Michael Openhemer, Princeton University
President Joe Biden has a goal for all American Electric by 2035 from zero-carbon sources. To get there, Congress is set to approve a large package of incentives and penalties designed to encourage utilities to clean up their power supplies. This plan, which is part of the Democrats’ proposed budget package, may be in trouble.
West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, who has close ties to the coal, oil and gas industries and is worried about planned depletion, will oversee that budget as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Manchini emphasized the use of “all energy sources” as “as clean as possible” and described the idea of disposing of fossil fuels as “very, very disturbing.” It is said that it wants to reduce incentives and penalties for utility bills and reward companies by burning natural gas.
We asked Michael Openhemer, director of the Center for Energy and Environment Policy Research at Princeton University, about the impact and options the administration will have to achieve those goals.
1. Natural gas is often used as a bridge fuel to reduce the risk of pollution from clean energy sources such as solar and wind. Can Senator still play that role?
My position on natural gas has changed over the years. For decades, I and many others thought that natural gas could be used as a bridge. It emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal, and it became much cheaper to expand the hydraulic fracture to make America a major gas producer. Utilities themselves began to switch from coal, and the Obama administration was quick to push for greenhouse gas regulations.
But there is a problem with natural gas. In cities, the excavations, pipelines and distribution systems – every part of that system – are more fluid than the Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Natural gas is primarily methane, and greenhouse gases are many times more powerful than molecules in carbon dioxide, although they do not remain in the atmosphere.
We now know that the world is very close to entering a climate disaster zone. The latest IPC report unequivocally provides scientific evidence of how human activities, particularly oil, gas, and coal, will inevitably heat up the planet in rapid changes in temperature, rainfall, ice, and ocean floor. And extreme weather.
One of the quickest things you can do to reduce the effects of climate change is to eliminate methane emissions. If carbon dioxide has been in the atmosphere for centuries or more, it will only last for 12 years. However, even with a small amount of liquid, natural gas can still produce carbon dioxide. If you are trying to plan for the future of US energy, you do not want to encourage many new fossil fuel infrastructure and exploration. It can’t be a long-term bridge to approve the investment – it can’t withstand the weather.
2. Can the United States slow down change and give the energy industry more time, as some consumer executives and Sen. Manchin have pointed out?
Not as unfortunate. We are moving towards a temperature of at least 1.5 degrees Celsius, where the Paris Accords will begin, and we expect further damage by 2 degrees. Each increase in temperature causes more damage.
Climate models show that extreme events such as winter heat and flooding are already common around 1.5 degrees, and only then do they worsen. It will be very difficult for us to get over 1.5 degrees, and over 2 degrees. The costs are already prohibitive for many communities.
For example, sea level rise is accelerating. In a world of 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, many coastal areas around the world, including the United States, will have the same or higher water levels each year. 100 years of flooding. Finally, in some areas, daily storms bring flooding in proportion to that high water mark.
I have been working on these issues since 1981, and the same story has been repeated by many industry officials and politicians – what a hurry; Let’s wait another year. There was always an argument to delay action or to delay indefinitely. That is why we are now experiencing a catastrophic climate.
The slower the world, the higher the costs.
3. The fossil fuels industry will receive billions of dollars in infrastructure funding to capture and store carbon, which will enable power plants, refineries and factories to continue to produce greenhouse gases. Senator Manchini supports that technology, but can it meet US goals?
The industry used to talk about carbon capture and storage 20 years ago, but today there are only about two dozen commercial projects around the world. In the United States, most of them include ethanol or fertilizer or natural gas processing plants, and almost all of them send the stored carbon dioxide into refined oil, which is a method of forcing more oil out of wells. Attempts to build large-scale power plants in Illinois and Mississippi to generate large-scale power plants generated a lot of noise in the early 2000s but eventually cost billions of dollars.
At that time, technology was very expensive, and it was not cheap. Our government has never been able to find enough carbon footprint and storage projects to eliminate bugs and reduce costs.
The next question is what do you do with all the carbon dioxide? There will be environmental and environmental justice concerns about pipelines and burials. I understand that power lines bring opponents, why, if we want to lead the effort to improve the transmission and storage system to create a modern grid for renewable energy, to maintain carbon sequestration for centuries? Carbon dioxide?
4. If the budget deficit weakens, what does the bid management promise to achieve by 2035 zero emission electricity and by 2050 zero emission electricity in general?
The federal budget is not the last game. Just one step. Democrats in Congress plan to use the reconciliation process to pass this bill, which should be about financial incentives and penalties. Beyond that, EPA still has room to adopt a new and robust greenhouse gas regulation.
As we have seen under the Trump administration, while those may be reversed by future presidents, the people and Congress are now beginning to realize the value of unlimited climate change. It is difficult to ignore the hurricanes that force your home or flood your streets.
That means it will be difficult for the next president to repeal all the laws the way the Trump administration did. I believe the value of a stable control system will be seen very quickly.
My colleagues at Princeton published a report on five ways to get the United States to zero emissions. They focused on a few columns, highlighting energy balance, electrification, renewable energy, biofuels, nuclear power, and carbon holding. In my opinion, the first three are promising, the last three are problematic.
A quick transition is possible – but more than the current $ 3.5 trillion to deal with climate change. It requires federal obligations, incentives and incentives to divert more private investment from fossil fuels and renewables. For the most part, it requires political will and determination – commodities that seem to be the least of all resources.
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Michael Openhemer, Professor of Geoscience and International Affairs Princeton University
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