Monday, December 07, 2015
What Will All The Hot Air In Paris Actually Do?
Negotiators and activists are getting increasingly serious about the prospects of finalizing a carbon-cutting deal here in Paris. No doubt if they are successful we will see much back-slapping and exhortations of “success” in 7 days. But the bonhomie will hide a rather inconvenient truth: even if it’s successful, any deal negotiated in Paris is going to do very little to rein in temperature rises.
In a recent peer-reviewed research paper, I looked at all the carbon-cutting promises countries committed to ahead of Paris (their so-called “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” or INDCs) for the years 2016-2030. These are what the global treaty will be based on (along with a bunch of hot air about what might happen outside those dates – something that’s easy for politicians of today to talk about, but that we just can’t take seriously).
What I found when I looked at the national promises was that they will cut global temperatures by just 0.05°C (0.09°F) by 2100.
And even if every government on the planet not only keeps every Paris promise, reduces all emissions by 2030, shifts no emissions to other countries, but also keeps these emission reductions throughout the rest of the century, temperatures will be reduced by just 0.17°C (0.3°F) by the year 2100.
And let’s be clear, that is incredibly – probably even ridiculously – optimistic. Consider the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, never ratified by the US, and eventually abandoned by Canada and Russia and Japan. After several renegotiations, the Kyoto Protocol had been weakened to the point that the hot air left from the collapse of the Soviet Union exceeded the entire promised reductions, leaving the treaty essentially toothless.
The only reason any of the Kyoto goals were almost achieved was the global 2008 recession. Moreover, emissions were just shifted from one country to another. The EU, the most climate-engaged bloc, saw an increase in its emission imports from China alone equaling its entire domestic CO₂ reductions. In total, 40% of all emissions were likely shifted away from the areas that made promises.
Of course, Paris has been talked up by the likes of the UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres, very busy here in Paris, who says: “the INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.”
That entirely misrepresents reality. The 2.7°C essentially assumes that although governments do little in Paris then right after 2030 they will embark on incredibly ambitious climate reductions, thus getting us to 2.7°C. That way of thinking is similar to telling the deeply indebted Greeks that just making the first repayment on their most pressing loans will put them on an easy pathway to becoming debt-free. It completely misses the point.
Figueres’ own organization estimates the Paris promises on the table will reduce emissions by 33Gt CO₂ in total. To limit rises to 2.7°C, about 3,000Gt CO₂ would need to be reduced – or about 100 times more than the Paris commitments.
Negotiators here in Paris are trying to tackle global warming in the same way that has failed for 30 years: by making promises that are individually expensive, will have little impact even in a hundred years and that many governments will try to shirk from.
The real goal here isn’t to negotiate a deal, it’s to make an impact on temperature rises. This approach didn’t work in Kyoto, it didn’t work in Copenhagen, it hasn’t worked in the other climate conferences or international gatherings. And regardless of any declarations of success, it’s not going to happen here in Paris.
Obama's Paris climate treaty spells doom for TPP
Whatever is signed in Paris will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate so Obama will use the TPP to bypass the Senate in future and enforce his Green agenda -- so Congress cannot allow it (the TTP) to pass
President Obama will sign on to some form of a climate change treaty in Paris and he will refuse to submit it to the Senate for ratification.
Why is the lame-duck Obama emboldened to flout the Constitution on this landmark treaty?
The answer lies in Congress's attempt to force the president to bring his Iran deal to the Senate for ratification. When Republicans decided to "assert their authority" by passing legislation requiring that Obama submit the nuclear deal to Congress in a form that could only be rejected if a two-thirds majority in both chambers were willing to override his veto, the seeds were sown for Obama's complete disregard for constitutional treaty powers.
Not coincidentally, during the same timeframe, Obama and Republican congressional leaders were working overtime to provide the executive with what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then called "an enormous grant of power" by allowing him to fast-track trade deals through Congress.
These two actions in tandem have set the stage for the imperial Obama who will sign the treaty, use his regulatory agencies to write rules based upon it and dare Congress or the courts to stop him.
And it is this experience that will doom Obama's attempt to rewrite the rules of the world's economy through his recently completed, yet unsigned, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Under the rules of fast-track, once Obama signs the TPP, Congress will be on the clock to have an up-or-down vote in both the House and the Senate without amendments or filibusters. Into this decision-making mix, the majority in Congress will be pulling out the stops to stop the Paris treaty.
TPP matters in this post-Paris climate treaty signature context because it provides the international framework to enforce the climate change agreement without any additional congressional approval. The U.S. Trade Representative's office made the importance of using the TPP to enforce the green agenda clear in a January 2014 press release when they declared:
The United States' position on the environment in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is this: environmental stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to agreement.
Our proposals in the TPP are centered around the enforcement of environmental laws, including those implementing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in TPP partner countries, and also around trailblazing, first-ever conservation proposals that will raise standards across the region.
There can be little doubt that Obama plans on using the Trans-Pacific Partnership governance as the means to enforce whatever he agrees to in Paris on the U.S. all the while our trade partners will ignore it, with the threat of international trade sanctions imposed against the United States should Congress or a future president roll back his agenda.
It is also clear that Obama intends to force a ponderous federal court battle over whether the Paris treaty should be subjected to Senate ratification, buying him time to move forward with a regulatory agenda designed to meet the terms of the non-ratified agreement.
Given the likelihood that the TPP governance board (which consists of one vote for each of the 12 countries who are currently participating) will act to enforce the Paris climate treaty against the U.S. (but not themselves) for noncompliance during a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders presidency regardless of the will of Congress, the vote on TPP will become the proxy for Obama's climate agenda.
The truth has always been that the TPP has never been about trade, but instead has been about a rewriting of the rules of the world economy negotiated by a president who vowed to fundamentally transform America. And it is through the TPP that any future president who shares his vision will be able to finish the transformation and no one in Congress will be able to stop it.
Hope for our water woes found in fracking technologies
For years, water, or, more accurately, its scarcity, has been predicted to be the next doomsday scenario. In 1994, the American Philosophical Society published a book bearing the title: Is water our next crisis? In 2007, NBC featured: Crisis feared as U.S. water supplies dry up. More recently, in 2011, NPR did a story on Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization — a new book in which the author posits: “water is surpassing oil as the world’s scarcest critical resource.” This year, a Business Insider (BI) report called “water scarcity problems” a “looming national issue.” In September, the Associated Press declared: “The water crisis is already here.”
Hydraulic fracturing is often blamed for exacerbating water concerns. The BI states: “In Colorado … they’re keeping an eye on the effects of fracking on the state’s water supply. Using water for fracking could contribute to local shortages in the drought-prone state.”
Addressing the water problem, NBC offers hope: “Technology holds promise.” While not specifically referencing fracking, the 2007 feature couldn’t have predicted how integrally linked ever-improving fracking technologies and hope for our water woes could be.
Instead of being the perceived problem, the oil-and-gas industry could just be the solution.
Water is important to the hydraulic fracturing process. Fresh water is used to help transport the tiny grains of sand deep underground where they are used to hold open the fissures in the fracked rock—allowing the oil or natural gas to flow at economic rates. When the resource is extracted, it comes out of the ground with not only the water that was pumped in, but also with “produced water” from deep in the earth. This water mixture — that contains both the chemicals used to reduce friction in the frack job, and very high concentrations of salt, other minerals and metals — needs to be disposed of.
Historically, the wastewater — which can have as high a ratio as 10 barrels of water for every barrel of oil — has been trucked off-site and then injected thousands of feet underground into “disposal wells.” The disposal process is expensive and could potentially be the source of the spate of small earthquakes being experienced in Oklahoma.
The industry has been in search of a solution that would improve both safety and the bottom line.
Two years ago, I wrote about water reprocessing technologies that were able to clean the water at the well site so that it could be used again, and again, for hydraulic fracturing — virtually eliminating wastewater for many scenarios.
As technology does, it is continuing to improve.
What was “wastewater,” can now have new life irrigating crops in the arid southwest — or, at least, that is the apparent result of a research project conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Research team, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), and a coalition of oil-and-gas companies. The initial results look very promising.
Bill Weathersby, Chairman and CEO at Energy Water Solutions — a company that uses a patented technology to successfully recycle more than 8 million barrels, so far, of wastewater — spearheaded the effort. Katie Lewis, PhD, designed the experiment at the AgriLife Experimentation Station near Pecos, TX. Anadarko Petroleum brought the wastewater from a nearby well and Gibsons provided the tanks to store the water on site. The RRC permitted the use of the recycled water for the noncommercial cotton crop, which was planted on June 2, 2015. The size of the project was designed around the amount of water permitted.
Portions of the controlled field were watered with well water, while others received a blend of 1 part recycled water and 4 parts well water. About 30,000 barrels of recycled water were used for the project.
I had the opportunity to see the field, feel the cotton, and talk with Lewis — who told me the cotton grown with the blended water is doing as well as the cotton irrigated with well water. Soil analyses have demonstrated that there should not be adverse effects when irrigating with the blended water. The cotton will be tested for quality and strength. The soil will be sampled to be sure there is no contamination. Full reports on the economic and agricultural aspects will be produced.
Everyone involved is extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about the results.
Commissioner David Porter, RRC Chairman, describes the project as: “An important first step,” and said it was “a perfect example of the collaboration we need” and “evidence that free markets do work.”
Assuming the test results are as expected and the project expands next year, Porter told me the RRC will likely permit more recycled water. Weathersby hopes more companies will participate in additional testing to expand the project. Lewis would like to have a test field with differing ratios of recycled and well water: 4:1, 3:1, 2:1 and 1:1. Ultimately, participants hope the Texas legislature will use the results to change the law to allow the use of recycled water for agriculture.
While this project and collaboration are unique, there are many other companies with water recycling technologies and numerous other tests being conducted.
One of the new technologies being tested is developed by Kaizen Fluid Systems and uses an electromechanical process that can break down the molecular bonding agents to produce clean water with commercially viable by-products and no toxic waste stream. Kaizen’s system, which is scalable to meet the client’s needs or volume requirements, is especially effective in North Dakota’s Bakken Field where the wastewater disposal costs are very high and produced water is too salty to be recycled cost effectively by evaporation or reverse osmosis systems.
The type of hydraulic fracturing frequently used in the Bakken, cross link gel, requires exceptionally clean water with no salt or metals, and tests found that the Kaizen technology was able to deliver. The model is currently being scaled up and soon will be available for wide-scale wellsite use — with the mobile system processing 50 gallons a minute and the fixed base: 300 gallons per minute or 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) per day. Additionally, Sandy McDonald, Kaizen’s CEO, told me their system removes present and future environmental liabilities for the producers.
Recycling produced water and reusing it for hydraulic fracturing and/or agricultural use provides more water for everyone’s use, while eliminating the need for disposal wells.
The oil-and-gas industry’s search to do things better and more cost effectively, could provide the answer to America’s water woes.
Obama Apologizing to the World for US on Climate Is Ridiculous
President Obama’s opening remarks at the Paris climate agreement were effectively an apology for industrial progress. At the kickoff of the talks, Obama remarked, “I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
Obama should not be apologizing for the economic growth that dramatically improved Americans’ and much of the world’s quality of life. Instead, the president should apologize for pushing costly and ineffective climate policies that will make us worse off and trap the world’s poorest citizens in poverty.
The Cost of Climate Policies
The real problem facing American households and businesses is the Obama administration’s climate policies. The administration has finalized a slew of regulations to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Through a set of regulations known as the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency has required states to meet carbon dioxide emissions reduction goals for existing power plants.
At the same time, the EPA finalized a regulation capping emissions of carbon dioxide from new power plants so low as to effectively prevent any coal power plant from running without carbon capture and sequestration technology (which has yet to be proven feasible). The federal government also implemented climate regulations on vehicles, light and heavy-duty trucks, and fracking.
Heritage analysts modeled the cumulative costs of the Obama administration’s climate agenda by modeling the economic costs of a carbon tax. Taxing carbon dioxide energy incentivizes businesses and consumers to change production processes, technologies, and behavior in a manner comparable to the administration’s regulatory scheme—though neither regulations nor a tax is good policy. By 2030, Heritage economists estimate the damage would be:
An average annual employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs
A peak employment shortfall of more than 1 million jobs
A loss of more than $2.5 trillion (inflation-adjusted) in aggregate gross domestic product (GDP)
A total income loss of more than $7,000 (inflation-adjusted) per person
The trade-off that Americans receive for higher electricity rates, unemployment, and lower levels of prosperity is not an appealing one. Even though electricity generation accounts for the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, the estimated reduction is minuscule compared to global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, even if you do believe that the Earth is heading to catastrophic warming, the warming mitigated by the president’s plan would be barely measurable—unlike the economic consequences.
Is Climate Change a Problem?
This “problem” of climate change is hardly one at all. Natural variations have altered the climate much more than man has. Proponents of global action on climate change will argue that 97 percent of the climatologists agree on climate change. There is significant agreement among climatologists, even those labeled as skeptics, that the Earth has warmed moderately over the past 60 years and that some portion of that warming may be attributed to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. However, there is no consensus that temperatures are increasing at an accelerating rate.
In fact, the available climate data simply do not indicate that the Earth is heading toward catastrophic warming or more frequent and severe natural disasters. Quite the opposite. The earth has experienced a pause in warming since 1998, and data shows that the climate is less sensitive to increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions than the climate models predicted.
Dr. Roger Pielke, a professor at the University of Colorado’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, testified last year, saying:
… there exists exceedingly little scientific support for claims found in the media and political debate that hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and drought have increased in frequency or intensity on climate timescales either in the United States or globally".
In his remarks, Obama stressed that “[n]o nation—large or small, wealthy or poor—is immune.” Such a sentiment also holds true for climate policies. Policies that restrict the use of conventional fuels will make everyone poorer. And it’s the poorest who will suffer most.
Let’s place blame on the policies and regulations that obstruct citizens around the world from obtaining a better standard of living.
India is right: coal makes the world go round
India's defiance at the Paris climate talks should be celebrated
The Paris climate summit (COP21) is underway, and the usual handwringing over the threat of climate change is unfolding. There’s been the familiar ‘now or never’ and ‘the end is nigh’ rhetoric, the demand that Something Must Be Done, and, of course, heightened concern about countries like China and India’s insistence on coal-powered growth.
Now, Western leaders are much more sympathetic to developing countries this time around. Barack Obama has said that the responsibility for the problem of climate change lies most with the developed West. Where previous conferences were overshadowed by a blame game between developed and developing countries, commentators insist that this year will be different. Nevertheless, India and China are still expected to make a far greater commitment to renewables. In May, the two countries agreed to invest $22 billion in renewable-energy projects, and Indian president Narendra Modi unveiled a ‘global solar alliance’ of 120 countries at COP21.
However, India’s climate plan, which was submitted ahead of the talks, made clear that coal would continue to play a large role in its development. In a speech to the COP21, he insisted that Western nations should offer more investment to make renewables affordable for developing nations. While climate pundits and negotiators are talking of a drastic ‘decarbonisation’ of the global economy, Modi’s speech made clear that he would not be forced to rein in economic growth.
Statements from various world leaders have suggested that achieving a legally binding target to reduce carbon emissions may well prove difficult – even though climate commentators appear to be more hopeful. And, now that China, previously vilified as the world’s No1 polluter, has won favour for its apparent u-turn on fossil fuels, India is being painted as the new troublemaker, thwarting negotiators’ goal of doing away with the coal industry.
Indian officials have made clear their nation’s intention to continue using coal – and this has sparked tension. According to Time, India’s insistence on using ‘cheap, dirty electricity’ puts it at odds with the rest of COP21. A BBC report asked if the Paris conference can ‘overcome the India challenge’, adding that, ‘if any country embodies the challenge of reaching an agreement, it is India’.
But India’s defiance is something to be encouraged. Coal is the most readily available means of motoring the sort of development that India, and other developing countries, so desperately needs. India has 301 billion tonnes of available coal – the fifth largest reserve in the world. And it plans to open one mine a month over the next five years. None of this is a bad thing. Coal is not just a polluter, a source of carbon emission; it is an abundant energy source – energy that can drive human activity and push development in low-income countries.
Coal has been crucial to lifting millions out of poverty in India and China over the past two decades. Building schools and roads, powering villages, towns and commercial centres, supplying food and sustaining production – all this depends on readily available energy. Between 2004 and 2011, the number of poor people in India fell from 407million to 269million. Since India won its independence from Britain, life expectancy has doubled. In 2013, India eradicated the scourge of polio. All of this is an offshoot of coal-fired development.
Of course there is much further to go. It is unacceptable that in the 21st century millions of Indians still live below the poverty line, and a quarter of the population still live in darkness without electricity. But the response to this should be to ramp up energy production. India’s aim is to produce 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2020, a steep rise from the 600million tonnes that have been produced since 2012, to power 400million homes and sustain the growing economy. Coal is not just some black stuff in the earth – it has the potential to transform peoples’ lives in the here and now.
Although India has agreed to expand the amount of renewables in its energy mix, coal is by far the cheapest, most reliable and abundant source of energy available to meet the scale of demand for development. Coal costs less than one quarter of the price of oil and natural gas. According to one report, a hydropower plant in India generates 33 per cent less electricity than a coal power plant – and coal is also far cheaper than hydro. The cost of natural gas, considered much cleaner than other fossil fuels, is 175 per cent higher than current coal prices. While India proposes to take the lead in solar energy, coal will be the mainstay of its energy mix for decades to come. Nuclear is another cheap option, but it is expensive to build nuclear plants, and India’s technical capacity is still limited.
Indian officials recognise that burning coal can cause pollution, but a country’s capacity to tackle such problems depends on development. Richer countries have managed to reduce their dependence on coal and switch to cleaner fossil fuels, and, in future, they may progress to even more viable sources.
Most countries at COP21 have taken a far narrower position in relation to climate change. Against developed countries’ call to limit their carbon footprint, Modi made a strong statement on the importance of development. The obsession with carbon output and ‘tipping points’ limits human activity and imagination, rather than expanding it. The expansion of the human footprint is essential if we are to solve the problems of the future. For this to happen, we must exploit the resources that are readily available to us.
Australian solar households decry ‘unfair’ tax
They don't want to pay their way. They think that they are so virtuous that other people should give them money
SOLAR rooftop power owners in WA have labelled a proposal to charge them more to be connected to the grid an unfair “sun tax”.
Lyndon Rowe, the chairman of state-owned electricity utility Synergy, says people who use solar power are not paying the fixed cost of being connected to the network, leaving other consumers and taxpayers footing the bill.
Solar Citizens consumer campaigner Reece Turner said Mr Rowe was proposing a “discriminatory charge” that would hit WA’s solar homeowners hard.
“These people have made the sensible decision to invest in clean, abundant energy and should not be penalised,” Mr Turner said.
There are more than 191,000 solar panel owners in WA, accounting for one in five households.
Mr Turner said if they’re hit with extra costs it would risk holding back investment in renewable energy. “These people have made the sensible decision to invest in clean, abundant energy and should not be penalised,” he said. “Targeting solar households is not the way to go.
“Synergy is looking for a scapegoat to cover up for its spiralling budget losses.”
But Mr Rowe said it was fair to target solar panel owners — with the number growing by 20 per cent each year. “The unfair part is those subsidies going to people that can afford to pay for electricity,” he said.
“People having difficulties paying their electricity bills do not have solar photovoltaic … I’m not suggesting only rich people have solar — that’s clearly not the case.
“If we don’t change the tariff structure, because of this growing subsidy the concession they currently get could become at risk.”
Treasurer and Energy Minister Mike Nahan said the State Government would be reforming tariff systems and it would considered in the next Budget.
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Posted by JR at 1:36 AM