Halfway to zero: in search of virtual emission decreases

And now for something completely different. Via Watts Up With That I learned about a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study titled “Halfway to zero: progress towards a carbon-free power sector“. The conclusion of the study is that the US power sector is already halfway to zero carbon emissions. This is their overview graphic with all the gains that were made since 2005:

Halfway to zero: emissions: bau vs actual trajectory

They didn’t look at actual emission decreases from 2005, but compared current emissions to emission projections made in 2005.

They exhausted this technique in the rest of the study. Another example is the statement that the total electricity bill in 2020 is 18% less than projected. Mind you, this again is not an actual decrease. Consumers don’t see their electricity bills drop by 18% since 2005, it was projected in 2005 that the electricity bill would be higher in 2020 than what it actually was in 2020.

That is a pretty neat technique, they basically show that things could be worse and can then declare this as a gain.

I am in a cheeky mood right now, so let me try to apply this technique in my own life and see how much gain I can squeeze out of it…

Let me take the example of weight gain and loss. First some history. I was rather skinny when I was young. My weight was about 58 kg as a young adult and, considering my height, that was pretty close to being underweight. That changed in the beginning of my thirties when I suddenly gained about 5 kg in as many years (which, by the way, I was eagerly looking forward to back then).

In the following decades kilos gradually accumulated and the need to lose some of them arose. Currently, I weigh 85 kg (from 86 kg a year or so ago). Still rather high, a more optimal weight for my height would be around 75 kg.

When I would take 75 kg as the goal, then going from 86 to 85 amounts to just 9% and that means still 91% to go.

Sigh, that is barely scratching the surface and not very motivational.

No despair however, this is where the technique used by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory can come in handy …

Remember, I gained about 1 kg per year in the beginning of my thirties and when I would have made a projection back then, it was expected that I would be around 103 kg right now. When I now take this projection as my comparison point, then this changes the situation dramatically.

At 85 kg, I already lost 18 kg of the now 28 kg needed to reach the goal of 75 kg.

Yabba Dabba Doo! That is 64% less than projected!

Time to unleash some creativity, this is my personal version of their top left graph (for illustrative purposes only):

Halfway to zero: weight: bau vs actual trajectory

That is an incredible technique in all aspects: even when I don’t take that 1 kilogram loss in the last year into account, I would end up with almost 61% less than projected. More, even if I would have gained 1 kg in the last year, that is still a safe 57% less than projected.

I really don’t get it why people claim that losing weight is so incredibly difficult. According to this super duper technique used by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I got more than halfway my goal with literally zero effort. How cool is that! 😎

6 thoughts on “Halfway to zero: in search of virtual emission decreases

  1. Chris Morris

    I think this graph here explains the situation well.
    https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us-generation-capacity-and-sales.php
    In 2005 they would have predicted the generation would continue to increase, year on year at the same slop it had been for the last 55 years and that coal would be about half of the generation. They probably did a similar graph for power costs. Instead of the increase, demand flattened out and coal as a percentage more than halved. At the same time, US population went up so per capita reduction even better. I don’t know if flattening was from energy efficiency or offshoring energy intensive industries. I suspect both in an equal measure.

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    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Thanks a lot for the link to the graph. Indeed, that explains very well the issue with the 2005 projection. You are right that it is coal, and more specifically its displacement by gas, that is the main driver behind the emissions decrease.

      The decrease in the electricity bill is a bit more complex. In fact, the EIA underestimated the retail price for electricity prices, the 2020 retail price was higher than was projected in 2005. The lower electricity bill was ultimately rooted in the (unexpected) drop in demand, the (unexpected) higher share of natural gas (displacing coal) and the (unexpected) decline in natural gas prices.

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    1. trustyetverify Post author

      I don’t know where they got that number either. Looking at the table behind your link, it is indeed possible that they averaged all states and all sectors. The study mentions 10.7 ¢/kWh, which is indeed between the average values of February 2020 and February 2021 of the column “All sectors”.

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  2. Pingback: Halfway to zero: the next “half” – Climate- Science.press

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