Gaps: Gigatonnes and Megawatts

DDP Newsletter January 2012, Volume XXX, No. 1.

After the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) issued a report on the “gigatonne gap” between current emission reduction pledges and the actual emission reductions needed to maintain a good chance of keeping global warming to two degrees Celsius, as estimated by IPCC models.

In November 2011, the gap was as big as it has ever been, growing from 5‑9 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2010 to 6‑11 gigatonnes in 2011. This gap, UNEP said, can still be closed at a cost of $25–$54/gigatonne. It would cost Japan, however, $1,000/gigatonne to meet its pre-Fukushima pledge of a 25% emissions reduction without nuclear power. The UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) wants all countries to close the “ambition gap” before 2020.

Narrowing this artificial gap between UN bureaucrats’ ambitions and reduction in CO2 emissions, only a small fraction of which are caused by humans, requires widening the gap between human needs and the availability of energy.

It is still widely assumed that the West is rich and can easily afford “semi-religious plans of environmental self-sanctification,” writes Dominic Lawson. However, “the gap between comfort and chaos in modern civilization is alarmingly narrow and defined by a four-letter word: fuel” (CCNet 4/3/12, citing Sunday Times 4/1/12).

Now that western economies are no longer “booming on a tide of apparently limitless credit,” EU climate policy is in freefall. Massive subsidies for economically non-viable energy substitutes are coming to an end.

Germany, where almost half the world’s solar energy is produced, is drastically cutting back, after already spending 100 billion euros on subsidies and committing to 20 years of future obligations. Since it has an average one hour of sunlight a day in December, its effort has been compared to “trying to grow pineapples in Alaska.”

Q-Cells, once the world’s largest maker of solar cells, lost $1.1 billion last year, and is filing for bankruptcy. This is not the only foundering German company, and Solyndra is not the only casualty in the U.S. Solar Trust of America, which claimed to be carrying out the world’s largest solar project, in sunny California, also filed for bankruptcy. Remarkably, it had turned down a $2.1 billion loan guarantee from Obama’s Department of Energy because it would not have been able to switch processes from parabolic mirrors to flat panels in response to market changes. Then its German parent companies refused to continue funding (

The unreliable energy supply is now “the top risk for Germany as a location for business, says Hans Heinrich Driftmann, president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). All industrial sectors are threatened. The metal industry is already migrating to countries with cheaper electricity (Spiegel Online 2/24/12). In an attempt to fill the gap created by the post-Fukushima shutdown of eight nuclear power stations, Germany is developing its lignite resources (Impulse 3/6/12). That is “brown coal,” the most carbon-intensive fuel known (Lawson, op. cit.). It also imports large amounts of power generated at nuclear stations in France and the Czech Republic, and had to fire up an old oil-fired plant in Graz, Austria, when solar panels were generating virtually no energy last December (Spiegel Online 1/18/12).

Because of its “green” policies, the UK faces an energy shortfall by 2015 if not before. In a cold winter, factories would be closing, and elderly people swathing themselves in blankets (Alex Brummer, Daily Mail 3/27/12). The economy as a whole is flat-lined. Business-wrecking energy policy includes a 20% “stealth tax” on the electricity bills of business consumers, which could rise to 70% by 2020. Green policies threaten some 30,000 existing British jobs; there is no net job creation, and the subsidy for “new” jobs averaged £54,000 per worker in 2009-2010 (Conservative Home 9/18/11).

            A growing backlash against the £400 million annual subsidies for wind technology is causing many companies to place wind investments on hold (Daily Telegraph 2/27/12, cited by CCNet 2/27/12). Yet a vast expansion of wind power, bankrolled by taxpayers, is required to meet the pledges in the Climate Change Act, in which Britain signs up for emissions cuts by 2050—the only country in the world to do so. Even the site heralded as “the birthplace of democracy in England”—the battlefield on which Oliver Cromwell defeated King Charles I in 1645—is slated for devastation by a wind farm.

“It is unbelievable that one planning inspector can overrule all elements of democracy,” stated MP Heaton-Harris (Sunday Express 1/22/12, CCNet 1/23/12).

In Scotland, mandated wind energy will cost consumers £120 billion by 2020; the same amount of electricity from gas would cost £13 bn. Carbon emissions might drop 2.8% with wind—or they might increase owing to the need for inefficient back-up power. Household energy costs now take an average of 14% of household income, up from 8% in 2005; 900,000 families are now in “energy poverty” (Scotland on Sunday 3/11/12).

Placing the needs of their people above the EU’s carbon allowance, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania challenged the European Commission’s ceilings on greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, the European Court of First Instance ruled that the ceilings should be scrapped, but the Commission appealed.

Poland may be “riding to the defense of Europe again” (TWTW 3/10/12, In 1683, King Jan Sobieski led a cavalry attack on Ottoman forces that were assaulting Vienna, saving European civilization. On Mar 9, Poland was the sole holdout against the EU demand in “Energy Roadmap 2050” for reducing CO2 emissions to 80%–95% of 1990 levels. Coal is used to generate 90% of Poland’s electricity.


            The domestic biofuel craze began in 1976 with Amory Lovins, who promoted the idea of running the U.S. transport sector on fuels made from agricultural, forest, and urban waste. But replacing one-tenth of U.S. oil consumption with fuel derived from cellulosic ethanol from switch grass would require cultivating 37 million acres, an area the size of Illinois, in switch grass. The power density of biofuels is less than 1 watt/m2; for corn ethanol, as low as .05 watt/m2. For comparison, the power density of wind turbines is about 1 watt/m2; of a small natural-gas well, 28 watt/m2; a nuclear power plant, >2,000 watt/m2 (Robert Bryce, WSJ 1/18/12, cited in TWTW 1/21/12,


            The 30th annual meeting of DDP will be held July 27-29 at the Marriott Long Island, in Uniondale, NY. See for updates and online registration. Friday, July 27, will feature of tour of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Many of our most popular speakers will be back for an encore. Energy-related topics include the EPA’s assault on energy production (Fred Singer and Willie Soon); offshore wind energy (John Droz); and energy independence for the U.S., including the role of fracking to recover shale oil (Bonner Cohen). “Climate change” discussions feature Richard Lindzen and Rael Jean Isaac. Talks also cover biological warfare (Steven Hatfill), low-dose radiation (Jerry Cuttler and Howard Maccabee) and much more!

2 thoughts on “Gaps: Gigatonnes and Megawatts”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *