Posts Tagged ‘coal’

Perhaps the biggest phenomenon from a western view has been the rise of China as a superpower.

Internet services and applications, terrorism and wars in the middle east, oil, global warming politics, are some of the big things as well.

What will 2010 see? Well, my bet is that energy will be a big part of it. Oil is limited and is getting more expensive, coal is not. But coal is bad in the global warming sense. The big coal powers USA, China, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia at least are probably just going to keep burning it and not care what it does to the rest of the world.

During the noughties, CO2 rose from about 365 to 385 ppm. If the decadal rate is constant at 20 ppm per decade, then 600 ppm, a doubling from 1950s levels will require 215 ppm more, or about 110 years. Of course, the decadal emissions rate is probably going to accelerate. Local climate change phenomena will come earlier than things like significant sea level rise but it’s harder to point out that greenhouse gases are responsible for them. A fascinating experiment, this atmosphere alteration.

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The Green Nuclear kind, be sure to read the comments in German.

G8 Climate Scorecards: CO2 Per Capita

To summarize, in WWF:s climate score cards, France is scoring pretty badly. Everybody knows that France has about 80% nuclear power in electricity production, much more than the neighbouring Britain and Germany which use mostly coal. So, since WWF and Allianz don’t like it, they substitute it as if it was natural gas.

WWF does not consider nuclear power to be a viable policy option. The indicators “emissions per capita”, “emissions per GDP” and “CO2 per kWh electricity” for all countries have therefore been adjusted as if the generation of electricity from nuclear power had produced 350 gCO2/kWh (emission factor for natural gas). Without the adjustment, the original indicators for France would have been much lower, e.g. 86 gCO2/kWh

Of course these score cards are widely published everywhere without reference to the footnotes . There are some other weird things about them too…

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Coal is Bad

And there could have been much less of its use – but the alternatives of the past lay in half finished ruins. Kirk Sorensen explores them and their history concisely.

Grand total: 85,000 tons of coal each day that TVA wouldn’t be burning.

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Uh oh. If Iain is correct, coal burning in the USA is oil burning as well, since the trains run on diesel and the amounts of coal needed per Joule are so vast, that almost half of coal’s cost at the powerplant is actually oil cost. It’s an old post, but I had never come across it.

In Europe it’s a bit different since the trains are electrified (and thus coal powered). Though in Finland, the coal comes from Poland or Germany with a barge. That must be using more energy than the very low rolling resistance of railroads. On the other hand, the Finnish coal plants are in cities, providing not only electricity but heat as well, which makes the total efficiency quite good in some ways.

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This is what many people should grasp what renewables and nuclear are about. The real electricity world operates with an energy mix. In many places there is open electricity trading, and if you introduce new sources to the marketplace, it affects the buying of other sources. So if you have lots of coal and gas, introducing wind power, even when the wind doesn’t blow constantly, can reduce the usage of the coal and gas power.

So here is a rough sketch how fossil fuels might be eliminated gradually in some mythical place with lots of solar and hydro power. This is not an accurate description of reality, more of a demonstration of principle. Now I’m really in a hurry and have to go, I probably don’t have time to review things for a few days, so can’t respond immediately to comments.




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If you want to give people a higher material standard of living, you need energy. If you need to do this via industrialization, you need even more of it. China has done it with coal. There is this lengthy article by Greg Peel describing the situation much closer. The energy intensity of GDP has not gone down all the time.

Then there’s this video report by Journeyman pictures showing some effects you get when the use of a dangerous resource, in this case, coal, is badly controlled:

I’d take some claims there with a grain of sand, but it is something to take note of anyway, if you are interested in real world energy policy.

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