Thursday, April 10, 2014

EDF President Discusses CEO Inaction on Climate Change, Coal, Natural Gas and Renewables

Here are some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal interview with Fred Krupp, the President of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Despite the unequivocal evidence from the IPCC, Krupp says that CEOs are not doing what they must to confront the reality of climate change. He also talks about energy including natural gas and coal. Krupp indicates that the shale gas (fracking) boom has generated some powerful headwinds that are inhibiting the growth of renewables in the US. 

MR. BUSSEY: CEOs of the establishment energy companies, power distributors and food companies have shared with us their outlook for the energy picture over the next few years. I didn't hear a lot of mentioning of climate change. Are they discounting the effects climate change and other impacts will have on their business?

MR. KRUPP: I was surprised that I did not hear the CEOs saying they were going to navigate the profound changes. I didn't hear much talk about profound changes. I didn't hear talk about the report released last week from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] that said we are already seeing widespread, unequivocal, consequential effects of climate change that are growing. The report talked about the fact that human health problems are going to increase, among other things, because of food-borne and waterborne diseases; the fact that we can expect the severity and frequency of extreme weather events to increase.

I think the CEOs are underestimating what's coming. Because the people are connecting the dots.

Pew took a poll not long ago and found 65% of the American public favor pollution limits on power plants, which included a majority of Republicans, 52%, and 67% of independents. And when you look at people under 30, another poll found 85% want carbon limits on power plants.

To me, that means any political party in our country that wants a future is going to have to start talking about not just doing the small, incremental, status-quo things, but how we really bring down carbon emissions to avoid what otherwise will be catastrophe.

MR. BUSSEY: No political party seems to agree with you.

MR. KRUPP: You're right. The high-water mark in Washington was in 2009.

But let's look at what's happened in those five years. California has adopted the most comprehensive cap-and-trade program in the world. Greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. have actually gone down significantly, due to the recession, about 40%, but also because of more renewables, energy efficiency and natural gas substituting for coal. We're about 10% now below the levels we were at before.

MR. BUSSEY: Give us a report card on the environmental movement now. This has been a period where there have not been any big wins in Washington.

MR. KRUPP: Shale gas took a lot of people by surprise. A lot of the energy experts were blindsided by the fact that America has a vast amount of this resource. We're now pulling 28 trillion cubic feet out of the ground. The key is to do it right, in a way that protects the neighborhoods and maximizes the advantage natural gas could have over coal.

There's no protests about leaking pipes. But it's very, very dangerous. We commissioned a report which showed that we could reduce 40% of the emissions of methane in this country from the oil and gas industry for a cost of just one penny [per] 1,000 cubic feet of produced gas.

MR. BUSSEY:What happens to the push for renewables?

MR. KRUPP: There's no question that gas makes it hard for everything else to compete. At the same time, we're seeing, even with low gas prices, SolarCity SCTY +2.88% develop a business model where they'll pay for and put solar panels on your house. It's a business model that's been picked up in many states in the country. We need to clear out the thicket of dumb rules that we have in some states that are impeding the spread of energy efficiency and clean energy.

MR. BUSSEY: Isn't momentum toward coal in the developing world just so substantially more significant to climate change than whatever incremental move is made here on renewables?

MR. KRUPP: I think the winds are shifting in China. The government is very serious about cleaning up its conventional air pollution and also in reducing carbon emissions.

It's undeniable that they're now reliant on coal, and that they've built a lot of coal-fired power plants. But there's a huge interest to find ways to continue to increase the availability of electricity with other sources of energy.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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Infographic - International Energy Consumption and Carbon Footprints (World Energy Report)
Infographic - Countries with the Largest Dirty Energy Expansion
Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map: World Energy Outlook Special Report
The "Third Industrial Revolution": How Renewable Energy and the Internet are Changing the World
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The Solar Industry at a Glance: Past Present and Future
Global Wind Energy at a Glance (China, EU, US)
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Whats the Fracking Problem?
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Energy Emissions Comparisons
IAIA12 Energy Future: The Role of Impact
8 Congressional Reports on Energy
Energy & Environmental Report
Breakdown of Obama's Clean Energy
The Future of Energy and the Environment

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