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Relative impact of ETS on the fossil fuel mix

The ETS or Emissions Trading System in Europe is disfunctional. This is because way to much emission rights are granted, and will remain in circulation until at least 2020. The dutch government released an analysis that concluded that ETS was useless, and advised one would think of a better use for it (for instance job security for ETS consultants).

But lets say one has to pay for CO2, what is the consequence of this for industry using fossil fuels. Energy in fossil fuels is not equal per mass of the materials. The reason is that as coal burns, what burns is carbon, but as gas burns, what burns is carbon and hydrogen. Oil similarly has a mix of C (Carbon) and H (Hydrogen) atoms in its molecules.

  • Natural gas is primarily Methan, or CH4, it has one carbon and four hydrogen
  • Coal is primarly Carbon (with pollutants like sulfer) so it has one Carbon atom.
  • Oil consists of various length molecules of Carbon and Hydrogen. Crude based fuels are sorted by molecular length, and also processed to break down the molecules to shorter strings.

The CO2 per BTU (Britisch Thermal Unit) tells us what the CO2 pollution and thus the ETS burden of each fuel will be when used for the same amount of heating.

Fuel CO2/BTU
Coal 214.3
Diesel 161.3
Natural Gas 117.0

So natural gas causes the least CO2 emissions, and certainly more H2O emission than coal, H2O, water that will end up as rain, raising the ocean’s levels (apart from heating expansion and melting ice). One could determine of for reasons of sea level rise Coal would be the preferred fuel! Of course none of these fossil fuel types need to be used.

In any case natural gas is favoured by the ETS system. Not only is it a fuel that could become abundant (due to geocidal amitions of companies such as Shell), but it is also one that is taxed less if the ETS systems ever got any teeth. They don’t have ’em so that’s why we have new coal power plants f.i. in Holland.