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Why CO2 Remains a Major Concern

September 23, 2011

While cap & trade appears to be dead in the United States, there is considerable ongoing effort to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050, which is the stated goal of the United Nations and many in this administration.

Cutting CO2 emissions is the motivating factor behind the EPA’s delay of the Keystone pipeline, and its many regulations attempting to cut the use of coal. Billions of dollars are still being spent attempting to develop Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) since everyone recognizes it will be virtually impossible to cut CO2 emissions 80% without CCS. (See article describing CCS)

These actions are detrimental to the United States. Here’s why.

If they were successful, it would create a shortage of electricity and cause the collapse of the economy.

Here are the salient points of an analysis I did two years ago. The full paper can be found at http://www.carbonfolly.com/electricity_shortage.htm

  • CO2 emissions must be reduced from 2,298 million metric tons to 361 million metric tons from power generation.
  • Population growth of 1% per year, plus new electric devices, requires a 1% annual growth rate in generating capacity which requires building 609,258 MW of new generating capacity by 2050.
  • Transforming the entire existing fleet of coal-fired power plants to make them capable of CCS results in the elimination of 30 to 40% of generating capacity since a large amount of the output from these power plants is used to first capture, and then compress the CO2 to prepare it for transmission by pipelines to where it can be sequestered.
  • Existing natural gas power plants emit nearly 300 MMT of CO2, (compared to the limit of 361 MMT in 2050) which leaves little room for increasing the number of natural gas power plants. CCS on natural gas power plants is also still unproven, and would result in deratings much higher than for coal-fired power plants because the CO2 stream is thinner, thereby making it harder to capture the CO2.

The study made three assumptions. The first was that 22 new nuclear power plants would be built by 2050, but this now seems unlikely.

The second assumption was that wind and solar would account for 20% of total generating output, which requires building 663,549 new 1.5 MW wind turbines having a capacity factor of 30%. Building 663,549 new wind turbines or a comparable number of solar power plants is becoming less and less likely.

The third assumption was that there would be very little growth in PHEVs or BEVs (i.e., electric vehicles requiring battery recharging). If PHEVs and BEVs become popular, the shortage of electricity would be greater than shown by the study.

If the first two assumptions come to pass, there would be a 24% shortage of electricity generation in 2050.

This shortfall could be as large as 40% if wind and solar don’t reach the assumed 20% of all electricity being generated.

If the United States were to have a shortage of electricity anywhere near this magnitude, the economy would collapse. The social consequences are unimaginable.

It’s clear we should stop trying to cut CO2 emissions – now, before there are any shortages of electricity.

We should rein in the EPA and other government bodies that are imposing Renewable Portfolio Standards and carbon trading schemes on the states, before too much damage is done.

Note:

Building 300 to 400 additional new nuclear power plants could eliminate the shortfall, but it’s fair to say this isn’t likely – and is probably impossible. Building 300 to 400 new Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants could also prevent the shortfall, but this isn’t likely either. Furthermore, whether trillions of tons of CO2 can be sequestered underground for centuries is also unknown – and is probably impossible.

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