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PCAST suggests 6 key components for climate change strategy to President Obama; adaptation and mitigation

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a letter to President Obama describing six key components the advisory group believes should be central to the Administration’s strategy for addressing climate change. The letter, responding to a request by the President last fall for input, calls for a dual focus on mitigation and adaptation.

President Obama established the current PCAST in 2010 as an advisory group of leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President; one of the members serves as the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (the Science Advisor). PCAST’s charter is to advise the President on matters involving science, technology, and innovation policy, including, but not limited to, policy that affects science, technology, and innovation, as well as scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, and other topics.

The first component aims to reduce the damage resulting from changes in climate (“adaptation”), while the last five aim to reduce the pace and magnitude of these changes (“mitigation”). Both approaches are essential parts of an integrated strategy for dealing with climate change. Mitigation is needed to avoid a degree of climate change that would be unmanageable despite efforts to adapt. Adaptation is needed because the climate is already changing and some further change is inevitable regardless of what is done to reduce its pace and magnitude.

—PCAST letter to the President

The six key components are:

1. Focus on national preparedness for climate change, which can help decrease damage from extreme weather events now and speed recovery from future damage.

According to PCAST, a national climate preparedness strategy should include:

  1. mechanisms to create, regularly update, and communicate national climate preparedness plans, including regional assessments and sharing of best practices;

  2. mechanisms to create, regularly update, and communicate to citizens indices of extreme events that capture these leading indicators of climate change on a global, national, and regional basis;

  3. maintenance and improvement of the Nation’s capabilities in weather forecasting and climate-change prediction to help those in harm’s way take actions to protect themselves in both the short- and long-term;

  4. plans for infrastructure modernization that incorporate the impact of future climate change, and also serve to support the development of advanced infrastructure for the 21st century economy; and

  5. changes to Federal policies on disaster relief and insurance to ensure that economic incentives are aligned with long-term safety and security, and that financial capital, when invested following a disaster, is used not just to rebuild, but to rebuild better.

To accomplish those goals, PCAST recommends:

  • Creation of a National Commission on Climate Preparedness charged with recommending an overall framework and blueprint for ongoing data collection, planning, and action.

  • Designating Departments to serve as leads to oversee the annual creation of climate preparedness plans at home and abroad. A logical choice, PCAST said, for domestic preparedness would be the Department of Homeland Security, with the Department of Defense playing the lead role for climate preparedness plans involving events overseas that affect our national security (as they already have responsibility for this).

  • Developing an infrastructure renewal plan that integrates climate preparedness and other benefits to the US’ economy./p>

  • Improving coordination and support for research efforts on climate change preparedness.

2. Continue efforts to decarbonize the economy, with emphasis on the electricity sector. Key recommended steps here are:

  • Support continuing expansion of shale-gas production, ensuring that environmental impacts of production and transport do not curtail the potential of this approach. Continuing substitution of gas for coal (and in some instances for oil) will remain an effective short- and middle-term decarbonization measure and an economic boon only insofar as methane leakage from production and transport is held to low levels and drinking water is not adversely impacted, PVCAST noted.

  • Continue implementation of Clean Air Act requirements on criteria pollutants (such as SO2 and NOx) and hazardous air pollutants (such as mercury) to include creating new performance standards for CO2 emissions from existing stationary sources, which would follow the performance standards for new plants released in March 2012.

  • Accelerate efforts to reduce the regulatory obstacles to deployment of CCS, and continue political support for the large CCS projects currently underway.

3. Level the playing field for clean energy and energy efficiency technologies by removing regulatory obstacles, addressing market failures, adjusting tax policies, and providing time-limited subsidies for clean energy when appropriate.

The PCAST letter suggests as worthy of consideration:

  • Leveling the playing field on access to capital through special tax benefits.

  • Broadening the tax credit for wind to include all forms of renewable energy, replacing the annual renewal with a longer time horizon of 5 to 10 years.

  • Eliminating market failures that prevent the adoption of technologies for energy efficiency.

4. Sustain research on next-generation clean-energy technologies, and remove obstacles for their eventual deployment.

Some technologies are far from being economically competitive today, but are very likely to be important contributors to a low-carbon energy system several decades from now. Examples include electric cars, geothermal heat pumps, and advanced biofuels. As the Nation works to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade, it is critical that investments in “game-changing” research and development on advanced energy technologies continue in order to ensure that at least some of them become competitive in the years ahead.

...A balance is needed between investments that will lower emissions in the near-term and investments, such as “game-changing” research on advanced energy technology that may have only a small effect on emissions over the next few years but will be critical to achieving success in the long run.

—PCAST letter to the President

Recommendations include:

  • Sustaining and, if possible, augmenting the investment in research and development in energy innovation, focusing on the critical technologies that have the potential to dramatically lower our greenhouse gas emissions in the long run.

    PCAST suggests that new emphasis be placed on creative management and reform of applied research programs in nuclear, fossil fuels, renewables, and energy efficiency.

  • Noting that nuclear power requires special attention, PCAST recommends implementation of the recommendations put forward by the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future.

5. Take additional steps to establish US leadership on climate change internationally. Recommendations here include:

  • Exploring the possibility of a new North American climate agreement.

  • Continuing work towards increased cooperation with China on the climate challenge.

6. Conduct an initial Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). In 2011, the DOE published a Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) as the first step toward a full QER that would cut across all Federal departments and agencies, as recommended in the November 2010 PCAST Report to the President on Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy.

PCAST recommends official initiation of the full review. The QER will provide an analytical underpinning for policy tradeoffs, such as those between hydrocarbon production, climate change mitigation, and expanded manufacturing. This in turn may help with a more productive bipartisan dialogue on clean energy innovation and the economic, environmental, and security threads of energy policy, PCAST suggests.

Comments

Kit P

"Joe Clark"

In the history of world, there is no interest in Canadian politics.

Canada is a great neighbor and a nice safe clean place to visit.

Kit P

"Dick Cheney"

Excellent choice for VP.

SJC

If people see the movie "according to Dick Cheney", they might not agree with you. He had strong opinions that Bush did not agree with, so he acted as if Bush were in the way of what was truly needed. THAT is ego.

Kit P

"If people see the movie .."

It is possible to form an opinion based on one's own observations. It does take a little more effort to read the NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY, May 2001 than watch a movie.

If you know what the facts are you know when others are full of beans no matter how many videos they watch on the internet.

Bush inherited an energy crisis in California. It is amazing the number of people I knew that blamed a the governor of Texas for a mess in another state.

Bush tasked the VP with meeting with leaders in the energy industry and come up with solutions. A few months later we had a report that the critics never bother to read.

The nest step was to debate the issues with leaders in congress. Like it or not, that is how our government works.

ai_vin

"Dick Cheney"

Excellent choice for VP.

Well folks, there we have it. Kit P - unfiltered.

SJC

Bush ignored the Enron rip off in California. Bush told FERC to forget about it, this was a California problem, even though his Texas friend Ken Lay at Enron was causing it.

Revisionist history is a futile attempt at control. The movie "According to Dick Cheney" is on cable TV, not the internet and millions have seen it. Cheney is interviewed in it as an attempt to bend opinion in his favor, even though he claims not to care.

wintermane2000

I remember Enron. In cal it was mostly a result of California being mega morons. Generated a ton of ill will amoung the energy industry with a load of realy jackass stunts. And was then shocked when no one wanted to work with them anymore.

Total dicks.

Mind you on top of that the dereg was done about as badly as could possibly have ever been ... half deregging an instry the way they did was such a cluster muff.

But mostly it was a side effect of the fact the energy ind at the time was a total fubar and should never have been deregged in the shape it was in.. specialy around California.

Arne

"I hope you know that Jimmy Carter was not president in 2000."

Irrelevant. When you say 'have stood the test of time' we should be looking at how well they are doing now, not at some distant time in the past. Growth rate over the last 12 years is a good indicator about how a certain technology is currently doing.

"You have to look at look at how much power is produced over time."

That was exactly what I was doing, had you gone through the trouble of clicking the link I provided.

At this time (7 am PST) on the CAL ISO:
Solar = 0 MWe
Wood + biomass = 550 MWe
Geothermal = 920 MWe
Wind = 300 MWe

The total for yesterday on the CAL ISO:
Solar = 12,000 MWh
Wood + biomass = 12,500 MWh
Geothermal = 21,300 MWe
Wind = 32,300 MWh

“I would say that wind and solar have stood the test of time much better than the technologies that you mention. ”

Then you would be wrong.

You're cherry-picking a single day and a single state. Total production over 1 year is what counts and my point still stands: in the US wind produces twice as much as geothermal and biomass combined and is growing much faster. The gap will only grow. They have stood the test of time.

You highlight some interesting topics in biofuels, but fail to address my main point that not enough biomass is available to power our industrial societies.

"That is my complaint against wind and solar advocates. While they claim to love the environment, they have never bothered to grace a classroom of higher learning to learn the big picture."

Everyone here at greencarcongress already knows that when you resort to ad hominem, it serves to distract attention from the fact that you're out of arguments. Saying that enviros are stupid or ignorant isn't an argument. You don't address my point that wind and solar are cleary the technologies that can deliver quantities, not geothermal and biomass. I don't say that to disparage the latter technologies. They have their own strong points and are a vital part of a clean energy strategy. But without the help of wind and solar, they're not going to cut it.

"The only reason we build them is to make people like Anne happy."

Upward of 100 billion per year are invested world wide. The obvious explanation is of course that these technologies deliver. But you try to tell us that it is merely to satisfy a small portion of the population. And to top it off: it only happens because you allow it! Out of the goodness of your heart to not leave those pitiful environmentalists with empty hands. What a magnificent illustration of your self delusion.

"Really! When was the last time you talked to a farmer?"

Of course the farmers are happy. It's the subsidies! Last year's drought painfully showed the achilles heel of the whole undertaking. Please tell us how to get beyond the 10%, because I don't see it happen. What % farmland would be needed to power US cars with 100% biofuels? Do the math and please come back to enlighten us.

Kit P

“Bush ignored the Enron rip off in California. ”

He did? ENRON was not a utility in California. LADWP was a public utility in California that made the most money selling power from cheap coal-based generation. The top five 'profiteers' in California were all public power companies including our socialist friends in Canada.

“In cal it was mostly a result of California being mega morons. ”

That right, the rules for deregulation were poorly thought out compared Texas or Pennsylvania.

Furthermore:

“The Energy Policy Act of 2005 expanded FERC's authority to impose mandatory reliability standards on the bulk transmission system and to impose penalties on entities that manipulate the electricity and natural gas markets. ”

In California public power demonstrates how 'green' they are by putting a picture of a solar panel on the annual report. At the time of California crisis, LADWP was making 75% of the power with coal in other states without any pollution controls at about $20/MWh and selling it at greater than $400 MWh.

Meanwhile, S. David Freeman who was GM of LADWP was standing on the statehouse steps pointing at the 'pirates' from Texas who were investing billions in new more efficient CCGT power plants. How do I know this? It was in the annual report of LADWP.

What is interesting is that not one investigative reporter at the LA Times was able to discover this. They did not even report in when the GAO released a study on it. Old news and why not blame ENRON , it is a better story not to accept local responsibility.

California solved the power shortage by replacing old SCGT with new CCGT. Only in California did it take 3 years to do this. Only in California would environmentalists fight a 100% reduction in environmental impact.

“And was then shocked when no one wanted to work with them anymore. ”

The company I worked for at the time had two projects to repower gas plants. The gave up on the second plant because of very costly environmental demands. The county and city were shocked when the $15 million in tax revenue went away.

The bottom line is that Texas did not have these problems in Texas as Governor and then helped improve rules to make power more reliable everyplace in the country.

HarveyD

More energy nonsense from our South of the Border neighbor Moneycracy.

This last January and February, NG power plants in North Eastern States had to pay up to $31.50 instead of $3.50 for NG. Many NG power temporarily closed or reduced production and had to buy cleaner Hydro electricity from North of the border at 2X and 3X normal price.

Cheap NG is true only when demand is very low. As soon as demand goes up, the scavengers quickly multiply the price from $3.50 to $30+. Electricity providers cannot vary their price overnight from $0.10/kWh to $3.00+/kWh. That's when they come knocking on our door for cheap clean Hydro electricity, even at $0.15+/kWh instead of $0.05/kWh. We made an extra $300M in 2 months and it could have been $600+M if we had found a way to close the North-South NG pipelines.

Monecracies do not make much sense?

HarveyD

The 'supply and demand' doctrine is an accepted way to transfer more and more wealth from the middle and lower classes (97%) to the 3% and soon to be the favored 1%.

ai_vin

Anne, this is from wikipedia: Geothermal energy in the United States continues to be an area of considerable activity. In 2012, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,386 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity;[1][2] the largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California.[3] The United States generates an average of 15 billion kilowatt hours of geothermal power per year, comparable to burning some 25 million barrels (4,000,000 m3) of oil or 6 million short tons of coal per year.[4]

Geothermal power plants are largely concentrated in the western states. They are the fourth largest source of renewable electricity, after hydroelectricity, biomass, and wind power. A geothermal resource assessment shows that nine western states together have the potential to provide over 20 percent of national electricity needs.[4][5]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-GeothermalPowerUS.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Geothermal_resource_map_US.png

Engineer-Poet

In 2011, geothermal energy generated about 0.4% of all US electricity.

Arne

ai_vin,

I think you misunderstood my posts. Looking at the technology on itself, it is superior to wind and solar because it is on demand, around the clock and, much more important, year-round.

But when you copy-paste wikipedia "Geothermal energy in the United States continues to be an area of considerable activity", my question to you is: where are the results? Looking at the current developments, geothermal is growing painfully slow, almost to the point of not growing at all.

3.4 GW installed capacity may sound like a lot, but there is almost 20x more wind capacity installed in the US, which delivers 10x energy on an annual basis.

So if you combine those two facts (geothermal starts from a lower point and grows slower), it will not be of much help in the short to medium term to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

We have been postponing real action on reduction of CO2 emissions for too long. We can't afford to fool around looking for the ideal technology. How good or bad a certain technlogy is, does not solely depend on its availability or service life, but also whether it can deliver the quantities we need in the timeframe we need. Wind and solar are clearly the ones that can do that and their growth rates confirm this.

That was my main point to Kit P, who doesn't seem to understand that. Or, more likely, doesn't want to understand that. He will learn some day that reality has a nasty habit of not aligning with your ideology.

Kit P

"That was my main point to Kit P, who doesn't seem to understand that."

I understand that Anne is a product of a throw away society. Is it shiny? Goody!

It does not matter how fast you build junk.

"How good or bad a certain technlogy is, does not solely depend on its availability or service life"

Yes it does.

"also whether it can deliver the quantities we need"

That is the problem, wind and solar can not do that because junk breaks. I found my note books that had micro fiche copies from a research library. The research goes back to 1994.

Wind and solar to not come close to matching the assumptions made in LCA. On the other hand nuclear greatly exceeded assumptions.

"ideology"

It is called engineering when you check the facts. I think that we should build wind and solar as fast as we can where it works well. Even if it breaks after a short period of time we have advanced the engineering.

We also should be putting money into nuclear,biomass and geothermal because it is proven technology.

I have a serious problem with the only wind and solar crowd because it is not holistic solution.

SJC

Kit,

Your points are more valid when you stay away from personal attacks. Personal attacks are childish, they show a lack maturity and personal control.

ai_vin

Anne, my point was in the potential of the resource. At best, with maximum effort, geothermal could only supply >20% of America's needs. [Elsewhere I did some numbers on biomass's (straw) potential.] But as you point out wind & solar have a greater potential.

The solar and wind resources of America are huge. The United States has enough solar/wind resources to generate electricity for every home and business in the nation. Enough wind electicity could be generated if just 2% of the land in the four windier states were developed and enough solar electricity could be generated if with only a 100X100 mile square of desert land. The resources are there, and the technology has come a long way since 1994.

Roger Pham

@Kit P,
The reference below will show you that wind turbines have improved in reliability 15 folds between 1987-2005. By 2005, wind turbines in Denmark have gotten more reliable than CCGT, and much more reliable than diesel generators.

http://www.reliawind.eu/files/publications/pdf_13.pdf

Solar PV panels are very reliable, and are warranted for 20 yrs.

Roger Pham

Furthermore, reliability is irrelevant so long as LCOE (levelized cost of Energy) is competitive, and wind has LCOE comparable to coal-fired electricity. Broken wind turbines and solar panels can be fixed, maintained, or replaced (more jobs for people!). It's the overall cost that matters.

HarveyD

Total e-energy produced in USA increased only 3.55% (or about 142,214 thousand megawatt-hours) in the last 10 years (2002 to 2011 incl).

That's equivalent to about 1/80 that of China.

Surprisingly, Wind supplied most of the increased production, i.e 110,000 of the 142,000 megawatt-hours NET increase or about (77.5%) of it.

The e-energy production mix changed a bit but remained heavily based on fossil fuels. Coal, NG and petroleum were used to produced 70.0% of the total production in 2011. There was a clear shift from coal to NG.

USA's e-energy mix is close to China's?

The major changes in the last 10 years were:

1. Wind = +1160.11%
2. Solar = +328.22%
3. NG/SG = + 68.11%
4. Hydro = + 28.75%
5. Biomass = + 12.77%
6. Geother = + 5.72%
7. Others = + 4.61%
8. Nuclear = + 1.31%

9. Wood = - 3.22%
10. Coal = - 10.31%
11. Oil = - 68.13%

Percentage total production wise, coal is still the leader with 43.22%, followed by NG with 25.6%, by Nuclear with 19.75%, then Hydro with 7.98%, Wind 3.1%, Wood with 0.94%, Oil with 0.75%, Biomass with 0.48%, Solar with o.45%, Geothermal with 0.38%

HarveyD

ENRON was one of the best example of a free enterprise 'Moneycracy' at work.

There were many more examples during the recent bust (2005-today) in USA and EU etc. There will be many more in the next few years/decades unless the majority (97%) impose-apply appropriate checks-controls on the 3%.

wintermane2000

Harvey Enron was a result of not having free enterprise but instead having a half arsed step between it and full regulation. The price companies paid for power was deregulated but the price they charged was still fully regulated. so duh it blew up.

ai_vin

ENRON is an example of willful corporate fraud. When you report assets you don't have, hide losses, or do deals off the books, that's fraud. That's not my opinion, it's a count verdict.

ai_vin

"court verdict"

Kit P

@Roger

One of the few interesting links you have provided.

“more reliable than CCGT, and much more reliable than diesel generators ”

However, you do not have a handle on the concept of overall system reliability. Wind has a capacity factor of about 25% and solar is at 10% because the the energy source is intermittent.

“more jobs for people! ”

So Roger are you saying that you will work repairing stuff based on the the value of a cheap commodity you do not make very much of? You may want to check out the homeless shelter first because you are not going be able to pay rent.

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