Energy and Global Warming News for November 17: South Korea adopts its most strict CO2 cuts for 2020; Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling)

South Korea to Cut Greenhouse Emissions 30% from expected 2020 levels

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest polluter, said it plans a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 even as a binding global accord on climate change appears unlikely at next month’s summit in Copenhagen.

“South Korea’s voluntary target will stimulate efforts by the global community despite the pessimistic outlook for the Copenhagen meeting,” President Lee Myung Bak said in a statement today. The goal is set at the highest level recommended for emerging economies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the United Nations, according to the statement….

South Korea had outlined in August three proposals: cutting emissions by as much as 4 percent by the end the next decade from 2005 levels; capping them at the 2005 output; or allowing an 8 percent increase by 2020….

The target “basically corresponds to 4 percent cut from 2005,” Choi Seung Kook, secretary general of Green Korea United, non-profit environmental group, said by telephone. “Still, a forecast based on business as usual levels in 2020 is changeable and the target itself falls short of goals of other countries.”

South Korea’s annual emissions may rise to 813 million metric tons by 2020 in the absence of measures to curb carbon output, a committee under the presidential office said Aug. 4. That would be an increase of 37 percent from the 594.4 million tons produced in 2005.

This target will be a true “challenge for South Korean industries, where carbon emissions doubled in the period from 1990 to 2005, the fastest rate in the OECD,” as the WSJ noted.  “The steepest cuts will occur in construction and transportation, the government said. In construction, which accounts for 25% of carbon emissions, South Korea is targeting a 31% reduction by what they would have been in 2020. In the transportation sector, which accounts for 17% of emissions, it plans to trim emissions by 33% to 37%.”

Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling)

Yesterday, after months of pressure from environmental groups and some concerned residents, one solar project developer backed out of controversial plans to buy rights to a billion gallons a year of local farmers’ water.

The water was needed to supply two proposed solar thermal plants in Nevada’s parched Amargosa Valley, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Over the plants’ lifetime, climate change promises to only worsen water shortages in the region.

The decision to switch to more expensive “dry cooling” technology will cut the project’s water demand by 90 percent, the developer, Solar Millennium LLC, said yesterday. The German-backed company is a subsidiary of Solar Millennium AG.

The recent move highlights the tensions surrounding the water consumption of large-scale solar thermal power projects proposed largely on federal and state lands in the West. At about 12 cents a kilowatt-hour of lifetime energy costs, solar thermal power produces cheaper electricity than solar photovoltaic technologies do today.

The problem comes because conventional solar thermal is a water-guzzler.

Like coal or nuclear plants, solar thermal plants yield electricity by generating steam to spin a turbine. In the typical wet-cooling process, water is mainly needed to replace the steam lost to evaporation during the process. Per unit of power, solar thermal can demand the same water as a coal-fired unit, or more, according to a Department of Energy study.

More problematic is where and when the water is needed: high noon in the middle of the most water-stressed region of the country. So concerns about water are bubbling to the surface as federal and state regulators push a glut of solar thermal applications through the review process….

There are alternatives for solar developers, as the Solar Millennium decision indicates. Increasingly, projects are proposing so-called “dry cooling” technologies, which stem water losses by closing the system and using air to cool the steam.

Recently, for example, BLM and the California Energy Commission completed a joint environmental review of BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a proposed 440-megawatt project in the Mojave Desert. It is one of nine solar projects now being fast-tracked by BLM, including three other Solar Millennium projects in California.

Though it faces other environmental controversies, water is not one of them. The Ivanpah project, which uses dry cooling, needs 30 times less water than traditional wet-cooling technologies, said company spokesman Keely Wachs. The water it does draw is mostly to wash the mirrors….

For more on dry cooling, see “The secret to low-water-use, high-efficiency concentrating solar power.”  The story continues:

Solar Millenium spokesman Keegan said the company’s three proposed California projects, unlike the Amargosa Valley project in Nevada, were all proposed with dry cooling in large part because that’s what California utilities, which have signed power purchase agreements, demanded.

But in other places, it may not be a pressing concern.

“Utilities are still in the mindset that they have more pressing needs today, like dealing with CO2,” said Cara Libby, a project manager at the utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute. “They all know water is going to be important, but it hasn’t really hit their business yet.”

Ban Links Food Security, Climate Change

A comprehensive plan to combat threats to global food security was presented Monday during a U.N.-sponsored food security summit in Rome.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said global food shortages were aggravated by climate change and population growth that will see 2 billion more mouths to feed in 2050 — 9.1 billion in all, the United Nations said in a release.

The World Summit on Food Security is being conducted at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. More than 60 heads of state, including Pope Benedict XVI, are attending the summit, but some of the larger countries, including the United States, are absent, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Ban outlined steps ranging from immediate needs such as food aid, safety nets and social protection, to long-term goals achieved through more investments in agricultural development, better market access and fairer trade for smaller farm operations, the United Nations said.

Looking for a Solution to Cow’s Climate Problem

With the approach of the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen next month, the livestock industry is coming under renewed scrutiny for its contribution to greenhouse gases.

Methane, which is a byproduct of digestion by cud-chewing animals, is a gas 23 times more warming to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization attributed 18 percent of the greenhouse gases produced each year to livestock.

But a more recent report for the World Watch Institute, by Robert Goodland, former environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp., estimates this figure to be much higher: 51 percent, when the entire life cycle and supply chain of the livestock industry is taken into consideration.

Their report “” “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?” “” factors in emissions from the tens of billions of animals exhaling CO2 annually, as well as deforestation for feed production and grazing, which prevents the reduction in greenhouse gases that would normally result from photosynthesis.

In the World Watch report released last month, Dr. Goodland and Mr. Anhang wrote that “livestock (like automobiles) are a human invention and convenience, not part of pre-human times, and a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe.”

Electric Avenue: Or, How to Rev Up the Electric-Car Revolution

A broad group of corporations got together in Washington today to prod policymakers to make the electric-car revolution a reality. The goal? By 2040, 75% of light-vehicle miles should be driven with electric cars, rather than today’s gasoline engines. That, the group says, would essentially end U.S. imports of oil, improving the environment, America’s energy security, and its coffers. (There’s more here and here.)

The Electrification Coaltion groups all sorts of companies that stand to gain, one way or another, from an electric-car revolution. There are utilities (NRG and PG&E); battery types (A123 and Rockwood); Automakers (Nissan); venture capitalists (Kleiner Perkins); and others, such as FedEx.

Whether electric cars remain a plaything of the rich or do to today’s cars what cars did to horses is still a very open question. For some, the combination of better performance and pricey oil makes it a no-brainer. For others, the prospect of expensive batteries and scattered charging stations makes it a chimera.

All that is spelled out in a very, very detailed roadmap of how to get there, put together by the Electrification Coalition and PRTM, the consulting firm.

11 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for November 17: South Korea adopts its most strict CO2 cuts for 2020; Concentrated solar thermal goes dry (cooling)

  1. David B. Benson says:

    WWI’s 51% seems incredibily high; I don’t give it credibility.

    [JR: Yeah, it doesn’t seem right to me either. You’d have to throw in all of deforestation and lost of other stuff that can’t justifiably be ascribed solely to it.]

  2. I have a feeling that the CO2 from exhaling throws it off. If the livestock grazes and the grass grows as quickly as it is eaten, there is no net increase in CO2 emissions. Most livestock in the world is used for subsistence by people in the developing nations and lives by grazing. According to Lester Brown, there is twice as much land in the world that is suitable for grazing as there is that is suitable for agriculture. Methane is a big problem, but they exaggerate by also counting CO2 exhaled.

  3. paulm says:

    Global temperatures will rise 6C by end of century, say scientists

    Most comprehensive CO2 study to date is expected to give greater urgency to diplomatic manoeuvring before Copenhagen

  4. David B. Benson says:

    paulm — If so, our great-grandchildren will have had it; see Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”.

  5. paulm says:

    Apocalypse fatigue: This certainly has been my experience with my friends and family who are reasonably educated and well informed.

    It has only been in the last year that they have become ‘aware’ of the climate change threat, but do not /will not acknowledge the scale and timing of the situation.

    [JR: Precisely. Most people have barely gotten the message. That ain’t fatigue, it’s just failed messaging by scientists and the media and the like.]

    I think as the threat becomes more ‘real’ then leaders will just have to jump in with radical changes a)because they will have to b)to shock people in to realization.

    For instance, we all know it will be the end of the world (as we know it) within the century, but Obama chooses Health Care over Climate change. What message does that send to the public?

    There is a big debate over whether or not he goes to Copenhagen. What’s the message…Oh, it can’t be that pressing an issue then.

    Its these nuances, often from scientist as well, that re-enforce the apathy we see form the masses. Allowing them to hang on to their system justification as long as they can.


  6. SecularAnimist says:

    It’s a funny thing, how liberal environmentalists will rush out to buy a $30,000 Prius, or install a $100,000 rooftop PV system on their house … but if you suggest that switching to a vegetarian diet would do more to reduce their GHG footprint than either of those measures, they suddenly become “skeptics”. Why, those scientists MUST be wrong!

    It seems that the American way of eating (i.e. eating mountains of cheap, mass produced, factory-farmed, fossil-fueled chicken and ground beef and suffering from costly epidemics of degenerative disease as a result) is non-negotiable !!!

    The WorldWatch study says livestock production is responsible for 51 percent of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Skeptical of that, are you? Well, in 2006 the United Nations found that livestock production was responsible for 18 percent of emissions, a share comparable to the transport sector. Either way, animal agriculture is a huge source of GHG emissions, which could be quickly phased out at low cost if people chose to switch to a healthier, more sustainable — and far more humane — plant-based diet.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    SecularAnimist (6) — Yes, about 1/5th seems correct for the USA.

    So I now eat less meat, especially beef.

  8. mike roddy says:

    Paulm, the ones who are fatigued after a couple of years don’t really care that much. I recently completed a 15 year battle to switch American housing from two by fours to steel or just about anything else. I lost.

    So what? You can’t give up. If you really study the evidence about climate change, the way you keep from going crazy is to obsessively work for change, practically every waking hour.

    Exhibit A: Joe Romm. And there are plenty of others who are also doing the best they can.

    The journalists who got burned out and gave up- and I hate to mention names here- proved that they were not operating from the heart anyway, and got into environmental issues for whimsical or opportunistic reasons. Friends of mine like Tim Hermach of Native Forest Council and Randy Hayes (RAN founder) are on a different level, and never quit. Even if they (and all of us) lose too, so what? We all end up dead. You just have to do the right thing when events call for it, and we should be grateful that this time it doesn’t include strapping on a rifle.

  9. Mossy says:

    Secular Animist, I have to disagree with your assessment that liberal environmentalists become skeptics when it is suggested that they switch to a vegetarian diet to combat global warming. I am finding just the opposite to be true, with more and more environmentalists refraining from eating meat. This is especially true among young climate activists.
    And Paulm, I totally agree with your comments in number 5, and I was sorry to see the “snip”.

  10. paulm says:

    Here is someone who doesn’t get it. I predict he will be out of a job in the near future….

    Climate change laws years away: Prentice

  11. C. Vink says:

    Great Barrier Reef ‘will die’ unless carbon emissions slashed
    Telegraph, November 17 – Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be severely bleached and eventually die unless the world’s industrialised nations drastically cut carbon emissions by up to 90 per cent by 2050, a leading coral scientist has warned.