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Monday, December 24, 2012

We Are Going to the Moon

"We Are Going to the Moon - Let us Resolve to Climb a Nearby Hill"

Updated 1:45am December 30, 2012

A common response to warnings of climate change is the pursuit of domestic policies that are inadequate.

Australian and U.S. coal exports for instance have rapidly expanded to take up the surplus production that has resulted from cut-backs in domestic consumption.This interplay of vested interests and economic forces is easily overwhelming any benefits of national policies to cut emissions.

A considerable amount of energy also is going into an unnecessary argument over climate science. The pursuit of low-emission technology is all that is needed.

The opponents of climate science are not only dogmatic in denying the possibility of human-induced climate change. They are equally dogmatic with irrational claims that innovation to curb carbon dioxide emissions is not possible or, at the very least, is not economically feasible. The argument about this irrational claim is the only one that need be pursued. Some ideas for this argument are in the post: China slashing carbon dioxide emissions.

In the mid-1960s a great many self-proclaimed pundits argued passionately that it was impossible for man to go to the moon. No amount of rational argument could sway these dunderheads. There was exactly one, very simple answer. With the First Moon Landing by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969 the loud naysayers went suddenly quiet and were never heard from again.

Opponents of climate science sometimes lead double lives as vocal supporters of the coal industry. Larry Bell was a speaker at the Heartland Institute's Sixth International Conference on Climate Change in 2011 and its Seventh International Conference on Climate Change in 2012.  Naomi Klein wrote in her article Capitalism vs. the Climate on the Heartland Institute's 2011 Conference "as speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book 'Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax'
...climate change 'has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.' "
Larry Bell also wrote "U.S. Policies And Economic Doldrums Fuel Chinese Energy and Tech Grabs" in which he laments even greater challenges to the way of life of American coal magnates:
"Government regulatory actions, a weakening dollar, and an ailing economy, are providing bargain asset shopping opportunities for Chinese investors. ...

State-owned Export-Import Bank of China is likely to become the sole lender for a 400-megawatt “clean coal” power plant near Odessa, Texas to be developed by the Seattle-based Summit Power Group, LLC. Construction of the $2.5 billion project will be managed by Sinopec, the China Petroleum and Chemical Company. ...

The Texas deal applies a tried-and-true Chinese model: providing competitive financing through a state-owned bank…then negotiating participation for other state-owned companies.

Synthesis Energy Systems of Houston which holds a license for a coal gasification process that upgrades efficiency of low-quality coals while reducing toxic emissions, recently got an $84 million investment from Zhongjixuan Investment Management ( ZJX) of Beijing in exchange for 43 percent ownership in the company. Synthesis President Robert W. Rigdon has admitted awareness of the history of Chinese companies use of foreign technology without regard to patents ..."

It is a waste of time and energy to discuss climate science with such ideologues.

Coal exports - USA and Australia

Beyond Zero Emissions in Australia provides an example of setting sights on a nearby national goal that is too trivial for the problem that is to be solved on a global scale. If you intend to go to the moon, walking to the top of a conveniently nearby hill will not get you closer to your goal.

  • Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest in the world. Every person in Australia is part of a domestic economy that emits about 18-19 tonnes of carbon dioxide on behalf of  each of them.
  • Reducing emissions to zero - in Australia - is the goal set by Beyond Zero Emissions.
  • In the last 3 years Australia greatly reduced its domestic consumption of coal. Over the same period it increased its exports of coal by a greater quantity.
  • As the largest coal exporter  in the world Australia's contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions is staggering. Every person in Australia is part of a domestic economy that exports about 30 tonnes of coal on behalf of each of them. When burned this coal creates about 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per person in Australia. This is more than 5 times the emissions of each Australian in the domestic economy.
  • This figure of 30 tonnes of coal exported per Australian a year is now about 3 times greater than it was just 5 years ago.

The U.S. situation reflects similar dynamics.

  • Record U.S. shale gas production has lowered the cost of energy and the intensity carbon dioxide emissions of U.S. electricity generation by displacing coal-fired power generation. While coal's contribution to power generation in the U.S. has undergone an unprecedented decline, falling to the lowest share of net generation since 1973, U.S. coal exports are about to exceed the record set by the U.S. for coal exports in 1981.
  • Regulations requiring cleaner emissions from coal-fired power stations in the U.S. display the same perverse consequences. In 2008 major U.S. banks set guidelines on financing 'dirty' coal power plants taking into account foreshadowed regulations to limit emissions. The media report describing this historic initiative by major U.S. banks failed to observe that the banks never intended these guidelines were to apply to financing coal power plants outside the U.S. 

A recent report More than 1,000 new coal plants planned worldwide reflects the global ramifications of the above national policies and tinkering with national energy resources:
"World Resources Institute identifies 1,200 coal power plants in planning across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India.

...New coal power plants have largely been financed by both commercial banks and development banks. JP Morgan Chase has provided more than $16.5bn for new coal plants over the past six years, followed by Citi ($13.8bn). Barclays ($11.5bn) comes in as the fifth biggest coal backer and the Royal Bank of Scotland ($10.9bn) as the seventh.

The Japan Bank for International Co-operation was the biggest development bank ($8.1bn), with the World Bank ($5.3bn) second."

Not wanting to miss out on the rapid expansion in U.S. coal exports from the U.S. east coast to Europe, new shipping terminals are planned on the length of the Pacific North West coast for an even greater boom in U.S. coal exports to Asia; Tribes Add Potent Voice Against Plan for Northwest Coal Terminals :
"Coal producers across the nation have been wounded by a sharp drop in demand in the United States — down 16.3 percent in the period from April through June, compared with the same period in 2011, to the lowest quarterly level since 2005...

That has made coal exports, which have increased this year in every region of the country except the West, according to federal figures, even more crucial to the industry than they were when the six terminals on the Pacific Coast were first proposed.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said that with coal-producing nations like Australia and Indonesia competing for Asian markets, a roadblock on the West Coast is an issue for the entire American economy. "

And because of opposition in the U.S. that might delay the bonanza to be made from surging U.S. coal exports to Asia, the U.S. coal industry is gearing up to send coal by rail to Canada where Coal port expansion plans rile climate activists :
"The pressure to send more coal on trains through British Columbia's Lower Mainland is coming because the U.S. coal industry needs to tap new markets in Asia but has run into serious opposition in northwestern states.

Eric de Place, a researcher with the Seattle-based Sightline Institute, said six large coal export terminals have been proposed in Washington or Oregon but activist opposition has already killed one of them.

"There's something like an insurrection going on in Oregon and Washington," he said. "People are extremely angry."

The world's biggest coal producers are in the eastern U.S., de Place said, while the biggest consumers are in Asia.

"The road between those two goes through Washington and British Columbia," he said, noting domestic U.S. coal demand has sagged as U.S. buyers shift to cleaner energy sources."