Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
is the worst of the three principal fossil fuels in terms of the amount of
carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, emitted into the atmosphere on
burning.Whereas annual rates of
emission from developed countries are projected to remain steady, the emission
rates from developing countries are predicted to rise by almost 3% per year as
they burn more and more fossil fuels, mostly coal, each year.
according to a growing group of leading climate scientists, the goal of
limiting the long-term global average temperature rise to less than 2.0ºC (3.6ºF)
likely will not be met.This will have serious
negative consequences on humanity and the planet.
We conclude that
every new investment in energy infrastructure starting “now” should construct renewable
energy sources and institute energy efficiency instead of extending fossil
fuel-based energy infrastructure.The
principal emitters of greenhouse gases, including the U. S. and China, should reach a “few-party” agreement to decarbonize
their energy economies among themselves as soon as possible.
is the worst of the three principal fossil fuels in terms of how much carbon
dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, is emitted into the atmosphere
for a given amount of heat produced on burning.This is shown in the following table.
It is seen that, on
the basis of carbon-atom-to-carbon-atom in the various fuels, coal emits almost twice as much CO2
per unit of heat obtained relative to natural gas.This makes coal the most offending of the
fossil fuels in contributing to the worsening of global warming.
In view of this
situation, it would be highly sensible to set policies in place that discourage
expansion of coal-burning energy sources.Yet coal is also highly abundant throughout the world, and readily mined
at the scale needed to satisfy energy demand.Indeed, use of coal for energy continues not merely at a level pace, but
at an ever-growing rate, as energy demand around the world keeps increasing.
Growth in energy
use and in emissions of greenhouse gases in China and other developing
countries has been historically high, and is expected to continue growing in
future decades (see Details
at the end of this post).China is the country with the greatest demand for
energy sources, coupled with a very high rate of growth in its energy
demand.A large portion of its energy
demand is provided by coal.Use of coal
for energy in China grew at an average rate of 8.8% per year
from 2000 to 2011, while the rate for the rest of the world was 1.1% per year.Overall, China’s total energy use more than doubled over
this time period, closely tracking the growth in its economy.Clearly, energy is needed to power expansion
in production and infrastructure.
The U. S. Energy
Information Administration (USEIA) foresees
continued rapid growth in energy consumption in China, as well as in India, in the future decades from 2008 through
2035.Most of this energy continues to
be derived from coal and other fossil fuels, so their projected emissions of
the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide likewise grow rapidly during this period.
Energy use by India, though lower in absolute magnitude than
that of China, also grows at a comparable rate, since its
energy economy is also being developed with a strong reliance on coal.In contrast, the growth in energy use among
developed countries, and their corresponding annual rate of growth of
greenhouse gas emissions, is much lower than that for China, India and other developing countries of the
China, India and other developing countries of the world
have relied on coal and other fossil fuels to provide the energy needed to
power their economic growth (as have most developed countries as well).Coal is the most offensive of these fuels,
for on burning it releases almost 50% to about 90% more carbon dioxide, the
major greenhouse gas, than other fuels.This unremitting reliance on fossil fuels has resulted in a dramatic
growth in the emissions of CO2, and is expected to continue without
significant change in future decades (see Details, below), in the absence of
new energy policies curtailing greenhouse gas emissions.
released into the atmosphere is rapidly distributed into the air all around the
globe; it does not remain restricted to the air space over the region of the
emitting source.For this reason
greenhouse gas emissions at any point on the planet exert their greenhouse
effect on all humanity.Every source of
greenhouse gas emissions contributes to the climatic consequences of global
warming inflicted across the face of the entire planet.The developing countries of the world, for
example, are continuing to expand their energy infrastructures by installing
still more electric generating plants, industrial facilities, and motor vehicle
fleets, mostly powered by fossil fuels, as seen in the projections for future
fuel use and CO2 presented in this post.We must understand, however, that every new
facility made operational today cements a commitment to continue emitting CO2
throughout its operational lifetime: up to a century for housing and commercial
structures, about 40-50 years for electric power plants, and 10-20 years for
motor vehicles.The actions our
policymakers take today have decades-long consequences.
once emitted into the atmosphere, remains airborne indefinitely for at least
100 years, if not much longer (after a fixed, known fraction, about one-third,
is absorbed by oceans).Humanity has
been adding new CO2 to the atmosphere since the industrial
revolution began, and is doing so as shown in the Details at an ever-increasing
rate.The extent of increase of the
global average temperature is determined by the total accumulated level of GHGs,
not by the annual rate of emissions. The present level has already raised the
long-term global average temperature by 0.7ºC (1.3ºF).This increase is continuing higher as the CO2
concentration continues to increase.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)has set a target of limiting emissions such
that the overall global average would not increase more than 2.0ºC
(3.6ºF).But climate scientists,
examining current trends in the use of fossil fuels, now realize that humanity
will fail to meet this target (these include Sir Robert Watson, former Chair of
James Hansen, climate scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies ;
Glen Peters and coworkers, Nature Climate Change vol. 3, pp. 4–6 (2013), doi:10.1038/nclimate1783;
and Greenpeace “Point of No Return, The massive climate threats we must avoid”,
Recent annual conferences
held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
including those in Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010) and Durban (2011), have striven unsuccessfully to
supplant the Kyoto Protocol on its expiration at the end of 2012.At the Durban conference it became clear that agreement
on a global warming treaty would be seriously delayed.As confirmed at the Dubai conference in 2012, the objective now is to
conclude negotiating a new treaty by 2015 for adoption by the nations of the
world and implementation by 2020.
But this is most
likely too late.As seen in the
projections shown in this post, representing trends in the absence of policies
to reduce emissions, annual emission rates by developed countries will continue
at a constant level, while annual rates by developing countries will rise
indefinitely.Neither of these trends
points to reduced emissions.Yet
this is what is needed.Moderate
abatement measures instituted a decade or two ago would have been relatively
easy to implement.But in the meantime,
in their absence, global emissions have raised the CO2 content of
the atmosphere, so now more drastic abatement measures have to be implemented
as soon as possible.
Thomas F. Stocker,
a climate scientist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, calculates (Science2013: Vol. 339 pp. 280-282; doi:
that the longer the delay the more stringent
the mitigation policy must be to attain a goal of any given maximum temperature
increase over the preindustrial temperature.As of now, for example, an ambitious goal of a limiting rise of 1.5ºC
(2.7ºF) would need a relatively stringent abatement rate of more than 5% per
year, while a higher limit of 2.0ºC (3.6ºF) would need a lower abatement rate
of over 2% per year.But if we wait
until 2020, for example, a limiting rise of 1.5ºC would require almost a 10%
per year abatement rate, and a limiting rise of 2.0ºC would require about a 3%
abatement rate.Dr. Stocker concludes
“…even well-intentioned and effective international efforts to limit climate
change must face the hard physical reality of certain temperature targets that
can no longer be achieved if too much carbon has already been emitted to the
atmosphere. Both delay and insufficient mitigation efforts close the door on
limiting global mean warming permanently” (emphasis added).
This post concludes
that every investment in energy infrastructure undertaken from this date forward
should construct decarbonizing energy facilities and implement energy
efficiency instead of extending fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure.These measures can be initiated unilaterally,
but in addition the principal emitters of greenhouse gases, including the U. S. and China, should reach a “few-party” agreement to decarbonize
their energy economies among themselves as soon as possible, outside of the
UNFCCC process.Our climate future and
that of coming generations demands nothing less.
The historical use
of coal by China, and by all other countries, is shown in
the following graphic.
in billions of tons used per year, from 2000 to 2011 for China (red line)
and the rest of the world (black line).
In all countries of
the world not including China (black line), coal use grew from 3.8
billion tons per year to 4.3 billion tons over the eleven years shown.This works out to an average growth rate of
1.1% per year.In contrast, coal use in China grew from 1.5 billion tons per year in 2000
to 3.8 billion tons in 2011, for an average growth rate of 8.8% per year.Use in 2011 grew by 9%, continuing the
World trends for coal use for 1980 and 2010 are shown in the two images below
World use of coal
in 1980 and 2010 in billions of tons (Images captured from an animated version
tracing year by year changes).While
North American use has expanded slightly, coal use in Europe and the former Soviet Union has actually fallen.In the same period, coal use in Asia, due primarily to China and India, has expanded dramatically.
This linkanimates the above images year by year
between the 1980 and 2010 endpoints.The
two still images and the animation bring home in striking visual impressions
the vast growth in Asian coal use, originating mostly in China and India.
The growth in
overall energy use by China tracks quite exactly with its economic
expansion, as seen below:
Total energy use by China
(in quadrillion British thermal units (aqua bars))
and its economic growth (in 2000 U. S. constant $ (brown
About 71% of China’s electricity originates from thermal generation,
mostly powered by coal.Electricity
generation doubled between 2005 and 2011, with coal-fired generation growing
proportionately. In some years in this
period, China was commissioning 1-2 new coal-fired
electricity plants per week. Even though China has the largest coal reserves in the world,
it imports additional coal to meet its demand, starting in 2009.(A detailed accounting of China’s historical energy economy is available at
In 2010, China accounted for about 73% of Asia’s coal use.From 1980 to 2010 Asia’s coal use increased 403% during a period
in which total world use increased 94% and North America’s use increased 50%.In 1980 Asia accounted for 24% of the world’s total use
of coal, while in 2010 this share grew to 63%. (Source: U. S. Energy Information Administration).
USEIA published its
International Energy Outlook 2011 in September 2011.Using a Reference scenario which assumes no
further governmental energy policies other than those already in place in 2011
it projects trends in energy production and consumption from 2008, the last
year of historical data included, through 2035. As seen in the graphic below, total energy use
in China and in India increases by much higher annual growth
rates than does the increase in usage by the U. S.
China and India, continuing the historical trend already
noted, derive much of their energy in the period projected through 2035 by
burning coal.This contributes to large
accumulations of atmospheric CO2.This is seen in the following graphic:
emissions of CO2 from 1990 to 2008, and projections under the
Reference Scenario to 2035 for developed countries (OECD, black line) and
developing countries (non-OECD, red line).
Source: U. S. Energy Information Administration; http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/emissions.cfm.
developed countries in the Organization for Economic Development (OECD)
increase minimally over the projected period, while those for the non-OECD
countries increase 73% from 2008 to 2035, to 28.9 billion metric tons of CO2.Emissions originate worldwide mostly from coal,
then from liquid fuels (powering transportation), then natural gas.The growth in emissions from coal originates
almost entirely from developing countries, which are dominated by emissions
from China and India.Growth
rates for emissions from China and India are 2.6% per year and 2.7% per year,
respectively, and the rate for all developing countries is 2.1% per year.By contrast, the growth rate for emissions
from developed countries is only 0.2% per year.
his second inaugural address U. S. President Barack Obama highlighted the need
for developing sustainable energy sources.He noted the damages inflicted by recent extreme weather and climate
events.He then set forth the objective
of expanding the role of sustainable energy in the American economy, expressing
the intent to make the U. S. a world leader in this field.By including this topic among the relatively
few areas covered in his remarks, he emphasized the importance he ascribes to
making sustainable energy a significant portion of the American
Introduction. Each passing day brings new evidence of
the ravages that worsening global warming wreaks on our planet.In recent months we have witnessed destructive
weather-related disasters, including worsening droughts coupled to forest wildfires, droughts that lead to
shortages in important food staples, and intense storms with heavy rainfall, floods,
damaging winds and coastal storm surges.These calamities have been experienced across America and around the entire world.They invariably cause physical damage valued
in the billions of dollars, long-lasting disruptions in economic activity worth
additional billions of dollars, disruption to social structures and loss of
life.The world’s climate scientists are
in overwhelming agreement that these events are consistent with, indeed are
manifestations of, global warming brought on by increased emissions of man-made
Obama’s Inaugural Address. U. S. President Barack Obama recognized these
facts, and the need for action on the warming climate, in his second inaugural
address delivered Jan. 21, 2013.According to the transcript of his speechhe committed to “respond to the threat
of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children
and future generations”.The President
pointed out that although there remain some who deny the scientific truth of
global warming, in the face of severe weather and cliimate events “none can
avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more
powerful storms”.In order to combat these trends, the President
called on the nation not to “resist this transition” to “sustainable energy
sources”, but rather to “lead it”, by taking a primary role among nations to
develop the new “technology that will power new jobs and new industries….That
is how we will preserve our planet…”.
are highly significant in many ways.Although to date the U. S. has failed to enact a legislated national
energy policy, President Obama’s administration has already put policies in
place that will roughly double the fuel efficiency in cars and trucks by 2025,
and significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power
plants.Second, further undertakings along the lines
outlined in his address would expand on these initiatives.The role of sustainable sources in providing
the energy supply for the country will be expanded.This goal is foreseen to be accomplished by
restoring American research, development and deployment of renewable energy to
a prominent place among nations.
pledge in this regard is very important.Every renewable energy facility will supplant energy currently provided
by fossil fuels.For this reason it is
not true that reducing the demand for fossil fuels will lead to job losses, as
some opponents state, because the new energy forms being developed will
themselves require large investments in both labor and capital. The President clearly pointed this out.Moving toward sustainable energy does not
Perhaps one way of
expanding energy production using sustainable technologies would be to
encourage the major fossil fuel producers themselves to undertake research,
development and deployment of new technologies as a new business model.Currently oil companies, for example, expend
vast resources to find and exploit yet more fossil fuel reserves.Every new production facility, however,
enshrines a new capability to emit still more greenhouse gases, when the fuel
is burned, for the full service lifetime of the installation, i.e., for several
decades.This expanded use of fossil
fuels serves to worsen the global warming we create.In contrast, an alternative choice within
these companies to develop and deploy industrial scale renewable energy
sources would relieve the world of an added burden of greenhouse gases, and
would still preserve the need for investment in labor and facilities.President Obama’s initiative on sustainable
energy could be promoted if a suitable incentive could be found to encourage
these companies to let fossil fuel development lapse in favor of renewable
President Obama is
to be commended for including the policy objective of combating global warming
by developing a robust American renewable energy industry in his second
inaugural address.This emphasis is
highly significant, for it is one of only a few major policy themes developed
in the speech, showing that he regards this issue with high priority.This policy is broadly supported among the
American public.Practical implementation of this policy would
be a major accomplishment of President Obama’s final term in office.
of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the GeorgeMasonUniversityCenter for Climate Change Communication has summarized
current American public opinion regarding global warming.The public is worried about global warming
and its effects, both on themselves and on future generations.Voters across the political spectrum favor
policy action to counteract global warming.There is strong support for developing renewable energy and extending energy
efficiency measures.Among voters who
say that election candidates’ positions on global warming would affect their
vote, most agree the planet is warming and that human activity is
A review of other
surveys agrees with these findings. We
conclude that in the U. S., popular support for legislation
effectively addressing global warming is strong.It is clear that the public “has the
legislators’ back” in this matter.
Introduction.Implementing new policies intended to counteract worsening global
warming, in the U. S. and other democratic countries, necessarily
requires the support of the population.Administrative
measures put in place by the U. S. executive branch, as well as new
legislative measures enacted in the Congress, both depend on the assent of the
people.Barring such popular approval
neither administrative policies nor proposed legislation would become reality,
since there have always been many powerful corporate and economic interests
dedicated to preserving the status quo.
Public opinion on
various aspects of the global warming issue has been the focus of an ongoing
series of surveys carried out by a consortium of the Yale Project on Climate
Change Communication and the GeorgeMasonUniversityCenter for Climate Change Communication, involving
Emily Vraga, Connie Roser-Renouf, Anthony Leiserowitz and Edward Maibach, among
others.Their most recent survey
entitled “Climate Change in the American Mind”, was released in September 2012
(after the summer heat wave and drought in the Midwest, and an unusually
intense season of forest wildfires in the West, but before the U. S.
presidential election and before Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast).This most recent survey worked with 839
subjects; their earlier surveys involved variously 774-832 subjects.
This post presents
a selection of results from the most recent survey
concerning the voting public’s attitudes toward global warming, including a
breakdown by political affiliation.These are categorized as Democrats (more liberal), Republicans (more
conservative), and Independents (frequently called Unaffiliated by others).This selection was released on Jan.
15, 2013 by Anthony
There is strong
concern among American voters about the effects of global warming.Majorities of Democrats and Independents were
worried about effects on them and succeeding generations.
or large-scale measures to reduce global warming is broadly supported,
amounting to 69%, with 88% of Democrats and 78% of Independents in agreement.Republicans in the past have been
characterized as being more doubtful or skeptical concerning global warming and
its effects.Yet in this survey a
majority of Republicans favor at least some level of effort to counteract
aimed at developing renewable energy sources are supported by an overwhelming majority
of voters of all three affiliation groups. Such policies include eliminating
current subsidies to the fossil fuel industry (many of which have been in place for almost 100 years).Across all three groups, strong
majorities favor additional research on developing renewable energy sources.
understands that carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas accumulating in the
atmosphere.Voters in the survey support
regulating carbon dioxide emission (69%), including imposing a carbon tax.There were slightly differing degrees of
support for the tax depending on the use to which the proceeds would be applied;
of the alternatives presented the most strongly supported were using the
proceeds for job creation in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and
promoting development of energy sources that minimize greenhouse gas emission.
93% of Democrats,
75% of Independents and 52% of Republicans were in agreement that global
warming should be at least a medium priority for the President and Congress.In the 6 months since the previous survey,
these percentages for Democrats and Independents were 7-9% higher, while the
percent for Republicans remained unchanged.
58% of registered
voters say that the presidential candidates’ positions on global warming would
be a factor in deciding how they would vote (note that this survey dates from
before the U.
presidential election).Within this
group, 83% agree that the temperature of the planet is warming, and 65% affirm
that human activity is responsible for this warming.
concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continues to rise
inexorably year by year, as humanity across the globe relentlessly burns more
fossil fuels to satisfy its energy demands.Over the past decade, more, and more severe, climate and weather events
negatively impacting human life and livelihood have occurred.These frequently lead to loss of life, major
damage to property and infrastructure, and loss of economic activity, all of
which create a need for financial relief that is frequently borne by
taxpayers.These events are associated
in the minds of the public with the idea that increased greenhouse gases are
causing the increased extent of global warming that we are experiencing.
Mason survey shows that the voting public supports governmental action to help
abate the worsening of global warming.The public favors eliminating subsidies for the fossil fuel industry,
and government-sponsored development of renewable energy sources.American people, as represented by the
survey, support a carbon tax whose proceeds would be applied to several
objectives including job creation in renewable energy and energy efficiency,
and development of innovations in renewable energy.
The survey results
developed by the Yale/George Mason consortium are corroborated in other recent
public opinion surveys on global warming.In a review of several surveys ClimateNexus reports similar results as of Dec. 18, 2012.Thus they were able to report that Hurricane Sandy, the record melting
of Arctic Sea ice, and other North American weather patterns already mentioned have
reinforced in the public mind that global warming is happening “right here,
right now”.Global warming acted to make
such disasters and extremes worse than they would otherwise have been.The harms to Americans are understood by the
analysis, Krosnick and MacInnis (Daedalus, Winter 2013, Vol. 142, pp. 26-39; (doi:10.1162/DAED_a_00183) )
similarly find the American public understands the increase in global warming,
its origins from human activity, and the need to embark on policies to mitigate
warming.They conclude that the failure
to enact legislation combating continued warming cannot be ascribed to a lack
of popular support.
be heartened by the results of surveys such as those summarized here. It is clear that the public “has the
legislators’ backs”. In view of the
strong scientific basis underlying our understanding of global warming and its
worsening trends, it is highly necessary to embark on measures to abate the
process as soon as possible, and as intensively as possible.Public opinion supports enacting such
American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 included a one-year extension of tax
credits favoring renewable energy growth in the U. S.It liberalizes the credits, expanding their
applicability to include projects whose construction will have begun during the
present year, 2013.A primary component
within renewable energy that benefits from these tax credits is generation of
power by wind.It is projected that wind
energy could provide 20% of U. S. energy by 2030.
Tax credits in the U. S. for renewable energy have a history of
being allowed to expire, then being reinstated later, each active period
enduring for only one or a few years.This is highly disruptive for the industry, as it makes long-term
planning with certainty largely impossible.The U.
needs to implement long term policies governing development of renewable energy
in order to provide such certainty.
Introduction. Renewable energy is playing an
increasingly significant role in the U. S. and around the world. Wind energy provides a large fraction of this
growth, as well as much of the total installed capacity, among the various
renewable sources. In addition to wind, these include solar energy, hydroelectric
power, biofuels, geothermal energy and ocean or tidal energy.
In the U. S., renewable energy has received subsidies in
the form of an investment tax credit (a credit favoring investment in new
facilities to promote construction) or a production tax credit (PTC; a credit based on the amount of energy
delivered once a facility is operating).Wind energy has received tax credits, much in the form of PTCs.In the recent decade the U. S. Congress
allowed credits to lapse, and then reinstated them, in an arresting pattern of
fits and starts.This is shown for wind
energy in the following graphic:
of ITCs and PTCs for wind energy in the U. S. The blue
bars show annual wind generating capacity added each year, using the scale
for gigawatts added shown on the left vertical axis.The light blue section of the bar for 2012
shows planned capacity additions at the time this report was prepared late in
2012, presumably in anticipation of the expiration of the PTC at the end of 2012.The green line
shows the total wind capacity installed in the U. S., using the values on the
right-hand vertical axis.The 1603 Grant
was a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the
“stimulus” combating the recession) that made a fractional direct cash payment
for renewable energy projects.
It is quite clear
from this graphic that periodic expiration of tax credits (see the years
following expirations in 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2009) had drastic negative
impacts on installation of new generating capacity during the following
year.In addition, as noted in the
legend to the graphic, during 2012 wind industry planners were factoring in a
scheduled termination of the PTC
effective at the end of the year by accelerating new construction.
Renewable Energy Tax Credits.The so-called “fiscal cliff” in the U. S. raised the possibility of sharply higher
taxes and reduced spending as of Jan. 1, 2013.At
literally the last minute, in an effort to avoid this fiscal crisis, the U. S.
Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the “Act”) on Jan. 1,
2013, and President Obama signed it into law on Jan. 3.
In addition to
provisions averting many facets of the looming fiscal disaster, the Act
included provisions extending tax credits for renewable energy.
Provisions of the Act.The Actprovides extensions of tax credits with
slightly more favorable terms than in previous years.Most of the provisions are summarized here.
production tax credit or an investment tax credit for wind energy is
extended for one year ending Dec. 31, 2013, but the terms are liberalizedby requiring only that construction must have
begun by that date rather than, in earlier versions, been completed by
then.A total of $12 billion may benefit
the wind industry over the next 10 years;
for energy efficiency in existing or new homes;
credit for vehicle refueling facilities providing alternative fuels;
credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel mixtures, applied to
fuels sold after Dec. 31, 2011 and by Dec. 31, 2013;
four tax credits described above, the deadline is extended to Dec.
31, 2013, but the subject
of the credit must have become available for use after Dec.
31, 2011.Thus they are retroactive for about one year,
and expire after one year;
credit for producing cellulosic biofuels after Dec. 31, 2008 and before
Jan. 1, 2014, applicable to a wide range of newer cellulosic sources and to
cultivated algae; thus this provision is retroactive for four years and remains
effective for one year.There is also a
special allowance for facilities that produce the newer cellulosic or algal
biofuels, placed in service after Dec. 31, 2012 and effective for one year;
credit for geothermal facilities whose construction begins before Jan. 1,
The New York Times
reports that electricity produced from other forms of renewable energy
sources, including tides and ocean waves, landfill methane and hydroelectric
facilities were also included in the tax credits.
Extension of Tax
Credits. The American
Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 included several provisions extending PTCs or ITCs
for the relatively short period of 1 year, as itemized in this post.This 1-year extension contributes, albeit
only briefly, to helping wind energy and other renewable energy technologies to
provide an increased share of America’s energy demand.In a report issued in July 2008, The Office
of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U. S. Department of Energy
modeled a scenario (EERE) in which wind energy would supply 20%
demand by 2030.To achieve this
objective, generating capacity would have to expand from about 46 gigawatts
(GW) in 2011 (see graphic above) to 305 GW in 2030 (EERE).
wrangling over whether, and how, the fiscal cliff could be averted was itself a
cliffhanger.It was not until the last
days before the fiscal cliff deadline of Jan. 1, 2013 that the outlines of the law were
assembled, and final passage required a late night session of the lower
chamber, the House of Representatives, on New Year’s Eve extending into the
early hours of the new year.Most of the
renewable energy credits were extended for only one year.Thus the Act guarantees yet another period of
uncertainty promising yet another contentious legislative struggle over further
extensions in one year’s time. Nevertheless the Act liberalized the credits
by extending them to projects whose construction will have begun before the expiration
date, replacing the earlier requirement that projects must have been completed
by the deadline date.
fits and starts is highly disruptive.Governing in this way, by awarding and
withdrawing tax benefits literally at the last minute on a schedule of once a
year to once every few years, is extremely disruptive for business activity
(see the graphic above).Corporations
and entrepreneurs seeking to develop renewable energy need multi-year periods
for planning, funding, and installing renewable energy facilities.Depending on the particular technology and
location, this can include factors such as gaining zoning and siting approval,
undergoing environmental impact analysis, assembling financing, garnering
purchase contracts for the energy ultimately produced by the renewable source,
and construction. For example, according
to the American Wind Energy Association,developing a new wind farm requires
18-24 months. Many of these factors are
interdependent.Singly or in conjunction
with one another, settling these arrangements requires extended periods of
time.It is highly counterproductive for
developers to have to contend with short-term provision and expiration of tax
credits.Effective energy policy must
create long-term stability in order to enable the justified expansion of
renewable energy technologies.
It would be far
more reasonable and effective to develop policies on subsidizing the
development of renewable energy on a long-term schedule. In this way
corporations and entrepreneurs could plan the development and implementation of
projects secure that subsidy policies were intact, available as scheduled, and
could be used as appropriate throughout the lifetime of the project.
U. S.for newly emerging energy technologies
throughout this country’s history, beginning in the nineteenth century. Federal
and/or state subsidies were consistently applied, and have been found to be
most effective when a new technology was in the early years of its development. Unfortunately, at least in the case of crude
oil, subsidies continue to be granted even now, more than 100 years after the
birth of the industry. Clearly, subsidies are no longer warranted for this
industry, given the enormous revenues and profits among the major crude oil
producers. Those expenditures could more
justifiably be applied to the current group of nascent technologies encompassed
within renewable energy.
renewable energy.Construction and development of renewable
energy projects have many positive policy features. The new facilities will
operate within the U. S., rather than abroad. In contrast, much new petroleum exploration and
developmentoccurs in more and more
remote locations and environments.Commonly
these require deep drilling and frequently involve deep sea operations including
development in the extreme conditions of Arctic oceans. These conditions are fraught with environmental
hazards that can come to fruition with disastrous consequences. Furthermore, as
drilling operations take place under increasingly challenging technical conditions,
their costs increase correspondingly.In
contrast, the costs for renewable energy are well-understood and easily
renewable energy preserves and/or creates jobs.The American Wind Energy Association
states that currently 75,000 workers are engaged in wind energy.It expects that the policies in the Act could
save as many as 37,000 of those jobs and create many more in later years.There are almost 500 manufacturing facilities
in the U.
related to wind energy, located in all 50 states.A thorough summary of job economics related
to renewable energy is presented in this post.
sources have the very important feature of not emitting greenhouse gases into
the atmosphere. Global warming due to
manmade greenhouse gases is already a very serious problem and is destined to
get worse as humanity's demand for more energy grows. New fossil fuel-based
energy- facilities put into service now, such as oil and gas pipelines,
electric generating plants, oil refineries, and the like, will continue operating
for a useful lifetime of, say, 40-50 years. These new facilities will continue spewing
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere throughout their service lifetime, adding
to those already accumulated and worsening global warming. In contrast, renewable energy facilities, once
placed in service, have close to zero lifetime emissions of greenhouse gases,
yet have the potential capacity to provide a significant portion of America’s energy demand.
Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 laudably includes a one-year extension of tax
credits for wind energy and other forms of renewable energy.It is lamented that the extension is for only
one year.This prevents entrepreneurs
and businesses from making plans for further development of renewable energy
with the certainty of having a long-term policy in place.The expanding renewable energy industry
provides jobs for American workers, contributes to freedom from reliance on
foreign sources of energy, and relieves the burden of accumulating greenhouse
gas emissions in proportion to its installed generating capacity.All efforts should be undertaken to implement
a long-term energy policy in the U. S. that includes appropriate support for the
expansion of renewable energy.