Climate Change - A bold approach to CO2 Emission Reduction for the US

Posted on October 26, 2015
Posted By: Claude Cahen
 

Introduction

Climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases and others are expression that we can hear and read everywhere.  Pollution, untruthful corporations, specific interests against general common goods makes news headlines on a daily basis.  Dramatization makes it even worst.  It is very difficult for a citizen to position himself.

The purpose of this article is to prove that individuals who are not necessarily experts in climate change but do have expertise in various fields (energy in this case) and hopefully a sound judgment can bring an insight on the complexity of the issue.  Clearly, the immensity of the task leads to ask governments to tackle the issues. The segmented approach of governments mirroring their own administration breakdown into various departments (transportation, energy among others) sets specific goal by department which seems reachable. Adding up the actions and trust the overall efficiency is very challenging.    The total action relies too much on numerous administrations reactivity and synchronicity.  The first step is to try not getting lost among information that governments release. This article will discuss the information that should help to get a better sense of urgency. It will show that the success of government driven approach goes through a very dire pathway.

Secondly, the reader should sense that large numbers of actors are required to make it successful.  This paper proposes a pragmatic approach:  how to make people involve, looking at possible synergies between different above mentioned segments.  Our scenario relies on corporations and employees willingness.  This will bring together a very large number of actors as well as money.  Some large corporations have already taken action. We propose to go beyond this kind of luxury that only some corporations can offer and to set up a real common vision.  Employees are often concerned by climate change; we propose to make them actors rather than spectators.   Corporations are looking for stability and long term visibility for their businesses; we propose that they take this opportunity to shape their futures.

As it will be shown, the proposed move will give access to large amount of data that the current analytics can handle smartly.  This will avoid a bureaucratic management; every step will be tracked with modern tools by a dedicated team with no governmental interest. 

The paper gives:

  • - A clarification of often cited numbers with a tentative approach to make them consistent and articulated, and to assess the pertinent indicator,
  • - Using this methodology the government proposed top down GHG emission reduction scenario credibility is reviewed, the tight pathway is highlighted,
  • - A bottom up more pragmatic approach is presented.  Large corporations and employees are the actors of this scenario.  The scenario features a less tight pathway to the ultimate target.
  • - The cost/benefits analysis is performed.
  • - The modern management tools that should sustain the scenario are described giving a new perspective to the role of social media beyond pure pro active marketing.

Basic information on Climate Change

General

The most important understanding on climate change is the tipping point that the scientific community has agreed on:  2 0C (Celsius) increase of the average temperature on earth will make observed climate change trends irreversible .  The main cause of this increase is to due earth reflected sun radiation absorption by some very minor species in the atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect.  The main specie CO2 contributes about 77% to this absorption.  For simplicity, green house gases will be referred as CO2.  3/4 of emitted CO2 comes from fuel combustion (anthropogenic origin) the remaining is the natural CO2 cycle on the planet.

The CO2 concentration level in the atmosphere at which the 2 0C temperature rise is reached is calculated by atmosphere experts at 450 ppm (part per million).  CO2 concentration has been measured above 400 ppm in May 2013 for the first time.  Of course, it keeps increasing as the CO2 anthropogenic emission keeps being released into the atmosphere.  Once a molecule is released from land or ocean, the CO2 molecule stays at least 100 years in the atmosphere before being re-absorbed by the ocean and forest.  This is more than human lifetime.  The 450 ppm threshold has suggested a name to the must reached scenario known as 450 SCENARIO.

How this translates into a mass of emitted CO2 that can be acceptable before over passing the threshold?  Without entering into unnecessary details, to relate the volume concentration (ppm) to a mass (metric tons of CO2), one has to introduce the total mass of the atmosphere.  It yields to a conversion factor:  1 ppm CO2 = 2,130 Million Metric Tons or MMT CO2.

Consequently, the ultimate 50 ppm we need to monitor closely correspond to 100,600 MMT CO2.  The last global available data give total emission slightly above 32,000 MMT CO2 per year.  Reformulating the situation, within the next 3 years the 450 ppm threshold could be reached if nothing is done.  The 3 main emitters are China, US and EU which represent 50% of the total emission.  These regional entities are committed to reduce their emissions while facing economic growth resulting in higher energy demand.  It is impossible to set up a program that will reduce drastically the emission overnight.  Only a constant effort over a reasonable time period could be achieved.  Most of the nations have agreed on year 2050 as a target to fully implement the required actions to contain the total CO2 concentration below the 450 ppm threshold.  These commitments will likely be confirmed during the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.  Given the observed annual emission, 4% annual reduction over the next 35 years will keep the total CO2 concentration slightly below 450 ppm.

The 450 SCENARIO (the most aggressive scenario) anticipates energy efficiency will contribute to more than 50% and renewables only 24 %.  The remainders are carbon sequestration and nuclear energy.  If everyone agrees that energy efficiency has a huge potential:  habitation heat losses, heavy industry energy optimization, transportation efficiency are clearly issues that can be corrected and improved.  However, it is very vague and the timetable very uncertain.  It is difficult to review the credibility of this scenario for each part of the world including the ongoing growth resulting in higher energy demand which is implicitly offset by energy intensity reduction of human activities.  The focus on the US, as one of the leader nations in this fight, will enable a fair evaluation of this kind of program since data are various and available.

US specific information


Figure 1 :  US emission per source


The US contributes to about 17% of the total global emission:  5,400 MMT compared to 32,000 MMT CO2 per year.  4% annual reduction will yield to 80% reduction of the emission in 2050 slightly above 1,000 MMT CO2 per year.  The US emission breakdowns into 3 main segments:  electricity generation (38%), transportation (32%), industry (14%) as shown on Figure 1 .

For Electricity, 4,000,000,000 MWh are produced per year – 68% come from CO2 emitters (coal and natural gas power plants).  Coal combustion releases about 2 times more CO2 than natural gas per MWh produced:  0.97 Metric Ton per MWh vs. 0.45 T/MWh for natural gas for the best in-class combustion technologies.  Without accounting for the other well identified side effects such as ash, heavy metal, particles, acid rains, it is clear that natural gas power plants are cleaner than coal power plants.  Coal power plants represent 39 % of the electricity mix in the US. 4% annual CO2 emission reduction will phase out coal power plants in the US.

For Transportation, 255 million registered vehicles. Passenger cars (128 million) are accountable for 43% of CO2 emission.  The target set by the Administration is 54.5 mpg for 2025 compared to 25.4 mpg on average for 2014.  Actually, the average mpg is about 63% of the top 10 efficient cars average (40.5 mpg in 2014).  54.5 mpg corresponds to an average 34.3 mpg.  Knowing that one gallon of fuel generates approximately 0.01 Metric Ton CO2 and the average mileage driven is 15,000 miles per year, one calculates that CO2 emission will result into 0.8 ppm in year 2025 corresponding exactly to the anticipated 4% emission reduction scenario.  Note that this reduction could be accounted for Transportation Sector while the action could belong to Energy Efficiency.  This emphasizes how artificial and irrelevant the segmentation can be.  This is particularly obvious for the third large sector.

The Industry sector produces the goods and raw materials we use every day.  The greenhouse gases emitted during industrial production are split into two categories: direct emissions that are produced at the facility, and indirect emissions that occur off site, but are associated with the facility's use of energy. Direct emissions are produced by burning fuel for power or through chemical reactions, and from leaks from industrial processes or equipment and indirect emissions that are produced by burning fossil fuel at a power plant to make electricity, which is then used by an industrial facility to power industrial buildings and machinery.  It seems intuitive that transformation industry can dig into the heat losses recuperation to improve processes efficiency.  Meanwhile services industry such as large data center can find a way into the efficient cooling of the large computers and battery backup. Both could benefits from local electricity generation with renewables from solar to biomass and waste-to-energy conversion.  The situation is very complex, simple calculation as shown for the two major sectors is difficult to figure out. It assumes that the overall 4% annual reduction is achievable given the broad panel of possible actions.

Actually, looking closely to the US electricity scenario only illustrates how the assumptions are tight and the scenario likely unrealistic.

US electric sector CO2 emission reduction

A realistic assumption for CO2 reduction is that the most efficient way to reduce CO2 emission is to replace the worst emitter (coal power plant for electricity) by near zero emission generators like renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass), nuclear power plant or large hydropower plant.  Other scenarios like progressive switch from coal to natural gas are considered as plan B scenario even if promoted by the oil & gas industry . This translates as coal generated 82,000,000 MWh replacements by zero emission 82,000,000 MWh or approximately 9,900 MW coal capacities.  Coal power plants are baseload generators: they generate electricity 24/7.  Among near zero emission generators only biomass, nuclear and hydro power plants are baseload while solar and wind are intermittent generators. Moreover, since electricity cannot be stored at a large scale, supply and demand must match at any time leading the grid operator to idle a production unit or to call for another production unit to come on line conversely. This is the dispatchable notion.  Only larger hydro and biomass power plants are dispatchable. Nuclear power plants are too complex to operate on full dispatchable mode with a 24 hour notice.  To summarize, only large hydro and biomass could replace coal power plants on a MW per MW basis. If intermittent generators like wind or solar should be used, a capacity factor must be accounted for that mirrors the number of hours available for production per unit of time.  Solar farms built in the most sunny region feature 23% capacity factor equivalent to 4.1 MW to displace 1 MW coal.  Wind farms feature 29 % capacity factor on average or 3.3 MW to displace 1 MW coal.  The projects are large projects (few hundred MW range at least) since about 10 GW capacity must be displaced. To prioritize among these options, one needs to look at the development process (from feasibility to commercial ready) and cost for each technology.

A quick analysis of comparable projects for each generation technology shows:

  • - The largest wind projects , are typically 270 MW, 14 projects of this size came on line in 2012, the best year for wind technology due to the disappearance of federal incentives in 2013 fiscal year.  The average specific cost is $ 2,000,000 per MW or $ 500 million+ per project.  The development time including feasibility, land acquisition, permitting, interconnection to the grid, supply agreement, off-take agreement, securing the financing, building the projects and the needed infrastructure lasts 3 years.  This is an average.  To deploy largest projects (1000 MW+), off shore projects have to be considered. No one is currently operating.  The time to develop is longer, the cost is higher even if the capacity factor is higher.  It can only be regarded as the secondary option to match the desired capacity.  It is fair to say that the option could become more realistic over time.  The total operating wind capacity (all projects) is 65 GW at the end of 2014.
  • - The top 25 largest solar projects average typically 525 MW, 3 projects of this size came on line, 2 projects are under construction and the remaining under development in 2014.  The average specific cost is $ 2,500,000 per MW or $ 1 billion+ per project.  The development time lasts 3 years on average.  The total operating capacity (all projects including solar concentration) is 10 GW at the end of 2014.  It is fair to mention that most projects in development phase are small projects and account for about 50% of the total capacity under development.  The small projects will be considered as significant contributors to the solar development with a shorter time to commercial operation.
  • - Biomass power plants could be an interesting option. A biomass power plant burns the biomass to make steam and ultimately electricity.  To keep the projects economical the radius of biomass collection (mainly wood) should be shorter than 100 miles.  With this limitation, only hundred of MW can be installed locally.  The deployment time is longer than 3 years.  Today, biomass provides 1.8% of US electricity.  This proportion can increase the potential being large across the nation.  However, the engineering skills will limit a rapid growth.  Biomass will be considered as a secondary provider of near zero emission plants.
  • - Hydropower and nuclear will be disregarded as new near zero emission plant since the time of deployment is very long (more than 8 years) and the cost is very high. The assumption is that either hydro or nuclear new power plants will offset the decommissioning of aging facilities only.

Given the above description, large wind projects should be developed as #1 priority as well as large solar projects but also thousands of smallest solar projects.  Biomass is disregarded at this stage.

The last information need is the respective industry capability to sustain such developments.  It is noteworthy to keep in mind that each individual large project calls for hundred to thousand million dollars. On one hand, only few players in the solar and wind industry combined offer the guarantee for such huge amount of money.  This limits definitely the number of projects that can be built.  On the other hand, the manufacturers’ capacity to provide the number of wind turbines or solar panel is also limited.  If we adopt the best booming year of each industry (2012 for wind and Q42013 for solar ) as a reference, and we account for all the above limitations, we can calculate a scenario that is compared to the 4% CO2 emission reduction until 2050.  This scenario makes 5% annual growth assumption for the solar industry to catch up with the more mature wind industry in terms of installed capacity. The comparison is shown on Figure 2:

 

Figure 2 :  Comparison between 4% reduction scenario (green curve) and likely scenario (red curve)

Note that at year 2050, both wind and solar accounts for 35 % of the US electricity mix.  This is the target supported by the wind association.  The renewable energy industry catches up the 4% scenario beyond year 2033 in terms of annual reduction;   the year 2050 is a tradeoff between countries to make this scenario happens accordingly to a reasonable effort by each country.  We have no clue on the dynamics of the process:  is earlier higher concentration more harmful? 

Electricity sector must be more pro active given the described dire pathway. Clearly if things go wrong for electricity we cannot expect a miracle from the other sectors. We will address it later.
Here, we describe an additional approach that could help to stick as much as possible to the 450 ppm SCENARIO.  We deliberately look at the new scenario impact compared to the electricity scenario reference.  This is presented now.

GHG reduction by US large corporations

Not only corporations but employees too.


Figure 3 :  Large Corporation expected actions (blue boxes) plus large corporation employees as actors (orange boxes)


In the US, large corporations are defined as equal or greater than 500 employees.  Large corporations represent about half (60 million) of the total employee population (121 million) .  It makes sense to use this channel to reach out a significant portion of the American population.  As shown on Figure 3, large corporations are expected to take action (blue boxes) on:

  • - Renewable energy:  Installing solar panel on roof or parking lot, buying electricity from large renewable projects...
  • - Recycling:  this will contribute to the reduction of primary energy needs,
  • - Process efficiency: heat losses recovery, LEED building…

But one can also associate large corporation with their employees. Each employee can take action individually (orange boxes) on:

  • - Transportation: commuting more with public transportation, driving zero emission cars, car pooling,
  • - Other sector (non direct fuel combustion):  replacing lighting with low consumption bulbs, energy efficient appliances…

Of course this cannot happen without a source of money to foster the action.  One solution is large corporations pay for their employees.  It seems crazy but it is not so bold. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

 

Scenario mechanism


Figure 4:  Proposed scenario – blue boxes are managed by the corporation; orange boxes are managed by employees

Large corporation facts

As mentioned above, 60 million people work for large corporations. It is half the total employees in America.  There are 18,311 firms for 1,158,795 establishments. Firms are scattered more or less homogeneously across the country with an expected concentration in large cities area.  The average large corporation has 3317 employees with $271,000 revenues per employee.  All these numbers show how an action taken by large corporations can make a significant impact on any kind of policy effectively.

Corporations are not necessary pro-active players if they don’t sense the benefits for action:

  • - For instance, most of the US Oil & Gas companies which belong to the most profitable top 20 global companies have not committed yet to any renewable energy program.
  • - While most of CO2 reduction steps should return a payback in less than 10 years, the time frame is still considered too long to warrant investment.  Most investments look for payback within 3 years. Of course, this perspective neglects that climate change itself disrupts business, and that delay in action only increases the severity of potential disruption.
  • - Penalties may be counterproductive:  Corporations prefer to pay fines rather than taking action.

 

So what make corporations move?  It is difficult to tell but it is certainly not tax incentives, penalties or any government driven program.  If public positive perception is at stake, a corporation could be more interested in taking action.  Ultimately, it is more the perception that it will help their market, please their customers, and guarantee a clear path for the next decade.  Our proposal matches these attributes.

  • - Direct benefits on market conditions for some industries:
  • - Boost EV Industry and Auto Industry
  • - Boost recycling of old cars
  • - Boost appliance industry
  • - Boost the Electric Industry
  • - Indirect benefits on market
  • - Boost 2nd market in Developing Countries: leverage for new market entries.
  • - Boost V2V and V2X developments:  considerable amount of data that could be handle with new analytics tools
  • - Boost smart home:  this new industry will find a directly addressable market place through the commitment of employees.
  • - Increase customer satisfaction
  • - Corporations must go beyond marketing, be accountable; the program that will be managed by an independent nonprofit foundation will report on the real progress to each corporation and will track all the actions, make them sharable among all participants, and share database with the relevant institutions that can help to improve the overall program efficiency.  This will give any customer the opportunity to value the involvement of the corporation he is dealing with.
  • - Increase road safety:  removing dangerous cars from the road and replacing them with high security profile vehicles will arguably contribute to increase the safety.
  • - Clear vision for the next decade:  this program that is carried by large corporations and their employees will not be facing the political volatility of tax and grant incentives, or worse higher penalties to compensate for failed programs. 

Corporations going beyond marketing, becoming accountable,  Employees being proactive actors of climate change fight,  all these incredible positioning can become true because there is a clear statement that the # 1 priority is GHG reduction not profit.  Profits will just be delayed and hopefully will increase with the successful action.

Now we need to detail the actions.

Zero emission vehicle for each commuting employee

Passenger vehicles are about 128 million.  If one accounts for the average occupancy of vehicle , the usage of public transportation, the geographical specificity of large cities where most of large corporations are headquartered, the possibility of 2 members of the same family working at the same place, there is a potential of 37 million+ candidates for a zero emission car. 

The average 2 ways commuting distance is 26.8 miles.  There is no issue with vehicles fueled by bio-fuels.  The autonomy range of electric vehicles is about 100 miles on average (minimum 80 – 100 miles autonomy and up to 265 miles or even more for some models).  An employee could be able to recharge the battery every other day.  We propose that super fast charging stations (less than 30 minutes) are installed on the corporation parking lot or 2 vehicles per hour for one charging station.  The charging planning can be managed locally by a dedicated team that schedules each charging period accordingly to employee work schedule.  EV vehicles are rated 34 kWh/100 miles, including the cycle efficiency of re-charging a battery, the capacity for 2 vehicles is only 30 kW.  If one assumes the average large corporation with every eligible employee recharging the car the same day on the same site, the required capacity will be about 2.7 MW.  Given how scattered are the firms, the capacity range is rather hundred of kilowatts.  Large corporations could install solar panel and energy storage capacity to meet this need boosting the local solar industry.  Moreover, the various designs will be shared among the large corporation participants.  It will end up easily with guidance for an efficient installation.  Another viable option is this amount of electricity is part of larger renewable electricity off take agreement to fulfill the whole facility energy needs.  This is peculiarly true for large sites.  This will contribute to the renewable energy penetration too, helping the electric industry to reach their goals.

Employees to upgrade home lighting and appliances for energy efficient solutions

Every commuter who has been awarded a new vehicle will earn money from a more efficient vehicle, lower maintenance cost, sale of the old vehicle to a 2nd hand market if vehicle shape acceptable or to a recycling facility otherwise. . This earned money should be immediately invested into low consumption lighting and energy star appliances. 

The annual CO2 reduction is calculated to equal 2.8 MTCO2 per year . The total CO2 reduction is 68 MMT per year or 0.03 ppm only.  The reduction of the corresponding sector “other” (non fuel combustion) is 21%.  The actual impact is ridiculously small.   This part of the program is a simple way to bring awareness in each home, to boost the concerned industry, to demonstrate that the benefits of other actions can be shared equally, to disseminate the smart house technology and to leverage smart metering.

Proposed scenario CO2 concentration estimate

In 2014, according to various reports , EV sales are reported as follow:

Figure 5: 2014 top 5 EV sales

Total EV sales are slightly above 120,000 vehicles compared to 16.5 million vehicles sold in 2014 in the US.  It is very little.  The production capacity for EV is less than 5 % of total capacity.  We assume that given the very well known brands involved, the proven record of flexibility and adjustment to demand, the EV sales can go up to 20 % market share by 2025.  Another 20 % will be flexible fuel vehicles that can run on biofuel. This technology demands very light adjustment of current production process. The proposed action to replace all employee vehicles by near zero emission vehicles will be completed by 2031.  The dynamic of production is backed by the commitment and the visibility large corporations bring to the table.
We calculate the corresponding CO2 reduction and we compare the results to the 450 ppm scenario and the likely scenario previously presented:


Figure 6 :  The proposed scenario combined with the likely scenario (in blue) is very close to the “optimistic’ 450 scenario.

Looking at Figure 6, the 450 ppm scenario becomes more “realistic”. The action is taken beyond the anticipated evolution of electricity production.  This is not a state or federal imposed renewable energy volume that makes it happen but a combined action of the former and corporation/employees.  The process is quite different.  Players, government and corporations, anticipate the cost of inaction by taking this voluntary moves.  Both know that the cost will be very high but very difficult to really evaluate meanwhile it is possible to evaluate the real cost of the proposed program for large corporations.

The total cost for large corporations is about $72 million or 7.6% of one year revenues, the amount spent over the next 20 years. The contribution is definitely modest giving a lot of room for possible adjustment between corporations.  It is important to put this number in the right perspective:  7.6% of average revenues are equivalent to $ 1.4 billion for all the corporations which compare barely to 2014 US budget for Federal Climate Change Expenditures of $ 21 billion .

 

Conclusion: pragmatic approach to climate change action can bring unexpected benefits

This article shows very quietly that the final success of in place actions for reducing the CO2 emission is very dependent on motivation and synchronicity between the stakeholders. The path forward is very dire. The new proposed action brings some release to this effort. The bottom up proposed scenario pushes every employee of large corporation to be an active player and offers a huge opportunity for large corporations to change the way there are perceived by the public opinion. It is true that it relies on volunteering too but at a very different level.  .  Large corporations will give up a small fraction of their benefits to boost some sectors that have the most significant impact on CO2 emission reduction. We anticipate the benefits for large corporations:

Immediately tangible:

    • - Happy employees,
    • - The industry boost will likely benefit the company either directly or indirectly:  automakers, appliance manufacturers, turbine/solar panel manufacturers, are part of large corporations.
    • - Ripple effects to large numbers of small to medium size businesses:  Large corporations are corporations of more than 18,000 employees and more than 1,000,000 establishments scattered with a sizeable portion in the US. The leverage is huge. Small/medium businesses will participate locally to the local renewable production, charging stations, fuel stations, recycling…
    • - Some corporations can dramatically leverage participation in this action.

Short /mid term:

    • - Fighting climate change prevents from business disruption on a short to mid-term range.
    • - Networking among employees goes far beyond the corporation’s reach.
    • - The power of the social media is hard to anticipate, but ….

Fighting the climate change should concern everybody and institutions.  Any action counts.  However, regarding the incredibly large numbers of single actions to put together for bringing a significant impact on the CO2 reduction, it is smart to start with entities that can bring these large numbers.  It may look crazy and naïve to think that large corporations will join the fight just because it is a must be won fight.  The financial contribution is rather small regarding the anticipated huge benefits. The monitoring of the program will enable to stop it anytime if it fails.  Hopefully and confidently it will succeed. . All effective actions must be contemplated.  This is really a global fight.  We are fortunate enough to have global tools available today that can help to share the results, to enable corrections and to imagine other solutions. It is time for action.


International Energy Agency – Scenarios and projections – on line documentation at http://www.iea.org/publications/scenariosandprojections/

The White House - Office of the Press Secretary - August 28, 2012 – “Obama Administration Finalizes Historic 54.5 MPG Fuel Efficiency Standards”

BP energy outlook 2035:  Focus on North America – March 2015

American Wind Energy Association: AWEA – Fact sheets - http://www.awea.org/Resources

US DOE - Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States -  March 2015

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) - U.S. Solar Market Insight Report | Q2 2014

Census Bureau - All the information can be found at http://www.census.gov/.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics - http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/publications/

U.S. Energy Information Administration - http://www.eia.gov/

See for instance:  http://insideevs.com/

Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report to Congress - August 2013

 
 
Authored By:
Claude Cahen holds an Engineering Master, a PhD in Physics from Pierre et Marie Curie, an Executive MBA from HEC. Dr Claude Cahen has spearheaded over 20 biomass/biogas, bio-fuel, and energy storage projects with Electricité de France and its subsidiaries.  Claude possesses a vast knowledge of major US and European utilities and the renewable energy market. The last 4 years with EDF, Claude was in charge of conducting M&A in
 

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Comments

October, 27 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Well Claude, my name is Ferdinand E. Banks, and I am the leading academic energy Economist in the World.

I skimmed through this article but missed one of the parts about nuclear. Then I read it closely and saw what you said about the 'deployment' time' for nuclear. Absolutely and totally and completely wrong I am afraid.

In this nuclearr matter I Always cite what Sweden did. Twelve reactors in just under fourteen years. Actually it was probably more, however I dont waste my time investigating trivia. But I Heard something interesting about renewables just today.. According to the IEA, globally, wind and solar come to less than one percent at the present time. Yes, I understand that there are a lot of incompetants at the IEA, but even so, despite all the talk about these two items, they dont seem to be going anywhere.

By the way, I failed physics twice my first year at engineering school, and was expelled. I was first in my class in Leadership Schook in the U.S. Army, but they expelled me anyway. Fortunately nobody has ever expelled me or thought about expelling me when it comes to energy economics.

October, 28 2015

Richard Vesel says

Unless I missed it, you do not provide a financial mechanism by which funds will be made available to "give a free EHV" to every commuting employee, build charging stations, etc. The only mechanism I see for the necessary routing of funds is to tax fossil-carbon/CO2, or all combustion-based processes (so we don't deplete wood for the sake of avoiding fossil-carbon taxes), and rerouting that 100% to renewable/sustainable energy sources and possibly your EHV offers to people who drive more than 10,000 miles per year (just for example).

Under your "General" topic, a few corrections. CO2 does not provide 77% of the greenhouse effect, but a bit over 3%, with the rest being due to water vapor (96%). However, if you look at that 4% contribution from non-water components, then yes, CO2 provides about 3/4 of THAT. The remaining 1% is due to methane, CFC's, SF6, etc. etc. These all added about 60 deg-F (34 deg-C) to the global average surface temperature, with CO2 then being about 1 deg-C, under pre-industrial conditions of ~280ppm. If you double the CO2, then it will about another degree of warming, putting us at the tipping point we are warned about. So, with some "safety margin" of 100ppm, we arrive at the nominal ~450ppm (~550 - 100).

CO2 is the major concern at this time in history because it has a significant thermally broadened IR absorption at a wavelength of 15 microns, which is smack dab in the fat part of the blackbody radiation curve for every surface of the earth, no matter what the nominal surface temperature. This is where the heat retention and temperature buildup effects come from.

As far as when we will reach 450 under business as usual conditions, your calculation neglects some reabsorption of global CO2 emissions. For the past several years, I have developed an exceedingly accurate excel-based model of CO2 buildup, based on world population, averaged per capita emissions, rates of change in each of those, and curve fit that back to historical CO2 levels to get a NET figure for CO2 ppm levels. Last year, my Dec 2014 year-end calculated value exactly matched the Mauna Loa Observatory's published figure to the tenth of a ppm: 399.6, and it has tracked to within 2.5ppm for every year from 1736 to the present. So I trust the model implicitly for it accuracy. Here is what it says under business as usual conditions, for end of year CO2 levels, and projected world population:

2015: 401.8ppm - 7.367B people 2020: 415.2ppm - 7.775B " 2025: 431.3ppm - 8.131B " 2030: 449.6ppm - 8.461B " 2040: 494.3ppm - 9.136B " 2050: 552.9ppm - 9.603B "

2030 is when we will hit 450 if we don't mend our ways. If we start to slow down our world population growth a bit, and begin reducing each person's average footprint by a couple of tenths of a percent per year, and gradually improving from there, then we can merely delay the 550ppm mark to 2090-2100. By that time, we would have to be at nearly zero new carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The only way to reach 450 and holding is to get to zero new carbon emissions by 2050 or so, starting right now.

I am happy to share this model with anyone who wants to play with it for their own edification.

RWV

October, 28 2015

Richard Vesel says

Respaced the table so it is more readable:

2015: 401.8ppm - 7.367B people . 2020: 415.2ppm - 7.775B " . 2025: 431.3ppm - 8.131B " . 2030: 449.6ppm - 8.461B " . 2040: 494.3ppm - 9.136B " . 2050: 552.9ppm - 9.603B "

November, 09 2015

Claude Cahen says

Thanks for the comments. It is always helpful. Ferdinand: To make it clear I am not against the nuclear energy, it is just that it cannot happen at a pace quick enough in the US. Many reasons but the most relevant reason is the cost: No lender for such an amount of money with a payback so unattractive. It is the sad reality in the US. Richard: I describe the mechanism of funding as a corporate decision to put 10% of 1 year earning into the the project. The benefits are listed in the article. If I have to pick one, it is that corporation does not like business disruption. This move will certainly contribute to mitigate the potential disruption of global warming. At least it is worth trying. PS: You should advertise more on your calculator. Good luck.

November, 12 2015

Richard Vesel says

I'd like to know more about how to appropriately publicize the CO2 calculatioins and projections! Thanks

RWV

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