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Friday, May 17, 2013

More proof that Rendell Admin was ahead of it’s time on CCS

The U.K. government’s CCS Cost Reduction Taskforce’s (CRTF) has concluded that gas and coal power stations equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology have the potential to be cost competitive with other forms of low-carbon power generation in the UK by the early 2020’s. 

The industry-led taskforce’s final report, “The potential for reducing the costs of CCS in the UKreiterated a claim from its interim report published last year.

The report says seven key steps are required by both government and industry for CCS to be cost-competitive, highlighting the importance of developing networks of pipelines and storage hubs. The other steps include creating a tax system in the UK that provides incentives to develop CO2 enhanced oil recovery; developing policy and financing regimes for CCS from industrial CO2; creating an industry-led vision of how phases of CCS projects can be developed and financed; focusing on how to construct contracts to make CCS projects bankable; and ensuring funding mechanisms are suitable for these types of projects.

The network approach is essential. As I wrote when the interim report was published, scale, shared infrastructure, and an interconnected, right-sized CCS network are keys to achieving the cost reductions projected by the task force. These are precisely the central tenets of the 2009 Pennsylvania CCS model that was developed with the help of the Clinton Climate Initiative during my tenure at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, when the agency undertook some of the most advanced work on CCS in the nation.

Governor Rendell and former President Clinton were far ahead of their time on CCS. The UK has recognized the need to catch up to them. With CCS at the “very center” of U.S. energy policy for both coal and natural gas, so does the U.S.. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Duke, USGS study: no groundwater contamination from fracking in Arkansas

A new study by Duke University and the U. S. Geological survey that finds no evidence of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations in the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas.

According to a Duke news release, the "results show no discernible impairment of groundwater quality in areas associated with natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in this region."

The release is worth quoting at length:

"The hydrogeology of Arkansas's Fayetteville Shale basin is very different from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale," {Duke professor Avner) Vengosh noted. Far from contradicting the earlier studies, the Arkansas study "suggests that variations in local and regional geology play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development.  As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins."

Human factors -- such as the drilling techniques used and the integrity of the wellbores – also likely play a role in preventing, or allowing, gas leakage from drilling sites to shallow aquifers, Vengosh said. 

"The take-home message is that regardless of the location, systematic monitoring of geochemical and isotopic tracers is necessary for assessing possible groundwater contamination," he said.  "Our findings in Arkansas are important, but we are still only beginning to evaluate and understand the environmental risks of shale gas development.  Much more research is needed."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Study: Climate disruption will shred the web of life

Just days after atmospheric concentrations of CO2 exceeded their highest levels in at least 3 million years, the frightening climate news continues to cascade in.  A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change says that more than half of all plants and a third of all animal species are at risk of “dramatic declines” as their habitats shrink over the next seven decades due to climate disruption.
Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss finds that 57 percent of ALL plants and 34 percent of ALL animal species were likely to lose more than half the area with a climate suited to them by the 2080s if nothing was done to limit emissions.  Neither common species nor rare and endangered ones will be spared, and the impacts of those losses on biodiversity and ecosystems are not understood.

This is shocking – and fundamentally immoral. 

And the study's estimates are "probably conservative."

As if the decimation of the natural world through human activity were not enough to spur action, the authors added that humans will be directly affected, too (duh).  Wetland vegetation helps to filter and clean fresh water.  Air quality is improved by forests.  Tree and plant cover prevent soil erosion and limit flood damage.  All of those benefits will be severely compromised as we continue to push the climate further into the unknown. Fresh water will be harder to find, and the air will be more polluted and even less healthy to breathe as the planet warms. And the collapse of ecosystems will have major economic impacts on agriculture and tourism.  

While the world and many of its inhabitants are on the brink, the study found that the damage would be greatly reduced if emissions were scaled down in time. Losses are reduced by 60% if global warming is cut to 2% above preindustrial levels, with emissions peaking in 2016 and then being reduced by 5% a year. If emissions peak in 2030, losses are reduced by 40%.  

In performing the largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment in history – the carbonization of our atmosphere – we are shredding the web of life. The consequences for all life – including our own – are dire.  When will we wake up?