Monday, August 01, 2011

What's Really Killing Carbon Capture and Storage?

Paul Driessen

Carbon capture and storage could ensure abundant electricity from coal, while cutting the CO2 emissions “responsible for climate change.” Yet, barely two years after “a sense of determination and common cause” inspired the Obama Energy Department to launch CCS projects, industry is “pulling the plug.”

What could have gone wrong? Environmentalists had “heralded” the projects. “What’s killing carbon capture?” Bloomberg Businessweek wondered.

The economy is “weak,” its reporters suggested. US climate policy is “uncertain.” There is a “national retreat from the goal of reversing climate change,” largely because of energy industry lobbying against cap-and-trade legislation. The administration spent its political capital on Obamacare. Republicans took over the House. Utility regulators refuse to underwrite growing CCS costs with massive rate increases. A CCS storage site in Saskatchewan began bubbling up carbon dioxide.

All these factors played a role. But talk about ignoring inconvenient elephants. While his magazine staff scratched their heads, owner Michael Bloomberg was working to scuttle carbon capture and coal-fired power plants. His foundation gave Sierra Club $50 million to finance disinformation campaigns aimed at shutting down one-third of the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2020.

That’s the same coal that generates 48-98% of the reliable, affordable electricity in 26 states. It enables US companies to compete internationally, keeps millions employed, produces billions in tax revenue, powers air conditioners that keep people comfortable and alive when outside temperatures hit 90-115, and allows even poor families to enjoy the best living standards in world history.

That’s the same billionaire Michael Bloomberg who, as mayor of New York City, wanted to install giant wind turbines on the city’s bridges and skyscrapers. This, he insisted, would get NYC off the blackout-prone Northeast power grid and reduce the threat of heat waves – like the ones back in 1976, 1954, 1936 and 1924, before climate change and heat waves stopped being natural and became “manmade.”

By financing Sierra Club’s anti-energy crusade, Hizzoner is making it infinitely harder for any company to justify investing another dime in CCS demonstration projects. The Department of Energy and Businessweek reporters may still support carbon capture. But Bloomberg, Sierra Club, NRDC and Lisa Jackson’s Environmental Protection Agency want it and coal-based electricity priced out of existence.

Frustrated that Congress refused to enact cap-tax-and-trade, President Obama unleashed EPA to promulgate thousands of pages of rules governing carbon dioxide, “toxic” pollutants that have already been reduced dramatically, “cross-state transport” of emissions, and other power plant operations. All tout health claims based on virtual reality computer models, cherry-picked research and illusory benefits. But the adverse health and economic impacts of the new regulations are significant, real … and ignored.

Management Information Services, Inc. calculates that the air toxics and cross-state rules alone will cost utilities upwards of $130 billion, to retrofit existing plants or demolish them and build replacements – plus some $30 billion a year for operations and maintenance. National Economic Research Associates says power companies will have to pay $184 billion through 2030, including $72 billion in immediate capital costs, to comply with the two regulations. The rules will send electricity prices skyrocketing 12-60% and cost six Midwestern manufacturing states a combined 3.5 million jobs and $42-82 billion in annual state GDP, says MISI.

Few companies can justify those costs for older power plants. No wonder they’ve lost interest in CCS experiments. Utilities will simply close dozens of generating units, representing tens of thousands of megawatts. Illinois alone will lose nearly 3,500 MW of reliable, affordable baseload electricity by 2014. The cross-state rule alone will prematurely shut down nearly 25% of America’s coal-based electricity generating capacity, says Texas Environmental Quality Commissioner Bryan Shaw. The United States could lose as much as 60,000 MW by 2017 – enough to power 60,000,000 homes and small businesses.

And all this is before considering the cost of removing plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust streams, under EPA “endangerment” rules. Once EPA implements those plans, utilities will have to spend billions more to design, build, install and operate CCS equipment, pipeline and storage facilities.

These “parasitic” systems produce no electricity. In the process of pulling CO2 out of the exhaust stream and sending it to underground reservoirs, they consume one-third or more of a power plant’s electricity output – at $60-85 per ton of CO2 captured – adding yet another 30-80% to family and business electricity rates. We will need far more power plants to generate the same net electricity.

If Americans need still more reasons for “retreating” on “climate change prevention,” consider this. There has been no measureable increase in average global temperatures since 1995. The Climategate emails proved that unscrupulous scientists were colluding with each other, vying to publish the most alarmist “findings,” and pressuring scientific journals not to publish articles by climate realists. IPCC headline-grabbing “climate disasters” turned out to be rank speculation, computer model hogwash or fraud.

Moreover, China, India and other countries are constantly building coal-fired power plants. Thus, even slashing US carbon dioxide emissions to zero will merely destroy American jobs, companies and living standards – making our current unemployment, debt and family misery indexes seem like paradise.

Businessweek barely touched on this. Nor did it ask Mr. Bloomberg, Sierra Club, Lisa Jackson or President Obama just how they intend to replace all this lost electricity. Their glib sound-bite answer is always “renewable energy,” especially wind. Just once, it would be nice if they offered some specifics.

* Replacing just one 600-MW coal-fired power plant with wind turbines would require a 50,000-acre wind farm, like the one at Fowler Ridge, Indiana, assuming it operates 24 hours a day, every day – which of course no wind farm ever will. And these guys are talking about replacing a lot of power plants.

* Providing “green” electricity to meet New York City’s needs would require blanketing the State of Connecticut with wind turbines, says Rochester U environmental science professor Jesse Ausubel.

* Replacing the third of US coal-fired generation that Bloomberg wants shut down would require over 50,000 monstrous offshore turbines, one every half-mile, in a five-mile-wide obstacle course along the entire Atlantic coastline, according to calculations by Power magazine editor-in-chief Robert Peltier.

All these wind turbines would need to be backed up 90-100% by (mostly) gas-fired generators that can surge almost instantaneously from “spinning reserve” to full power, whenever the turbines stop working – which they tend to do on the hottest days, when electricity demand is at its peak. That means we will need vast natural gas resources.

Fortunately, America has them, especially now that we know how to use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to unlock our abundant conventional and shale gas deposits. Unfortunately, Bloomberg Obama & Comrades oppose onshore and offshore drilling and “fracking.” And few really suppose these energy “purists” will ever support all these land-hungry, scenery-scarring, raw material-intensive, bat and raptor-killing wind turbine installations.

Talk about cognitive dissonance. These guys need some serious psychological counseling. We seem to be governed by petulant ideologues who detest and obstruct every energy system that works – and support large-scale systems that don’t work only until someone actually proposes to install one. The problem is pervasive, growing and seemingly intractable. But the bottom line is simple.

If Bloomberg Obama & Comrades have their way, America faces a grim future: of rampant energy deprivation, unemployment, poverty, heatstroke, misery and death – at the hands of these ruling elites


Climate Change Alarmist Alarmed They're Wrong

For most of the last decade, alarmists have rung the global warming bell. Back in 2006, when Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, was released, it seemed folks were beginning to wake up to the alarm. Public concern regarding global warming peaked following the release of Gore’s movie and is now back down to pre-propaganda levels. Addressing the declining public alarm about global warming, Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, said, “The erosion in both public concern and public trust about global warming should be a clarion call for people and organizations trying to educate the public about this important issue.”

Ed, Al, et al, should be alarmed, as three different news items in one week add to the public’s growing skepticism about global warming.

Most notable is the announcement of an “ongoing internal investigation” into potential scientific misconduct and integrity issues of Charles Monnett—the Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, whose 2004 observation of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the man-made global warming movement. Monnett’s paper “Observations of mortality associated with extended open-water swimming by polar bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea” was released in 2006. (Interestingly, Al Gore started his for-profit company, Generation Investment Management in 2004 and released his film in 2006.)

The scientist who reported on dying polar bears gave the global warming movement its mascot—even though he wasn’t studying polar bears. His study was on whales. He saw dead polar bears. While working on the whales, he made some observations based on anecdotal evidence—not science. Monnett’s report is filled with words like: speculate, suggest, may, presume, apparent, almost, and could. The basic conclusion found in his polar bear mortality paper is that the dead polar bears were the result of high waves during a storm. On the last page of the report, he states: “Although a number of published papers have discussed implications of climate change on polar bears, to date, mortality due to swimming has not been identified as an associated risk.” Despite the statement that the “poster-child” of global warming propaganda isn’t drowning due to climate change, and regardless of the fact that there have not been increasing reports of downing polar bears (other than those mistakenly killed by the researchers), alarmists embraced the polar bear as the icon—making it into the star of An Inconvenient Truth.

But now, the integrity of the author of this foundational work of the global warming movement is under investigation—bringing into question the integrity of the entire theory.

On July 28, the Globe and Mail, updated a report that indicates that melting ice—which is supposedly causing the polar-bear drownings—is not caused by global warming. Instead, Canadian scientists found that ice is melting more quickly than the predictions and it is melting due to varied salt levels in the older ice versus the younger ice. Simon Boxall of the Catlin Artic Survey explained that it is a more complicated process than simple warming. “Because fresh meltwater is colder than seawater, that means relatively warm water is being forced upwards. And that may be part of the reason that sea ice is melting so much faster than anyone thought it would.”

In the same week that the misconduct investigation was announced and the sea ice report was updated, The University of Alabama issued a press release heralding new findings from NASA’s Terra satellite. In short, as reported in Forbes, “The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.” Another assumption bites the dust. Unfortunately, billions of dollars of taxpayer money have already been spent in questionable projects resulting in a campaign to promote expensive ethanol, wind, and solar energy to fix a problem that doesn’t appear to exist.

Add these news items—all from just one week—to the climategate scandal, the overall lack of warming, and other predictions from the alarmists that have not been borne out, and one has to wonder how the alarmists can still believe. More and more, the American public is hitting the snooze button, and it is the alarmists who should be alarmed. It looks like they will have to find a new clarion call—a new way to spread fear, and a new way to restrict energy and control freedom.


As Germany Cools, Projections Of Warming Heat Up

The European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) has a story on the German Weather Service, and temperature trends for Germany, which are a good indicator for Central Europe.

Cooling in Germany has been accelerating

A few days ago the Deutscher Wetterdienst, DWD, (German Weather Service) in a press release warned that Germany’s temperature were likely to rise 2 to 4°C by the year 2100 and that action was necessary. Like the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) the DWD too has been transformed into a propaganda mouthpiece for Germany’s powerful government-driven global warming movement.

But there’s a small problem at the DWD. Like the outlier sea level projections made by the PIK, the temperature projections made by the DWD just don’t match observations. For example Germany’s annual temperature over the last 11 years has shown COOLING, and not warming, see chart above produced by EIKE.

This has led scientists at EIKE to comment as follows: "This casts the DWD’s credibility into question.”

Sure many warmists will point to the latest press release issued by the DWD, which claims that the first 6 months of 2011 in Germany have been the second warmest on record.

But if the 2nd half continues on the same path as the July trend, then the DWD, may soon start find itself comparing quarter years, or even months to milk out any warming news from its statistics.

And in the meantime, in the real world, Germans will have to wait until 2050 or even 2100 for any real warming. The DWD should take a close look at what happened to the Met Office in England back when it tried to get into the global warming gig and so began issuing stupid press releases filled with fantasies and not meteorology.


Wind energy is snake oil

In a simplistic way, wind energy sounds good. Unfortunately, wind energy makes the rest of the grid system's power plants less efficient. Wind power output is extremely volatile, and wind is least available when we need electricity the most. It doesn't fill shortages caused by demand fluctuations — it worsens them.

City driving — constant stop and go — makes our cars' fuel efficiency drop compared to highway driving. The same is true for our electricity production. The behavior of wind energy production make the “braking and accelerating” of natural gas and coal burning power plants more dramatic and more frequent and less efficient.

Numerous professionals in the electricity industry have demonstrated that wind energy saves little if any conventional fuel or associated emissions. The wind industry naturally disagrees. But the wind industry has yet to provide evidence anywhere, while industry professionals have published studies covering Colorado to Denmark and Germany, Italy and Spain.

I am among those who have concluded that wind energy cannot replace fuel-efficient, steady-running power plants. Nor can the wind provide streams of energy that fit our demand patterns.

Only paired with flexible natural gas generation can wind energy contribute to match demand. Unfortunately, that pairing requires much more than half of the power to come from the gas fired plants — and they must be run in stop-and-go mode to make wind fit grid demands. In Ohio, wind might provide a third of the paired plants' output at best. The two-thirds or more of the gas-wind hybrid energy comes from natural gas burning power plants, accelerating and decelerating constantly to make way for wind energy. This adds to the cost of wind and reduces any benefits.

Unfortunately, not unlike human health in the 18th century, our electricity system is not well understood by most, so the claims of wind energy's “miraculous properties” persist unabated. Snake oil, anyone?


Australia: Grazing and farming land taken over to offset carbon

FARMERS fear a new rush of environmental plantings for biodiversity and carbon offsets will accelerate the loss of land for food production.

In an emerging trend, carbon traders are starting to buy farms to generate carbon credits for sale under voluntary schemes or - assuming legislation clears the Senate - the federal government's Carbon Farming Initiative.

Storing carbon dioxide through reforestation and other techniques such as soil carbon opens up a potentially vast new market opportunity for rural Australia. The president of the NSW Farmers Federation, Fiona Simson, said while farmers supported the CFI, "carbon farming with a focus on forestry plantations is just another land-use conflict that's going to take land away from food production".

The first acquisition linked to the CFI occurred last week. The federal government and R.M. Williams Agricultural Holdings combined to pay $13 million for Henbury Station in the Northern Territory outback, to be transformed into the world's largest carbon farm.

In NSW the value of land bought by carbon traders for carbon offsets in 2010-11 was tiny: the Herald has confirmed one sale last year, of a 1700-hectare sheep and grain farm, Lorraine at Tullamore, in the state's far west, to the stock exchange-listed CO2 Group and utility ACTEW Corporation.

The chief executive of CO2 Group, Andrew Grant, said the property was marginal farming land and had been planted with blue leaf mallee eucalypt, a species endemic to the region. Reforestation was a priority for combating dry land salinity and restoring catchment health.

Mr Grant said his company, which managed 16,000 hectares across three states - almost half the 40,000 hectares under carbon forestry nationally - did not set out to own land and only bought when it had offset contracts to honour. "We don't prospect, we don't land bank," he said.

Robert Gill, who sold Lorraine, said he was nearing retirement age and his son was entrenched in another career. He had his merino sheep and cereal farming operation on the market for a few years before getting an offer near market price from CO2 Group. "There were not too many buyers about. I felt if I let these people go I might not find another buyer for a while."

However, Mr Gill said the farm was still productive and he was sad to see it go under trees after spending his "whole lifetime cleaning it up". "I'm very sceptical about the whole thing, to be honest," he said.

Where mining projects threaten endangered species, governments can require mining companies to buy land with biodiversity value to offset any impact. These acquisitions, worth almost $33 million, were a significant portion of the Herald's review of land sales in 2010-11.

In February, the Rio Tinto subsidiary Coal & Allied paid $23.4 million for a 9956-hectare stretch of land between Merriwa and Cassilis in the Upper Hunter, including the St Antoine grazing property owned by the cattleman Tony Maurici's Castlebar Holdings. Coal & Allied has confirmed these acquisitions would not be mined but were bought as biodiversity offsets as a condition for expanding mining in the Hunter.

In a presentation to investors last week the company said it had spent $40 million this year on offset acquisitions linked to its proposed Mount Pleasant coalmine near Muswellbrook. The Swiss miner Xstrata has also joined in, paying more than $8.4 million through the property agent Brunskill Pty Ltd for a series of farms in the Muswellbrook area, totalling 4419 hectares.

This payment was omitted from the Herald's Saturday story which reviewed mining purchases across the state; its inclusion pushes mining purchases above $120 million.


Australia: New $800 'green tax' mooted on homes - you must pay before you can sell

As if houses were not dear enough already!

EMBATTLED homeowners could be slugged more than $800 to give their houses a compulsory "green rating" before they are sold or leased, under a new federal government scheme.

Mandatory "green ratings" for apartments and houses similar to those on new washing machines and fridges are to be introduced in the initiative to encourage more energy efficient homes.

The ratings are part of the requirement for each state to introduce legislation requiring homeowners to disclose their home's energy, greenhouse and water efficiency when they advertise it for sale or lease.

A national report has posed four different options for energy audits which in NSW would range in price from about $200 to $820.

Public consultations on compulsory testing will be held for the first time around the country starting in Sydney on Tuesday.

The most expensive option detailed in the report estimates a charge to an individual home owner of $774 for an assessor with an added $50 cost for the inconvenience of having to arrange to be present during the assessment.

The most intensive of the options, it involves a thermal building assessment which gauges a property's heating and cooling efficiency and other components.

But homeowners would not benefit from this option, which is estimated to cost homeowners a total of $1.9 billion, Real Estate Institute of NSW president Wayne Stewart said. "We agree there needs to be a change of thought and attitude towards energy efficiency," Mr Stewart said. "But the government needs to work with consumers to bring about change rather than slap them with what looks like being another tax of up to $800."

A less expensive option involves a simpler thermal assessment, involving a cost of $172.50 for an assessor and a $25 cost to a householder.

The third model would be an online version of the thermal performance assessment at a cost of $68 if done by the householder or $165 if done by an assessor with an associated $18 "householder waiting cost".

The fourth option is similar to that already adopted in Queensland whereby a homeowner fills out a checklist of building information.

This option is estimated to cost $41 if done by the property owner and $150 if done by an assessor.

Mandatory energy ratings were being introduced to establish a credible and uniform system, a spokesperson for Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said.

Rating a property's green performance could also boost its value. "Assessing the energy and water efficiency characteristics of a home can help people chose a property that is potentially more comfortable and cheaper to run," the spokesperson said.



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