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Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies 'could provide half of global carbon target'

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by NigelM, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. NigelM

    NigelM Recovering Member

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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/19/fossil-fuel-subsidies-carbon-target?CMP=twt_gu

     
  2. Larry Chanin

    Larry Chanin Model S Perf Sig 1055

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    In the U.S. rather than receiving favorable tax treatments across the board, I would be in favor of targeted subsidies for fossil fuel projects that mitigated evironmental damage. For instance, if subsidies were limited to the U.S. coal/electric utilities for building coal gasification plants with CO2 sequestration that might make some sense.

    Larry
     
  3. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    Coal gassification is extremely dirty. Yes, I realize that a lot of work has been done in cleaning up the process (and using the byproducts), but it also produces a lot of CO2.

    I'm skeptical about carbon sequestration. For a typical coal plant you would have to burn a third more coal to power the sequestration; probably worse with coal gas. As for pumping it underground into old oil reservoirs, once you've multiply punctured, drained, and then refilled a geologic reservoir is it going to retain its integrity?
     
  4. neroden

    neroden Happy Model S Owner

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    Frankly, until the "percentage depletion" deduction, which is just a straight-up, unmitigated subsidy to oil production, is eliminated -- or capped at the point where it drives tax basis to zero, which would make it an actual depletion allowance rather than an unmitigated subsidy -- I won't believe that the US will get rid of oil subsidies.

    That one is *egregious*. Oil companies just get to deduct a percentage of the gross revenues. No justification for it at all.

    If you want to know whether the US is serious about cutting subsidies to fossil fuels, watch that one, it's one of the largest.
     
  5. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    Hi, Larry,

    I'd rather see a carbon tax, provided that we had iron-clad assurance that the raised revenue didn't result in increased government spending but deficit reduction. I'm not really sure that the coal-gasification/CO2-sequestration is a cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions; is it more or less efficient than other options? I don't know, and no one can know. We should let markets sort it out, which is what a carbon tax would do. Republicans used to trust market forces, so I'm baffled at why this one has them scared. Well, no, that's not true; they don't like it because Big Oil doesn't like it.
     
  6. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    Because it is a tax which makes us less competitive with the rest of the world. The opposite that subsidies to oil companies and production do. Taxing carbon use while making us "green" also makes us suffer with fewer jobs, and less in our pockets to spend on products, green or otherwise!
     
  7. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    Sorry, this is wrong. A carbon tax, under WTO rules, would allow us to levy an offsetting import tariff on goods without an equivalent carbon tax, and to offer an offsetting export subsidy. Thus, since the US is a net importer, we would increase US tax receipts from imports without hurting local production, while providing an incentive for other nations to adopt similar carbon taxes to avoid paying the US those duties.
     
  8. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    I disagree with your premise, offset or not carbon taxes kill jobs, here or overseas. This is not the place to argue this. Lets just disagree on the outcome of carbon taxes!!
     
  9. zack

    zack Member

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    I believe that once we've crossed the tipping point (and perhaps we have already), the volume of naturally sequestered greenhouse gas that we'll see rapidly released will far exceed anything we will have created ourselves. If so, we desperately need massive, globe-wide technology to sequester all problem gases at once, more effectively than nature did in the first place.

    If we make the assumption that fossil fuels really do come from previous life, than it only makes sense to assume that the process is ongoing and has many incomplete steps much closer to the surface of the earth than the completely rotted oil and gas down below. Nature is the biggest polluter of them all, and has no conscience nor does it care what happens to life on earth. It's our station on this planet to step up and reverse what could become the greatest ecological disaster ever. I blame nature for not having a better plan for sequestration in the first place. We were just trying to have fun. Now we need to re-engineer the earth before nature, in its reckless and irresponsible way, tries to find some random method to stabilize things, as nature always does. We simply don't have as much time as nature does to get the job done. And I don't need to remind you that nature does not care a whit for us.
     
  10. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    Just for the sake of argument and thought: natures plan for sequestration fron Zack's post above. Isn't the limiting factor for the earth to increase it's biomass the availability of carbon?
     
  11. Larry Chanin

    Larry Chanin Model S Perf Sig 1055

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    #12 Larry Chanin, Jan 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
    Hi Zack,

    Isn't there a theory that there are vast deposits of frozen methane at the bottom of the oceans? As the theory goes a rise in ocean temperatures could inject huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere setting off irreversable, runaway greenhouse warming.

    Regardless, of the various theories concerning global warming, to me the health dangers of fossil fuels more than justifies that governments take responsible action to limit emissions, if not for us, but for our children and their children. The lost jobs argument will ring very hollow if we've squandered the health and quality of life of our loved ones.

    Larry
     
  12. neroden

    neroden Happy Model S Owner

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    No.

    Depending on who you read, it's the availability of sunlight, of phosphorus, of potassium, of water, or of some trace element, but I've never read a claim that carbon was limiting.
     
  13. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    #14 Lloyd, Jan 25, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
    Do not plants increase their growth potential with an increase of CO2 availability quite dramatically?

    Interesting article here

    Artemis Project: Carbon Dioxide's Role in Plant Growth



    With respect to CO2 utilization, plants are divided into two types: C3 plants and C4 plants. These names essentially distinguish two types of photosyntensis. C3 photosynthesis (so called because the photosynthetic process yields 3-carbon derivatives) has a problem in that sometimes O2 fills the role that CO2 is supposed to fill. When it does, much of the energy that goes into photosynthesis is wasted. C4 plants, on the other hand, starts with a gate, of sorts, that keeps much of the O2 out, so this waste happens less often.

    Most plants, including plants used in agriculture, are C3 plants. This includes lemon trees (virtually all trees, in fact), sugar beets, and potatoes. Corn and surgarcane are C4 plants.

    Each type of plant reacts to a change in CO2 concentrations differently. C4 plants already use CO2 efficiently. An increase in the concentration does not help them much. C3 plants, on the other hand, benefit greatly from increases in CO2 because less of the inefficient O2 photosynthesis occurs. Plants in a high CO2 environment increase their plant mass by 20 to 25%. Yields of some crops can be increased by up to 33%. This is the effect of doubling CO2 concentrations over Earth normal. Still higher concentrations can be expected to yield still better results.

    Note, however, that the effects vary even among different types of C3 plants. Some are better able to take advantage of higher CO2 concentrations than others, and a few actually suffer if CO2 concentrations are raised.

    But, there's a catch. These benefits occur only if the nutrient levels and the amount of water available also increase. CO2 alone does very little good. Consequently, to take advantage of a higher CO2 concentration, we must supply more water and bring in more nutrients (such as nitrogen).

    In fact, there is more than one catch. As a plant's production of starch from CO2 increases, it seems to reach some sort of saturation point. It reaches a point where it can no longer take advantage of the greater abundance of CO2. Scientists suspect that this is because there is a bottleneck in the plant's metabolic system. It can manufacture more starch, but it can't get it to where it is needed - or it can't use what it is getting. At this point, you might as well bring the CO2 concentration back down to normal levels for all the good you're doing. Or, if this point is close to the plant's maturation point, you can harvest it and plant the next crop.

    [Note: high conentrations of CO2 allows the plant to use water more efficiently. This is because the passageways that allow CO2 into the plant also let H2O out. Under higher CO2 concentrations, these passageways can be kept more tightly constricted, allowing less H2O to escape. But there is a tradeoff here between CO2 fertilization and efficient use of water. To the degree you have one, you must give up the other.]

    Reference:

    Fakhri A. Bazzaz and Eric D. Fajer, "Plant Life in a CO2-Rich World," SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, January, 1992, pp 68-74.

    So there you have it most plants would benefit from higher CO2.

    OK there are a few other 'problems' however to me they are not real problems, ie that bit about needing more nitrogen, if you grow more food you will need more nitrogen anyway

    I found this interesting

    "Most plants, including plants used in agriculture, are C3 plants. This includes lemon trees (virtually all trees, in fact), sugar beets, and potatoes. Corn and surgarcane are C4 plants."

    It is just interesting that the C4 plants are the ones I know are used in biofuel, I guess that is not such a surprise as they 'eat CO2' better, and don't seem to benefit from higher concentrations because they already have as much as they can handle.
     
  14. neroden

    neroden Happy Model S Owner

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    You haven't studied it enough, but the key points are already in your references. The plants which grow more with increased CO2... don't really, because they're water-constrained or nitrogen-constrained (or whatever).

    What's worse is that C3 plants mostly don't like hot temperatures, and require more water to operate in them. :crying: This cancels out much if not all of the "benefit" of increased CO2 -- the result is that as temperatures rise, C3 plants perform less photosynthesis, because they're water-limited, not carbon-limited.

    In fact, every recent analysis I've read says that global warming will benefit C4 plants at the expense of C3 plants. Of course CAM plants will also benefit. Great for C4 and CAM plants, but as you note:
    "Most plants, including plants used in agriculture, are C3 plants. This includes lemon trees (virtually all trees, in fact), sugar beets, and potatoes."

    It gets worse. Corn, although a C4 plant, doesn't like really hot temperatures either.

    If we ate cactus, we'd probably see a boom in agricultural yields. But we don't.
     
  15. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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  16. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    I believe I have with three degrees!
     
  17. Norbert

    Norbert TSLA will win

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    The common theme seems to be that things would be too chaotically different for any balanced effect that we would be able to benefit from. Our system would work less and less, without alternative systems becoming available (even if they were theoretically possible).
     
  18. VolkerP

    VolkerP EU Model S P-37

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    Sorry, but that theme reminds me of dictator Augusto Pinochet of Chile when running for re-election in the first fair elections since the coup: "It is either me or the chaos!". Given that choice, people preferred the chaos.
     
  19. Norbert

    Norbert TSLA will win

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    Doesn't make any sense to me. Are you saying carbon taxes are an authoritarian thing? That the free market should decide on CO2?
     

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