Energy: A Manufacturing Foundation

Energy: A Manufacturing Foundation

Cheap, reliable, handy, and abundant energy has provided a robust competitive advantage for US manufacturing. Over the past couple of years, Congress and the administration now seem driven to promote an emissions free plan. Are initiatives like the Green New Deal helpful overall? We think it’s clear that manufacturing is a highly desirable feature of our country and should be encouraged. As a result, all of us interested in a good manufacturing future in the US need to be attuned to what’s being planned.

We got some perspective about US energy in the Nov/Dec article in Expansion Solutions, a periodical that promotes various locations for business.

Some interesting items from this article:

Coal, oil and gas constitute about 85% of energy produced. Total 2020 US fossil fuel consumption was about 73 quadrillion BTU’s, equal to approximately:

  • 12,540 million barrels of oil, or
  •  73 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or
  •  3.3 billion tons of coal.

 

US plans for zero emissions sound a bit difficult to accomplish. There is an enormous amount of fossil fuel to replace! And since CO2, the primary item being emitted, doesn’t honor national boundaries, without similar actions globally, our air will contain CO2 from all over the world, regardless of our actions.

In any case, the energy requirements for our civilization are a stable, fixed base amount plus a variable component to allow for seasonal, day-night, and locational different requirements during any time period. Grid requirements are beyond this article, and we will just focus on energy outputs. But replacing the above quantities of fossil fuel-based energy will require huge numbers of green energy devices; less if nuclear is involved (we favor nuclear).

We have some clues about what the future holds. Over the past year the administration has taken steps so that the US is no longer energy independent. Pipelines have been handicapped or cancelled in the US, yet supported in Europe. We have appealed to OPEC to increase production and the strategic reserves have been tapped to supplement US oil. These actions seem strange to us, and do not seem to support our interest in US manufacturing.   Maybe we’re off base, but maybe not.

Further, if the massive fossil fuel based energy is to be replaced with, for example, renewables, what will be provided when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun isn’t shining? Apparently natural gas is the answer, which might explain why major oil companies seem to be on board the green new deal train. Or maybe again we are way off base.

Our only real point is we who are interested in manufacturing need to pay attention to what’s going on in the energy arena. We found a very interesting TED talk by Michael Shellenberger “Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet”. You might find this worthy of consideration as well. Here’s the link.

Our final thought, since we are in favor of more nuclear, is this. It takes some 10-15 years to license and build a nuclear plant. However, if you put an aircraft carrier around the nuclear plant, it only takes 2-3 years. Does this make any sense?

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