Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 51)

Posted on Tue 07/08/2008 by



Fifteen weeks ago I started this series of posts. It has been a long and involved process, and if the posts have been long, then I apologise for that. I had hoped to probably extend it out to six posts at the maximum, but the more I looked, the more I found.
I come from a background as an electrical tradesman and a teacher of the electrical trade, all this during my 25 years service in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Why I actually wanted to do this in the first place was to try and satisfy my own curiosity.
At the recent election in Australia, held in October of 2007, the Government changed. Part of the platform for the incoming administration was that they were going to immediately sign the Kyoto Protocol raised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (UNFCCC)
We had been told at length that this Protocol was to address the causes of climate change, and in so doing, lay out measures for solving the problem.
With a flourish, our new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd duly signed off on the protocol ratifying it on behalf of Australia, and in so doing agreeing to work towards processes to solve the problem. In so doing, he carefully then told us that there was now only one Country holding out on ratifying the protocol, that being the US.

All this made me seriously think about just why that was so. I went and actually read all I could find about the Protocol, and found that even though it was a really great ideal to work towards, it was flawed.
The media bombards us with thirty second video and sound bites on what is actually being done to the environment. We are releasing greenhouse gases into the environment on a scale that is supposedly having an effect on the World’s weather, by raising temperatures to the point that the sea levels would rise alarmingly, flooding low lying Countries.
We have also been bombarded by the ‘Al Gore Factor’, with his book, series of lectures and movie, winning accolades across the Planet. Because of this, the argument has come down to a political thing, leading us to believe it is a Republican/Democrat thing because Al Gore was the Democrat Vice President, and then making big play that President Bush was being a holdout by not signing, something that is a little erroneous by its very nature, because when the Protocol first came out, President Clinton’s Administration did not submit it for ratification to the Senate, because of concerns that all the World’s Developing Countries were not part of the problem solving, and that the greatest work would have to be done by the US, who would also be forced by ratifying to shoulder the burden as paying for the whole thing, the perception being that the US was the only Country able to actually afford this immense cost.

So after reading as much as I could about what the Protocol was all about, and the implications of ratifying it, something quite small stood out for me especially, coming from a background in the electrical trade.
The greatest of these greenhouse gas emissions is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The media needs a good stark image that they can show their viewers, so when they talk greenhouse gas emissions, we are shown filthy black smoke issuing from steel mill stacks and emotive pictures of thousands of cars on the freeways at peak hour traffic. So the viewing public gets the unintentional message that cars and steel mills are the greatest emitters, giving the impression that maybe all we need to do is to get smaller cars, drive less, and maybe cut back on those steel mills.
However, the real fact is that cars produce around 7.5% in total of those emissions. Industry produces a percentage, as does farming of every kind, planes, boats, trains. Public transport and the transport industry also emit a percentage.
However, the largest emissions are from coal fired power plants. That was an obscure mention that made my ears prick up, because NO ONE AT ALL has hit on that with respect to the solution.
Using my background in the electrical trade, I investigated, because the unknowing loud voices of the rabid left environmentalists said that was not the problem, because there was unlimited and free power to be had from the Sun. The only reason solar power was not being used was because the fossil fuel industry was actively holding it back so they could continue using those fossil fuels. They seriously believed that once solar plants were up and running all across the Country, then no one would ever have to pay for power again. Because those environmentalist so stridently pursued that line, and pursued it so confidently, the idea was that they were actually correct.
To that end, as an electrical tradesman, I wanted to satisfy myself of the real facts.

Could those coal fired plants be replaced by endless free power form the Sun, or even from ANY other source at all.

Also. I needed to satisfy myself just how much needed to be replaced.
As I mentioned the more I investigated the more I found. The hardest thing to try and explain was that one word, BASELOAD.

62% of all electrical power generation in the US is used in the Industrial and Commercial sectors. This is actually needed, access to constant and reliable power, so that the workforce can actually work. That is supplied by large power plants, huge by their very nature.
Solar power cannot be used to replace those huge coal fired power plants. Nor really can any of the other renewable sources.
Also, contrary to what environmentalists would have you believe, Solar power is not only NOT FREE, it is tremendously expensive and takes longer to construct than most all the other sources, and cannot be constructed on a huge scale that those large coal plants they hope to replace.

In this series I have canvassed virtually every process of power generation, and in reality, the only two processes that could replace coal are the two not even considered as replacements, Hydro Power, and Nuclear Power. Until they enter into the equation, the whole process is moot.


Having said that, I made conclusions but other than that, do I have a gut feeling on what will most probably happen?

The whole process has been terminally politicised, and now both sides say that they will be taking active measures to work on climate change. To that end, an emissions trading scheme will be introduced. This is currently mooted at being as large as trillions of dollars in the US. Then, if the US is to actively replace all their coal fired plants down to the level required by the Kyoto protocol, you’re also looking at Trillions of dollars. I know that number rolls off the tongue, but let’s just discuss costs for that then. The cheapest plants to construct are coal fired plants, so for the purpose of the exercise, I’ll replace old coal fired with new coal fired plants. You need to effectively replace 150,000MW of coal fired power, which equates to 30% of power produced in the coal fired sector of total power production, and this is what Kyoto calls for. That equates to 75 large coal fired plants. Each of these will cost in the vicinity of 4 Billion each. There’s 300 Billion. Double that for the seven years to get them all up and running, which could (at best) take double that again, so that puts it at 1.2 Trillion now, and that’s only coal for coal. The other plants cost (again at best) two to three times as much so now we’re up to nearly 4 Trillion, and because they won’t be large plants, but smaller size, then the costs double again, so now we’re looking at close to 10 Trillion dollars, and that’s in today’s dollars. That is also the best case scenario.
Then on top of that, the UN also decided that the US is the only Country able to afford to replace those plants in those developing countries, so they will be required to supply the money to replace those plants in those developing Countries. So if the US is to supply that money for them, then if the US generates one quarter of the World’s total power, then that 10 Trillion for the US now becomes 40 Trillion for those developing Countries, and that is also best case scenario, because while power in the coal sector of the US amounts to just 50% of the total, the rest of the World’s average stands at around 75%.

Big numbers. Huge numbers. Okay, lets do this without blinking shall we. Let’s agree blindly to ratify that Kyoto Protocol, and go about doing all this. The Protocol lasts until 2012 when a new Instrument will be raised. The US is forced to cut back its own coal plants. Just in China alone, they are bringing on line one large coal fired plant each and every week, and will be for the next eight to ten tears. When the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012, China alone will negate what the US is being to asked to cut back, and here’s by how much. The US cuts back by X amount. China alone will add to the World’s greenhouse gases the amount the US has to cut back, and add that amount every twelve months, so whatever the US cuts back, China alone will add four times that amount. When that next largest emitter is included, India, and those other developing countries are added into the equation, that doubles the total. Those other developing Countries are constructing coal fired power plants like there’s no tomorrow. So whatever the US is forced to cut back, then those countries will have added that much every six months for the extent of the Protocol,  so that will amount to an addition of eight times just what the US is cutting back on.
See the dilemma now? Do you seriously think those developing countries will just altruistically stop constructing coal fired power plants, even if the UN asks them to, or even if they require them to.
Keep in mind also that they are not doing this to intentionally spoil the environment. No, they are doing it so that their people can have access to reliable constant electric power, something we all have, something that they do not have. That’s where the per capita argument comes into play, those rabid green environmentalists telling us that we are the highest per capita head emitters on the planet. That’s only because we have that access to electrical power, that we now accept is a staple of our life.

So, my gut feeling then. We will end up footing that bill because our politicians have no idea what they are letting us in for. The reality is that those developing countries will just go on constructing those coal fired power plants. The end result will be that we have not only not achieved anything of any significance at all, but in fact, we will have only succeeded in making matters worse. In so doing, by getting in early and starting down the track to getting away from coal fired sources, we will have further expanded that gap between those of us who have, and those in the developing countries who have not.

My gut feeling. Do you seriously think coal mining Companies will take a hit in the vicinity of $50 Billion dollars. No. they will resist shutting down coal fired plants and use every means at their disposal. If the US regulates to cut back, then those miners will look to those developing countries to take up the slack of what they might lose in the US.
In this case the solution may end up being worse than we might have expected.

In closing this series, I will hark right back to what I said so early on in these posts.


Thanks for sticking with me those of you who have followed these posts. Occasionally I’ll come back and add pieces that bear some relevance.