The EIA's predictions that fossil fuels are the future the final word. Are they right?
In a report titled, “Fossil fuels have made up at least 80% of U.S. fuel mix since 1900,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration states that petroleum, natural gas and coal—all fossil fuels—are likely to continue into the future as the predominant energy sources used in America.
In a separate article in the Midland Reporter-Telegram (MRT), a former chairman of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, Steve Pruett, states, “I am glad the EIA is stating the obvious, even though it is not politically correct.” Then he states his opinion on why these fossil fuels will continue as the main sources of American energy.
“’It is because the United States is blessed with large amounts of fossil fuel reserves, a capitalist economy that encourages investment in the extraction of fossil fuels and a free market that allows consumers of energy to make rational choices of the best sources of transportation fuel, heating fuel or source of power generation,’” he said to the MRT.
What Mr. Pruett seems to be saying is that since the U.S. has fossil fuels and since we live in a capitalist economy and a so-called free market, then we should extract those resources, just like the EIA predicts will happen, and consume them.
Pruett, who is chief executive officer of Elevation Resources, “a Midland-based independent energy company formed in April 2013 to focus on the acquisition and development of unconventional oil and gas resources in the Permian Basin,” logically thinks this way because he is in a position to make lots of money based on fossil fuel extraction.
Mr. Pruett does not seem to think that climate change is the most important threat to decent human life on the planet. Speaking to the MRT, he said, “There is no doubt we need to take better care of mother Earth, but the roots of her problems rest in the explosion of the world’s population, which neither our president nor the U.N. controls,” Pruett said. To be clear, overpopulation is a serious problem but it’s not what is causing the Earth’s climate to warm.
Instead of celebrating the EIA’s prediction, we should take it as a call to arms so that fossil fuels are not the predominant source of American energy going forward. What needs to happen is not the continued extraction of fossil fuels but a complete and final stop to it, followed by a coordinated national effort to shift to wind, solar and water power.
Continued use of fossil fuels is extremely expensive. Fossil fuel emissions cause air pollution in addition to warming the planet. Speaking to Democracy Now!, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson quantified the monetary cost of air pollution-related health care bills and of climate change-related natural disasters.
According to Jacobson, air pollution causes four to seven million premature deaths each year worldwide, including about 62,000 in the United States and about 12,000 in California. The air pollution mortality in the United States alone costs the United States about $500 billion per year. In 2050, it’s estimated that U.S. emissions alone will cause $3.3 trillion of global climate damage, and the rest of the world will cause a total of about $15 to $20 trillion per year of damage.
Pruett suggests that renewable energy sources and infrastructure are not enough to power all of the United States. “Wind and solar energy may be fast growing, but that is from a very small base of approximately 2 percent of the nation’s energy consumption,” Pruett said to the MRT.
Jacobson would disagree with him. Along with other scientists, Jacobson has founded the Solutions Project, which is a plan to convert the entire United States to wind, solar and water energy use by 2050. Meanwhile, the state of California recently passed 12 bills that set high benchmarks for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum use. Pruett may believe that renewable energy is not enough, but the rest of the world is making it so it is.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere