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Berkeley study finds California cap-and-trade program falling short of goals

California regulators are overestimating the impact the state’s cap-and-trade system is having on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new policy brief from a researcher at UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Public Policy, part of the Goldman School of Public Policy.

In the paper, research fellow Barbara Haya argues that the California Air Resources Board has made optimistic assumptions about a program protecting forests that may only have accomplished 18% of the emission reductions it claims have been made.

The discrepancy could be as much as 80 million tons of carbon dioxide since 2013—equivalent to more than the total annual emissions from California’s entire electricity sector.

The issue is significant because California is designing its cap-and-trade and carbon offset programs to be a model for other jurisdictions, said Haya, who has spent the last eight years analyzing California’s program.

At issue is California’s US Forest Projects offset protocol, an incentive program designed by the state to encourage forestland owners across the country to manage forests in ways that increase the amount of carbon stored in them. These arboreal stores of carbon create credits that California’s industrial polluters, like power plants, can then buy to offset their own emissions.

But the economy still requires lumber for housing or furniture and wood pulp for paper. And that’s where California’s system runs into trouble, Haya said. Even when forestland owners change their logging practices, the demand for lumber or paper doesn’t decrease, it shifts to other forests.

California assumes that 20% of timber harvesting reduced by California’s forest offset protocol is done in forests that are not part of the cap-and-trade system to meet timber demand, and the state accounts for that when it issues carbon credits.

But that 20% figure, called a leakage rate, is not supported by academic literature, Haya found. It’s more accurate to say that, in California’s program, 80% of the reduction is shifted to other forests.

In other words, Haya said, California regulators are underestimating how many carbon-storing trees are actually being protected by the cap-and-trade program. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions are not falling as quickly as they should.

Another problem Haya’s analysis found was a question of when the effects of this leakage rate, whether it is 20% as the state claims or 80% as Haya argues, are accounted for.

Under the current policy, timber companies and other landowners get immediate credit in the cap-and-trade market for deciding to preserve their forests. But the deduction for all the trees still cut down because of demand for wood products—leakage—is applied over the next 100 years.

This system of early reward, Haya said, creates a cap-and-trade market flush with carbon credits that polluters can buy to avoid reducing their own emissions in the short term.

The system should instead focus on the net reduction in emissions that is actually created each year, she said.

Comments

Engineer-Poet

More proof that the Green agenda as implemented is mostly bookkeeping ledgerdemain.  Some people are getting rich off of this, though.  Cui bono?  If polluters are buying credits which allow them to avoid any reduction in their fossil-fuel consumption, the fossil-fuel interests are definitely among the cui receiving the bono.

Every step of the way, we find that the "environmentalist" NGO position acts as protection for their fossil-fuel interest donors.  The only true exceptions are underfunded upstarts like Environmental Progress and CGNP.

HarveyD

There will always be pro-pollution, anti-environment supporters to try to prove that green policies do not work or do not work fast enough. Young growing forest can and do capture more CO2 than fully grown forests.

Current and future REs can and do produce green electricity at a lower cost the NPPs, NGPPs and NPPs. Essential storage is not longer a major problem.

Polluters should pay for every gram of pollution they produce. Carbon taxes or Cap and Trade are partial but possible solutions.

Engineer-Poet

More and more lies from GCC's propagandist-in-chief.

Young growing forest can and do capture more CO2 than fully grown forests.

Here's what Sustainable Economy has to say about that:

All forms of logging generate carbon dioxide emissions because roughly 80 percent of the carbon dioxide stored in trees ends up being lost to the waste stream or burned in the manufacturing and consumption of lumber, paper, or biomass products. The waste stream decays rapidly, releasing major amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere within a year or so of logging.
....
Most forms of logging, especially clearcutting, reduce the carbon sequestration capacity of a given site simply because trees that were once there capturing and storing carbon dioxide are no longer present. Lost carbon sequestration capacity is a form of indirect emissions because carbon dioxide that was once being removed from the atmosphere now remains and thus contributes to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations.

For clearcut sites, carbon sequestration capacity is not only reduced to zero but actually transforms sites from net carbon dioxide sinks to net carbon dioxide emitters for a period of 10-15 years. This is because any carbon dioxide sequestered by new seedlings or residual vegetation is overshadowed by emissions associated with the decay of slash, stumps, and roots left behind after logging as well as the carbon dioxide released from disturbed soils. In addition, logging roads permanently destroy sequestration capacity.

The Energiewende has been turning old-growth forest into wood chips and clearcuts in the name of "sustainability".  To put it in Montrealler terms, it has been "un échec majestueux".

There will always be pro-pollution, anti-environment supporters to try to prove that green policies do not work or do not work fast enough.

It's so ironic for a mouthpiece of the fossil lobby to call anyone else "pro-pollution" or "anti-environment".  And whether they know it or not, that's what Greens are:  fossil lobby mouthpieces.  When it looked like Sierra Club's "Atoms Not Dams" might also wipe out coal and oil, ARCO executive Robert O. Anderson gave $400,000 to David Brower to get anti-nuclear "Friends of the Earth" off the ground.  Right now, the same forces are trying to wipe out nuclear so most of its market can be taken over by polluting, climate-destroying natural gas.  "Renewables" operating at less than 20% capacity factor leave lots of profit for gas interests.

The West has been pursuing Green policies since the 1970's, and has YET to show even ONE that works.  Well, we are OUT of time.  We have what, 12 years before we bust our carbon budget?  France pursued a nuclear energy program 4 decades ago with the goal of getting off oil, and almost completely decarbonized its grid... by accident.  Greens have been making empty promises since the 1970's.  If climate denial is a crime, the Greens need to go to jail.  All of them.

Essential storage is not longer a major problem.

You've been saying this.  Now prove it.  How much would it cost to buy the terawatt-years of storage that the US economy would require?  Whose technology?  Proven where?

You can't answer, because you know it isn't true.  STOP LYING, HARVEY!

Polluters should pay for every gram of pollution they produce.

Ideological pollution too.  Like what you spew here.

HarveyD

Supplying terawatt-years of storage required for terawatt-years of clean energy depends of where you are.

The southern tip of Argentina and Chile, with continuous good quality winds + good sunshine and access to water from high mountains could supply enough clean e-energy for part of So-America.

Quebec and Labrador have the potential to supply up to 150,000 megawatt of 24/7 REs to Quebec, the Maritimes, Ontario and Eastern States with a good mix of over equipped Hydro plants + a few more thousand high power wind turbines installed on higher towers.

USA and China could rely on many more high power wind turbines and many square miles of solar farms and appropriate storage facilities.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany (to a lesser extend) will soon have a mix of green energy.

Water from the Atlas Mountains flows east and west and is evaporated into the deserts without been properly harnessed. Overly equipped Hydro plants + Solar farms could supply enough 24/7 REs and essential irrigation for the region.

Similar possibilities exist in most countries.

Engineer-Poet

The USA has something in excess of 1600 terawatt-years of uranium already mined, refined and sitting in inventory.  Most of this is depleted uranium and most of the rest is in used LWR fuel, but it is all suitable fuel for fast-breeder reactors.  It would be entirely feasible to run the entire US economy on only this uranium, without either mining or importing another gram.

HarveyD

Good news for depleted uranium and USA. With $2.2T to $3.0T and 15 to 20 years, current NPPs could be triple (from 100 to 300) and produce enough energy to phase out all current 425+ CPPs.

Coupled with 125,000,000 EVs, the impact on pollution and GHGs would be important.

Who will do it?

Engineer-Poet

A full repowering and total decarbonizing of the US economy would take on the order of 10,000 plants (though they would be much smaller than today's light-water reactors).  I am doing the thermodynamics for a combined heat and power steam cycle right now.

HarveyD

Total decarbonizing of US (and Canada) economy, including, fossil fuel refineries, light and heavy industries, cement factories, light and heavy road transport vehicles, trains, ships, boats, light and heavy machinery, agriculture, forestry, food and clothing industries, buildings, residences, aircraft and drones, roads-streets highways and bridges etc will probably never happen, even with 100 clean REs or clean nuclear energy.

We have had a huge capacity-surplus of clean very low cost REs (Hydro-Wind) for years but we still produce 9.4 ton of CO2 per capita, mainly due to many inefficient polluting activities:

1) Aluminum factories
2) Fuel refineries
3) light and heavy industries
4) Cement factories
5) 99.4% of transport ICE vehicles
6) agriculture
7) forestry
8) buildings and residences
9) many other activities.

Even the McGill University fossil fuel heating system emits 30,000 tons/year of CO2. Conversion to cleaner electric system has been delayed for many decades and not seriously supported by their own environmental teaching.

The large 100% electric aluminum factories have refused to update their process that would reduce CO2 emission and GHGs by 80+% due to initial update cost.

One of the best way to force McGill U and the aluminum factories and many others to modify their process would be with a progressive carbon-pollution tax of $20 to $120 ton/year applied on the next 10 years. This is now applied in Que and BC @ $20/ton but all other Provinces are fighting it. A new Federal Law will try to enforce it but the anti-environment groups will try their best to have the law reversed. The pro and anti environment groups will fight it for many decades.

It will not be an easy fight!

Engineer-Poet

I suspect that nuclear can not only decarbonize the entire US economy, it can make the economy carbon-NEGATIVE.

I'll have numbers when I have numbers.  Nothing firm yet, still working.

HarveyD

Go ahead SAEP.

Pls do not forget major carbon sources such as cattle, other animals and humans, cement factories, NG heating, oil heating, fire places and BBQs, CPPs, NGPPs, garbage piles, waste treatment, ICEVs, trains, ships, boats, planes, machineries, National Defence equipment, HVAC systems, polluted water ways, lakes, rivers, heavy and light industries, factories, agriculture, forestry, homes, buildings, oil wells, gas wells, pipelines operation and leaks, mines, refineries, etc.

HarveyD

SAEP:

You may find out that the reported CO2 emissions are often incomplete and underestimated.

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