Big Tent Ideas

DAVID BLACKMON: Why Are These Energy ‘Experts’ Always Acting So Surprised?


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David Blackmon David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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Speaking Tuesday at a Bloomberg-sponsored event outside the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said he is rooting for an “energy breakthrough” that will miraculously allow the world’s power grids to accommodate the rapid growth of AI technology. Unsurprisingly, Altman admits that AI will use vastly more energy than all the supposed experts had predicted until recently.

“There’s no way to get there without a breakthrough,” he said, as quoted by Reuters. “It motivates us to go invest more in fusion.” Altman added he hopes the world will also become more welcoming to expanded use of nuclear fission in the coming years. (RELATED: DAVID BLACKMON: The EV Industry Had A No Good, Terrible, Very Bad Week)

Altman’s remarks will no doubt please everyone who works in the nuclear energy field. Certainly, there is no doubt that the world is going to need to build out millions of MW of additional nuclear generation in the coming decades, as the limits of renewables like wind and solar become increasingly obvious, even to the ‘experts’ who are supposed to be able to figure this stuff out in advance rather than constantly being surprised when totally predictable events come about.

Altman, of course, spoke glowingly about the potential for renewables as well. Respectfully, though, he hardly had any choice – that’s pretty much required at Davos or any other global conference where the global elite fly in on private jets to attend these days. It’s de rigueur, and those who violate the requirement risk not being invited back.

Several years ago, Elon Musk caught all the ‘experts’ the media love to quote about such matters off guard when he noted that U.S. power grid generation capacity would have to be doubled by 2040 just to meet the charging load for the planned expansion of electric vehicles under the Biden Green New Deal program. Shortly thereafter, the magnitude of power load being consumed by the rapidly expanding population of Bitcoin mining farms began to become publicly apparent. Again, the media and its ‘experts’ professed surprised at this revelation.

To be fair, the ‘experts’ had to be aware of these realities, but were loath to talk about such things publicly, because to do so invites inconvenient questions like, say, where will all that generation come from? Where will the raw materials be sourced? What about critical minerals and rare earth minerals supplies? And most inconvenient of all, who will foot the bill for all the trillions of dollars needed to fund such a gargantuan expansion in such a short period of time?

Biden and his fellow Democrats had a handy answer to that question, just barely managing to squeak their incredibly wasteful and Orwellian-named Inflation Reduction Act through in August 2022. But the truth is that the $369 billion in tax breaks and subsidies contained in that bill barely represent a minimum down payment on the real total cost. Covering that would require one or two additional IRAs every year for the next 17 years, and even that most likely would not be enough to get the full Biden Green New Deal monstrosity done. (RELATED: KEVIN MOONEY: Biden Admin’s New Climate Rules Could Mean Big Payday For His Buddies, Burden For American Businesses)

So, this all begs the question that, if the ‘experts’ sitting in DC think tanks and at universities like Harvard and Cornell and Stanford and the University of Texas really are experts about all this stuff, why are they always, almost invariably caught off guard, shocked and surprised at the magnitude of the energy needs of new high technological advancements? Even better, why do the media outlets who return over and over again to the same people they call ‘experts’ never grow tired of using the word ‘surprised’ in their headlines about energy?

Here’s a thought: Perhaps our society would be better off if, rather than spending trillions of dollars we do not have available to spend on projects to transition to new forms of energy, we should spend a tiny fraction of that transitioning to a new population of experts who really are experts.

It sure would be a lot cheaper.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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