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On The Elementary Arithmetic of Climate Change

Others' reaction to Nocera:

A carbon tax is essentially a way for policymakers to increase the price of fossil fuels and curb consumer demand without giving producers more incentive to exploit harder-to-reach supplies. There are plenty of arguments for and against a carbon tax, but by itself, it wouldn’t give an added boost to pricey new fossil-fuel sources.

You might think an A-list business reporter for the NY Times would know basic economics. But not in the case of Joe Nocera. ...

Last year, Nocera took exception to my saying he joined “the climate ignorati,” asserting that I was casting him as a “global warming denier.” But as I noted at the time, the ignorati are, as Google reveals, “Elites who, despite their power, wealth, or influence, are prone to making serious errors when discussing science and other technical matters.” The shoe fits.

But Nocera doesn’t seem to be a fan of basic economics, as he proceeds to misunderstand Hansen’s policy proposal and offer the laughably wrong argument that a price on carbon would increase the market viability of the dirtiest oil with the highest production costs.

Pro tip: Raising the price of a commodity does not improve its market position. In fact, raising the price of a commodity reduces demand for that commodity. This principle is known in economics as “supply and demand.”

 

Highly related

 

If you want to argue that activists shouldn’t focus on Keystone, you can’t just establish that rallying around and/or blocking Keystone won’t reduce carbon emissions much. So what? Why not try it? Something’s better than nothing, after all. Even if it’s a total waste of time, that may be unproductive, but it’s not counterproductive.

 

No, you have to establish that the Keystone campaign is impeding or preventing something else better and more effective from happening. That’s what it means to say the Keystone campaign is counterproductive — that it’s detracting from other, superior climate efforts.

 

What are these other efforts, and how is a focus on Keystone impeding or preventing them? That’s the causal relationship folks like Revkin need to establish to make their case, but they are maddeningly vague about it.

February 22, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

1.  As I have said, I don't see Silver Bullet solutions.  I don't see solar as an end-all, be all, but as part of a portfolio of responses that can support mitigation and adaptation.

2.  I have a hard time buying into the infrastructure requirements to create a hydrogen-based economy.  

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

Apologies that I don't have the time to track down material but ...

1. Hawaii, for example, could likely meet its electricity needs w/solar on roofs and offshore wind/wave power.

2. There is a lot of rooftop in the developed world and there are concepts for 'covering' roads with solar -- combine that built environment and one has lots of solar potential.

3.  Offshore wind has minimal 'footprint' implications after some siting issues (such as shipping lanes and aviation safety) are dealt with.

4.  Intermittency is dealt with by balancing, storage, connecting large-scale grid (see Desertec for one concept for balancing).

There is plenty of credible work showing can do significant portions of the task at scale.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

Apologies that I don't have the time to track down material but ...

1. Hawaii, for example, could likely meet its electricity needs w/solar on roofs and offshore wind/wave power.

2. There is a lot of rooftop in the developed world and there are concepts for 'covering' roads with solar -- combine that built environment and one has lots of solar potential.

3.  Offshore wind has minimal 'footprint' implications after some siting issues (such as shipping lanes and aviation safety) are dealt with.

4.  Intermittency is dealt with by balancing, storage, connecting large-scale grid (see Desertec for one concept for balancing).

There is plenty of credible work showing can do significant portions of the task at scale.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Robert,

Do you believe that 'all lights are green' on that westward rail line because, well, there are some who certainly don't think so.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

Dennis

The rapid dismissal of alternative electricity sources of "solar uses food land" and "wind intermittent" seems extreme. Look at ther German Energiewende -- the solar isn't using up food land and they are figuring out how to manage their grid to deal with increasing amounts of intermittent power (which includes the solar).

Rather than 'defending' renewables, my biggest issue here is that I'm an advocate of "Silver BBs" rather a proponent of single-solution Silver Bullets.  I will look at your material and try to learn from it but I'm far from ready to dismiss any conservation / efficiency / clean energy piece (see power of 'and')as irrelevant because there is a Silver Bullet concept will save the day.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Absolutely, the tar sands is getting to market.  The issue, in part, is expansion -- and resisting creating infrastructure that becomes sunk cost in considering infrastructure / energy / investment choices tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

The rail expansion for export has been impressive to watch. Even so, as you are well aware, that rail expansion is inadequate to support the desired export requirements. Also, in part due to enriching Buffett (further), the additional cost of that rail movement is a drag on expansion plans.

How much of the rail expansion, however, is Bakken oil vs Tar Sands?

 

It is a serious point that that the EROEI and pollution load worsens due to rail transit. And, as per rail safety issues, there are risks created via increased rail traffic vs pipeline.  Although, have there been rail car spills of Dilbit along the lines of what happened in the Enbridge pipeline on the Kalmazoo?

Finally, absolutely a focus 'solely' on supply is, at best, reckless and, at worst, inane.  National investments in Steel Interstate, ever-increasing CAFE standards, better land use planning ('smart growth' as misnomer), and other targeted paths to drive down oil demand -- across the planet -- as a path to deal with peak oil and climate change are more critical than efforts focused on the supply side.  

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Thus, Keystone should go forward because no single action, no single project is enough to cause so much damage that the environment would crash because of it?  

In terms of your second paragraph, clearly a line was drawn in the sand -- for mobilization reasons and otherwise.  Paths toward improving profitability and easing expansion of Tar Sands production will foster greater use and, therefore, greater carbon loads.  Keystone XL does this.  Thus, beyond just symbolic into substantive issues.  And, this is something that galvanizes a range of people -- from those losing land to eminent domain to build the pipeline, to ranchers concerned about potential Dilbit spills, to indigenous people in the United States and Canada concerned about their lands, to scientists concerned about climate change, to ... Sigh, those scientists are, however, simply "zealots".

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Let's see ...

Seems to be that the item is we can't do anything to change because we have the infrastructure we have and thus we can't change the infrastructure we have and thus should continue to feed the beast/add to the beast that we have.

This piece was not about offering up alternative paths forward -- but perhaps it would have made sense to link to myriads of pieces offering up "infrastructure to deliver society's needs" w/burning less fossil fuel.

Let's take a small example, why not steel interstates with electrified rail?  Within a decade, at a net benefit to the economy -- without considering the pollution / climate benefits -- this could help reduce US demand, with intermodal transfer improvements, in the range of 2.5 mbd.  And, compared to trucking, this would enable moving California tomatoes to the East Coast roughly in 30 hours with far fewer energy calories per calorie of food moved.  That is a "new distribution infrastructure" that "is being aka proposed" ...

Reality is that there are quite serious paths to shift the infrastructure to reduce fossil fuel demands -- even in the agricultural secor -- that have been put on the table and, in many cases, that are actually being worked on.  That this one piece, which focuses on reasons why the Keystone XL pipeline does not meet the standard required in the review process, does not provide a detailed examination of such opportunities and path forward is a rather high standard to hold any single blog post.

 

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Sigh ...

1.  "Miniscule ..." Who cares about someone pissing in the community pool because it is so big, only one kid.  Looking at in isolation is absurd. This:

The Keystone XL Pipeline, considered in isolation, is not a game changing or planet-threatening project. According to some estimates, obtaining and using oil from tar sands produces 14 to 20 percent greater greenhouse gas emissions than the average oil now used in the U.S. for transportation. In a report to Congress, the estimated effect of the pipeline on the U.S. greenhouse gas footprint would be an increase of 3 million to 21 million metric tons of GHG emissions annually – less than one percent of U.S. emissions. The tar sands in Canada are an environmental disaster in other ways, but the incremental emissions of greenhouse gases are small compared to the far greater threat of massive coal expansion in China, or potential fugitive emission of methane from fracking, or massive deforestation in Indonesia and Latin America, or any number of other major sources of greenhouse gases. In that sense, arguments that the Keystone pipeline is just a “distraction” or “red herring” have some merit.

But. But. But. Here’s my problem: when do we finally just say “no more?”  When are we and our elected officials going to look at the complete picture created by our individual choices and decisions?

 

2.  Try actually looking at the impact of Tar Sands exploitation.  "Most Destructive Project" -- start here.

 

3.  Keystone puts oil on world market and removes it from the upper Midwest market.  Right now, Dilbit is selling at a significant discount in the upper Midwest: "One of the most important facts that is missing in the national debate surrounding the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is this – Keystone XL will not bring any more oil into the United State for decades to come.  Canada doesn’t have nearly enough oil to fill existing pipelines going to the United States. However, existing Canadian oil pipelines all go to the Midwest, where the only buyer for their crude is the United States. Keystone XL would divert Canadian oil from refineries in the Midwest to the Gulf Coast where it can be refined and exported. Many of these refineries are in Foriegn Trade Zones where oil may be exported to international buyers without paying U.S. taxes. And that is exactly what Valero, one of the largest potential buyers of Keystone XL's oil, has told its investors it will do. The idea that Keystone XL will improve U.S. oil supply is a documented scam being played on the American people by Big Oil and its friends in Washington DC. " 

Heartland gas prices will go up: Keystone will remove oil from the upper Midwest to put it on the world market.

February 11, 2013    View Comment    

On “I Vote for Energy …”

Since I don't control what material moves from my site to Energy Collective, perhaps it makes sense to look at something posted there ... see the last link in the above. 

Not sure how, in a follow-up to something that I had done earlier in the day, posting a satiric video represents "hit piece".

 

January 5, 2012    View Comment    

On “We can’t wait” … The President Stands Up to Fossil Interests

I like Bloomberg's way of putting it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-bloomberg/epa-mercury-coal-emissions_b_1148099.html?ref=politics

 

The EPA has proposed rules that would reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 90%, preventing 12,200 emergency room visits and saving $80 billion a year in health care costs. The rules -- now sitting on the president's desk -- are two decades overdue.

In 1990, when the Clean Air Act was last revised, Congress directed the EPA to establish limits on mercury and other emissions of coal-fired power plants. In March, after 20 years of delay, the EPA has finally issued a set of draft rules. By Monday, the president will decide whether to adopt the draft rules, weaken them, or withdraw them entirely. It will be one of the defining tests of the administration's commitment to public health and environmental protection.

December 15, 2011    View Comment