NLPC Associate Fellow Paul Chesser was a guest last night on the Willis Report on Fox Business Network. Here’s a transcript:
Gerri Willis: The recent string of battery fires on Boeing 787 Dreamliners could be traced to one thing says my next guest. You can simply point the finger at the government’s obsession with pushing green energy. Paul Chesser, associate fellow at the National Legal and Policies Center joins me now. Paul, welcome back to the show. You know, it occurred to me that we are reporting on this Boeing story all wrong. All the reporting just talks about the fires. It never goes back to this idea that companies like Boeing are being pushed very hard by governments all over the world to make these green products. Whether they are ready for the market or not.
Paul Chesser: Right. Well, you know, Boeing may be a little bit further down the chain, but it is a result of that. You know, the green energy agenda ever since Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth came out and was pushing the cause of climate change and trying to make transportation more fuel efficient. And you know, companies are going to try to be more fuel efficient anyway. But this is to the point where they’re pushing technology, pushing efficiencies that the technology may not be ready. And the government is incentivizing it, they’re putting…
Gerri Willis: Right.
Paul Chesser: …billions and billions of dollars out there for companies like Boeing, for electric vehicle companies, for battery companies said produced this technology that is just not ready for the demand that they have.
Gerri Willis: Let’s talk about what is green about the Dreamliner. The exterior of the thing is made of different materials, more lightweight materials. And then they have this lithium ion battery like you do in your laptop, right?
Paul Chesser: That’s right. They say the popular science says the Dreamliner is about eighty percent composite. I guess, composite materials, they take a lot of aluminum of it. And then lithium ion battery, there’s all kinds of various technologies for the lithium ion battery. They use different metals for it. But they all have the same problem. They have this thing they call, the experts called, thermal run away where you know…
Gerri Willis: They get hot.
Paul Chesser: …they overheat. They warm-up. They get hot. Sometimes, they cause fires. We’ve seen stories about them in the laptops, in cell phones, in the Chevy Volt. And that is what is concerning the FAA right now with the Dreamliner and to the point where they and some airlines all around the world have grounded their seven eighty seven until they figure out what’s wrong.
Gerri Willis: Well, I got to tell you, here are the Dreamliner claims from Boeing. Unmatched fuel efficiency resulting in exceptional environmental performance. Using twenty percent less fuel than similar planes. Of course, we all want that but I got to tell you, Paul, everybody else in my group, we’ve all had problems with lithium, lithium ion batteries. I mean, it’s a surprise. You pick up your laptop. It’s burning hot and it’s because the batteries are overheating. Should we be surprised by this?
Paul Chesser: Well, no. But you know, I told somebody on the radio today, I have a laptop that ran really hot. It was a Mac book. I replaced it this year and it runs a lot cooler, a lot better. They can improve the technology, but now they’re putting them in cars, they’re putting them in airplanes, and these are enormous batteries. They are just not — they have not been tested adequately. And you know, the FAA did a lot of testing and they spent a lot of time on this, but they have been in design and development for about ten years now. They still have not worked out all the bugs.
Gerri Willis: That’s not reassuring.
Paul Chesser: And just because it is incentivized. It does not mean it’s going to happen. It doesn’t mean it’s ready.
Gerri Willis: Paul, before you go, how are taxpayers on the hook for this?
Paul Chesser: Well, the state of Washington offered billions of dollars to keep the Dreamliner. Boeing wanted to get out of Washington because of union labor costs.
Gerri Willis: Right.
Paul Chesser: They move their headquarters to Chicago ten or fifteen years ago. They were desperate to keep the Dreamliner, so they ponied up a lot of money. South Carolina got part of the production of the Dreamliner. The FAA is putting millions in incentives for this. So it’s another so-called taxpayer investment in green technology. Look at what the results are…
Gerri Willis: Right.
Paul Chesser:…in Japan is losing about a million dollars a day by having this airplane grounded.
Gerri Willis: You know, there are always problems when you roll on a new product in that industry. I think we have seen it. This is sort of over the top at this point and I think you got to ask yourself would we be better off if the airline makers, the people who are making these planes themselves were making the innovations themselves without all the help, without all the prodding and the pushing? What do you say?
Paul Chesser: Right. Well, the other side of pushing the green is the demonizing of fossil fuels. And you know, those regulations have strangled it and driven up the cost of fossil fuels. Why couldn’t, if there was a true free market, why couldn’t we have cheaper fossil fuels, you know, clean, clean burned and everything to do the functions that these airplanes need. They replaced a lot of what the fossil fuels did in the Dreamliner with battery power, and that’s why they’re so dependent on the lithium ion battery. It’s going to be hard to replace. It’s really a big part of the structure of the airplane.
Gerri Willis: Right. That’s going to be a long haul to fix that. Paul, thanks for coming on tonight. Always great to hear from you. Appreciate it.
Paul Chesser: Good to be with you again.
Gerri Willis: All right. Boeing, as we were talking about, faced fierce opposition when it was building a plant for the ill-fated Dreamliner. The fight came from unions as we said who didn’t want the company to move to a right to work state. But soon unions may not have the power they used to. They suffered a sharp decline in membership last year from nearly twelve percent of all workers to just over eleven. And that is the lowest level since the nineteen thirties. Total union membership fell by about four hundred thousand workers and is now under fourteen point five million. Unions have steadily lost ground with members since their peak in the nineteen fifties – as they should. Back then union serve the real purpose standing for the workers, the little guy, the average Joe. Now, they’re more of a political machine and the only ones they care about are the people in the front office.