Daily Briefing | UK gas and US coal

  • 29 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

CC2.0 Kimon Berlin

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Britain sets out shale rules with new oil, gas licensing round 
The British government has announced a new licensing round for oil and gas exploration in the UK, in the face of public opposition to the nascent industry. The government promised safeguards for sensitive environments such as national parks, but it is unclear what these will amount to. The FT notes that the progress the shale gas industry has made so far has been limited. The Guardian reports that the new section of government tasked with promoting shale gas has already had £2.5 million of funding. 

Climate and energy news

Not in my backyard: US sending dirty coal abroad 
As US coal use falls, America is exporting pollution by shipping cheap coal abroad, reports AP. Fossil fuel exports threaten to undermine President Obama's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, experts tell the news service. In 2012, about nine per cent of worldwide coal exports originated in the US, and the US has the largest recoverable coal reserves in the world. 

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UK Parliament says IPCC report is an "unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised"

  • 29 Jul 2014, 00:01
  • Roz Pidcock

A group of MPs has today released a report examining the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN body tasked with assessing the state of climate change science. The report concludes that the IPCC presents "a clear and unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised."

The report from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change (ECC) committee completes a nine-month long investigation, during which a number of witnesses were called on to give evidence on the robustness of the IPCC's workings and conclusions.

The inquiry came mid-way through the publication of a series reports on climate change released by the IPCC over the course of a year.

Minutes released with the report show efforts by two climate skeptic MPs - Graham Stringer and Peter Lilley - to change the report to conclude that the work of the IPCC was unsound in various ways. But the committee rejected the changes - finding no cause for concern with the way the IPCC operates or the conclusions it reaches.

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Scientists lambast The Australian for misleading article on deep ocean cooling

  • 28 Jul 2014, 13:50
  • Roz Pidcock

An article in Friday's  The Australian suggested brand new research by two eminent oceanographers casts doubt on scientific understanding of global warming. But the authors of the research have taken the newspaper to task for its coverage of their work.

The research by Carl Wunsch from Harvard University and Patrick Heimbach from MIT found temperatures seem to be falling in parts of the very deep ocean, known as 'the abyss'.

In a piece headline headlined "Puzzle of deep ocean cooling", journalist Graham Lloyd of the Australian interpreted the new research for readers:

"The deep oceans have been cooling for the past two decades and [so] it is not possible to say whether changes in ocean heat adequately explain the "pause" in global warming".

But the authors think Lloyd's article is misleading. In an  letter to the editor in today's edition of the Australian, they say:

"The article by Graham Lloyd will likely leave a mis-impression with many of your readers concerning the substance of our paper."

Wunsch tells us Lloyd's article "cherrypicks" statements from their paper and "misses some key points".

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Q & A - everything you need to know about UK fracking

  • 28 Jul 2014, 12:45
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Push Europe

About half the country is being opened up to fracking for shale gas and oil today, various newspapers reported this morning. Here's everything you need to know about UK fracking.

What's shale gas?

Shale gas is normal gas, extracted from shale rock using a technique known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the rock. Our full briefing on the fuel is here .

What has been announced today?

The government has opened the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round. A licensing round is when firms get the chance to apply for exclusive rights to search for and extract oil and gas from beneath blocks of land measuring 10 by 10 kilometres.

The round announced today closes on 28 October this year. The last round was held six years ago when few had heard of fracking.

It is only four years since the first exploratory well to look for shale gas in the UK was sunk. Seismic tremors caused by early shale exploration operations in 2011 delayed the launch of the 14th licensing round, preparations for which had also begun in 2010.

Today's announcement and any licenses handed out as a result do not grant permission to actually start fracking. Other regulatory permissions are required first - see below.

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Daily Briefing | Shale of the century?

  • 28 Jul 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Climate and energy news
Fracking licences to be granted by government 
Energy companies are this morning invited to bid for a new round of fracking licences covering more than half the country. Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast, says The Telegraph. As part of new guidance from the government, the licenses will allow drilling in national parks and other protected areas only in "exceptional circumstances", reports The Guardian and The Times. The oil and gas industry welcomed the move, while some environmental campaigners said ministers had fired the starting gun on a "reckless race for shale", reports the The Financial Times. Fracking is vital but a balance has to be struck, argues a  Telegraph editorialBBC News 

Fruit, wildlife and even whales soak up the sun as Britain basks in summer 
After seven years of weird weather thought to be linked to climate change, an unusual phenomenon is unfolding across Britain: a lovely, sultry, old-fashioned summer, reports the Guardian. After a series of cool wet summers, nature is taking advantage of a return to order. The recent warm weather is causing an abundance of early-ripening blackberries across Britain, reports The IndependentThe Guardian 

Researchers tackle link between climate change and public health 
The Australian Academy of Science has brought together 60 scientists and researchers in Brisbane, hoping to influence how policymakers and governments respond to the impacts of climate change on public health. Each group spent two days discussing their recommendations, which will be translated into a report later in the year. The Guardian 

Heatwave may kill thousands 
The UK will bake in temperatures well above the July average for at least another week, reports the Daily Express. With temperatures in the south set to say in the high 70s this week, experts are warning elderly and vulnerable people to take extra care during the extreme heat. The Daily Express 

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Europe’s coal plants could stay open despite air pollution rules

  • 25 Jul 2014, 17:25
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Rich

There is a widely held view that tough EU air pollution rules will force most coal-fired power stations to close by the early 2020s. But that simply isn't true, according to campaign group Sandbag.

It explains why in a new report called " Europe's failure to quit coal". Its plant-by-plant analysis finds that 110 gigawatts of EU coal capacity - nearly three-quarters of the total - will be able to stay open despite air pollution rules.

The remaining 40 gigawatts could stay open too, Sandbag says, with 14 gigawatts of that in the UK. It adds that recent policy changes make it more attractive for UK plant to continue to operate.

We've taken a look at why Sandbag says everyone's been getting it wrong on coal.

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Daily Briefing | Adaptation aptitude

  • 25 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff


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Study Gives Hope of Adaptation to Climate Change 
Some species may be better placed to adapt to changing climate conditions than previously thought. Research on flies has found that some species may have the capacity to evolve quickly and survive a little longer as temperatures rise and conditions become drier. But the researchers involved in the study question how useful such adaptive potential will actually be in real world conditions given the potential pace of environmental change. 
New York Times 

Climate and energy news

Australian Press Watchdog Criticises Climate Report From Rupert Murdoch's Flagship Newspaper 
An investigation by Australia's press watchdog has found the Australian newspaper "got it wrong" in an article suggesting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had admitted its projections about global warming were incorrect. The Australian's piece, by Environment Editor Graham Lloyd, drew heavily on an article for the Mail on Sunday by climate skeptic polemicist David Rose, which was itself corrected by the Mail. The ruling states that "rigorous steps should have been taken before giving such forceful and prominent credence to The Mail on Sunday's claim." 

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Why measuring fugitive methane emissions from shale gas production matters

  • 24 Jul 2014, 14:40
  • Mat Hope

CC 2.0 Tim Evanson

As an ever-increasing number of countries consider exploiting their shale gas resources, and researchers scramble to understand what a production boom could mean for the climate, two new pieces of research appear to come to opposite conclusions.

What is the climate impact of shale gas?

Since gas has about half the emissions of coal when it's burned for electricity, it has been touted as  a 'bridging fuel' for countries seeking to decarbonise their economies to use as a stop gap on the way to a low carbon electricity system.

But as we've  explored before, scientists are struggling to establish the full impact of increased shale gas production on the climate, due to methane that escapes during the extraction process - known as fugitive methane emissions.

Two papers released this month examine what the actual climate impact of natural gas is. At first glance they seem to show opposite things. The graph on the left, taken from a paper by Robert Howarth appears to show natural gas electricity generation emissions - the towering left bar - can be much higher than coal's. The second graph, from  Heath et al, appears to show the opposite - that coal's generation emissions (on the left) are much higher than those from both conventional and shale gas.

Howarth Vs Heath Coal And Gas Emissions

Both papers examine the 'lifecycle emissions' of the fuels: the amount of gas emitted from extraction to combustion. So why is there such a large discrepancy between two papers?

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Daily Briefing | Drax decision reversed

  • 24 Jul 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Source: Arnold Paul

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UK energy department reverses Drax biomass decision 
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has reversed its decision to exclude Drax Group from receiving an enhanced subsidy package to help fund the conversion of one of its coal-fired generating units to biomass. The volte-face by the government department follows a successful legal challenge by the operator of the UK's biggest power station to a decision by the DECC in April to exclude it from receiving a £1.3bn investment contract. 
Financial Times

Climate and energy news

Cuba looks to mangroves to fend off rising seas 
Worried by forecasts of rising seas from climate change, the effects of hurricanes and the salinization of farmlands, authorities say they are beginning a forced march to repair Cuba's first line of defense against the advancing waters - its mangrove thickets, which have been damaged by decades of neglect and uncontrolled logging. 

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Battle over EU energy efficiency targets ends in compromise 30 per cent goal

  • 23 Jul 2014, 14:00
  • Simon Evans

The EU should aim to cut its energy use 30 per cent by 2030, the European Commission said today, despite rumoured attempts to weaken the goal to 27 per cent.

Green NGOs are arguing that's still not very ambitious. They say a higher goal of 35 or 40 per cent would have been more beneficial in terms of reducing reliance on Russian gas, boosting growth, creating jobs and cutting consumer energy bills.

But if it's such a good idea why has the commission gone for a lower target? In our analysis of the announcement we've dissected the competing explanations of what's going on.

Energy saving goal for 2030

The commission is proposing that EU energy use in 2030 should be cut by 30 per cent compared with the level of energy use that was expected when the commission made projections back in 2007.


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