Climate & Energy

Air capture 101

Potentially a long-term option for putting waste heat to use

RealClimate has a good introductory post on air capture, which they explain as: The idea would be to let people emit the carbon dioxide at the source but then capture it directly from the atmosphere at a separate facility. This is going to be a relatively expensive and complicated strategy for decades -- and, of course, you need a place to put the carbon dioxide. That said, a lot of work is going on to see if one can do air capture driven by heat. Why does that matter? The world has a lot of zero carbon waste heat not currently being used for anything. Indeed, U.S. thermal power plants alone throw away as much energy in waste heat as Japan uses for every purpose! That's more than 20 quads. And that doesn't even count the heat thrown away in industrial processes. Now, the smartest thing to do with that heat, for the next few decades, is obviously either generate electricity with it or use it for heating buildings or industrial processes.

The forgotten solution

Transit investment should and will be a part of the peak oil solution

Joseph Romm has made a number of very good points in his new Salon piece (and accompanying Gristmill post) on the problem of peak oil. He is, in my view, quite correct that oil prices will continue to increase based on supply and demand fundamentals. He is right that alternative oil source development would be a monumental mistake, and that biofuels are unlikely to be much help either. And I’d like to strongly associate myself with his statement that a solution to the climate problem is also a solution to the peak oil problem. But I strongly disagree with him …

Protesters arrested outside N.C. coal plant

Eight protesters were Tased and arrested after locking themselves to bulldozers at a Duke Energy coal plant in North Carolina Tuesday morning. Activists say the plant under construction is, in short, a terrible idea. “In the face of catastrophic climate change, building a new coal plant is tantamount to signing a death sentence for our generation,” said one protester. Umbrella group Rising Tide organized the protest, as well as other direct action in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom for “Fossil Fools Day.”

Stuff kills

Chinese miners and our appetite for cheap crap

As the United States has outsourced its industrial base to China over the last two decades, millions of manufacturing jobs have disappeared. But the trend has also allowed us to shed a lot of unpleasantness: industrial waste, air pollution, etc. The move also eased the burden on our electrical grid. The energy needed to produce clothes, electrical gadgets, industrial equipment, etc. no longer comes from our power generators. But greenhouse gases are a fungible substance; coal emissions in China trap just as much heat as emissions in Youngstown, Ohio. And the hazards and environmental devastation of coal mining merely shift. …

The adaptation trap 2: The not-so-honest broker

More on Roger Pielke, Jr.

In Part 1, we saw that ... Adaptation as primary strategy for dealing with climate change is widely oversold. This is especially true as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 800 to 1,000 ppm, a likely outcome if we listen to either the delayers or deniers. A leading adaptation advocate and apparent delayer-1000, Roger Pielke, Jr., "labels adaptation what is in fact mitigation, and his idea of mitigation is apparently research into adaptation." Let me elaborate on these points. The day before the dubious pro-adaptation L.A. Times piece, one of Pielke's fellow Prometheus bloggers, Jonathan Gilligan, pointed out, "if our political system stinks at managing floods, coastal storm risks, and fresh-water resources in the absence of anthropogenic climate change, why would it manage better if climate change does turn out to significantly increase the mean severity and/or variance of the distribution?"

When does additionality matter? Part 2

Measuring additionality has clear benefits — and also some obvious costs

The second in a series of posts on additionality. In his post criticizing the design of carbon markets, Sean correctly notes that additionality is a pain to measure -- an ever more expensive pain, as the industry matures and quality controls become more stringent. To take an example I know well, at TerraPass, we spend tens of thousands of dollars per project helping dairy farmers validate their methane digesters under the Voluntary Carbon Standard. It's a complex process, requiring a fair amount of domain expertise, outside consultants, site visits, and ongoing monitoring. The process is meant to ensure additionality, but the cost carries some clear downsides. For example, we can't consider any projects that are below a certain size. Even if they're great projects, they won't generate enough carbon reductions to justify the effort. So Sean and I agree that additionality in the carbon world is expensive and tricky to measure, and that the cost of doing so drives some worthwhile projects out of the system.