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Enroute to New Zealand

March 4, 2011

My trip to New Zealand took me through Polynesia, which was an area I had never visited.

There were several lecturers on the cruise, providing great lectures on astronomy and how Polynesia was settled, plus other topics.

There is a common cultural thread extending from New Zealand to Hawaii. For example, the word Wai, meaning water, can be found in words across Polynesia: Waikiki in Hawaii, and Waiotapu in New Zealand.

I had an opportunity to give a lecture on power generation while on the cruise. There were 650 passengers on the ship with a crew of 450. When we left Tonga, I gave the lecture to 150 passengers while the communications department recorded the lecture on DVD. The lecture was then broadcast continuously for two days over the ship’s TV system.

From the reaction I received, it’s probable that most people on the ship saw the lecture.

My lecture discussed all the methods for generating electricity, including coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar.

For example, I discussed Fracking and how it has created an abundance of low-cost natural gas. The new surfeit of natural gas has resulted in the prospect of low-cost electricity for many decades ahead, and the possibility that some of the 300,000 jobs lost in the chemical industry over the past twenty years, when gas prices were high, might be recovered.

I ended my talk by pointing out that we had a choice between low-cost electricity that would benefit the economy, or high cost electricity, resulting from an effort to cut CO2 emissions, that would hurt the economy.

The response to my lecture was extremely positive, which surprised me as some could have taken offense to my comments about wind energy. I had mentioned that wind energy, because of its low capacity factor, was like buying a bottle of wine that was two-thirds empty.

Several in the audience asked me why more people didn’t speak out on these issues and whether I had an agent. I explained that, at my age, I wasn’t interested in a new career as a speaker, but merely wanted to speak whenever possible on these crucial energy issues.

Toward that end, I welcome requests from organizations to have me give the same presentation I gave on the ship.

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[To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.]

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