Monday, September 17, 2012

Interesting Thoughts About Global Warming And Technology

Is a carbon tax a thing of the past?
"Here is the good news. US carbon emissions are decreasing rapidly. We're down over 10% from our emissions peak in 2007. Furthermore, the drop isn't just a function of the Great Recession. Since 2010 our economy has been growing, but emissions have kept on falling. The reason? Natural gas. With the advent of "fracking" technology, the price of gas has plummeted far below that of coal, and as a result, essentially no new coal plants are being built. Although gas does release carbon, it only releases about half as much as coal for the same amount of electricity. This is why -- despite our failure to join the Kyoto Protocol or impose legal restrictions on CO2 -- the United States is now outpacing the rest of the developed world in reducing our contribution to global warming. 
Now for the better news. A technology is in the pipeline that has the potential to eliminate CO2 emissions entirely. Solar power, long believed to be unworkably expensive, has actually been falling in cost at a steady exponential rate of 7 percent per year for the last three decades straight. Because of this "Moore's Law for solar", electricity from solar panels now costs less than twice as much as electricity from coal, and only about three times as much as electricity from gas. Furthermore, technologies now in the pipeline seem to ensure that the cost drop will continue."


  1. I have been seeing a lot anti-oil energy advocates arguing against a carbon tax lately. I think it is truly no longer on the table.

    As encouraging as this article is, it ignores or underestimates the costs (in money and time) of upgrading the grid to support a no-carbon energy base. There is no consensus on the best way to upgrade the grid to account for variability in power supply (when the sun isn't shining, wind isn't blowing, etc.) and to handle the increased heavy load of millions of electric cars being charged. There is a lot of infrastructure work to be done.

    1. And fracking is potentially a very dangerous technique if not done with the right equipment and procedures. Exporting that to a country known for cutting corners and lax regulation sounds like a recipe for disaster.