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Thursday, March 6, 2014

CATF: Natgas can achieve lasting cuts in US CO2 emissions if used strategically

The US can achieve “significant and affordable reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions by displacing power from coal-fired power plants with power from natural gas plants, according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force.

Power Switch: An Effective, Affordable Approach to Reducing Carbon Pollution from Existing Fossil-Fueled Power Plants says that if the EPA sets power plant performance standards so that electricity generated by coal-fired power plants is displaced with generation from more efficient and currently underutilized natural-gas power plants, the US can realize significant, near- term reductions in carbon pollution at a minimal cost.

CATF says that its proposal will:  
  • Decrease CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 27% by 2020;
  • Avoid 2,000 premature deaths and 15,000 asthma attacks annually;
  • Result in health and climate benefits of $34 billion - over three times the cost of compliance; and
  • Increase average nationwide retail electric rates by only 2% in 2020 and result in no net increase in monthly electric bills.

The CATF study should be viewed in tandem with the PJM study that I blogged about yesterday. What synergies in renewable energy deployment, and in climate, public healthand other benefits could be achieved with minimized methane emissions and a strategic coal-to-gas push?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PJM: Boost renewables to 30%, cut CO2 by 40%

PJM Interconnection, LLC - the company that manages the electricity grid in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia - has found that raising renewable energy to 30 percent of the electricity supply can reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent - while maintaining the reliability ofthe electric system.

PJM conducted a comprehensive study of the operational, planning, and market effects of large-scale integration of wind and solar power in its service territory (details here).  The study’s Executive Summary says that the PJM system “will not have any significant issues operating with up to 30% of its energy provided by wind and solar generation.”

The PJM scenario with greatest CO2 reduction is 30 percent renewable energy, using the best sites for wind, including a low amount of offshore wind, and one-sixth of the renewable energy coming from solar. The CO2 emissions change from over 500 million tons in year 2026 when running the grid as usual, to a new level of 300 million tons with this addition of renewable energy. That is a 40 percent reduction. 
PJM’s study represents the gold standard for this kind of analysis. As Jacobs notes, it shows the way forward to other grid operators and to states in the PJM region on meeting new Federal power plant emission standards. It should also propel those states to significantly increase their renewable energy requirements to get to 30% renewables as rapidly as possible - and then go beyond it

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oil/gas industry can cut methane emissions "significantly and cost-effectively"

An analysis conducted for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) by ICF International (ICF) shows that the U.S. oil and gas industry can “significantly and cost-effectively” reduce methane emissions using currently available technologies and operating practices.

  • Total methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas are projected to increase 4.5% by 2018 as emissions from industry growth – particularly in oil production – outpace reductions from regulations already on the books.
  • Industry could cut methane emissions by 40 percent below projected 2018 levels at an average annual cost of less than one cent per thousand cubic feet of produced natural gas by adopting available emissions-control technologies and operating practices. This would require a capital investment of $2.2 billion, which Oil & Gas Journal data shows to be less than 1% of annual industry capital expenditure.
  • If the full economic value of recovered natural gas is taken into account, the 40% reduction is achievable while saving the U.S. economy and consumers over $100M per year.
  • The most cost-effective methane reduction opportunities would create over $164M net savings for operators.
  • Almost 90% of projected 2018 emissions will come from oil production and existing natural gas infrastructure.
  • A number of solutions, particularly in the upstream of the oil and gas value chain, will have environmental co-benefits at no extra cost, by reducing emissions that can harm human health, like volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. 
The report's scope apparently did not include the serious deterioration of the natgas distribution system.  Still, the ICF report charts a clear course for industry action and regulatory improvement on methane emissions. The problem is fixable. Now, will it be fixed?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Can we move beyond the shale gas jobs hype?

Pennsylvania’s Keystone Research Center has been a strong, professional, and persistent voice of reason and source of factual analysis about the exaggerated claims of job creation in Pennsylvania by the natgas industry and its supporters in high places.

Now, a team of economists from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has dittoed KRC’s analyses.

The BLS finds that the oil and natural gas industry added a total of 15,114 jobs in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2012 -  a far cry from the dubious, multiplier-driven 200,000 jobs often attributed to the industry by its cheerleaders.

The reasons for the differences between the BLS figures and the somewhat higher numbers developed by KRC are explained in this must-read blog post, as is the relative importance of shale jobs in natgas-producing states:   
The takeaway: in a small state like North Dakota, tens of thousands of oil and gas jobs are enough to bring down the overall unemployment rate, while in large states like Texas and Pennsylvania, this sector just doesn't produce enough employment to move the dial.
There’s far too much hyperbole surrounding just about every aspect of shale gas development – nowhere moreso than in the Keystone State. It’s long past time to get real.