us-largest-coal-fired-power-plant-890_westvirginia-890x500
It used to be that power plants caused a lot of pollution, and coal-fired plants in 2011 contributed to 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year.   As reported in Bloomberg News today it is cars, trucks, planes and boats that are the biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution
So how did that happen? While electricity use has not declined, it is now being generated from cleaner sources, most notably by the decline in using coal power. Coal has declined as a source by 33 per cent in the last decade, while natural gas usage has increased by 60 per cent. It is the clean up of the power sources for the electricity grid which has made the major change.
Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, planes and boats exceeded that of electrical production in 2016, and has continued to widen.While cars are more efficient, the United States is considering under the Trump administration “rolling back the toughest fuel-efficiency standards, which are set to take effect in the early 2020s.”
The development of electric cars and the continuing decline in the price of battery packs will eventually impact emissions. It is expected that by the mid 2020’s electric cars will be the standard for reliability and convenience than the gasoline-powered equivalents. And here is where it gets interesting~”When the electrification of the U.S. auto fleet begins in earnest, pollution from the two biggest energy sectors—electricity and transportation—may ultimately converge. Those electric cars are going draw their power from the grid.”
ITC- Clean Power Plan Infographic_4
 
 

Comments

  1. Note: while coal is the dirtiest source of power, natural gas still produces quite a bit of GHG pollution.
    Coal emits about 1000 kg/MWh, and natural gas about 500 kg/MWh.
    Compare to wind, nuclear, solar, and hydro, which are all at least 90% better than gas.

    1. So, why the massive resistance to Site C dam ? Where’s the nuclear debate in Canada? Where’s the Canadian discussion about more hybrid cars as a realistic alternative to EVs until EVs are cheap enough, grid robust enough and distances long enough to be mainstream?
      To wit: when we switched to a hybrid car about two and a half years ago our fuel consumption in the city where 80-90% of the driving time takes place dropped by half, without compromising convenience or distance.
      Germany’s wind and solar strategy should NOT be used as an example https://stopthesethings.com/2017/12/18/wind-powered-germans-reduced-to-candles-grid-on-the-brink-of-collapse-172000-power-outages-in-2016-worse-to-come/

      1. Site C is a complicated beast. The opposition comes from a variety of angles, including cost and impacts to land and indigenous people.
        The nuclear debate is buried in cost over-runs.
        Congratulations on getting a hybrid car. This is the type of decision that is incented by a carbon price, so luckily we are moving in that direction as a country (and BC has been there for some time).
        Germany’s Energiewende has its advantages and disadvantages, and we should learn from all of it. Smarter people than you and me are doing that.

        1. An important thing to note with the Energiewende is that they’ve had to boot their coal-fired plants back up to compensate for shutting down their nuclear plants – wind and solar couldn’t quite cover the loss. We’re gonna need small-scale AND big-scale energy projects to go carbon-free.

        2. My understanding is that the original Energiewende included nuclear until Fukushima. Then the Green Party incoherently threatened their coalition with the ruling party if nuclear wasn’t shut down after the fact. This move was based on fear and not on the science or observations about human error and flawed decisions about safety. At best, Fukushima should have caused the industry and government to conduct additional safety audits and corrective measures.
          The coal industry has killed hundreds of millions worldwide over the past 200 years. Nuclear? Hard to find any science-based data that is even a tiny fraction of that. But man, the conjecture, fearmongering and exaggerated reporting know no bounds. The EU Green Party believes in science when it comes to climate change. But that belief is substituted by fear and conspiracy theories when it comes to nuclear power, which is tangled up with the Bomb in the narrative. Between the fearmongering and legitimate concerns over cost, nuclear doesn’t seem to be part of the constellation of actions to fight climate change even though I could be one of the most powerful tools to decarbonize energy.
          This is why we are so lucky that other renewables like wind and solar have now become economically viable. The biggest problem isn’t with the cost of conversion per watt to renewables, but how to scale them. Renewables are quite apropos for decentralized home or neighbourhood-scale applications, which dovetails with local conservation efforts. But the regional utility company does suffer from a lack of revenue when ratepayers go off grid by putting PV panels on their roofs. Policies have to be perfected to now allow a fair two-way power exchange between the home and the grid.
          The effort could turn toward balancing the local with the regional. So large low-emission industries could receive regional-scale clean power, whereas buildings, neighbourhoods and towns could go off-grid, or trade power with the grid. Both have to work toward being cost effective but also to at least break even. That’s a tough nut to crack when intermittency complicates it, so things like district energy storage (e.g. warehouses with lithium battery packs) may become the power balancing technology of choice.
          This is already being done in Toronto.

        3. “The coal industry has killed hundreds of millions worldwide over the past 200 years. Nuclear? Hard to find any science-based data that is even a tiny fraction of that.”
          Not really fair to compare one terrible energy source whose biggest damage may soon be behind us with another whose effects will last tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. We know and can predict with some accuracy the likely harm of coal. But nuclear waste is the gift that keeps on giving… and giving.
          And giving.
          If normal planetary cycles of warm and cold recover after our short-term-but-radical-interference, an ice age or two will have come and gone before the radioactive waste has become inert.
          How likely is it that our disposal will be safe over that time? How do we communicate the danger to people who will re-inhabit a place that has been buried under ice for thousands of years?
          Nuclear can not be a moral choice for energy, any more than coal, until we have devised a system that leaves no radioactive material. If we do. Great. Until then no new nuclear plants should be built and we must wind down the current plants in an orderly but determined way.

        4. One word: thorium. It’s only a fraction as radioactive as uranium, harder to weaponize, and is definitely more abundant – in fact, Canada’s sitting on much of it.

        5. Ron, space and time don’t permit an adequate response that describes fourth generation nuclear. Justin brings up thorium, and that’s a big part of it. Suffice to say that a small modular next generation plant can be built adjacent to our last generation nuclear plants and consume the spent uranium waste over and over until it is recycled into a slightly radioactive glass, which can then be safely buried. The spent uranium currently stored in deep pools of water at the existing plants would supply several decades of abundant energy.
          Having said this, the two greatest stumbling blocks to next gen nuclear is the cost of R&D and implementation (especially in relation to cheap renewables that afford decentralized power), and the narrative based on fear and a lack of knowledge which make them politically impossible.

        6. Alex, the public’s fear of nuclear is based on reality. But as I made clear in my last paragraph, if you can make nuclear safe then go for it. There are few who would be opposed to nuclear if it didn’t come with the real dangers that have plagued it so far. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the potential to use spent fuel as feedstock and clean it at the same time. Awesome. Get one up and running and you’ve changed the conversation entirely. But don’t build any more conventional plants and get serious about winding down the existing ones.
          And let’s have a little honesty about “slightly radioactive glass”. Does that mean it’s only dangerous for ten thousand years? Who takes responsibility for it until it’s truly safe? How can you make future generations responsible for our decisions?

        7. Okay Ron. How about a little honest research?
          There is something like 65,000 tonnes of highly radioactive plutonium and uranium waste currently stored at US nuclear power plants. This waste is super-radioactive and the most powerful stuff has a half-life in the range of 250,000 years. The best solution offered so far is, laughably, long-term deep bury. Like that will actually be viable throughout the next million years of human and geological history to achieve a 15/16ths reduction of toxicity.
          Something has to be done to diminish the waste today. The Greens and pro-renewable community don’t seem to have any answers to this dilemma, and prefer to ignore the existing waste issue by promoting replacement of any future nuclear option, ironically by drawing attention to the existing waste! And in doing so some countries have resorted to killing more of their own citizens by burning the dirtiest thermal coal.
          In addition, the fearmongering about low level radioactivity continues by educated people often with decent health and dental benefits where they willingly subject themselves to much higher does of radioactivity via a biannual exposure to cobalt in their dentist office x-ray machines. And much, much higher does through CAT scans when undergoing medical tests.
          There is research occurring that considers fourth generation nuclear (smaller, cheaper modular design) that burns the waste products from the existing second generation plants over and over again. Thorium itself produces waste products with orders of magnitude less radioactivity than existing and a half life of hundreds — not thousands — of years that are low enough to be safely managed in burial sites.
          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0029549303000347
          Here in BC we don’t have to worry about these things. But Ontario has a large nuclear power industry with hundreds of tonnes of spent uranium waste stored in tanks of water at each plant.
          Is the solution to leave the waste alone until the tanks inevitably start to leak after only 1/500th of the half life has been spent? Or to try to fund solutions that burn this waste down to a tiny fraction of its current toxicity while also generating more zero-emission energy and developing more affordable and far less troublesome nuclear energy?
          Take your pick.

        8. Alex, as I’ve repeated, I’m not opposed to nuclear if it can be done safely. I can be convinced that a few hundred year storage problem is within an acceptable range. And who’d be against cleaning old waste in the process? I’ve since done a little more research myself. It sounds promising – and yet here we are. If this is such a panacea and, supposedly already proven with similar fuels, why aren’t they proliferating? There must be more to it than irrational fear. Therefore I’m skeptical of the sales pitch I’ve heard so far.
          Interestingly though, if the cheerleaders are correct, it raises another scary scenario: near limitless cheap energy. I can only imagine the acceleration of global degradation that that might enable. We already have an almost impossible task to convince people to restrain themselves and conserve while energy is relatively expensive. We might solve the energy problem and seal the fate of the biosphere. It took over a generation for the near unanimous scientific consensus of AGW to resonate with the masses and we still have a huge minority of supposedly educated and definitely powerful people in denial or pretending to be. People who care about our fragile environment continue to be targets in the sights of powerful forces who control “the truth”. Imagine how much damage could be done if we don’t have a reliable braking system in place before such abundant energy is commonly available.

      2. As a current resident of Germany, I’ve experienced a single power outage in six years, compared to regular outages in Canada. Frankly, the link you’ve provided is, as the Germans say, “Quatsch.” A.k.a. nonsense.
        I think any website that claims to tell “The Truth About the Great Wind Power Fraud” is not a reliable source on anything, especially wind power.

  2. That will leave planes and boats as the big polluters. Who is cancelling their next vacation or conference in protest?
    PS The Bloomberg link is misdirected, it goes to an article about the suspicious death of Barry and Honey Sherman.

    1. Many people who understand the severity of the problem have chosen to fly less and some to stop altogether. That’s a tough choice and I respect those who do rather than making flippant remarks.
      I’ve chosen to fly 1/3 as often as I used to and make my trips 3 times longer. I avoid connecting flights and take the train or bike instead.The experience is better than those quicky trips where you don’t have time to get into the rhythm of a place. The trips become meaningful instead of a check mark on the bucket list.
      Not everyone can do this, but why not consider it if you can?

      1. Good for you.
        Yet the political hypocricy abounds. In contrast, our Liberal government want to increase significantly the number of CO2 emitting immigrants, jets to Paris wit the biggest congregation ever, or to China promoting tourism ie more air travel to Canada, while at the same time pretending to reduce CO2 emissions at home to pre 2000 levels.
        Also, no one ever mentions the VAST forests we have in Canada that makes Canada one of the world’s largest carbon sinks.
        Given our cold climate global warming, especially as it is achieved through higher taxation, is not a priority for most Canadians.

        1. It will be a priority when our VAST forests burn up and release more carbon and millions of climate refugees storm our borders whether we accept them or not. Completely naive to think that those suffering in increasingly inhospitable places won’t migrate to where it’s still liveable… for a while.
          This is a global problem. It doesn’t end at our border.
          Yes, there is hypocrisy out there. Promoting the tar sands and more pipelines is the epitome.

        2. Almost 100M vehicles are produced annually. 1B+ roams the streets worldwide driving progress. Tell the 6B+ Asians, S-Americans or Africans where most of the growth happens to stop using them. If we don’t supply oil someone else will.
          The BENEFITS for massive human progress worldwide, especially in Asia and elsewhere like Africa or S-America due to cheap energy and cheap human/good transportation needs to be seen in light of its environmental impact.
          Burning coal without filters is pretty bad. Burning diesel in Vancouver city buses (and trucks or boats) is right up there. Fuel efficient cars, hybrids or EVs in cities all make sense, but their production too have massive environmental impact, not necessarily better than building smaller, fuel efficient cars.
          We could use Site C’s surplus capacity for the next 20 to 30 years to steam oil out of oilsands in Fort MacMurray or Cold Lake, AB. yet, it gets opposed because we allegedly trample on some native land or flood some tertiary farmland in the middle of nowhere.
          Reducing or crippling Canada’s economy has negative impacts on salaries and benefits paid to all. Who wants that ? Who in the civil servants sector wants to go first and take a 30% salary cut or who wants a 15% unemployment rate and falling house prices in Canada ? Why do we oppose oil projects but subsidize the car industry in Ontario or the plane factories in Quebec ? Sounds hypocritical to me.
          Deleted as per editorial policy.

        3. Nobody wins on a fried planet. It’s been shown repeatedly that you can have more and better jobs as we transition off of fossil fuels. Only fossil fools think we need to keep doing things the same way. Conservatives have no imagination. Progressive progress.

        4. Thomas, just because you keep repeating your myths does not make them true.
          – You mention cost of addressing global warming but in BC there is no cost – carbon levy is revenue neutral.
          – And you don-t recognize the costs of global warming. For example, fires in California this year produced more than $1 billion in damage. Would you rather pay escalating costs or work toward eliminating these costs?
          – you are against high taxes, but when I compare Canada against tiny Denmark, I see the following:
          STAT
          Canada
          Denmark
          HISTORY
          Cost of living > Average monthly disposable salary > After tax $2,773.50
          Ranked 24th. $3,269.62
          Ranked 11th. 18% more than Canada
          Crime > Crime levels 39.03
          Ranked 53th. 67% more than Denmark 23.44
          Ranked 78th.
          Crime > Murder rate 2.05 1.01

        5. “Give me clean, beautiful, healthy air…”, Trump says. Typical Trump. Who wouldn’t want clean air given to them. Does he make any effort toward that goal?
          His actions tell the story. Even if you’re still fool enough to think AGW isn’t for real you don’t get clean air by promoting coal and undoing policies designed to clean the air of all pollutants.
          You, Mr. Beyer, are a sucker for your ideologies. Start thinking critically and your opinions evaporate into hot air. Who do you think are you fooling besides yourself?
          The Church couldn’t deal with Earth orbiting the Sun because it threatened their power. The modern Church of Conservative Capitalism can’t deal with AGW for the same reason. I can just picture you in your robe on the church steps loudly condemning Galileo.

        1. Also note: almost no immigration ( and getting tougher https://www.thelocal.dk/20160831/denmark-is-locking-every-door-to-immigrants ) and a 20 degree temperature range from 5 to 25. Hardly like Canada, which is a vast, sparsely populated country of immigrants Almost 50% of their electricity is from coal, btw, or imported, as it is not always windy.
          Yes, some folks prefer this governance style but I wonder if it is appropriate for vast Canada or even mountainous BC ? Tough to cycle to Toronto or even Kelowna from Vancouver. Different CO2 Emission – the topic of this post – if we squeezed all of BC onto Vancouver Island and removed the mountains there, too.

        2. BC, like Canada is vast. BC has 100 times the size of Denmark with a slightly smaller population. Driving a car is often the only viable option in BC to get around. This is vastly different than flat, temperate Denmark where half the country lives in the Copenhagen region. Hence, different CO2 implication for driving alone, let alone heating. Also often windy so wind turbines make economic sense, although I must say they look rather ugly when I was there last two years ago. Thump thump thump is not good for birds, bats or property values. Not a model for Canada or even BC or even MetroVan to follow.
          The bike lanes are nice and we see some of it here now, but again it is hilly and actually snowy in MetroVan, and as such biking, llike today in the snow, not so common as in Denmark where snow is as rare as mountains !
          deleted as per editorial policy. please read policy

        3. Norway has almost no immigration, like Japan. It lives off its vast oil reserves and thus decided to bank almost $1T, just as Alberta could have done if it were its own country with no immigration and no GST, CPP, EI and income raiding federal government. Its oil is running dry, so of course they better start saving and conserving it.
          Over 50% of the only 4M people in Norway live in the Oslo region, easily drivable with an EV. Much hydro power too. As such, similar to BC where 60% or so lives in MetroVan. So, where’s our EV plan? Site C would come in handy here for it.
          Taxation already quite similar to BC, with very high income, booze and consumption taxes.
          Sweden attracts very few upwardly mobile (aka wealthy and/or highly educated and/or motivated) immigrants – UNLIKE CANADA ! As such, if you tax incomes even more, Canada becomes less attractive to work and invest in. Better to tax real estate more, and incomes far far less, like booming and job creating TX or WA state !
          Can’t wait for the day when ICE cars are disallowed in downtown Vancouver and only EVs or hybrids in EV mode are allowed. When will that be ?

        4. There is a plan afoot for Norway to export its hydro power to the EU via an undersea cable to Scotland. There has also been talk, but no action yet that I am aware of, for Iceland to export geothermal electricity to the EU in a similar fashion.
          Copenhagen does derive some of its power needs through burning coal, which is greatly complemented by wind. But the coal plants also provide abundant heat cogeneration that offsets a huge amount of building and district heating requirements. Perfect? No. But better than adding building heating with gas on a mass scale.
          The Geological Survey of Canada calculated that the amount of geothermal potential (both shallow hot rocks and deep bore) is about one million times greater than the nation’s entire current energy consumption.
          And here they are pushing pipelines through residential areas over the heads of municipalities and their bylaws. Someone should file a constitutional grievance.

        5. So, if geothermal is so great, why do we see so little of it in Canada ? There must be a technical, cost, distribution or taxation reason for it. What is it?
          Energy firms are not stupid, full of clever & hardworking business people and engineers usually, and if they could deliver electricity cheaper or cleaner from a bunch of pipes stuck deep into the earth then they would do it. But they do not. Why not ?
          I’ve seen it in NZ on my last trip there, but geothermal activity is close to the surface as it’s a very volcanic country. Ditto Iceland. But where in Canada does it make sense. Why is it not done on a large scale ?

        6. “This is vastly different than flat, temperate Denmark where half the country lives in the Copenhagen region.”
          Again, I’ll point out that most of Canada’s population is concentrated along the 49th parallel. It doesn’t matter how vast your tracts of land, if there’s no one living there, there’s no need to run, infrastructure, a subway or even wobbly buses to that area.

        7. Seriously, Chris ? No one drives from Vancouver to Kelowna or Kamloops ? Or even to Alberta ? Or trucks or trains goods from Vancouver harbors to Toronto ?
          The distances are VAST .. and as such different transportation modes create a different CO2 footprint. Airplanes or trucks or even trains create more CO2 than a Copenhagen bike. E-Trucks not yet feasible over the Coquihalla to Kelowna or Calgary. Even EVs questionable and not yet feasible for your average family of 4-5 visiting grandma in a $30,000 mini-van.
          Also, colder in Canada so heating hoes at -40 a necessity. Gas is best for that in teh prairies, not electricity (or coal).
          Climate, population density AND SPACE matters.
          Love to hear more on geothermal though ..

        8. Have no idea what you are on about now. The bottom line is that our population is concentrated in a narrow band in temperate zone. Much of it flat. Your assertion that Canada is very unlike Denmark doesn’t ring true. End of story. Admit the error and move on, instead of constantly changing the topic and misrepresenting others comments.

        9. Canada and Denmark are largely flat countries with similar temperature profiles in the areas where most people live, which is in or near cities along the 49th parallel (for Canada). They are similar enough that the original claim by Beyer (vastly different) doesn’t hold true in geographic terms.
          All this fretting about elevation changes. Y’all must be cyclists.

        10. Thomas, just because geothermal remains a huge potential doesn’t mean that the vested interests and their government cheerleaders will fund the R&D. At least not in any significant way yet, though some jurisdictions are starting to, including Alberta with other renewables.
          There also has to be a market demand for geothermal power, and that may come from some smart officials deciding to tie the stable baseload power to new industry in some locations with special policies (patents for low-emission cement and steel anybody?).
          The key here is developing new renewables like this and incrementally integrating them into the grid that meets economic objectives of a decent return on the investment, with the additional objective of lowering production costs. Wind and solar are already there. Geothermal and tidal are waiting in the wings.

        11. So, Alex, why one Site C at $10B and not one pilot geothermal plant at $1B and then replicate it 10 times ? Like to see some coherent arguments why this wasn’t done. BC Hydro is full of smart engineers and business folks. Confirmation bias ie “if in doubt, go hydro” ?
          @ Chris: if you take a drive to Calgary from Vancouver, you’ll note: very mountainous. NOT at all like Denmark. Especially in winter. Quite a bit colder. Snow. 100s of km ith hardly any people. Vaster distances to cover the same 4M to 5M people or so ! 1000 km .. not just 100km of flat above zero terrain. Not quite bike, e-bike or even EV territory. Hence: more CO2 based fuels required.

        12. Keep driving. Gets awful flat for a long time.
          You are arguing that short haul flights are the future for medium distances in one breath and barracking for more roads and auto infrastructure in the next. The taxpayer doesn’t have bottomless pockets for all this stuff as you are so keen to remind us.

        13. @Chris: Les not confuse what works for denser parts of MetroVan with what works for the rest of vast BC. Plane or car is the way to go here for generations. Anything else is just make-believe. Would love to have a 500 km/h bullet train to Calgary with a stop in Kelowna. Since the economic don’t work people fly, or drive. Meanwhile in MetroVan we still rely on diesel buses although e-buses or gas buses now exist. But is the populace willing to pay 50% more, say $3.30 rather than $2.20 today for a cleaner ride?
          Merry Christmas

        14. Thomas, high-speed rail competes with short and medium-haul flights all over the world. Bullet trains have been around for 50 years in Japan. You don’t need eighteen cities lined up in a row each with 10 million population to make HSR feasible. The ultra-flat landscape of Calgary-Edmonton-Saskatoon-Regina-Winnipeg would be cheap to build rail on and serve about five million people, twice as much with a branch to Chicago. Vancouver-Seattle would serve about seven million. Windsor-Montreal about 13 million, and orders of magnitude more by linking to New York and the eastern seaboard through Buffalo (from the GTA) and Vermont (from Montreal).
          In effect, building HSR in non-mountainous regions would not break the bank and would probably be at par or better than the cost of air travel infrastructure, but would greatly reduce medium-haul flight all over and cause a large drop in the nation’s GHG emission level.
          The world is starting to limit carbon emissions and carbon taxes are coming all over, or have already arrived. Knowing the price history of fossil fuels, cheap aviation fuel is not guaranteed. If carbon taxes don’t take a chunk out of flight, the cost of fuel may.

  3. What the posted stats ignore is that almost all of the CO2 “savings” from switching to gas from coal in US electricity production are cancelled out by the CH4 (methane) produced during the fracking process. CH4 is many, many times more dangerous than CO2, though it does dissipate faster, but not nearly fast enough to avoid great damage for decades. This is why it’s very important to look at the complete life cycle of energy production and consumption.
    Fracking the shale formations is also wrought with terrible economics (most companies survive on continually turning over high debt loads), significant environmental impacts, and most importantly, atrocious decline rates, as much as 90% after one year in many wells, or 53% overall in all US shale plays (Hughes 2014). That means drilling more and more just to stay in place regarding production, followed by a sudden drop-off. This is known as the Red Queen.
    These three elements are rarely discussed openly in the fossil fuel industry except by independent analysts like Kurt Cobb, Arthur Berman and David Hughes, and by journalists like Richard Heinberg. Based on their calculations the US fracked oil and gas industry will enter a steep production decline before 2020, or possibly extending into the early part of next decade at best. The writing is in the wall.
    The question is: Who is paying attention?

  4. Thomas brings up immigration as though that alone will cause a huge increase in emissions. Of course, that depends on the per capita emissions rate already in place, and in Canada the highest emission rates occur in suburbia, not the hinterlands, and inside our urban homes and businesses.
    Land transportation and building heating in our cities account for about 2/3rds of Canada’s emissions, according to Doug Saunders’ well-researched book ‘Maximum Canada.’ It stands to reason that lowering the per capita emission rates by building high-efficiency electricity-based transit powered largely from renewables (including hydro), followed by planning and urban design initiatives to foster Transit Oriented Development and Smart Growth, then rewriting the Building Code sections on energy consumption with a focus on building and neighbourhood-level conservation, will bring about enough of an overall decrease in emissions to accommodate a renewed immigration intake and an uptick in economic performance with room to spare. Encouraging immigrants to start businesses in their communities and attain higher education within their youthful generations will guarantee an increase in Canada’s economic performance within urbanized suburbs.
    Conservatives seem to harp too much on waste and inefficiency within governments. Perhaps they would get more bang for their buck – literally — by turning their attention to the egregious levels of the overall energy waste and inefficiency within our own cities.

  5. “if they could deliver electricity cheaper or cleaner from a bunch of pipes stuck deep into the earth then they would do it. But they do not. Why not ?”
    Embedded costs of pre-existing facilities. If you can profit from one way of doing things why would you build a whole new set of facilities etc before you have extracted every cent of value from the existing infrastructure.
    This is basic capitalism. Surprised it has to be explained to anyone on this blog.
    https://www.desmog.ca/2014/02/26/top-5-reasons-why-geothermal-power-nowhere-canada

    1. However, basic capitalism doesn’t explain the huge subsidies the fossil industries have been given by supportive governments for generations. Nor does it rationalize Desmog’s Reason #5, the advent of a price on carbon.
      We will see where the Trudeau government goes with the latter. A national carbon tax has been on the show & tell circuit for a couple of years now. Meanwhile they have incoherently approved pipelines via a flawed economic rationale while in the same breath tying that to fighting climate change. The trouble is that both efforts so far have generated grave concerns regarding their success, the first on obtaining a higher price on shipping inferior bitumen long distances to Asian markets (they have yet to explain how the high costs of shipping and additional refining will be factored in) and the CT suffering from yet another year’s delay that puts its implementation in an election year where Trudeau / McKenna will have to fight the good fight with the CT as a central election plank, or suck up to Alberta and continue delaying despite the contradictory rhetoric.
      On geothermal, there are already thousands of geo-exchange systems used for building heating and cooling all over the country. This is a shallower, non-power generating form of geothermal, but it does demonstrate that the economics of the small scale works with an energy savings payback period of under 10 years. The costs of geothermal are in the up-front capital, and the deep savings manifest themselves in long-term operating savings, namely in not having to buy any fuel.
      If tiny Iceland was underlain by oil and gas reserves then it may not have developed its geothermal resource to such a mature extent for the same reasons Canada hasn’t. But I still think there are markets out there for Canadian products made with clean power if not direct power sales to the US. There is also great potential to tie new R&D into geothermal with the development of a national smart grid that ships power across the country while taking advantage of the differential of peak and non-peak rates. The grid would use low-resistance DC cables to minimize losses to about 3% per 1,000 km.

      1. “However, basic capitalism doesn’t explain the huge subsidies the fossil industries have been given by supportive governments for generations.”
        Arguably, huge subsidies is a feature of basic capitalism. 🙂
        But you know, Thomas is skeptical so it must not be true. Like climate change.

        1. EVs don’t crash, Chris ? Let’s not confuse traffic jams with “fossil” fuel subsidies. As such, the IMF’s view on “subsidies” is laughable.
          You’d prefer sailboats or rowboats only? 200+ years ago shippers discovered coal driven steam engines, later oil based. Ditto for rail. North-America in its current form would not exist without coal (or later, oil & gas based engines and heating systems) !
          Shivering in the woods or bleak prairies in N-Europe, US or Canada without coal, later gas or oil heating is preferred ? The pace of human progress accelerated vastly with coal, then with oil & gas. Eventually we will be only electric but that will be quite a while in vast cold countries like Canada, N-China, N-USA, N-Europe etc as not every technology used in or advocated by the center of Canada’s green movement – temperate MetroVan, S-Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands – is appropriate for the rest of BC or Canada !
          Many myth about alleged oil&gas subsidies abound. Here’s some more debunking of these alleged oil&gas “subsidies” – 3 articles
          This author of this study http://www.iedm.org/files/note0414_en.pdf concludes: “All of these subsidies, totalling $71 million in direct expenses, represent a relatively small amount of money considering that in recent years, the different governments across Canada have collected $18 billion a year on average in taxes and royalties from oil and natural gas exploration, development and production activities. They also constitute a tiny fraction of the subsidies handed out by the federal and provincial governments to various sectors of the economy, which amounted to $15.8 billion in 2009. …
          An analysis of oil industry subsidies leads us to conclude that these amount to approximately $211 million this year. The gradual elimination of the two largest programs starting in 2011-2012, however, means that only some $71 million will remain as of 2016, which is a tiny amount relative to the size of the industry. In sum, the Canadian oil industry therefore receives very little in the way of subsidies. ”
          (This article here is US only .. Canada would be similar .. but only 1/3 to 1/10th of the US “subsidy” figures): https://www.forbes.com/sites/drillinginfo/2016/02/22/debunking-myths-about-federal-oil-gas-subsidies
          More Canadian oil&gas subsidy “subsidies” debunking here http://business.financialpost.com/opinion/imfs-imagined-34-billion-silly-stats-are-behind-claims-that-canada-subsidizes-oil-industry
          Merry Christmas. Imagine you’d live in SK, AB or ON. Shivering in the cold without gas heated homes/condos/apartments is preferred ?

        2. “You’d prefer sailboats or rowboats only?”
          Total straw man response. No one is suggesting we go backwards in terms of technology. Quite the opposite in fact.
          Nor is there (in my comments anyway) a complete rejection of the benefits of fossil fuels. Again quite the opposite. I consider them to be far too valuable to be squandered on an over-emphasis on personal mobility or facilitating suburban sprawl. It’s an absolute slap in the face to our children and grandchildren to beggar them of easily accessible, energy dense fuels in the current manner. To promote and support that kind of attitude as you do Mr Beyer is hopefully an issue of faulty thinking rather than conscious choice.

        3. There’s hope, Chris, says one of the premier consulting firms, Boston Consulting Group: SAEV ( shared, autonomous, electric vehicles ) https://www.bcg.com/en-ca/publications/2017/reimagined-car-shared-autonomous-electric.aspx
          Real estate implications: commuting from further afield, say Hope or Pemberton to Vancouver, Barrie or London to Toronto, or Canmore or Lethbridge to Calgary even more common and comfortably doable !
          Yet, ‪lawyers, regulators and unions will probably delay the technically feasible but unavoidable numerous years likely even a decade or two like we see with Uber in W-Canada !‬
          25% of urban rides in SEAVs by 2030 ? I find this rather unrealistic. Do you ?
          As you read this excellent article it shows what works in MetroVan may not work for rural BC or SK.
          I put down $1000 for the new Tesla 3, mainly due to its AV features. Still, a little pricey for the average Joe/Jane.
          BCG assumes a drop by 50% for battery costs and 90% for software and hardware features for the AV component to 2030, pretty realistic. Plenty to discuss here on that AV topic.

        4. Perhaps you can save your readers to time to search and check your facts, Thomas.
          What does the article define as the sum paid by the fossil fuel industry to dispose of its waste products in the common atmosphere for over a century? Or its non-mandatory cleanup costs of spills and fires on the land and water prior to environmental regulation? Does it supply estimates for the return of the vast moonscape known as the oil sands after production in future? Does it differentiate between what it has paid for remediation and what was, as you said, socialized?
          That link does nothing for life cycle accounting.
          Further, it cheerleads its way to the supportive hearts of certain susceptible politicos with lots of info on the “vast” return to the public purse of the taxes and benefits it pays without mentioning that the total contribution of ALL resources amounts to only 20% of the nation’s GDP, and the oil sands themselves just 8% (source: Stats Can).
          Lastly, what does the article say about the cost of fossil fuel dependency, notably about the public healthcare costs of air pollution and the horrendous number of deaths and injuries caused by oil-fueled cars every year? It’s equivalent, as a critic once said, to holding a small annual war.
          Is one so blinded by a calculated spin on a limited set of numbers that the overall effects are invisible?

        5. Thomas, you imply that Canada wouldn’t exist without fossil fuels.
          I actually laughed hard at reading that, and remembered how my paternal Eastern European grandparents bought and cleared two quarter section homesteads in northern Alberta with oxen, not tractors, and they cooked and heated their hand-built homes for decades over two generations with hand-sawn wood obtained from their endlessly-renewable woodlots.
          This occurred a long time before Canada exported coal, oil and gas in large quantities. By the time these resources were dug and exported with very little value-added industry (it’s a Canadian tradition to do that), my family’s third generation (mine) was already on the scene. I do remember the wood stoves of my early childhood.

      2. I see no basis for this subsidy claim in here, Chris. Zero. It is just fake news. Counting royalties that should be higher in someone’s opinion or depreciation schedules that someone thinks ought to be longer as subsidies is absurd. Every industry gets to write off their equipment as it wear out. Even wind turbines or solar panels. Not quite so “renewable” either.
        The ONLY subsidy I can think of is lack of (or socialized) cleanup costs of abandoned oilwells.
        Uncounted are the massive benefits to society, i.e. the human progress over the last 100+ years due to cheap energy and ability to move people and goods ever more cheaply. Including all the tax benefits that allows a society like Canada to be so prosperous, i.e. roads, highways, subways, hospitals, schools, universities incl high civil servants salaries. Otherwise, we’d be just as poor as NZ as an agricultural state only. Canada is one of the top 6 worldwide oil&gas producers and that has massive benefits to society. Those benefits BY FAR exceed the costs or alleged subsidies.
        Gas, far cleaner burning than coal is a great energy source with a big future http://humanprogress.org/blog/natural-gas-drives-energy-costs-to-record-lows Even our federal Environment Minister Catherine Mckenna counts it in the “clean energy” category http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mckenna-china-clean-green-1.3868986

        1. http://www.iisd.org/faq/unpacking-canadas-fossil-fuel-subsidies/
          There’s are lots of other hidden subsidies given to fossil fuel dependent industries of course. Compare the cost for hospitals and treatment for motoring crash victims vs that of transit users for instance. We all pay for that. This math isn’t hard. But when you are trying to point out the horizon to an ostrich it is incumbent on the big flightless bird to agree that one must first remove their head from the dirt and look without a preconceived position that negates the very point under discussion.
          The question isn’t whether there are or were economic results from fossil fuels. This is a derail and a poor attempt to misrepresent my position. I have zero respect for most of your positions because I think they are shortsighted and display a self-regard that is fatal to gaining a better understanding of reality, but I do engage you on the specifics of your claims and do not assign to you positions you haven’t taken. Reciprocation would be the preferred approach from my perspective, but the long arc of history and the relatively permanent record of online debates afforded present and future readers is to my mind a note of sweet vindication to be enjoyed long after this discordant duet has sounded its final bleat.

    2. Come to think of it, public investment in urbanizing the suburbs through electricity-based transit (lots of rail) on a national scale as part of a major decade-long policy to fight climate change will also generate demand for zero emission power at the same time that electric vehicles are produced in mass quantities all over. This could incentivize a parallel private investment in renewables, including R&D into geothermal.

      1. Long distance rail is VERY unlikely to see significant traction in Canada as speed is far too slow, capital outlays far too high and traffic volumes too low, unless perhaps in MetroVan or the Toronto-Montreal corridor. The train from Calgary to Edmonton was shelved due to cost. 30 flights a day from Vancouver to Edmonton or Calgary is the way to get to AB, or further east.
        We even have flights now from YVR to Nanaimo, Victoria, Sechelt, Qualicum, Tofino and Comox/Campbell River, or Penticton, Cranbrook, Castlegar or Kelowna.
        ==> Rail is DEAD in Canada over long distances (unlike Denmark, btw)

      2. Continuing within our cities with rail is not astrophysics. Nor is re-establishing intercity commuter rail on a regional basis where freight rail corridors already exist (run a parallel passenger service). The trans-continental CPR passenger service had stations in every town on the mainline.
        Ultra high speed rail is entirely possible outside of BC’s mountain ranges and parts of the Canadian shield. Stephen Rees once noted that city-pairs or triplets over relatively forgiving terrain make a lot of sense for HSR (Vancouver-Seattle, Calgary-Edmonton, Saskatoon-Regina-Winnipeg, Hamilton-Toronto-Montreal and so forth).
        This would be downtown to downtown service with on-board cafes and plenty of room to walk about whenever you want. Trains are able to plow through Canadian blizzards that would ground the planes and shut down airports. Many train stations around the world are very apt focal buildings that can foster unique architecture and urban design, and they often come with enough human activity to attract hotels and hub station development, giving them an important economic profile.

      3. In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
        Plenty of fantasy talk, for example Edmonton – Calgary http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/transpod-hyperloop-calgary-edmonton-corridor-1.4060954
        Here’s one from 30 years ago https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/857366
        Government 3 years ago correctly concluded that with a $5B price tag other urban transportation needs exist http://www.calgaryherald.com/High+speed+train+would+create+Edmonton+Calgary+powerhouse+proponents/9468816/story.html

        1. Government … correctly concluded that with a $5B price tag other urban transportation needs exist.
          LOL!
          Indeed. They’ve spent much more than that in the past decade on urban freeways in Calgary alone. It is tragically comical when public transit is overruled as a priority when the almighty car is involved.

        2. And to talk about hyperloops in the same breath as viable, age old rail transit is the same as discussing flying Jetson cars when 10-lane freeway-bridges were proposed.

        3. Calgary has a far larger footprint than MetroVan per capita, and Edmonton is even bigger, i.e. less people per sq km. Colder, too, btw. Not so much fun biking or waiting for a bus at -20. Weather, culture and land costs matter !

        4. Mentioning the sprawl problem just supports the call to urbanize the suburbs with rail and new development energized with clean electricity. This would also create loads of jobs, boost the local economy and lower per capita emissions over generations.

        5. Sprawl is not a problem. It is a fact.
          People want houses, with yards. Not all, but most, of they could get it at an affordable price. That is why you still see sub-divisions pop up in Langley, Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Chiliwack etc
          If everyone preferred a condo or apartment then Calgary, Edmonton or even Vancouver would look different today. But given a choice most adults, especially those with kids, prefer a house. That is why cities look like they do today. It’s called democracy, or life style preference, or freedom of choice.
          That is why so many came here from Europe first, then Asia. And continue to come. Not to live in a tiny crowded hovel as you see in the crowded cities of Europe or Asia today. Of course today, with 2M+ in MetroVan one needs different solutions. Edmonton or Calgary, or even Surrey or Abbotsford will look for different solutions than denser parts of Vancouver.
          One solution does not fit all.
          EVs and by 2045 to 2050 ( not likely 2030 as per this article https://www.bag.com/d/press/10april2017-future-autonomous-electric-vehicles-151076 ) AVs or shared AVs will provide better urban or suburban commute opportunities. Hope, Pemberton or Chilliwack to Vancouver in an AV becomes a common commute by 2045 or certainly 2050. Less air pollution, likely less accidents but even more “sprawl”. That is why highways or roads or tunnels will still be needed then.

        6. Sprawl is not a problem. It is a fact.
          It is, in fact and practice, tragically both.
          Automobile dependency and sprawl did not stem from democracy or freedom of choice. If there was a large choice offered instead of one humongous monolithic model, then there wouldn’t have been so much lack of choice offered (outside of the ubiquitous large lot, detached house and single-use zoning) over vast areas and in a long a 40-year chunk of the 20th Century.
          Calgary is starting to smarten up, but that doesn’t come without huge and controversial resistance from subdivision developers, a rather cantankerous and unreasonable lot. Today, the latest subdivisions have a diverse choice in housing, and some in the southeast have made provision for rapid transit stations in mall developments that will densify accordingly.
          Calgary’s last C-Train extension (to Signal Hill) was accompanied by fairly appropriate dense, mixed-use land use. It was also largely grade-separated which affords better trip times, and targeted population and job centres instead of taking the cheapest routes through industrial rail corridors. The proposed Green Line will be Calgary’s most adventuresome rapid transit asset replete with grade separation, at-grade separation from traffic, and lots of planned ToD.
          In other words, transit-imitated democratic choice.

    3. Thanks for the link.
      I doubt the $25B “fossil” industry subsidies number very much.
      So Site C costs $10B. Huge upfront costs too. Why not geothermal in lieu of ? Say 10 $1B projects. I don’t see any arguments in here besides “we don’t really know how” or “too risky”.

      1. Under Christy Clark Site C was approved in a rush without adequate review as part of her overreach for LNG “gold.” The power was to be sold at huge discounts (prices the domestic ratepayers would never have seen) for the energy-intensive liquification process. In other words, a subsidy.
        The post-LNG Site C mess lives on while she is grinning all the way to the bank with her massive public pension, which is far, far more than any pension enjoyed by any other worker outside of a private LNG company boardroom.

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