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New Study Finds Far Greater Methane Threat from Fossil Fuel Industry

New Study Finds Far Greater Methane Threat from Fossil Fuel Industry

The gas plays a powerful role in driving up global temperatures.

COVER.Methane-Fossil-Fuel-Industry.jpg
A new study found that methane emissions from human activities — mainly fossil fuels — are probably 25 to 40 per cent higher than previously estimated. Photo via Shutterstock.

A new study published in Nature may have ended a long scientific debate about the key source of rising methane levels in the atmosphere.

It found that methane emissions from human activities — mainly fossil fuels — are probably 25 to 40 per cent higher than previously estimated, while natural sources of methane emissions are up to 90 per cent lower than previously estimated.

In plain English, that means the fossil fuel industry is having a much greater impact on climate destabilization than previously thought.

Methane, the main chemical constituent of natural gas, is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Although methane dissipates faster than carbon dioxide, it has 80 times the climate warming impact over a 20-year timespan.

Every day, the oil and gas industry burns or releases methane by design, often as an unwanted byproduct of oil production, or leaks it accidently through faulty or aging equipment — a form of chronic spillage known as “fugitive emissions.” The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Methane also escapes while industry strips a number of impurities and contaminants from natural gas gathered in gas fields, including hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.

For years the fossil fuel industry has claimed that natural gas is a clean fuel that will serve as bridge to a renewable future, but recent studiesshow leakage rates are highly underestimated, thereby challenging that claim.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can Europe’s Largest Economy Survive Without Coal?

Can Europe’s Largest Economy Survive Without Coal?

Germany Coal

One of the greatest moral dilemmas that has been creeping into the everyday activities of specialists working with coal, oil and in some cases even gas (despite its being perceived a natural bridge to a low-carbon future) could be phrased in the following way: how do you stop producing fossil fuels when you still have cheap ample reserves? In this context coal stands out – its relative inferiority in terms of environmental pollution prompted governments in developed economies to ban its future usage. Yet whenever its production is not curtailed by government-mandated cuts, producers simply continue to extract as much coal as possible. Straight in the middle of the so-called European approach to coal lies Germany, an erstwhile bulwark of the coal industry. Can it eventually survive without coal?

In stark contrast to oil and gas – of which Germany has traditionally been a major net importer and in both cases looking back to a more than 50-year history of depending on primarily Russian hydrocarbon riches – Europe’s leading economy has substantial reserves of coal, lignite in particular. In fact, Germany remains the world’s largest producer of lignite and burns most of it for power generation, accounting for some 22 percent of the nation’s gross electricity output. Ironically, lignite production is more COintensive than hard coal as it is done by extracting coal from open-cast pits, nevertheless, its mid-term future looks a lot better than that of hard coal mining in Germany.

Whilst lignite remains economically competitive, Germany’s hard coal production went downhill after the government ended its subsidy schemes. The last hard coal mine closed its gates in December 2018, ending a 200-year history of the Ruhr Region and potentially starting a new development phase of Westphalia, a geographical phenomenon inextricably intertwined with coal. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

coal

A suggestion by the UK Committee on Climate Change to burn more wood and plant replacement trees as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels has drawn criticism from think tank Chatham House, which says this is hardly the best approach to reducing emissions.

“Expanding forest cover is undoubtedly a good thing, if you’re leaving them standing,” energy expert Duncan Brack told the Daily Telegraph. However, Brack, who served as special adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, suggested that burning wood for heating was not the most sustainable way forward. Calling wood burning a carbon neutral process is “highly dubious,” Brack added.

These claims, according to the Telegraph’s environment editor, Emma Gatten, rest on the assumption that the carbon footprint of chopping down trees and burning them is offset by planting new trees to replace them. This assumption excludes the fact that older trees absorb more carbon and that it takes time to replace a forest.

“You can leave trees standing and they will continue to absorb carbon for decades,” Brack says. “But the biomass industry implicitly assumes that forests at some point stop reach a saturation point for carbon intake and can be harvested and simply replaced.” 

The benefit of planting trees to mitigate the effects of climate change has been put to the test on a wider scale as well. A study released last year found that reforestation could work, but it had to be done at a massive scale.

We need to plant 25 percent more trees than there are on Earth right now, or more than half a trillion in total, the study found. This would reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by a quarter, erasing 20 years of emissions. Yet it would not solve the climate problem on its own, without a sustained effort to cut emissions, commentators on the study said.

Merkel Inks Deal For Stalled German Coal Exit

Merkel Inks Deal For Stalled German Coal Exit

In a move that’s sure to restore a smidgen of Greta Thunberg’s childhood, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has finally hammered out a deal for Germany’s stalled exit from coal-fired power generation, after state leaders agreed to shut down the industry by 2038.

We would note that this falls outside the 12-year window of doom predicted by US climate expert Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but better late than never when environmental apocalypse is on the line.

Germany’s plan includes 40 billion euros ($44.6 billion) in compensation for impacted regions, according to Bloomberg. The country’s largest coal-fired power producer, RWE AG, will receive 2.6 billion euros according to an insider – sending the stock up 1.7% in mid-morning trade on Thursday. In eastern Germany, utility Lignite operators will receive 1.75 billion euros according to German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

Germany reaches agreement to phase out coal by 2038

Merkel has been in a tight spot on the issue, facing pressure from environmentalists and miners alike. Climate tops voter concerns, and Germany will already miss its 2020 targets under the Paris Agreement. On the other hand, the poorer states in the former Communist East, where the bulk of the mines are, fear a growing gap to the West. Her predicament feeds into a broader political challenge, with the Greens party and the far-right Alternative for Germany gaining support on both sides of the political spectrum to squeeze Germany’s traditional mainstream parties, including her Christian Democrats. The AfD has been particularly strong in the eastern mining states.

“It was a long night — it lasted until 2 a.m. — but we were able to achieve a sensible agreement,” Armin Laschet, premier of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. “The time frame that we’ve agreed on is ambitious, but realistic.” –Bloomberg (via Yahoo!)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Surf’s Up!

Surf’s Up!

The wave of change is finally here. Are you prepared to ride it?

Nothing seems right anymore.

In whichever direction we choose to look, things are unraveling at a quickening pace.

Welcome to the Fourth Turning; and with it, a profound loss of trust in institutions and government.

Such lack of social cohesion is a hallmark of a Fourth Turning. Sadly, it’s happening at a time when society desperately needs to pull together, set aside our differences, and make some really big decisions.

Dirty Hands Everywhere

For my own part, my loss of trust in what is termed the ‘mainstream media’ (MSM) is nearly complete.  Its sins of omission and commission have piled up too high to forgive – the bank of trust I once had in it has lost every penny and is now in deep overdraft.

In my opinion its gravest sin is the willful and deliberate fracturing of society into many disparate warring camps. The MSM has a lot to answer for in that regard.

Similarly guilty is our political system.  The core power players are unable to hold each other accountable, revealing that we don’t have two parties after all, but rather a uniparty organized around power and money.

The rules are increasingly re-written to benefit a smaller and smaller group of elites at the expense of everyone else — and that’s now becoming increasingly crystal clear to the 99.9% who are getting screwed. The corrosive effects of that are going to take decades to resolve.

As a result, the social fabric is rending apart.  Stress is epidemic with more people than ever reporting being unhappy, unfulfilled, isolated and alone.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death.  It’s worse than just depression, it’s something far more insidious — it’s demoralization. There’s no hope left any more for too many of us.

A Dying Ecosphere

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why UVic Faculty Massively Voted to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Why UVic Faculty Massively Voted to Divest from Fossil Fuels

It’s time to walk the talk on reconciliation and the climate crisis.

DivestUVicStudent.jpg
Paarth Mittal is a student member of Divest UVic, a campus group that wants endowment and pension funds out of fossil fuel investments. Photo source: Divest UVic Facebook.

Therefore, we think it is hypocritical for UVic to present itself as a sustainability and reconciliation leader while investing in companies that are primarily responsible for both the climate emergency and Indigenous dispossession.

For example, UVic has $2.5 million invested in Imperial Oil (the Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil). Records show that Imperial Oil’s own scientists confirmed the realities of climate change as early as the 1970s, and yet the company has willfully pursued denial and policy obstructionism as an accumulation strategy. By investing millions of dollars into Imperial Oil, UVic is tacitly supporting its history of climate change denial; indeed, the university is hoping to profit from it. That is sustainability leadership in high-speed reverse.

Many fossil fuel companies also contribute to the destruction of Indigenous lands and waters with their pursuit of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. For example, UVic’s endowment fund has $700,000 invested in Teck Resources. Teck is currently pursuing one of the largest open-pit oil sands mines ever proposed. The project is in close proximity to many Cree and Dene families. According to Indigenous Climate Action, “This project threatens our Indigenous rights, ways of life, and ability to ensure the preservation of our lands and territories.”

The investment in Teck Resources contradicts UVic’s Strategic Plan and Indigenous Plan, which “commits to building and strengthening respectful relationships with Indigenous communities locally, provincially, nationally and around the world.” How can UVic claim that reconciliation and respectful Indigenous relationships are top priorities while materially investing in the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples as well as destruction of their homelands and waterways?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Boston Globe: the false promise of nuclear power

Boston Globe: the false promise of nuclear power

Preface. This article raises many objections to nuclear power. Theoretically it could be cheaper, but the exact opposite has happened, it keeps getting more expensive. For example the only new reactors being built in the U.S. now are at Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant. Costs were initially estimated at $14 billion; the latest estimate is $21 billion. The first reactors at the plant, built in the 1970s, took a decade longer to build than planned, and cost 10 times more than expected. The two under construction now were expected to be running 2016, but it’s now unlikely that they’ll be ready in 2022. 

The authors also point out that reactors are vulnerable to catastrophes from extreme weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis; from technical failure; and unavoidable human error. Climate change has led to severe droughts that shut down reactors as the surrounding waters become too warm to provide the vital cooling function. 

And much more.

***

Jay Lifton, Naomi Oreskes. 2019. The false promise of nuclear power. Boston Globe.

Commentators from Greenpeace to the World Bank agree that climate change is an emergency, threatening civilization and life on our planet. Any solution must involve the control of greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out fossil fuels and switching to alternative technologies that do not impair the human habitat while providing the energy we require to function as a species.

This sobering reality has led some prominent observers to re-embrace nuclear energy. Advocates declare it clean, efficient, economical, and safe. In actuality it is none of these. It is expensive and poses grave dangers to our physical and psychological well-being. According to the US Energy Information Agency,the average nuclear power generating cost is about $100 per megawatt-hour. Compare this with $50 per megawatt-hour for solar and $30 to $40 per megawatt-hour for onshore wind. The financial group Lazard recently said that renewable energy costs are now “at or below the marginal cost of conventional generation” — that is, fossil fuels — and much lower than nuclear.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Big Oil Needs to Pay for the Damage It Caused

Big Oil Needs to Pay for the Damage It Caused


protestors hold up a sign that says exxon knew

Environmental activists rally for accountability for fossil fuel companies outside of New York Supreme Court on October 22, 2019, in New York City. New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, is taking on ExxonMobil in a landmark case that accuses the oil corporation of misleading investors about the company’s financial risks from climate change.DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

This month in a Manhattan courthouse, New York State’s attorney general Letitia James argued that ExxonMobil should be held accountable for layers of lies about climate change. It’s a landmark moment—one of the  first times that Big Oil is having to answer for its actions—and James deserves great credit for bringing it to trial. But it comes with a deep irony: Under the relevant New York statutes, the only people that New York can legally identify as victims are investors in the company’s stock.

It is true that Exxon should not have misled its investors—lying is wrong, and that former CEO Rex Tillerson had to invent a fake email persona as part of the scheme (we see you, “Wayne Tracker”) helps drive home the messiness. But let’s be clear: On the spectrum of human beings who are and will be hit by the climate crisis, Exxon investors are not near the top of the list.

In fact, if the “justice system” delivered justice, the payouts for Exxon’s perfidy would go to entirely different people, because the iron law of climate is, the less you did to cause it, the more you’ll suffer.

The high-end estimate for economic damage from the global warming we’re on track to cause is $551 trillion, which is more money than exists on planet Earth.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

Champions of energy transition see it happening relatively quickly, emphasizing the advances that are being made in technologies, policy, and projects. While fossil fuel incumbents see a long, gradual process of energy transition, assuring us that demand for their products will remain strong for decades to come. So who’s right? Is energy transition going to be rapid, or gradual?

A new paper co-authored by Carbon Tracker, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Rocky Mountain Institute contrasts these narratives and scenarios, and identifies some key distinguishing characteristics that can help us understand where they differ, as well as clarifying their underlying assumptions and perspectives, using those insights to inform our outlooks. In this episode, one of the authors from Carbon Tracker explains the analytical framework applied to these contrasting narratives, and shares his insights about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and how incumbents will have to navigate the new reality of climate change.Guest:

Kingsmill Bond is the Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a London-based clean energy think tank. He believes that the energy transition is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era. Over a 25 year career as an equity analyst and strategist at institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Sberbank and Citibank, he has researched emerging markets, the shale revolution and the impact of US energy independence. At Carbon Tracker, he has written about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and authored a series of reports on the myths of the energy transition, looking at the many arguments made by incumbents to deny the reality of change.

On Twitter: @KingsmillBond

On the Web:  Kingsmill’s page at Carbon Tracker

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

Petchem

If climate change and the use of fossil fuels is starting to worry you, consider this: The lion’s share of the petroleum in the United States is being used just to get around–to get people and things from point A to point B. 

Industrial, residential, commercial and electrical power usage of petroleum pales in comparison.   

Fossil fuels–which include crude oil and other liquids–are refined into petroleum products for a multitude of uses, and last year, the United States consumed over 20 million barrels per day. 

A whopping 69 percent of that was consumed by transportation. Industry, which the masses like to villainize most in terms of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, used only 25 percent. Residential usage accounted for only 3 percent of our petroleum consumption, and commercial, only 2 percent. 

What about electricity? American electricity generation used only 1 percent of those petroleum products. 

Source: EIA

So, for anyone looking to pinpoint where we need to start cheerleading for renewables or fossil-fuels shaming, here are the top 5 uses of petroleum products to help redirect the debate: 

#5 Oceans of Plastic: Still Gas, 0.703M BPD

While primarily referring to methane and ethane, “still gas” is any form or mixture of gases produced in refineries by distillation, cracking, reforming, and other processes. That means it also includes ethylene, normal butane, butylenes, propane, propylene, and others. 

It’s used most as refinery fuel or petrochemical feedstock. 

The conversion factor is 6 million Btus per fuel oil equivalent barrel.

U.S. refineries burned nearly 240 million barrels of still gas in 2018. 

But petrochemicals are one of the largest drivers of global oil demand, so it’s a circular competition here for still gas. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Plans for a global Dystopia

Plans for a global Dystopia 

Global policy planners intend to deliver replacements for both dollar hegemony and fossil fuels. Plans may appear uncoordinated and in their early stages, but these issues are becoming increasingly linked.

A monetary reset incorporating state-sponsored cryptocurrencies will enable exchange controls to be introduced between nations by separating cross-border trade payments from domestic money circulation. The purpose will be to gain greater control over money and to direct its investment into green projects.

The OECD will build on current tax disclosures to make everyone’s income and capital known to governments and therefore readily taxable, money destined to kick-start economic growth. Under the guidance of supranational organisations, governments will redirect investment into green technology. The objective, particularly for Europeans, is to neutralise Russia’s increasing dominance of the global energy market by becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

But perhaps as Robert Burns put it, “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”. They are based on Keynesian fallacies, but cannot be ignored.

Introduction

There appear to be policy areas being driven by statist responses to events, encouraging global institutions to take on a coordinating role. It means deeper levels of centralised planning by unaccountable bureaucrats. Assuming their plans continue to gain credence, we could end up with a dystopian world where supranational bodies direct individual governments to conform. We are already on this road to perdition. The OECD has coordinated attempts by governments to restrict the freedom of their citizens to avoid taxes by forcing over a hundred jurisdictions to automatically supply information on the financial affairs of every citizen, irrespective of nationality and where they reside. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Economists: Greta Thunberg’s Ideal World Would Result In A “Human Tragedy Of Disastrous Proportions”

Economists: Greta Thunberg’s Ideal World Would Result In A “Human Tragedy Of Disastrous Proportions”

Whether you were inspired by Greta Thunberg’s tearful UN speech…

…. or merely thought it was the year’s greatest meme, in which an indoctrinated, emotionally frail child is being preyed upon by adults with a far bigger and more lucrative agenda, you probably do not realize how much your everyday life could change if the world were to follow the advice of climate activists to attain Thunberg’s ecological utopia.

To provide some perspective on that question, several economists spoke to RT to share their thoughts out how the proposed changes could affect the global economy and the daily lives of people around the world.

Fossil fuels

The first thing that comes to mind to stop reported global warming is to impose a carbon tax and divest from the fossil fuel industry, as this sector is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. However, “a carbon tax and/or forced divestiture from fossil fuels would ultimately make the kind of cheap, varied and efficient transportation that people around the world are accustomed to extremely expensive and more limited,” warns Peter C. Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research.

Apart from public transport, cars could also become less accessible to most individuals. So if you drive to work without a second thought, the carbon tax could suddenly double or triple the cost of your daily trip, leaving tens of millions of people cut off from their livelihoods, according to the analyst.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have much more serious economic implications, Dr Pierre Noël, Senior Fellow in Economic and Energy Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told RT.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The carbon trap by Paul Chefurka

The carbon trap by Paul Chefurka

Preface. We are caught in the carbon trap — we utterly depend on fossils that don’t have an electric replacement. Someday people will figure this out the hard way, but Chefurka compassionately points out that there is no one to blame for our situation, and it’s not something we can do anything about.

Here are just a few ways our lives depend on fossils:

Petroleum diesel powers the transportation that matters: heavy-duty trucks, rail, and ships 

Manufacturing depends on process heat and steam generated by fossil fuels  

Energy to keep the electric grid up around the clock 

The majority of people alive today should thank natural-gas based fertilizers, and oil-based pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides   

Half a million products are made out of fossil fuels and with energy from fossil fuels

The natural gas that heats homes and businesses.   

  • About 90% of homes and businesses depend on fossil fuels for heat, mainly natural gas  (EIA 2018). 
  • Generating heat from electricity today is terrifically wasteful.  Two-thirds of electricity is generated by burning natural gas and coal, and two-thirds of this coal and natural gas energy vanishes as heat, plus another 6-10% is lost on the wires, so only 24 to 28% arrives at homes and businesses.  It’s far better to use fossils onsite to generate heat.

***

Whether we realize it or not, everyone living on planet Earth today is caught in what I have come to call the “carbon trap”. The nature of the trap is simple, and can be described in one sentence:

Our continued existence depends on the very thing that is killing us – the combustion of our planet’s ancient stocks of carbon.

This unfortunate situation was not intentional, and is no one’s fault.

The trap was constructed well outside of our conscious view or understanding.

Its design came from our evolved desires for status, material comfort and security.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can concentrated solar power be used to generate industrial process heat?

Can concentrated solar power be used to generate industrial process heat?

This post is based on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) paper:

Kurup, P., et al. 2015. Initial Investigation into the Potential of CSP Industrial Process Heat for the Southwest United States. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

***

Industries use enormous amounts of fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity to make products like steel, cement, chemicals, glass, and refine petroleum, with nearly three-quarters of energy used in the form of heat. Industry uses 30% of all energy, and 83% of that energy is generated by fossil fuels mainly to create process heat directly, indirectly with steam heat, or to generate electricity at the factory for reliability and to operate machine drive equipment (EI 2010).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CSP-to-generate-high-heat-needed-by-industry.jpg

It is possible for a Parabolic Trough collector (PTC), which looks like a giant upended cattle trough, to make some of this industrial heat and replace some of the fossil fuels used (mainly natural gas).

But the industrial uses this concentrated solar power collection is most useful for are heat applications from 110 to 220 C (230 – 430 F), especially those processes that use pressurized water or steam.

So that leaves quite a few very important industries out, since they use 2000 F heat or more, such as iron, steel, fabricated metals, transportation equipment (cars, trucks), computers, electronics, aluminum, cement, glass, machinery, and foundries.

Industries where solar industrial process heat (SIPH) might be used are paper, dairy, food, beer, chemicals, and washing/cleaning.   No doubt some processes within other industries like plastics and rubber, textiles, and others also have a need for industrial process heat that’s less than 430 F.

NREL isn’t proposing gigantic, billion dollar concentrated solar power collectors like the ones that take up miles of land in the deserts of California, Nevada, and Arizona.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Variability vs AGW

Climate Variability vs AGW

Emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuel contributes significantly to a gradual increase in the world’s average temperature.  What’s also known but less understood is the erratic variation in the average temperature due to cycles in the ocean, resulting in episodes of El Nino and La Nina.  Some claim that these temperature extremes are well-understood as a result of changes in the trade winds, as the wind pushes the water around the Pacific ocean, exposing colder or warmer water to the surface. This may have been a perfectly acceptable explanation, except it doesn’t address what causes the wind to vary — in other words the source of the erratic wind variation is just as unknown. 

So we are still left with no root cause for the ocean cycles. Apart from the strictly seasonal changes we have no explanation for the longer-term pattern of natural variation observed. 

The likely key to a physical understanding rests in solving the fluid dynamics of the ocean. There are two aspects to this that have long presented an intellectual challenge. The first challenge has been to model the sloshing dynamics of a huge body of water — this typically involves numerical calculation in the form of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The second challenge is to feed in a possible forcing and see if that can match the cyclic patterns observed. This requires a search through plausible physical mechanisms. Complicating matters is that the cycles may be chaotic so that any agreement we find would be useless from a practical standpoint, as chaotic patterns are impossible to model regardless of the source forcing.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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