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The Way Back to 280 ppm

Sam Carana's picture

Policy developer (sustainability & feebates), blogger and editor. Motto: We CAN change the world! For more posts, see http://samcarana.blogspot.com

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  • Jul 26, 2011
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Concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 394.97 ppm at Mauna Loa in May — 41% above the 280ppm it had been for thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution started.

Given the dangers of global warming, carbon dioxide needs to get back to 280ppm. Emission cuts alone will not be able to accomplish this, so what more can be done?

Large drops in carbon dioxide have taken place in history, and are attributed to weathering, i.e. rocks breaking down and carbonates being deposited on ocean floors. However, it takes nature many, many years to do this. To make this happen at accelerated rates, carbon dioxide removal methods can be deployed that are typically referred to as mineral carbonation and accelerated weathering.

emissions cut 80% by 2020At first glance, one may suggest implementation of policies such as cap-and-trade or cap and capture to make those who put carbon into the atmosphere pay for its removal. More effective, though, is a combination of two types of feebates, working separately, yet complimentary, to get emissions cut 80% by 2020 and carbon dioxide on the way back to 280ppm.

Many carbon dioxide removal methods are energy-intensive. As long as the energy used is expensive and polluting, not much can be achieved. A rapid shift to clean energy is necessary, which is best facilitated through energy feebates, as discussed in my previous post.

As the number of solar and wind facilities grows, large amounts of clean electricity will become available at off-peak hours, when there’s little demand for electricity. This will make such electricity cheap, bringing down the cost of methods such as accelerated weathering, which can take place at off-peak hours. Such energy will also make carbon dioxide removal more effective, since the energy is clean to start with.

Energy feebates can best clean up energy, while other feebates can best raise revenue for carbon dioxide removal. Energy feebates can phase themselves out, completing the necessary shift to clean energy within a decade. Carbon dioxide removal will need to continue for much longer, so funding will need to be raised from other sources, such as sales of livestock products, nitrogen fertilizers and cement.

FeebatesA range of methods to remove carbon dioxide would be eligible for funding. To be eligible for rebates, methods merely need to be safe and remove carbon dioxide. Methods could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and/or from the oceans.

Rebates favor methods that also have commercial viability. In case of accelerated weathering, this will favor production of building materials, road pavement, etc. Such methods could include water desalination and pumping of water into deserts, in efforts to achieve more vegetation growth. Selling a forest where once was a desert could similarly attract rebates.

Some methods will be immediately viable, such as afforestation and biochar burial. It may take some time for methods such as accelerated weathering to become economically viable, but when they do, they can take over where afforestation has exhausted its potential to get carbon dioxide back to 280ppm.

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jul 25, 2011

“The Way Back,” is enough for me.

Ten years ago, in my rural Minnesota area, punks raced around in giant noisy trucks, churning dust, with stickers saying “support our troops.” On our hwy. frontage I planted pumpkins so they would freeze like giant rocks and could nail some snowmobilers without getting sued (but the deer ate them). The motorheads lived on borrowed money building houses; the houses now breed raccoons and bats.

So now some want to work with me and I hear there are some new drugs around. I’ve heard of meth, don’t know what it is, but apparently there are many more. I’ll confess to smoking pot 30 years ago, but insanity is in the news and it isn’t from pot.

When we took people off the small farm they turned to lunatics instead of learning to manage the carbon and resource cycle. Labor intensive small farming is the “way back.”

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Sam Carana on Jul 27, 2011

> (Ed Reid) I do not understand . . .

In various settings renewable energy is already economically competitive, says the IPCC, and that’s before subsidies and tax credits are included. Also, that’s before the full cost of fossil fuel is included in the price. Wind turbines generate large amounts of electricity at times of low demand, resulting in low off-peak prices with implementation of Time of Use (TOU) rates and Time Varying Pricing, i.e. pricing electricity prices more in line with supply and demand.

> (Ed Reid) I also do not understand how solar and wind grow . . .

Read the post again, and click on the image for more details.

> (Ed Reid) The post also does not address the sources . . .

Read my post America can win the clean energy race.

> (Ed Reid) Finally, the post does not address the investments . . .

As the post suggests, reducing the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere can best be financed through fees on non-energy polluters, such as livestock products, nitrogen fertilizers and concrete. Feebates are self-financing and can be implemented in budget-neutral ways.

> (Ed Reid) Hand waving and “humma humma” will not get the job done. After 16 COPs, I am not convinced anything will, ever.

The more reason to support the way it can best be done, i.e. through the two types of feebates described in the post.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jul 27, 2011

Ed, you are right about many things you know, but you, like everybody, need to learn.

I spent many years demonstrating burying carbon on a main highway in rural Minnesota. Several hundreds of low quality hay (square and round) bales have magically disappeared into clay soils to become rich soils. Amazing how fast worms and moles do it. Instead of “feebates” they like to change property taxes from agriculture to recreational. They severely punish “that eco stuff.” And they pay big money to plant corn. And “environmentalists” and “scientists” don’t  care unless they get a grant to write a paper about it for some meeting.

And that is the real fact. The whole “environmentalist” and “clean energy” movement has been hijacked to a level of corruption that practitioners have reason for fear of getting mugged.

Sam Carana's picture
Sam Carana on Jul 27, 2011

 

> (Ed Reid) Wind investment will not occur if wind receives only low, off-peak prices. 
Wind energy earns good money for the energy generated at many hours of the day, Ed, and this attracts investment. Wind turbines also generate large amounts of electricity at times of low demand, hence the low off-peak prices. 
> (Ed Reid) The investment economics do not work. That is currently being demonstrated in West Texas and on the BPA system.
In February, when Texas experienced rolling blackouts due to the loss of over 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling over 7,000 megawatts, wind plants continued to steadily produce 3,500 megawatts.
More recently, the mountain snowpack melt required hydroelectric dams to release more water, while there are also other factors such as salmon. This doesn’t mean that the economics didn’t work, it underlines that the shift to clean energy will increasingly make cheap clean electricity available at times of low demand. As said, investing in wind energy is already attractive, but I agree that the shift to clean energy should be further helped by rebates, funded through fees on polluting energy (facilities). 
> (Ed Reid) Read the post again. There is nothing there that provides a path to an 80% reduction in global CO2 emissions by 2020.
Read the posts again! Reducing the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere can best be achieved through two types of feebates, with energy feebates capable of completing the necessary shift to clean energy within a decade.
> (Ed Reid) Read the linked post. It does not address the sources of the investment capital needed to achieve the transition.
Read the post again! It explains that it makes economic sense for America to shift to clean energy, while – as I said repeatedly – I agree that the shift to clean energy should be further helped by rebates, funded from fees on polluting energy (facilities). 
> (Ed Reid) The investments required to reduce the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to 280 ppm are not addressed.
Feebates can be adjusted, so where there is insufficient investment, fees can be increased to make things happen. 

> (Ed Reid) Wind investment will not occur if wind receives only low, off-peak prices. 

Wind energy earns good money for the energy generated at many hours of the day, and this attracts investment. Wind turbines also generate large amounts of electricity at times of low demand, hence the low off-peak prices. 

> (Ed Reid) The investment economics do not work. That is currently being demonstrated in West Texas and on the BPA system.

In February, when Texas experienced rolling blackouts due to the loss of over 50 fossil-fired power plants totaling over 7,000 megawatts, wind plants continued to steadily produce 3,500 megawatts.

More recently, the mountain snowpack melt required hydroelectric dams to release more water, while there are also other factors such as salmon. This doesn’t mean that the economics didn’t work, it underlines that the shift to clean energy will increasingly make cheap clean electricity available at times of low demand. As said, investing in wind energy is already attractive, but I agree that the shift to clean energy should be further helped by rebates, funded through fees on polluting energy (facilities). 

> (Ed Reid) Read the post again. There is nothing there that provides a path to an 80% reduction in global CO2 emissions by 2020. Read the linked post. It does not address the sources of the investment capital needed to achieve the transition.

Read the posts again! Reducing the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere can best be achieved through two types of feebates, with energy feebates capable of completing the necessary shift to clean energy within a decade. The post America can win the clean energy race explains that it makes economic sense for America to shift to clean energy, while – as I said repeatedly – I agree that the shift to clean energy should be further helped by rebates, funded through fees on polluting energy (facilities). 

> (Ed Reid) The investments required to reduce the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to 280 ppm are not addressed.

Feebates can be adjusted, so where there is insufficient investment, fees can be increased to make things happen. 

 

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jul 27, 2011

Sincere thanks, and welcome to TheEnergyCollective. Please share some of your knowledge with us. The blog link was mostly videos I’m too old and too lazy to play with on my Linux box. But clearly, you have a good group.

If I have any insight into the hay trick, it is to make the pile deep enough so it is always wet, and in Minnesota, always thawed. Moles (voles) live in the pile all year. Those fields went from hard clay to a sponge.

Best regards.

Sam Carana's picture
Sam Carana on Jul 27, 2011

Good work, Bernardus, we need all the help we can get and many more people could also get involved in organic growing of fruit and vegetables, and there are many job opportunities in making soil (even in deserts) more fertile, apart from the many job opportunities in clean technologies such as EVs and solar and wind power.  

There are many ways to use biomass. Composting can reduce emissions and improve soil quality. Even better than composting, though, is pyrolysis of organic waste, to produce biochar as a soil supplement. This process can be carbon-negative and minimize many types of emissions, while it can also produce biofuels, hydrogen and bio-oils.

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