Sun Sep 17th, 2006 at 05:02:53 AM EST
Hello to friends and European Tribune Readers!
Starvid has invited me to contribute a post here, so I would like to share some insights from recent climatology research and its implications for energy choices.
I would like to discuss the energy choices that some European countries have made and their implications for the Earth's climate. Later (another post), I will probably discuss the situation in the United States.
I will use data from the International Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
***Back to diaries
Sea Surface Temperature and Hurricane Katrina on 27 August 2005
A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by Benjamin Santer, Tom Wigley, and colleagues relates human-caused releases of greenhouse gases with increases in sea surface temperatures that are connected with hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Two of the main authors, Santer and Wigley, have backgrounds in physics as well as in meteorology.
The Lawrence Livermore study builds upon work that documented increases in hurricane intensity during the last 30 years. The hurricane intensity studies were published last year by Kerry Emanuel of MIT and by Peter Webster and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech. It also builds upon Kevin Trenberth's study of the 2005 hurricane season and on work by Thomas Knutson and Robert Tuleya of NOAA and Old Dominion University.
The San Jose Mercury-News summarizes the research.
From the BBC:
The team compared results from models that tried to recreate the actual sea-surface temperatures using only natural forces such as the sun and volcanic eruptions, with results from the same models when human greenhouse gas emissions were included.
The results from the experiments that used only natural forces didn't come close to reality. But when human, or anthropogenic, influence was included, the results closely matched the actual temperatures recorded over the last century.
"We found that the dominant cause for the modeled sea-surface temperature changes in these (hurricane formation) regions was anthropogenic increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases," said co-author Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
Benjamin Santer, Tom Wigley and colleagues conclude: "There is an 84% chance that external forcing [human activities] explain at least 67% of the observed S[ea]S[urface]T[emperature] increases" in the Pacific and Atlantic zones where hurricanes form.
In the following energy usage charts, purple represents coal, the fuel that is worst in terms of CO2 release per unit of energy. Light blue is oil, green represents natural gas, dark blue (indigo) represents hydroelectricity, and light yellow represents nuclear generation. Red indicates renewable sources such as solar and wind, while orange represents biofuels.
Click on the country name (not the chart) to get to the original chart from the International Energy Agency
The first energy usage charts are from countries where anti-nuclear movements have been successful during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The first chart is from Italy, where the anti-nuclear movement succeeded in getting Italy's four nuclear facilities shut down.
Italy - 8.11 t of CO2/capita. $27,700 GDP/capita and 2.10% GDP growth. Italy's CO2 intensity per unit of GDP is 0.42 kg CO2/$95.
Italy currently uses a mixture of fossil fuels with minor hydro. Renewable sources are present, but constitute a vey small percentage of energy use. Italy does not have large coal reserves. Italy closed its four nuclear facilities in a referendum in 1987. The no-nukes movement at work....supporting fossil fuels and increasing CO2 intensity as can be seen in the growth in oil and natural gas (green and blue). Go down the page and compare the CO2 intensity/$95GDP figures for France, Switzerland, and Sweden. Italy is the world's largest net importer of electricity, with most imports coming from France and Switzerland. Italians pay high prices for electricity because of the cost of oil and natural gas imports. As can be seen from the chart, conservation has not been effective in limiting growth in electricity consumption in Italy. Public opinion about energy is changing slowly in Italy. Italy has lost much of its human resource base in nuclear engineering because of the plant closures. Bottom line: Italy's political decision against nuclear power has had negative ramifications both for its prosperity and for its environment and potential ability to meet Kyoto goals.
The next chart is from Germany, where there is a moratorium and official phaseout policy regarding nuclear power:
Germany produces 10.21t of CO2/capita with
$28,700 GDP/capita and 1.80% GDP growth. Germany's carbon dioxide intensity per unit of GDP is 0.45 kg CO2/$95. Compare with neighbor France.
Despite Germany's policies that favor wind and solar energy, Germany's renewable sector is small compared to Germany's coal generation. Germany committed itself in 1995 to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% compared to 1990 levels by the year 2005. Nuclear energy from Germany's 17 facilities generates a lot more electricity than the renewable or biofuels sectors, and thus contributes more to CO2 mitigation, despite the protestations of the "Atomkernkraft: Nein danke!" crowd. Germany's planned phaseout of nuclear generation puts the country in a "bind," if it wants to reduce CO2 emissions.
"You either phase-out nuclear energy, or you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but you can't do both," says Wolfgang Pfaffenberger, director of the Bremen Energy Insitute.
The "Nein danke" crowd has been hazardous both to Germany's environmental record and to its prosperity.
The next country I will profile is Denmark. Denmark is known for having the largest wind grid in Europe.
Denmark produces 10.94t of CO2/capita (DOE for 2003). Denmark has 32,200 GDP/capita and 2.20% GDP growth. 0.36 kg CO2/$95.
In the chart, note the red portion which is wind generation, while the purple is coal. Denmark does not have nuclear facilities.
In contrast, I would like to show the charts for Sweden, Switzerland, and France. The first two countries have large hydroelectric capacities. Nuclear energy fills in the remainder of energy usage - around 40-45%. France, as almost all know, planned for energy independence and constructed a lot of nuclear reactors during the 1980s. France now gets about 79% of its electricity from nuclear energy.
Sweden generates 6.27t of CO2/capita - much lower than the above countries because almost all electricity is hydro or nuclear. $28,400 GDP/capita and 2.60% GDP growth. Carbon dioxide intensity per unit of GDP is 0.22 kg CO2/$95. Awesome efficiency! Kyoto, here we come!
Sweden generates electricity using hydroelectric and nuclear. There has been less growth in generation recently, possibly owing to conservation or to imports from other countries. Ten operating nuclear facilities. Per capita electric consumption is quite high in Sweden - 16,500 kWh/year/person. Despite Sweden's official nuclear phaseout policy (since 1980), public opinion is changing in favor of keeping the ten plants open. About 80% of Swedes now favor keeping the facilities open, while about 30% favor building new facilities.
Switzerland generates 6.00t of CO2/capita and has $33,800 GDP/capita. GDP growth is 1.8%. Switzerland's ?CO2 intensity per unit of GDP is 0.17 kg CO2/$95. Look at that efficiency! Kyoto, here we come!
It can be seen that Switzerland's electricity is almost all hydroelectric and nuclear. There are 5 nuclear facilities in Switzerland. Switzerland has had several ballot referendums concerning nuclear power that have resulted in keeping existing facilities but no build of new ones. The lack of fossil fuel for electricity generation is the probable explanation for Switzerland's low per-capita CO2 emissions.
France generates 6.80t of CO2 per capita. France has a GDP of $28,700 GDP/capita and 2.40% GDP growth. France's CO2 intensity per unit of GDP is 0.30 kg/CO2/$95
France has relatively few hydroelectric resources compared with Sweden and Switzerland. Fifty-nine operational nuclear facilities generate around 78% of France's electricity. France is Europe's largest electricity exporter. Note that France's CO2 intensity per unit of GDP is 0.30 kg, while neighbors Germany and Italy have the higher figures of 0.45kg and 0.42 kg, respectively.
The bottom line from viewing these energy production snapshots of European countries is that:
- Countries with large hydroelectric capacities release low amounts of carbon dioxide. Norway is an example that I didn't include here, along with Sweden and Switzerland.
- If there is low hydroelectric capacity, or if hydroelectric resources are already fully utilized, the most effective way of reducing CO2 emissions is to utilize a lot of nuclear capacity, relative to the country's total electricity picture.
- Renewable energy sources, as shown in the chart for Denmark, which is a flat country (not so good for hydroelectric energy), are useful as supplemental, non-fossil fuel sources, but they do not produce enough power on a regular basis to completely substitute for fossil fuels. Use of renewable energy sources, bicycles and public transport can reduce CO2 intensity, but not to the low levels seen in France, Sweden, or Switzerland. Pretty much the only thing that can almost completely take the place of fossil fuel generation is nuclear.
It is time to make non-fossil fuel energy plans now. There's lots of work to be done, and the investments are very extensive and require a great deal of political will.
There will be an election in Sweden on the 17th. I urge all Swedes who read this post to vote a true pro-environmental agenda: vote in favor of candidates who support nuclear energy. Vote against candidates who are against nuclear energy, because, as the charts show, the ultimate effect of nuclear shutdowns or moratoria is to increase fossil fuel usage, thus increasing greenhouse gases, thus endangering Earth's climate.