Monday, December 15, 2008


An email from retired metallurgist John Harborne, MIEAust, CPEng. []

For several years now, "clean" coal, involving carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, has been touted as the means of mitigating global warming, supposedly arising from fossil-fuel-burning power stations. But, of course, this necessarily comes at a considerable price increase for electricity.

It is not well-known that a huge drawback to the substantially unproven CCS process is that every cubic metre of (solid) coal that is burnt produces about six cubic metres of liquefied CO2. (The actual amount of super-critical fluid, or near-liquid, CO2, is based on complete combustion of the coal, its complete capture, and the actual carbon content of the coal ... an 80% carbon coal yields six cu. metres of near-liquid CO2.)

It doesn't take an Einstein to realise the immense logistics and difficulties of dealing with the around-sixfold increase in volume from coal to near-liquid CO2. Unless power generators have a ready sink in which to inject the voluminous CO2 (such as a depleted oil well), it won't take long before multiple injection points have to be created, because the CO2 will readily exhaust the brine-filled pores of a deep, geologically acceptable rock stratum, such as sandstone (which must have an impermeable caprock anyway). If the geosequestration point is well away from the power station, huge costs in infrastructure to transport the large volumes of near-liquid CO2 (pipelines or tankers) will be inevitable.

Apart from the above, it is easy to gloss over other problems with the CO2, once underground. The volumes have to be retained in the rock forever, which is a huge ask, because near-liquid CO2 has extremely low viscosity and will sneak out of any fissure. Also, the CO2, being acidic, is highly reactive to organic and mineral constituents, possibly leading to fouling of aquifers for human or animal consumption.

"Clean" coal does not appear to be a realistic solution.

Hot air from Obama

Comment from Bjorn Lomborg

In one of his first public policy statements as America's president-elect, Barack Obama focused on climate change, and clearly stated both his priorities and the facts on which these priorities rest. Unfortunately, both are weak, or even wrong.

Obama's policy outline was presented via video to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Governors' Global Warming Summit, and has again been shown in Poznan, Poland, to leaders assembled to flesh out a global warming road map. According to Obama, "few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change". Such a statement is now commonplace for most political leaders across the world, even though it neglects to address the question of how much we can do to help America and the world through climate policies v other policies.

Consider, for example, hurricanes in America. Clearly, a policy of reducing CO2 emissions would have had zero consequence on Katrina's devastating effect on New Orleans, where such a disaster was long expected. Over the next half-century, even large reductions in CO2 emissions would have only a negligible effect.

Instead, direct policies to address New Orleans' vulnerabilities could have avoided the huge and unnecessary cost in human misery and economic loss. These should have included stricter building codes, smarter evacuation policies and better preservation of wetlands (which could have reduced the ferociousness of the hurricane). Most importantly, a greater focus on upkeep and restoration of the levees could have spared the city entirely. Perhaps these types of preventative actions should be Obama's priority.

Likewise, consider world hunger. Pleas for action on climate change reflect fears that global warming may undermine agricultural production, especially in the developing world. But global agricultural/economic models indicate that even under the most pessimistic assumptions, global warming would reduce agricultural production by just 1.4p er cent by the end of the century. Because agricultural output will more than double during this period, climate change would at worst cause global food production to double not in 2080 but in 2081. Moreover, implementing the Kyoto Protocol at a cost of $180 billion annually would keep two million people from going hungry only by the end of the century. Yet by spending just $10 billion annually, the UN estimates that we could help 229 million hungry people today. Every time spending on climate policies saves one person from hunger in 100 years, the same amount could have saved 5000 people now. Arguably, this should be among Obama's top priorities.

Obama went on to say why he wants to prioritise global warming policies: "The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We've seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season." Yes, global warming is happening, and mankind is partly responsible, but these statements are - however eloquent - seriously wrong or misleading.

Sea levels are rising, but they have been rising at least since the early 1800s. In the era of satellite measurements, the rise has not accelerated (actually we've seen a sea-level fall during the past two years). The UN expects about a 30cm sea-level rise during this century, about what we saw during the past 150 years. In that period, many coastlines increased, most obviously The Netherlands, because rich countries can easily protect and even expand their territory. But even for oft-cited Bangladesh, scientists just this year showed that the country grows by 20sq km each year, because river sedimentation wins out over rising sea levels.

Obama's claim about record droughts similarly fails even on a cursory level: the US has in all academic estimates been getting wetter through the past the century (with the 1930s dust bowl setting the drought high point). This is even true globally during the past half-century, as one of the most recent scientific studies of actual soil moisture shows: "There is an overall small wetting trend in global soil moisture."

Furthermore, famine has declined rapidly in the past half century. The main deviation has been the past two years of record-high food prices, caused not by climate change but by the policies designed to combat it: the dash for ethanol, which put food into cars and thus upward pressure on food prices. The World Bank estimates that this policy has driven at least 30 million more people into hunger. To cite policy-driven famine as an argument for more of the same policy seems unreasonable, to say the least.

Finally, it is simply wrong to say that storms are growing stronger every hurricane season. Even for the Atlantic hurricane basin, which we tend to hear about most, the total hurricane energy (ACE) as measured by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declined by two-thirds since the record was set in 2005. For the world, this trend has been more decisive: maximum ACE was reached in 1994 and has plummeted for the past three years, while hurricanes across the world for the past year have been about as inactive as at any time since records began to be kept.

Global warming should be tackled, but smartly through research and development of low-carbon alternatives. If we are to get our policies right, it is crucial that we get our facts right.



And so the great climate change circus moves on. Over the past few days we have had the European Union climate summit in Brussels and the United Nations climate summit in Poznan. The EU summit was intended to confirm Europe's much-proclaimed "world leadership" on the issue by reaffirming its earlier "20-20-20" commitment: that by 2020 it would have reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent and raised to 20 per cent the proportion of its energy generated by non-nuclear renewable sources. This commitment, which had been made in 2007, had latterly been called into question as the seven accession states and Italy declined to accept their share in it.

The outcome was a compromise, hailed as "quite historic" by President Sarkozy, under which the targets would be nominally retained but the means of achieving them - sharp rises in the cost of carbon-based energy - abandoned. This was a great relief in particular to Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who had made clear her unwillingness to allow her country's important energy-intensive industries to be harmed in this way in the current harsh economic climate. In addition, it was agreed that the EU commitment would be provisional at this point, and reviewed in 2010.

So onto Poznan, where, despite this example of "quite historic" EU leadership, all that emerged on the global warming front was a great deal of hot air, and an agreement that a serious global accord on drastic, mandatory, enforceable and enforced cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions, to succeed the Kyoto Agreement which expires in 2012, would be concluded in Copenhagen next year. If you believe that, you will believe anything. It is abundantly clear that the whole Kyoto approach is a nonsense.

The first harsh reality is the very different perspectives of the developed and the developing world. China, already the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, and India, coming up fast, have both made clear, for very good reasons, their unwillingness to accept mandatory emissions restrictions for the foreseeable future. Even before the current world recession they were not prepared to accept the economic cost and brake on their economic development that this would require. Now, with the recession, they are even less willing to assume this additional burden - not least, in China's case, because of worries about internal political stability. The developing countries' case is that it is the responsibility of the developed world to cut back. But anything short of a global cutback is self-evidently futile.

In any case, even if there were an agreement, it would not be enforceable. Professor Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics, a distinguished political scientist who, as it happens, accepts the majority view of the climate science, has pointed out why, for this and other reasons, the Kyoto approach is doomed. But the vested interest of the great climate change circus, and the gratifying opportunities it presents for global grandstanding, have ensured that his analysis is ignored.

At the heart of this is the very heavy cost of decarbonisation, an unfortunate truth which most of its advocates feel obliged to deny. Thus the International Monetary Fund, which once was a serious economic organisation, has called for a 96 per cent cut in global carbon dioxide emissions (compared with business-as-usual projections) by 2100. To achieve this, it concluded, "Increases in world carbon prices need not be large - say a $0.01 initial increase in the price of a gallon of gasoline that rises by $0.02 every three years". At that rate, it would take the US more than 350 years to reach the level of petrol tax we already have in the UK.

The first report of the UK's Committee on Climate Change, headed by Lord (Adair) Turner, and published a few days ago, is little better. The 480 pages certainly make up in quantity for what they conspicuously lack in intellectual quality. Following the passage of the absurd Climate Change Act, under which this country has unilaterally bound itself, by law, to near-total decarbonisation of the economy by 2050, in an effort to demonstrate (once again) "global leadership", the report claims that this "can be achieved at a cost of 1-2 per cent of GDP in 2050. This order of magnitude is consistent with cost estimates from the Stern Review".

Since the committee uses the same methodology and indeed the same model as the Stern Review (which was not peer-reviewed), it is hardly surprising that it comes to the same conclusion. It reminds me of the man who, concerned about the authenticity of a report in his newspaper, bought a second copy of the paper to confirm it.

But as Britain's most eminent energy economist, Professor Dieter Helm, writes in the current issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, "the Stern Report's 1 per cent on which politicians are relying is an assumed number. the cost numbers. [are] all but useless for the purposes of public policy design and implementation". Professor Helm, incidentally, accepts a view of the climate science at the alarmist end of the spectrum. But that does not attract him to shoddy economics.

It is quite clear that, short of a breakthrough in the technology of non-carbon energy - which may happen, but may not - the only cost-effective response to any feared global warming is to adapt to the consequences.

The dirty little secret is that, so far this century, there has been no recorded global warming; as the Met Office the other day pointed out, sotto voce, 2008 has been, globally, the coldest year of all. That has not stopped the flood of claims of increasing evidence of "climate change" all around us.

Of course, there may well be, as most climate scientists predict, global warming in the future. Meanwhile, welcome to the new science paradigm, in which effects precede cause. I have to confess my own limitations. Unlike Mr Al Gore, Lord Stern, and Lord Turner, I do not know what is going to happen to the planet in the next 100-200 years. But I do know nonsense when I see it.



A concession of defeat from the Leftist "Guardian"

After the failure in Poznan, it's time to be honest: the world is not going to be cutting greenhouse gases anytime soon. The world's environmental leaders have spent the past two weeks meeting in Poznan, Poland, pretending that they're carrying on the fight against global warming first addressed by the Kyoto Protocol. You recall the Kyoto Protocol. It was never ratified by the United States - defeated 95-0 in the US Senate in 1997, in fact - and has proven just as ineffective elsewhere around the world. It was supposed to be first step in the world's cutback of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that are warming our atmosphere. The hard truth be told, essentially none of those who signed onto the treaty have been able to cutback their greenhouse gas emissions.

People - surprise, surprise - demand to be warm at the cheapest prices. Developing countries like China and India have ignored it completely, with their emission rising at 6% to 8% a year. China now emits more greenhouse gases than even the United States. Carbon dioxide emissions, which were increasing about 1% a year in the 1990s, are increasing about 3% percent a year in this decade. Leaders all across the world, including Barack Obama, continue to look straight into the camera and proclaim that they are going to solve the global warming crisis - by 2020, or 2050, or 2100 or . sometime soon.

The world desperately needs to get serious, including President-elect Obama, Europe's leaders and every UN bureaucrat who dined handsomely in the evenings in Poznan. The truth is, the world is not going to be cutting greenhouse gases anytime soon. If ever. There are simply no reasonable alternatives. Wind power is too scant. Nuclear power is too controversial. Solar power is stuck in a dream world. It gets a little better every year, but it will never be good enough. Nuclear fusion is hopeless, perpetually 25 years in the future.

Not one of us - you, me, Obama or the greenest activist anywhere in the world - is willing to live without the comforts fossil fuels provide us - heat, light, instant hot food, convenient transportation, modern agriculture and airplane travel.

There are too many factors pointing strongly in the wrong direction: the demonstrated refusal of western countries to sacrifice in the face of the climate problem they created; the insistence of developing countries that they be able to live at least as well as the US and Europe and their unwillingness to cut back greenhouse gas emissions as long as first world countries - who largely created this mess - refuse to do so. The lack of any reasonable alternatives, and our lack of interest in developing them, further hinders the ability to find a solution.

We are never going to live as cheaply as we possibly can, especially here in the US, and we simply do not have the wisdom to sacrifice for the sake of those who will live decades ahead of us. From the time we landed on the Atlantic coast and pushed westward, it is simply not bred in the American bone.

Obama will not change this. Americans will not accept large increases in what we pay for gasoline and electricity. President-elect Obama says he is going to solve the financial crisis, the healthcare crisis, the infrastructure crisis, the energy crisis, the climate crisis and perhaps even the intolerable shortage of magic pixie dust. The man is quite the optimist. But let's not be completely stupid.

Our problems, especially the climate crisis, are not going away anytime soon. The alternative technologies we need to reduce our carbon emissions to essentially zero - what scientists are now telling us is necessary - simply aren't there, and won't be anytime soon. Nor is the sense of crisis really there. Those claiming we are near some kind of catastrophic tipping point simply have no science to back up their claims.

Those expecting that we are going to reduce our atmosphere's carbon dioxide content to 350 parts per million are na‹ve activists perhaps living off the donations to their organisations. In any case, they are dreaming in la-la land. There is no crisis that will change our minds - not heat waves in France, not Katrina, not the disappearance of Arctic ice up north. We want what we want, and our species is lousy at planning for the future. Even the world's climate organisers do not hesitate to fly thousands of miles to Poland and live high on the hog.

Given this, what can we do? Be realistic, first of all. Let's fund geo-engineering research to the hilt, exploring how we can someday modify our planet's natural systems to produce a slight atmospheric cooling. It is our destiny. But most of all, let's open our eyes and begin to be honest. You will fly to Jamaica this winter instead of cutting your greenhouse gases. Fine. Can we please accept this and begin to move on?



Indians do not believe the environment is in crisis, but they think it is important to take environmentally-friendly actions and it is a high priority for them. Hence, 88 percent of Indian consumers are prepared to pay more for goods that are environmentally friendly against 82 percent in China. In Japan, only 68 percent of consumers feel the environment is the most important issue.

Unlike their peers in every other country, respondents in India believe there is too much fuss about the environment (79 percent) and they do not believe the world is experiencing global warming (56 percent). Still, 92 percent feel it is their duty to contribute to a better society and environment.

These are some of the interesting findings to emerge from a study of consumers in India, China and Japan, part of a 10-market global study called 'goodpurpose' conducted by Edelman, the world's largest independent PR firm.

More here

Centre-Left Australian government not Green enough

Kevin Rudd became a target himself today after he announced modest and conditional targets to cut greenhouse gases, thought to be responsible for global warming. As the Prime Minister saud there would be an unconditional 5 per cent cut in emissions by 2010, which could increase to a maximum 15 per cent if the rest of the world agreed to a similar target, a single female protester screamed: "No!" It was a sentiment shared by the Australian Greens, scientists, environmental experts and other protesters, many of who had advocated cuts of 25 to 40 per cent to avert catastrophic climate change.

Meanwhile business labelled the proposed scheme "high risk" at a time of global recession despite billions being handed out to cushion the economic blow for the power industry, other businesses and consumers.

Critics complained the compensation measures would effectively cancel out the scheme's effectiveness at modifying behaviour and also left next to no money to invest in energy efficiency and green alternatives.

Mr Rudd said today's white paper targets represented a responsible course of action. "We are not going to make promises that cannot be delivered,'' he told the National Press Club in Canberra today. "We are starting the scheme with appropriate and responsible targets, targets that are broadly consistent with other developed countries.'' The targets deliver necessary reform to tackle climate change while supporting Australia's economy and securing jobs during the global recession, he said. "Treasury modelling demonstrates that we can deliver on this 5 to 15 per cent commitment while maintaining solid economic growth.''

As Mr Rudd spoke a female protester screamed "No!'' and kept shouting as she was removed from the National Press Club in Canberra. The protester is believed to be Annika Dean, who released a press release earlier in the day detailing the planned protest. "This announcement means the Australian Government is willing to sacrifice the Great Barrier Reef to appease the big polluting companies that are fuelling global climate change,'' Ms Dean said.

In Brisbane protesters from the Brisbane Southside Climate Action Group staged a sit in at the foyer of Kevin Rudd's local electorate office, describing today's targets as "weak". This afternoon Australian Greens leader Bob Brown called the plan an example of Mr Rudd's "dismal politics" and a "failure of leadership".

Leading scientists also expressed dismay. "The 14 per cent cut in our total emissions by 2020 announced today is such a pitifully inadequate attempt to stop dangerous climate change that we may as well wave the white flag now," climate scientist Professor Barry Brook, from the University of Adelaide, said.

Environmental activists Greenpeace also accused Mr Rudd of betraying Australians with a pathetic emissions reduction target "The Government's target of 5 per cent by 2020 is totally unacceptable and cannot be allowed to stand," Greenpeace climate campaign co-ordinator John Hepburn said. "Mr Rudd has betrayed the science, betrayed the community and betrayed the next generation who will have to live with climate change impacts. "He has caved in to the bullying tactics of the coal and other polluting industries," Mr Hepburn said

Despite the modest targets and a compensation package worth more than $1bn to help business and community groups adjust to emissions trading, Australia's leading business group labelled the scheme "high risk" during a time of global recession. "But it does beg the basic question and that is whether or not these costs can be borne by business in the first place at a time when Australia is going through an international economic firestorm,'' Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson told ABC Television. "We need to come through that economic firestorm with a strong economy and placing domestic stress on the economy is going to just make that more difficult.''



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One has only to remember the disaster in Hutchinson Kansas a couple years ago where stored Natural gas found a way to escape and came up in several places around the town starting serious fires and remember the consequences of the massive CO2 escape from the lake in Africa to realize just how foolish and dangerous the plans to "sequester" CO2 in underground storage can be.