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Climate change policy
February 21, 2007 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. What are the climate change policy options? Paul Krugman on tax-shifting. William Nordhaus on carbon taxes vs. cap-and-trade (PDF). Mark Jaccard, Nic Rivers, and Matt Horne note that in Canada, voluntary measures and subsidies haven't worked, and propose a detailed policy package (PDF). [more inside]
posted by russilwvong (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jaccard suggests that over the next 50 to 100 years, burning fossil fuels cleanly, e.g. with zero-emission coal-fired power plants, may be easier than the main alternatives: nuclear, renewables, conservation. Talk, slideset (PowerPoint), book.

How hard will this be? Jaccard's estimate is that the cost of energy will rise about 50% over the next 50 years, or 1% a year. It would rise from 6% of a Western household budget today, to 8-9%. Jaccard is also projecting that global energy use will increase about 2-3 times by 2100.
posted by russilwvong at 3:56 PM on February 21, 2007


An example of a zero-emission coal-fired power plant, being planned by Saskatchewan.
posted by russilwvong at 3:57 PM on February 21, 2007


Interesting. Couple of things:

Jaccard doesn't provide sources for his slideshow data. I'd be interested to know the source of slide 20 (projected electricity). He also doesn't cite any sources for his predictions about electricity final prices.

Krugman's article is ten years old — has he not written on this topic more recently? Also, the Jaccard, Rivers and Horne PDF is three years old — was anything of their proposal adopted?
posted by matthewr at 6:42 PM on February 21, 2007


You the R.V. Wong who comments on Economist articles?
posted by matthewr at 7:14 PM on February 21, 2007


Russil, that's a 'near-zero' emission plant, and I think it's still a lot more speculative than the article indicates, unless there's been advances in geo-sequestration that I'm not aware of.

Also, a 50% increase in costs would surely not go from 6% to 8-9%, but would go down, since families will have much greater purchasing power in 50 years. GDP growth and real wage PP will surely exceed 1% pa for the forseeable future.

I haven't time to read the Nordhaus article now, and the abstract isn't conclusive, but I am all in favour of carbon taxes, I think that cap and trade is morally questionable, creates windfall winners and losers and is more open to rent-seeking. Carbon taxes are purer and simpler and could better promote employment.
posted by wilful at 8:02 PM on February 21, 2007


matthewr: Jaccard doesn't provide sources for his slideshow data. I'd be interested to know the source of slide 20 (projected electricity). He also doesn't cite any sources for his predictions about electricity final prices.

Jaccard's research group has some huge simulation called CIMS that they use for doing energy projections, so I'm guessing they're coming from that. It's described in the C. D. Howe paper:
The CIMS model, developed by the Energy and Materials Research Group at Simon Fraser University, simulates the technological evolution of fixed capital stocks (mostly equipment and buildings) and the resulting effect on costs, energy use, emissions, and other material flows. The stock of capital is tracked in terms of energy service provided (m2 of lighting or space heating) or units of physical product (metric tons of market pulp or steel). New capital stocks are acquired as a result of time-dependent retirement of stocks and growth in stock demand. Market shares of technologies competing to meet new stock demands are determined by standard financial factors as well as behavioural parameters from empirical research on consumer and business technology preferences. CIMS has three modules — energy supply, energy demand, and macro-economy — which can be simulated as an integrated model or individually.
Krugman's article is ten years old — has he not written on this topic more recently?

I haven't seen anything as detailed as that. Compared to his earlier columns in Slate, Krugman's NYT columns are very short, unfortunately.

Also, the Jaccard, Rivers and Horne PDF is three years old — was anything of their proposal adopted?

Nothing so far. The Liberals adopted voluntary measures (the "one-tonne challenge") and subsidies. They were planning to put a cap-and-trade system in place for "large final emitters", but they also promised to limit the cost to $15/tonne. Then the Conservative government came to power, about a year ago. They initially denied that global warming was a problem (their power base is in Alberta, home of the oil patch) and killed off the Liberal programs. More recently they've started taking it more seriously, at least to the extent of reviving the Liberal programs.

During the Liberal leadership campaign, one of the candidates, Michael Ignatieff, adopted Jaccard's plan as a policy proposal. (There were some accusations of plagiarism from Conservative bloggers; Jaccard responded by saying, "I'm an academic. We're so thrilled if someone actually listens to us.")

You the R.V. Wong who comments on Economist articles?

Yeah, that's me. The more I use their site, the more I appreciate MetaFilter.

wilful: Russil, that's a 'near-zero' emission plant, and I think it's still a lot more speculative than the article indicates, unless there's been advances in geo-sequestration that I'm not aware of.

There was some interesting discussion of this on the Oil Drum weblog.
The CO2 eventually finds its way from the injection wells to the production wells and comes back to the surface. This is perfectly natural and not a problem; it's allowed for in the design of any EOR scheme. The CO2 is just another part of the well effluent stream, so it's fully contained. You strip it out in the separators, recompress it and reinject it to dissolve out the next lot of oil... and so on. This is called "gas cycling".

Eventually you would have a reservoir full of CO2 (or, more realistically, CO2-rich solvent plus injected water) and some residual trapped oil (probably quite heavy as all the light ends would have vaporized), with smaller and smaller quantities of liquids coming out. When oil production falls below some economic limit, you shut everything down and abandon the wells (you DID provide for abandonment costs in your project plan, didn't you?). The CO2 would remain trapped underground.
And:
It might be good to remind readers here that projects like Weyburn and the Otway basin (Australia) are pilot projects. Yes, CO2 injection has been in use for a long time. Sequestration really is the new part of all this.

The way people are speaking about CO2 injection, capture and storage on this (and other) threads leaves the impression that all the angles have already been worked out (the capture and storage issues). But that's why these are trials with monitoring programs to see if the techniques involve will really work.
posted by russilwvong at 9:44 AM on February 22, 2007


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