The surge in U.S. production of shale gas is creating a surge in permit requests to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. That’s because the glut of U.S. gas has dropped domestic prices sharply below global price levels.
But if avoiding catastrophic climate change is your goal, then spending huge sums on even conventional natural gas infrastructure is not the answer, as a recent International Energy Agency report made clear:
The speciﬁc emissions from a gas-ﬁred power plant will be higher than average global CO2 intensity in electricity generation by 2025, raising questions around the long-term viability of some gas infrastructure investment if climate change objectives are to be met.
And liquefying natural gas is an energy intensive and leaky process. When you factor in shipping overseas, you get an energy penalty of 20% or more. The extra greenhouse gas emissions can equal 30% or more of combustion emissions, according to a 2009 Reference Report by the Joint Research Centreof the European Commission, Liquefied Natural Gas for Europe – Some Important Issues for Consideration.
Such extra emissions all but eliminate whatever small, short-term benefit there might be of building billion-dollar export terminals and other LNG infrastructure, which in any case will last many decades, long after the electric grid will not benefit from replacing coal with gas.
Furthermore, the U.S. Energy Information Administration concluded in a 2012 report on natural gas exports done for DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy that such exports would also increase domestic greenhouse gas emissions:
[W]hen also accounting for emissions related to natural gas used in the liquefaction process, additional exports increase CO2 levels under all cases and export scenarios, particularly in the earlier years of the projection period.
Asserting any net benefit for the importer requires assuming the new gas replaces only coal — and isn’t used for, say, natural gas vehicles, which are worse for the climate or that it doesn’t replace new renewables. If even a modest fraction of the imported LNG displaces renewables, it renders the entire expenditure for LNG counterproductive from day one.
Remember, a major new 2012 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study on “technology warming potentials” (TWPs) found that a big switch from coal to gas would only reduce TWP by about 25% over the first three decades (see “Natural Gas Is A Bridge To Nowhere Absent A Carbon Price AND Strong Standards To Reduce Methane Leakage“). And that is based on “EPA’s latest estimate of the amount of CH4 released because of leaks and venting in the natural gas network between production wells and the local distribution network” of 2.4%. Many experts believe the leakage rate is higher than 2.4%, particularly for shale gas. Also, recent air sampling by NOAA over Colorado found 4% methane leakage, more than double industry claims.
A different 2012 study by climatologist Ken Caldeira and tech guru Nathan Myhrvold finds basically no benefit in the switch whatsoever — see You Can’t Slow Projected Warming With Gas, You Need ‘Rapid and Massive Deployment’ of Zero-Carbon Power.
So spending vast sums of money to export natural gas from this country is a bad idea for the climate. A new paper published last week by Brooking’s Hamilton Project, “A Strategy for U.S. Natural Gas Exports,” asserts a different conclusion, primarily because it ignores all of the issues discussed above. Indeed, the paper rather amazingly asserts “Natural gas, though, has the same climate consequences whether it is burned in the United States, Europe, or Asia,” which would be true for exported U.S. gas only if we could use magic to take the U.S. shale gas and put it into European or Asian gas-fired power plants. In the real world, it takes a massive amount of energy and greenhouse gas emissions to get gas from here to those markets, as is well known in the climate policy arena.
BOTTOM LINE: Investing billions of dollars in new shale gas infrastructure for domestic use is, at best, of limited value for a short period of time if we put in place both a CO2 price and regulations to minimize methane leakage. Exporting gas vitiates even that limited value and so investing billions in LNG infrastructure is, at best, a waste of resources better utilized for deploying truly low-carbon energy. At worst, it helps accelerates the world past the 2°C warming threshold into Terra incognita — a planet of amplifying feedbacks and multiple simultaneous catastrophic impacts.
There are so many things to dislike about the five-year, $480-billion farm bill making its way through Congress that it’s hard to know where to start. Cutbacks in federal nutrition assistance? Inadequate investment in agricultural research? Policies that favor prosperous farmers of commodity groups over those growing fruits and vegetables? This bill is about as good an example of crony capitalism as you could want.
But perhaps the worst feature of this bad bill is the ongoing expansion of federal crop insurance, a program that cost $7.3 billion last year and is sure to cost more in the future. I’ve become familiar with crop insurance because I helped a nonprofit journalism group called the Food and Environmental Reporting Network, where my friend Sam Fromartz is the editor-in-chief, edit a story about crop insurance by reporter Stett Holbrook.
Unlike, say, auto or homeowners insurance, which protect against losses caused by fires or accidents, crop insurance protects against falling revenues, no matter the reason, as well as losses from storms or pests. It also subsidizes insurance companies that write the policies. What’s more, it promotes risky behavior–like planting crops on marginal land because the insurance guarantees a payoff whether or not the crops grow. If the farmer does well, he or she prospers; if not, the farm gets a bailout paid for by the rest of us.
Stett’s story was published today at MSNBC.com. Here’s how it begins:
Here’s a deal few businesses would refuse: Buy an insurance policy to protect against losses – even falling prices — and the government will foot most of the bill.
That’s how crop insurance works.
The program doesn’t just help out farmers, however. The federal government also subsidizes the insurance companies that write the policies. If their losses grow too big, taxpayers will help cover those costs.
In the farm bill now making its way through the Senate, crop insurance will cost taxpayers an estimated $9 billion a year.
Lawmakers, farm groups and insurance companies say the program is a vital safety net, designed to keep farmers in business when bad weather strikes or markets go haywire. But critics say it’s a wasteful and fast-growing subsidy that could have perverse consequences, not just for taxpayers, but for rural lands.
You can read the rest here.
None of this is well understood by the public but, interestingly, institution investors can see that crop insurance is driving up the value of farmland. The Financial Times ran a short but fascinating story last week headlined Money managers read crop insurance harvest saying that funds that invest in farmland could be the big winners of expanded crop insurance.
The FT reports:
“I don’t know of any other business where you can insure 90 per cent of your P and L,” said an adviser to large farmland investors. “There’s a lot more understanding in the institutional world about this than you might think”.
Philippe de Lapérouse, managing director at agribusiness consultancy HighQuest Partners, compared US farms to US banks. “There’s a backer of last resort,” he said, which enhances the risk profile of a farm operation.
This won’t end well.
A long-term transportation package that would re-authorize current spending on highway construction projects and lock-in infrastructure spending for future projects appears all but dead thanks to Republican obstruction in the House of Representatives. With time running out before current authorization ends at the end of the month, House Republicans are demanding the Senate add approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to a transportation bill that already passed with widespread bipartisan support.
House and Senate negotiators have been meeting for weeks — since the Senate passed its bill, 74-22 — to work out a compromise, but the House GOP has repeatedly threatened to walk away unless the pipeline is attached. Now, the legislation is all but dead, an industry source told The Hill:
“I think the bill’s dead,” a transportation industry source said to The Hill on Friday. “I don’t think they can fix what they have in front of them. Kicking it up to the leadership probably gives it a chance…but every time they get to the five-yard line, they move the goal posts back.”
Lawmakers have until June 30 to reach a deal on transportation spending before the current funding mechanism for road and transit projects runs out. [...]
Boxer said that the House lacked “urgency” and “leadership” in the highway negotiations. [House Transportation Committee Chairman John] Mica countered that the Senate “appears unwilling to compromise at all” on House provisions, like mandating the approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
This isn’t the first time House Republicans have jeopardized millions of transportation jobs by demanding approval of the pipeline. They threatened to walk away from negotiations early this month for that reason, and in March nearly caused a transportation shutdown before passing a short-term re-authorization. The implications aren’t small: 1.9 million workers will have to walk off the job without re-authorization of highway funds. Senate Democrats estimate that the long-term authorization package will create an additional one million jobs on top of that.
House Republicans have pitched the pipeline as a job creator, but the State Department estimates it will lead to only 6,000 temporary jobs — a far cry from the nearly three million created or saved by the long-term highway bill the GOP is blocking.
Car manufacturers and car buyers are on the top of their game in many ways this year. 2012 sees many innovations in vehicles that send the message we’re concerned about the environment as well as the economy. Often an auto loan is more available and the rates are better when the auto loan is for a any vehicle meets certain standards.
By definition, a car that is considered “eco-friendly” is one that meets a criteria that is beneficial rather than harmful to the environment. In order to meet these standards the vehicle should be manufactured and then be operated within the limits of these requirements. This applies not only to our cars, but to every aspect of our lives. Here are a few of these developments that apply specifically to our vehicles.
• Fuel Economy
• Electrical Components
• Low Carbon Emissions
• Drivetrain Technology
• Eco-friendly Materials
• Modular Transverse Toolkit
• Local Suppliers
Fuel economy has been a big concern to car manufacturers and also to the customer for many years. Everyone wants to save money. But now, more than ever before fuel economy has more to do with the environment that even with saving money itself. Cars are being made smaller and more efficient; often sacrificing room, comfort and power to save fuel.
Another important innovation in reducing the amount of fuel or energy required to operate the vehicle is in the fairly modern development of more electrical components in the car itself. The very popular hybrid cars today are working with the standard fuel injection and other types of engine with the electrical engine. The car senses the appropriate times to use one type of engine or the other depending upon the circumstance.
A big concern with cars today is the amount of carbon that is emitted when the vehicles are driven. It is assumed that carbon emissions are harmful to the atmosphere. The lower the amount of carbon that is given off into the atmosphere, the longer the earth will be here to enhance our lives.
One of the ways the fuel economy is increased and the carbon emissions is decreased is with the new technology that is being use in constructing the drive train in newer vehicles. The drive train really is the guts of the car. As new and innovative methods are used in the construction and configuration of the drive train, more efficiency is automatically built into the car.
The materials that are used in the actual making of the car also play an important part in keeping the vehicles eco-friendly and more environmentally functional. More and more manufactures are using the raw materials that are being obtained in the safest and most efficient methods. The manufacturing and servicing plants themselves are following similar guidelines used for the cars themselves.
The Modular Transverse Toolkit or MQB is a strategy that is used to ensure that the set-up of the vehicle itself is conducive to various arrangements of the engine components within that particular model and also within other similar models. This is a great benefit that saves time and money.
One more eco-friendly step is using local suppliers and local finance companies in manufacturing and selling vehicles. Local suppliers are handy and more likely to conform to what the manufacture needs. Local finance companies are more apt to offer the auto loan that offers special considerations for the eco-friendly car.
About the Author:
Kathleen Hubert is a blogger who writes on a variety of different sites. Check out more of her work at http://www.autoloan.org/.