Weekly Post: Oct. 4-10

POLITICS

  • Rubio Comments on Energy
    Rubio made general remarks regarding regulations vs. innovation/market-based approaches for addressing climate change issues.

[Source: Wall Street Journal]
Link:
Rubio Article

Gattie Note: Rubio says he believes American innovation will solve these problems and that they should be addressed with market-based approaches rather than regulations. Agreed. And, while innovation is critical, every time I hear a candidate say “market-based”, I get the feeling they’re thinking, “carbon tax”. At some point, candidates have to get into the weeds and lay out some specifics. The energy issue isn’t simply a matter of oil and gas or politically crafted responses to questions about climate change. The impacts on power generation and the U.S. energy disposition within the broader global economic context must be in the discussion.

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  • The Pope and Capitalism
    Robert Stavins published an article in The Energy Collective entitled: “The Papal Encyclical and Climate Change Policy”.

[Sources: The Energy Collective; International New York Times;
The New York Review of Books; The Vatican
]
Links: Stavins Article; Davenport Article; Nordhaus Article; Papal Encyclical

Gattie Note: Stavins is one of those significant voices you should listen to when the conversation is about economics. Agree or disagree—but listen to him. In this article, Stavins references a June 18, 2015 article by Coral Davenport where Davenport claims that the Pope is taking aim at global capitalism, not just environmental issues associated with climate change. It also references a current article by William Nordhaus on “The Pope & the Market” in the New York Review of Books. In his review of the Pope’s encyclical, Nordhaus points out:

“Modern economics judges the performance of an economy according to its achievement of three general goals. Does the economy produce efficiently and expand the available quantity and quality of appropriately priced goods and services? Are the resources equitably distributed among different people? And does the economy perform without either high unemployment or ruinous inflation?”

These goals should be noted by students interested in energy, environmental and policy issues.

Gattie Note #2: While the Pope is head of the Catholic church, he is also the Head of State, I think. So, I included this under “POLITICS”.

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DEVELOPING ISSUES

  • Developing vs. Developed
    This Economist article includes an interview of Christiana Figueres, who was asked for her thoughts on the UNFCCC. The article appears later in this post where it touches on carbon levels in the atmosphere.

[Source: The Economist]
Link: Economist Figueres

[From the interview with Christiana Figueres]:
“If you were to ask me what is the one sentence that describes the purpose of the climate change convention, it is to accelerate the process of de-coupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. The de-coupling of growth from greenhouse gases is the fundamental challenge of the climate change convention. What that means is that it is a very difficult challenge for developing countries. It’s not such a difficult challenge for industrialized countries because frankly many of them have already decoupled. They’ve already flattened their population. They’ve already flattened their growth in energy and energy demand. And so they can continue to grow and they have begun to bring down their greenhouse gases. But developing countries it’s a completely different scenario. They still have population growth…” [Christiana Figueres].

Gattie Note: Figueres articulates the disparity between developed and developing countries regarding carbon reductions. This is consistent with other articles in this blog post regarding India. Once again, this issue is deeply about social and political economics. Her reference to “decoupling” is strictly with respect to economic decoupling and refers to an economy that has established its basic infrastructure of power generation, transportation (road, rail, air, shipping), water supply, wastewater treatment, extraction, manufacturing, production, etc. and has transitioned into a tertiary economy of services. Establishing this infrastructure is energy intensive and that is right where developing economies are today. This type of “decoupling” is distinct from “utility revenue decoupling”.

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  • India and the Environment: Catching Up With China
    The unprecedented economic growth and development in China and India continue to dominate the energy and environment world. The first two paragraphs in this Economist article are a good summary.

[Source: The Economist]
Link: India Catching Up

[From the Article]: “EVERY so often a country comes along whose economic transformation has a vast impact on the world’s climate system. For the past generation that country has been China. Next it will be India.
Given India’s size and population (1.3 billion), its emissions of carbon dioxide are in relative terms still tiny. At 1.6 tonnes of carbon per person each year, they are roughly the same as China’s per-head emissions in 1980, when that country dived into economic reforms. Now India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, wants to emulate China’s sizzling growth. He has set India a target of expanding GDP by 8% a year. If it comes close to meeting that target, emissions will soar, just as China’s have done. Today, Chinese emissions per head are four times those in India”.

Gattie Note: The energy and environment issues connected with economic growth and development in China and India will remain dominant for quite some time. They aren’t going away.

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  • India Submits INDC for the Upcoming Climate Conference
    Acknowledging that coal will continue to be its primary source of power, India pledges to aggressively develop hydro and nuclear, and that it will require a “transfer of technology” from others to facilitate growth of renewable energy sources.

[Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]
Link: India INDC

Gattie Note: India understands which energy resources can be leveraged to grow its economy and which energy resources will require significant effort to incorporate into its portfolio.

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  • Price Tag for India’s Carbon Pledge: $2.5 trillion through 2030
    An analysis by Carbon Brief indicates that India’s carbon pledge will be costly, if not simply cost-prohibitive. The $2.5 trillion is unadjusted for inflation.

[Source: Carbon Brief]
Link: India Price Tag

Gattie Note: A deeper dive into its recently released INDC indicates India may play hard ball in Paris with characterizations such as “the tepid and inadequate response of the developed countries” and “historical responsibility” of developed countries”. That’s code for, “Y’all caused this problem. Now it’s our turn”.
Anyone who holds to the belief that climate change and energy use is an environmental issue only and that energy isn’t politics, should go to Paris in Nov-Dec and report back.

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  • India and Coal—continued
    From this article: “Already the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, India is attempting to do something no nation has ever done: build a modern industrialized economy, and bring light and power to its entire population, without dramatically increasing carbon emissions.”

[Source: MIT Technology Review]
Link: India & Coal-cont.

Gattie Note: Traditional energy resources, coupled with new technologies and renewables, will be needed in order for India to meet its economic objectives under such environmental constraints. As such, it’s good to see that nuclear is in their plans. At the same time, it’s inexcusable that nuclear is not a prominent feature on the U.S. power generation horizon.

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  • India Water Shortage Impacts Coal-Fired Power Generation
    A coal-fired power plant in India’s Maharashtra state has been shut down due to water shortages, while the commissioning of a new unit at the plant has been postponed.

[Source: Power Engineering International]
Link: India Water Shortage

Gattie Note: A water shortage in India has shut down three 210 MW units and two 250 MW units. However, India is moving forward with commissioning 2980 MW of coal-fired capacity. I’ll beat the same drum here: Abandoning coal in the U.S. won’t stop coal consumption in developing economies. What’s worse, the world will be without the U.S. innovation that’s needed for developing 21st century coal technology.
Personal Note: I’ve seen India’s water shortage firsthand. It’s not apocalyptic, but it is probably at DEFCON 3 Round Hose, where an increase in readiness is required above that for normal readiness.

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  • Challenges and Complexity of China’s Carbon-Trading Proposal
    China recently released a complex carbon-trading proposal for managing CO2 emissions.

[Source: The Economist]
Link: China Carbon-Trading

Gattie Note: The nationalization of natural resources mentioned in this article is particularly noteworthy. Could the U.S. lock itself into global environmental agreements and commitments that might lead the federal government to the brink of nationalizing U.S. energy resources?
I know…outrageous conspiracy theory.

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  • Not To Be Forgotten—Africa
    What’s stanching progress in Africa?

[Source: The Economist]
Link: African Progress

Gattie Note: Africa wants to develop its economy, as does every other country. However, the lack or absence of effective and inclusive self-governance, which includes safety and the rule of law, are prerequisites for sustained economic growth and development. Is Africa positioned for this?

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RENEWABLES

  • Will the Sun Set on Wind?
    Senator Lankford (R-OK) has proposed to sunset (permanently repeal from the IRS code) the Production Tax Credit for wind.

[Source: The Hill, E&E]
Links: Wind PTC; Lankford’s Bill

Gattie Note: Here in Georgia, Georgia Power Company recently entered into two 20-year PPA’s with Blue Canyon Wind Farm in Oklahoma for 250 MW of wind energy (151 MW from Blue Canyon II and 99 MW from Blue Canyon VI). The PPA’s are firm 20-year contracts, so Lankford’s bill, if it actually passes, will not affect electricity prices in Georgia—at least not for another 20 years.

[Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle]
Link: GA Power Wind Article

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  • Solar Wins One in the Ongoing Net-Metering Battle
    Arizona Public Service withdraws bid to Arizona Corporation Commission to charge solar customers a monthly fee for grid utilization. Net-metering rules continue to be a heated source of contention nationwide as utilities are required to pay solar customers retail rates for electricity they dump onto the grid.

[Source: IEEE The Spectrum]
Link: Net-Metering

Gattie Note: There are some real fundamental issues tangled up in this whole net-metering issue. Much of it has to do with how different people view the basic function of an electric utility and their basic philosophy and beliefs with respect to a utility. I’ll write more on this at another time, but my experience has afforded me plenty of opportunity to conclude that some folks simply hate the concept of a utility and centralized power generation. I’ve also learned that there’s little I can do to moderate those views.

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  • California SB-350 Renewables Bill
    California Gov. Brown signed SB-350 requiring that 50% of electricity generated in the state come from renewable resources. I’ve included a link to the full bill.

[Source: LA Times; California Legislative Information]
Links: CA Renewables; SB-350 Bill

Gattie Note: Zero Emissions and Zero Respect. The bill directly discusses coal, natural gas, petroleum, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal. No mention of the only known zero-emission, dispatchable energy resource in the world: Nuclear. For a look at YTD electricity prices, see EIA’s September 2015 Electric Power Monthly. (15.06 cents/kWhr….?).

[Source: Energy Information Administration]
Link: EIA Electric Power Data

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  • A 100% Renewable Energy Economy?
    Greenpeace came out with a report stating that it’s possible for the world to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at a projected cost of $1 trillion per year through 2030.

[Sources: El Paso Herald Post; Greenpeace International]
Links: El Paso Article; Greenpeace Report

Gattie Note: The $1 trillion/year price tag is actually less ridiculous than the notion that renewables alone can sustain a growing and expanding global industrial economy. Claims like this only make it harder for the rest of us to have reasonable conversations with rational people about appropriate levels of renewable energy. I have made several presentations on this issue and am currently finishing a manuscript that I’ll eventually submit for publication. My summary conclusion is straightforward:

“100% renewable energy cannot sustain economic growth”.

For more on 100% renewable energy concepts, see Jacobson & Delucchi (2011) and Delucchi & Jacobson (2011):
Jacobson, M. Z., & Delucchi, M. A. (2011). Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials. Energy Policy, 39(3), 1154-1169.
Delucchi, M. A., & Jacobson, M. Z. (2011). Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part II: Reliability, system and transmission costs, and policies. Energy Policy, 39(3), 1170-1190.

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  • Renewable Energy at Scale
    Energy Technology Matters has initiated a six part series on “Policy and Legal Implications of Implementing Renewable Energy at Scale”. Subsequent submissions will be posted as they become available. Here, Part 1 is the introduction to the series and Part 2 is on the geographic mismatch of supply and demand.

[Source: Energy Technology Matters]
Links: TechMatters Part 1; TechMatters Part 2

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  • White House Summit on Offshore Wind
    President Obama continues his promotion of renewables. This is a September 28, 2015 White House press release on the promotion of wind energy.

[Source: The White House Press Office]
Link: Whitehouse Wind

Gattie Note: It’s good to see that state and industry leaders are included as stakeholders. However, no fewer than 17 federal departments or programs or offices or whatevers, are listed as being a part of efforts to increase renewables in the U.S., and the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Domestic Policy Council are charged with ensuring effective coordination among federal agencies working on offshore wind. Effectively coordinating 17 federal units? Next up—cat herding.

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  • How Much Carbon’s Up There?
    The following is a direct quote from an article in The Economist and it provides some quantitative aspects of atmospheric CO2 stocks:
    “To stand a fair chance of keeping warming to just 2°C by the end of the century—the de-facto goal of global climate policy—the stock of atmospheric carbon dioxide must be kept under 1 trillion tonnes. Estimates vary but, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the total had hit 515 billion tonnes by 2011. Climate Interactive, a research outfit, reckons that if emissions continue on their present course around 140 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases will be released each year and temperatures could rise by 4.5°C by 2100. And even if countries fully honour their recent pledges, temperatures may still increase by 3.5°C by then.”

[Source: The Economist]
Link: Economist CO2 Stocks

Gattie Note: The following excerpt from an article in The Economist provides some context to the current estimates regarding the amount of atmospheric CO2 stocks. These are not concentrations, as typically reported in units of ppm. These are total amounts as measured in tonnes (i.e., metric tons, where 1 tonne = 2204.6 lbs.).

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  • Cross-Check on Climate Change
    Science writer John Horgan does a Cross-Check on Climate Change: Facts vs. Opinions.

[Source: Scientific American]
Link: Horgan Cross-Check

Gattie Note: This is a nice assessment.

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ECONOMICS

Gattie Preamble: I understand electricity and I respect economics for the same reason I respect electricity: You can’t see it, but you know it’s there and you know whether or not it’s working. You can measure it, and you can evaluate it; but, when it doesn’t work, things can go terribly bad. So, I post stuff on economics. For any aspiring students out there who are committed to or want to work in the areas of energy, environmental protection, climate change or generally saving the world from itself, you’ll make a much more useful and rational contribution if you learn some of the basic constraints of economics and work with economists. It may be the dismal science, but it’s a much more dismal society when the economics don’t work.

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  • The U.S. Dollar and American Hegemony
    The Economist (can you tell that I really like this newspaper? And, yes, it is a newspaper) has a special section in its Oct. 3-9 edition on the U.S. dollar and the role of the dollar in the world economy. The general issue is whether the dollar is sustainable and how stable is America as the economic Hegemon.

[Source: The Economist]
Link: Sustainable Dollar?; American Hegemony

Gattie Note: Remarks in the lead story echo concerns expressed by Richard Haass in his Foreign Policy Begins at Home book. The current political debate here in the U.S. resembles a reality TV environment more than a sober debate of our occupation of the commanding heights. Here are a few excerpts from the lead story, Dominant and Dangerous:

• A system in which the Fed dispenses and the world convulses is unstable.
• For how long will countries be ready to tie their financial systems to America’s fractious and dysfunctional politics?
• America increasingly uses its financial clout as a political tool. Policymakers and prosecutors use the dollar payment system to assert control not just over wayward bankers and dodgy football officials, but also errant regimes like Russia and Iran. Rival powers bridle at this vulnerability to American foreign policy.
• The dollar has no peers. But the system that it anchors is cracking.

Haass’ Foreign Policy is a very good treatment of what the U.S. should be doing domestically and abroad. It’s a short read, but with good insight from someone who has been there. As a companion, Robert Kagan’s The World America Made is equally good. While these books attest to the exceptionalism that is America, they also sting with quick, sharp jabs that America faces daunting challenges and had better get its house in order.

Gattie Note #2: Of the current field of candidates, one question I ask myself about each of them pertains to how well they will do at a table with Jinping, Putin, Abe, Cameron, Modi, Nieto, Merkel, Netanyahu, Rouhani, et al.

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  • The Global Economy is Running Out of Fuel
    Another Economist article emphasizing tenuous global economics. Here, the issue is Asia’s economies.

[Source: The Economist]
Link: Asia’s Economies

Gattie Note: The U.S. economy, within the context of globalization, is the issue that our current candidates should be discussing intelligently, if any of them are capable of discussing anything intelligently.

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EPA’s CLEAN POWER PLAN

  • Quick Resources on CPP
    Here are a couple of good and, hopefully, objective resources for CPP.

[Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC; Center for Climate and Energy Solutions—C2ES]
Links: E&E Resource; C2ES Resource

Gattie Note: There’s no shortage of reporting, editorials, and opinions on this controversial rule. While I support economically feasible solutions to carbon reduction, I remain an outspoken critic of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. With that said, these links will help you navigate the objective aspects of CPP with respect to targets for each state. The E&E site also includes specific reporting on each state as well as all public comments regarding CPP for each state.

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  • Virginia, Yes–There is a Carbon Clause: WRI & CPP
    World Resources Institute has initiated a “fact sheet series” that “examines how different states can reduce CO2 emissions from their existing power plants” and “how states can use the Clean Power Plan to bring economic benefits to its residents and businesses while also maintaining grid reliability”.
    This week: Virginia.

[Source: World Resources Institute]
Link: WRI Article

Gattie Note: I’m not completely sure if this will be a regular installment or, if it is, how often it will be posted. This first post for Virginia is entitled, “October 2015”. If they publish one each month, they won’t complete the series until the middle of the 2020 presidential campaign and right at the edge of CPP’s original 2020 cliff. If it’s a weekly post it’ll take them about 50 weeks. In case you’re wondering, I did the math on the 2020 and 50 weeks calculation—and I’m an engineer.

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  • Getting the Most Out of the Clean Power Plan
    This is Part 3 of Energy Technology Matters’ six-part series on “Policy and Legal Implications of Implementing Renewable Energy at Scale”.

[Source: Energy Technology Matters]
Link: TechMatters Article

Gattie Note: This brief cites some dated studies on the economic impacts of CPP, so take a close look at some of the associated links.

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GENERAL TOPICS

  • Citi GPS Publishes Darwinism II
    As a follow-up to its original Energy Darwinism published in 2013, Citi GPS (Global Perspectives & Solutions) has published Part II.

[Source: Citi GPS]
Links: Energy Darwinism II; Original Energy Darwinism

Gattie Note: These publications are not written in an academically nerdy format for so-called scholarly journals. They’re long, but they’re accessible and useful for public consumption. They also take a common sense view of nuclear and CCS.

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  • The National Law Review’s Recent E&E Updates
    The National Law Review provides weekly updates on energy and environmental issues that are worth the read. The website itself is a good resource.

[Source: The National Law Review]
Link: NLR E&E Update 9-28; NLR Update 10-5

Gattie Note: One of my alter egos is that of an attorney. I have a few others, as well, but have thus far staved off any associated schizophrenia.

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  • EPA Sets New ELGs for Steam EGUs
    The final rule has been posted and is 311 pages long. So, for a quick overview, the National Law Review has posted a summary article on the new ELGs:

[Sources: USEPA; National Law Review]
Link: ELG Rules (EPA Post); ELG Rules (NLR Brief)

Gattie Note: TBD.

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  • CCS Needed
    “The attempts to overcome the high barriers for the technology haven’t really worked,” said Samuela Bassi, an environmental policy analyst at the London School of Economics. Carbon capture and storage “is a hefty investment,” she added. “But even if it’s expensive, we will need to find a way of bringing it into the overall energy mix.” [A quote from the following article]

[Source: NY Times]
Link: Bassi CCS

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  • Sustainable Development Goals: Sustain Everything
    The United Nations has long been a major force and motivator of sustainable development worldwide, particularly in underdeveloped and developing countries. A link embedded in the article below gives specific details for each development goal.

[Source: United Nations]
Link: UN Sustainability Goals

Gattie Note: Such a critical issue, yet this list sounds like it came from an academic roundtable of university professors where they were put in a room and given the stated objective to, “name as many things as you can possibly think of and make sure you out-cliché the person next to you”. The concept of sustainability has been reduced to little more than academic drivel. I’m sure I’ll eventually post something more comprehensive on this subject that better and more formally reflects my position.

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  • UAE Energy Minister Plugs Eco-energies
    UAE’s energy minister “highlighted his vision for how he plans to alter his nation’s power mix from fossil fuels to ‘eco-energies’.” He said: “We need to raise awareness among our sons and daughters and be an example” and that this would “minimize our use of natural gas”.

[Source: Power Engineering International]
Links: PEI Article on UAE; Nuclear Power in UAE

Gattie Note: And by using less natural gas reserves, this extends the supply of natural gas than can be sold on the market for profit. Color me skeptical on the commitment to eco-energy, but this is smart economics by UAE, not simply a commitment to ecological friendliness.
It’s worth noting that UAE is in the middle of the construction of a 5.6 GWe nuclear plant (comprised of 4 units) at Barakah. When completed, it will constitute 25% of its energy mix. Again, other countries see the benefit of nuclear for power generation, while the U.S. drags its regulatory feet and pins its hopes on solar and wind.
It’s worth an additional note that the UAE energy minister said that the new technologies cannot rely on subsidies because subsidies don’t encourage efficiency and sustainability. I’m with him on the subsidies.

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LOW VOLTAGE

  • Mass Civil Disobedience Planned for Paris
    Demonstrations and protests are being planned for the Paris climate talks. Here’s one example.

[Source: The Guardian]
Link: Paris Protests

Gattie Note: The poster slogan for this group is: We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For!
Speaking for those in my camp: “Oui Seriously Doubt It”.

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  • A Professor, a City Official, and a Corporate Executive Walk into an Energy Policy Bar…

[Source: Notre Dame Saint Mary’s Observer]
Link: NDSM Observer Article

Gattie Note: It just sounded like the beginning of a really good joke. To the 3 people reading my blog, I’ll wait for you to fill it in.

 

That’s it…the end of my first blog post…

…ilyh…

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