Denmark bans new installations of fossil-fired heating

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Although Denmark announced its ban on installations of new fossil fuel heating systems last year, it was not widely available in English until now. The Danes’ renewable goals (100% renewable by 2050) far exceed those of Germany (80% renewable by 2050). Apparently, the oil crisis in the 1970′s caused Denmark to begin aggressive build-out of district heating systems and of a natural gas network to use the newly abundant supply from the North Sea.

Now the North Sea gas is expected to run out in a decade, requiring the Danes to rely on Russian supplies. In response, they are accelerating district heating and sourcing the heat from renewable supplies. They have banned oil and natural gas heating systems in new buildings and in 2016 installation of oil-fired heating systems will be banned in existing buildings if gas or district heating is available.

Denmark shows a level of commitment to addressing climate change and energy security far beyond most countries.

via Denmark partly bans fossil-fired heaters – 100% renewable – Renewables International.

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Recent Warming Is ‘Amazing And Atypical’

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Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature).

New Science Study Confirms ‘Hockey Stick’: The Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than The Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years

Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature).

If you believe the science and look at the picture, there is really not much else to say. The author of the article, Joe Romm, concludes:

[W]e have decided to change the setting on the thermostat from “Very Stable, Don’t Adjust” to “Hell and High Water.” It is the single most self-destructive act humanity has ever undertaken, but there is still time to aggressively slash emissions and aim for a setting of “Dangerous, But Probably Not Fatal.”

While I have been unhopeful and resigned about climate change in the past, I recently have renewed hope. Renewables increasing cost-effectiveness, non-fossil businesses responses to risk from climate change, coalescing of belief in climate change across the political spectrum, and real world results implying scientists may have underestimated the rapidity of change all make me think we have reason to hope. It could result in a combination of acceptance we have to do something, business drive to do something, and available alternatives to somewhat mitigate lifestyle changes.

A stable climate enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population. Now, the most comprehensive “Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years” ever done reveals just how stable the climate has been — and just how destabilizing manmade carbon pollution has been and will continue to be unless we dramatically reverse emissions trends.

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and Harvard University published their findings today in the journal Science. Their funder, the National Science Foundation, explains in a news release:

With data from 73 ice and sediment core monitoring sites around the world, scientists have reconstructed Earth’s temperature history back to the end of the last Ice Age.

The analysis reveals that the planet today is warmer than it’s been during 70 to 80 percent of the last 11,300 years.

… during the last 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit–until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F.

In short, thanks primarily to carbon pollution, the temperature is changing 50 times faster than it did during the time modern civilization and agriculture developed, a time when humans figured out where the climate conditions — and rivers and sea levels — were most suited for living and farming. We are headed for 7 to 11°F warming this century on our current emissions path — increasing the rate of change 5-fold yet again.

via Bombshell: Recent Warming Is ‘Amazing And Atypical’ And Poised To Destroy Stable Climate That Enabled Civilization | ThinkProgress.

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‘Solar sisters’ spreading light in Africa

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Solar Sister is a network of women who sell solar lighting to communities that don’t have access to electricity.

“It makes me feel proud to see that I’m bringing an income to my family,” she says. “Because if I can support my family, I feel good — other than seeking helplessly and looking for everything to be sponsored.”

Douglas Short‘s insight:

With this approach, women are empowered because they do so much of the work and make the buying decisions. If they decide to buy solar lights instead of more kerosene, they can. It is only a matter of time until they start selling solar panels for more general electricity use. As the founder of Solar Sisters says, without electricity and light, you cannot escape subsistence living.

See on edition.cnn.com

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Solar Power Off the Grid: Energy Access for World’s Poor by Carl Pope: Yale Environment 360

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

More than a billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Compelling article. Contrasts the failure of the “shared sacrifice” approach to getting response to climate change from grid-connected countries with the “make life better” approach for off-grid countries. The poorest nations will lead the way because they can best afford new technology of solar panels and LED lights. This is because they already spend huge portions of their income on energy (kerosene, diesel) that does not meet their needs very well. Modern technologies let them get much more for less money. In the process, not only will the environment become cleaner, but they will help drive prices down and show the rest of the world how it can be done.

See on e360.yale.edu

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A Conservative, Small-Government Strategy For Fighting Climate Change – Forbes

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Ex-SC GOP Representative on climate change: “We need to leave behind the science denial of the past few years and the knee-jerk embrace of fossil fuels.”

Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina is executive director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, an educational campaign devoted to free enterprise energy and climate solutions.

An excellent article that goes to the heart of what we need to do to address climate change in an economically efficient manner, it is a call for conservatives to not be in thrall to big business and to serve the country. As Mr. Inglis says:

” . . .the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, to a mere 12 percent.

That means that there are millions of potential customers out there looking for a real solution on energy and climate, and our small-government approach will work.  Conservatives: your public, your country, awaits.”


By Bob Inglis

Let’s face it: Politics and business are worlds apart. But not unlike business, politics is about solving problems. See the problem, pinpoint the cause, craft the solution and then persuade the customer – the voter – that your answer will work.

Failed politics is a failure of vision or analysis, solution or persuasion. When it comes to climate and energy, both parties are profoundly failing the people of our country.  Posterity will suffer for it.

Experience is telling Americans that they have a problem with a changing climate. They’ve seen record-breaking weather disasters, persistent drought, “Summer in March,” an excruciating wildfire season and now the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy. These have torn lives apart in small towns and big cities.

Insurance giant Munich Re recently reported that weather-related loss has quintupled in the United States in recent years. Last year, we broke the record for most billion-dollar disasters, 14 that totaled $47 billion. Sandy is estimated to cost New York and New Jersey upwards of $70 billion. These are bigger human tragedies than they are financial tragedies.

We’d better not try to tell voters in those places that they don’t have a problem. They have a problem, all right, but we have an opportunity – an opportunity to serve.

The larger tragedy is our nation’s failed policy on energy and climate, as the evidence of climate change grows and the only steps we take rely on big government and small vision. Republicans can seize the moment with a smart, small-government solution with the big-vision transformative power of the marketplace.

Republicans correctly rejected a big-government solution called cap-and-trade. Loaded down with too many give-aways to special interests on the left and the right, it deserved the cap-and-tax label the GOP slapped on it. But we must not stop there. No entrepreneur ever succeeded simply by trashing the competition. You’ve got to come through and meet the real needs of your customer.

And our customer needs a solution that works.

In business or politics, you’ve got to believe in your product. For conservatives, the product is muscular free enterprise. We believe in transparent and accountable markets that deliver innovation and drive down prices. We believe in the liberty of enlightened self-interest where individuals, not governments, pick winners and losers. And we believe that these freedom principles build stronger communities where people enjoy the dignity of providing for their own families and the joy of willingly meeting the needs of others.

It’s no great leap to apply these freedom principles to the energy and climate challenge – unless you just doubt your product.

Conservatives have the answer to energy and climate and it doesn’t grow government. We need to leave behind the science denial of the past few years and the knee-jerk embrace of fossil fuels. We need to rally around a superior solution.

That solution would look at the real costs and the real benefits.  As part of tax reform in this year’s fiscal fix or next year’s bigger fiscal fix, let’s empower our energy economy with free enterprise:

  • Do a revenue-neutral tax swap that reduces taxes on income and shifts the tax onto carbon dioxide, thereby attaching to fossil fuels an approximation of the cost of their negative externalities. [Note: Make sure to keep this revenue-neutral. You may have to add revenue elsewhere in a grand bargain, but the goal of this tax swap is the correction of a market distortion, not the raising of revenue.]
  • Eliminate all subsidies for all fuels, thereby correcting yet another market distortion called government failure.
  • Re-examine and streamline EPA regulations as we tax energy pollution, crafting a more logical approach to a cleaner environment that combines measurable outcomes with the transparent and accountable price signal from a carbon tax.

Read more at A Conservative, Small-Government Strategy For Fighting Climate Change – Forbes.

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There’s not gonna be a carbon tax even though Exxon Mobil wants one

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Exxon Mobil would like a carbon tax. President Obama won’t propose one (see Phillip Bump). Huh?

Here, Dave Roberts explains why there will not be a carbon tax, which is perfectly logical but incredibly discouraging.  This at the time more people are becoming so convinced of the terror of climate change that they are abandoning their careers to advocate (see Wen Stephenson’s open letter to journalists, A Convenient Excuse).

As Wen Stephenson says:

“As individuals of conscience, where will you stand? If you don’t have what it takes to level with the public about the situation we’re in, and what it requires, then what are you doing in this business? Why are you a journalist? How do you get out of bed in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror? How do you look your own children or grandchildren — any children — in the eyes?”


By David Roberts

One controversial component of a carbon tax: It’s a tax.

The idea of a carbon tax is going through one of its regular cycles of hype and excitement. This time, it’s being pitched as part of a “grand bargain” meant to address the long-term debt (which isn’t a real problem) and avoid the “fiscal cliff” (which isn’t a real cliff). Bloggers Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein are on board, as is the editorial board of The Washington Post and an op-ed writer in The New York Times. There was briefly a rumor that Obama was considering it, fueled by some random dude at HSBC Holdings, a bank in the U.K., but the administration has denied any such plans.

The hype has reached such an intensity that when the Sith Lord of Republican politics, Grover Norquist, said last week that a carbon tax wouldn’t necessarily violate his sacred anti-tax pledge (something he has said before), everyone went a little nuts, so much so that his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, had to issue a follow-up statement clarifying that, no, really, it “opposes a carbon tax and will work tirelessly to ensure one does not become law.”

Nonetheless, climate hawks remain excited that a policy they’ve come to see as their holy grail is being discussed in the context of solving America’s fake problem and avoiding its fake cliff.

So let’s be clear: It’s not going to happen.

There will not be a new carbon tax implemented as part of a deficit-reduction deal — not during the fiscal-cliff negotiations and not in the next congressional session. (Who knows what could happen after the midterms.) My green friends yell at me for saying this, say I’m cynical and if I clap harder it might have a chance. And I don’t discount the power of positive thinking. (I really don’t!) But this is not even close enough to the realm of reality to be worth pretending about. As the aforementioned Grover Norquist noted, “It’s a conversation about what color unicorn you’d like.”

Why won’t it happen? Because — and try to follow along here, because it’s pretty complicated, and this is coming to me from highly placed inside sources — Republicans run the House of Representatives and Republicans hate taxes.

Yeah, that’s really it. Remember:

[House Majority Leader John] Boehner spokesman Michael Steel had a one-word answer when asked, on Friday, whether the Speaker would ever consider a carbon tax to help address climate change and the deficit: “No.”

Sounds pretty definitive. Now, of course, Boehner could just be posturing in advance of negotiations. But right now the debate within the GOP caucus is whether to accept revenue from closing tax loopholes (not raising rates! never raising rates!) or … not accept any new revenue at all. That’s a long, looong way from “a bunch of new revenue from a brand new tax.”

“But wait,” you say. “A carbon tax is perfectly in line with conservative principles. It corrects a market failure. It doesn’t involve central planning. The revenue can be used to reduce distortionary taxes and slash the deficit. Conservative economists and wonks support it. Republican politicians ought to support it!”

I hear that “ought” a lot and I would encourage folks to think about it a little more. It implies that Republican officeholders are bound in some way by conservative principles. If you can show that a policy follows from conservative premises, or at least doesn’t contravene conservative principles, the thinking goes, Republicans are obliged to accept it.

Why would you believe that? It doesn’t fit the behavior of today’s Republicans when they’re in office. It doesn’t fit the behavior of any political party, ever. Mature political parties are not primarily organized around ideas or principles. They are organized around constituencies. Will Wilkinson puts it thusly:

Read more at: There’s not gonna be a carbon tax | Grist.

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Kyoto won’t save us from climate change – but a carbon tax could

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I am worried because a lot of really smart scientists are distraught and despondent from the world’s lack of response to climate change.  If these smart people who do this for a living are so upset, I’m worried.

In this must read article, Dieter Helm presents a clearly reasoned case that a carbon tax might be the only way to address climate change.  He looks at all the alternatives, which is helpful.  At some point, we will have to screw up our courage, bite the bullet, and go for a carbon tax.  As he says, ”If we don’t want to pay for the pollution we cause, we don’t really want to address climate change.”


Given the failure of UN climate talks, a carbon consumption tax would be the most effective way of lowering emissions

Dieter Helm for for Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 8 November 2012 09.22 EST

It is a stark and frightening fact that, despite more than two decades of international effort — including enormous time and energy expended on the Kyoto Protocol — and significant economic costs, carbon emissions are now rising even faster than they were in 1990. Back then they were going up by about 1.5 parts per million (ppm) per year. Now it is 2 ppm. The critical 400 ppm global threshold will shortly be crossed, and there is little reason to believe that this trend is likely to be halted any time soon.

This raises two obvious questions. How could so much effort lead to so little result, and how could so much political capital and economic cost be expended to so little effect? The second follows from the first: Given that current approaches have so lamentably failed, what new directions do we need to take if climate change is to be cracked?

The obvious place to start is with the causes of these emissions. The answers are straightforward: Coal has been the big winner in meeting the growth of energy demand since 1990, particularly for electricity generation. It has increased from around 25 percent of world primary energy demand to nearly 30 percent — a rising percentage on a sharply growing underlying demand. Much of that extra coal has been burned in China, and despite moves to reduce coal’s share of electricity generation, China is going to burn a lot more over the rest of this decade. China and India together currently add around three new coal stations a week, and between now and 2020 around 400 to 600 gigawatts of new coal is likely to come onto the world’s energy systems.

But before we get carried away blaming China, it is important to work out why this increase has taken place. China’s phenomenal economic growth has been based on exports, notably of energy-intensive goods, from steel and petrochemicals to a host of manufactured products. These have been bought largely by the U.S. and Europe, which together account for nearly 50 percent of world GDP.

It is carbon consumption that measures the carbon footprint and hence responsibility, not the carbon production in particular geographical areas. Yet remarkably the Kyoto framework does not take consumption into account. Instead it focuses on carbon production, and mostly in Europe, where deindustrialization and the collapse of the former Soviet Union make compliance with the targets easy. For example, the UK’s carbon production fell by more than 15 percent between 1990 and 2005, but once imported carbon is taken into account, carbon consumption went up more than 19 percent. This explains how carbon production can be falling in Europe in line with its Kyoto targets, while global carbon emissions keep going up.

This sadly is not the only fault line in the Kyoto-style approach. It is riddled with free rider problems — in which some nations reduce emissions while others do nothing — and it does not target the countries where the emissions really matter. No wonder the U.S. kept out. Indeed it is a miracle that the Kyoto Framework could even hold itself together at the Durban climate conference in December 2011. The price was inaction: All that could be agreed was that the parties would try to agree by 2015 what might happen after 2020. By that time, all those new coal power stations will have been built and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will be well above 400ppm. The upcoming summit in Doha, Qatar, will not make much difference to this timetable.

It is time to recognize that while talking is usually a good idea, the fabric of Kyoto is not going to head off climate change. So the answer to our first question — why there has there been no dent in emissions? — leads to the second: What would we need to do to make such a dent?

There are three parts to the answer. The first two are related. Unless people pay the cost of their pollution, they will not do much about it. And that pollution is best measured by carbon consumption, not carbon production. Therefore there has to be a price (a tax) on carbon consumption — a carbon tax with border adjustments to ensure that imports of carbon-intensive goods from countries without a carbon price are treated on the same basis as domestic production.

Immediately howls of political protest will be heard. Politicians do not like carbon taxes, because they fear we the voters will chuck them out if they dare to make us pay for our pollution. Carbon border taxes are claimed to be protectionist, interfering with world trade. Yet a moment’s reflection tells us something quite profound: If we don’t want to pay for the pollution we cause, we don’t really want to address climate change, since a carbon price is almost certainly cheaper than the alternatives of command-and-control and detailed government intervention. Setting specific pollution controls on large industrial installations, picking “winners” among technologies, setting quotas, and targeting subsidies to influence investment decisions are all open to interference by lobbyists seeking to profit from the interventions.

So if climate change is to be dealt with, there is no real alternative but to face down the critics of carbon pricing. Whether politicians rise to the challenge remains to be seen. Yet a combination of the need for new sources of revenue, coupled with the piecemeal emergence across a number of countries of some form of carbon pricing, suggest some limited grounds for optimism.

Not to have a carbon price is an export subsidy and hence a distortion to trade. Making sure we have a level carbon-pricing field is pro-trade and enhances efficiency. It might of course be complex, but it turns out that a small number of large, energy-intensive industries make up the bulk of the carbon trade and so in practice it will not require much to make a big difference to the outcome. It is better to be roughly right, than precisely wrong.

A carbon consumption tax would comprise two elements — a domestic tax on carbon, and a tax on carbon imports. There are a variety of ways of approximating the domestic dimension, from upstream taxes at the point of extraction, to downstream taxes on enterprises or consumers. Externally, the border tax could start with steel, aluminium, petrochemicals, and fertilizers, and then be gradually expanded. The added attraction is that this can be done bottom-up: Countries can do this individually, rather than wait for an international agreement. In other words, it gets around the free-rider problem facing countries that want to be early movers. They can act without disadvantaging their own industries.

A carbon price signals to both the demand and supply sides of the market, and gives a long-term signal to investors. Its immediate effect, however, is almost all on the relative economic costs of coal and gas, making coal proportionately more expensive. In Europe a pathetically low, volatile and short-term carbon price generated through the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme has had no significant impact, and indeed it has allowed a major dash from nuclear to coal and from gas to coal. Germany leads the way — it is burning more coal in its existing coal power stations and it is adding new lignite coal stations.

The immediate priority is to deal with this coal problem. Coal is really dirty stuff. It kills lots of miners — several thousand a year in China, for example. Coal mines leak methane, they pollute the water table with heavy metals, and it takes a lot of energy to dig out the coal and transport it to power stations, which then emit not just carbon but other major pollutants. Coal-fired power plants use lots of water for cooling and the ash needs to be disposed of.

Gas provides a temporary stopgap, with half the carbon footprint of coal and few of the other pollutants. In the U.S., with little or no energy or climate policy, shale gas is making major inroads into coal, resulting in some of the biggest drops in emissions in the developed economies, outside the Kyoto agreement. In Europe, by contrast, governments (notably France) have been banning shale gas, on the grounds that it might lead to methane leakage and water table contamination. These are real problems that need regulating, but a moment’s reflection should lead to the conclusion that if shale gas is to be banned, then all coal mining should be illegal, too. Yet in Europe the shackles being placed on gas mean yet more coal is being burned.

Gas is a temporary fix, and unless there is some massive success with carbon capture and storage it will eventually need to be phased out, too, in a decarbonized world. This brings us to renewables. It is a sad fact that none of the current renewables are capable of bridging the gap toward decarbonization. Wind, conventional rooftop solar, and various biofuels and biomasses require areas of land and water resources that are simply impossible to provide. It takes an enormous number of intermittent wind turbines, at best a few megawatts each, to deliver the output of a conventional power station. It takes a lot of roofs and more agricultural land than currently in total use in the U.S. and Europe to make much inroads into car fuels.

Yet it is these current renewables where all the effort — and money — is going. Europe in particular is determined to meet the short-term renewables and biofuels targets by 2020, spending billions on offshore wind and rooftop solar. Not only does this undermine Europe’s competitiveness against the shale gas-powered U.S., but it means that the money is not available to spend on future renewables and all the new technologies that might just crack climate change. These include next-generation solar, which involves improving the chronic inefficiency of existing solar panels, in particular through the infrared part of the spectrum, and a host of new materials to capture solar energy. Then there is solar thermal; artificial photosynthesis; geothermal, still in its infancy; next-generation nuclear; and a number of ancillary transformational technologies like smart grids and meters, which influence demand, and batteries and storage, which might solve the inherent storage problem that has long bedeviled the electricity industry.

Current renewables cannot bridge the gap, so either it’s climate change or it’s new technologies. Yet if, in the meantime, a serious carbon price can be introduced based upon carbon consumption and we can get off the coal escalator into gas quickly, then there is a hope that the 500 ppm threshold will not be crossed by 2050. But carrying on as we are, hoping Kyoto will solve the problem, is worse than wishful thinking: It carries lots of cost for almost no benefits.

• Dieter Helm is professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford, Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford, and author of The Carbon Crunch: How We Are Getting Climate Change Wrong and How to Fix It

Via Kyoto won’t save us from climate change – but a carbon tax could | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

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