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The Week in Sustainable Mobility (9/24/06)
Mike Millikin, 23 Sep 06

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A giant polynya—an area of open water in sea ice—in the Beaufort Sea fully opened last week. The new polynya measures some 38,000 square miles and is "extremely unusual" according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "The only time we’ve seen a similar polynya was in 2000. However, the 2000 formation was much smaller and closer to the ice edge, barely enclosed with ice."

So far, Arctic summer sea ice has shrunk to the fourth-smallest September minimum on record. Although some refreezing has begun, parts of the polynya are continuing to melt, so the final totals are uncertain.

A recent study from NASA shows that in 2005 and 2006, the Arctic winter sea ice maximum was about 6% smaller than the average amount over the past 26 years as well.

Speaking at the first ever Climate Clinic taking place at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton (UK), Director of British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, described how satellite and field data reveal that changes are taking place in the Polar Regions faster than scientists had predicted even five years ago. "There are still major uncertainties about what will happen and how quickly, but a sea level rise of up to 5m could take place in the long-term unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly and quickly curbed."

A recent assessment by the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) concludes that most of the emissions that will produce an "acceptable" level of warming—emissions that will increase global temperature by 2° C by 2100—are already committed.

The Clinton Global Initiative conference closed this week with 215 commitments valued at $7.3 billion from companies, governments and non-profit groups. Commitments were focused on the four themes of reducing climate change, disease, poverty and religious conflict. About $3.7 billion of that was targeted at investment funds for work in clean energy and addressing climate change. (More...)

The US Department of Energy released its Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) Strategic Plan, which details measures to accelerate the development and reduce the cost of new and advanced technologies that avoid, reduce, or capture and store greenhouse gas emissions. The CCTP Strategic Plan organizes roughly $3 billion in federal spending for climate technology research, development, demonstration, and deployment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase economic growth.(More...)

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has filed a lawsuit against leading US and Japanese auto manufacturers, alleging their vehicles’ emissions have contributed significantly to global warming, harmed the resources, infrastructure and environmental health of California, and cost the state millions of dollars to address current and future effects. (More...)

Ccs1
One scenario of CO2 reduction. Source: IPCC Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage

One of the critical technologies required to keep increasing greenhouse gas emissions from further accelerating global warming is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Recent modeling by the IPCC sees CCS as providing a considerable portion of total CO2 "least cost" reductions during this century. (Diagram at right.)

CCS is primarily targeted at power-generation. However, the increasing reliance on heavier crude—and especially oil sands crude—will begin driving up the production carbon intensity of fossil fuels. Add into that the likely advent of more Fischer-Tropsch fuels (coal-to-liquids, gas-to-liquids, and even biomass-to-liquids) and the need for the deployment of CCS technologies in refineries and fuel production plants becomes more acute.

The Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton (home of the “Stabilization Wedges”) notes that the Sasol Secunda plant, which produces 165,000 barrels per day of synfuels and chemicals from coal, is the world’s largest synfuels facility. It is also the largest point source of atmospheric CO2 emissions in world, with an annual carbon flow of 7 MtC/yr.

Given that most scenarios see ongoing reliance on fossil fuels and especially coal for decades, failure to develop and to aggressively deploy CCS technologies in power generation and fuel production will be a serious setback to carbon mitigation efforts.

BP America plans to invest $3 billion to reconfigure its Whiting, Indiana Refinery so most of its feedstock can be heavy Canadian crude from the oil sands. (More...)

Energy Investments Australia Pty Ltd (Shell) and Anglo American plc have signed a joint development agreement (JDA) for the two companies to further advance the Monash Energy clean coal-to-liquids project—including carbon capture and sequestration—in the state of Victoria, Australia. (More...)

Syntroleum announced that its Fischer-Tropsch (FT) jet fuel has been successfully tested in a United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress Bomber aircraft. (More...)

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