Archive for August, 2009

Cash for renewable clunkers

August 31, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reports how Wall Street wind investors get a 30% cash rebate on the building of renewable energy facilities in addition to accelerated depreciation deductions — with no government spending cap on the program.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said:

“We are concerned that this may evolve into a cash-for-clunkers version 2.0.”

Greens wreak havoc in bottled water industry

August 31, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reports today on how the greens have crushed demand for bottled water, causing a price war.

Energy sprawl?

August 31, 2009

Watch for the greens to oppose wind, solar and biofuels projects because of the size of the projects’ geographic footprints. The greens call it “energy sprawl.”

The greens prefer energy rationing to renewables. They may use the term “efficiency,” but like “sustainable,” it’s merely a euphemism for “no growth.”

Click here for a Nature Conservancy study entitled “Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America.”

Dominion one-ups AEP on CCS rathole

August 27, 2009

Virginia’s Dominion Generation is preparing an even bigger carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) boondoggle than AEP.

Last week, we reported that AEP applied for stimulus money to capture 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 from a West Virgina power plant:

So AEP plans to spend $670 million — remember half is taxpayer money — to avoid increasing atmospheric CO2 levels by 0.000077 ppmv per year.

Now comes Dominion, which wants $290 million to capture 500,000 tons of CO2 — all to avoid an annual contribution of 0.000025 ppmv of CO2 to the atmopshere.

While Dominion “only” asks for about 87% as much taxpayer cash as AEP, it would only sequester 33% of the CO2 of the AEP project.

Click here for Steve Milloy’s Investor’s Business Daily op-ed, “Climate Bill Is Built On ‘Clean Coal’ Myths.

Climate Bill Is Built On ‘Clean Coal’ Myths

August 26, 2009

By Steven Milloy
Investor’s Business Daily, August 26, 2009

The fate of the Waxman-Markey climate bill rests upon two myths about so-called “clean coal.” The first is that coal, as used today in the U.S., is a dirty fuel. The other is that coal can be made “clean” by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and storing them underground in geologic repositories.

As to the first myth, if the chief concern about burning coal for electricity is limited to CO2 emissions, then coal is already clean. CO2 is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring trace gas in the atmosphere that humans exhale and plants need to grow.

There is no direct evidence that humankind’s comparatively minuscule CO2 emissions predictably or discernibly affect the climate. Controversy surrounding the first myth has given rise to the second myth as a potential solution.

Some in the coal and electric-power industries are touting the second myth in hopes of being able to survive climate legislation with hard emission caps that may be enacted this fall.

These groups are looking for time and taxpayer money to develop CO2 capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies that would allow the continued use of coal in power plants. The Waxman-Markey bill that is now being considered in Congress would provide about $60 billion for CCS technologies.

The problem, though, is that even if $60 billion were enough money to implement CCS — and it’s not by a long shot — it would make no difference to the atmosphere and climate, regardless of whether you believe the first myth.

Atmospheric levels of CO2 are currently about 380 parts per million (ppm), as opposed to perhaps about 290 ppm around 1850. Based on this increase, we can reasonably estimate that about 40% of manmade CO2 emissions since 1850 remain in the atmosphere, while the other 60% is transferred to oceans and the terrestrial biosphere.

In 2007, U.S. coal-fired power plants emitted about 2.4 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, meaning that about one billion metric tons of CO2 remained in the atmosphere. Since each part per million of CO2 in the atmosphere weighs about 7.81 billion metric tons, the annual accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere resulting from U.S. power-plant emissions is on the order of 0.12 ppm.

So if CCS were commenced immediately and continued until, say, the year 2100, that would avoid accumulation of atmospheric CO2 by about 11 ppm — not exactly an earth-shaking amount. EPA scenarios forecast future CO2 levels to rise to 500 to 700 ppm.

Using the climate models relied on by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that attempt to project atmospheric warming caused by CO2, the theoretical amount of atmospheric warming avoided by CCS works out to between 0.045 to 0.15 degree Celsius avoided over the next 90 years.

Again, this is hardly significant compared with the 0.7-degree increase we seem to have experienced since 1850.

But then, CCS cannot be implemented immediately and is not affordable on any significant scale in the first place. The most ambitious plans put the first commercial-scale CCS projects 10 years or more into the future.

In a presentation to the Society of Petroleum Engineers last March, energy expert Michael Economides estimated that CO2 cuts on the order of the U.S.-shunned Kyoto Protocol would require the drilling of 161,429 injection wells by 2030 at a cost of $1.61 trillion.

That price tag doesn’t include the cost of capturing the CO2 at the point of generation, purchasing rights of way for pipelines, pipeline installation costs, and liability insurance. Power plants would have to use 30% more energy for CO2 capture, transport and storage.

Economides says the total cost may be as high as $1 trillion annually — without any guarantees that the CO2 would stay sequestered. Importantly, the Kyoto Protocol requirement of a 7% reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels pales in comparison to that required by Waxman-Markey — an 83% reduction from 2005 levels.

For those who still hold dear the fantasy of CCS, it may serve to remember ill-fated Yucca Mountain, the almost 30-year-old project to develop a site for storing spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants one mile under the Nevada desert.

Despite tens of billions of dollars spent on site planning and engineering, Nevada NIMBY-ism and anti-nuclear power activists delayed the project long enough for the Obama administration to defund the project.

If the comparatively small Yucca Mountain project could not be made to happen, it’s doubtful that hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of pipelines carrying pressurized CO2 to much more uncertain underground entombment and possible environmental contamination will happen either.

The CCS myth has only served to derail the debate that needs to occur in Congress about the all-important first myth. Desperate coal and utility companies that rely on coal as fuel have advanced CCS in order to avoid a carbon-cap death penalty and to be perceived as environmentally progressive.

Energy-realistic politicians looking for an easy out on the climate issue are more than happy to dangle taxpayer money in front of the much-needed coal and utility industries to get them to the table for a quick-and-dirty deal.

Some environmentalists — Al Gore, for one — are willing to pay lip service to the CCS concept just to get a bill passed and establish a beachhead for their political power grab.

But few in the climate debate have stopped to seriously consider the realities of CCS. Now is the time for that consideration so that Congress can decide how seriously it believes in the first myth and whether it is worth its universally recognized economic pain.

Milloy publishes and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).

Ivory Tower Energy Policy: Energy efficiency obviates need for new coal?

August 25, 2009

Georgia Tech researchers claim that a 9% gain in energy efficiency by 2020 would obviate the need for new coal-fired power plants in 16 southern states (AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV). The study says,

“With vigorous policies, it is possible to reduce energy consumption in the South by 1 percent per year, which would more than eliminate the projected growth in energy demand in the region.”

The fact that reduced energy use and economic growth have never occurred simultaneously in the in the history of mankind seems to have been overlooked by these researchers.

Click here for the “study.”

Greens vow to oppose U.S. tar sands refinery

August 25, 2009

Carbon Control News reports:

A proposed oil refinery in South Dakota, the nation’s first new refiner in several decades, is emerging as the next battleground over whether tar sands from Canada would undermine U.S. goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists are vowing to challenge in court South Dakota’s recently announced decision upholding a key air permit for what would be the first new refinery built in the United States in 30 years, a project designed to process crude oil from Canadian tar sands…

Click here for Hyperion Refining’s media release.

Peak oil demolished in NY Times op-ed

August 25, 2009

Michael Lynch opines in the New York Times today on so-called “peak oil”:

A careful examination of the facts shows that most arguments about peak oil are based on anecdotal information, vague references and ignorance of how the oil industry goes about finding fields and extracting petroleum.

Click here to read it.

Waxman-Markey’s gasoline price spikes

August 24, 2009

The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported today that the Waxman-Markey climate bill may reduce U.S. refinery throughput by as much as 25% by 2030.

Waxman-Markey would outsource to foreign countries both U.S. jobs and greenhouse gas emissions, make us more dependent on foreign gasoline and more susceptible to gasoline price spikes.

Once again, Waxman-Markey is all pain and no gain — why the API would even support a “lite” version of the bill remains beyond comprehension.

Utility wants to pour $334 million of stimulus money down carbon capture rathole

August 21, 2009

Would you spend $670 million to maybe change the Earth’s tempertaure by an imperceptible 0.000092 degrees Celsius over the next 85 years?

Utility giant AEP has applied for $334 million in stimulus money to construct the first commercial scale CO2 capture and storage project at a West Virginia coal-fired power plant. That’s about half the money needed for the project. The project goal is to capture 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year and then to store it 1.5 miles below the surface.

How much of a difference in atmospheric CO2 levels will this make?

Atmospheric CO2 accumulation from this plant is the product the emissions (0.0015 billion metric tons of CO2) times its persistence in the atmopshere (estimated to be 40%), which equals 0.0006 billion metric tons of CO2.

Since 1 part per million by volume (ppmv) of CO2 weights 7.81 billion metric tons, the atmospheric persistence of the plant’s emissions is roughly 0.0006 / 7.81, which equals 0.000077 ppmv.

So AEP plans to spend $670 million — remember half is taxpayer money — to avoid increasing atmospheric CO2 levels by 0.000077 ppmv per year. That’s only $8.7 trillion per ppmv avoided.

How much of a hypothetical change in temperature will be achieved by this $670 million expenditure?

If the project started burying CO2 in 2015 as planned, then between 2015 and 2100 the atmosphere would contain about about 0.0065 ppmv less CO2 (85 years x 0.00077 ppmv per year).

Using the IPCC’s simplified expression for calculation of radiative forcing due to CO2 and 380 ppmv for our base year 2007, we get a change in CO2-related forcing of about 0.000092 W/m2, which works out to between 0.0000276 °C to 0.000092 °C of potential warming avoided over those 85 years.

That works out to a rate of between $7.3 trillion to $24.3 trillion spent per hypothetical 1 °C rise in global temperature avoided. Remember, this is only a hypothetical temperture difference; it’s not at all certain that any temperature difference would actually occur!

Moreover, even if this miniscule temperature increase were avoided, it’s not at all clear that any climatic benefits would actually occur. Global warming is better, after all, than global cooling.