Solar plant developer discusses the future of American energy
By Paul Gonzalez News-Press Correspondent
Author Robert Hemphill, co-founder of energy company AES Corporation, speaks about his new book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” during a lunch and book signing hosted by the Channel City Club on Monday.
CARMEN SMYTH / NEWS-PRESS
February 3, 2015 6:02 AM
Former CEO and solar plant developer Robert Hemphill discussed the future of American energy at a luncheon and book signing hosted by the Channel City Club on Monday.
Mr. Hemphill was a co-founder of AES Corporation, a Fortune 150 energy company that creates power plants and solar farms all over the world. He initially served as the Executive Vice President of AES and eventually took the lead of the company’s solar power program, AES Solar Power.
He opened his lecture by discussing the economic benefits of dropping oil prices. According to Mr. Hemphill, low gas prices act the “same as a tax cut” for low income and middle class families. The prices also benefit several areas of the American economy including manufacturing and shipping services such as Amazon.
He argues that while low gas prices may cause oil companies to lay off some of their employees, the economic benefits far outweigh the costs and says that the oil industry makes up “less than three percent of employment” in the United States.
“I’m deeply sorry for Exxon” quipped Mr. Hemphill, who maintains that the oil industry will be able to sustain itself through a period of reduced profits.
Domestic oil production was lauded by Mr. Hemphill for exceeding the level of production during the 1970s. The United States has “managed to turn its oil (production) game completely around” in the last ten years notes Mr. Hemphill, who asserts that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would not dramatically benefit oil production.
Despite his positive outlook on domestic oil, Mr. Hemphill was far more critical of nuclear power efforts both domestically and abroad.
According to Mr. Hemphill, coal-powered plants produce steam that is roughly “four times as good” as nuclear-produced steam in terms of temperature and pressure.
Additionally, he says that nuclear energy is significantly more expensive to produce than methods using coal or renewable energy sources, due to the amount of resources and engineering required to construct and maintain a nuclear plant. Mr. Hemphill went so far as to claim that the United States will “never (build) a new nuclear power plant … in the next 100 years.”
Mr. Hemphill expressed excitement about the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar technology. He says renewables are finally maturing to the point where they can be relied upon to sustain power grids, with the assistance of traditional energy sources during peak electricity usage hours.
At the conclusion of the lecture, Mr. Hemphill took an opportunity promote his newly released book “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” a collection of letters to his father written during his travels abroad while building AES into a multibillion dollar company.