“Cap and Bulldoze”

James Hansen sent off another wonderful letter today – this time addressed to Governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada.

The money quote – toward the bottom of the second page – to get us rolling:

Utilities and the fossil fuel industry must reckon with the fact that the laws of Nature and the human instinct for survival will overrule any paper agreements that may exist now or be wrangled in the near-term. “Grandfathering” of fossil fuel plants and any ineffectual “cap and trade” scheme, should it be initiated, will necessarily be replaced by “cap and bulldoze”. Uncaptured CO2 emissions from coal must be eliminated.

He goes on, as only Hansen can:

Is it possible that I am wrong, that the governments are so larded with fossil fuel special interests that they will allow us to destroy the planet that we leave for our children and grandchildren? Sure – just as there was a chance that the United States andn the Soviet Union could have blown each other off the face of the planet with nuclear weapons – but it is much more likely that we will come to our senses soon, as the scientific story and emperical evidence overwhelm the deceit of short-term special interests.

One of the “Fossil Fuel Facts” is that a substantial fraction of fossil fuel CO2 emissions stays in the air for what is, for all practical purposes “an eternity”, more than 1000 years. That is a well-established scientific fact – there is no debate. A direct implication is that we cannot be aiming for a 50, 80 or 90 percent reduction of emissions. We must transition over the next several decades to practically zero net CO2 emissions. Thus our energy focus must be to develop renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Again, like with Mr. Rogers, he lowers the boom:

Governor Gibbons, I understand that you have also supported proposals for new coal-fired power plants, in Ely, Mesquite and White Pine. These coal-fired power plants would expose ratepayers and Nevada to grave financial risk. Steeply rising construction costs and coal prices are themselves ratcheting up the cost of coal-fired electricity, and sure-to-appear federal legislation that demands elimination of CO2 emissions will drive costs much higher. Given that Nevada’s geology is not very well-suited for storing CO2 , any assumption about retrofitting a coal-fired plant for CO2 capture is a dubious and financially risky proposition.

As for the insidious sponsors of the presidential debates:

A major additional disadvantage of coal is the pollution associated with it. There is no such thing as “clean coal”.

With another whack at coal he clears a path through Nevada to the promised land:

Although the fossil fuel industry pedals misinformation, claiming that renewable energies can only be a niche contribution to energy needs, that contention defies common sense. As proof of the contrary, consider just one of the renewable energies, solar power. The technology for solar thermal power stations already exists, power stations can be built rapidly, and as the market for them increases their unit costs will fall steadily, as the cost of coal power continues to rise. There is enough solar energy in a small fraction of our desert Southwest to provide all of the electrical needs of the United States. Nevada has the potential to be a leader in this field, providing power for itself and for distant location as a low-loss grid is developed. Leadership would provide great economic benefit to Nevada and provide a large number of high-pay jobs and new businesses.

Let’s recap (with minor elaboration):

1. We must reduce to practically zero CO2 emissions.
2. Solar thermal is a significant part of the answer.
3. Nevada has the sun exposure to power practically the whole country.
4. With next generation low-loss transmission lines the power can be distributed.
5. Keep coal in the ground.

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