Progress (Or Not) in Global Emissions

Decarbonization Stagnation by Sector

We talk a lot about decarbonization in the electric power sector, possibly because there are so many solutions on the table: nuclear reactors, renewable energy, carbon capture, and on and on. But electricity is only about one-fifth of global final energy consumption, and decarbonization outside the power sector is pretty disappointing. If we want to really tackle the emissions challenge, we’ll need innovation and deployment of technological options far beyond zero-carbon power generation.

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BP’s Annual Energy Rorschach Test

Progress and Disappointment in Global Energy Transition

It’s finally summer, and energy wonks know what that means: the annual release of energy data from BP. While the data can be extremely useful for all manner of analysis and modeling, it also serves as tea leaves, allowing people to proclaim the truth of their preferred narrative, clearly reflected in the mess of data.

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Green Growth Is Still Possible

A Response to the Decoupling vs. Degrowth Debate

Jason Hickel and I have exchanged a few rounds of public debate, prompted by his critique of ”green growth” published at Fast Company. The question being debated is whether decoupling offers a pathway towards a sustainable future. His core conclusion is that the answer is no, and that ecomodernists such as myself are indulging in magical thinking. “Even under best-case scenario conditions,” Hickel argued, “absolute decoupling of GDP growth from material use is not possible on a global scale,” and certainly is not enough to reduce material use sufficiently to stay within planetary boundaries. Consequently, he argued that slowing GDP growth is necessary to avoid environmental collapse.

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Why Bans of Internal Combustion Engines Don’t Make Sense

We Need Better Technology for a Smooth Transition

The imperative to respond to climate change, as well as recent progress with electric vehicles and other alternatives to gasoline, has emboldened many countries to mandate a transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) through a ban on internal combustion engines. Great Britain plans to ban the sale of new gasoline or diesel cars by 2040 and completely ban their operation by 2050. France will also ban new gasoline burning cars by 2040, though hybrids will still be allowed. Several other countries have adopted or are considering similar policies. Legislation under consideration in California would also end the sale of new internal combustion cars by 2040.

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How Not to Save Nuclear

Emergency Bailouts Aren’t Climate Policy

Nuclear closures are dramatic affairs. The past week has been a tragedy for FirstEnergy. It announced the planned retirement of three of its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy for its subsidiaries, and requested an unlikely emergency subsidy — putting the fate of its nuclear plants in the hands of the federal government. The maelstrom of uncertainty surrounding FirstEnergy illustrates the challenges facing American nuclear as a whole. Nuclear is politically unpopular and economically undercut by natural gas; at least a dozen nuclear plants across the country are scheduled for retirement in the next ten years.

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Decarbonization

Decarbonization refers to the 200-year-old process in which societies use less carbon-intensive fuels. Economies have achieved decarbonization by transitioning from dirtier, energy-diffuse sources like wood, coal, and oil, to cleaner, energy-dense ones like natural gas, to ultimately zero-carbon sources like advanced nuclear and renewable energy technologies. Technological innovation will be necessary to speed up this transition from dirty to cleaner fuels. 

PUBLICATIONS



ANALYSES
 

Historic Paths to Decarbonization
 

Carbon Taxes and Energy Subsidies
 

Renewables and Nuclear At A Glance

 

BREAKTHROUGH IN THE NEWS




Walter Russell Mead, "Fuzzy Math Can'd Hide Shale Boom's Green Credentials," August 21, 2014


Brad Plumer, "There's a big gap between Obama's climate ambitions and his actual policies," June 9, 2014


Jim Manzi, "Energy in the Executive," June 4, 2014


Justin Gillis and Henry Fountain, "Trying to Reclaim Leadership on Climate Change," June 1, 2014


Jim Manzi, "The New American System," April 2014


Jennifer Dhouly, "Some Say Keystone Fight Distracts From Broader Climate Aims," February 16, 2014


Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Environmentalists Made a Big Mistake By Focusing All Their Attention on Keystone," February 6, 2014


Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath, "A Climate Policy That Would Actually Work," October 11, 2013


Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Can Climate Skeptics Save the Planet?" September 27, 2013


Christopher Colford, "Innovator-in-Chief: The Public Sector," September 3, 2013


Martin Wolf, "A Much-maligned Engine of Innovation," August 5, 2013


Clyde Prestowitz, "Thank Washington for Shale Gas and Oil," August 1, 2013


Andrew Revkin, "The Silent Partner Behind the Shale Energy Boom -- Taxpayers," July 31, 2013


Max Luke and Alex Trembath, "The Bridge to Zero Carbon," July 25, 2013


Russell Gold, "Rise in U.S. Gas Production Fuels Unexpected Plunge in Emissions," April 18, 2013


David Leonhardt, "It's Not Easy Being Green," February 10, 2013


 

David Leonhardt, "There's Still Hope for the Planet," July 21, 2012
 

 


Editorial, "The End of Clean Energy Subsidies?" May 5, 2012
 

 




Keith Johnson, "Subsidies for Clean Energy Get Fresh Look," April 17, 2012