and fertilizers, etc. This has caused substantial national economic damage.

We don't take credit for nuclear power's role in the '70s and '80s (through to today) in reducing power costs to the nation due to its constraint on coal, oil and gas power costs.

Gas prices have been dropping, and they will be down more in the next year or so, challenging today's weak interest in nuclear power in the U.S. As individual nuclear plant plans come closer to being built, we should expect gas (and coal?) prices to drop, which can stop significant nuclear power development in the absense of responsible government leadership, policies and/or actions to provide the direction and incentives necessary for private investment to build them. That can be in many forms, e.g., with a rational carbon discharge cost, which would also justify carbon sequestration.
Eric McErlain said…
Jim -- just because we link to an article doesn't mean we endorse it.

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