walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost?_, McKinsey & Company

Another report, this one free. Published in December 2007, on page x I read this:

"Annual GHG [greenhouse gas] emission in the U.S. are projected to rise from 7.2 gigatons CO2E in 2005 to 9.7 gigatons in 2030...The main drivers..: Continued expansion of the U.S. economy[,] Rapid growth in the buildings-and-appliances and transportation sectors, driven by a population increase of 70 million and rising personal consumption[,] Increased use of carbon-based power in the electric-power generation portfolio, driven by projected construction of new coal-fired plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology"

Well, the first of those drivers has _definitely_ turned around. The second one, I'm completely mystified by. The middle population projections from 2007 to 2030 look a lot closer to 60 million than 70 million to me, judging by the graph over at the census page, and WONDER over at the CDC. And I'm _fairly_ certain that a 10% difference in projected population increase might have an impact on GHG numbers.

On the one hand, I feel like focusing on efficiency in the mpg or kwH sense misses the huge gains of fewer single-passenger vehicle miles or larger average household size. On the other hand, I haven't made it out of the intro yet, and at least they're saying we should buy added capacity via efficiency -- rather than building more coal-fired power plants.

More to come...

"Furthermore, we envisioned consumers of 2030 who do not differ materially in their preferences or behaviors from consumers today." (p. 1) Okay, I understand that they probably didn't have an obviously reasonable alternative in this decision, but WTF?! Right, because consumers of 2007 do not differ materially in their preferences or behaviors from consumers of 1986.

"Assumed no material changes in consumer utility or lifestyle preferences 3" (page 2)

Note 3: "By 'consumer utility' we mean functionality or usefulness for people, including level of comfort; [yeah, helpful definition there guys] in this context, holding consumer utility constant would imply, e.g. no change in thermostat settings or appliance use; no downsizing of vehicles, homes or commercial space; traveling the same mileage annually relative to levels assumed in the government reference case. In a strict economic sense, maintaining constant consumer utility assumes a constant economic surplus for the consumer while delivering against a common benefit. We have not attempted to calculate potential changes in utility that might result from energy price changes associated with pursuing the options outlined in our abatement cuve."

So, basically, they are saying _exactly_ what I've been complaining about in Steiner's book and elsewhere: we'll all merrily keep driving an average of $12,500 miles a year in a car that gets about $12 mpg, running our A/C to cool us to 70 in the summer, and our heater to warm us to 72 in the winter. And we'll do that, _no matter what the cost_.

Again, I sort of understand that making any other assumption would complicate the model. OTOH, given the massive sea change we saw in the wake of a single price spike, and its persistence in the wake of reduced fuel prices, it basically makes everything _else_ they concluded in the model essentially meaningless. And these are the experts.
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