Dr. Jim Hansen advocates a carbon tax on raw fuel mined or drilled. Dot Earth commentator Ben opines, “The whole point of a fossil fuel is to release the energy contained in it. So it is at the point of combustion that all the economics of before and after coincide.”
Ben was responding to an opinion piece, wherein Andy Revkin asks, “When Coal Flows Between Countries, Who ‘Owns’ the CO2?” Note the parenthesis around own. Revkin implies accountability, a.k.a., who is stuck “holding the bag?”
So if the world moves toward a system for tracking emissions, who is responsible for a particular batch of carbon dioxide — the company that mine and sold the coal, the power plant that burned it, the consumer who buys the exported widget made with the electricity generated by that combustion, or…?
And, note the conditional if. Now no one wants to own their carbon footprint, not widget buyer, nor the widget maker, not the power company nor the mining company, and certainly not the governments taxing all participants.
In Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, Jason W. Moore notes 2 recurrent themes: 1) an absolute exhaustion of those “organizational structures” specific to the accumulation regime, and 2) a relative exhaustion of the ecological spaces articulated with the old regime of accumulation. This blog said something similar about ownership in recent commentary after a post on (ostensibly) a student climate action weblog about Obama espousing “clean coal”.
“The assertion about nuclear, the “red herring” about storage, etc., I see as expressions of fear about traditional forms of ownership and not concerns about energy supply. One can own the ore for the nuclear power or the land for the geothermal or the hydraulic fracturing, but how to own the wind or the sun?”
The reason for heavily investing in a campaign of disinformation: profit.
“I would surmise that Exxon could own windmills and solar panels just as well as oil and gas,” responded an advocate for nuclear and natural gas.
And this blog replied, “Indeed, Exxon could. If they had begun investing the monies directed (and which they continue to direct) toward denial and delay into wind and solar, things would be much different now.
The dialog encompassed how quickly can our civilization get away from higher carbon fuels (i.e., coal, oil, natural gas).
These fuels represent about 80% of our energy infrastructure. In the next 20 years, you can (with an immense effort) greatly reduce fossil fuel use. However, you cannot get rid of carbon fuels AND nuclear. Despite the controversy, nuclear is the lowest carbon energy source that is both large-scale and 24/7 (the IPCC says so along with other scientific studies such as ExternE). For a 20 year time frame, you have efficiency, renewables, geothermal, pipeline natural gas, and nuclear. You will need ALL of these to make the time frame as each has limitations.
Echoing Dr. Jim Hansen who says we need to stop coal, this weblog stated that federal policymakers should cut fossil fuel subsidies and begin a carbon tax and not perpetuate the clean coal lie. Within the next 20 years federal energy policy should aim toward reducing coal-fired electric power generation from the current national average of 50% down to 20%.
Early in the thread, this blog defined “clean energy” as above ground sources of electric power, e.g., wind and solar, “which are combustion-free in the generation (if not in terms of construction and installation). These need rapid distribution and not politics as usual, because, for every kW that comes from a non-clean energy, we increase the CO2 in the atmosphere and negative consequences.
Commentator nickengelfried said it rather eloquently:
In a more ideal world, we would have begun this transition 20-30 years ago, but that failed to happen thanks to political short-sightedness… We’ve lost at least two decades already, time is running out, and with the laws of physics there is no compromise. Transitioning completely away from fossil fuels, however difficult that may be, will be easier than bargaining with all the CO2 molecules we’re releasing into the atmosphere each day.
The nuclear advocate, well versed from lengthy previous discussions at other web sites, The Oil Drum and Brave New Climate, has the last say. “As for the concept of ‘clean energy’, I consider it a chimera along with perpetual motion machines. Energy technologies could be relatively cleaner than others, but you have impacts whichever way you go. Nuclear is lower (in GHG emissions) than fossil fuels and is 24/7.”
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