In your face: US talks up coal at Bonn climate conference

The 23rd annual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – dubbed COP23 – is being held in Bonn this week, with an "official" U.S. delegation mostly absent from the proceedings.  A counter-culture delegation made the trip, but all of their activities are being held on the sidelines of the event.

There was some U.S. participation in the formal proceedings.  Notably, the president of the U.S. Energy Association, Barry Worthington, gave a speech making the commonsense point that fossil fuels are going to be a dominant source of energy for the foreseeable future, so why not develop cleaner ways to burn them?  The event he spoke at was called "The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation" and also featured an address by White House adviser David Barks, who warned attendees not to "bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system." 

This led to chants by the crowd: "Keep it in the ground."  And counter-culture attendee Governor Jerry Brown ridiculed the idea that the U.S. cares about the planet.

"This panel is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system," David Barks, special assistant for the White House, said in his opening speech.

Universal access to energy is required to help eradicate poverty and reach development goals – and this is only possible with fossil fuels, he argued.

"The idea that the world can meet ambitious mitigation goals, support development in poor countries the way we should and ensure energy access by only deploying solar and wind is naive," Barks said.

Sacrilege!  Jerry Brown didn't address that point (How could he?  It made too much sense.) and invoked Saturday Night Live to deflect attention:

"I think the federal government is treading water. They've kind of become like Saturday Night Live, or a comedy program," Brown said.

"They're bringing in a coal company to teach the Europeans how to clean up the environment."

Brown doesn't believe there are any choices to be made.  As Mr. Barks pointed out, you can't fight climate change, enrich the poor, and grow the economies of the world if you're only going to depend on non-nuclear renewables.  That's nuts.  You have to choose, and the U.S. is choosing the latter.

And before Brown and the Greens ridicule the idea of cleaner burning fossil fuels, maybe they should listen to someone who knows what he's talking about:

"There are technologies available today that can dramatically reduce emissions from coal and other fossil fuels," Holly Krutka, vice president of coal generation and emissions technologies with Peabody, said.

The main steps to make fossil fuels "greener" are to install high–efficiency, low emissions systems in power plants and upgrade the carbon capture and storage (CCS) process – capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large emitters such as coal power plants and storing it in a deposit to avoid it entering the atmosphere.

However, for Naomi Ages, Climate Liability Project Lead at Greenpeace USA, "there is no such thing as cleaner fossil fuels." This is simply a strategy developed by the fossil fuel industry to slow the transition from coal, she said.

Laughably, a presentation by a think-tank gave attendees the good news that 80% of electricity in the world could be supplied by solar and wind energy by 2030.  Of course, that means millions of lost jobs.

By using renewables for the electricity system alone, emissions could drop 80 percent by 2030 and although about vast numbers of people could lose their jobs, renewable ernergies would create twice as many new jobs.

"Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will," Christian Breyer, head of the team, said.

You might want to ask U.S. coal workers how the idea that idea that new jobs would be created to replace lost jobs is going.

Trying to inject some common sense into these proceedings is obviously a lost cause.  Best to let the U.S. proceed on its own while Europe flounders in pie-in-the-sky notions that there is no price to be paid for abandoning fossil fuels.

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