terça-feira, março 18, 2008


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The cartoons have nothing to do with Greenpeace, just too good to pass up - from the Globe over the past few days:

1. Why carbon capture is an illusion, Bruce Cox.
2. A Win-Win-Win Situation, David Keith and Thomas Homer-Dixon.
3. Is Carbon Capture a False Hope for Coal Power?, Holger Dambeck.

of the following article you could say, "Well, that's just Greenpeace eh?" Except that the guy is dead right, in fact doesn't go far enough - what has to change is the whole entire moral fabric around consumption & responsibility, not just for individuals but for corporate angels ('angels' because they exist, after all, in the aether eh?).

Underneath is Thomas Homer-Dixon's piece supporting Carbon Capture. It reads like propaganda, the associated diagram makes little sense to me, makes me wonder who this Homer-Simpson guy is working for. Looks to be designed to influence people who don't know much about it one way or the other. David Keith looks like an oil apologist from University of Calgary. The rhetoric of "Win Win WIn !!!" Anyway ... it's there to have a look at.

And below that again an article from Spiegel, reinforcing the idea that CC, CS, whatever ... can't be ready much before 2020 - that would be 5 years too late for the advent of the divine fulcrum.


Why carbon capture is an illusion, Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace Canada. March 18, 2008.

On March 10, Environment Minister John Baird released detailed regulations to address global warming. These so-called tough measures lean heavily on new technology that captures and stores greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Baird says catching carbon emitted from coal-fired power plants and tar-sands projects, then burying it deep underground, is a large part of Canada meeting its greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2020 and 2050.

This is unlikely. Even if we set aside the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has set new, weaker goals so that Canada is no longer holds up its share of the Kyoto agreement, the sorry truth is that carbon capture and storage is a kind of fool's gold — all glitter and promise, but of no real worth. It won't enable us to meet even these weaker commitments, and it will be an expensive, diversionary tactic while Canada climbs the carbon charts.

Simply put, taking the carbon dioxide out of emissions (from a power plant or installation), and finding a safe place to tuck it away permanently isn't easy, isn't cheap and isn't going to happen in time to save the climate. There are problems with the technology that no one has been able to solve on an industrial scale. Enormous amounts of money will have to be spent just to try and make it work. It really does look like the proverbial bottomless pit.

But the most damning problem is that even if it works and even if you assume the industry's enthusiastic targets for this technology can be realized, the technology will kick in too late. The international consensus is that to avoid the worst excesses of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015, then start falling — down at least 50 per cent by 2050. Even industry's own predictions don't foresee carbon capture and storage becoming commercially viable before 2020 or 2030, and that will miss the critical threshold for turning things around.

A joint Canadian government-industry initiative has produced a "technology road map" full of caveats that illustrate both the uncertainties and the limitations of CCS. By 2015, there "may" be a demonstration coal-fired power plant fitted with the technology, and carbon dioxide "might" be captured from tar-sands projects. And "if" Canada has constructed a system of pipelines across the western provinces to collect and transport the carbon dioxide from the tar sands hundreds of kilometres to an (as yet unknown) location, then "up to" 10 megatonnes of it might be flowing from Alberta for burial in 2015.

That is less than 1.2 per cent of Canada's expected carbon dioxide emissions for that year, just a drop in the bucket. It's certainly not going to meet Mr. Baird's aspiration of making our targets, let alone stop climate change.

The glittering hope of being able to capture and store carbon pollution is, unfortunately, leading our Environment Minister away from what really needs to be done. It's an expensive and probably worthless smokescreen, behind which the oil extractors and coal-burners plan to carry on as usual, with the promise that some day there will be a technical fix to clean up after them. Like the fabled nuclear promise of "electricity too cheap to meter," this is a technical illusion, an invitation to pour on the money and trust that things will work out right.

Canada's climate-change prevention efforts are being led around on a leash held by a fossil-fuel energy policy that is out of control. It is simply madness to be investing more and more effort to wringing the oil from the ground and chasing illusory solutions to deal with the problems that it creates, when what really needs to happen is a fundamental shift in how we produce and consume energy. Last year, Greenpeace released a practical blueprint showing how renewable energy combined with greater energy efficiency can cut global carbon dioxide emissions by almost 50 per cent, and deliver half the world's energy by 2050. Decades of technological progress have seen renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels, biomass power plants and solar thermal collectors move steadily into the mainstream.

These are proven technologies that exist today and are examples of the initiatives that Canada should be pursuing. Yet last month's budget contained $250-million, plus tax breaks, for carbon capture and storage projects, but no cash for renewable energy.

There's an old political adage that says "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." The demonstration carbon dioxide underground storage project in Weyburn, Sask., cost $1.5-billion in initial investments alone, and $28-million since. There is another demonstration project below the ground in Norway, at similar costs. The Canadian government-industry road map says we'll need five or six more of these demonstration projects before we can figure out which type might work.

Our Arctic is melting, our climate is changing and still Canada has its head in the tar sands. CCS is not going to help; the list of technical, physical, social and financial barriers is endless and the best-case scenario is that it won't be ready in time. How many holes, and at what cost, does Mr. Baird want to dig before he realizes that the best way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we produce?


Thomas Homer-Dixon.

A WIN-WIN-WIN SITUATION by David Keith and Thomas Homer-Dixon Toronto Globe and Mail Saturday, March 8, 2008

What should we do with the carbon we produce when we burn fossil fuels? Some experts say we should fight climate change by putting the carbon back underground, whence it came.

In late January, a blue-ribbon panel recommended that Canadian governments spend $2-billion to begin deploying carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). This technology injects the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels into exhausted oil and gas fields or salty aquifers deep underground.

As is true of any large-scale energy technology, CCS carries costs and risks. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading expert body on these topics, has estimated that CCS’s costs are competitive with other leading ways to cut emissions and that its risks are small compared to those of related industries, such as underground storage of natural gas. CCS is not a magic bullet. But many climate and energy experts think that it’s among humanity’s best tools to control carbon emissions.

Yet almost all Canada’s environmental groups panned the panel’s recommendation. And these groups’ opposition is clearly slowing CCS’s development. Governments spend money to win the support of various interest groups, so they’re reluctant to commit major funding to CCS — an environmental initiative — as long as environmental groups don’t like it. In last week’s budget, the federal government announced just $240-million in CCS funding, far less than previous support for biofuels and wind power.

By opposing CCS, environmental groups are gambling that we can make the huge cuts in CO2 emissions we need simply by improving our energy efficiency and using renewables like solar and wind power. They may be right. But if they’re wrong, they could cripple action against climate change — the greatest environmental threat of our age. It’s a dangerous, and seriously imprudent, gamble.

In criticizing the panel’s proposal, environmental groups focused their ire on the use of government money to jump-start CCS technology. As John Bennett, of ClimateforChange.ca, put it, “The cost of cleaning up an industry should come out of the profits of the industry, not the taxpayers’ pockets.”

In many respects, these criticisms are fair. Ideally, polluters should pay to clean up their pollution. Governments should use taxes and technology-neutral regulations to put a price on carbon emissions, which would push industries to make deep reductions. Solutions would then come from the bottom up, and government would stay out of the business of choosing the best ways to cut emissions. Industries such as coal-fired electrical utilities and Alberta tar-sands processors that can generate relatively pure streams of CO2 might decide to go the CCS route and pay the cost of putting their emissions underground. Yet the sad reality is that it will take years and maybe decades to untangle Canada’s baroque energy and climate policies and to replace them with transparent and simple regulations based on the “polluter pays” principle. Environmental groups are wrong to argue that we shouldn’t use government funds to support promising technologies before the mess is straightened out. We don’t have the time to wait, because Earth’s climate is changing fast, now.

Without carbon prices or regulation, public funding is the only way to ensure that CCS technology gets going quickly. Such an investment today would bring a double return: near-term emissions reductions and, more important, the option to use CCS at a much larger scale later. By 2015, we would have “kicked the tires,” by trying out CCS at full industrial scale. Then we would be able to count on the technology if we need it on a vastly larger, economy-wide scale in the following decades.

If the real root of the opposition to CCS were the belief that the polluter should pay, environmental groups would also be attacking subsidies for wind power, biofuels and solar panels.

Direct federal subsidies for renewable electricity already amount to $1.7-billion, along with $2billion for biofuels and $1.5-billion for Sustainable Technologies Development Canada. Also, the federal government offers an across-the-board tax break for renewable energy. For electricity alone, provincial incentives include Quebec’s purchase requirement for 4,000 megawatts of wind power (worth more than $8billion) and renewable energy targets or requirements in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Environmental groups have lobbied long and hard for such subsidies. But if they simply wanted the polluter to pay, they’d surely argue we should cut subsidies and wait for carbon prices. Although it’s true, for instance, that wind power doesn’t release much carbon pollution, it’s certainly part of the electricity industry. And applying the polluter-pays principle to electricity would mean, once again, pricing or regulating carbon and letting the industry find the cheapest ways to cut its carbon output — with wind power a leading competitor.

Environmental groups might say that coal, oil and tar-sands companies are rich, so they don’t need more government money. But the distinction doesn’t make sense: Most of the profit from government incentives for wind power ends up with the big technology providers such as General Electric’s wind turbine division. Why is it fine to subsidize wind power when the money goes to multinationals like GE, yet it isn’t acceptable to subsidize Canadian companies to build made-in-Canada CCS technology?

There are likely two deeper reasons why environmental groups dislike CCS. First, most of these groups want to believe that we can make deep cuts in carbon emissions using renewables and improvements in efficiency alone. Few advocate CCS, and almost none support nuclear power.

This position reflects a profound failure to grasp the scale of humankind’s carbon-energy crisis. To limit dangerous climate change, we need to cut emissions sharply very soon, so we must use technologies close at hand. Even holding greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to double their pre-industrial level — a limit that still risks severe climate disruption — will require reducing worldwide emissions about 80 per cent below their business-as-usual level by 2050. Such a huge cut, even over 40 years, will require a staggering transformation of the global energy system.

Yet for the foreseeable future, modern societies and their industries will depend on centralized sources of high-reliability power to supply a large fraction of their energy. Nuclear reactors and coal-fired plants with CCS are arguably the only two methods of generating massive quantities of reliable low-carbon power using today’s technologies. We can probably afford to reject one of these two options and still cut emissions quickly. But if we reject both, the problem gets vastly tougher and perhaps impossible. Why fight with one hand tied behind our back?

The second reason environmental groups don’t like CCS is in some ways more pernicious: a deep suspicion of big business and big industry that’s a residue of the leftism of the original environmental movement. In recent years, most such groups have accepted that markets must play a central role in any response to climate change, and some work effectively with business, but many still harbour an almost reflexive distrust of capitalists and capitalism.

CCS will be a big-industry technology: major implementation will require huge outlays of capital and armies of scientists, engineers and construction workers. It will also generate huge profits. So when environmental groups saw that industry representatives dominated the blue-ribbon panel, they assumed that the energy industry was once again positioning itself to line its pockets, and attacked its recommendations. As Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada put it, “Carbon capture is a public relations smokescreen for the tar sands and coal-fired electricity generation.”

It’s time that Canada’s environmental groups freed themselves of this ideological straitjacket. They need to acknowledge that modern capitalism is the most dynamic, innovative and adaptive economic system human beings have ever invented. It’s true that capitalism has fuelled our climate problem, and that many big businesses have lobbied hard to block serious action, but we’re not going to solve the problem without capitalism’s help — albeit capitalism that’s ultimately guided by strong government-imposed constraints.

In this respect, Canada’s environmental groups are out of step with others around the world, such as Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council in the United States and several groups in Europe. These groups have come to understand that they must work constructively with big business to get capitalism’s extraordinary energy focused in the right direction, using technologies that include CCS.

In Canada, supporting this technology would also be politically astute. Without CCS, fossil-fuel industries would only lose under any tough climate policy, but with CCS some industries will win and some will lose, which will help split apart the coalitions that oppose real action and making it easier to craft the grand bargain among interest groups that truly commits Canada to deep cuts in carbon emissions.

Many business leaders — even those in energy industries — realize the urgency of the problem. They care about their children’s future like anyone else. And they’re tired of constantly being tarred as the bad guys. The environmental community should give these leaders a way to tackle climate change while preserving part of their industry.

Canada’s environmental groups can identify the industry leaders who support aggressive action on carbon and then work with them to find win-win-win solutions that benefit the environment, Canadian society and industry, too. CCS is just such a solution.

David Keith holds the Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment at the University of Calgary and served on a CCS task force.

Thomas Homer-Dixon holds the George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto and is the author of “The Upside of Down.”


Is Carbon Capture a False Hope for Coal Power?, March 20, 2008, Holger Dambeck, Making Dirty Power Green.

Dirty coal power plants could be made environmentally friendly by capturing the CO2 they emit. The technology is currently being tested on a small scale. But will the cost of the new technology make coal power unprofitable?

It's not easy being a power plant manager: Noboby wants to talk about the future of nuclear power at the moment. The memories of the public relations disasters that were the accidents at the Brunsbüttel and Krümmel (more...) nuclear power stations -- which saw both plants temporarily shut down last June -- are still too raw.

Even coal power, which still accounts for half of Germany's electricity production, has a problem: the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). But at least here there is hope -- the so-called emissions free coal power plant. Using new CO2 capture technology, the greenhouse gas would be collected in the power plant before being transported elsewhere and stored permanently in an underground repository.

The technology, admittedly, is not yet far enough along to take up the mantle of saving the planet. At the moment, the focus is on getting it to work on a small scale. According to the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament (TAB), CO2 capture will become available for large scale use in 2020 at the earliest. A new study by the TAB likewise comes to the conclusion that the cost of producing electricity using the new technology will nearly double -- instead of costing three to four cents per kilowatt hour, the price tag would rise to between five and seven cents.

Not surprisingly, the hike in costs will be passed on to consumers -- the price of fighting climate change, which will see both companies and customers digging deeper into their pockets. The real question, though, is whether carbon capture technology will make coal power impractical and unprofitable. TAB expert Reinhard Grünwald reckons that just 20 years from now, renewable energy sources, which are more expensive than conventional power sources today, will cost roughly the same as CO2-free coal power.

Tough Competition from Bio-Mass

"Water and wind are already, partly, in that price bracket. Geothermal and bio-mass power will also be in that price bracket by 2020," Grünwald told SPIEGEL ONLINE. According to the TAB study, seen by SPIEGEL ONLINE, emissions-free coal power plants will have to compete against other forms of electricity production that also produce little CO2.

Grünwald pointed out that CO2 capture is only economical if one has to pay to release carbon dioxide -- as is the case with carbon emissions trading schemes. The savings, he said, should lie at around €30 to €40 ($46 to $62) per ton of CO2. TAB reckons capturing the greenhouse gas will cost between €26 and €37 per ton of CO2. "This is the biggest cost," Grünwald explained, but one has to add transport and storage costs.

Despite all research attempts, CO2 capture technology still has its uncertainties. "Technologically, the whole thing is not resolved by any means," Jürgen Metzger, a chemist at the University of Oldenburg told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Speaking about underground storage, he warned: "It will have to be locked up safely; you only have to remember the latest earthquake in the Saarland" -- a February tremor in western Germany triggered by coal mining. He added that the CO2 capture technology had only been tested on a small scale so far.

Metzger also pointed out that capturing greenhouse gas takes a lot more energy, an extra 20 percent. To become environmentally friendly, power plants would therefore have to use up some of the electricity they generate, markedly reducing their efficiency. Metzger questioned whether it would even be possible to cost-effectively capture CO2: "Twenty euros per ton -- that is far too optimistic," he said. TAB's cost estimate of between €26 to €37 per ton was arrived at using calculations by several scientists.

A number of concepts have been developed in an effort to further the C02 capture idea. According to TAB, depleted oil and gas fields, as well as aquifers would be suitable as permanent storage places for carbon dioxide. So far, though, the TAB study has only been presented to a committee of the German parliament in Berlin.