It’s a problem that we can’t see

Anthony Leiserowitz on Making People Care About Climate Change
January 4, 2013
http://billmoyers.com/segment/anthony-leiserowitz-on-making-people-care-about-climate-change/

Anthony Leiserowitz. He’s director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a research scientist at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

psychology of risk perception and decision making

04:00 The fundamental causes of this global problem are invisible to us. And likewise the impacts are largely invisible to us as well unless you know where to look. So it’s a problem that first of all we can’t see. And secondly it’s a problem that is seemingly faceless.

08:20 There are 6 different Americas. Each respond to this issue in very different ways and need different kinds of information about climate change to become more engaged with it:

  1. The alarmed (16% of the public)
  2. The concerned (29% of the public)
  3. The cautious (about 1/4)
  4. The disengaged (8%)
  5. The doubtfuls (13%)
  6. The dismissive (8%)

a disinformation campaign, a strategy that was lifted explicitly directly out of the tobacco wars.

20:10 It’s a zero sume game

37:45 currently: 2 degrees

39:45 Henry Ford: “Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right”

40: Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

related:
Crack Baby Myth – Ira Chasnoff
September 7, 2014 (repeat)
What if Crack Babies were a myth?
http://www.ttbook.org/book/crack-baby-myth-ira-chasnoff
that’s where it comes down to a lot of the pol itics and the perceptions of society of what we want to believe and what we don’t want to believe.

Coal Loses Crown As King Of Power Generation

Coal Loses Crown As King Of Power Generation
January 11, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/01/11/169153322/coal-loses-crown-as-king-of-power-generation

Just a few years ago, Georgia Power generated nearly three-fourths of its electricity with coal. Last year, for the first time, natural gas edged out coal, and just this week the company announced plans to close 10 coal-fired power generators within the next few years.

within a few years only a third of the company’s power plants will run on coal.
The company has already built three new natural gas plants. It’s expanding a nuclear plant and going bigger into solar and wind

The dramatic and swift shift away from coal at Georgia Power is part of a nationwide trend: After decades in which coal was king of electricity generation, natural gas is making a bid for the title.

The development already has shrunk the electricity industry’s environmental footprint and reduced prices on wholesale power.

One factor is the expectation that low prices for natural gas will continue because of the shale gas boom across the country.

Another is that new federal rules require coal plants to clean up the mercury and other toxic chemicals in their exhausts.
Installing those pollution controls makes no sense when gas is so cheap.

He says whether the trend continues after 2018 depends on several factors:
– how much the economy and demand for electricity pick up
– whether natural gas prices stay low
– if the federal government comes up with new regulations to limit greenhouse gases and clean up solid wastes from existing power plants

Shea predicts coal will not be the only loser in what he calls electric companies’ “dash to gas.” “We’re not seeing any new coal built,” he says. “But we’re also are not seeing much occurring in the nuclear sphere.
And importantly, the price of gas right now is starting to freeze out the demand for renewables.”

Still, natural gas is cleaner than coal, so the shift from coal already has decreased overall greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.

But Brune cautions that we can’t rely on natural gas to stabilize the climate and stop the catastrophic effects of global warming that we got a taste of last year. Brune says that means the country has to figure out a way to make the shift to natural gas a temporary one.

see also:
Miners Weather The Slow Burn Of Coal’s Demise
July 14, 2012
http://www.npr.org/2012/07/14/156784701/miners-weather-the-slow-burn-of-coals-demise

In Kentucky’s Coal Country, A Resentment

In Kentucky’s Coal Country, A Resentment  
January 21, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/01/21/169913701/in-kentuckys-coal-country-a-resentment-for-obama

Louisa is going to lose its biggest industry — a power generating plant that’s been burning coal since 1962.

The Environmental Protection Agency, pushed by the White House, wants cleaner-burning plants, and the company says this one will shut down in 2015.
The company, American Electric Power, does say that one of the furnaces might be converted to natural gas.

 

see also:
Miners Weather The Slow Burn Of Coal’s Demise
July 14, 2012
http://www.npr.org/2012/07/14/156784701/miners-weather-the-slow-burn-of-coals-demise

This Climate Fix Might Be Decades Ahead Of Its Time (carbon capture)

This Climate Fix Might Be Decades Ahead Of Its Time
June 27, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/06/27/189522647/this-climate-fix-might-be-decades-ahead-of-its-time

Every year, people add 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the air, mostly by burning fossil fuels.
That’s contributing to climate change. A few scientists have been dreaming about ways to pull some of that CO2 out of the air, but face stiff skepticism and major hurdles.

Peter Eisenberger is a distinguished professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. Earlier in his career, he ran the university’s famed Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and founded Columbia’s Earth Institute.

He started looking for a way to pull carbon dioxide right out of the air. “And it turned out the best device already exists,” he says. “It’s called a monolith. That is the same type of instrument that’s in the catalytic converter in your car. It cleans up your exhaust.”

Eisenberger’s monoliths grab carbon dioxide from the air and release it again when you heat them up.

The company has built two pilot plants at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.
But of course there are big issues to solve: What do you do with the carbon dioxide once you’ve captured it, and how do you make money?

Growers pipe carbon dioxide into greenhouses.
Oil companies pump it underground to help them squeeze out more oil.
Soda companies use it to put bubbles in their drinks.
These are mostly small-scale applications.

Maybe someday Eisenberger could get paid to clean up the atmosphere by sucking out the CO2 and burying it underground, though there’s no market for that now.

But using carbon dioxide to make fuel could someday be big. So Eisenberger’s first project involves using CO2 to feed algae that churn out biofuel.

“Our first demonstration plant is being erected right now down in Daphne, Alabama, with an algae company called Algae Systems, which sits on Mobile Bay,” Eisenberger says. “They’ll be floating their algae in plastic bags on the top of the water. We’ll be piping in CO2 that we pull out of the air, and the sun will do the rest.”

Of course, this one project will have zero effect on how much carbon dioxide is in the earth’s atmosphere.

Eisenberger says if he can open the door to capturing carbon dioxide from the air — and make the process cheap enough — someday we could actually slow down, or possibly even reverse, the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Business And Politics Of Air Quality Regulation

The Business And Politics Of Air Quality Regulation
June 20, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/06/20/193914025/the-business-and-politics-of-air-quality-regulation

Guests:

Keith Johnson, energy and business reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University

Terrence Henry, reporter, State Impact Texas

plans on climate change that would include power plants.
Both industry and activists have been expecting decisions that would reduce reliance on coal and boost the use of the natural gas, wind, solar and nuclear energy, all controversial.

any power plant has to have a certain level of emissions, and it wasn’t a very high level of emissions.

the draft standard that the administration presented actually would have even ruled out a number of gas plants. I mean, the standard was so stringent it would’ve actually ruled out a number of gas plants.

for new plants it’s probably safe to say that it’s going to be difficult in the future to build coal plants, at least in an economical fashion in this country.

this is all authority under the Clean Air Act. You know, this is a Bush, you know, 41-era legislation. This is from 1990.
The Clean Air Act gives them authority to regulate these emissions.

Congress took a stab back in 2009, 2010 at climate change legislation, which would have tried to set up a market mechanism. That died. That went nowhere in the Senate. So what had been a threat, EPA action through executive authority, became the default option, and that’s where we are today.

And if, broadly speaking, the coal industry is the loser, who are the winners here?

JOHNSON: Well, obviously natural gas has is a winner, but natural gas has been a winner for the last few years.

So if natural gas is going to be a winner, what about renewable sources – solar, wind – that sort of thing?

JOHNSON: You know, they’ve had a lot of progress in the last couple of years. When President Obama came in, he said he wanted to double the amount of renewable energy in the country, and he’s done that. Again, that was from a relatively small baseline. It’s a relatively small percentage of U.S. power supply. But, yes, there is an awful lot of renewable energy.

These new regulations aren’t going to be the kind of spur, necessarily, for renewable energy, you know, that could jumpstart that sector. There’s other policies you would need in order to make solar a much bigger player in the mix or to make wind energy a much bigger player in the mix.

CONAN: And what about nuclear power?

JOHNSON: Well, nuclear power lately has had the problem – it’s had problems for a number of years, but economics is first and foremost the problem with nuclear power. Cheap gas, you know, may have pushed aside coal. It may have made wind power less competitive, but it really damaged the economic prospects of nuclear power.

And that’s because it costs an awful lot to build a nuclear power plant.
So as gas gets more expensive, nuclear power gets marginally more appealing. But again, these are eight-, 10-year projects in order to make a nuclear power plant. There’s only a couple underway in the U.S.

In 2012, global emissions of carbon dioxide were more than 35 billion tons. They’ve been increasing at a rate of more than two percent a year since the year 2000. And the emissions of electricity are incredibly important. They represent 33 percent of the U.S. emissions. Coal represents 80 percent of those. It’s a big deal not only because it’s a big source of a rapidly growing emissions pool but because they’re real opportunities for the U.S. to exhibit a leadership position on this.

CONAN: The U.S. exhibiting leadership position. At the same time, the U.S. is increasing its exports of coal to places like China, which is building new coal-fired power plants rapidly. Does it make a difference globally whether American coal is burned in Kentucky or whether it’s burned in Shanghai?

U.S. emissions are a significant fraction. If you multiply the fraction of U.S. total emissions by the electricity, by the coal part, over 4 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions are from U.S. coal and the electricity sector. And that’s a meaningful part, and it’s a part that we can have an impact on.

Picture:
Gemasolar. Taken on May 7, 2009
http://www.flickr.com/photos/greensmps/7416845900

Gemasolar:
http://www.torresolenergy.com/TORRESOL/gemasolar-plant/en

New York. CarbonVisuals.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtqSIplGXOA

Could Some Midwest Land Support New Biofuel Refineries?

Could Some Midwest Land Support New Biofuel Refineries?
January 16, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/01/16/169538570/could-some-midwest-land-support-new-biofuel-refineries

if you take farmland currently used for food and instead plant crops for fuel, you reduce food supplies and drive up prices.

Philip Robertson and colleagues at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station have been looking at plants that don’t require farm fields. “First, we discovered that the grasses and flowers that take over fields once you stop farming produce a fair amount of biomass, especially if you provide them a little bit of fertilizer,” Robertson says.

“Is there truly a climate benefit to doing this, or are we just robbing Peter to pay Paul?” Robertson wanted to know. After all, if you leave those lands alone, the plants will soak up carbon dioxide and store it in the soil, and that’s good for the climate.

Their answer: Using these crops for fuel is much better for the atmosphere than burning gasoline.

They figured that it would become too expensive to transport this heavy and bulky plant material more than 50 miles, from field to refinery. “At the end of the day, we discovered we could produce enough biomass to supply 30 or so of these potential biorefineries,” Robertson says.

a lot of this acreage is in the Great Plains, which wouldn’t produce a reliable crop year after year. “One year you may have high rainfall and high crop yields and be able to sustain your facility, [but] the next year you may have a drought,” Liska says.

the Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry trade group, says nobody has plans just yet to use this kind of plant material to make biofuels. Instead, the young industry is eyeing other sources of material to use as a feedstock. “Every region of the country has some form of biomass — so the Northwest would have sawdust and wood waste; the California area might have rice straw or wheat straw,” Erickson says. Refiners in the Midwest are looking at corn cobs, and a plant that’s actually operating in Florida uses dead citrus trees. “As this technology progresses, we’re going to see a great diversification of biomass supply,” Erickson predicts.

But biofuels could at best provide only a tiny fraction of our energy needs.
Plants are very inefficient when it comes to capt uring solar energy.
“If you were to take every gram of crops produced anywhere in the world for all purposes — and that includes every grape, every ton of wheat, every ton of soybeans and corn — and you were to use that for biofuels and essentially stop eating, those crops would produce about 14 percent of world energy,” says Timothy Searchinger, an associate research scholar at Princeton University.

the more we try to expand biofuels, the more we risk displacing crops for food, or chopping down forests, which store a huge amount of carbon.

Searchinger says Europe has recently recognized those potential hazards and is scaling back its biofuels ambitions.

“They realize that it was a mistake, and their compromise for the moment is essentially to cap what they’re doing, and then they promise by 2020 to phase out all government support for biofuels.”

see also:
http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/tag/alternative-energy

U.S. Should Lead Assault on Climate Change

Obama: U.S. Should Lead Assault on Climate Change
June 28, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/06/28/196594972/obama-u-s-should-lead-assault-on-climate-change

This week President Obama announced his plan to tackle climate change, including proposals to regulate gas and coal emissions, and brace the nation for rising seas.
David Roberts, who covers energy and climate change for Grist.org, talks about what to expect from the plan — and how much the president can accomplish without the help of Congress.

President Obama announced a plan this week calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate how much carbon power plants are allowed to emit.
He had tried and failed to get Congress to act on climate change from the very first days of his presidency.
This week in a speech at Georgetown University, he announced it was time to take matters into his own hands.

The big missing piece is coal in the Pacific Northwest, which is, you know, the Powder River Basin up in Wyoming and Montana is a huge coal field, and it’s on public land.
So the public is leasing that coal to private companies, who are now proposing to ship it over to the West Coast and export it to China.