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MIT Study Finds Nuclear Energy Imperative for an Affordable, Clean Energy Future
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Figure 6 breaks down U. CO 2 emissions by economic sector and fuel consumption. Obviously, the two biggest targets for CO 2 reduction are coal burning by the electric power sector and petroleum consumption by the transportation sector. Fuel diversity. This chart breaks down U. CO2 emissions by economic sector and fuel consumption. Spreading the blame. The remainder of this article reviews the emissions reduction strategies that are likely to be implemented or pursued in each of the five major economic sectors.
Investor-owned utilities IOUs have promoted demand-side management DSM programs for residential and commercial users for many years. Of course, some IOUs just go through the motions of promoting DSM because, at the end of the day, their revenues are determined by the number of kilowatt-hours sold. Every utility has a disincentive to invest money to reduce its heating and lighting load and associated revenue.
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That is, unless it is properly compensated by an enlightened state regulator. The lack of a federal DSM policy and the inconsistency of state policies have prevented many IOUs from having their investments in efficiency programs recouped by rate increases. Basic DSM in a total energy sense for the residential sector includes small-subsidy programs for switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, installing programmable thermostats, planting shade trees, installing storm doors, and caulking windows.
In the commercial sector, the current focus is on using energy-efficient design to gain LEED Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for a building. The LEED requirement for all schools and government buildings is a natural outcome of the current energy-efficiency craze.
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So too is integrating design features that promote productivity and an enjoyable work environment. For builders of larger, campus environments such as apartment complexes, hospitals, and universities , the low-hanging fruit of the energy-efficiency tree is replacing the small energy heating and cooling systems serving individual buildings with one more-efficient combined heat and power CHP system. In Europe, especially its cities, where energy prices are higher than in the U.
Rising electricity costs continue to give power-intensive U. Meanwhile, the "race to the bottom" in labor rates continues, driving manufacturers into countries with an even lower living standard than China including the countries of Africa. To use China as an example, the cost of building an electricity factory a power plant there is one-fourth the cost of building one of the same size in the U. In America and Europe , both industrial and power plants are at a competitive disadvantage because they are saddled with mandated costs for environmental protection.
If governments also require plants and industries to capture and sequester the CO 2 they produce, there will be another race to the bottom. The winner will be the country with the most relaxed environmental standards.
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The refusal so far by China, India, and other developing countries to consider mandatory CO 2 reduction targets could eventually push the U. In either case, developing countries will likely retain their economic attractiveness to worldwide industry, given their lower capital and labor costs and more-lenient air pollution standards.
New rules for air pollutants other than GHGs-with an assist from "corporate responsibility"-have driven many industrial firms to clean up their production act; in many cases the cobenefit has been a reduction in corporate GHG emissions. The steps that companies have taken include everything from instituting minor process redesigns to making use of the methane emitted by landfills. If GHG emissions are regulated, more companies will have more of an economic incentive to follow suit, in the form of valuable emissions credits.
While other sectors of the economy are relatively centralized, the transportation sector has more than million mobile sources. Promise of these three benefits is already driving growth in ethanol production and could serve as incentive to develop a U. But CO 2 capture and disposal challenges will be huge for coal-to-liquids production, because its most mature technology-invented in Nazi Germany during the s and refined by South Africa over subsequent decades-generates even more of the greenhouse gas than generating electricity from coal.
Prospects in a carbon constrained world, an MIT view
Although raising CAFE standards, now at The April Supreme Court decision that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate heat-trapping emissions from vehicles created a viable path to implement national CO 2 standards for cars and trucks with minimal political recourse. Aside from reducing demand from residential and commercial users, the U. Supply-side efficiency. The power sector continues to find ways to minimize its raw material fuel costs by increasing generation efficiency. Some of this gain in overall efficiency may be reversed over the next several years as a consequence of steep load growth in the Gulf Coast region that may necessitate returning the idled units to service.
Efficient consumption. The average efficiency of U. Already high and still rising natural gas prices will drive many utilities to consider replacing some of their less-efficient combustion turbines and boilers with state-of-the-art energy conversion systems. Doing so would allow them to generate additional power with no increases in fuel consumption or polluting emissions.
Advances in steam turbine blade materials and design allow utilities to significantly improve coal plant heat rates via retrofit upgrades. But as some utilities have discovered, improving efficiency in this way could trigger a New Source Review. Numerous efficiency projects have been put on hold or scrapped, pending the outcome of rulings that would eliminate their litigation risks. A carbon tax facilitates early removal of coal-fired capacity, which is replaced by low-emissions gas plants.
Although upfront costs of adding nuclear capacity are prohibitive, nuclear outcompetes wind because wind farms have low capacity factors and, importantly, because a great deal of gas-plant capacity is required to support wind, something avoided when nuclear energy is added. Finally, an intertie with British Columbia is beneficial because of the support it provides for wind and nuclear energy, but the role of natural gas is more important in facilitating a transition to lower system-wide carbon dioxide emissions.
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