Clean Coal (Say WATT?) – Our Energy Future

Guest Post by Ira Glickstein

The December 2010 issue of the Atlantic shows an amazing turn-around by some of the Global Warming warmists! Yes, they are still tuned in to the CAGW crowd predicting imminent climate change disaster, but … BUT, some have reversed themselves on their previous ‘ol devil coal! Turns out we need coal to generate Watts of electricity for our electric cars and, they say, we can do it in a way that is environmentally correct.

The cover story, by respected author James Fallows, is titled Why the Future of Clean Energy is Dirty Coal. {Click the link to read it free online.}

Recall that, only last year, a leading alarmist, NASA’s James Hansen, one of the key science advisors on Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth movie, wrote:

“..coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet. … The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretense that they are working on ‘clean coal’… The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.” 

Fallows writes:

“To environmentalists, ‘clean coal’ is an insulting oxymoron. But for now, the only way to meet the world’s energy needs, and to arrest climate change before it produces irreversible cataclysm, is to use coal—dirty, sooty, toxic coal— …” 

Amazingly, while atmospheric CO2 is still the bogeyman of what alarmists say is an imminent Global Warming disaster, coal, which is nearly all carbon and generates CO2 when burned as intended, is part of the solution! Fallows writes:

Before James Watt invented the steam engine in the late 1700s—that is, before human societies had much incentive to burn coal and later oil in large quantities—the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was around 280 parts per million, or ppm … By 1900, as Europe and North America were industrializing, it had reached about 300 ppm.

Now the carbon-dioxide concentration is at or above 390 ppm, which is probably the highest level in many millions of years. “We know that the last time CO2 was sustained at this level, much of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets were not there,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, told me. Because of the 37 billion annual tons of carbon-dioxide emissions, the atmospheric carbon-dioxide level continues to go up by about two ppm a year. For perspective: by the time today’s sixth-graders finish high school, the world carbon-dioxide level will probably have passed 400 ppm, and by the time most of them are starting families, it will have entered the 420s. …

Michael Mann told me. “What we have with rising CO2 levels in general is a dramatically increasing probability of serious and deleterious change in our climate.” He went down the list: more frequent, severe, and sustained heat waves, like those that affected Russia and the United States this summer; more frequent and destructive hurricanes and floods; more frequent droughts, like the “thousand-year drought” that has devastated Australian agriculture; and altered patterns of the El Niño phenomenon, which will change rainfall patterns in the Americas. …

You should recognize Michael Mann as the creator of the deceptive “hockey stick curve” at the center of many of the Climategate emails. (See this and this and this and this.) Note also the standard line that, whatever happens to the weather: hotter, colder, dryer, wetter, stormy, calm, sunny, cloudy, … whatever, it is all due to high CO2 levels (even if they don’t plow your streets after a blizzard :^)

So, what is the solution? Fallows writes:

Isn’t “clean energy” the answer? Of course—because everything is the answer. The people I spoke with and reports I read differed in emphasis, sometimes significantly. Some urged greater stress on efficiency and conservation; some, a faster move toward nuclear power or natural gas; some, an all-out push for solar power and other renewable sources …

Note the mention of nuclear, also a bogeyman of the green crowd until a few years ago. In this regard much of the world is ahead of us. When I bicycled in France a few years ago, you could see nuclear power plant cooling towers in much of the countryside (except near Paris – I guess that is where the professional environmentalists live) and France generates most of its electricity using nuclear energy. It will take the US quite a while to catch up, but it is good to see a mainstream liberal literary magazine starting to lead the way. The above paragraph also mentions natural gas, a fossil fuel, ahead of “solar power and other renewable sources” stuck in at the end. It seems they finally realize that we need energy and, at least for the next decades, it will continue to be coal, burned in a cleaner way, plus nuclear and natural gas.

Fallows continues:

“Emotionally, we would all like to think that wind, solar, and conservation will solve the problem for us,” David Mohler of Duke Energy told me. “Nothing will change, our comfort and convenience will be the same, and we can avoid that nasty coal. Unfortunately, the math doesn’t work that way.”…

Coal will be with us because it is abundant: any projected “peak coal” stage would come many decades after the world reaches “peak oil.” It will be with us because of where it’s located: the top four coal-reserve countries are the United States, Russia, China, and India, which together have about 40 percent of the world’s population and more than 60 percent of its coal. …

“I know this is a theological issue for some people,” Julio Friedmann of Lawrence Livermore said. “Solar and wind power are going to be important, but it is really hard to get them beyond 10 percent of total power supply.” …

What would progress on coal entail? The proposals are variations on two approaches: ways to capture carbon dioxide before it can escape into the air and ways to reduce the carbon dioxide that coal produces when burned. In “post-combustion” systems, the coal is burned normally, but then chemical or physical processes separate carbon dioxide from the plume of hot flue gas that comes out of the smokestack. Once “captured” as a relatively pure stream of carbon dioxide, this part of the exhaust is pressurized into liquid form and then sold or stored. …

“Pre-combustion” systems are fundamentally more efficient. In them, the coal is treated chemically to produce a flammable gas with lower carbon content than untreated coal. This means less carbon dioxide going up the smokestack to be separated and stored.

Either way, pre- or post-, the final step in dealing with carbon is “sequestration”—doing something with the carbon dioxide that has been isolated at such cost and effort, so it doesn’t just escape into the air. … All larger-scale, longer-term proposals for storing carbon involve injecting it deep underground, into porous rock that will trap it indefinitely. In the right geological circumstances, the captured carbon dioxide can even be used for “enhanced oil recovery,” forcing oil out of the porous rock into which it is introduced and up into wells.

According to Fallows, China is in the lead on this clean coal technology, with help from American and other western corporations. While it is good that at least some of the Global Warming alarmists are warming up to coal as a necessary part of the solution, it would be better IMHO, if they were also more realistic about the actual dangers of climate change and the likelihood (again IMHO) that most of the warming of the past century is due to natural cycles not under human control and that we are likely already in a multi-decade period of stable temperatures, and perhaps a bit of cooling.

Yes, I think we need to do something about the unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels, but we have to do it is a way that will not destroy our economies or force us to drastically reduce our lifestyles. One thing I agree with James Hansen about is that an across-the-board carbon tax, assessed equally against all sequestered fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and collected at the mine, well, or port, is the best solution, far more suitable to the task than the “cap and trade” political scam, and more likely to work.

Rather than have governments pick winners (and mess up as they did with corn ethanol subsidies that raised food prices and reduced gas mileage without doing much to control CO2 emissions) I prefer to tax carbon progressively a bit more each year and let industry and other users decide for themselves how to adapt to the higher prices. Nothing stimulates action and invention like saving your own money. Nothing wastes money like government taking money from “Mr. A” and giving it to “Mr. B” for the “good of society”.

I’m working on a future posting that will propose use of gassified coal along with enhanced CO2 farming as a clean coal implementation that may make sense in a decade or so. I hope to post it next week.

***************************

Another story in the same issue of the Atlantic is about famed physicist Freeman Dyson and The Danger of Cosmic Genius.{Click the link to read it free online.}

They write:

In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein—a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distant planets. And yet on the matter of global warming he is, as an outspoken skeptic, dead wrong: wrong on the facts, wrong on the science. How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment?

Does it occur to them that the CAGW warmists and alarmists may be the ones who are wrong?

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195 thoughts on “Clean Coal (Say WATT?) – Our Energy Future

  1. Amongst other heresies, Dyson points out that modest and inexpensive agriculture and silviculture modifications could alter CO2 output almost immediately, well beyond what gutting industrial society could achieve. But he keeps nattering about missing and low-quality data, saying no conclusions about CO2 effects are currently warranted.
    Clearly, an intolerable bias in favour of scientific accuracy and perspective. Hence the long-running dissing by the congnoscienti has been necessary and deserved.

  2. From Fallows’ article:
    “It would be nice to know where such thresholds are so we can avoid crossing them,” Mann said. “We can’t know that. What we do know for certain is that with each fraction of a degree of warming, the probability of such potentially catastrophic outcomes goes up.” ”
    Tsk tsk. I’ve been told the GCM’s work from first principles? Physical and all? Mikey, Mikey, better pack a bag, they might knock at your door in the middle of the night. Such a giveaway.

  3. Being the end of the year I was going through the rainfall for the last year/decade/century etc and in my area these floods had similar rainfall to our record 1893 flood but it was 1 meter [40 inches] less than a similar flood in 1974.
    But anyhow, HAPPY NEW YEAR to Anthony, moderators and all at this wonderful website!

  4. “We know that the last time CO2 was sustained at this level, much of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets were not there,” ???
    Maybe Micheal Mann finds this confounding because he never entertained the idea CO2 concentration and global temperatures don’t have a direct positive correlation? The ice sheets are still here and are in no danger of melting anytime soon.

  5. Ira
    ————-
    It seems they finally realize that we need energy and, at least for the next decades, it will continue to be coal, burned in a cleaner way, plus natural gas.
    ————
    No Ira, this has always been the warmist position. Since for a very long time.
    You are trying to give the impression that warmists are stupid. Your statement is misleading.
    .

  6. We should have a, “Death by Freezing, Body Count Poll” on the side line of WUWT. People could cast a vote each winter season on the amount of people that will die from freezing to death. We could have 2 poles a year. One for each hemisphere.
    This 2010-2011 winter season I would vote between 3,00 and 4,00 people dead.

  7. Ira claims
    ———-
    “Pre-combustion” systems are fundamentally more efficient. In them, the coal is treated chemically to produce a flammable gas with lower carbon content than untreated coal. This means less carbon dioxide going up the smokestack to be separated and stored.
    ————
    Prove that they are more efficient.
    I am skeptical because of the energy requirements of the chemical processing.
    I am going to make a wild guess that the same amount of CO2 per energy unit will still go up the flue.
    [Check the posting again. That paragraph was quoted from Fallows. I did not write it. However, it makes sense to me that gassifying coal underground, within the mine, will make it more like natural gas that we know emits less CO2 when burned. As I understand the process, once it is initiated, it involves injecting air and water into the coal seam. (C3{coal} + H2O{water} + O2{from air} → Coalgas which is 2H{hydrogen} + 3CO{carbon monoxide}) Ira]

  8. After reading these words I can come to no other conclusion except that Mann is knowingly deceiving the public. He is well aware that CO2 does not correlate well with temperature, he knows what it is used for, and he knows why it has been sequestered out of the biosphere.
    He sounds like an uneducated activist, but that isn’t the case, he is simply speaking to his audience and feeding their fears – he is a sociopath.

  9. LazyTeenager says:
    December 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm
    “Ira
    ————-
    It seems they finally realize that we need energy and, at least for the next decades, it will continue to be coal, burned in a cleaner way, plus natural gas.
    ————
    No Ira, this has always been the warmist position. Since for a very long time.
    You are trying to give the impression that warmists are stupid. Your statement is misleading.”
    Go tell that to Hansen will ya?
    [Thanks DirkH, you saved me the trouble of replying to LazyTeenager. Ira]

  10. Enthalpies of combustion (MJ/kg):
    Methane (natural gas) : 56
    Oil (on average) : 45
    Coal (on average) : 30
    Ethanol : 30
    Why does the AGW team abhor coal EXCLUSIVELY??

  11. Ira promotes sequestration
    ———–
    I a very skeptical of sequestration. We have not seen a demonstration plant yet, even with the backing of organizations with serious amounts of money.
    The scale required is huge. The tonnage of CO2 produced is more than 3 times the amount of coal consumed.
    The energy cost to run the processing will itself add a significant cost in additional coal and wasted energy.

  12. “Rather than have governments pick winners (and mess up as they did with corn ethanol subsidies that raised food prices and reduced gas mileage without doing much to control CO2 emissions) I prefer to tax carbon progressively a bit more each year and let industry and other users decide for themselves how to adapt to the higher prices.”
    Ira, you will get the following problems:
    -Businesses pass on the cost to consumers and are done with it.
    -Consumers consume less, leading to a recession.
    -Freeloader nations must be prevented, either by a supranational regulation or by extra import duties.
    -Supranational regulation is the precursor of a worldwide rule by Kommissar (typically unelected; see the EU).
    -Extra import duties are protectionist and lead to trade wars.
    Nowhere in this scenario does innovation happen. Granted, some smart inventor might offer an emission reduction or energy efficiency improvement idea to consumers or to the industry; but that can happen without any carbon tax just as well.
    Such an inventor would have slightly higher chances to market his invention with your carbon tax, as the potential savings would be greater, but the slew of problems that the carbon tax produces looks to me like a bigger disadvantage than the extra motivation for the inventor is as advantage.
    Also, any carbon tax must come with draconian emission controls. Or you slap on a levie on the price of each fuel.
    It’s a whole can of worms, we have a lot of fun with it in Europe, there was just a new report about another carbon emissions permits trading scam with damages in the billions.
    http://notrickszone.com/2010/12/28/europol-arrests-more-than-100-in-carbon-trading-fraud/
    Just saying, “uh, i’ll just tax the air” gives you more headaches than it’s worth.

  13. LazyTeenager says:
    December 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm
    You are trying to give the impression that warmists are stupid. Your statement is misleading.”
    ——————–
    Of course warmists aren’t stupid, stupid people couldn’t build a thriving multi-billion dollar global warming industry. Warmists do however bank on everyone else being stupid and not see global warming as a stalking horse for implementing various social schemes in the name of man-made CO2 abatement. Maybe this is why warmists have such an unusual fervor for promoting AGW well past its expiration date.

  14. Coal gas (aka water gas and town gas, formula CO + H2), is what we burned in appliances before the switch to natural gas. Most towns used to have a local plant that made it by spraying water onto burning coal, and I suspect that suicide by sticking your head in the oven started because the oven used to run on carbon monoxide, not natural gas).
    No matter how you process it, the total energy provided by coal is coming from the coal’s carbon (with a minor amount of lighter weight hydrocarbons that are also naturally present and burn off quickly). The amount of energy liberated versus the amount of CO2 released is therefore relatively constant. You can add hydrogens (by adding water in a water-shift reaction, converting CO2 + H2O to CO and H2, but when you burn that you still end up with CO2 and H2. What you’re solving are transport and combustion problems, as gases are far easier for end user’s automatic appliances to deal with than lumps of coal would be.
    And of course you can use catalysts (along with temperature and pressure) to convert coal gas into methanol, dimethyl ether, and even octane (by using a zeolite). Coal to octane is price competitive with oil when oil prices are above $60 or $70 a gallon, but it won’t be done on a large scale until investors are certain that the Saudis won’t bankrupt the entire endeavor by letting oil prices drop below that.

  15. So much to say, so little time. I just popped in to see watts up. Forgive me if I’m less verbose than usual. The hour is late, and there is much to do tomorrow. To the writer………NO! NO! NO! You’ve fallen for the trap that they’ve laid. Who gives a damn about coal unless it is significantly cheaper to generate electricity? How much does it cost to sequester CO2 from coal burning? Let me tell you a secret. Your average consumer doesn’t give a flying (fill in the blank) about CO2. Neither does the electorate. If they’re going to do all that BS, then we just as well put up a pinwheel in every yard. I pay too much as it is. I don’t accept an increase to satisfy some socialist lunatic that believes we are an intrusion upon nature.
    They were wrong about over population. They were wrong about food being scarce. They were wrong about global cooling. They were wrong about soot. They are wrong about CO2. To acquiesce to them about coal would be disastrously costly and would allow them a modicum of legitimacy. The populous of the world doesn’t deserve it, and neither do the people advancing this latest scare de jour.
    Much more to say, but I’ve gotta call it a night.
    Peace.

  16. Oops. Mods, the above “but when you burn that you still end up with CO2 and H2” should read “CO2 and H2O”. But I’m not sure anyone will notice.

  17. I do think most “warmists” are deluded and their politics drives their science. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is such a tiny portion of the atmosphere that it has very little impact at all. Furthermore, CO2 is used by plants to grow! CO2 is actually beneficial to agriculture. What is really funny is that the biggest “polluter” on the planet is the ocean! Should we tax that? NO TAXES ON ENERGY, drill for oil, mine for coal, get natural gas, build atomic power plants, hopefully develop Boron powered energy plants and more sophisticated trash-to-treasure methodologies will be developed along with better solar and wind and other power sources. For in the USA the jobs depend on energy being produced so that costs for food and services do not escalate, thus leading to more layoffs and offshoring. We need to access our fuel sources now and as fast as we can!

  18. As I understand the process, once it is initiated, it involves injecting air and water into the coal seam. (C3{coal} + H2O{water} + O2{from air} → Coalgas which is 2H{hydrogen} + 3CO{carbon monoxide}) Ira]
    isn’t energy input required to split the water molecule?
    Thanks
    JK
    [The chemical reactions to produce coalgas can be exothermic or endothermic, the former actually generating the energy input required to continue the process, see Wikipedia for more than you want to know about this. Ira]

  19. Do not be deceived, folks. Sequestering CO2 is just another way to get the cost up there in the stratosphere. The money D.O.E. has squandered on “clean coal” technology over the past 50 years is obscene and the landscape is littered with its failed boondoggles. As a veteran of many renewable energy power plant permitting struggles against the “environmental interveners”, I assure you their primary objective is to stop plant construction. Their backup objective is to make the plant cost as much as possible in a shortsighted effort to “punish the evil capitalist running dogs”. Sequestering CO2 falls into that latter category.
    [Claude and ALL: I am NOT in favor of artificialy re-sequestering the carbon. CO2 could be used to enhance farming as I plan to discuss in my upcoming topic next week. Ira]

  20. The last sentence of your post you write:
    “Does it occur to them that the CAGW warmists and alarmists may be the ones who are wrong? ”
    From that, I must conclude that you feel that rising CO2 is not substantially man’s fault and that the rising temps are also not substantially man’s fault.
    But yet, you are going gung-ho on taxing carbon?!!? This makes no sense especially at a time, and a post, that you are hyping the use of coal.
    [Very perceptive Captainfish! The CAGW alarmists and warmists are wrong about there being any kind of tipping point, runaway crisis. I believe (see Willis Echenbach’s recent WUWT item) that much of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 (perhaps half, though Willis thinks more) is due to human activities and that that has caused a small amount (perhaps 0.1ºC) of the warming over the past century and a half. When the natural cycles (Sun, ocean oscillations, etc.) reverse after what I hope is the coming cooling cycle of several decades, human-caused warming will steadily bias temps upwards, and we will continue to adapt. However, as a conservative, I am concerned about unprecedented (in human times) CO2 levels. I am also worried about the costs of protecting our access to foreign petroleum. Also, fossil fuels and nuclear are non-renewable resources, with a horizon of decades to a century or so. That is why I favor a modest carbon tax. I am not gung-ho on it though. Ira]

  21. I can agree to an across-the-board carbon tax, assessed equally against all sequestered fuels only after I see how that moola will be spent and apportioned.
    There is little doubt that a tax at the source is a very efficient way to monetize the collective harm to the global environment ( if there IS indeed harm). My problem is once you have found this wonderfully efficient means of collecting a Kings ransom, where does the moola go? Oh, the evil that largess will spawn! That is why all this carbon tax is a scam. Follow the money.

  22. “dirty, sooty, toxic coal”
    I cannot help but think these folks have got it all entirely wrong. What about dirty, sooty, toxic volcanoes? That’s what I fear perturbing our climate. They could dramatically intensify. All the way to a large caldera(s) blowing. Something resembling this: http://www.pnas.org/content/101/17/6341.full
    And we would need plenty of energy to get through the intensifying sharper temperature gradients if this gets really going.

  23. I live in Australia. If Michael mann thinks the drought that has just ended (we are in floods now ) is a one in a thousand year event , he is ignorant of Australias’ climate history. This drought is comparable to the federation drought of 1901. Australia is as Dorathea Mckeller wrote “… a land of drought and flooding rains…” Dorathea knew this and wasn’t even a climatologist–cheers brett

  24. The problem (one of them) with nuclear power is that nuclear fission does not produce electricity. It produces heat that must first be used to boil water into steam, which is then driven through turbines to create the electricity — with decompressed steam (water vapor) as a byproduct. And as we all know, water vapor is a much more potent GHG than CO2.
    On the other hand, Warmer is Better, so emission of water vapor (and/or CO2) is not a problem but rather a solution to what ails this Ice Age planet. Not to mention that both water and CO2 are fundamental building blocks of Life.
    Like beauty, pollution is in the eye of the beholder.

  25. Claude Harvey says:
    December 30, 2010 at 10:48 pm
    “Do not be deceived, folks. Sequestering CO2 is just another way to get the cost up there in the stratosphere.”
    I couldn’t agree more.
    Sequestering coal is the allusive dream of the warmist. It reminds me of the “wind” power lobby of the past alluding to the holy grail of cheap clean energy. This and the sequestration myth is what keeps the United States from moving appreciably forward with an energy policy that is not only coherant but economically viable.

  26. I always love these grand Carbon Capture schemes. But nobody has explained to me what the contingency planning is for a massive blowout of CO2 from their well. If you had a BP Gulf of Mexoco scenario, with a well full of CO2, it would spread out across the sea and engulf all e towns and cities along the coast, with devastating consequences.
    Look what happened at Lake Nyos
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos
    Is this what the Greens want?
    .

  27. This is getting tiring as we had the very same arguments 30 years ago and the real solutions are still the same. Wind and solar is overpriced and gives disapointing results. They will always be overpriced and under perform. Coal is the fastest and cheapest solution, just very dirty, and will always be dirty. Gas and oil are too valuable for transportation and chemical plants to be burned to produce electricity. That leaves nuclear fission and hydro for electricity. This has not changed in 30 years. Fusion power is still at least 50 years in the future the same as it was 30 years ago. I do not wish to become “as beasts of the field” I do not wish that for my children ether. The ECOs have fought nuclear and hydro tooth and nail for 30 years using the same lame arguments over and over to stop all advancement. Don’t they know that they will be the first to die as they can not even feed themselves in rural or wild conditions.
    A modern civilization requires huge amounts of inexpensive energy to survive. A clean enviroment requires large amounts of inexpensive energy. Just look at any poor country. It is time to ignore those that have been educated way beyond their intelligence as they are not worth reeducating. Time to get on with improving the lives of all people and not just the eliete that wish 80% of the worlds population to “disappear”. pg

  28. “I prefer to tax carbon progressively a bit more each year and let industry and other users decide for themselves how to adapt to the higher prices. Nothing stimulates action and invention like saving your own money. Nothing wastes money like government taking money from “Mr. A” and giving it to “Mr. B” for the “good of society”.
    Same thing. <[:')

  29. Global Warming
    Trying to put the case in compact form:
    1. Global warming is a good thing if it is occurring. More of the earth’s land area can be farmed to produce more food. Fewer deaths will occur because of cold weather conditions.
    2. Climate change is always occurring to some degree but we seem to be in a very stable period now with temperature change of less than 1 degree Kelvin (< 0.3 %) over the past 200 years.
    3. CO2 is a tiny effect (x2 = 1 deg K, x4 = 2 deg K, x8 = 4 deg K, etc.). And these temperature changes obtain only if all other things are held constant. If cloud cover increases by ~ 1% increased albedo would negate any temperature increase. But if the clouds were formed at night the temperature would increase. So who knows what will happen.
    4. But, increased CO2 is a good thing either way but not very.

  30. enough says:
    December 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm
    Never did figure out the point of the article. Just the usual pointless eco-crap when it comes to energy.
    I concur with your analysis. For a different perspective, The Oil Drum kindly posted a presentation of mine on coal to liquids: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7002
    I love one comment from the warmers on it: “If there were a Devil, this would be his work.”
    [David Archibald, I looked at your Coal to Liquids and recommend it to others. Ira]

  31. Obama supports clean coal. He also supports nukes.
    It is not a right wing meme so it will never get any play here, but MidAmerican Energy gets 20% of its energy from wind, and just signed agreements to take that to 25% – additionally they have not had a rate increase since 1995 and they have pledged none through at least 2014.
    http://www.midamericanenergy.com/wind/news.aspx

  32. “Yes, I think we need to do something about the unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels …”
    It is not “unprecedented”. CO2 levels have been 7 times as high since mammals first walked the earth.
    Why do we “need to do something” ? CO2 has no deleterious effects !

  33. Carbon capture/sequestration is simply silly.
    But, as Don Adams used to say, “Yay Glick!” Thanks for posting.

  34. Dr. Burns-
    Watch lefties heads spin when you discuss how oxygen is a contaminant brought on by life, and ask them if we should go back to 3% and let all mammals die.
    From wikipedia:
    “Free oxygen gas was almost nonexistent in Earth’s atmosphere before photosynthetic archaea and bacteria evolved. Free oxygen first appeared in significant quantities during the Paleoproterozoic eon (between 2.5 and 1.6 billion years ago). At first, the oxygen combined with dissolved iron in the oceans to form banded iron formations. Free oxygen started to gas out of the oceans 2.7 billion years ago, reaching 10% of its present level around 1.7 billion years ago.[48]
    The presence of large amounts of dissolved and free oxygen in the oceans and atmosphere may have driven most of the anaerobic organisms then living to extinction during the Great Oxygenation Event(oxygen catastrophe) about 2.4 billion years ago. However, cellular respiration using O2 enables aerobic organisms to produce much more ATP than anaerobic organisms, helping the former to dominate Earth’s biosphere.[49] Photosynthesis and cellular respiration of O2 allowed for the evolution of eukaryotic cells and ultimately complex multicellular organisms such as plants and animals.
    Since the beginning of the Cambrian period 540 million years ago, O2 levels have fluctuated between 15% and 30% by volume.[50] Towards the end of the Carboniferous period (about 300 million years ago) atmospheric O2 levels reached a maximum of 35% by volume,[50] which may have contributed to the large size of insects and amphibians at this time.[51] Human activities, including the burning of 7 billion tonnes of fossil fuels each year have had very little effect on the amount of free oxygen in the atmosphere.[11] At the current rate of photosynthesis it would take about 2,000 years to regenerate the entire O2 in the present atmosphere.[52]

  35. According to energy expert Robert Peltier:

    I’m often asked: what is the cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world? I am also asked: how “clean” is clean coal?
    If emissions levels from a gas-fired combined cycle plant are the measure of “clean,” then there are emissions control technologies available today for coal-fired plants that can produce comparable emissions. To be sure, low emissions from coal-fired plants isn’t a technology problem, it’s a political problem.

    From the MasterResource article Real Clean Coal: Japan’s Unit #2 Isogo Plant.

  36. George Turner says:
    December 30, 2010 at 10:32 pm
    I thought Town Gas was produced by “cooking” coal rather than the water method. Some of the by-products being coal tar (remember Wrights Coal tar soap? I can still smell it now) coke used in our now defunct steel industry and as a smokeless domestic fuel, and a raft of other useful chemicals.
    But I could well be wrong on that.

  37. With regard to so called renewals, the UK was getting forty times as much power from the French Interconnector as from ALL the wind-farms last night at about 6:30pm.
    Thank goodness someone had the sense to go Nuclear.

  38. “”It is not a right wing meme so it will never get any play here, but MidAmerican Energy gets 20% of its energy from wind””
    You mean sometimes gets 20% of its energy from wind. When the elements want to play ball. Not when you want the energy, mind, but when the elements want to play ball.
    Freezing cold due a huge anticyclone? Ha, ha, no energy for you, my foolish friend. Baking hot and want the airconditioning? You must be joking, sad sir. Middle of the night, and everyone fast asleep? Well, just look at those windelecs spin and spin and spin.
    .

  39. I really miss scientists from the 50’s atomic era. Physicists had it cool then, lot of stuff happened, crazy ideas were funded…and more than once worked! 🙂
    Compared to that, the eco-puritanism is booooooring, and so close to christian religions it is freaky. Sects, interpreation of the scriptures by techno-clerks, explanation after the fact among the contradictory CAGW predictions while carefully ignoring the one that failed, telling everybody looks we told you so. This particular piece is also a classic: wondering why great minds did not go with the dogma, showing some concern that the poor gifted soul do not see the obvious, but then, in a oh so noble eviro-forgiveness, blessing him despite his sins.
    I’ll take a Farnsworth, Dyson or Feynman against 100 Hansen, Mann or Jones, thank you…

  40. The key to understanding the Freeman Dyson article is the following statement:

    Environmentalism does indeed make a very satisfactory kind of religion. It is the faith in which I myself was brought up. In my family, we had no other.

    The article is nothing other than a statement of religious dispute. Similar to the types of arguments in medieval times regarding the nature of the trinity or the Christ or what hell is really like.
    Once you grasp that fundamental characteristic of the author’s intent, which is really nothing more than a prayer meeting testimonial, you can see why he argues with no scientific facts what so ever. He dances all around the question regarding the evidence for AGW (he presents no evidence).
    Let me rephrase his key question to clarify this.
    Instead of the author’s how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb? , how about how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?
    The article is not about science, it is a religious pamphlet.

  41. Quick question if anybody can answer it?
    Why do the post-combustion gases have to be separated and only the CO2 stored? Isn’t it possibly to simply pump the whole exhaust into depleted oil and gas wells, thus saving the cost of this part of the process?

  42. In my previous post it reads:
    Instead of the author’s how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb? , how about how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?
    This should read:
    Instead of the author’s; how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb(about AGW)? , how about how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb(about the trinity)?

  43. The entire AGW scam is an attempt by the natural gas industry to destroy the coal industry. The CRU was founded by Shell and BP to provide a “scientific” case for closing the British coal industry to sell more North Sea gas.

  44. “Yes, I think we need to do something about the unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels”
    Why? For most of Earth’s history CO2 levels were far higher. The warming due to the extra CO2 is probably almost unmeasurable, but a small amount of warming is welcome. A warmer world is vastly more preferable to a colder one.
    The extra CO2 has probably caused an additional greening of the world, something you would have thought environmentalists would have welcomed. The world has never produced more food per head of population than it does now, and very likely the extra CO2 has made this possible.
    Overall, I suspect that the additional CO2 has been of vast benefit to mankind.
    I love Mann’s comment about the Australian drought. I believe the drought is now officially over. But if you looked at the rainfall data from the Australian BOM when the drought was in full force, it showed something very surprising: for the last few decades the rainfall for the continent as a whole had steadily been increasing. And in the regions where rainfall had been falling, the levels were simply returning to the averages of the first half of the 20th century.
    But then, why should Mann need to look at real-world data? He has the technology to manufacture his own data….
    Chris

  45. jim karlock:
    At December 30, 2010 at 10:47 pm you quote “Ira” and ask:
    “ “As I understand the process, once it is initiated, it involves injecting air and water into the coal seam. (C3{coal} + H2O{water} + O2{from air} → Coalgas which is 2H{hydrogen} + 3CO{carbon monoxide}) Ira]”
    isn’t energy input required to split the water molecule?”
    Yes, it is, and Ira Glickstein does not understand coal gasification and why underground gasification is impractical. Indeed, he confuses gasification and water-gas shift.
    The following briefly explains coal gasification both in gasifiers and in coal seams..
    Coal is mostly carbon (C) and burns by combining with oxygen (O) to form carbon dioxide (CO2) in a two-stage process.
    Stage 1.
    The first combines oxygen and carbon to form carbon monoxide (CO)
    2.C + O2 –> 2.CO
    This first reaction is endothermic (i.e. it consumes heat) which is why it is difficult to start a fire.
    Stage 2
    The second combines oxygen and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide (CO2).
    2.CO2 + O2 –> 2.C O2
    This second reaction is exothermic (i.e. it emits heat). Stage 2 emits much more heat that Stage 1 consumes, so their net effect is an emission of heat. And this net emission of heat is why a fire can spread when started.
    Gasification consists of providing the coal with oxygen which is only just sufficient
    (a) to complete Stage 1; i.e. sufficient oxygen to convert all the carbon to carbon monoxide
    and
    (b) to conduct enough of Stage 2 to enable Stage 1; i.e. sufficient oxygen to convert sufficient carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide to provide the heat needed for the formation of carbon monoxide.
    The result is a gas which is rich in carbon monoxide with some carbon dioxide. Burning this gas provides the same output of heat as would have been obtained from burning the coal which was gasified.
    Gasification is conducted in chemical reactors called gasifiers. Some gasifiers react the coal with pure oxygen, but most gasifiers use air as the oxygen supply so they provide a gas which is mostly nitrogen (because air is mostly nitrogen). A gasified kilo of coal provides the same amount of heat when the resulting gas is burned whether the gasification uses pure oxygen or air, but this heat is in a larger volume of gas obtained when using air because it contains the large addition of nitrogen which is not present in the gas obtained by gasifying with pure oxygen.
    Controlled gasification is not easy. The oxygen and coal must be mixed such that a gasifying surface of a piece of coal receives just sufficient oxygen to complete Stage 1 and then to conduct the correct degree of Stage 2. Too much Stage 1 and the process stops, and too much Stage 2 and the resulting gas provides little heat when burned. Also, the produced gas must be removed from the gasifying surface at a rate which permits the two stages to occur at the required rates.
    This control is achieved in gasifiers but is extremely difficult when conducted in-situ in an underground coal seam.
    Underground gasification consists of pumping air down a shaft drilled into the coal seam, using that air to enable the partial combustion of the coal, and using another shaft to extract the resulting product gas.
    Controlled gasification is extremely difficult when conducting underground gasification. An excess of oxygen needs to be provided to ensure Stage 2 is sustained (otherwise the gasification stops) and this produces a gas that provides little heat when burned (i.e. the gas has low calorific value). Also, the interaction of the oxygen supply and the coal surface varies as the coal seam is gasified so the calorific value of the gas varies.
    Thus, underground coal gasification provides a product gas with low and variable calorific value. Such a gas has little use.
    Also, the removal of the coal seam causes the ground above the seam to subside. Coal mining engineers take great efforts to control this subsidence otherwise surface structures are damaged. But no such control is possible when gasifying the coal seam. And the subsidence cracks the ground above the coal seam that is being converted to the carbon monoxide. Leakage of carbon monoxide from the surface of the ground is a probable hazard in most places: carbon monoxide is a cumulative toxin.
    So, underground coal gasification is not a desirable activity in habited locations.
    The Soviet Union conducted large studies of underground coal gasification in Siberia during the 1920s and 1930s. Several other studies have since been conducted, notably a study in Spain was conducted by the EU who were encouraged to conduct it by the then UK government that wanted to pretend its closure of the UK’s coal industry had not ‘lost’ the UK’s indigenous coal.
    All studies of underground coal gasification have confirmed that it is not viable for the reasons stated above. However, governments repeatedly get suckered into funding studies of it because it is an ‘easy sell’ to those who do not understand its problems. Governments are easily fooled into funding such silly studies; e.g. they also keep being suckered into funding studies of ‘hot rocks’.
    Richard
    [Thanks Richard for your excellent explanation of coal gassification and why you think it “is extremely difficult when conducted in-situ in an underground coal seam”. Perhaps, with modern computer-controlled robots, the necessary control may be achievable and the subsidence issue may not be as great in very deep deposits and those underwater or in uninhabited areas. As you point out, coal gassification could be conducted above ground. Ira]

  46. Claude Harvey says:
    December 30, 2010 at 10:48 pm
    “Do not be deceived, folks. Sequestering CO2 is just another way to get the cost up there in the stratosphere.”
    Thats right, its a trap.
    And regarding Carbon Capture; Isnt it strange that these greens can be positive to such an idea?
    -Building enourmous ugly and expensive plants
    -Risking compression of a gas and injection down into the ground.
    And for such a small final effect?
    Surely this is feelings and emotions at work, not logic.
    Cost estimates for Mongstad is now up at 20-25 billion norwegian kroners;
    http://translate.google.no/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=no&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=no&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nrk.no%2Fnyheter%2Fnorge%2F1.7106146

  47. I have never understood why anyone should assume there could possibly be any danger in burning coal. Coal is fossilised vegetation. That vegetation grew under conditions that were evidently ideal. ALL of the carbon now underground must at one time have been in CO2 in the atmosphere. So how can putting it back there possibly create a problem? It will take centuries to burn all of it so there is no danger of any sudden increases that vegetation can’t keep up with. As Smokey is fond of pointing out “The only effect that can be definitively connected with the increase in CO2 is rising agricultural production.” Who’s to say that once there is sufficent ‘free carbon’ the forests will not return to the Sahara?
    [Brian, carbon (coal, oil, gas) now underground was sequestered over eons, much of it during times prior to human habitation and habitability. The point is that we are removing eons worth and burning it in centuries. That is what is unprecedented. You water your lawn a little bit each week. What harm could come from dumping a million weeks worth of water on your home? Plenty! Ira]

  48. Ooops!
    A silly typo. Of course I intended
    Stage 2
    The second combines oxygen and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide (CO2).
    2.CO + O2 –> 2.C O2
    Sorry, Richard

  49. The coal fired power stations kept us warm in Britain’s recent frigid snap, it kept our lights on, a drive down the eastbound M62 is an awesome tribute to King Coal, the massive power stations were working overtime recently and we were all thankful for them.
    Our 3000 odd windmills/turbines provided at best 1.9% of our energy needs, what a load of chocolate teapots they are (in fact chocolate teapots are more worthwhile). Whilst clean coal is b*ll*cks (more chocolate engineering technology), running excess CO2 over massive purposefully built horticultural acreage sounds good but….. nature does that anyway.
    In Britain, we should be building Coal powered generating stations, it will be thousands of years into the future before man exhausts the world’s coal resources and by that time we’ll have found alternatives, thorium, fusion even!
    Why not, China thinks it’s good policy!
    CO2 is plant food, CO2 is not the problem, alarmists loonies like Mann are the problem…..
    – //”Now the carbon-dioxide concentration is at or above 390 ppm, which is probably the highest level in many millions of years. “We know that the last time CO2 was sustained at this level, much of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets were not there,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, told me.”//
    “Sustained??”
    As I said, a loonytune whack-job, he doesn’t know watt he’s on about and he’s supposed to be one of the head honcho’s – God help us.

  50. Two comments:
    1. Underground gasification trials are being optimistically undertaken in Queensland.
    2. The term “clean coal” in this context amuses me as some three or four decades ago, this term was used to describe the product after removing mineral matter from coal before combustion or other processes to have no ash in the final process.

  51. > Yes, I think we need to do something about the
    > unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels,
    Huh? Firstly, it’s not unprecedented. Secondly, why do we need to “do something” about it? CO2 is a harmless natural plant fertilizing gas with negligible effect on climate – which is in fact controlled by natural cycles of the sun and oceans.
    > but we have to do it is a way that will not…
    > force us to drastically reduce our lifestyles.
    If you believe CO2 is a deadly threat then surely you wouldn’t mind drastically changing your lifestyle?
    A very confused article that gives far too much ground to scare-mongering alarmists and climate profiteers. You’ve bolded Mann’s statements as if to ridicule them, but later you seem to accept what he says fully and agree we need to “act on CO2”. Sorry, it’s time to stop complementing the emperor on his new clothes and instead shout from the snow-covered rooftops that he’s naked.

  52. Why not just recycle CO2 if it, as some believe, it is such a disaster. Let’s build a nuke energy plant next to a “clean” coal energy plant. The coal plant’s captured CO2 is fed into a third plant manufacturing synfuel, powered by the nuke plant. The dirty coal produces the carbon while the nuke plant generates the electricity to produce both the hydrogen and power the synfuel plant. There are a lot of added bonuses for this. With proper scheduling there will always be constant supply of electricity – when the coal plant is down for maintenance/refitting/etc the nuke plant simple switches into the grid. If more electricity is needed on the grid, both are switched to the grid. Too little demand for the coal plant energy – just switch to making synfuel. There is no need to replace the infrastructure since the facility will manufacture gasoline, diesel, LP gas or whatever hydrocarbon you wish, even stuff for hydrogen fuel cells. Don’t have enough carbon? Make dry ice with power from the nuke plant. Any hydrocarbon used in place of coal works as well – “biomass”, corn, soybeans, garbage, plastics, even might look at those sqiggly bulbs. Want to get rid of the coal(carbon fuel) plant altogether – easy, just shut it off after building a replacement nuke facility or expanding the existing one. Oh, and foreign oil goes away. Oh, and balance of trade is eliminated – we’ll just ship our excess gasoline, etc., to the third world – they need it since with reliable, cheap energy to have a chance at any type of prosperity. Oh, and we’ll save the planet from the greenies as well. Oh, and no need to separate stuff into “carbon plant”, “nuke plant” or “other” bins at your curb. After all, the planet is saved through recycling!
    The point of all this is: IF we are going to spend billions and billions and billions on such foolishness, at least spend it on something that will not kill all of Rachel Carson’s birds, for goodness sakes. Call the program “Using Wasteful Spending Intelligently”. Actually, imho, the greenies would likely buy into this – after all, they would be able to even burn their hockey sticks.

  53. People have no idea how much Natural Gas is now extractable from the deep shale deposits. We have essentially unlimited amounts. We won’t be burning more coal and trying to sequester CO2 – I mean it – the quantity of shale gas that we can tap “fracing” the shale is just mind boggling. It is an energy revolution – and I don’t use the term revolution carelessly or lightly.

  54. Apparently Carbon Monoxide poisoning is also known as Coal Gas poisoning
    “Mental weakness, dullness, confusion, loss of memory, weakness, and even temporary paralysis of the extremities, bronchitis, broncho-pneumonia, lobar pneumonia. Occasionally symptoms develop which are referable to lesions in the brain and cord.”
    So, essentially, hippies, disregarding the lesser energy content altogether, prefer to turn good old C into deathly deadly CO before it is burnt upon request and releases the evil agent of plant food known as CO2.
    Sounds about as intelligent as creating and enforcing a tax that government become so dependent upon that they base a large part of their economy on just that income which, however, creates a problem further down the road when the object of said tax is sold in less and less quantities whereupon the government has to increase the taxation of the object or create a new tax to support the foundation and existence of the government’s organizations and policy that has become primarily dependent upon the first said tax. Such lunacy has already seen the light of day in European countries, two examples are nicotine tax and carbon tax specifically for oil (for furnaces). The latter being the point in fact. During the 90’s gov got people to change oil furnace to “cleaner, gooder, friendlier, greener” furnaces for heating your house by, 1, raising taxes, and later by, 2, subsidies. Result, lesser oil being sold lesser taxes coming in at the same time subsidies going out with even lesser taxes coming in. Of course people had opted for dual functioning furnaces, or equal heating, of which one function was, simply put, electrical heating, thus people started to use way more electricity. What did gov do but be “forced” to raise the tariffs and enforce new taxes upon the now “over used” electricity. This “over use” of electricity also paved the way for getting rid of them pesky evil light bulbs which gave us instead the clean nice mercury gas filled light bulbs that add extra cost to gov in waste management (by which gov raised waste management fees.)
    Apparently, according to an article in American Thinker, the britts got the worst scenario though they got heating units that on the one hand don’t work when it is too cold and on the other hand creates corroding acids as a waste product to reuse CO2 instead of just having CO2 as a waste product.
    Are the hippies suffering from pre-coal gas poisoning perhaps? :p

  55. Why no nuclear power is a mystery. It would seem if you worship at the feet of the God of global warming caused by CO2, then nuclear power would be your savior. ’cause it sure isn’t wind and solar power that you should be worshiping.
    Maybe you need some science with that weed.

  56. Note the mention of nuclear, also a bogeyman of the green crowd until a few years ago. In this regard much of the world is ahead of us. When I bicycled in France a few years ago, you could see nuclear power plant cooling towers in much of the countryside (except near Paris – I guess that is where the professional environmentalists live)

    More like it’s where all the politicians and nuclear lobbyist live and work!
    They don’t want to be too near such a “clean” and eco-friendly source of energy in case …. , well no, nothing could possible do wrong, could it, it’s GREEN now.
    It’s the dirty, filty, toxic CO2 we need to be afraid of.
    If the nuclear industry is not behind this “dirty coal” bullshit they must be kicking themselves for not thinking of it first.
    [My happy encounters with safe, clean nuclear power are recounted in a few postings, including photos of me kayaking near a Florida nuke and walking near a plant in France where the gendarmes chased us away. Great fun! Ira]

  57. “One thing I agree with James Hansen about is that an across-the-board carbon tax, assessed equally against all sequestered fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and collected at the mine, well, or port, is the best solution, far more suitable to the task than the “cap and trade” political scam, and more likely to work.”

    NO NO NO and NO! The best solution is to acknowledge CO2 isn’t evil, man-made global warming is an environmental scam, realize that cheap energy leads to prosperity and that expensive energy leads to hardship, and to spend these billions upon billions of dollars on real problems like malaria instead of padding the wallets and egos of greedy and politically motivated charlatans.
    [Wade, as we all know, even a stopped clock is exactly right twice a day :^) Hansen in 2008 shouts his standard CAGW alarmism, but, on chart #23, some light shone through when he actually wrote, regarding the Carbon Tax, “Limited Government Role – Keep hands off money!” I value Hansen’s wise remarks like diamonds, and for the same reason, their scarcity. Ira

  58. Ira’s blog entry started well, but went drastically wrong at the paragraph that started “I think we need to do something about the unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels.” If only he, like many others, could just get past the flawed, delusional notions that CO2 is a pollutant and that it needs to be removed from the atmosphere. Whatever is causing global warming, it is not carbon dioxide.

  59. Paul80:
    At December 31, 2010 at 3:21 am you say:
    “Underground gasification trials are being optimistically undertaken in Queensland.”
    Yes, and I confidently predict there will be more such “trials” in the future. As I said in my post above at December 31, 2010 at 2:31 am :
    “All studies of underground coal gasification have confirmed that it is not viable for the reasons stated above. However, governments repeatedly get suckered into funding studies of it because it is an ‘easy sell’ to those who do not understand its problems. Governments are easily fooled into funding such silly studies; e.g. they also keep being suckered into funding studies of ‘hot rocks’.”
    Richard

  60. Ralph-
    You are truly an idiot on the MidAmerican Energy quote above, I will take Berkshire Hathway and Warren Buffeet’s business acumen (he owns MidAmerican) over your misguided Koch Brother’s addled head any day.

  61. “How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment?”
    ======================================================
    The real question is why are CO2 levels so dangerously low.
    Obviously, left to it’s own, the planet can’t release enough CO2 to keep up.

  62. I don’t understand the willingness of folks for a flat carbon tax, supposedly for keeping the price of oil high, thus deterring use. Oil prices are already high! Usage is down already. Besides, even a few cents a litre adds up to a whacking great amount that is simply absorbed into general government spending. Little, if any funds actually find their way into developing “green” technologies. If you look beyond the shell game, governments use tax money to pay off their credit cards, then borrow what they use to spend on things. Like operating on a constantly maxed out line of credit. Any funds going to developing “sustainable” energy comes mainly from the private sector, and a carbon tax merely handcuffs the private sector. BC has had a carbon tax on fuel for a few years now, and it hasn’t done anything other than make everything more expensive. Hasn’t changed usage at all. (I’ll try and find some data to back that up. Might take a while as it isn’t something government has been exactly candid about)

  63. Re: the captured carbon dioxide can even be used for “enhanced oil recovery,” forcing oil out of the porous rock into which it is introduced and up into wells.
    Question: if you were advising a cartel of global oil companies who wanted to get the public to fund a multi-trillion dollar investment in carbon capture and storage technology, what strategy would you propose?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_oil_recovery
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/carbon-capture-and-storage

  64. Every engineer with a pencil, paper and cup of coffee knew before all the high school silliness that it is preposterous to contemplate replacing coal with windmills and solar panels. It took letting these well meaning world changers spending 100s Billions, bankruptcy of Spain, and the dismal performance of these alternatives to demonstrate TO THEM that fossil fuels were here until we can replace them with nuclear. Why do we entertain this kind of destructive nonsense. See the many posts on this in the archives of this site.

  65. The delivered price of steam coal varies widely by geographic location. From 70 cents/MMBtu in Wyoming to $4/MMBtu on the US Eastern Seaboard to $5.00/MMBtu in European Ports and $5.50 /MMBtu in Asian ports.
    Clean Coal doesn’t economically stack up against nuclear power for base load at a coal price of $4+/MMBtu assuming that nuclear power is an available option.
    At the moment, global nuclear power industrial capacity is quite sad. A dozen reactors/year globally is about all we can build, up from 4/year in 2008.
    The industry is expanding but not as fast as China’s power needs, hence the Chinese are burning coal in the most efficient coal plants they can get.

  66. Clean coal is nothing more than improving ‘boiler efficiencies’. And the USA is in the lead doing just that. There is now an operating ‘clean coal’ power plant in the USA, using the latest in coal technology, state-of-the-art integrated coal gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) power plant in the surprising cold state of Florida. We need all the heat we can get.
    Thanks Bush, for investing in America’s future, not destroying it. The link is here
    I wonder why no one knows? It’s also interesting to note the coal burn efficiency, from the normal 30-35% to over 50%. A really big deal. Interesting read.
    And can we see those China operating power plants?

  67. A question, when co2 was 390 or above many millions of years ago there was no ice in Greenland. The question is was Greenland where it is almost today or was it somewhere else those many millions of years ago. Thanks Allan

  68. Ira:
    Carbon sequestration is not about climate change. It is about pricing coal-fired electricity out of the market, and that is about reducing electricity use, and that is about reducing quality of life in the U.S. and Europe, and that is about reducing population levels, and now you have gotten to the Malthusian core of the environmental agenda. Reject the agenda and coal is just dandy without any kind of carbon capture.

  69. brad says:
    December 31, 2010 at 12:37 am
    “It is not a right wing meme so it will never get any play here,[…]”
    Oh, and thanks for denouncing everybody else’s ideas as “right wing memes”.

  70. Brad says:
    December 31, 2010 at 5:19 am
    “You are truly an idiot on the MidAmerican Energy quote above, I will take Berkshire Hathway and Warren Buffeet’s business acumen (he owns MidAmerican) over your misguided Koch Brother’s addled head any day.”
    I see that you really are an expert in making friends.

  71. I just had a crazy idea for the next irrational environmentalist fear. If we start sequestering CO2 from the burning of coal then we will deplete the oxygen in the atmosphere to the point that all animal life on the earth will asphyxiate. Oh my god its worse than anyone had ever thought we’re all going to die. And with that weird thought I want to wish everyone a happy and preposterous New Year.

  72. Not only have you Americans got unlimited amounts of Shale gas available but are sitting on huge amounts of oil. The Russians have worked it out that oil does not in fact derive from compressed organic matter …and is constantly being replenished from deep underground..they are drilling deeper [on land] ..isn’t it amazing that after WW2 they had very little oil..soon they will have the largest reserves.There is no such thing as peak oil!! Just get rid of the green socialists and provide yourselves with unlimited cheap energy!!

  73. Yes it’s true, clean coal generated electricity, what a word for better boilers, does not compare with nuclear power. The same TECO-FPL operates nuclear generation at Turkey Point Florida and during their recent rate increase hearing they stated that nuclear costs have remained mostly ‘fixed’ and were about 1/3 of conventional coal. But they also try and burden the nuclear costs with every trick they can, like heat for manatees, so no one notices how cheap base load nuclear power really is.
    But it does not appear the Obama regime is interested in doing anything, but driving up American customers electricity costs. The one campaign promise he seems to be keeping. That and heating the non-native species of manatees we have around here in south Florida. The manatees are freezing, I guess that is what is meant by the ‘limits of their native range’.
    Words mean things, just not what you think they do.
    So in a few words, nuclear power makes sense for America, clean coal makes sense for places like electricity free Africa — LOL.
    Have you seen the latest in nuclear power plant construction? Well it would be in America if the government would approve of it. Building nuclear power plant’s critical sub-assembly parts on a fixed location prefab assembly line, and then drastically minimizing the onsite build costs, is the goal.
    A chart at this link shows the worldwide nuclear power plants under construction. The USA currently has zero, China has 25 — hmmm see the problem with the country with the highest corporate tax rates in the world?
    Modular prefab nuclear power plant construction, improves quality, reliability and reduces deployment time.

  74. No offense, but this post (as well as the Atlantic article before it) seems like an awfully wordy way of saying “Some people think carbon sequestration will be more important than renewable energy for reducing CO2 emissions.” Is that supposed to be controversial?

  75. Re the question: why are they so against coal?
    From what I can make out of the history it appears to have been a two party interest from around the 70’s. It began in the 30’s with the fledgling environmental movement against dirty coal (dirty coal someone explained in a post above), because of the production of ash, and this was won by the greenies and the dark satanic mills scenarios and deadly smogs in London became a thing of the past. A rational environmental triumph to a process that had been in the making in the UK in the centuries before – when work on measuring and monitoring CO2 levels was really taken seriously and vast amount of data gathered, (later ignored by Callendar and Keeling).
    Greenie scientists around the 30’s latched on to the still unproven hypothesis that CO2 was a ‘greenhouse’ gas which would warm the planet and extrapolating from there realised they could get a scare going against coal from another angle, (coupled with greenie scares that we were stripping the earth of its resources concerns, and the eugenic minded overpopulation relative to resources). This is when Revelle and Callendar types began promoting the scare for the greenies, in the fifties bringing in Keeling to prove that man was producing more CO2 than the earth could use and which would lead to the gross runaway warming of the planet and melting of ice caps and flooding as per the scenario devised in the 30’s. However, creeping up around them in the fifties the rising temperatures from the end of the LIA began to reverse, and they eventually woke up to the fact that they were actually in a period of global cooling.
    In the 70’s Hansen was pushing the line that coal burning was a danger to the earth’s climate from the ash blocking out sunlight and extrapolating from the global cooling reverse began pushing the line that continued and increasing burning would lead to another ice age. The bandwagon greenies scientists soon changed the global disaster mantra to this line. But yet again they were caught wrong-footed, not noticing that this time global temperature rises were already in play around them. Once again they had to reverse the mantra, to promote again the earlier doomsday cataclysmic scenario first devised in the earlier decades of the movement. (I did find a page which analysed the changing Hansen graphs accompanied by his changes of message from ice age to runaway oven, but not sure where it is now, I posted it some time ago on tips and notes for record.)
    While it appears from this that Hansen is of the original greenie type, I think he may not be. In the 70’s other interested parties against coal appeared realising they could use the greenie campaign for their own ends, primarily Maggie Thatcher who is credited with starting the global warming scare by taking the message global.
    Her interests against coal more complex than the greenies and I’m not sure of what all these were. In the following bear in mind that the Tory capitalists’ interests are in paying the least amount of money to those producing the wealth for their employers.
    Certainly against coal because the previous Tory government she had been in had been brought down by the coal industry union. Maggie’s political attacks against the coal industry once she came into power were directed to utterly destroying the industry itself and the union that brought her party’s government down would die with it. But also resentful that unions in general could wield such power over government she attacked all unions as they came to the fore with grievances during her period in office, the nurses, firemen, teachers – she was quite successful in keeping them squashed down in great part by generating popular displeasure with them (this was recently repeated in the BA strike). The smearing was done by presenting them as irresponsible money grabbers to the detriment of the people for which they provided their services; of playing with life and death in the fight against nursing and firemen unions, in not caring for children who would be deprived of education because of their greed in the case of teachers. In the latter we had the absurd spectacle of one of the richest men in England who sent his children to an ordinary local non fee paying public school joining in the successful government campaign to demonise the teachers. While he was sitting in his very expensive car after driving his children to the school gates, one of the striking teachers on the picket line handed him a pamphlet which explained their reasons for striking. He rolled down the window and accepted the pamphlet then tore it into pieces and contemptuously dropped these on the ground in front of the teacher, without reading it. This was Paul McCartney.
    To this her end game in destroying union power over government are added her interests in promoting nuclear power, which was declared by saying Britain shouldn’t be vulnerable, in a position to be held to ransom over oil supplies from the Middle East. With North Sea oil this lost its force and sort of faded into the background, and in the greater scheme of things, which was beginning to harness the energy of the Greens against coal and who were vehemently against nuclear power, this was put on the back-burner – a milk-sop, an apparent win for the Greens.
    She began to seriously promote oil interests against coal. Setting up the Hadley Centre and CRU being set up with oil money, they went all out to promote the scare that coal was the cause of the returned disaster by global warming scare. And it was at this time CRU went to New Zealand to begin the task and first step of manipulating temperature records world wide. This was now big business scaremongering and resources were available beyond the dreams of the early greenies in the 30’s, against air pollution from coal..
    Around this time Hansen changed from scaremongering global cooling to scaremongering global warming, in each phase specifically being against coal itself. Is he a fanatic die hard Greenie of the old school? His ‘death train’ scenario would make it appear so, but his interests, even before Maggie’s changed to supporting oil profits against the much cheaper coal production, could have similar reasons in the background. I don’t know, haven’t explored it.
    This is how it appears to me a ‘general’ reader of history, whether Maggie’s antics re reversal from promoting nuclear against oil were actually before North Sea or some kind of double bluff to get the Greens off her back, they were very vocal at the time especially with Sellafield/Windscale, because oil supply from the Middle East was more in their control than they let on, I don’t know. What is sure is that it was oil interest money against coal which set up the research during the seventies to manipulate temperature data. The double bluff here is that at the same time they began promoting the idea that it was oil interests against coal which was denying the faked data the oil interests against coal were producing..
    Taking it globally took the next couple of decades of political manoevering, the turning point to ‘consensus’ came in the early nineties and the change pinpointed to the ’94 IPCC report (from memory, I think that’s the date), when the message from research changed between publication of the summary and final publication of all the report.
    The crucial paragraph concluding that anthropogenic cause of global warming was not a player, was excised and the ‘reckless man’ demonisation blame for it began to be promoted with a gusto we’re still living through. The change to the IPCC report was at the same time as Mann came into prominence at the IPCC and the getting rid of the old guard whose paragraph conclusion was obliterated as efficiently as Mann obliterated the LIA and MWP with his hockey stick.
    NB. I am not an historian, all dates should be checked for flow of events, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.
    Hansen may be one of these earlier ones with not so obvious interests since his ranting began in the global cooling scare campaign years, while those coming on board as the mantra changed to warming
    [Myrrh says “I am not an historian, all dates should be checked for flow of events…” I (Ira) have high regard for PM Thatcher and wish to disassociate myself from what appears to me to be somewhat confused political spin. Ira]

  76. Brad says:
    December 31, 2010 at 12:37 am
    Obama supports clean coal. He also supports nukes.
    It is not a right wing meme so it will never get any play here, but MidAmerican Energy gets 20% of its energy from wind, and just signed agreements to take that to 25% – additionally they have not had a rate increase since 1995 and they have pledged none through at least 2014.
    Really!? No rate hikes until 2014?
    Please, do be a dove and tell us of how much, in USD, these wind energy plants have been subsidized by DC.
    So, in essence, I–and every other US taxpayer–are subsidizing your rate freeze. Wow, that is truley economical—for you.

  77. All they know is what they want and a double standard works fine for them.
    For example:
    Environmentalists want to deny US citizens access to some public lands to preserve nature but are OK with illegal aliens from Mexico trashing the entire Southwest. PETA kills the animals they save but oppose hunting. Environmentalists have burned expensive new cars and houses to protest the use of energy while themselves putting the very smoke they are blowing into the atmosphere. They promoted air bags in cars that injure and kill and to cover they tell you to put the kid in the back seat, denying you the right to determine what is best for your child. You know the back seat where you can’t attend to him or her without getting out of the car.
    They all seem to be cut from the same cloth. So is it any wonder they are willing to fudge on conventional power generation technology to get the electric cars that are as useless as wind and solar for stand alone power generation. They pretend that power sources that consume tax dollars are better than sources that generate revenue. Years ago they called that nuts.
    And one of the smartest scientists in the world who denies warming is wrong and dumb on the environment. The Atlantic is entering Pulitzer territory or is it Nobel.
    By the way all my vehicles run on electricity by way of the spark plug.

  78. I would like to comment on the previously mentioned issues regarding coal gasification/liquefaction and the energy needed for the process. It seems to me that a nuclear plant could be built next to the coal processing plant which would provide the heat and energy for processing the coal, and it could split up the water into the needed hydrogen and oxygen.
    General Electric has been working on a new type of nuclear reactor called an Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), and it has myriad advantages/benefits over the current Light Water Reactor plants including cost, simplicity, and safety. And it can be fuelled by the plutonium waste we now have. I believe GE is working with the NRC now in the IFR licensing phase. Wouldn’t the IFR be good for coal processing?

  79. LazyTeenager says:
    December 30, 2010 at 9:30 pm (Edit)
    Ira promotes sequestration …

    As a matter of fact, I do not favor artificial re-sequestration of carbon. Wait till my next Guest Post, in about a week, for the brilliant (if I have to say so myself :^) conceptual solution.

  80. Brad says:
    December 31, 2010 at 5:19 am

    You are truly an idiot on the MidAmerican Energy quote above, I will take Berkshire Hathway and Warren Buffeet’s business acumen (he owns MidAmerican) over your misguided Koch Brother’s addled head any day.

    You seem to be practicing the “I can’t respond to the argument, so I’ll attack the non-argument game”.
    Ralph’s point is well taken. Wind power at most has a 30% utilization factor (and I’m being generous). MidAmerican Energy’s stated 20% wind capacity (actually, its 20% “renewables”, which includes hydro and biofuels, but you probably knew that) works out to well below the the magic grid stability number of 10%, above which wind power would destabilize the grid. Its total capacity is about 75% fossil fuels (about 2:1 coal:natural gas). Since these utilization factors are much higher than wind, well over 80% of MidAmerican Energy’s electricity generation is from fossil fuels.
    Warren is indeed a smart man.
    http://www.midamericanenergy.com/aboutus1.aspx

  81. Lazy Teenager,
    The ANG (Coal Gasification) Plant in central North Dakota is actively sequestering CO2 today, by piping it into southern Saskatchewan where it is injected into depleted Oil Wells, repressurizing them for tertiary oil recovery. Looks like a Win/Win to me, if atmospheric release of CO2 is in fact a problem.
    On a related note you might want to check out the Bakken and Three Forks formations, insiders tell me there are several more that haven’t received any attention yet.
    Todaloo dude this old guy’s got to get back to work.

  82. I clicked the linkyou gave to Climate Progress http://climateprogress.org/ and noticed that the article was supported by a picture of a cooling tower with dark smoke coming from it. I blogged,and pointed out that cooling towers only emit steam not smoke and that the steam in the picture looked as if it had be photoshopped to look darker like smoke. Unfortunately the moderators didn’t feel my comments were worthy of approval. Power station cooling towers are often shown as emitting smoke from their cooling towers when it is in fact steam, and I feel everyone should point this out to the misleading AGW enthusiasts when they inaccurately use this type of pictorial support for their articles.

  83. “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. ”
    What lovely dinner conversationalists these people must be. What’s with all the holocaust references from the CAGW crowd (i.e. ‘denier’, coal ‘death trains’)?

  84. To somehow consider an article that James Fallows writes as significant is pure folly. He is simply a talented wordsmith who has never had an original thought in years. Go read any of his previous drivel in The Atlantic. 20 Years ago he was the leading voice of the “Japan is going to clobber us” gang, completely ignoring the structural weaknesses of Japan’s planned economy. He is simply a New-Deal progressive who has never met a government-planned program that he didn’t love. “Clean Coal” is simply the latest of his faddish interests in a government program that will “save us.”

  85. From what I understand, the world slowly sequesters CO2 into sedimentary rocks, which drives atmospheric levels down, until geologic events release the sequestered gas back into the atmosphere. CO2 has varied over the earth’s geological past, usually above 1000ppm. What is trully remarkable, is that at no time have CO2 levels dropped to the lows seen during the Pleistocene – 180 ppm. It seems as if CO2 was being sequestered continually since the Eocene with not counteracting process to replenish th Earth’s atmosphere. One of the consequences of this abrupt decline was the evolution of the C4 pathway in plants, eg grasses.
    How did our planet reach this state of affairs? Has there been a dearth of geological activity that should have replenished our atmosphere? Whatever the reason, the Earth’s atmosphere had become impoverished. If humans have done anything at all to benefit the biosphere, it is the slight enrichment of the atmosphere. One day in the future, when black is no longer white, people will look back in amazement at how their ancestors thought this enrichment was a bad thing. I am amazed now.

  86. DirkH says:
    December 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm
    [quoting Ira’s topic posting] “Rather than have governments pick winners (and mess up as they did with corn ethanol subsidies that raised food prices and reduced gas mileage without doing much to control CO2 emissions) I prefer to tax carbon progressively a bit more each year and let industry and other users decide for themselves how to adapt to the higher prices.”
    [DirkH replies] Ira, you will get the following problems:
    -Businesses pass on the cost to consumers and are done with it.

    Thanks DirkH for your thoughtful comment! Of course businesses will pass it on, as they do any tax or fee or regulatory expense. That is the whole idea. Given an elastic market, when the cost of an item, in this case fossil fuel, goes up, relatively less of it is sold (see my Nash Bargain Google Knol). Therefore, any industry or consumer that can reduce their use of that item will be saving their own money. Note here that I am NOT in favor of any kind of carbon-credits (indulgences :^) or the cap and trade scam, where the government dictates supposedly beneficial behaviors and has to peer into everyone’s underwear and measure emissions. Given an across-the-board tax, each person and industry will make fossil fuel reduction decisions (or not) according to their own benefit. I believe this will, over time (and we have plenty of time, many decades, because there is no crisis) gradually lead to advances in conservation and better use of energy resources.

    -Consumers consume less, leading to a recession.

    Yes they consume less (the whole point of the exercise) but, there is no reason to believe that will lead to a recession. It may do the opposite by spurring innovation.

    -Freeloader nations must be prevented, either by a supranational regulation or by extra import duties.
    -Supranational regulation is the precursor of a worldwide rule by Kommissar (typically unelected; see the EU).
    -Extra import duties are protectionist and lead to trade wars.

    Nations that do not adopt a similar carbon tax are free to do as they please, no supranational regulation needed. We already collect import taxes at ports of entry and could conveniently add the carbon tax to any imported fossil fuels or products with high energy content (metals, plastics, etc.). If the carbon tax is across-the-board on all fossil fuel carbon, domestic and foreign, it is not protectionist.

    Nowhere in this scenario does innovation happen. Granted, some smart inventor might offer an emission reduction or energy efficiency improvement idea to consumers or to the industry; but that can happen without any carbon tax just as well.
    Such an inventor would have slightly higher chances to market his invention with your carbon tax, as the potential savings would be greater, …

    Emphasis added to your words that support my argument. THANKS! Those words say where innovation may happen. There are no guarantees except death and taxes and we are not sure about death :^)

    Also, any carbon tax must come with draconian emission controls. Or you slap on a levie on the price of each fuel.
    It’s a whole can of worms, we have a lot of fun with it in Europe, there was just a new report about another carbon emissions permits trading scam with damages in the billions. …

    That is exactly why I oppose the cap and trade scam or any government-imposed emission controls. Just make fossil fuels a bit more expensive at the start, and announce a guaranteed slow but steady increase over the decades so industry and consumers can plan ahead, and let market forces do their magic. No government fat fingers on the scales distorting the market to reward favored special interests (as in ethanol subsities, auto company fleet MPG limits, and so on). No government checking our underwear for emissions. Just a clear, easy to collect, hard to cheat on, predictable expense that puts steady pressure on consumption of fossil carbon and rewards innovation that actually saves money, according to the very people and businesses who will save that money (or not).
    As you note, the carbon-trading scam is already law in the EU. It is also law in some parts of the US. We (us reasonable folks here at WUWT) cannot fight something (cap and trade) with nothing. By favoring this kind of carbon tax, we can show our concern for the environment and blunt the CAGW monopoly on that front.

  87. John M.-
    Thanks for correcting me on the overall number of 20%, but you are still wrong on your numbers and miss the point of the post (BTW at the end of 2011 MAE will get almost ~20% from wind and ~6% from other renewables). The point is, doing renewables can be done economically, or I highly doubt Berkshire Hathaway would be doing it. You state that MidAmerican Energy’s mix is different from what it is, your link states:
    “At the end of 2009, MidAmerican had available nearly 7,200 megawatts of generating capability: approximately 52 percent fueled by coal; 21 percent natural gas and oil; 20 percent wind, hydroelectric and biomass; and 7 percent by nuclear. Production costs at our coal-fueled generation stations are lower than regional and national averages. The company has majority ownership in five of the six jointly owned coal-fueled generating stations in Iowa.”
    THAT IS AT THE END OF 2009. How much of that is wind? 900 MegaWatts of 7,200 or 12.5%.
    MidAmerica just announced an additional 593 MW of wind, for a total of approximate 1600 MW:
    http://midamericanenergy.com/wind/news.aspx
    This takes their wind amount to about 20%.
    Guess you are wrong, and that maybe wind must be pretty reliable out here on the plains, or I guess my complete lack of brownouts or power issues here in Iowa (and few blackouts even during thunderstorms) proves that MidAmerican Energy is really a crappy provider, or does it prove the opposite.
    Again, I’ll take Warren Buffet over you James, sorry, the differential kinda speaks for itself.

  88. tarpon says:
    December 31, 2010 at 4:49 am
    Why no nuclear power is a mystery. It would seem if you worship at the feet of the God of global warming caused by CO2, then nuclear power would be your savior. ’cause it sure isn’t wind and solar power that you should be worshiping.
    ========================================================
    I used to wonder the same thing. Nuclear is answer, why don’t they see that?
    Then I realized that the reason is- it is the answer. With nuclear there is no more problem : no more feeling good about rallying to save the earth, no more demonstrations to attend, no more publicity. In short back to a boring life, with no purpose. Why would they want to solve the problem?

  89. [Snip. Read the Policy page. Calling others “deniers,” “denialists,” etc. will get your post snipped. ~dbs, mod.]

  90. Ira Glickstein, PhD says:
    December 31, 2010 at 7:35 am
    As a matter of fact, I do not favor artificial re-sequestration of carbon. Wait till my next Guest Post, in about a week, for the brilliant (if I have to say so myself :^) conceptual solution.
    =========================================================
    Ira, I’ll be looking forward to reading it.
    Hopefully someone can explain to me why we would want to lower CO2 levels at all.
    It’s obvious that this planet is naturally sequestering CO2 at a higher rate than it’s being replaced. CO2 levels have been falling.
    CO2 levels at a little over 250 ppm have been shown to slow down, and in some cases stop some plants from growing. 1200 – 1500 ppm has been shown to be “optimum” for plant growth.
    So considering that we are only about 100 ppm above the minimum acceptable level for CO2, why would any sane person want to lower CO2 levels?

  91. Brad says:
    December 31, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Guess you are wrong, and that maybe wind must be pretty reliable out here on the plains, or I guess my complete lack of brownouts or power issues here in Iowa (and few blackouts even during thunderstorms) proves that MidAmerican Energy is really a crappy provider, or does it prove the opposite.

    Brad, do you have any idea what the difference between “capacity” and “actual generation” is?
    If you are really here to learn, you might want to review this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacity_factor
    And thanks for reminding me about MidAmerica’s nuclear capacity. Taking capacity factors into account, it looks like their actual energy generation is >90% fossil fuel and nuclear.

  92. http://www.physorg.com/news63382590.html
    Great article about the options. “The burning of coal in oxygen is a near-term solution that with current knowledge can produce exhaust streams that are close to pure CO2, says Shaddix. Harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur compounds, and mercury are virtually eliminated.”
    So we can eliminate REAL pollutants and be left with exhaust that is pure CO2! Oh wait that is an evil pollutant (NOT!). So forget that idea and just tell everyone in the world to stop using the most plentiful fuel around. Sigh. After 4 hundred years of burning coal to power our world we finally figure out how to do it cleanly and yet that isn’t good enough.
    That article was from 2006. Between oxy-combustion of coal and natural gas (conventional and shale) we have more than enough energy to power ourselves through the next minimum (Dalton or worse). Throw in some new LiFTR reactors and we are good to go for the base load. The renewables can fit in around that and as they improve and become cost effective we’ll use them.
    I know, it’ll never happen. Way too practical.

  93. The variety of opinions on how to deal with climate change is different from the consensus on the science and facts.
    Scientists, activists and other individuals have always had many different opinions on whether CCS is feasible on the scale required, whether nuclear is a responsible alternative, and how long it will take us to transition from coal and other fossil fuels to other energy sources. This is not surprising, nor is the fact that we will have to live with coal, natural gas, and other ‘dirty’ fuels for a long time, since any transition will not be instantaneous.
    Incidentally, this post and the comments raise many common objections to climate change science. Every significant argument I have read here is addressed in this handy list backed with numerous references to primary sources.

  94. It has not been proven that increasing amounts of CO2 can lead to dangerous runaway global warming. And even if this were to be the case, the effect of added CO2 is logarithmic which even the IPCC agrees with. To see an illustration of the logarithmic effect, or law of diminishing returns as an economist may call it, see page 8 in the following: http://joannenova.com.au/globalwarming/the_skeptics_handbook_2-3_lq.pdf
    So carbon capture is a total waste of money. Besides, it may not even be viable. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/25/research-viabilty-carbon-capture-storage?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
    Some quotes from the above:
    “The document from Houston University claims that governments wanting to use CCS have overestimated its value and says it would take a reservoir the size of a small US state to hold the CO2 produced by one power station.
    Previous modeling has hugely underestimated the space needed to store CO2 because it was based on the “totally erroneous” premise that the pressure feeding the carbon into the rock structures would be constant,… “

  95. JudyW has revealed the next big scare tactic; poisoned water. The AGW meme is failing, ocean acidification is failing, the polar bears have failed, so now what? Oh yeah, the life giving water. Watch for the headlines to tell us that is how we are all going to die.

  96. Two points: Firstly, cleaning the components in a chemical process, or separating the good from the bad components, is a big part of what chemical engineers do. The chemical engineers know exactly what to do and how to do it to make coal-burning as clean as anyone could want. That is not the difficult part. Making coal-burning clean at a reasonable cost is the very difficult part.
    Secondly, physical sequestration of CO2 is a most unwise and dangerous thing to do. Once the lawsuits begin from personal injury or property destruction due to sequestered CO2 that “gets away,” things will get very interesting. Chemically binding the CO2 into a stable solid is far better. Nature has been doing that for millenia; we call one of the end-products “limestone.”

  97. Ira wrote
    “Given an across-the-board tax, each person and industry will make fossil fuel reduction decisions (or not) according to their own benefit.”
    What you are advocating is rationing by price. The poor will suffer most. In the UK the number of families defined as living in ‘fuel poverty’ is increasing due to renewable subsidies. Slapping a tax on carbon to force poor people to make a ‘fossil fuel reduction decision’ is a euphemism for freezing so they can buy food.
    Now, I expect you will say something like ‘well, the tax will be small to start with so the poor won’t be so inconvenienced, and over time innovation will increase energy efficiency.’ Well, as Jevon’s showed, as efficiency increases, more energy is demanded. I suppose your answer is to continue to ratchet up tax to ensure that the poor can never demand the energy they would without the tax.
    If that’s your vision of the future, then you can count me out.

  98. Christopher,
    Go through the WUWT archives, and you will see that your talking points have been debunked. Every one of them. But what should we expect, coming from a blog run by a cartoonist?
    If you want a list that covers everything, it’s here.

  99. “I think we need to do something about the unprecedented steady rise in CO2 levels”
    Why, on Earth, Ira? We have absolutely nothing to fear from C02. The “threat” is entirely a manufactured one. CCS, on the other hand, besides being costly could actually be dangerous, and even deadly.

  100. “DirkH says:
    December 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm
    It’s a whole can of worms, we have a lot of fun with it in Europe, there was just a new report about another carbon emissions permits trading scam with damages in the billions.”
    “Ira Glickstein, PhD says:
    December 31, 2010 at 8:29 am
    As you note, the carbon-trading scam is already law in the EU.”
    Hmm

  101. W Abbott says:
    December 31, 2010 at 4:04 am
    “People have no idea how much Natural Gas is now extractable from the deep shale deposits. ”
    Let’s do the math. EIA estimates 847 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Massive number to be sure.
    1 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,000 BTU’s(rounded from 1020)
    1 ton of steam coal is roughly 20 million BTU’s.
    So we need 20,000 cubic feet of natural gas to equal 1 ton of coal.
    We burn in the US 1 billion tones of steam coal/year.
    If we replaced it all with natural gas we would need to burn 20 trillion cubic feet natural gas per year on top of the 20 trillion we already burn for things like home heating etc.
    Then lets get off of imported oil by converting 1/2 of our vehicle fleet to natural gas.
    We import 3 billion+ barrels of oil/year. 1 barrel of oil has 6 million BTU’s. So we need 6,000 CF of natural gas to replace 1 barrel of oil. So we would need 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to replace 3 billion barrels of oil.
    So if we wanted to ‘get off of coal’ and ‘get off of imported oil’ using natural gas we would end up consuming close to 60 trillion cubic feet per year.
    The EIA estimate of 847 trillion CF doesn’t look that big when we consider a consumption rate of 60 trillion CF/year. 14 years worth.
    Of course other estimates put shale gas reserves at 3 times the EIA number which would be 42 years worth.

  102. WUWT shouldn’t be surprised at this changed perspective; it’s part of a natural cycle, the AMOO – the Atlantic’s Multidecadal Opinion Oscillation.

  103. *******
    Article says:
    Once “captured” as a relatively pure stream of carbon dioxide, this part of the exhaust is pressurized into liquid form and then sold or stored. …
    *******
    Yeah, that’ll be cheap & easy, right? /extreme sarc off & self-snip a bunch of nasty remarks

  104. Mostly I skip these loony posts, but this one is really over the top.
    The author states in a comment above:
    Given an across-the-board tax, each person and industry will make fossil fuel reduction decisions (or not) according to their own benefit.
    How about given no taxes on fossil fuels at all? Won’t the purchasers still make decisions according to their own benefit? It is specious folly to suggest that taxes are the drivers of rational economic choice; that without taxes (carefully equilibrated of course) the free market will not function. In fact, taxes are brakes and stranglers of free market choice and lead to mis-allocation of resources.
    The author also states:
    We (us reasonable folks here at WUWT) cannot fight something (cap and trade) with nothing. By favoring this kind of carbon tax, we can show our concern for the environment and blunt the CAGW monopoly on that front.
    Again, a specious strawman stalking horse argument rife with logical fallacy. Need I point out the 18 errors of logic and rationality in those two sentences alone?

  105. John M.
    Show me their capacity figures, not an insane rant about them.
    They do state clearly that there coal and gas plants are UNDERUTILIZED based on national averages. While you are it, also show me EXACTLY what the wind utilization numbers are from MidAmerican.
    In the interim, lets look at some facts. Iowa is one of the best wing energy states in the country:
    http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp
    And utilization rates, on average, exceed your “30% (and I’m being generous)” comment, averaging 36% for those installed in 2004-5. We can expect MidAmerican’s to be at least this good considering they have one of the best sites in the coutry, and turbines have gotten more efficient. Also, many countries around the world exceed your “no greater than 10%” or the grid will become unreliable BS, in fact the ENTIRE COUNTRIES grids in Denmark, Spain ad Portugal exceed this amount (Denmark at 19% and using offshore wing which is more reliable) – and I am not talking capacity but actual penetration.
    Thanks for playing, but the numbers do not support your positions.

  106. Brad,
    You seem to have missed my reply when you dropped those MidAmerican Energy factoids into the latest Craven article, which is understandable as you’ve moved on to a more relevant topic. So here are the highlights:
    The “rate freeze” until the end of 2013 is an agreement with state regulators, not a “promise” as you said. Source. Also:

    Like other wind energy, the new turbines will be used for what utilities call “peaking” generation – supplementing the regular baseload electricity provided by coal-fired generators that run around the clock. That’s why turbines don’t always turn, even in windy conditions.

    They don’t need the wind power.

    MidAmerican was forthright in telling the Iowa Utilities Board that it doesn’t have an immediate need for more wind capacity for its customers in Iowa, but the new capacity would be available for future use.
    In the short run MidAmerican’s surplus of energy is sold to other utilities. However, its new wind capacity will be available if MidAmerican and its partner, AEP of Columbus, Ohio, are able to build a 765-kilovolt transmission line that would connect wind energy in Iowa and the Upper Midwest with larger markets east of the Mississippi River.
    Midwestern wind interests got a boost earlier this month when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a plan that would spread the costs for new multistate transmission for wind – estimated to be as high as $25 billion to $30 billion – among all users and not just the individual generators.

    “East of the Mississippi” sounds like markets where electricity providers have committed to using renewables, or been governmentally mandated to use renewables, thus providers have to incorporate renewables into their energy portfolio.
    And there’s a subsidy involved!

    …MidAmerican will use an existing production tax credit that allows deductions of up to 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour over a 10-year period. That deduction won’t be up for extension until 2012.

    Otherwise, how useful is this new wind power for providing electricity for Iowa?
    MidAmerican Energy is looking into building a nuclear plant, they need more base load capacity.
    ‘Nuff said, at least about your points.
    But whoever had written “That’s why turbines don’t always turn, even in windy conditions” seems a bit short on facts about wind turbines, although basically admitting that even the current amounts of available wind power aren’t needed, with unsold electricity being “discarded” by not letting it be generated, is quite telling.

  107. “I’m working on a future posting that will propose use of gassified coal”
    Back to the 1880’s? Once upon a time just about every city, town and hamlet has a “gasworks”. What goes around comes aound, and there is little new under the sun.

  108. For Lazy Teenager
    http://www.dakotagas.com/CO2_Capture_and_Storage/index.html
    That link will help you up to date on some things about coal gasification and CO2 sequestering. This plant started because of a past energy crisis which of course was forgotten once supplies freed up again. Maybe my memory is too good, but the idea of more energy independence I find kinda sexy.
    Coal gasification is by no means a solution. It is more expensive, but generally any thing is more expensive initially. It does seem rational enough to justify a subsidy for pilot plants like Futuregen, which is somewhat in limbo. There is a lot of promise with coal gasification because a wide variety of petroleum products can be produced. I could go on quite a while on alternate energy from an energy independence perspective.
    Right now there is football and Hoppin’ John that demand my attention.

  109. As others have already noted, we don’t need to tax CO2 now. We don’t need to tax anything. We need to cut taxes and Federal spending. We need to defund the Federal government’s system of politicized science with its large flow of grant money to our universities. We need to get the professors back into the class room instead of out politicking for grant money. Do we still need a NAS, which also now seems to be putting out politicized science? In addition, DoE should be cut back just to managing our nuclear weapons program and our nuclear power system.

  110. George Turner:
    Oops. Mods, the above “but when you burn that you still end up with CO2 and H2″ should read “CO2 and H2O”. But I’m not sure anyone will notice.
    Nope, I didn’t notice. But I did notice this:
    Coal to octane is price competitive with oil when oil prices are above $60 or $70 a gallon….
    It would be competitive for sure at those prices. But I think you mean per barrel.


  111. Ira wrote as response to captainfish December 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm
    …I am also worried about the costs of protecting our access to foreign petroleum. Also, fossil fuels and nuclear are non-renewable resources, with a horizon of decades to a century or so. That is why I favor a modest carbon tax. I am not gung-ho on it though. Ira

    Depends on what you call a “renewable” resource. I wwould consider a resource that can’t possibly depleted by humanity before the sun goes into the red giant stage “renewable”. This is the case for nuclear. Unless you consider the currently used (1950s) technology of once-through uranium water boilers the pinnacle of nuclear technology.
    If you consider Uranium:
    A current technology 1 GWatt reactor typically requires about 200 tons of raw Uranium per year. A 1 GWatt coal plant burns about 10,000 tons of coal per day. See the difference?
    Here:
    http://www.sustainablenuclear.org/PADs/pad11983cohen.pdf
    is a very good article that shows that nuclear breeding reactors ARE a renewable energy source for all practical purposes.
    And with Thorium beeing 4 times more abundant in the earths crust than Uranium even more so. A Thorium reactor like an LFTR (a technology already proven to work in the 1960s), the Thorium usage is about 1 ton per GW and year.
    We don’t even have to use electric cars with all their resource problems (expensive rare materials used for batteries). We can re-use the CO2 that combustion energy sources release into the atmosphere when using nuclear plants as well:
    http://www.lanl.gov/news/newsbulletin/pdf/Green_Freedom_Overview.pdf
    Even if we deplete all oil, natural gas and coal resources, this technology gives us the hydrocarbons needed for efficient transportation applications.
    The only reasons we are not doing that and instead waste money on windmills and solar panels is the irrational fear of nuclear that has been instilled on the population by the greenies.

  112. KADAKA-
    You make several assumptions in your article, so let me correct some:
    1) the energy hog east of the Mississsipi is Chicago and all the utilities out here sell energy into that market. Chicago is the driver for both Buffett and the French buying into Midwestern companies, so there is not a need for a transmission line, only the energy hog in Chicago needing huge amounts of peak power at very high rates in the summer. This helps keep my low rates low. Thus, peak power is the cade word, to me, that they are going to use these to ripoff ComEd in Chicago.
    2) The penetration rate of wind will be 20% by 2030 and we are on pace to reach that, thus large amounts of the new capacity will be wind.
    http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/wind/about.html
    3) MidAmerican just built a new gas and a coal plant, so they may not need capacity at the moment, but they will.
    4) Who do you think pays for nuke plants? Utilities can’t afford them thus the US gov does pay for large portions of those as well, thus your gov argument is partially obviated by reality.

  113. Oh, and Iowa did all this with no requirement or gov mandate for the use of renewables. The mandate in Iowa is for the utilities to allow people to give them extra money for renewables if the consumer sees fit, by volunteer only.
    The only mandate Iowa had is very old and has not been relevant to any renewable capacity added after 1999.

  114. As I speak the outside air temp in la Grande Or. is 12F. The Wind turbines at the
    Elkhorn wind farm are not turning-no wind. Hmm. I see a problem here…

  115. “I’m working on a future posting that will propose use of gassified coal along with enhanced CO2 farming as a clean coal implementation that may make sense in a decade or so. I hope to post it next week.”
    I’m sure it will be interesting, however in order for them to really make sense, they will need to do so without the benefit of “carbon taxes”, whose effect on the economy will be a negative one. According to former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, we could see $5/gal gas prices by Nov., 2012. If so, that would have hugely negative economic effects, but would also probably spark a surge in interest in electric cars as well as alternative energies overall. That is how the free market works. Government intervention only mucks things up.
    [Bruce, I generally agree that I’m from the Government and I’m here to help are scary words to hear. Yet, although I am attracted to libertarian ideals, I don’t go all the way with them. There is a role for government, so long as they act indirectly using market forces, and refrain from putting their big flat foot into it. There is also the zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, which precludes idealistic, totally free market, wild west-like economics. It is a fine balance. Ira]

  116. Smokey:
    In the interest of time, I’ll just pick the first one on the skepticalscience.com list. I understand that the skeptical view is that solar variations can at least partially explain recent temperature trends. The skepticalscience.com response is in the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions
    Searching WUWT archives for the term ‘solar cycle’ I only find a few articles that seem relevant to this issue specifically.
    The first is this article about IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth being unable to account for the [lack of] current warming in their models. In a follow-up interview, Trenberth is asked about solar cycles and he responds mentioning continued warming during the period of relative solar inactivity for the last 35 years.
    The WUWT author calls out Trenberth on neglecting solar-magnetic activity which might account for recent warming. The article finishes with a quote from this paper: “The long term trends in solar data and in northern hemisphere temperatures have a correlation coefficient of about 0.7 – .8 at a 94% – 98% confidence level.” However, the following sentences read: “The last 30 years are not considered, however. In this time the climate and solar data strongly diverge from each other”. The WUWT author implies Trenberth is selective omitting data not fitting his conclusion, while the primary source actually confirms Trenberth’s statements.
    Next: observations of the solar polar magnetic field suggest that we may be entering another Dalton minimum, which is a period of several relatively quiet solar cycles. This data is including magnetic activity, and seems to contradict the suggestion in the article above that magnetic activity may explain the divergence of earth temperature data from solar activity in the last 35 years.
    There are several articles on the correlation of the semi-annual variation of the length of day and mid-latitude cloud changes with galactic cosmic rays, which may be modulated by solar activity. This in turn may have an effect on albedo, which could affect temperature and climate.
    Since 2000, comparison of several sets of satellite data shows no trend in albedo. According to Takemura et al, 2005 the anthropogenic effect on albedo is a small cooling effect, but it is clear that cloud cover has a large effect on global energy flux, so natural variations might have noticable impacts. Still, there is no evidence that the natural albedo changed (via solar cycles or GCR or some other mechanism) in a way that explains the divergence of the global temperature mean from the solar radiative forcing. The divergence of solar activity and temperature, however, is consistent with the well-understood mechanisms of greenhouse gas increases.
    I’ve already gone on too long, and I don’t want to take this too much further off topic. Is there another post that more clearly debunks the solar forcing divergence from temperature, or at least a better place this can be discussed?
    [Christopher, We know, historically, low Sunspot numbers over multiple Solar Cycles coincides with cool periods (e.g., Maunder, Dalton). We also know solar irradiance does not change enough over a Solar Cycle to explain that. So, most climate models are created assuming high CO2 sensitivity, i.e., rapid, human-caused CO2 rises and land use changes explain the claimed 0.7ºC-0.8ºC (actual 0.4ºC-0.5ºC IMHO) temp rise. The problem with that is the continuing rapid CO2 rise with no corresponding temp rise since the late 1990’s. Thus, IMHO, the best explanation (Svensmark) is that solar magnetic activity affects cosmic rays and that affects cloud formation and that affects albedo. We won’t know for sure for a decade or more, but, IMHO, high CO2 sensitivity is busted. Ira]

  117. Coal has an EROEI of about 4. Solar PV’s EROEI is 0.48. Wind power is 0.29
    . Electric car EROEI’s if they are lucky might be 0.2. Do the math on alternative energy; they are a collosal waste of resources.
    Since CO2 was 7,000 ppm 550E6 years ago (Berner 2001), 18 times higher than today, what’s the problem? Since CO2 was 425 ppm in 1825 (Beck 2007), 35 ppm higher than today, what’s the problem? And, since the ice core data shows that CO2 increases come about 800 years AFTER the temperature increases, what’s the problem?

  118. A very good post, Ira. I have been saying for some time to my environmentalist friends that coal is not going away. We can become somewhat less dependent upon coal by building more nuclear power plants (a prospect I much favor – read William Tucker’s excellent writings on nuclear power, for example). But we will have to continue to include coal in the energy mix, because it is a cheap source of energy and because it can be burned much more cleanly than it used to be burned. It is nice to see someone on the journalistic Left who actually recognizes this.
    I am not anxious about the CO2 releases caused by burning coal at this point. My question has always been: how much CO2 is too much? We do not know the answer to that question yet, and we have plenty of time to develop useful and economic alternatives (such as coal gasification, though I think it not economical at this moment) that reduce CO2 emissions over time. If the bureaucrats and politicians let our free market economy and technological prowess work, the answer will ultimately be found.
    [Thanks Larry in Texas for the kind words and I agree with your points. As a lukewarmer-skeptic, IMHO, even 600 ppmv CO2 would not be a problem, and might be a net positive, since I do not believe the high CO2 sensitivity of climate models is justified. But, as a conservative, I would worry if it got above, oh, say 1000 ppmv. Ira]

  119. Charles S. Opalek:
    I agree – the costs of renewables is too high. Unfortunately, I think we also underestimate the externalized costs of conventional energy sources.
    As for CO2:
    – There are other drivers of climate besides CO2. 550E6 years ago the sun was much cooler.
    – there are significant problems with the Beck 2007 paper, not the least of which is the massive flux of carbon in and out of the atmosphere needed to explain the temporal variations of CO2 reported. It is more likely that the IPCC AR4 estimate of 290ppm in the 19-th century is closer than Beck’s 425 ppm.

  120. Allan Short says:
    December 31, 2010 at 6:48 am
    “A question, when co2 was 390 or above many millions of years ago there was no ice in Greenland. The question is was Greenland where it is almost today or was it somewhere else those many millions of years ago. Thanks Allan”
    Greenland was in the same spot, but there are a couple of problems with Mann’s assertions. For one, there was ice in Greenland (not much though), but also there have been several Ice Ages with much higher levels of CO2. Of course, there are other factors to consider as well like the Milankovich (sp?) cycles – but such complications aren’t good for selling propaganda.

  121. Christopher says: [ … ]
    I’ve never claimed anything about solar cycles/AGW, either pro or con.
    So you set up your strawman anyway, and fearlessly knocked it down and killed it. Good for you, what a guy.
    To be clear, this is my long held positiuon:
    There is no verifiable evidence showing that CO2 harms the planet. After a ≈40% rise in CO2 – which is not insignificant – there is zero empirical, testable evidence that any harm has resulted.
    But there is plenty of evidence that the rise in CO2 has been highly beneficial:
    click1
    click2
    click3
    click4
    click5
    In a world where a billion people subsist on a dollar a day or less, the beneficial effect of additional CO2 literally makes the difference between life and death.
    But the CO2=CAGW scam intends to reduce this harmless and beneficial trace gas – based on always wrong computer models. The scam is being perpetrated for the benefit of a few, through increased taxation, higher costs, and supra-national government. None of them give a damn about the world’s truly poor.
    The evidence that CO2 is beneficial is found in increased ag productivity, yet there is no verifiable evidence that CO2 is harmful. The whole CAGW scare comes from models, not from real world observations.
    So, why the hatred for your fellow man? Is reducing the population through starvation your goal? Or do you just like being sadistic?

  122. Juanslayton,
    Good catch! Yes, I meant coal to liquids are competitive when oil prices are above $60 or $70 a barrel. There’s not much push for it, due to environmentalists, but more importantly because oil hasn’t gone above that price for the long term, so nobody is going to invest the billions required for the switch.
    On another note, one of the ways we can improve the efficiency of powerplants is by retrofitting them with a Kalina cycle stage to turn waste heat into energy. The Kalina cycle uses a combined ammonia-water system, instead of the single fluid system of the Rankine cycle. Some plants are already in operation and show significantly higher efficiencies.

  123. Smokey:
    You said all of the talking points on skepticalscientist.com were debunked in the WUWT archive. I picked the very first one, and was unable to find the debunking. Still open to more pointers.
    It seems that you preferred to pick a different point to debunk: additional CO2 is (not) harmful. You rightly point out that plants usually grow better with (slightly) higher CO2 concentrations, all else being equal. The problem is that all else is not equal. We don’t know the full impacts of increased CO2, but it is very likely that increased temperatures, changes in ocean acidification, changes in ocean and air currents, and changes in long term weather patterns will cause more harm than good.

  124. Brad,
    I have worked in power generation for 20+ years. The government DOES NOT pay for nuclear plants. The government currently offers loan guarantees, for a fee, to approved projects. Currently, one such project has been approved, Voglte in Georgia. Another was canceled because the government wanted about 10% of the loan value to guarantee the loan. Obviously, this made no sense for the investors.
    As others have said, wind turbines have about a 30% capacity factor. This is a function of physics and economics. The cost of a wind turbine is not dominated by the size of the generator. This fact, coupled with the probability density function of wind distributions means it makes sense to oversize generators to capture the energy in the less frequent, stronger winds. The 30% capacity factor is a fallout from these simple realities. Add to this the need to build dis-patchable generation to compensate for the unpredictability of wind and no one would build them except for the government subsidies and guaranteed rates of return from regulators. As is evident each time the subsidies expire.

  125. I was pretty disappointed by this article. It’s just the same old wishful thinking rehashed. There just aren’t any “clean” coal power technologies that are proven or of reasonable cost. The only question is whether it matters or not (I say NOT, of course!).

  126. Ira:
    I don’t understand your worry about the recent CO2 increase. We have many test sites where people are exposed to 1000 ppm or more. Greenhouses are maintained at that level and people work all day in there. Anybody who regularly attends Meetings/Conferences is exposed to a couple of thousand ppm. From my readings, we really don’t get into dangerous levels of CO2 until we get up to the 10,000 ppm.
    Other than, the world hasn’t seen this in human lifetime (assuming chemical analysis is wrong), what is your rationale for the worry?
    David Ball: The polar bear scare ain’t dead yet. Check out this line of crap in the Vancouver Sun.
    http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Heart+wrenching+view+bears+inspires+execs+better/4040079/story.html

  127. I have kind of a different idea, that never really occurred to me before, but just kind of eureka’d to me today.
    The main (market) reason to not want carbon taxation is that it increases energy costs. I have a possible solution to that problem, though. It would incentivize energy companies to develop green energy while not increasing end user energy costs significantly.
    Impose an “at site” carbon source tariff that is paid to companies and individuals which produce energy on a per-watt basis. The end energy costs would be about the same, since the energy companies would be effectively subsidized to make energy (any kind) with the taxation on carbon. This would make “green” energies more profitable (lower overhead) and carbon energies less profitable, pushing the energy industry to innovate. Mathematically, the amount of research capital spent by energy companies pales in comparison to most industries, and a carbon pro-rating like this would allow for increased incentive to create green energy without mandating it. If 100% of energy is made from carbon sources, then it pays back to the companies exactly what they produce, but maverick companies trying new non-carbon producing technology would get the subsidies to perform better.
    I might be missing something, economically, about how this would work, please critique.
    Also, I’m aware that any time there’s a tax involved and government gets involved there’s an opening for corruption… but if it was actually done EFFECTIVELY with low overhead, I’m sure it’d be a more viable solution that wouldn’t overly burden the consumer… effectively you’re raising the price of carbon based energy, then lowering the price of ALL energy. This isn’t intended to make an end user increase or decrease, but to incentivize low to no carbon solutions. (also coincidentally incentivizes Hydro and Nuclear ;).)

  128. [Check the posting again. That paragraph was quoted from Fallows. I did not write it. However, it makes sense to me that gassifying coal underground, within the mine, will make it more like natural gas that we know emits less CO2 when burned. As I understand the process, once it is initiated, it involves injecting air and water into the coal seam. (C3{coal} + H2O{water} + O2{from air} → Coalgas which is 2H{hydrogen} + 3CO{carbon monoxide}) Ira]
    Come again? You do you make carbon simply vanish? This violates the law of conservation of mass. Think about it for a minute.
    [Snork, the chemical transaction starts with “C3{coal} …”, 3 atoms of carbon, and ends with “…3CO{carbon monoxide}”, also 3 atoms of carbon, so no carbon has vanished in that formula. When I wrote that natural gas emits less CO2 than coal when burned, I was refering to this “…high efficiency natural gas-fired power stations can produce up to 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than existing brown coal-fired generators, and less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of the latest technology black coal-fired power stations.” Coalgas {2H + CO} is more like natural gas {CH4} than solid coal {C}. Ira]

  129. Christopher says:
    December 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm
    You rightly point out that plants usually grow better with (slightly) higher CO2 concentrations,
    ======================================================
    Chris, the optimum CO2 level for plant growth is 1200-1500 ppm.
    That’s not slightly.
    If plants evolved that the “optimum” is 1200-1500 ppm, then they are starving now.
    ========================================================
    Christopher said:
    We don’t know the full impacts of increased CO2, but it is very likely that increased temperatures, changes in ocean acidification, changes in ocean and air currents, and changes in long term weather patterns will cause more harm than good.
    ==========================================================
    You seem to have bought into the catastrophic part.
    All of those things also happen naturally.
    The only other choice is that we are trying to control the weather/climate.
    If you buy into the we are affecting the climate, then you are forced to buy into the “we can control the climate”.
    Do you really think we can control the weather/climate? that is preposterous.

  130. Johnegg says:
    December 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm
    “There just aren’t any “clean” coal power technologies that are proven or of reasonable cost”
    The term ‘clean coal’ doesn’t normally have anything to do with capturing CO2. It addresses the other coal pollutants and since they tend to be 50% more efficient then conventional coal plants the amount of CO2 emitted/Megawatt is decreased by 30%.
    Most of new Chinese power plants are ‘Ultra Critical Coal’ with thermal efficiencies around 45% compared to a conventional coal plant with a thermal efficiency of 30%.
    As far as price, ‘Clean Coal’ plants cost between 1/2 and 2/3rds of what a nuclear power plant costs.

  131. Coal is green.
    Once all the warming science fog has cleared, CO2 will be seen as the universal fertiliser with no whatsoever effect on Earth’s temperature.
    It so happens that coal contains 100% of the bodies and minerals of the plants that decayed to make it. Thus burning CO2 from coal is accompanied with emissions of the most perfect and balanced fertiliser to let nature sequester CO2 in the form of bigger harvests over larger areas.
    Worst green energy is natural gas because it has no fertiliser left in it, but oil fares a little better.
    The only problem remaining is that coal electricity is produced at point-sources which are too large, thus producing hindrance from sulphur emissions. If exhausts could be spread more evenly around, coal would be the greenest fuel without serious complications.

  132. Ira wrote: “That is why I favor a modest carbon tax.”
    We already have one. It’s called the Federal Excise Tax, and it’s collected on nearly all carbon-based fuels:
    coal – $.55 – $1.10/ton
    gasoline – 18.4 cpg
    diesel – 24 cpg
    aviation fuel – 7.5% of the retail price
    natural gas, home heating oil, LPG, etc.

  133. As usual there is a lot of off hand dismissal of alternate energy potential. As it stands right now most of that attitude is right, but entrepreneurs and engineers tend to make progress.
    Solar PV right now sucks. Nanosolar has a novel approach that should make solar PV more practical. They may be getting sidetracked with the utility scale collectors, but the light weight, printing press style manufacture solar cells have a lot of realistic potential.
    Wind power (and wave power) have limited utility as it stands connected to the grid. Stand alone, they can be productive producing stored energy, aka hydrogen, if fell cells were embraced. I like fuel cell technology. It kicks butt.
    I think biofuels from food stocks or grown on land displacing food production is stupid. There are biomass options suited for non-arable land. Those aren’t so stupid.
    Clean coal is doable and as mentioned more attractive with higher oil costs per barrel. Clean coal would help stabilize energy costs. Power generation with coal gasification is limited economically, but the products that can be produced, gasoline, diesel and various feed stocks for other industries is where its real value is.
    Co-generation, nuclear/coal gasification can improve thermal efficiency of both processes. There are a lot of interesting ideas to expand co-generation.
    Sequestered carbon dioxide has limited utility. I cannot see just pumping a perfectly useful product in the dirt without some return on the effort. Carbon dioxide fertilization of biomass (Algae has a good bit of research done on this subject) has potential.
    All of these can and are being started without carbon tax money. Tax breaks, guaranteed loans and some subsidies are better motivators until the market can take over. For example: A two Billion dollar investment is enough to build a basic gaseous fuel infrastructure. Start on the West coast so all the celebs, tree huggers and techno millionaires can put their money where their mouth is. Then let the market decide. That two billion is a fraction of what it took to bailout AIG. Then let somebody “Pimp My FCV Ride.”
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/141165/pimp_my_fcv_ride.html?cat=15
    🙂

  134. Ira comments on my post December 31, 2010 at 7:24 am
    Myrrh says “I am not an historian, all dates should be checked for flow of events..” I (Ira) have high regard for PM Thatcher and wish to disassociate myself from what appears to me to be somewhat confused political spin. Ira]
    Well Ira, as Chilli noted at 3:27 am,
    A very confused article that gives far too much ground to scare-mongering alarmists and climate profiteers. You’ve bolded Mann’s statements as if to ridicule them, but later you seem to accept what he says fully and agree we need to “act on CO2”. Sorry, it’s time to stop complementing the emperor on his new clothes and instead shout from the snow-covered rooftops that he’s naked.
    Perhaps Chilli is being charitable. I have my doubts that your piece is confused. It can as easily be read as very clear well-thought out example of the propoganda technique I outlined in my post re the oil industry – deflecting criticism of outright support by appearing to castigate the subject.
    Here in your post the subject is Hansen, and in my post the example is the oil industry in general whose involvement in demonising its cheap rival coal by driving the AGW agenda is well known to few. (By setting up and controlling CRU in the 70’s, who sent Salinger to corrupt NZ temp records and further became involved in IPCC, etc. Oil and Nuclear continue to fund and control CRU).
    Cleverly using the the Green environmental movement to deflect from knowledge of this involvement by getting criticism directed against itself is using a well known propoganda technique. How to ostensibly seem to be ridiculing or villifying the subject all the while actually promoting its aims, the weaving in of the desired end result, support for the ‘we must act now on CO2’ mantra. The message continues.
    I’m making no judgement whatsoever as to which scenario is the truth here, I don’t know you or anything about you. Chilli could well be right, you’re simply presenting a confused message. Perhaps because the anti-CO2 campaign is now in process even longer than Moses took to indoctrinate a new generation, taught in schools to our children as if the norm and fact, confusion is rife.
    My post was tracing the line of interaction from the early environmentalists and how the big oil business, and nuclear and natural gas) hand in glove with political interests used green energy to fuel this scaremongering to protect its own capitalist interests. (And brilliantly profitting from all associated projects, taxing CO2 the best scam of all, built on what you’re promoting here.)
    Margaret Thatcher sold the people’s assets to cheap fuel and now even water to the benefit of the few. The bankers continue to be well renumerated while the people are put into further tax slavery to pay their gambling debts. Oh how all agree that it is for our own good that we take further pay and benefit cuts and pay more for fuel and pay higher taxes, and destroy the national health service by turning it as electicity and water, into a business for others to profit from – we have to pull in our belts to make Britain strong again, we’re all in it together..
    You may have a high regard for Maggie, I voted for her.. I’ve never voted in England since, digusted with myself for my naivety re politics when I saw how she was actually against real people. I was a lot younger then. Now, I see how easy she was to manipulate. In her last book she denounces all the AGW claims, a total about face to the speech she gave when she opened the Hadley centre in the early 90’s and making nonsense of her involvement in setting up the IPCC. Whose current head is oil interests.
    Manipulated by whom? Ah, there’s the rub. Is it simply a battle by some big business interests against its cheap and abundant rival? Blair’s New Labour was no different in political aims to the Tories, but with the added strange twist of desiring complete control over everyone in a Big (Surveillance) Society. Crime rate in England is very low, but we wouldn’t know it by all the scares and proliferation of cctv cameras. So what’s really going on? Is it big business controlling the political parties and using the environmentalists, or the environmentalists controlling the political parties? Who are the environmentalists? They’re a weird lot, claiming they stand for protection of the natural environment and yet against people as if we’re not part and parcel of the natural world. Here’s one view of them.
    http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2007/2007_10-19/2007-13/pdf/51_713_glowarm.pdf
    But anyway, Ira, surely there’s no reason to support the continuing demonisation of CO2 as a danger and a problem to be solved without actual scientific, and not using corrupted data, proof? I ditto Chilli’s conclusion.
    [above URL not working for me ~ac]

  135. Mankind requires four basic needs to survive.
    1 / Water; he cannot survive more than a few days without water.
    2 / Food; He cannot survive for more than a few weeks without food.
    3 / Shelter; Be it in the form of personal protection such as clothes or in the form of physical cover be it anything from a cave to a mansion, he will at some time need shelter from the elements and in the more extreme environments, he will need shelter / personal protection from the elements of some sort all the time.
    4 / Energy; the ability to use and control energy is the fundamental difference between mankind and animals.
    Even a cow dung fire, possibly the lowest and poorest form of energy that mankind can usefully use, is a fundamental basis that differentiates mankind from animals.
    Anybody knowing the history of the development of our modern industrial civilisation will know that the development of very cheap, very reliable and very useable energy using the newly invented coal fired steam engines first developed by Thomas Savery in 1698 and then by advances in efficiency by James Watt [ there must be something unique in that “Watt” lineage!! ] in Britain in the 1700’s became the base on which the world’s entire modern industrial civilisation has been developed and built.
    And this industrial civilisation has been most successful in the countries where energy historically has been abundantly and cheaply available enabling the users and consumers to put their available resources towards developing the technologies that are a feature of our industrial society.
    The mining and production of cheap coal is in every case the base upon which the modern civilisation has built out industrial society.
    The use of oil came later and gas as an energy source only very recently.
    Coal is still our major, most useable and cheapest energy source and will continue to be so for many decades to come.
    Now it seems that for some totally unproven but ideological and dogma based beliefs from what is seen increasingly as an earth worshipping environmental cult, energy is to be made more expensive through taxing and thereby the rationing of energy.
    All because of some unproven and unsupported belief by a western based environmental cult’s belief in some future catastrophic climate change of unknown and unforecastable time frames and unknown and unforecastable extent from a miniscule increase in a minor but essential to all life atmospheric gas, CO2.
    So more of [ western ? ] mankind’s limited resources are going to be forced, for ideological reasons only, to be put into purchasing energy for every purpose.
    And that then places limits on the availability of resources that can be used to create further developments that will take our civilisation to new levels and a better and more prosperous global society which would lift an ever greater portion of our global population out of the poverty mire and provide a better life for all.
    Cheap, very cheap and abundant and readily available energy for all is the key to mankind advancing further up civilisation’s ladder.
    To limit energy and therefore our civilisation’s advances through the taxing of the main sources of energy, coal, oil and gas because of some ideologically based and totally unproven dogma about the dangers of a miniscule rise in the levels of a minor greenhouse gas is stupidity beyond belief.

  136. bananabender says:
    December 31, 2010 at 2:23 am
    The entire AGW scam is an attempt by the natural gas industry to destroy the coal industry. The CRU was founded by Shell and BP to provide a “scientific” case for closing the British coal industry to sell more North Sea gas.

    I’ve been in the natural gas transmission business for over 25 years. The consensus among my peers is that using NG for electrical generation, other than peak-shaving, is just totally nuts. It might be different for a distributed (neighborhood) type of infrastructure, but generation facilities have always tended to be the larger centralized plants, presumably for efficiencies of scale.
    So, at least here in North America, there’s no push that I’m aware of by the NG industry to use political pressure to force the building of gas-fired generation plants. The push is entirely from the regulatory end, as far as I can determine. Electrical generation forces my industry to invest in facilities a lot for very little financial gain, given the rate structures imposed by (again) regulators. This in turn causes our rates for residential and commercial use to be higher than they would otherwise be.
    We’re a very conservative industry and are in it for the very long term. Wasting our product on something better served by coal or nukes, at great expense to us, isn’t something we’re actively promoting.

  137. Shale Gas – harrywr2 – “lets do the math” Or rather, lets look at the math as it was done. Over the last 100 years. Concerning oil reserves. Proven reserves grow and grow and grow. “peak oil” just keeps slipping away. This is the same ol’ song.
    I will take back, “virtually unlimited” if you will acknowledge that EIA’s estimates are bound to be only a small, small fraction of what we can extract. The size and potential of these shale formations just boggles the mind. The United States is to shale what nobody else is to oil. The middle east is just a piker.
    And we haven’t even talked about the methane hydrates in shale.
    Now about wind…. If I ran a power company, I would be nuts to “invest” in wind. It’s inherently intermittent. I need to count on my capacity to hit my peaks. Who needs more unreliable base load? And besides the nightmare wind poses for transmission is no mere bad dream! Really high capital costs too! If I ran the power company, I would want to build distributed gas peaking stations. Build stations where I need them, run them as needed. Gas is clean, its cheap, its reliable, its where it needs to be. There is so much of it. Gas is a beautiful thing!

  138. In a couple hours here in central Florida it will be HAPPY NEW YEAR. This topic has been more controversial than my previous topics due to my support for a carbon tax, the only controversial issue where I agree with James Hansen (pardon the expression :-). I thank all for being relatively courteous despite that fact. I hope this thread continues actively into the NEW YEAR, but, even if it does not, this has been an awesome learning experience for me and I thank all of you, including those who do not (yet :^) see eye to eye with me. It was especially instructive to have several active commenters who know more about coal gassification and liquidization and other topics than I ever will.
    Thanks especially to Anthony Watt and all his helpers on WUWT for providing an invaluable forum for serious discussion, with a bit of friendly humor to spice it all up.

  139. >>Abott
    >>And besides the nightmare wind poses for transmission is no mere
    >>bad dream! Really high capital costs too!
    And really high maintenence too, from what I see. I fly over these things daily, and there always seems to be 10-15% that are facing the wrong way and idle.
    .

  140. Brad says:
    December 31, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Show me their capacity figures, not an insane rant about them.

    I’m not sure why you think my citation of common facts about capacity factors are “rants”, and after all, it was you that claimed your lights stay on because of the windmills, so maybe you ought to be giving me the generation numbers. But since I don’t think you’re up to it, here are your generation numbers from MidAmerican for 2008.
    http://puc.sd.gov/commission/Events/EnergyConfPresentations/BrentGale.pdf
    See slide 8
    About 95% of the power came from fossil fuels and nuclear.
    If you think we’re “playing”, then you better raise your game.

  141. rats, screwed up the blockquotes again.
    Too close to midnight. Happy New Year everyone.
    [ Fixed it for ya. Sip, sip 😉 – MODe ]

  142. Brad, why are you shouting?

    2) The penetration rate of wind will be 20% by 2030 and we are on pace to reach that, thus large amounts of the new capacity will be wind.
    http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/wind/about.html

    Your “evidence” is a link to the schedule for a two-day course that was offered by Iowa State University. Just clicking on the Home link I found out:

    Some would like to see as much as 20% of the total electrical energy generated from wind by the year 2030. With the strong start that Iowa and Minnesota have made, it might be possible to exceed 20% by 2030. This course will look at the challenges that must be met if the 20% level is to be achieved and exceeded.

    Doesn’t sound like your definitive proclamation “…will be 20% by 2030…” at all.
    From your original link, I can see many pie-in-the-sky concepts floated in the presentation descriptions, of perhaps marginal technical feasibility if not anywhere near economic feasibility. My favorite:

    Finally, Kyle Howells of American Superconductor (AMSC) will show how underground DC super conductor cables coupled with voltage source converters can deliver bulk electrical energy while overcoming many of the challenges posed by high voltage overhead lines.

    Underground high-voltage electrical cables? All over Iowa? Yeah, that’s feasible. Sure…
    You better have some other evidence to back up that “will be 20% by 2030” claim. What you have provided tells me it’s unlikely without STRONG government intervention, which would include financing, and even with it there is no guarantee.

    3) MidAmerican just built a new gas and a coal plant, so they may not need capacity at the moment, but they will.

    Which would be dependable base load capacity, not “peaking” generation as wind is, thus MidAmerican is looking into building a new nuclear plant.

    4) Who do you think pays for nuke plants? Utilities can’t afford them thus the US gov does pay for large portions of those as well, thus your gov argument is partially obviated by reality.

    Besides what Doug Badgero said, I’ll point out that many utilities can afford the plants, and would like them. But there are endless regulatory hurdles like innumerable “Environmental Impact Statements,” never-ending lawsuits by organized Green groups of “concerned individuals,” many other problems. Included in the US is the headache of a lack of a permanent long-term nuclear waste storage facility, which is exacerbated by not having reprocessing of spent fuel.
    Which is why I really wish we’d start using the proven Canadian-designed CANDU reactor, which is comfortably capable of using “spent” fuel from our pressurized water reactors. Designed originally for low-grade uranium, it can use many different fuels, would drastically reduce any need for reprocessing, and reduce the need for long-term waste storage. Indeed, we have such a stockpile of “spent” fuel from our light water reactors, we could fuel many CANDU reactors for a century or more without extracting one more bit of uranium from the ground. The design has been exported to China and elsewhere. We should have them in the US as well. Any resulting explosion of Green heads from the shifting of the paradigms about what the Greens absolutely “knew” about nuclear power will be an added beneficial side effect.

    1) the energy hog east of the Mississsipi is Chicago and all the utilities out here sell energy into that market. Chicago is the driver for both Buffett and the French buying into Midwestern companies, so there is not a need for a transmission line, only the energy hog in Chicago needing huge amounts of peak power at very high rates in the summer. (…)

    If there’s no need for a transmission line, then why are they saying they need one to get that new Iowa wind power to the other markets?
    Ah, Chicago!

    ComEd (a division of Exelon) operates the greatest number of nuclear generating plants in any US state. Because of this, ComEd reports indicate that Chicago receives about 75% of its electricity from nuclear power.

    If, as you have said, that electricity will be going to Chicago, then your other post is meaningless. The electricity goes to Chicago, which is in Illinois, and Illinois has the renewable mandate.
    From the esteemed Pew Center on Global Climate Change (I love their slogan: Working Together…Because Climate Change is Serious Business) comes their Renewable & Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards list, click on Illinois. From the linked press release (pdf of M$ Word doc):

    Chicago, IL –Today, Governor Blagojevich signed into law a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) and an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) that are among the most ambitious in the nation. The RES will require Illinois utilities to supply 2% of their power from renewable energy sources by 2008, 10% by 2015, and 25% by 2025.

    The Pew Center listing says:

    Seventy-five percent of the electricity used to meet the renewable standard must come from wind power generation; other eligible electricity resources include solar, biomass, and existing hydropower sources.

    Unneeded wind power installed in Iowa that will receive a tax credit, using a new transmission line paid for by all users, will be sending electricity east of the Mississippi, to a market where renewable use is mandated, which you have identified as Illinois, for use in Chicago.

    You make several assumptions in your article, so let me correct some:

    Which ones did you correct? I haven’t noticed any yet…
    —————–
    Interesting Illinois Info!
    By the Renewable Energy mandates:
    At 75% of the 25% renewables by 2025 having to come from wind, that’ll be 18-3/4% of all electricity coming from wind in 2025.
    From Treehugger comes a report about a new solar power mandate in Illinois, taking effect in January 2011 (just a few hours from now). Through stepped increases, utilities must buy more electricity from solar, up to 6% by June 2015.
    If the 6% is maintained through 2025, that leaves 0.25% to be generated by the “…other eligible electricity resources…” of “…biomass, and existing hydropower sources.” (Pew Center listing).
    Yup, that’ll sure spur innovation and investment in biomass, besides helping the economy overall.
    Question: Since Chicago gets 75% of their electricity from nuclear, if that stays constant to 2025, does that mean Chicago will have to get by with 75% nuclear for base load with 24.75% “as available” wind and solar?
    Here comes the rolling summer blackouts…

  143. The trouble is the IPCC are assuming our consumption of fossil fuels will keep increasing, because it MUST to keep the world economy growing. But Peak Oil, Peak Coal and Peak Gas together will produce Peak Fossils by about 2026 and after that the only way to increase energy supplies growing is to turn to less efficient sources, like Uranium. That will quickly bring about Peak Uranium. And wind and solar are so thinly dispersed and intermittent that they are even less efficient to use. We will soon reach the point (if we haven’t already) where there will not be enough energy available to rebuild the world’s entire electricity generation system, the electric cars, trucks, airplanes, ships, bulldozers, cement factories, the metals smelting industries (iron, copper, etc) AND keep the lights on at the same time.
    If you factor Peak Fossils into the IPCC scenarios, then we get about 1.8°C warming, before the take-up of CO2 by the oceans starts to bring temperatures down again. The IPCC is banned from mentioning these scenarios by their paymasters, because the obvious implication is that there will be Peak Civilisation well within one human lifetime, and that would be bad for business.
    In reality, the absence of taking Peak Oil seriously, will quickly lead to a collapse into war and chaos, and an economic crash from which the world will not recover.

  144. If the real desire is to build “emission free” power plants there already exist well proven technologies that can combust coal and capture CO2, at close to zero emissions, for use in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) which at the end can be sequestered in the depleted oil well. The coal combustion technology is a technology with plants running in Sweden, Germany, and Japan and that technology combined with the Benfield CO2 capture technology that has been in operation in over 700 plants over the past 30 years. In respect to the EOR we have an already active market in US which makes economic sense compared with just sequestering the CO2 into the ground. We have a 1 MWt test facility in US that has demonstrated that already with a mix of 3% bio fuel and 97% waste coal the combination of the above technologies will result in a power plant with a negative carbon foot print at near zero emissions. I.e. with this combination of well proven existing technologies we can clean the environment from the alleged dangerous CO2 that to my knowledge not even wind turbines nor any other technologies have done so far.
    However any solution that solves the alleged “problem” is not a techno-economic issue but a political why it is not genuinely supported by governments and anybody else who is blinded by the opportunity to tap into this enormous source of cash that will float around in the artificial carbon economy. The sad news is that the vilification of coal and CO2 will not benefit the environment nor the energy consumer and it will move the hundreds of millions less fortunate living in sub-human conditions, due to lack of access to affordable energy, even farther away form a chance to improve their living conditions.

  145. “Clean coal” is a chimera, just like “green energy”. There is no such thing except in the unrealistic dreaming of romantic people. CCS (Co2 capture and sequestration) is not technically or economically feasible, and probably will never be. We will continue using coal the old way (maybe with a little improved efficiency), even if the earth will burn as a result (it won’t). Get off the anti-co2 hysteria.

  146. Proceeding towards low carbon economies and carbon taxation is economic madness without the global agreement of all high emitters to reduce emissions. Binding agreements on the part of the two elephants (China and India) in the room are crucial (and unlikely).
    The UN projects global coal consumption to increase by 25% in the next 25 years mainly in the developing world. China is already responsible for half of global CO2 emissions from burning coal ( yes China burns 50% of world output!) and the proportion will increase. China plans to build 400GW of coal fired power plant in the next 10 years. As part of its low carbon plans the UK will close down about 10GW of coal fired plant, i.e. the Chinese will build 40 times as much as the UK plans to close. China has now become the biggest market for vehicles.
    In the UK the Indian owners have closed down a major steelworks and thereby received carbon credits worth billions of dollars from the UK government and the EU. These funds will help fund a new steelworks in India. Net result – British jobs exported to India at cost of billions to the taxpayer and impact on global carbon emissions – zero.
    When will governments carry out a proper cost-benefit analysis as any competent business would do. It is nonsense to claim that we must all do our bit. This approach is utterly futile without a meaningful global agreement.

  147. Spen,
    “In the UK the Indian owners have closed down a major steelworks and thereby received carbon credits worth billions of dollars from the UK government and the EU. These funds will help fund a new steelworks in India. Net result – British jobs exported to India at cost of billions to the taxpayer and impact on global carbon emissions – zero.”
    Yes, but it helps the UK to achieve it’s co2 emission reduction targets as decreed by our masters in Brussels. Now if we could only drive the rest of our manufacturing overseas 🙂

  148. Many folks here in Wallowa County relied on coal heat in the past. Though the ranch house originally used wood fireplaces (like everyone else in this isolated valley), it has a wall of coal-impeded soil in the back yard up next to the foundation, where the delivery was made into the basement holding stall when the family switched from all wood to a mix of wood and coal. The old-fashioned huge coal stove in the basement was eventually closed up and the large heat grate in the basement ceiling planked over. From the basement we would fill our buckets and trudge up the steep basement stairs to the main floor to fill the coal stove hoppers, and then up to the second floor to fill those. Later, the upper floor stoves were replaced with oil stoves, which were eventually tied into the oil tank out back. My grandpa finally replaced the coal stove on the main floor with an oil stove. No more filling of buckets and removing clinkers. There is still maybe 4 buckets of coal waiting to be used down in the basement and if I screened the soil out back, I could probably get another 4 buckets. By the way, today’s air tight wood stoves will burn coal. After my grandparents died, all the stoves on the second floor were removed. The main floor ceiling grates kept the second floor from Arctic temperatures. But only just that.
    The house currently uses a combination of a newer diesel oil stove in the living room and an air tight wood stove in the large family parlor now used as my bedroom. I only heat the main floor and then only part of that. The closed off old entry, formal parlor, master bedroom, “Grandpa’s den”, the second floor, and the laundry room are without heat. It is an old, old mansion without any insulation, and I can’t possibly heat 4300 square feet of her.
    However, we still have that old cast iron coal stove in the basement, right where it was left. It is incredibly heavy. I could hook it back up to the chimney again, uncover the ornate grate and add a short section of heating duct from the stove to the grate, and use it if push comes to shove.
    If my heating bill starts to rise out of control from all these “value added” renewable taxes, by gawd push just might come to shove.

  149. 1 Smartest Pres evah approved another 2 billion for Future gen coal fired electric Illinois. Dirty dollars from Chinese debt => dirty politicians => Illinios cronies => dirty coal => and we now have clean coal and clean electric
    2 Coal ash is super for an additive in concrete.
    3 World Bank approved a controversial three-billion-dollar loan for a coal-fired power plant in South Africa Thursday
    4 2010 I recall that UK sold a little over 50 electric cars. Like Wow. Nothing like seeing people express their faith at the cash register.
    5 If a Chinese electric car has a single charge cruising range 35 miles how would that work out in a blizzard where they don’t have heaters and defrosters in the cars or the few that do, shorten their driving range? Hey 10 minutes of electric heat waiting for a tow truck is better that no heat.

  150. I forgot to add to the above post of mine that South Africa is also building a massive coal to liquids facility. I won’t bother to do the math since a previous poster shows the btus of coal and similar btu chart for liquid fuel. The net end cost of fuel is very reasonable compared to 90 dollar crude today.

  151. @Ira
    You take it as a matter of faith that high atmospheric CO2 is a bad thing. That appears to fly in the face of everything we know in the field of botany and everything we know from the geologic column. When CO2 levels were far higher than today the earth was verdant from pole to pole. Why would anyone possibly prefer barren frozen wastelands to lush greenery?
    [Dave, what has the highest CO2 level been since human times on Earth? I believe that would be today at around 390 ppmv. I do not think we have any kind of crisis, nor do I think a doubling to around 800 ppmv would increase average temperatures more than a fraction of a degree C. On the other hand, as a conservative, and a system engineer, I get concerned about more than doubling any parameter without knowing all the consequesces. My support for a low, steadily rising, across the board carbon tax is as much motivated by the costs of protecting our sources of foreign petroleum, both in dollars and blood. Ira]

  152. Re: Pamela Gray says:
    January 1, 2011 at 6:15 am
    Now you’ve gone a put yourself on Big Brother’s watch-list. I see a “bucket tax” in your future. Big Bro will also appreciate the detailed listing of that chamber of fossil and tree-eating horrors your ancestors squirreled away in “The Big House”.

  153. latitude, ROM and a few others:
    You say things like humans can’t control the climate, environmentalism is an ideological and dogma based cult, and future catastrophies are unknown and of unforcastable timeframe and extent. Forgive me if I’ve misrepresented anybody’s individual position by lumping that together, but the common theme seems to be that there is no reason to believe climate change is dangerous, but rather a natural process, possibly too big for humans to influence.
    Natural Process:
    Yes, climate is always changing, due to many driving forces. Right now, humans are the main driving force. Atmospheric CO2 is higher now than any time in recent history. We know this is due to human activity because humans add CO2 to the carbon cycle without removing a balancing amount, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels. We also observe that the ratio of two specific carbon isotopes is lower in biological matter than the atmosphere, so if burning of fossil fuels is linked to increased CO2, the atmospheric ratio of those isotopes should be dropping, which is what is actually happening.
    There is also a very well-established lower bound on the sensitivity of climate to CO2 changes. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the estimate, but it has been the subject of a lot of research over the last few decades, and it is unlikely that the effect of CO2 is negligible.
    So, while climate change is natural, by our best observations humans are in fact dominating the forces that drive the natural cycles.
    As for the danger of climate change (and the related issue of model accuracy): as just one example, a significant sea level rise would impact millions of people living at or below sea level. At a minimum, there would be economic impacts from adapting to increased flooding, storm surges and so on. There would probably more severe effects, but I think we can agree on the economic impacts at a minimum. So, is the sea level rising? Yes, direct observations show that it is rising, and in fact on the upper end of the model predictions from 20 years ago.
    In fact, today’s models accurately reproduce temperature over the last 100 years, but only when the effect of CO2 is included. Those models apparently do work, and their predecessors have, if anything, been conservative of predictions of sea level rise, arctic ice melt, and so on.
    Now, I’m no climate scientist, but then again, most of us here aren’t. I could be reading the wrong research, or overlooking its flaws. However, to date in my reading, whenever I look into another aspect of climate change I find that I can get to credible primary sources, and data from direct observations, usually backed up with multiple lines of evidence.
    I really hope CAGW is wrong, but I’m still looking for a model that accounts for observed changes in temperature, CO2, sea level, arctic ice, solar cycles, and human activity but provides another explanation or outcome besides CAGW.
    Seriously, I’m still looking for that model. I try my best to not be dogmatic or ideological, I’m quite eager to continue the discussion and learn more.
    [Christopher, I am with you that unprecedented rates of rise in atmospheric CO2 (in human times) are substantially due to human activities, and that atmospheric CO2 is partially responsible for the warming over the past century and a half. But, I cannot agree when you assert: “Right now, humans are the main driving force.” Where we differ is: How Much? and How Bad? I think only about 10% of the claimed global warming (<0.1ºC) is due to human activities (the rest due to data bias and natural cycles), and that less than half the CO2 rise is due to human burning of fossil fuels (the rest due to the temp increase slowing ocean absrbtion and increasing ocean outgassing). There is a bit of AGW, but it is not CAGW. Ira]

  154. Re:Christopher says:
    January 1, 2011 at 9:09 am
    So many error and so little time. I’ll address just one:
    “So, is the sea level rising? Yes, direct observations show that it is rising, and in fact on the upper end of the model predictions from 20 years ago.”
    Sea levels have been rising since the end of the last Ice Age. The models of 20 years ago predicted the rate of rise would increase dramatically over the ensuing 20 years. It has not. Instead, the averaged rate of rise since satellite began recording global average sea levels has DECLINED from 3.2mm/year to 3.1mm/year.
    The simple fact of the matter is that almost NOTHING the models of 20 years ago predicted has come to pass. In a sane world, the basic underlying assumption of the AGW climate models (positive feedback to CO2 forcing) would have long since been discarded.

  155. W Abbott says:
    December 31, 2010 at 6:24 pm
    “Shale Gas – harrywr2 – “lets do the math” Or rather, lets look at the math as it was done. Over the last 100 years. Concerning oil reserves. Proven reserves grow and grow and grow. “peak oil” just keeps slipping away.”
    How about we agree ‘Peak’ anything is an economic discussion, not a geologic discussion.
    I’ll happily agree that geologically, coal, oil and natural gas never run out.
    In 1978 US electrical generation from oil reached it’s highest level and was second only to coal. It has since declined. ‘peak oil consumption’ in other then the transportation sector occurred in 1978.
    In the late 1960’s oil was cheap, it was going to remain cheap forever, we built oil fired power plants, built huge housing subdivisions without bothering to put natural gas lines in the the street and drove around in cars that got 6 MPG. By the late 1970’s the ‘cheap forever’ oil was gone. I had to pay the junkyard to take my 6 MPG Oldsmobile.
    The wellhead price of natural gas is pretty low at the moment.
    The city gate prices vary quite a bit though. In October they were between $4.22 in California and $7.89 in New Hampshire.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/data_publications/natural_gas_monthly/current/pdf/table_17.pdf
    If I look at monthly generating statistics Natural gas accounted for 39% of all the electricity generated from fossil fuels in August.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table1_1.html
    If I look at generating capacity, natural gas already represents 40% of total capacity and 50% of fossil fuel generating capacity.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p2.html
    EIA estimates are normally ‘economically recoverable’ estimates.
    I.E. How much can we can get at a price relatively close to the current price.
    We currently import 3 trillion CF of natural gas from our good Canadian friends. What happens if the Chinese offer our good Canadian friends more then we do for their natural gas?
    I’m not saying using a bit more natural gas is not a good idea, just that we should maybe stop and think about what percent of our eggs we want to put in that basket.

  156. Claude Harvey:
    When I have a little more time (have to run out shortly) I’ll do a bit more research into model predictions on sea level rise and historical trends in sea level on geological time frames. In the meantime, if you can post some links to papers or data sources to speed up that search, I’d greatly appreciate it.
    As you point out, direct observations do show continuing sea level rise. So the question is: what model of natural processes explains this continuing rise?
    As an aside, you say that postive feedback to CO2 forcing is an assumption of AGW climate models, but from my reading there is direct evidence to believe CO2 is a forcing factor in climate. As well, if you don’t include CO2 forcing in the models, proof-testing the models against known data gets worse, not better. I know this is a whole other topic, and I don’t necessarily want to sidetrack us from the first one, but do you have any pointers to research or models that accurately simulate climate without the CO2 forcing?
    I genuinely want to make sure I understand all sides of this issue.
    [Christopher, yes CO2 rise does drive temp up, but not as much as the GCMs (global climate models) claim, else the steady CO2 rise of the past decade and a half would have increased average temperatures by more than they have increased. None of the standard GCMs predict what has occured, therefore the models are wrong at least with respect to CO2 sensitivity. In another decade, we may see stabilization and even some global cooling. So how do the models, to some extent, retrodict the past century? They ignore or downplay the effects of multi-decadal ocean and solar cycles, and model clouds incorrectly, and make up for that by overplaying CO2 sensitivity. Given a number of points, you can come up with any number of equations for smooth lines that link them, but that does not make the theory of the equations true. For a start, they need to predict the future, and the GCMs don’t. Ira]

  157. Re: Christopher says:
    January 1, 2011 at 10:34 am
    For the satellite record of average sea level rise go to:
    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
    Note the apparent break in the trend beginning in 1996. That break has now reduced the average over the recorded period from 3.2mm/yr. to 3.1mm/yr. That change was quietly posted several months back and without the breathless announcements that would have accompanied the change had the rate of rise broken in the “increasing” direction.
    The historic and relentless rise that has gone on ever since the last Ice Age (sometimes in fits and starts) is generally attributed to thermal expansion to the oceans as warmer temperature slowly works its way down into the depths (the oceans are a monstrously large heat sink).
    For those interested in truth for its own sake, I also recommend the following site:
    http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/
    There you can see the satellite record of global average temperature at various altitudes updated daily. It should be a real eye-opener. After all the media hype about 2010 having been such a hot year, note the the temperature at 14,000 feet (the typically agreed upon standard altitude for measuring “average”) had returned to and today remains at the 20-year average. Nothing you will see on the satellite charts is remotely consistent with past predictions of the AGW climate models.
    “Seek and ye shall find”. If you seek truth, you can find it. If you seek that which you wish to see, you can find that too. The choice is yours to decide.

  158. Dear Ira:
    Where did you get the “philosophy” that oil and gas are “fossil fuels”? My guess is the same place you got the AGW mythology. Don’t you know that everything “they” have taught us is wrong? Sometimes 180° wrong?
    Where did the methane, ethane, and higher hydrocarbons come from on Titan? Fossils? I think not (although some desperate warm-earthers have proposed that ages ago, biological processes were the culprit. Dinosaurs of Titan?) The Russians have solved this dilemma decades ago, and that is why they know where to drill now—above fault areas where the high heat and temperature achieve what you and others have shown here through the discussion of the chemistry of carbon.—and the Russians have switched from net importers to net exporters of hydrocarbons in the last two decades.
    Oil and gas are not primarily of biological origin, of this I am convinced (I am a physical organic chemist, but the logic is there for any non-chemist to analyze—Google “abiogenic oil, and see the reasons that oil is likely produced via inorganic chemistry, and why oil cannot be formed biologically, and decide for yourselves).
    Let’s be neutral here, and give up the “fossil fuel” moniker, and use “hydrocarbon fuel” instead. It is more scientific.
    [Bubbagyro, abiogenic petroleum (Wikipedia) would be a nice theory, if true. But, concludes this detailed 2006 paper (Resource Geology) “This theory is therefore invalid.” Sorry about that. Ira]

  159. What I find very ironic, being a sceptic and all of global warming and thusly crave that the religious climate hippies produce evidence, is the fact that when it comes to CO2 concentration, levels, everyone agrees even though the supposedly evidence is just the same as the evidence for CAGW which pretty much boils down to that because nobody has been able to find any other explanation then it must be so and so.
    So what are the actual evidence that the rise in global average concentration of CO2 is human induced this time around when we even can’t explain the earlier rises when humans presumably wasn’t around?
    Essentially I have a problem finding the studies that actually prove, empirically, it is because of the presence of human industry that the ppmv of CO2 is rising.
    Or am I supposed to allow the childish logical train of thought that goes something like this: Humans burn coal and oil. CO2 levels are rising. Therefore humans are the cause of CO2 levels rising.
    Of course when looking a wee bit closer, “everyone” knows the rise is not 100% of human emissions, humans only cause part of the rise. Looking even closer it could be as low as 5% of the total, apparently. Going further, one is lead to believe that these 5% is some sort of a tipping point, so humans are the cause and are to be blamed anyway.
    The science behind the cause of CO2 rise, if there actually is any that can be labeled science, is, apparently it seems, as ludicrous as the pseudo science behind CAGW.

  160. Re: 1DandyTroll says:
    January 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm
    I think if you take a look at the infamous, 450-thousand-year chart The Goracle used to incorrectly prove that CO2 drove temperature (it’s actually the other way around), you can draw a reasonable conclusion as follows:
    The current level of CO2 is 75 to 100 parts per million higher that it was during previous temperature peaks similar to today’s. That additional CO2 concentration is probably man’s industrial contribution.
    As to whether that contribution makes much of a difference one way or the other, compare it to the total volume of gasses in the atmosphere. You’ll have a hard time convincing yourself the a 1/4-inch man-made tail is wagging a 100-yard-long dog.

  161. 1DandyTroll says:
    January 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm
    The devil is in the assumptions: the CO2 warm-earthers use a residence time for CO2 of hundreds of years, whereas it has been proven that it resides for approximately 4 years. Almost all of their assumptions, from the former to saturation levels for light absorption of CO2, to sun variance being negligible, to water vapor having a positive forcing, to dozens of other ASSumptions, are just plain wrong. Purposively wrong, in my opinion. Because all of the assumptions are skewed to the warm-earther side of the equation.

  162. Harry,
    We seem to want to have an argument; except we keep agreeing about everything. Our energy ‘eggs” will not end up in the same basket as long as we have a free market in energy. Natural Gas isn’t a very good motor fuel, at least it has “issues” – ask the transit people what they deal with using CNG for buses. As for the Chinese outbidding us for Canadian gas – well – issues again – transport of of LNG isn’t cheap.
    But it is exciting we have plentiful and affordable gas to generate electricity – just the something that gas does extremely well. It’s the perfect fuel for small distributed stations. Small distributed generating stations are by far the most efficient way to add generating capacity. Peaking capacity.
    The article is about clean coal, ie, carbon sequestration & “renewable electrical energy.” I just think these new discoveries concerning shale gas make those aforementioned sources uneconomical in a free market. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word, “revolution,” but shale gas will redirect our energy future completely away from coal and renewables and bio-fuels. I believe the economics are too compelling for us to do otherwise.

  163. Christopher says:
    January 1, 2011 at 9:09 am
    In fact, today’s models accurately reproduce temperature over the last 100 years, but only when the effect of CO2 is included.
    Christopher, if you think about that statement, instead of simply repeating it as some kind of confirmation of CO2CAGW – which is so far not your fault – you will hopefully see that particular claim as actually quite “telltale” in helping to establish instead that ipcc Climate Science is completely bogus, and is really only a massive Propaganda Operation.
    Because the full truth is that the ipcc Climate Science GCM’s can’t reproduce/postdict the GMT reconstructions without using atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but at the same time the Models can’t make any substantial, correct predictions with CO2!
    So – as a bogus, propagandistic substitute – the “Climate Scientists” have led you to believe that their Models’ postdiction record is very important in verifying their CO2AGW hypothesis just by emphasizing it to you, a tactic which has obviously worked, when it isn’t!
    The real question should be, why aren’t the ipcc Climate Scientists touting their Models’ predictive record? Here’s why: because that record is abysmal! It’s so abysmal that the ipcc Climate Scientists often tell us they are not even making predictions but instead “projections”, which you might recognize as only an intentionally obfuscatory, rhetorical, “word game”, which is exactly what it is!
    In fact, as a result of the consistent objective failure of Climate Science’s CO2CAGW predictions over time, we now see that the ipcc Climate Scientists have finally been reduced to merely launching an increased Propaganda effort after something noticeable happens, to try to make people think it hasn’t happened before and is due to CAGW by implication – that is, just because they are saying you should notice it, and you trust them – when it always turns out that the event is nothing new in the history of weather or climate events and is therefore not explained by CO2CAGW just because it happens.
    The Climate Scientists even try to change or erase their past predictions/”projections” about things which won’t happen because of CO2CAGW, such as very severe and snowy UK Winters, into events which suddenly confirm CO2CAGW – again, by virtue of some convenient ad hoc mechanism – and by denying they made the past predictions in the first place, when the predictions are still easily found on the record!
    And, getting back to the allegedly significant record of the ipcc’s Climate Science Models’ postdictions which “reproduce” the GMT record, the fact is that the Models ~”can’t postdict/explain the past GMT without CO2 concentrations”, because they’ve already dialed in that specific requirement as a necessary feature of their algorithms, then they just adjust the other factors probably involved – including clouds, which they say they don’t even understand – as needed to “reproduce” the official GMT’s! Almost anyone could do that easily, maybe even a Monkey in search of a banana, that is, if the Models didn’t have to also make predictions!
    Christopher, there are a great many other “telltale” features of ipcc Climate Science which prove it is not doing real, Scientific Method, science – such as its refusal to publically show/publish its “materials and methods” work, and its claim that peer review by a few selected peers insures the “given truth” of the work reviewed, which is the direct opposite of how real science works.
    So all anyone really has to do is to look and then make the easy call, instead of believing or trusting that the ipcc Climate Scientists could not possibly not be doing real science, as per the efficacy of the “Big Lie” tactic, and then also accepting or interminably chasing around all of ipcc Climate Science’s “anything goes” never ending Propaganda tactics.
    The fact is that the real threat to the World are the goals of the ipcc Climate Science CO2CAGW Propagnda Operation itself. These “scientists” and their looting and controllist allies mean us no good.

  164. Since Christopher brought up the dangers of rising sea levels, I’d like to warn about another sea-level danger that’s been overlooked or purposely ignored.
    If you look closely at any videos, you can see that sea mammals barely clear the current ocean surface when they breathe. Although large whales clear the surface by several feet, many of the smaller animals like dolphins and seals barely get their nose or blowhole a foot above the water, so if sea levels rise more than that, the animals won’t make it to the top and they’ll all drown. Then the polar bears won’t have anything to eat. 🙁

  165. W Abbott,
    I’ll just put my ‘rule of thumb’ US prices on the table.
    Nuclear = 1 cent/KW fuel + 6 cents/KW in interest payments.
    Dirty Coal(no pollution controsl) = 1-4 cents/KW fuel + 2 cents/KW in interest payments.
    Clean Coal = 1-3 cents/KW fuel + 4 cents/KW in interest payments.
    Natural Gas = 4-8 cents/KW fuel + 1 cent/KW in interest payments.
    For peakers, natural gas is the winner which is why we have 400GW worth of natural gas plants. For baseload it’s really location dependent.
    I watch China pretty closely, they don’t have many peakers(they are still trying to make ‘base load’) and they’ve got 200GW worth of windmills in their 2020 energy plan that are going to need to be load balanced in addition to managing peak loads.
    IMHO Clean Coal(without carbon capture) is worth a look if someone has a good supply of coal that costs less then $2/mmbtu delivered.
    China and India both already import LNG, so they are already paying the price of liquification. So I don’t see that the cost of liquification will be a ‘deal breaker’ for them.
    Personally I wouldn’t plan long term on well head price of natural gas to staying below $6/mmbtu. So I think long term a natural gas plants fuel cost is 6-10 cents/KW depending on location. Still cost effective for peaker units with a utilization rate less then 30%.

  166. It seems like the only thing they agree on is that energy production must be government controlled.

  167. Harry,
    Do you work in generation?
    The LNG gas that goes into China & India comes from Qatar? Market pricing will include transportation costs and Canadian gas will have a much lower delivered price to US customers via pipeline. Its really academic, world demand will drive pricing and availability. But there is a lot of stranded gas in the middle east and Russia. Why do you think well head prices for gas are going higher? Of late gas has trended lower as other hydro-carbon fuels rise. I assumed the lower pricing was do to the shale gas supplies coming “on line” What will cause the increase?

  168. “Christopher says:
    January 1, 2011 at 10:34 am
    In another decade, we may see stabilization and even some global cooling….Ira]”
    I do not believe we have to wait another decade. While Hadcrut3 and GISS DO agree that the last decade was the warmest by a few tenths of a degree, a closer look at Hadcrut3 reveals something interesting. (Although the year 2010 was very warm in both data sets, the warmth was more due to the relatively strong El Nino at the start of the year rather than CO2.) But despite the warm 2010, according to Hadcrut3, the average anomaly for the last five years (2006 to 2010) was 0.42. However the average anomaly for the previous five years (2001 to 2005) was 0.46. This basically means it cooled off during the decade.
    I realize climate is defined by what happens over 30 years. But something else is going on with the climate. There are huge ocean cycles that form a sine wave every 60 years. And right now, we are at the point where we were in the 1950s where things were getting cooler for a few decades and some thought there would be an ice age in the 1970s.
    However it is not just Hadcrut3 that showed a cooling during the decade. See the green bar graphs at: http://www.climate4you.com/GlobalTemperatures.htm#Comparing%20global%20temperature%20estimates
    In all five cases, the average anomaly for the last five years was lower than for the last ten years. THIS INCLUDES GISS!

  169. Re: harrywr2 says:
    January 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm
    “Natural Gas = 4-8 cents/KW fuel + 1 cent/KW in interest payments.”
    Better check your numbers. The current generation of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plants cost $550 per installed kw, produce a heat rate of 5,690 btu/kwh and run well north of 90% capacity factor. At current natural gas prices and interest rates in the U.S. that translates to around 3.5-cents per kwh for fuel and interest on a 100% leveraged project. That makes them, hands down, the economic machines of choice for base load generation and that’s what they’re being used for; not peakers.

  170. [Bubbagyro, abiogenic petroleum (Wikipedia) would be a nice theory, if true. But, concludes this detailed 2006 paper (Resource Geology) “This theory is therefore invalid.” Sorry about that. Ira]
    Dinosaur and fossil goo would be a nice comic book like “theory” to hand down to children, if it were true, Ira. But, concludes this detailed thermodynamic proof from The Origin of Hydrocarbon Species (2002):

    The spontaneous genesis of hydrocarbons that comprise natural petroleum have been analyzed by chemical thermodynamic-stability theory. The constraints imposed on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed, and the effective prohibition of transformation, in the regime of temperatures and pressures characteristic of the near-surface crust of the Earth, of biological molecules into hydrocarbon molecules heavier than methane is recognized. […]
    The high-pressure genesis of petroleum hydrocarbons has been demonstrated using only the reagents solid iron oxide, FeO, and marble, CaCO3, 99.9% pure and wet with triple-distilled water.

    Sorry about that.
    Supporting the abiotic theory is the fact that “oil reappears from time to time in old deposits and long ago exhausted oil wells“, and that “crude oil minus the sulfur is a decent estimate of what the haze is” … on Saturn’s methane-rich abiotic moon, Titan.
    [Khwarizmi, the idea of abiotic origin of petroleum dates from the days when the now discredited phlogiston theory was also commonly accepted. {Deleted by Ira because I was mistaken, see Khwarizmi says: January 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm} We seem to have dueling references. I guess abiotic petrol could be true, but, even if it is, how does that change the thrust of this discussion? How much of it may there be and how accessible? By how many decades would this extend the horizon for sequestered hydrocarbons? Ira]

  171. On abiotic hydrocarbons:
    As I recall from when I studied the concept… It can address the creation of lighter hydrocarbons, as with methane etc on Titan. But, on Earth it would operate at extreme depths, where very hot. Yes, the Russians made spectacular natural gas finds by following the theory. But, that could be millions of years of accumulations. The theory doesn’t explain much about the longer-chain hydrocarbons, which can be quite useful.
    Plus coal is quite definitely a fossil fuel, with fossils found in it, and contains bitumen, a very thick form of petroleum, in various amounts depending on the grade of coal (see bituminous coal). I’ve yet to read why non-fossil abiotic petroleum would be found with a fossil fuel as it is with coal.
    Abiotic petroleum sounds like a good theory, but it can’t account for all of the non-solid fossil fuels. It’s also frequently oversold. Even if happening right now as theorized, even if it ultimately results in an “endless” supply, there is still a replenishment rate. We could use it faster than it’s generated, deplete the stores in the ground. It also takes quite a long time to get it from where it’s generated up to where we can get at it.
    We still need other energy sources than petroleum from the ground.

  172. Ira – a lot of contemporary theories date from “the days when the now discredited phlogiston theory was also commonly accepted.”
    In fact, the biogenic theory of hydrocarbon production (a.k.a., “cabbage and dinosaur”) was introduced by Geroge Agricola in the same century as phlogiston theory, and like that discredited theory, became widely accepted without convergent reasons.
    Abiotic theory was first mentioned in the 19th century when phlogiston theory was already dead.
    So you have the story backwards. [Khwarizmi, you are correct. I read the source incorrecty on this point. Thanks for pointing that out. Ira]
    When confronted with the reality of Titan, those previously seen ridiculing the abiotic theory eventually confess, “I guess abiotic petrol could be true…”. Then the strategy changes to one in which the abiotic reality could only represent an insignificant fraction of hydrocarbons on earth. e.g.,: How much of it may there be and how accessible?
    Let me try to answer to that…
    quote:
    ============
    Petroleum geology
    June 2003
    Raining hydrocarbons in the Gulf
    We’re dealing with this giant flow-through system where the hydrocarbons are generating now, moving through the overlying strata now, building the reservoirs now and spilling out into the ocean now,” (Larry) Cathles says.
    […]
    Cathles and his team estimate that in a study area of about 9,600 square miles off the coast of Louisiana, source rocks a dozen kilometers down have generated as much as 184 billion tons of oil and gas — about 1,000 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent. “That’s 30 percent more than we humans have consumed over the entire petroleum era,” Cathles says. “And that’s just this one little postage stamp area; if this is going on worldwide, then there’s a lot of hydrocarbons venting out.”
    http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/june03/NN_gulf.html
    ==============
    New Gulf of Mexico discovery could increase U.S. oil reserves 50%
    September 2006
    http://www.mineweb.net/energy/999467.htm
    =======================
    Mexico discovers ‘huge’ oil field (Gulf of Mexico)
    March 2006
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/4808466.stm
    ========
    A landmark study of more than 800 oilfields by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (Cera) has concluded that rates of decline are only 4.5 per cent a year, almost half the rate previously believed, leading the consultancy to conclude that oil output will continue to rise over the next decade.
    Peter Jackson, the report’s author, said: “We will be able to grow supply to well over 100million barrels per day by 2017.” Current world oil output is in the region of 85million barrels a day.
    The optimistic view of the world’s oil resource was also given support by BP’s chief economist, Peter Davies, who dismissed theories of “Peak Oil” as fallacious. Instead, he gave warning that world oil production would peak as demand weakened, because of political constraints, including taxation and government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    Speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, Mr Davies said that peaks in world production had been wrongly predicted throughout history but he agreed that oil might peak within a generation “as a result of a peaking of demand rather than supply”.
    […]
    Cera analysed the output of 811 oilfields, which produce 19 billion barrels a year, out of total world output of 32 billion. These included many of the giants, including Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, the largest known oilfield, which has been at the centre of the debate between peak oil analysts and their detractors.
    In his book Twilight in the Desert, Matthew Simmons of Simmons & Co, the consultancy, said the big Saudi fields reached their peak output in 1981 but Cera yesterday said that Ghawar was not failing. “There is no technical evidence that Ghawar is about to decline,” said Mr Jackson.
    January 2008
    =========
    Finally, the chemosynthetic autotrophic archaea that convert petroleum into carbohydrates, fueling life in the Gulf of Mexico (absent Corexit), do not lend much in the way of support to the “fossil” theory.
    A belated happy new year to all!

  173. I’m not big on carbon sequestration: I think we should start a “1000.org” to counter the 350 guys, contending that 1000 ppm is more realistic and beneficial for the environment.
    However, if one is to play the game of sequestration and limiting carbon emissions, I wonder about the possibility of finding a different chemical pathway for carbon? For one, I know that calcium carbonate formation is exothermic. Perhaps it produces far less CO2 from carbon, but the benefit is that it has ZERO emissions. This is a purely natural phenomenon, happening under the ocean at all times. The end product is basically rock: Limestone.
    Now I don’t know what the chances are of finding large reserves of elemental carbon to use, but presumably in the presence of coal or other fairly pure sources of carbon the reaction could be catalyzed and heat generated, the only byproduct of which would be rock. Perhaps it could even be formed in helpful end shapes: paving stones, bricks, garden gnomes.
    The process would not likely be as intensive as burning, but I imagine it could be used to heat houses, for one. Anyone know a good way to induce the formation of calcium carbonate from raw carbon (or CO2) at a rate fast enough to produce usable quantities of heat?

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