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Energy & Materials: Sustainability Issues. Mark Jaccard School of Resource and Environmental Management Simon Fraser University November, 2011. Environment. Resources. Economy. Wastes. Two risks: resource scarcity and environmental harm from wastes and activity. Environment. Resources.

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energy materials sustainability issues
Energy & Materials: Sustainability Issues

Mark Jaccard

School of Resource and Environmental Management

Simon Fraser University

November, 2011

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University






Two risks: resource scarcity and environmental harm from wastes and activity

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University






Resource scarcity:the risks of peak oil

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University

whither the price of oil
Whither the price of oil?

Forecast the average price of oil during the decade 2020 to 2030.






Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


Peak oil – Hubbert’s Peak

Bell-shaped curve of resource discovery and exploitation over time – implicit for all finite resources.



Jaccard-Simon Fraser University

peak oil global analysis
Peak oil global analysis

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


Peak oil theory and its purported consequences

  • The theory – we pass a global peak in the production of conventional oil and prices rise quickly and permanently to higher levels, leading to:
    • rapid decline of suburbia,
    • rapid decline of long-distance trade,
    • rapid decline of long-distance travel,
    • rapid decline of the fossil fuel era,
    • conflicts over scarce resources.

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


Theory vs evidence – oil response to price increase

Ignores feedback relationship between price, exploration effort, technology and the discovery-development of conventional oil – reserves vs resource.

Rising price shifts curve to right and peak upward



Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


Theory vs evidence: substitutes to conventional oil

Ignores feedback relationship between price, technological change and substitution of resources we use to produce refined petroleum products.

Source: Farrell and Brandt, Berkeley, 2008

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Theory vs evidence: speed of substitution

All taps are already open – commercial scale production. How fast can they be opened further and how far?

Unconventional oil




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tentative assessment of peak oil and impacts
Tentative assessment ofpeak oil and impacts

Short-run – oil and other energy markets will always be volatile.

Tendency to mistakenly extrapolate short run price trends by ignoring supply and demand feedbacks.

Forecast long-run average price (2020-2030) depends on:

  • income effect (rising demand of China, India, etc.)
  • price effect on demand (higher prices reduce demand)
  • price effect on supply (higher prices drive substitutes)

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University






Risks of environmental harm from wastes and activities

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


Focus on local environmental risks from wastes & activity



Local wastes


Global wastes

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tar sands an example of local environmental risk
Tar sands: an example of local environmental risk

“Temporary” land alienation (multiple decades)

“Permanent” land alienation leading to loss of natural habitat – possible loss of biodiversity, reduction of biological activity, disruption of fluvial-geological processes.

Gradual dispersion of toxins into water and soils.

Risk of extreme events – failure of settling ponds, pipeline rupture, major wildlife incident, major fire, etc.

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Focus on global environmental risks from wastes & activity



Local wastes


Global wastes

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University

fossil fuels and global environmental risk
Fossil fuels and global environmental risk

Combustion of fossil fuels increases greenhouse gases in atmosphere. (Includes tar sands production and eventual use of resulting fossil fuel products.)

Higher greenhouse gas concentrations to cause rising temperatures and various related impacts.

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Climate economics

Abatement Costs

GDP in 2050 is 75% greater instead of 80%

Energy costs in 2050 perhaps 30% higher than otherwise would be.

Energy costs in typical household budget increase from 6% today to 8% by 2050.

Do Nothing Costs

Character of impacts

Biodiversity loss with higher temp.

Extreme weather events (drought, hurricane, heat wave)

Ocean acidification

Disease surprises

Greater floods and coastal instability related to rising oceans

Timing, magnitude and GDP cost

Highly uncertain, but evidence we underestimate risks of extreme outcomes

In 2050 – 20% of GDP lost? 50%?

In 2100 – possibly catastrophic?

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In spite of recognizing our threat to the climate, and committing to action decades ago, why have humans failed to reduce GHG emissions?

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Climate effort failure vs other environmental “successes”

  • Past “successes” addressing environmental threats
    • Acid emissions, smog creating emissions, ozone-depleting emissions, lead emissions, etc.
  • Yet climate policy failure now approaching three decades
    • 1980s – rising awareness led to 1988 G7 commitment,
    • 1990s – international negotiations to 1997 Kyoto commitment
    • 2000s – heightened awareness (Al Gore, IPCC, Stern) led to uncoordinated, unilateral efforts but no slowing of global emissions.
    • 2010s - ?
  • Do climate-altering emissions present a more difficult problem?
    • Mostly fossil fuel related emissions – but so too acid and smog emissions
    • Requires global response – but so too ozone-depleting emissions

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Possible reasons for our climate ineffectiveness

  • Relatively high “start” cost / risk of CO2-free energy options
    • Carbon capture and storage expensive and uncertain
    • Most renewables require very expensive energy storage
    • Nuclear poses big risk to environment and global peace
  • Some countries depend heavily on fossil fuels for development
    • Countries rich in oil resources (Middle East, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, etc.)
    • Countries rich in coal resources (China, India, US, Russia, etc.)
  • Bad luck (given global importance of US)
    • Election of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004
      • - gave time for fossil fuel and anti-government lobbies to organize and campaign
    • Financial crisis and health insurance occupy Obama since election
    • Increasingly polarized and biased view of the climate risk
    • 1997 52% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans
    • 2008 76% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans (worse today?)

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Our current global (and national) commitment is to prevent human-caused temperature increase from exceeding 2° C. How can we know if our actions today are on that path?

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GHG atmos. concentrations and likely ave. temp. increase by 2100

  • Source of confusion
  • CO2 e = CO2 + methane + nitrous oxide + others
  • Scientists contemplate 4C beyond 2100

Source: Hamilton, 2009 and Anderson & Bows, 2009

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How do we reach these targets?

  • Model comparison with five energy-economy models (EMF, IPCC)
  • Business as usual = no climate policy; start date of 2000
  • 3 CO2e stabilisation targets: 550ppm, 450ppm (=350CO2), 400ppm

Falling global emissions before 2020

550 ppm CO2e target needs 50% global drop by 2050: rich countries by 75-85%

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Current world energy path

Next 50 years?



CO2 emitting = 85%

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Share of “CO2e – free” energy and CO2e concentrations

Only possible if all energy investment is CO2-free from today

CO2e-free share up from 15% to 60% in just 20 years – impossible.

CO2-free share = biomass + other renewables + nuclear + fossil fuels with CCS (15% in 2010)

=350 CO2

Source: Nakicenovic

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Truth testing our politicians

  • Canadian commitment – 65% reduction from today by 2050 as part of a global effort.
    • - path to 550 ppm CO2e requires other developed countries to reduce 75-85% and developing countries 40% from today
  • Meanwhile, the Canadian government aggressively promotes major oil sands expansion, including pipelines like Keystone to the US and Gateway to the west coast.
  • Is the government’s action consistent with its 2050 promise?
  • Independent researchers study this in detail, e.g., study at MIT modeled Canada’s 2050 target and the global target of 550 ppm CO2e by 2100 – including implications for oil sands.

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Achieving 550 ppm CO2e

MIT modeling GHG pricing policy

Global emissions with no policy

Global emissions - 50% drop from today by 2050

USA, Canada & other developed countries: falling immediately

Source: Chan et al, MIT 2010

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Canadian advisory body confirms MIT study - NRTEE

Emissions must fall today to reach targets

Canadian government targets

Source: National Roundtable on Environment & Economy, 2009

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Energy system evolution to 2050 to achieve 550 ppm CO2e

Electricity generation - 90% CO2-free by 2050 in developed countries, 60% in developing (renewables, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, nuclear).

Buildings - 90% CO2-free by 2050 in developed countries, 60% in developing (electric-driven heat pumps, passive solar heating and cooling, biofuels, photovoltaics, solar hot water)

Vehicles - 100% CO2-free by 2050 in developed countries, 80% in developing (electric, biofuel, hydrogen)

Thus, global oil demand falls. Instead of rising, oil price stabilizes. Higher cost / higher emission oil unprofitable under reduced oil demand and CO2e reduction policies.

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


World oil prices:

550 ppm CO2e target

World oil prices rise under business-as-usual

World oil prices stay at today’s levels with global climate policy

Source: Chan et al, MIT 2010

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Oil sands under 50% global CO2e reduction to 2050

2010-2040, higher cost / higher emission oil unprofitable under reduced oil demand and CO2e reduction policies

(regulations or $100 /tCO2 charge by 2020, $200 by 2035).

Thus, investments in oil sands production and pipelines today are inconsistent with Canada’s promise to reduce emissions 65% by 2050 and with global commitment to 550 ppm CO2e by 2100.

To fulfill promises, oil sands must decline, not expand.

“The main reason for the demise of the oil sands industry with global CO2 policy is that the demand for oil worldwide drops substantially. … there is so little demand for petroleum products which still emit CO2 when used that it can be met with conventional oil resources that entail less CO2 emissions in the production process.” - Chan et al., MIT, 2010

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University


Acting on environmental risk = reduction of one scarcity risk




Local wastes


Global wastes

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Obvious conclusion from independent studies

World not on the path to 450 CO2e (=350 CO2).

World not on the path to 550 CO2e.

Canada not on a path to 65% reduction by 2050. (Oil sands + pipeline investments = government not telling truth.)

World not on the path to 650 CO2e (Copenhagen commitments)

Canada / world on a path leading beyond 800 ppm CO2e by 2100.

This world path has significant damages from extreme weather, disease, ecosystem destruction, sea level rise and ocean acidification – to be experienced by people who are alive today.

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If it is clear that we are on a path to exceed a 2° C change, what policies and political strategies should concerned citizens pursue?

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If governments are seriously considering effective policy

  • Policy must make emitting costly or prohibit it (or the technologies and fuels) in whatever way is most politically feasible.
  • Economists insist on emissions pricing for economic efficiency (ie, carbon tax and/or cap-and-trade). But,
    • pricing policies are extremely difficult politically
    • policies for previous successes with acid, smog, ozone-depleting, and lead emissions were almost entirely from regulations on emissions, technologies, fuels, etc.
    • regulations can be designed for economic efficiency (see regulatory designs in Sustainable Fossil Fuels – Jaccard, 2005)

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If governments are not serious (i.e., not telling the truth)

  • First, we must understand that most voluntary initiatives have little effect – includes carbon neutrality, green consumerism, corporate social responsibility, energy efficiency as savior. We must have effective policies from government – pricing and/or regulations.
  • Leads to the obvious question: What is your moral duty as a citizen if independent evidence consistently shows your government is not telling the truth and that the implications are disastrous?
    • Public relations / social networking campaigns / boycotts – focus on popular culture, Hollywood, etc.
    • Legal action – 100 US coal plants delayed or postponed in past 5 years.
    • Non-violent civil actions (, Greenpeace, VTACC)
      • Sit-ins at government chambers and offices
      • Pickets at elected officials’ constituency offices
      • Blockades of fossil fuel facilities – coal plants, oil pipelines, oil sands
      • Blockades of downtown parking lots to hinder high-emission vehicles

Jaccard-Simon Fraser University