After a meeting today of the G8 and leading developing countries, the two groups finally said they shared a “joint vision” for action on climate change. But the statement made no mention of any specific target for cutting emissions, and gave no baseline date from when the cuts might begin.
Yesterday the G8 called for a 50% cut in global emissions by 2050. But China and India made it clear, however, that they were not willing to sign up to the G8’s target, and believe the G8 should shoulder most of the burden for tackling climate change.
Thousands of miles away, legendary Texas oilman, and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens, has just entered the debate in the US about how to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, with a a plan that would also have an impact on America’s CO2 emissions.
T. Boone may be an oilman through and through, but he recognizes that the days of oil are numbered. Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal. T.Boone says: “I’m 80 years old and I’ve been an oilman for almost 60 years. I’ve drilled more dry holes and also found more oil than just about anyone in the industry. With all my experience, I’ve never been as worried about our energy security as I am now.”
Pickens calls America’s growing dependence on foreign oil extreme and dangerous, which “threatens the future of our nation.” He points out that in 1973, the year of the infamous oil embargo, the United States imported about 24% of our oil. In 1990, at the start of the first Gulf War, this was 42%. Today, America imports almost 70% of our oil.
Essentially Picken’s plan is to replace Middle Eastern oil with Midwestern wind. “Wind is 100% domestic, it is 100% renewable and it is 100% clean. Did you know that the midsection of this country, that stretch of land that starts in West Texas and reaches all the way up to the border with Canada, is called the “Saudi Arabia of the Wind”? It gets that name because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world.”
Pickens points to a 2008 study by the Department of Energy issued a study that stated that the U.S. has the capacity to generate 20% of its electricity supply from wind by 2030.
Pickens would then taking the energy generated by wind and using it to replace a significant percentage of the natural gas that is now being used to fuel power plants. He would then use gas to fuel the nation’s transport fleet.
Pickens believes his plan could be implemented within ten years, given the political will. You can see more of his plan here;
And then tell us what you think …
It is REALLY inspiring to see an oilman acknowledge that we can’t drill our way out of this problem. Nonetheless, the big issue is his perplexing advocacy for natural gas for vehicle transport – particularly passenger cars. Trucks and other heavy transport, maybe. But Plug-Ins are much more practical for passenger cars, and almost here.
As usual, Joe Romm’s got a good take on this over at Climate Progress:
I see plenty of good news here, more upside than down. It can be implemented quickly compared to most new energy sources. Let Pickens and the industry get going on the solar and wind thing, then if natural gas becomes available for cars and can fit into the market it will. Distributing generating sources and energy jobs into rural America will be a life line to small towns in need. Adding clean energy to the grid quickly will diminish the number of utilities willing to risk investments in coal plants.
But lets not forget the quickest energy source, conservation. Ask your city/county to update building codes.
I would rather the investment of capital went toward a source that did not rely on current climate patterns to continue and did not alter local climate patterns. I would say the same thing about offshore wave-powered generators and tidal patterns. Solar has the problems of relying on direct sun exposure and good weather. Geothermal, nuclear, coal, and oil are secure energy sources, and could provide secure energy in limited amounts.
Overall, conservation is the quickest and most reliable energy source. Ideally, we would find a way to coexist with oil and coal as our energy sources, substituting frugal living and permaculture design for alternative energy sources that are less secure and that still consume nonrenewable resources (for example, battery materials – http://tinyurl.com/3an6lj).
Can Noah give an example of a windy region that is expected to become non-windy as global warming progresses? Will climate change affect solar output? No – sunlight and wind are stable energy sources that have been around since the planet formed, and will be until the end of the Sun’s lifetime.
The problem is energy storage – the same one that plants face, and which they have solved by converting solar energy to stable chemical energy (that’s the source of all coal and oil and gas deposits as well). Photosynthesis uses sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide to sugars and fats – that’s how plants store up solar energy. Human technology is has produced many similar energy storage systems – the battery (chemical energy storage), the capacitor (electrical energy storage), and the flywheel or water pump and reservoir (mechanical energy storage). We just need to scale up – we need electrical grids that are capable of storing energy from solar and wind during the day, and metering out that energy as needed at night. Such “smart electrical grids” will be a very necessary component of any renewable energy program.
It’s also pretty clear that coal and oil are not “secure energy sources” – they are insecure and unstable energy sources with serious supply limitation issues, as well as pollution and climate destabilization issues. Unsafe and insecure – and that’s also true for uranium and plutonium, even though nuclear power has a low atmospheric footprint (until you get a Chernobyl). Nuclear might be a better option than coal, but wind and sunlight are the real long-term solutions to the energy supply problem. (in other words, close down coal plants, keep existing nuclear power plants in operation, and expand wind and solar).
There are also solutions that work well for different regions – Iceland’s hydrothermal energy program is one, and tidal or wave generators are another. Agricultural areas will are able to convert some crops to biofuels, as is the case in Brazil, where sugarcane ethanol now provides a large chunk of their domestic transportation fuel. Put it all together and you have no need for fossil fuels to meet energy needs.
As far as “frugal living”, that’s what we’re seeing now as fossil fuel energy costs skyrocket – everyone is cutting back on everything from vacations to eating out due to higher energy costs. Imagine not having to deal with these skyrocketing energy costs – imagine a energy system that didn’t rely on political settlements halfway around the world, but that just kept chugging away regardless. The bottom line is that “comfortable living” is indeed possible for all without using fossil fuels or nuclear – just use our abundant sunlight and wind.
Supposedly, reduction in temperature differences between the pole and the equator will reduce wind speeds between them, but you asked about less wind, not a change in direction. A 2002 industry study suggested mean wind speed reductions between 30 and 40 degrees North latitude. A 2006 Nature paper found that the Pacific Ocean Walker circulation has slowed, and will continue to slow, causing El Nino-like effects. A study in this year’s GRL suggests that slowdown of the positive phases of the Southern Annular Mode will be caused by the closing of the ozone hole of Antarctica, causing weather and wind changes in Australia and South America (and speeding Antarctic warming). Weather damage to above-ground energy production installations will increase, for certain, as weather patterns change, regardless of what happens to regional mean wind speed.
Last year, New Scientist published an inventory of commodities used in production of all kinds, including gallium and Indium used for some solar panel designs. Some hydrogen storage devices in development for cars require platinum, limiting how many cars could use those devices. When a researcher wants to mine platinum from road dust, you know we’ve got problems. For now, hydrogen as a secure energy source (a solid fuel) is out. Nuclear power faces the same limitations of uranium depletion. Metals used to construct turbine blades might suffer similar constraints. Of course oil and coal are limited, not to mention extremely dirty energy sources, but we have the infrastructure in place to continue to extract them, distribute them, and burn them. Why not keep it simple?
There’s a family in Pasadena, nature lovers who grow literally tons of produce on their small lot and who manufacture their own ethanol in their garage. They claim it costs them a $1 a gallon. They use it frugally, even according to them. That’s the smart way to use fuel, regardless of how it was produced.
I’m sorry, that family in Pasadena makes bio-diesel in their garage. My apologies to home-fuelers out there.
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