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Posts Tagged ‘Carbon Emissions’

DAVID TOW, Future Planet, January 16, 2010

By 2015 India and China will both have outstripped the US in energy consumption by a large margin. Cap and Trade carbon markets will have been established by major developed economies, including India and China, as the most effective way to limit carbon emissions and encourage investment in renewable energy, reforestation projects etc.

There will have been a significant shift by consumers and industry to renewable energy technologies- around 25%, powered primarily by the new generation adaptive wind and solar energy mega-plants, combined with the rapid depletion of the most easily accessible oil fields. Coal and gas will continue to play a major role at around 60% useage, with clean coal and gas technologies still very expensive. Nuclear technology will remain static at 10% and hydro at 5%.

Most new vehicles and local transport systems will utilise advanced battery or hydrogen electric power technology, which will continue to improve energy density outputs.

Efficiency and recycling savings of the order of 30% on today’s levels will be available from the application of smart adaptive technologies in power grids, communication, distribution and transport networks, manufacturing plants and consumer households. This will be particularly critical for the sustainability of cities across the planet. Cities will also play a critical role in not only supporting the energy needs of at least 60% of the planet’s population through solar, wind, water and waste energy capture but will feed excess capacity to the major power grids, providing a constant re-balancing of energy supply across the world.

By 2025 a global Cap and Trade regime will be mandatory and operational worldwide. Current oil sources will be largely exhausted but the remaining new fields will be exploited in the Arctic, Antarctic and deep ocean locations.  Renewable energy will account for 40% of useage, including baseload power generation. Solar and wind power will dominate in the form of huge desert solar and coastal and inland wind farms; but all alternate forms- wave, geothermal, secondary biomass, algael etc will begin to play a significant role.

Safer helium-cooled and fast breeder fourth generation modular nuclear power reactors will replace many of the older water-cooled and risk-prone plants, eventually  accounting for around 15% of energy production; with significant advances in the storage of existing waste in stable ceramic materials.

By 2035 global warming will reach a critical threshold with energy useage tripling from levels in 2015, despite conservation and efficiency advances. Renewables will account for 60% of the world’s power supply, nuclear 15% and fossils 25%. Technologies to convert CO2 to hydocarbon fuel together with more efficient recycling and sequestration, will allow coal and gas to continue to play a significant role.

By 2045-50 renewables will be at 75-80% levels, nuclear 12% and clean fossil fuels 10-15%. The first Hydrogen and Helium3 pilot fusion energy plants will be commissioned, with large-scale generators expected to come on stream in the latter part of the century, eventually reducing carbon emissions to close to zero.

However the above advances will still be insufficient to prevent the runaway effects of global warming. These long-term impacts will raise temperatures well beyond the additional two-three degrees centigrade critical limit.

Despite reduction in emissions by up to 85%, irreversible and chaotic feedback impacts on the global biosphere will be apparent. These will be triggered by massive releases of methane from permafrost and ocean deposits, fresh water flows from melting ice causing disruptions to ocean currents and weather patterns.

These will affect populations beyond the levels of ferocity of the recent Arctic freeze, causing chaos in the northern hemisphere and reaching into India and China and the droughts and heat waves of Africa, the Middle East and Australia.

The cycle of extreme weather events and rising oceans that threaten to destroy many major coastal cities will continue to increase, compounded by major loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and food capacity. This will force a major rethink of the management of energy and climate change as global catastrophe threatens.

Increasingly desperate measures will be canvassed and tested, including the design of major geo-engineering projects aimed at reducing the amount of sunlight reaching earth and reversal of the acidity of the oceans. These massive infrastructure projects would have potentially enormous ripple-on effects on all social, industrial and economic systems. They are eventually assessed to be largely ineffective, unpredictable and unsustainable.

As forecasts confirm that carbon levels in the atmosphere will remain high for the next 1,000 years, regardless of mitigating measures, priorities shift urgently to the need to minimise risk to life on a global scale, while protecting civilisation’s core infrastructure, social, knowledge and cultural assets.

Preserving the surviving natural ecosystem environment and the critical infrastructure of the built environment, particularly the Internet and Web, will now be vital. The sustainability of human life on planet Earth, in the face of overwhelming catastrophe, will be dependent to a critical degree on the power of the intelligent Web 4.0, combining human and artificial intelligence to manage food, water, energy and human resources.

Only the enormous problem-solving capacity of this human-engineered entity, will be capable of ensuring the continuing survival of civilisation as we know it.

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BBC News, November 24, 2009

Three UK groups studying climate change have issued a strong statement about the dangers of failing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the world.

The Royal Society, Met Office, and Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) say the science of climate change is more alarming than ever.

They say the 2007 UK floods, 2003 heatwave in Europe and recent droughts were consistent with emerging patterns.

Their comments came ahead of crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

‘Loss of wildlife’

In a statement calling for action to cut carbon emissions, institutions said evidence for “dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change” was growing.

Global carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise, Arctic summer ice cover was lower in 2007 and 2008 than in the previous few decades, and the last decade has been the warmest on average for 150 years.

The best thing we could do is to prepare for the worst. Build better flood defences in vulnerable areas Lee, Bracknell

Persistent drought in Australia and rising sea levels in the Maldives were further indicators of possible future patterns, they said.

They argue that without action there will be much larger changes in the coming decades, with the UK seeing higher food prices, ill health, more flooding and rising sea levels.

Known or probable damage across the world includes ocean acidification, loss of rainforests, degradation of ecosystems and desertification, they said.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world faced more droughts, floods, loss of wildlife, rising seas and refugees.

But Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist of the Met Office, Professor Alan Thorpe, Nerc’s chief executive, and Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, said cutting emissions could substantially limit the severity of climate change.

Copenhagen summit

Prof Slingo told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the importance of the statement was that “it emphasises that whilst global mean temperature changes may not sound very large, the regional consequences of those are very great indeed”.

She said: “As the inter-governmental panel on climate change stated very clearly in 2007, without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we can likely, very likely, expect a world of increasing droughts, floods, species loss, rising seas [and] displaced human populations.

“What this statement says very clearly is that some of those things, whilst we can’t directly attribute them at the moment to global warming, are beginning to happen.”

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CATHY PROCTOR, Denver Business Journal, July 31, 2009

SmartGrid-graphicWind farms and solar power plants may offer free fuel costs and no carbon-dioxide emissions, but don’t assume there’s universal support from environmentalists, according to industry observers.

“The world is changing,” said Andrew Spielman, a partner at the Denver office of Hogan & Hartson LLC who works on renewable energy projects.

Spielman was part of a panel discussing issues in the renewable energy sector at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s annual natural gas strategy conference. “There are more complexities with renewable projects,” he said, “and it’s no longer an assumption that the environmental community will approve and support renewable projects.”

Among the larger considerations of renewable energy:

  • Big wind farms and solar power plants take up a lot of land. Whether it’s for towering wind turbines or acres of solar panels, additional land is needed for construction areas and support services such as workers and storage yards.
  • Rural roads accustomed to a few cars and tractor traffic often need upgrades to handle heavy construction trucks and semis laden with towers, nacelles and turbine blades.
  • Often, the remote new wind farms and solar power plants need a new transmission line — with its own set of construction impacts — to get the renewable power to cities and towns, the panelists said.

For example, the Peetz Table Wind Farm in northeastern Colorado, owned by a subsidiary of big energy company FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL) of Juno Beach, Fla., generates 400 megawatts of power from 267 wind turbines that sprawl across 80 square miles.

The wind farm, which started operating in 2007, also required the construction of a 78-mile transmission line to connect it to the grid and get power to the wind farm’s sole client, Xcel Energy Inc.

It’s called “energy sprawl,” akin to the idea of “urban sprawl,” said Tim Sullivan, panelist and acting state director for the Colorado Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“All energy has a footprint, and renewable energy has to be a concern for anyone concerned about land-based habitat,” he said. “We need to treat renewables and oil and gas equally on their footprints.”

That doesn’t mean, Sullivan said, that every square inch of ground in Colorado should be off-limits to energy development. “We don’t have to protect every inch of ground,” he said.

“We can make trade-offs.”

One area of land good for wind energy might be “traded” for another piece that’s good for wetlands or grasslands where birds flourish, he said.

People who live near wind farms also are growing more aware of their impacts, Spielman said.

There’s the height issue. A wind turbine can soar 400 feet from the base to the top of the blade, he said. That’s about the height of the Tabor Center’s office building.

Also, there are new “flicker” problems — stemming from light flashing off the rotating blades as they go around about once a second. Turbines also make a repetitive, low-key “vrroomp” noise as they rotate, he said.

State regulators are becoming more aware of the impacts from renewable and alternative energy projects, said Kate Fay, energy manager at the Colorado Department of Health & Environment.

“All energy projects have impacts,” she said. “There is no free ride. The impacts from renewables may be small now, but there’s not that many of them out there.”

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LAURA MANDARO, MarketWatch, June 26, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – California released a draft plan on Thursday to reduce the state’s projected greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one-third, in part by creating a cap and trade program that could serve as a blueprint for a national carbon emissions market.

The 77-page “climate change draft scoping plan” lays out the framework for California to meet the goals of a 2006 law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that requires the state to slash its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

This target means electric utilities, industrial users, fuel refiners such as Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips and builders will have to lower their combined output of carbon dioxide by one-tenth from today’s levels and 30% from projected 2020 emissions of the gas thought to contribute to global warming.

The success of California’s efforts to scale back greenhouse gas emissions using a mix of regulations and market mechanisms could provide a roadmap for a national standard, largely thanks to the state’s size and the aggressive goals it has set.

“It certainly paves the way,” said Milo Sjardin, head of the North American division of New Carbon Finance, a carbon emissions research and analysis firm. “Any federal program may take some of California’s experience on board,” he said.

The California plan also seeks to expand the amount of electricity utilities such as PG&E Corp. and Edison International generate from renewable resources to 33% by 2020. Today, just 12% of the state’s electricity comes from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources.

Cap and trade to launch in 2012

The nation’s most populous state says it will achieve these ambitious goals by putting in place strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions, caps that give users of fossil fuel a financial incentive to put in place heavier pollution controls.

A key part of this plan is the establishment of a market to allow companies to trade their carbon allowances with companies from neighboring Western states and Canadian provinces that are producing less than their allowed emissions — or that engage in an activity, such as planting trees, that lowers emissions.

The head of the panel charged with implementing the state’s global warming law said board members are using as a model the cap-and-trade program established by the U.S. government to restrict emissions that cause acid rain, which was part of the 1990 Clean Air Act.

“When industry knew they had to come under a cap, they came up with measures that were much cheaper than anyone thought,” said Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board. “Having a cap out there spurs the innovation,” she said in a conference call with reporters.

California’s cap and trade program, set for launch in 2012, will also present national companies with a second set of standards with which to comply. A group of Northeastern states is planning to launch a smaller cap and trade program next year.

The addition of another set of regulations “puts increasing pressure on the federal government to put something in place to level the playing field,” said New Carbon Finance’s Sjardin.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and John Warner, a Republican from Virginia, last year introduced a national climate bill – which the Senate tabled in June — designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 70% by 2050.

Both major-party presumptive presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama have said they support a national standard for carbon emissions.

Development of a U.S. carbon-trading market is following the rapid growth of the now $50 billion carbon-trading market in Europe, where corporations have been trading emissions-reductions credits as part of meeting the Kyoto Protocol. California’s market will likely start at a much smaller level. New Carbon Finance’s Sjardin estimates it could reach $10 billion by 2015.

If the entire country were to incorporate such a program, the size of the market could hit $1 trillion by 2020, he says.

Bringing to fruition California’s plan, let alone a national version, faces stumbling blocks.

In the state’s Senate, the Republican caucus is pushing for a delay of certain parts of the 2006 bill it says make it too expensive for businesses in a time of economic duress.

Nonetheless, the state’s largest utilities are preparing for the state to push through the caps, which will cover 85% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

San Francisco-based utility PG&E says 13% of its power comes from renewable energy sources. By 2012, that level should reach about 22%, said Keely Wachs, a spokesman for the utility, which serves 15 million customers in Northern and Central California.

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Green Energy News, June 10, 2008

Whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama who moves into the Oval Office next January he’ll have have a deskful of problems to cope with: the biggest foreign policy blunder in the nation’s history, a lackluster economy, and what appears to be a peaking of the world’s oil supply.

All of which are related, of course.

As ominous as those problems may seem there’s a bright side: The new president will have a growing and vibrant industry — the green energy industry — on his side that may very well help solve those three problems.

Oil is about fuels for transportation. Peak oil, if that’s what the planet is now beginning to experience, is about fuel being too expensive to get us from here to there at a reasonable cost. Though trying to convince automakers to build more efficient cars and trucks has been an ongoing battle for decades, high priced fuel has forced at least one automaker’s hand.

The news this week that GM would shut four truck and SUV factories and pursue more efficient vehicles, like the hyper-efficient Chevrolet Volt, was a final recognition by the world’s largest automaker that they need to change. Now that GM is on board, the trend towards highly energy efficient vehicles that began with the hybrids from Japan should continue at a brisker pace. Further, perhaps with a little help from the next occupant of the White House, the push for more efficient vehicles could lead to a renaissance — a green renaissance — for Detroit.

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, in October 2007 Obama said this,” I went to Detroit, I stood in front of a group of automakers, and I told them that when I am president, there will be no more excuses — we will help them retool their factories, but they will have to make cars that use less oil.”

Perhaps the automakers should take him up on his word.

John McCain wants to create a cap and trade system to cut greenhouse gas emissions that would encompass transportation fuels and to “reform federal government research funding and infrastructure to support the cap and trade emissions reduction goals and emphasize the commercialization of low-carbon technologies.”

(Obama also supports cap and trade policies.)

A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks also means better conventional fuel economy and/or a switch to alternative fuels. (The temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax as a way to ease the pain at the pump, supported by McCain, has already been shelved by Congress.)

In coping with a sluggish economy green energies are clearly the next big thing.

The vast central part of the country is ripe for wind energy development. Nearly all the world’s major wind turbine manufacturers have already or are planning to build production facilities on US soil. The huge cost of shipping makes it cheaper to build the massive machines here than overseas.

The desert southwest is just gearing up for a wave of concentrating solar thermal power plants. Plans to build components for solar thermal power plants here are also underway. Solar thermal power, though proven for years, is, as an industry, just taking baby steps.

Biofuels, if they are to be the future of fuels for transportation, are gaining traction again as interest grows with algae as a source of diesel fuel and cellulose as feedstock for ethanol. The brewing of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol are most certainly to be domestic enterprises that will help the economy.

Again cap and trade ideas would help these industries. Obama adds more ideas among them to “Invest $150 billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy”; “Invest in a Skilled Clean Technologies Workforce”, start a “Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund” and “Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders.”

Hyper-efficient cars, biofuels, wind and solar power and other green technologies could repair an ailing economy and dampen the worst effects of high oil prices related to peak oil. But what about Iraq? Can green energies help out there too? Perhaps.

Much of the Iraq’s troubles are related to high unemployment. Yet to their south in the Persian Gulf region at least one state is using what remains of its oil wealth to pursue sustainable technologies and the industries and jobs that will follow. The Masdar Initiative in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is that example.

The objectives of Masdar are to position Abu Dhabi as a world-class research and development hub for new sustainable energy technologies and drive the commercialization and adoption of these and other technologies. Commercialization and adoption means jobs and opportunity, just what Iraq needs. The next president could encourage Iraqis only to look around in the neighborhood to see what is possible for their nation.

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MATTHEW L. WALD, The New York Times, June 8, 2008

Washington — Cutting carbon dioxide emissions is a fine idea, and a lot of companies would be proud to do it. But they would prefer to be second, if not third or fourth.

This is not a good way to get started in fighting global warming.

As efforts to pass a global warming bill collapsed in the Senate last week, companies that burn coal to make electricity were looking for a way to build a plant that would capture its emissions. There is a will and a way — several ways, in fact — to do just that.

Capturing carbon from these plants may become a lot more important soon. Emissions from coal-fired power plants already account for about 27% of American greenhouse emissions, but as prices for other fuels rise, along with power demand, utilities will burn more coal. And if cars someday run on batteries, a trend that $4-a-gallon gasoline will accelerate, then the utilities will burn even more fuel to generate the electricity to recharge those batteries.

This could be good news, because controlling emissions from a few hundred power plants is easier than controlling them from tens of millions of house chimneys, or hundreds of millions of tailpipes. And in the laboratory, at least, there are three very promising systems for capturing carbon dioxide before pumping it underground.

But supplying electricity is not like most other businesses. Unlike the companies that make microchips, clothing for teenagers or snack foods, the companies that make electricity can see no advantage in going first. This is true for the traditionally regulated utilities that can charge everything to a captive class of customers (if regulators approve), and it is also true for the “merchant generators,” who build power plants and sell their output on the open market.

“No one wants to go into the new world,” said Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit group that favors stringent controls on power plant emissions. “We have very few takers because of the price premium.”

By price premium, Mr. Cohen meant not only the costs of going first, with the high probability of mistakes that others can learn from, but the costs of the new technology itself. The problem is, the premium is of unknown size, which makes everyone in the industry especially wary.

The point was illustrated by a recent decision by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, to turn down an application by the Appalachian Power Company to build a plant that would have captured 90% of its carbon and deposited it nearly two miles underground, at a well that it dug in 2003. The applicant’s parent was American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest coal users, and perhaps the most technically able. But the company is a regulated utility and spends money only when it can be reimbursed.

The Virginia commission said that it was “neither reasonable nor prudent” for the company to build the plant, and the risks for ratepayers were too great, because costs were uncertain, perhaps double that of a standard coal plant. And in a Catch-22 that plagues the whole effort, the commission said A.E.P. should not build a commercial-scale plant because no one had demonstrated the technology on a commercial scale.

Thus an approach that makes collective sense — trying out technologies that could be helpful over the long term — is unattractive to individual participants.

That is not the only where-to-get-started problem. Another is that building a plant might make sense to a utility regulator, or to a company that builds power plants on speculation, if it generated pollution credits that the company could then sell to other polluters, for instance, or could help the plant meet emissions quotas. But there are, as yet, no credits to buy or sell and no quota to meet.

When Congress debates the idea, one of the drawbacks is that no one is sure where to set the caps on emissions, because no one is sure what the carbon regulation would cost. So there is no regulation, no plant built to meet the regulation, and thus no plant for lawmakers to look at to determine how strict a regulation to pass.

Carbon capture is not the only field in which nobody wants to go first; another is nuclear power. Builders in that industry also recognize that the first to build a next-generation reactor (the last one ordered that was actually built was in 1973) will pay a lot more than the builders who follow. But Congress has tried, at least, to solve that problem by offering generous loan guarantees and risk insurance for the first few reactors. There was a plan to heavily subsidize a single capture-and-storage coal plant, but when the estimated construction price nearly doubled, to $1.8 billion, the Energy Department dropped the plan.

And without full-scale tests, nobody knows what all this would cost.

“The estimates are accurate to within plus 20% to plus 100%,” said John Rowe, the chief executive of Exelon, which burns coal and also operates nuclear reactors, and leans toward the latter for new projects. “These are very complicated projects, with a great deal of both science and engineering and of public acceptability tests that have simply not happened yet,” he said. In contrast, he argued, nuclear is easier.

While others differ, or argue that solar or wind would be a better bet, the failure to get started does have a certain circularity to it. Companies will not run to build plants that sequester their carbon because Congress has not set a price for emitting the pollutant. Without the early plants, Congress has little clue how many tons the economy can afford to capture and sequester.

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GLOBE-NET NEWS, June 3, 2008

A new analysis by Carnegie Mellon University researchers provides the clearest picture yet of the possible short-term effects of placing a price for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The research suggests that even a modest price would almost immediately result in up to 10% reductions in emission levels by prompting changes in both power company investments and consumer behavior.

Simulating the impact of a price on CO2 emissions from the existing fleet of U.S. power plants using marginal costs for generators and hourly electricity load data from 2006, the researchers considered the short-term effects on electricity price and demand even before any new, more efficient generation facilities could be built.

They identified that a price as low as $35 per metric ton of CO2 would likely cause a reduction of consumer electricity use, as well as a change by grid operators in the order in which generators are economically dispatched, depending on their emissions levels and marginal fuel prices.

The study authors note “The price of delivered electricity will rise if generators have to pay for carbon dioxide emissions through an implicit or explicit mechanism. There are two main effects that a substantial price on CO2 emissions would have in the short run (before the generation fleet changes significantly). ”

  • First, consumers would react to increased price by buying less, described by their price elasticity of demand.
  • Second, a price on CO2 emissions would change the order in which existing generators are economically dispatched, depending on their carbon dioxide emissions and marginal fuel prices.

Both the price increase and dispatch changes depend on the mix of generation technologies and fuels in the region available for dispatch, although the consumer response to higher prices is the dominant effect.

While a 10% reduction in emissions could result, the actual level of emission reduction is dependent upon the availability of alternative and less carbon-intensive power generation technologies in a particular region.

For example, facilities in the Northeast and Midwest would see a higher drop in emissions resulting from the price, while emissions in Texas – with relatively larger numbers of natural gas facilities – would be affected significantly less.

While this study predicts the impact and demand elasticity for an instantaneous price increase, the researchers believe that any price imposed will likely phased in gradually or done via a cap-and-trade system. “Any price structure for emissions would hopefully have a clear timetable that would allow utilities and consumers to make informed investment decisions,” said M. Granger Morgan, Lord Chair Professor in Engineering in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon.

“In addition to the changes in resource allocation by utilities, consumers would pay more attention to their energy consumption or switch to more energy efficient appliances.”

The study supports and expands on prior research about how a CO2 emissions price would spur greater investment by power generators in new, more efficient technologies. “Our findings indicate that significant reductions in CO2 can and would be observed in the near-term, even before more efficient power generation technologies are deployed on a wide scale,” said Jay Apt, associate research professor at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon and co-author of the study.

The study, titled “Short Run Effects of a Price on Carbon Dioxide Emissions from U.S. Electric Generators,” appeared in the May 1st issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

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