Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cap and Trade

While the battle continues on healthcare reform legislation, next in line is "cap & trade", the Obama administration effort aimed at reducing greenhouse gases to incentivise the development of "clean" energy and reduce global warming. Carbon dioxide is said to be the primary culprit.

Global Warming

There is considerable disagreement over global warming and its causes. Scientific studies have shown that the Earth has gone through many cycles of warming and cooling. The last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago and we have been in the warming part of the cycle ever since. While a few people don't buy it, most of the scientific community now believe the Earth is warming. The major issue is man's contribution to it, how significant it is, and what we should be doing about it.

There is little doubt in my mind that industrial development has dumped a fair amount of carbon dioxide and other gases into the Earth's atmosphere. Defining the extent of its impact is a challenge I will leave to objective-minded scientists, not Al Gore. I also believe we should be doing the necessary research and development to come up with ways to reduce and eliminate the emission of gases proven to cause warming. Having said that, however, let me say it won't be easy.

Alternatives to Greenhouse Gas Emmitting Fuels

Coal, oil and gas fueled the industrial age and remain the world's primary energy generating fuels. In certain parts of the world, non-gas emmitting nuclear energy now shares the stage with the hydrocarbon fuels and could command a majority share if it weren't for the influence of anti-nuclear power activists. The scare tactics of the activists have succeeded in blocking totally any new nuke plants in the USA for several decades.

The power likely to be generated by all currently known alternatives to hydrocarbon fuels combined will never equal what is currently generated by coal, oil, gas and nuclear. Nevertheless, alternative fuels should be developed to the maximum economically acceptable limits and hopefully research will produce one or more alternates that will permit the removal of hydrocarbon fuels from the picture altogether some time in the future. Until then, we will need to use hydrocarbon fuels and nuclear energy.

Cap & Trade Economics

The economics of the so-called cap & trade proposal are not pretty. It is an attempt to force greenhouse gas producers to switch to "clean" energy which is partly developed, still on the drawing board, or still on the "wish" list. Meanwhile, they would be required to buy "carbon credits" in a market yet to be defined. It can do nothing but raise the cost of energy for all consumers and the loss of more jobs.

As mentioned before on this blog site, energy companies are already devoting much time and money on research in new energy sources and what is needed to develop and deliver it to consumers. It seems unlikely that more money and more scientists and engineers to work on the needed research would not add significant speed to the process.


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