FutureMetrics comments on why CPP opponents should reconsider

By Katie Fletcher | February 24, 2016

FutureMetrics LLC recently published a white paper entitled “Why the opponents to the Clean Power Plan should change their minds.” The report discusses carbon emissions and their impacts on the atmosphere and oceans, as well as provides commentary on why U.S.-mandated policy has been challenged. A demonstration of why cofiring industrial wood pellets made from biomass feedstock with coal could help achieve a more decarbonized future and why those in opposition should reconsider round off the report.

Author of the report and president of FutureMetrics, William Strauss, begins by discussing anthropomorphic carbon dioxide, and the consequence of a fossil fuel dependent global economy. “Because the use of fossil fuels has grown so dramatically over the past 150 years, the release of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion far exceeds the ability for plant life to recapture the gas. That CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and in the oceans,” he states in the report.

These carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere determine the degree to which the “greenhouse effect” captures solar energy on earth. Strauss sates that as the proportion of energy captured by the greenhouse effect increases it turns into heat just like in the greenhouse at the garden shop. Building up over time, the heat leads to warmer atmosphere, surface and oceans, which will have long-term impacts on weather. The paper states that in recent decades increases in CO2 concentrations are “unprecedented in measureable geological time.”

Strauss acknowledged that the benefits derived from fossil fuels have led to advancements and our modern society, but the consequences of the byproducts from using fossil fuels can no longer be denied or ignored.

Strauss indicated that strategic planning must occur to anticipate changes in the external environment that will threaten future economic and social well-being. This becomes difficult, however, with competing interests, compounded with short-term growth and profit-maximizing views that don’t consider the long-term impacts to continuing to function as business-as-usual, Strauss said. “There may be justified scientific debate over defining the timing of the impacts of unprecedented levels and rates of growth of CO2 on oceans and climate; but there is no scientific basis to deny that rapid consequential changes are occurring and will, under business-as-usual, accelerate,” he states.

Strauss referenced FutureMetrics prior research that demonstrates a rational and pragmatic strategy can provide a gradual glide path to a more decarbonized future. “We would never advocate for any strategy that eliminates fossil fuels. That is not feasible.” Strauss reiterates. “But we do advocate for recognizing the problem and then rationally and pragmatically planning for the long gentle off-ramp to a decarbonized future.”

Other papers about how the Clean Power Plan can provide this off-ramp can be downloaded on the FutureMetrics website. The newest white paper reiterates that cofiring wood pellets with coal isn’t new. Based on 2015 data from Hawkins Wright, total industrial pellet demand from around the world is estimated at about 13.6 million metric tons. North American pellet exports are forecasted to be around 9.4 million in 2016.

According to the white paper, the CPP has been crafted for maximum flexibility while setting goals that will get the U.S. to levels of CO2 from power generation that will make a difference for future generations. “We have shown in our white papers that a strategy of cofiring industrial pellets with coal to lower carbon emissions from power plants is not only viable but is a preferred pathway in many countries because it uses existing power plants, is easy to implement, is very low cost compared to other renewable generation pathways, can deliver baseload power, and, for the country that produces the fuel, will have a net positive job impact,” Strauss said. “The CPP can enable this rational and pragmatic (and job creating) off-ramp to a more decarbonized future.”

The full white paper can be accessed here