The Week That Was
March 24 , 2007
Quote of the Week:
Voltaire said it best:
“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”
Definition of the Week:
Alpocalypse (noun). Politically-induced, Hysteria-driven, Society-terminating condition. Also known as Gorenorrhea or Clap-Trap. (John K.Sutherland).
Talks and Briefings on Global Warming by Fred Singer: All welcome
In Wash, DC on Monday, March 26, at 8 pm. Butler Board Room at American University
In Burlington, VT, on Wed March 28 at 7pm. At Univ of Vermont
The Great Global Warming Swindle: available as a DVD soon. Watch for announcement in TWTW. Read also “British television’s convenient truth”
March Highlights: News from SEPP
Our new book "Unstoppable Global Warming - Every 1500 Years" made the NY Times best-seller list, surpassing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth” In cooperation with the Heartland Institute, we distributed over 1000 copies. It is now being revised for mass distribution.
On March 9 we briefed Dr. Vaclav Klaus, famed economist and President of the Czech Republic, about Global Warming at a private breakfast in Washington, DC.
On March 13, talk at Heritage Foundation (Ed Meese, Chm)
On March 26, talk at American University, Washington DC
March 28 Briefing of Vermont legislators and talk a U of VT
We have prepared a video on GW and its causes in the form of 10-minute interview.
We have completed plans for an international workshop to prepare a critical analysis of the UN-IPCC report that was released in February 2007
The MIT coal study downgrades IGCC but upgrades carbon sequestration. (ITEM #4). We disagree.
Europe lags behind the US in controlling CO2 emission growth (ITEM #5) but leads in CO2 offset scams (ITEM #6).
GW zealots vs the IPCC (ITEM #7) while independent scientists criticize Gore (ITEM # 8).
And now some humor: Plutonic warming (ITEM #9).
Gore ignorant on babies (ITEM #10).
And the NY Times pre-occupation with toilets (ITEM # 11). Here also a toilet story (funny, but untranslatable) from a German reader.
1. HOLLYWOOD'S CLIMATE FOLLIES
The Washington Post, 21 March 2007
By Robert J. Samuelson
"My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."
-- Al Gore, accepting an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth"
Global warming has gone Hollywood, literally and figuratively. The script is plain. As Gore says, solutions are at hand. We can switch to renewable fuels and embrace energy-saving technologies, once the dark forces of doubt are defeated. It's smart and caring people against the stupid and selfish. Sooner or later, Americans will discover that this Hollywood version of global warming (largely mirrored in the media) is mostly make-believe.
Most of the many reports on global warming have a different plot. Despite variations, these studies reach similar conclusions. Regardless of how serious the threat, the available technologies promise at best a holding action against greenhouse gas emissions. Even massive gains in renewables (solar, wind, biomass) and more efficient vehicles and appliances would merely stabilize annual emissions near present levels by 2050. The reason: Economic growth, especially in poor countries, will sharply increase energy use and emissions.
The latest report came last week from 12 scientists, engineers and social scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report, " The Future of Coal," was mostly ignored by the media. It makes some admittedly optimistic assumptions: "carbon capture and storage" technologies prove commercially feasible; governments around the world adopt a sizable charge (a.k.a. tax) on carbon fuel emissions. Still, annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 are roughly at today's levels. Without action, they'd be more than twice as high.
Coal, as the report notes, is essential. It provides about 40 percent of global electricity. It's cheap (about a third of the cost of oil) and abundant. It poses no security threats. Especially in poor countries, coal use is expanding dramatically. The United States has the equivalent of more than 500 coal-fired power plants with a capacity of 500 megawatts each. China is building two such plants a week. Coal use in poor countries is projected to double by 2030 and would be about twice that of rich countries (mainly the United States, Europe and Japan). Unfortunately, coal also generates almost 40 percent of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2), a prime greenhouse gas.
Unless we can replace coal or neutralize its CO2emissions, curbing greenhouse gases is probably impossible. Substitution seems unlikely, simply because coal use is so massive. Consider a separate study by Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm. It simulated a fivefold increase in U.S. electricity from renewables by 2026. Despite that, more coal generating capacity would be needed to satisfy growth in demand.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a bright spot: Catch the CO2and put it underground. On this, the MIT study is mildly optimistic. The technologies exist, it says. Similarly, geologic formations -- depleted oil fields, unusable coal seams -- provide adequate storage space, at least in the United States. But two problems loom: First, capture and storage adds to power costs; and second, its practicality remains suspect until it's demonstrated on a large scale.
No amount of political will can erase these problems. If we want poorer countries to adopt CCS, then the economics will have to be attractive. Right now, they're not. Capturing CO2and transporting it to storage spaces uses energy and requires costlier plants. On the basis of present studies, the MIT report says that the most attractive plants with CCS would produce almost 20 percent less electricity than conventional plants and could cost almost 40 percent more. Pay more, get less -- that's not a compelling argument. Moreover, older plants can't easily be retrofitted. Some lack space for additions; for others costs would be prohibitive.
To find cheaper technologies, the MIT study proposes more government research and development. The study's proposal of a stiff charge on carbon fuel -- to be increased 4 percent annually -- is intended to promote energy efficiency and create a price umbrella to make CCS more economically viable. But there are no instant solutions, and a political dilemma dogs most possibilities. What's most popular and acceptable (say, more solar) may be the least consequential in its effects; and what's most consequential in its effects (a hefty energy tax) may be the least popular and acceptable.
The actual politics of global warming defies Hollywood's stereotypes. It's not saints vs. sinners. The lifestyles that produce greenhouse gases are deeply ingrained in modern economies and societies. Without major changes in technology, the consequences may be unalterable. Those who believe that addressing global warming is a moral imperative face an equivalent moral imperative to be candid about the costs, difficulties and uncertainties.
Copyright 2007, The Washington Post
2. ETHANOL HYPOCRITES
Once the darling energy source of the political left, we now hear how sugar production for ethanol is trashing the otherwise forgotten rain forest and adds to global warming. Others are blaming ethanol for everything from poverty to floods. However, the argument doesn't get the facts right, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD). Consider:
o Brazil is not growing sugar for ethanol production on rain forest land but in the southern grasslands, making environmentalists' renewed interest in deforestation irrelevant.
o On the grasslands, ethanol production has barely started; Brazil's entire agricultural production is done on only 8 percent of the nation's arable land.
Environmentalists, however, are trying to sell Brazil as one big rain forest in need of "saving" instead of a diverse, rapidly industrializing country whose development is critical to conservation:
o Poverty, not development, is the biggest danger to rain forests, as UC Berkeley professor emeritus Jack Hollander found in a study.
o As Brazil industrialized in 2005, it reforested 553,000 hectares of rain forest, and last year it reduced Amazon deforestation by 11 percent.
o Meanwhile, an even bigger ethanol producer, the United States, leads the world in reforestation, according to Jesse H. Ausubel, director of Rockefeller University's program for the human environment.
Ethanol is no panacea and unlikely to be more than 10 percent of energy production, but it's a viable alternative, says IBD. If President Bush can enrage environmentalists by developing the ethanol they once championed, it is unlikely that any alternative (in the hands of Bush that is) will satisfy them. They simply aren't serious.
Source: Editorial, "Ethanol Hypocrites," Investor's Business Daily, March 9, 2007.
"Nuclear plants, garbage dumps and oil refineries have long faced opposition from neighbors. Ethanol was supposed to be different. The corn-based fuel has a reputation for being good for farmers, the environment and rural economies," the Wall Street Journal reports. But "fights have broken out in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and several towns in Wisconsin. Opponents complain that ethanol plants deplete aquifers, draw heavy truck traffic, pose safety concerns, contribute to air pollution and produce a sickly-sweet smell akin to that of a barroom floor."
In "Wishful Thinking Is No Magical Energy Elixir," Cato senior fellows Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren write: "President Bush and congressional Democrats have lately spoken a lot about alternative energy sources such as ethanol. According to the president, ethanol is a magical elixir that will solve every economic, environmental and foreign policy problem on the horizon. In reality, it's enormously expensive and wasteful. ... Ethanol does not reduce gasoline prices. If you lived in urban areas that used reformulated gasoline last summer -- that's the environmentally 'clean' gasoline required for areas with air pollution problems -- you might have paid up to 60 cents a gallon more for gasoline. That's because the federal government required oil refineries to use 4 billion gallons of ethanol in 2006, regardless of price, and gas pump prices last summer reflected the fact that ethanol was twice as expensive as conventional gas in wholesale markets, and far more costly to deliver."
3. BIOFUELS: AN ADVISABLE STRATEGY?
Biofuels have been an increasingly hot topic on the discussion table in the last few years. In 2003 the European Union introduced a Directive suggesting that Member states should increase the share of biofuels in the energy used for transport to 2% by 2005 and 5.75% by 2010.
In 2005 the target was not reached and it will probably not be reached in 2010 either (we are in 2006 at approximately 0.8%), but anyway the Directive showed the great interest that the European Commission places on biofuels as a way to solve many problems at once. The new European energy strategy, presented on 10th January 2007, establishes that biofuels should represent at least 10% of the energy used for transport .
Biofuels are not competitive with fossil fuel-derived products if left to the market. In order to make their price similar to those of petrol and diesel, they need to be subsidized. In Europe, biofuels are subsidized in three ways: 1) agricultural subsidies, mainly granted within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy; 2) total or partial de-taxation, which is indispensable, because energy taxes account for approximately half of the final price of petrol and diesel; 3) biofuels obligations, which establish that the fuels sold at the pump must contain a given percentage of biofuels.
These three political measures need financial means, which are paid for by the European Commission (agricultural subsidies), by the governments (reduced energy revenues), and by car drivers (increase in the final fuel price). For this reason, an integrated analysis is needed in order to discuss whether investing public resources in biofuels and employing a large extension of agricultural land is the most advisable strategy to solve the problems associated with fossil fuels.
The main argument behind the policies in favour of biofuels is based on the idea that biofuels would not increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In fact, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by biodiesel in the combustion phase is the same as that absorbed by the plant during its growth through photosynthesis, resulting in a neutral carbon budget. Moreover, substituting part of the oil products with biofuels would reduce the European energy dependency and increase energy security.
However, a more careful analysis of the life cycle of biodiesel reveals that the energy (and CO2) savings is not so high as it might seem at first sight, and in some cases might even be negative. In fact, the raw materials for biofuels are normally obtained with intensive agriculture, which imply a high use of fertilizers, pesticides and machinery. The reason is that, with less intensive agricultural methods, the yield would be lower and the land requirement and the costs would be higher. Also, fossil fuels are used in the processing phase (oil pressing, trans-esterification) and for transporting the oil seeds to the processing plant and from there to the final users.
In any case, even if the objective of the Directive were met, the savings would not be significant. In fact, since the transport sector accounts for 30% of the final energy consumption, the 5.75% of the fuels for transport corresponds to 1.8% of the final consumption. Taking into account that this amount requires the indirect use of fossil fuels, the final savings would be even lower.
For example, considering a very optimistic output/input ratio (the biodiesel produced using one unit of fossil fuels) of 2.5 , we obtain that reaching the 5.75% percentage (approximately 20 million tons of oil equivalent) would imply saving around 36 million tons of CO2 equivalent, i.e., less than 1% of the European Union emissions in 2004 (4,228 million tons CO2) If we take into account the emissions related to the transport of raw materials that are imported and the imports of food crops that would be substituted by energy farming, the savings would be even less, and if the oil seeds are imported from outside Europe possibly even negative.
Another point that is often raised to promote biofuels is urban pollution. Biofuels are not only seen as a “green” fuel on a global scale (reduction of greenhouse effect) but also on a local scale. They would contribute to reducing traffic contamination, and therefore the numerous ailments associated with it. In reality, the advantages from this point of view are very modest. For example, according to a study of the USA Environmental Protection Agency (2002), if diesel is replaced with a blend of 20% biodiesel (B20), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) would increase by 2%, particulate matter (PM), unburnt Hydrocarbons (HC) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) would decrease by respectively 10.1%, 21.1% and 11% . Therefore, it can be assumed that with a 5.75% blend, the reduction in PM, HC and CO would be respectively 3%, 6% and 3% (and the increase in NOx would be negligible).
Against the modest advantages (a small substitution of fossil fuels and a slight reduction of some contaminants with respect to diesel), the disadvantages of a large-scale biodiesel production are apparent.
Due to the low yield, the land requirement is enormous. In the Biomass Action Plan (Annex 11) it is calculated that in order to achieve the 5.75% target (18.6 million toe biofuels), about 17 million hectares would be needed, i.e. one fifth of the European tillable land (97 million hectares). Since there is not so much marginal and abandoned land in Europe, the consequence would be the substitution of food crops and a huge increase of the food imports.
For this reason, both in the Biomass Action Plan and in the EU Strategy for Biofuels it is stressed that Europe will promote the production of raw material for biofuels in extra-European countries, where the European Commission intends to incentive energy farming.
This means that the impacts of energy farming would be exported to Southern countries. It is easily foreseeable that if the European demand for biofuels increased because of biofuel obligations and other supporting policies, Southern countries may be stimulated to replace if not food crops at least native forests with large monocultures.
Energy farming would presumably have a big role in deforestation, because pristine forests would be cut down in order to cultivate energy crops. The consequences would be, besides a worrying reduction of wild biodiversity, a decrease in soil fertility, water availability and quality, and an increase in the use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as negative social effects like potential dislocation of local communities.
The European Directive, and in general all biodiesel promoting policies, do not only imply a competition for arable land but might also incentive plantations of palm trees, whose oil is cheaper than any other source. Palm plantations are responsible for most deforestation in South Eastern Asia and represent a real threat to the remaining native forests. Also they are responsible for a high soil erosion rate. For example, between 1985 and 2000 in Malaysia palm plantations caused 87% of the total deforestation and further 6 million hectares will be deforested to make room for palm trees . The same more or less applies to sugarcane plantations in Brazil.
Moreover, taking into account the CO2 emissions due to inter-continental transport and the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere due to deforestation (forests are CO2 sinks), the final result might be an overall increase of the greenhouse emissions instead of the wished reduction.
Another possible negative consequence is a reduction in world food availability, which can be a particularly serious problem in a context of increasing population and energy demand. A recent example is the increase in corn price in Mexico by 30% in early 2007, caused by the growing demand for corn-derived bioethanol in the USA (Mexico is a net importer of corn from the USA). Some use the term “ethanolinflation” .
Also, a large scale biodiesel production would imply a strong environmental impact in the agricultural phase: the huge monocultures of energy crops would dramatically reduce agricultural biodiversity, with strong environmental impact in terms of soil erosion, use of fertilizers and pesticides, and water requirement. Also, one of the consequences may be an increase in the use of GMOs. In fact, soybean, maize and rapeseed (among the most used raw material to produce biofuels) are respectively the first, second and fourth most important GMO crops.
Another argument often used in favour of biofuels is rural development. However, it can be argued that support to biofuels should not be used as agricultural subsidies. If the objective is to support agricultural sector, subsidies should be granted to organic agriculture and landscape protection.
Concluding, using public funding to support a large scale biofuel production is not an advisable strategy. Obviously, these considerations do not apply to used oil or agricultural residue recycling, or small-scale niche productions, all of which may be good strategies, instead.
Summing up, biodiesel cannot contribute to the solution of the problems related to the high dependency of our economy on fossil fuels. The idea that biodiesel could be a solution for the energy crisis is not only false, but also dangerous. In fact, it might favour an attitude of technological optimism and faith in a technological fix of the energy problem. We should never forget that if we want to reduce the use of fossil fuels there is no magic wand: the only possible solution is to modify consumption patterns.
Octavi López Coronado | Source: alphagalileo Further information: www.uab.es March 8, 207
4. THE PRECARIOUS FUTURE OF COAL:
A new MIT report says that much more effort is needed to develop and test technology that will make clean-coal power plants economical and practical.
Technology Review - Published by MIT Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Energy experts from MIT have released a long-awaited report on the future of coal. The report recommends that much more be done to develop technology for decreasing the impact of burning coal on global warming. The report also challenges some conventional thinking about the best way forward. It criticizes current efforts by the Department of Energy (DOE) and calls for an approximately $5 billion, 10-year program to demonstrate technology for capturing and storing carbon dioxide released by coal-fired power plants.
The report, based on a study by 13 MIT faculty members, comes at a time when growing concerns about global warming are making it increasingly likely that governments worldwide will impose a price on carbon-dioxide emissions to force a cut in the release of this important greenhouse gas. Nevertheless, coal, the leading source of carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity generation, will continue to be a major source of electricity, say the authors of the report. That's because even with a high price on carbon, coal is abundant and probably necessary to meet fast-growing demand for energy worldwide.
Reducing the impact of continued coal use on global warming will require a massive effort to collect carbon dioxide from power plants and bury it underground, the experts say. The volume of compressed carbon dioxide that will need to be captured and transported is similar in scale to the amount of oil consumed in the United States, the report says.
Doing so is "not simply a matter of bolting on a box to capture carbon dioxide," says John Deutch, a professor of chemistry at MIT. Indeed, retrofitting existing plants will require wholesale restructuring, even for advanced coal plants, he says. And although there are a few carbon-sequestration projects going on around the world, none of these has been put together with the sort of careful monitoring required to assure the public and energy investors that long-term, extremely high-volume carbon-dioxide storage is possible.
The report challenged the idea, argued by some energy experts, that a new type of coal plant--one that converts coal into a gas before burning it--will make it easier and cheaper to capture carbon dioxide, compared with collecting it from the smokestacks of conventional power plants. The MIT experts say that several factors make the picture more complicated. Such coal gasification doesn't work well with low-grade coal, for example, and both the new and the conventional plants will require major changes to capture carbon dioxide, according to the MIT report.
As a result, the MIT researchers recommend that governments not support the new gasification plants over conventional plants. Instead, they say that governments should focus on large-scale demonstration programs that would, for the first time, capture carbon dioxide from coal plants, transport it, and store it at a large scale. The project would need to handle a million tons of carbon dioxide. Such demonstrations would make it possible to compare different technologies, increase policymaker and public confidence that capture and sequestration technology can work, and pave the way for quick adoption of the best technologies in response to a price on carbon dioxide.
Without such a demonstration, warns the report, a rush to cut carbon emissions would lead to spiking costs and further delays, and that would make it difficult for power producers to meet energy demand.
Although the DOE does spend a significant part of its resources on developing cleaner coal technology, the researchers say the agency's efforts are underfunded and not focused on the most promising approaches. For example, the DOE strategy promotes advanced coal plants that do not include carbon-dioxide capture technology. And although the DOE's FutureGen project has the potential to be a large-scale demonstration of power generation and carbon sequestration, its emphasis has been on research, not on the sort of work that will reveal system costs, the MIT authors say.
The demonstration projects the MIT researchers envision will take years. Meanwhile, the researchers suggest that governments take action by establishing a carbon-control policy. That will include, among other things, closing a potential loophole that may encourage utilities to build coal plants now without carbon capture in the hope that they can avoid future regulations.
By JOHN DEUTCH and ERNEST MONIZ
The cost of heat energy from coal is $1-$2 per million BTUs, compared to $6-$8 for natural gas and $8-$12 for oil. Where it is plentiful therefore -- as in the United States and China -- coal is the economic fuel of choice for new, electricity-generating power plants at today's fuel prices.
What about coal as a substitute for imported oil? Coal can be converted into liquid fuel suitable for transportation use; engineering estimates of the cost of deriving this synthetic fuel from coal (or shale oil) vary from $50 to $80 per barrel of oil equivalent. If world oil prices, currently in this price range, persist, this synfuel might become an attractive option.
So what is the problem? The environmental impact.
Here there is some good news: The so-called "criteria air pollutants" (sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) emitted from power plants have been effectively controlled at an affordable incremental cost. More recently, the EPA has placed restrictions on mercury emissions; it is not yet clear how well or how cheaply power plants will be able to meet this new constraint. However, on balance, we've achieved much "cleaner" generation of electricity from coal since the Clean Air Act of 1970.
Global warming is another matter. Coal combustion contributes about 40% of the global emissions of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas; and most qualified scientists believe human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. Oil contributes another 40% and coal-derived substitute fuels would roughly double the carbon dioxide emissions per gallon.
The scale of the emissions is enormous. About two pounds of CO2 are emitted for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced from coal combustion. A modern 1000 megawatt coal plant emits over 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per day. Thus the urgent need to find practical and economic technologies and policies that permit the continued use of coal without increasing CO2 emissions into the environment. This need motivated "The Future of Coal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World," an MIT study released yesterday.
The most effective way to reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is to place a significant charge on the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The charge can be an emission tax or the price of an emission "allowance" obtained in a cap-and-trade system. The charge will raise the price of energy, and of electricity in particular, and the market will respond in three ways: (1) the demand for electricity will fall from the adoption of more efficient generating and end-use technologies, (2) nuclear power and renewables will become more attractive for investment in new electricity-generating capacity; and (3) new technology to reduce C02 emissions from coal combustion will become economic.
The leading technological option for reducing CO2 emissions from coal into the atmosphere is sequestration: This involves capturing the gas produced by coal combustion and burying it in deep geological formations, such as saline aquifers. This can be done in today's coal combustion plants, but it is currently very expensive.
In the U.S., much of industry and many environmental groups believe that the best method for sequestration is IGCC -- the acronym for coal gasification integrated in a combined cycle with combustion and steam turbines. Coal is partially burned with oxygen (not air, to avoid wastefully heating up nitrogen) to form a gas that is subsequently "shifted" to a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrogen by the addition of steam. The CO2 is separated before combustion, compressed and transported to the site for injection into the aquifer; the hydrogen is sent to a combustion turbine to produce electricity.
This IGCC system can remove 90% of the CO2, but as it is a more complex process than conventional coal electricity production, it will add about 50% to the cost. This translates into about a 25% increase of the cost of electricity to the consumer, a substantial but not crippling increase for developed economies. With current technology and with additional experience, this appears to be the lowest cost option.
Europe is following a different technology path: oxygen-fired supercritical pulverized coal combustion (as well as a process called fluidized bed combustion, suitable for low-quality coal). The "oxy-fired" plant is, like IGCC, designed for coal combustion in oxygen rather than air, and the CO2 is also captured for sequestration, but after combustion. The advantage of the pulverized coal combustion process is simplicity; the disadvantage is the increased cost, as more oxygen is required to burn all the coal to carbon dioxide.
This cost disadvantage could be reversed if a cheaper way is found to separate oxygen from air -- a challenging but entirely plausible technical prospect. And the pulverized coal/fluidized bed technologies more easily accommodate a diversity of coal types.
Which technology path is better? We do not have enough engineering knowledge and operating experience to answer that question for a variety of coals and local conditions. Indeed, we need a great deal more technical development to demonstrate the commercial promise of these and other options. But neither government nor industry will make the required level of technology investment -- so long as the current administration does not adopt serious carbon reduction policies in a timely fashion. Instead, the absence of administration leadership invites Congress to adopt half-measures insufficient to achieve the needed innovations. For example, the 2005 Energy Act provided significant incentives for new coal plants, but without requiring carbon capture and sequestration -- perhaps under the dubious assumption that these plants could be easily retrofitted for CO2 capture in the future.
Taxpayer dollars should be focused on stimulating the introduction of technologies that look promising for commercial deployment when a CO2 emissions charge is introduced. Congress should also reduce uncertainty in private-sector decision making by signaling that new plants of any type will not be "grandfathered" from such future pricing. Uncertainty about CO2 emissions is not good news for the coal industry since, absent a strong policy, industry has no clear signal upon which to base investment. But if strong emission constraints are adopted without a successful technology for avoiding these emissions, the future use of coal will fall dramatically.
However, the MIT study outlines a scenario where large scale carbon dioxide capture and sequestration (CCS) is developed and demonstrated rigorously and promptly, so that even with a significant emission charge, say $30 per ton of CO2 within the next decade (and growing thereafter), coal use will increase but CO2 emissions at mid-century are no higher than today.
The scale is daunting; a 1000 MW coal plant that captures much of the CO2 would sequester over a billion barrels of pressurized gas over a 50-year lifetime; many hundreds of such plants would be needed world-wide to significantly affect global warming. Thus the government should support multiple sequestration efforts, with the instrumentation needed to support regulatory requirements, at the earliest possible date. The coal industry should support large-scale demonstration of CCS, because it offers a practical option for continuing to burn coal competitively in a carbon-constrained world.
Today, there is no coal electricity generating plant operating in the U.S. with CO2 capture, let alone one that would demonstrate at commercial scale the integrated operation of the entire clean coal system: electricity generation, CO2 capture, transportation and sequestration. Importantly, neither do we have a proposed regulatory regime that would define the selection of sites for sequestration, the injection operation, and a robust system of measurement and monitoring to verify the integrity of CO2 storage.
The Department of Energy has an ambitious project, called FutureGen, designed to implement an integrated clean coal system based on IGCC technology, but it is proceeding slowly and has too many chefs in the kitchen. If the project can be focused on commercial demonstration and freed from government controls, it could be an important step forward. If not, alternative "quasi-governmental" approaches to the needed demonstrations with carbon capture should be explored. But the few CO2 sequestration projects that exist or are planned around the world are insufficiently instrumented and unconnected to building the needed regulatory regime. Without proven technology and a regulatory regime, we may not have the option for large-scale CO2 capture and sequestration when a strong emissions control policy is adopted in the future. But in the meanwhile, one can only marvel at the discussions in Washington that debate hypothetical policy options under the false assumption that today CCS is a demonstrated and available technology for very large scale sequestration.
A properly designed DOE demonstration program should immediately be launched for three to five well-instrumented sequestration projects, at a scale of one million tons of carbon dioxide per year for many years. Launching sequestration today at this scale is low risk; failing to do so is high risk for future coal use in a carbon-constrained future.
Substantial global warming won't be avoided unless all countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet emerging economies such as China and India are deploying enormous additional coal-fired electricity generation capacity without any carbon emission constraint. Last year, for example, China reportedly put about 80 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity generating capacity on line -- the rough equivalent to all the electricity capacity of the United Kingdom. At present there is no indication the emerging economies will accept the higher cost required to accommodate emission constraints because of urgent competing infrastructure needs.
The way forward requires more than a call for government leaders to seek consensus, or for a thin menu of demonstration projects and technology exchange agreements. Prudence calls for early action. The U.S. must be prepared to adopt serious carbon emission constraints, and, along with Europe and developed countries in Asia, to offer significant financial incentives to emerging economies to adopt carbon emission constraints, on a step-by-step basis. It is by no means certain that agreement will be reached, so that absent serious reductions in emissions, substantial global warming will occur. At some point, nations would then face accepting the high economic cost and social disruption of adapting to climate change or the more problematic prospect of geo-engineering the climate by active measures. We believe it less risky and ultimately less costly for the U.S. to lead the way for the world to adopt emission constraints today.
Messrs. Deutch and Moniz, both former undersecretaries of the Department of Energy, are co-chairs of the MIT study on which this essay is based. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117392535996837689.html
In discussing the future of coal, Messrs. Deutch and Moniz (WSJ March 15) are – in my view -- overly pessimistic on IGCC (coal gasification integrated in a combined cycle with combustion and steam turbines) and overly optimistic on CCS (carbon dioxide capture and sequestration). Of course, it is pointless to argue these matters until we have some experience with technology and costs in full-scale pilot projects. They are right about that. But they skip over the futility of doing anything at all about emissions – and not just CO2, but also such global pollutants as mercury -- as long as China continues to build freely polluting coal plants at the rate of one every five days. China’s CO2 emissions will surpass ours well before the end of the decade. And then there is India. Deutch and Moniz’s suggestion that we “provide financial incentives,” i.e., pay China to install CCS appears to be entirely unrealistic, for cost reasons alone.
More important, their whole discussion – and the underlying MIT coal study – seem to be dominated by the fear of anthropogenic global warming. But increasingly, the evidence points to natural factors – not CO2 -- as the main cause of current warming. As conclusively demonstrated in the 2006 federal CCSP (Climate Change Science Program) report [www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-1/finalreport/default.htm], greenhouse models cannot explain observed latitude and altitude patterns of warming. [Contrast Fig. 1.3F with Fig. 5.7E; the disparity is demonstrated most strikingly in Fig. 5.4G.] Notwithstanding the just-released UN-IPCC report, a better estimate of the human contribution to future warming is about 0.5 C by 2100, and little if any increase in sea level rise beyond the ongoing value of 7 inches per century.
We note that the global climate has not warmed since 1998; it would certainly be ironic, but not surprising, if we find ourselves in a cooling phase of the climate by the time the IGCC and CCS pilot projects are completed and evaluated.
5. U.S. CUTTING EMISSIONS FASTER THAN EUROPE
The United States is making more significant progress than Europe in cutting both greenhouse gas intensity and gross emissions, says Kurt Volker, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.
According to Volker:
o Greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product declined by 7.5 percent in the United States from 2000 to 2004, the most recent period for which reliable data have been assembled.
o The European Union (EU) reduced its greenhouse gas intensity by only 4.5 percent in the same time span.
o Just as importantly, while overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions grew by 1.3 percent from 2000 to 2004, total EU emissions grew at 2.1 percent, a 50 percent more rapid pace.
However, those numbers don't tell the entire story, says Volker:
o The EU number was held down by several smaller and less affluent nations that recently joined the Union; total emissions in the 15 long-standing members of the EU rose by 2.4 percent, roughly double the U.S. increase, from 2000 to 2004.
o Significant gains in U.S. population and total economic growth caused the slight increase in overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions despite the impressive reduction in greenhouse gas intensity.
Overall, the U.S. strategy of investing in new technology and encouraging private enterprise to take the lead in reducing emissions is producing better results than the European command-and-control strategy of passing mandatory caps but failing to encourage market solutions, Volker noted. "The hard data show that Kyoto is a paper tiger," noted Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. "You have got words on paper and they are not worth a thing if the actions don't correspond. U.S. businesses are succeeding where European bureaucracies are failing."
Source: James Hoare, "U.S. Cutting Emissions Faster than Europe," Environment News, Heartland Institute, April 1, 2007. http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=20804
6. ANOTHER INCONVENIENT TRUTH: CO2 SCAMS
A growing number of organizations, corporations, cities, and individuals are seeking to protect the climate -- or at least claim bragging rights for protecting the climate, by purchasing carbon offsets; essentially paying to have someone else curtail air pollution or develop "renewable" energy sources, says Ben Elgin (Businessweek, March 26, 2007).
The 2007 Academy Awards essentially showed how this "checkbook environmentalism" works:
o Oscar organizers paid Terrapass Inc. -- a carbon offset service -- to identify projects that reduce carbon dioxide.
o Terrapass Inc. took a share of the money and passed along the rest to landfills and other projects that reduce greenhouse gases.
o Presenters and performers at the awards show went home having been declared "carbon-neutral" for a year.
The market for carbon offsets in the United States could be as high as $100 million, according to researchers. That's up from next to nothing just a couple of years ago. One reason for this growth is that the United States hasn't ratified the Kyoto Protocol, meaning no mandatory national cap, leaving Americans to take action on their own.
Unfortunately, without any real regulation, carbon offsets amount to little more than feel-good hype, says Elgin. When traced to their source, dubious offsets often encourage climate protection that would have happened regardless of the buying and selling of paper certificates. Perhaps the worst danger of these largely symbolic deals is that they may divert attention and resources from more expensive and effective measures.
7. NEW SCIENTIST RAPPED FOR IPCC CORRUPTION CLAIMS
New Scientist, 24 March 2007, page 27
From the co-coordinating lead authors of Working Group 1 of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:
The article and editorial about David Wasdell's review of the contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contain several wrong statements and false claims (10 March, p 10 and p 5). As coordinating lead authors (CLAs) of this report we wish to correct these.
Wasdell appears to be ill-informed about the processes involved in drafting this report. According to established IPCC procedure this report went through several formal and fully documented expert and government review processes, where many thousands of comments were responded to. It assessed the peer-reviewed literature published prior to July 2006. At all stages, including at the final plenary in Paris, the authors had control over the text; all CLAs were present in Paris. Any draft versions of the chapters or the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) were just that, documents in which inconsistencies were rectified, gaps were closed, and complicated matters were explained more clearly and in more accessible terms.
The accusation that subtle changes watered down the report is plain wrong and indicates the ignorance of the details of the process leading up to the SPM draft and the proceedings during the Paris plenary. In particular, our co-chair Susan Solomon is robustly independent and has been determined to maintain the credibility of the science throughout the four-year process. A webcast by her to the US House of Representatives science committee illustrates this point. It can be seen at http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=1264.
The entire SPM had wording which followed logically, or even verbatim, from the chapters and which was firmly rooted in the assessed scientific literature. The changes enumerated by Wasdell are largely minor corrections that eliminated items that did not stand up to scrutiny. A case in point is the removal of statements about acceleration of sea level rise. Based on available data, sea level has risen as rapidly during some periods in the past 50 years as it is rising today, so an assessment of "acceleration" would be premature.
The wide participation of the scientific community, the scientific accuracy and the absence of any policy prescription in this report are the characteristics that render this report so powerful. This is precisely why it serves a unique role in informing policy-makers, as well as others such as industry and the broad public.
Public understanding of the IPCC process is important. A legitimate criticism perhaps is the poor communication to the general public of IPCC procedures. For example, the drafting process was designed to identify incomplete or inaccurate scientific statements in the early drafts and keep them from entering the public domain. Another related misconception, promulgated by Wasdell, is that the Summary for Policymakers was written by and for the government delegations, and changes were made to the scientific conclusions before and during the Paris plenary for political purposes. In fact, the Summary for Policymakers was written by the scientists who also wrote the underlying chapters. The purpose of the Paris plenary was to make clarifications in order to more succinctly and accessibly communicate the science to the policy-makers. The scientists were present in Paris to ensure scientific accuracy and consistency with the underlying report.
Those of us also involved in previous assessments were pleasantly surprised that there were far fewer alterations made to the text at this final meeting, and that there were very few attempts at political interference. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is currently the most comprehensive assessment of the scientific literature on climate change, and effectively and accurately communicates to policymakers and the public the state of human knowledge on this topic.
Piers Forster, University of Leeds, UK et al
8. FROM A RAPT AUDIENCE, A CALL TO COOL THE HYPE
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: NY Times, March 13, 2007
Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.
But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gores central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.
I don’t want to pick on Al Gore, Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.
Mr. Gore, in an e-mail exchange about the critics, said his work made the most important and salient points about climate change, if not some nuances and distinctions scientists might want. The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger, he said, adding, I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand.
Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in An Inconvenient Truth, which is why scientists are sensitive to its details and claims.
Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbrook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.
Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for getting the message out, Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were overselling our certainty about knowing the future. Typically, the concern is not over the existence of climate change, or the idea that the human production of heat-trapping gases is partly or largely to blame for the globes recent warming. The question is whether Mr. Gore has gone beyond the scientific evidence. He’s a very polarizing figure in the science community, said Roger A. Pielke Jr., an environmental scientist who is a colleague of Dr. Vranes at the University of Colorado center. Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr. Gore.
An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim, was released last May and took in more than $46 million, making it one of the top-grossing documentaries ever. The companion book by Mr. Gore quickly became a best seller, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times list. Mr. Gore depicted a future in which temperatures soar, ice sheets melt, seas rise, hurricanes batter the coasts and people die en masse. Unless we act boldly, he wrote, our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes.
He clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who commend his popularizations and call his science basically sound. In December, he spoke in San Francisco to the American Geophysical Union and got a reception fit for a rock star from thousands of attendees. He has credibility in this community, said Tim Killeen, the group’s president and director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a top group studying climate change. There’s no question he’s read a lot and is able to respond in a very effective way.
Some backers concede minor inaccuracies but see them as reasonable for a politician. James E. Hansen, an environmental scientist, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top adviser to Mr. Gore, said, Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees, adding that Mr. Gore often did so better than scientists. Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice presidents work may hold imperfections and technical flaws. He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.
We need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is, Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Gore. On the other hand, Dr. Hansen said, he has the bottom line right: most storms, at least those driven by the latent heat of vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate.
In his e-mail message, Mr. Gore defended his work as fundamentally accurate. Of course, he said, there will always be questions around the edges of the science, and we have to rely upon the scientific community to continue to ask and to challenge and to answer those questions. He said not every single adviser agreed with him on every point, but we do agree on the fundamentals that warming is real and caused by humans. Mr. Gore added that he perceived no general backlash among scientists against his work. I have received a great deal of positive feedback, he said. I have also received comments about items that should be changed, and I have updated the book and slideshow to reflect these comments. He gave no specifics on which points he had revised. He said that after 30 years of trying to communicate the dangers of global warming, I think that I'm finally getting a little better at it.
While reviewers tended to praise the book and movie, vocal skeptics of global warming protested almost immediately. Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who has long expressed skepticism about dire climate predictions, accused Mr. Gore in The Wall Street Journal of shrill alarmism.
Some of Mr. Gore’s centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe’s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.
It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.
Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist in Denmark long skeptical of catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had refrained from scaremongering. Climate change is a real and serious problem that calls for careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg said. The cacophony of screaming, he added, does not help. So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gores portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.
Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr. Gore’s film did indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios. But the June report, he added, shows that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.
Other critics have zeroed in on Mr. Gore’s claim that the energy industry ran a disinformation campaign that produced false discord on global warming. The truth, he said, was that virtually all unbiased scientists agreed that humans were the main culprits. But Benny J. Peiser, a social anthropologist in Britain who runs the Cambridge-Conference Network, or CCNet, an Internet newsletter on climate change and natural disasters, challenged the claim of scientific consensus with examples of pointed disagreement. Hardly a week goes by, Dr. Peiser said, without a new research paper that questions part or even some basics of climate change theory, including some reports that offer alternatives to human activity for global warming.
Geologists have documented age upon age of climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms. Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet, Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.
In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore’s claim that our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this threatened change. Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded session. He flashed a slide that showed temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It highlighted 10 large swings, including the medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were up to 20 times greater than the warming in the past century. Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company, Dr. Easterbrook told the group. And I’m not a Republican.
Biologists, too, have gotten into the act. In January, Paul Reiter, an active skeptic of global warming's effects and director of the insects and infectious diseases unit of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, faulted Mr. Gore for his portrayal of global warming as spreading malaria. For 12 years, my colleagues and I have protested against the unsubstantiated claims, Dr. Reiter wrote in The International Herald Tribune. We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts.
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity. On balance, he did quite well a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject, Dr. Oppenheimer said. For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.
9. PLUTONIC WARMING
By Fred Thompson, March 22, 2007
Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.
NASA says the Martian South Poles ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because its warming up too, like Pluto.
This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.
Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our SOLAR system have in common. Hmmmm. SOLAR system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus. Right?
Fred Thompson is a former US Senator (Republican) from Tennessee and possible Presidential candidate
10. GORE’S BABY PROBLEM
OpinionJournal :Best of the Web Today - March 22, 2007
By JAMES TARANTO
Several readers had interesting comments about Al Gore's comment, which we noted yesterday http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009815#hot : "The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, 'well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it's not a problem.' " Reader Martin Shimp notes:
*** QUOTE ***
Clearly Gore never cared for his children while they had a fever. Fevers can be a symptom of either a bacterial or viral issue. A doctor can attempt a solution to a bacterial issue, but not a viral one. A virus has to run its course while the body fights it--and a fever is a sign of the struggle to eliminate the virus. Let's see a scientific consensus that the Earth's fever is bacteria-related.
*** END QUOTE ***
Reader Scott Jacobson questions Gore's premise:
*** QUOTE ***
Some great news for Daddy Gore: Little baby Earth does not have a fever. It's been awhile since Daddy Gore had a little bundle at home so maybe he has just forgotten that an infant is not considered to have a fever until her body temperature is at or above 100.4 degrees, or 1.8 degrees above normal. In the last century, little baby Earth's temperature has only gone up "almost one degree."
Overreacting is common among parents. I remember one morning when my first child was still an infant. Imagine my horror when I discovered that her temperature had risen to 99.5 degrees, almost a whole degree in just under 12 hours. Naturally, I immediately sat down and built a computer model, which clearly projected that by age 30, her temperature was going to be a staggering 19,710 degrees!
Thankfully, with the help of a patient wife and an impatient pediatrician, I came to realize that these fluctuations were normal, and that my baby daughter would not be going supernova by the time she reached her golden years.
*** END QUOTE ***
And Kelly Murphy puts things in perspective nicely:
*** QUOTE ***
So let me see if I have this right. According to Al Gore, I would have to be an idiot to decide, after reading "a science-fiction novel" (he must be referring to "State of Fear") that it's OK to go about living my life in a normal fashion. Instead, I should see one science-fiction movie (his) and run screaming out of the theater prepared to change every aspect of my life to avoid certain destruction.
*** END QUOTE ***
11. NY TIMES DOES TOILET CONSERVATION
Article below is from Thursday March 22, 2007 NY Times
[Also see these older related articles:
Introduction of the Flush Toilet Deplored at Earth Summit (2002)
Flush Toilets Called 'Environmental Disaster' (2003)
Dry Toilet Conference Declared a Success by Organizers
Diaperless Babies Seen As Earth-Friendly Solution
Tovarischtsch Kiclikov bei der KPdSU-Versammlung.
Vorsitzender: Nach Fünfjahrenplan jeder Genosse wird haben Kühlschrank.
Kiclikov: Bitte, Genosse Vorsitzender, was ist mit Klopapier?
Vorsitzender: Ach was, Klopapier. Jeder Genosse wird haben Auto.
Kiclikov: Aber bitte, Genosse Vorsitzender, was wird sein mit Klopapier?
Vorsitzender verliert die Geduld und zitiert Götz von Berlichingen.
Kiclikov: Ach, wieder nur Zwischenlösung.