Posts tagged “greenhouse gases”
Energy on the Edge
Along with the OPEC meeting that takes place late this week, the biggest story in the world of energy is the Paris Climate Change Conference (Conference of Parties 21, or COP21) that runs through the end of next week. This conference is put on by the United Nations with the goal of producing a global agreement that will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Implementation of strategies that will help mitigate potential impacts of climate change are also on the agenda.
Decarbonizing our energy systems by encouraging greater usage of alternative energy — a frequent topic of this column — is one of the common themes in the fight against rising greenhouse gas emissions. Next weekend a new episode of National Geographic Channel’s Breakthrough series covers progress being made on this front. “Breakthrough: Energy on the Edge” debuts Sunday, December 6, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel and covers some of the latest advances in alternative energy.
Ahead of the premiere, National Geographic Channel contacted me and extended an invitation to join the conversation by answering the question “Do you think that by tapping into the new alternative energy sources we can reverse most of the damage we have done to our environment?” But first I think we need to step back and make sure we understand the problem. Failure to correctly characterize a problem makes it much more difficult to address that problem. So let me first offer some context on the question. CONTINUE»
Another Courageous Punt
I hadn’t planned to write yet another Keystone XL pipeline article, but I have gotten a lot of questions since the recent announcement by the Obama administration that they are still unable to make a decision on the project. I agree with the Washington Post’s assessment of the situation, that this is now into absurd territory.
At this point I don’t think the project will be approved by this Administration, although it could be approved by the next. I think this is a simple political calculation by President Obama, that by foot-dragging and delaying he is keeping his environmentalist allies at bay, but without all of the political fallout around Democratic Keystone XL supporters should he simply reject the pipeline.
This is one reason I would make a terrible president. I can’t play games like this. You make a decision. It can go one of two ways. You can say “I am going to make a stand along with my environmentalist allies who voted me into office and reject a continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.” That would be a courageous stand, albeit one more steeped in symbolism than in measurable climate impact. More on that below. CONTINUE»
Today I continue coverage of my recent visit to the Athabasca oil sands near Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. I will be covering multiple aspects of oil sands production in a series of posts.
In last week’s post — Oil Sands and the Environment – Part I — I discussed greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on wildlife, and I touched upon water usage. I also detailed some of the work of Pembina Institute (PI), which is working to improve the environmental conditions as the oil sands are developed. Today’s article will discuss the tailings ponds, water consumption, impacts to water quality, and impacts to indigenous people.
There are two primary ways of extracting bitumen from the oil sands. In situ production involves injecting steam into the ground to heat up the bitumen which is then pumped out of the ground. Surface mining is done when the resource is fairly close to the surface. During my trip we visited one in situ producer – Cenovus Energy – and one surface miner – Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL). These methods will be discussed in greater detail in next week’s post. CONTINUE»
I spent the past week in the heart of the Athabasca oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. During my trip I was told that the only person who ever asked as many questions as I did was when David Biello from Scientific American was a guest. (You can read one of David’s articles from his trip here).
I felt like I learned enough to write a book on the oil sands, so I have a great deal of information I want to share with readers in a series of articles. In these articles I will provide an overview of the oil sands, compare and contrast the different ways of processing them, discuss the environmental issues, and then discuss the particular companies that I visited on this trip — Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Limited.
I want to start this series with a 2-part discussion on the environmental issues. Generally when people think of oil sands, the environmental issues are foremost on their mind. That has always been the case with me, so most of the questions I asked during my trip related to the impact of oil sands development on the environment. This is a very contentious issue, and one in which the battle lines have been drawn. CONTINUE»
Last week the 2012 BP Statistical Review of World Energy was released. I always look forward to the release, because the data represent the most comprehensive, publicly available database on energy consumption and production statistics. I have now read through this year’s report, picking out what I believe are important trends and data points. In this column I want to highlight several key points, including:
- The reason for the conflict in numbers between the EIA and BP
- Barack Obama’s historical position in presiding over increasing U.S. oil production
- The U.S. becoming more energy independent
- New global records for oil production and consumption
- Energy consumption and carbon emissions differential between OECD and developing countries
- Growth in renewables such as solar, wind, and biofuels
In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I answer questions about compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, and talk a little bit about global warming. Some of the topics discussed are:
- The environmental footprint of a CNG vehicle versus an electric vehicle operating on natural gas-derived electricity
- The prospects of CNG vehicles in the next 10 years
- Why I generally do not write much about global warming
- The basis of future climate change projections
- The role of feedback mechanisms in climate change
- The basis of the greenhouse effect
- My concerns about the tenor of the debate
- The real “carbon bomb” for the planet
In the first episode of R-Squared Energy TV for 2012, I give a short presentation on global warming. I believe there are a number of misconceptions around the U.S. contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and I provide some graphics that may surprise some viewers. Some of the topics discussed are: What do I think about global warming? Why do I feel that it is mostly out of the hands of the U.S.? Why do I feel that it will be very hard to rein in emissions in developing countries? I realize that the sound quality on the video needs to be improved, and I am working on that. It isn’t simply a microphone issue, or I would have already resolved… Continue»
Steeling Myself For Inevitable Controversy I am currently in the middle of writing a chapter on global warming for my book. This actually marks the deepest I have ever delved into the science of global warming. My approach is to explain the science behind global warming; explain which parts of the science are definitely settled, but then also explain why some people have doubts. Of course this debate is so bitter on both sides that merely explaining why some people have doubts is bound to be characterized negatively by some who insist that there can be no doubts. But I can’t overly concern myself about that. I realize that my position is bound to be misrepresented by some. All I… Continue»
Introduction In Cracking the Carbon Code, Terry Tamminen lays out his strategy for managing and reducing carbon emissions. He describes what California has done. He describes great strides that China has made. He describes his strategic meetings on the subject with President Obama prior to his election. He makes estimates on what the costs would be to regulate carbon dioxide (0.7 cents per kWH of electricity; 35 cents per gallon of transportation fuel). He talks about carbon markets that have sprung up around the world, and makes recommendations for how businesses can inventory and manage their emissions (e.g., he recommends that all businesses have a carbon manager to deal with each company’s carbon emissions). A Fundamental Disagreement But I read… Continue»
In Part I of my recent interview with Tom Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Navy (Energy), we covered the nature of what the Navy is trying to achieve (and why) with respect to incorporating renewable energy into their operations. Part II begins with a discussion of why coal-to-liquids (CTL) is presently off-limits, and why GTL may be as well. Incidentally, I mention Shell’s Bintulu GTL facility in Malaysia below. I have just spent my entire morning inside their facility, and will have a report up on that visit next week. The editor of Consumer Energy Report, Sam Avro, joined me in this interview and our questions below will be denoted as “RR” or “SA”. Mr. Hicks’ responses are “TH”…. Continue»