Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 8)

Posted on Wed 04/09/2008 by



Most of you are reading this and noticing that the title, KYOTO etc has stayed the same, but I seem to have drifted from the intent of that heading.
It may seem like that, but it’s been my deliberate intent to do it like this.
Because those people hypnotised by the ‘Environmentalist Lobby’ loudly say that we must sign Kyoto for the good of the environment. That is the simple one liner.
What I’m trying to show here is that it is more complex than that. Decidedly more complex.

I want you all to look closely at this simple pie chart, and then I’ll try and explain the implications.

2008 pie chart

This image courtesy of the US Government Energy Information Administration Electric Power Monthly March 2008.

Some of you might be saying, “Hey! Wait a minute. That can’t be right.”

The good thing is that the large blue coloured area on the right is coming down, increment by small increment. That blue area is total US electrical power generated by coal fired power plants, and it’s below 50% for only the second year, down from a high of 53% in 1997. Nuclear power generation has been stable for the last few years. Hydro electric power has decreased from 8% of the total two years ago, having a lot to do with drought mainly. What is increasing is the use of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to generate electricity. These plants are, in the main, newer technology, and the turbine and generator units are different from coal fired plant construction, in that steam is not required to run the turbine. Even though these plants are around the same price to construct and bring on line, they are more quickly constructed. These plants are reliant upon the volatile nature of the price of LNG, which tends to make the cost of producing the electrical power more expensive.

However, just like coal fired plants, these also are still reliant upon the use of fossil fuels. When compared to coal fired plants, the saving in favour of coal fired plants lies in the fact that coal is plentifully available, easily mined and transported.

However, look across at that tiny slice of the pie that is titled ‘Other Energy Sources’, sitting on 3%. This is where the solar, wind, and other methods come in. This figure has barely moved in recent years despite the call for renewable sources of power to be considered.

Think about that for a minute. If the technology existed, then this area would be booming, surely, because being so loudly called for around the (Western) World, you’d think people would be falling over themselves to cash in start saving the environment.

It might seem unfair that I quote figures only for the US so I’ll give you some figures from Australia. We have no Nuclear electrical power plants at all. Natural gas. 14%. Hydro power 7% Other. 1%. The sunniest place on the Planet and around one tenth of that one percent is solar power. That’s an indication of just how serious we are about it here in Australia, let me tell you. Yeah! Right! So that leaves the rest. Coal Fired. 78%. (And we signed Kyoto. Oh dear!)

Two posts back I mentioned it was going to get technical, and now I’m going to compound that by introducing some Math, so you’ll just have to trust me on the figures here.
Greenhouse gases aren’t the sole province of electrical power generation, but that provides the major part of them and some figures are as high even as 50%.
The Kyoto Protocol calls for greenhouse gas production to be reduced to 5% lower than the levels that existed in 1990, and since that time conservative figures place the rise in greenhouse gas production in the US at around 25%, and going by those UN figures from the Kyoto Protocol, then the reduction needs to be 30%, across the board, so that means 30% off greenhouse gas for coal fired power plants. So, if 48% of power comes from coal, then 30% of that means a 15% slice out of that pie chart.

This won’t happen immediately, but that’s still a pretty big chunk out of that pie.
You might remember that I mentioned that those large base load plants run along at two thirds of their maximum.
So then, why not run the rest of those plants at their maximum to take up the slack. If they are coal fired plants, then you’ve just defeated the purpose. You have to burn more coal to boil the water to turn to steam to drive the turbine faster to run the generator to produce that extra power.
Think of it like this.
A NASCAR race car runs at the maximum it’s (specially constructed) engine can do, but only for three to four hours with breaks during that. You wouldn’t run your car engine at that speed for longer than a short time would you?
The same goes for the power plants.
So we can’t use the Coal fired plants to run at extra speed.
How about the Nuclear plants. Run the reactor at its maximum rated output. Hmm! He thinks. Not likely.
Run the Natural Gas turbines at their maximum. Maybe, but there’s no way the few base load plants in this category could take up that slack, and you’re still using a fossil fuel.

The other sources make up such a tiny percentage that this would be ineffective also.

So, replacements have to be found and they have to be found pretty quickly.

When I said a few posts back who was going to pick the percentage of US citizens to go without electric power, it was an emotive thing to say, and some would think that it was done just for effect, and was really just flat out rhetoric.

Maybe now you can see just how much electric power will be taken out of the grid, and that amount would surely mean people going without electricity.

Then, and I want you all to consider this, because it’s also a repetition of what I said a few posts back.
China is currently building one base load giant coal fired power plant per week and will be for the next number of years. That’s just China. There’s India to also take into consideration. Kyoto is not aimed at those two huge Countries because they are developing Countries.
So if the US is to remove a third of their coal fired plants, and if China and India are building them, wouldn’t that equate to status quo as far as greenhouse gases are concerned.

Now it’s beginning again to sound like a rant, which is not the intent.
Over the next few posts, what I’m going to do is to show that we in the Western World can be responsible citizens, and we’ll discuss at length each of the methods of producing electricity that we might be able to replace those coal fired plants with.
Methods of production that the hypnotised environmental lobby toss around as if it can be done by the end of next week, you know, the old free power from the Sun thing.