The Lighter Side of Energy: 18 “Awards” for 2018
– The “Worst title for a program” award:
– Duration Addition to electricity Storage. (Note: this ARPA-e sponsored program that supports storage research is still not the all-time worst acronym. That award goes to US President Jimmy Carter’s inspired call for public mobilization in pursuit of energy independence: Moral Equivalent Of War … aka “MEOW
– The “Zero-Sum” award:
3rd place:Electric vehicles. About half of the electric vehicles in the US and 2/3rds in China draw power from coal.
2nd place: Blockchain. Digital applications that run on blockchain make energy transactions more efficient but require massive amounts of energy to operate (blockchain uses about the same amount of energy as Ireland).
1st place: Air conditioners. Air conditioners save lives from the conditions they are helping create. (Note: air conditioners are being installed around the world at a rate of about 1.3 every second.)
– The “Don’t Give Up” award – the most promising energy technologies in development (from the portfolio of investments by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the venture fund for LP’s Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Meg Whitman, Mark Zuckerberg….):
- Small modular nuclear reactors
- Fusion nuclear power
- Carbon capture
- Battery storage
- Photosynthesis (Mother Nature apparently developed an inefficient system)
-The “Duh” award:
In a report
from Protect Our Winters, researchers found “a direct connection between low snow cover and fewer jobs in US ski towns.”
– The energy story that got more attention than It deserved:
Tracking Scott Pruitt’s demise as EPA Administrator. Given the ethical issues that followed Scott Pruitt everywhere, it is probably safe to say that he was ill-suited for public service on a national stage. But the unrelenting expose went overboard. For instance, the Washington Post’s syndicated daily publication “Energy 202” dedicated front-page headline coverage to the Administrator’s demise for 57 consecutive days and turned its own obsession into a topic-specific byline: “Drip. Drip. Drip.”
– The energy story that deserved more attention:
The inability of the Congress to pass meaningful energy-policy. The last time the US Congress passed major environmental legislation was in the 1970s, which means that presidents have had to use old statutes to address new challenges (such as global warming). Furthermore, the protracted legislative stalemate between Republicans and Democrats has given the courts an increasingly critical role in trying to interpret how far those obsolete laws reach.
– The “I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes” award:
2nd place: President Donald Trump. The E15 ethanol mandate (which requires 15% ethanol blends in gasoline) puts the President between two powerful constituent groups: the oil industry and the Farm Belt. Oil refineries want out of a costly requirement to blend ethanol into the gasoline they produce; corn growers say the requirement diversifies the US fuel supply and insist that Mr. Trump fulfill his promise to protect the ethanol mandate. Making matters harder, Trump’s ethanol requirements will have to survive an inevitable challenge in the Supreme Court; ironically, Justice Kavanaugh wrote the dissenting opinion
against the E15 mandate.
1st place: US DoE Secretary Rick Perry. The White House gave Sec. Perry his marching orders: “prepare immediate steps” to bail out economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants. However, the proposal is overwhelmingly opposed
by virtually everyone else, including FERC. And yet, this flawed policy still won’t die
The “Data don’t lie” award:
Oil is the world’s biggest traded commodity, bigger
than all the minerals and metals combined, bigger than agriculture. Petroleum fuels 95% of the machines used to move all people and all goods for all purposes, trade included.
– The “And I’m supposed to be angry?” award:
Some residents around Brooklyn’s heavily polluted Gowanus Canal are angry
because removal of the tar-like toxins from the canal has led to gentrification (the former Superfund site now has high-end restaurants, dense housing, and other businesses).
– The “How is it possible that we can invent quantum computing, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, but we can’t figure out ____ ?” award:
2nd place: No one has been able to figure out what caused a cloud of radioactive pollution that spread over Eastern Europe. Experts who investigated the incident have determined that “there is not enough information to pinpoint the source or origin.”
1st place: The GAO discovered that ARPA-e didn’t receive
$91 million of its legally appropriated 2018 budget, and no one knows why, or where it went.
– The Hypocrisy award:
2nd place: In 2014, Narendra Modi ran for Prime Minister of India promising a strong commitment to providing electricity for all of rural India – about 38 million people in more than 18,000 villages. However, the government deems a village “electrified” if only 10%
of its households and public places (schools, hospitals, etc.) have electricity. As the program nears its end, 32 million of 38 million people still do not have electricity, and yet the government is claiming success. (Note: coal provides about 75% of all of India’s electricity.
1st place: Of the hundreds of companies in the US that have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – across all industries, from agriculture to finance – only 36%
have set a formal deadline for action.
– TheHypocrisy award II, EU edition:
2nd place: More than nine countries and a dozen cities in Europe have announced they are going to ban internal combustion engines or diesel powered vehicles (including Paris, Madrid, Athens, Norway, France the United Kingdom); however, none
have passed a law prohibiting anything.
1st place: Despite Energiewende policies that require rapid transition to renewable energy, Germany is bulldozing
centuries-old villages (such as the medieval village of Pödelwitz) to make way for brown coal mines — one of the dirtiest and cheapest fossil fuels.
– The “You can’t make this stuff up” award (Russia sweeps the category):
3rd place: A Russian energy-components manufacturing company is packaging its product with President Trump’s image
on the label and a seal that reads: “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.”
2nd place: In retaliation against sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, a Russian company that makes sewage
pump equipment delayed delivery of an order placed by the US National Mall and Memorial Parks headquarters.
1st place: Russia-based cyber-terror attacks on the Russian energy sector are out of control. For instance, there is evidence that Russian military intelligence
is conducting “malicious” cyber attacks on Russian energy companies like Gazprom, ransomware attacks targeting Russian utilities, and denial-of-service attacks on smaller Russian private energy companies. Meanwhile, civilian Russian hackers (like Fancy Bear) hacked the Russian military hackers.