Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 41)

Posted on Sat 06/21/2008 by

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SOLUTIONS (Part 4)

REPLACING COAL

It’s so easy to believe it when someone tells you that a layer of greenhouse gas has risen to the outer layers of the Earths Atmospheric levels and is holding in the heat generated on the Earth.
It’s so easy to get caught up worrying that this heat is having an effect on the World’s weather.
It’s so easy to worry about rising sea levels, and how that will impact the World.
It’s so easy to believe that burning fossil fuels is causing excess production of CO2, one of those greenhouse gases.
It’s so easy to say that we have to cut back on the production of CO2 to stop this, almost as if it’s something we can stop immediately.
It’s so easy to say we need to stop burning coal for the production of electricity, because this is one of the biggest producers of that CO2.
It’s so easy to say that we can replace these coal fired plants with boundless free energy from the wind and the Sun in the heavens.

What is hard is actually understanding what cutting back on electricity means to the normal running of our everyday lives.
What is hard is trying to understand just how difficult it is going to be to get anywhere close to the level of efficiency that large coal fired power plants produce, that of a constant reliable set level of electrical power.
What is hard is trying to understand how long it will take to get alternative sources of power production coming on stream to replace those coal fired plants.
What is hard is trying to understand the enormous cost of finding those replacements and then building them.
What is hard is trying to understand the technology behind it all.

What is easy is listening to and believing some guy rolling across the Country telling us all those easy things I’ve mentioned above.

When I started this series thirteen weeks ago, what I wanted to do was to try and take you through the logical steps, and try and explain the implications in as simple a form as something of such a technical nature can be explained.

Step 1. What The Kyoto Protocol calls for.
Step 2. What this means with respect to the generation of electrical power, the whole point of the exercise that most directly impacts on every one of us in our everyday lives.
Step 3. To discuss the various process currently being used to generate electricity, those traditional ones used for so long now, and also for some of the newer processes.

I could have just stopped there, which would have been the easy thing to do, but what I really wanted to do was to actually try and find not one alternative, but a series of alternatives that might be used to diminish the problem. That is actually the hard thing to do, because those who think that it’s easy, and that something will miraculously just turn up have to be jolted into believing that this is something that is not easy. Hard decisions have to be made. They have to be made here in the Western World, which is the target of the Kyoto Protocol.

However, the really hard decision is this. Those decision makers who are so willing to point that accusing finger of blame at us in the Western World have to now implement the next stage of the Kyoto Protocol on those in the WHOLE WORLD, because it’s useless if we in the Western World do all the right things and then the rest of the World goes on producing those greenhouse gases in greater proliferation than they currently do, because no matter how much WE cut back, it’s useless if they don’t cut back also.

This actually is an us and them type of situation, and I’m not just saying that with the meaning that we want to keep our good life going at the expense of those in that Developing World, because that is the farthest thing from my mind. By the good fortune of being born in the Western World, we have become used to the fact the electricity is like water and air. It’s always there. We are not trying to withhold it from those Developing nations for some selfish reasons. However, two things will have to happen if Kyoto is to have any effect at all. Either our standard of life goes back to the level of those Developing Worlds, or if their level is to come up to ours, then everybody needs to be working towards the same target, and not just those of us in that Western World.

If the rest of the World is building coal fired power plants faster than we shut them down, it defeats the whole purpose, and this is what is currently happening. It’s happening not because they have this wish to harm the environment. It’s happening because they want access to the electricity that for so long we have taken for granted and treated as a staple of life. We here in the Western World are shutting down coal plants. Those coal fired plants that were proposed have been quietly pulled off the drawing boards by the Authorities who were going to construct them. Others proposed are being held up by people who have taken them into the legal process to also stop them from being constructed. Because of that, None are being planned. They are just too problematical.

However, in those places on the Planet where electricity is non existent, they are constructing them at a rate beyond our comprehension. For every one coal huge coal fired plant in the US there are five in all those countries that Kyoto exempts from the protocol, and that ratio is rising. What use will it be to shut down 50 large coal fired plants in the US if the rest of the World is bringing that many on line every four months, considering one every week is being constructed in China alone.

No, the hard decisions need to be made at the next round of talks, and having said that, can you now see the impasse. Those other places in the rest of the World will use it against those of us who have ready access to electrical power that we are figuratively and actively proposing to keep them in the dark ages.
Now perhaps you can see how hard it really is and just how hard it is going to get.

All those things I mentioned at the start of this post, those easy things. The people who fall into that category all work in a workplace that is dependant upon electricity, they all drive cars on streets and roads that are well lit and well signed and controlled by stop lights, all orderly things regulated by access to electrical power and there would be chaos on the roads without it. They shop in places where food is kept fresh, in well lit stores and shopping malls. They all live in homes where electricity allows them to live their lives in a comfortable manner. They go to the movies, sporting events, concerts, galleries, and on it goes. Our whole lives are subject to the ready availability of electricity. Without it, life would become very difficult indeed. They will listen to and watch someone who tell them the easy things at the top of this post, nod their heads knowingly, and then without understanding, continue their life at home using the very electricity that is the cause of just what they have been listening to, without even realising that they are contributing to it. That is the dilemma.

We have that electricity. The rest of the Developing World don’t, and rightfully so, they should have access to it in just the same manner we do.

Now see how hard it all suddenly becomes.

Next post I’m going to do something even harder. Propose alternatives for those coal fired plants here in the Western World, where at least we are showing the pretense of responsibility.

KPPSTony