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U.S. Offshore Wind Dead in the Water?

Mark Nelson

Monday, November 13, 2023

Dr. Chris Keefer  0:00  

A very warm welcome back to the couple. Today I'm joined by Mark Nelson, fan favorite and frequent commentator here on the podcast. Mark, the show must go on, we do have a show pending on Marcel BWA, too. But we're both gonna take some more time to prepare. So we'll leave that as a teaser dangling in the wind. And speaking of the wind, and the sun, we're going to do instead a brief update on some of the trials and tribulations of I think primarily the wind industry. But perhaps we'll extend that into the solar industry, and why that's not a reason to be smug as a nuclear advocate. So, Mark, thanks for coming on short notice. Let's chat once you got on your mind right now. Well,


Mark Nelson  0:45  

I think a lot of people in the energy world are watching some of the largest wind projects ever planned, certainly in terms of cost are being canceled up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States. And there's a lot of information spiraling out there about what this means or doesn't mean for clean energy plans or for the eventual construction of those plants. And what it seems to say about the solar and wind industry versus nuclear, and I thought we could clear up some of the issues. While we're waiting for more information to come out of what what US states like Massachusetts, or or New Jersey are going to do after the cancellation of these projects.


Dr. Chris Keefer  1:27  

Right, right. I mean, cruising Twitter as we both through, there's just a staccato of, of tweets, coming out about share prices, cratering, that Siemens, Gamesa, as well as Orsted. What's lying behind this? And then maybe we'll get into some more of the specifics, as you said, on the eastern seaboard?


Mark Nelson  1:45  

Well, I'll first tell you, it's bad karma to look at an energy mega project in the United States and see it fail and say, haha, I didn't like that one. I'm gonna like my own energy mega project that hasn't been even proposed yet. That's bad karma. So this is not about kicking people when they're down. And it also there are common cause difficulties with big projects in the United States. And it would be wrong to celebrate the loss of these projects. Even if you hate solar and wind, as I know that in an ember your listeners likely do, we need to be cautious and figure out what got canceled on these projects because of solar and wind having characteristics of solar and wind, and what got cancelled because of things that are also going to potentially damage nuclear projects in the future. We should mention that offshore wind is escalating wind to the difficulty level and expense of small nuclear, as proposed not executed yet. But as proposed. That is to say, some of these wind projects on the Atlantic seaboard were caught were going to cost as much as a whole nuclear reactor, or a small nuclear plant built in China. Now, this isn't China, we got to build nuclear in America, if we're going to be comparing the cost to American wind and solar. And even further in a number of these states, there would have been room in the energy portfolio, shall we say, to build big wind and still add nuclear and still not complete the decarbonisation and electrification process? So it's not like saying, the loss of these wind farms means that there's going to be a sudden boost for nuclear. But we should be clear about what is what could change in the future that is good for nuclear? And what could change in the future that might be better again, for wind? Okay,


Dr. Chris Keefer  3:38  

well, let's start, as you proposed, talking about factors intrinsic to wind and solar that perhaps because of the energy and inflationary crisis, are exposing some of the weak points, what what were formerly the strong points in terms of ever decreasing costs, etc. But let's get into that start.


Mark Nelson  3:58  

Okay, the number one thing, the number one thing with all apologies to the folks who have been protesting the wind farms and are taking a lot of credit here, the cost of money has gone up. Interest rates after sitting near zero for quite a while, are shooting up to I mean, 567 percent. And that means that inflation, which is uneven, but often follows in the wake of that sort of thing, inflation is going up the costs of contracts signed before this rise in inflation that before the rise in the cost of capital simply do not make sense anymore for offshore wind in North America, certainly on the Atlantic sea coast, where you're dealing with some of the toughest conditions that people have ever proposed building wind turbines in high seas, difficult currents sweeping the bottom of the floor of the ocean near where people were wanting to install these wind turbines, the things that make them some of the These areas so great for whales, the depth, the cold water, the the rush of, you know, the new the currents that bring in the nutrients that animals rely on, which makes us such a whale hotspot. Those are things that are just missing in most of the North Sea, a lot of the world's offshore wind, what would have been used as a pattern setter for companies pursuing offshore wind. And honestly, it shows you why it was mostly European country whose big national wind while privatized, but formerly National Wind developers, or energy developers turned wind developers were the ones bidding in the North Atlantic. Well, the North Sea is very calm, very easy. It's Child's Play, compared to building off the north, Northeastern seaboard of the US, it's just not the same. So that was one of the issues. But the bids that went in, before COVID related rises in costs interrupting fragile supply chains. Even in the new reality, the inflation Reduction Act, shoveling enormous pots of money towards anybody who can complete renewable or clean energy projects with certain guidelines, it's not enough to make the offers that were made for those offshore wind farms and then New England, it just can't make it work. So some of the some of the numbers I'm trying to figure out here are what exactly was bid. And what's being asked. Now, I'm getting the feeling that the that the cost of electricity request or that the tariff requests, the support requests for these offshore wind farms were something like low triple digits, so 100 110 $120 a megawatt hour perhaps, and what they're needing to make now, both in terms of satisfying shareholders who see a risk free rate of return, that is, if you're just investing in long term treasuries earning 5% per year, you've got to beat that by quite a bit. In order to take the risk of not just investing in US Treasuries, you're investing in a risky infrastructure project. And you've got to beat that risk that you can, that you've got to beat that return that you can get at relatively, very low risk. Right. So this is stuff that's very common to talk about in the finance world. But in the time of free money, it was barely a discussion, you were beating 0%. Really, that's the only barrier that these projects had to make. So instead of needing to aim for about a 7% return to justify the risk of doing these projects, you would need, you would need to be able to look for like, something like that on top of the 5%, risk free return rate. And at the point, you're looking at 1011 12% returns, and you're looking at huge inflation related cost risks for the materials in the supply chains. Those numbers just did not make sense anymore for the big suppliers of wind farms. So what are they looking for, it looks like they were looking for, like 140 5060 7080 $180 a megawatt hours something in those ranges. Depending on how you cut it and what time period you're looking at how the contracts were settled. At that point, you're getting up there with some of the most expensive and over budget, completed nuclear plant projects that we've ever seen, especially lately. So the cost for Vogel is probably going to be in the end, when both units come on, and all the dust settles and we look at it, it's going to be about there with what these wind turbine farms were asking for, from state governments and state legislatures. The problem is wind was supposed to be getting cheaper, the state legislators are learning a lot more about the fact that this wind won't displace the need for constant power for, you know, the rest of the power plants that you need, depending on your state's location on the grid. And the way, the way you can pipe in natural gas to take care of emergencies and stuff like that. So you're looking at a situation where this offshore wind was apparently going to cost about what it was going to cost to have a completely blown out budget nuclear plant, instead of being some of the cheapest energy ever, which is what not ever what it was going to be. But that's what people were thinking. So when the wind turbine companies come back and they are correct, to demand higher costs are not do the project, they should definitely not do the project if they're going to not cover their costs upfront knowing that even if every thing goes right, they're going to potentially, you know, drive their companies into insolvency completing these projects for some other nation. It's not even their nation. Yeah, they're right to demand more. And New Jersey, New Jersey politicians are right to be very upset that the situation has come to this. Right.


Dr. Chris Keefer  9:57  

So what does that headline mean? of worse than riding off $4 billion with these New Jersey wind projects? And how does that translate through to their their share price drop? For someone who's quite financially illiterate here, just just walk me through that? Sure.


Mark Nelson  10:11  

Well, um, Orsted is a publicly held company, meaning its shares are traded on regulated markets. And in these markets, you have to provide publicly accessible material guidance, advising prospective shareholders and your existing shareholders, how the company is expecting to do in business coming up. And they had one set of predictions. If everything had gone well, with these wind farms, if they'd made the wind farms made, they're pretty penny building them, they'd flipped 50%, or whatever, it's kind of standard for Orsted to build the wind farm and then sell half of it afterwards, meaning they keep all that risk on their books on their own, until they're able to complete the farm and sell a portion of it. And they were expecting to be able to build those farms, sell the power, sell a portion of them off, and make a certain amount of money, all of those projections fell through. And they have for the moment cancelled the wind farm, and they've had to write off all of the expected costs that they spent developing it, they're not going to lead to anything. And they've had to write up the the earnings they expected in the past to make from these, what's not clear to me is if they turn around and decided to construct the plants, again, whether the amount that they they wrote off as impairment, meaning what had to be taken away from the value stated value of the company going forward, whether you would even be able to put much value back on if the projects were not expected to be as valuable going forward as predicted in the past? Well, it would depend on if they were able to arrange better subsidies, either from the Biden administration, or from the states in question. The key thing for me though, is a lot of over budget nuclear plants got completed. Because the power was that valuable in the projects were that valuable. Once you got to the finish line, what's not clear to me is how it will work for offshore wind, where the power is not. I mean, you're building the grid to have to go to zero every time from those wind farms, every time the wind stops blowing. So they will never have the same capacity value for the system as a whole as a completed nuclear plant. And they certainly won't last as long. And we don't actually have a lot of information about how wind turbine farms, especially in extreme conditions, and with non experimental turbines, but near experimental how they're going to do over long lifetimes, they might be amazing. They're unlikely to do a nuclear plants do and get better with age. But we don't know enough that again, raises the risk of these as mega engineering projects.


Dr. Chris Keefer  12:57  

So two questions. I mean, first off, I'll just ask one at a time, because that's an annoying habit of mine to do to do to FERS kefir with the Supers. So these New Jersey cancellations, I've also heard news out of the UK, there are a number of bids that were solicited. And in the end, all of them I think were too pricey. Can you just give us a little wrap on that and whether these waves are more international than than just this New Jersey example.


Mark Nelson  13:20  

So that certainly the British auctions we're looking at prices targeting prices that were a lot lower than what we're looking at with the offshore in North America, the conditions are a lot easier to build in and the industries are already much better developed. They certainly don't have the Jones Act problem that we didn't discuss yet with the US were a very, very old law nearly as old as the US says that ships that service US ports, and only send things from US ports to US ports need to be US flag ships. That's a it's sort of an old, in my opinion, wise, probably policy to make sure that America always has a merchant navy has a merchant ship and Sailor force and wood chips that answer to US laws all the way through their life cycle, I suppose unless they're sold to another company overseas, where people argue that you should maybe waive that for the US wind industry than a non US flagship should be able to go back and forth from us shores. Same thing they say sometimes for natural gas carriers to ship natural gas from, say Louisiana to New England to avoid the absurdity not that long ago where a Russian tanker brought LNG to say Massachusetts, but we aren't allowed to bring the same from Louisiana to Massachusetts so we get a tanker. Well, they don't have that law in the UK. That's not going to be an issue there. Offshore wind onshore wind without any need for this shipping? It doesn't have this problem, okay. But the prices are still going up when the narrative was that they keep going down. A lot of the conversation in Britain around energy was this, you know, smugness that prices always go down, that wind is getting mature that we are going to arrive. Now, we don't know how cheap but at this lower level, somehow, two things have gone wrong one, that's not the case anymore. The costs have indeed gone up, in part because existing plants Well, companies aren't willing to do them as loss leaders anymore. A lot of existing companies lost an enormous amount of money scaling up wind all around the world, UK is no exception here. Another thing as the cost of energy keeps going up, despite free wind power and free solar power continuing to increase. It's becoming clear that something about the narrative of because you don't pay for fuel that will save you money if you if you don't spend too much building the plant something about there as finally got into politicians heads, and they realize that it's going to be a lot harder than people told them. I myself heard this point of view in the UK where wind is always getting cheaper. So why bother with nuclear? In 2019, I went to number 10 Downing Street with MADI hilly and Michael Shellenberger. And we sat there as this very smart young man and advisor to Boris Johnson explained to us now he didn't have a background in energy, but that's okay. He was the energy spat, meaning is the special advisor on energy. And he explained to us like he was explaining to, you know, children, that because wind is really cheap, you could just do wind, you didn't have to do nuclear, which is really expensive. And we were patiently trying to point out, but the wind doesn't blow all the time. And he was explaining, well, it's very cheap. So you do more. And we're struggling to get the point across and he was struggling to get the point across to us stupid heads, that wind gets cheaper. So therefore, it doesn't really matter if you have to overbuild. That was never right then but it certainly isn't right if your wind is getting more expensive. What the UK auctions revealed, is that the amount of money demanded by companies to make sure they can finance a wind farm is going up. Some of that yes, is materials. Some of it is an intolerance to losing money like they have in the past. And some of it is likely expectation that rules will change that make it to where you don't just get paid anyway, in Britain, if you're producing electricity when no one needs it, and they have to curtail you. So all of these things are coming to a head, which doesn't mean that nuclear is automatically gonna do better. No part of failing to build a wind farm makes us magically, more capable of building nuclear, except for one little thing that I think we should mention. There's only so much construction management talent out there. Yeah, I'm not saying that nuclear should steal it from other people. But I've met some fascinating people recently, who want to build nuclear in America. And what were they doing 567 years ago, building wind and solar. They just want to build, Chris, they just want to build? They say, yeah, that was what there was to build. We built a bunch. We built it. Well, we did what we said we were going to do, we're willing to sleep at the construction site to get it done. What did we build? Now we want to build nuclear? Well, we'll see if that that hunger translates into being able to build contrary to, in all respects to jigger Shaw on this, much more complicated facilities than wind and solar. And I suppose that's the only really the only silver lining here. Now nuclear, solar and wind are in some ways, all trapped in a little hole together, bruised, bloody, beaten, in some ways. And we're equal, we finally achieved policy and political equality, sort of, shall we say, in two different ways. One, pro nuclear policy is getting written into renewable policy to make it clean energy policy. That's quite important. It's happening all over inflation reduction act as one of the most extraordinary bits of policy ever written for nuclear energy. And we're just barely beginning to understand how to use that properly. And that's because the democratic hit lawmakers are pro nuclear and worked with pronuclear Republican lawmakers to get it to be a pro nuclear bill. Another thing that's


Dr. Chris Keefer  19:24  

while as well, the 50% ITC if built on a brownfield site with union labor and local supply chain, which is basically by default, what happens with weather? And


Mark Nelson  19:35  

honestly, Chris, there's expectation of it being when you stack up everything, even higher in the end, but the negative part of wind, solar and nuclear being trapped together is that everybody has issues with supply chains. Now it's clear it wasn't just nuclear with issues. Now we know that solar and wind have issues with the supply chain. Now everybody is facing the end of free money. It wasn't just, you know, things eligible for ESG boosts and bonuses getting one edge and nuclear not or even nuclear getting extra special edge that we might not offer because of the interest of big southern utilities, Southern utilities have been burned by Vogel. And we've got we've got it build up from the ground, ground floor now if we want to build again. But here's another thing, also, the failure of massive projects to pencil wind has now suffered the biggest setback that it's ever experienced as it as an idea, which is we escalated the engineering to a titanic scale to make the best individual turbans that we've ever made. And to put them in some of the highest wind areas that we've ever attempted on the planet. And the projects didn't pencil. And having said that, there's still an EDF project that may go ahead. In New Jersey, obviously, EDF has a lot more strength being a nuclear based company. It has a lot of strength and balance sheet possibilities that you wouldn't have is just like a wind turbine building company like Orsted. But we'll see if EDF is going to use that. Nuclear strengths, shall we say to stick with a big project in the hopes of say getting the entire coastal market in the US certainly makes me think of something though, that I heard back in 2017 in Paris when I sat down with a young nuclear engineer who admitted that she was an unusual person that EDF for liking nuclear energy. Look, EDF spent many years getting an enormous amount of talent clearly that had nothing to do with nuclear and didn't even like nuclear. Let's see if they can use that, ironically, to be the last man standing on the Eastern Seaboard, or at least in New Jersey, that was 2.2 gigawatts of wind that is, at least for now, Chris, canceled, maybe this is hardball and they're expecting bigger numbers to come back and tempt them back to the project or stead. But maybe not in which case, that's one ap 1001 one gigawatt reactors worth of power that's going to be lost and just knocked out of the planning horizon for New Jersey. And just to clarify something, we're in an interesting moment where a state like New Jersey, with Democrats in control, mostly who commissioned Rocky Mountain Institute, none other than Rocky Mountain is a famously anti nuclear organization to draw their 2035 Energy Plan. And Rocky Mountain Institute said you better keep all the all the nuclear gotta keep all that nuclear. Yeah, yes, people don't understand this. There's been a change in Rocky Mountains just couldn't hire talent now to get the job done if they had to insist on people being anti nuclear. So none other than Rocky Mountain Institute drew up that energy plan, which has a hole blasted in it by Orsted departure, if that stays permanent, okay. was kind of a ap 1000 sized hole, but in a way that would lower the system remaining system costs. We'll see. Is there a room for betting on a big project in New Jersey, if it were my money, I'd probably go to a state that hadn't lost a mega project and energy because I would worry about that myself. But from the outside, I'm thinking if somebody's curious to explore, it might be that nuclear if the price hits a certain level fits extremely nicely into a world where New Jersey is being asked to put up nuclear prices for wind energy. So we'll see exciting times to come. So


Dr. Chris Keefer  23:45  

another whoa and reason for Siemens Gamesa is stock plunge. This was not as recent I think several months back was a report on malfunctions and unforeseen maintenance costs. And you know, as far as


Mark Nelson  23:59  

the first stock plunged, they've had a second because of even worsening news on it. So together so


Dr. Chris Keefer  24:04  

so yeah, fill us in on that. But I mean, there's this irony of nuclear synth, you know, the kind of dogma nuclear we need to go small. And the dogma and offshore wind we need to go big. I don't necessarily think there's going to be as many engineering problems because nuclear started small, but for offshore wind going big. I'm not sure if that's the reason that you see for some of these unforeseen malfunctions and maintenance costs, but


Mark Nelson  24:24  

Oh, no, no. And in Siemens Gamesa, meaning when Siemens took over full ownership of the Spanish wind turbine company, GM ASA, they basically took over ownership over a lot of horrible engineering and evidently German engineers knew about it and they were worried about it and all their worries have come to fruition because now Siemens, Siemens energy i 25% owned subsidiary of former subsidiary of Siemens, the big company. Well, it's just being hammered by the revelation that despite Anish wind turbines are just terrible, not just built in Spain, but made by the Spanish supply chain. They're just really bad. And a bunch of them sound like they need to be reconstructed from scratch, which, well, they didn't make enough money or they just didn't justify that, especially in today's environment with the cost of capital, the most recent plunge of the Siemens energy that is the you know, the spin off from Siemens AG, the big mothership, Siemens energy took this extra pounding a week ago, week and a half ago, when they politely requested to the government of Germany that they'd need some cash facilities, some some sort of like signing, co signing a loan, you know, they just need the government to act as sort of a backstop in case things go worse. And the government is evidently not that happy about this. And sounds like they are going to ask for a lot from Siemens, in order to offer this Siemens AG, the mothership is not happy. All of this again, it's bad karma to kick people when they're down. I think it's fair to say that a lot of strength from wind and solar as an as an energy system as an argument, it is based on things that are no longer true after these last couple of weeks. That doesn't mean we're not going to build wind and solar, it does mean that wind and solar is living in reality, the way nuclear has had to live in reality for a really long time. You can't just live in dream space. Ironically, there's a lot of nuclear that's starting to live again, in dream space, when it's wind and solar that's having to face the facts face the music. So as exciting as a time as this is to be a nuclear now that we're getting a second look, we're going to have to have more discipline, care and concern than ever before, that when the cultural moment fully arrives, and people demand nuclear, we can actually build it. And we're not just going to be another Orsted. You know, squelching on our on our obligations, and coming back with our hat in hand to demand more subsidies.


Dr. Chris Keefer  27:13  

One of the responses I'd imagine to try to get cost down would be to move as much of the supply chain as possible to an area with lower labor standards, lower wages, and a more functional supply chain. I know that seven of the 10, top wind turbine manufacturers are now in China, are we seeing any move like that with what remains of of European manufacturing in the way that basically the European solar industry collapsed and relocated,


Mark Nelson  27:41  

you wouldn't be eligible for a lot of the inflation Reduction Act subsidies. So it at least in the US context, that that's not really a solution. I will say, of course, that we keep coming back to China where they have this enormous grid solvent, this massive bucket to mix all the other energy types into in that bucket is coal. And it's not just about engineering. It's also about financial characteristics. What I mean by that is, almost all the coal is owned by state owned entities, owned by the Chinese government, whose job it is to take losses as a signal to what's going right or wrong with the rest of their sector, that is state owned entities that are building coal plants that build too many and take a hit, they just have to sit there and suck. They just have to sit there and have losses that may or may not be in a timely manner recouped from the central government. But that's used as sort of a safety valve to check and see that the other energy types favored by policy, the wind, the solar, the nuclear, that gets developed on time and on budget, and that coal is eventually going to stop growing. But we don't have a growing coal sector, owned by loss, making state owned enterprises in Europe or America to backstop our industrial production. And our grid. We don't have that. Maybe we should, I don't know, I certainly don't hear people calling for solar and wind because of the success in China calling for a massive amount of growth in coal power in order to help blend it all in both financially and technically. Right. But same thing on the nuclear side. You don't hear people calling that frequently for a huge amount of coal to help set the price that makes nuclear profitable while creating, you know, a big gap for nuclear to come, Phil, you don't hear that. So China is special in many ways. And on one hand, you could say if we just moved all of our supply chains to China, then we could keep the costs under control. But it's not just that Chris, in a in a grid where the volume of electricity is not growing sharply. It's difficult to keep up the value of power from sources like wind and solar that produce off and on. And that's something that you that you can't solve that part specifically, by lowering the cost of wind and solar, even though you might still get wind and solar built if the cost is lower in the in the face of value deflation.


Dr. Chris Keefer  30:17  

Now, I did see some analysis, which was interesting, because we hear about these record breaking installations of wind and solar in China. And yet, the proportion of wind and solar is increasing on the grid. But because of the overall growth in the grid, this is not leading to a situation where you're getting 30 and 40%. renewables, you know, it's additive, and therefore, you're not running into as many of the grid congestion problems etc. And we


Mark Nelson  30:41  

don't know what's going to happen at the point where coal no longer grows, coal starts to shrink as a proportion of generation, the losses made by the coal sector start adding up bigger and bigger and bigger, some point that might be cut off by the Chinese state, and there might be a rationalization that substantially slows the addition of wind and solar, we don't know yet. What we do know from Europe is that as wind and solar production has grown, production of wind and solar equipment has, at the same time moved out the loss of cheap natural gas prices in the in the crisis of 2021 and 2022. That was a death knell for bringing it back in a way several companies have proposed may be making a big European supply chain move in those sectors, but you just really can't compete with America attempting the same thing. We have the cheap natural gas, we have whole even we have, we have nuclear, we have everything in the US. And we have much better conditions for wind and solar over most of the continent, as we have a much lower population density. So even if something might work in China or USA, it's not necessarily going to work out for Europe. What we're also finding is that as nuclear struggled in Europe, under the weight of decades of anti nuclear sabotage, opposition, leadership of large nuclear companies, nuclear has not performed well, in a lot of European Well, in a lot of European nuclear plants, almost all of which I'm talking about are the French ones. And certainly, German plants are excellent, but we're closed. What we've seen is a collapse in the supply of really cheap long term electricity contracts that could even possibly be written to underpin the survival of industry. So in Germany, what this means is the loss of long term electricity contracts available that may have been available from nuclear, if they'd reverse their policies means that there is nothing left that is cheap, and low carbon. Now, if the German government wanted to, they could possibly, I don't know pull out of the EU break all the environmental laws stop charging carbon costs to lignite, at which point the lignite is producing at about the same cost as nuclear used to, it's that cheap, like 20 euros a megawatt hour is profoundly cheap. It's the carbon prices that take that take this absolutely. disgustingly dirty fuel and take it up to 100 euros per megawatt hour, just to light up the boilers.


Dr. Chris Keefer  33:13  

So we're running out of time here, Mark, but you kind of hinted at this earlier, there was a lot of concern for I believe the right whale. There's about 453 of them left. And some of the, I guess, preparatory work that was occurring on the north eastern seaboard in the US was being thought to increase the number of whales Washington peaches, no, this was a very, and probably continues to be a very controversial area. What's what's your take? Have you have you been following or looking into this?


Mark Nelson  33:44  

So I've been following this from a distance. One of the things I noticed an attitude that I feel shutters of recognition for there's this, there's this attitude that makes me think of these 60s and 70s, pronuclear attitude where don't even look at it, science knows best. Don't worry, your dumb little head about it. And if you're opposed, you must be corrupt or something. I'm not saying that that was all leaders in the nuclear industry or industrial leaders that supported nuclear back then. But it's clear in studying for the book, I'm preparing to ride on the rise, fall and rise again of nuclear, that there was an enormous amount of hubris about telling locals that they don't understand, couldn't understand can't handle the truth, that sort of thing. It's pretty clear that there is something amiss with arguing that an extremely intelligent social creature is not going to be impacted by a large amount of extremely unusual unprecedented activity in its breeding waters. I don't I don't think That sounds particularly likely and the hits start coming back and forth where one side claims it's the noise that disturbs him. You know, this is what's causing the problem. The other side says, No, we're seeing these whales wash up with boat strike injuries, for example out how was that wind turbines and people saying no, they're scared by the noises from their former refuges into unusual collisions with boat traffic. The other side saying it can't be we blocked the noise, the noise doesn't go with the right frequencies for these whales, then you come back and say, How do you know that those are the only noises used, we have this recording of clearly noises outside the sensor range that you claim we're mastering. Anyway. So it's back and forth, and back and forth and back and forth. I think that it's easy to start by saying maybe the whales are just a convenient tool. But once you start to study the whales, you can fall in a little too deep and you get really emotionally attached to these extraordinary creatures. And to hear people dismiss concerns or blame you for being the one that could be hurting whales through stopping climate change preventing energy technology from being installed in their waters. You can see how it becomes a very nasty debate very quickly, especially if major funding bodies are not interested in adverse findings and aren't conducting the same level of scrutiny if they might, if it was a less favored industry that were going into those state waters.


Dr. Chris Keefer  36:26  

I mean, it certainly seems like there's been an abandonment and the strategic abandonment of the precautionary principle, which is something that is weaponized over and over again, not just against nuclear, but against biotechnology, or any number of technologies that make the Green Movement uncomfortable. I think that's that's what really stands out for me there.


Mark Nelson  36:43  

Well, I hear you at the same time, let's say the whales, there was a credible argument that preparatory activity for new coastal nuclear plants in the US were harming whales, obviously, there'd be a new mass massive outcry, people would be looking at it all over, it would not be called a right wing or left wing issue. Okay. But we didn't, wouldn't it cause you to maybe be a little bit more dismissive towards people talking about whales because it's your beloved technology? That's what I have to ask myself. Yet, on turning it around. I would start to struggle with coastal nuclear plants that we're seeing, or it could possibly harm the whales that I've now had to study a bit to get up on this subject just to follow the debate. So anyway, tough questions. These are these are incredible mammals that live for an extremely long time, breed slowly, they get scared and confused easily. And it's just very hard to watch. Each individual that washes up is an individual really, when you're when you're looking at it this way. And it becomes much more difficult to excuse this possible loss of the precautionary principle. I think the story isn't written here. We are in effect going to have testing of some areas that develop these wind turbines and others that don't. It's confused by the fact that a lot of it's a long migration pathways. So it's not like a clean a B test is Oh, this one kills whales. This one doesn't. And whales are too complicated and their behaviors for that. Really. I think we're going to be debating about this for quite a while. But anyone claiming the science is settled. It's just not being honest. Alright,


Dr. Chris Keefer  38:23  

Mark, we got to leave it somewhere. someplace to leave it. We will be back in short order with the promised episode on Marcel. It'll be our third attempt. But third time's a charm, right? Indeed. All right. Thanks again, Mark. And Goodbye and good luck. We'll talk soon



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