Wednesday, February 23, 2005

New Scientist Hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed

To me this is a very surprising article in New Scientist.
It claims that hydroelectric plants contribute just as much if not more to global warming than oil power plants.
In one example, "Curuá-Una dam in Pará, Brazil, was more than three-and-a-half times what would have been produced by generating the same amount of electricity from oil."

They say that the area flooded by the power plant converts the stored carbon in the vegetation to methane initially. It then continues to emit methane from the new vegetation that rots into the water behind the dam.
"In effect man-made reservoirs convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into methane. This is significant because methane's effect on global warming is 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide's."

The consequence is that they want to give Brazil more greenhouse gas credits for their quota because they hadn't counted the dams.

This whole thing sounds very suspicious to me. First, there is going to be rotting vegetation anyway. How can they know how much more anually will die from the dam, rather than would have died from the river that was tamed.
Many of the hydroelectric plants also provide control of the rivers to prevent flooding downstream. How do they know that they are not actually reducing the amount of carbon conversion by preventing the floods?
Many dams also provide drinking water and irrigation. Have they considered how much oil it would take to provide those resources by other means?

I do not know if it is New Scientist or the IPCC report referenced that are so ill-supported, but I don't think this claim holds water.

New Scientist Hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed - News


At 2/25/2005 11:05:00 AM, Blogger higb said...

I've seen them build a few dams here in the US, and I remember them cleaning up the areas to be flooded ... maybe we do it differently than they do in Brazil?


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