NewEnergyNews: COULD GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS DECIDE THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE?

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • LABOR DAY STUDY: CHINA NEW ENERGY MOVES AHEAD
  • NO QUICK NEWS TODAY. BACK TOMORROW.
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: The Economic Opportunity In The Climate Fight
  • Weekend Video: The Future Of Energy
  • Weekend Video: Advances In BioEnergy
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE – IT GETS WORSE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WHERE AND HOW WIND IS GROWING IN THE WORLD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA TO LEAD SOLAR MARKET GROWTH DESPITE OBSTACLES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE ENORMOUS POTENTIAL OF WORLD GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 28:

  • TTTA Thursday-PRESIDENT TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE
  • TTTA Thursday-BIRDS AND ENERGY, THE BIGGER STORY
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW CA LAW STREAMLINES SOLAR PERMITTING
  • TTTA Thursday-DATA CENTER EFFICIENCIES CAN SAVE U.S. $3.8BIL/YR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE RISKIEST ENERGY IN THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 27: VERIZON’S $40MIL SOLAR BUY; WIND PRICES HIT RECORD LOWS; NUKE INSPECTOR SAYS DIABLO CYN IS UNSAFE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: U.S. WIND RIGHT NOW
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: CLIMATE MODELS PROVE RIGHT AGAIN; ABOUT INVESTING IN SOLAR; GM VS TESLA IN THE 200 MILE RACE -

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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

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  • Monday, October 20, 2008

    COULD GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS DECIDE THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE?

    Despite the fact that the Supreme Court last year determined it is legal to do so, the Bush Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has avoided the opportunity to take action in the fight against global climate change by imposing limits, under the authority of the Clean Air Act, on power and manufacturing plants that generate greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions.

    Energy advisors to Democratic Presidential Nominee Senator Barack Obama recently acknowledged Obama would, if elected, have his EPA act to limit GhGs. The campaign of Republican Presidential Nominee Senator John McCain is not on record on this issue.

    Heather Zichal, policy director for energy, environment and agriculture, Obama campaign: “While he strongly believes that Congressional action is needed...he is also committed to employing the considerable powers Congress has granted to the executive branch.”

    Jason Grumet, energy advisor, Obama campaign: ``[A President Obama] would initiate those rulemakings…He's not going to insert political judgments to interrupt the recommendations of the scientific efforts.''

    McCain advisers James Woolsey and Rebecca Jensen Tallent have both described the McCain position as preferring Congressional action. That, of course, evades the question of what should or would be done if Congress reaches one of its famous impasses.

    If McCain’s choice of Governor Palin as his running mate and his references to her as an “energy expert” are not enough to distinguish him from his opponent, this issue could.

    This is very very big news, both for the presidential race and for the fight against global climate change. If the McCain campaign aligns itself with the Obama statement, it is committing itself to a very important policy and declaring there will certainly be a vital new tool in the work against climate change. If McCain stands with the Bush administration and against Obama, or even if he merely refuses to make a substantive commitment, it gives voters a clear indication of a difference between the candidates.

    Until there is national climate change legislation, and even after if the legislation is inadequately effective, legal action is the most important tool in the work to protect the environment by interrupting the generation of the GhGs that create the greenhouse effect, the cause of global climate change.

    Because there is ample evidence global climate change is a danger to human health and the environment, moving to control GhGs is clearly an EPA responsibility, as affirmed in last year's Supreme Court decision.

    Grumet, energy advisor, Obama campaign: "The EPA is obligated to move forward in the absence of Congressional action…"

    EPA action along the lines of Clean Air Act standards would mean the creating of legal limits (“caps”) on GhG emissions just like the safe limits established for other toxic plant emissions such as lead and carbon monoxide. It could result in the pulling of the permits of as many as half the coal-fired power plants now being planned.

    The Bush administration EPA has used any and every excuse to avoid acting against GhGs as a pollutant. The most recent and absurd excuse is that EPA action would be an effective tool and therefore should not be used.

    Stephen Johnson, Bush-appointed administrator, EPA: "[Applying the Clean Air act] could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority…[It] is the wrong tool for the job."

    It is vital to get the McCain campaign on record on this now so voters can know what they are choosing.

    Several states have acted to stop coal plant construction until this issue is settled. An Obama victory would, therefore, likely lead to long-term cutbacks in coal-fired generating capacity. This would create a window of opportunity for New Energy.

    Bruce Nilles, national anti-coal campaign director, Sierra Club: "Industry has woken up to the fact that a new progressive administration could move quickly to make the United States a leader rather than a laggard…"


    League of Conservation Voters assessment of McCain

    League of Conservation Voters assessment of Obama

    McCain energy policy statement

    Obama energy policy statement

    The most recent World Resources Institute Comparison Of Legislative Climate Change Proposals (September 9, 2008).

    click to enlarge

    Obama to Declare Carbon Dioxide Dangerous Pollutant
    Jim Efstathiou Jr.m October 16, 2008 (Bloomberg News)
    and
    On Global Warming, McCain and Obama Agree: Urgent Action Is Needed
    Andrew C. Revkin, October 19, 2008 (NY Times)

    WHO
    Democratic Presidential Nominee Senator Barack Obama; Republican Presidential Nominee Senator John McCain; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Jason Grumet, energy advisor, Obama campaign; Heather Zichal, policy director for energy, environment and agriculture, Obama campaign; James Woolsey and Rebecca Jensen Tallent, McCain advisers; Environmental groups (Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC); American Electric Power Co. (AEP)

    WHAT
    Grumet says that, if elected, Obama will instruct the EPA to apply Clean Air Act (CCA) standards to global climate change-inducing CO2 greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions. McCain’s campaign is not on record on this issue.

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - 1990: Passage of the Clean Air Act (CCA)
    - 2007: Supreme Court ruling that CCA standards can be applied to GhGs.
    - June 2008: Congress refused to pass climate change legislation
    - 18 months into an Obama administration: If Congress has still not passed climate change legislation, EPA rules would likely be ready and it would act.

    WHERE
    - Obama is expected to more quickly and aggressively involve the U.S. in international efforts to reverse climate change.
    - Coal-fired power plants generate ~48% of U.S. electricity and about 1/3 of the nation’s GhGs.
    - States most significantly affected: Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia and Florida.

    WHY
    - Applying Clean Air Act standards would entail limiting GhGs from power and manufacturing plants.
    - Obama would be the first president to apply CCA standards to GhGs and include them with the 6 recognized pollutants (Ex: sulfur dioxide, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide).
    - Environmental groups like the Sierra Club andNRDC as well as utilities like AEP support climate change legislation that establishes caps on GhGs and a cap-and-trade market.
    - A cap-and-trade program allows polluting plants to continue operating it they offset the total amount of the GhGs they generate with investments in emissions-free projects like wind installations, solar power plants or efficiency systems.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Vicki Arroyo, general counsel, Pew Center on Global Climate Change: ``We need federal legislation to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions…In the meantime, there is this vacuum. People are eager to get started on this.''
    - Grumet, Obama energy advisor:``The U.S. has to move quickly domestically so we can get back in the game internationally…We cannot have a meaningful impact in the international discussion until we develop a meaningful domestic consensus. So he'll move quickly.''
    - Vicki Arroyo, general counsel, Pew Center on Global Climate Change: ``[Senator McCain] is not as big of a fan of standards-based approaches…The Supreme Court thinks it's clear that there is greenhouse-gas authority under the Clean Air Act. To take that off the table probably wouldn't be very wise.''

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