Green Spot: A Clean Energy Dialogue

So after all the ‘excitement’ over Obama’s visit to Canada some people may wonder what exacting is a clean energy dialogue?  After all the media seem to go on and on about it so it must be important, right?

Well sadly it is nothing more than “have your people talk to my people on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and smart grids.”  That’s about it.  It’s a discussion, some media were calling it a ‘clean energy pact’, when it’s not even a pact, it’s a conversation right now.  There is no new money on our side or anything significant at this point.  What did you expect in a few hours of conversation?

Yet from my point of view it seems rather silly to have Harper stand up there and say the reason we have failed to reduce or even slow our green house gas emissions was all because of Bush.  We couldn’t possibly do anything until America signed on.  Pardon?!?!  Did he just try to rewrite history in one day!

The reason nothing was done was both the Conservatives and the Liberals have done nothing since negotiating Kyoto to try and hit the target other than volunteer programs and some wasteful spending on stupid projects that didn’t help (ie: mass transit tax credit).  Of course none of those work, they rarely do. Actually they did the opposite by stirring up US interest in the oil/tar sands.  Frankly Canada’s big problem has been an unwillingness to deal with the issue in a rational conversation.

So here’s my two cents on the conversation we need to have:

  1. Environmentalists need to get past talking about meeting Kyoto.  Frankly it’s a waste of time because unless suddenly our population drops by 10% and economy shrinks by 20% it will NEVER happen.  There are two many failures leading up the the deadline of 2012 to actually do anything now.  The best we can hope for is to start stabilizing things and start the path to reductions now.
  2. Business needs to accept business as usual won’t continue.  They have desperately tried to avoid regulations or taxes for years complaining about the costs involved.  Well guess what by pushing it off for the last 20 years you have managed to make the costs much worse.  You could have accepted something earlier, but you refused to accept you might have another limit on your business plans.
  3. Environmentalists need to start giving ground on some things.  All renewable power generation won’t happen tomorrow there is a massive infrastructure shift that needs to occur first.  Also people won’t be willing to do massive scale backs on their lives.  So guess what that means looking at nuclear and/or CCS technologies for a long while until things get sorted out (if ever) for an all renewable system.
  4. Business will need to accept there will be losers.  Everyone keeps wanting to have a system where no one loses but this is ridiculous, of course there will be losers.  If you have a high carbon footprint you have know for the last 20 years that it could have a negative impact on your business in the future.  You took that risk and lost.  Move on.

In general Canada collectively has to get past blaming each other.  We all screwed up.  The government didn’t do anything, the people didn’t demand something be done (well until recently) and business looked after it’s bottom line as per usual.  It’s over now, let’s sit down and actually make a plan that could work over decades because that is the only way things will change.

3 thoughts on “Green Spot: A Clean Energy Dialogue”

  1. I’m interested in your engineer’s perspective on how likely it is that CCS technologies will be put into large-scale service in the next five years, particularly in oil sands applications, and what exactly needs to happen before plans are rolled out.

    Some processes such as hydrogen production for upgrading and coke gasification for steam seem to be relatively low-hanging fruit due to the purity of the product gases. I’ve heard speculation that many of these companies are sitting on plans until more regulatory issues are sorted out.

  2. Solfest,

    Likely not. Businesses are profit machines they look at the bottom line first and then look at everything else.


    CCS could be rolled out on coal plants starting in 2013 no problem. How well it actually works? Well that would be the problem. You see most are designed to 90% capture, but they might only get for example, 80% because of scale up problems. So depending on if the CO2 regulations are cap and trade or intensity will determine if a company could live with the 80% CO2 capture. Operating costs are also very high so where these go in expect rates to jump at least 40% if they are fleet wide.

    You see all industry needs a commercial sized demonstration plant to be built to get the bugs out of the design. Also first of kind plants are REALLY expensive (higher design margins on everything), so the costs drop a lot after the first one and you learn where you can cut back on your design.

    As to the oil sands, they have a different problem of lower CO2 concentration in their flue gas so operating and building costs are going go be even higher than coal. Actually I could see some companies having some designs ready, but know that the costs could be so high that their operations could become unprofitable. So rather than deal with the technical issues they have spend the money pushing off CO2 regulations (so far it has worked).

    I agree each processes might have some optimization that could happen easily to improve things but until their is a cost to avoid for CO2 this won’t happen.


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