Kinder: wind, solar not the answer to U.S. energy needs

June 2, 2009

Rich Kinder, CEO of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, says the Obama Administration’s push to develop alternative energy sources such as wind and solar are not the answer to reducing the nation’s dependence on oil or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Click below to hear where Kinder thinks the U.S. should be focusing its attention.

Kinder: wind, solar not the answer from Reuters TV on Vimeo.


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The Dept. of Energy website says that Renewables are now providing 7% of our energy. Mr. Kindle’s numbers of 76,000/47.4M = 0.1% is far from agreeing with this, although his 47.4M barrels/day does agree with the DOE’s total of 100 Quadrillion BTUs.

Posted by Jim Avery | Report as abusive

Normally I read articles before making comments. However, I can’t view this video from my dial-up service. I want to make a comment anyways. It is hard to believe that at one time we got along fine without electricity. We had no refrigeration, air-conditioning, washing machines or dish washers. With wind and photo-voltaics we can power computers, televisions and radios. But these approaches are not suitable for cooking, heating and refrigeration. Methane however can be used for all of these applications even for cooling. Biomass has traditionally been used for cooking and heating.

People who dislike wind and solar tend to be looking for money to pay for like coal, nuclear power or large hydro projects. I would like to see no subsidies or incentive programs at all for utility companies. Likewise when utility companies collapse, we should avoid helping them. Let these companies charge as much as they want. But give people the freedom to pursue the alternate forms of power they wish.

This Fall I will try canning and drying food. I think our grand-parents had it right. I believe the Mennonites are really forward-looking people. We can cut our electrical consumption by 95 percent if we made some lifestyle changes. People are taking probiotics, but they won’t keep some food out of the fridge. They take all sorts of vitamins although food retains more nutrients when it is cooked less. We buy cold-cuts to keep in the fridge that can contain all sorts of deadly bacteria. So being inspired to save energy might be a great thing for us.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

It’s about time some logic was brought to the table on this subject.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

The difference between 7% and o.1% is that most Renewables are Hydro. Hydro will not increase because we do not want to hurt the enviroment with more dams. This means that new Renewables are very very small because wind and solar are not effective in creating power.

Posted by Lenny Harris | Report as abusive

How seriously can you take this guy when his primary solution is, self-admittedly, 10 – 12 years away in a best case scenario?

Posted by notchris | Report as abusive

The Us have the ideal environment for solar energy, look at the vast deserts in for instance Nevada and Arizona. What better purpose for the desert than to use it to generate solar energy.

Posted by Nikkei 225 | Report as abusive

Jim Avery,

The 7% number comes primarily from hydroelectric power. The Pacific Northwest especially has a tremendous amount of hydro generation, so that is the bulk of the renewable energy in the USA today. Solar and wind are both down in the 1% range currently.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

How can anyone take this guys seriously? He is the CEO of a company that controls all the major pipelines in the United States and Canada. Of course he is going to say that solar and wind is not the corrected answer. That would take away from his bottom line. And we all know that Mr. Kinder doesn’t want to do that. As for Mr. Kinder, formerly worked for ENRON!! You see any problems with that.
Why would the leader of the most powerful control of pipelines want something to take it’s place? He is not and I honestly think he does not have all his facts when it comes to Solar and Wind!.

Posted by Justin Michaels | Report as abusive

PV solar still uses more energy to make than it returns over its lifetime. My PV system cost $10,000 and I can only run my microwave 20 minutes a day . . . Wind is a little more efficient, but less predictable, and the storage costs are prohibitive. Despite your best wishes, neither technology is THE answer to our future. As for giving up 95% of our power use: Do you people have any idea how long we can sustain an economy that way? 6 months and the country would collapse to the point we’d be begging the Chinese Army to take over. We might, working hard, cut out 30%, but even that requires life style changes like “no more private transport” and “no more private homes”.

Go Nukes!

Posted by Jackson Diamond | Report as abusive

I’m a huge supporter of renewable energy, but agree with Rich’s comment that the SHORT-TERM focus needs to be on improving what we already have in place. Natural Gas vehicles would be A GREAT way to go.

Now, as for a post above that says Rich thinks it’s not the correct answer because “that would take away from his bottom line”… Well why then did he say the BEST answer would be to put the money into Nuclear, which Kinder Morgan has NO stake in at all? No Nuclear plants, no electricity lines, nothing. Focus on the message, and the fact that he’s built an extremely sucessful company over the last 12 years (from what I can tell, he was not involved in any way with the Enron crisis, as he hasn’t worked there for over a decade.) Do you think he MAY know what he’s talking about?

Short term – Natural Gas & the possibility of Clean Coal.
Long term – Nuclear (of course, with Solar and Wind as the technology gets better.)

Posted by Renewable Supporter | Report as abusive

We are being hoodwinked and bamboozled.

The title should be “…not the answer to present and near term energy needs.” If the problem we are trying to solve in this interview is how to meet present and near term demand for power, Kinder makes sense. I like his emphasis on nukes as well, as the nuke plant is a point load generation that is a carbonless replacement to a coal fired plant. This solution fits with the current electric grid infrastructure whose investors anticipate and prefer generators to produce massive amounts of power from a single point. Makes total sense…if I had billions wrapped up in power distribution, I would want to maximize usage on my capacity. But how does this solve CO2 reduction?

If the problem is to solve or eliminate CO2 reduction, then Kinder has it all wrong, and the investment interests in power distribution have it all wrong as well. Thus I do not expect the likes of Kinder or electricity distribution interests to offer a solution to the problem. Heck the solution suggested threatens to cannibalize their very business model. As an investor I would expect Kinder and utilities to use all means neccessary to disinform and dispell the wind and solar myth. They would be remiss in their fiduciary duty to do otherwise.

The truth as I belive it, is we have the technology and we have the capital to reinvent power generation and distribution in the US, one that is carbonless over the long term. The question is, “do we as US citizens have the guts and the fortitude to go for it?” Seems to me, We do not complain too much about a national highway system. It contributes to a greater good commercial growth, taxes and jobs. If investors ran it like the present electric grid, they would prefer “grid lock” as opposed to free flow we enjoy.

Try to take a similar view about the US Grid infrastructure. Make it a public highway for power distribution. Configure it to accommodate dispersed generators throughout the US. Ammortize the investment in the grid over the long term. In that context wind is competitive to natural gas. Refer to a recent study by UM’s Erb Institute for details. Rearrange the tax structure to prefer carbonless generation over the carbon and it is a dead heat while not even factoring for future escalation in fuel prices. Wind generation is variable within the present grid context, but not so with a difuse grid. Fuel prices will always be variable and subject to scarcity risk in the future.

Get a grid like that coming online, and owners of commercial buildings throughout the US would take the risk to place solor panels on top of Walmarts and Best Buys across the US. The cost of small scale power plants will come down, and homwowners and builders and small trade contractors would get into the game. We’d become consumers of solar installations and windmills on our homes. Driving commerce, jobs, and tax revenues. Reducing CO2. It really is a win for everyone, but we have to get our heads out of the sand, and stop listening to the likes of Kinder as if he is an Oracle. Hes just a guy with a book to sell and investors to protect.

The ideas that I suggest about green power and CO2 are painful, even disgusting to some, but so is chidbirth. We do childbirth anyway beacuse it feels good, children are priceless, and they are essential to the prepetuation of humankind. Just like reducing CO2.

Posted by Mudduckk | Report as abusive

The great industrialists of the 19th and early 20th century didn’t believe that wide spread use of oil and coal would produce any negative consequences, and indeed, in their day on their scale it didn’t. If wind and solar become the solutions by whatever means, I suspect that we will discover some nasty (unintended) consequences. For instance, wind is the prime mover of fresh water (in the form of clouds) from the ocean to the mountains (where clouds become rain); so, logically, stealing power from wind will slow down the rain cycle and cause droughts, if wind is used on a large enough scale, close enough to the coast. To my knowledge, no one has really thought it all through to conclusion…..

Posted by DJ | Report as abusive

Makes a boatload of sense. Windmills do not affect energy independence. Besides being unreliable and about 180′ out of phase in time with demand on a daily basis, they do not change the energy source for transporation. Natural gas does. Or in the long term, electric cars and trains. Useful new hydropower, the primary component of renewable, is not available, the good stuff is already in use. As to need, electric power production for a modern society is necessary. The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is recognized as the single most effective progressive activity of the 20th century allowing the US farmer to leverage the sweat of his brow beyond immediate familty to feed the world. Trans-century workers have not experienced the backbreaking work of subsistence without electricity.

Posted by Gary Troyer | Report as abusive

Re: comments on CO2. The only reason I can see for reducing CO2 emissions is the saving of a finite chemical source, coal and petroleum. Continued use of fossil fuels as now will solve the perceived problem of CO2, it will be gone by the time the modelers expect effect. Atmospheric CO2 is a minor trace gas overshadowed by the water vapor air conditioner. CO2 is also an elixir to life, particularly plants, and an air fertilizer in green house food production up to nearly 4x current concentration. Do the physics, do the chemistry. See this most recent web addition with explanation of thousands of peer reviewed literature sources showing its benefit and lack of impact by man.

Posted by Gary Troyer | Report as abusive

Mr Troyer, science is peer reviewed by other scientists, not bloggers. CO2 is not a fertilizer it is a catalyst for photosynthesis. CO2 retains heat enabling this chemical process to occur in plants. It also heats up the atmosphere if not consumed. For CO2 to increase it most bond with oxygen. If you were to actually look at Scripps data on CO2 and oxygen you would see oxygen has been declining for the last 50 years while CO2 has increased. At some point this trend will lead to such low levels of oxygen that many land animals will not be able to survive. These results have been duplicated at atmospheric and oceanographic research facilities around the world. This is basic chemistry.

Your notion that all fossil fuels will be used up and we will no longer be able to increase CO2 emissions is laughable. The planet is already warming causing frozen methane to thaw under the ocean floor. It releases into the water then the atmosphere. Study the Permian extinction. Methane is an exponential more potent hot house gas than CO2. The fact is all the computer models used to forecast present climate change scenarios have one flaw. The predicted changes are happening much more rapidly than estimated.

We are all entitled to voice our opinions no matter how erroneous. Climate change and global warming are the vehicles of mass extinction throughout geologic time. They can be caused by super volcano’s, thawing methane pockets struck by comets or meteors and more. The cause is rarely preventable. To understand the nature of these events requires diligent honest inquiry. Only then can we begin to take action to mitigate the current situation we find ourselves in.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Justin, your right about Mr. Kinder not having the facts. Our Media is corporate and government propaganda. It is difficult to find the information we all need to know leaving most of us incorrectly informed.

More to the point, no one talks about geothermal electric generation. New Zealand drilled through volcanic rock to achieve this. We can achieve this too. I wonder which politicians get sizable campaign contributions from coal mine operators and natural gas distributors? I would also like to know their position on geothermal versus clean coal.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

all of the above approach to energy…put them all on the table in a fair marketplace without coal and oil having an unfair advantage and let’s have an energy race in this country!

why are oil, coal and natural gas the only choices for energy sector investment on the exchange?

why not list all of the challengers too…and let’m make their pitch to the consuming public…that is fair play…talk about free market…get the other guys thumb off the scale and perhaps we may accomplish something

Posted by Voice of Reason | Report as abusive

Why not consider clean coal technology?

A lot of people don’t know exactly what clean coal technology is, so I’ll fill you in: it refers not to any one technology, but to an entire suite of advanced technologies.

During the America’s Power Factuality Tour, we’ve been traveling around the country talking to the people who are behind the production of cleaner electricity from coal – including a stop at the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant in Wisconsin. They’ve installed a retrofit system that has reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by 95 percent.

In addition, through a pilot project in partnership with Alstom Power, they’re developing the latest in carbon capture technology. Check out to get the facts on clean coal technology once and for all.

Posted by Monica from ACCCE | Report as abusive

Great post! Thank you for posted this…

Posted by Solar Power | Report as abusive

Would someone please tell me how carbon dioxide, which is plant food, is a pollutant?
We breathe it out, plants breathe it in. Plants need carbon dioxide to survive. Without it they will die. If we had no CO2 in the atmosphere, we would freeze to death. This is a power grab by big government to control our lives. Don’t be fooled.

Posted by Gary | Report as abusive

I think that wind and solar are good, but I put my money on Geothermal. New Zealand does about 70% of its power generation with geothermal. Geothermal is available in many locations and is a constant heat source with no burning of fuel and is just there for the using. What we dearly need is a method of energy storage where we can level the load, plus we need a new grid for power distribution.

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

wow, just wow.

Pretty much:
I own stocks in atomics, Atomic power is “teh KEYZ”
I have intrests in GW’s bushes “clean” coal, coal is teh anwser!

Im an oil baron, Oil is teh answer!1!!!!!

Come on already…

Posted by eron | Report as abusive

Well monica Ill be sure to bring up clean coal next month when my town meeting (in western PA) adresses what were going to do about the incredibly high levels of mercury that have been found in the stream that feeds our water plant.

Intrestingly enough there seems to be a mercury plum down wind from the local coal plant the Bush’s buddies upgraded with clean coal tech.

Posted by Boom | Report as abusive

Well, I dont understand why so much talk about, I think we should follow Mr Kinder advice, as well as push as hard as we can with the solar and wind development, down the road our only availability is nuclear, solar and wind.

Posted by Joe Serhan | Report as abusive

The Reuters article re First Solar project in China is interesting.
Too late to buy shares?
The Chinese seem to prefer national self sufficiency where possible, rather than needing a “global reach” (at what cost?) to obtain energy resources.
But large scale research and production will give a big lead in 21st century energy while America lives off its 20th century road and oil investment.

Posted by Survivor? | Report as abusive

yeah its the hydroelectric capacity that represents the largest amount of ‘renewables’. Yet, all hydro capacity has been tapped.

Posted by indeed | Report as abusive