Archive for February, 2007


An editorial in The Herald (15 February 2007) chimed in on the issue of whether or not the government should subsidize a proposed hydrogen power plant, stating that “it would be scandalous” if the BP plant were not built. BP (with Scottish and Southern Power) plans to build an electricity generation plant fueled by hydrogen near Peterhead in Scotland. The hydrogen would come from natural gas, with CO2 as a byproduct. The CO2 would then be used for enhanced oil recovery in the Miller field in the North Sea. Most of the CO2 would be sequestered in the subsurface.

On the one hand, BP wants subsidies for generating cleaner yet more expensive electricity. BP’s bargaining position is strong, it threatens that the project will not move forward and that the Miller oil field will have to stop production. On the other hand, the Treasury does not want to commit the government to long-term subsidies until the technology has been proven to be feasible and cost effective. The Department of Trade and Industry is looking into the issue, but BP wants a response by the end of the year.

A BP spokesperson told Reuters that “It does depend on society and government putting a value, and a sufficient value, to warrant the technology on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide,” and that “It’s not something that would be done without a value put on it because it has no inherent value in its own right…It does require support, fiscal support.”


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Role of state climatologist comes under scrutiny

Michael Hopkin reports this week in the journal Nature that state climatologists in Oregon and Virginia have been sacked by their governors for being overly skeptical of anthropogenic climate change. If you have access to Nature, see vol. 445, 806 (22 Feb. 2007).

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BP announced it will delay a decision to build a zero emission power plant that sequesters carbon dioxide because the Scottish government has not promised to subsidize the project. The corporation and the Scottish government appear to be sparring over who will pay for research and development. “If the government or society put a value on carbon dioxide, then that value will make projects like this work.” The Scottish Treasury said that it could not commit to long term subsidies of such plants until they have been proven feasible and cost-effective. If you have a subscription, see Fiona Harvey, Financial Times, 9 Feb. 2007.

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AAAS Board Releases New Statement on Climate Change


The retreating Qori Kalis glacier in the Andes of Peru in 2000
Photograph courtesy of Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University

The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a critical greenhouse gas, is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years. The average temperature of the Earth is heading for levels not experienced for millions of years. Scientific predictions of the impacts of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and deforestation match observed changes. As expected, intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies. These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible.

Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be.

History provides many examples of society confronting grave threats by mobilizing knowledge and promoting innovation. We need an aggressive research, development and deployment effort to transform the existing and future energy systems of the world away from technologies that emit greenhouse gases. Developing clean energy technologies will provide economic opportunities and ensure future energy supplies.

In addition to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we develop strategies to adapt to ongoing changes and make communities more resilient to future changes.

The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action. Stronger leadership at all levels is needed. The time is now. We must rise to the challenge. We owe this to future generations.

18 February 2007

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Here are links to two articles and their comments from Gristmill: for carbon taxes ; for cap and trade .

In the 9 February 2007 issue of Science, Daniel P. Schrag (Harvard Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences) writes:

Compared with the cost of most renewable energy sources, increasing the cost of electricity from coal by 50% to add sequestration seems like a bargain. When one includes the distribution and delivery charges, electric bills of most consumers would rise only 20% or so. So why is this not a higher priority in climate change legislation? Most legal approaches to climate change mitigation have focused on market mechanisms, primarily cap and trade programs. A problem is that the cap in Europe and any of the caps under discussion in the U.S. Congress yield a price on carbon that is well below the cost of capture and storage. Even if the cap were lowered, power companies might hesitate to invest in the infrastructure required for sequestration because of volatility in the price of carbon. Thus, it seems that another mechanism is required, at least to get carbon sequestration projects started.

Given the current questions about sequestration technology, the current economic realities that make it unlikely that many companies will invest in sequestration over a sustained period, and the political realities that make it unlikely we will see in the next few years a price on carbon high enough to force sequestration from coal, what can government do to make sure that carbon sequestration is ready when we need it? … By creating a competitive bidding process for long-term sequestration contracts, the United States can ensure that the most cost-efficient strategies will be used while testing a variety of capture and storage options including retrofitting older pulverized coal plants.

“Preparing to Capture Carbon”, Science, vol. 315, Issue 5813, pp. 812-813.

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California has become the first state to have greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions performance standards for electric generation. On 25 January 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) agreed by unanimous vote to enact California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standards (Rulemaking 06-04-009 cpuc-rm06-04-009.pdf). These standards were adopted pursuant to SB 1368 sb13681.pdf, which prohibits load serving entities (e.g. electric utilities) from entering into long term contracts for baseload electricity generation (power plants that are in service around the clock) unless the electricity generation complies with the emission performance standards. The rules apply to electricity sold within California even if it is generated outside of the state. Baseload electricity generation must have GHG emissions at least as low as power plants using combined cycle gas turbines. California also has GHG emission reporting and verification rules (California Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 ab_32_bill_20060927_chaptered.pdf).

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The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an electric industry association, issued its “Climate Change Principles” today. Others have commented on the significance of the “Principles” in general, but here I will only note what they have to say about carbon capture and storage (CCS).

EEI encourages advanced clean coal technology (the cited examples cover nearly all new coal generation: pulverized coal, fluidized bed, and IGCC) and CCS for all types of fossil-based generation. The “Principles” go on to state that EEI supports federal action or legislation to reduce greenhouse gases that, inter alia, addresses regulatory or economic barriers to CCS.


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