Monday, June 18, 2012

EPA Mercury Rule Under Fire

Doctors recommend that pregnant women stay away from too much fish because of the risks of mercury exposure. ...

This week, the Senate is likely to vote on a bill that would kill EPA’s mercury-reduction regulations. [Some] Senators dispute the value of the measure despite annual health benefits estimated at upwards $140 billion per year.

EPA’s economic analysis does not include many of the risks of mercury pollution because they are extremely [difficult] to assess. 

Discounting the benefits of reducing these risks ... potentially exposes children] to cognitive and social defects, negative autoimmune effects or genetic effects.  

See below for posts on the benefits of the mercury rule from Policy Integrity by Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, and Brad Plumer. 

Three cheers for new mercury pollution standards
Environmentalists and public health advocates have a reason to stand up and cheer: Finalized rules to cut down on mercury air pollution are set to be announced today by the EPA. But economists can also feel good about this holiday-season gift of clean air: Two decades of agency analysis have…
December 21st, 2011 | Grist by Michael Livermore 

The EPA may be underestimating the benefits of the new rules. As Michael Livermore points out, mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin for small children, and the EPA’s analysis of that danger is limited to quantifying lost future earnings due to lower IQ. But even a grinch wouldn’t pretend that the… 
December 23rd, 2011 | Slate by Matt Yglesias 

Much of this is due to reductions in particulate matter, not mercury, which suggests that, if anything, the EPA may be underestimating the benefits of the new rules. As Michael Livermore points out, mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin for small children, and the EPA’s analysis of that danger is limited… 
December 23rd, 2011 | Mother Jones by Kevin Drum. 

Now, that doesn’t mean the EPA isn’t cleaning up mercury, or that the mercury benefits are worthless. What it means is that it’s easier to put a hard number on the benefits from cleaning up particulate pollution — by totaling up the dollar value of lives saved — than it… 
December 22nd, 2011 | Washington Post by Brad Plumer 

Edna Ishayik, Communications Director
Policy Integrity

Friday, June 8, 2012

International Energy Agency IEA sets out the “Golden Rules” needed to usher in a Golden Age of Gas

Exploiting the world’s vast resources of unconventional natural gas holds the key to a golden age of gas, but for that to happen governments, industry and other stakeholders must work together to address legitimate public concerns about the associated environmental and social impacts. A special World Energy Outlook report on unconventional gas, Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, released today in London by the International Energy Agency, presents a set of “Golden Rules” to meet those concerns.

“The technology and the know-how already exist for unconventional gas to be produced in an environmentally acceptable way,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “But if the social and environmental impacts are not addressed properly, there is a very real possibility that public opposition to drilling for shale gas and other types of unconventional gas will halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks. The industry must win public confidence by demonstrating exemplary performance; governments must ensure that appropriate policies and regulatory regimes are in place.”

“If this new industry is to prosper, it needs to earn and maintain its social license to operate,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, the report’s chief author. “This comes with a financial cost, but in our estimation the additional costs are likely to be limited.” Applying the Golden Rules could increase the cost of a typical shale-gas well by around 7%, but, for a larger development project with multiple wells, investment in measures to reduce environmental impacts may in many cases be offset by lower operating costs.
The report argues that there is a critical link between the way governments and industry respond to these social and environmental challenges and the prospects for unconventional gas production. Accordingly, the report sets out two possible future trajectories for unconventional gas:

In a Golden Rules Case, the application of these rules helps to underpin a brisk expansion of unconventional gas supply, which has far-reaching consequences:
  • World production of unconventional gas, primarily shale gas, more than triples between 2010 and 2035 to 1.6 trillion cubic metres.
  • The United States becomes a significant player in international gas markets, and China emerges as a major producer.
  • New sources of supply help to keep prices down, stimulate investment and job creation in unconventional resource-rich countries, and generate faster growth in global gas demand, which rises by more than 50% between 2010 and 2035.
By contrast, in a Low Unconventional Case where no Golden Rules are in place, a lack of public acceptance means that unconventional gas production rises only slightly above current levels by 2035. Among the results:
  • The competitive position of gas in the global fuel mix deteriorates amidst lower availability and higher prices, and the share of gas in energy use barely increases.
  • Energy-related CO2 emissions are higher by 1.3% compared with the Golden Rules Case but, in both cases, emissions are well above the trajectory required to reach the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Empire State Building Saves Millions of Dollars in First Year of Energy Efficiency Plan - ... Slated to Cut Energy Use by 38 Percent

One year after an innovative building retrofit project, the Empire State Building is ahead of plan and has exceeded its year one energy-efficiency guarantee by five percent, saving $2.4 million and establishing a commercial real estate model for reducing costs, maximizing return on investment, increasing real estate value, and protecting the environment.
The core energy efficiency retrofit at the Empire State Building is complete, with the balance of the project to be finished as new tenants build out high-performance workspaces. Not only is the Empire State Building more energy efficient, but it is also estimated to have saved 4,000 metric tons of carbon, the equivalent of that offset by 750 acres of pine forests. Once all tenant spaces are upgraded, the building will save $4.4 million a year, a 38 percent reduction of energy use that will cut carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years.
[The retrofit project focused on eight innovative improvement measures addressing core building infrastructure, common spaces and tenant suites. Improvement measures performed by Johnson Controls and Jones Lang LaSalle included the refurbishment of all 6,500 windows, a chiller plant retrofit, new building controls, and a web-based tenant energy management system. The project partners developed a detailed engineering design and Johnson Controls guaranteed the energy savings through a $20 million performance contract. With performance contracting, savings in energy consumption from facility upgrades pay for the project over the term of the contract. If the savings are not realized, Johnson Controls pays the difference between the value of the measured and verified consumption and the guaranteed consumption under the contract.]
Empire State Building

Economics of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for coal plants: Impact of investment costs and efficiency on market diffusion in Europe
Abstract:In this paper, we analyze how the development of the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology used in coal-fired power plants affects its market diffusion. Specifically, we (1) show the significant variance in expectations about the economics of commercial-grade CCS hard coal power plants observed in the literature; (2) analyze the impact of CCS economics on electricity generation costs; and (3) investigate the expected deployment of CCS in the European power sector, depending on the variance of two main factors, efficiency and investment cost, using the bottom-up electricity sector model HECTOR. Simulation results show that investment costs strongly influence the market deployment of coal-fired CCS power plants, leading to a share of 16% in European generation capacity by 2025 with the lowest observed investment costs of 1400 €/kW, but only 2% with the highest of 3000 €/kW. A variation of conversion efficiency between 37% and 44%, the minimum and maximum observed values, only leads to a 13–15% share variation of CCS-equipped power plants. These findings are robust for the Base Case with a CO2 price of 43 €/t and also for sensitivities with 30 and 20 €/t CO2, but with a lower effect, as the overall share of CCS is significantly reduced at these prices.


► Model-based study of prospects of CCS for coal power plants in 19 European countries.
► Investment cost strongly affect deployment, while efficiency only has a modest impact.
► Lowest (highest) investment cost observed lead to total CCS share of 16% (2%) by 2025.
► Highest (lowest) conversion efficiency observed results in CCS share of 15% (13%).
► Findings are robust for various CO2 price and fuel price developments.

Full-size image (31K)
Fig. 2. Installed total generation capacity development across all model regions, Base Case.
Full-size image (14K)
Fig. 3. Share of European CCS capacity in 2025 (in %) as a function of specific investment costs.
by Richard LohwasserE-mail the corresponding author and Reinhard MadlenerE-mail the corresponding author both of the Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior (FCN), School of Business and Economics/E.ON Energy Research Center, RWTH Aachen University, Mathieustrasse 6, 52074 Aachen, Germany; Tel.: + 49 89 5594 3190; fax: + 49 89 5594 3191.
Volume 34, Issue 3; May, 2012; Pages 850–863 
Keywords: Electricity market;Simulation model; CCS; Power generation; Technology adoption