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***Energy Policies, Carbon Dioxide, and Climate

by wesupportlee 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.

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.

From the BBC:

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:

  1.  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.

  2.  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.

  3.  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.

What is Your Opinion on Nuclear Energy
. I have always been against it. Atomkernkraft - Nein Danke! 18%
. I was against it before but I am now neutral on the issue because of the fossil fuel issue 6%
. I was against it before, but my opinion has changed and now I realize that it is necessary 0%
. I am new to the issue and am trying to decide. 0%
. I am mildly in favor of nuclear energy 25%
. The climate change issue has made me a fan of both renewable sources and nuclear energy 31%
. I am strongly in favor of building new nuclear facilities in my country 12%
. I am a fan of technology and have always been in favor of nuclear energy 6%
. I don't like electrification or rail systems very much. Everyone should drive their own car. 0%
. No opinion or I don;t know 0%

Votes: 16
Results | Other Polls
WesupportLee - thanks for coming over and posting!! Hope to see you around here again too! (And an interesting and informative post too!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 04:26:36 AM EST
Thank you for this excellent diary.

The inescapable conclusion is that if we are serious about protecting the environment, hundreds of thousands of species, and our present way of life as well as making the world safe for our descendants, we have to mitigate greenhouse gases--and carbon in particular--on a large scale.  The proven technology for doing that is nuclear power.  

The EU has pronounced nuclear power the cleanest, safest form of large-scale electricity generation.

As you say, renewables have their place and we should encourage them.  But they cannot replace the overwhelming use of fossil fuels--use that is predicted to continue to grow as energy demand grows.

The international organization Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy and their spokesmen, Bruno Comby and James Lovelock (of the Gaia Hypothesis)have it right.

Comby states that nuclear power uses a million times less raw material than fossil energies do and therefore produces a million times less waste.  "It's important to note that renewable energies will never be able to fulfill the energy needs of the planet in the coming century," he says.  "Windmills produce kilowatts, but the demand for energy is in gigawatts."  

Over a billion people depend on nuclear power for their electricity.

As you indicate, Italy may have scrapped its nuclear plants for ideological reasons, but in fact Italy is in part powered by uranium in French and Swiss nuclear plants.

I have visited your website and highly recommend it to all.  http://wesupportlee.blogspot.com/

by Plan9 on Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 10:50:34 AM EST
Good writing.

First a nitpick:

Ten operating nuclear facilities

Actually eight. Barsebäck 1 was closed in 1999 and Barsebäck 2 in 2005.

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.

By the closing of Barsebäck 1 & 2 nuclear energy has become a really locked question. For time to come we will have 8 reactors. This has to do with how the two blocks of parties have locked themselves and each other in a gridlock that will hold a pretty long time. The left bloc has two of the parties (the greens and the left party) pulling for closing down nuclear plants, but as I see it, they have gotten Barsebäck from the Social Democrats (main left party) and will not get any more.

The right bloc is likewise in a bind as the Centre party would like to close down nuclear plants while Folkpartiet wants to build more. The main party on the right - Moderaterna - does not want this question raised at all and the small Christian Democrats really has no strong position.

The closing of Barsebäck was originally an agreement between the ruling Social Democrats and the Centre party, making them somewhat obligated to keep the line.

Energy has btw not surfaced at all during this election (not as I have noticed anyway), despite the nuclear incident at Forsmark, high gasoline prices and the current governments promise to get Sweden of oil.

The only related question is the local referendum on congestion taxes in Stockholm (which looks like it will pass).

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 01:17:59 PM EST
To nitpick your nitpick, we do have ten operating nuclear facilites. Before Barsebäck closed we had 12.

Barsebäck 1
Barsebäck 2

Oskarshamn 1
Oskarshamn 2
Oskarshamn 3

Forsmark 1
Forsmark 2
Forsmark 3

Ringhals 1
Ringhals 2
Ringhals 3
Ringhals 4

By the way, I wrote in some other thread that the last and biggest facilities (Forsmark 3 and Oskarshamn 3) were of the BWR 90 design. That was wrong. They are the last of the improved BWR 75 design. The BWR 90 has never been built. The design has since been improved and is called BWR 90+. It is owned by Westinghouse (Toshiba).

BWR 75

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 02:05:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite right.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 13th, 2006 at 03:38:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University concluded that tripling the present number of nuclear plants (around 440 today)could cut greenhouse gases by one-third.  We have the technology, we have abundant uranium to do this, and new designs are more streamlined and can be built more rapidly.  Conservation, synthetic fuels, and renewables could also do their part.  See the September 2006 Scientific American for details.

I wish the countries that get most of their clean energy from nuclear--Sweden, Switzerland, France--would band together to start pressing other countries to increase nuclear power production and diminish fossil fuel plants.

And my hope is that the blind ideologues (Greenpeace, for example) will wake up and look at the real picture.  Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, calls his former colleagues fearmongerers who are out of touch.

The oceans are acidifying, due to excess carbon dioxide, much more rapidly than had been predicted.  The warmer water temperatures accelerate the acidification.  Once the process reaches a certain point, the ocean will no long absorb carbon.  So that natural sequestration will stop, and rather suddenly a catastrophic rise in atmospheric, heat-trapping CO2 will occur.  In comparison, the worst terrorism or the worst nuclear war could never achieve the damage to life on earth that this event will cause.

It took France only 2 decades to go to nuclear power.  It has been not only a healthy decision but a profitable one.

by Plan9 on Thu Sep 14th, 2006 at 08:53:45 AM EST
co2 emissions harm the environment.

No co2 emissions, unfortunately, doesn't mean the environment is not harmed. I don't like scare tactics.

And electricity demand, just like oil demand, is not an exogenous variable. Technological enthusiasm is fine, but certainly not the only outlook one can have on the future.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine

by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Sep 14th, 2006 at 10:15:51 AM EST
Nuclear energy is not a long-term solution. Its current promotion is based upon the same fallacies and moral confusion that causes people to argue against strong climate change abatement:

*The shifting of the burden to future generations
 ->The unsupported faith in an easy technocal fix
 ->The unsupported faith that development will continue uninterrupted

*The treatment of natural capital as income
 ->Ignoring the meta-effects of large-scale expansion

*An irrational inflation of the problem
 ->Anti-abatement advocates inflate the economic impact of abatement
 ->Nuclear energy advocates inflate the economic impact of climate change

Climate change strategies need to be strategies for building a sustainable economy. Nuclear energy is not sustainable.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 14th, 2006 at 12:26:39 PM EST
Are there equivalent graphs showing what the electricity is being used for, like the charts we see for oil consumption?

European countries use a lot of electricity for transportation (trains) compared to the USA but I consider that a good tradeoff because the alternative of more oil-powered cars on the road is even worse for C02.  A central steam-powered electric generator is much more efficient than a small internal combustion engine.

by NHlib on Thu Sep 14th, 2006 at 12:55:27 PM EST
It is foolish to assume that the economic impact of global warming will be small.

The economic impact already is being felt and it is worldwide.  Less rainfall in the central areas of continents, coastal flooding, insect plagues, epidemics.

Scientists from eight European countries have spent the past three years estimating extreme climate change and its impact on six specific economic sectors over the next eighty years.

The comprehensive MICE report â€" Modelling the Impact of Climate Extremes â€" is published this week by the University of East Angliaâ€TMs Climatic Research Unit and concludes that the issue of global warming tends to be ignored by decision makers in business and governments because of the long-term predictions.

It comes as leaders gather for critical discussions on the levels of carbon emissions at the G8 summit on Thursday. (July 7)

The team gathered data from new climate models-- a computer representation of the atmosphere, ocean and land surface-- to predict the changing weather patterns across Europe...

Their findings confirm that, in the future:

Heat waves will become hotter and last longer over much of Europe
The cold season will become much shorter
Cold days with temperatures below freezing will decrease by up to 4 months in Northern Europe by 2070
• Southern Europe and the Mediterranean will experience drier prolonged droughts and reduced rainfall
Northern Europe will be wetter in winter but periods of drought are likely to become more frequent in summer
• There will be an increase in winter rain over most of Europe leading to greater flood risk and water pollution
• The number of severe winter storms over Western Europe will increase

The impact of climate change was studied in six sectors â€" tourism, Mediterranean agriculture, forestry, water and property insurance. It consulted working parties of Europeans directly involved in the industries rather than policy makers.

The consultations revealed the following:

• Tourism

Winter sports in Alps - Snow depth is expected to decrease by about 20 â€" 30 per cent by 2020.

Summer holidays - more frequent and more intense droughts are likely to discourage Mediterranean holidays as more southern Europeans head north or take their holiday in spring. Observed globally average temperatures indicate that the six warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997. Across Europe the warmest ever summer since 1500 was 2003.

A possible indication of what is to come was experienced in Paris, France during the European heat wave of 2003. Parisian temperatures on most days in early August exceeded 40 degrees Celsius....

Floods, droughts and episodes of water pollution are likely to become more severe and more common in the future during wetter and warmer winters....

Reductions in [agricultural] yields are expected due to a shorter growing season and extreme events during development stages including higher risk of heat stress during flowering period and higher risk of rainy days during sowing dates. This impact will be felt over the southern Mediterranean and North Africa. ...

An increased risk of forest fire is expected due to a higher number of dry and hot days in continental and upland areas. Half a million hectares of forest in Mediterranean Europe was destroyed in summer of 2003 --each hectare costing European economy 1000 and 5000 euros.
In northern forests, increases in tree damage due to warmer winters and summer droughts. Spruce, the most economically important tree species in Europe, is facing increased risk of bark beetle and wind throw damage.

It is quite statistically evident that the greater reliance on nuclear power a country or a state of the US has, the lower the carbon emissions per capita.  Without nuclear power the Kyoto standards cannot be met.

Nuclear power has the fewest deaths per terawatt generated of any large-scale power source, including hydroelectric.

by Plan9 on Thu Sep 14th, 2006 at 01:21:50 PM EST
The NYT has a long article on California's attempts to limit GHG's. Worth a read. Even more interesting for the graph and chart minded are the accompanying graphics.

In Gamble, Calif. Tries to Curb Greenhouse Gases

In the Rocky Mountain States and the fast-growing desert Southwest, more than 20 power plants, designed to burn coal that is plentiful and cheap, are on the drawing boards. Much of the power, their owners expected, would be destined for the people of California.

But such plants would also be among the country's most potent producers of carbon dioxide, the king of gases linked to global warming. So California has just delivered a new message to these energy suppliers: If you cannot produce power with the lowest possible emissions of these greenhouse gases, we are not interested.

"When your biggest customer says, `I ain't buying,' you rethink," said Hal Harvey, the environment program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in Menlo Park, Calif. "When you have 38 million customers you don't have access to, you rethink. Selling to Phoenix is nice. Las Vegas is nice. But they aren't California."

California's decision to impose stringent demands on suppliers even outside its borders, broadened by the Legislature on Aug. 31 and awaiting the governor's signature, is but one example of the state's wide-ranging effort to remake its energy future.

The Democratic-controlled legislature and the Republican governor also agreed at that time on legislation to reduce industrial carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by 2020, a measure that affects not only power plants but also other large producers of carbon dioxide, including oil refineries and cement plants.

The state's aim is to reduce emissions of climate-changing gases produced by burning coal, oil and gas. Other states, particularly New York, are moving in some of the same directions, but no state is moving as aggressively on as many fronts. No state has been at it longer. No state is putting more at risk.

Whether all this is visionary or deluded depends on one's perspective. This is the state that in the early 1970's jump-started the worldwide adoption of catalytic converters, the devices that neutralize most smog-forming chemicals emitted by tailpipes. This is the state whose per capita energy consumption has been almost flat for 30 years, even as per capita consumption has risen 50 percent nationally.

The most striking thing for me was just how successful California has already been - read that last sentence of the extract - keeping consumption constant even as the national average has gone up by fifty percent. In real numbers that means that the average American outside of California uses roughly double the amount of electricity as people in California.

by MarekNYC on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 02:15:45 AM EST
"I was against nuclear power, but the more I understood the technology, the more I realized that it is actually a good thing."

A lot of misinformation is in circulation (waste is dangerous for many millenia, uranium is running out, one microgram of plutonium is deadly, ...) and I was a victim of the scaremongers, too.

by ustenzel on Sat Sep 16th, 2006 at 01:46:23 PM EST

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