How Obama Should Tackle Climate Change and Energy Independence in His Second Term

Posted on February 05, 2013
Posted By: Tam Hunt
 
President Obama has already provided climate change and energy issues a prominent place in his second term rhetoric, giving climate change and the environment the most space of all issues in his inaugural address. He also vowed in December to make climate change and energy one of his top three priorities in his second term.

But we've been here before. It's a little known fact -- already lost in the sands of time for most people -- that Obama's first State of the Union speech stated: "It begins with energy." Energy was in fact the most prominent issue in many of his talks and other communications for the first part of his second term. That is, until it became clear that dramatically lower energy prices, from the crash of 2008 until the middle of 2009, had weakened public support for tackling the sources of record high energy prices, and for tackling climate change issues in a struggling economy.

Energy and climate change issues slowly slid away from Obama rhetorically, even while he enacted some fairly far-reaching reforms in his first term that will do much to mitigate climate change and enhance energy independence. A few of Obama's signature achievements on these issues in his first term:

  • New fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards, requiring that cars and light trucks achieve a 54 mpg standard by 2025. There are some loopholes, to be sure, that bring this down to about 36-42 mpg, but this is still a major, and highly cost-effective, measure for reducing oil consumption in the US. The Energy Information Administration calculates that this change alone will reduce our oil consumption by four billion barrels from 2017 to 2025, about 60% of our current annual consumption -- and of course far more after 2025 as gains continue

  • Tax credits and loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Despite the Solyndra debacle, and the political opportunism that accompanied it, the fact is that the loan guarantee program that Solyndra used has performed better than expected when Congress created it. Congress allocated up to 10% of the loans to failed companies or projects and as of now the actual failure rate is less than 5% of all funds awarded. More generally, the tax credits and other incentives provided by the 2009 ARRA "stimulus package" were a major boon for renewable energy and energy efficiency and have helped to achieve record years for solar and wind power in the last few years even while the economy more generally has been struggling

  • Proposed new rules for regulating greenhouse gases from new power plants. Ironicallly, this new rule, proposed in April 2012 and receiving a huge amount of criticism from coal supporters, will, according to the EPA's economic analysis, do literally nothing in terms of preventing new coal power plants from being built. This is the case because EPA projects that existing market forces (primarily much lower natural gas prices) will already prevent any new coal plants from being built through 2030. So why enact the rule? Well, it establishes definitely the EPA's legal right to explicitly regulate greenhouse gases for the first time. And market forces may change, so it does make some sense to enact this new rule.

What about Obama's second act? How should he proceed on his recent promises to do something real about the threat of climate change? We are approaching $100 a barrel again for oil. 2012 was officially the most expensive year ever for gasoline in the US, as well as the hottest year on record for the contiguous US. It is highly likely, with the US and global economies recovering, that oil and gasoline prices will shoot far higher by the summer. The time is now for Obama to take substantial actions on these very important issues.

Here are my recommendations, discussed further below:

  • Reconsider opposition to a national carbon tax

  • Phase in regulation of greenhouse gases from existing power plants

  • Enact a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)

  • Require states to implement existing law (PURPA) that allows private developers to sell renewable energy to utilities at cost-effective rates

  • Require all federal agencies to reach 50% electric vehicles in their fleet by 2020, if this can be done cost-effectively

A National Carbon Tax

Economists of all stripes agree that a modest carbon tax (say, 10-15 cents/gallon of gasoline) would be a highly effective way to reduce emissions. Bernie Sanders recently proposed a carbon fee proposal in the Senate. Tom Friedman recently proposed that a carbon tax could be a highly effective "two-fer" -- it could both reduce emissions and revenue could be used to offset the national deficit, an eminently sensible proposition. I've argued previously that the national focus on cap and trade is misplaced and a well-designed carbon tax would be much better.

Unfortunately, the White House has recently expressed opposition to a carbon tax. Let's hope that changes.

Phase in Regulation of Greenhouse Gases From Existing Power Plants

Obama's EPA hasn't officially announced its intent to regulate GHGs from existing power plants -- but it is legally obligated to eventually do so under the clear language of the Clean Air Act. This will surely be the mother of all regulatory battles if and when it does happen. It seems that any regulation of existing facilities will have to be phased in slowly, and that's probably for the best since it may entail significant economic dis-location. In a struggling economy (and in any economy, for that matter), we've got to be sensitive to job issues as well as environmental and broader economic issues.

The modest carbon tax discussed above could, and probably should, include existing power plants, and it could be introduced at a very modest level and slowly increased over time. This doesn't seem to be on EPA's or Congress' radar at this time, but public pressure can always help to change minds.

A National RES

I am not a big fan of coercive government measures. I'd prefer that markets did their job and provided for the common good in an appropriate time frame. But climate change is a classic example of how markets can fail to incorporate externalities - in this case the harm to our environment and to us from increased greenhouse gas emissions, or the risk of oil price spikes - and it is for this reason that I do support strong national and state measures when it comes to climate change and energy.

A national Renewable Energy Standard (RES) could provide a floor for states to achieve a certain level of renewable energy by a certain date. More than half of all states already have an RES in place, but many of the dirtiest polluting states don't have an RES. An RES doesn't say "achieve higher renewables at any cost." Rather, every RES I've examined has a cost-effectiveness requirement or an economic safety valve of some sort. A national RES would surely include a cost-effectiveness requirement. And the good news is that many renewables are now cost-effective and are becoming increasingly cheaper over time.

Modify PURPA

PURPA was passed by Congress in 1978 under Pres. Carter's direction. It was the first law that allowed private energy developers to sell power to utilities for a set fee -- a type of "feed-in tariff." PURPA was implemented in different ways by each state, with varying success. In California, PURPA was responsible for an "embarrassment of riches" in terms of new wind, biomass and solar projects, made competitive by the record high oil and gas prices during the 1980s. The majority of our renewables in California are still PURPA projects, though this is changing fast.

Unfortunately, PURPA was largely gutted in recent years and it's faded as an effective tool for promoting renewables for a variety of reasons. It's time for Congress to modify PURPA again and to require states to implement PURPA in a way that is effective in promoting renewables. In other words, it's time for a real national "feed-in tariff" (also described in recent years as CLEAN programs, or Clean Energy Accessible Now).

RES and feed-in tariff policies are complementary in that an RES sets the goal and a feed-in tariff is a tool for reaching the goal.

Require Federal Agencies to Reach 50% Electric Vehicles by 2020

On the transportation side of the energy equation, we face a much more difficult challenge. The electricity sector is already undergoing impressive transformation -- just not fast enough, and that's why I recommend the above measures. The transportation sector is a much tougher nut to crack because there are few truly viable alternatives to oil today. Electric vehicles, along with price-induced conservation (which will continue to happen naturally) and more efficient vehicles, present the best solutions for the transportation sector.

We've seen an impressive first two years of EV sales in the US and abroad -- but it's just a prelude to much bigger things. To accelerate this transition to EVs becoming mainstream, Obama should require that all federal agency fleets have 50% EVs by 2020. This would be a major spur to the market in the next few years and would help get the EV market to scale, allowing all consumers to realize significant savings in terms of lower EV costs.

It will be a tough slog to mitigate climate change and energy price issues in the coming years, but the recommendations above will be a good start.

 
 
Authored By:
Tam Hunt is a Lecturer in renewable energy law and policy at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara.
 

Other Posts by: Tam Hunt

The Saudi Problem - July 19, 2012
Toward Energy Literacy - April 17, 2012

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Power Plant Rules By Rick Barnett
 
 

Comments

February, 05 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

"The electricity sector is already undergoing effective transformation.." By that do you mean that a half dozen new nuclear plants have been given the OK and are under construction, or do you mean...

Anyway, if you read German, Tam, try reading some of the stuff they are writing in Germany about Ms Merkel's proposal to dump nuclear. The word most often used is 'crazy'.

But, I have become more sympathetic towards information about climate warming. That topic needs to be taken seriously, which is something that I generally refused to do, despite harangues from my wife.

February, 05 2013

Jim Beyer says

A carbon tax would be insane unless the rest of the world was on-board with it. That won't happen (at least anytime soon) so you'd have to add tariffs for imports from other carbon-using countries (like China).

Obama needs to figure out what to do with all the NG we now have. I suggest we bump up development on NG vehicles, and thus avoid some oil imports.

Finally, I think the left really bruised themselves with Solyndra-like investments. It's not Solyndra per-se, but the magical thinking that renewable energy should somehow be economical, when it usually isn't. Obama needs to clarify the nuclear storage situation (a travesty) to allow nuclear a chance to move ahead. Yes, there are some risks, but less risky than letting our Polar caps melt, or other problems that global warming could likely cause.

February, 06 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Jim, since people cant think ahead, the big issue is going to be damage control. If it is true that the polar caps might melt, then they are going to melt, and the point is to get into your caddy and head for Las Vegas. As for Mr Obama, he doesn't have the slightest idea of what is going on - it is all a show for him. Stationing marines in Australia...what is going on in that country?

February, 06 2013

John K. Sutherland says

Fred, and others who feel tempted to believe any of the hype about AGW, and before you finish downing the last of the Kool-aid, I recommend a sobering read of WUWT (the best science blog, with 139 million views) for a month or so, as well as a refresher course reading my own writings on this very site (energy pulse). Fred, you got one thing right: Obama doesn't have a clue. If it comes to that, niether does Tam.

February, 06 2013

Len Gould says

John. Didn't you mean "WUWT (the best science blog available for those who religiously deny the real science)" ?

February, 07 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I'm sorry, John, but these days I drink Champagne and not kool aid. And I dont need to look at anything. When the fools with access to TV sound off about global warming, I still tune out, but now I tune out because they are fools.

What am I saying. I am NOT saying that I believe what you call the hype about AGW, but that GW needs to be looked at and thought about and not dismissed because kool-aid junkies play a prominent role in the drama.

February, 07 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

While Natural Gas prices have been at historic lows, I do not share Tam's optimism that the situation is going to continue until 2030 as he proclaims.

The reasons - if any one cares to study what is really going on in that industry - that natural gas is cheap is because there is a lot of it and nowhere to go except North America and limited storage facilities.

That is about to change. Cheniere energy is converting an LNG plant from an import terminal to an export terminal and there are three of four other such facilites being converted. Now the gas DOES have somewhere to go....Asia.

For the first time in many years North America will be self sufficient in energy and a net exporter of oil. Oil imports from Saudi Arabia have already fallen dramatically and by 2020 there will be no more imports into North America. I do not buy the argument for continued oil price rises. Drilling and extraction technology is changing that whole paradigm.

I could be persuaded that natural gas will be relatively low for a while because other countries also have access (or soon will) to shale gas deposits but LNG is becoming an international commodity and will be traded that way.

The real change in natural gas generation which is having a much greater effect than anything Tam notes above is combined cycle generation where the hot gas output from a gas turbine is used to make steam for a steam turbine. These almost double the efficiency of conventional single cycle plants to the 65% range.

I could see deployment of this on a large scale in China to replace coal and clean up the city air alongside nuclear they are a perfect fit with nuclear as a base and gas providing some base plus all peaking loads.

And one final point - we Canadians have no sympathy with you regarding the price of gas Tam. Most of ours is tax already.

Malcolm

February, 08 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

2030 you say Malcolm. The president of the US and his energy flunkies seem to be claiming 2110, and as for oil exports from the US, well...

I call shale gas a shale gas mirage, which is what it is up to now. But that could change, and when it does I hope to join the dancing in the streets in the US.

February, 08 2013

Bob Amorosi says

I must agree with Malcolm about shale oil and gas from North America. The Bakken shale deposit in the center of North America is massive - straddling the US-Canadian border between Montana and North Dakota and Alberta and Saskatchewan. It has started an energy gold rush in some American and Canadian small towns who are courting the setting up of dozens of drilling sites. The potential oil and gas available from this deposit alone rivals the Alberta oil sands.

February, 08 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

It is late at night here in Sweden, and my memory is hazy, but one of the big shale deposits in the US was looked at by one of the oldest government organizations, and its estimated reserves were immediately downgraded by a large amount. As for shale oil, I was once called a fool by an American executive when I put in a good word for shale oil in my oil book and at a conference. They can set up all of the drilling sites they want, but Exxon apparently lost 41 billion - or something like that - dollars because of a shale deal.

Needless to say, I want this shale thing to be more than a mirage, but I am unable to buy some of the optimism going around about that resource. Too many smart people have told me that shale gas cannot pay its way, at least with he present gas price.

February, 08 2013

Jim Beyer says

Fred and Bob and Malcolm,

I've been trying to get my head around oil shale and gas shale stuff myself. Don't know if the optimism is well-placed or not.

It looks like US oil production peaked around 9.5 million barrels/day in 1970. Production drifted downward to about so by 2008 we were at about 5 million barrels per day. Now (2012) we are up to 6.4 million barrels/day, heading to 7.3 million barrels for 2013. That's significant, no doubt about it.

Domestic consumption has been about 20 million barrels/day (give or take) for the last few years, so I'm not sure what they mean about us REALLY exporting oil anytime soon (maybe refined products, as we have good refining capacity at this point). Consumption in 1970 was about 15 million barrels/day or so.

Mileage for cars rose from 14 to 22.5 MPG from 1970 to the present.

The big bugaboo is how long will it last? Lots of indicators that these wells don't last like conventional ones. Also hard to see (in the wake of world consumption) how even large increases in production would impact on oil prices, which are set by world demand.

It's really just a good economic boost to the U.S., no more and no less. A bunch of oil has been found domestically, by domestic companies, so they get a bunch of money for it. The Middle East will still get money for their oil as prices won't change. "Drill, baby drill" is an economic mantra, and has nothing to do with oil dependency. If we lowered our buying price for oil (from the world market price) then all that local oil would go straight overseas.

So, a help for the US economy, not much else. Doesn't even make me mistrust Hubbert. (Oh, if the U.S. is the only people that know how to do this, then perhaps there's some further economic gain from exporting the technology/knowhow abroad, but again, just economic.)

Even the AGW situation is driven more by coal than oil, though all this extra oil and NG won't help. What we SHOULD do is use this respite that this oil has provided to develop a comprehensive PLAN to deal with the future when these well do fail. Which they will, and sooner I think than the experts will admit.

There's a well-known bumper sticker that was commonplace in Alaska. It said something like "Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away next time".

Let's not blow this one.

February, 09 2013

Len Gould says

Love that last quote, Jim. Excellent.

February, 09 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Jim, you are right when you indicate that the price at which OPEC sells oil will not change - for a while at least. But for the time being OPEC is going to obtain that price by adjusting their production. The situation is as follows: OPEC likes and wants a trillion dollars a year, and they are in position to arrange exactly that.

Wouldn't you?

February, 09 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred is correct of course that shale oil is not at all the same as that from the middle east which has been likened by some to pushing a straw through a few feet of sand. the costs of extraction are indeed dramatically different. But like all things in this world we get better and smarter with our technology. Nothing compares to the low extraction costs of Middle Eastern oil but oil shale extraction compares very favorably to drilling in deep water which is where the exploration has gone to following the land based oil wells drying up.

Also of importance is that there are many deposits of shale oil in the world. Most of California sits on top of one. The Marcellus shale (although apparently mostly natural gas) is enormous.

The key message is that domestic oil production in North America is increasing not decreasing and that means less dependence on imports from OPEC. Perhaps it is not sustainable for the long term. But it is a lot more sustainable that fighting countless wars.

Canada and the US of course are not the only countries with shale oil and gas deposits. China is buying the drilling technology to exploit its own deposits and I am sure that they like buying oil and gas from the Middle East even less than we in North America do.

The Athabasca Tar Sands were considered uneconomic at one time but that clearly is not the case now. In situ extraction technology has changed all that and there are more processes coming along that will make it much easier to extract and process.

One of the limitations currently holding up Bakken output is the means for getting it to market. That is the critical importance of the Keystone pipeline which together with the Bakken Market link pipe will take oil down to the Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada is already building this leg of the pipeline south through Oklahoma and Texas.

OPEC is in the catbird seat at the moment.....but just like DeBoers monopoly of diamond pricing it is going to come to an end soon. Too many nations are fed up with being held to ransom.

Unfortunately Obama is all set to blow this one Jim. If he fails to approve Keystone, TransCanada will ship to the east coast of Canada using existing modified gas pipelines. Asia markets will be supplied by oil lines and rail links through Alaska. Canada will sell its oil - the only question is to who would you rather we sell it. Of course we would sooner sell it to our friends to the south but if it is not wanted then east and west it will go. And that will be a shame.

Malcolm

February, 09 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Just a bit of news. The US trade deficit narrowed dramatically last month. The reason: Oil exports and lower oil imports. The times are a-changing. Malcolm

February, 09 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Tam you made a point in the last paragraph regarding electric vehicles in which you said

"The transportation sector is a much tougher nut to crack because there are few truly viable alternatives to oil today."

That is not at all true. Converting cars and trucks to natural gas is easy to do and compressed gas cylinders (much safer by the way than gasoline in tanks) can be fitted into most vehicles. Of course this is not in the interests of the oil companies (who own all the "GAS" stations) so they do not provide the necessary connections to allow fill up from the vast network of distribution lines already in existence. So yes indeed there are alternatives to oil and they are proven to work and they are cheap to install.

Malcolm

February, 10 2013

Jim Beyer says

Malcolm,

I agree with you in theory about NG vehicles, but that never seems to get going, does it? Why? Well, yes, part of it is the oil companies and their gas stations. But another part is the gas tax that the federal gov't and state gov'ts are so happy to get. With natural gas, they could largely lose control of that. A shame, as NG is the way to go, at least for automobiles. Maybe still use diesel for trucks, but maybe NG for them too.

February, 10 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Completely agree Jim. The reason we do not have natural gas vehicles is because neither the oil companies nor the various governments want it. Oil companies because they make more money selling oil than gas (natural gas needs little refining) and the Governments because of all those lovely taxes.

Another key reason is that many people have natural gas in their homes therefore it is entirely possible to fill up your vehicle at home. That would likely mean the end of thousands of gasoline distribution stations - and the profits they make.

On the other side of the coin are the car makers who know very well that vehicles operating on natural gas last very much longer. They eagerly promote hybrids and electrics because they can sell you a brand new battery after three years for only half the initial price of the car.

The technology is already there. The fuels is there in enormous quantities. It is far better environmentally and therefore there is only one reason why we do not have it and that is money.

Malcolm

February, 12 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Hmm, maybe that young soldier Fred Banks will have to take a closer look at gas. Some mighty powerful arguments are above.

February, 12 2013

Bob Ashworth says

Climate change is a hoax by people wanting to make money from a big lie. All gases and dust in the atmosphere cool the planet, they don't warm it. Also CO2 from man's activities is only some 12 ppmv with natural processes supplying the other 380 ppmv. Without CO2 man and plants coud not exist on the earth. CO2 is needed for plant growth and plants make oxygen from the CO2 so that man can live. How about using real science rather than smoke and mirrors.

February, 12 2013

Jim Beyer says

Bob,

Water is needed for life as well. But I wouldn't want you sitting at the bottom of Lake Huron. How about stop using the same specious arguments.

Fred,

I've had a fun time asking automakers why they are (or were) so keen on hydrogen, but so cool on natural gas. Their arguments and protestations rarely make much sense. natural gas is a denser fuel (even accounting for the improved efficiency of fuel cells). The infrastructure is in place, at least much more so than hydrogen. About the only difference is that hydrogen can be compressed up to 10,000 psi whereas NG only up to about 3,600 psi. (It has to do with the nature of the gases.) The bugaboo is that each hydrogen molecule (H2) has only one energy bond, whereas CH4 has 4 that are 80% of the strength of the H-H bond, so 3.2 times the energy storage per molecule. Pretty darn good (compared to hydrogen). Hydrogen proponents stress that the car only emits water, but as Bob indicates, CO2 is a naturally occurring substance, so you can counter the emission from some other easier-to-harvest source. The REAL reason hydrogen is pushed (in my opinion) is that it would be a controllable, taxable fuel. Even though it makes little sense.

February, 12 2013

Doug Houseman says

The problem is not that we can't pass bills and enact regulation. The problem is we have no comprehensive understanding of what each piece does.

The EPA said that their changes to the emissions would shut at MOST 6,000 MW of generation - the number is now north of 20,000 MW and still growing.

Changes to pipeline rules? What is the impact? not what was first discussed, that is for sure.

We need to take a step back and really understand the impact of the regulations we have, what we propose and what we might want to add, across all agencies - EPA, FERC, OSHA, etc.

The author is right one point - this is too important to mess up.

I would hope that the various agencies would coordinate with each other to create a better understanding of the impact of regulations and from that a comprehensive energy policy could be crafted. Comprehensive from building and remodeling codes, to transportation, market design, to electricity, to energy star, to job creation, etc.

Piece meal policy and regulation - the status quo - is going to be the death of many jobs and leave many people in cold dark buildings if we are not careful.

February, 12 2013

Len Gould says

Doug. -- "The EPA said that their changes to the emissions would shut at MOST 6,000 MW of generation - the number is now north of 20,000 MW". Welllll... chances are that the other 12,000 MW closures, at least, were caused by the low recent prices of Natural Gas regardless of any EPA regulations.

February, 12 2013

bill payne says

Personal computiing industry llappears to have hit the panic button on electricty consumptin.

Not my worrds but my labs.

Lenovo G580 Core i3 Solar powered laptop project. Another

BS artists annoy me electric energy project. /

February, 12 2013

bill payne says

'Anyway, if you read German, Tam, try reading some of the stuff they are writing in Germany about Ms Merkel's proposal to dump nuclear. The word most often used is 'crazy'.'

"He spoke six different lamguages and never said anything worth llistening to'in ant of them " was advised, Tam. :)

February, 12 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Whether or not you consider global warming as real or not the choice of hydrogen over natural gas is to put it mildly - idiotic. Mainly because you have to break the hydrogen out of some other molecule first and that takes energy. There is lots of hydrogen on earth except it is bound up in things like water and hydrocarbons. These reactions occurred to get to the lowest energy state. To reverse that means putting in a pile more energy. In other words the return on energy invested is negative.

Add to that the fact that there is no distribution system capable of handling hydrogen and you would need to burn lots of fossil fuels to build one then the whole idea is complete nonsense.

So why indeed would car companies promote hydrogen fuel cells. Answer is simple - money. Billions to be made supplying hydrogen infrastructure.

Natural gas is the perfect fuel for cars. It needs no development, needs no infrastructure, is safer than gasoline, works fine in almost any ICE and is plentiful for hundreds if not thousands of years. So why would car companies not promote methane gas. Answer is simple - money. There is nothing to be made supplying methane infrastructure - it already exists - and worse - it is already controlled by other companies. Not a cent to be made there.

That is the way the corporate world works. Companies are in business to make money - not promote a technology or do good for the environment.

Malcolm

February, 12 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Got to agree with you Bob, Carbon Dioxide seems to be regarded by the GW fraternity as something of a poison not something essential to life. High amounts of CO2 are great for growing things since that is what plants need.

We will see what the great Obama has to say on the subject.

Malcolm

February, 12 2013

Don Hirschberg says

Just for the sake of argument let's say Obama were the Supreme Ruler. Let's say he could (the economy be damned) cut US CO2 emissions by half. I am sure we could make a good estimate how much this would reduce worldwide CO2 emissions. But I'll take a stab at it right off the top of my head. Precision is not really needed. How about 10%?

If we are to give any credence at all to what to what we have been told by “all competent scientists” for decades (yes, decades) we have long gone past the point of no return. If any of those “competent scientists” who proclaimed that the emission rate of 1990 were far more than could be tolerated without any hope of recovery I haven't heard from them. Nor from the incompetent scientists.

Every year we set new CO2 world emission records. We can't even favorably bend the curve much less see a decrease. Instead we see how great has been the impressive percentage increase in green energy – exercises in how to lie with numbers. Tons of CO2 is what counts.

Billions of people in southern Asia and Africa have not even entered the age of electricity – where we have been for 100 years. And government programs or “policies had nothing to do with it – or until it was fait acclompi.

The US does not have the handle on CO2 emissions for the world. No need for harikari. Arithmetic rules.

It is so easy to be on the side of the angels.

February, 13 2013

Jim Beyer says

Don,

I don't get your point. People are stupid. They overfish species until the populations crash. They pollute unnecessarily. They breed too much.

OK, they aren't stupid. But the political machinery needed to address these concerns rationally seem to fail us.

February, 13 2013

Michael Keller says

Seems to me Tam's proposals are all based on the assumptions: man is causing the climate to change; the change will be catastrophic; and renewable energy will prevent the catastrophe from occurring. Therefore we must funnel taxpayer money to green energy.

The whole thesis is built on quicksand and constructed of inferior materials.

Man caused climate destruction remains highly speculative and is becoming even more wobbly as more accurate actual temperature information becomes available; the increase seems to have paused over the last ten years.

Renewable energy cannot make even a dent in CO2 emissions; too little reduction relative to the rate of increase.

So what should Obama's energy policy be? 1. Support reducing the amount of energy we actually use through conservation and increased efficiency improvements. This is vastly more effective than deploying high-priced and unreliable green energy. 2. SHALE GAS!!!! 3. Pipelines to move oil & gas from production areas (especially Canada).

These lead to lower energy bills and increased government revenues. Some of this additional revenue can be be used to help private industry develop more cost effective renewable energy resources.

NOTE: Under no circumstances should the government get involved with bankrolling tHe deployment of energy resources as the government is utterly inept at picking winners and losers in the marketplace.

February, 13 2013

Jim Beyer says

Michael,

Regarding your final NOTE, I think Malcolm makes a good case of how the 'market' is preventing the deployment of NG vehicles, even though it seems it would be for the greater social and economic good. I'm not really disagreeing with you, but sometimes the market itself is inept at picking winners and losers in the marketplace. (Due to inertia and quasi-monopolies.)

If you don't want to deal with the AGW stuff, then I'd look to our oil use and how it funnels cash to crazy folks in the Middle East.

February, 13 2013

Don Hirschberg says

Jim, here's what I was thinking:

1)Back ten and more years ago we saw more or less daily very scary information about CO2 data, how much was being dissolved in the oceans, how much used by plants, etc. The tons of CO2 emissions were plotted against the ppm in the atmosphere – sort of a Domesday clock. We were told how close we were to the edge of the cliff. We went over that cliff long ago and have presumably been in free-fall ever since. Now there seems to be a taboo about mentioning it.

2)Once in free-fall I rarely heard any CO2 figures. But that made perfect sense – too late to do anything about it? That's what the science had warned us would happen. Very loudly warned us.

3)Now we are scolded – even by some on EnergyPulse for questioning the science. Science that can't abide questioning is called dogma. We also have some Pollyanna.

4)So if we are over the cliff what is the case for great reduction in CO2 emissions. What is the increased benefit of delaying the burning of a fossil fuel if it is going to get burned eventually anyway? 5)How does the Indonesian without a car, air/conditioning, or hot running water decrease his CO2 emissions? In fact if he can buy an a/c he is not likely to worry that it will run on coal. Who could blame him?

6)If we all (including those with essentially no income) had some serviceable electric service reducing CO2 might be feasible. All we would have to do is add the generating capacity for the 100 million additional people every year and gradually chip away at the existing plants. Alas we have to start from the present. And I don't see any way to get there from here.

February, 13 2013

Len Gould says

I love the standard line of argument. "There's no need to do anything about CO2 emissions. And anyway, even if there was, it is impossible!" Speaking of speculative doomsayers.... Where have I heard all that before? Ah, yes. In discussions of Mercury pollution, Sulphur emissions, Nitrogen oxide emissions, smog reduction, ...... More same-old same-old.

February, 13 2013

Michael Keller says

If you believe that global warming is a major problem, then you should be advocating deploying good solutions. That does not include renewable energy because much better solutions are available. Really simple measures that are very effective; e.g. put more insulation in the attic. Alas, such simple solutions do not lend themselves to paybacks so politicians can continue to buy elections.

February, 13 2013

Jim Beyer says

Don,

I don't think anyone knows exactly what the precise tipping point is. 350.org advocates returning CO2 levels to 350 ppm. Most people seem to think that 450 ppm would be pretty severe. So I don't think the 'cliff' is as precise as implied.

And as to throwing in the towel because the situation is hopeless, I'm not sure I can agree to that. Even if it was certain that was the case, which I don't think it is.

February, 13 2013

Don Hirschberg says

You guys don't seem to get it. I have no idea where the “cliff” is, or if there really is one, nor where is the point of “no return” or if there is one. I picked these phrases up over the decades in stories of and by “all competent scientists.” - how many times did we see that phrase. I have always used the phrase with a wee bit of tongue in cheek, “all competent scientists” indeed. But they, not me, fixed a CO2 level from which we could never recover.

Did the GHG believers protest this science?

This isn't a boxing match so throwing in the towel is not an apt expression. There has been no match. CO2 emission have never been cut – quite the contrary - each year we use more fossil fuels. Looking from the outside it is as if the project has never been started.

It is cause for celebration when new oil or gas is discovered and these finds are promptly exploited. Why not lamented?

My projection of Man's disaster pre-dates the concentration on global warming concerns over-population, not CO2. I figured the population cliff was at about 3.5 billion in the mid '60 – that is that was the latest we could act to recover our civilization. Alas, seems reducing the population is as intractable as reducing CO2.

February, 14 2013

Len Gould says

Don. When you get thinking about that too much, just go to Fun's video of their hit We Are Young. At least they're celebrating while it all burns.

February, 14 2013

Jim Beyer says

Don,

It isn't so much about oil, but coal. (Though the oil doesn't help, there's no short-term limit to coal use.)

Scary Graph

February, 14 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I agree with your observation Don that the phrases we have heard over and over again - all made by "competent scientists" appear to be wrong. Just a few short years ago it was the "new ice age" that "competent scientists" were saying was the impending doom of the day. Then it was "Global Warming" as the flavour of the week and now (because some glaciers are actually getting bigger - not smaller) it is "Climate Change".

The "competent scientific" rhetoric changes with the direction of the wind.

One of my interests is watching human behavour because it tells me so much about what is REALLY going on. When I watch the UN inter governmmental panel on climate change organize meetings for thousands of delegates at nice locations in Rio de Janiero, Copenhagen and Durban that necessitates the burning of millions of tons of aviation fuel I can only come to the conclusion that these people are as serious about their profession as I am about the existence of a Man in the Moon. They are either gigantic hypocrites or do not really believe a word they say.

I think it is about 50-50.

And I hear what you say that we should lament not rejoice the discovery of more fossil deposits...how ironic is that.

Of course one never hears that there are positive outcomes if the climate gets warmer. More CO2 means better food production (plants really like CO2) vast areas of the northern tundra in Russia and Canada will open up for food production and we might even get Palm trees in Toronto. We might even get to go visit Baffin Island with its new cities.

And there is plenty of room and resources in this universe for 7 billion people. You just have to think outside the earth.

Malcolm

February, 15 2013

Jim Beyer says

Some areas might benefit from global warming, but lots of places would get worse. We already have many areas that are desert and already very hot. But the real problem is the change that would occur that would disrupt our economies and infrastructures. All very expensive. And not conducive to support all these people we have now and the more coming in the future.

And, the "new ice age" garbage (that climate scientists said would happen) is a myth. Look it up. And please quit forwarding garbage information. That never happened.

February, 15 2013

Michael Keller says

The planet's shorelines have always been changing and for reasons that have nothing to do with the amount of CO2 in the air. Another one of the green religion's "red herring" arguments.

Fact is, we have no idea what the future holds for climate change because we have not yet developed models that (1) incorporate all the fundamental drivers and (2) are able to deal with the highly non-linear nature process. Perhaps the underlying processes are just too complex for any model to accurately deal with the distant future. Anybody that says otherwise is a charlatan.

We do know that if we use energy more wisely, we will reduce our costs and will reduce CO2, regardless of whether or not the stuff can create a problem in the future. That is what the Obama administation should be pushing as an energy policy.

February, 16 2013

Bob Amorosi says

Obama clearly pointed out in his state-of-the-union the other day that there are two camps - those that believe more frequent and intense climate events of recent years are one-time events, or are a result of human activities causing climate change that the overwhelming majority of scientific "judgment" is proclaiming to be the case. Judgment is the key word - it is often fraught with uncertainty because it is made by the human mind, not by mathematics or computer models, although to the science community the latter have very strong influence on their judgments. Obama is saying that the overwhelming majority should be heeded because if they are correct, we cannot afford to do nothing. He is betting on odds that he majority of science people are very likely and most often correct.

So whether any of you writers or readers like it or not, we're going to get more serious action to reduce carbon and other emissions, one way or another.

February, 16 2013

Don Hirschberg says

Many times I have referred to the the report of “all competent scientists” at Kyoto Protocol meetings.

They did NOT say reducing CO2 emissions would be nice – that it might mitigate the rate global warming. No, they said CO2 emissions had to be reduced to 1990 values and never allowed to rise above that level again because the world was at the point of no return – we were teetering at the edge of the cliff. Once in free-fall we were doomed. Too late to order a parachute.

While I couldn't believe it I had no way to challenge“all competent scientists.” Seems just about everyone who gushed over the Kyoto science rejects it now but somehow is unwilling to say so.

Getting back to 2011 emission rates would be daunting enough. Getting back to 1990 rates a pipe dream.

February, 16 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Don, we may not always agree on everything but what you said above is exactly how I saw that this issue was presented. We are all doomed if we don't get CO2 down to 1990 levels....no IF's AND's or BUT's...a dead certainty. The hockey stick curve developed by "competent scientists" with a penchant for leaving important bits of data out - said it must be so. So since then we have pumped billions more tons of the material into the air. There is no way that CO2 levels in the atmosphere are ever going to get to 1990 levels - even if we stopped burning fossil fuels now...and that sure ain't gonna happen.

From that the logical conclusion must be that (a) we are indeed all doomed whatever we do from now on because it is already too late or (b) the whole thing is so much hogwash. I am forced to consider the latter as the only possibility since I can do nothing to change the former.

Well put Don.

Malcolm

February, 16 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Bob, Yes indeed we will certainly get more serious about it. Obama is good at getting more serious about things. Whether anything is actually done about it is another thing. I would certainly like Mr Obama to do something about it as the inevitable conclusion will be to build more combined cycle gas plants and more nuclear plants. Nothing else will even make a dent in Carbon Dioxide emissions. Of course shutting down the US economy would be another way he could reduce emissions and he has had some success in doing that.

Building windmills and solar panels puts more not less CO2 into the air so that won't work. Electric cars won't do much either unless their power comes from nuclear. So not sure what the magic Obama fix is.....maybe him and Dilip should get together because with Obamas rhetoric and Dilips inventive genius they must surely make for a winning combination.

Don't hold your breath on that one.

Malcolm

February, 16 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Michael, Like your common sense posts...they make a refreshing change. Of course you are right. The only thing constant about the world is that it constantly changes. There should be no expectation from any human being on this planet that what we have now will always be. The earth would not have developed into what we see today without massive changes and those same processes are still at work.

Coast lines constantly change, the climate constantly changes, the weather constantly changes. We need to expect that. Florida has been sinking for centuries - nothing at all to do with sea levels. The land is going down as the Rockies are being pushed up.

And absolutely right on the money when you say we have no idea what the future climate will be like. Whether the human race has a large or small or no influence on it the climate will changes - of that we can be certain.

Our best bet is indeed to make the most efficient use of our resources based on proven science not wring our hands in despair based on imprecise and unproven hypotheses.

Malcolm

February, 18 2013

Len Gould says

Don says ” Seems just about everyone who gushed over the Kyoto science rejects it now but somehow is unwilling to say so." -- Excellent example of the sorts of logic used to fight the science. No facts or statistics or references which might enable a rational person to examine (or, heavens forfend, actually dispute) the position, just a very seductive logical fallacy.

February, 18 2013

Don Hirschberg says

What really should have been stressed at Kyoto and Copenhagen (outside of having met 50 years earlier) is how very slowly atmospheric CO2 levels are reduced in nature. Nature makes limestone (CaCO3) at geological rates, not man's rates. However there is plenty of Calcium in the oceans.

Here is a little perspective on the CO2 problem: Since 1990 (Kyoto base year) coal usage has gone up 65%. 2011 was an all-time record for coal production. Coal represents 30.3% (highest percentage since 1969) of primary energy supply and generates 42% of the world's electricity.

Lest we forget,shale oil and shale gas are fossil fuel bonanzas. And population continues to grow.

February, 19 2013

Jim Beyer says

I continue to not understand the logic. A) Kyoto said we should lower CO2 levels. B) We haven't done that. => C) The science is wrong! How does A and B lead to C? The science is at least correct insofar that the CO2 levels have continued to rise as predicted.

Don, one could also say: A) Paul Ehrlich with 'The Population Bomb' warned us about overpopulation in 1968, B) Club of Rome with 'The Limits to Growth' warned us about overpopulation in 1972, C) Disaster did not happen when they predicted => D) The Science is wrong! Have as many kids as you want, and turn up the A/C!

February, 19 2013

Len Gould says

Further example of your logical fallacy Don, with the position reversed. "Most people agree that hurricane Sandy, the worst storm to hit the northeast US coast since useful records have been kept, was caused by global warming but are unwilling to say so aloud."

See, simply because I state a something AS a fact does not MAKE it a fact. In truth I believe that global warming made only a small contribution to the damage from Sandy (it's a bit too soon yet for that IMHO). Much greater contributor was the coincidence in time of the storm landfall and a strong spring tide, along with a strong high pressure zone over the northern Atlantic which pushed the storm landward on a track never seen before for such a storm.

February, 19 2013

Bob Amorosi says

The pressure is mounting from the public to get off oil dependence and do something to reduce carbon emissions because everyone on the street can see the climate change going on. I heard the other day that it will be the end of winter as we know it in Canada. Witness the large crowds in Washington a few days ago demonstrating against the Keystone pipeline. I would watch for Obama to favor natural gas, more electric hybrid vehicles, more renewables like solar and wind generation, and probably, hopefully, more nuclear to refurbish or replace the existing aging nuclear fleet.

So unfortunately for Don, his flawed science arguments wont matter anymore, nor will the growing population problem he harps on. For it is public pressure on our governments and politics that will rule in the end. Fortunately for us, we have a well educated society today and most of the public pressure is/will be in the right direction.

February, 19 2013

Don Hirschberg says

"So unfortunately for Don, his flawed science arguments wont matter anymore..."

Bob, would you kindly tell me what you mean?

February, 20 2013

Bob Amorosi says

Don, just read Jim Beyers post immediately before mine to see what I mean.

Many scientists are not as dumb as some might think. They are fully aware that it is public pressure and politics that will ultimately decide what gets done or not. When they see alarm bells and trends that threaten the world, they are quite capable of exaggerating or overstating the urgency to do something, particularly when there is large uncertainty about the timeline before it becomes too late, and too when they are well aware that public pressure is usually not proactive but rather reactive to changes in the environment.

February, 20 2013

Ed Dodge says

We need to embrace natural gas for transportation. Electric vehicles are fine for short distance-light payload work, but they are a non starter for large vehicles. We are not going to run airplanes, container ships, trucks, heavy equipment, etc. on batteries, but we can run them all on methane.

Methane from natural gas, methane hydrates, biomethane, waste, there are lots of resources for methane, both fossil and renewable. Replacing coal with methane is an immediate 50% reduction in CO2 for electricity production. Replacing petrol with methane is around 20% reduction, using all fossil resources, add in hybrid vehicles and biomethane and we are approaching 50% or more. Plus there is no black carbon, sulfur, lead and all the other pollutants common to coal and petroleum. Another plus is improved engine life as the fuel leaves behind no gunk in the motor.

We can put a lot of people to work building out gas infrastructure and retooling our vehicles. Oh yeah, and end the wars in the Middle East, another minor bonus.

February, 20 2013

Don Hirschberg says

Bob, I had considered a comment on that Jim Beyer comment above but realized it would be a big project, something like the size of War and Peace. And if I had chosen to comment on just part of it sharp shooters would have had a field day pointing out my omissions.

Jim starts out: “..Kyoto said we should lower CO2 levels...”

No, it does not. Kyoto tells us to emit less CO2 because once we make it we don't know how to get rid of the excess – quite a different thing. Of course we could shoot rockets full of CO2 off into space or hide it temporarily. The arithmetic is not encouraging, a dilemma that every day gets worse.

Before man used fossil fuels the carbon cycle was in balance in terms of man's time spans. But now we are putting back into the air the CO2 plants used millions of years ago The CO2 levels in the air and oceans had to go up.

February, 21 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Bob , I do not see any public pressure to get off oil. All the people who went to Washington demonstrate got there either by aeroplane (100% oil dependent transport) or car (100% oil dependent transport) or they may have used the subway in DC (let's say 50% coal dependent). Not one of them walked (except perhaps from their car).

None of the people who flew to Qatar recently to discuss the impending collapse of the world from our profligate use of oil walked there. And even walking there produces Carbon Dioxide.

There is absolutely NO impetus from the public to get off oil. Lots of talk and not much else. Oil use continues to increase and will soon surpass 90 million bbl/day.

Ed Dodge notes above that it is easy enough to convert existing vehicles to burn natural gas. No new infrastructure needed. No new technology needed. Instead we tinker around with electric vehicles whose electricity will be produced by natural gas or nuclear or coal. A completely idiotic and inefficient process if ever there was one. So once again NO impetus to get off oil at all.

While I have had my disagreements with Don H I think the point he is making is being missed. I agree with him that the climate modelers did indeed say that if we did not reduce CO2 levels to 1990 levels we would be past the "tipping point" (that was the phrase actually used) and here we are putting unprecedented volumes of these gasses into the atmosphere. So if you believe what these modelers say nothing we can do now can change anything. If it was all over bar the shouting in 2000 or 2005 or whatever irrelevant date was the tipping point then years later with ever increasing CO2 levels we are really done like a dinner.

No point in discussing - it's already too late. If you believe a word of it of course.

Malcolm

February, 21 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Len, I always enjoy your posts even if I do not agree with your position sometimes. But I have to take you to task on the issue of Hurricane Sandy. In a previous post you did indeed attribute Hurricane Sandy to global warming as did most of the media. This storm was a very mild Category 2 hurricane. It did strike the US north east coast at a time of high tide and did considerably damage. However that is a matter of probability and nothing at all to do with Global warming. However I see this example used as an argument that the global warming fraternity is right (the I told you so's)...one of which was yourself.

The fact that the hurricane did alot of damage was due to the simple fact that there was more property in its path than there would have been 100 years ago. Of course there will be more damage but attributable to global warming....complete and utter nonsense.

I hear commentators repeatedly say that "storms are getting worse" - even the great meaningless mouthpiece in the State of the Union address said so. That is also complete baloney. The number of hurricanes and the severity thereof has NOT changed. The National Hurricane Centre (who knows much more about these natural phenomena that Obama will ever know) shows no indication that the number of hurricanes has increased or decreased from the average. Neither has the strength of them as measured by wind speed changed very much.

There is zero evidence that Hurricane Sandy had anything to do with Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere and no evidence that the frequency or severity of these storms has changed much in the last 50 years.

Hurricane Sandy did more damage because there was more human stuff in its path. That simple. Don't build a million dollar home on the beach is the lesson to be learned.

Malcolm

February, 21 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Science is only a set of theories until proved one way or the other by experiments that are repeatable. There are other competing theories that are not given any air time because they don't fit the political agenda of the socialstas who like to tell us what to do.

Climate change is simply a set of unprovable theories and if they are right we are already too late to do anything about it....except move to the mountains.

I just can't wait until I can grow bananas in Canada. Bring it on.

Malcolm

February, 21 2013

Len Gould says

Malcolm -- "There is zero evidence that Hurricane Sandy had anything to do with Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere" -- But that's exactly what I said in my post.

February, 22 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Bob, I am with you where the harping of Don on the population problem is concerned. The only person I know who harps more on that problem is...myself, only I mostly do it at breakfast, which infuriates my wife.

I will admit though that Canada and the culture of that country might enable it to avoid some of the economic, social and political difficulties that certain other countries will experience - NOTE, certain other countries. But one country that won't avoid those difficulties is the US, and maybe they wont avoid them even if they stop electing ignoramuses like George W. and Mr Obama president.

February, 22 2013

Bob Amorosi says

Malcolm, the public pressure to get off oil dependence in the US is not because everyone dislikes using oil. It's because the public is fed up with unstable and continuously rising oil prices that hurts them in the pocketbook at the gas pumps. If it weren't for this, there would be no talk of getting off oil. And besides no one is going to give up using their cars and airplanes that use oil until we have practical and affordable alternatives. Note walking long distances even to get to a demonstration in Washington is not a practical alternative.

In any case I'm hearing there is a very good chance Obama will veto the Keystone pipeline.

February, 22 2013

Jim Beyer says

Malcolm (and Don),

So you are saying that since the scientists (at least some or many of them) say we are past the tipping point, we shouldn't do anything at all. Do you really believe that? What I mean is: If you really believed we were past the tipping point, then you really wouldn't do anything at all?

What I think you are actually doing is making a specious argument about a nit (a fair-sized one) just as Don did when he corrected me on what Kyoto was about (He was correct, but missed the larger point.) You are doing this because it avoids having to argue about the validity of AGW in general. sarcasm_on. Oh, how very clever of you! sarcasm_off.

Whether AGW is a threat or not, this isn't some kind of oratory 'game' wherein you 'win' if you can find a logical problem in an earlier pronouncement. Given that you don't much believe the scientists anyway, it's not logical for you to 'pick and choose' their pronouncements of being past the tipping point and thus we need not do anything. If you think they are completely wrong anyway, then they could also only be partly wrong in that we are close to the tipping point. Or new technology could help us more than they had expected.

Overall, it's a pretty ugly strategy, and not hard to see through.

February, 22 2013

Len Gould says

Agreed Jim. I think it's getting to a "tipping point" of sorts with the denier crowd, they are having to resort to really desperate arguments to shore up their increasingly untenable positions.

February, 23 2013

Don Hirschberg says

What argument(s)? Just what is in contention? Just where is my science and arithmetic in error? What can public pressure do about CO2? Can someone tell me how the existing world inventory of CO2 can be reduced? The case for reducing CO2 would seem to be a question for “social science” not science. When the former causes the later to lie both are corrupted.

February, 23 2013

Don Hirschberg says

The penultimate sentence should have the word "emissions" inserted. ...reducing CO2 EMISSIONS would seem... Sorry.

February, 23 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Len, I was referring to a previous post (not on this topic) shortly after Hurricane Sandy when you did indeed say that the Hurricane was evidence of Global Warming. Perhaps I misread what you said but I do recall responding to you that is was a coincidence of high tides and strong winds and not all all to do with climate change. However show me a media outlet that is not claiming it was all a result of climate change. There are none - so the public walks away with the uncontested belief that this perfectly normal low power hurricane was somehow unusual and completely due to the utter nonsense of global warming. Malcolm

February, 23 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

To all above who have completely misunderstood or misrepresented what I said.

I am a logical individual and I apply logic to what has been stated regarding this issue.

I said IF you believe the global warming scientists then we are already past the tipping point where there is already too much CO2 in the atmosphere. If we did not burn one more lump of coal or one more gallon of oil then the CO2 already there will cause the global temperature to increase AND there is nothing further we can do about it. We would need to REMOVE carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce its level to make any difference. Indeed that is EXACTLY what these computer modelers who lay claim to the description of "scientist" have said repeatedly. I see no one removing CO2 from the atmosphere. In fact every one of us by our breathing is increasing it. IF you believe these guys then absolutely - there is nothing further that can be done and it is already too late.

So you either believe they are right in which case reducing CO2 production will make NO difference to the outcome or as I do you consider the whole argument a complete sham.

You cannot believe half the story at your convenience. You either believe it or you don't.

Malcolm

February, 23 2013

Len Gould says

Malcolm. You may be correct, I don't claim to recall every statement I've made here, but it would definitely have been against my standard position on the topic if I had blamed Sandy on global warming, as I definitely take the position that it would be surprising to me if the effects of adding GHG's to the atmosphere showed up already in serious consequences. From studying e.g. antartic recordings of GHG's v.s. temperature, it appears that the relationaship is MUCH more slow acting, e.g. in the realm of centuries or more rather than decades. I could reallly care less if global warming damages some infrastructure along the east coast of N. America, it can afford it and the rebuilding costs will be counted as a plus toward GDP. What worries me is destroying the river deltas in Asia which won;t take much rise in sea level to accomplish, and which are irreplaceable as food production for a huge proportion of the world's population.

February, 24 2013

Don Hirschberg says

Look, I am getting quite annoyed that what I have written is either not being read or is not comprehended.

The CO2 level goes up because we are making much CO2 by burning carbon compounds made hundreds of millions of years ago.

The CO2 from our every exhalation or cow fart is from carbon compounds made this year or a recent year. That is not the problem.

What is the problem is that we are suddenly releasing the carbon of fossil fuels made hundreds of millions of years ago. Man has only been around for about a million years. And we have only been releasing CO2 in excess for about 200 years – not even a geological second, an infinitesimal time. The CO2 content of the air and sea water had to go up.

Man does not know how to to decrease atmospheric CO2 or oceanic CO2. Let me say that again. Man does not know how to decrease atmospheric or oceanic CO2. Sure, formation of teeth and bones and sea shells removes CO2 (as CaCo3). But until we started using fossil fuels this CO2 was supplied by the photosynthesis of current terrestrial and ocean plants.

Again, we don't know how to decrease CO2 in the atmosphere. Should we never-the-less strive to decrease CO2 emissions? I don't know. Should all those people in sub Saharan Africa and southern Asia who have not contributed to the present situation be punished along with those of us who have?

February, 24 2013

Jim Beyer says

Don, in my opinion, Yes and Yes to answer your last two questions. And the people of sub-Saharna Africa and southern Asia have benefited from antibiotics, green revolution technology, and lots of other stuff that all our CO2 emissions also produced.

February, 24 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Don't have any disagreement with your position Len We do agree that Hurricane Sandy was almost certainly not a product of global warming.

There are many areas around the world where the land itself is sinking. Bangladesh is one, Florida is another. These are more a result of geological effects than rising sea levels but one would be hard pressed to tell the difference. River deltas particularly are vulnerable areas. but whether the cause is rising sea levels remains a subject of considerable debate.

Malcolm

February, 24 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I agree with you Don. Except that we do indeed know how to remove CO2 from the atmosphere if we wanted to. We do not want to.

What is important to note here is that CO2 levels BEFORE humans were ever on the planet have been far higher than they are today. So what explains that?

Quite clearly there are other mechanisms at work here about which we know very little and this just adds to my skepticism.

Perhaps higher CO2 levels are a good thing.

Malcolm

MAlcolm

February, 24 2013

Don Hirschberg says

“Except that we do indeed know how to remove CO2 from the atmosphere if we wanted to.” This sentence doesn't make any sense to me.

“What is important to note here is that CO2 levels BEFORE humans were ever on the planet have been far higher than they are today.” The time before man was on earth is about 0.9998 percent of the time the earth has existed. So it is a very safe bet that extremes of about anything you can imagine, all the records, were set before man. Take a look at the Geological column or time scale to be found in most dictionaries. If there were a thousand page history book of the earth with equal lines per equal time we would first find man mentioned near the bottom of page 1000.

There were times we were covered with ice miles thick There were times we were covered with oceans of magma. There were times almost no sunlight penetrated our atmosphere for the volcanic emissions. We hear great deal bout the extinction of dinosaurs – actually quite recently. We hear about the endangered snail darter. China has warned the panda might soon exist only in zoos.

We don't hear that an estimated 99.9% of creatures that flourished at some time on earth have gone extinct because they could not cope with change. Man has caused hardly any.

So Malcolm, you are so very, very coy, if I wanted to reduce atmospheric CO2 what should I do?

February, 25 2013

Jim Beyer says

Don, I've looked into the technology. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad or expensive to do. You basically expose some chemical (like Calcium hydroxide, but there are also better ones) that absorb the CO2. The you do something like heating or changing pressure to get the chemical to release the CO2. Repeat. The problem is what do you do with the CO2 you've cpatured? That seems to be more expensive than capturing it itself. Some say you can pipe deep underwater, where it will stay.

February, 25 2013

Don Hirschberg says

Of course we have known several ways to capture CO2 for what? - maybe a couple hundred years. But we want to get rid of it not capture it. I keep saying the problem is to lower CO2 in the atmosphere and the oceans. (CO2 distributes itself between the atmosphere and the oceans, and the oceans keep getting more acidified.) Disposal in the ocean is absurd

The quantities are staggering. A pound of carbon into the fire box means 3.67 pounds of CO2 up the stack. Or if you want to make calcite (limestone) out of CO2 you end up making and disposing of 100 pounds of Ca(CO)3 to get rid of 12 pounds of carbon.

Once again: We don't know how to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

February, 25 2013

Jim Beyer says

Deep ocean disposal is considered fairly safe (as much as one could expect on these things...) since it is not interacting with any/much life. At those temps and pressures, CO2 is a thick liquid (or so I've been told by the internet). And you are the one being coy, Don. Asking questions that you obviously already know the answers to.

If you analyze CO2 capture and disposal reasonably (or quasi-reasonably) you see that the big problem is coal, because it produces so much CO2 for the BTU's produced that any post-burning remediation would excessively raise costs. Not so much for NG or some other stuff.

February, 25 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Don,

Plant trees.

Malcolm

May, 10 2013

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May, 10 2013

aldrichdevon vigorda says

Find out what to look for when you are shopping for a hard drive

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8th Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange

Wednesday Sep 24, 2014 - Friday Sep 26, 2014 - Aspen, Colorado - USA

Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange (formerly Colorado Utility Efficiency Exchange) facilitates a networking and professional development conference for staff representatives of energy and water utilities serving Colorado and neighboring states who are responsible for developing and implementing customer programs related more...

2014 Utility Analytics Week

Wednesday Oct 22, 2014 - Friday Oct 24, 2014 - Newport Beach, CA

Join us for our Third Annual Utility Analytics Week event where you will hear and learn about the hottest topics in analytics today. The analytics revolution is pushing utilities to respond to real time needs arising in the industry as more...

Smart Cities 2014

Monday Nov 3, 2014 - Wednesday Nov 5, 2014 - San Diego, CA - United States

SmartCities is an Energy Central event established to educate utilities on the steps and paths to collaboratively develop smart cites in their region. At this event attendees will establish early relationships with key stakeholders; discover collaboration strategies that have been more...

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