World Saddled by Europe

We are witnessing how bad economic policies in Europe are threatening the world’s economy.

We are also witnessing how Europe’s policies on climate change and global warming are being forced on the rest of the world, including the United States.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) new report is all about cutting CO2 emissions. Its title, Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, 2°C Scenario tells the whole story. The focus of the IEA is on cutting CO2 emissions so as to keep temperatures from rising 2 degrees C, ergo 2°C in the title.

The United States is a member of the IEA, so why does the IEA adopt, as its reference point, the ideas generated in Europe? And why should the United States adopt the failed policies of Europe?

The IEA’s Tracking Clean Energy report says that CO2 levels are based on the “internationally agreed objective of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C above preindustrial levels.”

This is not an accurate statement, and relies solely on the United Nations and the IPCC having agreed to this limit.

Here are a few recommendations from the Tracking report that asks all members, including the United States, to:

  • Price energy appropriately. The report states that a price for carbon should be established so that clean energy alternatives, such as wind and solar, can compete with natural gas and coal. In other words, increase the cost of energy, including electricity, for all families and every industry so that high-cost wind and solar can compete.
  • Adopt Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). The report says that governments should fund CCS. Even if sequestering CO2 underground for thousands of years is possible, which it isn’t, the cost of carbon capture is very high. The cost for building an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant is more than twice the cost of building the most advanced ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant and at least four times more expensive than building an NGCC plant. CCS means high-cost electricity for families and industry.
  • Adopt smart grid policies.  Here the report refers to studies by International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN), and the Clean Energy Solutions Center, and from the IEA’s High Renewable Electricity Penetration case studies. The real push here is to build transmission lines, at great cost, to carry the electricity generated by wind and solar from remote areas to where it can be used. Smart meters, by themselves, can have very little to do with improving energy efficiency since homeowners can’t readily shift their energy usage to off-peak hours. Air conditioning can be curtailed, but this means people must live with higher temperatures in the summer.
  • Implement energy efficiency policies. Here the effort is to have government establish building codes that people must follow, including the adoption of more stringent fuel standards for transportation. The IEA recommends mandating such items as solar for water heating, using district heating systems that don’t fit the way the united States has developed, and expensive geothermal for heating and cooling homes. Also larger appliances, such as refrigerators, should be avoided.

The European-IEA approach takes the initiative away from people who can make good decisions based on costs and pay-back periods and personal needs, rather than government one-size-fits-all mandates.

While the IEA report continues in this vein, it also mentions that China and other developing countries are not following its prescriptions. As a result, CO2 atmospheric levels are continuing to rise. Since 2000, China has more than tripled its installed capacity of coal, while India’s capacity has increased by 50%.

This raises the obvious question, why adopt the IEA’s 2°C mantra when it can’t possibly be achieved with China and other developing countries ignoring the IEA?

As shown in earlier articles, Fool’s Errand Parts 1- 3, it isn’t technically possible for the United States to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050 without building 300 or more nuclear power plants.

If the IEA is trying to force Europe’s failed view on the world, why should the United States continue to be a member of the organization? Or why shouldn’t the IEA also publish America’s view of the issues?

Europe and the IEA have adopted Malthusian policies that hurt people. A far better approach is to adopt policies that allow for greater use of energy and thereby improve living standards and create jobs.

 

 

Notes:

The IEA’s Tracking Clean Energy report is available at http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/Tracking_Clean_Energy_Progress.pdf

The larger report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, 2°C Scenario can be purchased from the IEA for around $175.

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