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AB 2000 studies

Alain Boublil Blog


The trial against carbon

Threat is almost always a bad advisor. The artificial putting together between the heat wave which is hurting France and climate change is exploited by lobbies to promote green radical solutions as « carbon neutrality », a concept whose definition is fuzzy and depends from the one who is putting it forward, or even the “de-carbonization” of the society. The adoration for innovation is called to help to save the planet and the electric, autonomous and connected car is proposed as a credible solution. These debates are not new and we just have to read again Jules Verne, the science-fiction father, to see the worry about the world future has always been present. At the end of the 19th century, it was the cooling of the planet which was at the heart of worries and the risk, for the earth to become a dead star as the moon.

There are today no more serious doubts about the consequences of greenhouse emissions with CO2 at the first place. Climate warming is a reality. So the origins of these emissions must be identified, the way they act must be understood and the appropriate solutions must be adopted. If we are wrong about the causes and the nature of a phenomenon, we have all the chances to take the wrong decisions which will lead to worsen the situations we are trying to cure. A good example is given by the most important decision taken after the “Grenelle de l’Environnement” which recommended to encouraging through tax incentives the utilization of vehicles with diesel engines. The State had to abruptly reverse to try to put an end to a social movement with a without precedent amplitude and duration. Confusion was introduced between the global emissions issue and the local impacts on air quality of the utilization of diesel engines. These ones were emitting less greenhouse gas but much more particles which created an obvious danger for health.

The rashly investigation against fossil fuels can lead to the same mistakes and make the already worrying situation worst. The denunciation of shale oil and gas exploitation is part of that. It misunderstands the economic advantages of that spectacular innovation and it is in a denial when the issue is to assess consequences on CO2 emissions. The discovery and the put in exploitation has first permitted to stop the rise of oil prices and contributed in all the countries to the stabilization of inflation and to the purchasing power increase. The fashionable expression used these last years to characterize the situation was the alignment of planets. Shale oil has been a determining factor of it. American production has been multiplied by two between 2010 and 2018, coming from less than 6 million barrels per day to near 12 million. So has been invalidated another great threat, the one which had been presented by the Roma Club about the exhaustion of natural resources. At that time the forecast was that world production will never overpass 83 billion barrels per day. Today, we are near 95 billion. The American production rise has had two beneficial consequences: it has contributed to the stabilization of the external deficit and so of the country external debt which constituted a threat for the international financial stability. It has also allowed to compensating for the world production brutal fluctuations provoked by the political instability or international tensions regarding producing countries, Iraq and Libya yesterday, Venezuela and Iran today. This abundant supply doesn’t impeach countries to make efforts to stabilize or even to reduce their consumption. But we cannot ask the same efforts to emerging countries which are trying to get the same level of life than developed ones, India in particular, and these ones will necessarily increase their emissions. Warming results from their accumulation for a century. It is the duty of the countries which are at the origin of this accumulation to make most of the efforts and as quickly as possible, since their level of emission by inhabitant is still much higher than in emerging countries. In 2018, The U.S. had a 15.3 ton per h. rate, Germany 8.6 t/h, China 6.7t/h, France 4.5t/h and India 1.8t/h. These numbers are quoted from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2019 edition. They only include CO2 but they are the only statistics which permit to make international comparisons on the last years.

The shale gas revolution and the progress made regarding liquefaction which has made its transport easier have most efficiently contributed to the inflexion of greenhouse emission in atmosphere. The utilization of this fossil fuel to the detriment of coal has allowed the U.S. to reduce by 10% its emissions and the recent attempts of the American president will not change anything. In this country between 2010 and 2018 coal consumption fell from 500 million TEP to 317 million. In China, it is beginning to stabilize. After having reached a peak of 1950 million TEP in 2014, it fell to 1906 million in 2018. In 2010, consumption was 1750 million. These results show that the trial about fossil fuels is poorly investigated. The essential point is not to ban their utilization but to replace as quickly as possible coal in the power production. Renewable are contributing to that objective but they are intermittent and cannot answer by themselves alone to the necessary power supply safety. The incentive to use electric vehicles is consistent with emissions reduction objectives only if power production is not, by itself at the origin of emissions.

In France, it would be the case, except if nuclear production is significantly reduced as it is envisioned at the 2035 horizon. On the other side of the Rhine, the situation would be much worse because the share of coal in the power mix is very high. The country has already a level of emission twice higher than the French one. Europe has, at its disposal an efficient tool to accelerate energy transition, the emission quotas. The level of their allocation is still too much high. The new Commission cannot stay indifferent to the progress of ecologists and will have to go over German and Poland opposition and to harden incentive tools to ban coal.

Thanks to nuclear, the French level of emissions is very low. New reductions could only have a marginal impact on climate warming. They are necessary, not to be an example but to make our message credible, and so, useful on the international scene. But the adopted measures cannot have on economic activity or on industrial sectors harming consequences without any comparison with the expected political advantages. France is a world leader for nuclear activities. The permanent denigration this sector is the object must stop. The country perfectly controls all the technologies related to the exploration, liquefaction, transportation and distribution of natural gas. In that case too, to imagine a society without any carbon is not only unrealistic but, as in the example of nuclear, harming for France growth and employment.

Wrong ideas are frequently hard to fight. It is the case for the solutions chosen to fight against climate warming. Wind and solar power cannot by themselves reach the expected results. Time has come to back on earth if we want to save it.         


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