Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We're Not Your Dumb Minions

It's disconcerting how energy issues have a way of intruding on stuff that's important to us.  In my own life, energy has come to the fore so often that I could count myself as a professional in some ways.  My naval career pulled me reluctantly through the nuclear power pipeline in both military, and later, civilian capacities.  Soon thereafter, I worked for Puget Sound Energy.  My next job involved power to the Internet, but that ended quickly after Enron's shenanigans were exposed.  My year in Iraq once again thrust me into the energy arena as part of the Energy Fusion Cell in Baghdad.

Even when energy isn't our unintended profession, it can get in our face.  So it was last night for viewers of the NFL Monday Night Football match in Charlotte, NC.  Right in the middle of their most important pastime, hundreds of thousands of fans had to stop and take notice of a couple of anti-fracking activists with a giant banner repelling down from the roof of the stadium.  Like the Wizard of Oz desperately urging his audience to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, the NFL soon tweeted that such a stunt was probably the most bizarre thing you will ever see at an NFL game.  The NFL shouldn't worry about their fans, though, because the protesters were cunningly seeking a much larger audience, not really the type of people who devote a major portion of their free time to watching a ball being squeezed out of opposing steroidal masses.

This is another instance of an energy issue being in my face, or close enough that I see it everyday that I drive out of my large residential development.  After you pass the gaggle of lofty crane booms half hidden behind a wall of trees on Cove Point Road in Southern Maryland, you soon find yourself looking at the Chesapeake Bay where an assortment of about 90 homes are arranged on a sandy flat near the water level. You are in the tiny, quiet Cove Point community which is spearheading this campaign, all out of proportion to their size, to shut down work on the Dominion Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export facility.  Note that this LNG facility has been in place for decades, but adding exporting capability will take two more years of construction and cost up to $4 Billion..., which takes us back to those protesters.

Their banner said Dump Dominion, and is aimed at Charlotte's darling Bank of America for their financing of the project. Investors should pay heed.  I have suspected since two years ago, when I spoke out publicly against the project to the Calvert County Board of Commissioners, that this whole effort is a shell game that is a part of the larger fracking Ponzi scheme.  We may have punished a few of the perpetrators of the Enron episode, but where did all the rest of the willing beneficiaries end up? Many, I assume, are still trying to squeeze money out of the ground.

My main reason for considering this particular project to be poorly conceived is that fracking has not proven to be nearly as productive over the long run as advertised.  Wells peter out quicker than Piccolo Pete on the 4th of July.  The $4 Billion will have been spent on standing up a white elephant in our remote part of Maryland when the company comes out with the news that, "Oh my, there is not enough natural gas, especially at these fallen prices, that will justify all of our sunk cost.  Government subsidies are the only way we will be able to carry it out and maintain good relations with our Japanese and Indian trading partners."

Originally a NIMBY campaign, the anti-expansion activists have begun to see the same issues just mentioned.  They have much more factual support for this view on the Dump Dominion page. In addition, just because it is natural gas, don't count on it being better for the environment. Methane is 25 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, so leaks are a big risk. When you add in the energy to transport, compress, and deliver the gas, it ends up being worse than burning coal.

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