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The Solutions (coal continued)

Government Legislation

It will take governmental action to control the CO2 emissions from coal fired power plants (video) and end unconventional means of recovery of petroleum. This will not be an easy fight.

Let's educate ourselves on how the U.S. Congress is structuring new laws to deal with this issue. Cap and Trade, a center piece of the Wax-Markey bill, was passed by the house in July of 2009. "At the heart of (this) plan is cap and trade, a market-based approach that has been widely praised but does little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It merely allows polluters and Wall Street traders to fleece the public out of billions of dollars." _____James Hansen

  • We have overshot the mark with atmospheric carbon (Chapter 3). There are no credible "offsets" available. One "offset" carbon emitters plan to use under the "cap and trade" scheme is the planting of trees. Billions of trees are dying right now all over the world. Seedling trees need to be planted to replace these devastated forests (Chapter 1). Sustaining a replanted tree population in rapidly shifting climate zones may not even be feasible. Using these same struggling trees or nonexistent ones in Niger or Uganda to allow carbon emitters to keep on emitting, will not reduce atmospheric carbon to any measurable extent.

    A blatant fraud where HFCs (a by-product from making refrigerants) are sold as "offsets" for European carbon emissions, is happening right now. Every molecule of HFC-23 causes 11,700 times more global warming than that of CO2. Because of this massive "global warming potential", chemical companies can earn almost twice as much from selling Certified Emission Reductions credits (CERs) as from selling refrigerant gases. This has spurred concern that refrigerant producers in China may be increasing their output solely so that they can produce, and then destroy, more waste gases. A rapidly growing industry of carbon brokers and consultants is lobbying for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to be expanded and its rules to be weakened further.

    Scandals over wind turbines and hydroelectric power scams in China and billion dollar VAT tax evasion schemes involving cross boarder carbon offset frauds in Europe are surfacing in the media as the phony "offset" bubble keeps growing in Europe.

    The UN has had second thoughts about giving carbon credits to China’s wind farms: Recent reports say that a United Nations committee has stopped giving carbon credits to developers of wind energy projects in China, citing concerns that the projects qualified for the credits unfairly. The UN is concerned that the Chinese government lowered its subsidies to wind farms so they would qualify for carbon credits through the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

    Russia is demanding that it be able to retain its massive surplus of emissions permits after they expire in 2012. Critics argue that if Russia were to off-load these credits on international carbon markets, it would lead to a collapse in the price of carbon.

    Dr. James Hansen (video) explains how phony these "offsets" really are, "Offsets are like the indulgences that were sold by the church in the Middle Ages. People of means loved indulgences, because they could practice any hanky-panky or worse, then simply purchase an indulgence to avoid punishment for their sins. Bishops loved them too, because they brought in lots of moola. Anybody for offsets today is either a sinner who wants to pretend he or she has done adequate penance or a Bishop collecting moola."

  • Coal fired power plants cannot "upgrade" to "clean coal" with any known technology. They cannot install a scrubber or purchase low sulfur coal to stop carbon emissions. So the slow paced reduction in SO2 emission model for cap-and-trade does not apply here. Their only real choice is to bulldoze their entire power plant and start over with unproven, extremely expensive and uncompetitive "clean coal" technologies. The result: They would have to either cheat with phony "offsets" or get protection from Congress with enforcement exclusions (i.e. loopholes) for pre-existing power plants to avoid what they need to do which is go out of business. There would be no net reduction in CO2 emissions and the relentless march of strip mining destruction would go on unabated. Not a sound approach.

As more and more people became aware of the dysfunctionality of such an approach, congress took the path of replacing the term cap and trade with different labels.

A skunk by any other name would smell as foul!

The 2010 legislation should be relabeled for what it really was:

The Carbon Emission Protection Act
for Coal Fired Power Plants.

The 2010 Senate bill and the 2009 bill passed by the House were focused on the removal EPA's authority, which exists right now under the Clean Air Acts, to control and limit the emissions of green house gases from stackgases. In early 2011, the Republican controlled House of Representatives attempted to eviscerate EPA's authority through budgetary cutbacks. Either approach would be a replay of the giant loophole given to "pre-existing" coal fired power plants in the original Clean Air Act with regard to sulfur emission standards enacted to prevent acid rain. That escape clause was granted in the 1970s and stands to this day, as do those never-retired, filthy coal plants the loophole protects. There is no time left to play games with such giant loopholes granted to high-spending lobbyists. We either cut our carbon emissions or we push the climate past the point of no return.

There are a number of freshmen Congressmen who claim to not "believe" in global warming. There are verteran members of Congress with similar views. Frankly, dead trees don't lie. Melting glaciers don't lie. Jumping hardiness zones don't lie. Expanding Hadley cells don't lie. Acidified oceans don't lie. Expanded fire seasons, now 75 days longer in California than in the 1980's is no lie. We need to inform these individuals that they either learn the facts and shape up or be voted out or recalled. Here is a tally of where current members of the U.S. Congress now stand on climate change legislation. Whether a given legislator wants cap-and-trade or wants to deny the need for action altogether, the result is the same: a total failure to limit the effects of climate disaster. We cannot allow this to continue.

If we want to have a chance of avoiding the irreversible effects of elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the climate, a majority of all coal fired power plants, pre-existing or not, have to be phased out by the end of this decade (2020) with the remainder worldwide decommissioned by 2030.

We must
the majority of all coal fired power plants in the U.S. within the decade.

Given the proven to fail status of the cap-and-trade strategy and its grandfather-in-everything-and-cheat problems and the current ongoing efforts to prevent the governmental regulation of carbon emissions by the EPA altogether, the solution is a carbon tax.

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