Only a mug punter would bet on carbon storage over renewables

That’s the title of my latest piece in The Conversation. The key point

To sum up, if investing in energy storage is like backing every horse on a race, investing in CCS is like a parlay bet, which pays off only if we can pick the winners of several races in succession.

When you think about it like that, it’s not surprising that the smart money is on storing energy, not carbon.

75 thoughts on “Only a mug punter would bet on carbon storage over renewables

  1. First, a note on neologisms – To “get strochi” means to start saying vociferously and repeatedly “See, I was right all along.” JQ will know what I mean.

    Now, I hate to get to all strochi on ya, but if people look back in JQ’s blogs they will see that I always said pushing CCS was flogging a dead horse. My main arguments were and still are that it is technically unfeasible / unscaleable for full implementation and that the energy overheads and thus cost overheads would be such that renewables and energy storage would be a better bet.

    Honesty compels me to admit I was also sceptical about the full value of renewables (though not as sceptical as I was about CCS). I knew renewables were mandatory if we were to avoid global warming but I did not believe that renewables would have enough EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Invested) to sustain a full industrial civilisation but rather some lower level. I was operating on old data about solar and wind energy in particular and it took me a while to modify my “priors” in the arena, However, I did modify my “priors” and I thus lay claim to not being a total “derp”.

    Another issue I lay claim to being right on is that ETS approach to CO2 emissions would fail. To date, I have been correct. I continue to assert that a different form of pricing (yes, I know its all pricing) would be more successful, more direct, involve less compliance costs, less brokerage and overhead costs and less opportunity for gaming (though still subject to politicking). That form of pricing is the direct carbon tax and the concomittant removal of the large perverse subsidies for fossil fuel use.

    So JQ was right on solar and wind power EROEIs. I was right about CCS. That’s 1-1. Then maybe JQ will soon come round on the carbon tax like he has on CCS. That would make me 2-1 up but you know I am not a person who keeps score. 😉

    Footnote on funny neologisms.

    My favourite from the past comes from a satire on Vince Lester, the famous “Minister for Walking Backwards”. The comedian (I forget who) said that Vince had given two new words to the English language.

    “To vince” meant to look at or survey superficially. “To lester” meant to walk backwards.

    He then gave an example of useage.

    “At the Louvre, I vinced all the paintings then I lestered out the side door.”

  2. Plenty of mug punters who’ll double down—in this government. Coal is calling last drinks, and here we are pouring Queenslander (and no doubt some Federal) money into…coal.

  3. Despite my earlier quibbles and saying “I told you so,” that is a good article. And faustusnote, we should note that JQ is not a derp. He can change his view, if necessary, when new facts are finally confirmed.

  4. Two niggles about a good piece.

    It’s true that wave energy has made little progress, but that’s not true for tidal,inherently much more manageable. 1Mw tidal steam turbines are being deployed off Scotland, and planned for the Alderney Race. Tidal lagoons as in Korea do not pose major technological challenges. The big problem with tidal power, of either type, is the very limited number of suitable sites.

    A major storage option JQ does not not mention is conversion to gas: initially hydrogen, more practically (but with additiional) effort methane, which can be stored and distributed through existing fossil gas networks. Making such synthetic gas with surplus renewable electricity, and burning it later, is carbon-neutral. Germany is putting a lot of effort into power-to-gas, or P2G, partly because of Putin, partly in preparation for the renewables-dominated era. One Fraunhofer scenario for 100% renewables posited the need for 2 weeks’ storage to cover winter calms. Australia’s backup alternatives, geothermal and CSP-with-storage, aren’t really available.

    Finally, you can get to 100% renewables without any storage at all if you have enough hydro or geothermal to cover the predicted gaps. OK, perhaps a few flow batteries for voltage regulation. Brazil and Iceland are in this position. Storage is a valuable bonus for generation. For electric transportation, it’s the essence.

  5. There is a tidal generator near St Malo, France, not a significant producer nor a producer of significance. Big tides are experienced along both sides of the English channel.

  6. The Germans say this synthetic methane will cost four times as much as their (mainly Russian) natural gas which makes it very expensive by our standards. One input CO2 is limited if the source is scrubbing from fermentation biogas. The other input H2 is costly to produce by electrolysis of water. If the unsubsidised economics were attractive it would be further ahead than what it is now. Such high energy costs might be affordable if we all lived like the Jetsons. Now with 7bn of us half battling economically we need something more affordable.

  7. Very good article. Mark Diesendorf’s book suggested biogas turbines for cloudy still periods in winter – just as a back up not regular energy source.

    Disappointing article in today’s Guardian that the QLD ALP have said they support continued coal mining for fuel in the state – although at least it is Mulherin and he won’t be back again

    “Responding to research quantifying for the first time the scale of disruption faced by Australia’s coal industry to avoid a 2C warming, the outgoing deputy Labor leader, Tim Mulherin, said coal remained “an important and vital energy source for Queensland and the rest of the world”.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/09/queensland-election-2015-labor-support-coal-despite-climate-warning

  8. The Brits estimate that 10% of their current gas use could be replaced by biogas or methane from fermentation of organic wastes. See poo bus. The estimate for California is 5-20%. Therefore use of biogas for backup electricity generation, heating and transport fuel will be limited to a fraction of what we currently use natural gas for. Batteries would be the simplest solution but they are not there yet.

  9. Ikonoklast, I have argued here repeatedly that simple economic measures like a carbon tax by themselves won’t get us to zero carbon, and many others including john have responded that ccs and trees will do the heavy lifting. The recent nature article accounting for global carbon reserves makes the point that ccs will barely change our carbon accounting requirements. What are the implications of this for people like john who up to now have insisted we can decarbonize through a tax alone? I am interested to hear.

  10. Hermit,
    “The Brits estimate that 10% of their current gas use could be replaced by biogas or methane from fermentation of organic wastes. See poo bus. The estimate for California is 5-20%. ”

    I think the idea is save up all the biogas and just use it in lengthy grey and still spells – Diesndorf’s team ran computer simulations of weather over a whole year and found it can be met by renewable energy with this biogas backup idea

  11. It is interesting that the above discussion takes it for granted that the pursuit of CCS was a genuine search for a solution and not a ruse. CSS was certainly a silver bullet solution, but clearly for coal rather than for climate.
    The main concern articulated in an early report on the ‘greenhouse effect’ from the Office of National Assessments (in 1981) was the fear that public alarm over carbon emissions could harm Australia’s export markets. Thus the protection of big business has always been foremost in the policy responses and helps to explain Australia’s generous funding and international promotion of CCS – why would anyone not want to have their cake and eat it too?
    While CCS is just one of many attempts to turn ‘clean coal’ into something other than an oxymoron (Australia’s black coal has occasionally been bestowed that label because of its relative cleanliness) it is wrong to suggest that CCS has failed. It has indeed achieved its primary objective of being a stalling tactic – a smokescreen behind which the coal industry could continue its expansion. This has come at a considerable cost to the mug taxpayer punter although I guess it created some good research jobs.

  12. Quick start open cycle gas turbines (essentially bolted down jet engines) have lower capex (40c per watt) than PV. However they have higher CO2 and fuel cost than combined cycle gas plants which have a steam boiler and steam turbines to capture exhaust heat. Ceramic fuel cells are more efficient at converting gas to electricity or heat but the capital cost is $7-$8 per watt (see Wiki article on Bloom servers). To remain in standby mode would require hefty staffing costs.

    Conceivably you could have a battery free grid based on high build wind and solar with expensive backup from bio/syngas. Expect electricity to cost several times what it does now. The reality is we’ll burn every last ounce of coal with no CCS before that happens because it’s cheaper. I’d prefer an intermediate cost and more compact solution particularly when coal and natgas burning power plants need to be replaced.

  13. Another way of looking at it that the public just threw out the carbon tax minor addition to power bills so they are in no mood to pay a lot more. Suppose an all renewables system cost four times more (which some say is impossibly low) than what we have now. That means the public must be thinking
    – 6 to 8% on power bills is unacceptable get rid of that imposition
    – 300% increase sure why not?

  14. Hermit, I accept your basic premise that Australians increasingly vote with their hip pockets. But the idea that the carbon tax was rejected by the public is more suspect. Exit polls from Sept 2013 showed a small (can’t remember 5-7%??) number of people who rated the carbon tax as the most significant issue. Labor were kicked out for many reasons. Saying that the Australian people threw out the carbon tax sounds like Abbott speaking about mandates. Moreover, the carbon narrative – if that is what voters were responding to – was a story of towns being wiped off the map and a society thrown back into Medieval depredation. It bore little resemblance to the “minor addition to power bills” that you describe. Nevertheless, your point about lowest economic (as opposed to environmental) cost is taken.

  15. Faustusnotes :
    many others including john have responded that ccs and trees will do the heavy lifting.

    Link for this claim? Compare it to what I wrote in 2009, linked above, which was v sceptical about CCS.

  16. @Dave Lisle
    Dave, it is also amazing that Australians “tolerated” electricity prices rising by more than 100% over the past 7 years only to find a “6-8%” increase from the carbon price unacceptable.

  17. You could take out the nonsense about CCS and substitute Copenhagen with Paris and you could submit that op-ed again

  18. That is exactly right, RB#22, and not a boo mention when after the removal of the carbon price, not a single cent reduction in product prices or electricity prices. This is the lucky, and gullible, country.

  19. Wait for the howl from the fossil fuel sector when the next, post Abbott, Carbon Price is applied, but with the stipulation that prices must not rise, as the industry has already made the accommodating price adjustment.

  20. I’d say the smart money is on neither. Battery technology will certainly move ahead by leaps and bounds and make electric cars and mobile phones better and better. But I don’t expect them to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of stationary electricity supply any time ever. And I’ve never thought much of CCS and always regarded it as mostly a figleaf promoted by sections of the coal industry for political purposes.

  21. John, in this thread you suggested CCS and trees would do the heavy lifting. Ronald Brak (specifically here in this thread wondering who on this blog would ever advocate such a thing) said in that thread:

    “Japan can go carbon neutral by putting a carbon price of $120 a tonne on emissions and then paying that money to Australia to remove and sequester the CO2 released into the atmosphere”.

    In that thread also Ken Miles, Nick, Watkin Tench,

    In that thread John Quiggin leaned heavily on trees, as the solution to keep carbon below 450. How is that looking now? John also wrote this comment, responding to someone who pointed out carbon would need to be sequestered for at least 300 years:


    That would certainly be difficult, if not impossible. I’m assuming we aim for stabilization at 450 ppm.

    So I want to know from the carbon taxxers here (Ronald Brak, JQ, et al): now that you have ruled out carbon capture, how is it possible for a carbon tax alone to get the world to zero carbon? How are you going to deal with the intrinsically carbon-emitting industrial sectors: jet travel, coking coal, and cement? What additional measures do you think will be necessary to get to zero carbon? It seems to me that it is a mathematical fact that if there are going to be intrinsic carbon-emitting industries, we need to restrict the total carbon emitted by all the remaining sectors of the economy to below the maximum of our budget, in a very short time frame. In the above thread I gave calculated examples to show that a carbon tax is not going to achieve that goal quickly enough compared to direct legal interventions. I gave specific examples here.

    It is time for the economics profession to get serious about climate change, and to stop this silly everyone-gets-a-unicorn assumption that a mild tax will lead to sufficient innovation to magically disappear the carbon in the atmosphere. It’s not going away and we are heading towards a civilization-ending catastrophe if we don’t do something about it rapidly and effectively.

  22. I just put a post up with a link to a thread in which Ronald Brak and John Quiggin explicitly argue for carbon capture and sequestration. Ronald, in this thread you’re wondering who was supporting these technologies. The answer: you. Once my comment is freed from moderation you can enjoy the spectacle of yourself arguing vociferously in favour of a technology that now, a few months later, you have completely disavowed …

  23. Hi, Terje.

    “…anytime ever”?

    I think that you do not appreciate the immense capacity of distributed energy resources. On the generation side the total energy conversion capacity of Australia’s 17.5 million vehicles amounts to around 2,500 Gigawatts. This against our 35 gigawatt electricity generation capacity.

    On the storage side, things we take for granted, the small things, laptops, the total amount of battery storage in laptops in Australia amounts 1.32 Gigawatt hours of stored energy. Add to that another .3 (to 1.6 Gwhrs) for smart phone energy storage and you can see that the amount of stored energy at any one time is quite a significant figure when it is seen as a whole. Vehicle batteries have a total storage of around 30 Gigawatt hours.

    The point here is that total storage capacity accumulates as people solve their individual energy storage needs, and they fund that storage out of their own pockets because it gives them performance benefits, freedom and autonomy.

    As we move forward into our new renewable energy reality people will buy battery storage, initially at a modest level of perhaps 8 kwhrs for their homes and personal energy needs. They will do this to minimise their grid energy dependency and to improve their rooftop solar functionality. When there are 10 million homes with 8 kwhrs, total storage capacity will rise by another 80 Gigawatt hours, and all funded by individuals, for their own personal benefit. This is the market at work. In time the total energy storage capacity will far exceed the total need, just as our total energy conversion capacity far exceeds our basic needs.

    So how will 80 Gwhrs of stored energy be used? The information is all in this excellent resource defined for Australian households….

    http://www.yourhome.gov.au/energy

    It only takes a little bit of thinking to separate out the consumptions that require storage from those that can be managed to utilise the energy when it is being converted from sunlight during the day. Water heating, refrigeration charging, cooling, pool operation, clothes washing, half of power standby, half of dishwashing, etc can all be shifted to day time operation. Cooking is best done with gas for various reasons, as can night time heating backup. Lighting, half of dishwasher, half of power standby, TV, home entertainment, home office, computer operation, and half of miscellaneous, are all night time loads that must be catered for whether by grid connection or battery storage. That storage need however is a mere 3000 kwhrs per year per household, not the mammoth amount that some denialists suggest.

    In the stand alone domestic household Rooftop Solar Model that I am evaluating (4.5/9Kw PV/T with 4Kw absorptive air conditioner, 12 kwhr battery with 2.5 kw LP engine gas powered backup, gas for cooking) it works out that 25% to 30% of the generated power (8 to 9 kwhrs daily) needs to be stored for non solar use and this fairly well matches the battery capacity with reserve.

    Of course all of this relates to residential consumption and small business primarily, Industry will find its own rationale for emissions reductions which will mostly be a partnership with grid energy providers and cogeneration/solar. Do not underestimate businesses interest an ability to transition to renewable energy models, including energy storage in many forms.

  24. @faustusnotes

    I await that post with interest. I guess it depends on the detail of what J.Q. and Ronald said. They might have argued for it but the context might reveal they backed other things too and this other backing might have been less, equal or more and of course “several” as in spreading bets. Also, they cannot be criticised for holding a view and then changing it based on new information. What is to be hoped is that they are not now being historically revisionist about their own claims. I am not saying they are just hoping they are not (because it’s a little embarrassing not because it’s a great big crime).

    I have always argued on this blog for quite some years that CCS would never work. My reasons were related to both technical obstacles in piping, trucking and storage, lack of scalability and the objection that the energy cost would be so high it would be energetically and financially unfeasible. I predicted other solutions, like renewable energy would be feasible to some extent but CCS never. It was clear to me from basic phsyics and some basic research I did at the time that CCS was a really bad bet, literally like betting on a horse with a broken leg to win a race with many starters.

    On the other hand, I WAS WRONG about the EROEI of renewables. I thought they would be marginal for producing enough energy profit to run a modern industrial civilisation albeit a much more electric one. Staggering advances and developments in PV solar and wind rapidly proved me wrong. J.Q. was way ahead of me on this issue so kudos where kudos due.

  25. Ikonoklast, my point is not to say that JQ et al are idiots or hypocrites, but to ask the boosters of carbon pricing to be more realistic about the limitations of such weak instruments as a policy tool. The new Nature paper (about which I’m just writing a post on my blog) indicates that 80% of coal, 50% of oil and 33% of gas needs to be kept in the ground if we’re going to stay under 2C. Given the existence of industries such as coking steel and jet travel that depend on the use of some proportion of the extractable coal/oil/gas, we are going to need some really fast and strict policy constraints on the use of these resources for other more discretionary purposes. And meanwhile, copmanies are spending 600 billion dollars a year on prospecting for more essentially unrecoverable fossil fuels.

    This is madness, and I have repeatedly stated that I don’t think a carbon tax will stop this madness. In the past, JQ et al have argued it will spur innovation that will make sequestration possible. If they now admit it won’t, what implication does this have for their policy ideas? What is the time frame for moving beyond carbon taxes to real limits on carbon use?

  26. Footnote to my above post.

    J.Q. on this blog tolerates more diversity of opinion and more opinion contrary to his own economic and other views than I have seen anyone do on any other blog. He also provides open posts (Monday Message Board, Weekend Comment and Sandpits) which give people extensive free forums for their own ideas, expositions, pet theories and idees fixes. He also responds and interacts more then most economic blog writers and most Professors do for that matter.

    I can be a difficult, contentious and even combative blog writer and thus no doubt a trial for the host and others to tolerate. Thus far J.Q. has tolerated me. I need to remind mysef more of what I wrote in the my above paragraph so that I become a more reasonable and balanced blogger whilst not resiling from certain very firm views. I guess we do need to try to remember these sort of things.

  27. I’m inclined to agree with Terje. On current specs batteries are not a disruptive technology for most high power applications. If Tesla can make lithium ion batteries as cheap as they say the big problem is limited working life, say 500-1000 cycles and later on the need for a streamlined process to recycle lithium. Cars and homes are unlikely to install more than the 85 kwh currently largest battery. For home appliances (not cars) that is just a few days electricity for typical Australian families. In rainy weeks rooftop PV could generate just 20% of sunny weather output so that the home with limited roof space for excess panels will require either a generator or remain at the mercy of grid connection. In my opinion the use of diesel or petrol generators won’t go over well in the suburbs. That and gas or LPG for heating and cooking completely negates the avowed aim of low carbon.

    Therefore I think the phrase ‘utility death spiral’ will go down in folklore like the apocryphal phrase ‘too cheap to meter’. If the power companies installed and replaced home batteries for a reasonable deal maybe there is something in it. Until then I regard reliable centralised power generation at an affordable price as a public good like schools and hospitals.

  28. Iconoclast – in light of the emphatic defense of free speech in other recent threads, I am certainly glad that “J.Q. on this blog tolerates more diversity of opinion and more opinion contrary…….”. Might be kind of weird otherwise!

  29. TerjeP,

    Your Forbes link is the is what you get from a Lawyer/ Journalist commentator. Very good at looking at what is in front of them but disastrous at perceiving what is missing. In this case this is an article written by someone heavily engaged with the grid energy side of the argument who has written on a very narrow information profile and who has used the prestige of the publication name for credibility. This article is what I would have expected from Peter Lang five years ago. The information and technology appreciation is way out of date.

  30. @TerjeP

    Which are cheaper – PV panels or batteries? Look at the graph in the article you linked to.

    Judging by their electricity usage, this family obviously has a pretty large house. Hence, there’s likely to be roof or pergola space for a lot more panels than the 7kW system they currently have.

    If they wanted to go all solar + batteries, no natural gas or diesel backup, and could afford to spend $100,000 on batteries – do you think they might consider spending $5-10,000 upgrading their pv system first, if that meant needing $50,000 less batteries?

  31. @faustusnotes

    Ah, but now you have changed subjects. First you were talking about CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) and now you are talking about Carbon Emissions Pricing (which I can’t call CEP because that means Clean Energy Plan).

    Carbon Emissions Pricing is a separate topic. This is true except in the sense that CCS (if it worked) would in essence be a price scheme that entailed emitting and then immediately paying to sequester all CO2 to prevent negative externalities.

    I agree with you, mostly. An ETS was always a bad solution in my opinion. It created an artificial market in a diffuse, global negative externality. “Natural” markets in removing local non-diffusing or slow-diffusing pollution do exist. Rubbish removal and industrial waste removal are obvious examples. The “artificialness” of the CO2e market would and did encourage in my opinion rent-seeking, gaming, broking and other overhead costs. Compliance oversight and administration costs are also arguably higher.

    It seemed clear to me that ETS proposals like CCS proposals were meant as opportunities for rent-seeking if they came to pass but more primarily as delaying and finally fully obstructing tactics meant to ensure nothing would ever be done. Neoliberals are extremely clever strategists and tacticians and they have all the bases covered. They also negotiate in a complete lack of good faith. They are deceptive and Machiavellian in the extreme.

    I favoured a direct tax as a carbon price. It would be simple, direct, effective and almost ungameable though still politickable. Compliance issues and administration costs are also much less. In addition, a direct tax would have represented a little less further financialisaton of the economy as an ETS adds another layer of brokerage, dealing and financial on costs.

    Direct legislation, eg. banning the construction of any new coal thermal power plant, would be highly effective. A prohibitive tax on CO2 emissions would have the same affect. I would have favoured and still do a high and effective CO2 emissions tax starting price rising to a prohibitive price in stages consistent with de-carbonising our economy in a time frame where concomittant decarbonising of the world economy would have (still?) keep us well under +2 C warming and indeed to more like +1 C warming at the maxiumum.

  32. Hermit,

    There you go again

    “In my opinion the use of diesel or petrol generators won’t go over well in the suburbs. That and gas or LPG for heating and cooking completely negates the avowed aim of low carbon.”

    ….living in the past and flouting misconceptions.

    For starters a backup energy system designed for fixed and permanent installation will not be a “Bunnings spot special” bargain item, nor should it use a liquid fuel where there is another fuel system available at the footpath, ie natural gas. Generator technology is about to get an upheaval with from the Liquid Piston engine which has all of the properties for silent and efficient power generation.

    Secondly your “opinion” on gas is clearly uninformed. Cooking amounts to 5% of the household energy budget, a very small CO2 emission compromise which in the medium term can be close looped utilising bio-gas as a source. On heating: a 2.5 kw water cooled 30% efficient gas powered generator has an additional 70% times 2.5 kw of energy available for heating, or 5.8 kw which is a reasonable amount of heating for an average house. So one very small piece of hardware solves four problematic functions at a very low cost. The rainy week is solved, the battery backup is solved, the space heating on rainy days is solved, and the electricity over demand problem is solved.

    You really have to start seeing this hardware as being high volume and modular just as air conditioners have become. It take volume demand to get to that level, and we are nearly to that stage with distributed energy systems. I predict, as a product designer, that domestic battery systems will be completely modular externally mounted containers which will include the backup power generator. The Liquid Piston motor will be flat manifold mounted in such a way as to enable its removal for refit with the ease of opening a cover, removing 3 screws, and fitting the new motor in reverse order. I design my own products with this functionality, it is easily achieved with small generator systems.

    The CO2 emissions from the backup generator and the cooking, amount to about 20% of the current total household emissions, so an 80% reduction from the current total household emissions is a huge step forward, and far from “completely negating the avowed aim of low carbon”. When our government finally takes the emissions problem seriously bio-gas recoverable from sewerage alone will bridge a large part of this gap, and gas from other waste areas is more than sufficient to completely close the loop. But that takes commitment, something we do not yet have.

  33. BilB – I appreciate the way you frame the issue. But some of your numbers seem unlikely.

    For instance in the context of Australia you say “Vehicle batteries have a total storage of around 30 Gigawatt hours”. A standard 12V car battery stores about 40 amp hours of juice. So thats 480 watt hours. Lets say 1000 Wh to be genereous. Your claim thus implies 30 million cars in the country. Which seems unlikely.

    The point though is not what is possible but what is economically practical. Batteries will become cheaper. But the price gap they would have to close is enormous.

  34. I think you misunderstand me, Ikonoklast. I’m not switching the topic from CCS to ETS or carbon tax schemes, I’m pointing out that defenders of the latter were relying on the former to make their schemes viable. In the moderated comment you’ll see the thread I’m referring to is full of people arguing a carbon price will get us to zero carbon because it will encourage CCS. The people making that argument then (just a few months ago) are now accepting that CCS is not viable. Which raises the question, how are we going to stay inside our carbon budget given that some industries (steel production, air travel, some aspects of the martime industry, agriculture and cement) require carbon emissions to continue? The people boosting ETS/taxes as a solution to AGW need to explain how they will get us to zero.

    As I see it there is only one practically possible approach that we can take given current technology. We have to stay within a fixed budget for the next 200-300 years, and that means we have to massively reduce our emissions as quickly as possible to ensure that we can remain within that budget and still maintain essential industries such as steel production and air travel. Doing this means rapid decarbonization of the rest of the economy, much faster than a carbon tax will achieve, and reforestation to partially offset the emissions from that part of the economy that cannot decarbonize. On the thread I linked to above I gave clear calculations showing that decarbonization just will not happen rapidly enough under any viable carbon tax or pricing scheme, but the ETS+CCS boosters on that thread refused to engage with my examples. If we follow the policy framework recommended by these boosters we will see a very slow decline in emissions to an unacceptably high level (probably 50% of current emissions in 30 years’ time) which means that we won’t stay inside the budget. When I pointed this out a few months ago everyone’s answer was the same: we will use CCS to make up the shortfall. Now the people saying that accept that CCS is a bad bet, so the question becomes: what are we going to do?

    The current policy ideas from the mainstream economists who even bother to look at global warming are clearly insufficient to avert catastrophe. They aren’t taking it seriously, and the main policy ideas are a tax now and a magic pony later. They need to recognize that there will be no magic pony, and they need to start coming up with more serious immediate solutions than a tax that will only work when the magic pony comes along.

  35. @BilB
    Why would you bother with all this rigmarole? If electricity from the grid was low carbon, affordable by the poor and available to flat dwellers and in all weathers none of this possibly malfunction prone hardware would be necessary. Case in point Ontario Canada with 44 grams of CO2 per kwh. Contrast with Queensland Australia 820 grams per kwh as we speak per empower.me website.

  36. @faustusnotes I checked the thread and couldn’t find any reference on my part to CCS. As far as I can see in this thread, you started by saying I advocated CCS, then switched to CCS + trees, then “proved” your point by linking to a mention of trees.

    To restate my longstanding position, a combination of carbon pricing and regulation (eg energy efficiency rules) can eliminate most CO2 emissions. That includes eliminating fossil fuel power stations, which means that CCS is irrelevant (as well as infeasible). Tree planting and improvements on other greenhouse gases (notably methane, which has a short residence time) can get us back to zero net greenhouse gas emissions after 2050

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