CARB Web Conferences on Carbon Neutrality
Instead of reporting on two packed CARB (California Air Resources Board) short web conferences for California, I will give my impressions and critique. The first was on Carbon Neutrality: Scenarios for Deep Decarbonization, and the second on Carbon Neutrality: The Social Cost of Carbon and Affordability.
While I have backed web conferences, they have to be done well. The projection on my small iPad screen was cut down in size by having an unnecessary small view of the speaker in a corner. The slides are the real message, as you can also hear the words.
Next, the slides were overcrowded, making them illegible. Sometimes, the font was too small. Slides are free, just put one graph or a few statements on each slide. I’m pretty sure that the web projection wasn’t even using the full pixel resolution of the iPad.
The bureaucrats talked about plans. The Professors, talked about how impossible and costly they were. The audience had representatives from many agencies and environmental groups presenting their concerns or outlooks.
So, the main plan seemed to be called 80-50, meaning 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. After that, 100% clean or Zero Emissions, or Net Zero. Nathan Lewis, the Cal Tech chemist, strongly emphasized that the 80% and 100% were purely politically created, not determined by engineering or science. He was an author along with UC Irvine’s Steve Davis and others, showing that you can never guarantee more than 80% reliability with pure renewables and grids and batteries. Then in the Social Cost session, Deepika Nagabhushan presented results that even achieving 60% renewables would require 1.5 X the cost of normal power. Achieving 80% would require 6 X the cost of normal power. Reaching 100% would require something like 20 X the cost of normal power.
While they spoke of electrification for automobiles, they did not discuss hybrid vehicles that cut emissions in half at small costs, or car pooling, or working at home or at local hubs.
Sure, people pointed out how different the present technology is, that had not even been thought of at the start of the 20th century. Actually, it had been. The first electric car was built in 1884. Carl Bend built the first internal combustion car in 1885. People realized the great power present in nuclear transitions, although fission had not yet been achieved. Nuclear bombs were even in science fiction. Wind mills are in the writing of Cervantes. Flight was considered by Da Vinci. The Wright Brothers flew in 1903. The first Sears Catalog was in 1888. We must really explore all new pathways with research and development, and not just pick only wind and solar to project the future. One speaker emphasized that hydrogen type fuels could be converted from one form to another at 90% efficiency.
The Social Cost of Carbon used to be about $40/metric ton of CO2 at a 3% discount rate. Under Trump, it was lowered to about $1/ton of CO2 with a “ridiculous” 7% discount rate and only domestic effects considered. This is from David Anthoff, UC Berkeley.
Renewables plus batteries will exceed demand in the summer, but fall below demand for about 6 months in the winter. It would take $3 trillion in batteries, to store this energy to year round, which equals the California GDP. This is from Deepika Nagabhushan of the Clean Air Task Force. Also, half of industrial energy is not electricity, as for cement, steel, and high heat applications. 41% of transportation emissions are heavy duty vehicles, shipping, aviation, and rail, which are not electical.
But here is the Zinger. California makes only ONE PERCENT of World Emissions. Sure, it was emphasized that California would lead the way to Zero Emissions and be a researcher, an example and a teacher for the rest of the world. But at what cost? They did not discuss Carbon Offsets, or biocontainment of agricultural emissions. That is what the University of California is doing to achieve its own Net-Zero emissions, by a large percentage. The other 99% of the World has a lot of low hanging fruit that the rich state of California can quash more cost effectively than squeezing our production down to Zero by itself alone. Isn’t the real goal saving the world, rather than just giving ourselves a feeling of extreme purity?
Rather than just emphasizing California funding its own research, we really need to maintain the US continuing its energy and environmental research and development.
Also not discussed was the necessity of ending wars and conflicts. They destroy cities, produce refugees, disrupt farming and food distribution, and create health problems that rapidly spread to the rest of the world. If we could take the money used for military equipment, deployment, and conflict, we would have a lot to make clean energy, and save the world.
We also have to act intelligently to avoid the situations where we have to pay for adaptation and suffering caused by climate change, which is always more pressing than mitigation.