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Social Benefits of Carbon, Part 2: Projections and the COP21 Paris Agreement Future Impacts

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In ‘The Social Benefits of Carbon (SBC) – Part 1’, the history of Civilizations’ growth and major developments, supported largely by evolving fossil fuels technologies and energy supplies, were covered over the past two Centuries. In this SBC Part 2 article we will cover recent World energy supplied projections and International agreements intended to substantially reduce total World greenhouse gas emissions towards mid-21st Century. Analysis of possible COP21 Paris Agreement impacts on most Countries economies and the probability of reasonably achieving the COP21 carbon reduction goal will also be analyzed.

International Climate Change and Carbon Reduction Policies – Since the mid-20th Century, Developed and Developing Countries overall have made fair progress in directionally ‘stabilizing’ their total average per capita fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions. Refer to Figure 4b in SBC Part 1. Unfortunately, (referring to Figure 4a, SBC Part 1) total World carbon emissions from fossil fuels consumption have increased by an average of 7.5% per year since 1950. Fossil fuels consumption increases have continued despite the past (1992 Kyoto Protocol; COP3) and subsequent (2015 Paris Agreement; COP21) International climate change policy agreements. Most Developed and some Developing Countries have made promises to substantially reduce their future carbon equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as needed to possibly limit future global warming to about a maximum increase of 2 degrees Celsius, 1880-2050. The IPCC projects that achieving this 2 degrees C goal will require reducing total World annual GHG emissions by 40%-70% 2010-2050. Since about 75% of total current GHG emissions come directly from consuming fossil fuels, total 2010 fossil fuels carbon emission levels need to be reduced by up to about 50% mid-21st Century.

Reducing World total fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions by 50% 2010-2050 will likely be very expensive, particularly for Developing Countries. To help Developing Countries build the needed green energy technologies, the Paris Agreement proposes developing a US$100+ Billion fund; allocated to poorer Countries and funded by richer Countries.

Economic & Population Growth, and Associated Energy Consumption Projections – A number of qualified organizations have routinely developed projections of future World and individual Countries’ economies’ outputs, populations and energy production-consumption. These include the EIA, and the IEA. Based on these and other credible studies I have developed data to analyze and illustrate past-and-future projected International economic, populations and energy consumption changes.

To illustrate the difference in past and future projected performances of ‘Developed’ and ‘Developing’ Countries, total World data is separated into (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) OECD Countries (which primarily includes major Developed Countries: Canada, Germany, Japan, US, UK, etc.) and Non-OECD Countries (which includes all other Developing Countries: Brazil, China, India, Russia, etc.). To begin this analysis let’s first review the economic development data, both historic (1990-2015) and future projections (2016-2040); Figure 5a.

Fig 5a

Primary Data Sources – EIA IEO’s 2011-16; Reference Case ‘projected’.

Total OECD Countries’ ‘gross domestic product’ (GDP) experienced economic (output) growth significantly greater than total Non-OECD Countries since 1990. Currently (2015) OECD GDP makes up about 64% of total World GDP. Non-OECD Countries’ GDP is projected to grow at significantly greater rates the future. For a variety of factors (greater regulatory burdens, lower population growth rates, etc.) OECD GDP is projected to grow at somewhat slower rates (2.4%/yr. vs. non-OECD 6.7%/yr. growth rates) in the future.

In addition to higher future annual economic growth rates, Non-OECD Countries’ populations are projected to grow at substantially greater rates than OECD Countries; refer to Figure 5b.

Fig 5b

Primary Data Source – EIA IEO reports.

Total Non-OECD populations makeup 6.0 Billion or almost 83% of the total World population currently (2015), and are projected to increase up to 7.6 Billion; of total World 9.0 Billion, 2040. OECD populations are projected to grow by only 0.1 Billion 2015-2040.

Based on these economic and population growth projections, per capita GDP and associated average standards-of-living are projected to increase very significantly 2015-2040; refer to Figure 5c.

Fig 5c

Primary Data Sources – Figures 5a & 5b.

Non-OECD per capita GDP is projected to more than double 2015-2040. OECD Countries per capita GDP is projected to grow at much greater rates than non-OECD Countries. This per capita GDP growth and difference of associated living standards improvements is due to the continued projected more-healthy future economic output in total OECD GDP vs. Non-OECD Countries. And, due to the huge increases of Non-OECD populations compared to OECD Countries; 1.6 vs. 0.1 Billion; 2015-2040.

The very large growth in Non-OECD and OECD economies must be powered by numerous existing and developing technologies and required energy supplies. The growth in ‘primary’ energy consumption is projected to increase very significantly in the future; refer to Figure 6a.

Fig 6a

Primary Data Source – EIA IEO’s 2016; Reference Case. Primary Energy consumption includes all renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels.

Non-OECD Countries’ primary energy consumption is projected to increase at substantially greater rates than OECD Countries in the future (2.4%/yr. vs. 0.6%/yr.; 2015-2040). This larger Non-OECD primary energy consumption increase is due to greater 2015-2040 total economic GDP growth, and other factors such as fewer regulatory influences on improving technologies’ energy efficiencies. OECD Countries are able to grow their economies’ GDP’s with significantly lower energy intensities due to existing higher efficiency energy technologies, and, regulatory and economic mandates & incentives that facilitate further future improvements. Another factor could be due to increasing OECD net-imports from Non-OECD Countries.

Primary Energy Consumption Mixes and Carbon Emission Projections – Due to a combination of established & developing energy technologies-supplies, regulatory & economic incentives, growth in Non-OECD & OECD Countries’ economies, and other related factors, the mix of primary energy sources are projected to change significantly in the future; refer to Figure 6b.

Fig 6b

Primary Data Source – EIA IEO’s 2016; Reference Case. ‘FF’ = Fossil Fuels (petroleum, coal plus natural gas) and ‘Non-FF’ = Non-Fossil Fuels (nuclear, hydro, biofuels, wind & solar plus geothermal).

Non-OECD Countries’ total fossil fuels consumption is projected to increase by almost 50% 2015-2040. In 2040 Non-OECD fossil fuels consumption could make up about 66% of the total World fossil fuels consumption. OECD Countries’ fossil fuels consumption is projected to increase by only10% 2015-2040. This relatively small OECD fossil fuels consumption increase is due to continuous energy efficiency increases, developing GHG emissions regulations, slower population growth, and possibly increased net-imports from non-OECD Countries.

The EIA also projects continuous increased ‘non-fossil fuels’, which will directionally help reduce some future fossil fuels consumption. Non-OECD Countries’ ‘non-fossil fuels’ production-consumption could soon exceed OECD Countries and increase further in the future. While this Non-OECD non-fossil fuels projection appears promising, the important question is: ‘What will be the impact on total future World carbon emissions?’. Refer to Figure 7a.

Fig 7a

Primary Data Source – EIA IEO’s 2016; Reference Case.

Despite the efforts of most OECD and many non-OECD Countries in supporting past and recent UNFCCC agreements (COP3 Kyoto Protocol, through the recent COP21 Paris Agreement) total World fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions are projected to continue increasing 2015-2040. Total World carbon emissions from fossil fuels have increased by over 12,000 million metric tons per year (MMT/yr.) 1990-2015, and are projected to further increase by about an additional 9,700 MMT/yr. 2015-2040; for a total 43,200 MMT/yr. by 2040. Non-OECD Countries are projected to account for 68% of total World carbon emissions in 2040. Some of these increased carbon emissions could be due to ‘carbon leakage’ from further increased OECD net-imports from non-OECD Countries.

Projected Future Fossil Fuels Consumption Benefits and Costs –The EIA currently forecasts that total World GDP will effectively double over the next 25 years and total populations will increase from 7.3 to 9.0 Billion. About 61% of the increased economic growth is expected to occur within non-OECD Developing Countries; including net-exports. This is good news for many Developing Countries and their populations’ future increased average standards-of-living. OECD Developed Countries economies and populations’ average living standards are also projected to continue increasing at healthy rates in the future.

Unfortunately, most of the World’s future economic growth is projected to be powered primarily by increased fossil fuels (heating, electricity generation and transportation fuels). Even though total non-fossil fuels energy sources are projected to increase by about 84% 2015-2040, total fossil fuels consumption is projected to increase by 33%; or double non-fossil fuels production-consumption (equivalent Btu’s) increases, 2015-2040. This will unfortunately result in up to 29% increase in total World carbon emissions over the next 25 years; or effectively 41% greater than the 2010 level.

The ‘social benefits of carbon’ (SBC) based on total projected World 2015-2040 economic growth is projected to increase very significantly. Future total fossil fuels primary energy percentages are projected to decline from 83% down to 78% (2015-2040); the balance supplied by non-fossil fuels). These energy supplies are required to not only support existing and growing populations & their living standards, but are also required to support total World economic output; GDP. About 80% of current and future GDP’s outputs require large energy consumptions, both directly and indirectly. The 20% balance of total GDP output is fairly independent to significant direct/indirect required energy consumption. The 80% of total GDP requires numerous energy consuming activities & operations, including durable and nondurable ‘goods’ raw materials supplies-production, fabrication & manufacturing, harvesting, etc. ‘directly’. This 80% of total economic output energy demand also includes other ‘indirect’ activities & operations such as goods & services transportation & distribution, storage & physical management, R&D, etc. The 20% balance of total world GDP output that requires little or insignificant energy consumption directly or indirectly includes primarily financial & investment and Internet based economic activities.

Based on these GDP energy consumption and different economic activities-factors, the SBC of current-future fossil fuels energy valued-added contributions are estimated and projected increase from roughly US$1,500/MT up to US$2,100/MT, 2015-2040. This GDP per MT estimated SBC is far larger than many ‘social costs of carbon’ (SCC) estimates that are estimated to be in the range of US$50-$200/MT.

Planned Carbon Emission Mitigation Action Plans – Most Developed and many Developing Countries have signed up for the latest Paris Climate agreement; COP21. The COP21 agreement proposes creating a minimum and future increasing US$100 Billion/yr. fund to be allocated to poorer Developing Countries and funded by richer Countries. While this COP21 fund could definitely help Developing Countries make their growing economies more energy efficient and lower their reliance on fossil fuels, the funding level may not be very adequate towards achieving overall COP21 goals. For example: the EIA IEO 2016 projects non-OECD fossil fuels carbon emissions will increase up to 29,400 MMT/yr., 2040. This non-OECD carbon emission level is 20,500 MMT/yr. above the UNFCCC’s goal of reducing their 2010 carbon emission level by 50%; 2050. Based on the proposed US$100 Billion COP21 fund, this level of largely OECD-to-non-OECD financial support or foreign aid is equivalent to ($100Billion/20.5BillionMT =) US$4.90 per MT carbon. A value, coincidentally, somewhat less than current EU carbon market prices.

Currently the total (fully amortized) costs to build, operate and displace most existing high carbon intensity energy supplies-technologies (electricity, heating and transportation fuels) with low-zero carbon technologies and energy supplies have estimated costs between US$25/MT-US$100/MT. Based on the proposed new US$100 Billion COP21 fund, non-OECD Developing Countries will only be able to reduce their future (2040) fossil fuels carbon emissions by possibly 1,000-4,000 MMT/yr. This is 80%-95% short of the COP21 2010-2050 50% reduction goal. To achieve the non-OECD 50% reduction goal could require increasing the foreign aid-COP21 funding to at least US$500 Billion/yr. up-to-possibly $2.1 Trillion/yr. in future decades. This level of foreign aid-COP21 funding support primarily from Developed Countries’ would be equivalent to 0.6%-2.7% of total annual projected OECD Countries GDP’s; by 2040. Based on the projected EIA IEO 2016 OECD GDP (2015-2040) average growth rates of 2.4%/yr., the likelihood of most Developed Countries increasing their funding-foreign aid to Developing Countries at levels greater than their future domestic GDP annual growth rates is highly questionable. This very large transfer of future OECD economic (wealth) output-to-foreign aid/COP21 funding, risks creating future ‘very-great’ recessions in many Countries around the World.

In Conclusion – Realistically all Countries, OECD and non-OECD, need to address feasibly reducing their future carbon emissions from fossil fuels, while sustaining reasonably healthy economic growth. These environmental and economic activities also need to reasonably and sustainably address future possible global warming. To reduce total World carbon emissions towards 50% of 2010 levels, the EIA IEO 2016 projects that total carbons emissions must be reduced up to 28,000 MMT/yr. by 2040. Based $25-$100/MT costs to reduce future carbon emissions will require total annual funding levels of US$0.7 Trillion/yr.-US$2.8 Trillion/yr. in near-future decades. This maximum required funding level is almost equivalent to the average projected total World annual increased GDP growth rates 2015-2040. Such an added expenditure could put most the World into significant risk to chronic-global economic stagnation and potential major, near future recessions.

If OECD Countries decide to not provide the $100+ Billion of COP21 funding-aid for non-OECD Countries and instead only address their own National fossil fuels consumptions, such an action will still have limited progress towards the COP21 total 2010 50% reduction goal. Magically eliminating 100% of all OECD Countries fossil fuels consumptions by 2040 will still result in non-OECD 2040 total carbon emissions being just 4% less than total World 2010 levels.

The high costs of displacing most World fossil fuels consumptions and associated carbon emissions, in addition to the fact that the latest COP21 Paris agreement is not a legally bidding treaty, makes achieving the 50% 2010-2050 future carbon emission reduction goal fairly improbable. Not being able to feasibly reduce total World 2010 level carbon emissions up to about 50% means that global temperature increases are likely to exceed the COP21 Paris agreement goal of a +2 degrees C by mid-21st Century. This means that most Developed and many Developing Countries need to develop more realistic strategies to addressing both carbon equivalent GHG emissions reductions in the future and dealing with likely increasing climate change impacts.

A more feasible and practical alternative to many current and likely future less-than-affordable clean-green energy policies could be developing ‘more balanced solutions and approaches’. A more balanced International approach should include both cost effectively reducing future fossil fuels consumption-carbon emissions, and increasingly mitigating future climate change impact risks. This means continuing to develop and support truly affordable-sustainable and effective lower carbon technologies and energy sources growth-development, and, begin developing and implementing more effective ‘Adaptation’ strategies.

‘Adaptation’ strategies should include more aggressively modifying current Countries’ Residential, Commercial, Industrial and Transportation Sectors’ buildings-facilities and infrastructures as needed to reasonably address climate change annual-seasonal and local weather patterns deteriorations. These include more effectively managing the most at-risk major cities and communities, including transportation & utilities’ infrastructures, and agriculture/food/water resources. Improved Country Assets & Residents’ living conditions strategies possibly need to address developing-pending increased average weather seasonal temperatures, rising ocean levels, increasing storms severities, expanding floodplains, and growing local-regional droughts. These individual Countries’ upgrades need to be truly and reasonably ‘affordable’ and ‘sustainable’ based on available technologies and limited available domestic funding from each Countries’ real GDP outputs; i.e. not endless national debt growth.

Many Individuals and Politicians will likely continue to propose regulatory carbon restrictions such as cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, feebates, etc. Assuming these free-market and added Government tax revenues are actually invested in cost effective green energy solutions that significantly reduce future fossil fuels consumption, and, making community upgrades to mitigate developing global warming impacts, what other issues should also be critically analyzed and possibly addressed in the near future? Carbon leakage? Establishing ‘legally bidding’ future COP treaties? International trade controls? Other?

Your thoughts and ideas?

John Miller's picture

Thank John for the Post!

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Sid Abma's picture
Sid Abma on October 13, 2016

Mr. Miller
The US DOE has been promoting a very expensive Carbon Capture Sequestration technology as the method to reduce America’s CO2 emissions. There is another much less expensive Carbon Capture Utilization System that will remove 95% of the CO2 out of the exhaust of combusted coal and natural gas and transform the CO2 into useful – saleable products.
This technology uses an agricultural grown product to create the amine to absorb the CO2 so in the growing stage it is already absorbing the CO2 from the atmosphere.
The Administration is committed to killing the coal industry and is not willing to promote these CCU technologies. Trump has been talking about getting the coal industry back to work and making it happen with Clean Coal technologies.
Go Trump Go!

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on October 13, 2016

A good and realistic assessment of the 21st century sustainability challenge. It is amazing how many developed world energy commentators still seem to be unaware of the energy requirements (both in terms of quantity and quality) to build up a country. The fact that so many countries still need to be built up presents the primary energy challenge of this century.

I should point out, however, that it is not the social benefits of carbon vs the social costs which are important, but rather the marginal benefits vs costs assessed on a year-by-year basis. As a country develops, marginal benefits of carbon will reduce year-by-year, while marginal costs will increase year-by-year. At some point, marginal social costs exceed marginal social benefits and serious decarbonization efforts should commence. In my opinion, this point should lie somewhere between $20000 and $30000 of GDP(PPP) per capita.

Marginal benefits of carbon should also not be quantified by GDP growth, but by an estimate of GDP growth facilitated by fossil fuels relative to clean energy alternatives. Based on my estimates in an earlier article, I could estimate that decarbonizing only the electricity sector of a developing country can cut about 1-3 %-points of yearly GDP growth. Doing so will create a compounding cost in terms of lost GDP growth and a compounding benefit in terms of avoided CO2 emissions. From the example presented in that article, I now estimated that the cost (lost GDP growth per ton of CO2 avoided) of decarbonizing India’s electricity sector with nuclear will increase from $173/ton of avoided CO2 in the first year to $215/ton in 30 years’ time. Doing the same with solar PV will cost $524/ton in the first year and $800/ton in year 30.

Of course this is just a hypothetical exercise because it is simply practically impossible at the moment for a developing nation like India to get anywhere near 100% of newly built electricity capacity from advanced energy sources like nuclear or solar, but I think it is a more accurate reflection of the social benefits of carbon (alternatively: the social costs of avoiding carbon). Decarbonizing transport and especially industry (the backbone of industrialization) will of course be much more expensive than decarbonizing electricity.

As a final point, it can be argued that climate change is actually an argument for the social benefits of carbon rather than the social costs in developing nations. The reason is that industrialization is the best defense against future effects of climate change that poor nations can possibly build. I’m afraid that there will be limited progress towards global climate change agreements before most people living in developed countries already built by fossil fuels realize this.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on October 13, 2016

As a country develops, marginal benefits of carbon will reduce year-by-year, while marginal costs will increase year-by-year

Schalk – It is not clear to me why this must be so. As a country develops, it seems to me that greater immunity to carbon caused costs may become available: better flood control via dams and dikes, lesser impact from drought via advanced agriculture and irrigation, availablity of space heat and air conditioning inside better structures, and so on.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 13, 2016

Schalk, you and I are generally in agreement that when the “marginal social costs (significantly) exceed marginal social benefits, (more) serious decarbonization efforts should commence”. Yes, Developing Countries like India will definitely benefit by making the transition from existing fossil fuels power generation to primarily nuclear and solar power. Besides cleaning up their current fossil fuels power generation (which causes very significant health issues due to relatively poor stationary environmental emissions regulations compared to Developed Countries), Developing Countries like India are further economically challenge due to lack of existing power T&D infrastructures.

And yes, the transition of Transportation and Industrial Sectors will be far more challenging than the Power Sector. Transitioning from ICE LDV’s and Railroads HDV transport to EV’s will directionally be the solution to decarbonizing part of the Transportation Sector. However, the major challenge will be dealing with the large rural areas needs and decarbonizing the required MDV/HDV, marine and air transportation. In the case of the Industrial Sector, decarbonizing the Power Sector definitely helps cleanup a significant part of the Manufacturing sub-sectors, but more energy-carbon intensive sub-sectors (metal foundries, petro, chem./synthetic materials, cement foundries, etc.) will be difficult-to-infeasible to fully decarbonize.

Until Developing Countries achieve similar economic decarbonization yields (GDP/MT) as most Developed Countries today, their reliance on fossil fuels will most likely duplicate the historic trends experienced in Developed Countries over the past 50+ years. Yes, the availability of cleaner energies-technologies will help enable reducing the time periods required to make this transaction compared to Developed Countries, but since all resources are limited (financial, raw materials, energy supplies, etc.), expecting them to achieve the same level of decarbonization over the next 35 years (+/-) as most Developed Countries have achieved since the 1950’s is very questionable.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 13, 2016

Sid, Carbon Capture is definitely a possible option to reducing some carbon emissions in the future. As you may be aware, Amine Wet Scrubber technologies have been in operation for over 60 years. The amine solvents (MEA, DEA, etc.) are designed to absorb H2S and CO2 from Gas/Hydrogen Generation Plants, in order to comply with stationary stack environmental regulations and produced specification-high quality products such as hydrogen; used to largely desulfurize most petroleum motor fuels and generate some petrochemicals. Yes, CO2 has and can be recycled into various applications such as the Food Industry or used in advanced Oil Production fields (i.e. to displace and recover oil from different underground geographical reserves formations).

As you state, CCS is expensive and continues to be challenged in providing cost effective-reliable stack scrubbing of advanced or Clean Coal Power Plants. Another issue not addressed in much detail is that ‘carbon sequestering’ options have potential risks. Unless the CO2 is used Commercially, it is planned to inject the gas underground; usually in spent-depleted oil and/or gas fields. While this option is definitely feasible, the hazards and risks of this option are rarely, if ever seriously analyzed. I’ll give you a hint: carbonic acid (CO2 + H2O) is corrosive and can effectively dissolve many types of natural rock formations; with time.

Levis Kochin's picture
Levis Kochin on October 13, 2016

I was expecting from your title to see some discussion of the benefits of increased CO2 in the form particularly of decreased water consumption by plants and associated drought resistance which provide a sizable if only partial offset to the costs of climate change.
Given the costs of reducing fossil fuel use and the difficulty of obtaining joint action some consideration should be given and tests on a small scale should be made of other means of offsetting global warming such as measures to increase the allbedo of the Earth by measures such as whitening roofs and road surfaces, increasing snow cover and emission of SO2 into the stratosphere.

Sid Abma's picture
Sid Abma on October 13, 2016

Good day Mr. Miller
So from your reply, can you agree that our Sidel Carbon Capture Utilization System technology is superior or equal to CCS technology except that ours costs much less and has a faster ROI?
Our goal is to help the coal industry stay in business and provide support for their families. America has 200 years of this energy at our “beck and coll” giving America the energy it needs, when needed.
There is so much more that can be done with recovering this CO2. It can be converted into a fuel that has 2x the Btu calorific value of coal that can be combusted alongside the coal, producing much less ash and negative environmental discussions.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on October 13, 2016

This is indeed an interesting discussion point. I guess we are in agreement that the marginal benefits of carbon decrease over time as an economy matures. About the costs, my understanding is that the marginal social costs of carbon in a poor country (<$10000 GDP(PPP) per capita) is actually negative because rapid economic development through fossil fuel industry, power plants and transportation is such a highly effective climate change adaptation strategy, while emissions from such a poor country growing rapidly on fossil fuels would contribute next to nothing to global temperature rise (e.g. the whole of Africa is responsible for only 3.4% of global energy related CO2 emissions).

Basically, marginal costs of carbon will be negative as long as significant future climate change costs can be avoided by building things that society needs anyway (e.g. decent housing, healthcare and international trade connections). However, as soon as a country starts to invest in things where climate change adaptation is the primary goal (e.g. the things you mention above), this is a clear cost which will increase with time.

As a country gets richer, property damages from extreme weather become larger (more and more expensive property), droughts will cause greater food inflation (people demand a broader and more sophisticated diet), internal climate control will become more expensive (houses become larger and people demand more comfortable temperatures).

Then there is also the rather scary prospect of runaway global warming through self-reinforcing feedback loops which could greatly increase the costs of carbon across the board if we undervalue the social cost of carbon in our investment choices over the next few decades. This remains quite uncertain, but even so, the potential negative impact of such a scenario is enough to add a premium to the social cost of carbon, especially in developed nations with high per-capita emissions.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on October 13, 2016

can you agree that our Sidel Carbon Capture Utilization System technology is superior or equal to CCS technology except that ours costs much less and has a faster ROI?

You’ve not described this process or specified its costs and limits.  Are you asking us to buy a pig in a poke?

America has 200 years of this energy at our “beck and coll” giving America the energy it needs, when needed.

The phrase is “beck and call”.  America has 400 years of uranium sitting in warehouses, and roughly another half-century’s worth in spent-fuel pools and casks.  Mineral and oceanic deposits must come to thousands or milliions of years.

Our goal is to help the coal industry stay in business and provide support for their families.

The coal industry has been busily replacing people with machinery, and has always abandoned whole communities when the local seams ran out.  Coal miners would be better served by switching to construction, and building the power and reprocessing plants to serve the USA for the next century.  Pay them partially in stock, and the dividends will be their pension.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on October 14, 2016

John, I have never opposed wise fossil carbon energy use. Nor have I opposed wise nuclear power use. Nor have I asked for development subsidies. All I have asked is for inclusion of new ideas and allowing open minds, because I think there is real innovation opportunity moving into another energy era. So when I see all these projection numbers pushed around based on old system trajectories I cringe.

I think solar energy has a great future. But I think current systems have sufficiently proven inadequate. My bet is on innovative fiber glass roofing that can remove rooftop insolation heat, deliver intact photons where useful via fiber optic cable, and also provide a cost effective durable roof.

One use of intense, focused photon current is chemical reaction activation energy of biomass into biochar and (solar) biofuels. People asking for money for battery stored energy and CCS development will find money hard to find. Improved agricultural soil productivity and carbon negative fuels are quite proven.

We share concern about rapidly growing populations of angry, ignorant, needy, armed, self-styled victims. A crowded world can become destructive quickly, then innovation stops. History is littered with stories of un-done opportunity.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 14, 2016

Sid, unfortunately I am not familiar with commercial or industrial applications of ‘Sidel Carbon Capture Utilization System technology’. Can you provide some references that provide technical details of this technology, current commercial applications (existing or planned), and possibly including the full-lifecycle energy/carbon balances?

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 14, 2016

Levis, sorry for the title confusion, but I am sure you know the subjects of Carbon Benefits and Costs is very complex and possibly confusing depending on the focus. My article is fairly high level, focusing on general economic impacts and average influences on overall Countries’ populations.

As you may be aware the technologies already exist to reduce water consumption of all nuclear and fossil fuels power plants, and many manufacturing facilities. Major sources of water consumptions in most power/manufacturing plants are ‘cooling towers’ used to make steam turbine power cycles most efficient. Yes, this technology can be replaced by alternatives such as ‘fin fan’ coolers-condensers. The reason why they aren’t originally installed is due to the negative impact of directionally reducing overall power-production energy efficiencies; which increases energy-fossil fuels consumption-costs and associated carbon emissions. Shoreline located power plants, including nuclear, often substitute using ocean cooling water. In some cases, power plants also use recycled water in existing cooling tower systems.

Implementing more “measures to increase the albedo of the Earth” definitely is a feasible-partial solution to mitigating global warming. In the case of white roofs, this has a synergy benefit of making the buildings more energy efficient in warmer climates and reflects solar radiation (on clear days) far more beneficial than black roofs. Coincidentally, black solar panels definitely help mitigate the needs for fossil fuels power generation, but at the expense of albedo impacts. Another major ‘albedo factor’ that nearly all climate models have omitted is the impact of ‘clouds’ on the albedo of the Earth. As the atmosphere heats the amount of moisture and clouds increases, which directionally buffers some level of global warming. This natural cloud impact on global climates is likely much more positive than SO2 emissions into the stratosphere.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 14, 2016

Rick, you raise an important, but generally a very politically taboo issue: “rapidly growing populations”. Many Organizations project the World’s population will increase up to about 10 billion by mid-21st Century. Yes, further improvements and innovations in most clean energy technologies and supplies will be developed in the future, including carbon neutral-and-possibly negative biomass production. But, a developing and very serious question will eventually need addressing: “what is the largest, sustainable (and reasonably peaceful) level of human populations at some point in the future?”. If the World fails to develop the required level of affordable, sustainable replacement of limited fossil fuels in the future, ‘peaking oil & gas’ will eventually become a reality and enormous crisis, beginning with poorer Developing Countries.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on October 14, 2016

Seems the number of children per woman rapidly drops off around the world, so we’ll likely plateau and then drop off somewhat. We don’t currently have political tools to do much about this and I don’t think we will in the medium term either. One would imagine that people with genes that have high birth rates in the modern environment to eventually start to dominate and so get birth rates up again, but that happens over timescales that is long enough to be in the same realm as sci-fi and thus we don’t need to care.

Also, we don’t share concern about a crowded world. Urbanization drives societal progress.

I find the article generally interesting, but I think we might want to consider that China is injecting growing amounts of surplus capital around the world. If it doesn’t help too much with coal power plants and instead export NPPs cheaply, not that much foreign aid from developed nations will be needed. Electric transport and abundant carbon-free electricity has the potential to do away with most fossil demand with a positive influence on the global economy. With less Middle East waste, less particle pollution, less fossil conflicts, I don’t think there’s much to worry about when we’re weaning ourselves off fossils.

And peak oil and gas is a problem that’s eclipsed by AGW. We need to get carbon emissions down long before fossils peak due to relative scarcity.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on October 14, 2016

John, as with everything else, the timeline changes. But to my limited knowledge and memory, we need new agricultural phosphate or new agricultural crop systems or both by 2030 or the food won’t be there. And then people will be angry. Much California agriculture is already a memory, just like Minnesota bees.

Shut the power and water off so food rots and toilets don’t flush and see if police respond to 911 calls in pitch dark streets.

We have more challenging problems than 400ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. Enhancing farmland quality isn’t fantasy or rocket science.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 14, 2016

Rick, agreed, peaking food supplies could or will become another major condition that Developing and eventually Developed Countries must deal with in the future. Putting aside the feasibility of huge organic/non-GMO agriculture programs, ensuring that agriculture continues to grow proportionally with future populations needs to be an International priority in future decades.

Since most of today’s biofuels are made from edible grains and fruits (sugar, starch & oils), the competition between these green energy feedstocks sources and peaking food supplies could also become another limited resource issue. Hopefully, algae & cellulosic biofuels can feasibly become a low carbon fuel reality in the foreseeable future. If not, unlike land based EV’s that could eventually be powered by nuclear, wind & solar power, air and marine transportation will become increasingly available fossil fuels and/or biofuels constrained. We could always slow things down and switch back to sail ships, but those electric solar PV airplanes under development will likely be limited to just a few seats; most likely for the rich elites.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 14, 2016

Jesper, yes the fertility of women is declining overall. Today Developed Countries’ fertility rates are about 2 per woman and Developing Countries are almost double this rate. In addition, the lifespan of most Countries are continuing to increase. Since the early 1900’s average World life expectances have increased from the mid-30’s to over 70 years currently. These factors have contributed to both the projected mid-21st Century increase of populations up to 10 Billion and the growing need of more elderly-aging Developed Countries for increased immigrants to sustain needed national labor forces, and the growing carbon leakage from increasing imports from Developing Countries.

As far as population control, China implemented a one-child per couple law back in 1980. Due to its aging population, they increased the birth rate allowed to two-children per couple last year. No other nation has flowed this population control Government action to my knowledge.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on October 15, 2016

The decline in global fertility rate is ongoing, now 2.4 (replacement is 2.1). Even China has begun to see a decline in working age population. Now, only two countries remain with both significant population (greater than 100 M) and a fertility rate well above replacement: Nigeria (5.1, 173M) and Pakistan (3.6, 182M).

Some countries have fertility rates so low they’re on a path to non-existence. Korea and Portugal 1.2, Poland 1.3, Japan 1.4. As a long term trend, replacing every two people with one only has one outcome.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 15, 2016

Mark, even though the percentage of women is dropping slightly below 50%, the annual percentage of population growth has declined from 1,7% to 1.2% 1990-2015, and the percentage of working age population has declined from 66% to 54% 1990-2015, the maximum population level may not stabilize until the 22nd Century.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on October 16, 2016

To arrest the rampant and unsustainable growth, most of the third world could use at least 1 generation of a 1-child policy.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on October 16, 2016

My view is that the emphasis should be on decarbonizing electricity grids by all available means – by employing CCS (if it ever works economically), nuclear and renewables while attempting either to delete coal in generation or the associated emissions.

The reason? One way to cut emissions in housing, industrial and transportation sectors is to use electricity instead of fossil fuels. Buildings require heating that could be supplied by air or ground heat pumps 24/7, AC in hot countries runs on electricity; hydrogen and methanol economies proposed would use electrolysis to create carbon-neutral fuels for industrial processes and transportation; plug-in hybrids and electric cars would cut down transportation emissions once battery technology improves and costs come down.

In short, providing abundant and carbon-free electricity would help other sectors to decarbonize, too.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on October 16, 2016

by employing CCS (if it ever works economically)

The cost escalation and operational record of the Kemper plant is cause for pessimism in that regard.

I used to look at the Wabash River Repowering Project as a model.  The plant already removes acid gases from the gasifier as part of sulfur scrubbing.  Simply taking all the recovered gases (which include considerable CO2) and sequestering them would slash the net carbon emissions; steam-reforming of the scrubbed syngas would convert much of the CO to CO2 which could be captured the same way.

Wabash River has been a going operation for years.  Whatever’s wrong with Kemper, it speaks badly for our ability to even repeat what’s already been done.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on October 16, 2016

… the impact of ‘clouds’ on the albedo of the Earth.

In a 2009 book by climate scientist James Hansen, he states that “We do not even know whether the cloud feedback is amplifying or diminishing.” (p.43)

He seems quite convinced that we do understand three very strong positive feedback mechanisms: ice coverage, water vapor, and methane-hydrates. The (currently melting) Ice caps reflect more sunlight than seawater or land, water vapor is a greenhouse gas that the atmosphere will hold more of at higher temperatures, and methane hydrates are a mechanism by which cold seawater stores methane (a greenhouse gas) that will be released as the water warms.

Hansen believes that these positive feedback mechanisms produce a tipping point, beyond which no amount of reduction in CO2 emissions can stop a run-away greenhouse effect (in which all polar caps and sea-ice is melted, and much higher temperatures prevail). We should consider this when we debate whether developing nations should use cheap coal for economic development.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 16, 2016

E-P, this is effectively the policy China adapted 1980-2015. They recently changed it to 2-per couple due to an increasingly aging population and possibly a shortage of needed nation labor pool.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 16, 2016

Jarmo, agreed, decarbonizing electric power grids first with nuclear and renewables is probably the most feasible initial strategy. This strategy has been developed and gradually implemented by many Developed Countries in recent years. Until CCS becomes a cost effective technology and the many potential risks of storing CO2 underground are properly addressed, clean-coal power may not be a reasonable longer term solution. What most Countries and Environmentalists ignore or fail to understand is that nuclear power is absolutely a required part of decarbonizing most power grids (without intermediate-peaking natural gas power capacity as needed to reliably balance power grid’s supply-demand balances; 24-7) until industrial scale power storage (magnitudes greater than existing hydropower pumped storage capacities) also becomes a cost effective technology and reality.

Hugely expanding heat pumps (to replace most-all NG/heating oil) and displacing ICE LDV/heavier duty Railroads with EV batteries and electric engines (O.H. wire or rail connected) is also part of these transportation decarbonized solution(s). Producing H2/CH3OH (fuels-petro-chem feedstocks) via electrolysis is definitely another feasible solution, but the affordability versus current CH4 feedstocks-production technologies continues to be a substantial challenge.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 16, 2016

E-P, the Kemper Plant continues to be challenged to truly becoming reliably and reasonably economic. As I recall, its sequester design was to sell the recovered CO2 primarily to Oil Producers for advanced injection technologies to displace oil from underground reserve formations. Also, converting the CO into CO2 could be more efficiently processed using ‘shift reactor’ technologies to produce H2 or to fuel gas turbine drivers to generate electric power.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on October 16, 2016

“…the maximum population level may not stabilize until the 22nd Century.”

Possibly. Global population has a large inertia. One aspect of the dropping global fertility rate and longer lifespans is that we know the ‘wheel’ takes a long time to slow down, but it is just as certain that zero growth and then decline is inevitable over the next several generations. Global population might not level until post 2100, but long before then a great many countries will age and begin to see (native born) population decline.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 16, 2016

Nathan, agreed, these and possibly other climate change variables (such as the overall effects on worldwide vegetation-forests growth patterns due to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations and milder winters), create potentially very significant uncertainties in accurately predicting future global warming impacts and the most effective-feasible solutions. These and other significant and possibly very large uncertainties are why I suggest that developing a more ‘balanced approach’ to addressing carbon equivalent GHG emissions should be more seriously addressed. A climate change balanced approach or International strategy (COP??) should include both decarburizing Countries’-economies and adaptation strategies; within reasonably available-limited national resources.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 16, 2016

Mark, agreed, the population growth ‘wheel’ will eventually slow, stop and eventually begin reversing. This trend will obvious occur in Developed Countries first due to evolving-changing social behaviors related to birth rates. Based on past history, this trend will be much slower to evolve in Developing Countries. A major factor that could influence future population growth and/or slowing-to-declining growth rates in Developed Countries will be the ‘levels of immigration’ from Developing Countries. Other factors include, possibly limited required resources such as future possible food shortages as Rick Engebretson suggests (re. his comment above), or future, more aggressive International COP agreements that somehow increasingly restrict actual access to available fossil fuels energy supplies. Prematurely restricting available fossil fuels to all Developed and Developing Countries in the near future could have negative impacts similar to potential large food shortages. As you are probably aware, those most affected to restricting their access to generally more economic fossil fuels energy supplies (before they can reasonably build alternative non-fossil fuels technologies) will be the poorer Developing Countries.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on October 18, 2016

What most Countries and Environmentalists ignore or fail to understand is that nuclear power is absolutely a required part of decarbonizing most power grids oin the discussion

Agreed. It is sometimes almost comical that people who regard warming climate the biggest threat against our planet completely ignore the policies that have been most successful in cutting emissions. France reached the German Energiewende 2050 goal of 80% carbon-free electricity in the 1990s – they actually reached 90% by depending on nuclear generation with fraction of the Energiewende costs by 2050. And their consumers enjoy electricity that is among the cheapest in developed nations.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 18, 2016

Jarmo, excellent point. France is definitely the leader in the EU and the World in developing zero carbon nuclear power. Unlike other Countries that are most often referenced as World leaders in lower carbon power generation, such as Germany, France does not rely overwhelmingly on neighboring EU Countries for intermediate-peaking power capacities as needed to balance their national power grids’ supply-demand. Germany has installed very large amounts of variable wind power generation capacity in recent years. What is rarely covered in the Media is the fact that Germany relies substantially on their adjacent EU neighbors’ hydropower and national fossil fuels power generation to provide intermediate-peaking power as needed to reliably operate their power grids.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 19, 2016

It is not reported because it usually does not happen. unlike france which usually relys on the flexible generation in germany and other country to cover its demand peaks or at the monment as a backup for its failing nuclear fleet (23 nuclear power stations are offline). Germany mainly reduces eports in extreme cases or has slight imports, which are only a fraction of the french import peaks.
Also germany sells still at higher prices than it buys electicity from neighbors (2015) while france exports at much lower prices than it exports.
This is likely to change with rising amounts of renewables in germany too, but till the price difference reaches the levels of the french imports / exports, the share of renewable generation in germany will be similar to the nuclear share in france now.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on October 19, 2016

Germany is linked to Denmark by Jutland-Germany interconnector, 1780 MW and Kontek ,600 MW. Sweden in linked to Germany by Baltic link, 600 MW. Denmark in linked to Sweden and Norway by 3440 MW interconnectors.

Germany-Jutland interconnector that indirectly links Germany and Norway is being expanded to 2500 MW by TenneT as current capacity is insufficient. In addition, further interconnectors are being built, for example a 1400 MW direct link between Germany and Norway.

It appears north Germany’s windfarms will increasingly use Norway and Sweden as their battery.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on October 19, 2016

Helmut, Germany currently gets up to 30% of its electric power (on average) from renewable power, of which just over half comes from variable wind & solar. Even though Germany has made substantial progress in expanding renewable wind & solar in recent years, they still generate most their power (baseload) from coal (42%-44%), nuclear (14%-15%) and oil (1%-2%). Their national intermediate-peaking power comes from about 10% natural gas. On dark or very cloudy, no-wind days, where does the power come from? After maximizing natural gas peaking power capacity, most likely imports. On windy, sunny days where does the excess power go? Some combination of reduced national natural gas peaking power to minimum and large increased exports. This import-export power grid operation can vary from 0 up to huge MWHr’s due to the capacity factors of variable wind & solar.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 19, 2016

Yes, but the share of coal and nuclear is falling. When there is low wind and solar, either there is high wind or solar production in neighboring countries, then power is imported from there. Or it is not, then it is generated using the existing generatio capacity in germany. And if wind and solar is high power stations are ramped down, unless someone in a neighboring country likes to buy the power. German fossil power plants have high ramp rates and high partial load efficiency. Only nuclear ramps very badly. Retrofittet BoA Lignite plant with dry coal burner easily ramp up and down between 20 and 100% of load, with a ramp rate of 33MW/min per block.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 19, 2016

The traditional batterys for the german grid are swizerland and austria with 20TWh storage capacity. The first power line to storage lakes there, 220/380kV was built nearly 100 years ago to balance coal power staions. (And high voltage transmission was developed in the 19th century to “balance the variability of wind at the coast with and the seasonality of hydropower in the alps by connecting them” )
The grid connections to austria and swizerland are much stronger than the weak konnections towards scandinavia.
Germany can import or export well above 20GW with the existing grid, and it is being expanded.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on October 20, 2016

Helmut, you misunderstand the problem. Austria cannot help with the wind generation in northern Germany.

The problem is that there are no sufficient connections inside Germany. That is why wind power from north Germany has been looped through Poland and Czech Republic to Austria to eventually reach south Germany.

These problems are causing the split of German-Austria electricity market:

http://www.icis.com/resources/news/2016/09/01/10030712/acer-to-back-germ...

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 20, 2016

I understand it, just read NEP 2015. At the moment the north-south transport capacity is about 20GW, and it is planned to extend this by another 24-30GW. in Volumen the power transfers via poland and czech republic are negible compared to the flows inside germany, but they are not agreed upond, but just happen, because in these two counrys there was yet no equipment installed to control the flow of power within the grid. It was also missing at the german-polnish border, so there was no way to stop the power from flowing the wrong way. This is solved with the PST’s at the border to some degree (which are financed from both sides! they are not! a polish project but a part of the german NEP)
The power flows threw Austria on the balcan and the power flows to the large storages in Austria combined with other power flows north south at the moment can exceed the 20GW capacity. The cross border capacity from germany to asustria would be enough to transport the transit threw austria and to supply the storages in austria. E.g if you travel along the A12 into Austria along the rhine, there are sometimes 4 paralel dual circuits 400kV lines along the highway, the oldest of them from 1924 or so. Eight 400kV circuits in parallel are quite a strong connection. And thats by far not the only point where power lines cross the border.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on October 22, 2016

Yes, but the share of coal and nuclear is falling. When there is low wind and solar, either there is high wind or solar production in neighboring countries, then power is imported from there.

Seriously, Helmut…Central Europe does not cover several time zones. The sun shines in all countries there pretty much at the same time. And it definitely does not shine in any of Germany’s neighbours at night.

That also applies to weather systems. When it’s windy in northern Germany, often it is also windy in Denmark, the Netherlands, eastern Poland and southern Sweden. Ditto for low wind generation.

http://euanmearns.com/wind-blowing-nowhere/

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on October 22, 2016

Europe alone covers 4 time zones, but you forget that the existing grid connections reach further east, till Wladiwostok and Saigon. They are also extended in many places at the moment, e.g. from China to Kasachstan. But at the moment it’s already smoothing solar output a lot to balancing it in the same or neighboring time zones to eliminate weather influences.
And the same applies to wind. If there is low wind in germany this says nothing about scotland, of finland or turky, or spain, or MArokko and so on. There are a lot of grid connections existing, and a lot are under construction around the world.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on October 23, 2016

Europe alone covers 4 time zones, but you forget that the existing grid connections reach further east, till Wladiwostok and Saigon.

In other words, you expect Владивосто́к and Mongolia to have enough wind capacity to be able to carry Europe when it’s dark and becalmed (and presumably vice-versa), and for Russia and China to build the massive (hundreds of HVDC lines) transmission network to deliver the power.

If I thought you were smart enough to consider factors like this, I’d have to call you insane.

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