Phasing Out Fossil Fuels, Consumption, Environmental Impacts

 

Phasing Out Fossil Fuels, Consumption, Environmental Impacts

Because burning fossil fuels is the main cause of the increasingly destructive impacts of global warming, over time we will need to phase out fossil fuels. Here we give some consumption figures and also some environmental impacts for coal, oil, natural gas, and tar sands. 

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Coal Phase-Out, Consumption, and Environmental Impacts

The figures on coal phase-out or non phase-out are mixed.

Many countries are making plans to limit or phase out coal over time. See HERE.

Also, in 2013 the World Bank Group announced that it would restrict funding for new coal plants in developing countries except "in rare circumstances" — say, in poorer nations that have no good alternatives. See HERE for "World Bank Group Sets Direction for Energy Sector Investments".

However the World Resources Institute reported in 2012 that 1,199 new coal-fired plants, with a total installed capacity of 1,401,278 megawatts (MW), are being proposed globally. These projects are spread across 59 countries. China and India together account for 76 percent of the proposed new coal power capacities. Also, according to IEA estimates, global coal consumption reached 7,238 million tonnes in 2010. China accounted for 46 percent of consumption, followed by the United States (13 percent), and India (9 percent).

HERE are the 2005-2009 coal consumption figures for the US. Here is an Excel spreadsheet for World Coal Consumption (Million Short Tons), 1980-2006 that shows a 60% worldwide increase in coal consumption. The US averaged 18% of world consumption and China averaged 25% (more than doubling), over this period.

Below is a table from the WRI report showing public institution financing of coal plants during 1994 - 2012:

HERE is an article on carbon capture and storage/sequestration CCS, which will impact to what degree coal is phased out. If CCS becomes commercially viable so that coal consumption does not produce CO2 emissions, coal will not have to be phased out. However at present CCS is not commercially viable.

Hidden costs are Environmental impacts of coal:

 

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Oil Phase-Out, Consumption, and Environmental Impacts

One aspect of phasing out oil, beside greenhouse gas considerations, is that the amount of readily accessible petroleum on the planet is being depleated. For an introduction, see Peak Oil (Wikipedia article).

Sweden has plans for a national oil phase-out.

HERE are the statistics for petroleum consumption world-wide. Consumption increased in 1960-2008 from 21 million barrels per day to 86 million barrels per day. The US is by far the largest consumer.

Here are some environmental impacts of oil (Wikipedia):

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Natural Gas Consumption and Environmental Impacts

Natural gas is not being phased out and there are no plans to do so. Natural gas consumption in the US was stable over 2005-2009, and increased markedly since then. Click HERE to see the statistics from the EIA (US Energy Information Administration). 

Natural gas is mainly created by two mechanisms: biogenic and thermogenic. Biogenic gas is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, landfills, and shallow sediments. Deeper in the earth, at greater temperature and pressure, thermogenic gas is created from buried organic material.

HERE is a picture from the EIA on US natural gas supply:

Natural Gas and Global Warming

For an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30% less carbon dioxide than burning petroleum and about 45% less than burning coal. However, the process of producing natural shale gas by fracking in shale formations produces methane by leakage. This implies shale gas has a higher greenhouse gas footprint than coal over several decades and is comparable over 100 years. This includes production and usage. See HERE for a discussion and HERE for the paper. HERE is a Cornell U. slide presentation on natural gas aggravating global warming.

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Fracking

Controversial environmental impacts are associated with the advanced - technology process of natural gas extration in shale called  "fracking". Attention was drawn by the HBO documentary "Gasland".

To understand what fracking is, here is an instructive video from the pro-industry Marcellus Shale Coalition.

On the other side, emphasizing environmental impacts of fracking, here is the video of PuppetGas:

From Treehugger, here is a picture:

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks. The most important industrial use is in stimulating oil and gas wells, where hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years. The fracturing is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations to increase the rate and ultimate recovery of oil and natural gas. Considerable controversy surrounds the current implementation of hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States. Environmental safety and health concerns have emerged and are being debated at the state and national levels.  (Wikipedia)

An important problem with fracking is impacts on water. HERE is a report by Ceres that says "Nearly half (47%) of oil and gas wells recently hydraulically fractured in the U.S. are in regions with high or extremely high water stress. "

From Ceres, here is a graphic showing water stress by state in the US:

HERE is a picture from the EIA:

 

From the environmental law firm Blank Rome, here is  information regarding EPA’s “Fracking” Study: Potential Impacts On Marcellus Shale Development

On February 7, 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") released a "Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources" ("Draft Plan" or "Study"). The Draft Plan was issued in direct response to the U.S. Congress' Appropriation Conference Committee's 2010 mandate that EPA study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing practices and drinking water resources.

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Tar Sands, Global Warming, Protests, and the Keystone XL Pipeline

(Separate article)

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The picture at the top of the page is from Wikipedia. United States oil production peaked in 1970. By 2005 imports to the US were twice the US production.

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