•you must write an essay to answer the follow question:
Outline the major issues around energy production and consumption. How will the world meet its energy needs in the future?
• you must write an essay to answer the follow question:
Use the recourses which I upload it. DO NOT USE TEXTS FROM YOUR OWN RESEARCH.
The essay must include citations and references in Harvard style for the sources you use.
A. Portfolio Task 4 – Outline – deadline 27th of Febreury
This is an outline for your full essay. The outline should clearly show the structure of the essay and the sources that will be used to support the main points. It can also briefly include any examples you will use.
B. Portfolio Task 5 – Full Essay – deadline 6th of March
The word count for the essay is approximately 1,000 words.
The Relationship between Energy Use and Development
A shift in types of energy
One way to study the progress of the human race is to focus on the way humans have used energy to help them produce goods and services. People have constantly sought ways to lighten the physical work they must do to produce the things they need -or feel they need -to live decently. The harnessing of fire was a crucial step in human evolution as it provided early humans with heat, enabled them to cook their foods, and helped them to protect themselves against carnivorous animals. Next came the domestication of animals. Animal power was an important supplement to human muscles, enabling people to grow food on a larger scale than ever before. Wood was an important energy source for much of human history, as it still is for a large part of the world’s population. The replacement of wood by coal to make steam in Britain in the eighteenth century enabled the industrial revolution to begin. In the late nineteenth century oil, and in the early twentieth century natural gas, began to replace coal since they were cleaner and more convenient to use. Oil had overtaken coal as the principal commercial energy source in the world by 1970. In the 1970s nuclear power was introduced and was producing about 15 percent of the world’s electricity by the early 2000s.
The use of energy in the world has increased dramatically in the years since the end of World War II in 1945, a period of rapid development in the industrialized coun¬tries and one marking the beginning of industrialization in a number of developing countries.
Figure 4.1 shows this well. Up through the end of the twentieth century, most of the increased energy use took place in the developed nations. Figure 4.1 shows the world’s consumption of energy by type from 1850 to 2000. In 2000 fossil fuels made up about 86 percent of the energy used, with oil about 40 percent, coal about 24 percent, and natural gas about 22 percent. Non-fossil fuels – mainly hydroelectric, nuclear, geothermal, biomass, wind, and solar – accounted for about 14 percent of energy production in 2000.
Figure 4.1 Global energy consumption, 1850-2000 Source: Robert Service, “Is It Time to Shoot for the Sun?” Science, 309 (July 22, 2005), p. 550; reprinted with permission from American Association tor the Advancement of Science.
Figure 4.2 shows per capita energy consumption by region of the world.
Figure 4.2 Energy use per capita by world region, 2002 Source: 2005 World Population Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau).
North Americans consume more energy than any other region. Per capita energy use in North America (United States and Canada) is about twice that of Europeans, eight times that of Asians, and about ten times that of Africans. But per capita energy consumption does not tell the whole story. For example, per capita, the Chinese burn less coal (the most polluting fossil fuel) than North Americans do, but the total amount of coal used in China is twice that used in the United States.30 …
Most scientists who specialize in the study of the earth’s climate, “climatologists” (not economists, political commentators, or meteorologists), believe the human race is now involved in an experiment of unprecedented importance to the future of life on this planet. A change in the global climate is now taking place, mainly because of the burning, by humans, of large amounts of fossil fuels -coal, oil, and natural gas. When these fuels are consumed, carbon, which accumulated in them over millions of years, is released into the atmosphere as a gas, carbon dioxide (C02), C02 in the earth’s atmosphere has increased significantly since the industrial revolution: by about 40 percent between the mid-1700s and the present. This increase is causing a warming of the earth’s surface – called “global warming” or the “greenhouse effect” – since C02 in the atmosphere allows sunlight to reach the earth but traps some of the earth’s heat, preventing it from radiating back into space. While C02 is the largest contributor to global warming, other gases – such as methane, which comes from both natural and human causes; nitrous oxide, which comes from fertilizers and other sources; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), widely used in the past in air conditioning and refrigeration; and other halocarbons – can also cause global warming. Many of these gases are increasing significantly in the atmosphere.
Under the sponsorship of the United Nations in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up to study what was happening to the earth’s climate and its causes. Since its establishment, the IPCC has issued 4 reports (the first in 1990 and the fourth in 2007) based on peer reviewed published scientific reports from thousands of scientists around the world. It is now recognized as the most authoritative organization on climate change. It won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its work. The Panel’s first report concluded that probably because of the release of “greenhouse gases” by humans, an increase in the earth’s temperature would occur.42 Since that first report the evidence has grown of something dramatic happening to the earth’s climate. In the Panel’s fourth report of 2007, it concluded it is now certain ¬beyond doubt – the earth’s climate is warming and actions by human beings are responsible for a significant part of that warming.43 Numerous models of the earth’s climate have been made by climatologists and nearly all of these predict a warming of the earth because of the increasing C02 and other greenhouse gases. …
The energy transition
The world is entering a period of transition from one main energy source – oil – to a new principal source or a variety of sources. This is the third energy transition the world has passed through: the first was from wood to coal, and the second from coal to oil. Many people, although not all by any means, now recognize that the indus¬trialized world must shift from its reliance on nonrenewable and dangerously pollut¬ing fossil fuels to an energy source or sources that are renewable and less polluting. Many in the industrialized countries, but fewer in the United States, which is the only industrialized country that has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, understand that their dependence on imported oil must end since it is not a clean fuel, and neither is it cheap, abundant, or secure. But what will be the new principal energy source for the industries of the developed world and the new industries of the devel¬oping nations? As in many transitions, the end to be reached is not clear. The only clear thing now is that the present state of affairs is no longer viable. We are now in the beginning years of the energy transition.
For the rest of this section, we will examine some of the potentialities of the most often discussed energy sources. Energy sources can be divided into those that are nonrenewable (i.e., it took millions of years to create them and they are being used up) and those that are renewable, in the sense that most of them currently gain their energy from the sun, which is expected to continue to shine at its present brightness for at least one billion years more.
Nonrenewable energy sources
Oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium are the main sources of nonrenewable energy. According to many analysts the world is not about to run out of oil, but within a few decades shortages will become prevalent.76 The world’s demand for oil is now growing 1 or 2 percent each year.77 Rapidly economically growing China and India are already competing with the West for oil. The production of oil in the United States peaked around 1970 and has been decreasing since then.
Canada has large deposits of tar sands from which oil can be extracted. In the mid-2000s about 1 million barrels of oil a day were being extracted from the oil sands. It is estimated that the tar sands hold as much as 175 million barrels of oil, but it is relatively expensive and environmentally destructive to extract.
Proven reserves of natural gas are estimated to be larger than oil reserves. Large reserves exist in Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, emitting 40 percent of the CO2 emitted by coal. Europe now uses natural gas for 20 percent of its energy, much of it coming from Russia. A quarter of the energy in the United States now comes from natural gas and there are plans to increase this. According to a well-known energy analyst, natural gas has become the “fuel of choice” for meeting the needs for more electricity in both the developed and developing countries.78 Some energy analysts expect it to overtake coal and oil as the most important fossil fuel in the world by 2025.79
Coal is a much more abundant resource than oil or natural gas, and the United States has very large deposits of it, as do Russia, China, and Europe. It is estimated that the earth has 1 trillion tons of recoverable coal, with one quarter of it in the Unites States. China has about one half as much as the US but burns twice as much as the US at present. At the end of the first decade in the twenty-first century, China was burning more coal than the US, Europe, and Japan combined.80 It is coal that is fueling China’s present economic boom.
Coal, partly because it is relatively cheap and abundant, has made resurgence in the US under the George W. Bush administration. But its low price is deceptive and does not factor in many environmental costs, such as mercury pollution and particulate matter. Among the many serious pollutants emitted when it is burned, those contributing to climate change are some of the most significant. About 40 percent of CO2 emissions around the world come from the burning of coal. According to the International Energy Agency IEA), the pollution from coal will probably increase:
The energy equivalent of some 1,350 thousand-megawatt coal-fired power plants will be built by 2030. Forty percent of them will be in China… India will add another 10 percent or so and most of the remaining half will be added in the West. In the United States, the IEA predicts, about a third of the new electric-generating capacity built by 2025 will be coal-fired.81 …
Renewable energy sources
The energy from the sun can be obtained in a variety of ways: from wood, falling water, wind, wastes, hydrogen, and, of course, from direct sunlight. We will briefly examine each of these. In 2008 only 7 percent of the energy used in the United States came from renewable sources.
First, wood, agricultural/forestry residues, and animal dung are still the principal fuels in many developing countries. Rural peoples in sub-Saharan Africa, as in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, use these traditional fuels to cook their food and to provide heat and light. In fact, except for their own muscle power and the aid of a few domestic animals, the majority of the villagers in many developing nations have no other source of energy. Rapidly expanding populations in poorer countries are placing high demands on the use of wood; at the same time, modern agricultural requirements and development in general are leading to the clearing of vast acres of forests. Acute shortages of firewood already exist in wide areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Second, hydroelectric power, which is generated from falling water, is a potentially clean source of energy, causing little pollution. A large potential for developing this type of energy still exists in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, although many of the rivers that could be used are located far from centers of population. Large dams, which are often necessary to store the water for the electric generators, usually seri¬ously disturb the local environment, sometimes require the displacement of large numbers of people, and cause silting behind the dam, which limits its life. While most of the best sites for large dams in the industrialized countries have already been developed, a potential exists for constructing some small dams and for installing electric generators at existing dams that do not have them.
China has built the world’s largest dam, the Three Gorges Dam, which is designed to produce annually an amount of electricity equal to that produced by 50 million tons of coal. The dam has its critics who point out, among many other complaints, the millions of people who had to be relocated to make room for its huge reservoir, and the possible large amounts of methane that will rise from the reservoir as the submerged vegetation rots. (Methane is many times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than is CO2.82)
Third, wind is an energy source that was commonly used in the past for power as well as for the cooling of houses. It is still used for these purposes in some less devel¬oped countries and has recently gained respect around the world. In California in the United States 16,000 wind turbines were constructed in just three mountain passes, areas that have fairly steady wind. Actually, the midwestern states in the United States -from North Dakota to Texas – have better wind conditions than California and have a great potential for generating more of their power from this source. The early dominance of California in producing wind power probably had more to do with the tax incentives that the state gave in order to promote this form of energy rather than wind conditions. The California wind farms began going up in 1981 after the federal government passed a law that encouraged small energy producers, and after both the federal government and the state of California gave tax credits to the wind producers. Texas has now passed California as the top producer of wind power in the US.83 Iowa, a state in the midwest of the US, in 2010 was getting a US record of 14 percent of its electricity from wind.84 In 2010 the US was getting about 2 percent of its electricity from wind. While this was still a small amount, it was up from about nothing a few years ago.
Attracted by the success of wind farms in California, a number of European countries such as Germany, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Britain, and the Netherlands, have greatly increased their wind power. About 20 percent of Denmark’s electricity now comes from wind power. In 2008 Spain got about 8 percent of its electricity from wind and Germany got about 7 percent The European Union has set a goal of getting about 20 percent of its electricity from wind and other renewable sources by 2020. In 2010 Europe was getting about 5 percent of its electricity from wind.
China has begun installing wind turbines from Inner Mongolia to offshore of its eastern coasts as part of its goal to secure more of its energy from renewable sources. China has passed the US as the world’s largest market for wind turbines. In 2009 it was building six huge wind farms around China, each with the capacity of 16 large coal-fired power plants.
The main problem with wind, of course, is that it is usually not steady, and thus the energy it creates must be stored in some way so it can be used when the wind dies down. There is not yet any easy and inexpensive way to do this. Another problem with wind is that the choices of windy places in the world are relatively few and unevenly distributed. They are also often in remote locations, far from population centers, and in areas of great natural beauty, which the windmills spoil. In an effort to defuse public opposition to the windmills’ location and to benefit from strong and steady winds in coastal areas, many offshore wind farms are now in the planning stage in the US and have been built in Europe and China. Past problems such as the noise the wind turbines make as the blades whirl (some blades are as large as the wingspan of a 747 aircraft) and the killing of birds have been partly solved by improvements in turbine design and more care given to their location. A study of wind power in the US by the US Energy Department in 2010 concluded that wind power could replace coal and natural gas for 20 to 30 percent of the electricity used by the eastern two-thirds of the country by 2024, but the cost of changing the power grid would be large and it would have only a modest effect on cutting emissions linked to climate change.85 According to the American Wind Power Association, the total wind power operating in the US in 2010 will avoid an estimated 60 million tons of CO2 annually.86
Fourth, biomass conversion is the name given to the production of liquid and gaseous fuel from crop, animal, and human wastes; from garbage from cities; and from crops especially grown for energy production. Millions of generators that create methane gas from animal and human wastes are producing fuel for villages in India and China. Brazil is using its large sugar-cane production to produce low pollution alcohol for fuel for automobiles. In 2007 Brazil obtained about one-third of its transportation fuel from alcohol (called ethanol in the United States). An important part of Brazil’s success came when the automobile industry in Brazil developed new technology that permitted it to produce an engine that can use either gasoline, alcohol, or a combination of both. This allows drivers to select the cheapest fuel, which at present is alcohol.
In order to reduce its dependence on oil from the Middle East and other insecure areas, the US granted large subsidies to farmers to encourage them to grow corn for processing into ethanol. By 2009 about 30 percent of the corn crop in the US was being grown to produce ethanol for automobiles. A debate has occurred over how much this move contributed to higher food prices around the world.
St Louis and some other US cities are burning their garbage mixed with coal and/or natural gas to produce electricity. It is difficult to estimate how widespread this form of energy generation will become in the future. Some see good potential while others mention its negative aspects, such as the emission of harmful gases and of foul odors from burning garbage, and the use of land to grow energy crops instead of food crops in a hungry world. Research into nonfood crops that can be used to make biofuels, such as wood waste, weedlike energy crops, agricultural residues, and corn stalks, is being conducted. A recent report has concluded: “Cellulosic biofuels – liquid fuels – made from inedible parts of plants – offer the most environmentally attractive and technological feasible near-term alternative to oil.”87
Fifth, the use of pollution-free direct sunlight probably has the greatest potential of all the forms of solar energy for becoming a major source of energy in the future, but it is not yet used in a major way. Each year the earth receives from the sun about ten times the energy that is stored in all of its fossil fuel and uranium reserves. Direct sunlight can be used to heat space and water, and to produce electricity, indirectly in solar thermal systems, or directly by using photovoltaic or solar cells. Solar thermal systems collect sunlight through mirrors or lenses and use it to heat a fluid to extremely high temperatures. The fluid heats water to produce steam, which is then used to drive turbines to generate electricity.
China in 2009 produced the most solar cells in the world, Japan was second, Taiwan third, Germany fourth and the US fifth. (The United States was once the world’s leader in solar energy but the ending of
governmental incentives after the 1980s, and low natural gas prices, ended its leadership.) In 2005 solar power was mainly used in the US to heat swimming pools.88 But this situation is rapidly changing. According to the Earth Policy Institute, the reason for this is as follows:
Total PV (solar photovoltaic cells) connected to the grid are doubling every two years… Federal tax credits along with various state and local programs, including renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to get a certain percentage of the electricity they sell from renewables, have been the main drivers of US PV growth.89
Some regions, such as parts of the Middle East and North Africa, are particularly well suited for large-scale solar thermal plants, and these plants are becoming cost competitive.
Although dropping in cost, solar cells are still relatively expensive. Solar power, overall, in 2009 was far more expensive than energy produced from oil, natural gas, coal, and even wind. Their high cost is probably the most serious hindrance to their wider use. A major reduction in their cost would probably come about if they were mass-produced, but without a large demand for solar cells, which their high cost prevents, mass production facilities will not be built by private enterprise. A way out of this vicious cycle could come as the costs of oil and natural gas continue to rise, or if the world finally unites in an effort to combat climate change. Solar energy could be used well in moderately or intensely sunny places. Much of the developing world fits this criterion. The developing world is, in fact, often mentioned as a vast potential market for solar energy because many of its rural areas still lack electricity, and solar energy is collected more or less as efficiently by small, decentralized collectors as it is by larger, centralized units. Surprisingly, in spite of its frequently cloudy skies, but because of government financial support, Germany has become the world’s leader in using solar power. But solar is still a small part of the country’s energy system, producing just 1 percent of Germany’s energy.90 Although still a small part, Germany uses solar as part of its renewable energy which reached 14 percent of its electricity supply in 2008, putting it ahead of the European Union’s target for 2010.91
The cost of solar energy from solar thermal plants has been dropping rather rapidly. If one includes the hidden costs of fossil fuels – that is, the costs society bears now and will bear in the future because of the pollution produced and the costs of military forces to ensure access to them – solar energy is probably less expensive than fossil fuels right now.
Sixth, geothermal energy, heat that is produced within the earth’s interior and stored often in pools of water or in rock, or as steam under the earth’s cool crust, is not a form of solar energy but is a renewable form of energy. Iceland uses this form of energy to heat many of its homes, and Russia and Hungary heat extensive greenhouses with it. Two US cities, one in Oregon and one in Idaho, use geothermal energy, and a geothermal power plant that produces electricity has been built in northern California. In 2009 geothermal energy provided Iceland and El Salvador with about 25 percent of their electricity, and the Philippines, Kenya, and Costa Rica with about 15 percent of their electricity. For a few favorable locations in the world, geothermal energy can be utilized, but it is not expected to have a wider potential.
Finally, hydrogen-powered fuel cells have the potential to become a major non-polluting and efficient source of energy for vehicles. In fuel cells hydrogen is combined at low temperatures with oxygen supplied from the air to produce electricity, which is used to run an electric motor. Vehicles powered by the electric motor would be clean, quiet, highly efficient, and relatively easy to maintain. No battery is required and basically the only substance coming from the exhaust is water. Hydrogen can be obtained from water by a process that itself uses electricity. If the electricity used to make hydrogen comes from renewable and nonpolluting sources such as solar power, wind power, or hydroelectric power, hydrogen fuel cells are a renewable and clean source of energy. If a polluting fuel such as coal is used to make hydrogen, the fuel cell would be neither clean nor renewable.
By 2000 nearly all automobile companies were putting a major effort into developing cars using fuel cells. But major hurdles exist before fuel cell cars are mass-produced. In the mid-2000s hydrogen fuel cells cost about a hundred times as much per unit of power as the internal combustion engine powered by gasoline.92 The US National Academy of Sciences in 2004 estimated that the transition to a hydrogen economy would take decades because of the serious challenges involved.93 One major problem is the need to create thousands of hydrogen fueling stations. One industrialist in the United States put it this way:
It’s the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. There’s no demand for cars and trucks with limited fueling options, but no one wants to make the huge investment to create a fueling infrastructure unless there are fleets of vehicles on the road. So the question is: How do we create demand?94
Conservation is not commonly thought of as an energy source, but according to an influential study of the US energy situation by the Harvard University Business School in 1980, it should properly be regarded as a major untapped source of energy.
“But is conservation really a ‘source’ of energy?” asked one of my bright students. “Good question,” I responded. “Think of something that makes it unnecessary for you to use a product. Isn’t it, in a sense, the same as the product?”
How much energy could the United States save by adopting conservation measures? The Harvard study found that the savings could be impressive:
If the United States were to make a serious commitment to conservation, it might well consume 30 to 40 percent less energy than it now does, and still enjoy the same or an even higher standard of living. That saving would not hinge on a major technological breakthrough, and it would require only modest adjustments in the way people live.95
To many people, the term “conservation” means deprivation, a doing without something; but the Harvard study, and many others since, have shown that much energy conservation can take place without causing any real hardship. There are three ways to save energy: by performing some activity in a more energy-efficient manner (e.g., designing a more efficient motor); by not wasting energy (turning off lights in empty rooms); and by changing behavior (walking to work or to school).
Many businesses now recognize that making their operations more energy efficient is a good way to increase profits. …The investments the companies make to redesign their business operations so they reduce their energy usage are soon repaid by lower energy bills. Dow Chemical discovered after the 1973 oil crisis that the company’s standard practice up to then was never to turn off its de-icing equipment during the year, which meant that its sidewalks and service areas were being warmed even on the Fourth of July. Over the most recent decade DuPont increased its production by about 30 percent but cut its energy use nearly 10 percent, saving more than $2 billion. Five other companies – IBM, British Telecom, Alcan, Norske Canada, and Bayer – collectively saved another $2 billion by reducing their CO2 emissions by about 60 percent. British Petroleum (BP) met its 2010 goal in 2001 of reducing its CO2 emissions 10 percent below its 1990 level, thus cutting its energy bill by about $650 million over ten years.96
One major conservation method US industry could adopt is called “cogeneration,” which is the combined production of both electricity and heat in the same installation. Electricity is currently produced by private and public utilities, and the heat from the generation of the electricity is passed off into the air or into lakes and rivers as waste. In cogeneration plants, the heat from the production of electricity – often in the form of steam – is used for industrial processes or for heating homes and offices.
The production of electricity and steam together uses about one-half the amount of fuel as does their production separately. Cogeneration is fairly common in Europe but not in the United States, where electric utilities often give cheaper rates to their big industrial customers, thus reducing the incentive to adopt the process.
If the United States ever does reach the goal of energy savings that the Harvard report believes is possible, it will be because of a combination of governmental policies encouraging conservation and of action by millions of individuals. The United States is a country where people respond well to incentives to promote conservation practices, but such governmental incentives have so far been rather weak. In contrast to weak efforts by the central government, some of the US states have done more to encourage the conservation and use of renewable energy. For example, the state of California allowed homeowners to deduct 55 percent of the cost of solar devices from their state taxes. (This law no doubt partly explains why California leads the nation in the number of solar devices installed in homes.) The city of Davis, California changed its building code so that all new homes in the city must meet certain energy performance standards.
American homes are not designed to use energy efficiently. If houses with large window surfaces were positioned to face the south, they could gain much heat from the low winter sun, and these windows could be shaded by deciduous trees or an overhang to keep out the high summer sun. The popular all -glass American skyscrapers built during the 1960s are huge energy wasters, since their large areas of glass absorb the hot summer rays. Since their windows cannot be opened, at times the buildings’ air conditioners must work at high levels just to cool their interiors to the same temperature as the outside air. Simple measures like planting trees to obtain shade can have a significant cooling effect on a house, a city street, or a parking lot, reducing temperatures by as much as 10 to 20 degrees over unshaded areas. Townhouses, the modern name for the old row houses, are again becoming popular in many cities; they are much more energy efficient than the common, single-family house because of their shared walls.
Saving energy often takes an initial investment. Knowing this fact helps one understand why the decontrol of prices of oil and natural gas, which will lead to higher prices of those fuels, is probably not enough by itself to cause many people to use less energy. The better educated and more affluent might recognize that an investment in insulation or a more expensive water heater makes good sense and will save them money over the long run, but those with lower incomes do not have the extra money to make the initial investment. Some of the poor spend a higher portion of their income on energy than do those on higher incomes, and thus could benefit greatly from the better-insulated house or the more fuel-efficient car, but they usually end up with a poorly insulated house and a gas-guzzling car. Higher prices for fuel will probably help to reduce energy consumption, but stronger governmental incentives and regulations, such as substantially higher tax credits for installing insulation and substantially higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, could produce a significant movement toward conservation.
Some real progress is being made in conservation/energy efficiency efforts around the world, but much more can be done. Here is how Amory Lovins, an authority on the subject, sees the positive features:
Many energy-efficient products, once costly and exotic, are now inexpensive and commonplace. Electronic speed controls, for example, are mass-produced so cheaply that some suppliers give them away as a free bonus with each motor. Compact fluorescent lamps cost more than $20 two decades ago but only $2 to $5 today; they use 75 to 80 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last 10 to 13 times longer. Window coatings that transmit light but reflect heat cost one fourth of what they did five years ago.97
Lovins believes that Europe and Japan, although up to twice as energy efficient as the United States, can still make significant improvements in conserving energy. Even more opportunities to conserve energy exist in the developing countries, Lovins believes, where, on average, countries are three times less efficient than the United States. And finally Lovins is encouraged by what he sees in China, which has what he calls “ambitious but achievable goals” to shift from coal production to decentralized renewable energy and natural gas.98 As was mentioned in the previous section on climate change, China is relying on conservation and energy efficiency improvements as its main way to achieve its stated goal of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (its so-called “carbon intensity”) it emits to produce economic growth. It has found this difficult to do. While it has become the world’s chief producer of greenhouse gasses, it has also become a leader in producing renewable energy.
The energy transition the earth is passing through is possibly the most important one human beings have encountered during their long evolution on the planet. The very suitability of the planet for high civilization is threatened by the fossil fuels they rely on to power the machinery that makes their products, runs their transportation systems, fuels their high-tech agricultural systems, and heats and cools their homes. The burning of these fossil fuels has led to wars as nations have fought over the control of oil, the main fossil fuel the people of the earth depend on at present. As long as that dependency remains, more conflicts seem likely.
But more wars are not the main problem our use of energy might bring. The effect our reliance on fossil fuels is having on our climate at present and its possible effects in the future are why a transition to new energy sources is crucial. Time is limited. If too much time is taken for this energy transition to occur, the population of the earth is large enough and its industrialization great enough – with both still growing – that the changing climate could bring widespread suffering and destruction to many, but especially to the poorest nations.
Other energy sources are available that don’t cause conflicts among nations or threaten our climate, but it will take major efforts by governments and individuals to make them prominent. The careful reader of this book is learning about these renewable and nonpolluting sources of energy and of some of the difficulties standing in the way of their wider use.
Specifically, the efforts of the leading industrial nation, the country that produces more goods and services than any other and, in the past, released more pollutants that affect the climate than any other – the United States – have been very disap¬pointing. American scientists have been leaders in gathering the evidence that our climate is changing because of human actions, but so far the US national government has been unresponsive. Has this lack of national action in the US to address this threat been because of the political power of the fossil fuel and automotive industries which have opposed taking action, or is it because the American public lacks an understanding – or concern – that new energy initiatives are urgently needed for the long-term health of their country and of the planet itself? Or is it both?
Many European countries, along with Japan and others, are taking actions to address this issue. China is starting to address it but because of its heavy reliance on coal and its rapid economic growth, it has now become the largest contributor to the problem of climate change. Will this lack of forceful action by China and the US continue so long that our world will be changed forever? Will our descendants look back at this period and ask, “Why didn’t they act?” It’s our challenge. Our societies are being tested. …
30 Jeff Goodell, “Cooking the Climate with Coal,” Natural History, 115 (May 2006), pp . 40-l.
42 J. T. Houghton, G. J. Jenkins, and J. J. Ephraums (eds .), Climate Change: The IPCC
Scientific Assessment (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
43 United Nations, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Summary for Policymakers,” Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (New York: United Nations, IPCC, 2007), p. 2.
77 Richard Kerr, “Bumpy Road Ahead for World’s Oil,” Science, 310 (November 18, 2005), p. 106
78 Rich Kerr and Robert Service, “What Can Replace Cheap Oil – and When?” Science, 309 (July 1, 2005), p. 101.
79 27 Simon Romero, “Natural Gas Brings Big Import Plans, and Objections,” New York Times, national edn (June 15, 2005), p. C8. See also Matthew L. Wald, “Study Says Natural Gas Use Likely to Double,” New York Times, national edn. (June 25, 2010), p. B3.
80 Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley, “As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes,” New York Times, national edn. (August 26, 2007), p. 6.
81 Goodell, “Cooking the Climate with Coal,” p. 37.
82 Richard Stone, “Three Gorges Dam : Into the Unknown,” Science, 321 (August 1, 2008), pp.628-632
83 Clifford Krauss, “Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind,” New York Times, national edn. (February 23, 2008), p . A13.
84 American Wind Energy Association, “Market Update: Record 2009 Leads to Slow Start in 2010” (May 2010). Available at http:/ jwww .awea.org/documents/factsheets/ Market_Update _Factsheet .pdf.
85 Matthew L. Wald, “Wind Power Is Feasible but Costly, Study Says,” New York Times, national edn (January 21, 2010), p. B6.
86 American Wind Energy Association, “Market Update.”
87 George W. Huber and Bruce E. Dale, “Grassoline at the Pump,” Scientific American, 301 (July 2009) , p . 5.
88 Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2005 (New York: W .W. Norton), p. 36.
89 J. Matthew Roney, “Solar Cell Production Climbs to Another Record in 2009 ,” EcoEconomy Indicators: Solar Power (Washington, DC: Earth Policy Institute, September 21, 2010)
90 Felicity Barringer, “With Push Toward Renewable Energy, California Sets Pace for Solar Power,” New York Times, national edn (July 16, 2009), p. A17.
91 Mark Landler, “Solar Valley Rises in an Overcast Land,” New York Times, national edn., (May 16, 2008), p C7.
92 Matthew Wald, “Questions about a Hydrogen Economy,” Scientific American, 290 (May 2004), p. 68
93 “Report Questions Bush Plan for Hydrogen -Fueled Cars,” New York Times, national edn (February 6, 2004), p. A19.
94 Steven Ashley, “On the Road to Fuel -Cell Cars,” Scientific American, 292 (March 2005), p.68.
95 Stobaugh and Yergin, Energy Future, p . 10.
96 Lovins, “More Profit with Less Carbon,” p. 74.
97 Ibid., p. 76.
98 Ibid., p. 83.
Special report: Energy and technology
A brightening continent
Solar is giving hundreds of millions of Africans access to electricity for the first time
Jan 17th 2015 | The Economist
FOR THE WORLD’S 1.2 billion poorest people, who are facing a long and perhaps endless wait for a connection to mains electricity, solar power could be the answer to their prayers. A further 2.5 billion are “underelectrified”, in development parlance: although connected to the grid, they can get only unreliable, scanty power. That blights lives too. The whole of sub-Saharan Africa, with a population of 910m, consumes only 145 terawatt hours of electricity a year—less than the 4.8m people who live in the state of Alabama. That is the pitiful equivalent of one incandescent light bulb per person for three hours a day.
In the absence of electricity, the usual fallback is paraffin (kerosene). Lighting and cooking with that costs poor people the world over $23 billion a year, of which $10 billion is spent in Africa. Poor households are buying lighting at the equivalent of $100 per kilowatt hour, more than a hundred times the amount people in rich countries pay. And kerosene is not just expensive; it is dangerous. Stoves and lamps catch fire, maiming and killing. Indoor fumes cause 600,000 preventable deaths a year in Africa alone. But candles or open fires are even worse—and so is darkness, which hurts productivity and encourages crime.
Africa’s population will nearly double by 2040. The electrical revolution now under way there, and in other poor but sunny places, is coming just in time for all those extra people. It is based on three big technological changes, all reinforcing each other.
The first is the collapsing cost of solar power. The second is the fall in the price of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These turn electrical power almost wholly into light. Traditional bulbs are fragile and emit mostly heat. The new LED lamps are not only bright and durable but now also affordable. But lamps are needed at night, and solar power is collected in the daytime. So the third, crucial revolution is in storage.
Fleecing the poor
All in all, the capacity needed to produce a watt of solar power (enough to run a small light), which in 2008 cost $4, has come down to $1. The simplest solar-powered lamps cost around $8. That is still a lot for people with very little money, but the saving on kerosene makes it a good investment. Better light enables people to study and work in the evening. As well as powering a lamp, a slightly larger solar system can charge a mobile phone, for which users in poor countries often pay extortionate amounts. Russell Sturm of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the part of the World Bank group that works with the private sector, cites kiosks in Papua New Guinea where customers pay for each bar of charge shown on the phone’s screen—at a cost than can easily reach a stonking $200 per kWh.
Sales of devices approved by the IFC/World Bank’s Lighting Africa programme are nearly doubling annually, bringing solar power to a cumulative total of 28.5m Africans. In 2009 just 1% of unelectrified sub-Saharan Africans used solar lighting. Now it is nearly 5%. The IEA rather cautiously estimates that, thanks to solar power, 500m people who are currently without electricity will have at least 200 watts per head by 2030.
But lighting and charging phones are only the first rungs on the ladder, notes Charlie Miller of SolarAid, a charity. Radios can easily run on solar power. Bigger systems can light up a school or clinic; a “solar suitcase” provides the basic equipment needed by health workers. A Ugandan company called SolarNow has a $200 low-voltage television set that runs on the direct current (DC) used by solar systems. A British-designed fridge called Sure Chill needs only a few hours of power a day to maintain a constant 4ºC. A company in South Africa has just launched solar-powered ATMs for rural areas with intermittent mains power.
Other companies offer bigger systems, for $1,500 and upwards, which can power “solar kiosks” and other installations that enable people to start businesses. Beefed up a bit more, these systems can replace diesel generators that will power stores and workshops, mill grain, run an irrigation pump or purify water. At an even larger scale they become mini-grids. A $500,000 aid-funded project in Kisiju Pwani, once one of the poorest villages in Tanzania, uses 32 photovoltaic solar panels and a bank of 120 batteries to provide 12kW of electricity, enough for 20 street lights and 68 homes, 15 businesses, a port, the village’s government offices and two mosques.
Three main problems have yet to be resolved. One is quality. Poor consumers mulling a $100 investment need to be sure that their purchase will be robust. The IFC and other aid outfits are running a scheme to verify manufacturers’ claims. Second, makers of mass-market appliances, used to mains electricity, have been slow to rejig their products to run on the low-voltage direct current (DC) produced by renewable energy sources and batteries. Mr Sturm says the industry is waiting for the “holy grail”: a cheap, efficient and reliable DC fan.
The third and biggest constraint is working capital. It typically takes five months from paying the manufacturer to getting paid by the customer. Some companies are coming up with ingenious hire-purchase schemes for bigger systems to spread the cost. Others offer “solar as a service”, where the customer pays monthly for the power, with maintenance thrown in.
Some experts see solar as a second-best solution. It can improve lives but not power an economy. But grid connections in poor countries are scarce and unreliable, and developing them would take too long, especially in remote rural areas where the poorest live. Besides, the power industry’s old business model of delivering through the grid over long distances is in retreat everywhere, including in rich countries.
http://www.economist.com/node/21639018/print Accessed 4/2/2015
The promised gas revolution can do the environment more good than harm
June 2nd 2012 | The Economist
THE story of America’s shale-gas revolution offers hope in hard times. The ground was laid in the late 1990s, when a now-fabled Texan oilman, George Mitchell, developed an affordable way to extract natural gas locked up in shale rock and other geological formations. It involves blasting them with water, sand and chemicals—a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. America’s shale-gas industry has since drilled 20,000 wells, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, and provided lots of cheap gas. This is a huge advantage to American industry and a relief to those who fret about American energy security.
The revolution should continue, according to a report published this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA). At current production rates, America has over a century’s supply of gas, half of it stored in shale and other “unconventional” formations. It should also spread, to China, Australia, Argentina and Europe. Global gas production could increase by 50% between 2010 and 2035, with unconventional sources supplying two-thirds of the growth (see article).
A number of things could prevent this, however. Many of the factors behind America’s gas boom, including liberal regulation of pipelines (which encouraged wildcat exploration by small producers), a well-aimed subsidy and abundant drill-rigs, do not exist elsewhere. Its sheer rapidity is therefore unlikely to be matched. A greater threat stems from environmental protests, especially in some European countries, which could kill the shale-gas industry at birth. France and Bulgaria have banned fracking. Greens in America and Australia (see article) are also rallying against the industry.
The anti-frackers have reasonable grounds for worry. Producing shale gas uses lots of energy and water, and can cause pollution in several ways. One concern is possible contamination of aquifers by methane, fracking fluids or the radioactive gunk they dislodge. This is not known to have happened; but it probably has, where well-shafts passing through aquifers have been poorly sealed.
Another worry is that fracking fluids regurgitated up well-shafts might percolate into groundwater. A graver fear is that large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse-gas, could be emitted during the entire process of exploration and production. Some also fret that fracking might induce earthquakes—especially after it was linked to 50 tiny tremors in northern England last year.
But the risks from shale gas can be managed. Properly concreted well-shafts do not leak; regurgitants can be collected and made safe; preventing gas venting and flaring would limit methane emissions to acceptable levels; and the risk of tremors, which commonly occur as a result of conventional oil-and-gas activities, can be contained by careful monitoring. The IEA estimates that such measures would add 7% to the cost of the average shale-gas well. That is a small price to pay for environmental protection and the health of a promising industry.
For as well as posing environmental risks, a gas boom would bring an important environmental benefit. Burning gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal; so where gas substitutes for coal, emissions will fall. America’s emissions have fallen by 450m tonnes in the past five years, more than any other country’s. Ironically, given its far greater effort to tackle climate change, the European Union has seen its emissions rise, partly because of an increase in coal-fired power generation in response to Europe’s high gas price.
Cleaner, but not clean enough
By itself, switching to gas will not reduce emissions to anything like the levels required to avoid a high risk of serious climate change. This will take much crunchier policies to boost renewable-energy sources and other clean technologies—starting with a strong price on carbon emissions, through a market-based mechanism or, preferably, a carbon tax. Governments are understandably unwilling to take these steps in straitened times. Yet they should plan to do so; and in the coming years cheap gas could help free cash for more investment in low-carbon technologies. Otherwise the bonanza would be squandered.
http://www.economist.com/node/21556249 Accessed 4/2/2015
Special report: Energy and technology
We make our own
Renewables are no longer a fad but a fact of life, supercharged by advances in power storage
Jan 17th 2015 | The Economist
AT FIRST SIGHT the story of renewable energy in the rich world looks like a waste of time and money. Rather than investing in research, governments have spent hundreds of millions of pounds, euros and dollars on subsidising technology that does not yet pay its way. Yet for all the blunders, renewables are on the march. In 2013 global renewable capacity in the power industry worldwide was 1,560 gigawatts (GW), a year-on-year increase of more than 8%. Of that total, hydropower accounted for about 1,000GW, a 4% rise; other renewables went up by nearly 17% to more than 560GW. True, after eight years of continuous increase, the amount invested dropped steeply in 2012 amid uncertainty about future subsidies and investment credits. But thanks to increased efficiency, less money still bought more power.
Measuring progress is tricky: the cost of electricity from new solar systems can vary from $90 to $300 per megawatt hour (MWh). But it is clearly plummeting. In Japan the cost of power produced by residential photovoltaic systems fell by 21% in 2013. As a study for the United Nations Environment Programme notes, a record 39GW of solar photovoltaic capacity was constructed in 2013 at a lesser cost than the 2012 total of 31GW. In the European Union (EU), renewables, despite a 44% fall in investment, made up the largest portion (72%) of new electric generating capacity for the sixth year running.
The clearest sign of health in the renewables market is smoke-clogged China, which in 2013 invested over $56 billion, more than all of Europe, as part of a hurried shift towards clean energy. China’s investment included 16GW of wind power and 13GW of solar. The renewable-power capacity China installed in that year was bigger than its new fossil-fuel and nuclear capacity put together.
Whether or not it represents good value for money in all circumstances at the moment, renewable energy has become a serious part of the energy mix. In 2013 Denmark’s wind turbines provided a third of the country’s energy supply and Spain’s a fifth. Some worries are abating. Though power from solar and wind is intermittent, nature often cancels out the fluctuations: sunny days tend not to be windy, and vice versa.
Both forms of generation have their fans, but solar seems to be pulling ahead of wind. Wind technology is running up against the laws of physics: it is hard to see great new gains in siting, or in the design of bearings and blades. And wind turbines are widely considered unsightly and noisy. Solar panels, by contrast, can be surprisingly attractive. Instead of featuring serried ranks of black rectangles, the latest designs look like glittering autumn leaves captured in glass.
The main reason for the growth in solar energy, though, is innovation, not aesthetics. It comes in two forms. The smaller (accounting for around a tenth of existing solar capacity) is thermal storage, in which sunlight is concentrated as heat, for example in molten salt. That can be used to produce steam for power turbines. After some slack years this form of renewable energy is enjoying a renaissance.
Investment in the second, more widespread form of solar energy, electricity produced by photovoltaic (PV) cells, fell back in 2013 after ten years when average annual growth was around 50%. Yet in the same year total global capacity added in solar electricity exceeded that in wind for the first time. Solar received 53% of the $214 billion invested worldwide in renewable power that year. It still provides only a sliver of the world’s energy, and even by 2020 it will make up just 2% of global electricity supply. But the pace of change is remarkable, with more solar capacity installed since 2010 than in the previous four decades.
Along with worries about pollution from other fuels, the biggest boost to solar—both in the rich and the emerging world—is its plummeting cost. In a recent report on solar electricity the IEA noted that the cost of solar panels had come down by a factor of five in the past six years and the cost of full PV systems, which include other electronics and wiring, by three. The “levelised cost” (the total cost of installing a renewable-energy system divided by its expected energy output over its lifetime) of electricity from decentralised (small-scale) solar PV systems in some markets is “approaching or falling below the variable portion of retail electricity prices”, says the report. The IEA expects the cost of solar panels to halve in the next 20 years. By 2050, it predicts, solar will provide 16% of the world’s electric power, well up from the 11% it forecast in 2010. At times of peak demand in places such as Hawaii, where electricity would otherwise come from oil-fired power stations, solar electricity produced by unsubsidised large installations is already competitive. Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm, reckons that in the right conditions solar, measured by thermal units produced, is already cheaper than both oil and Asian LNG, despite the recent dip in the oil price.
Paint me a power station
Such forecasts are largely based on existing technologies. New solar technology, known as “third generation”, stacks layers of photovoltaic material to capture a much broader section of the spectrum, including invisible parts such as infra-red. Such cells could be printed from graphene (an ultra-light form of carbon) on a 3D printer. There will no longer be a need for solar panels on rooftops. Instead, any man-made surface could be turned into a solar panel with films and paint. In a pilot project in the Netherlands, solar electricity is being generated by a newly built road. Dieter Helm, the Oxford-based energy expert cited earlier, believes that solar power will become so cheap that energy will no longer be seen as scarce.
Other forms of “distributed” generation which provide power for flexible local use and storage are also coming up fast. Domestic fuel cells, for instance, are common in energy-hungry Japan. Such fuel cells can run off the gas grid. Its pipes, notes David Crane, the boss of NRG, an American power company, are simpler, cheaper and less vulnerable to rough weather than the poles and wires of the electric grid. Households can turn their gas into electricity on the spot. That may end up cheaper and more reliable.
Cost apart, the biggest problem with renewables has always been storing the electricity they produce
Some of that gas could come from waste products instead of fossil sources. America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling in Pennsylvania, has installed a combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plant, fuelled by methane produced from waste, which provides 20% of the brewery’s energy needs. In Ukraine, which is trying to become independent of Russian natural-gas supplies, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is financing a 2.25MW biogas plant at a sugar refinery near Kiev. In Britain the first self-powered sewage works came into operation in October 2014, at a saving of £1.3m ($2m) a year. And biogas now accounts for one-tenth of gas consumption in China, where 42m households turn their animal and human waste into methane.
Cost apart, the biggest problem with renewables has always been storing the electricity they produce. That gave a big advantage to incumbent power companies, which could afford large capital investments in generation and storage. For domestic consumers, the power produced from solar panels on the roof is of limited use if they cannot store it, because they still have to buy from the grid in the evening when they need it most. But if intermittent energy can be stored, its economics are dramatically improved: the cost of installing capacity remains the same but the cost per kilowatt hour shrinks.
The easiest storage is someone else’s. In regimes with “net metering” rules, common in some green-minded places including 43 American states, the energy utility is obliged to buy renewable power from small-scale producers at the same price at which it sells its own electricity. That is a startlingly good deal for the producer, less so for the company. But it applies only to small amounts of power and is unlikely to last.
Meanwhile breakthroughs in storage are creating other options. Businesses and households can store cheap, home-generated electricity as thermal energy. An American company sells a device called Ice Bear which makes ice at night with cheap electricity (and in cooler temperatures), then uses it to cool air in the daytime, saving energy and money.
All these technologies are becoming cheaper and more practical, and in some countries are boosted by generous subsidies. Germany rebates 30% (an average of €3,300, or $4,000) on the cost of a solar-plus-battery household system, and offers low-interest credit for the rest. California has legislation in place under which a third of its energy must come from renewable resources by 2020. The state has told its three large utilities to provide 1.3GW of storage capacity. Around 85MW of this is likely to be used by small providers with solar panels.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has done the sums for a German household planning to install a 5kW solar system and a battery with 3kWh of storage capacity at a cost of around €18,000 ($22,000). The solar panels would cut the household’s power consumption by roughly 30%; adding the storage system could increase the saving to as much as 80%. At the current cost of the equipment, and assuming no rise in electricity prices, the return on the investment would be barely 2%. But on more realistic assumptions—a continuing rise in electricity prices of 2% a year and a big fall in the cost of solar capacity and storage—the rate of return could be a juicy 10% or more.
The Gigafactory, which will build batteries for the Tesla electric-car company, aims to cut the cost of battery storage towards what many see as a crucial benchmark: $100 per kWh against $250 now. That will bring the price of an electric car close to parity with that of a conventional one, maybe even before the end of this decade, hints Elon Musk, the CEO. But better batteries will have other advantages too. One is that electric cars, when not being driven (which is 95% of the time, research suggests), can be used for storage. And batteries that are being displaced by more efficient versions can play a part in domestic storage.
The storage business is booming. Navigant, a consultancy, reckons that in 2014 alone projects amounting to 363MW were announced. BNEF estimates that by 2020 some 11.3GW will be installed, 80% of it in America (chiefly California), Germany, Japan and South Korea, and that investment in storage by then will be running at $5 billion a year.
The biggest advantage of storage is that it dispenses with the most inefficient part of the power industry: the generating capacity that is held in reserve to meet peaks of demand. In the state of New York, for example, one-fifth of the generating capacity runs for less than 250 hours a year. By some counts, a megawatt of storage replaces roughly ten megawatts of such generating capacity—an irresistible saving.
In rich countries new forms of storage and generation are eating away at the model that has sustained the electricity industry since the days of Thomas Edison. In parts of the developing world where there are no incumbents, they offer the best chance for whole populations to get any power at all.
From the print edition: Special report
http://www.economist.com/node/21639020/print Accessed 4/2/2015
2.1. Introduction: Energy Demand and Expected Growth
Richard A. Simmons
Energy has been an enabling driver of unprecedented levels of economic growth, prosperity, and globalization, particularly during the past century. Throughout this period, a variety of primary energy sources have enjoyed eras of popularity, including traditional biomass, coal, oil, and natural gas. Due to a complex combination of factors, including the prospects of resource constraint, security of supply, and heightened environmental concern, a host of alternatives to traditional fossil fuels including renewable and unconventional sources of energy have been introduced to the global energy matrix in recent decades. However, the demand for energy and the enhanced quality of life it affords is strong and growing. Appropriately managing this global reality is the primary motivation of numerous energy and climate policy measures that are being analyzed, developed, and implemented across the globe.
In this chapter we review the interaction of energy, environment, and climate policy in the United States, Europe, and other major energy markets. We consider the current demand for energy and review initiatives developed to promote diversity of energy sup- plies, efficiency, and policies and regulations aimed at curbing emissions. We explore reasons why comprehensive energy and environment legislation has presented major challenges in the world’s most developed regions, review global perspectives on energy and environment policies, and discuss mechanisms being used to promote broader dialogue on energy policy issues.
A brief glance at history provides insight into the link between energy and economic growth. Critical eras such as the Industrial Revolution, the post-WWII boom, and the oil crisis of the mid 1970s come quickly to mind. More recently, the economic crisis that began in 2007 has resulted in intense volatility and price fluctuations for oil and natural gas, renewed concerns over the use of nuclear energy for power generation, as well as polarization over the near-term promise of many renewable energy technologies. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution some 250 years ago, historical evidence indicates that major energy transitions take longer, are more complicated, and often cost more than initially expected.1 Power, heat, and electricity produced from traditional biomass gave way to coal, which has given way to oil, natural gas, and even nuclear fuels, albeit over intervals closer to fifty years, not ten or twenty. Like a massive mechanical flywheel, once major energy infrastructure has been adopted and integrated, it has great inertia owing to its cost and complexity. This makes it difficult to adapt quickly to new fuels and technologies. Now we are equipped with more advanced data, tools, and resources than at any previous point in history, and we aspire to under- stand how new transitions will be implemented over the coming decades. The future will likely bring periods of uncertainty, including growth and recession, but continued economic progress will hinge upon sustainable supplies of energy. It is vital to both understand these challenges and develop a plan to address them.
The wealth and economic status that has been amassed by much of the developed world is now available in varying degrees to developing countries and emerging econo
omies. Some of the opportunities arising from globalization can be a double-edged sword. Individuals have benefited tremendously from increased quality of life, medical services, and opportunities for social mobility as developing economies boom; yet many countries are confounded in their attempts to keep pace with growing resource demands by rapid population expansion. Frequently, the infrastructure for energy and other critical resource services associated with clean air and water, waste management, and the transportation of people and goods is taxed beyond intended design limits; initial assumptions and conventional approaches can be ill-equipped to address projected population growth trends. Undesirable side effects include congestion, harmful air quality, price gouging, and electrical blackouts. Methodical approaches will be required to optimize resources, improve efficiency, encourage conservation, and reduce waste. Given appropriate implementation, such actions may enable the delivery of critical services, alleviate the risks of scarcity, and sustain trends toward a greater quality of life.
Energy is at the nexus of people, environment, and economic development, and energy supply and management requires careful implementation in order to navigate many of these challenges. This is not an issue to be delegated to or solved exclusively by policy makers or by any single group of stakeholders. Globally, more than eighty per- cent of the world’s energy requirement is derived from fossil fuels, with oil (thirty-three percent), coal (twenty-eight percent), and natural gas (twenty-one percent) the principal constituents.2 Combustion of these fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases directly into Earth’s atmosphere. Scientific and economic experts are in increasing agreement that our current energy paradigm is no longer tenable, not least due to reserve and supply uncertainties, price volatility, and fiscal and environmental strains on the world’s major markets and ecosystems. Numerous studies on this topic highlight aspects of the present challenges and discuss a range of viable technology and policy solutions, often concurring there is no one-size-fits-all model. Furthermore, it is unlikely a single technology or a single country will swing the needle entirely by itself. More likely, combined efforts such as global public and private partnerships, increased social conscience, and compelling market factors will continue to drive tomorrow’s energy and climate trends. Prior to delving into potential solutions to this problem, it is important to assess the current reality, including energy demand and scenarios of expected growth, in addition to the social, economic, and environmental impacts such growth may have.
In addition to monitoring major energy supply disruptions and advising member countries regarding appropriate and timely responses, a primary mission of the Inter- national Energy Agency (IEA) is to compile and analyze historical energy data. This data is used to estimate future supply and demand scenarios and to develop policy ad- vice based in part upon these projected trends. The IEA provides a series of outlook scenarios based on assumptions including the availability and reliability of the energy supply, energy consumption, growth, and the uptake of alternative energy sources. While an exhaustive review of this data is not the intent of this text, an overview of key global demands and trends is certainly revealing and instructive. Comparing energy data between countries is not a trivial task, given the obvious differences in energy infrastructure, modernization, and regulatory policies, let alone variances in the quality
and reliability of the data itself. Despite this, the IEA’s publically available assessment of energy supply and consumption is a robust database that conveys a sense of gravity and context for the energy challenge. Consider the following snap-shot in Table 2.1 of major energy indices, indicating gross domestic product, total primary energy supply, and estimated carbon dioxide emissions for countries and regions inclusive of US, EU, China, Russia, Brazil, India. Summed totals for world figures are also provided, indicating the aforementioned countries are responsible for approximately sixty-six percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
In many ways, this type of data speaks for itself and is useful to help frame the
global energy situation at a particular instant in time. That said, such summaries do not adequately capture either the strategic agendas of individual countries or the trends in these key indicators. Important questions are therefore raised: where is energy demand growing, at what rates, with what resources and technologies, and why? This text will explore the technical and geopolitical aspects of some of these urgent questions.
Data for both energy and climate has been collected since before utilities began electrifying the world. In terms of tracking energy metrics, analysis has progressed with greater rigor since the 1970s and the Arab oil embargo. From a climate perspective, at- tempts to understand and quantify the links and potential impacts between emissions and the combustion of fossil fuels are more recent, with research commencing in the 1980s and evolving quickly over the past two decades. It would appear that trends have motivated growing research interest: annual greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fuel between 1971 and 2012 have more than doubled from about fourteen to thirty-one4
Gt CO2e (billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent).
Recent transitions of fuel
source from coal to natural gas and more stringent regulations on aging coal power plants
have helped mitigate emissions to some degree; however, these have been largely outpaced by increased overall energy growth rates. In 2010, total global primary energy supply was estimated to be in excess of 12,700 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent), with an expected increase of at least one hundred percent by the year 2035. These figures are largely based on anticipated population growth in the developing world. Even in an optimistic
Country or Region Population Gross Domestic Total Primary Energy Sup- TPES
per capita CO2
Emissions CO2 per capita
Product (GDP) ply (TPES)
(million) (2005 USD) (Mtoe) (toe/capita) (Mt) (t/capita)
USA 312 13,226 2,191 7.02 5,287 16.94
EU* 503 12,626 1,654 3.29 3,543 7.04
China 1,344 4,195 2,728 2.03 7,955 5.92
Russia 142 947 731 5.15 1,653 11.65
Brazil 197 1,127 270 1.37 408 2.07
India 1,241 1,317 749 0.60 1,745 1.41
World 6,958 52,486 13,113 1.88 31,342 4.50
Table 2.1. Key World Energy Statistics for 2011.3
scenario in which leading world economies implement aggressive new policies aimed at limiting carbon dioxide emissions to 450 parts per million (PPM) (believed to correlate to a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels) by 2035, energy consumption is still projected to increase by at least twenty percent with respect to 2010 levels. A less aggressive scenario, allowing an approximate temperature rise of 3.5°C, projects energy consumption to increase thirty-six percent over this same period.5 The global share of renewable-based energy consumption is projected to increase from about eighteen percent of total energy use in 2010 to between twenty and thirty-five percent by 2035. While this transition from fossil to non-fossil fuel energy resources will constitute a step in the right direction for Earth’s climate, fossil fuel energy sources may still constitute a sizable majority of world energy supply by mid-century unless significant shifts in policy, increases in alternative technology uptake, and large scale capital investments are implemented.
Public awareness of the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions has grown significantly in recent years and this concern is beginning to translate into effective pol- icy action. While the potential positive impact of large scale countermeasures and low carbon energy deployment may still be decades away, there is cause for hope. Through climate science research and dissemination, the links between energy consumption and associated environmental impacts are becoming more widely accepted and understood. In the twenty-five years from the inception of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to the present, researchers have acquired new evidence complemented by powerful new modeling capabilities. This obviously provides decision makers a greater database of reliable information. Unfortunately, during this same twenty-five year period, the global community has consumed more exajoules (EJ) of fossil fuels than in the previous forty years (1948–1988).6 These accelerating trends combined with the sobering message depicted in recent energy and climate data has given stakeholders ample reason for pause. It has also served to sound an alarm. Public opinion, far from unanimous on either energy or environmental policy, is beginning to reflect a growing sensitivity to select issues. Whether this has been driven home by higher oil or gasoline prices, volatile heating bills, or a more nuanced reading of energy and climate trends, it is occurring. This may usher in an era no less complicated but characterized by critical focus on meaningful long term strategic action and enabled by the clear interpretation of science-based climate and energy data. Such action may include a range of steps, including individual consumer behavioral shifts, industrial responses to economic and market factors, commercialization of innovative technologies, and broad policy measures taken by state and federal governments.
Understanding these issues for developing countries becomes exponentially more complex, as are efforts to expand real time learning of energy and climate in a perpetually evolving, increasingly globalized world. The age of two-way trade between major superpowers has given way to a global matrix of producers and consumers, the models for which, be they economic, environmental, societal or geopolitical, are in constant flux. In a January 2013 speech, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained the energy and climate change balance succinctly: “Managing the world’s energy supplies in a way that minimizes conflict and supports economic growth while protecting the future of our planet is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”7 Consider the implications of energy and climate policy for a few of the world’s most rapidly growing economies: China, Russia, Brazil, and India. The significance and complexity of energy and climate issues in these regions are markedly different than they are in the more developed and established domains of the United States and the European Union.
Two differences, in particular, stand out. First, increased global trade and urbanization throughout the world (fueled primarily by fossil fuels) are now hitting full stride in several of the world’s most populous countries. By contrast, energy consumption in the developed world has more or less plateaued, been augmented by larger shares of cleaner energy (including nuclear, natural gas, and hydropower), and stabilized on a per capita basis.
Figure 2.1. (a) Total Energy Emissions for Selected Countries, 2011; (b) Energy Emissions Per Capita for Selected Countries, 2011.8
Second, from the standpoint of industry and emissions, the light regulation and in- expensive supply typical of the past have set precedents that weigh heavily in economic and business modeling. Not surprisingly, developing countries commonly rely upon these precedents in strategic planning and public policy. It is argued that the rates of growth for energy and emissions should not be subject to sudden change or regulation, as the developed world fueled much of its own growth relatively unchecked by environmental constraints or international opinions. For example, China has argued that developing states should be afforded some leniency in emissions as they are currently in critical stages of economic development.8
Consider, for example, the two energy emissions charts shown as Figure 2.1. Is it
more appropriate to measure CO2 emissions by country or per capita? The answer obviously depends on your perspective. China and India can leverage their large populations in this debate to argue that their CO2 intensity per capita is much lower than the developed world, yet China as a nation leads in overall emissions. India has formally announced during climate negotiations that their per capita CO2 emissions will not exceed that of developed countries, falling far short of negotiators’ aspirations but sending a salient and sobering message to the West.
In terms of recent trends, total energy-related CO2 emissions have actually continued to fall slightly for the US and EU, for example between 2010 and 2011, but continued to increase between 4% and 8% for Brazil, Russia, Indian and China over the same one year period.9 These emission trajectories are qualitatively consistent with a recent six-
year period between 2005 and 2011 as illustrated in Figure 2.2.
Leading economies of the world recognize their future will be in part defined by how they create a sustainable balance between the supply of energy, its environmental impact, and the prevailing pursuit of economic prosperity and growth. Like other monumental challenges of our times, this is much more easily stated than solved. To achieve the greatest global impact in a world of increasing globalization and population, national
Figure 2.2. Energy Emissions Trends, 2005–2011.10
efforts should not occur in a vacuum but rather, to the extent possible, in a coordinated, informed manner. Major consumer nations are reminded frequently and acutely that the world has finite resources, and there will be increasing competition for them.
It is upon this energy and climate backdrop that members of productive society will strive to confront epic challenges and sustain recent positive trends in health, economic development, and quality of life. Lasting solutions will require not just revolutionary technology, but also an understanding of some very disparate perspectives, productive global discourses about the nature of the problem, and effective and pragmatic policy implementation on an unprecedented scale.
Adapted from Coyle, E.D. and Simmons, R.A. (2014) ‘Understanding the Global Energy Crisis’ Indiana: Purdue University Press