How to effectively reduce carbon - courtesy of BP

Want to really reduce carbon emissions and help the environment? Listen
to BP:

In what was billed by the company as an important speech in Brussels,
Iain Conn, chief executive, Refining and Marketing, said that rather
than focusing on the long-term objective of halving carbon usage by
2050--an effort he called "polishing the diamond"--the EU should take
early material steps toward increasing energy efficiency and cutting
carbon usage.

In an interview beforehand, he said Europeans "should stop wringing our
hands" over what many in Europe saw as a disappointing outcome from the
Copenhagen talks in December. "We know so much about practical things we
can do today but we are not doing them. All this talk about polishing
the 2050 diamond is getting in the way of what we need to do today."

These practical policies would include emphasizing the importance of
natural gas in electricity generation, boosting nuclear-power generation
and reconsidering policies in the EU encouraging the use of diesel in
passenger cars.

Natural gas is about four times as efficient as coal, and plenty of
natural gas is available in the world because of new technologies that
allow it to be extracted from shale. Because of this, he said, the U.S.
has overtaken Russia as the world's largest natural gas producer.
Capital costs associated with building gas-fired power stations were
also lower than coal.

In the interview, he said European governments would have a "make or
buy" decision about nuclear power. Even if countries such as Germany
decided not to produce electricity from nuclear power stations they
would be buying it from countries that had them, such as France, the UK
and the Czech Republic.

The European bias to diesel in personal transport should be
reconsidered, he said. There were major gains to be had from advanced
gasoline engine technology. Combing this with hybrid technology,
starting with the recovery of braking energy, there was the potential
for nearly halving CO2 emissions per kilometer. "Importantly, this can
be delivered at a much lower incremental cost than a full battery
electric vehicle," he said.

"In the shorter term, it seems clear from our work that by far the most
effective pathway to lower carbon transport is through making existing
vehicle engines more efficient," he said.

The focus on diesel for cars in Europe also makes it harder to increase
the proportion of biofuels in the mix. Unlike gasoline that can be mixed
with ethanol, which he said could be relatively easily produced without
hurting food supplies, diesel would require blending with
"environmentally more problematic vegetable oils."

In the interview, he said Europe exports about a million barrels per day
of gasoline to the U.S. and imports the same amount of diesel, mostly
from Russia. Gearing up European refineries to produce more of the high
quality diesel required by engine manufacturers would, he said, be very
expensive.

Conn called proposals for a border carbon tax that would impose tariffs
on imports from countries with a lower cost of carbon than Europe, "a
considerable mistake" that would lead to negative results such as trade
retaliation. Among the proponents of this is the French president,
Nicolas Sarkozy.

He also said the U.S. and EU should closely align energy
policies--without signing treaties--to keep the price of carbon broadly
in line, in part to avoid trade and other frictions arising from big
differences in the price of carbon. This would also provide an important
example to the rest of the world, he said.

- Now, in my opinion, the best thing that we could do is switch over to
a whole ton of nuclear and go from there. Our collective decision to not
use nuclear is on the same scale as the Roman's decision that the steam
engine is best used to freak people out opening temple doors. Anyway,
the point is that if you are really all about a "low-carbon" future you
are probably focusing on the wrong things. As usual there is a lot of
enthusiasm, a lot of idealism, and not so much thinking.

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