Emissions As Far As the Eye Can See
This graph is causing a great deal of consternation among people who are concerned about global warming. Released last week by the Energy Information Administration in its annual International Energy Outlook, the figures project that carbon emissions will rise in a straight line with a significant upward slope through 2035. The main culprit is coal burning, which will continue to expand throughout the period. Liquid fuels and natural gas level off somewhat but coal continues its upward climb. Actually, the projections may be an underestimation since coal has experienced a significant uptick in the past five years. China and India are the source. China is building a new coal plant each week and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. India is just picking up the pace. This means that even if coal consumption levels off in the West – which appears to be happening – it will make very little difference. The main problem is the lag in developing nuclear power. Knowledgeable observers have long argued that the choice for generating electricity is between coal and nuclear. Natural gas is taking up some slack but renewable and other sources will never be more than peripheral. Progress on nuclear has now ground to a halt in the West, with Germany and to a lesser extent the US having decided to see if they can do either nuclear or coal. Natural gas will plug the gap for awhile but many are arguing that, when releases of methane are factored in, the reduction of greenhouse gases will be negligible. Nuclear is the only technology that offers zero carbon emissions plus little energy expended in mining and transporting the fuel. With the West retreating from nuclear, China, India and Russia will be left to go it alone. Whether they can develop nuclear fast enough to reduce carbon emissions remains an open question.