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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 12, @11:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-let-the-changes-get-you-down dept.

Why our continued use of fossil fuels is creating a financial time bomb:

We know roughly how much more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere before we exceed our climate goals—limiting warming to 1.5° to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. From that, we can figure out how much more fossil fuel we can burn before we emit that much carbon dioxide. But when you compare those numbers with our known fossil fuel reserves, things get jaw-dropping.

To reach our climate goals, we'll need to leave a third of the oil, half of the natural gas, and nearly all the coal we're aware of sitting in the ground, unused.

Yet we have—and are still building—infrastructure that is predicated on burning far more than that: mines, oil and gas wells, refineries, and the distribution networks that get all those products to market; power plants, cars, trains, boats, and airplanes that use the fuels. If we're to reach our climate goals, some of those things will have to be intentionally shut down and left to sit idle before they can deliver a return on the money they cost to produce.

But it's not just physical capital that will cause problems if we decide to get serious about addressing climate change. We have workers who are trained to use all of the idled hardware, companies that treat the fuel reserves and hardware as an asset on their balance sheets, and various contracts that dictate that the reserves can be exploited.

Collectively, you can think of all of these things as assets—assets that, if we were to get serious about climate change, would see their value drop to zero. At that point, they'd be termed "stranded assets," and their stranding has the potential to unleash economic chaos on the world.

Do you agree with this arguably pessimistic assessment of the situation, and have we already run out of time to take the action necessary to avoid exceeding climate goals? Criticism is easy, but what solutions do you have to the problem?


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  • (Score: 2) by ChrisMaple on Friday May 13, @02:04AM (3 children)

    by ChrisMaple (6964) on Friday May 13, @02:04AM (#1244642)

    Perhaps you'd like to explain how the battery technology of 1955 could have allowed electric cars charged from nuclear power.

    Only now has battery technology improved almost enough to allow exclusive use of electric motors for transportation, and it's going to take at least another 20 years to build out the infrastructure.

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  • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Friday May 13, @03:41AM (1 child)

    by deimtee (3272) on Friday May 13, @03:41AM (#1244663) Journal

    Commuter only electric vehicles could replace a huge amount of petrol usage. Small, cheap, range of about 100 km (60 miles), easily doable with 50's tech. Save the petrol for the long trips. The problems are not the tech.

    I don't have an electric car, and the main reason is that it is not economical for legislative reasons. If I bought a small cheap car* to commute to work, I have to pay registration and TAC charges twice, even though I wouldn't actually do any more travel. They have also just introduced a per km charge to replace the petrol tax they lose with electrics. Those fees easily cover the cost difference of petrol vs electric for me, and saving whatever the electric car would have actually cost is just a big bonus.

    If you really want to cut fossil fuel usage here's a two step plan:
    1/ Build a small cheap electric car with about 100km range. (under $10,000 new)
    2/ Allow it to be a free piggyback vehicle on a petrol car registration. Same plates, no extra charges.

    People would use the electric for short trips and the petrol when they needed it. Instead, people look at the costs and go "Well I occasionally need the capabilities of the petrol car and it's cheaper to drive it everywhere than to pay all the fees twice".

    --
    No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
    • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Friday May 13, @03:50AM

      by deimtee (3272) on Friday May 13, @03:50AM (#1244665) Journal

      * mass of under 600 kg, 2 seats + small cargo (or 4 seats no cargo). Smaller battery means you can make everything lighter.

      It probably also becomes worthwhile to cover the roof in solar cells. Won't do much for single trip range, but if you are parked at work all day it would add a few km to your daily range.

      --
      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, @04:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, @04:15PM (#1245134)

    There is a museum down in Los Angeles that had an electric car from the turn of the last century that could get 20-25 miles to a charge in an electric horseless carriage design. There were other battery powered vehicles back then that were perfect for use as commuters, and in fact many sold. What killed them was a simple lack of demand as gasoline vehicles developed more rapidly and the 'freedom of the open road' overshadowed the (at the time) unreliable nature of electrical charging at the home. By the time common folk would have been readily buying electrics en-masse, the petrol/automotive industry had converged and effectively relegated competitors such as electric cars to being also-rans.