|The Week That Was
April 7, 2001
Read this hilarious comment on the reaction by European politicians to President Bush' statement about Kyoto. I wish I could write like that
The Week That Was April 7, 2001 brought to you by SEPP
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR COAL AND NUCLEAR:
EIA SEES CO2 UP, UP AND AWAY.
Worldwide energy consumption will grow by 59 percent over the next 20 years, and carbon dioxide emissions are expected to nearly double, according to the annual forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Supporting the Bush rejection of the Kyoto Protocol as unworkable, "International Energy Outlook 2001" predicts that carbon dioxide emissions will grow from 5.8 billion metric tons carbon equivalent in 1999 to 7.8 billion metric tons in 2010 and 9.8 billion metric tons by 2020.
Much of the increase in carbon emissions is expected to occur in the developing world, where emerging economies are expected to produce the largest increases in energy consumption. Developing countries account for 81 percent of the projected increment in carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2010, and 76 percent between 1990 and 2020.
"Continued heavy reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, as projected for the developing countries, would ensure that even if the industrialized world undertook efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, worldwide emissions would still grow substantially over the forecast horizon," EIA says.
Overall energy use is closely linked to population growth. World population reached 6.1 billion in mid-2000 and is currently growing at an annual rate of 1.2 percent, or 77 million people a year. By the year 2020, the United Nations estimates there could be as many as eight billion people on Earth. However, fully half of the projected growth in energy demand will occur in tandem with strong economic growth in the developing nations of Asia including China, India, and South Korea, and in Central and South America, according to the report.
Another factor is strong economic growth in the Russian Federation for two consecutive years -- the first time since the collapse of the Soviet regime. The improved economic outlook for Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union leads to a prediction of a 42 percent increase in energy consumption in the region between 1999 and 2020. Such growth would eliminate the Federation as a source of cheap CO2 reduction credits, a key component of the Kyoto cost projections of the Clinton administration.
Energy use in China, the largest CO2 emitter among developing countries, is projected to grow by 4.7 percent per year. But China's energy use slowed between 1997 and 1999, so EIA has lowered its prediction of Chinese energy use in 2020 by nearly 14 percent from last year's forecast. Chinese use of coal decreased between 1997 and 1999 in part because of "the closing of many inefficient and unprofitable small coal mines," EIA says. Still, coal remains the main fuel in China's rapidly growing industrial sector, reflecting the country's "abundant reserves and limited access to alternative sources of energy." EIA projects coal use in China to grow by 4.3 percent per year over the next two decades.
According to the report, "the rate of worldwide energy and carbon emissions growth would be considerably higher, except for continued improvements in energy consumption per dollar of gross domestic product, a measurement called energy intensity." Energy intensity in the industrialized world is expected to decrease by 1.3 percent per year between 1999 and 2020, about the same rate of improvement observed between 1970 and 1999. Energy intensity is also projected to improve in the developing countries -- by 1.4 percent per year -- as their economies begin to behave more like those of the industrialized countries as a result of improving standards of living that accompany the projected economic expansion.
Renewable energy use is expected to increase by 53 percent between 1999 and 2020, but its current nine percent share of total energy production is projected to drop to eight percent by 2020. Much of the growth in renewable energy over the next two decades is attributed to large-scale hydroelectric projects in the developing world, particularly developing Asia, where China, India and other developing nations such as Malaysia, Nepal, and Vietnam, are already building or planning to build hydro projects that each exceed 1,000 megawatts.
"International Energy Outlook 2001" is available at <http://www.eia.doe.gov> The World Energy Projection System, the model used to generate the projections that appear in "International Energy Outlook 2001" will be available in May, on EIA's website.
Comment: EIA is Bush's best friend these days. You can't, repeat can't, get to Kyoto from here. What are those Euro-Greens smoking?
And now, an authoritative technical discussion:
U.S. Electric Power of Point Lookout, New York, announced plans to construct a 249-megawatt (MW) coal fired power plant at Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Washington. Just last week, Reliant Energy Seward LLC, a subsidiary of Reliant Energy, announced it is planning on constructing a 520 MW circulating fluidized bed (CFB) clean-coal power plant in Indiana County, Pennsylvania.
Analysis: As the United States awakes from its energy policy slumber, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the days of near complete reliance on natural-gas-fired generation to meet our growing energy needs is coming to an end. According to EIA statistics, natural gas prices have risen to historic highs with January 2001 utility deliveries exceeding $10/MMBtu, compared to 1998 and 1999 prices which floated between $2 and $3/MMBtu. Virtually overnight, natural gas has gone from one of the least expensive generation fuels to one of the most expensive. Since the January price spike, prices have settled back down to the $4 to $5.5 /MMBtu level for Henry Hub futures prices, but even these prices would have been considered high just twelve months ago.
Coal, by comparison, is the United States most abundant fuel source, constituting 95 percent of our nation's fossil energy reserves. Coal prices have actually dropped for utility deliveries over the past several years according to EIA statistics. In 1994, coal prices averaged $28.03/short-ton ($1.37/MMbtu) compared to $24.68/short-ton ($1.21/MMbtu) for second quarter 2000. Although coal generation currently represents over 51 percent of U.S. generation production, few plants have recently been built because of the environmental concerns associated with coal generation and the relatively low price for natural gas throughout the 1990s. In 1999, U.S. coal production actually declined by 2.1 percent which was primarily attributable to a large drop in coal exports coupled by smaller than usual growth in coal consumption for power generation.
But brighter days may lie ahead for the coal industry. New, so-called "clean-coal" technologies are being tested and developed. In the 1970s and 80s the pressurized fluidized bed coal combustor (PFBC) was developed, removing sulfur (SO2) pollutants and limiting the formation of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants inside the boiler. The need for scrubbers or other post-combustion controls was eliminated by technology. Texas New Mexico Power (TNP) constructed two 150 MW lignite-fired units that went operational in 1990 and 1991 based on the circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology that Reliant is proposing for its 520 MW facility in Pennsylvania. The TNP One power plant was, however, extremely costly to build. Unit 1 cost $357 million ($2,380/kW) and Unit 2 cost $282.9 million ($1,886/kW) to construct.
Another technology being developed is the integrated gasification-combined cycle (IGCC) technology that first converts coal into a combustible gas, cleans the gas of virtually all pollutants, then burns the gas in a turbine much like natural gas. More than 99 percent of sulfur, nitrogen, and particulate pollutants can be removed in the process. Three gasification power plants have been built in Florida, Indiana, and Nevada. In the early 1990s, PSI Energy and Destec teamed up to construct a 262 MW IGCC generating unit at the Wabash River Project in Indiana for a total installation cost of $592 million ($2,260/kW). In 1996, TECO completed the construction of its 250 MW IGCC generating unit at Polk Power station in Florida for a total installation cost of $508 million ($2,032/kW).
Japan has also experimented with clean-coal technologies. In 1998, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. Inc. started commercial operation of a 75 MW PFBC power plant. Test operations are being carried out at two other plants, the 250 MW unit of Chugoku Electric Power Co. and the 350 MW unit of Kyushu Electric Power Co. Japan is also testing a pilot scale (1 MW) molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) at a Chubu Electric Power Co. site.
It is interesting to note that these advanced technologies have historically approached the installation cost of a nuclear plant, but have all the operational costs of a coal plant. Now market conditions have changed, and despite the high capital and operating costs, clean-coal technologies can economically compete with natural-gas-fired generation, if gas prices continue to remain high. Additionally, expectations are that the next generation of clean-coal power plants will cost significantly less than the early pioneers' cost. The Department of Energy (DOE) for example, assumes an IGGC power plant can be built for $1,315/kW with an average heat rate of 8,470 Btu/kWh in its "Annual Energy Outlook 2000" report.
The DOE deserves a great deal of credit for bringing clean-coal technology to the point of commercialization. In 1984, the clean-coal experiment began in response to the U.S./Canadian transboundary problem of acid rain. In March of 1987, President Reagan agreed to a new $5 billion public-private initiative to make clean-coal technologies a reality. The program led to 40 projects in 18 states, including co-funding demonstration projects such as the PSI/Destec and TECO facilities. In the mid-1980s the only options for reducing NOx pollution cost $3,000 per ton; today's low NOx burners have reduced this cost to under $200/ton. These low NOx burners have also reduced emission levels from 700 parts per million (ppm) in the early 1970s to 100 ppm today. Furthermore, the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) process reduces more than 80% of the NOx contained in coal combustion gas. The DOE reports that 75 percent of all coal-fired capacity in this country is now outfitted with low-NOx burners. Similarly, the cost for scrubbing technology, which removes sulfur pollutants, has been reduced 75 percent since the 1970s.
The improvement of power generation efficiency will be one of the most important technical issues for coal power plants because of its high carbon content. The latest commercial plant has achieved a thermal efficiency of 43 percent by increasing steam temperature and pressure. Even with these improved efficiencies, the coal power plant of the future may still be unable to achieve the substantial greenhouse gas reductions that could be necessary to address global climate change concerns. There are other existing environmental regulations that may also limit the adoption of new coal generation. The SIP Call rule requires 22 Eastern states and the District of Columbia to reduce NOx emission by a specified amount by May 2003, with much of the reductions expected to come from coal-fired power plants. In 1997, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and ozone were adopted with an anticipated compliance cost for full attainment estimated at $37 billion per year (particulate) and $10 billion per year (ozone) respectively. The Supreme Court is reviewing these EPA rules, and recently supported the EPA's right to regulate these emissions. These rules are significant since they will lead to additional NOx and SO2 emission reductions, the two precursors to fine airborne particles. Mercury reductions are also being contemplated. In November 1999 the EPA filed lawsuits against seven utility companies for Clean Air Act violations. In a settlement with TECO, TECO agreed to cut NOx and SO2 emissions by 85 percent by 2010 and pay a $3.5 million civil penalty.
But in the end, the nation will likely turn to coal to help meet its growing energy demands. Great strides have been made to reduce the environmental impact of this abundant fuel source. Since 1970, the use of coal has more than doubled while emissions of sulfur and nitrogen pollutants have declined by 70 percent and 40 percent, respectively. If we can continue to achieve even greater emission reductions, coal may well help provide the energy bridge to the future.
Already bathing in the glow of record-setting safety and output in 2000, the nuclear industry Wednesday got a vote of support as a clean energy resource from Vice President Dick Cheney, the influential architect of the Bush administration's in-progress energy policy.
Meanwhile, a top nuclear industry official said utilities would soon take the first step toward getting government approval for sites for new reactors. Cheney provided the highest-level government endorsement of nuclear power in years in telling a television and Internet audience that constructing new plants would reduce greenhouse gases more effectively than international efforts to cut their emissions.
"If you want to do something about carbon dioxide emissions, then
you ought to build nuclear power plants, because they don't emit any carbon
dioxide and they don't emit greenhouse gases," he said on MSNBC's
Hardball program. "But, of course, there's been no permit granted
for a nuclear power plant in this country since 1975." Cheney quickly
added that the energy policy task force he is heading has not reached
any final conclusions on nuclear power-despite the fact that it presented
President Bush with an interim report Monday. The final
Also on Wednesday, a top nuclear industry official offered the first signal in years of possible new construction, predicting that at least one U.S. utility will-by early next year at the latest-seek federal approval of sites on which to build new plants.
News of possible new sites comes while the nuclear industry is enjoying
good performance and safety evaluations. Notably, the U.S. Energy Information
Administration earlier this month backed up the industry's claim of record
>production, reporting that total nuclear power generation in 2000
was 3.5 percent higher than in any previous year. EIA cited improved efficiency
as the reason, noting that the number of operational U.S. reactors fell
over the past decade from 111 to 103.
America's apostasy in turning its back on the Global Warming theory and the Kyoto protocol produced panic among the true believers who rule the roost in Europe. The Swedish Government, which currently holds the European Union presidency, described the move as appalling and provocative, while the environmental group Friends of the Earth said it threatened "climate disaster". Sweden's Environment Minister, Kjell Larsson, told the BBC that the new US administration seemed to be preparing to withdraw from the global community's effort to deal with a major threat to the future of the world.
In Britain, the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, who has been strangely coy during the Foot and Mouth disaster, which has been greatly exacerbated by Government and bureaucratic incompetence, emerged from his purdah to pronounce the Bush administration's decision "extremely serious", claiming that the world faces extreme weather conditions if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gases, 25% of which come from the US. He found it unthinkable for the US not to take part in the treaty, without which parts of the world would become uninhabitable.
Even if one believed, would it not follow from the last remark that parts of the world would also become newly habitable? Such is the power of irrational faith in the new post-rational world, however, that the existence of contradictions in the prophecies is not admitted. It would not be difficult to argue that an undercurrent to the propaganda is an undeclared economic war on the US. If this is so, world leaders might reflect on the impact on their own economies of just a small set back in the US, as has happened with the recent slowdown. The developing countries, which produce a rapidly increasing share of the so-called greenhouse gases, might come to regret it if the engine of the world economy really did decide to switch itself off and sit in the dark, like the inhabitants of California.
Climate change sends toads on road to extinction
They discovered that the likely culprit is El Nino, the occasional weather pattern, caused by a buildup of warm water in the western Pacific, which can disrupt local climates around much of the world.
These phenomena have become more frequent since the mid-1970s, coinciding with a recorded increase in the atmospheric temperature.
[AT LEAST, THAT'S WHAT THEY CLAIM]
A succession of El Ninos reduced winter snowfall on the Cascades, which in turn meant there was less water runoff in springtime, when the snow melted, and so lakes and nursery ponds were only partially filled, the team found. That meant the toads often had to spawn in water that was shallower than normal, which exposed their eggs to higher levels of ultra-violet (UV) light from the Sun. In turn, this damaged the embryos and made them highly vulnerable to a lethal white fungus, Saprolegnia ferax, they found.
Amphibians living in high altitudes may be especially at threat. The
UV factor is higher in the mountains because the atmospheric layer which
filters out ultra-violet rays is thinner, they said.