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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Damn Inconvient Truths

MIT is out there pointing out "inconvient truths" about greenhouse gas emissions. In their "Future of Coal" they point out that even if developed nations use (new and untested) carbon capture systems on all new coal power plants, and increase the use of renewable energy sources, in 2050 the level of CO2 emission in the world would still be at today's levels.

The problem is carbon capture systems reduce output of coal fired power plants by 20% or so, and increase the cost of them by 40%. So, those developing countries, that need cheap, plentiful fuel for their own economic expansion (which coal is) can't afford CCS technology to get it nearly carbon neutral. And developed countries won't want to spend the money to build new plants to replace those that can't be retrofitted.

Coal won't go away, even in developed countries because it's cheap, stable, and locally available. As Robert Samuelson pointed out today in the Washington Post, a Wood Mackenzie study, even if the US increased use of renewables by 5 times by 2026 we'd still have to build coal plants to meet our energy needs. On top of that, they predicted even if Congress gets it's way and demands that 15% of all new generation capacity be renewable, we'd still be increasing our output of CO2 by .8% per year.

Even if you don't argue the point that global warming is happening (hate to have death threats against you), and say "Yes, it's occurring", the MIT and Wood Mackenzie studies have to make you wonder, how much are you willing to pay to not make a difference?

Unless NIMBY's enviromentalists are willing to accept a large increase in nuclear and hydro power (in the US), or someone comes up with a workable fusion solution, fossil fuels will be around, and increase in use.

Even if they do accept those things, the third world can't afford anything but coal, and telling them to not get out of poverty probably isn't the best option.

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