Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Germany's way towards a low carbon future

Carbon sequestration - information leaked (Greenpeace, spiegel online) about possible future sites for carbon storage. Greenpeace spread the information that the administration still wanted to hold back; a map shows 408 possible sites. Most of them are in the North of Germany;  the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) in Hannover [Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources] had asked geologists to identify geologically suitable sites. This is a first step only, but Greenpeace got hold of the map and considered it necessary to inform the public - for some it might come as a real (and unwelcome) surprise. Whatever we might think about the potential of Carbon Capture & Storage to mitigate anthropogenic climate change - obviously, the low carbon future is here to begin.

How does the future come into being?
we have
  • politicians paving the way to a low carbon society;
  • engineers developing carbon sequestration technology;
  • administrations, such as the Federal Institue for Geosciences and Natural Resources;
  • the nation state, the Laender, municipalities who all have their sayings;
  • scientists looking for suitable places;
  • geological formations;
  • sites which are cities, villages, nature reservations, tourist resorts etc;
  • sites with coal plants but no storage suitability vice versa;
  • concerned citizens who support CCS in general;
  • environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace fighting CCS;
  • already protests in many regions against storage sites;
  • legal experts trying to find a proper legislation for the process;
  • the EU demanding soon such a legal framework;
  • social scientists exploring "the social structure and dynamics of agency" on the transitional way to a low carbon society (Stehr / Grundmann)
  • new vocabulary such as "verpressen" (pressing CO2)
  • the media distributing the information;
  • ....
From now on,  CCS will be part of our politics. As observers, we can follow the fascinating working of democracy on its way to a low carbon society. As concerned scientists, we soon will need another discussion on postnormal science.  As citizens, it's probably time to take sides. We don't know yet exactly what anthropogenic climate change means; obviously, we are on our way to figure this out. I am sure that the discussion about CCS will also once more change our perception of anthropogenic climate change.


Reiner Grundmann said...

The framing of the issue by Greenpeace is interesting. They make reference to long term storage, Endlager in German, which has connotations to Endlager of nuclear waste. In both cases we are looking at timeframes of 10,000 years or more, putting stuff underneath for future generations to deal with.

Of course, pro-CCS advocates will retort with exactly the same argument: that you should not put CO2 in the atmosphere and leave future generations to deal with the consequences.

In both frames CO2 is a truly bad thing (I should think this must irritate biologists, isn't CO2 the ingredient for plant growth and therefore good?) and the problem is one of scale and time. Where to shift it? If it does not go away, we need to put it somewhere. It is like the excluded, which cannot be killed, so it must be permanently hidden. It is time to write a cultural history of Co2.

I can already see the risk experts making comparative risk assessments and telling us which solution is the scientifically sound one, in the air or underground. No more public discussions/resistance after that please!

Anonymous said...

CCS is not necessarily the starting point in a low carbon future. Only if we proceed to burn coal.

Although I do not agree with Greenpeace's rejection of CCS I must confess, there's not necessarily a contradiction in declining CCS und propagating climate change policy.

Why I am "pro CCS"? The progress in reducing CO2-Emissions is so slow, that we might be forced to use all options.

Maybe the future in low carbon economy has already begun? Take a look here:


Werner Krauss said...

Andreas, I agree. The problem is burning coal in the first place. Producing alternative energies sounds promising. CCS has the airs of old style technological solution. Building new coal plants and just hide the CO2 somewhere. Sounds familiar.

From my FEELING I would say there is no chance in Germany for putting CCS into practice. Folks don't like that. I think Greenpeace is very clever to bring up the term "Endlager". What a hell of a word!

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the government and the secretary of the environment, Röttgen, try to find a legal solution that shifts responsibility to the Laender. This sounds like good German practice; the Laender are close to the respective municipalities / future storage sites and can decide according to the opinion of the people. A practice that worked pretty well (mostly) in resolving conflicts surrounding wind turbines, too.

But in any case, the question of CCS will bring the problem of mitigation to the forefront again. If not CCS, so what else? What will be the next step towards a low carbon society?

Anonymous said...

Im Grunde muss sich die Gesellschaft entscheiden:

Günstiger Strom und karbonarme Energieerzeugung verlangt in den nächsten Jahrzehnten den Einsatz von CCS. Dann müssen wir aber auch Lagerstätten für CO2 in Kauf nehmen.

Eine andere Variante wäre der Ersatz von Kohle- durch Kernkraftwerken. Dies verschärft die Endlagerproblematik eher noch.

Die dritte Variante liefe auf Pläne à la Desertec hinaus. Dies erfordert erhebliche Anfangsinvestitionen, der Aufbau würde zudem 10-20 Jahre dauern, Zeit, die wir nicht haben.

Was ist nun typisch deutsch?

Variante 2 leidenschaftlich ablehnen, von Variante 3 träumen (aber nichts tun, kostet ja Geld), Variante 1 wird so lange blockiert, dass die erste Versuchsanlage erst dann laufen wird, wenn China CCS schon in alle Welt exportiert.

Und was ist noch typisch deutsch? Wir feiern uns dabei noch als Klimaweltmeister...

Und natürlich lehnen wir alle geoengineering aus guten Gründen ab, zwingen durch unser Nichtstun aber möglicherweise künftige Generationen, über solche Optionen nolens volens nachzudenken.

CCS kombiniert mit Verbrennung von Biomasse eröffnet auch die interessante Option, CO2 der Atmosphäre zu entnehmen. Wer weiß, vielleicht wird dies noch bedeutsam?


ingno said...

Isn't this more like a project of burying low cabon policy? I mean, burying CO2 is a hopeless idea, economically, technically and politically. After a few years they will say "Hey, this is impossible. Let's just get on with business as usual. Anyway, carbondioxide is good for Germany and the rest of Northern Europe."

Anonymous said...


I don't think CO2 IS THE problem.

Air pollution form burning coal and fuels is an important one, oil peak will be very serious one, as well as the upcoming drilling for shall gas, oil spills are, not only in Ecuador but in Nigeria, Colombia and many other countries as you can see here ... http://www1.american.edu/ted/projects/tedcross/xoilpr15.htm , offshore exploration constitutes a bad problem etc. etc.
There would be many more to talk about.

CO2 itself?
Maybe you focus on the wrong issue and fight with feeble arguments against a chimera instead of trying to solve all the real problems mentionned above. There would be a lot of good arguments indeed. CCS is just a silly idea to save a status quo behaviour or to to fulfill useless (political) carbon emission targets.

Just think about it ...



Anonymous said...

@ Werner Krauss
Ich bin wieder hier ..., ich war niemals weg, hab' mich nur versteckt - vor Ihnen :) Da ich meine Till-Eulenspiegel-Maske heute nicht aufhabe, und mich somit gegen Ihre dekonstruktivistischen Angriffe nicht wehren kann, gehe ich über zu Ralph

It may be in general a better idea to cool down and think about the wise words of H. H. Lamb, written in: What can we find out about the trend of our climate?

"Whenever abnormal spells of weather occur, the question is raised: 'Is the climate changing?' The truth is that climate is never quite static. Every year, every decade, differs from another. One has to be careful to see both 'the wood' and 'the trees'." H.H. Lamb: What can we find out about the trend of our climate?, in: Lamb, H.H.: The changing climate. Selected Papers, London: Methuen 1966, 196.


Anonymous said...

@ William

Don't worry, I stay cool ... please read Lindzen's testimony and you will understand why I'm not going to heat up.

But thank you for Lamb's little sentence. It shows pretty well why using the term "climate change" in the sense of "anthropogenic climate change" or "anthropogenic global warming" is confusing.
I doesn't distinguish natural climate variability from human influences on climate.


fmassen said...

I think that the ongoing shale gas "revolution", if token seriously in Europe, may well make the whole CSS option superfluous. If the EU makes a good and quick effort in mining shale gas, we do not need CSS anymore. I was today at the EU parliament in Strasburg and talked to one MEP: alas, shale gas seems not a priority on the commissions agenda...

Werner Krauss said...

@ W.v.B. #7
Glad your back! We need full support on our way into a low carbon future! Low carbon future - how does that sound to you? Low carbon future - kind of energy diet?
Je länger man ein Wort anschaut, umso fremder schaut es zurück...

Anonymous said...

@ Werner Krauss
Danke Ihnen. Ich weiß allerdings nicht, inwieweit ich Ihnen in Ihrer Forderung, in Ihrer Annahme, dass ich als der "dreizehnte Krieger" in Ihr Boot steigen werde, um das unentdeckte Land, wo Milch und Honig fließen, zu entdecken, folgen kann. Wie Sie bereits wissen, halte ich von "Voraussagen" eher wenig. Somit muss ich die liebe Begrüßung schon vor dem Ausrufezeichen wieder relativieren. Je länger ich auf "a low carbon future" blicke, desto mehr wird "a low carbon future" zu "The Sound of Music". Woran das wohl liegen mag?


Ich suche und suche, finde aber keine Lederhosenträger in den Alpen. Wo sich die wohl verstecken mögen? Vielleicht können Sie mir, als Ethnologe, da weiterhelfen.

Werner Krauss said...

@Rainer S 23

Rainer, how is the ride on the bandwagon you jumped on? Sounds kind of frustrated and bitter on the one hand (all those AGW liars and aloof NOGs), and well saturated on the other. There are no free rides, as the saying goes.
Politics and science are complex, especially in the case of energy. There is no easy way out.

carl. weiss said...

Hat schon mal jemand drueber nachgedacht was z.B. bei einem Rohrbruch oder dem blow-out eines alten Bohrloches eines CCS Lagers
passieren wuerde?
Das Gas wuerde mit 250 atm Druck ausstroemen, wie eine Fluessigkeit sich ueber das Land breiten. Ein kleines Lager ( 100 Mio.Tonnen CO2; 50 Milliarden sind geplant! ) reicht aus, eine Flaeche von 100x100 (=10000 !) km^2 mit einer 10 m hohen Schicht aus Atmosphaerendruck-CO2 zu bedecken. Flucht fuer ca 2 Mio Einwohner in Deutschland unmoeglich.
Bei der Betriebszeit der Lager von 1000en von Jahren ist die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines solchen Versagens 100%.
Diese ganz offenkundige Gefahr wird ganz offiziell unter den Teppich gekehrt. Bundesumweltamt: "ein solcher Unfall ist nicht zu erwarten". Kein weiteres Wort.
CCS heisst ja auch, dass das Gas sich unterirdisch ausbreiten wird.
Wie man am kuerzlich leck gewordenen CO2 Lager Weyburn in Kanada sieht.
Damit bedroht ein Lager nicht etwa nur seine Umgebung. Jedes Lager in der Nordeutschen Tiefebene breitet sich von Polen bis Holland, und weiter, aus.
Kurz CCS hier: das Land ist danach unbewohnbar.
Ich hab schon mal meine Auswanderung vorbereitet...