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On Problems with $17 Trillion, Save-the-Planet Headlines

Todd, when it's used for EOR CCS enables the extraction of about the same amount of carbon as it sequesters, so the process results in no net savings in atmospheric carbon. GHGs from industrial processes in steel and cement production result in less than 2% of carbon emissions (see below), the rest is energy which could be completely replaced by carbon-free nuclear.

Monitoring and verifying CO2 storage in the underground is a simple extension of known geoscience and subsurface engineering that leverages massive knowledge and expertise clusters across industries that have operated for decades.

Once the hyperbole is subtracted from this statement there isn't much of substance left over. Can you provide any detail on how nationally, and internationally, we can verify pressures and concentrations of injected gas, in formations with varying degrees of stability and permeability, thousands of feet below the earth's surface?

December 19, 2014    View Comment    

On Problems with $17 Trillion, Save-the-Planet Headlines

Donough, CCS is even less practical for sequestering carbon from industrial processes than it is for energy.

A key challenge of CCS is how to get the carbon to sequestration sites. For non-centralized industrial processes that requires an infrastructure devoted to carbon transport, and in the case of multiple smaller sources, it might result in creating more carbon than it would sequester. More important is the issue of verification, which on an industry-wide basis would be even more untenable and prone to fraud.

There is a clear path to the decarbonization of energy used in industry, and that is electrification combined with nuclear generation. In the U.S., GHGs from non-energy-related industrial processes for steel manufacturing account for .97% of emissions; cement manufacturing makes up .61%. All industrial processes combined are 5.1%, and some of that comes from carbon which is already part of the earth's regenerative carbon cycle (non-mined).

Burning fossil fuels is responsible for 91% of all carbon emissions. There are some innovative, non-EOR approaches to recycling carbon for industrial processes but that is clearly a very small part of the problem.

December 19, 2014    View Comment    

On Problems with $17 Trillion, Save-the-Planet Headlines

Sean, I like your thinking with respect to "biosteel". Carbon steel is somewhere around 1% carbon, so I think in this case biomass may actually be sufficient, and captured carbon would be even better.

December 19, 2014    View Comment    

On Grid Governance: Are Solar Microgrids a Step on the Ladder Towards Grid Access?

Bas, it's a pleasure to be able to agree with you on the topic of solar for remote areas. If it improves the quality of life for people with no practical access to a grid, and does it cleanly, I'm all for it.

In those kinds of situations people have little access to diesel fuel as well, so retrofitting them would be equally impractical.

December 19, 2014    View Comment    

On Grid Governance: Are Solar Microgrids a Step on the Ladder Towards Grid Access?

Alex, if residents of small communities find microgrids useful they could be effective as a temporary stopgap. There are a couple of significant problems:

1) The systems are being grossly oversold. 70 kW of capacity in Dharnai is directed to residential power generation, 30 kW is reserved for pumping water. Assuming a generous 20% capacity factor for power, the system will yield 14 kW distributed among 2,400 people, or enough for each resident to charge their cellphone. The basic plan allows for 18 watts per household, which is capable of illuminating the smallest refrigerator bulb available and nothing more. With this system, microgrid-powered A/C, television, computing, and cooking are out of the question.

2) The plan could backfire, resulting in more emissions. Once Greenpeace installs their solar microgrids it will require a minimal amount of engineering to augment them with diesel, which could result in more emissions than coal-fired generation coming from a grid.

December 19, 2014    View Comment    

On No Easy Answers When Disposing of Oil and Gas Wastewater

Roger, the FDA could outlaw it's use, but as you correctly observe it's pervasive. My tap water analysis came back showing 999,963ppm DHM, so without many good options I bought a parcel of land in Hanford, WA and am building a house there - I'm told plutonium in the water supply displaces some of the DHM. Next they're going to say that's bad for you too!

December 19, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Cutting CO2 with Renewables Alone Means Betting Big on Efficiency: Behind the IPCC's Climate Stabilization Scenarios

Proportion, Chris. All three require lots of fracking and coal mining, according to IPCC, but ReMIND requires increased available energy of 600/1200 exajoules (50%) from efficiency/reduced demand. MESSAGE requires 1100/1400 (79%) from efficiency, or in other words, "asking poor people to make do with solar toys from Greenpeace".

The GCAM model requires 300/900 (33%). And completely filling that 33% with nuclear energy, so poor people could run washers and dryers like you and I, wouldn't add any significant carbon at all.

December 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Problems with $17 Trillion, Save-the-Planet Headlines

Ed, eliminating fossil fuels as a source of energy is the requirement. Or almost:

IPCC Advises “Almost Entirely” Eliminating Unrestricted Use of Fossil Fuels By 2100

CCS loses either way - when it's used for EOR, it increases fossil fuel emissions. When it's not used for EOR, it's useless.

December 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Problems with $17 Trillion, Save-the-Planet Headlines

Noah, CCS shares the fatal flaw of everything that costs a lot of money with nothing to show for it:

Let’s start with permanence and transparency. If the Russian government said it was sequestering 100m tons of CO2 in the ground permanently, and wanted other countries to pay it billions of dollars to do so, would anyone trust it? No. The potential for fraud and bribery are simply too enormous. But would anyone trust China? Would anyone trust an American utility, for that matter? ...The problem is nobody knows how to monitor and verify underground CO2 storage. It could take a decade just to set up this system. We haven’t even started.

CCS, like geoengineering, is a distraction from solutions which can make a difference.

December 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Why Cutting CO2 with Renewables Alone Means Betting Big on Efficiency: Behind the IPCC's Climate Stabilization Scenarios

Chris, I can't speak for Suzanne, but I would certainly favor the one with nuclear based on the proportion of efficiency and CCS required by the other two models. A nearly 50% increase in efficiency is laughably unrealistic, and is essentially padding to fill out deficiencies left by renewables.

December 17, 2014    View Comment    

On Upgrading to a Smart Thermostat? Choose One of These

Thanks Sarah, I agree with your take on it.

Google's Privacy Policy is extensive, and the terms somewhat vague, which doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy, Nest-like comfort level - especially after the company's Wi-Spy incident.

Some will probably be fine with it, and I probably would too if it didn't transmit data offsite.

December 17, 2014    View Comment    

On On the Meaning of Existence (and Power Plant Emissions)

Meredith, it should raise hackles on anyone who's paying attention to the push for cleaner energy when complexity obscures the calculus of who's getting what, and when, and why, for how much.

The Clean Power Plan might be better labeled the Dirty Fingers Plan - it's covered with the dirty fingerprints of too many special interests, each of which have their own angle on how to exploit it for gain. This is a characteristic of much of policy coming out of this administration, including the Affordable Health Care Act. Though Obama's heart is in the right place - very much like Jimmy Carter - he's not a leader. He's asked for too much input, received that and more, and what we end up with is legislation riddled with loopholes which exacerbates the problem it's supposed to fix. And very much like the push for renewable energy, it tries to turn complexity into a selling point, as if that's not a liability but a virtue.

It's just not that hard. We can achieve everything we need to by putting a price on carbon with a revenue-neutral tax and a bill about five pages long. Then let the chips fall where they may.

December 17, 2014    View Comment