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Newly Built CO2-Emitting Plants Outpace Closings

Governments around the world may be enacting measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the energy industry isn’t on board with those goals, according to a new report from researchers at Princeton University and the University of California at Irvine (UCI).

Their report, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, says existing power plants fired by coal and gas will generate more than 300 billion tons of atmosphere-clogging carbon dioxide over the next 40 years.

They calculate that “committed” emissions – those coming from plants already in operation – will rise by about 4 percent each year as industry builds even more coal and gas fired plants. Their study is the first to quantify the rate at which such emissions grow.

The report estimates that just the new plants built around the world in 2012 will emit 19 billion tons of carbon dioxide during their expected four decades of operation. That’s significantly more than the 14 billion tons of CO2 emissions produced by all the plants operating worldwide built before 2012.

The only way to reverse the trend is “retiring more fossil fuel-burning facilities than we build,” said Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and a co-author of the study.

The report explains that the United Nations, which keeps track of global carbon emissions, ignores capital investments in future power plants that commit to billions of tons of CO2 emissions over several decades.

“We are flying a plane that is missing a crucial dial on the instrument panel,” says Robert Socolow, a professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. “[T]he only dial on our plane tells us about current emissions, not the emissions that current capital investments will bring about in future years.”

The Princeton-UCI report says the number of new power plants is outpacing the old ones being retired. Worse, it says, total remaining commitments in the worldwide power sector haven’t been reduced in a single year since 1950; in fact, they grew at an average rate of 4 percent per year between 2000 and 2012.


The main culprits are developing countries like China, India, and Indonesia. Power plants in China and India will be responsible for 42 percent and 8 percent respectively of committed future emissions.

Caps on emissions in the western countries, meanwhile, are producing benefits, the report says. The United States, once the world’s leading polluter, is now responsible for only 11 percent of committed future emissions; in Europe, the figure is only 9 percent.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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  • Bob Wallace on August 29 2014 said:
    "Did you know that the new $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave desert is a death ray that ignites birds in mid flight? When their bodies fall to the ground, they leave smoky trails in the sky called streamers. It is estimated up to 30,000 birds per year will die this way at just this one green power plant."

    The number stated is 28,000 not 30,000. And it is a 'seat of the pants' estimate by an individual who has been making outrageous claims about bird mortality at renewable energy plants. He takes the numbers produced by ecologists doing field work and multiplies they by several factors.

    He has produced zero evidence supporting his estimates.

    The first quarter estimates of actual bird kills at Ivanpah by the independent firm hired to to the counts is ~200. That means a real mortality rate of less than 1,000 per year.

    Furthermore, the "streamers" seem to be mostly insects and debris. We'll have to wait for an actual count to see what percentage are birds.

    Outreach - you have an amazing amount of inaccurate information in your post. You've posted garbage about wind turbines and solar panels. And this - " Because green energy is intermittent, we would require 10 times the amount of power to displace a fossil fuel equivalent" is simply laughable.

    I just don't have the energy to correct it all. I'll just caution people to accept nothing you post but to look for reliable sources of information.
  • Outreach on August 29 2014 said:
    Did you know that the new $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave desert is a death ray that ignites birds in mid flight? When their bodies fall to the ground, they leave smoky trails in the sky called streamers. It is estimated up to 30,000 birds per year will die this way at just this one green power plant. Bigger solar plants of the same type are in the works. These birds are attracted to the bugs who are attracted to the shiny, pretty lights, just like us. During its construction, some 3,000 endangered desert tortoises were killed by heavy diesel equipment. Over 1.2 million Tibetans were killed after being forced into slave labour in China's mines to help produce the exotic minerals for its construction. This is referred to as the "Green Economy". If we changed the whole planet to green power, we would kill the earth we call home.

    The manufacture of 5, one-megawatt, wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of hazardous waste water. Wind turbines only provide 25% of their rated power output 90% of the time.

    The manufacture of solar panels lets off some of the deadliest greenhouse gases known to humankind. These include hexafluoroethane (12,000 times stronger than CO2), nitrogen trifluoride (17,000 times stronger than C02), and sulfur hexafluoride (23,000 times stronger than C02). Solar manufacturing plants produce 500 tons of hazardous sludge each per year.

    Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University estimates the production of just 6 solar panels requires one ton of coal. This works out to about 660 lbs of coal per square yard of solar panel. This is because the silicon has to be baked at 2,000°F.
    Green energy requires conflict minerals, rare earth elements and heavy metals. These items are approaching the limit on their energy return on energy invested. Because green energy is intermittent, we would require 10 times the amount of power to displace a fossil fuel equivalent.

    ? 10,000 years ago humans and our livestock occupied just 0.01% of all the land-air vertebrate biomass on earth.
    ? Now humans and our livestock occupy 97% of all land-air vertebrate biomass.
    ? Humans and our livestock now consume over 40% of earth’s annual green biomass production.
    ? 50% of All Vertebrate Species will be gone by 2040.
    ? 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950.
    ? 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.
    ? 50% of Fresh Water Fish gone since 1987.
    ? 30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995.
    ? 28% of Land Animals gone since 1970.
    ? 28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970.
    ? 50% of Human Sperm gone since 1950.
    ? Extinctions are 1000 times faster than normal.
    ? Ocean acidification doubles by 2050.
    ? Ocean acidification triples by 2100.
    ? 90% of Lions gone since 1993.
    ? 93 Elephants killed every single day.
    ? 2-3 Rhinos killed every single day.
    ? Bees die from malnutrition lacking bio-diverse pollen sources.
    ? We are on track to lock in 6°C earth temp rise in just 13 years.
    ? Mass Extinction becomes unstoppable and irreversible in 40 years.
    ? Permian mass extinction of 95% of life took 60,000 years 250 million years ago.
    ? Dinosaurs mass extinction took 33,000 years after asteroid impact.
    ? Anthropogenic mass extinction will take 300 years max.
    ? This mass extinction is 100 times faster than anything before us.
    ? 1 million people born every 4½ days.
    ? It takes 10 times as much “green” energy to displace 1 unit of fossil energy.
    ? Efficiency and conservation only causes more growth within current system.
    ? Antarctic meltdown now irreversible and unstoppable.
    ? Arctic methane burst is irreversible and unstoppable within current system.
    ? World Bank says we have 5-10 years before we fight for food and water.

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