Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No Snow for Skiing, The Greenest Aluminum

alm2001_7SHigh-tn We’ve sometimes said that even if government locks up in its efforts to combat climate change that industry will do so – it can see what is happening in other countries and knows that, while it may be on the trailing edge of government action, that will not always be the case. It has also proven to be good business, as customers respond well to green initiatives.

What we hadn’t considered is that certain industries might not be able to do much in this direction, but will certainly suffer if weather patterns shift away from them. Mother Jones’ Clive Thompson looks at the issue from this angle:

But any serious industrialist who's facing "climate exposure"—as it's now called by money managers—cannot afford to engage in that sort of self-delusion. Spend a couple of hours wandering through the websites of various industrial associations—aluminum manufacturers, real-estate agents, wineries, agribusinesses, take your pick—and you'll find straightforward statements about the grim reality of climate change that wouldn't seem out of place coming from Greenpeace.

Thompson uses the example of a Colorado ski resort, which strikes us as going a little too small scale – it’d be interesting to hear more from those aluminum manufacturers – but we take his point.

---

Actually, two points: one is that some industries will cease to exist if climate change wreaks havoc in particular ways; and the second is that industries are recognizing a need to change their manufacturing processes whether or not government is making rules about it.

Of the second point, here is the Aluminum Association (you knew we had to look):

The aluminum industry’s Voluntary Aluminum Industrial Partnership has focused efforts on reducing two potent PFCs, tetrafluoromethane (CF4) and hexafluoroethane (C2F6)—and has achieved great success toward this goal. … Their actions reduced PFC emissions from U.S. primary aluminum smelting by 45 percent—equivalent to 2.2 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide annually.

And the industry has more in the works to reduce its footprint further.

Those are two good points and they lead to a third: global warming has fully entered the cultural consciousness and is motivating change throughout society. We cannot pretend to know whether these efforts will have a measureable impact, and do think government will have to take a role in industries where change implies large expense, but these efforts to reduce emissions in various industries set a table at which it will be hard for larger entities not to sit.

---

Did you know Alaska had a moratorium on nuclear energy? Us, either – there are no plants there, though Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski has always been favorably inclined to it. It just didn’t occur to us there was such a thing.

In any event, the moratorium is gone. Nuclear energy has been included in the just passed Alaska Sustainable Energy Act. This story doesn’t talk about nuclear much, but includes this:

The bill rewrites state oversight of proposed nuclear projects, partly by making nuclear investment eligible for aid from the state Power Project Fund.

Now, someone just has to want build a plant there.

This story goes into some of the statehouse actions taken around the country regarding nuclear energy. There’s been some failures but more successes and where a ban may have been allowed to stand, well, there’s always next year. The edifice of state bans and moratoria is rapidly crumbling.

“The conversion of Kitimat Works to AP technology will make it the greenest aluminum smelter in the world when the new capacity comes on stream. The new Kitimat smelter will be among the three lowest-cost aluminum smelters in the world.  Production will increase by as much as 40%, even as greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by a similar amount.” Kitimat is in British Columbia. See here for more.

2 comments:

DocForesight said...

"Now, someone just has to want build a plant there." Doesn't Toshiba want to build their 4S unit for Galena, AK? In fact, that story was one of the first that I read about a year ago following an insightful broadcast on KSFO 530 AM radio on the energy density of different fuels. Rabbi Daniel Lapin was the host.

Considering how many other SMR's are in various stages of development, there are literally millions of towns to be served by these modular systems.

BTW, it seems that the UN IPCC is in a bit of a bother over its future usefulness.

Anonymous said...

Re: The caption of the photo. When you are describing the comparative efficiencies of the new vs. old technology, from a nomenclature perspective would you say that you are dealing with a smelter delta?