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Sound science leads to sound policy
2100 M St, NW - Suite 610 Washington, D.C. 20037 www.rooseveltinstitution.org
Volume 1 • February 2009
Copyright 2009 Editor-in-ChiEf
Adrian Haimovich - Columbia University
Dan Amrhein Columbia University Stephen Cox Columbia University Vedant Misra Columbia University
Dario Abramskiehn Columbia University Gelseigh Karl-Cannon Columbia University Nathaniel Edwards University of Georgia Brandon Hammer Columbia University Sarah Leonard Columbia University Kate Redburn Columbia University
Anna Brower Barnard College Shipra Roy University of Minnesota
faCulty advisory Board
Dr. Jack McGourty Columbia University Dr. C. Julian Chen Columbia University Dr. Jacqueline C. Tanaka Temple University Dr. Justin H. Phillips Columbia University
Dr. Martin Pasqualetti Arizona State University
exeCutiVe DireCtor Nate Loewentheil CommuniCations DireCtor Nina Coutinho national poliCy DireCtor Caitlin Howarth energy & the enVironment poliCy strategist Riley Wyman
Printed by Mount Vernon Printing Co. to responsible forestry standards. The opinions expressed within Catalyst are exclusively those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of the editors, faculty advisors, the Roosevelt Institution, or any of the organization’s chapters, centers, advisors, reviewers or affiliates.
Honorable Representative Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI) 7
Letter from the Editor
Adrian Haimovich, Editor-in-Chief 9
Summaries for Policymakers
Global Climate Models Desirability of Non-Point CO2 Sequestration Mechanisms Vertical Farming: Bringing the Country to the Concrete Splitting Water into Hydrogen and Oxygen: a Clean and Abundant Source of Energy 14 16 18 21
The Case for a Federal Regulatory Strategy for Solar Power Blake Carpenter, The University of Iowa Organic Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizer Alex Greenspan, The University of Colorado Analysis of Cap-and-Trade Matthew Tidwell, Johns Hopkins University Informing Decisions: Greenhouse Gas Inventory at the University of North Dakota Anduin Kirkbride McElroy, Shawn O’Neil, Santosh Rijal, Navin Thapa and Junyu Yang, The University of North Dakota 25 33 41 51
Rising Power, Sinking Planet: the New Geopolitics of Energy by Michael Klare James M. A. Hobbs, Colorado College The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery Paul Burger, Michigan State University 62
As a scientist, I have long known the value of scientific research and
technological innovation to the vitality of the United States. Now that our country is increasingly competing in the global marketplace, these issues are more important than ever to America’s future success. Unfortunately, many policymakers at all levels of government are not fully aware of what is at stake if we ignore scientific research and education. It is absolutely critical that the next generation of individuals who make and influence public policy be well-versed in science, technology, and innovation. I encourage students studying in these fields to take an active role in policy as they continue their educations and emerge into the workforce. Future policy makers must recognize the importance of scientific research and encourage innovation if our nation is to remain competitive. Innovation has led America to success since the Industrial Revolution. Previous generations understood that our economy was built upon investments in the development of new technologies, and in rapidly moving those technologies from the lab to the marketplace. We face a new challenge today as foreign countries have learned from us, and are investing heavily in training and equipping scientists and engineers at a rate which threatens to exceed America’s dominance in those areas. New American investment is needed to keep up. Building a highly skilled and motivated workforce in future generations, and developing superb research facilities, are the primary ways to meet the coming challenges. In Congress, I helped facilitate that by passing the America COMPETES Act. It authorized spending for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs, which will provide students the knowledge they need to pursue jobs in high-tech fields in the United States. The COMPETES Act also authorizes funds to expand research and education programs at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy. Also needed is a solid research and development tax credit to encourage the private sector to conduct research and development. In addition to equipping our nation to compete in the global economy, investment in scientific research and education will help move our country and the world away from reliance on fossil fuels. This is essential if we hope to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, federal investment in basic research will lead to new technologies that will make generating electricity cleaner and more efficient, and make cars
go farther on a gallon of gasoline, or power them with no gasoline at all. We are already making great strides in harnessing the sun to power homes and businesses through the use of photovoltaic technology. This technology is rapidly advancing, and photovoltaic sheets are currently being affordably used in various ways to generate power. However, this technology still has far to go before it will be widely used. Perhaps the most direct and available way in which the environmental impact of generating energy can be addressed is through nuclear power. Right now, a convoluted regulatory system deters the establishment of new nuclear power plants, making coal and natural gas more practical – and environmentally detrimental – alternatives for utilities. Moving away from coal as our primary source of energy may be our single biggest challenge to environmental sustainability. However, I believe that, with strong funding for basic research, our nation can lead the world away from its reliance on fossil fuels and find sustainable means to meet our energy needs. Many young people realize the importance of these issues to the vitality of our nation, and are studying these fields so that they are prepared for highly skilled jobs. In order to encourage even more students to study these subjects, policy changes are needed at all levels of government, especially state and local, to bolster these areas of education in school systems and institutions of higher education. Unfortunately, there are few scientists and engineers actively involved in the shaping of policy, which is why I am constantly appealing to young people studying these fields to become active in trying to shape public policy. If I could dictate the agenda of Congress, I would make these issues among the top priorities. The unfortunate reality is that there are many, many competing interests, and most elected officials are simply unaware of how profound the effect investments in scientific research and education can have on America’s economic and social well-being. I urge scientists and engineers, and people with an interest and understanding of these issues, to become involved in politics, whether it be at the local, state or congressional level. Today’s students are the potential innovators and political leaders needed to solve the energy challenges. Far too few scientists and engineers are interested or involved in public policy efforts. But it is essential to have scientific and technological components as part of our public policy. It will be impossible to solve our planet’s extensive environmental and sustainability problems without solid scientific research and workable technological solutions developed by knowledgeable and dedicated scientists and engineers. Please do your part by entering these fields of work and study! -Honorable Representative Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)
“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. ... We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise healthcare’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.” – President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address Welcome to the inaugural edition of Catalyst: Journal of Energy and Environmental Policy. This is a time of great concern for the state of our planet, but also one of great hope for the future. The exigencies of drastic climate change and ecosystem collapse threaten dire social and political consequences. At the Roosevelt Institution’s Catalyst Journal, we believe that by working to build bridges between science and policy formulation, this generation of students can contribute to the solutions that will meet our present challenges. Our tag line reads Sound science leads to sound policy. Between the worlds of science and politics lies an informational barrier that frequently isolates policymaking from pertinent, cutting-edge research. The journal seeks to bridge the gap with policy ideas that reflect authoritative technical analysis. We trace the philosophy of this journal to 1642. The year 1642 saw the passing of Galileo and the birth of Isaac Newton. Before Galileo, Copernicus’s heliocentric ideas were rejected by the masses; most people believed the Earth to be the center of the universe. In 1610, Galileo would take a leap into the scientific and political unknown. On the 7th of January that year, he observed three moons orbiting Jupiter through his homemade telescope and at that moment came to the extraordinary conclusion that the Earth was not the axis of rotation for all celestial bodies. Galileo would spend the following years of his life flirting with political danger until 1632 when, under the guise of a philosophical discussion, he published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The brilliance of Dialogue lies in its presentation. In the text, two philosophers debate the merits of the Copernican heliocentric and Ptolemaic geocentric systems while a Venetian layman observes. The Copernican sways the layman, who, in one of the final lines of the manuscript, says of the heliocentric arguments, “I must confess that I have not heard anything more admirable
than this, nor can I believe that the human mind has ever penetrated into subtler speculations.” After publishing this text, Galileo was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. Newton, an exemplar of modern physical science, would learn much from Galileo’s life work and political troubles. Newton once said in reference to Galileo, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” For years, Newton amassed in his personal notes brilliant insights in the areas of optics, analytic geometry, mechanics, and gravitation. Newton would need coaxing to publish the seminal work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, commonly known as the Principia. The Principia is a deliberately dense text. As Newton later explained, “To avoid being baited by little smatterers in mathematics I designedly made the Principia abstract, but yet as to be understood by able mathematicians.” Where Galileo aggressively publicized his ideas, Newton had little interest in the opinions of the general public. Catalyst has chosen Galileo’s path—scientific understanding cannot be limited to the few. In the aggregate, modern science appears as Newton’s did to many: impenetrable. Understanding scientific writing frequently requires specialized knowledge in order to interpret and contextualize the information in a useful way. This is particularly daunting to policymakers who must remain current on dozens of complex topics simultaneously. While students across the world have dedicated themselves to specialized scientific fields, a select group is both ready and able to link the science they study with the pressing policy questions we face. With a natural disposition for action, a critical stake in shaping the future, and the ability to study and understand complex problems, these students are ideal candidates to help bring science and policy closer together. Catalyst looks to present their work to policymakers and to the general public. Inside this journal you will find three types of articles. We open with a series of short articles called Summaries for Policymakers. In the Summaries for Policymakers, our Editorial Board looks to make more accessible the technologies and research areas most relevant to policy. We shed light on the basic terms and ideas in scientific debate through a format that highlights facts useful to policymakers. Our Summaries for Policymakers discuss vertical farming, non-point carbon sequestration, global climate models, and water-to-fuel technology. This inaugural edition’s four full-length articles reflect the ability of students, undergraduate and graduate alike, to engage in research topics and investigate wide-ranging policy implications of their work. It is our hope that policymakers will use this published research to add new perspective to their legislative work. Matthew Tidwell from Johns
Hopkins University presents “Analysis of Cap and Trade,” where he challenges the effectiveness of a cap and trade scheme and concludes that a carbon tax provides a better alternative. In “GHG Inventory and Emissions Analysis at University of North Dakota,” a team of students from UND describes how academic institutions can take stock of their own greenhouse gas emissions. Alex Greenspan from the University of Colorado discusses better agricultural fertilizer options in “ Organic Alternatives to Chemical Fertilizer.” “The Case for a Federal Regulatory Strategy for Solar Power” by Blake Carpenter from The University of Iowa develops the idea of providing government support in order to improve the competitiveness of solar power. These pieces share a common thread—all reflect the need that policy ideas be supported by scientific results. We conclude the journal with reviews of recently published books. These reviews are an excellent resource for those who are interested in learning what different resources are available in the area of energy and environmental policy. This generation of students must bring a fresh approach to the policy questions faced at all levels of government. Through Catalyst, we look to provide a peer-reviewed resource for creative thinkers, both the policy-makers of today and the leaders of tomorrow. We aspire to this goal from our vantage point on the shoulders of the world’s finest research institutions. We owe special thanks to Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), for his support of Catalyst. Congressman Ehlers is a leading advocate for the protction of the Great Lakes and a proponent of the development of alternative energy resources as well as improved energy efficiency. The success of this journal reflects the incredible efforts of the authors, the Catalyst Editorial Board, the leadership of the Roosevelt Institution, and the Faculty Advisory Board. To all, my most sincere thanks. Adrian Haimovich Editor-in-Chief
summariEs for PoliCymakErs
GloBal ClimatE modEls
Global climate models, or GCMs, have been used for several decades and form the basis of many climate projections and assessments. GCMs are used to predict long-term changes in the earth’s climate though the calculation of physical interactions on a supercomputer. Climate models are useful because they create laboratories where different conditions and changes can be simulated. However, they are limited by computer processing speed and by the finite complexity of the models, and as such all climate model results have a predictive error associated with them. Because they are very complex and laborintensive, GCMs are usually the product of scores of scientists, and a number of these models from around the world compete for greater accuracy and detail.
•Climate models work by placing the earth’s land, ocean, and atmosphere on a three-dimensional grid and treating each grid box as a point in a computer simulation. Models with more or fewer grid points are said to have a higher or lower spatial resolution. Higher-resolution models are necessary to reproduce smaller weather patterns like thunderstorms; models with lower resolution cannot “feel” these phenomena. •The physics of climate are represented in GCMs via different climate variables. These variables are measurable quantities (average temperature, precipitation, etc.) that vary at some point on the earth at a given time. Sometimes the ways in which some measurable quantities affect or give rise to others – for instance, the conditions leading to cloud formation – are not well understood or are prohibitively complex and must be approximated. •Because of this inherent unpredictability, scientists run models many times and look at the average results from the ensemble of model runs. This technique is known as the Monte Carlo method. If the results are consistently in favor of one outcome, then that outcome is said to be predicted with a high degree of statistical confidence. •Another way that models are tested and verified is through the use of hindcasting. This is like forecasting except that scientists put past conditions into a model – for example, the state of the global climate ten years ago – and then see whether or not the model is able to accurately recreate and report past climate.
•Global Climate Models (GCMs) provide climate projections for the near and far future for different conditions, e.g. given different concentrations of particular greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. •Evidence from GCMs is frequently used in forums such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). •Results from climate models have been used to argue that global warming is anthropogenici. •GCMs are limited by computer power and by scientific understanding of some climate phenomena.
Climate models are able to give us a robust general picture of climate over the next decades, even if they are unable to predict the future with absolute certainty. The ability of these models to provide error estimations and confidence levels is important to the incorporation of climate model results into policymaking decisions.
Climate modeling research is currently funded by a number of government agencies, particularly NASA, NOAA, and NSF. All of these agencies are involved not only in the creation of climate models but also in the procurement of the observational data needed to make climate science accurate and relevant. At the time of press, funding for climate modeling has substantially increased via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which promised substantial spending increases at these agencies ($2.5B for NSF, $836M for NOAA, and $400M for NASA)ii. Further funding for basic research and data acquisition in this area will ultimately permit the crafting of better-informed policies.
Sources available at http://rooseveltinstitution.org/catalyst2009 Notes
IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment. Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 996 pp. ii American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1, 111th Cong., 1st Sess. (2009).
dEsiraBility of non-Point Co2 sEquEstration mEChanisms
Many policymakers assume that the simplest mechanisms for carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be point capture and on-site sequestration systems at fossil fuel power plants, especially “clean coal” power plants (van der Zwaan 2005). However, as carbon emissions continue unabated, CCS systems that do not rely on capture at the point of emissions (non-point systems) will become necessary. Once total emissions reach levels that threaten disastrous climate change, a process that may already be happening (Hansen et al. 2008), the only recourse will be to capture carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere (Zeman and Lackner 2004). Non-point systems are efficient because they can be distributed near sites at which CO2 will be either used or stored and are also desirable politically because they remove the CCS infrastructure from the population centers that typically contain power plants and other sources of carbon emissions.
•Non-point CCS systems will be able to “clean up” CO2 that is already in the atmosphere, a feature that will be necessary to reduce atmospheric CO2 to an acceptable level as carbon emissions continue to increase in the coming years. •Population centers and polluted low income areas are typical locations for power plants. These areas would benefit greatly from local air pollution controls, but the installation of extensive CCS systems would only exacerbatethe disproportionate impact of industrial development on disadvantaged communities. •Non-point CCS systems can be placed away from population centers. It would be advantageous for enhanced oil recovery to install them on oil fields, and they could be distributed on agricultural land with a business model similar to the one used successfully for wind farms. Systems created exclusively for the purpose of sequestering carbon could be placed anywhere.
•Non-point CCS systems are able to capture previously emitted CO2 (Lackner et al. 1999) •Adding new carbon sequestration technology to pre-existing power plants will be difficult and expensive due to a lack of industry standardization and the difficulty of retrofitting older plants (David and Herzog 2000; Lackner et al. 1999) •Point capture is not economically feasible for diffuse, low-intensity sources like gasoline automobiles, which are not likely to be made obsolete soon (Lackner et al. 2001) •Transportation to remote storage or consumption sites is a considerable expense for traditional CCS systems (David and Herzog 2000) •Small non-point CCS systems can be developed for local CO2 applications such as agricultural enhancement (e.g., Keith et al 2006) •CCS operations of arbitrary size can be assembled from small non-point CCS components and can be easily expanded
Non-point CCS systems require further development before widespread deployment, but researchers have demonstrated that such systems are technically feasible (Lackner et al. 2001). Especially in light of mounting evidence that widely-touted technologies like clean coal carbon capture systems and hydrogen fuel cells will not be mature for quite some time, it makes sense to invest heavily in a wide array of solutions to the problem of global climate change. The share of the solution that will come from these zero-emission technologies, which do nothing to address past emissions, shrinks daily as carbon emissions continue. Given that all emerging technologies (including those advocated here) have uncertain development timetables, it is important to provide funding for negative-emissions technologies that can mitigate climate change due to carbon emissions regardless of the source or time of emission.
Congress should increase incentives for further research into all promising methods of carbon capture and storage, including traditional point-source sequestration and non-point sequestration. Legislators must also help create a public-private research partnership by increasing funding specifically for scientific research into CCS as part of the effort under the Obama administration to better fund basic scientific research.
Sources available at http://rooseveltinstitution.org/catalyst2009
vErtiCal farminG: BrinGinG to thE ConCrEtE
With approximately 80% of our arable land already in use, water shortages increasing in frequency and severity, rapid urbanization straining regional production and climate change affecting weather, conventional farming will not produce sufficient foodstuffs to feed the world’s ever-growing population. Vertical farming, an idea developed by Dr. Dickson Despommier, professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, modernizes conventional farming practices by building vertically oriented, highly regulated, interior farms within cities. Research suggests that conventional methods of farming will have to double by 2030 in order to meet the rising global demand for food (as the global population reaches 7.9 billion people by 2025, over 50% living in urban centers). Vertical farming promises a more resource and economically efficient alternative that can meet rising demand, especially in urban centers. Vertical farms require significant start-up capital and deviate from commercial practices, and therefore require legislative support. Without such support, vertical farms are unlikely to develop within the next decade, at which point, farming practices may already be strained to a critical point.
•Vertical farming is a matter of implementing existing technologies in a conceptually new way, combining advanced greenhouse technology with NASA-developed artificial environment technology to build multi-storied greenhouses. •Vertical farms require significantly more start-up capital, an estimated $1 billion per building, than do conventional farms. While this makes state assistance initially necessary, vertical farms are estimated to gross $80 million in annual profit. •Vertical farms provide food security in ways that conventional farms cannot by reducing foreign dependency, lessening the oilfood relationship, increasing local self-sufficiency, providing regulated low food prices, and providing more jobs per farm than conventional farms. •Vertical farms utilize NASA artificial environment technology that has already been implemented aboard the International Space Station.
•Vertical farms alleviate stress on farmland by allowing the land to be naturally reclaimed by local ecosystems. This increases biodiversity and potentially reduces the effects of local climate change
•Vertical farming provides a highly efficient environment for farming. By design, these farms make more efficient use of actual land than conventional farms; a thirty-story vertical farm on a one-acre plot is equivalent to thirty acres of farm land. •Interior farming, especially the highly regulated (climate-controlled) interior environments of proposed vertical farms, makes use of minimal resource input •Vertical farms are designed to be fertilizer-free •Interior farms provide a regulated climate system, avoiding the uncertainties of natural disasters and a changing climate •Vertical farms located in cities provide local food production, thereby reducing transportation costs, packaging costs and resale costs •Because of their regulated environments, vertical farms can grow exotic foods locally, significantly reducing international dependence and increasing local and national self-sufficiency •Through their design as energy self-sufficient buildings, vertical farms could potentially add excess energy back to the grid •The vertical farm feeds, on average an estimated 50,000+ people
•The “Food, Energy and Conservation Act of 2008” (Public Law 110–246; “Farm Bill”), has established a goal of modernizing food production, increasing energy efficiency and increasing conservation and ecosystem reclamation. •The Bill appropriates $20 billion annually, from 2008 to 2012 •The Bill was implemented to maintain several programs, for which Vertical Farming funding would be applicable •Farmland Protection Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program •The $200+ billion allocated to this bill could provide enough developmental assistance to feed 20 million people with food from vertical farms •Based on the production cost estimates for a vertical farm in New York City, (developed by Despommier at Columbia University)
Growing exotic plants locally is not a new idea; greenhouses have been used for this purpose for centuries. Vertical farming takes that process one step further, combining multiple cutting edge technologies and enabling cities to grow any crop, year round, close to their growing urban populations. The benefits of modernizing conventional farming practices and building farms closer to where populations are growing are evident, and this innovative alternative should be considered. The actual effectiveness of vertical farms has yet to be seen on a large scale. These farms would require significant start up capital and, if implemented on a large scale, could disrupt current world food production and distribution systems. These risks may make the technology unappealing for food producers. However, there is growing commercial interest in the technology and this interest could be encouraged with a Federally funded incentive and developmental assistance program.
To actualize vertical farming on a national, or global scale, a test model must be built. New York City, home to Columbia University and birthplace of the vertical farming project, would be an optimal choice to test a vertical farm. New York City has a large population, is significantly urban and relies heavily on agricultural produce imported into the city, then distributed. The city is ranked fourth among the world’s most expensive cities by UBS, Mercer and EIU surveys, giving a realistic ceiling for what production costs would be. New York City would provide a rigorous test of practicality and logistical feasibility before national or global development. If a vertical farm could succeed in New York City, it is likely to be adaptable to most other American cities, as well as other major cities globally.
Sources available at http://rooseveltinstitution.org/catalyst2009
sPlittinG WatEr into hydroGEn and oxyGEn: a ClEan and aBundant sourCE EnErGy
Abstract The implementation of solar energy on a large scale is hindered by the limitations of current technology, which allows for the use of solar energy only when there is sunlight. A new process for using solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen is being developed by researchers at the Nocera Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This new process uses inexpensive, easy-to-produce catalyst allows for the use of sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, which may be used to generate power in a fuel cell, making it economical to use solar energy even when the sun is not shining. Plans are in place for the new technology, which currently has government, industrial, and philanthropic funding, to be deployed within ten years. Talking Points
•Current methods of harnessing solar energy have been “daytimeonly,” because storing solar power for later use has been prohibitively expensive. •Existing oxidation catalysts and reactions are expensive and inefficient. The inexpensive, easy-to-produce catalyst allows for the use of sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, which may be used to generate power in a fuel cell •The new catalyst produces oxygen and hydrogen gas from roomtemperature, neutral pH water, making it both inexpensive and non-toxic. •Can be used to generate clean, carbon-free energy on “a massive scale.”
•The Nocera lab, which developed the new catalyst, has government funding from the National Science Foundation as well as industrial and philanthropic support. •Research on the implementation of the new technology must be well-funded so that it can be successfully integrated with existing photovoltaic systems.
In short, the Nocera group claims that they have developed a catalyst that can oxidize water at much higher efficiencies than existing technologies. Oxidation of water is what plants do in photosynthesis, but unlike current methods, requiring toxic catalysts, plants can split water under normal atmospheric conditions in neutral pH water. The Nocera catalyst is the first to successfully replicate this nontoxic, highly efficient, natural process. Furthermore, the new process uses electrodes made of Cobalt and Phosphorus instead of Platinum, which means that it is both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than existing processes. In spite of this promising progress, information about the Nocera group’s catalyst is not complete. The group’s paper on their discovery provides very little data on the form of the catalyst and on the mechanism by which water is split. No schematic of the cell setup is provided, nor is there sufficient information about the electrochemical character of the cell. Nonetheless, the discovery is promising; if coupled with a power-generating system like a fuel cell and mass-produced, the new catalyst would provide for clean, renewable, carbon-free energy.
Before the discovery can be implemented as a viable source of renewable energy, it must be coupled with a device that can generate power, like a fuel cell. Recombining hydrogen and oxygen currently requires platinum electrodes. There is a need to develop inexpensive, environmentally friendly catalysts to expedite fuel cell reactions. Without funding for projects seeking to develop these new catalysts, the Nocera group’s development cannot see widespread use. In the short term, it is therefore necessary to fund both fuel cell research and projects seeking to improve upon or mass-produce the Nocera catalyst. Any long-term renewable energy policy must make use of a phased release of new technology. The first step is to establish a committee to determine the optimal method of carrying out widespread implementation of not only the Nocera catalyst but also hydrogen fuel cells, which, in spite of their efficiency and practicality, are usually used only for supplemental power. It would then be necessary to install the infrastructure necessary for nationwide use of hydrogen fuel cells. This would require the construction of oxidation plants and the popularization of photovoltaic technology.
Sources available at http://rooseveltinstitution.org/catalyst2009
thE CasE for a fEdEral rEGulatory stratEGy for solar PoWEr
Blake Carpenter, The University of Iowa
During the peak-driving season in 2008, gas prices set new record
highsi and a shocked American public began paying closer attention to the impact of energy consumption not only on the environment, but also on household budgets. In fact, by summer 2008, some analysts were arguing that energy and environmental policy were more important during the 2008 Presidential Race than they had been in any election for a generation. Both McCain and Obama agreed on the basic science of climate change and that combating it ought to be a top priority for government action, allowing the debate to focus on the specific measures that should to be taken to address global warming.ii All that changed, however, when financial institutions began to flounder and fail, home values and stock markets took a dive, and oil prices fell, breathing new life into fossil fuels. Hope for a more sustainable energy policy is not lost, but if any regulatory support for alternative energy is to be provided, it must be in line with the new economic reality. Even before being sworn in, President Obama began outlining policy to address both the financial and ecological crises. Obama proposed an economic recovery package that would, in part, also address climate change by creating “green-collar jobs.” Obama’s plan is designed to create or save some 5 million jobs by investing in alternative energy production, encouraging efficiency, and updating the antiquated electric grid.iii In order to most effectively promote sound energy policy during these troubled economic times, President Obama’s efforts in renewable energy must focus monetary support where it will be most effective, retool existing subsidies so that they can be useful during the economic recession, and explore ways to achieve positive results without government subvention. Solar and America’s Energy Mix This article contends that government money will be used most effectively by targeting solar power. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical agency within the Department of Energy, estimates that in 2007 only 7% of America’s energy demand was satisfied through renewable sources. Solar power makes up just 1% of this figure, meaning only .07% of U.S. energy needs were met by solar power.iv Despite having such a slow start, solar is going to grow 25
quickly. The Climate Change Special Initiative at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently released a study on the economic feasibility of solar power to compete with fossil fuels. McKinsey’s researchers examined price trends for non-renewable fuel sources, the rapid growth of installed solar power capacity, and the pace of technological innovation. The McKinsey paper predicts that by 2020 in ten regions around the world, the price of solar energy will compete with traditional fuels without the need for government subsidies.v The intersection of these conditions—the disparity between solar power and other forms of renewable energy and the incredible potential for growth—makes solar a very attractive target for federal subvention. Unlike hydroelectric power, which has been dominant for years, or biomass, which has already received millions of dollars of support, solar power is a relative infant. Although solar power has, to date, captured a relatively small share of the U.S. demand for renewable energy, recent technological improvements should decrease costs significantly and stimulate the installation of additional capacity. Modern Solar Power Technology Currently, there are two classifications of solar power generation systems: photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal (CST). PV power is produced when solar panels convert sunlight directly into electrical energy. CST, on the other hand, uses mirrors or parabolic collectors, called heliostats, to focus solar radiation on a liquid heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is used to produce steam that drives a turbine and generates electricity. Recent technological developments are likely to make the price of both types of solar power more competitive with fossil fuels. Photovoltaic power has long faced a trade-off between efficiency and cost that has limited its commercial value. First generation solar cells were composed of wafers of silicon that absorbed sunlight and produced electricity with substantial energy losses. In July 2007, a University of Delaware research team broke the record for solar cell efficiency by converting 42.8% of sunlight energy into electricity.vi However, nearly 90% of installed solar capacity is only half as efficient as the University’s record-breaking designv. Thin-film PV technology is more commercially viable, but it currently only achieves approximately 10% electrical conversionv. Thin-film was designed to lower the cost of solar power. Thicker, more efficient solar cells are more expensive to fabricate than thin-film, since they require a larger volume of expensive photovoltaic materials. The reduced weight of thin-film PV also produces a smaller carbon footprint and savings in transportation costs. Whether a PV project calls for lower cost or higher effi-
ciency, recent scientific advances may improve both designs. Researchers at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York used nanotechnology to develop a coating for PV cells that could reduce the amount of light that bounces off solar cells from about a third of the sun’s available energy to just 4%.vii If this coating can be commercially applied to existing designs, it would dramatically increase the electrical output that either type of solar cell could generate from the same amount of sunlight. Recent improvements to CST technology also convey decisive benefits over other forms of renewable power. Many renewable power generation designs have no efficient mechanism to store energy. For example, wind turbines generate electricity when the wind blows, which may or may not occur when the power is needed. On the other hand, modern CST plants have begun using molten salts that can store heat very efficiently. Using the salts as heat exchangers improves the dispatchability of the plant by permitting it to generate electricity when it is needed. Better dispatchability allows CST to be used for base load in addition to peak load power,viii and has a number of other positive consequences that improve CTS’s commercial viability. First, CST power plants that utilize molten salt heat exchange systems are able to achieve a 65% annual capacity rating; whereas, solar energy plants without storage systems are limited to 25% annual capacity.ix Second, engineers are able to design heliostat fields and molten salt storage tanks that are large enough to permit power generation for up to 13 hours after the sun has stopped shining. In other words, power can be generated through a rainstorm or all night, until the sun rises the next morning, and consumers of CST power will not experience blackouts during periods of heavy cloud cover. CST plants that use molten salts are able to capture a higher annual percentage of solar energy and produce power more reliably. Reliability reduces financial risk, adding to the factors which have positioned CST to grow rapidly as a power source. Promoting Economies of Scale Federal subvention of solar power would amplify the effectiveness of new technologies by allowing economies of scale, the cost advantages that a business obtains due to expansion, to be achieved for both PV and CST solar plants. As more solar operations become economically feasible due to increased federal support, the incremental cost of installing new capacity falls, further encouraging additional solar projects. Federal subvention makes it more economical for solar power operators to scale-up their operation. Subsidies make it cheaper to buy land to increase the size of a PV or heliostat field, more cost effective to include optional efficiency-boosting
systems, and more feasible for investment in higher capacity plants. All of the advantages gained by subsidies generate additional power, higher returns for solar power plant operators, and more green jobs. A recent report on the economics of solar power calculates that in the past twenty years, the cost of manufacturing PV cells has been cut by approximately 20% with each doubling of solar cell installed capacity, the approximate generating capability of a project or unit. Similar economies of scale are possible with CST technology, due to reduced costs of producing heliostats. Several studies identify the heliostat unit price as the most important cost driver for CST electricity because building the heliostate field typically makes up 40 to 50% of the total cost of the power plant.ix x A comprehensive study of CST technology estimates that heliostat unit costs will decline by 3% with each doubling of production capacityx, the volume of the products that can be produced using current resources. Another study calculated that an increase in annual demand for heliostats from 5,000 to 50,000 would reduce the cost of each unit by approximately 23%.x In addition to focusing support where it will be most effective, government policy must address and work to reverse the deleterious effects that the economic downturn has had on pre-existing federal support for renewable energy. Energy Subsidies and the Recession Most operators of renewable power plants are eligible for some form of financial support. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, signed into law by President Bush last October 3, included a provision that extended and expanded various tax credits for alternative energy. The production tax credit subsidizes wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass and other technologies; whereas, solar operations are eligible to receive the solar investment tax credit.xii Regrettably, these tax credits were not designed to operate effectively during a recession. A business tax credit can only be used to offset a tax liability arising from a profitable year. Therefore, in a year when the producer of renewable power makes no money, the credit cannot be claimed. Most renewable energy enterprises are capital intensive and unprofitable up front, but gradually begin to make money after a few years of operation. To reap the benefits of the tax credits in years when the business is unprofitable and therefore not paying taxes, owners of renewable power plants have been collaborating with large “tax equity partners.” One business structure used to facilitate this partnership has been dubbed “the Minnesota Flip.” Under this business model, equity partners provide a large portion of upfront capital and own a controlling interest in the plant for the initial ten years. Ownership permits
these larger companies with tax liabilities to claim renewable energy tax credits and other tax benefits while they are available. After 10 years the tax credits expire, and ownership flips back to the plant operator by means of a pre-negotiated sale.xiii Business models like the Minnesota Flip allow plant operators to effectively sell the renewable energy tax credits to companies with large enough profits to make use of them. The recent financial slowdown has created a two-fold problem for this system. According to Marty Pasqualini, managing director of a firm that helps connect plant operators and tax equity partners, “there were never more than 18 or 19 tax equity investors, historically.” Nonetheless, Pasqualini adds, “they had enough budget allocation for investment that they had an ability to meet what was, year on year, a tremendously growing sector.”xiv Unfortunately, the recession has hit many of the tax equity partners extremely hard. Among the original pool of investors are Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and AIG, all now defunct. Two other major investors, GE Energy Financial Services and Morgan Stanley, halted new commitments in anticipation of poor earningsxiv. Thus, the recession has created dual problems. First, tax equity partners are less likely to have high taxes, giving them little use for the renewable energy tax credits they already receive. Second, they may also lack the cash necessary to invest in new installations, limiting the ability of tax credits to spur new growth in alternative energy. Several solutions to this issue have been proposed. American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode and Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Rhone Resch have argued that the tax credits should be made refundable, allowing them to reduce tax liability below zero, essentially meaning the Treasury would cut a check to the renewable power plant in years of no profit. Bode argues, “we can continue to grow through this difficult period only if the new Administration and the 111th Congress act immediately to make renewable tax incentives refundable so they can work as they are intended to — even in the current financial context.”xv Another answer could come from decoupling federal subsidies and the profitability of a renewable energy business. The Spanish government uses a price support, subsidizing renewable energy producers when power is sold instead of when a profit is made. The Spanish model features a carefully structured feed-intariff, which allows power from renewable sources to be sold at above-market prices. The subsidy is designed to be exceptionally generous at first to hyper-stimulate the commercialization of solar power. After a few years, the subsidy is reduced. In 2007, the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism, and Trade approved Royal Decree (RD) 661/2007, updating a feed-in-tariff for renewable energy that is sold to the electric grid. It appears that the Spanish model is 29
having the desired effect. Presently there are more than twenty Spanish solar utility plants either in operation, under construction, or in initial project stages. These projects are being financed and managed by no fewer than five major companies and, in theory, are expected to produce over a gigawatt of renewable power each year.xvi The growth of the Spanish solar sector highlights the benefits of using price supports, and the Spanish industry could provide a model for U.S. lawmakers who are concerned about increasing the effectiveness of support for alternative energy during times of economic trouble. Non-Monetary Support for Solar Power In addition to subsidies, there are concrete ways in which a coordinated federal strategy can promote a favorable environment for solar power. One widely circulated idea involves expanding the network of power transmission lines to connect utility customers to regions with high potential for renewable power production (such as the solar-rich land in the desert southwest). Regulation of PV power provides another opportunity for positive intervention without subsidization. PV is a complicated technology to regulate; unlike CST power, PV is cost effective on a much smaller scale. While some utility-scale applications of PV are being explored, there exists an amazing potential for distributed generation of PV power. Distributed generation sets PV solar apart from many alternative energy technologies because it allows the end user to produce power independent of an electric utility. One caveat, however, is that distributing power generation creates difficulties that should be addressed through federal regulation. Trying to connect distributed power to the grid is the biggest hurdle. One method for overcoming this challenge is called net metering. Net metering requires utilities to modify their electric meters to monitor both incoming and outgoing power and to buy renewable power flowing into the grid from privately owned generators. For example, say a small business outfits the roof of its building with solar panels. During the week, the business may use all of the power provided by the solar paneling and need to purchase additional energy from the electric utility. On the weekend when the business closes, however, the solar panels continue operating, even though the company uses minimal power. Net metering obligates the local electric utility to purchase this excess power and reduce the business’ electric bill by the appropriate amount. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires all public electric companies to offer net metering within three years of receiving a request.xvii The result is that net metering is available in 44 states plus the District of Colombia, under a variety of different circumstances.xviii While this approach has worked to some
extent, uniform federal regulation could decrease uncertainty about the availability and extent of net metering and further encourage PV solar power. Expanding the network of power transmission lines and standardizing net metering conditions through federal regulation are just two examples of how the Obama Administration can promote the development of a sustainable power supply without using subsidies. Conclusion Since the beginning of the economic slowdown, support for a change to U.S. energy policy has begun to wane. It is important that the new Administration attack the issue of renewable energy from multiple angles that would be most effective in the dampened economic climate. Any new federal subsidies should target technologies, such as solar, that are likely to yield the most results for taxpayer money. Existing subsidies need to be altered to remain effective during the recession. Finally, the government should consider other regulation to address issues that may be hindering the growth of the alternative energy sector. Whatever the combination of federal regulatory support, clearly, environmental gains are possible. Favorable regulation can drastically alter the price and competitiveness of solar-generated electricity in ways that have positive environmental impacts. A report by the SolarPACES project of the International Energy Agency estimates that by 2025, worldwide installed solar capacity will reach nearly 37 GW of power, satisfy 5% of global energy demand, and offset 362 million metric tons of CO2 emissions yearly.xix If those estimates hold true, government regulation, accelerating the competitiveness of solar power by just a few years, will offset hundreds of millions more metric tons of greenhouse gases. Even though the troubled economy now threatens to distract attention from the environment, the right balance of targeted federal support, improvement of existing subvention, and non-monetary assistance will permit the new government to have a dramatic impact on climate change. References
Isidore C. Ike’s aftermath: The return of $4 gas. CNN [Internet]. 2008 Sept 14 [cited 2008 Nov 4]; [about 6 screens]. Available from: http://money.cnn.com/ 2008/09/13/news/economy/ike_effect/index.htm ii Resources Magazine. Energy, Environment, and Elections: Mapping Voter Behavior in 2008. A Conversation with Jon Krosnik. Resources for the Future [Internet]. 2008. Summer. [cited 2009 Jan 17]; 169: [about 7 screens]. Available from: http://www.rff.org/Publications/Resources/Pages/EnergyEnvironmentandElections.aspx iii Dickerson, M. Why Obama’s green jobs plan might work. LA Times [Internet]. 2009 Jan 4 [cited 2009 Jan 17]; [about 7 screens]. Available from: http://www.latimes.com/business/ la-fi-greenjobs4-2009jan04,0,2453747,full.story iv The U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration. How much renewi
able energy do we use? Energy in Brief Series. 2008 Aug 21. [cited 2008 10 Nov]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/ renewable_energy.cfm v McKinsey & Company. The economics of solar power. McKinsey Quar. Lorenz P, Pinner D, and Seitz T. 2008 Jun. [cited 2008 Sept 1]. Available from: http://www.mckinsey.com/ clientservice/ccsi vi UD-led team sets solar cell record, joins DuPont on $100 million project. UDaily [Internet]. 2007 Jul 23 [cited 2008 Nov 12]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: http://www.udel. edu/PR/UDaily/2008/jul/solar072307.html vii Patel-Predd P. Making silicon less reflective. Technology Review [Internet]. 2008 Nov 11 [cited 2008 Nov 12]; [about 5 screens]. Available from http://www.technologyreview. com/ energy/21655/?a=f viii SolarPACES. Spain pioneers grid-connected solar-tower thermal power. Mancini T and Geyer M. [cited 2008 Nov 10]. Available from: http://www.iea.org/impagr/cip/pdf/ issue36solarp.pdf. ix SolarPACES. Technology characterization solar power towers. [cited 2008 Nov 7]. Available from: http://www.solarpaces.org/CSP_Technology/ csp_technology.htm x Sandia National Laboratories (US). Heliostat cost reduction study. Sandia Report series. Albuquerque (NM): Sandia National Laboratories (US); 2007 Jun. SAND2007-3293. Available from: U.S. Department of Commerce National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161. Available from: www.prod.sandia.gov/cgi-bin/techlib/access-control. pl/2007/073293.pdf xi Sargent & Lundy, LLC. Assessment of concentrating solar power technology cost and performance forecasts. Charles RP, Davis KW, and Smith JL. In: Electric Power 2005; 2005 Apr 5-7; Chicago, IL. [cited 2008 Nov 5]. Available from http://www.sargentlundy.com/ news-publications/publications-2005.html xii Union of Concerned Scientists [Internet]. Cambridge (MA): The Union; c2008. Production Tax Credit for Renewable Energy; 2008 Nov 14 [cited 2009 Jan 18]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/solutions/big_picture_solutions/ production-tax-credit-for.html xiii Great Plains Windustry Project [Internet]. Minneapolis (MN): Windustry; c2007. Community Wind Toolbox Chapter 12: The Minnesota Flip Business Model. 2007 [cited 2009 Jan 16]; [about 15 screens]. Available from: http://www.windustry.org/your-wind-project/ community-wind/community-wind-toolbox/chapter-12-the-minnesota-flip-businessmodel xiv Mandel, J. Hit hard by financial crisis, industry seeks help again from Congress. Greenwire [Internet]. 2008 Nov 13 [cited 2009 Jan 16]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: http://www.wbcsd.org/plugins/DocSearch/details.asp?type=DocDet&ObjectId=MzIzOTQ xv Jesmer, G. AWEA and SEIA Call for Refundable Renewable Energy Tax Credits. RenewableEnergyWorld.com [Internet]. 2009 Jan 15 [cited 2009 Jan 18]; [about 9 screens]. Available from: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/ story?id=54497&src=rss xvi Solar power – utility-scale sun power. Power Engineering International [Internet]. 2007 Jun [cited 2008 Nov 12]; [about 7 screens]. Available from: http://pepei.pennnet.com/display_article/297264/17/ARTCL/none/none/Solar-Power---Ultility-scale-sun-power/%3E xvii U.S. Department of Energy. State energy alternatives: net metering. Information resources. 2008 Feb 29 [cited 2008 Nov 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: http:// apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/alternatives/net_metering.cfm xviii North Carolina Solar Center. United States. Net metering [map of availability on Internet]. Raleigh (NC): North Carolina Solar Center. 2008 Nov. [cited 2008 Nov 13]; [1 slide]. Available from: http://dsireusa.org/library/includes/ topic.cfm?TopicCategoryID=6&CurrentPageID=10&EE=1&RE=1 xix SolarPACES. Spain pioneers grid-connected solar-tower thermal power. Mancini T and Geyer M. [cited 2008 Nov 10]. Available from: http://www.iea.org/impagr/cip/pdf/ issue36solarp.pdf.
orGaniC altErnativEs ChEmiCal fErtilizEr
Alex Greenspan, The University of Colorado
The production and distribution of chemical nitrogen for use as agricultural fertilizer comprises between 1-2 percent of global fossil fuel consumption. Though this direct contribution to energy use seems minimal, it is unnecessary and unsustainable. On average, American farmers apply 24-32 percent more chemical nitrogen than is needed for optimal crop yields, thereby wasting 30-40 percent of all chemical nitrogen consumed. Excess nitrogen leaches into ground water causing further environmental damage. With fertilizer prices increasing, farmers are already looking for alternatives to chemical nitrogen. The USDA offers agricultural price support primarily through commodity loans to farmers: these should be provided conditionally, crediting organic soil nitrogen from manure and nitrogen fixing cover crops. The mechanisms of crediting organically fixed nitrogen must be tailored to individual regions; farmers in warmer climates should receive credit for soil nitrogen fixed from “green manure” legumes planted during the winter, whereas farmers in colder climates will benefit from subsidies to inoculate seeds with nitrogen fixing rhizobacteria. The USDA can ncentivize these practices through both existing and novel policy mechanisms. These policies will not only reduce fossil fuel consumption and protect the environment, but help to stabilize crop prices.
The term fertilizer refers to nutrients applied to soil to aid crop
growth. The three most significant nutrients for agricultural crop yields are phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen. Soil nitrogen is the limiting factor of crop growth in most modern agricultural systems.i American farmers consumed almost 15 million metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer, nearly three times as much as other primary agricultural nutrients.ii Global crop yields increased drastically throughout the 20th century following the advent of the Haber-Bosch process of fixing inert atmospheric nitrogen gas into the reduced forms that plants can utilize (ammonia and urea). However, this process of manufacturing chemical sources of nitrogen nutrients is extremely energy intensive, and chemical fertilizers are highly susceptible to groundwater leaching. Fortunately, organic alternatives to chemical fertilizer can almost 33
entirely offset agriculture’s synthetic nitrogen requirements. Given the environmental impacts of chemical nitrogen fertilizer and its steadily rising price, it is important to seek viable alternatives. Effective and widespread use of organic fertilizers can substantially reduce chemical fertilizer use without detrimentally effecting crop yields, and can even serve to stabilize global crop prices. This paper discusses the environmental impacts of inorganic nitrogen fertilizer, organic alternatives to chemical fertilizer, and policy options for reducing chemical fertilizer use and incentivizing its alternatives. Environmental Impacts of Chemical Fertilizer Nitrogen Watershed Contamination Nitrogen fertilizer application constitutes the single greatest source of groundwater contamination in the United States.iii Because nitrogen is generally the limiting factor in crop growth, farmers apply nitrogen in excess to ensure maximum yields. Nitrogen leaching refers to the runoff of excess nitrogen into ground and surface water. Leaching occurs when precipitation exceeds evapotranspiration in an agricultural system, meaning that the input of water into system exceeds the amount of water that the crop uses.ii The rate of evapotranspiration relative to precipitation and the amount of nitrogen farmers apply to the soil vary throughout the growing season; nitrogen leaching varies accordingly. Leaching tends to be higher early in the season because farmers apply significantly larger quantities of nitrogen than crops need in order to ensure safe early growth. Because plants are less developed earlier in the season, evapotranspiration is relatively low. Later in the cropping season, leaching tends to decrease because maximum fertilization becomes less important and evapotranspiration rates increase as the crops grow.ii Nitrogen leaching has two major imminent environmental consequences. The most obvious is nitrate contamination of groundwater, which is dangerous for humans and other organisms. More significantly, nitrogen leaching in surface water also causes eutrophication, an increase in nutrients within an ecosystem that fuels rapid algal growth in surface waters. The algae quickly die and decompose, exhausting oxygen in the ecosystem, which in turn kills other organisms in a phenomenon known as hypoxiaiii. The largest incidence of hypoxia occurs in the Gulf of Mexico each summer. Nitrogen runoff from farms in the Mississippi River Basin flows into the gulf creating a stretch of ocean thousands of kilometers wide, popularly referred to as a “dead zone,” in which little marine life can survive.iii Though organic alternative nitrogen sources combined with improved agricultural practices can reduce nitrogen leaching, the
dire situation posed by the Gulf of Mexico dead zone requires unique solutions. Booth and Campbell recommend expansion of federal conservation programs by 2.71 million hectares in the areas of the basin with the highest rates of nitrate runoff. Such a policy would require both setting aside land and subsidizing farmers to build environmental buffers to decrease watershed contamination by nitrate leaching.iii Campbell and Booth predict that such measures could reduce the dead zone by as much as 60 percent. Energy Consumption Production and distribution of nitrogen fertilizer causes 1-2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.ii Gaseous atmospheric nitrogen is fixed into solid ammonia, or urea, through an industrial procedure known as the Haber-Bosch process. Fixing one kilogram of ammonia, the most common form of nitrogen fertilizer, requires 55 megajoules of energy.ii * Additionally, the Haber-Bosch process relies directly on fossil fuel consumption. In the process, atmospheric nitrogen gas reacts with hydrogen gas to form solid ammonia. Hydrogen gas must be evolved from natural gas (methane) by reacting methane with steam. In addition to hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide is produced and then released into the atmosphere. Approximately 80 percent of the energy used globally in the Haber-Bosch process derives from natural gas, and most of the remainder comes from coal.ii Sixty percent of the natural gas consumed goes towards the hydrogen gas feedstock, while 37 percent of the energy generated by natural gas or coal consumption contributes to the 1200 °C temperatures and 100 to 300 atmosphere pressures required by the Haber-Bosch process. Due to the specific energy and feedstock requirements of the Haber-Bosch process, currently viable renewable energy sources, such as wind, could not effectively replace fossil fuels for the production of nitrogen fertilizer. The most likely alternative to using natural gas to generate hydrogen would be water electrolysis, which releases oxygen gas instead of carbon dioxide. However, water electrolysis requires more energy than methane reformation; currently, most of that energy comes from coal. Therefore, water electrolysis is not, currently, cleaner or more cost efficient. Furthermore, because the fossil fuels burned in the Haber-Bosch process contribute directly to the required heating, alternative sources of energy will not be as efficient as simply burning fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources could be developed to operate the Haber-Bosch process in the future; however, the high price of chemical fertilizer and the existence of viable alternatives make the latter seem a more prudent policy option.
Alternatives to Chemical Nitrogen Fertilizer Manure Animal waste constitutes the most readily abundant alternative source of soil nitrogen. Manure contains most primary and secondary nutrients needed for plant growth, including high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous. In 1997, confined livestock operations produced manure containing 1.12 million metric tons of recoverable nitrogen.v The farms that produced this waste collectively controlled 29.6 million hectares of cropland. The 1997 census of agriculture estimated that, at maximum, these same farms could feasibly utilize only 40 percent of the nitrogen they produced. Widespread redistribution of animal waste could significantly impact American chemical fertilizer nitrogen consumption. However, several factors limit the effectiveness of any such policy.vi Though animal waste contains both reduced nitrogen and phosphorous, these nutrients can often take several years to mineralize into a form useful for agriculture. Distribution policies recently implemented may therefore require several years to significantly impact fertilizer use. Furthermore, rates of nutrient mineralization vary depending on storage methods, climate, and manure source, complicating the estimation of recoverable nitrogen in the manure. This assessment is important given that overuse of manure nitrogen is subject to the same problems of leaching and denitrification as chemical fertilizer. Nevertheless, manure fertilizer offers benefits over chemical fertilizer. Manure can act to improve soil quality, decreasing erosion and increasing water retention, thereby reducing nutrient leaching. Furthermore, in addition to supplementing soil nitrogen, manure contains other primary plant nutrients, phosphorous and potassium, and secondary nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, and macromolecular organic material. Nitrogen Fixing Cover Crops Certain species of legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen gas into a form available to both the legume crop and to another crop planted later. If managed effectively, nitrogen fixing cover crops can fully supply another crop’s nitrogen needs. Symbiotic microorganisms known as rhizobacteria grow in the roots of nitrogen fixing legumes, forming root nodules.vii These rhizobacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen gas into soluble ammonia.vii During the plant’s life, most of the ammonia produced goes towards the plant’s own growth; when the plant dies, excess ammonia is released into the soil in a reduced form. In annual legumes, nitrogen reserves are generally in greatest excess just before the plant flowers, so tilling the crop shortly before flowering ensures the greatest soil nitrogen gain.
Cover crops are environmentally favorable in many ways. Biological nitrogen fixation does not require fossil fuel consumption because the sole energy input is photosynthesis in the host plant. Growing cover crops further mitigates CO2 emissions through carbon sequestration in plant tissue. Though cover crops are still susceptible to nitrogen leaching, they result in significantly less soil nitrogen loss than chemical fertilizer (10-15 percent loss instead of 30-40 percent), increase soil quality, reduce erosion and runoff, and thereby further reduce leaching over time.ii Furthermore, using cover crops has been shown to reduce a farm’s total energy consumption by up to 20 percent.ii Given the rising cost of chemical fertilizer, nitrogen fixing cover crops also offer significant economic benefits. In 2006, nitrogen fertilizer prices in the United States had risen to 521 USD per ton. viii That same year, farmers applied an average of 138 pounds of nitrogen per acre grown of corn, the most commonly grown crop in the United States and the most fertilizer intensive.ix Therefore, farmers spent an average of 36 USD on fertilizer per acre of corn. The nitrogen production of common nitrogen fixing cover crops is between 72 and 158 pounds of nitrogen per acre, between 32 and 51 USD.vi These cover crops include hairy vetch, which produces between 90 and 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre for 35 to 65 USD per acre, and berseem clover, which produces 75 to 220 pounds of nitrogen per acre for 22 to 39 USD per acre. Cover cropping is clearly an economically viable alternative to commercial nitrogen fertilization, particularly given that the cost of chemical fertilizer will likely continue to rise as the demand for natural gas rises, whereas the prices of seeds and agricultural labor remain relatively inelastic to market trends. Microbial inoculation of agricultural crops Though few plants have naturally evolved nitrogen fixation, strains of rhizobacteria have been developed to fix nitrogen for nonleguminous crops and are referred to as biofertilizer. One such commercially available strain of biofertilizer has been marketed under the name BioPower. Field trials using BioPower demonstrate that inoculating the roots of crops can save as much as 70-90 percent of the nitrogen requirements for legumes, 50 percent for rice, 50 percent for corn, 30 percent for wheat, and even 50 to 70 percent for cotton. These savings in nutrient requirements translate to 25 to 117 USD per hectare for legumes, 33 USD for rice, 41 USD for corn, 21 USD for wheat, and 103 USD for cotton.x
Policy Options to Reduce Inorganic Nitrogen Consumption Currently, no federal policy directly addresses chemical fertilizer consumption. In the status quo, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers financial support to farmers through farm loans and through subsidies, referred to as direct payments.xi, xii, xiii Most USDA loans take the form of low interest commodity finances to insure against farmers selling their stocks when prices are low at harvest. The USDA only offers direct fertilizer price support through emergency farm loans and direct farm loans to disadvantaged (minority and beginning) farmers. With this, farmers eligible for the loans can use the financial resources to buy agricultural inputs including fertilizer. The USDA also distributes direct payments to farmers in possession of “base acres”** for certain economically significant crops, including corn and soy. Due to World Trade Organization restrictions, the USDA cannot directly subsidize fertilizer for producers or consumers. The only explicit reference in the 2008 Farm Bill to fertilizer is the authorization of one million dollars in funding for research on renewable energy for chemical fertilizer production.xiv Reforming USDA policy to reduce chemical fertilizer dependence will require the creation of new programs and awareness of variation between regions and individual farms. Agronomic data suggests that farmers use between 24 and 32 percent more nitrogen than needed for optimal crop yields.xv Therefore, simple and cost efficient policy options can significantly impact chemical fertilizer consumption. Farmers may have ifferent reasons for over-applying nutrients, so the same policies may have different impacts in different regions.xv The most effective policies will be implemented on the local level. Still, all farmers fundamentally apply nutrients in excess because of uncertainty surrounding the level of nutrients already present in soil. This preemptive action covers unforeseeable events during the cropping season that may decrease nutrient levels. Therefore, farmers perceive nutrient over-application as favorable, despite increased costs. Policy solutions must reduce uncertainty about local nutrient demands and create incentives for conservation. Glen Sheriff warns against disincentives such as input taxes and regulations on chemical fertilizer as politically infeasible and economically damaging to farmers.xv Instead, Sheriff suggests policies that help manage risk, such as crop insurance, and that encourage adoption of environmentally beneficial practices such as upgraded irrigation systems, soil nitrogen content tests, and organic nitrogen crediting. These win-win policies could and should be implemented through existing policy mechanisms. The 2008 Farm Bill reduces subsidies to farm insurance companies; these subsidies should
be reinstated to alleviate the cost of insurance to farmers, which will reduce risk to farmers and thus reduce economic uncertainty. The USDA should also encourage soil nitrogen content tests and subsidize nitrogen from organic sources through expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which provides voluntary technical and financial assistance to farms seeking to reduce their environmental impact.iii This assistance already includes estimation of soil quality and nutrient content. However, the program is limited in scope and typically only implements changes designed to reduce runoff from chemical fertilizer. The CRP should be expanded to assist more farms by providing estimates of existing soil nutrients and financial assistance for farms to use alternative nitrogen sources. However, directly incentivizing the use of alternative nitrogen sources is more complex. Because most excess manure is produced on confined livestock operations, the federal government can encourage the distribution of manure as fertilizer by taxing feedlots that do not distribute their manure. The USDA can further incentivize alternatives to chemical fertilizer through expansion of eligibility requirements for direct payment subsidies to include alternative nitrogen sources. Furthermore, the crops included in direct payment programs should include nitrogen-fixing crops.*** To encourage the use of biofertilizer in colder climates, where cover cropping is economically unviable, the USDA should create new subsidy programs for the inoculation of cash crops with nitrogen fixing microbes. Additionally, the USDA should either expand emergency assistance loans to include farmers transitioning from chemical fertilizer to organic fertilizer sources or create a new category of loans for the cost of cover cropping and microbe inoculation. Through coordinated and comprehensive policy, the USDA can substantially reduce agricultural consumption of inorganic nitrogen fertilizer. In addition to causing water contamination, the production of nitrogen fertilizer represents agriculture’s greatest contribution to fossil fuel consumption, totaling 1-2 percent of all global fossil fuel use. While this contribution appears relatively minor, chemical nitrogen fertilizer is wasteful and often unnecessary. Reducing agricultural dependence on inorganic nitrogen can help stabilize crop prices, which have risen proportionally to fertilizer prices in recent years.xvi Crop prices are currently falling, but fertilizer prices will continue to rise with the price of natural gas, creating potential for further crop price volatility and crop shortages. Farmers have already begun to search for organic alternatives to chemical fertilizer that are now economically viable and less susceptible to drastic price changes. Policy makers must facilitate this transition to protect the environment, farmers, and global food security. 39
*For perspective, 55 megajoules is equivalent to the amount of energy required to run an average car 25 milesiv. **“Base acres” refers to farmlands on which certain crops have historically already been grownxi ***Currently Direct Payment subsidies are offered for barley, corn, sorghum, oats, canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sesame seed, sunflower seed, peanuts, rice, soybeans, upland cotton, and wheat, of which only soy fixes any nitrogen.
Jensen, E. and Hauggaard-Nielsen, H. How can increased use of biological N2 fixation in agriculture benefit the environment? Plant and Soil 2004; 252(1): 177-186. ii [FAOSTAT] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division. Consumption in Nutrient in the United States and the World in 2006 [Internet]. Fertilizers: FAOSTAT; 2008, June. Available from http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FertilizerUse/ iii Booth, M. and Campbell, C. Spring Nitrate Flux in the Mississippi River Basin: A Landscape Model with Conservation Applications. Environmental Science and Technology 2007; 41(15): 5410 -5418. iv Lux, Jim. Comparison of relative energies and powers [Internet]. Jim Lux’s Website; 2000, Feb. Available from: http://home.earthlink.net/~jimlux/energies.htm v Economic Research Service (US). Confined animal production and manure nutrients. United States Department of Agriculture; 2001, June. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. (AIB771). Available from http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/aib771/ vi Trachtenberg, E. and Ogg, C. Potential for reducing nitrogen pollution through improved agronomic practices. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 1994; 30(6): 1109-1118. vii Managing Cover Crops Profitably (3rd ed.). Beltsville, MD: Sustainable Agriculture Network; 2007 viii Economic Research Service (US). Impact of rising natural gas price on U.S. ammonia supply. United States Department of Agriculture. Outlook report no. WRS 0702. Available from http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/WRS0702/ ix Economic Research Service(US). Nitrogen used on corn, rate per fertilized acre receiving nitrogen, selected states [Internet]. US Fertilizer Use and Price Data Set: United States Department of Agriculture; 2007, Oct. Available from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/ FertilizerUse/ x Malik, K., Hafeez, F.Y., Mirza, M.S., Hameed, S., Rasul, G., Bilal, R. Rhizospheric plant-microbe interactions for sustainable agriculture. In: Wang, Y., Lin, M., Tian, Z., Elmerich, C., Newton, W., editors, Biological nitrogen fixation, sustainable agriculture and the environment. The Netherlands: Springer; 2005. p.257-260. xi Farm Service Agency. News and Events [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: USDA: 2008; USDA issues advanced direct payments; 7 Jul, 2008 [cited Nov 13, 2008];[about 2 screens]. Available from http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=lan ding&topic= ner&newstype=newsrel&type=detail&item=nr_20080707_rel_0178.html xii Farm Service Agency. Farm Loans Program [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: USDA: 2008; Direct farm loans; 5 Sep, 2007 [cited Nov 13, 2008];[about 2 screens]. Available from http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=fmlp&topic=dfl xiii Farm Service Agency. Price Support [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: USDA: 2008; Market loss assistance payment program; 20 Mar, 2008 [cited Nov 13, 2008];[about 2 screens]. Available from http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=prsu&topic= mpp xiv Economic Research Service. 2008 Farm Bill Side-By-Side [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: USDA: 2008; 2008 farm bill side-by-side; 2 Oct, 2008 [cited Nov 13, 2008]. Available from http://www.ers.usda.gov/FarmBill/2008/ xv Sheriff, G. Efficient waste? Why farmers over-apply nutrients and the implications for policy design. Review of Agricultural Economics. 2005; 27(4): 542-557. xvi Bradsher, K. Martin, Andrew. Shortages threaten farmers’ key tool: fertilizer. New York Times (World Business). 2008 Apr 30. Available from: http://www.nytimes. com/2008/04/30/business/worldbusiness/30fertilizer.html?_r=1
Matthew Tidwell, Johns Hopkins University
Cap-and-trade is often touted as the most effective and politically tenable policy proposal to address global climate change. This article attempts to address these widely held beliefs by exploring the implications and pitfalls of adopting a federal greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program in the United States. It argues that a cap-and-trade regime is problematic because it would be: 1) based on the flawed premise of a ‘safe’ concentration of greenhouse gas emissions; 2) unable to provide a clear, stable price on greenhouse gases; and 3) open to manipulation and fraud. By comparing cap-and-trade to a carbon tax, it concludes that a carbon tax offers a more efficient and effective means to put a much-needed price on GHG emissions resulting from fossil fuel combustion. Introduction Global climate change poses a serious threat to the prosperity of the United States and every other nation on Earth. The principal cause of climate change is the emission into the Earth’s atmosphere of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide, which leads directly to an increase in the natural rate of warming from the greenhouse effect. Burning fossil fuels and deforestation are two of the primary reasons for the increase in atmospheric GHG concentrations since the Industrial Revolution. It was not until fossil fuels began to drive our economic machine that scientists understood the link between GHG emissions and climate change. Even with this understanding, GHGs continue to be emitted because there is no economic price on GHGs or the damage they cause. The ‘external’ costs of polluting are borne by society rather than those who are responsible for the emissions; therefore, imposing costs on the polluters of GHG emissions is a goal of climate policy. If a price were put on GHGs, the economic equation for many business activities would change as entities would have to include the new ‘costs’ of carbon and other GHGs into their profit equations. Using an old coal-fired power plant, as a simplified example, helps illustrate this. Without a price on GHG emissions, the plant’s costs are low, requiring only overhead costs and the cost of purchasing the coal. Given its abundance and U.S. federal subsidiesi, coal is a cheap fossil fuel, which makes running the relatively inefficient plant profitable. If a price were imposed on carbon emissions, the costs 41
of running such a plant would rise dramatically, due to coal’s very high carbon content.ii Although the plant could continue operations, the price of its electricity would increase, driving away customers. Competitors with lower or no GHG emissions like natural gas-fired power plants or wind farms would see monetary benefits. Similarly, with a price on GHGs, individuals would be affected as higher prices would discourage consumption of fossil fuels (and, at some point, adoption of new technologies). The goal of having a price on GHGs is to inform our decisions based on their true impact on the environment, and by extension society. When we see the true costs, we make different choices, for example, using less energy, generating energy with cleaner resources, and finding alternatives to existing business practices. Climate change legislation, therefore, is needed at the federal level to help create a message in the form of price signaling to increase supply or reduce demand. Given the numerous causes of climate change, legislation must implement a multi-faceted policy approach, including reducing or eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels. Because burning fossil fuels (for electricity generation, transportation, heating and industrial processes) makes up the largest percentage of GHGs emitted annually in the U.S.,iii many legislative proposals involve reducing emissions from these sectors of the economy. The most popular GHG reduction model is a market-based cap-and-trade regime. The principal objective of this policy proposal is to put a declining cap on emissions of carbon and other GHGs, while still allowing polluters to trade allowance permits. The trading component is left to the market as it finds the most cost-effective emission reductions, theoretically helping to lower compliance costs. Imposing a cap introduces the forces of supply and demand for available permits resulting in a price for ‘the right to pollute.’ Because the cap is set below the business-as-usual level of emissions, permit scarcity would make it more expensive to use fossil fuels; therefore reducing the usage of polluting fuels and emission levels. Concurrently, the increased costs of fossil fuels make it easier for alternative energy sources to reach price parity with fossil fuels, boosting the economic viability of alternative energy.iv In the United States, the consensus among many states, legislators, businesses and environmental groups is that cap-andtrade is the most effective and politically tenable policy proposal to address global climate change.v In fact, almost all proposals introduced in the 110th United States Congress proposed cap-and-trade; and, during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to implement an economy-wide program.vi This paper will argue that a U.S. domestic cap-and-trade regime is problematic because it is 1) based on the flawed premise of a ‘safe’ concentration of GHG emissions; 2) unable to provide a clear, stable price on greenhouse gases;
and 3) open to manipulation and fraud. While no climate policy is perfect, on balance, a more efficient and sound policy would be an upstream carbon tax. A national carbon tax levied at the point source, or where a fuel enters the market (e.g. at the coal mine, well head or port), and ratcheted up over time would introduce into the market a clear, stable price on GHG emissions. The ever-increasing price on GHGs, however, will not be sufficient to facilitate the ‘breakthrough’ technologies needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Therefore, the tax must be coupled with ambitious technology policies geared toward the development, deployment and commercialization of clean technologies that provide the services citizens want with minimal contribution to climate change. Background on Cap-and-Trade A U.S. GHG cap-and-trade regime would likely entail a regulatory authority, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, setting a maximum level of emissions allowable under the regime (the national cap) and distributing pollution permits that regulated entities would have to surrender for each ton of pollution emitted during a compliance period. Depending on the regime, these entities could be either upstream (factories, producers) or downstream (end-users). Regulated entities would be able to purchase the permits through an auction-like process, or the regulating body could distribute them for free. Some regulated entities will purchase more permits than are required for compliance; those entities can then trade their excess permits to other entities in need of additional permits. As the regime’s cap ratchets down, so too would the number of permits available in the market, thereby increasing over time the cost to pollute. The cap-and-trade model is based on the success of the U.S. 1990 Clean Air Act amendments aimed at reducing acid rain by establishing a regulatory regime involving the buying and selling of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution permits. Currently, the largest existing GHG cap-and-trade regime in the world is the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) created to help the EU reach its reduction targets as defined by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Because of the success of the acid rain program, U.S. treaty negotiators pushed hard and successfully to base the Kyoto Protocol on cap-and-trade. The momentum behind cap-and-trade, however, has blinded policymakers and much of the public from other options.vii Flawed Premise One of the most serious pitfalls of cap-and-trade is that the very premise of such a regime is flawed. The underlying presumption 43
behind the premise is that there is a “safe” threshold level of greenhouse gases that would prevent catastrophic global climate change. The level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere is currently more than 380 ppm (parts per million), which is a 40% higher concentration than before the industrial revolution and, some say, the highest in the last 650,000 years.viii The most commonly cited goal most often behind cap-and-trade programs is to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”ix In policy terms, this is often expressed as a goal that reflects a percentage reduction of GHG emissions compared to a base year, e.g. a reduction of 5.2% percent compared to 1990 emissions levels.x Therefore, the goal is to reach a concentration level that is considered “safe”, or at the very least, will not cause catastrophic climate change.xi To illustrate the problem with trying to reach a specified emission target by a given date, it is worth quoting at length Warwick J. McKibbinxii and Peter J. Wilcoxen:xiii The risks associated with climate change result from the accumulated stocks of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Each additional ton of emissions increases the risk, although very slightly, and there is no threshold below which risks are zero… In the absence of a clear threshold, basing a climate policy on a rigid emissions target makes little sense: achieving the target does not eliminate the risk and exceeding the target does not cause consequences markedly different from achieving it. Put bluntly, when every ton of emissions contributes equally to the problem, it is impossible to justify any particular emission target, other than possibly no emissions at all.xiv Thus, a domestic cap-and-trade regime that, for example, aims for an 80% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 has the wrong goal in mind.xv Since we cannot be sure (and may never be sure) which threshold level of emissions is “dangerous,” our goal should be to a wholesale elimination of man-made GHGs from the global economy. Domestic policy, therefore, should be geared toward “input” measures rather than “output” measures like an arbitrary emissions level.xvi Policy makers should explore options within a framework of sustainable development, such as percentage of electricity generated by non-CO2 emitting sources; these can easily be expanded upon in the future and create a foundation for future growth. It is reasonable to argue that the level of a national carbon tax
would also be based on an emissions target, albeit implicitly. Without an emissions target how would the federal government decide between an initial tax of $2 per ton of CO2 or $40? The purpose of the tax must be to provide a clear and stable emissions price that acts principally to reduce fossil fuel consumption while simultaneously supporting the other climate policies enacted by the government; it should be a fairly straightforward economic analysis to determine an initial carbon price that will have a “motivating” effect without limiting economic growth.xvii Price Volatility The goal of a cap-and-trade regime is to create a market for a hitherto external cost and turn it into a commodity with a price and institutionalized trading structure. But a price is not all that is needed in order to incentivize behavior and investment change; a stable price is essential as well. If, for example, one of the goals of the regimes is to influence the investment decisions of electric utilities, it is critical that a stable and transparent price exist so that utilities can incorporate the carbon price into their long-term investment decisions. A cap-and-trade regime, however, is unlikely to deliver a stable price. In the first place, it will be difficult to make the market truly transparent because of the unknown number of market players at any one time and the time lags with reporting and compliance. Second, the potential for the regulatory body to increase the number of allowances into the system, change the regime’s cap or otherwise affect the supply and demand of allowances over time would create a high level of uncertainty in the market. If the regime disperses too many (i.e. set the cap too high), the market will result in too low a price; if it does not disperse enough (i.e. sets the cap too low) the market will yield too high a price. The result is a market marked by price volatility, the very thing that will limit long term investment. The EU ETS provides a case study illustrating the problem of price volatility coupled with an absence of a significant change in investment decisions. The first stage of the program was a “trial” period and uncertainty has continued to plague the ETS. It is the perfect example of how a carbon cap-and-trade system does not necessarily result in behavior and investment change.xviii Another consideration concerning the carbon price is that currently proposed GHG cap-and-trade regimes may not generate a sufficiently high carbon price to affect business practice. In order to ensure that a given regime will not lead to politically unpalatable price increases (for electricity, fuel oil, natural gas, etc.), proposed regimes often include a ‘price ceiling.’ If the market price of carbon reaches or surpasses a certain price level for a sustained period of time, then the regulatory body has to issue more allowances, allow
in more project-based credits (offsets), or allow foreign emission credits from outside the regime (to increase supply and thereby drive down the price). Regardless of the mechanism, the cap is broken and the regime is that much further from reaching its target. Critics will argue that a carbon tax will inflate the cost of carbon, but a high carbon price is precisely what is needed in order to achieve price parity for alternative, clean technologies and to incentivize innovation and behavior change. Both a cap-and-trade and tax strategy will meet with political resistance; we should aim for the carbon tax that, at least, is more likely to provide the necessary price stability and transparency. As William A. Pizer, Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future, points out regarding the debate between the “quantities” approach (cap-andtrade) and the “price” approach (carbon tax): “we cannot be certain about both a policy’s cost and its environmental outcome. Economic efficiency, however, based on relatively constant marginal damages, argues for cost certainty over emissions certainty.”xix Manipulation and Fraud Perhaps one of the most alarming aspects of a cap-and-trade regime is that it would likely be open to significant manipulation and fraud. Entrenched fossil fuel interests have much at stake concerning climate policy and tend to favor a cap-and-trade regime. More time is needed to develop the necessary extensive regulatory framework; therefore, a cap-and-trade program would only prolong the status quo. Furthermore, under such a regime, windfall profits are possible via allowances that are handed out for free. One might cynically suggest that several of the major companies that have joined the bandwagon of support for a cap-and-trade program did so because of the ability of such a coalition to impact and manipulate a policy scheme that is very difficult for the average person to understand. As an example, it is doubtful that many industry members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of businesses and environmental organizations, have had a genuine change of heart about the need for climate action, but rather see the coalition as a means to secure more favorable climate legislation. Another sector of the economy that is particularly supportive of cap-and-trade is the finance industry because of the focus on trading.xx The use of offsets within a cap-and-trade regime presents even more of an opportunity for fraud. Many U.S. congressional climate proposals allow a certain percentage of offsets to be used for compliance.xxi There are many valid theoretical reasons for allowing offsets to be included, such as keeping down costs and mitigating emissions in non-capped sectors. But offsets are too problematic to provide real emissions reductions because of the “technically and
politically impossible task of making a baseline assessment”xxii and the tenuous notion of “additionality.” The flawed logic of a project being “in addition to” the business-as-usual scenario is glaring in light of the current financial crisis. Manipulation and spurious emissions reductions are already in evidence in existing carbon markets with numerous credits having been generated by what the industry has come to call ‘junk projects.’ Some analysts and environmental organizations estimate that up to two-thirds of the credits created under the Clean Development Mechanism—one of the market-mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol—are fraudulent.xxiii There is no doubt that a carbon tax is also susceptible to immense political pressure. If a tax were considered by Congress, industry would certainly lobby for an initially low tax amount and exemptions, thereby weakening the regime. There would also be the opportunity for entities to evade the tax. But once implemented, a carbon tax would provide relatively fewer opportunities for fraud. Conclusion Cap-and-trade is first and foremost a political solution to what is essentially an economic problem. A principal reason why cap-andtrade has more political traction and environmental support in the U.S. than other policy proposals, such as a carbon tax, is because of the general notion that any policy advocating for any sort of tax is “dead upon arrival.” Within such a political climate, advocates for climate action from all spectrums are pushing for “something” since the U.S. has gone so long with nothing. Supporters return to the old adage, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” But this is no time for timidity. Policy makers should consider the following: 1.Creating a cap-and-trade regime as a “critical first step forward” would put into motion an administrative regime with inertia that would likely prove difficult to change in the event that the policy is shown to be less than optimal; 2.The political environment in America can and has changed quickly when the times required it to do so; particularly when a carbon tax could mean less governmental intervention and smoother operating markets. Our history should serve to undermine the current anti-tax, anti-regulation fatalism on the Left, 3.If we truly accept what much of contemporary scientific study suggests about the dangers and consequences of man-made climate change, there is no time for half measures; and policy makers or politicians will be judged harshly by history for failing to act in a bold and decisive manner.
Given the current financial climate calling for regulation and government intervention, the significant loss of faith in the power of unbridled markets to solve problems, and a new progressive presidential administration, there could well be a political shift that allows for a carbon tax if bold policymakers are ready to act.xxiv Yet, a tax alone would not be enough to meet the challenges of climate change. Much more will be needed. Both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax have serious shortcomings, but a domestic carbon tax offers a more efficient and effective means to put a much-needed price on GHG emissions. Together with aggressive technology and other climate policies, a carbon tax also provides the U.S. with an opportunity to quickly embrace an international leadership role on the climate change effort. Notes and References
Of the $7,435 million (2007 dollars) of U.S. federal fuel-specific energy subsidies (FY2007), coal and refined coal received a combined total of $3,234 million, or 43.5% (Energy Information Administration (US). Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy Markets 2007 [Internet]. April 2008 [cited 22 November 2008]. Report #:SR/ CNEAF/2008-01. Chapter 5, Table 30, p. 100. Available from: http://www.eia.doe.gov/ oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/pdf/chap5.pdf). ii According to the US Energy Information Administration, “Coal combustion emits almost twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy as does the combustion of natural gas, whereas the amount from crude oil combustion falls between coal and natural gas (Hong B, Slatick E. Carbon Dioxide Emission Factors for Coal. [cited 11 January 2009]. Endnote 1. Available from: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/quarterly/co2_article/co2.html). iii For 2006, fossil fuel combustion accounted for 5,637.9 (Tg CO2 Eq.) out of 7,054.2 (Tg CO2 Eq.) total GHG emissions, or roughly 80% (Environmental Protection Agency (US). Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006 [Internet]. April 2008 [cited 23 November 2008]. USEPA #430-R-08-005. Executive Summary, pp. ES-5 and ES-6, Table ES-2. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads/08_ES.pdf). iv For project cost comparisons, see: (Energy Information Administration (US). Assumptions to the Annual Energy Outlook 2008 [Internet]. June 2008 [cited 20 November 2008]. DOE/EIA-0554(2008). Table 38, p. 79. Available from: http://www.eia.doe.gov/ oiaf/aeo/assumption/pdf/electricity.pdf#page=3). For example, base overnight costs, defined on page 78 as “the cost estimates to build a plant in a typical region of the country” (expressed in 2006 dollars per kilowatt), in 2007 were $1,434, $450, $1,340, and $3,499 for new scrubbed coal, advanced natural gas, wind, and solar thermal, respectively, before investment tax credits are applied. v See the website of the United States Climate Action Partnership for a list of businesses and environmental organizations in favor of a cap-and-trade regime, http://www.us-cap. org/. See also the Western Climate Initiative, http://www.westernclimateinitiative.org/, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, http://www.rggi.org/home, for evidence of state support. vi At least six cap-and-trade proposals were introduced in the Senate and five in the House of Representatives, while two carbon tax proposals were introduced in the House (Larsen J, Heilmayr R. Comparison of Legislative Climate Change Targets. World Resources Institute. 9 September 2008 [cited 22 November 2008]. Available from: http://pdf.wri.org/ usclimatetargets_2008-09-09.pdf; and Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Carbon Tax Proposals from the 110th Congress. [cited November 22, 2008] Available from: http:// www.pewclimate.org/congress/110th/carbon_tax). For the Obama-Biden proposal, Obama for America. Barack Obama and Joe Biden: New Energy for America. [cited 19
November 2008] Available from: http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/factsheet_energy_ speech_080308.pdf. vii See footnotes 4 and 5, and the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for country proposals for a “post-2012” international agreement that are supportive of the cap-and-trade model (Available from: http://unfccc.int/meetings/ ad_hoc_working_groups/lca/items/4578.php [cited 20 November 2008]). viii David A. World carbon dioxide levels highest for 650,000 years, says U.S. report. The Guardian [Internet]. 13 May 2008 [cited 16 October 2008]. Available from: http://www. guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/13/carbonemissions.climatechange. ix Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Available from: http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/background/items/1353.php). x This is the emissions reduction goal for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol. xi The Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides numerous climate scenarios based on different ppm levels (Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis [Internet]. New York (NY): Cambridge University Press; c2007 [cited 15 October 2008]. Available from: http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm). xii Professor of International Economics at the Australian National University. xiii Associate Professor of Economics and Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. xiv McKibbin WJ, Wilcoxen PJ. A credible foundation for long-term international cooperation on climate change. In: Aldy JE, Stavins RN, editors. Architectures for Agreement: Addressing Global Climate Change in the Post-Kyoto World. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press; 2007. p. 189. xv Emissions target can be found in Section 702 of Senate bill S.309, introduced on January 16, 2007 (GovTrack.us [Internet]. S. 309--110th Congress (2007): Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. [cited 23 November 2008] Available from: http://www.govtrack. us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-309). xvi For a discussion of measures relating to international climate policy, see Barrett S. A multitrack climate treaty system. In: Aldy JE, Stavins RN, editors. Architectures for Agreement: Addressing Global Climate Change in the Post-Kyoto World. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press; 2007. p. 237-59. xvii House bill H.R. 2069, for example, proposes an initial $10 per ton of carbon and annual increases of $10 per ton (GovTrack.us [Internet]. H.R. 2069--110th Congress (2007): Save Our Climate Act of 2007. [cited 23 November 2008] Available from: http://www. govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-2069). xviii Ellerman DA, Joskow P. The European Union’s Emissions Trading System in Perspective [Internet]. Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. May 2008 [cited October 15 2008]. Available from: http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/EU-ETS-InPerspective-Report.pdf. Rosenthal E. Europe Turns Back to Coal, Raising Climate Fears. The New York Times [Internet]. 23 April 2008 [cited 12 October 2008]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/world/europe/23coal.html?_r=1&bl&ex=1209096 000&en=c73a8d0a1cc4dbf6&ei=5087%0A&oref=slogin. xix Pizer WA. Practical global climate policy. In: Aldy JE, Stavins RN, editors. Architectures for Agreement: Addressing Global Climate Change in the Post-Kyoto World. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press; 2007. p. 289. xx See, for example, the membership list of the International Emissions Trading Association for financial institutions and energy companies that are in favor of emissions trading (IETA Members as of October 2008 [Internet]. International Emissions Trading Association. [cited 21 November 2008] Available from: http://www.ieta.org/ieta/www/ pages/getfile.php?docID=556). xxi Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources (US). Climate Legislation Side by Side [Internet]. [cited 23 November 2008]. Available from: http://energy.senate.gov/public/_ files/ClimateLegislationSidebySide110thCongress.pdf. xxii Victor DG. Fragmented carbon markets and reluctant nations. In: Aldy JE, Stavins RN, editors. Architectures for Agreement: Addressing Global Climate Change in the PostKyoto World. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press; 2007. p. 149. xxiii McCully P. Discredited Strategy. The Guardian [Internet]. 21 May 2008 [cited 12 October 2008]. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/21/envi-
ronment.carbontrading?gusrc=rss&feed=society. Haya B. Failed Mechanism: How the CDM is subsidizing hydro developers and harming the Kyoto Protocol [Internet]. International Rivers. November 2007 [cited 10 October 2008]. Available from: http://internationalrivers.org/files/Failed_Mechanism_3.pdf. xxiv For a particularly promising carbon tax proposal, see James Hansen’s suggestion for a “Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend” (4 June 2008 and 29 December 2008 postings. Available from: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/).
GrEEnhousE Gas Emissions invEntory thE univErsity of north dakota
Anduin Kirkbride McElroy, Shawn O’Neil, Santosh Rijal, Navin Thapa, and Junyu Yang, The University of North Dakota
Abstract Analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data collected by students is meant to facilitate sustainable policy decisions within the University of North Dakota, the North Dakota University System and the state government. The authors, UND graduate students, compiled the first GHG emissions inventory in October 2008 as part of the pledge to the American Colleges and University Presidents Climate Commitment. The authors developed specific methodology and data collection protocol to assemble the data and interpret emissions trends, using the Clean Air-Cool Planet Campus Carbon Calculator. The protocol sets standards for problem areas identified by the authors; this includes a system for tracking diesel gallons for the state fleet and the need for tracking air travel miles. It also includes recommendations for university policy that would improve data collection. The protocol would pave the way for other state entities to implement their own GHG inventory and climate action plans. The final report will provide baseline information used to develop a climate action plan to achieve climate neutrality. The climate action plan committee could use the results to develop recommendations for sustainability, such as replacing the coal-fired steam plant or using bio-fuels in aviation training.
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory is arguably the most important step in the process to reduce emissions. It is the cornerstone for all further actions, as it provides a system of accountability, methodology, protocol and baseline results, which are used to develop an action plan and make comparisons and recommendations. It is important to perform a GHG emissions inventory correctly so it can serve as a catalyst to a catalyst to future emissions analyses and attempts towards mitigation. This paper will explain the process used to inventory the GHG emissions at the University of North Dakota (UND). University of North Dakota is a public university in Grand Forks, North Dakota, (pop. 50,000), located on the Minnesota border, and approximately 75 miles from the Canadian border. University of North Dakota employs 792 faculty and 1,957 staff. There are currently 12,748
students enrolled in 193 fields of study, including medicine, law and aviation. The campus includes 223 buildings (5.33 million square feet) on 549 acres.i Some of the university’s emissions may not be typical of all universities. For example, UND is situated in an area characterized by warm summers and long, severely cold winters. Heating/cooling degree days are a quantitative index designed to reflect the demand for energy needed to heat/cool a building. The number of cooling degree days at UND was 607 in 2007, compared to the national average of 1,217.ii The number of heating degree days was 8,958, compared to the national average of 5,094. Though emissions from cooling are less than that of other universities, this does not outweigh the greater emissions from winter heating by the coal-fired steam plant. In 2007, UND had 3,254 more degree days than the national average.ii “Other unique emissions sources on campus are energy intensive research programs, such as the Energy and Environmental Research Center, and training programs like the University of North Dakota’s aviation school, which has the world’s largest non-military fleet of training aircrafti. The University is also unique in that more than half of its electricity supply comes from a hydroelectric dam in western North Dakota.iiiiii The remainder of its electricity is generated through a mixture of coal-power, nuclear, and other sources. The University of North Dakota has already invested significantly in energy efficiency projects. Beginning in 2000, it executed a $3.9 million comprehensive energy efficiency improvement program reducing electrical and steam usage.iv The program saves approximately $0.5 million each year, which is used to pay off the renovation cost. An additional $2.1 million facility energy improvement program reduced electrical, steam, natural gas and water usage, beginning in 2005.iv These actions were guided by efforts to reduce energy consumption, but were not based on a campus-wide survey of consumption patterns and GHG emissions. The GHG emissions inventory was performed in October 2008 and was compiled in large part by the authors of this paper, graduate students in Earth System Science and Policy. The inventory was required as a part of the university’s commitment to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) to develop a plan to achieve carbon neutrality.v The climate action plan is dependent on the results of this inventory, which was the first to be performed by any college in North Dakota.vi When UND committed to the ACUPCC in January 2008, it also committed to other sustainability actions, such as assessing curricula for sustainability coverage and keeping an inventory of all environmentally relevant research projects.iv Most of these commitments are still pending, but the completion of the inventory compilation can serve to put these actions into motion.
In the methodology section, this paper explains the methods used to ensure accuracy. The protocol section explains the process that was developed to ensure consistent data collection for future inventories. In the discussion section, this paper uses the inventory results to demonstrate the flow of data acquisition and the consequences of incorrect protocol. The discussion also includes recommendations based on data collected in the inventory, which the authors believe would reduce the university’s GHG emissions. Methodology Greenhouse Gas emissions of fiscal years 1993-2007 were calculated based on data collected in a 2008 project. The emissions were calculated for UND following the procedures outlined for ACUPCC and using The Clean Air-Cool Planet Campus Carbon Calculator as the primary tool.ii The calculator is a free Excel workbook that facilitates the calculation of project emissions from 1990-2060 and produces charts and graphs which illustrate changes and emission trends. The calculator includes all six greenhouse gases specified by the Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4, N2O, HFC, PFC, and SF6. It is based on workbooks provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for national-level inventories and is adapted for use at institutions of higher education.vii Emissions are reported by metric
tons of carbon dioxide emissions (MTCDE).
Figure 1: Campus carbon calculator spreadsheet mapii
All data collection, calculations, and estimations were done with the goal of inputting the appropriate data in the corresponding carbon calculator category. Data was collected across three scopes of emissions, indicating the level of responsibility and the ownership of emissions: Scope 1: Direct emissions sources •On-campus stationary sources (steam plant and generators)
•Transportation •Fugitive emissions from refrigeration and agriculture. Scope 2: Indirect sources owned by UND •Purchased electricity Scope 3: Sources not owned but financed by UND •Commuting faculty, staff and students •Directly financed study abroad air travel •Solid waste •Wastewater •Paper Once all the data was collected and data gaps were eliminated, the numbers were inputted into the carbon calculator. Tnumbers were inputted into the carbon calculator, which processed the data by identifying emissions factors and detailing emissions results for each year. These results were made into graphs and other visual instruments used to demonstrate campus emission trends. After evaluation by separate parties, minor errors were found in the original input data and subsequent calculations. For example, the electricity sources were incorrectly cited. Once corrected, the yielded results showed UND’s emissions to be much less than the initial estimation (Table 1).viii
Year OnCampus Stationary Sources 91,282 92,777 95,655 Purchased Electricity All Transportation Sources Solid Waste & Wastewater 2,285 2,130 2,219 Total Campus Emissions
Emissions results in MTCDE 10/30/2008 1993 2000 2007 43,662 48,355 49,432 18,070 22,582 23,175 160,334 171,325 176,205 % change -21% -24% -21%
Emissions results in MTCDE 1/15/2009 after data correction and verification 1993 2000 2007 80,691 82,186 85,588 17,211 20,742 24,403 23,891 22,582 23,175 2,587 2,130 2,219 126,799 130,388 138,633
Table 1: Shows the difference between the initial results of the GHG Inventory and the final results, following all data correction and verification. In the corrected errors and completion of data sets yielded significant changes in campus emission totalsviii
Protocol An important part of GHG inventory is developing of a protocol document, which details the methodology, standards, and procedures for data collection, interpretation, analysis, and record-keeping.
In addition, the 2008 protocol for UND provided a framework of suggestions and recommendations for improving these procedures, making future inventories more efficient and accurate. To ensure consistent data and emissions results, the protocol should be monitored closely each year the inventory is updated. The format and structure of the protocol is useful for covering a wide spectrum of issues that becomes evident when compiling an inventory. The entire protocol document provides an extensive report across every category, including contact information, data type, definitions, collection methods, units, entry info, problems with data (missing years and estimations/inaccuracies), and recommendations for improvement. This specific protocol can be a point of reference for any institution interested in making a GHG inventory and can generate a climate action plan, using the carbon calculator. Building a protocol for the UND inventory was challenging because of problem areas associated with the first campus GHG inventory project. Similar to other GHG inventories, some 1993 data sets were found to be incomplete, inaccurate, or in need of conversion. The categories in which this occurred were direct transportation, commuting, air travel, waste, paper purchasing, and fertilizer. For example, UND is part of the state fleet, which evaluates gasoline in miles and diesel in hours, yet the calculator only measures in gallons. To account for this discrepancy, a calculation method was developed to convert data into gallons. Ultimately, it was deemed important to compile a comprehensive picture of UND’s emissions over time. In cases where the data was incomplete, methodology was developed to estimate numbers based on trends, averages, or other methodology approved by the ACUPCC. The protocol is especially important for categories where methodology fills data gaps. The development of more accurate trends in future data collection will determine the efficacy of the methodology employed in this inventory. To ensure that future inventories can collect accurate data, the protocol recommended changes to some university recordkeeping procedures. For example, a suggestion was made that the Department of Transportation keep exact records of the fuel consumed directly from the fleet gas station. The university’s utilization of North Dakota state fleet poses a challenge, as a change in university recordkeeping procedures would also require a change in state procedures. These, and other, recommendations were condensed into a separate document and submitted to the staff in charge of the inventory and the climate action plan. Results and Discussion Results reveal major sources of GHG emissions and provide a basis
for decision-making regarding policies that address these emissions. They can also motivate institutions to implement policies to reduce GHG emissions, and are useful for designing climate action plans. Results can also be used to inform emissions reduction projects through cost-benefit analyses. UND’s total emissions increased from 126,799 MTCDE in 1993 to 138,633 MTCDE in 2007, which is a nine percent increase (Figure 2).viii UND’s emissions peaked in 1994 at 140,503 MTCDE. UND emits on average 131,738 MTCDE per year.
Figure 2: UND campus greenhouse gas emissions 1993-2007. Scope 2 T&D Losses are the losses from transmission and distribution of electricity.viii
The major sources of UND’s emissions in 2007 resulted from on-campus, stationary sources (62 %), purchased electricity (18 %), and transportation (commuting, air travel, direct transportation, and aviation school—17 %).viii The coal-fired steam plant is the largest emitter of GHGs, contributing an average of 62% of campus emissions. Based on this, UND’s climate action plan should prioritize emissions reductions projects for the steam plant, electricity, and transportation sources. Extensive research and data collection will be necessary to provide project options and to inform the climate action plan committee on viable alternatives for current practices. Reducing the steam plant’s emissions will likely be the greatest challenge for the university. UND researchers are investigating technologies that burn coal more efficiently. The committee will evaluate recommendations
ranging from replacing the coal plant to introducing cogeneration capabilities. Approximately 45% of UND’s electricity is purchased from coal-producing suppliers.viii The committee may recommend that UND install wind energy technology on or near campus in order to harness North Dakota’s abundant wind. A large source of transportation emissions comes from the UND’s aviation school, which is responsible for approximately 4%of total emissions.viii The committee should recommend that UND showcase its recent research through the use of biomass-based jet fuel by the aviation school.ix Such projects would need to be analyzed further to determine their viability and effectiveness; nevertheless, the GHG inventory provides a starting point for generating ideas for emission reduction. Comparison with similar institutions can further explain the significance of numbers. UND is compared with other institutions in the region, as well as two local aviation schools (Table 2).vi The emissions data, which includes all three scopes of emissions and no offsets, was reported to the ACUPCC. The table shows how these institutions compare when emissions are normalized by gross MTCDE per 1000 square-feet and gross MTCDE per full-time enrollment. Additionally, it includes total emissions, and U.S. Department of Energy climate zone data (used to determine building standards). Of the 15 institutions listed below, the average MTCDE per full time student is 10.2 MTCDE, and the average MTCDE per 1000 square feet is 18.8 MTCDE.
Institution South Dakota School of Mines and Technology University of Cincinnati University of Idaho Boise State University University of Montana-Western Macalester College Carleton College Saint John’s University College of Saint Benedict Black Hills State University State SD OH ID ID MT MN MN MN MN SD USDOE Climate Zone 4 4 5 5 6 6 6 6 6 6 Enrollment 1,734 26,393 10,855 14,314 1,084 1,889 1,986 2,080 2,087 2,950 Total MTCDE Emissions 18,984 372,310 39,594 49,884 4,265 26,824 21,533 47,376 21,823 10,698 MTCDE per FT student 10.9 14.1 3.6 3.5 3.9 14.2 10.8 22.8 10.5 3.6 MTCDE per 1000 sf 29.5 30.9 10.7 16.1 11.7 21.2 11.9 25.3 17.8 14.6
Winona State University University of Wyoming University of MontanaMissoula Cornell University University of North Dakota
MN WY MT NY ND
6 6 6 6 7
7,792 8,659 11,186 19,800 9,976
2,097 155,634 42,687 319,000 138,633
2.8 18.0 3.8 16.1 13.9
12.2 22.0 11.1 21.4 26.0
Table 2: Comparison of emissions of other institutions, as reported to the ACUPCC.vi
While the results would be unique for each institution, they can be standardized according to demographics like dollars spent, students, and building space. Comparisons provide a basis for generating ideas and making decisions regarding policies that address emissions. Other institutions can use the results of their inventories accordingly, identifying their own unique characteristics and problem areas and taking the necessary steps toward decision-making.Because the GHG inventory is updated annually, the university should take the proper steps toward making the data collection more efficient and accurate. UND should mandate record-keeping procedures which comply with the needs of the carbon calculator, and ultimately the GHG inventory. As described in the protocol section, after the inventory is completed, a request should be sent to each appropriate department describing data records that are requested each fiscal year. They should also designate a contact person responsible for such records. Additional steps recommended for UND include: Increase student involvement in project planning •Graduate research assistants can focus on sustainable campus projects •Class projects can be designed to further project research •Curriculum can be established around the theme of sustainable campus planning Establish partnerships between the climate committee and campus research units •Develop a centralized energy budget •Provide annual reports on overall institutional energy expenditures •Use data on expenditures to inform future projects and examine alternatives
Reducing GHG emissions should be a campus-wide approach. Sustainable policy decisions can start by establishing proper record-keeping procedures, involving students in planning and research, and collaborating between disciplines and research units. The promotion of awareness and partnership can benefit any institution hoping to reduce GHG emissions. Conclusion The results gathered from the GHG inventory will be used to prioritize projects, justify decisions and develop a climate action plan. Information gathered from the analysis of results will provide the basis for policy decisions aimed at reducing emissions. Results can also be used in the carbon calculator to demonstrate cost-benefit analyses. The calculator will use current results combined with project-specific information on the cost of projects and overall payback time. The calculator can use these results, combined with information on overall reduction of emissions from a potential project, to compare the long-term cost of an investment or project with its immediate benefits, further informing decisions on environmental sustainability policies. As this is the first GHG emissions inventory performed by a North Dakota college or university, publishing the methodology, protocol and recommendations paves the way for other institutions to conduct similar inventories of their own emissions and develop their own climate action plans. UND is part of the North Dakota University System, so the tools developed specifically here will be made available for use among the 10 other campuses within the system. Additionally, the leadership exemplified by UND may encourage these schools to follow suit. UND is also part of the state government fleet system; any record keeping or other policies implemented at UND would also need to be implemented uniformly across the state fleet system. In this way, the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions data collected by the students is pervasive, and can be expected to facilitate sustainable policy decisions within UND, the North Dakota University System and the North Dakota state government. Acknowledgements The authors wish to thank Randy Bohlman, Soizik Laguette, and Rebecca Romsdahl for their guidance in collecting and interpreting data and for their reviews and comments on this article. References
University of North Dakota. About UND [Internet]. Grand Forks, North Dakota. 2008. [cited 2008 October 30]. Available from: http://www.und.edu/aboutund/ ii Clean Air-Cool Planet Campus Carbon Calculator v6.0. 2008. [cited 2008 October 30].
Available from: http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/toolkit/inv-calculator.php iii Bohlman, R. UND electrical use data. October 10, 2008. From personal communication. iv Orvik, J. UND president Kupchella signs climate commitment; UND pledges to continue reducing carbon footprint, energy consumption. 29 January 2008. [cited 2008 October 20]. Available from: http://www2.und.edu/our/news/story.php?id=2240 v American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. 2008. [cited 2008 October 20]. Available from: www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/html/commitment. php vi American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. ACUPCC Reporting System. [cited 2009 January 16). Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Available from: http://www.aashe.org/pcc/reports/. vii Clean Air-Cool Planet. Campus carbon calculator user’s guide, version 6. August 2008 viii University of North Dakota Facilities Management. “Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report: 1993-2007.” January 2009. Available from: http://acupcc.aashe.org/ghg-report. php?id=690 ix Walters, D. “EERC creates first 100% renewable jet fuel.” [cited 2008 September 29]. Available from: http://www.undeerc.org/news/newsitem.aspx?id=327
Michael T. Klare. 2008. Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet : The New Geopolitics of Energy. New York: Metropolitan Books. 352 pages. ISBN-13 978-0805080643 (hard-back) $26.00; ISBN-13: 9780805089219 (paperback) $16.00. The study of international relations is concerned with power, how it is derived, and how it is used on the global stage. In his most recent book, Michael Klare, author of Resource Wars and a professor of Peace and World Security Studies at the Five Colleges consortium in Massachusetts, turns traditional concepts of power on their head. Military hard power and economic might both shrink in importance as he describes a new world order where energy is power—and there’s not enough to go around. Rising Power, Shrinking Planet focuses on three worrisome trends: energy demand is rising faster than ever before, conventional (nonrenewable) energy supplies are nearing a peak level, and national governments are increasing state and military intervention to secure these shrinking resources. Klare’s new geopolitical world—evoked in urgent, fact-laden, prose—is marred by international strife as states struggle for increasingly limited energy. Skyrocketing demand in China, India, and the rest of the developing world, paired with an assumption that our ability to find oil has peaked, has led to strategic state intrusion and caused the “energy nationalism” that most frightens Klare. His strongest case study is Russia’s recent power spike under Putin. Putin jailed and politically overpowered petro-oligarchs to build a nationalized empire of energy corporations. These moves, utilizing the new power of energy resources, have increased Russian economic and political influence and have pushed Russia back into the sphere of legitimate world players. Klare believes Putin’s is just one case in a global phenomenon. Of the fifteen corporations with the largest proven oil reserves, thirteen are controlled by national governments. Klare doesn’t ignore Washington in his analysis and reveals our own, increasingly statist energy policies. His prologue chronicles Congress’s defeat of a Chinese firm’s attempt to buy the American corporation Unocal in 2005. This presents a dilemma for advocates of new energy in the US. Framing energy as a national security issue is effective and appeals to wide swaths of voters, but entangling energy and security can have dangerous destabilizing effects as states vie for limited resources. Energy conflicts were historically funneled through political and business channels, but as pressure and state control increase, Klare predicts more aggressive energy events. He cites Russia cutting off natural gas to Ukraine in 2006 (which was repeated in early
2009), and Japan and China playing naval chicken over the Chunxiao gas fields in the East China Sea. Countries are either running an energy surplus or a deficit, and this new power paradigm creates a zero-sum game where conflict is inevitable. Implicit in Klare’s argument is the critical need for renewable energy. There’s no “peak” in solar power, and utilizing renewable resources creates a variable-sum world, which subverts the threat of conflict. American turbines don’t threaten Chinese wind, and in fact, advances in technology will benefit all users of a particular energy source. Klare articulates a possible escape route after pummeling readers with his dark, realist vision. He prescribes a collaborative, open policy to ease conflict and promote cooperation, especially focusing on American-Chinese relations. As the world’s largest emitters of CO2 and the principal users of dirty coal, both nations could benefit from cooperative efforts to ease energy conflict. Klare argues that collaboration could boost economic growth, speed up technological advances, and would ease the threat of interstate conflict. Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet’s strong focus may be Klare’s greatest weakness because the book flirts with reductionism. In a world tarnished by religious fundamentalism, nuclear threat, and economic crisis, is the battle for nonrenewable energy the greatest threat? Especially after oil prices plummeted, energy seems to shrink in relative significance. But the trends which drive Klare’s central argument march on. Nonrenewables are bound to run out. If we continue to demand more and more energy, and nations seek to meet their needs with force and coercion, conflict will be inevitable. Escaping this trap through alternative energy is necessary to maintaining peace and stability in international relations. Paired with the menace of global climate change’s destabilizing effects, policy makers would be wise to heed Klare’s warnings and attempt to break from the current dangerous path. James M. A. Hobbs, Colorado College
Tim Flannery. 2007. The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 384 pages. ISBN-10 0871139359 (hard-back) $24.00. Tim Flannery, an environmental advisor to the Australian Federal Parliament and Professor of Environmental and Life Sciences at Macquerie University has written a thorough account of the global plague that is climate change. Both comprehendible and interesting for the non-scientist, The Weather Makers organizes what some see as a complex scientific mess into a digestible manual for global warming adherents and dissenters alike. Flannery’s experiences in the realms of teaching and environmental sciences blend together harmoniously to provide readers with a complete and clear understanding of the scientific and political spheres regarding climate change in the 21st century. He begins with the Earth’s climactic history, detailing the significant shifts in climate patterns since the industrial revolution. In accordance with this historical outline, Flannery provides an explicatory yet barely daunting science-based argument for humanity’s role in changing climates. By catering to individuals without deep scientific roots, Flannery enlightens the average reader to the startling, albeit widely accepted scientific theories associated with this phenomenon. Referring to the GAIA hypothesis, Flannery shows the reader how humans, since the dawn of the industrial revolution, have significantly changed the Earth’s complex environmental make-up, how the Earth will respond, and how these changes may very well affect the equilibrium that we have created between ourselves and our planet within our lives. While he points out that the future effects of climate change are largely unclear today, he stresses that they will severely impede upon the wellbeing of many across the globe unless strong and swift action is taken. Despite his gloomy outlook, Flannery emphasizes to readers that significant changes can be made by everyone from parents to politicians. From the Kyoto Protocol to our world’s widespread political apathy to the current status of green technologies, Flannery supplements the GAIA-based science lesson with an analysis of proposed solutions, informing readers of almost all significant currents of the day. Overall, Flannery has created an intelligible yet detailed argument that can be understood and utilized by anyone interested in climate change. From past history, to present day, to our future, The Weather Makers is a complete scholarly work on climate change, presented specifically for the non-scientist. Paul Burger, Michigan State University
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