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On Bakken Shale Gas Flaring Highlights Global Problem

Bob, It's always interesting how differently people can see the same thing. I look at ND flaring and see $$s and the equivalent of 2,000 MW going up in flames; you see a reminder of the price we pay for our high-energy economy. If it makes you feel better, technology is making it harder to leak CH4 without being noticed: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/07/google-maps-methane-leaks.html 

August 5, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's CO2 Rule and the Back Door to Cap & Trade

Looks like the current level of the BC carbon tax works out to about USD 0.24 per gallon of gasoline (~5% of retail pump price), $0.27/gal. for diesel. Gas & coal less and more, respectively.

More info on the carbon tax can be found at: http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/tbs/tp/climate/carbon_tax.htm

I may have missed this at the time because it was implemented in parallel with province-wide cap & trade:

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/mitigation/ggrcta/

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's CO2 Rule and the Back Door to Cap & Trade

If it imposed a tax at the border, it might solve the offshoring problem, but it would make the US economy less competitive against anyone else not doing the same thing. Can't solve a global problem without global solutions.

July 1, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's CO2 Rule and the Back Door to Cap & Trade

Thanks, Bob. I apparently missed the details of the BC approach and assumed it was more like what was proposed here in 2009. Will have to look into that further.

The fallacy I see with "fee and dividend" is that most emissions occur not at the source, but during consumption. The net effect would be to offshore production, putting us back in the pickle we were in a few years ago with steadily increasing dependence on imports. Unless you change demand, the fee would work like a supply shock. That's why truly cost-competitive alternatives are so essential.

July 1, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's CO2 Rule and the Back Door to Cap & Trade

Bob, I understand the economic arguments for the policy. I wasn't aware it actually been implemented and "proven effective at reducing carbon emissions". Where? And as simple as it looks, I'm sure politicians could find some way to game it, though not without wrecking the features that make it attractive.

I've gradually become less convinced of the practicality of such policies, as long as global energy demand behaves as you have suggested: any energy produced will be used. How does even California's emissions performance look when we include the embedded carbon in its imports? That's why I find the case for innovation compelling. Push only gets us so far; we need pull. Until we have alternatives that are truly better/cheaper/cleaner than hydrocarbons (without large net subsidies) it's likely to be very disruptive and expensive to decarbonize more than incrementally on a global basis.

July 1, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's New CO2 Rules Create Opportunities for Natural Gas, for Now

Brian,

I've read every word of the UT study, and from my training and experience believe I understand them. They certainly identified areas for improvement--leaks that could be remedied and likely for a profit or at least low net cost. However, unlike virtually every study pointed to by opponents of fracking, this one examined real wells, up close, during the various phases of completion and operation. That means that unlike all the overflights with model-based interpretations, very few assumptions were needed, and most of those were verifiable.

Of course it's true the producers agreed to participate, so the study wouldn't include those with anything to hide. But the ones that did participate are among the largest shale gas developers in the business, including Anadarko, Encana, Pioneer and XTO (ExxonMobil). The numbers speak for themselves. This wasn't a snapshot view of a few wells, but a detailed look at 190 sites, including "Measurements of active equipment at 150 production sites with 489 wells, 27 well completion flowbacks, nine well unloadings and four well workovers were included in the study." No other study I'm aware of has a sample size within an order of magnitude of this one.

July 1, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's New CO2 Rules Create Opportunities for Natural Gas, for Now

The pros and cons of renewables and oil & gas are complex, but you've focused on subsidies. US tax incentives for renewable energy are now in the same ballpark as the roughly $4 billion per year of federal tax beneftis for oil and gas production. Let's put some numbers to your assertion about their relative merit by comparing the value we receive for these investments, which unlike externalities represent real money that could be spent on other priorities or returned to taxpayers.

Last year the value of all electricity generated by non-hydro renewables in the US, at the current average wholesale power price, was around $10 billion. 

Last year's US oil and gas production from shale deposits--which due to their higher cost are presumably more affected by tax incentives than conventional production--was equivalent to 7.9 million barrels per day. At relevant wholesale prices, that output was worth around $140 billion. (A significant portion of that came back to the government as tax collections.) At least in terms of the return on tax benefits this still looks like a good deal for taxpayers.

June 30, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's New CO2 Rules Create Opportunities for Natural Gas, for Now

Claims that "shale gas is worse than coal" have been thoroughly refuted, not least by actual measurements at hundreds of well sites. See:

http://theenergycollective.com/geoffrey-styles/290701/study-sheds-light-environmental-impact-shale-gas

June 30, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA's New CO2 Rules Create Opportunities for Natural Gas, for Now

John,

Official forecasts of future natural gas prices and supply don't envision the kind of demand growth that the Clean Power Plan could trigger. However, we no longer seem to be resource-limited in this area, at least over the period between such a coal-to-gas transition and the eventual displacement of gas by renewables and advanced nuclear power, or some other, as-yet unspecified large-scale technology. The shape of the gas supply curve is the key: how much additional gas would a $1 or $2/MCF price increase elicit from producers, and how much of a price increase would be required to get production up to the level required to displace coal, export LNG, displace some oil from transport, grow industry and do all the other things that advocates of each of these strategies expect? My sense from watching shale gas develop over the last decade is that the supply curve will turn out to be much less steep than pessimists expect, but still not flat.

June 24, 2014    View Comment    

On It’s Not About Where Your Solar Panels Came From, It’s Where They Are Going That Counts

Well, since it affects not just the lifecycle emissions of the PV array, but also how many total tons of CO2 it displaces, that hardly seems like hair-splitting. The result depends on both what kind of power is displaced and how many total kWh it generates over its lifetime. The same PV array in California will generate roughly 2x the kWh as one in the UK.

June 16, 2014    View Comment    

On It’s Not About Where Your Solar Panels Came From, It’s Where They Are Going That Counts

Lindsay,

You're certainly right that the emissions savings from solar depend on what they displace, with appropriate caveats about where the backup power to integrate them is sourced. However, they must also depend on location in another important way, in terms of the aveage insolation at the site. The easiest way to think about this is on your chart comparing lifecycle emissions from China- and European-manufactured PV, per kWh.

That calculation necessarily assumes a side-by-side comparison in a location with a set number of average peak-sun hours per year. Install them somewhere with fewer peak-sun hours, shrinking the denominator of the comparison, and the footprints of both would be higher than shown. The converse would also be true.

So installing these cells in a location with both a broad mix of grid power and poor annual insolation, like the UK or Germany, is even less effective than your second chart suggests, compared to a sunny, coal-heavy location like Australia or parts of the US southwest. 

June 16, 2014    View Comment    

On IEA's Roadmap for Low-Carbon Electrification in a "Golden Age" of Gas

Edward,

That's a really provocative idea, in the best sense. While IGCC is still a great technology, it and CCS both entail significant technological and operational complexity. Multiplying that complexity leads to the very high first-of-a-kind construction costs we're seeing for IGCC + CCS, which in a tough margin environment for coal power makes them very hard to justify. The lower cost, proven reliability, and advanced features of current NGCC plants (fast ramping, etc.) makes their combination with CCS a much shorter mountain to climb. Build a few dozen gas + CCS plants, run them for a couple of years, and the application of CCS to coal could look both cheaper and less challenging. And as you say, the "U" in CCUS (for "utilization") is underappreciated.

Thanks for your comment.

June 9, 2014    View Comment