Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Diablo and the end of California nuclear

This morning Forbes posted Rod Adams' NRDC Announces PG&E Has Agreed To Kill Diablo Canyon:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has just issued a press release stating that they have signed a deal with [Pacific Gas and Electric Company], IBEW local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Environment California, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
There is an implied quid pro quo. The groups will support PG&E’s request for an extension from the California Lands Commission of its land use permit that allows access to ocean cooling water at the Commission’s June 28 meeting. In return, PG&E will agree to withdraw its 20-year license extension application at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission . Instead, it will aim to retire the two-unit site when its current licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.
The involvement of the NRDC is noteworthy as it is the same special interest group that the New York Times credited with writing the Clean Power Plan - which I do not credit with being a plan for particularly clean power.
Outsourced government seems to be reality, as the agreement is basically opponents of nuclear power waving their ability to bring the power of government to bear upon the nuclear operator if the nuclear operation promises to disappear by 2025.

The President of the NRDC, Rhea Suh, formerly of the Department of the Interior within the Obama administration, wrote some strange things on the agreement in California’s Last Nuclear Power Plant:
For years, some have claimed that we can’t fight climate change without nuclear power, because shutting down nuclear plants would mean burning more fossil fuels to generate replacement electricity.
That’s wrong, of course, and now we have the proof.
Today, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric became the first power company toannounce plans to replace an aging nuclear reactor with sound investments that make us more energy efficient and help us get more clean power from the wind and sun.
 That's batshit crazy right there.

Economists opine on tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

I've noted a flurry of opining on pricing emissions, perhaps because I'm Canadian and the small, homogenous eco-econo group heard a blast that disturbed the herd, but two recent works from south of the border also caught my attention.

Carbon pricing under binding political constraints, by Jesse Jenkins and Valerie Karplus, provides an explanation of why a straight carbon tax is rarely implemented - and when it is, generally at very low levels.
...persistent political economy constraints motivate a search for climate policies that are politically feasible, environmentally effective, and economically efficient. As in many other domains of economic regulation, second best (and third and fourth best) climate policy mechanisms abound. By paying close attention to the distributional impacts of different climate policy instruments and their interaction with potentially-binding political constraints, economists, political scientists, and policy makers can help design climate policy responses that are both palatable enough to be implemented today and economically superior to alternative second-best instruments.
... we implement constraints of varying severity on:
  1. the maximum feasible CO2 price itself; 
  2. the maximum tolerable increase in final energy prices; 
  3. a maximum tolerable decline in energy consumer surplus; and 
  4. a maximum decline in fossil energy producer surplus.
The full paper contains many, many equations. The stated "main objective of this exercise was to put an analytical framework around," and I think that's achieved more in noting the contraints than in the attempts to measure them. The authors' conclusion invokes scenarios where public opinion could be moved towards increasing the price of CO2, as the first best option, but...

Meredith Fowlie delivers a warning that policies taken outside of pricing carbon have been to the detriment of carbon prices, in Time to Unleash the Carbon Market?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Huron water level threatened again - by Toronto's Premier and its Environment (and Climate Change) Minister

The government of Toronto politician Kathleen Wynne issue a press release yesterday. I'll attempt to list the issue that caught my attention dispassionately.

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers Release First-Ever Regional Maritime Strategy:
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met today to discuss their ongoing partnership to grow the economy and create jobs. On behalf of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, they released the first-ever regional strategy to jumpstart the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime transportation system. The strategy's objectives are to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental footprint of the region's transportation network, and support the region's industrial core. Once fully implemented, the strategy will help grow the region's maritime sector, which already contributes more than US$30 billion to the U.S. and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs.
The strategy includes a blend of policies, programs and projects to rejuvenate the regional maritime system. Ten-year implementation of the strategy is estimated at US$3.8 billion based on preliminary analysis. The states and provinces will work with other levels of government, industry and other stakeholders to advance implementation of the recommendations over the longer term. Specific recommendations include:
  • Constructing a second "Poe Class" Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to ensure the movement of vital raw materials like iron ore and coal. The feasibility of a second hydropower plant should be examined, including the potential of using revenue for future lock maintenance and construction.
  • Clearing the system's dredging backlog to ensure transit for fully loaded vessels. 
  • Dredging the system's critical chokepoint--the St. Marys River--to its authorized depth of 27 feet, while a longer-term, system-wide analysis of bottlenecks is completed to make sure dredging dollars are used most efficiently.
Sounds wonderful - especially the shipping more coal part - but for the real environmentalists of Lake Huron (and particularly Georgian Bay), it seems likely to undermine decades of work getting the negative impacts of dredging the St. Clair river - to 27 feet - recognized.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2 new nuclear studies: on remote SMRs, and options for fuel recycling

Yesterday Ontario switched it's Energy Minister, along with the rest of the cabinet. The new Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault, comes from being the Parliamentary Assistant to Glen Murray - and therefore from the culture my previous post covered.

Minister Thibeault arrives without any apparent background in science, engineering or technology, but he has some hefty reports he could deal with - maybe even read - as indicated in this Canadian Nuclear Association press release:
The Canadian Nuclear Association is pleased with the release of two new independent studies commissioned by the Ontario government on the benefits of advanced nuclear technologies.
The first study, "Feasibility of the Potential Deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) inOntario", assesses SMR siting requirements, technological maturity, and economics. The second study, "A Feasibility Study on the Recycling of Used CANDU Fuel", explores the prospects to reuse and recycle used CANDU fuel - determining their feasibility, and potential implications for policies.
"The government of Ontario's initiation of these studies is a further sign that it sees the potential of nuclear to help meet environmental and economic goals," said CNA President John Barrett.
...Natural Resources Canada co-funded the two independent studies, initiated by the Ontario Ministry of Energy (MOE).
Here are links:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

in Ontario, a climate circle

My province has been very active with the introduction of a cap-and-trade plan, both in creating revenue tools and planning the dispensation of the revenues.

A chronology of some events that brought about the current status - according to heresay I've encountered on social media, and subsequent research:
  • 2008, October - Dave Sawyer (of Enviroeconomics) and Nic Rivers (for M.K. Jaccard and Associates) prepare pricing carbon: saving green written for the David Suzuki foundation. A main finding of the report is "A substantial portion of the government revenue from a carbon price should be invested in a large-scale increase in renewable energy, home energy efficiency improvements, and public transportation."
  • 2009 - The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) releases ACHIIEVING 2050: A CARBON PRICING POLICY FOR CANADA. The work's "three principal policy elements" are cap-and-trade, regulations in various sectors including buildings and transportation, and using international carbon abatement trading (partially to mitigate costs). Like the earlier report for the David Suzuki foundation, the recommendations for disbursing revenues from cap-and trade include, "to invest in the required technologies and innovation needed to meet the Canadian environmental goal of reduced GHG emissions."
  • 2015, March - The government  appoints a Climate Action Group. David McLaughlin, NRTEE President and CEO in 2009, tweets, "More evidence ON moving to cap-and-trade carbon pricing regime...Climate change advisors experts in field"
  • 2015, November The government's draft Cap and Trade Program Design Options included, "From 2008 to 2010, Ontario collaborated on and co-authored Western Climate Initiative (WCI) design recommendations..." Ontario decides to join that.
  • 2016, May 13The Wall Street Journal carried an article, When All Economics is Political (subscription), on Russ Roberts of  EconTalk, which is a favourite podcast I found since being gifted, pointedly, a treadmill. Roberts jokes in the article,“How do you know macroeconomists have a sense of humor? They use decimal points.”
  • 2016, May 17 - following a Globe and Mail story based on a leaked draft of the climate change plan, the government spreads the message"The average energy costs to households for building energy and transport could rise in the order (of) $13 per month in 2017." The message originates from Dave Sawyer of Enviroeconomics, in a presentation that begins, "Our analysis indicates that the provincial GDP impact in 2020 would be equivalent to a drop in growth of 0.03%". Decimal pointsEconomists chuckle.
  • 2016, May 18government passes Landmark Climate Change Legislation facilitating actions by the government
  • 2106, June 8 - government has media launch of the Climate Change Action Plan. The media includes a commercial with an audience of children listening to David Suzuki.
Suzuki's re-appearance closes that circle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

EV, or not EV? and how

Incentives to purchase electric vehicles were a focus of Ontario's Climate Action Plan, but they didn't come from the automotive expert on the Climate Action Group appointed last March.

What would it take to make you buy an EV?
Industry consultant Dennis DeRosiers is blunt: “An incentive means a product has failed. The fundamental issue is that internal combustion engine cars are better.” He shakes his head that programs that have failed in virtually every jurisdiction where they’ve been introduced have not delivered a fraction of the anticipated results, and yet Ontario believes it will change the course. “Scrapper programs fail unless you’re prepared to force cars off the road. Governments won’t do that.”
DeRosiers was part of the provincial Climate Action Committee, and says in 100 hours of meetings less than half an hour was devoted to the auto sector. And despite the transportation sector making up 35 percent of all greenhouse gases in Ontario, he claims that none of his suggestions or advice was taken during these meetings. I asked about the popular projections that by 2050 our roads will be dominated by electric vehicles; he points to Germany, where the goal was 1 million EVs by 2020, and it currently sits at 70,000. “The greenest country in the world, and they don’t want them,” he says.
“Despite rebates and incentives, 96 per cent of drivers choose gas cars. And this is not the manufacturer’s fault. They are consistently making cars that are 20 percent more fuel efficient year over year.
“This is about drivers not wanting the new technology. It is still overwhelmingly for people who can afford two cars, so we’re talking not about buying one car, but two, and all the costs associated with that. And don’t forget the brutal depreciation on the electrics.”