Friday, May 4, 2012

Gas: Bringing It

Vaclav Smil has an article in The Financial Post today, "Our future is gas."
Natural gas will thus continue its conquest of global and national energy supplies, with five factors behind the rise — discoveries of new large fields, diffusion of shale gas production, expansion of LNG exports, high prices of crude oil, and unrivalled efficiency of gas converters.
Smil's article concludes:
The world should speed up its unfolding transition from coal and crude oil to natural gas by using the fuel not only for heating, electricity generation, and as feedstock for industrial syntheses but also as a transportation fuel. Spending toward that goal would bring faster and more durable gains than subsidizing such dubious conversions as turning corn into ethanol or pouring huge sums into money-losing solar enterprises.
Maybe not to fast.  Judith Curry's  'Climate Etc.' blog carried 2 guest posts this week.  The first
Energy supplies and climate policy | Climate Etc.: The Future of Natural Gas I noted earlier this week. The latest post, Energy supplies and climate policy, is briefer, and deals with the the largest issues, in my opinion.  I would take issue with the assumption that coal is likely to continue being consumed locally, as I suspect the next 10 years will be dominated to declining use of coal in both the United States and Australia, with exports of coal growing to cancel out the reduced consumption at home.
In terms of climate change, that's not going to be much of an accomplishment:

" is worth looking at the historical record before and after the Kyoto Agreement was signed in 1997. Figure 2 shows world fossil-fuel carbon-dioxide emissions, taken from the BP Statistical Review. Do you see a decrease in emissions after the agreement was signed? I don’t either; if anything, emissions accelerated. It is worth noting that the EU and the US show the same percentage decline in emissions, 0.4%/y over the last 10 years, even though the EU countries all ratified the Kyoto Agreement and the US did not."
After walking us through the math involved in establishing resource capacities and forecasting production, the writer, David Rutledge, foresees the exact situation Ontario is currently experiencing:
For people in the renewables business, what are the implications of a 60-year time frame for reaching 90% of the eventual long-term production? I do not know, but I will guess. You will be facing economic headwinds for decades, and competing with rent seekers who are better at securing favorable rules than they are at actually producing energy. You will be dependent on subsidies and renewables targets, in other words, on other people’s money. But as the Iron Lady observed, other people’s money runs out.
That is precisely why the call, from the newly established Global Solar Council , for free and open trade in the solar industry was so refreshing.  If emissions free power sources (I include nuclear) are to displace fossil fuels, they'll need all the benefits of traditional economic tools to provide better value ...
and maybe a carbon tax

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