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CCS 101 on Capitol Hill

July 18th, 2014 by Kurt Waltzer, Special Projects Director and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) Coordinator

This posting originally appeared in the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) ‘Insights‘ blog.

I was recently on a panel at a Capitol Hill briefing held by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute about the status of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the need for financial incentives. Held this May in Washington DC, the audience included staff from Congressional offices, the media, and other interested stakeholders from industry and NGOs. CCS is one of those technologies for which people have strong, and sometimes not very well informed opinions. Some environmental advocates have depicted CCS as being simply a fig leaf for the coal industry, while some in industry have claimed it’s a science experiment that we need to conduct for the next several decades before we can use it to regulate carbon emissions.
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Renewables, Coal and China in 2013: Headlines Versus Bottom Lines

January 17th, 2014 by Armond Cohen, Executive Director

The new year brought some deserved celebration of the advance of renewable energy in China, as the government announced nearly 8 Gigawatts of wind power additions and 3.6 Gigawatts of new solar installed during 2013.  But as I’ve previously pointed out, it is important to keep this laudable progress in perspective compared to the still staggeringly large annual increase in new China coal power capacity.

Not everyone did so. In a January 4 article entitled “China Roars Ahead with Renewables,”  for example, The Ecologist magazine claimed: “Reports of China opening a huge new coal fired power station every week belie the reality – China is the new global powerhouse for renewable energy…It means that the growth of its electric power system – that underpins the entire modernisation and industrialisation of the country – is now being powered more by renewables than by fossil fuels.” The report concluded, “These results reveal just how strongly China is swinging behind renewables as its primary energy resource. . . .”
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Peak Coal in China — or Long, High Plateau?

October 7th, 2013 by Armond Cohen, Executive Director, and Kexin Liu, Research Associate

China coal power is one of the world’s largest single contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, which will likely need to be reduced to near-zero levels over the next few decades to manage climate change. So when two reports came out in the last few weeks that project a peak in Chinese coal consumption within the next couple of decades, many environmental and energy commentators concluded that the problem has been tamed, and that coal will be swiftly replaced by wind, solar and gas.

Unfortunately, a closer look at the findings refutes that conclusion.  After China’s coal growth stops, the installed base of coal plants will remain, and that fleet will be the largest in the world—more than three times the capacity of all the coal plants in the United States.  And unlike the US, most of China’s coal plants were built after 2000 and are young; they will operate economically for 40-60 years. New wind, nuclear, and solar plants in China will help at the margins, but the imperative need is to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) that can cut these plants’ CO2 emissions by 90%.  Otherwise, the sheer size and remaining life of China’s coal fleet will make it impossible to achieve aggressive climate management targets.
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China’s Shale Gas Potential is No Panacea for China’s Coal Demand

May 22nd, 2013 by Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor, and Ming Sung, Chief Representative, Asia-Pacific

The recent boom in shale gas in the United States has led to a host of outcomes that many did not see coming.  The massive quantities of natural gas, combined with traditional gas production, that this boom has brought to market has dropped the price of natural gas dramatically.  So the low price of gas, combined with a surplus of underutilized gas-fired power plants and very old, inefficient coal-fired power plants, has resulted in a reduction in coal-fired power generation.  This of course is being applauded for its air quality benefits as well as its potential climate benefits, but that depends of course on how much methane is coming out of the natural gas system.
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The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has some excellent advice for the President on climate change

May 13th, 2013 by Armond Cohen, Executive Director

photoTwo months ago, President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a nine-page open letter to the President outlining six critical, common-sense pathways for the Administration to address global climate change during his second term. Released without much fanfare, the letter appears to have disappeared from public view, and review. Too bad, as we believe it contains some outstanding recommendations for this Administration,. Here’s our take on the Council’s letter:

While the Council calls for bold actions in six key areas, several of their imperatives stand out as most relevant to our work, particularly recommendation number two: “Continue efforts to decarbonize the economy, with an initial focus on the electricity sector.” This strategy is consistent with the Administration’s stated short-term goal of reducing economy-wide GHG emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 as well as the long-term goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050, a goal called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the planet will have to face the worst consequences of global climate change. Towards this goal, the Council makes three essential recommendations:
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Rethinking The Clean Energy “Race”

October 26th, 2011 by Armond Cohen, Executive Director

This posting originally appeared in the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Expert Blog.

photoFor the last five years, the Clean Air Task Force has been working with companies in China and the United States on joint ventures to develop and market clean energy technologies in both countries and around the world. Based on that experience, we believe that the metaphor of a zero-sum China-US race on clean energy is misplaced and drives us to the wrong conclusions. Here are some perspectives that may make for a more productive discussion:

China is a critical ally in moving forward low-carbon energy development. CATF is working in China not only because it is the world’s largest carbon-emitting country, set to double its emissions by 2050, but also because China is a can’t-miss place to demonstrate new clean technologies at scale. Why?
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Hard Energy Paths

March 7th, 2011 by Armond Cohen, Executive Director

This posting originally appeared in the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Expert Blog.

What will America’s energy mix look like thirty years from now? Thirty years is a long time, except that it isn’t. Energy is a big, inertial, capital-intensive system, and change comes slowly – even when government policy gets very serious, or technology and markets achieve step changes. For example, it took policy-driven nuclear power and the market-driven combined cycle gas turbine 30 years each to achieve 20% of US electricity supply.

In this context, then, there are three broad energy path types one can imagine.
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