NewEnergyNews: OPEC GOES GREEN?

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

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YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: WORLD WIND’S GROWTH GOES ON
  • QUICK NEWS, April 23: MONEY COMING BACK TO NEW ENERGY; CELLULOSIC BIOFUELS FROM CORN STOVER STUMBLE; SUIT AGAINST WIND FOR BAT IMPACTS THROWN OUT
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    THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES OF NEW ENERGY – THE NORTH CAROLINA CASE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 22: ON EARTH – A QUICK LOOK BACK; OBSERVATIONS FOR EARTH DAY (continued); OBAMA ADMIN UPS BACKING FOR NEW ENERGY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE U.S. NEW ENERGY MARKET NOW AND AHEAD
  • QUICK NEWS, April 21: OBSERVATIONS FOR EARTH DAY; BACK TO OWNERSHIP IN SOLAR; 15X GROWTH FOR ASIA PACIFIC MIDROGRIDS
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Happy Birthday Solar Cell
  • Weekend Video: Offshore Wind As A Hurricane A Wall
  • Weekend Video: Get On The Climate Policy Train
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 6
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 7
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 8
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, April 17:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • ---------------
  • Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    OPEC GOES GREEN?

    The theme of OPEC’s recent 2-day summit: "Providing petroleum, promoting prosperity and protecting the environment." (Really.) During the proceedings, OPEC came out advocating carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

    Here’s the question: Who do these guys think they are fooling besides themselves? They apparently assume that any capture of coal plant emissions will free consumers to spew more from their tailpipes. But if the marketplace gets a chance to freely act, clean coal and more abundant clean electricity will lead in a straight line to plug-in hybrids and battery-driven vehicles.

    Furthermore, there are objections to the process because it has not been shown to capture anywhere near all greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated by burning coal. And there are fears underground storage chambers could rupture and release seriously toxic gases. Finally, diminishing emissions during the burning of coal does nothing to mitigate emissions generated during coal’s mining and transport.

    At a different venue, Shell’s chief scientist emphasized CCS’ incompleteness as a technology and the need for further development of it, concluding with a quote from Bob Dylan, perhaps one of the most unusual contexts in which the 60s icon has been quoted: "You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." (Somebody might want to mention that one to the few remaining climate change deniers.)

    Bottom line: Clean coal is still an oxymoron. Perhaps new information will turn up at
    Carbon Capture; Status and Outlook, December 3-5, 2007, Wahington, D.C.

    OPEC to put carbon capture at heart of new green agenda
    November 16, 2007 (AFP via Yahoo News)
    and
    Shell contemplating GHG science
    Paula Dittrick, November 19, 2007 (Oil & Gas Journal)

    WHO
    Chakib Khelil, energy minister, Algeria; Ali al-Nuaimi, Oil Minister, Saudi Arabia; Yvo de Boer, executive secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Charlie Williams, chief scientist, Royal Dutch Shell PLC

    Removing CO2 from coal-fired power generation burning is a complex and imperfect technology, hardly something that can justify OPEC's unmitigated emissions-spewing. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    - CCS, more popularly known as “clean” coal, was emphasized as a way of dealing with climate change by leaders at the OPEC summit.
    - Williams talked about long-term storage logistics, support facilities for sequestration, public acceptance, and consistent regulations for CCS at a Shell-sponsored symposium.

    WHEN
    - The OPEC summit was November 16-17. It was the 3rd summit in OPEC’s 47 years.
    - Williams statements came November 15.

    WHERE
    - The summit was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Foreign, finance and oil ministers from the 12 member countries attended.
    - The Shell International Science Symposium: Future Approaches in Subsurface Chemistry and Physics was held in Rijswijk, the Netherlands.
    - Demonstration CCS projects are currently underway in Canada, Algeria and the North Sea. The US is set to begin a major trial program at locations in Illinois or Texas.

    WHY
    - The discussion of CCS is widely recognized as an important acknowledgement of climate change by the oil-producing nations’ leaders.
    - CCS is a technology still underdevelopment. It would capture carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions as the coal is burned to make steam turn a turbine to generate electricity. - The captured emissions would be stored harmlessly underground.
    - The process adds cost to electricity generation and is not yet proven.
    - Williams asserted that CCS carried with it long-term liabilities for storing, monitoring, and verifying the location and any movement of stored CO2 and insisted governments must be prepared to take these responsibilities, create standards and set up rules.
    - Williams also talked about the burden of costs CCS brought with it and talked about a need to incorporate the expense into the marketplace.

    Several types of sequestration are being tried. Recent research is encouraging. But none of the options is thoroughly tested yet, much less proven. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC: “[An OPEC commitment to carbon capture and sequestration would be a] very constructive outcome of the deliberations at the heads of state level…I think the debate here points to a constructive willingness to participate in international dialogue about climate change…"
    - Ali al-Nuaimi, Saudi Oil Minister: "[OPEC leaders have shown a] recognition that oil is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect, but also a willingness to talk about how oil can be produced and brought to market in a cleaner way."
    - Williams, chief scientist, Shell: "The world's energy needs could increase by 50% in about 25 years…That is the equivalent of 100 million b/d of oil…We have to have energy security through energy diversity…We're going to have to deal with CO2 and the CO2 footprint…We do have a lot of technology today...but government and society have a key role to play."

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