Energy & Technology

Can Nuclear Be Part of Our Clean Energy Future?

Nuclear energy is often touted as a reliable, carbon-free element in our electricity portfolio, but three major challenges must be overcome before it can play a bigger role in our energy mix: cost, reactor safety, and waste disposal. Recent progress on each of these fronts shows that nuclear energy may indeed be a greater component of our clean energy future.

As a zero-carbon energy source that also has the highest capacity factor, new nuclear generation is especially well suited to provide baseload generation, which is an emerging gap in our electricity system. As electricity demand rises, aging coal plants are retired, and we pursue greenhouse gas emission reductions, there is a growing need for new low- and zero-carbon baseload electricity generation. Without technological breakthroughs in electricity storage technology, wind, and solar, energy cannot adequately meet baseload demand due to intermittency. Natural gas is lower emitting than coal, but it still emits greenhouse gases and has historically been vulnerable to price volatility.  

March 2012 Newsletter

Click here to view our March 2012 newsletter.

Learn about new EPA power plant rules, an action plan to get more electric vehicles on the road, recommendations from the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Intiative to boost domestic oil production while cutting CO2 emissions from power plants, and more in C2ES's March 2012 newsletter.

Bloomberg Editors Endorse NEORI Recommendation

March 27, 2012
Bloomberg Editorial

In a March 27 editorial, Bloomberg editors addressed how the U.S. can learn from China's push for capturing carbon and highlighted the work of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative (NEORI), a group of industry, state, environmental and labor leaders convened by C2ES and the Great Plains Institute. In the piece, Bloomberg endorses NEORI’s recommendation that Congress create a production tax credit for power companies that capture CO2 and send it to oil companies for enhanced oil recovery. Below is an excerpt from the editorial.

The federal government, too, could help push the technology forward, by taking up a smart strategy that has been suggested by a coalition of oil industry executives, environmentalists and state officials called the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative. It has to do with the other side of the carbon- capture equation -- what to do with the CO2 once you’ve taken it out of the power-plant exhaust.

China’s Huaneng plant sells its carbon dioxide to companies that make carbonated drinks and dry ice. Duke envisions turning it into solid carbonate to be used for building materials or road construction. Some innovators are feeding CO2 to microscopic algae to produce either fuel or proteins used in nutrition supplements or animal feed.

But it can also be used to coax more oil out of the earth. Since 1972, oil companies have injected carbon dioxide taken from natural sources to free up crude trapped in rock formations. The industry operates 3,900 miles of pipelines carrying 65 million tons of CO2 per year, and “enhanced oil recovery,” as the technique is known, accounts for 6 percent of U.S. oil production.

With new technology and enough CO2, the industry could use enhanced recovery to increase production by 67 billion to 137 billion barrels, according to a report from the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative. The report envisions using 20 billion to 45 billion metric tons of CO2 from carbon capture -- the total amount expected to be produced by power plants for the next 10 to 20 years.

We endorse the coalition’s recommendation that Congress create a production tax credit for power companies that capture CO2 and send it to oil companies for enhanced recovery. By increasing domestic oil production, such a credit is estimated to be able to pay for itself within a decade.

Click here to read the full editorial

 

Eileen Claussen Comments on EPA's Proposed Greenhouse Gas Standard for New Power Plants

Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

March 27, 2012

We welcome EPA's proposal today to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and urge the Administration to quickly move forward with rules for existing plants, which account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Power companies face huge investment decisions as they meet new pollution standards and retire or upgrade outdated plants. They need to know the full picture - including future greenhouse gas requirements - in order to keep our electricity supply as reliable and affordable as possible.

While highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants would meet the standard proposed today, new coal-fired power plants not already in the pipeline could likely meet the standard only by capturing and permanently sequestering their greenhouse gas emissions. This underscores the urgency of stronger public and private investment in carbon capture and storage technologies. The United States, China and India - the world's three largest greenhouse gas emitters - all have substantial coal reserves. If we can't figure out how to get the energy value out of coal with a minimal carbon footprint, we will not solve the climate problem.

With prospects for substantial public investment in CCS unclear, C2ES is now working with policymakers and stakeholders on ways to expand enhanced oil recovery using captured carbon dioxide - an approach that can boost domestic oil production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help lay the groundwork for full-scale carbon capture and storage.

Contact: Rebecca Matulka, 703-516-4146

Learn more about EPA's greenhouse gas standard for new power plants.

 

Capturing CO2 Emissions to Produce Domestic Oil: NEORI and CO2-EOR’s Unique Solution

Bloomberg editors endorse NEORI's production tax credit recommendations

Few policy options can be a win-win for both political parties, as well as industry, environmental advocates, and labor. Similarly, increasing oil production and decreasing carbon emissions are thought of as conflicting goals. Yet, a solution may be on the horizon. On February 28, the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative (NEORI) released its recommendations for advancing enhanced oil recovery with carbon dioxide (CO2-EOR). NEORI is a broad coalition of industry, state officials, labor, and environmental advocates

While NEORI participants might not agree on many energy and environmental issues, each participant recognizes the vast potential of CO2-EOR and worked toward producing a set of policy recommendations for its expansion. CO2-EOR already produces 6 percent of U.S. oil, and it could potentially double or triple existing U.S. oil reserves. In comparison to other options, CO2-EOR offers an extraordinarily large potential expansion of domestic oil production, while also advancing an important environmental technology.

Join Us 3/20 at 1 pm ET for a Live Chat: Plugging Electric Vehicles into the U.S. Grid

While Americans bought nearly 18,000 PEVs last year, 2012 is the first full year when plug-in electric vehicles will be available nationwide. The long-term success of PEVs could bring some very real benefits to energy security, air quality, climate change, and economic growth.

Ridesharing: Context, Trends, and Opportunities

Ridesharing: Context, Trends, and Opportunities

March 2012

by Cynthia J. Burbank and Nick Nigro

Download the full brief (PDF)

 

 
Transportation in the United States faces significant challenges, including uncertain funding, congestion, unsustainable trends in energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and high costs to households and government. Ridesharing represents a cost-effective option for addressing many of these concerns. Although ridesharing has declined in recent decades, it continues to play an important role in the transportation system today, and new developments such as social media present opportunities to increase ridesharing nationwide. This paper examines the role and potential of ridesharing, specifically carpooling and vanpooling (C/V), in the U.S. transportation system, and concludes that ridesharing merits greater support from federal, state and local transportation agencies.
 
Cynthia J. Burbank
Nick Nigro
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Judi Greenwald Discusses Enhanced Oil Recovery on E&E TV

Watch the interview

March 6, 2012

Is enhanced oil recovery (EOR) the missing link in the United States' energy policy? During today's OnPoint, Judi Greenwald, vice president for technology and innovation at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and Robert Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, outline the recommendations of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, a coalition of business and environmental groups. Greenwald and Baugh call on Congress to pass an enhanced oil recovery tax credit to spur innovation and growth in carbon capture and storage. They also address the environmental concerns associated with EOR. Click here to watch the interview.

 
Click here for additional information about the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute.

Eileen Claussen's remarks at Electric Vehicles: Plugging into the U.S. Grid Event

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us. I’m Eileen Claussen, President of C2ES, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Some of you may have known us until recently as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Judging from recent headlines, and from what you hear on the campaign trail, the biggest energy challenge facing America today is the rising price of a gallon of gas. And indeed, for many Americans, this is a genuine concern. But the reality – as I suspect you all know – is that there is virtually nothing that anyone at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue can do in the near term to bring prices down. Oil moves in a global market, and as long as oil remains a mainstay of our economy, we will be subject to its gyrations. 

So the only real answer is to end our dependence on oil -- which of course is easier said than done. Even with our best possible efforts, weaning ourselves from oil will take not years, but decades -- which is all the more reason to get started on it right now.

We’re here today to talk about one part of the solution: plug-in electric vehicles. With PEVs, we now have a mass-produced alternative to the internal combustion engine. Depending on the model, PEVs either use no oil at all, or use it very sparingly. And, as they insulate their owners from rising gas prices, PEVs can deliver a whole range of other benefits as well. 

By reducing our reliance on imported oil, they enhance our energy security. When they’re running on their batteries – which is all or most of the time -- they produce no tailpipe emissions, and that reduce local air pollution. If we can make real headway in decarbonizing our electricity supplies, PEVs can play a very significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And they present a genuine opportunity to put American industries and workers out front on a truly transformative technology.

So there are lots of reasons to like PEVs. And thanks in part to some help from Washington – including tax incentives enacted under the Bush administration, and investments under President Obama’s stimulus package – these cars are now in the showrooms and on the road. In their first year on the market, PEVs sold 50 percent better than hybrids did when they were first introduced. Nearly 10 companies already have models on the road, and over the next year or two, all of the major automakers will be offering them. 

As GM can tell you, the PEV pathway is not without its bumps. But the same was certainly true for the internal combustion engine – and for so many other game-changing technologies that we now take for granted. For PEVs to take off – for them to truly deliver on their promise – we need to ramp up the effort. From the federal government, we need more support on the R&D side, in particular. But the real nuts-and-bolts challenges faced by PEVs are well outside Washington – and for the most part, so are the solutions. So that is where we at C2ES have chosen to focus our efforts.

It’s fairly obvious, I suppose, that if plug-in electric vehicles are to succeed, they need someplace to plug in. And creating that infrastructure – connecting plug-ins to the grid – involves a lot of different parties. It’s not just the consumers and carmakers. You need the electric utilities, which means you also need the state public utility commissions. You need the companies that make batteries and charging stations. You need people thinking about this from an environmental perspective. And you need them all working together.

That’s where we thought we could help. One year ago we convened the PEV Dialogue Group to bring together all of these interests. We said, let’s come up with a plan we can all agree on. And today, we are thrilled to be sharing with you the product of those efforts – An Action Plan to Integrate Plug-in Electric Vehicles with the U.S. Electrical Grid. A little later in the program, Judi Greenwald will give you a more detailed overview of the plan. In a nutshell, the plan provides a roadmap for coordinated action by the public and private sectors at the state and local level to ensure that PEV owners have a place to plug in – that they can conveniently charge their cars at home and on the road, without in any way compromising the reliability of the grid. It recommends ways to harmonize regulatory approaches across the country; balance public and private investments in charging infrastructure; and help consumers understand the benefits and choices offered by PEVs. 

As I said earlier, we see this as just one part of the solution. On the transportation front, we need to keep pushing ahead with stronger fuel economy standards, and we need to be advancing other alternative fuels and technologies. At C2ES, for instance, we’re also looking at the options presented by natural gas. 

But at a time of economic struggle, fiscal crisis and political gridlock, I believe this effort is an encouraging example of how we can and must make progress. Much as I would like to see comprehensive solutions to our climate and energy challenges, those don’t appear to be on the immediate horizon. But if we come at these issues one by one, look for opportunities where interests converge, and are open to compromise, we can arrive at practical solutions benefiting our economy and our environment. 

This same approach delivered another success two weeks ago, when we announced recommendations from a coalition of industry, state, labor and environmental leaders to boost domestic oil production while reducing CO2 emissions. Another win-win. The opportunities are there, if only we seize them.

I want to thank all the members of PEV Dialogue Group for the hard work and dedication that brought us to this moment. 

 

Time for Some Action on PEVs

It’s been over a year since we assembled the Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Dialogue to work on the major market barriers to PEVs nationwide. Yesterday, we released the first product of this diverse and important group – An Action Plan to Integrate Plug-in Electric Vehicles with the U.S. Electric Grid.

We’ve talked in the past about how policies like fuel economy standards and technologies like PEVs, fuel cells, and advanced internal combustion engines are the key to reducing oil consumption and the impact our travel has on our environment. PEVs could play an important role in that effort, but only if they’re given a fair shot.

C2ES's Nick Nigro interviews PEV Dialogue members, Watson Collins of Northeast Utilities and Zoe Lipman of National Wildlife Federation, about the PEV Action Plan. Listen to the podcast now.

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