Welcome back to decouple. Today I'm joined by returning guest fan favorite and a great personal friend of mine, Robert Bryce. I am freshly back from COP in Dubai still struggling a little bit in the afternoons with the jetlag. So luckily, this recording is occurring at 11:24am My time, at quite a time, a cop and, Robert, you were not there, but you just put out a fabulous article on your substack called cop 20. It gets cold and it's stalking that really caught my attention, I wanted to have you on to try and debrief and get I guess the kind of broader sense of where these climate negotiations the context in which they're occurring energetically shirts and beautiful data visualizations there. We're going to we're going to turn those visuals into into some verbal content for our fabulous listeners. So Robert, warm welcome back.
Thank you very, always pleased to be with you, Chris.
How have you been? How's the last few days been free last weeks? What do you have to?
It's all good. You know, I've been traveling a lot been managing some family things, but you know, I have no complaints. I live a charmed life. And, you know, my this this energy and power. This is my purpose and my passion. And you know, I just wake up every day and consider myself incredibly lucky. So yeah, everything is good. The family is good. So awesome.
Oh, good. family first. Listen. So I was, as I said, on the ground and cop. The grounds itself 70,000
people, what was that? Like? I mean, what was it? Last year was 35,000 this year? 70. I mean, it's like Woodstock for climate people would have made a squid. How do you call this?
I've called these climate conferences, climate Versailles in the past. This one I think was climate Burning Man. The actual sites. It's the expo site in Dubai. I mean, it is trippy. There's some incredible architecture, this beautiful dome with sort of Arabic motifs in it that just just just incredible size and soundscape and, and visuals and yeah, no. I mean, it's it's up there with some of the best raves I've been to. Now, but in all, in all seriousness, it was hard to get your head around, it's so vast and the physicality of the space was so vast it was, you know, Las Vegas 10x In terms of the city of Dubai, in terms of how big everything is how far apart everything is, but the expo grounds were a nightmare just because you try and get from one venue to the other and it was like a 30 minute walk in some pretty well. High temperatures for this connect over here. What did it look like to you from from the outside a continent away?
Well, first I mean, I've only been to Dubai once and the architecture there is something else I mean, it's just as you know, I described as though the building goes up this way then it turns right and it turns left and that goes right again. And I mean, you know, the architecture is quite amazing. But as far as the you know, the cop, the cop experience, the cop the motif or these these events, you know, I think they after watching them now for more than a decade, it's always kind of the same script that oh, we're gonna go in there and this is going to be the one and we're going to make these big pledges and then it goes on for all these there's a ton of media coverage because the reporters love to go to these meetings. They have lots of cover From all the big media outlets, and Oh, this one's gonna be different. I know there's this controversy, and then nothing happens nothing Oh, when right at the end, oh, we don't have an agreement. And then when we got to have an agreement, and then right at the ninth hour, there is an agreement. And so in, you know, looking back at this, this one and the with the stocktake. Right, that is what their term of art is for the final document. And it has this tripling renewable capacity, which can't happen, because it won't happen because it can't happen. And in this agreement, attract transition away from hydrocarbons. Okay, well, yeah, easy to say. But remember, China, India and Indonesia did not sign the document. So okay, well, you know, congratulations. But here you have the two of the are three of the fastest growing economies in the world. Three of the economies are adding coal fired capacity at the fastest rate of any countries in the world. And so I don't know, I mean, I hate to say I'm cynical about it. It's just I'm kind of, you know, resigned to this. This repetition of media frenzy. I guess that's what I what I'd call it because I think it's mostly about media posturing. Because, you know, for all of this talk, what happens, cold consumption continues to rise. IEA just came out with a new coal report saying this year consumption is going to be 8.5 billion tonnes in July, they thought was going to be 8.4 billion I can go into coal, we
will call robbers. Let me let me riff a little bit off some of that. Yeah, I mean, I think as as you're mentioning here, it seems like there's just an incredible amount of diplomatic capital spent on just these little sort of turns of phrase, whether it's a phase out of phase down, whether it's calling on or demanding. This kind of language just seems pretty silly to me, given just just transition no tricky. Transition. Yeah, yeah. I mean, just how, you know, I've been posting about this recently, but just how wedded we are to fossil fuels. And these fantasies about deployments of alternative energy sources. I mean, the only reason that they're economic with big quotation marks is because of the surplus value we get from fossil fuels, which give us this this extra wealth that we can, you know, pour into subsidies or, or, you know, firming intermittence and things like that, but I'm not going to go on too long of a diatribe there. You know, a couple things that that I was sort of questioning, I'm always looking for the real politic, you know, I mean, whether that's justifications for war, there's always a grand narrative. And there's, there's something more sort of sometimes cynical, or just the real politic behind things. I mean, like, why do you host a climate conference? Is it like hosting the Olympics, build some infrastructure go into debt? You know, this is obviously a place where a lot of wheeling and dealing is happening, and a lot of sort of diplomatic meetings can occur outside of the actual stated goals of the conference. I think that's kind of the conclusion that I came to. Interesting you mentioning that, you know, the BRICS countries, essentially, or most of them didn't sign on. You the one thing you didn't mention, and it's sort of giving the nuclear community a lot of joy is this commitment to a tripling of nuclear but again, the geopolitics interesting Russia, India, China, they are building 46 of the 60 reactors currently under construction around the world. They're the only credible deployers, outside of maybe South Korea and the UAE, and a handful of others. But the Western nations that signed on, frankly, are fumbling in, you know, I have great concerns about nuclear. And maybe we'll talk about that a bit later. But just wanted to throw in a few sort of my own two cents, again, sort of combining your outside look and my inside look and thoughts on this. On this conference.
So 70,000 That I mean, that's just a big, I'm just kind of curious. And I don't know whether you know, the answer is speculate on it. But how is it that the the number of attendees would double in one year? What what makes Dubai different from what was Sharm el Sheikh last year? And is that still partly the hangover from COVID? Are is there? I mean, what I don't understand why they pop up, you know, why the attendee list? What are the number of attendees would it would increase so dramatically one year to the next?
I think it's just a great opportunity to do some wheeling and dealing and, you know, for a variety of different industries to meet up and make deals and ash plans. So that's a big part of it. I mean, Dubai, the infrastructure is pretty incredible. You know, they're a real tour bastion of tourism, they could host people. You know, they have an incredible sort of efficiency, things were organized extremely well. Certainly, you know, the net zero nuclear summit that I attended. I can't speak highly enough about INEC and the others that put it on in the Emirati side, incredibly efficient, you know, sessions based on time on budget kind of thing, just just like their nuclear plant. But, yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that's, that's part of the reason, but certainly, yeah, a lot of a lot of deals are going on. There's a lot of stuff under that veneer of the climate politics.
Right. And so the net zero nuclear part of that what was that like? Because I thought that that was interesting. And I think you know, of all the things that happen, this tripling nuclear pledge. Now we can say this is a stretch goal. But by 2050, you know, maybe it could happen. There are a lot of challenges I've written about this once regulation, capital and fuel right. It's always the same things. Right. But just yesterday, we had Kira, the NRC, or will, I guess was earlier this week Kairos power announced they got a an approval from the NRC for a construction permit for a gas cooled reactor. Now that is a big deal. Right? You know, because I don't think it cost them $500 million in six years, like it did with new scale. And this is a new type of reactor. So that I thought was really good news. And so, you know, there. We've seen many steps back, but I also see a few steps forward here that give me some, some hope that yeah, maybe this time, it is in fact different.
Yeah, I mean, listen, that announcement to triple nuclear energy was a hard fought battle, you know, by the host and the organizers and the World Nuclear Association. And again, Enoch, hats off to those folks, that did some amazing work in terms of the diplomacy to make that happen. It is in an enormous kind of wind in the sails, I think what I'm saying is the easy part is kind of done. We have the social licence, the policy, the political license, to get going on nuclear, there are certain countries, I would say that they have in common a deja bismah. You know, which is basically that there's some degree of state involvement in planning and industrial planning of a highly strategic sector. Those would be your Russia's China, South Korea's Japan, and its heyday UAE right now, that, you know, can deploy nuclear quickly, effectively, efficiently. But, you know, the countries that signed on largely, you know, there is one reactor under construction in the US, there are four in Europe, there's three in South America, you know, this is a little bit peddling, the US obviously has a lot of, you know, diplomatic prominence, and they, you know, are behind the major deployed reactors around the world in terms of the BW or NP Univera technology. And I think there's a lot of, you know, what the US is falling back on, because of its utter failure at deployment is where we have the best reactor technology in the world. And I think there's a little bit of you got to learn to crawl before you can do backflips and gymnastic tumbling routines. And, you know, one of the big themes, I moderated a panel on fueling the race or fueling this effort to triple nuclear energy. And in doing the research for it's discovered that the significant upgrade of sensors is Halo such as Halo cascade, will produce only 900 kilos a year, that is enough to fuel a single event, she micro reactor, a five megawatt electric micro reactor, so it just gives you a sense, nine of the 10 reactors in the advanced, the do E's Advanced reactor demonstration program are highly dependent. So major, major challenges I said, you know, I didn't want to use the F word and play company, but failure is absolutely, it shouldn't be an option, given the stakes, but it is it's absolutely an option. And this is not a moment for hubris or arrogance. This is a moment, particularly in the west, to be paying careful attention, you know, to again, the host country how they did it. And I just I worry about the political and industry architecture, and whether the West is capable of sort of pulling that together to in any way imitate the successful deployments we've seen in the past. Even in the US, we'll say, Okay, well, maybe it wasn't sort of state driven. But these large utilities are kind of like states in and of themselves. That rate base is kind of analogous to a tax base, that ability to offer cheap financing based upon, you know, de risking with the rate base. I don't see a way around that in terms of the the free markets. I
don't either, Chris, I you know, I just You mentioned the countries where we're seeing strong nuclear development and in their countries where you have strong state involvement and, you know, China, obviously, South Korea obvious or South Korea, yes, obviously, India, obviously. And I mentioned the fact that Kairos power got this construction permit from the NRC, which is great news to start construction on a gas cooled reactor. Well, that happened the same week that in Shandong Province while Wang group in China announced that they have actually started begun commercial operation of a gas cooled reactor so and that took them that project started in 2012. That was an 11 year project they had they had problems getting that thing going. Right, but it wasn't 14 years like Vogel it wasn't 18 years like aka Ludo, three. So you know, this is going to take sustained bipartisan, long term commitment from states from the federal government's to make this happen. And, you know, I see the stirrings of this in Washington. And I think there's a possibility of that happening and you know, it's slowly gaining momentum. But let's be clear, we are miles behind miles behind China and Russia and India when it comes to this And you mentioned those three and I'm just looking at the IAE A's list and under construction. And it does. What does it say here? It says Russia has. What is it? Three reactors under construction? China? 20 to 20, China 22 and India? Eight, so that's 3030. Don't
Don't forget those Russian builds in Bangladesh and Egypt and Turkey. There's they have a number going overseas like Yes, sir. Okay,
I see how you're getting there. Okay. Yeah. So right, that makes sense. Okay. Right. These are just they're measuring each country. So yeah. Okay. So you're counting Ross atom, Ross atom activity, and obviously other countries as well. Right. But this is a state champion, right? This is the this is a state owned entity that's doing this right. And they're getting state financing to do this. And these are long term, decade old relationships that they're building. So as a start on fuel,
it's not that the resources aren't there. I mean, sugar, Shawn, the LPO are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars, you know, 200 plus billion dollars. And you know, but it's it's private sector led public enabled, which is a very bizarre form of, you know, free market capitalism, if you ask me. And so yeah, it just seems to me like there's let's
be clear, so much of that is going to be reserved for the favored, you know, technologies of solar wind, hydrogen, right. Solar Wind hydrogen batteries. I mean, look, I get this, I'm following Jigar Shah, I've debated Jigar Shah, this is like, you know, come on, what are they going to put their money and really, and, and also, I think the utilities are going to be pretty gun shy on on new nuclear, given what we've seen in terms of the record of deployment, look at new scale, they, you know, they had to fold their tent on the project in Idaho National Lab, it was a big blow to domestic nuclear energy is not going to go public. Now. They, you know, they that their deal with Ares capital management that fell apart. So, you know, I'm adamantly optimistic. But this, it's this connection of private capital. And public support is a difficult one. And it's more difficult in the US because of these ideas around free markets and electricity. Well, it's not a freaking market. It's not a commodity, it's a service. And we need there requires a change in mindset.
Here's like a broad theme of something I've been thinking about. And I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. But you know, free markets, I think are very good at innovation. That's, that's pretty undeniable. Central, centrally planned economies in the most extreme forms, things like China and Russia, under communism, really good at banging out the same product forever in enormous quantities. You know, there's not market signals to say, Hey, slow down on that, or hey, could you improve that a little bit. So the famous example is a German motorbike, motorcycle that the Soviets liked. And it was about a 1943 or 1944, vintage, they set up a, you know, production line for that. And they built that same goddamn motorbike with the same components for the next 50 years or so until the Soviet Union collapsed. Right? And, yeah, sure, they could bang out a big numbers, but there wasn't innovation. Now, people will say this, and maybe it's controversial. But innovation is a tricky thing. And nuclear, maybe even hurts nuclear to do a little too and too much innovation too fast. It's the hardest of hardware, is it? There's a real inertia and a slowness to this. So maybe part of the reason why Russia and China and maybe South Korea as well there are dancing around us is because central planning favors that sort of economic activity, that sort of just banging something out over and over and over again, which seems to be the recipe for fast deployments of nuclear. So I'm not sure if
that's what that's what we saw in France, right? You know, they picked one design, and then they built a ton of them. Right? And so you have their engineers can go from one plant to the other. It's a you know, that doesn't, you know, it was interesting as many years ago now, maybe 10, or 12. But it was only in Paris, where I learned from a guy who's a French academic and a guy who'd studied the nuclear sector. at Three Mile Island in the US, there were two different control systems for the two different reactors a Three Mile Island. He was looking at that it's like, you Americans are crazy. What are you doing? Right, you know, so this, I agree that the challenge is going to be regulatory state slash state support, right? But also settling on a design that we're going to say this is the one it might not be the best one. And it might not be the most thermally efficient or whatever. But this is the one we're going to pick. And I think that, you know, it's interesting to see how the, you know, well, you're seeing this in Ontario, right, you've got Bruce Power, you're gonna go ahead with the CANDU. And you're also what is the other design you're picking, which is the BW RX 300, which apparently is what Duke is going to build as well in the Carolinas, and what are they going to use? It's not Hey, Lou, it's Leu. Right? So they're going to use the conventional fuel supply network supply chain that has been in place for decades. So that's one part of the risk envelope, one part of the risk assessments are risk issues, right that they're having to deal with in supply chain. Well, we'll take that one off the table because we know that the Leu supply chain is mature and we can count on that so But I agree I mean, I think These challenges are going to have to be very clearly addressed. And they're going to have to be addressed on a kind of an international basis, if we're going to see this anything like the tripling that is the goal that was was mentioned, which is heartening. There's now 25 countries now have signed on, it was 22. Originally, they've added three since then. So I think that's very positive news. But again, we have to be very sober and very clear eyed about this. I
totally agree. And, you know, just getting back to that contrast between central and central planning free market and the benefit of bringing out the same thing over and over again, versus innovation. I guess China has got that benefit of, I don't know how to put it diplomatically, borrowing stealing IP from the west. And so, you know, I don't know, I don't know the exact story of the acquisition of the high temperature gas record IP that they're using to bring online, you know, first commercially operating, you know, reactor of that, of that category. I gotta double check that because I know the Germans were running it the South Africans running I'm not sure if that was commercial, I'm sure I'll get some, some feedback and learn some more about that. But in any case, parking that theme, you know, another thing as you mentioned, the x 300. And, you know, picking a design and moving serially with it, it really does seem like that that reactor is is got that first mover, advantage, credible deployer at OPG. And there's a lot of interest, Ernie Moniz, in several of the NGOs. He's involved with EFI Nuclear Threat Initiative and CCleaner Task Force. They put out this nuclear playbook came out while we're at COP, and it was love to hear your thoughts on this, Robert, because it was interesting. It's coming out of a, you know, an American ecosystem on nuclear and it's saying to embarking countries, countries interested in taking up nuclear be technologically conservative, use low enriched uranium, use something like a pressurized water reactor once through fuel cycle, make sure it's proven it's got operational experience. I mean, this is all just incredibly common sense. And what I've wanted out, so in my conversation with Ernie was, well, you know, they're established and embarking nations, but in that established category, there are nations that are re embarking, right, they're not quite in the same position as a country that's like Poland is new to nuclear, but they're not much further ahead in terms of the atrophy that's gone on there. And maybe, you know, maybe just follow your own advice.
Which of France comes to mind? Right, the EPR. Right, you know, the they look at all the trouble, they had it aka Ludo. Now, maybe that's different. And, you know, maybe they learned there and that that's going to be the way they go forward. You know, I really, so in this next as we, as we look forward at what is going to be deployed, I really one of the most interesting, geopolitical, you know, technology deployment questions is which country in Europe is going to be the one that can deploy the fastest, right, and who has the most motivation? And, you know, I asked this question a lot, because I think it's just really interesting on a whole lot of levels. So is it Poland, right, Poland has a lot of a lot of reason to, you know, accelerate deployment of nuclear. So it is Romania. But France, Bill Magwood said, Well, I'd put my money on France, they have the they have the infrastructure, the personnel, they have the engineering history, you know, so, which will it be? I don't know. But it's, you know, the fact that at least now, they're mounting the right words, I take that as very positive. So what do you know what, when you come back from Comp now, I mean, you were there. I wasn't. So did it make you more hopeful? Did it make you less or just kind of more sober? You, you know, you talked to all these people, you were you know, hobnobbing with the big wigs. And in the case of Ernie Moniz, bad haircuts, but I digress. What was he going to do when he had time to kind of decompress it? How to use it?
Well, I mean, I had three distinct experiences. One was at the expo grounds themselves, which again, it was a bit dystopian for me as a pale white guy who sweats in any temperature above about 15 degrees C. So that kind of clouded that experience. But you know, I did meet some
last in Texas, my friend. Last No, but you
know, I, again, still pretty cynical of that side of things interesting. So, you know, you'll you'll walk into you know, premiers or prime ministers or, you know, there's this kid from Australia William shackle, you know, just a phenomenon of advocacy down there who managed to snag a impromptu interview with a Macron Emmanuel Macron kind of walking with his microphone alongside and Emmanuel offered up an unscripted or, you know, an unprovoked the wrong word, but he offered up, you know, the statement that Australia should overturn its ban. I got front page news, you have those kinds of opportunities in the green and blue zones of the official cop grounds. So that was experienced number one, expense number two was the net zero nuclear summit put on by INEC and the World Nuclear Association. That was absolutely fascinating to sort of watch again, from an outsider perspective as an anthropologist. It was mostly folks from the US that were speaking on stage. The Emiratis were in the audience. So, you know, listening, and I'm actually trying to think if there was a session now, there were a couple sessions where they were on stage and offering some of their expertise, but I kind of felt like it should have been the opposite with, you know, the folks from the west who are struggling, whose nuclear sectors are really in major danger. They should have been sitting in the audience and, you know, humbly asking for lessons from them, or it isn't, you know, that is I think, occurring behind the scenes. You know, the reactors at brockagh are now basically finished, there's just some hot functional testing, I believe, for the fourth one, it will come on next year. You know, they're they're looking at new nuclear, they're looking at both SMRs and large nuclear they, you know, during cold winters, when they don't have an aircon, load those braca nuclear plants is providing sometimes up to about 80% of their entire electricity needs. Obviously, they peak in the summer, and they got a lot of air con to do. But there's also 12 gigawatts of oil and gas infrastructure that's not grid connected. So that's an opportunity for more big nuclear for them. But I think, again, a big sort of, it's not a commodity, it's human resources, but a huge sort of play they have is to consult with Western countries and provide lessons. You know, if those lessons are applicable, again, to the sort of political and economic structures in the West is yet to be seen, but certainly saw a lot of MoU signed between INEC and a number of Western companies there. Right. That's the rescue. Terrestrial industrial? Yeah. Yeah. Moltex, a whole number of them. And then sorry, so that was the second thing. And then the third one, was the experience of going with a decoupled crew, getting redzone access to the broken nuclear plants and filming there and really getting to spend, you know, a good 12 hours with a number of people from the plant to senior reactor operator matawa shame, say, I can't remember her last name right now. But we had just a wonderful tour. And we'll be releasing a great video on that experience. So overall, I went and deeply cynical and sort of what what am I doing here? And I came out super energized. You know, I don't think we're going to solve climate change. With with nuclear, I think likely well, let me just be honest, this tripling is not going to happen, but get to set some aspirations and goals. And, you know, but I do feel like I have an important role to play, particularly here in Canada with, you know, doing our damnedest. So I came out kind of energized with the intention to do that. So, you know, my ambitions are a little less grandiose, probably a little more realistic. But like I said, overall, it was it was a good experience. Glad I went.
Yeah, well, that's great. And, you know, you don't know until you get there. And you know, my colleague, Tyson Culver, went and we screened a screened some of the episodes for upcoming Docu series. And he thought it was a great experience. And now he went to the camp last year at Sharm el Sheikh as well and did some participated in some nuclear things there. But again, I'm very much with you in terms of the need for a very sober clear eyed approach, because the global energy demand continues to rise and rise very quickly, you know, electricity demand is doubling every two decades. And so this is an enormous and enormous challenge, just to meet incoming, the growing demand for power, regardless of the source. And it's even more difficult when you say, well, we want it to be low carbon and you know, zero emissions or whatever. I mean, you know, that makes the the challenge even even more difficult to kind of even conceptualize much less achieve.
Yeah, which I think is a great sort of tie in and lead into what we actually came here to really talk about Robert, great to have a chit chat and a chance to sort of vent a little bit and digest the coffee experience. But I really wanted to chat with you about this, this piece, he put out cup 20 It gets cold and it's stalking I thought, you know, if I had written that I might have called it sort of tried to work in an inconvenient truth into the title. But you know, I thought it was a great title, very seasonal. And put things in perspective. You know, you have these great data visualizations, and there's always a challenge to turn that into, you know, getting a sense of the scale, the relative scale of what is happening in the world additions of nuclear versus additions of coal. John Kerry was there saying no new permitting, should be allowed for for new coal plants. You know, us is still burning quite a bit of coal. Maybe you can tell us how much seemed like a bit of green colonialism to me, but that's my lead and you take it away on on the coal front here.
Sure. Well, I've been following the coal market now for you know, now what 14 years right and I've been in coal and underground coal mines. I've been in above ground coal mines, and I look at Coal through this lens of well, this is a fuel that we just can't do without and when I say we, I mean the global wheat, right that regardless of all the downsides that are obvious, right and high co2 emissions, air pollute high co2 emissions, air pollutants, sulfur dioxide, ash ponds, all these other things we very clearly know about, but still today, globally, we're 35% of all the power produced in the world. lists still produce from coal now 141 years after Edison used it on Pearl Street. So what is it about this? And where is that market going? And there are a bunch of NGOs that I follow that track their work, and they try and downplay the growth in coal. Well, okay, you can downplay it, but I dug into the data that it was published by global energy monitor, which I follow closely. And I think their work is really pretty, pretty good. But you know, their whole their whole the spin and it is spin that they put on their numbers is, oh, well, the amount of new coal outside of China is declining. Okay. Well, okay, let's
talk about China for a second.
Well, that's just a little bit of a kind of a head fake. Why? Because in their own data, the amount of operating capacity for coal in China is 1 million megawatts. In the United States, it's 200,000. We have 200,000 megawatts of installed capacity. China today has 5x, the installed coal fired capacity as the US India has slightly more. But the thing that was really interesting, interesting to me, and important to tease out from Global Energy monitors own spreadsheets, was this issue of how much is being proposed and how much is actually under construction. So and I, you know, I really, it's funny, you know, I don't have an editor I'm on subject so I have to make sure I'm what I'm writing, I'm thinking about it, make sure you're on right, right. And so I run it through Grammarly 34568 times, and I publish usually on my piece at four in the morning. 405 like Doomberg, he posted it for I published user that 405 I woke up at 230 realizing, Oh, crap, I miss apprehended one part of the spread. I got up at 230 in the morning, because I wanted to go back and make sure I had to correct it. Okay, well, so what's the punchline? Today in China, there are 204,000 megawatts of new capacity under construction. And two thirds of that is in China. So 100 So that
just again, Megillah for those who struggle a little bit with numbers and energy literacy, that's 200 gigawatt scale coal plants. That's right. Yeah, under 200 gigawatts.
So it's, it's an entire edition of the US entire coal fleet is now under construction globally. And of that number, roughly to 130,000 megawatts is what is under construction in China. So yes, China is building a lot of coal, but so is Indonesia. So is in so is India. And those are the three countries China, India and Indonesia. And I think there was a fourth that did not sign the final agreement at the at the cup 28th visa. So you know, again, I'm not sitting here cheering for coal, what I am doing is being a reporter, and looking at the numbers and saying, okay, we can talk about all this and we believe further announcements, and I understand what the ideas are. But we again, this requires real sobriety. And I so that was one of the graphics that I published in my substack. I looked at the top 12 Coal countries with their operating capacity, coal fired capacity and their planned expansions in megawatts. and China. Yes, they have over a million I think, actually about 1.1 million megawatts of installed capacity. They have another 300,000 or so that that is in that is in the queue that is either announced pre permitted or permitted. So remember, last year, they permitted two new coal plants per week, last year. So this idea that we're going beyond coal, which is of course the slogan that the Sierra Club is being is using, and Michael Bloomberg is spending $500 million on the beyond carbon campaign to shut down every coal plant in America. Okay, you can do that. But it doesn't mean you stopped coal.
Just to again, put these numbers in perspective. A figure I've heard this from my friend made Hagen's we have a metabolism at any given time, we're consuming about 19 terawatts of energy. I know that's going to be a bit tricky to to make comparisons to capacity. But you're basically saying China has a terawatt of coal, India has a terawatt of coal installed. The US, you know, has 200 gigawatts. So just I think that gives you a sense of just how enormous these fleets are. And just in terms of primary energy in terms of the fossil component, you know, rough numbers here, oil is a bit a bit more than a third at gas a little less than a third coal bit more than a third, but those are your I call them sort of the holy trinity or unholy trinity of fossil fuels. I will say the liquid hydrocarbons are are the the the superior one of the most important one the most mission critical one. But I think that does give you a sense of just how massive the global coal fleet is. And you're saying there's some some retirements happening in the West, although Germany is doing some reactivations. And we see and there's big return to coal in Europe, maybe you want to chat about but overall more coal than ever.
Overall more coal than ever, despite all of this discussion about what is you know, what is going on? And and, you know, to your point, there's about 500, you know, turn latest numbers from the statistical review. Globally in terms of hydrocarbon use, if you can think about that's 500 Extra joules per year of use. And oil is about 190x joules coals about 160. And gas is about 140. So coal and gas together about 300 oils about 200, roughly in rough terms. So you know, these are very large numbers. And one of the things that I've been working on since the COP meeting ended is making another graphic another few graphics because one of the things that I view as my job and one of the things that I you know, if I've had some success in my career, so a lot of it is due to the fact that I'm giving people comparisons right to make put one number next to another, that allows them to put things in perspective, right, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got in my career is from Edward Tufte. He said, when you give people a number, give them something to compare it to right, something a metric that they know, that they can then react to, right that they you know, like, Okay, so 12 Extra jewels is currently global solar consumption it globally 12 Exit jewels. Well, so by itself, oil alone is 16 times as large as global solar 16x. And remember, we can't use solar to drive our diesel trucks or to run our ships or our airplanes. So these ideas are will will triple in renewable energy capacity. Okay, well, that fine, that's great. It doesn't mean you're going to displace any coal, you might maybe you'll display some coal, maybe, but you won't displace any oil. Right. But we have to begin be very clear eyed and very sober about what is the rhetoric versus the reality? And that's where I see, you know, my job. And what I've tried to do is let's talk about reality because energy realism, this is my line, I'm gonna use it over and over energy realism is energy humanism. And we need more of both.
Yeah, yeah. Again, the sort of big picture analyses and why copper is destined to fail and why we are married to false because I don't say that with any joy. I mean, I'm, I think there's some twin challenges here, climate change is going to increase and become a bigger challenge, potentially. And then we have an energy and energy challenge. And that will be the depletion, I think, particularly of the liquid hydrocarbons. But that aside, I mean, a term and a figure that I found useful just for this kind of, you know, 30,000 foot view on energy. And again, why we're not making progress. barrel of oil contains 1700 kilowatt hours of of energy, a human can perform 0.6 kilowatt hours. Over the course of the day, rough calculations, efficiencies taken into into context, again, I'm quoting Hagen's and some others here, but we're talking about 400 billion human slaves worth of energy that are propping up a population of 8 billion, probably two, 3 billion of those aren't working because their kids are aged. Right? That is just an enormous amount of energy that's behind the human enterprises behind the modern industrial enterprise. And the idea that you can just fire 400 billion Labor's worth of energy. And, you know, replace that with solar panels and wind turbines or nuclear, that all require some of that labor, some of that fossil energy, for things that are just too difficult to decarbonize, or not viable to decarbonize without the surpluses of energy. I mean, that's, that's, you know, it's a bit depressing, frankly, to sort of look at the world that way, but I would rather not be delusional. And again, I'd maybe have to reset my expectations. It doesn't mean I'm not advocating for nuclear anymore. I certainly am. But it just, it just ties you into, you know, again, how, you know, the discovery of fire enabled homosapiens with our small jaws, and, you know, short guts and big brains. The discovery of the use of hydrocarbons is what has led to homo industrialists maybe I'll call it and the origin of that species is as tied to fossil fuels as ever and I don't see a disentanglement there despite you know, some of the nuclear folks dreams about you know, I mean, it's very Levite Lewis straussian energy too cheap to meter but that will have you know, endless cheap energy and that will make up for any any kind of diminishment in terms of fossil fuels etc I a bit of a rant there Robert but just to kind of had to get that off my chest
No well I'm remembering is the will Homo sapiens it's wise man are knowledgeable man right if the Latin but a friend of mine I forgot who it was. He said Excellent. We're we're we're man the fire maker. Yeah. The fire making was the thing that has really separated us from from every other living creature right and so you have the what was it the Icarus parable right about fire and you know that we you know, we are no it was who was
the Who's the one Richard for wreath? Giving? Prometheus, right. chained to a rock is liver packed out every day. Right? You alive? Yeah, right.
Icarus flew too close to the sun. But, you know, the other part of this that, to me is so important. And it's one of the things that I focus on in some of the work that I'm most proud of. And also the one part of the work that I do that I think is the most meaningful is the renewable rejection database, right? So you have this, this bias and you know what in The thing that I've been a theme that I've been meaning to write about, but I'll summarize it very, it's very easy to say. I've been trying to think about how I write it. But the tradition of environmental isn't the tradition of environmental protection of conservation of conservation ism, of preserving landscapes and wildlife and whales and birds. It's been completely supplanted, completely replaced by climate ism and renewable energy fetishism in that and Steve brick talks about this from clean air taskforce that, that somehow renewables are the end in themselves. And you see that in this stocktake, from from Dubai, tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030. Will it's an impossible goal, it will not happen. It's just like, it is so fanciful, that's six years from now. And the point is that I'm getting two years. Well, they say this because the idea of renewable energy is so it's catnip, right? It's just a politically palatable, everybody just loves this idea of you know, because of that branding, renewable, oh, well, then it's clean. It's green. No, it's not. It's the opposite. And the it requires so much destruction of the environment, that it's become this kind of credo, this own religion, and it's in itself. And that was the part that to me of the things that came out of the kop 28. You know, this is their headline number, this is their headline achievement, we're going to triple renewable capacity by and in six years, well, the hell you are you there's no way it can be done. Even if you have the land, you don't have the amount of transformers you don't have the copper, you don't have the alignment, you don't have the electricity of the people who can actually do it. But I think this is part of this broader betrayal of environment, the environment and the concept of protection of environmental of sacred spaces in nature. And it's been all just sacrificed at the altar of climate tourism and renewable energy fetishism.
Yeah, I mean, apropos, you know, digging up landscapes, turning them inside out. I'm reading a great book right now at Conway, material world fabulous journalist.
Fabulous, but yeah, I'm gonna I'm gonna get that book. I'm gonna have him on the polymyxa.
He's hard to get on the podcast. I've been chasing his publicist around for over a month pestering her every other day with emails, but I will I will, I promise he's
with Scott. He's with Sky News, right? Yeah. Yeah. Anyway,
one of the things he talks about is copper. And, you know, sort of Paleolithic lead or prehistorically, or I guess, in the Copper Age before the Bronze Age, you could literally just find bits of pure copper lying around and you know, hit them with a rock and turn them into something. And then, you know, we got into pretty damn good or grades of round, I think, 20%, up in Cornwall, England. And then by the, you know, 1900s, early 1900s, are down to 6%. By the year 2008, we're down to about two or 1%. Now, we're sort of 0.6% the amount of overburden, we need to remove the amount of energy required to blast and you know, massive 400 ton trucks, the milling, grinding these particles, even finer to try and extract that metal. I mean, what I love about this book is it's just rubbing your face in the supply chain. And you know, what you're seeing, and you know, and there's this agenda, there's this idea of a sort of super abundance on one side and sort of Malthusian limits on the other. And on the super abundance front, it's this narrative of, you know, humans are endlessly ingenious, we solve problems. We're not like bacteria in a petri dish, we've got technology, and that is all very true. But it's ignoring this, this underlying reality of energy powering all of that, you know, there's a strange coincidence of the last 150 years that they went from, you know, horse drawn wagons to space travel to the moon. And underpinning that may have may have been a little bit of energy. But anyway, just it just goes to show you know, more and more energy and high quality, low entropy forms of energy are being required to crush this this low or grade rock to pull up more copper. Yes, it's never been cheaper, essentially, in terms of the equivalent of sort of worked hours to get that copper, but it all is depend on energy. So if you want to retire those 500 billion, you know, slave labor, worth the fossil energy, you ain't getting the copper out of the rocks to build, you know, a, an energy infrastructure, stochastic, high entropy, shitty, intermittent electricity only, essentially, it's just, it's a whole house of cards. And when you can sort of step back and look at the world through the eyes of folks like Ed Conway or Hagen's or SMIL, or others, you know, I'm just I'm just feeling a lot of kind of sobriety looking at the whole picture. And finally, sort of coming to a more fulsome understanding of why no progress gets made at these cops. We're married, we're married, we're married and we can't divorce them, you know? Well, fossil fuels can't live with them can't live without them. I don't know.
I'm married to the same woman proudly for 37 years, but there's some there's some divorce joke in here right about oh, my first wife right or something, you know, Rodney Dangerfield should step in here. Right? But this idea of Oh, We're just gonna quit using hydrocarbons in these, just stop oil, spoiled brat idiots. I've just I look at them, I just want them and want to lock them under the jail. Better yet, I want to send them to rural Zambia, and you are not allowed to use any hydrocarbons of any form for five years. And then you report back and tell us how I get, you know, because I just think it is this, this nature of these spoiled kids who don't know how good they have it. And they just want to perform this kind of public kind of angst, anxiety play and But back to the point about metals and the issues of the energy transition. I think this is one of the most interesting things that I think about now in term because I don't quite know what to think about it. I've had Simon me show on the on the power hungry podcast from the Finnish Geological Survey. And he is on the same track on terms of declining or core qualities and what is going to be required as we you know, use these lower quality orders, we have to process them more. Well, that means you need more bulldozers, you need more front end loaders, you need more cranes more and more shovels, all the stuff that's going to burn hydrocarbons in order to make the crap that you're supposedly going to use to quit using hydrocarbons. Well. Okay, well, how much tail chasing? Are we going to do here? And the part that is confusing is so I'm just looking at the copper price chart, right? Because everyone's saying, well, copper prices are gonna go up, well, they've actually been flat. Really, they're it's 390 a pound now. It's below what it was in early 2022 of nearly $5. But on a long term basis, it's really about the same as it's been for the last three years now. It was Will it go up? Well, maybe you know, who knows anything anymore. This isn't the part where I'm just everything in the world seems confusing to me today.
I mean, I guarantee your price of energy goes up significantly, or we stopped, you stop using fossil fuels. And the price of copper will skyrocket. It used to take 40 years to produce a ton of copper, pre fossil, and then I think we got into, you know, a year or something. Now we're down to you know, it takes the equivalent of, you know, four days of labor, maybe even less to get a ton of copper. But, you know, there was that bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon is one of the most famous bets in the world, right about, you know, a number of commodities and whether they get more expensive or less. And, you know, if they picked a different timeframe, some of them would have been more expensive in dollar value, but not in terms of, you know, the amount of hours of human labor required to pay for that cost, which is I think
a lot of people are wearing ounces, or in ounces of gold equivalent. But so here's a really
interesting historical analogy, right? So as the ore grades go down, some of these Chilean copper mines start becoming unviable. And I think it was the Carnegie's the Panama Canal that finished digging the Panama Canal, and they move those massive steam shovels down to the Atacama, or that wherever those copper mines are. And so they started applying, you know, incredible amounts of fossil energy in these massive machines. And that's what you know, unleashed an incredible amount of wealth from even lower org rates. So there you have that perfect example of, you know, what has enabled Ehrlich's bet to be broken by Julian Simon is the application of ever increasing amounts of fossil energy. So I don't know I this book by Ed Conway. It's it's a must read. We're gonna have a monsoon. But
ya know, I look forward to hearing that because I've been I've known about that book, it was only recently published in the US it was published in Europe has six or eight months ago. But just one quick, here's the other counterfactual right to what you're just saying, because I don't disagree. But it's one of the things in my own head as I try and work through these things. Well, okay. Who's right? If you think about well, are the quality of our oil and gas reservoirs is declining? Therefore, the price should go up? Well, yes, except the price of oil today is roughly the same as it was when I was in grade school on a constant dollar basis. The price of electricity has gone down on a constant dollar basis. I was talking to a friend of mine, Chris Wright, who's the CEO of liberty energy, they're one of the biggest hydraulic fracturing companies in the world. They frack about one of every five wells in the United States. And he pointed out that in the in the Haynesville shale and Louisiana, they you know, that what was tier two acreage, right acreage, it wasn't quite so good. Is that what they had before they thought, well, we're gonna get lower production. Well, instead, they changed their recipe on how much sand they put per foot of the hydro of the horizontal lateral. And what was was thought to be tier two acreage is producing as much as what used to be tier one acreage. So I'm not saying this goes on forever. But it's the constant battle and the constant interplay between manpower money and technology, right. And we're getting better at using less and less manpower meant labor, and less capital and better because we're utilizing more technology. And this is the story of the shale revolution, which has fundamentally changed the US the fortunes of the US energy economy. And thankfully, I mean, the amount of money that has been saved by US consumers because of this confluence of private property rights, capital technology, and drilling prowess, I mean, it's just and private ownership of mineral rights may be the the most important But all those things together just been had an incredible effect on the US economy and, and we're really the envy of the rest of the world. And for the reason we continue to have low cost energy.
Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, but you're committing that, that. That sin of classical and neoclassical economics of talking capital, labor and technology, but leaving energy out of the equation, right? It's been cheap, abundant, you don't even need to factor it in. It's substitutable. It's just any other input. And of course, you know, as the copper example, illustrates, or even I guess it's fracking illustrates, there's a bunch of energy gotta put in there's, there's I mean, that's why micro reactors are kind of the top of the battle in terms of powering frack rigs and stuff. Yeah.
Right. And so and I take me, you know, this is Nate Hagens kind of overview, right, where the energy is not just any other commodity, and I totally agree with that. But my point is not to deny that but rather that our application of technology and energy in the technology allows us to use more energy. So the more energy you know, it's the it's the it's the weird part and the the very odd fact about the energy businesses the more we find, the more we find, the more oil and gas we find the more oil and gas we find is truly incredible. And I'm I'm not standing here to be a cheerleader for the industry. I'm just an observable facts show that over time, despite the the reality that we have recovered massive amounts of reserves, the amount of oil reserves in the globally continued to rise. So it's, it's just it's such an amazing industry that, you know, energy and power both I mean, that's why I consider myself so fortunate I get to study this stuff, talk about it, and just puzzle through it all the time, because I just find it endlessly fascinating.
Well, I think we're both fascinated and frustrated, probably in equal parts with the potential stuff. Yeah, of nuclear to do something similar. I mean, there's so many incredibly talented and smart people in the sector. But I have to say, you know, even in Ontario, where we have so many of the right preconditions, we've got, you know, you know, thankfully, we turned the federal government around, they were adamantly anti nuclear, they're very, you know, the most bullish ly pro nuclear government, I can sort of list right now. And certainly in terms of their policy lists, Provincial Government Board, municipalities on board, social licence, incredibly capable institutions like Ontario Power Generation numbers, power, a hot supply chain, and even they're looking at the ISO predictions for nuclear deployment. I mean, we're looks like we're going to refurbishing about two thirds of the Pickering plant, we're losing a third of it, we're going to replace that third, just with those four SMRs at Darlington, so we haven't made any progress. And then we're going to add, you know, new big nuclear at Bruce, God willing, doesn't come online till the mid to late 2040s. So this idea that
what you're saying is, despite what Canada is doing, and really leading the world, you're you're you're treading water, really not
sure. I mean, there will be additions, you know, will net out at 1400 megawatts after losing that bit of Pickering and replacing it with the for SMRs will net out at positive 404,800 megawatts. But again, that doesn't happen till the 2040s. And that's with, you know, a lot of the preconditions there, you know, if let's say we had the US was Russia at our border, and we had more of an imperative, I think we go a bit faster. But this idea that we can just bring, you know, limitless clean nuclear energy online with a snap of a finger. I'm sorry, you know, that's, I see that a lot in this community. And it won't make me popular, but you know, we got to have a reality check. And if we approach this with anything, but absolute humility, particularly in the West, about about how to do this, and without, without a strong desire to learn and study, what worked in the past what's working currently, that's where I see things falling flat on their face, particularly in the US. You know, the, the discourse there,
it comes back to it comes back to the fuel thing. I mean, I just, you know, I asked I interviewed Bill Magwood, right from the, he's at. Now, I'm forgetting his title. But he's in Paris, right? And he's International. He's American guy, right. But he's, I asked him well, which is the most important thing, what do we have to tackle first? Is it the regulation? Is it the capitalist Felisa? No, you have to do them all, but Okay, so I'll take that point. But to me as I think about it, I think it's it's it's the fuel part is the one that seems the stickiest to me. And that Magwood is the Director General, the Nuclear Energy Agency. That's part of the OECD. I just looked it up but it to me and you pointed this out that Centris yeah, there's they've started producing Hey, Lou, it they're at their new facility in Ohio, but it's 900 kilograms. And you said it's enough for one five megawatt reactor will we don't need megawatts we need terawatt. Well,
the industry is promising, you know, and really over promising that SMRs and micro reactors are going to be this panacea. The sea chains are going to be cheap. They're going to roll off assembly lines. You know, I haven't even talked about having the fuel for them but like we You're going to be facing some real reality and frankly, disappointment compared to where expectations have been set. And I think that's a huge error. You know, fuel. Absolutely. It's interesting, I think every country in the world has different difficulties with nuclear some far less than some far more. USA and the EU, about just under a quarter of their enrichment services are Russian. And there's legislation in the US right now to ban not just uranium, but the enriched fuel as well. Russia has just said today that they may preempt that and decide at their choosing when when there's no longer any enrichment services going to the US. But you know, it's interesting, I ran into a few Japanese nuclear folks that cop and they said their number one constraint is human resources. And if you think about that, the the demography of of Japan, where the replacement rate, you know, for kids is like 1.1, or 1.2, for a couple, you think about that nuclear industry being shut down for 1015 years. And you think about young people, okay, is this a sector I want to go into? I wanna study nuclear engineering, if this industry has been shut down and dead, so they that is their absolute crunch. So it's, you know, it's pattern differently all over the world. In the US, I'd say the challenge is really, you know, well, they got all the challenges, honestly, HR fuel, you know, competent institutions. And again, this kind of ecosystem between government, industry, etc. It's just so complex, and there's so many divergent interests. You know, it's interesting on that fuel cycle panel, when talking about this, this fuel pinch in terms of Russia, you have the Aramco guy Boris should saying, no problem. We'll just overfeed the machines. You've got the center sky and center says most of their uranium is you know, they're brokering Russian fuel sales saying no, we got to get move past Russia. And I think centrist wants to add some more enrichment capacity, Aramco is happy to sell into a tight market, it's kind of like, I guess, a bit of an OPEC situation. So you have all these divergent interests, you know, and God bless them, it's to fiduciary interest to their shareholders. But that's not in the national interest. That's not in the interest of deploying nuclear that's not in the interest, the strategic interest of, you know, treading water, let alone keeping up with with Russia and China. So there's, there's so much, so much going on there. And again, I think that the biggest issue in the West is and I lacked the vocabulary, maybe it may be in your conversation with your further conversations, we'll figure out how to how to describe that dysfunctional ecosystem of, again, divergent interests that are not aligning in the way that a vertical oriented, you know, company or utility might or estate might. And I think that brings us back to that theme, right?
Well, yeah, and so I'll add one other layer of the complexity. And I think that's a good point about Japan and the labor part of this right, because that is something I hear about a lot. I travel a lot in the US. And so since I was in London, in early last month, and since then, I've been in Little Rock Kearney, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, and in all those stops what I hear about labor shortages, right that they don't have enough people there in Arkansas, there's something like two open jobs for every available worker. You know, they I talked to one guy who's in manufacturing, he said, we could hire 50 Mill writes right now if I could find him, he said, I just can't get people who want who have who have skill don't and who are blue collar and know how to use a tape measure and weld. Right, you know, that they, you know, this these basic skills of the things that people that make things are lacking, right. And, and those are the people I hope to represent, I believe I want to speak for to the extent that I can, people who grow things, make things build things, right, you know, those are the ones that I'm all for them, because they are overlooked. And yet there aren't enough of those people. But I think this, you know, that so the labor, the capital, the fuel, and the regulation all come together, right? But it's, as you say, we didn't you know, this, all these supply chain issues, these these things, these factors all come together. But further, it's about this ability to bring them all together at once in order to build this new capacity. And the other thing that I think is critical to remember about the United States, people, you know, in Canada, you have I don't know how many new electricity suppliers it's only a handful, I believe. In Japan, they're 10. And the United States, we have 3300. We have almost 900, cooperatives, 2000 public power entities like Austin Energy where I live the city owned utility, you have 180, some investor owned utilities. And then you have the public, the federally owned entities like Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville power. So it's over 3000 different entities that in some in one form or another are delivering juice to the ultimate customer. That's an O and I haven't even mentioned the the independent power producers, you know, the Cal pines and an RGS and the others that are, you know, in the business, but they aren't even in that segment of that I just mentioned. So it's just an incredibly complex system that we have here in the US and to get them all singing from the same hymnal on end Anything is hard
Robert I think that's probably a we'll leave it fascinating. We've
had enough we've had enough fun. Oh gosh, I could
go on for hours I had committed to three recordings today I had to dial back so we can get to a Christmas party with fiance you know happy wife happy life. So it always a pleasure man. And I really I really did enjoy the conversational format here. It's just great having you as a friend as a mentor. So thank you for making time to come back on decouple and
Oh, always, always, always a pleasure flattered to do it in you know, this is what I'm about. And fiance look at you, you know, who knew and you know, an ugly mug like you could get a woman interested in. It's amazing, but that's a beautiful thing. Congratulations. Shucks. Thank you, Robert. That's nice. Seriously, congratulations. That's great. I'm pro marriage, Chris. That's a beautiful thing. Congratulations, my friend. Thank
you, sir. All right. Be Well, Robert. We'll talk very soon, I'm sure. Thanks, y'all.