Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How's this deal: everyone, including other fossil fuel interests, gangs up against coal

(Ahem.) Wereallyneedacarbontaxorcapandtradebutintheabsenceofsufficientpoliticalwillweshouldturntootherpollitically-viablealternativesfortheshortandmediumterm.

Okay, with that out of the way, here's the basic idea for the US:  natural gas eats coal's lunch but renewable power gets a guaranteed and growing share of the power market. More specifically, natural gas interests support a national Renewable Portfolio Standard guaranteeing an increasing market share to renewables, with some state-level flexibility to make it meaningful and feasible in most states. In return, enviros let better-regulated fracking expand. The deal might need two add-ons:  gas interests support legislation limiting coal exports, and in return, more areas get opened, carefully, to fracking (looking at you, California) (UPDATE:  I mean fracking for gas, not oil, and AFAIK there isn't much of that in California).

I'm not certain we need a deal on coal exports - enviros can try their luck fighting coal export terminals and rail lines on their own without the help of national legislation. Coal exports to Europe would also fall under Europe's cap, so I could see it being Europe's problem to decide how they'll meet their cap. I also think it's usually better to determine that emissions are caused by the country that emits them, not by countries upstream or downstream in the production chain. On the other hand, this deal is less useful if the coal still gets burnt but in another country. If enviros demand assistance in limiting coal exports though, then they have to offer something in return.

This would be a temporary alliance between natural gas and renewables. After a decade or so of growing renewables and decreasing coal, natural gas would have to start phasing in carbon sequestration and would likely have to be phased out itself. That's a fight in the future, though.

Enviros could turn down this deal, but I'm not sure the present status is better, with fracking sucking up the large scale funding that might otherwise be available for renewables.


George Montgomery said...

British Gas Australia Chairman Catherine Tanna gave a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia circa June 2013 in which she stated: "I take great satisfaction being part of an industry that is helping people to breathe cleaner air in some of the developing world's most populated cities and is providing electricity so that people do not have to cook using firewood, coal or cow dung." My interpretation of this is that the use of "or" instead of 'and' effectively equates coal to cow dung and is illustrative of the competitive rift between the coal and gas industries that is revenue driven.
The grammatically-tortured, opening paragraph of that Tanna address reported in the theenergy June 2013 Issue 29 states: "In this age of climate change - and while renewable energy options do not yet have the characteristics or scale to meet rising energy demand - natural gas, with its relatively low emissions, will remain an important part of Australia's and the world's energy mix." So, British Gas accepts climate change is linked with fossil fuel emissions and seeks to use that relationship to gain a competitive advantage over the coal industry. At the same time, BG claims a self-perceived primacy over renewable energy as it (and the natural gas industry) attempts to seek some sort of middle ground position between coal and renewables while presenting natural gas as being an indispensable energy source. More succinctly, BG (and the natural gas industry) is engaging in fracking in a political, economic and industrial sense. Someone should tell the denialophiles.

Anonymous said...

How's this deal? - Stop panicking about CO2 and a little warming.

Anonymous said...

An even better deal - stop panicking about panicking about CO2,it's more that "a little warming", and start discussing options.

Mother of 7


Cheer up- Heartlad assuresForbes readers that the future benefits of warming will offset any conniptions in the cold regions of today!

Ed Darrell said...

Benefits of warming will offset harms, if you like to eat bread made from cheat grass instead of wheat, sure.

Less gluten, at least.