Robert Bryce kicked off the Intermountain Energy Summit in Idaho Falls blasting the Obama Administration’s proposed carbon reduction rules, saying coal isn’t going away and that wind and biofuels can’t compete with hydrocarbons.
Bryce is the author of “Smaller, Faster, Lighter, Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.” He said in his speech he wants to help bring people together on energy.
He said he was bullish on nuclear power but it had to bring the price down, which he blamed on regulations. He said he also was bullish on solar, which he said is getting cheaper but needs better storage technology.
But in an aging hotel that still uses incandescent light bulbs, Bryce ignored the power source that has the most promise in the short term and even the long term, energy efficiency. Since the early 1980s, the Pacific Northwest has used energy-efficiency to cut electric demand by 5,300 megawatts, preserving the region's advantage for lost-cost power.
People in Idaho Falls, who are directly connected to the Bonneville Power Administration’s grids know this better than many Idahoans, since the city-owned utility has lower rates than their neighbors on Rocky Mountain Power.
Bryce’s argument for coal is that the rapidly growing economies of countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are going to coal because it’s cheap and available. He appeared to dismiss U.S. leadership in reducing carbon because most of it has come from our increased natural gas use, a low carbon relatively clean alternative that is outcompeting coal in the U.S., which doesn’t tolerate air pollution like the Asian nations.
He could have benefited from reading Futurist Jack Uldrich’s book "Foresight 20/20, who says "the world is changing all around us and we often miss the details. Uldrich pointed out that break-through technology - computer-processing, data storage, robotics, bandwidth, the sequencing of the human genome, nanotechnology, even smart or wearable devices - tends to double its power, speed or miniaturization annually.
And energy efficiency is one of the ways these breakthroughs will be seen in energy.
But Bryce said he was an agnostic on climate change, which explains why he’s so big on coal. Technologies like nuclear power or even high efficiency coal burning or gasification, which can reduce carbon, can’t compete unless nations are committed to reducing greenhouse gases.
It’s a message with which the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory’s supporters continue to struggle.