Thursday, February 15, 2007

Reducing US Emissions Daunting

An article in the New York Times reports,

Electric power companies, which emit about one-third of America’s global warming gases, could reduce their emissions to below the levels of 1990, but that would take about 20 years, no matter how much the utilities spend, according to a new industry study.
The study also calls for cutting the growth in demand for electricity, which the Energy Department expects to increase at 1.5 percent a year. The study assumes growth of just 1.1 percent a year, which implies a steady decline in electricity use for each unit of economic production.
It also calls for vast growth in wind energy and some solar energy. Renewable energy (leaving out hydroelectricity) now comes to only a little over 2 percent of kilowatt-hours generated; by 2030, it would be 6.7 percent.
The biggest slice, though, is from coal plants that would capture their carbon dioxide, compress it and pipe it underground for sequestration. This is a technology that has been barely demonstrated at this point. But in a little over 20 years, it would have to produce 14.6 percent of electricity supplies.
The technologies required do exist, at least at laboratory scale. But the study does not predict costs and stipulate what is economically feasible.
Many of the changes forecast by the utility group depend on prices and on consumer attitudes. For example, it projects that 10 percent of new vehicle sales by 2017 will be plug-in hybrids, which would carry enough batteries to run a car for the first 20 or 30 miles daily; on days when a motorist went farther, the fuel would be gasoline.
There are no commercially available batteries for that task, however, and hybrids sold today constitute a tiny fraction of the market.

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