Tuesday, December 15, 2009

China's Nuclear Build-Fest

The NYT is running a cautionary article on China's plans to exponentially expand its nuclear fleet over the next 30 years. A number of inches are dedicated to a potential scandal involving bid-rigging and the president of China National Nuclear Corporation, later noting that "While none of Mr. Kang’s decisions publicly documented would have created hazardous conditions at nuclear plants, the case is a worrisome sign that nuclear executives in China may not always put safety first in their decision-making." Reading between the lines on that sentence, I'd say the NYT tried really hard to find a link from that scandal to safety, and finding none, decided to make everything hypothetical and run with it anyway.

Despite that segment, the article actually touches on an interesting trend in Chinese energy policy, which I happened to also hear about last night at a talk by Jeff Tolnar, the CTO of BPL Global. His talk focused on smart grid technology, but within that mentioned how China prefers to do things from a centralized perspective (big surprise there), so for smart grid that means focusing on the supply side first. This paradigm fits with its nuclear ambitions as well: China plans to build 391 GW of new nuclear capacity by 2050, 61 GW of that by 2020. It currently has 9 GW. In comparison, the US has 100 GW of nuclear capacity today. Even if China meets its nuclear goal, the IEA projects that its emissions will grow "72 to 88 percent by 2020" according to the same NYT article.

So this has gotten me thinking, is China focusing on its large energy infrastructure because that is how its government functions best? Or would China actually be a very effective implementer of demand response and energy efficiency? (After all, if a government can tell you how many kids to have it could probably also be able to tell you what kind of light bulbs to use as well as when to use them.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Copenhagen: Christmas in December for Envirobloggers

Considering I've posted a few times on the lead up to Copenhagen, the rational blog reader would expect feverish updates right about now on all the goings-on of the summit. Unfortunately, PhD students during finals don't behave rationally, which is probably why I am updating right now in the first place.

I'm going to keep this short and sweet by just giving you some links to interesting articles I've been reading about Copenhagen for the past few weeks.

New York Times weighs in on costs.

Russia is an interesting story. If there ever were a country that could benefit from a warmer climate, it's Russia. Couple that with the fact that Russia's emissions tanked in the 1990's while the Soviet Bloc collapsed, making it look on paper like Russia has had the best success at curbing emissions, and you get a country that is very hesitant to agree to any terms now at Copenhagen.

The Economist always has a fresh take on events.

The Obama Administration is trying to bring some heft to the table with or without a climate bill: the EPA's rulemaking is a well-timed step in the right direction.

...and if you like pulling your hair out read Sarah Palin's most recent op-ed in the WaPo.