Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Cost of EPA's Senseless CO₂ Capture Rules

In April 24, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed a new rule that would require coal power plants that plan to continue operating after January 1, 2039, and new natural gas power plants that plan to begin operation on or after 2035 to capture at least 90% of their CO₂ emissions.

How much would this cost? And is it worth it?

Well, as they say, we ran the numbers. Thankfully, researchers from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have provided the cost and performance estimates for retrofitting an existing coal power plant with Shell’s CANSOLV CO₂ capture system.

For the performance and cost estimates, I will use the NETL estimates for 90% carbon capture. (Here, I am using the term “carbon capture,” rather than “CO₂ capture,” because NETL uses the mass of carbon, rather than the mass of CO₂, in its calculations.)

Before the retrofit, NETL’s baseline coal power plant had a net output of 650 megawatts (MW). But after retrofitting it with the CO₂ capture system, the power output was reduced by 24% to 495 MW. In terms of money, the retrofit cost is about $988 million, or about $2 million/MW of net power output.

What do these numbers mean for the United States?

Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of March 2024, the United States has 148 coal power plants in operation in the electric utility sector, with an average capacity of about 139,000 MW. Of these, 36 plants plan to retire completely on or before December 2040 and 8 plants plan to retire at least one steam turbine on or before December 2034, but not entirely. Taking the difference of 148 and 36, there are 112 coal power plants in the United States without any planned retirement year, having a total average capacity of about 96,000 MW.

Using the NETL estimates, if we were to retrofit these 112 coal power plants to enable 90% carbon capture, the 24% net power output reduction would bring electricity production down to about 73,000 MW. Applying the retrofit cost of about $2 million/MW of net power output to the plants’ reduced power output, we arrive at a projected cost of about $146 billion.

Keep in mind, these estimates are only for coal power plants. We haven’t even gotten to retrofitting natural gas power plants, nor have we addressed the cost of replacing the tens of thousands of megawatts lost in the 24% production decrease of converted plants.

And what about constructing brand new natural gas power plants? How much would that cost?

Again, we turn to NETL for the estimates.

Using NETL’s baseline natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant, the numbers provided by NETL include a cost of about $1.05 billion to construct a new 992 MW plant without CO₂ capture and a cost of about $1.87 billion to construct a new 883 MW plant with 90% carbon capture. In other words, the 78% plant cost increase comes with an 11% net power output reduction.

So, we clearly are talking about a lot of money to remove most of the carbon dioxide from our American power plants fueled by fossil fuels. But is spending the extra money to capture CO₂ worth it?

Based on the analysis performed using the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Induced Climate Change (MAGICC), theoretically, if the United States ceased all CO₂ emissions in 2010, the amount of warming averted would be only about 0.07 °F by 2050 and 0.19 °F by 2100. Such a temperature difference is negligible and can hardly be felt or measured.

Furthermore, in the United States in 2022, the CO₂ emissions from coal and natural gas amounted to about 0.93 and 1.74 billion metric tons, respectively, for a total of 2.67 billion metric tons. However, the total CO₂ emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes amounted to 5.06 billion metric tons. This means that the CO₂ emissions from coal and natural gas contributed to only about 53% of the total emissions. Therefore, the temperature rise averted by stopping all CO₂ emissions from burning coal and natural gas becomes even smaller compared to the above estimates from MAGICC.

Finally, besides being expensive and futile, keep in mind: Plants need CO₂, along with sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil to produce oxygen and food, both of which are essential for all living beings.

In fact, higher concentrations of CO₂ have enabled an increase in the growth, food production, water-use efficiency and drought resistance of plants, as well as the greening of Earth, as confirmed by NASA. According to NASA, 70% of this greening is attributed to “fertilization” by CO₂.

Given the critical role CO₂ plays in driving plant and crop growth, is spending over a hundred billion dollars to remove it from the air sensible? We think not.


Windless Nights Make Net Zero Impossible

It is very simple. The cost of storing electricity is so huge it makes getting through a single windless night under a net zero wind, solar, and storage plan economically impossible.

This is especially true of cold nights where blackouts can be deadly. I recently made a legislative proposal to Pennsylvania along these lines so let’s use them as our example, keeping in mind that this is true everywhere.

Pennsylvania peaks at around 30,000 MW so let’s consider a windless night with a constant need of just 20,000 MW. There should be lots of these, especially in winter. Cold snaps are typically due to windless high pressure systems of arctic air with lots of overnight radiative cooling.

In the world of solar, “nights” are 16 hours or more long since solar systems just generate a lot of energy for 8 hours a day. It is likely less in a Pennsylvania winter where it is dark at 4 pm.

So, to get through the night we need to have stored at least 20,000 MW times 16 hours or 320,000 MWh of juice. For simplicity, we ignore all sorts of technical details that would make this number larger, like input-output losses.

The present capital cost of grid scale batteries is around $600,000 per MWh. Again this ignores all sorts of technical factors that make that number larger, like buildings, transmission, etc.

Simple arithmetic says this works out to an incredible $192 billion dollars just for the batteries. Clearly this is economically impossible. In round numbers two hundred billion dollars just to get through the night! Wind and solar plus batteries simply does not work. Even if the cost magically dropped 90% it would still be an impossible $20 billion just to buy the batteries.

This is so simple one wonders why none of the utilities, public utility commissions, independent system operators, and reliability agencies ever thought of it. Or maybe they did and decided not to mention it.

Moreover, on really cold nights the need for electricity can easily get to peak demand, which would require more like $300 billion in batteries. Then, too, there might be a cloudy or even snowy day pushing the need to 16 + 8 + 16 = 40 hours. Or several cloudy windless days at which point we are talking about a trillion dollars or more.

Clearly these simple numbers make net zero power based on wind, solar and batteries impossibly expensive. Other forms of storage are likely no cheaper. The reality is we are talking about storing an enormous amount of energy which simply cannot be done. The obvious solution is to have lots of reliable generation.

Which brings me to my legislative proposal which is also very simple. It merely requires the utilities to figure out how to meet the need for electricity on brutally cold windless nights that are likely to occur.

You can read it here. The title is “Avoiding deadly blackouts” because in severe cold, a blackout can kill people. In the horrible Texas blackout estimates run to over 700 deaths. Cold kills.

In fact, this is a requirement for today, not just some distant net zero fantasy. We are already to the point where a lot of States could not keep the heat on if they got a severe cold snap like they have already had in the past.

In “Avoiding deadly blackouts” I point out that Pennsylvania and the rest of PJM narrowly avoided blacking out in winter storm Elliot. On paper, they had a 30% margin of safety which was wiped out by the cold. But Elliot was actually mild compared to several earlier severe cold spells. We must prepare for these extreme events.

We use a tremendous amount of electricity which net zero cannot possibly provide on windless nights. But we are already under severe threat. The States must act now to prevent deadly blackouts. Storage is not the answer. We need reliable generation, much of which will be fossil fueled.


Climate Alarmism, Not Climate Change, Is an Existential Threat to Humanity

While in France observing the 80th anniversary of D-Day and honoring the thousands of brave soldiers who gave their lives fighting the existential threat that was Nazi Germany, President Joe Biden could not help himself from descending into crass political talking points by comparing the most destructive and deadly war in human history to climate change.

“The only existential threat to humanity, including nuclear weapons, is if we do nothing on climate change,” Biden declared. Due to the “existential threat of climate change, which is just growing greater, we’re working together to accelerate the global transition to net-zero. It is the existential threat to humanity,” Biden reiterated.

In reality, climate change is nowhere near an existential threat. In fact, in many ways, the slight warming that has occurred over the past half century or so has made life better for humanity. For instance, NASA satellite data show a significant rise in global plant growth in recent decades— what some call global greening. A slightly warmer planet is also beneficial because it produces greater crop yields.

However, one can make a compelling argument that climate alarmism, and the policies that climate alarmists support, actually comprise an existential threat to humanity.

First and foremost, climate alarmists are hellbent on ending the use of affordable and reliable energy in the form of fossil fuels. This alone is a horrendous stance that puts millions of lives at risk.

Like it or not, the advent of fossil fuels, namely oil, coal, and natural gas, has been the biggest boon for humanity in all of history. The harnessing of these resources to supply virtually unlimited energy in cost-effective terms has raised billions of people from abject poverty.

Without ample access to fossil fuels, our modern way of life would literally cease to exist. Not only do fossil fuels provide abundant and affordable energy. As the U.S. Department of Energy notes, “Petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the manufacturing of over 6,000 everyday products and high-tech devices possible.”

Second, climate alarmists demand that the world immediately transitions to so-called renewable energy and achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. The problem is that renewable energy from solar panels and wind farms is too expensive, unreliable, and not nearly scalable. If the world were to shun fossil fuels in favor of wind and solar, the amount of energy available to use would plummet. This would result in devastation across many fronts.

Third, climate alarmists constantly call for degrowth, both in terms of the economy and in terms of population. Somehow, the climate alarmists have convinced themselves that the solution to the non-existent problem of a slightly warming planet is for humanity to cull its population growth. This is extremely short-sighted and fails to consider that many developed countries are currently experiencing a stark population decline. If this is not reversed, and soon, many of these once-thriving nations will experience severe demographic problems.

Likewise, calls for economic degrowth, which has been a cause célèbre among climate alarmists for many years now, would wreak havoc and would instantly result in decreased living standards for billions of people. This is especially true for several developing countries, which are banking on economic growth and increased prosperity to lift billions from poverty.

Fourth and finally, climate alarmists, whether they realize it or not, are akin to modern-day Luddites because they excoriate innovations and technological breakthroughs. In many ways, climate alarmists are the opposite of progressives because they seek to regress humanity back to a time when creature comforts and access to the latest and greatest technologies were limited to a select few rather than accessible to the masses. Even worse, by hindering the development of new technologies that could solve some of the world’s most vexing problems simply because it does not align with their world view, climate alarmists are essentially preventing the betterment of the human experience.

Fortunately, it seems like the climate alarmists are losing ground. Polls show that more and more people are skeptical of the constant fearmongering and are becoming aware of the failed doomsday predictions. This is great news; however, it is just the start. Unless and until there is a general consensus that climate alarmism is the problem and that the misguided policies supported by climate alarmists are outright rejected by an overwhelming majority, climate alarmism will remain a grave threat to the future humanity.


Peter Dutton puts carbon emissions target on ruling Leftists' back

Peter Dutton will go to the next election opposing Labor’s 43 per cent carbon emissions reduction target by 2030 but keeping to zero emissions by 2050, opting for a radically different energy policy to Anthony Albanese that prioritises more gas in the short term and nuclear in the long term.

The Opposition Leader declared there was “no sense in ­signing up to targets you don’t have any prospect of achieving” and promised the Coalition in government would not “destroy” agriculture, manufacturing and investment nor create sovereign risk with trading partners by agreeing to unachievable climate change ­targets.

Mr Dutton said he would take a different gas policy from Labor to the next election to ensure a successful shorter-term transition to renewable power and clarified that nuclear power, which would not be delivered until the 2040s, would be aimed at achieving the net-zero target by mid-century.

In an interview with The Weekend Australian to mark his second year as leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Dutton said: “They (Labor) just have no hope of achieving the targets and there’s no sense signing up to targets you don’t have any prospect of achieving.

“We’re not going to destroy agriculture. We’re not going to ­stifle investment. We’re already seeing investment being withdrawn. We’re not going to create sovereign risk with our export partners, as Labor is doing with Japan and Korea.”

Mr Dutton said there had “never been any doubt in my mind that gas is ­absolutely essential”.

“And without it, there’ll be catastrophic failure in the energy market over the next decade,” he said. “You can’t have the Prime Minister saying we aren’t going to have coal, we aren’t going to have gas and were not going to have ­nuclear power and we are going to keep the lights on – that’s just ­fantasy. We now have a debate about energy which I think we can win.”

Mr Dutton said the next election, due by May next year, would come down to basic issues of economic management, national security and law and order.

He said the Prime Minister had failed to lead by example and come out more strongly against those promoting hate and anti-Semitism in society.

If a firmer stand had been taken “we would have seen arrests and we would have seen the ability for people to protest peacefully, but not with the incitement and the rage that we’ve seen in the university campus demonstrations”, he said.

“Nobody’s been arrested for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to the offices of members of parliament,” Mr Dutton said.

“I think the (police) commissioners take their lead from the premiers and from the police ­ministers and from the Prime Minister.

“I think there has been an ­approach of just keeping the peace, not taking sides because this is just another Middle East thing. Whereas I think the ­approach should have been to ­enforce the rule of law without fear or favour.”

On taxation, Mr Dutton ­indicated that the Coalition’s policy, which would not alter Labor’s tax cuts schedule that comes in on July 1, would be limited by funds available in the budget.

But he elevated economic ­reform across the federation as a longer-term aspiration that he would champion as prime minister, saying it was critical to reduce red tape and drive down costs for businesses.

“I think there’s a very compelling argument for the federation debate to be re-enlivened,” Mr Dutton said.

“I think we should be talking more about how we can eliminate efficiencies and waste within a three layers of government model.

“That is a debate that we would willingly join if the Prime Minister were to have any appetite.

“And in government it’s a debate that I want to start. Because we are over-governed (and) over-regulated.”

Mr Dutton said he believed the Coalition’s “superior ability to manage the economy, given that cost of living is so relevant and important to Australians” would appeal to all voters, including those living in more affluent seats held by the seven teal independents – once blue-ribbon Liberal electorates – as well as outer-suburban areas.

He said his two years as Opposition Leader, including his part in the defeat of the Indigenous voice referendum last October, had given people the chance to “reconsider” him as a leader and not accept the way Labor had painted him as an angry and negative person.

“My judgment is that people want a leader with strength and with a positive outlook and vision for our country, which we’re in the process of outlining,” Mr Dutton said.

The Prime Minister will ramp up his attack on the Coalition's nuclear energy plan, calling it a wasteful "rabbit… hole". Albanese will be using his speech at the Sky News- Australian Economic Outlook lunch on Friday to continue to prosecute the case against the Coalition’s nuclear energy push. He will More
“People have allowed themselves to reconsider who they thought me to be or who Labor had framed me as.

“I think what Labor says is at odds with who people see me to after being able to watch me in a different role for the last two years and dealing with the breadth of issues starting with the voice and other economic and security issues.”

On immigration, Mr Dutton reaffirmed his commitment to cutting the record intake and encouraging skilled workers.




No comments: