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Posts Tagged ‘carbon emissions’


Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
January 6, 2011

No new coal plants have begun construction in the past two years and none are expected to break ground in 2011, according to a report from the U.S. State Department on its website,

Thirteen gigawatts of new construction is already underway and expected to be completed in the next few years, according to Frank Graves, a consultant with the Brattle Group in Boston. But after that the pipeline will run dry. “It’s not as much as they had planned to construct, but it’s not as if the coal industry has been frozen in its tracks,” Graves told

The claim that new coal plant permitting has ground to a halt was originally made by the Sierra Club last week and confirmed by the Edison Electric Institute, the industry research group.  The federal government’s Energy Information Administration is the source of the prediction that no new construction will begin in 2011 either.

All sides attribute the slowdown to three factors:  1) declining demand, 2) lower natural gas prices, and 3) environmental regulations. The EPA has undertaken an across-the-board effort to tighten regulations on the six main forms of air pollution – even before its initiative to regulate carbon emissions, which officially began this week. Coal is by far the biggest emitter of sulfur dioxides, mercury and particulate matter, all of which are in the EPA’s sites. Natural gas has fewer pollutants and emits only half as much carbon dioxide.

The decline of coal would be a great opportunity for nuclear, except that new nuclear construction is mired in an even greater regulatory morass and construction of even a handful of new reactors is not expected over the next decade. In that case, natural gas becomes the default source. Some recent analysis has suggested, however, that shale gas wells may play out much sooner than traditional wells and that the overall cost of such reserves may be much higher than is reflected by current prices. In that case, electrical customers are in for a rougher ride than anticipated.



Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The report card is in for 2009 carbon emissions and the results are disappointing but not unexpected – improvements in the developing world are being cancelled by increases in the developing nations.

Japan and Europe did well, probably because of the economic recession.  Japan’ emissions were down a remarkable 11.8 percent while the U.K. fell 8.6 percent and Germany 7 percent. The U.S. performance was not mentioned in this BBC report but it is likely down as well because of depressed economic activity.
But any optimism that world emissions might have turned a corner were quickly drowned by the returns from China and India. China’s output grew by 8 percent and India’s by 6.2 percent, indicating these countries are still on the uphill side of industrialization.  
"What we find is a drop in emissions from fossil fuels in 2009 of 1.3%, which is not dramatic," Pierre Friedlingstein lead researcher from the UK’s University of Exeter told BBC News. "Based on GDP projections last year, we were expecting much more. If you think about it, it’s like four days’ worth of emissions; it’s peanuts."
The trend was emphasized in a New York Times story this morning noting that China -with the world’s second-largest coal reserves – has actually become an importer from Australia and Canada, with the U.S. likely to follow. The article chides these countries for sending coal to China while preaching emissions reduction at home. But a much more constructive strategy would be to help China expand its nuclear capacity, which is the only thing that can replace coal.  
China and India are compressing more than a century of industrialization in Europe and America into just a few decades. Nuclear is the light at the end of the tunnel. It would help if Europe and America were moving forward faster in showing the way to carbon-free electricity.


Friday, October 29th, 2010

If Republicans achieve their expected gains in next week’s election, probably the first Obama Administration position they will attack will be the coming EPA effort to regulate carbon emissions.
A broad coalition of business and industry groups – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council – fired the first shot yesterday, asking Republican leaders to take on the EPA as soon as the House and Senate reconvene for the lame-duck session.  The most likely target is a moratorium on the rulemaking attached to either an omnibus budget or new continuing resolution.
The threat to allow the EPA to start writing carbon regulations was the sword the President held over Congress’s head during his efforts to pass cap-and-trade or some other carbon regime. Many speculated it was only a gambit but now the Administration is obligated to follow through.
Business and industry, on the other hand, argue that the EPA effort would impose “substantial costs and burdens on U.S. jobs and state resources while intruding on Congress’s important leadership role in developing energy policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” 
The EPA regulations, based the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared carbon dioxide a “pollutant,” are aimed mainly at stationary sources, notably power plants. Significantly, they will require clearance before any new sources can be added to a state’s air shed. Utility owners are already arguing they will be forced to delay the construction of new capacity, even relatively clean natural gas plants intended to replace old coal plants.
The business and industry group’s letter was addressed to two Republicans and eight Democrats, including Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, all of whom represent states with strong dependence on coal.

Read more at the Hill



Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Having spent less than a year working out the details, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is getting ready to impose widespread rules on carbon emissions across the entire economy beginning January 1.

The issue promises to be wildly contentious – particularly if the Republicans get control of either branch of Congress in November. The bipartisan opposition is already being led by several coal state Democrats, most prominently Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, one of the most reliable liberal voices in the Senate. Almost 90 percent of the electricity in the Midwest comes from coal and no new construction projects will be allowed to go ahead if reductions in emissions are not made. Whole state economies are at stake.

The confusion that is likely to prevail is evident in this morning’s Politico article, which refers constantly to the question of carbon emissions as “pollution controls.”  “The Obama administration has said it will limit its regulations to only the biggest sources at first, but it’s still unclear exactly what pollution controls will be required,” says the article. “[G]uidance [from the EPA] has been stalled indefinitely at the White House, where officials are sparring over the costs of installing pollution controls.”

But carbon emissions are not “pollution” in the classic sense of a “resource out of place.”  They are the unavoidable by-product of combustion. There is no way to “control” them except by cutting back on fossil fuels or replacing them with something else – like nuclear power.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal carried an editorial charging that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is breaking the law by not allowing the states three years to come up with their implementation plans for enforcing the new EPA regulations, as specified by the Clean Air Act.

It’s going to get interesting after the first of the year.

Read more at Politico


Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

California’s march to Energy Utopia hit a delay yesterday when state officials decided not to start collecting million in fees from energy companies until learning the fate of Proposition 23 in the November election.
Proposition 23, put on the ballot by business and taxpayer groups, would suspend enforcement of the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which compels the state to reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent and increase renewable energy sources to 33 percent by 2020.  The ballot initiative would suspend enforcement of AB 32 until state unemployment has fallen below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. Californias unemployment rate now stands at 12.3 percent, third highest in the nation.
Early polls show Prop 23 losing in November by 48-to-36 percent.
The California Air Resources Board is empowered to collect the $63 million to start enforcing various provisions of its own devise, including a cap-and-trade system and a renewable portfolio standard.  The CARB has already taken early initiatives by banning fluorocarbons in do-it-yourself tire inflation devices, mandating methane collection at landfill sites and requiring auto mechanics to inflate motorists tires when they make repairs.  Nuclear power plays no part in the Air Resources Boards plans.
Business and taxpayers groups delayed collection of the fee last year when they sued over the transparency of the process.  The state prevailed in that case but then it became clear that CARB could not start assessing until the fees were designated in the state budget.  The legislature, facing a $40 billion deficit, has not yet adopted a 2010-2011 budget.  Seeing no early resolution, CARB has decided to postpone collection until after the election.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee