Climate & Energy

Having naan of it

India’s 4,000 MW coal plant is a bad answer to electricity woes

A few more thoughts on the 4,000 MW coal plant in India recently approved for international aid financing, which David and Joe have noted. I think this deserves attention because it's at the center of the biggest climate question out there: how to meet tens of thousands of megawatt hours of unmet and projected power demand in India and China without huge coal plants like this Tata Mundra "Ultra-Mega" plant. It's not simple. But following the logic for this project involves going down a "There Is No Alternative" rabbit hole. To people in India facing daily brown-outs or a lack of electricity altogether, it may seem like environmental organizations in the U.S. are opposing this power development from a different universe. They may be. But the financiers trying to justify this project in the public interest are themselves in their own universe of self-justifying arguments. The main justification for international aid for this project is that "super-critical" coal-generating technology will make this plant more efficient than others in India. However, the broader situation in India's power sector is such that nearly all of the efficiency gains at the plant are likely to be eaten up by the world-beating levels of transmission and distribution loss of the rickety Indian electricity grid. It's a good bet that the equivalent of the output of at least one of the plant's five 800 MW generating units will disappear before it gets to an actual electricity consumer [PDF].

The technologies needed to beat 450 ppm, Part 1

Examining the IPCC’s ‘portfolio of technologies’

In 2007, the IPCC wrote [PDF] in its Working Group III summary (page 16): The range of stabilization levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are currently available and those that are expected to be commercialised in coming decades. This assumes that appropriate and effective incentives are in place for development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion of technologies, and for addressing related barriers (high agreement, much evidence). This range of levels includes reaching atmospheric concentrations of 445 to 490 ppm CO2-equivalent, or 400 to 450 ppm of CO2. The first sentence does beg the question, what exactly does "expected to be commercialized" mean? I'll return to that in Part 2. So, what exactly are these climate-saving technologies? You can read about every conceivable one in the full WG III report, "Mitigation of Climate Change." But the summary lists the "Key mitigation technologies and practices" (page 10) in several sectors divided into two groups: those that are "currently commercially available" and those "projected to be commercialized before 2030." I will simply list them all here. In a later post, I'll discuss which ones I believe could deliver the biggest reductions at lowest cost -- my 14-plus "wedges," as it were -- and the political process for achieving them. It is worth seeing them all, I think, to understand exactly how we might stabilize below 450 ppm CO2. Also, one of the technologies is the closest thing we have to the "silver bullet" needed to save the climate, as I will blog on in a few days.

Hunting and fishing groups worried about climate change’s effects on wildlife

Photo: iStockphoto The hook and bullet crowd, traditionally quite a conservative bunch, is worrying more openly about climate change, particularly its forecasted effects on wildlife crucial to their sports. The Wildlife Management Institute, a sportsperson’s organization, released a report recently highlighting climate change’s possible detrimental effects to oft-hunted species. Disappearing wetlands could contribute to a 69 percent decline in North American breeding ducks, and nearly half of U.S. trout and salmon habitat could disappear by 2100. Climate-fueled habitat changes could also lead to declines in populations of mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and quail. Representatives from WMI and eight other …

Climate change affects — noooooooo! — beer

If dire warnings about the fate of global health and security don’t move you to care about climate change, maybe this will: Climate change could make beer more expensive. (No! Anything but that!) Malting barley will likely be harder to grow in a warming world, especially in Australia, says climate scientist Jim Salinger. He warned at an Institute of Brewing and Distilling convention Tuesday that within the next 30 years, “either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up.” Now that’s something that Foster’s fear.

BP-powered no more

Remember that new environmental blog at The New Republic that was "powered by BP"? Apparently it is no longer thus powered. As gratifying as it is, in a schadenfreudey sort of way, to see that other small media operations can be as dysfunctional as, er, some small media operations I’m familiar with. I’m glad this got settled quickly — I really do think it will be a blog worth reading. (This post brought to you by Wal-Mart.)

Brit's Eye View: Not now, Darling

U.K.’s Labor Party embraces nuclear but is slow to move on the big climate challenge

Ben Tuxworth, communications director at Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. The British press swooned over the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni to the U.K. late last month. We're suckers for the idea of French romance, particularly mixed with wealth, sophistication, and the sort of impetuosity we "rosbifs" can seldom muster. Apparently, Bruni saw Sarkozy on TV and said to a friend, "I want to have a man with nuclear power." And what Bruni wants, Bruni gets. It's unclear whether Sarkozy knew it was his big machinery that attracted Bruni, but a man who is willing to wear high heels to appear as tall as his glamorous spouse clearly has security issues high on his agenda. As it happens, the new entente cordiale between Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is based, amongst other things, on a shared passion for the atom. Together, Britain and France will supply the world with nuclear technology, simultaneously saving the industry, creating thousands of jobs, and sorting our energy security issues. I've already explored why these arguments don't really stack up. The Labor Party's newfound zeal for nuclear power -- and Business Secretary John Hutton's recent speech in which he said expanded nuclear power could be akin to North Sea oil for the British economy -- make these interesting times to ask what the legacy of New Labor will be for the environment. It still seems as if, at some fundamental level, they just don't get it.