Flawed Coal and CO2 Prediction Creates Bitchy Scientist

  • Published on July 26th, 2010

CO2 emission estimates based on coal and fossil fuel production are pessimistic at best, says new research out of the University of Texas at Austin.

A new study by Tad Patzek, chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin, has shown that CO2 emission estimates used for government policy decisions assume unlimited coal and fossil fuel production for the next 100 years.

While entirely accurate, Patzek doesn’t go out of his way to make friends in the press release put out by the University of Texas.

The facts are all there in black and white:

Patzek found that 36 of the 40 different U.S. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios predicted carbon production and CO2 emissions at today’s rate of coal production.

By contrast, credible forecasts of coal production assume a 50% reduction over the next 50 years. Patzek’s physical model of historical and future production of coal worldwide shows that, despite the large deposits of coal, increasing inaccessibility and decreasing coal seam thickness will deteriorate coal production.

However his attitude regarding his findings seems more in the keeping with a 13 year old boy who has just realized he’s taller than his mother. Patzek doesn’t just feel it’s enough to present the facts and let the truth win out. He takes the opportunity to take some shots at the IPCC along the way.

Presumably he hasn’t been allowed out to play with the big kids before.

“Most of the IPCC scenario writers accepted the common myth of 200-400 years of coal supply, and now their ‘eternal’ (100 years plus) growth of carbon dioxide emissions in turn is a part of the commonly accepted social myth,” says Patzek. “It seems, therefore, that the present attempt to inject some geophysics into the debate will be an uphill battle.”

“The current global hysteria around carbon capture and sequestration is leading to desperately poor government policies,” adds Patzek. “For instance, large-scale subsurface sequestration of CO2 will decrease power plant efficiency by up to 50 percent. The same resources could be spent more wisely on increasing U.S. coal-fired power plant efficiency by 50 percent from the current 32 percent.”

Patzek’s suggestion is handy, but could easily be implemented alongside subsurface sequestration projects.

It seems that Patzek holds to the idea that CO2 won’t harm anyone and that we should just be more efficient in our production of coal. Presumably that would mean a combination of speedier coal production and less coal wasted as pesky emissions dumped into the atmosphere.

So here’s a compromise. We’ll fund a 25% increase in U.S. coal-fired planet efficiency, subsurface sequestration projects which will only decrease efficiency by 25%, and the rest of the money can go towards putting some solar panels on Patzek’s roof and a wind turbine out the back.

Maybe I should have titled this article ‘Flawed Coal and CO2 Prediction Creates Bitchy Scientist and Bitchy Author’.

Source: University of Texas

Image Source: ReneS

About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.