Tag Archives: Energias renováveis

One policy accounts for a lot of the decarbonisation in Joe Biden’s climate plans (The Economist)

economist.com

As Democrats trim the legislation, they should focus on keeping it

Oct 12th 2021


TAKE A ROAD TRIP to Indianapolis, home to a certain two-and-a-half-mile race track, and you will find yourself in good company. A survey carried out before the pandemic found that about 85% of local commuters drive to work, alone. Standing on a bridge over 38th Street, which runs by the state fairground, you cannot escape the roar of six lanes of petrol-fired traffic below—and, reports a local, this is quiet compared with the noise on pre-virus days. Getting Americans to kick their addiction to fossil fuels will require many of these drivers to find another way of getting to work, and to move on from the flaming hydrocarbons celebrated at the city’s famous oval.

Joe Biden hopes to use what looks like a narrow window of Democratic control of Congress to encourage this transition. The last time lawmakers came close to writing climate legislation on anything like this scale was in 2009, when the Waxman-Markey bill, which would have established a trading system for greenhouse-gas emissions, was passed by the House. Since then, a Democratic White House has tried to nudge America to reduce emissions, by issuing new regulations, and a Republican White House has tried to undo them. That record illustrates what a delicate operation this is. Yet despite having a much weaker grip on Congress than Barack Obama had in the first year of his presidency, Mr Biden and his legislative allies have put forward a sweeping set of proposals for decarbonising America’s economy. These would promote everything from clean energy on the grid and electric vehicles on the road, to union jobs making green technologies and climate justice for left-behind communities.

Were this wish list passed in its entirety, which is unlikely, it would give a boost to Mr Biden’s pledge to reduce America’s emissions by roughly half from their 2005 level by 2030. A chart released by the office of Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s majority leader, suggests that implementing all of these provisions could reduce America’s emissions by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, thus achieving almost all of Mr Biden’s goal of cutting them by roughly half in that period (see chart 1). Passing a law, even a less expansive one, would allow Mr Biden to travel to the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November representing a country that is making progress towards internationally agreed goals, rather than asking for the patience of poorer, less technologically sophisticated countries while America sorts itself out.

Some of the Democratic proposals are in a $1trn infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. But most are found in a $3.5trn budget bill that, on account of Senate rules, can only pass through a partisan parliamentary manoeuvre known as reconciliation. This requires the assent of all 50 Democratic senators. The likeliest outcome is a compromise between Democratic progressives and moderates that yokes together the agreed infrastructure bill with a much slimmer version of the $3.5trn proposal. Yet it is possible that neither bill will become law.

This raises two questions. First, how good on climate can a salami-sliced version of Mr Biden’s agenda, the result of a negotiation between 270 Democratic members of Congress each angling for their constituents’ interests, really be? Second, how bad would it be for America’s decarbonisation efforts were both bills to fail?

Happily even reconciliation-lite could bring meaningful progress if key bits of the current proposals survive the negotiations. Paul Bledsoe of the Progressive Policy Institute, a think-tank, is confident a deal “likely a bit under $2trn” will happen this month. The Rhodium Group, an analysis firm, reckons that just six proposals would cut America’s emissions by nearly 1bn tonnes in 2030 compared with no new policies (see chart 2), about a sixth of America’s total net emissions per year. That is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions from all cars and pickup trucks on American roads, or the emissions of Florida and Texas combined. The six include proposals related to “natural carbon removal” (which involves spending on forests and soil), fossil fuels (making it more expensive to emit methane) and transport (a generous credit for buyers of electric vehicles).

The big prize, though, is the power sector. Two proposals for decarbonising the grid account for the lion’s share of likely emissions reductions: a new Clean Electricity Performance Programme (CEPP) and more mundane reforms to the tax credits received by clean energy. The CEPP has been touted by Mr Biden’s cabinet officials and leading progressives as a linchpin of the climate effort. It is loosely based on the mandatory clean electricity standards imposed by over two dozen states which have successfully boosted adoption of low-carbon energy.

The CEPP is flawed in a couple of ways, though. Because it has to be primarily a fiscal measure in order to squeeze through the reconciliation process it does not involve mandatory regulation, unlike those successful state energy standards. Rather, it uses (biggish) subsidies and (rather punier) penalty fees to try to nudge utilities to build more clean energy. It is politically vulnerable because it is seen as unfriendly to natural gas and coal (unless they have expensive add-on kit to capture and store related emissions). That has incurred the hostility of Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents coal-rich West Virginia, without whose approval the bill will fail. Some influential utility companies with coal assets, including Ohio-based American Electric Power, do not like it either.

Despite the attention paid to it, CEPP is actually less potent as a greenhouse-gas slayer than those boring tax credits, which are less controversial because they do not overtly penalise coal or gas. Two energy veterans, one at a top renewables lobbying outfit and the other at a fossil-heavy utility, agree that the tax credits would sharply boost investment in low-carbon technologies. That is because they improve the current set-up by replacing stop-go uncertainty with a predictable long-term tax regime, and make tax breaks “refundable” rather than needing to be offset against tax liabilities, meaning even utilities that do not have such tax liabilities can enjoy them as freely as cash in the bank.

Thus the obsession over the CEPP is overshadowing the real star proposal. The tax credits have “a huge impact potentially”, reckons Rhodium, accounting for over one-quarter of the greenhouse-gas emissions reductions in the legislation, at a cost of roughly $150bn over ten years. A former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts it bluntly: “Take the wind and solar tax credits at ten years if you had to choose—and let everything else go.”

What if Democrats fail, the negotiations fall apart and Mr Biden is left empty handed? That would be embarrassing. And it would perhaps make it difficult to pursue ambitious federal climate policies through Congress for years, just as the failure of Waxman-Markey in 2009 haunted lawmakers. However it would not mean America can do nothing at all about climate change.
First of all, as Mr Biden’s officials have already made clear, they stand ready to use regulations to push ahead on decarbonisation efforts, just as the Obama administration did. Last month the EPA issued rules cracking-down on emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, an especially powerful greenhouse gas. The administration also has plans for loan guarantees for energy innovations and for speeding-up approvals for offshore wind farms. Yet this is tinkering compared with the federal law being discussed, especially as new regulations will likely encounter legal challenges.

Even if the federal government fails again, states and cities have climate policies too. Drawing on analysis funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Leon Clarke of the University of Maryland calculates that decentralised policies emulating the current best efforts of states like California could achieve roughly one-quarter of Mr Biden’s objective. But this is a bad deal: such efforts would fall a long way short of the federal proposal in terms of emissions reduction, and what reductions they achieve would be more expensive than if done at the federal level. Still, it is not nothing. Last month, Illinois passed the country’s boldest climate-change law. Democratic states such as New York and California have green policies, but Republican states such as Texas and Indiana have big wind industries too.

While Mr Clarke says Congress has to act if America is to achieve Mr Biden’s targets, he believes that progress will continue even if Congress falters, because there is now a deeper sense of ownership of climate policy among local and state governments. “The Trump years really changed the way that subnationals in the US view climate action,” he says. “They can’t rely on the federal government.”

Change is happening in surprising places. Take that flyover in Indianapolis. The city’s officials have made it into a bike path that will be connected to 55 miles of commuter-friendly trails traversing the city. $100m has been allocated for building a bus-rapid transit system, which is a cheap and efficient substitute for underground rail, with more such rapid bus lines on the cards. Bloated 38th Street will undergo a “lane diet” with car and lorry traffic yielding two lanes to the buses. Come back in a few years and the view from the bridge will be quieter.

We’re Finally Catching a Break in the Climate Fight (The Crucial Years/Bill McKibben)

As a new Oxford paper shows, the incredibly rapid fall in the cost of renewables offers hope–but only if movements can push banks and politicians hard enough

Bill McKibben – Sep 19, 2021

This is one of the first solar panels and batteries ever installed, in the state of Georgia in 1955. At the time it was the most expensive power on earth; now it’s the cheapest, and still falling fast.

So far in the global warming era, we’ve caught precious few breaks. Certainly not from physics: the temperature has increased at the alarming pace that scientists predicted thirty years ago, and the effects of that warming have increased even faster than expected. (“Faster Than Expected” is probably the right title for a history of climate change so far; if you’re a connoisseur of disaster, there is already a blog by that name). The Arctic is melting decades ahead of schedule, and the sea rising on an accelerated schedule, and the forest fires of the science fiction future are burning this autumn. And we haven’t caught any breaks from our politics either: it’s moved with the lumbering defensiveness one would expect from a system ruled by inertia and vested interest. And so it is easy, and completely plausible, to despair: we are on the bleeding edge of existential destruction.

            But one trend is, finally, breaking in the right direction, and perhaps decisively. The price of renewable energy is now falling nearly as fast as heat and rainfall records, and in the process perhaps offering us one possible way out. The public debate hasn’t caught up to the new reality—Bill Gates, in his recent bestseller on energy and climate, laments the “green premium” that must be paid for clean energy. But he (and virtually every other mainstream energy observer) is already wrong—and they’re all about to be spectacularly wrong, if the latest evidence turns out to be right.

            Last Wednesday, a team at Oxford University released a fascinating paper that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. Stirringly titled “Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition,” it makes the following argument: “compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars–even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.” Short and muscular, the paper begins by pointing out that at the moment most energy technologies, from gas to solar, have converged on a price point of about $100 per megawatt hour. In the case of coal, gas, and oil, however, “after adjusting for inflation, prices now are very similar to what they were 140 years ago, and there is no obvious long-range trend.” Sun, wind, and batteries, however, have dropped exponentially at roughly ten percent a year for three decades. Solar power didn’t exist until the late 1950s; since that time it has dropped in price about three orders of magnitude.

            They note that all the forecasts over those years about how fast prices would drop were uniformly wrong, invariably underestimating by almost comic margins the drop in costs for renewable energy. This is a massive problem: “failing to appreciate cost improvement trajectories of renewables relative to fossil fuels not only leads to under-investment in critical emission reduction technologies, it also locks in higher cost energy infrastructure for decades to come.” That is, if economists don’t figure out that solar is going to get steadily cheaper, you’re going to waste big bucks building gas plants designed to last for decades. And indeed we have (and of course the cost of them is not the biggest problem; that would be the destruction of the planet.)

            Happily, the Oxford team demonstrates that there’s a much easier and more effective way to estimate future costs than the complicated calculations used in the past: basically, if you just figure out the historic rates of fall in the costs of renewable energy, you can project them forward into the future because the learning curve seems to keep on going. In their model, validated by thousands of runs using past data, by far the cheapest path for the future is a very fast transition to renewable energy: if you replace almost all fossil fuel use over the next twenty years, you save tens of trillions of dollars. (They also model the costs of using lots of nuclear power: it’s low in carbon but high in price).

            To repeat: the cost of fossil fuels is not falling; any technological learning curve for oil and gas is offset by the fact that we’ve already found the easy stuff, and now you must dig deeper. But the more solar and windpower you build, the more the price falls—because the price is only the cost of setting up the equipment, which we get better at all the time. The actual energy arrives every morning when the sun rises. This doesn’t mean it’s a miracle: you have to mine lithium and cobalt, you have to site windmills, and you have to try and do those things with as little damage as possible. But if it’s not a miracle, it’s something like a deus ex machina—and the point is that these machines are cheap.

            If we made policy with this fact in mind—if we pushed, as the new $3.5 trillion Senate bill does, for dramatic increases in renewable usage in short order, then we would not only be saving the planet, we’d be saving tons of money. That money would end up in our pockets—but it would be removed from the wallets of people who own oil wells and coal mines, which is precisely why the fossil fuel industry is working so hard to gum up the works, trying to slow down everything from electric cars to induction cooktops and using all their economic and political muscle to prolong the transition. Their economically outmoded system of energy generation can only be saved by political corruption, which sadly is the fossil fuel industry’s remaining specialty. So far the learning curve of their influence-peddling has been steep enough to keep carbon levels climbing.

            That’s why we need to pay attention to the only other piece of good news, the only other virtuous thing that’s happened faster than expected. And that’s been the growth of movements to take on the fossil fuel industry and push for change. If those keep growing—if enough of us divest and boycott and vote and march and go to jail—we may be able to push our politicians and our banks hard enough that they actually let us benefit from the remarkable fall in the price of renewable energy. Activists and engineers are often very different kinds of people—but their mostly unconscious alliance offers the only hope of even beginning to catch up with the runaway pace of global warming.

So if you’re a solar engineer working to drop the price of power ten percent a year, don’t you dare leave the lab—the rest of us will chip in to get you pizza and caffeine so you can keep on working. But if you’re not a solar engineer, then see you in the streets (perhaps at October’s ‘People vs Fossil Fuels’ demonstrations in DC). Because you’re the other half of this equation.

Mundo deverá quadruplicar energias renováveis até 2050 para conter mudanças climáticas (O Globo)

PUBLICADO 04 NOVEMBRO 2014.

9620

Novo relatório do IPCC afirma também que combustíveis fósseis precisarão ser ‘extintos’ até 2100. Combustíveis fósseis deveriam ser ‘extintos’ até 2100, segundo o IPCC

Copenhague – No capítulo final de uma pesquisa iniciada 13 meses atrás, o Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) desfilou uma saraivada de números que refletem o caótico aquecimento global. Segundo o estudo, divulgado ontem em Copenhague, a temperatura média na superfície da Terra aumentou 0,85 grau Celsius entre 1880 e 2012. A concentração de gases-estufa na atmosfera é a maior dos últimos 800 mil anos. As ondas de calor vão se tornar cada vez mais intensas e comuns, especialmente no Hemisfério Norte.

Se o mundo quiser evitar que as mudanças climáticas se tornem irreversíveis, o uso de combustíveis fósseis — o principal motor da economia mundial — deve ser zerado em 2100. Para isso, os países precisam quadruplicar o uso de energias renováveis até 2050. Ignorar este ultimato provocará danos “graves, generalizados e irreversíveis”.

Atualmente, os governos gastam cerca de US$ 600 bilhões por ano no subsídio ao consumo de carvão. Ao mesmo tempo, menos de US$ 400 bilhões são investidos por ano no mundo em políticas de redução de emissões ou em outra forma de enfrentar as mudanças climáticas. Segundo o “New York Times”, esta quantia é menor do que a receita de apenas uma petrolífera americana.

De acordo com o presidente do IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, os projetos de mitigação contra as mudanças climáticas custariam cerca de 0,06% do PIB mundial por ano até o fim do século. Estima-se que, no mesmo período, a economia internacional crescerá 300%.

— O custo da inércia será horrivelmente maior — assegura Rachauri. — Temos pouco tempo pela frente antes que passe a janela de oportunidade para o aumento de temperatura permanecer abaixo de 2 graus Celsius. Manter o atual modelo de crescimento não é uma opção para nós.

GOLPE NA ECONOMIA

Copresidente de um dos três grupos de trabalho do IPCC, Youba Sokona ressalta que há, no mínimo, 66% de chances de a temperatura global aumentar mais de 2 graus Celsius até 2100, caso a queima de combustíveis fósseis continue no ritmo atual.

— A transição para uma economia com baixo teor de carbono é tecnicamente viável — destaca. — Mas faltam políticas e instituições apropriadas. Quanto mais esperarmos para agir, maior será o custo para mitigação e adaptação.

A liberação de gases-estufa segue em escalada nas últimas décadas. Cerca de metade das emissões de CO2 da era industrial ocorreu nos últimos 40 anos. Com isso, o cenário mais provável é que a temperatura média global ultrapasse os 4 graus Celsius até 2100. Atingir esta marca significa “dificultar a redução da pobreza (…) e corroer a segurança alimentar”, diz o estudo.

Entre 1901 e 2010, o nível do mar aumentou 0,19 centímetro — um valor maior do que nos 2 mil anos anteriores. Se os termômetros continuarem crescendo, em 2050 o gelo do Oceano Ártico terá praticamente desaparecido nos meses de setembro. Até o fim do século, o nível do mar pode aumentar 82 centímetros. Há previsões de grandes enchentes e desaparecimento de países insulares e cidades costeiras.

A mudança do regime de chuvas, a absorção de gases-estufa pelo oceano e o derretimento de geleiras vão afetar a disponibilidade de alimentos para as espécies marinhas. Sua migração também prejudicará a indústria pesqueira.

O calor também afetará o rendimento de safras de trigo, arroz, milho e soja. Estes recursos são a base da economia de países em desenvolvimento. Suas populações, as mais atingidas por eventos extremos, devem migrar para outras regiões. A chegada dos refugiados climáticos aumentará a desigualdade social e a possibilidade de conflitos violentos.

Esta descrição foi atenuada na redação final do relatório. O documento original, editado durante a semana, afirmava que a migração em massa de populações provocaria conflitos violentos “na forma de guerra civil”.

Segundo o Banco Mundial, a comunidade internacional precisará investir entre US$ 1 trilhão e US$ 1,5 trilhão por ano para ajustar sua infraestrutura ao perigo representado pelas mudanças climáticas.

— O impacto das mudanças climáticas será muito diferente em cada país. Por isso é tão difícil estimá-lo — admite a economista Stéphane Hallegatte, coautora do relatório do IPCC. — Eles precisam de dinheiro para desenvolver a tecnologia ecológica, defesa costeira, planos de mitigação e adaptação e gestão de risco de desastres.

Pachauri lembra que as nações mais vulneráveis contribuem pouco para as emissões de gases-estufa. Por isso, atacar o problema torna-se responsabilidade de todos os governos:

— Enfrentar o aquecimento global não será possível se cada agente pensar apenas em seu plano. Precisamos de cooperação entre os países para alcançar nossos objetivos.

FALTA DE ACORDO GLOBAL

O relatório do IPCC, que está em sua quinta edição, deve servir como base para as discussões da Conferência do Clima de Lima, em dezembro deste ano. As esperanças, porém, estão concentradas na edição do ano que vem do encontro, em Paris. Espera-se que este fórum resulte em um acordo global contra as mudanças climáticas. Havia a mesma expectativa em Copenhague, em 2009, quando o debate foi pautado pelo quarto documento do IPCC.

— Tivemos uma conversa extensa há cinco anos, mas, olhando para trás, talvez os líderes mundiais não estivessem tão preparados para discutir o clima — admite o secretário-geral da ONU, Ban ki-Moon. — Eles precisam agir. O tempo não está ao nosso lado.

Não é tão simples assim. O combate às mudanças climáticas é marcado por desentendimentos. Países em desenvolvimento se recusam a aceitar metas para reduzir emissões de CO2 — exigência imposta pelas nações desenvolvidas.

Em setembro, Ban ki-Moon organizou uma Cúpula do Clima na ONU, em uma tentativa de antecipar as discussões previstas para os fóruns ambientais. No encontro foi apresentada a Declaração de Nova York, um documento que propunha a redução pela metade do corte de florestas até 2020 e zerá-lo na década seguinte. Com esta medida, entre 4,5 bilhões e 8,8 bilhões de toneladas de CO2 deixariam de ser liberadas para a atmosfera — o equivalente à remoção de um bilhão de carros das ruas até 2030. Brasil, Índia e China, que estão entre os maiores desmatadores do mundo, recusaram-se a assinar o acordo.

A China, maior poluidora do planeta, comprometeu-se apenas a divulgar quando atingirá o pico de suas emissões — o que deve ocorrer antes de 2030. Os EUA limitam-se a cobrar projetos da potência asiática. A União Europeia e o Brasil estabeleceram metas voluntárias — ou seja, sem valor legal. A Índia, que será a nação mais populosa do mundo daqui a menos de 20 anos, luta para ser definida como país em desenvolvimento, um sinal de que não pretende assumir objetivos.

DISCUSSÕES MADRUGADA ADENTRO

Pachauri, porém, acredita que o novo relatório pode virar o jogo. De acordo com ele, o documento apresentado ontem é “o mais forte e robusto” já produzido pelo IPCC. Para especialistas, o maior objetivo foi cumprido: enfatizar como a ação humana interfere na temperatura do planeta, tese muito contestada poucos anos atrás.

Vice-presidente do IPCC, Suzana Kahn avalia que o relatório final foi mais “claro e objetivo” do que os documentos escritos nos últimos meses pelos grupos de trabalho. Suzana, porém, acredita que os números do IPCC não mudarão facilmente o posicionamento dos governos nas negociações internacionais.

— Os países permanecem com suas posições históricas já consolidadas — afirma Suzana, uma das responsáveis por resumir o relatório original, que tinha 175 páginas, no divulgado ontem, com 40 páginas. — Para fazer isso, foi uma dificuldade. Imagine, então, na negociação propriamente dita. Tanto que, em vez de encerrarmos as discussões na sexta-feira, às 18h, elas só foram fechadas no sábado, às 16h, e precisamos debater todas as madrugadas. Ou seja, tudo foi marcado por pouca disposição de cooperação.

Os climatologistas ressaltam que, mesmo se todas as medidas de mitigação e adaptação forem tomadas, os estragos provocados pelo homem no clima serão visíveis no próximo século, já que as alterações feitas em biomas, geleiras e o acúmulo de carbono nos oceanos não serão remediadas imediatamente. O meio ambiente tem seu próprio tempo. E, para assegurá-lo, o ser humano corre contra o relógio.

Fonte: GVces / O Globo.