Monday, July 6, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 4

Picking up the thread of 3 weeks ago, whether or not you view to promise of technology transfer as buying you more climate saving than the low carbon plans or essential to them, the key unexamined assumption is this: is the technology available to achieve these goals whoever is paying for it? There are two issues here: 1. Is there enough of it? 2. Is it of the right kind?

As Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said in May 2004, ‘‘In the absence of strong government policies, we project that the worldwide use of oil in transport will nearly double between 2000 and 2030, leading to a similar increase in greenhouse gas emissions’’ (IEA, 2004).

Significantly, between 2003 and 2030, over 1400GW of new coal capacity will be built. These plants would commit the planet to total carbon dioxide emissions of some 500 billion metric tons over their lifetime, unless ‘‘they are backfit with carbon capture equipment at some time during their life,’’ as David Hawkins, Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center told the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce in June 2003. ‘‘To put this number in context, it amounts to half the estimated total cumulative carbon emissions from all fossil fuel use globally over the past 250 years!’’ (Hawkins, 2003)
Note: I have misplaced where I filched these quotes from – but I think it was from the Center for American Progress.)

You can dream about renewable energy, or hybrid cars but these really are dreams – at these levels of deployment. What about carbon capture and sequestration? Even if you think this can work – and I do think it can work - it is one think to build a demonstration plant and then deploy at scale on new plants. “Backfitting” raises a quite different set of problems – not just of technical feasibility but just how well such plants can be expected to be run, to put it tactfully, given the variety of oversight regimes in place across the World.

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