What do I think, What can I do?

Archive for the ‘climate wars’ Category

It is the economy, not only the polar bear.

Climate change is not only about the polar bear or arctic ice. The consequences will be and are just over the corner and they are getting expensive. Some experts are using this argument convincingly. This was also the clearest message in Tony Blair‘s decided climate change action.  Insurance companies are repeatedly showing their opinion about climate change risk assessment. And the consequences in some sectors are starting to be economically noticeable as last  California’s water crisis affecting beer production. Or two from las winter: winter sports and destructive storms.

There will be more and more, attributions will grow at the same pace and some will realize that the economic cost of a low carbon economy (real, no doubt, in my opinion) is small compared to the cost of inaction. The problem is that the first one is short term and measurable, the former medium-long-term and more difficult to measure precisely. It is not again about environment and economy it is about short term and long term, and mainly about the well being of our descendants in one, two or three generations and so on.

When Renewables reduce electricity bill

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The following post mentions something that is repeated sometimes in the renewable energy debate.

How Maryland’s New Climate Plan Could Actually Lower Energy Costs

Depending on the regulations or feed-in-tariff, renewables can reduce the base cost as they can enter at 0 cost in the auction. This happens in Spain for example, but this does not mean that the final tariff is cheaper as renewable feed-in-tariff is added later. OK, the total amount maybe cheaper in the end or not (it was discussed here). Electricity cost definition is quite difficult to understand in many countries, in some too difficult. In my opinion, this is not the moment to discuss if solar energy or wind power are cheaper than gas or coal. Happily they have reduced their costs and are more and more competitive but they have been more expensive and will be in some places/cases for some time. I think that a much better and more clear message is to say that even if/when they are more expensive their costs will be much lower than a catastrophic climate change. Even when/if they are more expensive in the short-term, their long-term profitability will be evident. Otherwise, the pure current cost discussion can be quite disappointing, as in Kirguistan. So it is again a discussion between long-term and short-term, about our generation and the next ones.

Fracking, climate change and Promised Land

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to watch Promised Land in the cinema, and as going to the cinema is a rare pleasure for me I enjoyed the film.

Apart from my personal experience, the film is in this post because it is about fracking. Concretely, it is quite critical with fracking companies ppractices and reveals possible strong negative effects of fracking in the environment.

Fracking is subject that is gaining some presence here as some gas could be extracted from our lands. Oil or natural gas discovery has been one of the dremas of any world wide government, a synomnim of wealth and prosperity for the country or at least for some in the country (this depends on the sharing procedure, but it is not the object of this post). On the other side ecologists are afraid of the side effects of this technology.

In climate and energy related blogosphere it hs been discussed many times. For example, an Oli Crash post is very pessimistic about fracking possiblities. The basic argument is that its expensive, much more than accepted. Climate progress is skeptic respecting fracking too. This web is fairly optimistic. Some consider it is the only low carbon solution for China as it hahas helped the USA emission reduction. Maybe the one that I found more convincing is the numerical skepticism by David Appel. The CO2 reduction (compared to coal) could be generously compensated by methane emissions.

One of the things that surprised me in the film is that theydid not even mention renewables, as if they were not present in the USA. I think we are too late to think about provisional solutions or fracking bridges. We need clear emission reductions and renewables are far better for that than fracking, in fact gas is a fossil fuel, maybe cleaner or maybe cheap sometimes (or not), but a CO2 producing fossil fuel, and this is not a solution to climate change, it is a problem. Natural gas could the the last fossil fuel to sustitute but not the prefered to install.

Climate change and peak oil

Among my blogs-to-read it is one from peak oil movement or thinking current. The peak oil concept is easy to explain and really logical at least in the initial concepts:

The oil is a finite substance and consequently someday it will wear out. The second idea is that that day it is not so far and for this reason we have reached the maximum oil production of our history: the peak oil. The next step is that this concept is applicable to many other important substances to our civilization as gas, uranium, coal, copper,… The last one is that it does not have reasonable solution, the only way is to degrowth in an ordered way or do it in a chaos. However the final positive message is that the final world we can reach, doing things well, will be very austere but satisfying in many senses.

I read them with interest although I am not convinced of many of the steps like the inevitability of the strong degrowth or the grade of depletion of many energy sources. So, I was surprised to discover a strong critics to peak oil concept in another blog I read. A stronger grade of critics than mine really, and this helps me notice again how ideas that are different could share common goals, at least for some time, but do not for our strong sense of …

Peak oil and climate change fight are different concepts, in one sense peak oil forecasts a time without oil and will miss it a lot and climate change would like to forecast a time with the oil inside the ground as a synonym of healthy climate. However the current goals are not so far: change the energy production system and make it renewable to a great extent, the hopes or forecasts are not so common but this should not be a problem to find allies in this difficult task..

Last chapters in Spanish energy politics regression

definanzas.com.wp-content.uploads.energias-renovablesI started this post many time ago. And every now and then there are novelties, so it is like an never-ending post. Therefore, I have decided to stop and publish.

There was a time, not so far ago when Obama considered Spanish energy politics as a good example. A favourable Feed-in-tariff helped the development of a strong industry capable of exporting technology and an amazing 44% of electrical generation from renewables in January 2013 is an example of what was done. But this panorama, quite succesful, in fact, started to decline some time ago, concretely with the previous socialist government. And the current one, from the conservative party is deepening the problem and forcing the companies to look only abroad for new contracts.

After stopping feed-in-tariff for new installations the subsequent changes have attacked the installed solar panels and wind mills. The suggestion of removing the TUR tariff (the fixed tariff for most small consumers 99.6% of the consumers but only 50% of the KWh) was just a step. The general 6% new tax for all electricity generation followed.  And, last week a new change in feed-in-tarif for the active installations was designed with the tariff deficit in mind again.

But it does not stop there, efficiency measurements have been stopped too in a way quite difficult to understand. In one way european building efficiency directive has not been converted in law (it should be long ago) and this could be clearly an impulse for a collapsed building sector and certainly a help to save petroleum and gas expenditure and many of the programs from IDAE institute have been cancelled to support car sales (PIVE plan). The result is a record expenditure in fossil fuel imports. Is it not a bit contradictory with tariff deficit reduction philosophy? The only two good news are that el Hierro will not be affected nor a thermosolar central (just one).

It is clear from the beginning that Soria (industry and energy minister) has been mainly worried to reduce a very strange concept called “tariff deficit” , i. e. the difference between the attributed energy production costs and the final market value (TUR for most of the consumers). This difference has been steadily increasing in the last years and it is considered a debt of the consumers (or government I am snot sure) towards energy producing companies. Even if they have earned considerable money in spite of not getting all the attribution costs. Nowadays, with a terrible financial crisis this kind of debt is a heavy burden and Soria blames the renewables for it. Yet, there are data that  say the blame should be shared by many others as gas. Meanwhile the electricity demand continues falling with the economy and Soria is afraid this will continue to harm main energy companies.

I agree that the system was flawed, and that currently installed renewables are more expensive than some other energy types in direct costs but at the same time I think the whole electricity production and paying system should be redefined. It should be more transparent, clear and new renewables should have a reasonable possibility to enter as currently they are cheaper than ever, had a consolidated industry behind and produce many other benefits as jobs and reduction of CO2 footprint (Spain’s vulnerability to climate change is not low). By the way:

  • why not electrify transport to increment electricity demand but not energy demand?
  • or, why so much delay in self-supply regulation? If solar panel are expensive only the really convinced will install them and it they are not.
  • or, even better, why not simplify the system and introduce a carbon tax instead of the many other taxes to rightly account for actual externalities of the  different energy production processes?

Finally, the biggest problem with all this is the uncertainty it produces for other countries to start ambitious programs of  renewable energy. Spain was an example for energy transformation and it is at risk of becoming an example about how such a process could be spoiled. Nevertheless, the game is not over yet, a 44% of renewable electricity production in January (not based on Hydro power) is still a great number.

COP 18: Another opportunity in Doha

COP 18 is the 18th international meeting to address the climate change problem. It is held in Doha . I listened the news in the radio this morning with quite a clear summary of the challenges involved and by the way a good explanation of climate change causes, encouraging but an exception, I would bet that most of my friends, family, coworkers have not heard about it.

This meetings should be very important as climate change problem requires global solutions to be shared by most countries. However,  the previous meetings have been at least partially frustrating as the advance is slow and the discussions are more predominant than the agreements. The figure below shows that the world emission path has continued to go upwards in spite of 17 COP meetings, so reached agreements are clearly insufficient. But we, the humans, need time to get agreements, the problem is that we are running out of the time to get a reasonable agreement for a reasonable future climate.

Graph showing CO2 emission path last years

Graph showing CO2 emission path last years, data from IEA

Media could play an important role to make those meetings more efficient and to help people know what is discussed there and how all of us are affected. A convinced world population could be a great force to seriously start climate change mitigation instead of adaptation.

By the way, the guest country Qatar is ranked 1st in per capita emissions in spite of their last year reductions (last figure). The comparison with USA, Germany, Japan or China (4 out of 5 economic powers in the world) is quite significant. If all of us would be emitting so much CO2 (I do not think it is possible) we would live  in an oven.

CO2 per capita emissions for 5 countries including Qatar (source of data CDIAC)

How many changes in ten years

In NYT climate news feed they sent some old news last month I think that by error, but it has been interesting to check the change of perspective in the republican party in just ten years: He did not penalize CO2 emissions but it was in his electoral program. He even had a climate agenda and wanted to delay actions ten years for more research. Nowadays it would be considered a progressive in the republican party.
It is amazing to see how things can change in just a decade, and I cannot say it for sure but I do not think he has been the only one, the problem is that we do not have so many time to play political sports with climate change, the CO2 is rising, the temperature is rising, and the time to get a reasonable equilibrium is running out.