Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Half Full of Nothing

A funny thing happened on the way to the headlines. Three major wire services covered the recent meeting of 40 EU and Asian foreign ministers in Hamburg, ahead of next week's meeting of the Group of Eight (G8). The topic was agreeing on a timetable for agreeing on a post-Kyoto international treaty to take effect in 2012. The EU wanted new targets set by 2009, to support the multi-billion dollar carbon market.

AP happily reports that
"EU, Asia set 2009 climate pact deadline"

AFP (the French AP) unhappily informs us that
"Asia and Europe fail to agree on climate change targets"

Reuters is more precise and even less happy:
"Japan rebuffs EU on Kyoto pact"

What happened? The answer is nothing but the glass is half full. The EU wants to make a deal on 2012 targets by 2009. China was adamant (as always) that it will never agree to emissions targets. Targets for all are what everyone means by a post-Kyoto deal so there is no deal, not even a deal to make a deal. That is what AFP reported.

Japan said it would not commit to setting targets until China does (likely never) so it is too soon to commit to setting targets by 2009. That is what Reuters reported, like it is Japan's fault that China just says no.

But diplomats all, everyone agreed in principle that there should be an agreement by 2009, even though no one can agree and likely never will. This agreement to agree on nothing at a later date certain is what AP is so happy about. AP's glass is half full of nothing.

Moral, this is high stakes climate poker in action. Do not believe the headlines, read between the fine print, and expect nothing. If China, India and the USA stand pat the ultimate agreement, announced with much fanfare, will be to Do The Best We Can. But who knows?

Above all, enjoy the show.

The Washington Pest

Friday, May 18, 2007

Coal To Hit Green fan

A load of coal is about to hit the green fan. Earlier this month we attended a conference on coal-fired electric power. A titanic collision is in progress, albeit unseen so far. An iceberg ahead in the night. The ship unable to swerve. Here's the deal.

US peak power use increases pretty steadily about 20,000 MW a year. It has for 40 years, an incredible straight line in a world of economic wiggles. We handle this growth with spurts of power plant construction. The last spurt was around 2000 and we quietly built about 150,000 MW, all natural gas-fired because gas was cheap and green. That is roughly 150 large power plants.

Now gas is prohibitively expensive, we are once again running out of power, and coal is the only large scale option. So the industry is gearing up to build a huge new fleet of coal fired power plants. They will do so for there is no option. You can't make electricity out of political rhetoric, would that you could.

What this cold shot of reality will do to the great green political movement presently underway remains to be seen. It will not be a pretty picture.

Enjoy the show.

The Washington Pest