US energy policies and implications in Asia and Philippines

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last October 31, 2017.

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Energy means development. It is not possible to have fast growth in all sectors — agriculture, manufacturing and services — and sustain it without ample supply of affordable and stable energy and electricity.

The US remains the world’s biggest economy in terms of nominal or current values of gross domestic product (GDP). But in purchasing power parity (PPP) valuation of GDP, China has tied the US economic size in 2013, both with $16.7 trillion, and in 2014, China ($18.2T) overtook the US ($17.4T).

US ENERGY POLICIES UNDER EX-PRESIDENT OBAMA

The energy policies of the previous administration can be summarized as follows: (1) drastic reduction of coal use, (2) steady use and consumption of nuclear and hydroelectricity, (3) relative encouragement of natural gas and oil, and (4) massive support and subsidies for variable renewable energies (VREs) especially wind-solar.

In contrast, other giant economies in the world have the following energy policies:

Germany: (1) mild reduction in coal, oil and nuclear, (2) relative encouragement of natural gas, and (3) massive support and subsidies for VREs.

Japan: (1) increased use of coal and natural gas, (2) decreased use of oil and nuclear, and (3) big support for solar.

China and India: uniform increase in coal, oil, natural gas and VRE. Which is the right thing to do, to improve energy capacity as big and as stable as possible to hasten their economic development (see table).

EnergyConsumption_103117

The US energy transition from coal to VREs like wind-solar has affected its long-term energy stability and competitiveness and punch some holes on the budget and ordinary consumers’ pockets.

US ENERGY POLICIES UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP

Recognizing the long-term threat of this trend, President Donald Trump issued a series of policies reversing the Obama policy. Among them are the following:

(1) Appointed an Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptic, Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA in the previous administration has issued lots of regulations that explicitly or implicitly restrict new coal power plants while putting existing coal plants.

(2) Issued America Energy Independence policy in March 2017, targeting to reverse among others, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) projected to cost the US economy up to $39 billion a year and increase electricity prices in 41 States by at least 10%. A follow up Executive Order (EO) “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” was issued in April 2017.

(3) Exit from the Paris Agreement and the multi-trillion dollars possible liabilities in legal and environmental challenges.

These policies will reverberate to Asia and the rest of the world in terms of higher US production of coal, oil and gas. Higher supply means lower or stable prices for these energy sources.

On a related note, an America First Energy Conference (http://americafirstenergy.org/) will be held in Houston, Texas this coming Nov. 9, to be sponsored by the Heartland Institute. Being organized by an NGO, speakers and moderators (41 so far) are all from nongovernment entities except one, from the US Department of Interior.

HUGE COAL POWER IN SOUTHEAST ASIA (SEA)

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that about 100 GW of new coal-fired power generation capacity is expected to come online in SEA alone by 2040, increasing the region’s installed capacity to about 160 GW and more than doubling the region’s current coal power capacity. Global coal-fired generation capacity to grow by nearly 50% over today’s levels.

Coal as fuel is preferred because it is cheaper than natural gas and coal plants are in many cases less costly than the capex needs of gas plants, the IEA admits.

The Philippines will be among the big SEA nations that is investing big amount of resources in expanding its coal capacity. And rightly so. In 2016, coal constituted 34% of PH total installed power capacity but contributed 48% of actual electricity production.

Cheap, stable, and dispatchable electricity upon demand, that is the kind of power sources that people the developing world need. Governments must step back from climate and renewables alarmism and cronyism and go for least-cost, reliable energy.

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Alex Magno on REs and the anti-coal activists

I just saw this article by Alex Magno, published last July, reposting here.

alex magno

There is a hidden agenda here, to be sure. The known pawns of oligarchic interests are all in play.

It is an agenda pursued even if our energy security is compromised. It is an agenda thinly veiled under the cloak of environmental protection, seeking to protect unjust cross-subsidies through the feed-in tariffs (FIT) that guarantee the profits of a few companies while penalizing all consumers.

If there is any real anomaly in the fact that Filipino consumers still pay among the highest electricity rates in Asia, it has to be the cross-subsidies consumers are forced to cough up to eliminate the business risks of those who invest in so-called “renewable energy” (RE) that does not provide baseload power and is sometimes not even dispatched to the distribution utilities.

No one disagrees with the use of RE – except that, at its technological infancy, it is neither cheap nor reliable. With the exception of hydroelectric plants, RE is an expensive adornment hung around the neck of consumers. It makes rich environmentalists happy and consumers miserable.

No one disagrees with increasing the proportion of RE in our energy profile – as long as it is not subsidized to the extent of making investments risk-free. This is like robbing the consumers in broad daylight.

We will also have to agree that we need coal plants. By the sheer volume of our rising power demand, we need cheap and reliable sources of power to provide us a stable baseload generating capacity. That will insulate us from shortages and prevent speculators from playing the wholesale electricity spot market every time reserves become thin.

Coal is not the cleanest way to generate electricity. That is sure, although new technologies have immensely improved adverse impact on the environment. Some even describe these new technologies “clean coal.”

But there is no need to demonize coal. If we do not use available coal-fired plants using cleaner technologies, our power costs will spike sky-high. If we close the coal-fired plants today, we will not only be paying an arm and a leg for the electricity we need. We will have to deal with power shortages that will cripple our economy and bring misery to the poorest of the poor.

Remember that time during the late eighties when then President Cory Aquino mothballed the nuclear power plant and abolished the Ministry of Energy. The whole country was thrown into darkness. Our already shrinking economy shrunk even more. Misery multiplied.

In the name of fighting climate change, oligarchic interests have mounted a campaign to demonize coal, block the construction of critically needed generating capacity and bring down power costs. We need to examine the hidden agenda in this campaign with a sharper analytical eye.

Obsession

A number of leftist groups have made demonizing coal plants a cottage industry of sorts even if that crusade can only harm the national economy.

A few days ago, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate hastily convened a press conference where he angrily condemned the ERC’s decision to allow a power generator to construct a P1.7 billion transmission line to deliver its power production. His obedient militants stormed the ERC offices in Ortigas, protesting what they allege is “self-dealing” between Meralco and its power generating subsidiary. They described the investment in a new transmission line as an additional burden on the pockets of consumers.

But how did they expect the power produced to be delivered to the market? Electricity can only be delivered through power lines.

If they decry transmission lines as a “burden” to consumers, how do they intend to bring the electricity to the end-users? Investment in transmission capacity is an investment in infrastructure. They might as well argue against any new investment in generating capacity because this will “burden” consumers.

They might as well, for that matter, argue against investing in modern mass transport because consumers will end up paying for them. This is exactly the argument of Bayan Muna’s ideological cousins opposing phasing out the jeepneys.

This sort of argument is jaundiced. It does not take into account the benefits greater efficiency (or greater power generation capacity) brings to the national economy.

Bayan Muna’s ideological fellow traveler Sanlakas for its part staged a protest action at the Supreme Court to support a petition for continuing Mandamus with Temporary Environmental Protection Order against the construction of coal plants. They criticize the Duterte administration for allowing the construction of coal plants to meet rising energy demand.

Their own public statements, however, reveal the real agenda behind their supposedly environmental clamor. In decrying power supply agreements they call “midnight deals” and in denouncing the approval of coal-fired baseload plants, they say that government should only allow renewable energy plants.

In an ideal universe, it would of course be preferential to have only clean energy. But ours is not an ideal universe. If we shift to exclusively renewable energy sources, we will basically triple the costs of power. If we do that, our industries will not be competitive. We will wallow in an economic depression, cutting down our forests to cook food and slaughtering mammals to make candles.

They want us to burn down our homes to produce firewood – and call that “environmentalism.” The positions taken by these leftist groups have no roots in either science or economics.  They do not even have roots in common sense.

Nothing, however, reveals the puppeteer behind this anti-coal campaign more than the fact that the protestors are attacking only the seven power supply agreements they associate with Meralco and not the 80 others awaiting ERC approval.

Germany’s CDU/CSU and FDP rejecting the Greens’ anti-coal agenda

I like the development in the new German government. #1 CDU getting closer with #4 FDP (Free Democratic Party) in climate and energy policies while potential partner #5 Greens go more idiotic and watermelon-ic (green outside, red inside) in demanding zero coal power. The Greens have more commonality with #2 SDP and #6 Linke (commies). CDU is correct — if they follow the Greens for the sake of coalition-majority, #3 AfD will greatly benefit and further expand as AfD is explicitly anti-renewables alarmism and cronyism. Germany having 3rd highest electricity prices in the world might move to 2nd or 1st if the Greens-SDP agenda will prevail.

CDU
https://www.thegwpf.com/climate-policy-threatens-to-crash-german-coalition-negotiations/

“If coal plants are closed down in Eastern Germany and thousands of workers are made redundant, very soon 30% of voters will support the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD),” Laschet warned. … Prime Minister Laschet announced that he would not make substantial concessions: “If push comes to shove we will have to crash the talks.” He said that environmental policy was a bigger hurdle for the negotiations than immigration policy: “The latter is easier to settle than the closure of power stations.”
(translated to English by The GWPF)
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/jamaika-sondierungen-armin-laschet-droht-mit-scheitern-der-gespraeche-a-1174776.html
“Kellner reiterated the Greens’ position that Germany should quickly close coal-fired power stations to help fight climate change, a position resisted by the other parties.” 
October 26, 2017.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-politics/german-coalition-talks-stumble-on-migration-climate-idUSKBN1CV1FZ

“While all parties agreed in principle this week that they want to uphold the Paris climate accord, the FDP is pressing for a commitment to curb government measures to promote renewable energy, which help make German power prices the second-highest in the European Union after Denmark’s.

“We certainly have to reduce carbon dioxide,” the FDP’s Suding said. “In Germany, this is much more expensive than in other countries and we have to find a way to reduce CO2 emissions more cheaply. Of course, there won’t be a complete phase-out of coal by 2030.”

October 27, 2017.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-27/coal-standoff-hinders-merkel-s-push-for-next-german-government

“According to Lindner (FDP):

The project of the century Energiewende [transition to green energies] has failed. None of the agreed targets will be reached. Climate protection is stalled, energy prices are rising and they are burdening us as electricity consumers, just as they are the industry and middle class. And not least of all it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee a secure power supply during the winter months.” 
http://notrickszone.com/2017/09/29/germanys-green-energy-project-close-to-death-eeg-feed-in-act-has-failed-has-to-go/#sthash.ZAheNnnr.RsV59Dyz.dpbs

It is good that both CDU/CSU and FDP are jointly resisting the deindustrialization goal of the Greens. One reason why AfD rocketed high to nearly 13% of the votes despite being created only 4 years ago is on the energy mini-suicide of the watermelon groups.

A high carbon tax is wrong

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last October 19, 2017.

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Political science masquerading as climate science insist that the gas that we humans and our animals exhale, the gas that is used by trees, flowers, fruits and other crops to grow and feed the world — carbon dioxide or CO2 — is a pollutant that must be over-taxed and over-regulated.

Far from the truth. CO2 is a useful gas, not a pollutant.

Since it is useful, the optimal carbon tax for coal in particular is not P10/ton, not P20, not P600, but zero. However, a zero tax on coal is unpopular from the world of climate alarmism, so we classify these tax rates as follows: P0 tax is optimal, P10/ton is rational, P20/ton is compromise, P600 is irrational.

Recently, eminent economist Dr. Ciel Habito made a follow-up paper, “The case for the carbon tax” and insist that the carbon tax for coal should be raised from the current P10/ton to P600/ton.

To support his claim, he used some ridiculous numbers that are peddled by the watermelon (green outside, red inside) movement. Here are two:

(1) “Dominated by CO2 (72%), GHGs trap heat… .”

Wrong. CO2 is 400 ppm or only 0.04% of all greenhouse gases (GHGs). About 95% of GHGs is water vapor — the clouds, evaporation from the seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, stomata of leaves, etc. The remaining 4%+ are methane, nitrous oxide, others.

(2) “CO2 averaged about 280 parts per million (ppm) for the last 10,000 years…In 2015… 400 ppm for the first time…. now triggering much more frequent extreme weather events.”

This is perhaps 5% geological science and 95% politics.

The Minoan, Roman, and Medieval Warm Periods (when there were no SUVs, no coal plants, no airplanes) were much warmer than the Modern Warm Period (mid-1800s to roughly 2000). There were wild swings in global warming and global cooling cycles regardless of the CO2 level. How would one call this — “much less frequent extreme weather events than today?” Garbage.

Climate change (CC) is true. All skeptics recognize climate change, recognize global warming. Planet Earth is 4.6 billion years old and there were climate change all those years because climate change is cyclical (warming-cooling-warming-cooling…) and natural. Global warming is true, and so is global cooling.

It is political science that masquerades as climate science to say that there is no climate cycle, that there is no global cooling that takes place after global warming.

BACK TO COAL POWER.

From the recent energy and economic experience of our neighbors in Asia and some industrial countries in the world, the hard lessons are these: (a) Countries that have coal consumption of at least 2.1x expansion over the past two decades are also those that experienced fast GDP growth of at least 3x expansion.

Prominent examples are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Pakistan. And (b) Philippines’ coal consumption is small compared to its neighbors; its 2016 use is just nearly 1/2 of Malaysia and Vietnam’s, just 1/3 of Taiwan’s and almost 1/5 of Indonesia’s, 1/6 of South Korea’s, 1/9 of Japan’s. (see table)

CoalConsumption_101917
A high carbon tax is irrationalI have repeatedly argued that CO2 is a useful gas. For those who insist that CO2 is a pollutant, they can certainly help curb further CO2 emission even without legislation and carbon taxation through the following:

  • Stop breathing too often; more exhalation means more CO2 emission.
  • Stop adopting pets (if any), stop eating chicken, pork, meat because these animals exhale CO2.
  • Stop using their cars, not even jeepneys or buses, they emit CO2; skateboards and bicycles only.
  • Stop riding airplanes and motorized boats, they emit CO2; solar planes or big kites and sailboats only.
  • Stop connecting from the grid and from Meralco because 48% of nationwide electricity generation comes from coal; no gensets either. Use only solar-wind-biomass + candles at home.
  • Tell their friends, business associates, family members, to do the same so that there will be more people emitting less CO2.

The Habito proposal of more expensive electricity via P600/ton carbon tax on coal is dangerous because while the Senate version of TRAIN adopts a P20/ton excise tax, the P600 can spring up somewhere during the final and Bicameral Committee meeting. The proposal should be exposed as based on political science, not geological or climate science.

Cheaper LPG means more trees saved

 

Reposting my informal notes and chat with a friend this afternoon. Raw posts here….
————

From Bjorn Lomborg’s article below, wind + solar is only 0.7% of global energy supply. Kahit ano’ng gawin dyan, di talaga pwede pang modernization. Energy robbery lang pwede.

Solar-wind in remote and small islands may be possible but not 24/7 electricity. Kung gusto ng mga tao 24/7, fossil fuels or nuke plants lang pwede. Dispatchable upon demand, not dependent on the weather.

People will need 24/7 electricity otherwise they will buy gensets, the poor will use candles.  More candles, more fires. More gensets, more noise and air pollution.

Once people in remote islands experience the convenience of electricity, they will desire a 24/7 supply. Their extra food need refrigeration; they will need even an electric fan at day time. They have nice beaches or rivers and mountains, tourists will come but the hotels will need 24/7 electricity.

Fishermen will need electricity to preserve their fish catch, otherwise they will buy ice from neighboring islands even if the cost of ice is expensive. Their fish catch in the morning will be spoiled or rotten by afternoon if there is no ice. They will have zero surplus. There are days they cannot go to the sea, like bad weather for several days.

Non-use of LPG, the use of firewood-charcoal/biomass, a major cause of indoor pollution worse than smoking. High incidence of respiratory and lungs problem of the people. Bjorn Lomborg said it’s the #1 killer in poor countries, then the anti-fossil fuel, pro-biomass “planet saviours” just do frequent global junkets.

This illustration from SPECIAL REPORT : Crisis as 71pc of households use firewood in Tanzania, April 30, 2017.
lpg
Also from The Express Tribune, Pakistan, December 5, 2013: Chilly weather: Firewood price jumps, fuelled by high LPG rates.

Nang nagmura gasolina and LPG, thousands of trees were saved — the price of charcoal is low, tinamad magputol ng kahoy ang ibang tao kasi konti bumibili. Even the poor could afford LPG, many trees were saved.

 

Pag magmahal ulit gasoline, LPG, no thanks to Du30 TRAIN on higher excise tax for petrol products, ayan, babalik sa uling at firewood mga tao. Kaliwa-kanan ang putulan ng kahoy nyan. Some P60-P100 per LPG tank ang itataas ng TRAIN ni Du30.

Now global oil prices are inching up from $40+ a barrel a few months ago to current  $50+ per barrel now. More expensive LPG, more trees will be cut, legally or illegally.

Energy 101, Disinformation and fake stories by the watermelon movement

Fake stories and disinformation can be rampant in the energy sector because of the climate alarmism drama and renewables cronyism agenda. A recent example is one published in BWorld last Thursday, The Philippines’ Ill-Advised P1 Trillion New Coal Gamble, October 20, 2017 By Sara Jane Ahmed.

The lady seems to be ignorant of many data before writing their anti-coal drama. Some things she wrote:

  1. “High electricity prices are driven by imported fuel and subsidies; electricity surcharges…”

à Wrong. Check Meralco website for customer charges, http://www.meralco.com.ph/consumer-information/rates-archive. Here, October 2017 charges, if one consumes up to 300 kWh, he would pay a total of P2,880, one-half of which is for generation charges and the other half for 11 other charges including taxes and FIT subsidy for mostly wind-solar.

meralco bill

From the generation charge, about half of which are from Malampaya natgas-using plants in Batangas; there are hydr0, geothermal, coal could be about 40% of Meralco energy mix.

  1. “Diesel dependence, much like our growing national coal dependence, is a result of subsidies…”

à Wrong, diesel has no subsidy, or maybe she refers to the current zero excise tax for diesel but under Duterte TRAIN, it will soon be slapped with P6/liter excise tax.

  1. “Coal subsidies assure the private sector guaranteed returns…”

à Wrong. Currently coal excise tax is P10/ton but under TRAIN, to rise to P20/ton. Now Dr. Ciel Habito proposes a P600/ton excise and carbon tax for coal. I criticized his proposal here, http://bworldonline.com/carbon-tax-wrong/

  1. “Meralco is currently underwriting a solar power supply deal for 85 megawatts (MW) at P2.99 per kWh.”

à True, and that’s the exception, from Solar Philippines of Leandro Leviste, son of Sen. Loren Legarda. Many solar farms here are given the cronyist FIT or guaranteed price for 20 years of P8.69 to P10+/kWh.

  1. “Philippine’s financial sector as massively exposed now to the eventual stranding proposed new coal fleet to the tune of more than 10,000 MW in overcapacity and P1.05 trillion in financial risk”.

-> See this: “Countries that have coal consumption of at least 2.1x expansion over the past two decades are also those that experienced fast GDP growth of at least 3x expansion. Prominent examples are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Pakistan.” http://bworldonline.com/high-carbon-tax-irrational/

Finally, the lady is highly disoriented, talking about diesel and coal subsidies when there is none. Yet silent on renewables subsidies, haha. P10B in 2015, P18.5B in 2016, P24.4B this 2017, and P26B next year. The main recipients of this renewables cronyism are the wind farms of the Lopezes/EDC, Ayalas’ Caparispisan and Bangui, Phinma, Alternergy/Vince Perez, etc. http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=why-the-fit-all-is-a-burden-to-consumers&id=145326
The “planet saviours”, the renewable cronyism lobbyists, they want more government intervention — in arm-twisting the consumers to pay higher electricity to subsidize renewables; in coercing the grid to prioritize the intermittent, unstable, unreliable, non-dispatchable energy sources; in choking and even killing stable, reliable, dispatchable 24/7 sources like coal, gas and nuke. Watermelons — green outside, red inside.

Alex Magno on FIT and renewables

Reposting an article today by Alex Magno in Philippine Star.

alex
A businessman-friend sent me a message the other day, railing about how the P18 billion raised through Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) charged electricity consumers could have been used to build a chain of recharging stations in the metropolitan area. Instead, as intended by our corrupt policies, FIT collections went to political cronies who claim they are saving the environment by investing in renewable energy.

With a chain of recharging stations in place, we could leapfrog the jeepney modernization program to use electric, not just Euro-4 compliant, vehicles. The technology is there. The recharging stations are not.

The environmental impact of clearing out the dirty diesel engines and putting in electric vehicles will be dramatic. The death toll from polluted air should drop remarkably.

FIT collects billions from consumers, keeping our power price regime high therefore depleting our manufacturing. In 2015, total FIT collections amounted to P10.22 billion. In 2016, with adjustments in the FIT rate, total collections ballooned to P18.54 billion. Estimated FIT collections for 2017 is placed at P24.44 billion.

Not a single peso from FIT collections goes to improvement of infrastructure. All the billions shelled out by poor electricity consumers via FIT go to offsetting business risks and ensuring profits for those who set up renewable energy facilities. The cronies who benefit from this have pulled off a massive scam by wrapping their enterprise with the cloak of political correctness.

It is not too late to scuttle this scam. We have much to learn from the experience of Australia on this matter.

As demand nears supply, Australians now realize that renewable energy is not a dependable source. It cannot provide the baseload capacity an economy needs to achieve energy security. Subsidizing renewable energy merely raises electricity prices, undercutting an economy’s ability to compete.

Renewable energy is well and good if consumers are not forced to subside them. In our case, the subsidies are better used to modernize mass transport systems.

Our backward and inefficient public transport system is, after all, the biggest contributor to the degradation of air quality in the urban centers where most of our people now live.

The cult of political correctness has misled many environmental activists otherwise acting in good faith. They ended up justifying FIT subsidies and, at the behest of cronies, demonizing coal power generation. They gloss over the fact that new technologies for coal power generation have made the iconic black smokestacks a thing of the past.

Those who make profits without assuming business risks by using FIT had the gall to demand even higher rates of subsidies from consumers. Fortunately, Energy Secretary Al Cusi has a clearer grasp of things. He rejected demands to further raise FIT rates.