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On Energy Quote of the Day: A Disturbing Climate March Observation

Thanks for raising this point Jared. Really unfortunate to see such poorly calibrated priorities...

September 24, 2014    View Comment    

On Are Carbon Capture and Storage and Biomass Indispensable in the Fight Against Climate Change?

You've got the next fluxes wrong. While the total annual CO2 absorption (by oceans, weathering of rocks, biomass etc) is larger than the annual anthropogenic emissions by quite a bit, you've also forgot about the other part of the natural cycle: non-anthropogenic sources of CO2, which are nearly enough to use up all of the sinks on their own. So yes, if we stop emitting all anthropogenic CO2, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will fall. But they won't fall particularly fast. By about 1 ppm per year, if I recall correctly. So it will take quite a bit of time to draw things back down, and that's assuming ZERO anthropogenic emissions worldwide. That's not likely any time soon (i.e. this century). The scenarios modeled here, by contrast, assuming continued emissions in the non-electricity sectors (like aviation, land use changes, shipping, industry) and rely on net-negative emissions in the electricity sector to compensate, starting around 2050. In other words, they count on electricity emissions going net negative well before total anthropogenic emissions falls to zero. 

September 11, 2014    View Comment    

On Are Carbon Capture and Storage and Biomass Indispensable in the Fight Against Climate Change?

Hi Joris,

I'm afraid you've missed the point (see my comment above). The EMF inter-model comparison clearly points to the conclusion that no single power generation technology is "indespensible." If any one is limited in availability, the others can compensate, albeit at higher cost. So if you presume, as you do, that nuclear is available at low-cost and scale, great. Then we need less renwables and CCS in power generation. The converse is also true: if nuclear is not as cheap as you pose, then we lean more heavily on CCS and renewables. (If any two of those are unavailable, then things get more problematic!). 

The point of the study, however, is that CCS and biomass are flexible technologies. They are not only applicable in power generation (as nuclear or wind or solar are). They can be used to decarbonize industrial emissions (i.e. in cement or chemicals) and transportation modes that are hard to electrify (biofuels for aviation or shipping) and heating needs that are similarly hard to electrify. In addition, when coupled, they offer an option to go carbon negative. It is much more difficult to envision nuclear playing a role in carbon removal (unless we have such a sufficient oversupply of nuclear to provide heat intput to run artifical air capture and removal technologies -- i.e. "artificial trees"). 

In other words: this isn't about electricity. Or, this isn't about nuclear (for a change!). Not every discussion at TEC has to revolve around nuclear... ;)

Cheers,

Jesse

September 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Are Carbon Capture and Storage and Biomass Indispensable in the Fight Against Climate Change?

Hi Keith,

Thanks for the comment. Actually, the relatively low shares of nuclear (which are a result of the model's optimization process and underlying technology cost assumptions, not a normative constraint on the part of the scenario authors) are not the reason why EMF-27 sees CCS and biomass as so essential. The study concludes that with a variety of technologies for decarbonizing the electricity sector -- nuclear, renewables, CCS -- that if any one technology is unavailable at scale or constrained, then the others can pick up for it (albeit at a higher cost). In contrast, with very few options for decarbonizing industry, transportation, and heat (electrification is key but can only go so far in these sectors), CCS and biomass are indespensible here. Finally, biomass + CCS together is important, the study finds, to meeting aggressive 450 ppm CO2 stabilization targets, because together, they can help go carbon negative. That allows for overshoot of the 450 ppm threshold in the mid-century range and a net carbon negative contribution by the end of the century to compensate. Without biomass+CCS, going carbon negative is infeasible, and the scenarios reviwed have a very hard time meeting the 450 ppm goal without the ability to overshoot 450ppm then draw down CO2 later by going carbon negative. 

In short, we can argue with the modeler's assumptions about nuclear costs vs other electricity decarb. options, but that's not really what's leading to these findings about CCS and biomass. 

Cheers,

Jesse

September 9, 2014    View Comment    

On New EPA Carbon Standard Compliance Strategies (Part 1): Which Technologies Have Reduced U.S. Power Carbon Emissions Since 2005?

Thanks for the great analysis John. I look forward to part 2...

September 3, 2014    View Comment    

On Are Reverse Auctions the Key to Reforming Solar Energy Subsidies?

That is not the question at hand here. Please stay on topic and focused. I have no interest in yet another debate over the merits of renewables or nuclear or fossil or whatever. There are plenty of other articles on this site that raise those questions legitimately. This is not one of them, so please keep the comments on topic: are reverse auctions an improvement for solar energy support policies or not? Discuss...

August 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Will CO2 Emission Standards Spur Carbon Capture Technology?

Hi Roger,

The article does not model things at the level of engineering flows, so they only consider a varying range of costs impacts of CCS installation on the capital and O&M of coal or gas-fired plants. I believe they intended their range of sensitivities to cover amine scrubbing as well as integrated coal gasification and combined cycle (IGCC) with CCS options. 

Jesse

August 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Does Politics Keep Getting in the Way of Pricing Carbon? - Part 1

Hi all,

This thread, while interesting, has gotten way off topic. Let's bring it back to the questions at hand of leave this off for another day...

Jesse

August 1, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

Dear Peter,

You make a fair point that global climate change is of course a global phenomenon and that it must be tackled by at least a fairly substantial portion of global emitters, if not the whole world. That does raise very important challenges for coordination of policy, and yes, if any single nation acts independently, it will fail to deliver much in the way of measurable climate benefits. 

However, I have addressed this issue in my paper, and discuss it my series when considering the political economy constraints on carbon pricing in Part 1. These constraints already internalize this dynamic. That is, since nations and individuals are concerned about the "collective action" nature of climate change (see Part 1), they will discount their willingness to pay for mitigation relative to the societally optimal. That concept is a central premise of my series, and your comments have not raised any additional points that I felt needed addressed on that matter. 

Instead, I have focused on proposing a policy strategy that can succeed within the political economy constraints of each relevant national or subnational actor. If the policy framework as a whole can succeed in each nation, then it can succeed globally. In my view, climate solutions will emerge bottoms-up, nation-by-nation, not via a global top-down treaty, so I focus on the national-level policies here. You can disagree and prefer a global solution -- or a liassez-faire "free market" solution -- but that doesn't mean I need to change the entire focus of my series to accomodate your comments.

Regarding your "free market" alternative, it makes no sense to me. You talk about "removing barriers" to the free market functioning, but there is no clear evidence that the obstacle to tackling climate change is a lack of free markets. Rather, you must understand that "free markets" do nothing to consider externalities, of which climate change is the most complicated and challenging externality of modern times. You argue that regulatory barriers have prevented nuclear from scaling sufficiently by adding to its cost and regulatory risk. That may be so, but removing those barriers and shifting to a "free market" absent any regulation seems like a rather foolhardy way to handle a technology with as much inherent risk as nuclear energy (and I say that as a strong proponent of nuclear power), just as it would make little sense to have no regulations for airline safety, vehicle crash tests, or any of a wide set of regulations necessary to check the tendency of "free markets" to ignore externalized risks. Neither to a believe that "free markets" acting on their own will deliver the level and pace of technology innovation needed to develop clean energy technologies cheaper than fossil fuels. The history of government involvement in just about every substantial innovation of the last 100 years (and more) would bely that point as well. So when I stopped engaging, it was because I have no idea how your proposal would help much of anything. 

Jesse

August 1, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

No one has asserted that increased levels of atmospheric CO2 causes any direct respiratory harm to humans. Please stop making this point (here or on other articles). It is a complete red herring. 

August 1, 2014    View Comment