Berkeley Earth endorses Natural Gas as a ‘bridge fuel’

From the Frack On department, and their previous endorsement of fracking comes this new paper that suggests we should not worry about methane leakage, and just get on with coal to Natural Gas conversion.

Via press release today from Berkeley Earth: Natural gas can help reduce global warming – even if it modestly delays renewables

Can natural gas help us reduce climate change by acting as a bridge fuel away from coal? New research from Berkeley suggests that it can, even if it modestly delays the date at which we switch to renewables.

The U.S. is in the midst of a natural gas boom. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has caused gas prices to tumble, resulting in a significant shake-up of the U.S. energy mix. Over the past 7 years U.S. CO2 emissions from electricity generation have fallen an impressive 17%, driven in large part by the replacement of dirty coal-fired generation by cleaner natural gas.

Natural gas has two major benefits over coal: it has less carbon emissions per unit of chemical energy, and can be converted into electricity at a higher efficiency (less energy is lost as waste heat). These two combined mean that the CO2 emissions from new natural gas power plants can be as little as one third of the emissions of existing coal plants.

However, natural gas also has a large potential downside: if it is leaks out before your burn it, the 100-year average climate effect of that leaked methane is about 12 times worse for the climate than the effect of CO2 from the same amount of gas if it were burned.

BEST-natural-gas-fig1Additionally, a large investment in gas could potentially delay the date at which we switch to a near-zero-carbon technology compared to a world where we stuck with coal for longer. On the flip side, gas makes it easier to have a large amount of intermittent renewables on the electric grid without causing disruption.

A new paper from Berkeley Earth looks in depth at how different gas leakage rates, generation efficiencies, and potential delays in zero-carbon alternatives impact the viability of gas as a bridge fuel.

As author Zeke Hausfather explains,

“If we replaced current coal generation with new natural gas power plants today, and leakage rates end up being the EPA’s current best estimate, we could use that natural gas for 2.4 years for every year of coal that it replaces before breaking even on warming over the next 100 years.”

“If you compare a coal plant used for 10 years and replaced by renewables to a gas plant used for 24 years and replaced by renewables, you get the same amount of warming.  This means that you could end up delaying renewables by quite a bit before the climate benefit of using gas as a bridge fuel is eliminated.”

The results are somewhat sensitive to natural gas leakage rates, which are currently highly uncertain; while the EPA estimates leakage of slightly below 2% of total production, others have found that leakage rates might be as much as 4% or above. However, the paper finds that it would take a leakage rate of 10% to make new gas worse than existing coal if both are used over the next 100 years and renewables are not delayed.


For a shorter 30-year gas bridge, a leakage rate of over 13% would be required.

BEST-natural-gas-fig3This is because the methane has only an 8.6-year half-life in the atmosphere, and breaks down relatively quickly once gas stops being used. If renewables are delayed, the allowable leakage rate is lower.


“Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, and cannot be a long-term solution if the U.S. is to aggressively reduce greenhouse emissions,” Hausfather warns.

A gas bridge would likely have to last less than 30 years, and strong efforts would have to be made to ensure that natural gas leakage rates are kept low. Cheap natural gas can also compete with renewables, and there is an important role for renewable portfolio standards and other government programs to promote the adoption of near-zero-carbon technologies.

“This research suggests that using natural gas as a bridge fuel away from coal is viable if we cannot immediately transition to near-zero carbon technologies. Coal is responsible for the bulk of U.S. CO2 emissions from electricity generation, and gas provides a practical way to reduce such emissions, even when we include the effects of fugitive methane.”

The Paper is OPEN ACCESS.

Bounding the Climate Viability of Natural Gas as a Bridge Fuel to Displace Coal, by Zeke Hausfather is published in the journal Energy Policy.

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July 27, 2015 4:19 pm

Until renewable technology competes on genuine and equal terms in every respect with Coal, Gas, Oil and nuclear, it is a bridge to nowhere.
Stop the fantasy that current renewable technology has “made it” and found a legitimate replacement, and GET BACK TO WORK!

Reply to  cnxtim
July 27, 2015 11:21 pm

It’s because they can’t compete on equal terms that ‘renewables’ are known as ‘unreliables’ or ‘ruinables’.

Reply to  cnxtim
July 28, 2015 7:33 am

Thorcon near term, Helios or similar long term. The first is a low cost molten salt reactor concept ready for deployment tomorrow. Helios is one of a number of compact fusion reactor companies. The energy output of fusion reactors has been following a Moore’s Law curve. It is a question of years, not decades.

Greg White
Reply to  Vboring
July 28, 2015 6:18 pm

Thorcon is a minimum 10 years away according to their best guess schedule. Also all their reactors are going to Asia and India from a shipyard in S. Korea.

July 27, 2015 4:23 pm

What does policy have to do with BE’s mission?

Reply to  Harold
July 27, 2015 6:40 pm

Nothing. BE’s mission is to make money by providing research. The research was paid for by an “unrestricted educational grant from America’s Natural Gas Alliance.”
It’s the new improved scientific method: tell me the answer you want, give me a grant, and I’ll get you your answer. Sad really, all that intellectual talent chasing after money by publishing speculative drivel when they could be doing interesting things, like quantifying how long CO2 really does stay in the atmosphere, etc.

bit chilly
Reply to  Thomas
July 27, 2015 9:43 pm

why worry about co2 ?
German Climate Professors Confirm CO2 Climate Sensitivity Projections Seriously Exaggerated!
“We can now tell politcians that they can call off the warnings. There’s no chance of a global warming of more than 2°C .
The decrease in the projected temperature rise from CO2 will continue on its present trend. By 2025 the warming by CO2 will be close to zero. We can thus expect that the quality of the forecasts will increase to the point where they will actually reflect reality.”

Reply to  Thomas
July 28, 2015 9:47 am

Paleontology never shows an upper limit to the benefits of warming and always shows the immediate detriment of cooling.
A warmer world sustains more total life and more diversity of life.
These dread, doomed, now desperate Neo-Malthusians went through the looking glass before they cooked up their sad self-defeating delusions.
And what a crop we have to harvest.

Reply to  Harold
July 27, 2015 10:13 pm

we do both science and strategic analysis.

Stephen Richards
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 2:03 am

So ?

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 2:21 am

Just another crony capitalist whore

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 6:04 am

the 100-year average climate effect of that leaked methane is about 12 times worse
it is fantasy to assume an energy source like methane can exist in the atmosphere for 100 years without being eaten.
Most oxic soils are a net sink for methane, and these soils consume approximately 20 to 60 Tg of methane per year…The organisms responsible for methane uptake by soils (the atmospheric methane sink) are not known, and factors that influence the activity of these organisms are poorly understood.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 7:02 am

Did you miss the part where we wrote that “methane has only an 8.6-year half-life in the atmosphere, and breaks down relatively quickly once gas stops being used”? If you think about it for more than a brief moment, you would realize that the 100-year average forcing of methane and the short residence time are clearly interrelated.
See Fig SM1 from our supplimentary materials:comment image

July 27, 2015 4:29 pm

Hate the paper due to the demonstrably false assumptions.
Not in on this one.
Why can’t people think? Why can they write math based on all of this wonderment, without critical assessment of the assumptions leading to their answers.
Not in at all.

Reply to  Jeff Id
July 27, 2015 8:26 pm

Hi Jeff,
I’m curious what you think is prima facie false about the assumptions underlying the research?

Reply to  Jeff Id
July 28, 2015 5:33 am

I’ m also not wild about the paper, since it seems predicated on the assumption humanity will be motivated to migrate to zero carbon energy based on what is projected for future warming, rather than a more realistic scenario where a host of factors, most of them purely economic, lead to a slow long term reduction in fossil fuels. The substitution of natural gas for coal is happening where natural gas is available and inexpensive (like North America) and not elsewhere…. simple economics are driving the change and will continue to. There is no need to justify or excuse the broad substitution of gas for coal to reduce CO2 emissions and a (very slight!) net reduction in net GHG forcing; it is going to happen. So I find it all kind of silly.
But that being said, I would like to hear the specifics of your critique of the paper. What assumptions do you think are not correct?

Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
July 28, 2015 6:16 am

agreed. the net warming reduction if the US was to switch entirely from coal to natural gas today would not be measurable in human terms, yet the cost would be fantastic.
if on the other hand one was simply to wait and let economics take its course, the price mechanism would accomplish the switch at the lowest possible cost, and still achieve the same reduction in warming to the nearest 1/100th of a degree globally. Coal would be replaced by gas as each facility reaches the end of their useful life.
It is only when one calculates global warming to 1/1000 of a degree is the difference between government mandates and economics measurable, and such a measurement is meaningless in terms of human activity. It has zero benefit for all intents and purposes, but the cost difference is fantastic.
In effect, the money spent switching immediately to coal provides no benefit above the market value, but the cost takes real money away from other uses where it could provide a true benefit. Every dollar for example spent on forcing a conversion to gas is a dollar not spent on cancer research or battery research.

Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
July 28, 2015 9:50 am

Lost opportunity costs compound. We’ve already damaged our descendants with this detour into this deluded and destructive social mania of exaggerated fear.
It’s getting worse in some, no, most places. Elsewhere, a few come to their senses, generally one by one.

Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
July 28, 2015 10:16 am

Steve and Zeke,
I will get to it tonight but it is basically the same as Steve wrote, with a few additional items. The community is far to eager to accept the problems of warming and ignore the benefits. Also the community is too eager to accept the affect we have on temperatures in my opinion. All of these things are implicit foundational assumptions in this article, and they do not represent well considered fact.

Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
July 28, 2015 10:37 am

We can’t raise the temperature far enough or fast enough to hurt us. The other fears, sea level rise and ocean acidification, are exaggerated. Species diversity? Please. The economics of it all and the social injustices? Omigod!

Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
July 28, 2015 11:29 am

“agreed. the net warming reduction if the US was to switch entirely from coal to natural gas today would not be measurable in human terms, yet the cost would be fantastic.”
1. That’s not the argument.
2. The cost would not be fantasic
3. The impact would be measurable.
here have a look at the progress being made against coal
NOW, understand our argument.
There is a war on coal. Cant deny that. But enviromentalists are arguing that NG CANNOT replace coal.
They are winning the fight against coal BUT they think that coal should be replaced with renewables.
We make a different argument. Yes, coal is dying, but we dont have to move everything to renewables.
NG can work as a bridge
in short: The Position we are arguing against is that NG CANNOT be used as a bridge.
Thats the debate.

Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
July 28, 2015 11:41 am

Fred Berple,
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015 a gas turbine natural gas fired power plant was less expensive to operate than a coal plant. Gas turbine = $73 per Megawatt hour, Coal = $95, solar PV = $125.

Reply to  Jeff Id
July 28, 2015 7:22 am

“I’ m also not wild about the paper, since it seems predicated on the assumption humanity will be motivated to migrate to zero carbon energy based on what is projected for future warming, rather than a more realistic scenario where a host of factors, most of them purely economic, lead to a slow long term reduction in fossil fuels”
No the paper is directed at those who insist that switching to NG provides no climate benefit.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 9:00 am

Doodling with the pen, and phoning it in.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 11:43 am

Steven, Thanks. That puts it in perspective.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 29, 2015 5:10 pm

Steve Mosher,
I see the conversation more like this:
Sierra Club: You can’t justify substituting natural gas for coal to reduce CO2 emissions.
Public: We’re not, it is cheaper to burn natural gas; it is a purely economic choice.
Sierra Club: But you have to completely stop using fossil fuels!
Public: Go to Hades.
Sierra Club: You are destroying the Earth; you must stop!!!
Public: No, we will do what we think is best…. and we were serious about the ‘go to hades’ comment.
Zeke: Look, burning natural gas is better for GHG forcing than burning coal.
Public: Great, but really, who cares?
Sierra Club: Good grief! Only living in caves and eating free range nematodes will save Earth; Zeke, it’s immoral to give them any other options.
Public: This is a silly conversation. Cio.
Zeke: I think I’ll write a paper.

Mark from the Midwest
July 27, 2015 4:31 pm

In a related note, a local news site carried a story about Clinton’s “energy plan,” which calls for installing one billion solar panels in the U.S. by the end of her first term, (yes that’s billion). It was refreshing to see that the overwhelming number of comments were extremely negative, with the overall tone being one that suggested that the former Secretary of State was just making this stuff up in order to have a plank that panders to the Green Lobby.

Reply to  Bubba Cow
July 27, 2015 10:49 pm

$6000/hr private plane? That’s cheap what about the time the thing sits there, with a crew waiting for her to show up and we are paying for it and her security, as are all declared candidates btw. Maybe that is why so many of them are running they can’t afford their own security and are scared to show their faces in public!

Michael Jankowski
July 27, 2015 4:39 pm

Only a half-billion, Mark. Likely all to be built to satisfy donors to the Clinton Foundation overseas quid-pro-quo. Probably all no bigger than a laptop…

July 27, 2015 4:40 pm

Why the claim that renewables need time to become feasible? Wind won’t get any cheaper, only more expensive, especially since subsidies are going away – solar getting cheaper but reduction in prices will not be as large or as [often as in the] past. Much of [solar] costs are going up, not down. Only the panel costs have gone down. I’m astounded these people aren’t aware of Gen 4 nuclear reactors, which include molten salt, currently under development by at least two companies. Molten salt trumps all other power generation technologies, plus rids the planet of nuclear wastes,for the most part. The people at Berkeley aren’t very bright.

Reply to  arthur4563
July 27, 2015 7:12 pm

Exactly! May the best technology win!
(and rid the planet of nuclear waste in the process)

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
July 27, 2015 7:22 pm

There is no present technology available to build solar or wind generation that is less harmful to flora, fauna or aesthetics during normal operation than a nuclear plant of any generation. If nuclear had required the massive usage of land that solar and wind require, it would be feasible either.

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
July 27, 2015 7:23 pm

Not be feasible either…

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
July 27, 2015 7:27 pm

The solar PV panels on my roof do not harm any flora or fauna, and since they’re on the back side of the house, it doesn’t detract from “curb side” aesthetics. In fact, I think they would look fine no matter.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
July 27, 2015 11:19 pm

And level the environmental regulations by making wildlife kills as seriously enforced for “renewables” as they are in coal, oil, and natural gas. This would put wind turbines and solar boiling plants our of business as long as we had environmental protection laws.

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
July 28, 2015 2:49 am

Joel D. Jackson says on July 27, 2015 at 7:27 pm

solar PV panels on my roof do not harm any flora or fauna

You sure about that?

Reply to  arthur4563
July 27, 2015 7:41 pm

If it is a fission reactor, it produces radioactive nuclear waste. Some of the hype around new type reactors is almost as great as for renewables.

Reply to  donb
July 28, 2015 1:48 am

I give you the spartan reply to Philip II of Macedon; “if”.

Reply to  donb
July 28, 2015 2:55 am

Not true. Thorium reactors can run on the waste of conventional fission reactors.

Just Steve
Reply to  arthur4563
July 27, 2015 10:08 pm

The Presumptive Democrat Presidential Candidate….Her Slimeness HRC….promised Monday to power THE ENTIRE NATION with “renewable energy” within 10 years of taking office.
Read it and weep:

Michael Jankowski
July 27, 2015 4:45 pm

I am glad Berkeley Earth….err, Zeke…looked at the 100-yr and 500-yr scenarios. I’ll bet those are spot-on, lol.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
July 27, 2015 8:28 pm

The 100 and 500-year scenarios are simply examining the time-evolution of forcing from discrete emissions over the next 50 years (the specific timeframe examined depends on the analysis in question). Its using the Bern carbon cycle model, which is fairly standard.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 28, 2015 2:34 am

Zeke: Excellent paper, this was badly needed. I have a suggestion for a follow up paper:
As you know, renewables suffer from intermittency problems, they require fast reacting load followers be ready as solar and wind reduce power generation. The best solution seems to be converting hydro to take up the load (that’s what’s done in Spain, where hydro has been reduced to serve as a huge power reserve to make up for solar and wind shortfalls).
The next best alternative is fast start gas turbines, and combined cycle turbines set up for relatively fast load changes.
The issue to be researched would be the ability to use a combination wind, solar, and gas turbine power system. if you get the wind power delivery curves for a set of West Texas wind farms and couple that to a simulated gas turbine and combined cycle gas turbines, and a small solar power component to shave off the midday summer time peaks you may find out the answer. In a sense, the wind and solar would serve as emission reduction facilities.
i think the key is to use variable proportions of wind and solar to optimize the cost and forcing functions, but I think the overall effort to do this in a truly optimized fashion would require something like 20 man years. So if you want to follow it up with another paper along the proposed lines I would keep it simple.
By the way, what I have seen thus far tells me that, with existing technology and cost structures, a switch to zero carbon is impossible. A lot of researchers and media types focus on the USA and forget the rest of the world. And other nations just like the wealth to indulge in this renewable solar and wind emphasis. They just lack the money, and the USA lacks the money to donate to carry humanity on its back. So that zero carbon emphasis is naive (I’m being kind).
The obvious escape hatch is geoengineering. But I notice there’s an almost religious mania opposing geoengineering research. Such an attitude is amazing when we think about all the uncertainty and possibility that global warming may turn out to be a non issue in 30 years.

David A
Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 28, 2015 4:58 am

“The best solution seems to be converting hydro to take up the load (that’s what’s done in Spain, where hydro has been reduced to serve as a huge power reserve to make up for solar and wind shortfalls).”
What a waste, reducing the effectiveness of an excellent source, for a very expensive option.

July 27, 2015 4:57 pm

You know I would be a whole lot more impressed if the group spent the time fixing the cock-up that passes for a confidence interval at Berkeley BEST.

Reply to  Jeff Id
July 27, 2015 9:15 pm

Hi Jeff.
I thought we answered your question. If we did things as you suggested the confidence interval narrowed
and as you noted we are not that far off and the pay off is small and like you acknowledged there isnt a clear way to go at the problem. revisit our emails. post em if you like.
we have a method you dont like. you suggested a different approach. one we had already tested.
your approach narrowed the CI.
we tested with monte carlo and confirmed our results.
the code is there. knock yourself out. but frankly their are bigger issues than the one you suggest.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 8:21 am

The difference in CI is that it is wrong. It isn’t whether I like it or not. I’m glad it didn’t affect your results much. I actually would have enjoyed helping with the code and math back when the project first launched, right now I’m a little busy.
I do appreciate your replies to my concerns though.

July 27, 2015 5:04 pm

If natural gas is to be a “bridge fuel” for only 30 years, the new pipeline infrastructure will not be built unless depreciation periods are shortened from the typical 40 years, so that investments can be recovered. There are not a lot of altruists running natural gas pipeline companies, or investing in them.
There is such a thing as a bridge not far enough.

July 27, 2015 5:05 pm

Just maybe they saw these by Gates & Google engineers::
“Gates expressed his views in an interview given to the Financial Times yesterday,saying that the cost of using current renewables such as solar panels and windfarms to produce all or most power would be “beyond astronomical”.”
“Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.”

Reply to  BFL
July 27, 2015 10:55 pm

@BFL, did someone finally beat some sense into Gates? Amazing!

July 27, 2015 5:05 pm

This paper is taking 2 things as granted, which are not:
/1/ CO2 causes warming and /2/ warming is dangerous.
Beside that, such an approach offers common ground for a reasonable energy policy both parties, warmists and sceptics, can agree about. A huge step forward.
And it would give non-carbon energy sources time to mature, or go bust.
Win-win for everybody.

Albert Paquette
Reply to  jaypan
July 27, 2015 5:36 pm

It would also give us the time to test the unproven hypothesis that CO2 causes dangerous global warming. Over the bridging period, either the hiatus will continue or warming will come on with a vengeance.

Reply to  Albert Paquette
July 27, 2015 6:25 pm

I suggest there are other scenarios than the two you mention. Cooling, for one. Middle ground, some warming, but not much, for another.
Boxed-up closed-minded thinking is very limiting.

Reply to  Albert Paquette
July 27, 2015 10:10 pm


Reply to  jaypan
July 27, 2015 5:38 pm

1 – CO2 not proven dangerous. OK
2 – Warming not proven dangerous. OK
So what is there to negotiate, on what common ground, to what end? Seems like they are advocating a “Win-Win”, “reasonable energy policy” to advance an anti-energy, anti-industry, anti-development, ideology same as always. As usual, using “reasonable” as a cover.
Could anybody, anywhere show how a modern coal fired US power plant is in any way, shape, or form, dangerous to people or hazardous to the environment?

Reply to  TonyL
July 27, 2015 8:41 pm

Coal plant emissions: Well yes there are. CO2 is a non issue. But particulate matter, Mercury and other minor pollutants may be over the long term. New scrubbing technologies work well and I suspect the pollution from manufacturing wind and solar may equal coal … or not. But everything we do causes pollution. Ditch riders on irrigation canals, maintenances trucks on wind farms, visual pollution of windmills, the animal dung from my farm, the required safety storage of diesel fuel for farming. Everything. The wood smoke from my high efficiency fireplace would not be allowed in many cities.
The fish poo in my pond might be a problem for some.
One person’s pollution is another person’s fertilizer.

Reply to  TonyL
July 27, 2015 9:47 pm

And Wayne nailed it here. Everything that results from decreasing entropy, or from increasing entropy, is pollution.

Rob Morrow
July 27, 2015 5:08 pm

I’m always amused and saddened when CO2 emissions data are presented graphically as forcings, as in figs 2 & 3 above, and always with no mention of the uncertainty of CO2 climate sensitivity. This happens so often, and it is usually unhelpful to the main thesis of the paper. It would have no less weight if the chart simply showed CO2 and equivalent emissions scenarios. Relating CO2 to a particular climate sensitivity is immaterial to the thesis, but I guess it gets the paper more attention.

Reply to  Rob Morrow
July 27, 2015 8:30 pm

Hi Rob,
Actually, radiative forcing rather by definition does not assume any particular climate sensitivity, given that warming is calculated (in a simplified fashion) by multiplying forcing by the sensitivity parameter (usually represented by lambda). See Wikipedia’s simple definition, for example:

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 28, 2015 7:18 am

imagine a sailboat. the wind is the forcing. does the boat travel in the direction of the forcing? why assume that temperature is any different?
a forcing in one direction need not cause motion in the same direction.

DD More
Reply to  Rob Morrow
July 28, 2015 7:48 am

On the published charts, the forcing high point is .07 W/m^2. What does that equate to.
W= 1 J/sec. One year = 31,557,600 sec => 2209032 Joules/m^2 each year
To evaporate 1 m^3 of water with sea water specific volume @ 15 oC at 0.001009 m^3/kg for each m^3 there is an exchange of
=> 2,500,000(J/kg)/0.001009(m^3/kg) = 2,477,700,000 J/m^3
2209032 Joules/m^2 / 2,477,700,000 J/m^3 = 0.00089 m/year of sea water evaportation. Now I’m really scared.

July 27, 2015 5:17 pm

So, how long will China absorb the environmental and human impact of renewable technologies?
How long will the press, academia, and “green” industry lobbyists (i.e. “environmentalists”) suppress information about local environmental and human impact of so-called “renewable” technologies?
The drivers, solar radiation and air currents, may be effectively renewable and green, but not the conversion technology from recovery to reclamation. The marketing literature is skewing the alignment and direction of energy technology development.

July 27, 2015 5:36 pm

The renewables have to replace the cost in energy to build them before they can even be in the discussion,

bit chilly
Reply to  fossilsage
July 27, 2015 9:45 pm

the mafia appear to be doing quite well out of solar 🙂
Germany’s Green Crime Wave…Components Being Stripped Off Solar Parks By Mafia!
the Italian mafia is now in the business of running solar parks equipped with stolen components. “For this reason solar parks in Italy are being used to launder money.”

Reply to  fossilsage
July 27, 2015 11:00 pm

Let alone the cost of recycling them after their life span which has been in doubt for years (20-25 years for wind mills) and the huge impact on the environment some of these schemes have such as the North Sea and deserts they are being plunked onto.

Donald Mitchell
July 27, 2015 5:39 pm

I would be very interested in the assumptions that go into the assessment of natural gas leakage. It appears that leakage is assumed to be a constant percentage or usage rather than based upon the problems with the delivery infrastructure. I also suspect that production of natural gas from coal beds, as I understand that Peabody is doing, could very well reduce leakage to the atmosphere as it is well known that natural gas does leak up through overburden from coal beds in at least some cases.
(Ask anyone who depends on water wells in areas with large coal deposits. I have seen shallow well water which contains enough gas to light as it comes from the tap.) It may well be that hydraulic fracturing, which has been around for at least 50 years, could increase the leakage from the formation to the surface, but I would have to see some data from actual observations before I would even attempt to quantify that. For now, I will assume that the authors of the paper have no experience in the production, distribution or use of natural gas so show us exactly how the numbers were derived.

Reply to  Donald Mitchell
July 27, 2015 6:47 pm

I have seen gas leaking up through a river bed ignite and burn.
This was back in the 1980s, the area has now been developed for coal seam gas extraction.
I wish I still had the photos , it is not often you get to see what seems to be a burning river.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Felflames
July 27, 2015 11:09 pm

Did something similar in western Pennsylvania in the 1960s. It was an old well with lots of water and some gas. We had to throw lighted matches over it, but it did then ignite.

Reply to  Donald Mitchell
July 27, 2015 8:32 pm

Hi Donald,
If you read the paper there are references to a few dozen studies looking at leakage through different approaches (component measurements, air sampling, etc.). I’d suggest reading Brandt et al from Science last year to get a good overview of the current state of research on system leakage rates:

Gary Pearse
July 27, 2015 5:40 pm

Is Hausfather an engineer who has a clue about the capex, opex and efficiency of a renewable scheme based on solar and windmills, or is this just a little arithmetic exercise that we have come to expect from todaly’s universities? You should start with an analysis that shows that these technologies can do what we need them to do.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 27, 2015 8:33 pm

Hi Gary,
I’ll leave the economics of energy to others; this paper concerns itself with comparing coal and gas emissions, with the assumption of some backstop near-zero-carbon technology replacing both in the future (be it nuclear, solar, or something else).

Gary Pearse
July 27, 2015 5:45 pm

Also, this gas is already leaking naturally into the atmosphere. If we systematically produced it, it would lower the pressure gradient driving this gas out. The industry has an economic incentive to reduce gas leakage to minimum.

July 27, 2015 5:46 pm

They seem to be using a lot of computer models to solve global warming that only exists in computer models.

Reply to  PaulH
July 27, 2015 6:28 pm

I should show you my computer model of computer models. Never an errer.

Reply to  Max Photon
July 27, 2015 11:04 pm

LOL, sounds like the old saying ” I show you mine if you show me ours”, oh of topic I guess.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  PaulH
July 27, 2015 11:26 pm

Thanks PaulH. Best comment I believe.

Reply to  PaulH
July 28, 2015 7:19 am

actually no computer models. the math is in the paper.

July 27, 2015 5:48 pm

As one who has worked in the engineering and operations of the oil and gas business, I’m puzzled as to where Berkeley Earth arrives at their numbers for methane leakage. For any project or production operation I have personal experience with the methane “leakage” is close to zero. There are times when blowing systems down is necessary, but these are overwhelmingly flaring events with CO2 obviously being generated. The whole point of producing natural gas is to make money. Losing 10% of your salable product makes no sense; I’d be fired if I showed these losses on my watch. If anybody out there can explain this to me, fire away.

Reply to  brianjohn
July 27, 2015 7:14 pm

Want to talk about natural gas leakage? I have worked for the largest Natural Gas Company in the U.S. for almost 30 years in Distribution and pipeline maintenance. It is a joke. Leaks are left for years and years if it isn’t directly dangerous to life or property. Over the last 20 years this company has cut it’s distribution and maintenance crews down by over 60% to make it more valuable. Even though new plastic pipelines are being installed, there are thousands of miles of pipelines from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, etc. and much of that is subject to leakage. Corrosion, etc. A bandaid mentality exists and there is no thought given to GHGs.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  Dahlquist
July 27, 2015 7:34 pm

Brianjohn is talking about production, Dahlquist is talking about distribution. It’s a bit like blaming the companies doing the drilling for spills at gas stations.

Reply to  Dahlquist
July 27, 2015 7:37 pm

Well at one time regulation & oversight was recommended to correct situations like this. Now with both parties being just tools of industry not so much.

Reply to  brianjohn
July 27, 2015 8:34 pm

Hi Brianjohn,
Current best estimates of U.S. leakage rates are like somewhere between 2% and 4%, with extreme upper and lower bounds of, say, 1% and 6%.
As I mentioned above, if you read the paper there are references to a few dozen studies looking at leakage through different approaches (component measurements, air sampling, etc.). I’d suggest reading Brandt et al from Science last year to get a good overview of the current state of research on system leakage rates:

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 29, 2015 4:05 am

Lots of speculation, maybe’s and might’s in your reference. What it does show is a bias towards discrediting natural gas as a low GHG emitter.

July 27, 2015 5:53 pm

Please take the time to look at this astonishingly thorough assessment of comparative costs of various energy technologies. By technology, by country and over time.
(see link below)
What is most notable is that some of the most expensive technologies, such as wave and off-shore wind appear to be INCREASING in cost over time, on average.
So whilst the starry-eyed leftist hopefuls have been waiting for the costs to fall, they have been steadily creeping up, as companies fight each other in a race to guzzle up all the available free money.
Despite this some technologies such as solar PV have been falling in cost/watt consistently since the emergence of the technology.
This would happen whether they were subsidized or not.
In fact Chinese solar PV panels are now so cheap that the US and EU have slapped punitive taxes on solar imports.
Because we prefer to have expensive solar panels and then throw subsidies at them!!
Which is weird.
Anyway, check out the link. It’s fascinating reading for all energy nerds:

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  indefatigablefrog
July 27, 2015 6:33 pm

China was subsidising the solar panel exports to keep the industry ticking over. Costs have not fallen as far as claimed.
China also over invested in steel production capacity by many billion of tons. Oops.

DD More
Reply to  indefatigablefrog
July 28, 2015 7:31 am

Baoding Tianwei Group Co.’s default on an onshore bond, the first by a state-owned company in China, exposes the toll a glut of solar manufacturing has inflicted on some of the smallest and financially weakest producers.
China South Industries Group Corp. failed to pay 85.5 million yuan ($13.8 million) of bond interest due Tuesday, Baoding Tianwei said in a statement posted to, the China Foreign Exchange Trade System website.
The company “suffered huge losses in 2014 and the debt-to-asset ratio surged quickly,” the Chinese maker of power transformers said in the statement.
Suntech Power Holdings Co. and LDK Solar Co., once the biggest solar manufacturers, both filed for bankruptcy after failing to repay debts.
Leshan Ledian Tianwei Silicon Science & Technology Co. and Xinguang Silicon, units of affiliate Baoding Tianwei Baobian Electric Co., halted production in 2011 to reduce losses and operating costs as the domestic polysilicon industry idled about 30 percent of output. The two units collapsed last year.
Baoding Tianwei Group reported an operating loss of 1.14 billion yuan in 2014, mainly related to new energy activities. The net loss totaled 10.1 billion yuan after the company recognized 8.34 billion yuan in impairment provisions.
Low prices due to under pricing the value and bankrupting Chinese makers. Less supply with steady demand will lead to higher prices (Econ 101).

Reply to  DD More
July 29, 2015 6:23 pm

Yes, it’s a competitive business. Consumers want efficiency (i.e. max power per unit area) and low cost (i.e. low cost/watt produced).
Panels from existing manufacturers can be compared quite easily by buyers according to these basic criteria.
And nobody wants a product that produces less power for more money.
Hence companies that cannot keep up will go bankrupt in a free market.
And competition forces them to operate on small margins.
This is all good for consumers.
I’d be more concerned, if there weren’t any bankruptcies.
That would tell us that poorly performing companies are being bailed out with subsidies or protected by tariffs imposed on their competitors.
That’s how the EU and US are trying to protect their local solar panel production.
By keeping prices high, artificially.
As a consumer of panels and energy, I would like to see free competition and the bankruptcies that will always naturally follow.
Thanks for the replies and the links!!

michael hart
July 27, 2015 6:08 pm

I was kind of planning to continue using natural gas anyway, but it’s very nice of “Berkeley Earth” to grant me permission.

July 27, 2015 6:15 pm

The push for renewables and saving mother earth by going green (emotional arrow) is just a cover for de-industrialization. They know renewables won’t power the grid. Nuclear is the only future as oil and NG are finite when one thinks ahead – way ahead.

Crispin in Waterloo
July 27, 2015 6:19 pm

The argument relies entirely on not allowing for the use of combined cycle coal plants which would blow the whole emissions per unit energy produced argument out of the water. The reason is quite simple: they have assumed that coal cannot be turned into a gas with a lower carbon content per MegaJoule of energy delivered even though there is one under construction in the Southern US.
Amazingly a couple of centuries ago people worked out that making coal gas from coal could include the water gas shift reaction which essentially turns some of the heat into a combustible gas by splitting water. The result is a combined cycle generator with a much higher system efficiency. If that is plugged into the equations given, the comparison is completely different, and that is still absent the influence of future innovation in coal technology.
Berkeley’s “gas is good” argument has been sung from their rafters for some time. It hinges on two flawed straw men: a 100 year lifetime of CO2 in the air and comparing modern gas generators with obsolete coal generators. Is anyone surprised?
I am not waiting for an ‘eventual conversion to renewables’ I am waiting for a conversion to nuclear power based on numerous innovations we are quite capable of accomplishing in the next few generations.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
July 27, 2015 6:29 pm

It’s going to take us two generations to catch up to the French? That stings.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
July 27, 2015 8:37 pm

Hi Crispin,
Current U.S. coal plants are on average 33% efficient. New combined cycle gas plants are close to 60% efficient. Replacing one with the other would result in a rather large generation efficiency gain. New conventional coal plants are around 40% efficient, with some more experimental designs reaching efficiencies of ~45%-49%. However, as far as I know these high-efficient coal plants are notably more expensive than conventional plants, while high-efficiency gas turbines are fairly standard these days.

Crispin in Waterloo
July 27, 2015 6:25 pm

“Over the past 7 years U.S. CO2 emissions from electricity generation have fallen an impressive 17%, driven in large part by the replacement of dirty coal-fired generation by cleaner natural gas.”
Define ‘dirty’.
This figure of 17% was deconstructed in a recent discussion on WUWT. I won’t repeat that here. The explanation is bunk.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
July 27, 2015 7:04 pm

Instead of defining “dirty” how about doing the following….
1) Go to Google Images
2) Enter in “coal ash ponds”
3) View the pictures.

Reply to  Joel D. Jackson
July 28, 2015 3:12 am

Do the same for the neodymium factories in China producing all those rare earth materials needed for those wonderfully “clean and green” unreliables please.

Reply to  Joel D. Jackson
July 28, 2015 4:47 pm


Large industrial sized wind turbines do not use permanent magnets, they use electromagnets in the field/armature magnets. Neodymium is used in permanent magnets.
So what does neodymium have to do with clean energy?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
July 27, 2015 8:38 pm

The 17% was not debunked by the Nature Climate Change study you were thinking of. That study pointed out that fuel switching was not the primary driver of total U.S. carbon emissions, which is true. However, if we only look at the 40% of so of U.S. CO2 from electricity production, fuel switching is responsible for the plurality of reductions. See this analysis for details:

July 27, 2015 6:26 pm

I love the name: Berkeley Earth.
Berkeley is about as removed from Earth as one can imagine.

Reply to  Max Photon
July 27, 2015 7:40 pm

I see you’ve visited there also. (I have relatives)

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
July 27, 2015 7:54 pm

I was an undergrad there. Actually, I loved the place. But it is beyond the Kuiper Belt.

Reply to  Max Photon
July 28, 2015 10:10 am

The Girl of the Golden BEST.

July 27, 2015 6:28 pm

This is my favorite part of the paper:
Berkeley Earth has received funding from a number of foundations and private individuals, including an unrestricted educational grant from America’s Natural Gas Alliance; none of these had any involvement the in study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication.”
An unrestricted educational grant. I could use a one of those. Champagne and caviar in the research lab. And if the report pleases the pay-master, more unrestricted grants will follow. Richard Muller is a clever salesman.

Reply to  Thomas
July 27, 2015 8:40 pm

Berkeley Earth did receive an unrestricted grant from ANGA. However, if my analysis had found that natural gas was worse than coal (or that small delays in near-zero-carbon alternatives obviated any benefit), I wouldn’t have hesitated to say so. I have a paper nearing completion that find that natural gas vehicles are in many cases worse than conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles from a climate standpoint.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 28, 2015 9:39 am

It’s probably better saved for plastics feed in anyway. Structure, me boy, structure.

July 27, 2015 6:34 pm

Zeke has myopia. NG is abundant in the US. We happen to have either the largest or the second largest frackable shale gas TRR. A really good lucky deal. Very nice for Berkely California if they would letnthe stuff be burned in CCGT. But they won’t. (China may or may not be larger, a frequent Berkeley Earth theme from founder physiciat Richard Muller, who obviously does not know much about shale geology [essay Reserve Reservations] illustrates the Sichuan basin point). What about the rest of the world? Russia to EU about double. LNG costs are about triple, ask Japan. Zeke, get real.

Reply to  ristvan
July 27, 2015 8:42 pm

We are lucky, and this paper generally discusses U.S. policy. LNG could certainly be cheaper, and technological developments may unlock reserves elsewhere, but today at least most other countries don’t have the luxury of a rapid transition away from coal via natural gas.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 27, 2015 9:32 pm

Yah, I know all that. As pointed out in the comment to your post. So, what does BE propose for a longer term solution other than Chinese fracked shales—most unexplored as to folding and faulting. For a reaon.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 27, 2015 9:39 pm

I’m not sure BE has a formal position. Rich is a big fan of next-gen nuclear; I’m a bit more bullish on solar + storage prices falling far enough to be viable. In parts of the world like India I expect we will see more coal in the near term.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 27, 2015 9:51 pm

” So, what does BE propose for a longer term solution other than Chinese fracked shales—most unexplored as to folding and faulting. For a reaon.”
solution for who?
As Zeke notes this paper is focused on US policy.
As for China, the problem is a bit more difficult not only for the reasons you suggest.
some thoughts on measures that may help.
And finally as Zeke notes BE doesn’t really have a single voice on things. You are welcomed to come
to berkeley and propose some things for us to study. Just let me know and I will ask to have you
put on the agenda to come and pitch your ideas.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 28, 2015 9:34 am

Bill Clinton once called CO2 ‘plant food’, but only once. I think he couldn’t resist the jibe at Al Gore.
And no thank you; you only get my ideas on line.

Reply to  ristvan
July 27, 2015 10:02 pm

” frequent Berkeley Earth theme from founder physiciat Richard Muller, who obviously does not know much about shale geology ”
That;s why we work with smart people like you Rud.. Rich relies on the expertise of Marlan Downey .

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 9:37 am

There are some people whose daughter’s papers I will no longer read.

Stephen Heins
July 27, 2015 6:38 pm

The only thing worse than this retreat by Berkeley Earth on natural gas is the complete capitulation by the NRDC and the Sierra Club, who are now conducting both beyond coal and natural gas campaigns.
To the half of the world living without clean water, reliable electricity, advanced Internet technologies and political freedoms, this is simply unconscionable.
Additionally, none of the above-mentioned environmental organizations are willing to acknowledge that natural gas also provides home heat, cooking gas, back-up power for wind and solar’s intermittency and feedstock for the chemical industry.

July 27, 2015 7:01 pm

Waiting for the BE salesmen to appear !!
It can’t be long until Zeke or Mosh leaves their Dodgy Bros saleyard to try to sell this lemon.

July 27, 2015 7:08 pm

“Natural gas has two major benefits over coal: it has less carbon emissions per unit of chemical energy, and can be converted into electricity at a higher efficiency (less energy is lost as waste heat). These two combined mean that the CO2 emissions from new natural gas power plants can be as little as one third of the emissions of existing coal plants.”
This must be questioned, because in my 20+ years as a utility engineer (11years in large power stations) natural gas NEVER was converted into electricity at a higher efficiency than the carbon-rich fuels. Many hundreds more BTU’S of natural gas had to be consumed in order to generate a MW of electricity. Our boilers could switch between nat gas and No.6 Heavy Oil depending on what was cheaper per BTU, and unit efficiency dropped significantly on nat gas. This is because it doesn’t burn as hot (as high a combustion temp) so more has to be burned in order to get the same heat transfer into the boiler water. This also caused an increase in exit gas temperatures (more waste heat, not less) as more of the available heat is consumed generating water vapor which carries it (excess heat) out the chimney.
While it is true that many new plants built to take advantage of cheap nat gas following the fracking revolution are very efficient combined cycle designs and are more efficient than vintage plants, but even they would be more effective using a more energy-rich, i.e., a carbon-rich fuel, because the carbon-rich fuels are more efficient fuels than the hydrogen-rich ones.
Berkeley Earth got that one wrong.
What else did they get wrong ???

Reply to  GW
July 27, 2015 7:57 pm

I operated in a power plant in the late 70’s where there were both gas and pulverized coal units. The loading flexibility was more determined by the size of the unit than the fuel, but from my experience you can raise load faster on pulverized coal firing. Coal dust burns like gasoline (and will explode like it also).

Reply to  GW
July 27, 2015 8:44 pm

Hi GW,
Coal plants are on average around 33% efficient in the U.S. New combined cycle gas turbines are ~50% efficient on average. These days the technology has become cheap enough that most new gas capacity is combined cycle.
See historical EIA data on heat rates for various generation sources:

David A
Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 28, 2015 5:08 am

“Natural gas has two major benefits over coal: it has less carbon emissions per unit of chemical energy,”
Strike one, as CO2 is clearly net beneficial.

Reply to  Zeke Hausfather
July 29, 2015 10:29 pm

Hello Zeke,
I’m sorry, but you’re missing my point ! The difference you stated above is due to mechanical advancements in the heat cycle (machinery) – not in the combustion of the fuel consumed. Burn oil or coal in a similar combined cycle plant (designed for the fuel) and the efficiency will be greater still ! Moreover, you are neglecting the statement in the article that says “natural gas can be converted to electricity more efficiently than coal”.
I am comparing the efficiency of the fuel – nat gas vs. oil or coal (carbon rich). Meanwhile,
You are comparing the efficiency of the machinery.
To be clear, I am stating that if the machinery were designed to use oil or coal the efficiency would be even greater !
And, regarding the Heat Rate in your link, let me tell you, and everyone this : The 185 MW units (around 1960 vintage) of which I spent half of my 11 years as an operating engineer, typically had a heat rate of 10,100 -10,200 Btu / KW while burning No.6 oil, but on nat gas the Heat Rate would climb to 10,600-10,700 Btu / KW – everything else being equal. This is because nat gas is a less efficient fuel than oil (or coal, which these same units burned in the decades prior to my employment), and this fact (oil/coal vs. gas) was well understood in the industry.
AND I KNOW, because for over six years I had to explain any significant deviation from those Heat Rates (100 or more Btu’s) on a monthly basis to both the Plant Manager and the Electric Production Department Manager, which I will attest was often an unpleasant experience !
MOREOVER, the chart you linked to utterly neglects the fact that the petroleum and coal plants are all much older and conventional in design than the nat gas plants they are compared to ! Nat Gas plants built beginning in the mid-late 1990’s were being designed as combined cycle but none of the plants they are being compared against are ! Nevertheless, the 400 MW units(4) plant I was assigned to for a couple of years was capable of achieving Heat Rates approaching 9000 while parked at full load and burning No.6. Meanwhile, those Heat Rates jumped to over 10,000 after the plant was converted to also burn nat gas.
The point is this, Zeke, you’re comparing apples and oranges. To be clear, if the modern, combined cycle plants were being designed and built to consume Heavy Oil (or coal) the efficiency of them would be even greater than when burning nat gas.
And let me be clear, Nat Gas has many favorable attributes when compared to any petroleum or coal, BUT efficiency isn’t among them !
I hope this educated you.

July 27, 2015 7:10 pm

As noted by Gary Pearse, the planet is already rather leaky.
e.g., the San Andreas fracture/fault:comment image
e.g., the 40+ year old “Door To Hell” – now a tourist attraction:

Meanwhile, Africa incinerates on the spot–or “flares”–1.2 trillon cubic feet of natural gas, being the equivalent of half of its power consumption. That’s a bit like collecting dung for cooking while the “Door of Hell” burns in your backyard.

July 27, 2015 7:38 pm

I think Berkley Earth got this one right. Avdore power plant, unit 2, in Denmark is said to be the most efficient coal plant. It’s electric conversion efficiency is 49%. Siemens claims to make the most efficient combined cycle power plant, with an efficiency of 59.7%. Combined Cycle power plants are more expensive but with natural gas prices low they payback faster than coal plants. The cost fuel to run a power plant exceeds the price of the plant in just a few years of operation. We don’t have to shave off mountain tops to get to natural gas, and gas power plants don’t require scrubbers, so gas is probably more environmentally friendly than coal. The specific energy of coal is 24 MJ/kg, while natural gas is 55.5 MJ/kg, so a kilogram of natural gas has about twice as much energy as coal. Natural gas has a flame temperature of 1960°C while bituminous coal is 2172°C so coal does burn hotter but a gas turbine has mechanical advantages as compared to a coal or gas fired boiler so it’s overall efficiency is higher. They are pretty amazing machines.

Reply to  Thomas
July 27, 2015 8:47 pm

Thanks Thomas. The paper also presents comparisons of existing (average 42% efficient) gas, new (50% efficient) gas, existing (33% efficient) coal, and new (43% efficient) coal in order to look at all possible outcomes. Its not implausible that with gas prices as low as they are folks might use older peaking gas turbines for baseload generation, for example.

Reply to  Thomas
July 27, 2015 8:51 pm

Dunno. The highest one year CCGT efficacy officially reported by Siemens was 61%. Irching 4, built 2011, and which EO.N will close next year unless ‘flexing’ subsidies are renewed thanks to the German Energiewende.

Ted G
July 27, 2015 8:25 pm

I’ll stick with Hydro, Coal, Gas, Oil and Nuclear, at this point in time and into the foreseeable future they are the best options for humankind!

July 27, 2015 9:09 pm

The emissions comparison is very misleading. Even without scale I can tell it is about 40% less than coal so they are only looking at CO2. How about looking at the real pollutants?
Fossil Fuel Emission Levels in Pounds per Billion Btu of Energy Input
Emission Natural Gas Oil Coal
Carbon Dioxide 117,000 164,000 208,000
Carbon Monoxide 40 33 208
Nitrogen Oxides 92 448 457
Sulfur Dioxide 1 1,122 2,591
Particulates 7 84 2,744
Mercury 0.000 0.007 0.016
Yea I’d say natural gas wins hands down in ALL categories.
Now we have about 50+ years of natural gas from land based sources. That should give us enough time to figure out how to get the hydrates from the ocean floor or figure out some nuclear (MSR) source safely & economically.
I’m glad to see Berkley Earth finally starting to ‘get it”. This has been blindingly obvious for more than half a decade now.

Reply to  TRM
July 27, 2015 9:40 pm

Thanks, we agree.

Louis Hunt
July 27, 2015 9:49 pm

It’s natural, often organic, and has not been genetically modified. So why would Berkeley types not like natural gas?

July 27, 2015 10:39 pm

I’m not understanding Fig 2.
All this fuss over a difference of less than 1/10th of a w/m2 in 100 years?

Reply to  davidmhoffer
July 28, 2015 7:16 am

for 100 Gw of generation.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 8:42 am

Ah, so a meaningless metric. Why not use an calculation based on actual coal power produced?
According to a quick google search, stats from 2006 (admittedly out of date) coal produced 227 GW that year. So, if we take your meaningless metric and used it as a constant, multiplying your few 1/100’s of a watt/m2 by 2.21 then we get the forcing difference for taking this action. Depending on how one reads that graph, you wind up with a difference on the rough order of 0.1 w/m2 100 years hence.
Based on SB Law, and an average global temperature of 288K, that’s direct forcing resulting in a change in temperature of 0.02 degrees. 100 years from now. If I have misunderstood your graph by a factor of 10, that’s 0.2 degrees over 100 years. A warming of 0.002 degrees per year.
Please show me where I have gone wrong because it would be silly to produce with much pomp and flair, a paper showing the “major benefits” of a strategy which can barely be measured, let alone be the basis of an informed industrial strategy for a major economic power.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 9:15 am

Well, the paper was funded by fossil fuel interests, so there’s that. Paging Willie Soon, there’s a call on the house phone.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 10:06 am

One gets such a wholesale return of funding out of such a trifling investment of conjecture, provided the conjecture is founded in fear and guilt.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 10:51 am

kim July 28, 2015 at 9:15 am
Well, the paper was funded by fossil fuel interests

Point being that the cost to the economy to force this switch would be enormous. And for what? Nearly nothing.
Reducing CO2 by 2/3 sounds like some kind of major win, but when translated into benefits on the ground, they are so small that they cannot be measured. I don’t see Mosher or Hausfather stepping up to dispute my point, so I assume it stands. They’ve produced with great fanfare a paper which purports to justify natural gas over coal (paid for by money from the natural gas industry) by focusing on benefits that look good out of context, but when translated to facts on the ground produce next to nothing.
Leaving out this part of the analysis is disingenuous.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 29, 2015 9:25 am

I’m going to note that neither Steve Mosher nor Zeke Hausfather have deigned to address my objection in this sub thread:
The difference between the two is so vanishingly small as to be meaningless. It provides nothing more than a paid for talking point for the natural gas industry, while being near meaningless in terms of any difference to actual warming.
Their silence speaks loud enough to suggest that my reading of their graphs is correct. The notion that they simply missed my comment is of course possible, but given the detailed manner in which they responded throughout this thread, I doubt that.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
August 1, 2015 4:15 am

It is often more revelatory what people won’t say than what they will say. A big clue in the climate wars is what people don’t want to talk about.

July 27, 2015 10:48 pm

Now, T. (Bone) Pickens been tellin’ us we gotta save the gas for the trucks. Gotta kinda ‘gree with him as about every fifth vehicle on the interstates is a truck bringin’ us stuff. Pretty soon we can all just stay home and let the trucks bring us stuff.
Me, all I know is that when you break Hydrogen bonds you get higher conversion efficiency and less Carbon.
Well, California must have had this idea a while back because over forty per cent of it’s electricity comes from gas.comment image?w=640
Getting back to the trucks, the largest single occupation by state in 1978:comment image
The largest single occupation by state in 2014:comment image
About gas, there is a whole lot of it. Maybe more than all the biomass that ever lived could account for. Maybe it’s some incarnation of the 4.54 billion years of Carbon volcanic out gassing we can’t account for either.
Maybe we should save it for the trucks, maybe we should use for electricity, but we should SAVE it every chance we get. We can’t carry on like trust fund teenagers forever.

Reply to  gymnosperm
July 28, 2015 11:54 am

Looks like self-drive trucks would put a lot of ex-secrataries out of work. : )

Reply to  Thomas
July 28, 2015 3:25 pm

You could use a secretary. (Spelling.) But, point taken.

Reply to  gymnosperm
July 28, 2015 3:26 pm

Source of the “occupation” data, please?

Reply to  gymnosperm
July 28, 2015 3:41 pm

PS “Truck Driver” is misleading, as that category in the data is actually “Truck, delivery, and tractor driver”, so big rigs are not really swamping the country, there are many thousands of local USPS, UPS and Fedex vans, plus many farmhands likely accounting for the majority of that category,

Reply to  brians356
July 29, 2015 8:10 am

Brians, sorry to be so slow, looks like you found the data source. I would guess agricultural “truck drivers” have not increased significantly since 1978. The big rigs feed the urban distribution centers and retreat to truck stops on the periphery where many idle all night. The distribution centers disgorge legions of mid size vans for secondary and final delivery. I second your notion that these vans account for much of the occupational increase, although there are many more big rigs as well.
I don’t see this as misleading. Those vans are trucks and they take a lot of time to drive around and they use a lot of fuel.

Reply to  gymnosperm
July 29, 2015 10:45 am

Wasn’t Pickens referring to the fleet of long-haul trucks in mind when he said that? I could be wrong.
I just wanted to dispel the vision of every other vehicle on the highway being a big rig, and half the jobs being “truck drivers” in the common sense of the term. You know, “Ten four, Bandit! Mercy sakes, we got us a convoy!”
OTOH, anywhere I go it seems like I’m dodging a UPS or Fedex delivery van. And don’t forget USPS, there are huge numbers of mail trucks of all sizes in the cities.

Reply to  brians356
July 30, 2015 9:02 am

Yeah, I don’t know for sure what Pickens meant either.

Steve Case
July 28, 2015 12:18 am

“However, natural gas also has a large potential downside: if it is leaks out before your burn it, the 100-year average climate effect of that leaked methane is about 12 times worse for the climate than the effect of CO2 from the same amount of gas if it were burned.”
We rarely read why this is claimed to be so.
Watts Up With That covered this question in April 11, 2014. Here’s what I said then:
Since then I’ve found out that besides requiring only a small amount to double its concentration, its formula weight CH4 at 16 is less than that of CO2 at 44 which is why the usual claim says “CH4 is more powerful greenhouse gas pound for pound than CO2”. And finally Methane is the transport mechanism to get water vapor into the stratosphere as it oxidizes into H20 and CO2.
But the resident time of methane in the atmosphere is very short as it is quickly oxidized. The question is whether or not it can ever become more concentrated than its current value of less than one part per million.

Ivor Ward
July 28, 2015 1:25 am

Two observations.
First: Whenever I see the magical zero AFTER the decimal place in a graph of a so-called real world phenomenon then this is what the word “insignificant” really means.
Second: Why the obsession with electricity generation? Even in developed countries it makes up less than 20% of the energy consumed and in some third world countries it represents a big fat zero.
(pedant alert: please don’t start quoting quantum theory BS……we are talking climate and energy consumption.)

Reply to  Ivor Ward
July 28, 2015 8:36 am

Because when you control electricity generation, you can control the population and the industry of a country.
It’s all about social control and taxation.

July 28, 2015 3:08 am

If you are going to build a bridge don’t there need to be two ends that are real?
“Today’s” end of the natural gas bridge obviously exists, but currently there is no other end. Renewables can’t support a modern industrial economy and there is no way to know if they ever will be able to and if they will there is no telling when that will be.
So we are to start building a bridge while not know where or even if the other side we are trying to connect to even exists. In what world is this a good idea?

michael hart
Reply to  ddpalmer
July 28, 2015 3:31 am

The Road to Wigan Pier.

Reply to  ddpalmer
July 28, 2015 7:15 am

if the other end doesnt exist you keep using NG.
remember this is addressed to an audience who want to end all coal and NG and switch to renewables.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 28, 2015 9:31 am

With your pen and paper, and your phone and voice, you address the deluded.

Ivor Ward
July 28, 2015 3:40 am

July 28, 2015 at 3:08 am
It would appear that pointless speculation is the keynote to Academia these days.

July 28, 2015 4:17 am

And now we see the real reason for the war on coal. The corruption behind the Global Warming hoax is truly staggering.

July 28, 2015 6:53 am

Some Assumptions:
Assumes methane forcing levels to estimate leakage damages
Ignores Economics and Carbon impact by ignoring manufacturing cost with new machinery and plants to replace old, of which would be significant due to a large infrastructure change.
Total Infrastructure change would involve estimates of:
Machinery production
Transportation infrastructure increase
Drilling and capture infrastructure cost
Plant and land cost
Also, CH4 and CO2 climate sensitivity variables are highly suspect, even though more research has been done for CO2 climate sensitivity variables, thus far most models using such estimates seem to be in error. Significantly less has been done to adequately estimate CH4 impact, which leads to a fairly easy conclusion that these numbers are probably even more questionable than CO2, which could lead to a significant change in the findings of the study by using this assumption that unfortunately we have no better data for.
Additionally, in using the IPCC radiative forcing equations (which thus far have not come close to comporting with reality) with their uncertainty as a basis for other equations with additional uncertainty you really end up with exponential uncertainty and the proverbial tripod with a shaky third leg.
For instance forcing numbers by the IPCC on CO2 have been extremely high in most models, which has then led to many recent studies on better ECS TCR estimates that purport to be much lower. If indeed reality is that these forcings for CO2 are radically high, then it brings into question CH4 comparisons with CO2. IF CH4 forcings are equally high (exactly) then the proportion would not change, if, however CH4 is estimated correctly and CO2 is high, then it drastically changes the cost-benefit relationship, making CH4 that much worse than CO2 than estimated in current equations.
Although I have no problem with the idea of replacing coal with natural gas, largely. Due to uncertainty I would be more interested in an economic impact study rather than a climate guesswork study. In the end the only certainty is that after established plants are in use Natural Gas produces less CO2 than Coal, and it’s greater CH4 production perhaps is not enough to offset this, rendering it the better choice in terms of radiative gas addition.
Then of course you have infinite future possibilities that do not account for technology advances in energy capture both from coal and NG, combined with potentially lower ECS estimates, could end up rendering the difference insignificant or greater, at this point it is unknown. Which is another reason why I would consider an economic study on the matter more important personally. That is something tangible to now, and much more certain, and a better use of time. The economic cost would be massive for an instantaneous switch, (perhaps even the climate cost between machinery production and site development would be greater in the end)

chris y
July 28, 2015 7:03 am

Robert Bryce wrote much on what he called N2N = natural gas to nuclear.
Nice to see that Berkeley Earth has taken the first step towards what has been obvious to many engineers and technologists (especially energy delivery specialists) for years now.
I also think that renewables will benefit from increased use of flexible generation technologies such as natural gas power plants. At least until economical bulk energy storage other than pumped hydro becomes available.

July 28, 2015 7:38 am

The problem with bridges is that they make for challenging business cases.
A generator is at least a 50 year investment, longer if you maintain it well.
How can it make sense to build a huge fleet of new gas plants with the intention of retiring the last of them in 30 years? The vast majority of them will have to be retired before their loans are paid off.

Matt Schilling
July 28, 2015 8:06 am

One place “the bridge” was supposed to take us was to a “Hydrogen Economy”, right? Yet, isn’t burning methane actually an iteration of the Hydrogen Economy? With methane, a single carbon atom efficiently delivers four hydrogen atoms, ready for action. Is there a better or safer way to do that?
And, how about that “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse” component? After those carbon atoms successfully deliver their payload of hydrogen, they rush off to feed a green plant! We can burn it in the spring and eat it in the fall. Nice!

Aaron Smith
July 28, 2015 8:45 am

Berkley clearly has zero common sense when it comes to sustainability. Burning a less abundant fuel source that is piped into 50% of US homes and businesses for a purpose that can be satisfied with a more abundant fuel source…..well….. is just plain stupid.

Reply to  Aaron Smith
July 28, 2015 9:55 am

Plastic feedstock, whatcha got?

July 28, 2015 9:23 am

So, when we start exporting natural gas the bridge goes poof, unreliables still are, and coal is suddenly a bargain again.

Reply to  kim
July 28, 2015 9:29 am

A nickel a ton in the ground, and that’s today’s depraved nickel.
Artisans haul coal out of the ground in gunnysacks. Sure, they’re poor people. That coal is worth more than one of our nickels, and they don’t even get a ton a day.
This stuff is all so precious. You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another paper older, bespoke, whaddya bet?

July 28, 2015 9:57 am

Zeke, I know this wasn’t contained within your paper, but do you think natural gas replacement as you have described would be more efficient than the kinds of Ultra Super Critical Coal Fired Power plants that Anton Lang discusses here Ultra Super Critical Coal Fired Power gives a 15% CO2 Emissions Reduction? It is my understanding that Germany is replacing its nuclear plants with coal plants like these. That, of course, could be because they have so much domestic lignite and natural gas is so expensive for them.

Reply to  MRW
July 28, 2015 9:59 am

It’s expensive, and the supplier looks awfully like a bear.

Reply to  MRW
July 28, 2015 10:39 am

In the paper we compare natural gas both to existing (average 33% efficient) and new best available technology (assumed 43% efficient) coal plants; the new coal plants utilize those technologies to achieve a 30% efficiency improvement over existing U.S. pulverized coal plants.

July 28, 2015 12:36 pm

…even if it modestly delays renewables

So exactly what date is being modestly delayed? I have not heard when the full conversion to renewables is scheduled to complete. If it is known, they could at least put it in the paper so I can put it on my calendar.

July 28, 2015 7:30 pm

Do natural leaks matter to anyone?
Or is the reality of natural leakage an inconvenient one for the fossil faith, and therefore best to ignore?

“A gas bridge would likely have to last less than 30 years, and strong efforts would have to be made to ensure that natural gas leakage rates are kept low.” – Zeke Haustfather giving the false impression that leakage is something determined only by human activity.

July 28, 2015 8:08 pm

I see various mentions to this in this discussion but it is misleading.
Since the founder of Berkeley Earth, Richard A. Muller, is a Professor of Physics at the University of California Berkeley, it is incorrectly believed that Berkeley Earth is affiliated with the University but nothing could be further from the truth.
Berkeley Earth is an independent 501C(3) Non-Profit Organization registered to a house in Berkeley California and completely unaffiliated with the University of California Berkeleyy.

July 28, 2015 8:43 pm

This paper while good as far as it goes regrettably suffers from ones in the same area. It rattles on about methane gas and is atmospheric involvement. However it lacks reference to the other sources of methane which would include ruminants and there are a few of those, methane sources from vegetation, methane from the breakdown of gas hydrates, methane emanating from coal once it is mined and in transit, and finally methane evolving from submarine sources such as volcanos etc. The paper has a fundamental false premise in that is assumes a gas leakage from oil and gas wells which is far to high but this does not stop the author from rattling on with his calculations. It would be great to see if all of these wizards can start using precise measurements for the basis of their calculations on the influence of all greenhouse gases that are known to be influential in the earth’s atmosphere. Cherry picking of the type that is common in this paper and others like all suffer from this unfortunate but common approach.

July 29, 2015 6:06 am

As mentioned above, this is full of so many assumptions and variables, its just not very useful. So much of “science” has become political prognosticators, we’d be as well off with Nostradamus. Faith based upon faith.

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