Greenhouse Gas Reduction Mandates: Turn out the lights ... Posted by: McQ
on Monday, March 10, 2008
The question about what has to be done to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is finally beginning to take form. Essentially, if you believe in the premise that humans are a major factor in the present climate change, it requires zero emissions of GHG very quickly and very soon. The question is, can we get there from here and the second part is, do we really want too?
The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.
Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.
Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.
That is obviously drastic action, and while the rest of the article discusses the study, the impact of warming and some of the politics, it is the concluding paragraph that gets to the crux of the situation:
When it comes to deciding how drastically to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, O'Neill said, "in the end, this is a value judgment, it's not a scientific question." The idea of shifting to a carbon-free society, he added, "appears to be technically feasible. The question is whether it's politically feasible or economically feasible."
Yes it may be 'technically feasible' but it certainly is anything but economically feasible and that puts a big question mark on its political feasibility.
First the time frame. The studies suggest that we must be at zero carbon emissions in decades, not centuries. The economic implications of that sort of a shift is mind boggling.
But nations and states seem intent on pursuing that sort of a schedule despite the economic hardship, or disaster, it may visit on their citizens.
Take Maryland for example. Pending right now are House Bill 712 and Senate Bill 306. The bills are entitled "Global Warming Solutions - Reductions in Greenhouse Gases" and are a mandate for heading to a 90% reduction, not just in CO2 but all greenhouse gasses by 2050. In just a little over 40 years, per the Maryland bills, that state will be at will have reduced its output of CO2, N2O, CH4 and various other GHG to 10% of its current output.
From the bills:
THE STATE HAS THE TECHNOLOGY AND INGENUITY TO REDUCE THE THREAT OF GLOBAL WARMING AND MAKE GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS A PART OF THE STATE’S FUTURE BY ACHIEVING A MANDATED 25% REDUCTION IN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM 2006 LEVELS BY 2020 AND A MANDATED 90% REDUCTION IN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM 2006 LEVELS BY 2050;
(5) IN ADDITION TO ACHIEVING THE MANDATED REDUCTIONS IN §2–1203 OF THIS SUBTITLE, IT IS IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE STATE TO ACT EARLY AND AGGRESSIVELY TO ACHIEVE THE COMMISSION ON CLIMATE CHANGE’S RECOMMENDED GOALS OF REDUCING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY 10% FROM 2006 LEVELS BY 2012 AND BY 15% FROM 2006 LEVELS BY 2015;
4 years from now, MD plans on an across the board reduction of GHG 10% and by 15% 3 years later. The mechanisms include a cap-and-trade system and straight up reductions at the source.
But what are those sources? Well, according to the EPA, they are many and varied. But the two major sources of CO2 production are fossil fuel combustion and non-energy use of fuels. And, in fact, in total, both of these categories have increased 20+% in the last 15 years.
For methane, one of the major contributors beside landfills are natural gas systems. For N2O the two major sources are agriculture and "mobile combustion" - cars.
And for HFCs, PFCs, and SF6, a major source is electrical transmission and distribution.
To break it down by economic sectors, the top producer of GHG is electrical generation, followed by transportation and then industry.
So how will Maryland accomplish these ambitious mandates? Well, one would think it would do so by going after the economic sectors that are the largest producers of GHG. And that means it must first aggressively reduce the emissions within the electrical generation sector.
That's very problematic when you look at the methods by which most electricity is generated in the state. To give you an idea of the present production of electricity in the state:
There are 34 power plants operating in Maryland with a capacity rating of 2 or more megawatts (MW). Eighteen of the plants have a generating capacity greater than 100 MW. The combined capacity of the 34 operating plants is approximately 13,300 MW. A megawatt is a measure of the maximum power generating capacity of a power plant and is equal to one million watts of power.
How does this 13,300 MW break down by type of generating plant? Maryland produces 39% of its capacity through coal fired plants. They are the heaviest producers of GHG. In addition, 28% are petroleum plants (with a good majority of those being dual fired with another fuel source such as natural gas or coal). 14% are natural gas. Only 14% of Maryland's power comes from nuclear and 4% from hydro. 82% (or 10,906 MW) of the 13,300 MW of power comes from GHG polluting systems.
And what does Maryland have on the drawing board reach these mandates? Well, not much. 791 MW broken down as 181 MW wind, 10 MW landfill gas (methane) and 600 MW by natural gas (a major producer of methane).
And, it isn't clear whether this 791 MW is in addition to the existing generating capacity or in replacement of some of it. Regardless, it isn't going to do much at all to help reach the mandated goals. Completely absent from the proposed generating mix is nuclear power. There is a proposal to put a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant, but it is under sustained attack by the usual suspects. Projections say the addition of this third reactor would almost double Calvert Cliffs 1,829 MW of present power. 2+ times the proposed additions presently on the drawing boards.
As if to stress this refusal to consider nuclear power as a major alternative to reach those mandated goals, the proposed Maryland bills include this paragraph:
(6) WHILE REDUCTIONS OF HARMFUL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS ARE ONE PART OF THE SOLUTION, THE STATE SHOULD FOCUS ON DEVELOPING AND UTILIZING CLEAN ENERGIES THAT PROVIDE GREATER ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND CONSERVATION SUCH AS RENEWABLE ENERGY FROM WIND, SOLAR, GEOTHERMAL, AND BIOENERGY SOURCES;
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) just offered its annual outlook for the future of nuclear power, and it’s optimistic—partly of necessity. Today’s 104 nuclear power plants generate about 20 percent of electricity in the United States. Due to rising energy demand and aging infrastructure, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission predicts that industry will need to build 50 new reactors to continue producing the same proportion of the country’s power over the next 30 years.
Unfortunately, that is a very unlikely scenario.
Of course we haven't even touched on the transportation or industrial economic sectors, which, it seems, would also have to be reined in significantly to reduce emissions to the level necessary to achieve the Maryland GHG mandates.
The Maryland panacea - its answer to reaching these aggressive mandates - is, of course, a government run but "market based" cap-and-trade system. You can read a decent fact sheet about cap and trade here. Essentially an authority sets emission limits and enables a "market" for trading between those whose emissions come in under their limit and those who require more than their emission limits. The method of reaching the mandates in the bill is to increasingly lower the limits and make it much too expensive to ignore them (fines) or buy offsets.
What Maryland seems not to understand is unless the region or the nation are doing much the same thing, industries and businesses who find the costs associated with these bills too onerous in the future will either shut down or relocate to friendlier locations.
And that, in a microcosm, is precisely how it will work throughout the world as emerging economies ignore GHG reduction in favor of their economy while some nations attempt to enact radical GHG reduction mandates. Certainly Maryland can reach its mandates. However you have to wonder if there will be anyone left after they do so to turn off the lights, and given what they'll have to do with their electrical grid to reach those mandates, whether there will be a light to turn off.
Henke wrote in some post a bit ago that he’d essentially only pay attention to evidence in the ’climate change’ debate if it is published in peer-reviewed journals. What happens, however, if counter-evidence is suppressed, Mr. Henke?
Oh, and regarding that consensus, from the same source:
Furthermore, a Canadian survey of scientists released on March 6, 2008 offered even more evidence that the alleged ‘consensus’ is non-existent. A canvass of more than 51,000 scientists with the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA) found 68% of them disagree with the statement that ‘the debate on the scientific causes of recent climate change is settled.’" According to the survey, only 26% of scientists attributed warming to “human activity like burning fossil fuels.” APEGGA’s executive director Neil Windsor said, “We’re not surprised at all. There is no clear consensus of scientists that we know of."
I think that the AGW alarmists have finally jumped the shark. The bad thing about this is that efficiency and low pollution is in our interest, but these advances will be put into serious disrepute by the kind of blather that this report represents.
I sincerely doubt this. I used to own property in Maryland. Hell, I used to live there.
Note the past tense.
Very minor quibble: you seem to have a "g" in your "rein". Don’t know why that one bugs me so much; of all the homonymically (heh) difficult situations it is one of the most minor, but it seems to be becoming more common. Must be my equestrian heritage. Feel free to correct (or not) and delete this comment. No one ever need know.
so all the senators and congressmen with second homes and apts in Maryland will have to ride a horse to the capital?
I’ll trade a couple degrees warmer weather and a few inches of sea level for water without out pharmaceuticals, estrogen, pesticides, herbicides and various other stuff that ends up coming out of my tap.
I am not sure why the revenue aspects of the proposed legislation in House Bill 712 and Senate Bill 306 have received scant attention from the public or the press.
The act allows the state to establish greenhouse gas emission fees (ordinary citizens would call them new taxes) without any further legislation. This appears to be a "feel good" piece so that green advocates can show they are extracting pain for the cause while confirming that, for serious tax-and-spend politicians, their intent to use a "high minded" basis to simply extract revenue from the economy.
There are no metrics to link effects, of course, because, even if there were effects, there is no way to gage the impacts of a small state on the atmosphere of the entire world.
If these tax-and-spend politicians had the courage of their alleged convictions on global warming, they would take substantive action to protect our coastlines and provide incentives to move real property inland, or other meaningful measures.
Of course there is none of this because there is no real conviction other than the conviction to inflict new taxes as the only way to fix any problem that they get us to believe in.
Environmentalists should be tipped off on how their cause is being co-opted by a government that has an insatiable appetite for taxes.