29 January 2007

Global War on Sunshine

Ok, so lately we've seen what appears to be a sea change in the attitudes of the pro-fossil fuel folks regarding climate change. We seem to have finally progressed to the point where mainstream conservatism no longer claims that global temperatures aren't trending up and the issue of anthropogenic-ness is only argued by dead-enders. We've seen this in Canada, where the minority conservatives suddenly announced hundreds of millions for nukes and clean coal, over a billion for solar and wind, and millions for efficiency programs. In the states, Bush mentioned climate change in his State of the Union address, but does anyone else remember the results from when Bush told us all that "America is addicted to Oil"? Me neither.

So what does the US propose to do about climate change now? Why, pollute our atmosphere with sulfates and launch space mirrors. So now to go along with the Global War on Terrorism, the War on Drug, the War on Crime, and the War on Poverty we've got the new, the exciting, Global War on Sunshine. That's right kids, not only is CO2 good for you the sun is an evil thing that threatens the existence of the corn lobby and threatens to drown the oil lobby in litigation papers.

This is, I believe, what is known as bargaining.

17 January 2007

$230 million for Clean Energy

The Canadian Tories (who hold power through a minority government) have just announced a $230 million program to develop clean energy. The details are sparse at this point, but the media is basically reporting that they are looking at clean coal and nuclear power.

This represents a sea change for the conservatives, who have previously held that climate change would not be a net negative for Canada. They seem to have come to the conclusion that they're better served politically arguing with the opposition over what would be the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather than confusing the issue.

With regards to clean coal, I'm not sure if that's the best approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. We only derive about 16 % of our electrical power from coal, which is less than the nuclear fraction. As I've expressed before, I think nuclear is to big and slow to compete in the long run with wind and solar power solutions. That said, it establishes important baseload power supply to the grid. Certainly at this stage investing in a new generation of nuclear power plants is not out of line. If we want to do something about our emissions right now, nuclear is ready and able. Clean coal (by which I mean gasification with sequesterization) is not ready, and has only been demonstrated in a limited fashion at Weyburn. Given the extra costs associated with gasification and sequesterization, one doubts if clean coal will developed fast enough to make it to market before the fast growing solar and wind sectors swamp it.

08 January 2007

Not Gunna Happen

The Independant recently carried an article by Danny Forston that states that American and British petrochemical multinationals like Exxon and BP are posed to form long-term contracts with Iraq to exploit its long dormant oil reserves. In related news, I've invented a perpetual motion device; contact me if you're interested in investing.

Anything contract signed with the current puppet government that smacks of pillaging of Iraq's resources simply isn't going to be honoured. The Sunni and Shia nationalists are both boycotting parliament, so any agreements signed are only going to be seen as looting the treasury by a puppet government that will flee the country when army and marines do. The USA doesn't have any credibility regarding Iraq internationally so I don't see how the USA can enforce its agreements outside of the limited power that grows out of the barrel of a gun.

In fact, I would go so far to state that if the American oil companies want any of the action, they'd better create a lot of distance between themselves and the American government in the eyes of the Iraqi people. For every Haliburton in the world, there's a French Schlumberger who aren't tainted by association with the occupation government.

I think this story is more credulous hope by Western executives and politicos living in the Emerald City than serious business wheeling and dealing. Exxon, Chevon, et al. must be getting pretty desperate if they see Iraq as their last, best source of new reserves to prevent a future drop in share prices.

02 January 2007

NIMBY Abuse of Power Ratings

An article by Richard Blackwell of the Globe and Mail discusses how opponents of wind are trying to use its capacity factor as an argument against it. While in reality the votility of wind power is a major strike against it the article implies that turbine manufacturers are essentially lying about how much power their systems actually deliver by listing nameplate peak generation instead of average. The manufacturers will no doubt counter by pointing out that the wind blows differently everywhere in the world but people not well educated on the fundementals of power production (the vast majority of the population) probably won't see it that way.

This is a gross simplification of the real problems behind wind and a dishonest debate tactic, but well, there it is. It's high time that the wind and solar power industries start changing their nameplate power from a peak to a standardized mean power production. For solar (and a lesser extent wind) producers would be well served to list mean annual energy production (for the US lower 48) in kW·h rather than power. That would allow laymen to much more readily assess their economic value, then a peak watt value that isn't immediatly obvious.