Categories
Podcast episode

Exploring the Energy Transformation: A Conversation with Tucker Perkins, Propane Education & Research Council – EP206

Tucker Perkins, head of the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), talks about the energy transformation we are currently experiencing with Economics Explored host Gene Tunny. Tucker advocates for renewable propane and for other sustainable liquid fuels in the future energy mix. The conversation also touches on the potential role of nuclear energy in achieving net zero emissions. 
Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com or sending a voice message via https://www.speakpipe.com/economicsexplored.

You can listen to the episode via the embedded player below or via podcasting apps including Google PodcastsApple Podcasts and Spotify.

About this episode’s guest: Tucker Perkins

Tucker is the president and chief executive officer of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), and his vision for the future is best explained by his own podcast’s title: “Path to Zero.” A firm believer that climate change is real and man-made,Tucker advocates for all energy solutions that will create a cleaner and healthier environment today and into the future. 

Zero emissions is a goal we can all get behind,but how do we meet the world’s growing energy demands AND reduce carbon in the atmosphere? Tucker believes the best and most realistic wayforward is a wide path that incorporates renewables and clean liquid fuels, such as propane, to accelerate decarbonization and reach our climate goals as soon as possible.

Tucker’s insights and theories are backed by his 30+ years of work in the propane industry. He operated his own propane retail company, Premier Propane, and has held executive positions at Columbia Propane, CleanFuel USA and Inergy Propane. Tucker is active with many industry organizations, including the National Propane Gas Association, World LP Gas Association, Industrial TruckAssociation and Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

What’s covered in EP206

  • [00:05:43] Energy transformation and low carbon fuels. 
  • [00:09:24] Propane-powered trucks and environmental impact. 
  • [00:13:30] Cruise ships moving to LNG.
  • [00:18:21] The role of gas in the energy transformation. 
  • [00:21:13] Choosing cleaner energy options. 
  • [00:33:16] Nuclear power and the grid. 
  • [00:38:40] Energy transformation and renewable fuels

Links relevant to the conversation

Tucker’s Path to Zero podcast

Transcript: Exploring the Energy Transformation: A Conversation with Tucker Perkins, Propane Education & Research Council – EP206

N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.

Gene Tunny  00:06

Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host Gene Tunny. I’m a professional economist and former Australian Treasury official. The aim of this show is to help you better understand the big economic issues affecting all our lives. We do this by considering the theory evidence and by hearing a wide range of views. I’m delighted that you can join me for this episode, please check out the show notes for relevant information. Now on to the show. Hello, thanks for tuning in to the show. In this episode, I chat with Tucker Perkins about the energy transformation that we’re going through. Tucker is head of the Propane Education and Research Council perk, and he’s the host of the path to zero podcast. In our conversation, Tucker argues strongly for renewable propane, and for other sustainable liquid fuels being an important part of the energy mix in the future. According to perc, the most common form of renewable propane today is a byproduct of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel made primarily from plant and vegetable oils, animal fats or used cooking oil. Stay tuned to also hear Tucker’s thoughts on how the energy transformation is going, and whether we should consider nuclear energy in the transition to net zero. If you have any thoughts on what Tucker I have to say in this episode, then please let me know. You can email me via contact at economics explore.com. Okay, let’s get into the episode. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Tucker Perkins. Tucker perkins, welcome to the programme.

Tucker Perkins  01:53

I’m going to enjoy being with you today. Thanks so much for having me.

Gene Tunny  01:57

Oh, of course, Tucker. Yes. Lots to talk about, given that your background and your position. So you’re the president and chief executive officer of the propane Education and Research Council P. C? Or is it perk, PRC or perk,

Tucker Perkins  02:17

we’ll call it perk for the rest of this talk. So

Gene Tunny  02:19

very good. Could you tell us a bit about your journey to perk, please Tucker? How did you end up becoming the president of what what what’s your you’ve got a background in the industry?

Tucker Perkins  02:32

Obviously, it’s you know, as I reflect on it backwards, you know, it’s been the culmination of kind of everything I did up to this point. But let’s start at the beginning. Like so many people that so in the US, we’ll call it propane, but the rest of the world and Australia included you gonna call it LPG, right. But you grew up in a into a household or my father ran a propane company that was a fairly good sized regional company. So I’d watch him go to work and saw what he did and seem to have a good living and enjoy his work. So always something I did in the summers as I was growing up, went off to college and was an engineer, and didn’t want to work for my dad at a college. I wanted to do something else. He was the president. And I didn’t really want to be the son of the President. So I worked I was a consulting engineer doing today. Now when I look back on is really relevant work, land use planning, water conservation. You’re really thinking about how urban areas should evolve walkable cities, livable places. And now it’s really to me forefront of so much we do is around conservation, right? Conservation of energy, conservation of water, how could we drive less, I mean, things that are really relevant. So I did that for a while but pretty quickly was recruited to go to work in the natural gas industry. He’s kind of a, an engineer on a pipeline, designing pipelines, building pipelines, operating them. We then built and operated in a liquefied natural gas facility, actually operated facility that turned butane or propane into natural gas. So really got great exposure in the natural gas business from drilling through the golf or Appalachian mountains, and to cleaning it up and then transporting and ultimately putting it on to ships if that’s what it took for LNG, so great, great support. But eventually, I wanted to do something I was a bit more entrepreneurial, and found my way back into the propane business, and ultimately worked my way to be the chief operating officer of the fourth largest propane company in the country. We then sold that and I started myself the smallest propane company in the country. Just me then me and a driver than me a driver and a service person. Then we added and I grew that business up and then we sold it in to a larger public company where I worked with them, so really ever had such great experiences in natural gas, natural gas liquids, you know, multinational work, you know, smallest company in the world. And ultimately, I went in and was a manufacturer for a while we were actually manufacturing propane systems. And at the conclusion of that, a job came up at the propane Education and Research Council to be in charge of all the business development. And I took that job, and then not long after that became CEO, oh, and not long after that became CEO. So it’s been a great, it’s just a great transition. And now really, just the last couple of years, you know, we’ve really started talking about how do low carbon fuels like natural gas and propane or LPG? How do they fit into this energy transformation that we talk about routinely? So having an engineering background being real familiar with natural gas, LNG, LPG really helpful to kind of set up for this last phase of my career?

Gene Tunny  06:11

Yeah, yeah, very good. Okay. So we’ll get on to that energy transformation in a moment, I’ll I should know that you’ve got your own podcast path to zero, which is great. So we’ll talk a bit about that later. Before we get on to that, I just like to ask a bit more about perk. This is an is IT industry funded Tucker it what’s the mission of the perk?

Tucker Perkins  06:35

Broadly, a perk is industry funded, we take a small percentage from every gallon sold in the US. So we have a very us focus. But again, the technologies we’re developing, we really encourage him to be used worldwide. I mean, it’s, it’s good for everyone. To see this technology is expanded way beyond the US. But we’re funded and our funding comes into about $50 million a year. And then we take that money and deploy it really one of three ways. First is around safety and training and safety and training for the industry. For the consumers of propane, we want to make sure that our industry and those people who touch propane, use propane, understand how to use it safely, that it’s installed safely in accordance with the codes. And we really, I’m so proud of where we have come over the last five or six years in digital training, helping helping you whether you want to work for a propane company and become a driver or service tech or even a customer representative. Or whether you’re filling cylinders at the local filling plant, or you’re a consumer and you need to know what to do when you smell the odour of gas. So safety and training, top of mind, a lot of marketing and awareness, you know, just talking about the value of propane, renewable propane as a part of the energy mix. And then the last piece of that really has been technology development to embed in the different markets agriculture, transportation, power generation, residential commercial, to embed into those markets, and see where the gaps are, and to see how LPG can fill those gaps. And it’s been amazing. I mean, I know I talked with you earlier. And, you know, 15 years ago as as a world body, we saw that ship fueling was dirty, filthy. In fact, it from a mission standpoint, inexpensive, powerful, but filthy. And we realised that propane offered a much better way to fuel his ship. today. We’ve had a monumental movement in using propane aboard ships, something that has been adopted way greater pace than I thought. But you know, we work with farmers every day about how to use propane today not only to dry green, or perhaps propel their tractor, but how to use it for flame techniques so they could become more gain. It can use less herbicides, pesticides, we work with builders, we’ve got some innovative products coming out that generate power and heat. And maybe our most exciting programme right now is with Cummins and a programme that I hope you see in Australia soon. Really the crazy powerful 6.7 litre propane purpose engine that can power medium duty trucks and do it in a way that’s probably more cost effective than any other option. And we cut greenhouse gases 25% from the next best technology on the market today. So you know, just actually literally putting our money where our mouth is and bringing innovative products to the marketplace that actually make consumers comfortable. Give them an affordable energy source yet do great things for the environment. Hmm,

Gene Tunny  10:06

right. Yeah. Okay, there’s few things I want to follow up there. First, just for, I just want to make sure I understand. So LPG or propane. Where would most people be coming into contact with that now? Would that be it when they’re doing they have that having a barbecue, they get the, the cylinder for their barbecue? Would that be one of the uses?

Tucker Perkins  10:28

Well, everyone comes into contact with it, they’re when they’re having their barbecues. Hopefully, we’ve all moved past charcoal now but So yeah, that’s where that’s where the typical consumer, but you know, a farmer touches it every day in December anyways, animal heat, green drying. We see it in in the US. We are fairly dominant in residential heating, hot water cooking, clothes drying, same for commercial segment. And then in transportation, and few people realise, but we’re really the third most widely used fuel in the world for transportation beyond diesel and gasoline. The next the next most widely use fuel is propane, or LPG.

Gene Tunny  11:14

Yeah, I know a lot of taxis here. have used it in Australia. So yeah, absolutely. Okay. And what about with, you’re talking about shipping? So what type of ships are we talking about? And what is it replacing? Is it replacing diesel? What’s what’s going on there?

Tucker Perkins  11:34

Yeah, well, or generally replacing even the next dirtier version of diesel first, so bunker fuel. So that heavy, that Heavy Diesel that ships used, where it will again, it was inexpensive, it’s powerful. But, you know, when you look at the emissions profile, intensely Laden was particulate matter, co2, NOx emissions, nothing that we really want to be spewing into the air, and rightfully the international community, you know, said we, there’s got to be a better way, we’ve got to fuel our ships, because again, here’s an area where ships use, you know, gargantuan volumes of fuel on an annual basis, right. So that’s an area where cleaning up the emissions truly makes a difference in our environmental footprint. So the other movie, these ships are moving from bunker fuel or diesel, to generally either natural gas, propane. You read some about ammonia, or methanol, or those kind of the, those are the four fuels that are in play right now for a ship of the future.

Gene Tunny  12:44

Right. So what types of ships are we talking about cargo ships, ocean liners, what about the oil tankers? What sort of sort of ships are we talking about? So most

Tucker Perkins  12:54

of our ships are currently carrying LPG. So those would be LPG carriers. And they could be vlg seas, very large gas carriers. But, you know, propane has moved so much around the world. And though that’s the first choice, because they already had their vessel full of propane, and so it’s relatively easy for them to to migrate to propane engines. But it certainly won’t stop there. We’re seeing some cargo ships there. I do think the probably the last in the line will be cruise ships. But we see some cruise ships now moving to liquefied natural gas. And so it’s only a matter of time. I think before all styles of ships. One style we really are interested in something very prominent in actually Australia would be ferries work boats, tugboats, fishing boats. If you go to Chile today, a lot of the fishing vessels in Chile are powered by LPG much cleaner, much easier to store for them, and much less expensive. And so for a fisherman, they actually could twofold right? They cut their costs and improve their emissions. So, you know, depends on a little bit where you go in the world to see how it’s being used. But it’s so versatile. It’s highly used in engines,

Gene Tunny  14:17

Rod, okay, and so how does it compare? What’s the right terminology pound for pound or I’m just trying to think so You mentioned a 6.7 litre propane engine for the for trucks. If I fill up the truck, will I get a similar range? If I’ve compared with if I build it with diesel? Do I get the similar amount of power? How does it compare?

Tucker Perkins  14:42

So the energy content of a gallon of propane is about I don’t know three quarters of the energy content of a gallon of diesel. Right but fuel managers tend to think about things in terms of cost per mile. Yeah, or opera. Reading cost per mile. And it’s shocking to me where we are, we’ve always been cheaper than. But now we are significantly cheaper than in fact, in most in most. And I probably have looked at 100 or 200. Operating statistics over the last month or two, we’re always half of the cost of diesel or more, in a diesel right now has been fairly elevated in price, propane has been fairly depressed in price. So it’s not unusual for us to see 60 70% savings in a cost per mile, moving from diesel to propane. And that’s really, you know, that’s important in a medium duty truck. Right, medium duty trucks are our breadbasket. They’re delivering goods and services to us, and to be able to cut their costs by 60, or 70%. While we cut their emissions, while we quiet the engine, it’s monumental benefit to the driver, to every community they serve, and ultimately to the people who are paying for those goods and services they deliver. So massive benefit.

Gene Tunny  16:08

Yeah, is there any difference in the frequency at which you have to fill

Tucker Perkins  16:11

up now, you as a designer of those engines, we, we almost always make sure that we have the same range. So your diesel truck had 600 miles of range, then we make sure you have 600 miles of range, you know, we found is this conversation goes around electric vehicles and, you know, we, we really highlight, you know, that you probably have to change to drive an electric vehicle, certainly a medium duty electric truck, you’re going to change something you’re gonna it takes you longer to refuel, you won’t be able to go as far, you know, we just don’t find commercial businesses are really able to do that they need, they need to demonstrate significantly better than before they’ll leave diesel or gasoline. And I think with propane, we demonstrate significantly better than cheaper, more powerful, frankly, quieter, and much better emissions.

Gene Tunny  17:08

Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.

Female speaker  17:14

If you need to crunch the numbers, then get in touch with Adept Economics. We offer you Frank and fearless economic analysis and advice. We can help you with funding submissions, cost benefit analysis studies, and economic modelling of all sorts. Our head office is in Brisbane, Australia, but we work all over the world. You can get in touch via our website, http://www.adepteconomics.com.au. We’d love to hear from you.

Gene Tunny  17:43

Now back to the show. Right Oh, so you mentioned before about the role of gas, so propane and other and other gases in this transition in the energy transformation. So as we head toward Net Zero, how do you see that broadly Tucker? What’s the what’s the role? Is it just as transition field as we move toward more lower carbon sources? Is there a permanent role for gas? How do you see that their role in that energy transformation?

Tucker Perkins  18:21

You know, probably I probably answered your question, in a funny way. Because when we started, certainly we thought this, that gas would be a transition. But as as we really studied, where we believe hydrogen goes, maybe we’re wind and solar goes. And wind and solar are going to be completely captivated by how fast we get the battery storage and energy storage, right? We we really cannot have appropriate wind and solar without being able to store that intermittent supply that really relevant relates as well to Evie vehicles, right? It really gets to about can we make a light enough battery that charges fast enough that holds that energy that lets us have four or 500 miles of range? How long does it take for the engineers to come to those answers? And by the way, as a technologist, I certainly believe we come to those answers, right. But I think what’s interesting to me, as we really think, again, I keep the goal in mind. The goal in mind is to reduce carbon. And we can fool ourselves by saying I drive a zero emission vehicle. But the only time that vehicle is truly a zero emission is when it’s at rest, right? The minute we have to charge it and we have to really think about that system. What I’m excited this A is as we really studied both renewable natural gas and renewable propane. We find that even under the most optimistic scenarios that we can craft for electricity, there will always be a benefit to using a powerful liquid Fuel, like renewable propane or renewable propane blend in an efficient engine. And perhaps gene engine might be a hybrid engine me, that vehicle may be the best of electric drive and internal combustion drive. But I really pivoted my answer to say, No, I think there will always be a place for low carbon and renewable fuels. And the last piece is about this is economics, because we don’t really want to, you know, openly address the cost of this transition. But in the US, we talk openly about 3 trillion, I’ve talked openly on a worldwide basis that it probably looks to me more like 30 or $40 trillion. And a few outside banking agencies have kind of verified that number. Now. That’s a lot of money. And we have to think about, I think often about, are we deploying those dollars in the right place and a world where we need better medicine, better schools, better highways and bridges? can we really afford to spend that kind of money when we have some of these clean solutions right in front of us. And that’s a conversation that we’re going to have a lot of over the next decade. But I would say to you, I am perfectly comfortable. That to choose propane today or choose natural gas today, knowing that it was a 25 or 30 year solution. I can really be intellectually honest, it says that fuel can still be cleaner than any other choice of energy I have. Because we’re we’re migrating not only our conventional fuels cleaner, but our renewable blends are carbon zero or less. And so for example, I’m perfectly comfortable talking about carbon zero propane, perfectly comfortable.

Gene Tunny  21:48

Okay, how does it become carbon zero? Tucker, I have to ask you about that. Because when you hear that you think Hang on, how is that? It’s propane. It’s so hydrocarbon how on earth? Can it be zero? Kava? What’s going on there?

Tucker Perkins  22:03

Yeah, I agree. And actually, as a person who I think we’re all better to be naturally sceptical, you know. And so the first time I talked about some modern fuels that had a carbon intensity of minus 273, I’m like, How can that be. But let’s use one example that where we think renewable propane, some sources could have a carbon intensity of minus 300, minus 300. And that would be you know, we’re working on ways to take methane today that escapes into the air. Think about gas drilling, or well drilling, where you just have fairly large amounts of methane that are just skate escaping into the air, because they can’t deal with it any other way, to be able to capture that escaping methane and convert it into a usable product. The scientists have really said consistently, I should give you credit for that, without your innovation, that methane would have escaped in the air. So I’m going to give you credit for now capturing that methane, and doing something with it. And if we can do that something converted into renewable propane efficiently, you know, don’t use a lot of energy, don’t use a lot of land, then the way we would score that today is minus 300. The renewable propane we’re making today, some of the agricultural styles, they they score today is as seven. And I’m, I’m comfortable that by using some renewable power, and by being more efficient in the process, that will end up being carbon zero as well.

Gene Tunny  23:37

Right? So it’s renewable because you’re taking methane that’s otherwise going into the atmosphere. And you’re using renewable energy to extract the propane from that is, is that right? Right.

Tucker Perkins  23:53

So again, I mean, just even go up a level a little broader. We’re taking waste products, and converting them as efficiently as possible. And by the way, all inputs considered, there’s no, you know, there’s no black box where he just stick it over there and say, No, we don’t count once in that black box, everything’s considered. In fact, even as we think about moving these grains from where they are grown and harvested to where we convert them to propane, we have to figure the carbon intensity of that train, then move those grains, but we take waste products, essentially, and effectively convert them to energy, and we calculate all the inputs. And so you know, a good example, we’re growing a product that would be very applicable in Australia camelina plant, we grow it on fallow land, we don’t irrigate it. We don’t put a lot of nitrogen on the soil, and we very efficiently converts to energy. So that’s right now the government here’s corps that has a carbon intensity of six And, and I believe by the time we perfect the process will be zero. That’s that’s how you get to those numbers, rock.

Gene Tunny  25:06

And so where are we with renewable propane? Are we in? Are we still in the r&d or the demonstration or commercialization phase of it.

Tucker Perkins  25:15

So interesting that, you know, we’re making it today in the US we’re making it today we’re selling it today, it is eligible for a lot of the same credits that you get from us from buying renewable diesel or sustainable aviation fuel. And, you know, I’m proud to say I think we’re really, we’ve probably seen the market grow seven fold or eight fold in the last year. And that’s just really all around the activity from making renewable diesel or sustainable aviation fuel. Those other things, I’m talking about agricultural based versions from camelina plan or some other really interesting, a non food cover crops, capturing methane that we’ve talked about early, those are now moving, you know, out of the lab, past the pilot plants and into real production. So if you and I had this conversation a year ago, I would have talked to you about renewable diesel, and sustainable aviation fuel making renewable Propane is a part of that. That’s, that was where the conversation ended. Today, I probably have 13 or 14 other pathways that all have, you know, really strong commercial potential. Yeah. And there are a few really exciting possibilities into the lab that are being heavily funded. So we’re excited about the fact that there’s a lot of waste material. And a lot that easily converts think about agricultural waste, whether it’s animal waste, something, you know, you, you certainly have your share that, you know, in Australia that today has been how we make a lot of renewable natural gas, right, but forest waste, how easily can we convert that, and I’m convinced Gene, that it will be converted to some renewable energy, it won’t all be converted to renewable propane, renewable natural gas, some of it will turn into ethanol and methanol. And I’m a huge advocate of allowing the feedstock that most easily converts into a product. That’s how it should happen. And then we need to find uses. methanol, ethanol, natural gas, propane, renewable diesel sustainable jet. You know, it all has a need in our society.

Gene Tunny  27:31

Yeah, yeah. Gotcha. Can I ask about the renewable dude, so I’m clear, where does the renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel come from? How do we make that?

Tucker Perkins  27:41

So today, we make it almost exclusively from used cooking oils, vegetable oils, you know, we could we could make it from a variety of crops, soybean oil, palm oil, something that you know, really is, we don’t we don’t talk about we don’t use it just it’s not really fashionable to talk about palm oil. So today, it’s basically soy beans, and a lot of used cooking oil, that’s really been the primary feedstock for

Gene Tunny  28:12

just on palm oil, you mentioned is not fashionable. Is that because of concerns about the environmental impact? Absolutely. Yes. Gotcha. Yeah. Yeah, it’s a big issue in Indonesia, of

Tucker Perkins  28:24

just, you know, from just from an environmental standpoint, and not really good ability to control the source and to be, it’s to me, it’s a little bit like lithium, right? Or cobalt? Yeah. If we’re really honest, about how we source cobalt today, we have a long ways to go to think about responsibly sourcing these materials. And again, at some point, we’re doing all this to improve the planet to improve our health to improve the quality of life for all in concerned. Right. And I don’t know how you turn your back on, you know, the miners of cobalt in the Congo, right? I mean, we have certainly not improved their lives, in many respects and the things the same probably draws out the palm oil.

Gene Tunny  29:09

Yeah, gotcha. Okay. So, as we wrap up, Tucker, how do you what are your thoughts on how the transition is going? I mean, there’s a lot of talk about the need to get toward Net Zero, obviously, how do you see the energy transformation going in the US? So I’ve covered it in Australia quite a bit on the show. I’m just interested. How do you think it’s going in the states there?

Tucker Perkins  29:33

Well, first off, I compliment you and calling it a transformation and not a transition. Right? You know, that’s a hot button to me, because it’s not a transition transitions are smooth and easy. And you hardly know when you transition. And in the transformation, people fall and stumble and hit their head and some people, you know, thrive and other people lose and that’s exactly what we’re gonna do here. So, I love the fact that you call it a transformation because it is, you know, we’re on the one year anniversary of our inflation Reduction Act, which is really that first massive influx of money in, you know, I said an interview earlier this week, we can see how much money we’ve spent. But it is quite hard to see any benefits we’ve reaped. Now, in fairness, one year is a very short time duration to be measuring results. But I think it’s pretty clear to say that we’re not seeing benefits. And I think that’s one of the areas that we love to talk about, is we’re stepping over easy short term wins to benefit the environment. In this quest for this magical electric grid that could appear, or this magical use of hydrogen, in a new Australia’s light years, I feel like ahead of most in both those areas, frankly. But you know, we’re really a long way from having a hydrogen economy, we’re a long ways from having a true, resilient, affordable electric grid that just produced from solar and wind. And so I’m loving the fact that the focus is coming in on how to how to get to a cleaner climate. And I feel like wherever you go, responsible scientists and engineers are working towards a common goal. I would say in the US, I find often that fossil fuels aren’t equal, right? It’s, it’s quite interesting to me that we talked about coal, oil and wood is dirty. And then we use a lot of coal, oil and wood to generate electricity, which is going to be the next solution. Right? So fossil fuels aren’t equal at all. And I think propane natural gas are two that have a long runway in it just transformation. And, but I love the technology that I’m seeing developed. And I’m loving seeing the market niches that we see propane can play. years ago, we really didn’t talk much about LPG in power generation. And now if I took you around the world, you’d be so shocked how we’re industrially powering facilities in Puerto Rico. We are, we’ve moved so far past residential backup. Now we’re into some prime power applications, residentially and commercially, just today I met with a college that’s going to choose propane for a significant portion of their energy system, because it offers them the best combination of environmental benefits and cost, reliability and resilience. So where we are clearly not even in warm up of you know, where we’re going to be. But I see now engineers, scientist, and really the financing community pulling together to get to a good spot.

Gene Tunny  32:56

Gotcha. Okay. And finally, what about pumped hydro and nuclear? I mean, there I mean, pumped. Hydro is something we’re pursuing here in Australia, nuclear, there’s talk about it, we probably won’t have it. There’s a lot of community resistance to it. But there are some people arguing very strongly for it. Do you have any thoughts on either of those Tucker,

Tucker Perkins  33:16

probably probably have strong thoughts. I don’t really think we ever get to where we want to be with the power grid, until we learn how to make nuclear power, until we learn really how to make it as safely as possible, and how to deal with the waste. But I really think nuclear is going to have to be a part of our solution. Because one, one thing is evident, we’re going to continue to use more and more power, right? Where we’re we want to use our computers, we want to use our data centres. Now. We want to use artificial intelligence. And nobody talks about how that in fact ratchets up our power demand exponentially, right? And yeah, you just don’t really get there without having a significant nuclear base. Now, maybe one day we’ll be talking about fusion. But I’m just not an adult. We don’t have that long to wait. We cannot wait any longer for the silver bullets. We got to take action now. Right. For it’s interesting to me that you’re talking about hydropower, because I want to be such a champion of hydroelectric power. I want to I want to be, but the realist in me knows we’re not going to build any more dams. We’re not going to dam up more rivers just not going to happen. And at least in the US, we haven’t seen even though the pumped power projects we have here are magnificent. I don’t see enough on the drawing board here to create a blip in the supply. And so for us, I find pump storage and pumped power. Something that’s not really even in the conversation right now. I’m glad you all are talking about it. Because as a way to store power and use power when you have a lot of it, and to store it for a time when you need more of it, it makes a lot of sense.

Gene Tunny  35:18

Yeah, we just hope it works out because we’re, we’re betting a lot on it, that we’ll get the pumped hydro to help back up the grid. But one of the projects we’ve got as a snowy 2.0, and it’s just way behind schedule, it’s going to be like five times the original cost. It’s delayed by 10 years. It’s it’s not going well at all.

Tucker Perkins  35:36

You know, we’re seeing that we’re seeing that right now in offshore wind, right. I mean, all the financial models that really were built around offshore wind, those financial models changed significantly, everything became more expensive. And really, right now the projects that are moving forward are the ones that just really felt like they had no choice but to move forward. But those are, again, things change, right? labour costs go up, material costs go up, maybe technology shifts, and gives you every once awhile, a favourable result. But, you know, I think that’s one of the things few people think about in this transformation as well, is just how dynamic everything is right? What’s the cost of power? How long are you willing to contract it? I was thinking today about just mining and thinking about, I just don’t know, Australia is certainly a huge mining centre, it’s a part of your culture, you have a lot of land, that is a part of your culture, no other way to say it, you embrace it to the extent you can, I just don’t think we’re going to embrace it and in the US, right, like you do in Australia. And so I think it has significant impact on our ability to really think about how we’re going to produce lithium, or copper. And so we have to really think about that, I think as a global basis, but we can talk in the US about how we’re going to become independent for lithium or copper. He I don’t believe it for a moment. And it’s not that I don’t want to believe it. But is that I’m well aware of, you know, not that many people want to lithium mine in their backyard, or in their neighbourhood or in their state sometimes.

Gene Tunny  37:20

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. There’s some some big issues there, for sure. Okay, Tucker, any final thoughts before we close?

Tucker Perkins  37:29

No, I mean, I love the opportunity to have this conversation with you. I love the fact that we’re about as far apart geographically as you can be. But we share, we share the exact same desires right to get cut our carbon would be able to live our lifestyle afford, you know, our families a better lifestyle, then, you know, perhaps we had his children. And it is nice to have partners in that in that conversation. Because from this conversation, we’ll get to solutions. We will cut through the politics, we’ll cut through the rhetoric. And I think we’ll get to solutions that were

Gene Tunny  38:05

absolutely, Tucker, I think that’s a great note to end on. I agree with you about the need to be great to cut through the politics on these issues. And yeah, really appreciate all the great conversation and just learning so much about propane, and this renewable propane and how these renewable and sustainable fuels are created and getting your thoughts on their role in this energy transformation. I think I pinched that from you, Tucker, they were in our pre conversation you. You mentioned it is really a transformation rather than a transition. And I’ve chatted with other guests. And their thought too, is that the nature of it is it’s not going to be smooth. It’s it involves lumpy investments, there’s going to be disruptions at times. And yeah, we’re starting to see some of that. So yeah, Tucker, it’s been terrific really value, your perspective on this and your information. So thanks so much.

Tucker Perkins  39:05

I really appreciate you having me. I hope you have a great day.

Gene Tunny  39:08

Thanks DACA rato thanks for listening to this episode of economics explored. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. You can send me an email via contact@conomicsexplored.com Or a voicemail via SpeakPipe. You can find the link in the show notes. If you’ve enjoyed the show, I’d be grateful if you could tell anyone you think would be interested about it. Word of mouth is one of the main ways that people learn about the show. Finally, if your podcasting app lets you then please write a review and leave a rating. Thanks for listening. I hope you can join me again next week.

39:57

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed the episode. For more content like this or to begin your own podcasting journey head on over to obsidian-productions.com

Credits

Thanks to Obsidian Productions for mixing the episode and to the show’s sponsor, Gene’s consultancy business www.adepteconomics.com.au. Full transcripts are available a few days after the episode is first published at www.economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

Categories
Podcast episode

EP92 – Nuclear energy and decarbonizing economies

Is nuclear energy a cost-effective and reliable way for economies to decarbonize, or is it too risky? Episode 92 of Economics Explored considers how nuclear energy can provide zero-carbon, reliable energy and why it should potentially be considered as a key part of the world’s response to climate change. This is a conversation between Economics Explored host Gene Tunny and Adept Economics Research Officer Ben Scott. Gene and Ben’s profile are available on the Adept Economics website.

Links relevant to the conversation include:

Does nuclear energy have a future in Australia?
What’s going on with the so-called hydrogen economy?
OPAL multi-purpose reactor
Nuscale Power

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

Categories
Podcast episode

EP86 – Decarbonizing the Economy

In Episode 86 of Economics Explored, host Gene Tunny talks about the big challenge of decarbonizing economies to respond to climate change. Among other issues he considers the uncertainty around the impacts of climate change, the future of coal, and optimal policy responses to climate change. 

Relevant links include:

A Study of Long-term Global Coal Demand by Queensland Treasury
Structural Adjustment Policies Becoming Increasingly Important
Apocalypse Never
Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
The Spirit of Green by William Nordhaus

Please check out the episode and let us know what you think via email: contact@economicsexplored.com.

Economics Explored is available via all the usual podcast providers including Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

WP Popup