Sunday, June 27, 2010

UOCP as preferred carbon strategy

I've been interested in the proposal to exorcise coal from domestic electricity production as the primary carbon reduction strategy since Jim Hansen first proposed it a few years ago.

The basic idea is, oil depletion will take care of oil within the forty-year, 80% emissions reductions time frame to 2050 in any case, so don't worry about oil, ergo don't worry about transportation: Oil price will increase inexorably over the next ten-fifteen years, and as long as the commercially viable substitutes involve less carbon, such as plug-in hybrids running on green power, or liquid natural gas, then transportation emissions will take care of themselves.

Instead regulate the emissions from the electric generation sector. You have only a relative handful of producers to worry about, less than a few hundred in the case of the USA, and so the policy is manageable and enforceable. Plus it avoids the kind of backlash politics I detailed in my own dissertation, which politics indeed came to pass, by the way, more or less as described.

One of Hansen's students, Pushker Kharecha, I believe, ran the numbers and proved the concept quantitatively in this article here.

So now Michael Levi has endorsed the proposal too.

That's a significant weight of endorsement, given the way the man's mind works. Hansen's response to these ideas, of course, was explosive and committed, and led to his arrests at the site of a mountaintop removal coalmine, and his giving evidence at the trail of the Kingsnorth activists.

I doubt we'll see Michael Levi put himself on the line quite like that. Instead, though, we have the weight of reason, which I do appreciate.

As for my own neck of the woods, it will be interesting to see what effect the Gulf oil spill will have on the next wind power planning battle here in Maine. Will the penny drop? Our home-grown anti-wind activists have passed several more ordinances, but several towns have also accepted the state's model ordinance.

For the record, and before someone decides to post a nasty comment, I remain an advocate for community-owned wind for Maine, and that's what we're working towards with our wind assessment research program.

Hopefully, in the light of the BP spill showing us just what the upstream impacts of fossil energy can be, the Maine anti-wind folks can begin to distinguish between proposals for small scale community-owned turbines and farms, such as the Fox Islands farm, and larger scale, colonial schemes.

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