From the No Schist, Sherlock Files: “Despite climate risks, utilities bet big on natural gas…”

Guest post by David Middleton
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For the fossil fuel industries, 2016 has been a terrible year.

Amid historically low commodity prices and stricter environmental regulations, coal companies went bankrupt, oil and gas rig counts slumped, and utilities retired fossil generators like they’re going out of style.

But amid the struggles, one fossil asset class remains prized: gas pipelines. Earlier this month, oil giant Enbridge announced it would pay $28 billion for gas pipeline company Spectra, creating the largest energy infrastructure company on the continent.

Utilities are getting in on the act as well. In the last 12 months, Duke Energy unveiled plans to buy distributor Piedmont Natural Gas, Dominion announced it would buy Questar, ConEd dropped $975 million on a gas pipeline venture, and Southern Co. finalized its merger with AGL Resources.

These mergers indicate at least some perceived value in the sector, but power companies are investing directly. Dominion and Duke are working with gas companies on the giant Atlantic Coast Pipeline, utilities in the Northeast are pushing to build their own gas transportation, and regulated utility Florida Power & Light was even investing directly in Oklahoma shale gas production until the state Supreme Court struck that down in May.

The interest in gas pipelines reflects a widespread expectation that natural gas consumption is set to grow over the next few decades. In May, EIA estimated gas consumption will rise about 1% a year through 2040, increasing to 34 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) from 28 Tcf last year.

screen_shot_2016-09-26_at_1-45-19_pm

Demand from the electric power sector is expected to spur natural gas consumption growth through 2040. Credit: EIA

Much of that growth is expected to come from growing power sector demand. EIA expects 8 GW of gas generation capacity additions in 2016, reflecting this recent trend. From 2000 through 2015, the U.S. added 284.36 GW of gas capacity — nearly 70% of the 410.28 GW of total utility-scale capacity added to the grid.

screen_shot_2016-09-21_at_10-48-10_am

Since 2010, renewables have outpaced gas deployments, but utilities are also running their gas plants more often due to low fuel prices and environmental rules on coal generation. Credit: EIA

Over the past five years, lower gas prices have allowed utilities to run their coal plants less often, helping the power sector reduce harmful air pollutants, including CO2, to near 1990 levels. And thanks in part to gas, even most of the 27 states challenging the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan are in agood position to comply.

But if natural gas is helping the U.S. power sector meet its environmental goals today, its ability to do so in the future remains shrouded in doubt. In particular, climate researchers are concerned that if utilities continue investing in natural gas assets at the current rate, the power sector will not be able to meet climate goals under the Paris Climate Accord, ratified this month by more than 30 nations and expected to go into force next year.

“This sort of relentless growth in gas demand is out of sync with the nation’s climate goals,” Lorne Stockman, author of a recent report on gas infrastructure from environmental group Oil Change International, told Utility Dive. “We have to start actually applying a carbon budget to our planning because if we build infrastructure today that we can’t afford the emissions from in 10, 20 or 30 years, then we’re essentially building infrastructure we can’t afford to use to the end of its economic life.”

[…]

Continued on Utility Dive

I love this bit:

Scientists say the U.S. can’t build much more fossil fuel infrastructure if it wants to meet the Paris climate goals. So why are utilities going all-in on gas?

How dare those evil utility companies ignore the warnings of “scientists”!!!

And this bit:

In particular, climate researchers are concerned that if utilities continue investing in natural gas assets at the current rate, the power sector will not be able to meet climate goals under the Paris Climate Accord, ratified this month by more than 30 nations and expected to go into force next year.

“This sort of relentless growth in gas demand is out of sync with the nation’s climate goals,” Lorne Stockman, author of a recent report on gas infrastructure from environmental group Oil Change International, told Utility Dive. “We have to start actually applying a carbon budget to our planning because if we build infrastructure today that we can’t afford the emissions from in 10, 20 or 30 years, then we’re essentially building infrastructure we can’t afford to use to the end of its economic life.”

Note to “climate researchers”: The Paris Climate Accord isn’t worth the paper it’s written on in these United States.  It was never submitted to the Senate for ratification as a treaty.  It is not legally binding on anyone in these United States, not even evil utility companies.

Note to Lorne Stockman: Who the Hell is “we”?   *We* don’t “have to start actually applying a carbon budget to our planning.”  Utility companies have to do what is in the best interests of their owners (usually shareholders); not what is in the best interests of the current occupant of the White House, the IPCC or environmental terrorists  activists.

For utilities, gas benefits often outweigh climate risks

Utilities and the gas industry often bristle at framing natural gas as an environmental problem. The explosion of gas production in the last five years has enabled historic carbon reductions in the electricity sector, they rightly say.

“The United States is leading the world in the production of oil and natural gas and in the reduction of carbon emissions which are near 20-year lows,” Michael Tadeo, spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, wrote in a statement to Utility Dive. “Greater use of clean, affordable natural gas along with our industry’s investment in new technologies has made this possible. Moving forward, it’s critical that our nation’s leadership on these important issues continue for generations to come.”

[…]

Conflicting priorities

Despite the risks it presents to shareholders and the environment, utilities continue to invest in gas because of its low cost and reliability.

“We don’t agree with the premise that it makes economic or, in a lot of cases, technical sense at the moment to abandon natural gas,” Nipper said, reflecting other utility comments. “We still need baseload generation, and renewables cannot provide that. We’re just not there yet on the storage and other pieces of the technology framework necessary to make that happen.”

[…]

Stockman and other environmental groups say there is enough fossil fuel generation on the U.S. grid to support the expansion and integration of renewable energy, though some localized regions are exceptions.

Many utilities dispute that. But even if there are alternatives to new natural gas infrastructure, investing in the resource appears quite lucrative for many power companies today.

[…]

Note to Lorne Stockman: How could you know that “there is enough fossil fuel generation on the U.S. grid to support the expansion and integration of renewable energy”?  And what in the Hell makes you think that utility companies would build gas infrastructure “to support the expansion and integration of renewable energy”?  Anyone with at least two functioning synapses between their ears would understand that utility companies have a far better perspective on how much gas infrastructure they need than would “climate researchers.”

The Raison D’être for Destroying Our Energy Infrastructure

In a March 2016 study in Applied Energy, Oxford University researchers introduced the idea of a “2°C capital stock,” describing a “stock of infrastructure that implies future emissions consistent with a 50% probability of a peak global mean temperature increase of 2°C or less.”

Assuming the transportation sector and other industries are on their way to the 2° target — and they are not — researchers found that the global power sector will reach that capital stock next year.

“Our core result is that for a 50% probability of limiting warming to 2°C, assuming other sectors play their part, no new investment in fossil electricity infrastructure (without carbon capture) is feasible from 2017 at the latest,” researchers wrote, “unless energy policy leads to early stranding of polluting assets or large scale carbon capture deployment.”

Given that emissions continue to rise from other sectors, Oxford researchers wrote that we have probably actually hit that capital stock already.

If other sectors only decrease emissions following a path to 480-530 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere, as opposed to the 430-480 ppm plan of the Paris Accord, “the 2°C electricity capital stock was installed in 2011,” researchers wrote. And if realized emissions from other sectors follow a pathway to above 530 ppm, “new electricity generating assets needed to be zero carbon long ago to meet the 2°C (50% probability) target.”

For utilities, the upshot of this growing body of research is that the U.S. government will likely have to take more aggressive binding action to bring the U.S. back into alignment with the Paris Accord at some point — at least, iffuture administrations intend to keep the promises brokered by Obama.

That’s not a done deal, of course, and there’s a chance that utilities may never face stronger regulations. As Michael Dobson, a former climate advisor for the Marshall Islands, recently wrote, fossil fuel companies are currently “pricing in” the possibility that Trump will win in November and “the fragile, hard-won consensus on global climate action will evaporate soon after; and that investments in oil, gas, and … coal might not be such bad bets after all.”

But barring an about-face on climate policy, meeting the U.S. goals will likely require legislative action or another round of carbon regulations, meaning gas plants and pipelines being built today could be rendered inoperable before their full lives.

 

It’s the Schneiderman shtick: Utility companies somehow have a responsibility to comply with regulations future congresses might impose… 

Now, let’s take a look at the “climate risks.”
If other sectors only decrease emissions following a path to 480-530 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere, as opposed to the 430-480 ppm plan of the Paris Accord, “the 2°C electricity capital stock was installed in 2011,” researchers wrote. And if realized emissions from other sectors follow a pathway to above 530 ppm, “new electricity generating assets needed to be zero carbon long ago to meet the 2°C (50% probability) target.”
This boils down to restricting atmospheric CO2 to a benign 430-480 ppm versus a Venusian 530 ppm.  Which is funny, because almost all of the IPCC’s RCP scenarios put CO2 above 530 ppm by the end of this century.
What does reality have to say about this?

Using BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2015, I built a “model.”

RCP85_Mod1

Figure 1. Cross-plots of (top) cumulative fossil fuel consumption (MTOE) vs. atmospheric CO2 (ppm) as measured by the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) and (bottom) annual fossil fuel consumption (MTOE) vs time.

This “model” derives two equations:

  1. CO2 (ppm) = 0.0002*(MTOE) + 320.87 (R² = 0.9986)
  2. MTOE = 142.16*(Year) – 275,639 (R² = 0.9698)

Note:  MTOE = Millions of Tonnes of Oil Equivalent.

Note to nitpickers:  Yes, I know the top and bottom charts and equations 1 and 2 should have been listed in the opposite order.

These two equations enable me to project fossil fuel use and atmospheric CO2 into the distant future (beyond my retirement date… which with oil at $45/bbl is either very far off in the future or sooner than I would prefer).  Using the assumption that the mix of crude oil, natural gas and coal would remain at a constant ratio (that of the period 2005-2014), I come up with an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 683 ppm in 2100, about half of RCP 8.5 (Venus) and comparable to RCP 4.5 (non-catastrophic).

RCP85_Mod2

Figure 2. GIGO is as GIGO does.

To better reflect reality, I looked more closely at the evolution of the ratio of crude oil, natural gas and coal in the fossil fuels mix and I noticed that natural gas and crude oil exhibit very robust trends…

RCP85_Mod23

Figure 3. Natural gas is gradually replacing oil as the top fossil fuel… Thank God for George Mitchell!  Oddly enough, coal has remained relatively trendless.

Combining my previous method of projecting total fossil fuel use and the trends in Figure 3, I came up with this…

RCP85_Mod24

Figure 4. The return of Peak Oil.

No doubt Peak Oilers will welcome the return of Peak Oil some time around 2060.

Using BP’s numbers for carbon dioxide emissions…

oil – 73,300 kg CO2 per TJ (3.07 tonnes per tonne of oil equivalent)
natural gas – 56,100 kg CO2 per TJ (2.35 tonnes per tonne of oil equivalent)
coal – 94,600 kg CO2 per TJ (3.96 tonnes per tonne of oil equivalent)

I built carbon emissions scenarios for two cases:

  1. Constant ratio of oil, gas & coal based on 2005-2014 averages (left).
  2. Decreasing oil, increasing gas and relatively stable coal, based on trends in Figure 3 (right).
RCP85_Mod25

Figure 5. RCP 8.5 might be “business as usual… On Venus! The graph on the left uses a constant ratio of oil, gas and coal.  The graph on the right displaces oil with gas.

Based on a real world “business as usual” emissions scenario, with natural gas displacing oil at its current pace and no carbon tax, I come up with a CO2 right about inline with RCP 6.0, “a mitigation scenario, meaning it includes explicit steps to combat greenhouse gas emissions (in this case, through a carbon tax)“.

RCP85_Mod26

Figure 6. MLO CO2 is projected with Equation #1… QED

Then I took my real world “business as usual” relative concentration pathway and applied three reasonable climate sensitivities to it: 0.5, 1.5 and 2.5 °C per doubling of atmospheric CO2, starting at 280 ppmv (TCR 0.5, TCR 1.5 and TCR 2.5).  HadCRUT4, referenced to 1850-1879 is clearly tracking very close to TCR 1.5…

RCP85_Mod27

Figure 7: A real world (this world, not Venus) “business as usual” scenario would barely nudge the dreaded 2 °C limit by the year 2100… Assuming that all of the warming since 1850 is due to greenhouse forcing… Which it isn’t.

Since it is highly likely that t at least half of the warming since 1850 was not GHG-driven, the actual climate sensitivity would have to be significantly lower than 1.5 °C per doubling.

The real numbers tell us that the Venus line (+2 °C) will barely be nudged in a real world “business as usual” scenario.

The Only Pathway to Stay Well Below the Venus Line: N2N

Mr. Stockman and his ilk say they want to fight climate change.   Yet they vehemently oppose the only energy source which can economically provide a bridge to a lower carbon future.

If there actually was a need to fight climate change and they were serious about fighting it, they would be pursuing an N2N strategy (natural gas to nuclear).

The fastest, most cost effective, way to reduce carbon emissions would be to transition from coal to natural gas and nuclear power.

252491_5_

Real Clear Energy

Unless these zealots are incapable of basic arithmetic, I have to assume that their true motive isn’t saving the world from climate change.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

–Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change

Reference

RCP 8.5, Part Deux: “The stuff nightmares are made from.”

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77 thoughts on “From the No Schist, Sherlock Files: “Despite climate risks, utilities bet big on natural gas…”

    • Terrestrial energy appears to be the technology leader on molten salt reactors, though China has a very well funded R&D program that could take the lead with little notice.

      As for building gas plants today, utilities have no choice in the matter. Gas prices are low and projected to stay low, gas plants are cheap and fast to build, and regulators like them. Utilities don’t make decisions about what to do, regulators do. If you really care about the generation mix in your state, you need to figure out how your public utility commissioners are appointed or elected and participate in that process. Very few people do.

      The other part missing from the story is that natural gas doesn’t have appreciably lower GHG emissions than coal does in large parts of the US. Western NG production leaks a significant amount of methane. When you include methane leaks in the GHG impact of natural gas plants, they end up producing about the same GHG emissions as coal plants do – provided that the coal has a low methane emission profile like PRB coal does.

      • PUC’s do not dictate which power plants are built and their influence in the process varies from State to State.

        CO2 emissions from natural gas are about half that of coal:

        Pounds of CO2 emitted per million British thermal units (Btu) of energy for various fuels:

        Coal (anthracite) 228.6
        Coal (bituminous) 205.7
        Coal (lignite) 215.4
        Coal (subbituminous) 214.3
        Diesel fuel and heating oil 161.3
        Gasoline 157.2
        Propane 139.0
        Natural gas 117.0

        https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=73&t=11

        The leakage of methane from natural gas production is minuscule compared to the CO2 emissions from burning it. It barely even reaches the level of a rounding error.

      • Methane emissions from natural gas production = ~73 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
        CO2 emissions from natural gas combustion = ~1,400 million metric tons per year.
        CO2 emissions from coal combustion = ~1,700 million metric tons per year.
      • http://www.api.org/~/media/Files/Oil-and-Natural-Gas/Natural-Gas/Energy-and-Methane-OnePager-2015.pdf
        http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/

      • @Auto,

        Try to follow along:

        vboring posted:

        The other part missing from the story is that natural gas doesn’t have appreciably lower GHG emissions than coal does in large parts of the US. Western NG production leaks a significant amount of methane. When you include methane leaks in the GHG impact of natural gas plants, they end up producing about the same GHG emissions as coal plants do.

        Coal emits about twice as much CO2 as natural per btu generated.

        When you include the leakage from natural gas production, natural gas plants do not end up producing about the same GHG emissions per btu as coal plants do. The total leakage is equivalent to about 5% of emissions from natural gas combustion. When natural gas surpasses coal in CO2 emissions, it will be due to the fact that we are generating twice as many btu from natural gas as we do coal.

        Every factor in the estimation of emissions from all sources and leakage from natural gas production is an estimate, each with its own margin of error. With such quantitative uncertainty. 5% barely reaches the level of a rounding error.

      • I agree with David that natural gas (btu to btu) releases much less CO2 than coal. But, also oil and gas production and coal mining emit only a small amount of methane to the atmosphere compared to other sources according to NASA GISS. Rice paddies emit much, much more. See the graph here: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20091029/

        Wetlands, which most of us want to preserve, are the largest emitter of methane.

    • 300 year half life toxic waste, takes 3000 years of babysitting. IF THERE is no accident, and sure there still can be. Mixing corrosive liquids, carbon steel and radiation and Winger effect is about one of the most stupid things the 3 pound monkey brain came up with. Besides of course, nuclear fission to boil water.

      • stock,
        So you want to relegate our future generations to a life of cold, dark winters after the recoverable oil and natural gas reserves are exhausted? I doubt they will agree. If they don’t have the technology to build and operate nuclear power plants, they will burn every last pound coal and dig up every last bucket of tar sands they can get at in order to keep their families warm and fed.

  1. Natural Gas is great to have in the home. Power goes out at my house, water heater runs on Natural Gas and isn’t affected by the electric lines, so i can still have hot or cold water and take a nice shower. Also, power goes out at a house, but i have a porch light that runs on natural gas so it’ll stay on even if the electricity goes out. Just a couple uses for it, but many more to come. A necessity as far as I’m concerned.

    • Natural gas powered back- up generator wired to automatic switch.
      Here in SW Florida where I live, and in most homes in the US, there is no natural gas available, so we must use the next best thing…propane.
      Here is s jobs creating infrastructure project everyone should be able to get on board with: Build out a network of natursl gas delivery lines to every home in the US.
      Use for all hot water, cooking, and home heating needs. And emergency back up power for those so inclined to spend the money to have power during the inevitable short and long disruptions that occur.
      The rural electrification act transformed America. A similar plan for natural gas could transform America again in the 21st century.

      • Kinder-Morgan’s Palmetto pipeline to supply more natural gas to Georgia and Florida was killed by an unholy alliance of Republicans against eminent domain and environmentalists opposed to natural gas. It’s a shame since Florida needs more natural gas. I have a natural gas electric generator and live in a state with hurricanes (Texas) and I’m never without power. The generator doesn’t power the whole house, but it does power the part we use the most and one air conditioner. Propane is a pain and dangerous and/or expensive to store. To cut energy costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions (if you are worried about that, I’m not) natural gas is needed, but it requires pipelines. If you stop all the pipelines you stop natural gas.

      • A significant point.
        Also, beware of cyber-security, and its need.
        Not everyone with a computer loves the UK, or the US – or the USSR, I suppose . . . . .

        But – known about, and it would be realistic, I think, to suggest that – consequently – being thought about.
        Next Carrington – years? weeks? centuries? I can guess – like anyone else.

        Now, for sure, we need to prepare.

        Auto

      • Stock,

        … or another Chixculub bolide impact, or a Wolf-Rayet supernova gamma ray beam strike w/i 3 kpc, or space aliens wanting our planet for themselves.

        How about we plan for those events too?

      • Yes, very true. Even if the gas keeps flowing, your Generac whole-house generator has a nifty microprocessor board in it to control startup and (maybe) load shedding as well as the auto transfer function. That’ll be a worthless lump of silicon after the Carrington event as well. You might not even be able to do a manual start.

    • I use a combination of solar, batteries, wood fuel and propane generation. Although my house is large I’ve installed two wood stoves, one on each floor, each rated for 3000 sq. ft. The solar array generates 60kWh peak (summer) 10kWh average. The batteries will run the house for 4 hours after sundown, two power controllers (Sunny Island) manage switching between the array, batteries and a 15kW propane generator.

      The system operates indefinitely off grid and since it’s in a remote area we are occasionally without grid power for to 4 weeks a year so, though expensive, it was a good investment. I recovered the capital in 7 years by selling power to the grid (when it’s up, which is most of the time). It’s now in its 10th year of operation so I’m net positive on the investment, which has done about as well as my stock portfolio. It also adds value to my property. I’m on 10 acres of mixed oak, madrone and redwood so firewood is in good supply for winter heat. As you can probably guess, I’m sort of proud of it.

      Residential solar can work in some applications. Mine is a bit unique due to the unreliability of the grid in my area, which adds significant value to the system that wouldn’t apply to a typical urban or suburban consumer.

  2. Don’t forget, natural gas is still evil even though it is presently cheap. Cheap is driving the bus right now though I expect that this will change as coal use in power plants is replaced by ng. Got a good deal for my rural home from our local utility to switch from propane to ng. If not for the regulatory interventions by the feds, coal would soon be king again in that arena, I suspect. Supply and demand can be altered by government intervention.

  3. Here in Ontario, Canada, after the ruling Liberal party got caught by the auditor jacking up electricity prices by a mere $38 dollars over less than a decade in the pursuit of “green” power…they’ve folded the tent:

    http://www.bnn.ca/ontario-cancels-plans-for-more-green-energy-expects-to-save-3-8b-1.574655

    BTW, that “savings” of $3.8 billion isn’t of course “savings” as most of us would mean it. I could say I’ve “saved” $3.8 billion by not spending it on looking for unicorns…

    • I’m not sure I would describe their recent backpedaling as “folding the tent”. The tent is still there, they just haven’t added another tent. And as you said, the use of the word “savings” is highly misleading…

  4. Mr. Middleton,
    Thank you for this nice piece.

    You’ve made but one fundamental error: the zealots are in fact incapable of basic arithmetic.

  5. …because if we build infrastructure today that we can’t afford…”

    The definition of politically motivated, pork-barrel spending.

  6. “Unless these zealots are incapable of basic arithmetic, I have to assume that their true motive isn’t saving the world from climate change.”
    Bingo!

  7. The big problem with renewable energy is that it is expensive and doesn’t work. If they want to push renewable energy, politicians have the choice of expensive electricity or blackouts. That makes it hard to get reelected.

    The province of Ontario in Canada had been pushing renewable energy and had signed very expensive contracts. The result is expensive electricity. The Liberal government is becoming even more unpopular as a result. The government has reacted by backing off.

    Natural gas is cheap. Right now it’s the best choice if we want to keep the lights on at a reasonable cost. Based on history, it is unlikely that renewables will get the technical breakthroughs needed to compete (maybe ever). If I were a power company, I would look at the experience in Ontario and conclude that natural gas is a safe investment. Public pressure will make sure of that.

    • Is it possible that by using natural gas in a reactor I can generate more power per $ than I can by running a generator?

      As gas is widely available in Ontario and will probably by for the next century, it makes sense to consider all generation technologies. I don’t want a hammering engine during the blackouts, I want the hiss of a fuel cell.

      • It’s called cogeneration. Fuel cell products exist. Here’s a link for Panasonic. It supplies home heating, hot water, plus a bit of backup power.

        Here’s a link for Honda. It’s products seem mostly to be IC engined but I do see reference to fuel cells on the web site.

    • Wind works… where it works. A lot of wind generation is being built for three reasons:

      1) It kind of works fairly well in a few places.
      2) The Production Tax Credit (PTC) and other subsidies,
      3) You have to build a lot of it. You have to build 3-4 MW of wind to match the output of 1 MW of coal, gas or nuclear.

      As an economic replacement for coal, wind, literally, breaks even.

      • MAGNIFICENT article, Mr. Middleton!

        @ Griff: Mr. Middleton is well-informed, but a bit underinformed about the ROI (and EROI) of wind power.

        1. Wind, after factoring in all the production and maintenance of its relatively short life (per unit), NEVER breaks even. It has a negative ROI — always. The only way Wind makes its contrived profit is: tax subsidies and power rate surcharges (on non-“renewable” power generation).

        And Wind’s EROI never breaks even or even comes close to paying its costs of production/maintenance.

        2. Wind works only sporadically, is fatally prone to lubrication (bearings)-based failure, and does not work “fairly well” — ANYWHERE in the world (if you are talking in terms of powering an industrialized economy). Boeing did not build any of its factories where wind power was a significant part of the power grid.

      • @Janice Moore,

        By “breaks even,” I was referring to this graphic from the post…

        As a replacement for coal, the environmental benefits of wind (mostly mythical) roughly break even with the costs (very real).

        Without a doubt, if you eliminate the subsidies, wind can’t break even in ROI.

        That said, wind power works very well in Texas due to the physical geography of the high plains and Llano Estacado…

        Although, it does create some headaches for coal and gas plants due to its special treatment by ERCOT.

        Regarding, EROEI… it’s really an irrelevant metric. The only ROI that mattes is the one denominated in $$$.

      • David,
        When only looking at the short term, or private/isolated installations, then yes, EROI is not important. But when looking at grid-scale solutions to replace traditional electrical generation (like many greenies are), then it is the ONLY thing that matters.

    • If we look at the usual misleading claims from the solar/wind lobby, we find that they consistently misrepresent the amount of renewable energy by quoting “Nameplate capacity” when characterizing the amount of new renewables. Nameplate capacity is NOT how one characterizes electric power capacities. Windmills typically average 20 to 30% capacity, whereas nuclear plants often run at over 100% capacity,
      which means that a nuclear nameplate capacity equivalent to a wind farm capacity would actually produce three and a half to four times more energy. Solar capacity varies with the seasons and irradiance levels, but probaby averages 5 suns per day at most solar farms, meaning an actual capacity that is more than 5 times less than its nameplate capacity.
      I have to laugh at stupid estimates like these from the EIA that claims the ability to foresee 25 years into the future, yet sees no changes in power technology.. Anyone who is aware of current nuclear developments must be aware that we are on the cusp of new nucler molten salt reactors, whose developers claim the ability to produce power cheaper than any other technology,, including coal and natural gas. Anyone who fails to consider this new nuclear technology is living in a dream world and totally out of touch.

    • Griff!!! My buddy is back at it again, throwing out quasi-religious comments!!

      As I have told you in past comment replies, the mere fact of energy markets/Departments of Defense/utilities building renewable infrastructure is not based upon the reality of the situation at hand (expanding needs for energy generation and distribution), but based on fiat edicts from the current ruling class, to include taxpayer-funded largess to prop up systems that would fail in direct, unfettered competition with other power generation and distribution scenarios. In a situation such as an ‘all of the above’ energy generation approach as touted by certain American presidential candidates, and when the Executive Orders are rescinded and the subsidies are more balanced or are removed that currently support renewable energy infrastructure, the renewable energy sector as a house of cards will collapse in the ‘winds of change’ (for the better). I will agree that a small amout of so-called renewable energy generation will remain/be built where it makes economic (not political) sense.

      Sorry to rain on your parade there Griffy-baby. The truth does hurt at times, doesn’t it.

      Regards,

      MCR

    • Griff, me too

      thinks someone should do a quick check on how much wind energy is being built,

      AND CALCULATE the subsidies taxpayers and consumers have to submit to green scam profiteers.

  8. There is ongoing a court case about Obama’s Clean Power initiative in the appeals court sitting en banc, with a majority of Democratic appointees in the panel. Obama failed to get legislation to implement his program, and is trying to use ambiguous wording in current law to do so administratively.
    Of course, all of Obama’s programs presumably go away if Trump wins.

  9. NG and coal are competitors, and competition is good for the consumer. Unfortunately, under the current regime, there is not a level playing field. Coal is being disadvantaged. That is a huge mistake, which hopefully Trump will correct.

  10. The Figueres quote ending this essay should have appeared at its beginning. Playing with the numbers (intellectual detective work), while important and entertaining for those so inclined, obscures the reality that this monstrous fraud is the carefully constructed ‘trojan horse’ of anti-capitalist zealotry (the effectiveness of which is poised to drive us back to the ‘dark ages’!)

  11. “Utility companies somehow have a responsibility to comply with regulations future congresses might impose…”

    If a regulated utility complies with regulations that are not legally required, the state Public Utility Commission will refuse to pay for the capital cost of the overbuild and the associated O&M expenses, leaving the overage to the shareholders. Any CEO that complies like that will be tossed out on his/her keister….

  12. Dave,

    A very nice analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And the math was easy (unless you’re a liberal).

    IMO, This thread should be a DrudgeReport item for even wider dissemination of what the Left is really up to with their Climate Hustle.

  13. I have a Ph.D. in a physical science, so I have seen past the curtain, so to speak, and have little to no awe with regard to the label “scientist”. Their models are narrowly defined and often don’t describe the real world well. They are naive about the intentions of others and may not have acceptable intentions themselves. Many scientists are, in fact, very silly people; and should be the people sought out last for advice or design requirements of a large, complex system that has to work reliably, and be cost effective. They have interesting ideas, and deep knowledge.

    • I too have seen behind the curtain. No awe on my part. For my field, it is a sad statement that around 80% of all laboratory cancer-tumor biology published findings are not reproducible.

      I think the other area where too much stock is placed in an ivory tower education is the field of macroeconomics. The Keynesian PhD crowd is looking more IYI with each passing day of negative interest rates in the EU and Japan.

  14. These scientist should try running their workplaces on the green fluctuating energy from wind and solar.

  15. Excellent article.

    The power blackout of the entire state of South Australia yesterday caused by its idiotic climate change energy policy which shut down operating coal plants while pushing unreliable and costly renewables is just the beginning of the new “dark age” coming to visit such stupid political climate change policy makers.

    • I was under the impression that the proximate cause was a lightning strike on some central distribution equipment.

  16. I think many of you problem already “get it”, but to sum up

    1) Fighting carbon is all about transferring wealth to the Wealthy, and control and power
    2) Implementation of the NWO by control /taxing of energy and other TPP trade laws.
    3) If Obama wants it bad, it can’t be good for the average man.

      • David, including land-use changes could give a better match, especially deforestation in 19th century in North America, and reforestation in 20th century.

      • High, David, you snuck your graph in there whilst i was composing my little comment. I usually post my links first to make sure that they work before i post my comment. Nothing more aggravating than writing a comment based on a link only to have the link not work. (usually because i typed out the link wrong, i AM a klutz…) i was actually referring to the cumulative emissions graph that you showed above in your post and not this one here. Ferdinand always uses the same sort of graph showing the tight relation between carbon graowth and emissions. Ya gotta think it’s suspect, spurious… The years ahead may show us just how bad those graphs are (or aren’t). Time will tell whether it’s emissions that drive the relationship or it’s temperature.

      • Fonz…

        It has to be a combination of the two.

        The problem is that we lack high resolution data over the period when emissions were insignificant. The highest resolution Antarctic ice cores I am aware of come from Law Dome (Etheridge et al., 1998), particularly the DE08 core. Over the past decade, the Law Dome ice core resolution has been improved through denser sampling and the application of frequency enhancing signal processing techniques (Trudinger et el., 2002 and MacFarling Meure et al., 2006). Not surprisingly, the higher resolution data are indicating more variability in preindustrial CO2 levels. MacFarling Meure et al., 2006 found possible evidence of a mid-20th Century CO2 decline in the DE08 ice core…

        The stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentration during the 1940s and 1950s is a notable feature in the ice core record. The new high density measurements confirm this result and show that CO2 concentrations stabilized at 310–312 ppm from ~1940–1955. The CH4 and N2O growth rates also decreased during this period, although the N2O variation is comparable to the measurement uncertainty. Smoothing due to enclosure of air in the ice (about 10 years at DE08) removes high frequency variations from the record, so the true atmospheric variation may have been larger than represented in the ice core air record. Even a decrease in the atmospheric CO2 concentration during the mid-1940s is consistent with the Law Dome record and the air enclosure smoothing, suggesting a large additional sink of ~3.0 PgC yr-1 [Trudinger et al., 2002a]. The d13CO2 record during this time suggests that this additional sink was mostly oceanic and not caused by lower fossil emissions or the terrestrial biosphere [Etheridge et al., 1996; Trudinger et al., 2002a]. The processes that could cause this response are still unknown.

        [11] The CO2 stabilization occurred during a shift from persistent El Niño to La Niña conditions [Allan and D’Arrigo, 1999]. This coincided with a warm-cool phase change of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [Mantua et al., 1997], cooling temperatures [Moberg et al., 2005] and progressively weakening North Atlantic thermohaline circulation [Latif et al., 2004]. The combined effect of these factors on the trace gas budgets is not presently well understood. They may be significant for the atmospheric CO2 concentration if fluxes in areas of carbon uptake, such as the North Pacific Ocean, are enhanced, or if efflux from the tropics is suppressed.

        MacFarling Meure, C., D. Etheridge, C. Trudinger, P. Steele, R. Langenfelds, T. van Ommen, A. Smith, and J. Elkins (2006), Law Dome CO2, CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000 years BP, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L14810, doi:10.1029/2006GL026152.

        From about 1940 through 1955, approximately 24 billion tons of carbon went straight from the exhaust pipes into the oceans and/or biosphere. It most likely went into the oceans due to the global cooling of the mid-20th Century.

      • Let me try to clarify… there is a school of thought out there that says it is temperature that drives the carbon growth rate, but not because of henry’s law. Rather, higher temperature causes an inefficiency in the carbon sinks causing anthro co2 to accumulate faster in the atmosphere. If we assume that this school of thought is correct (just to see where it leads us), then the anthropogenic rise is happening because of an increase in temps, NOT because emissions have increased over time. It would seem that one or the other has to be correct. Either the anthropogenic rise is being regulated by temperature OR it’s being regulated by how much emissions we’re putting into the atmosphere. Time will tell. They both can’t be right and sooner or later there will be a divergence in the data that will show us which of the two it is…
        Thus far, the relationship between temps and the growth rate has been impeccable for over half a century (mlo…). The relationship between emissions and growthrate, not so much (that being the point of my original comment). Regardless of why the rise is or isn’t happening (anthro or natural or a combo of both), there remains the question of whether or not the amount of human emissions has any impact on the atmospheric growth rate of carbon…

    • GRAPHS, MARVELOUS, GRAPHS!!! (sung to the tune of “food marvelous food”) Thankyou, David, you’ve made yer humble fonz happier than a pig in slop…

      Those cumulative emissions graphs have to be looked upon as suspect. The above graph (courtesy of dr spencer) shows the raw data that is used in your typical cumulative emissions graph. You can see that both (emissions and carbon growth rate) do generally trend alike over time, but you can also see the percentage of emissions that “remain in the atmosphere” shifts from 60% to 45% (and back again) several times. By tweeking parameters in a cumulative emissions graph, it makes it seem like the relationship is closer than it actually is. AND note the points at which carbon growth rate returns to 60% of human emissions: the step rises in the late 1970s and the early 2000s correspond to known step rises in temperature. (the carbon dioxide growth rate is also known to track with temperature) How sexy would those cumulative emissions graphs actually look were it not for those step rises in temperature?

  17. Regarding methane, permafrost and methane hydrates are the only CH4 reservoirs large enough to pose any threat to anything and there is no risk of their destabilization.

    Since 1980, atmospheric CH4 has risen from ~1700 parts per billion (ppb) to ~1825 ppb:

    And the growth rate is slowing:

    The recent growth rate has been about 5 ppb/yr (~0.1 ppm CO2). The sources and sinks are:

    Global coal, oil & gas production, from extraction (including fracking) to transportation to consumption accounts for less than 1 ppb/yr of CH4. Global meat production also accounts for about 1 ppb/yr. This is an insignificantly small number.

    Even though methane is ~20 times as potent a GHG as carbon dioxide… 1 ppb CH4 is only 0.001 ppm… The equivalent of 0.020 ppm CO2.

    Furthermore, CH4 “traps” a far narrower bandwidth of OLR than CO2.

    And, like CO2, CH4’s bandwidth is within water vapor’s bandwidth.

  18. “HadCRUT4, referenced to 1850-1879 is clearly tracking very close to TCR 1.5… Since it is highly likely that at least half of the warming since 1850 was not GHG-driven, the actual climate sensitivity would have to be significantly lower than 1.5C per doubling.”

    AND, one might add, nowhere near the 3C of the CAGW crowd. What David (and others, including Mr May) has stated cannot be reiterated enough. The actual record (yes the actual DATA) shows significantly less climate sensitivity than is being bantered about by the climate change establishment…

    • There is a consistent pattern of observational data tracking the model scenarios in which humans essentially undiscover fire

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