Energy has become the hot new area for venture capitalists and universities. MIT's president, Susan Hockfield, has started an “energy initiative” to promote research into alternative sources, storage and cleaning up conventional sources; and student enrolment into energy-related courses has tripled over the past five years. In 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available, America's power-generation industry spent less on R&D as a proportion of turnover than did the country's pet-food industry, which suggests there is scope for more investment.From Trading thin air:
Every year the average sow and her piglets produce 9.2 tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent through the methane emissions from their effluent.From Sunlit uplands:
Around 20% of Denmark's electricity comes from wind and about 80% of China's hot water from solar energy.From Dirty king coal:
Solar photovoltaic power has grown by an average of 41% a year over the past three years; wind has grown by 18% a year.
Wind and solar energy have both grown fast in Germany, but the guaranteed price for solar energy is especially generous (54-57 cents per kWh against 8.4 cents for wind). According to Jerry Stokes, president of Suntech Europe, the payback period for a solar panel is eight or nine years, whereas the price for the electricity it generates is guaranteed for 20. Germany's feed-in tariff may cost consumers an extra €2 billion-2.9 billion a year in higher energy prices.
Vlatko Vlatkovic, head of GE's renewable energy research, reckons that wind power is heading towards 3-4 cents per kWh. To achieve that, he says, the length of turbine blades needs to increase to 90 metres.
Coal produces 50% of America's electricity, 70% of India's and 80% of China's.From The final cut:
According to Richard Newell of Duke University, economists' estimates of the carbon price needed to stabilise CO2 concentrations at 550 parts per million (widely reckoned to be a safeish level) range from $5 to $30 per tonne by 2025 and from $20 to $80 per tonne by 2050. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with fairly similar figures in its fourth report earlier this year—$20-50 per tonne by 2020-30. Mr Newell reckons that, in America, $20 per tonne would raise petrol prices by an average of 18 cents (or 6%) per gallon, and electricity prices by 14%. A $50 price would raise petrol prices by an average of 45 cents (or 15%), and electricity prices by 35%.
At the bottom end of the range these costs are not huge. Even at the top end they are manageable. The IPCC's estimates of what a $20-50 carbon price would do to world GDP by 2050 range from a slight increase on what it otherwise would have been to 4% less. The average is 1.3% less, which would mean that average annual growth would be around 0.1% lower than it might otherwise have been.