World Cup of Carbon: Argentina in a more elite league than Germany

Argentina came within a hair’s breadth of winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I actually watched the game. It was thrilling, even for a hockey fan like me. And heartbreaking, if you were pulling for Argentina—especially because even in the depths of your disappointment you have to admit that the German goal was just beautiful. Argentinians can and should console themselves in the knowledge that if there were a World Cup of Carbon, in which the aim is to the cleanest possible electricity system, their country would rank so far above Germany that the two countries would never meet in the tournament.

Not pleasant to relive if you’re an Argentina soccer fan, but really it’s just a game. In the far more serious World Cup of Carbon, Germany is simply not in Argentina’s league: Argentina’s electricity is abut 100 grams cleaner per kWh

Not pleasant to relive if you’re an Argentina soccer fan, but really it’s just a game. In the far more serious World Cup of Carbon, Germany is simply not in Argentina’s league: Argentina’s electricity is abut 100 grams cleaner per kWh

The CIPK of Argentina grid electricity was 390 grams in 2011 (page 112; Germany’s grid CIPK was 477 grams (p. 110). If you divided up the countries in the world into 100-CIPK groups, Argentina would be in Group 400 (countries with CIPKs between 300 and 400 grams), and Germany in Group 500 (countries with CIPKs between 500 and 600 grams).

Here is Argentina’s group, Group 400:

World Cup of Carbon, Group 400, CIPK 2011

CountryCIPK
Portugal303
Denmark315
Hungary317
Croatia334
Slovenia338
Ecuador345
Panama357
Zimbabwe358
Honduras371
Gabon378
Haiti382
Luxembourg387
Angola390
Argentina390
source: IEA “CO2 emissions from fuel combustion,” 2013 edition.

It might not sound like there is that big a difference between Group 400 and Group 500. But consider the direction in which Argentina’s CIPK is going, versus Germany’s—Argentina’s is going down, Germany’s is going up.

Argentina’s CIPK started going down some time after early June of this year, just before the 2014 FIFA World Cup started in Brazil. Why did it start going down? Because at long last the Atucha II nuclear reactor (a.k.a. Presidente Nestor Kirchner, in honour of the man under whose administration final construction of the reactor was resumed in 2006) achieved a critical chain reaction. Nuclear energy at the point of generation comes with zero grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour. By June 27 it had started adding power to the grid, and is expected to reach its full 745 megawatts of output within days of my writing this. Atucha II can be expected to contribute around 5.9 billion kWh of clean reliable energy each year it runs, and it will run for many many decades. If those 5.9 billion kWh were coming from gas-fired power plants, the annual CO2 footprint would be around 3.2 million tons.

Germany’s CIPK has, on the other hand, been trending upward since 2011. That fact also has everything to do with nuclear power. Except of course that instead of adding nuclear energy to its electricity supply, Germany is removing it. A typical nuclear power plant, as I have emphasized before, is a baseload energy provider: it runs at or close to its rated output capacity twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for hundreds of days at a time. To replace such a source of supply, you need another source that also can deliver at or near full power twenty four hours a day and seven days a week, for hundreds of days at a time. In this part of the universe, in this galaxy, and on this planet, such sources, if they are not nuclear, come in two flavours: hydro or fossil. Well, Germany has maxed out whatever hydro resources it has. Which leaves fossil. The “cleanest” fossil, natural gas, puts power into a grid at a CIPK of roughly half a kilogram, 500 grams.

So, when Germany started taking zero-carbon nuclear units out of its grid, it had to replace them with carbon-heavy fossil units. The upshot was that it simply made more electricity with combustible fuels. In 2011, Germany made 406 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy with combustible fuels; in 2012, it made 423 billion—17 billion more kWh (See OECD Electricity Information: page III.12 in both the 2013 and 2014 edition). Hence its CIPK of grid electricity has been rising. Hence its solid membership in Group 500 of the World Cup of Carbon. It could easily join Group 600.

Here is Group 500, Germany’s group.

World Cup of Carbon, Group 500, CIPK 2011

CountryCIPK
Italy402
Netherlands404
Pakistan409
Ireland427
Vietnam429
Kazakhstan431
Bolivia433
Nigeria433
Côte d'Ivoire437
Russian Federation437
Chile441
Belarus441
United Kingdom441
Mexico450
Ukraine450
Azerbaijan455
Tunisia455
Egypt457
Sri Lanka469
Nicaragua471
Turkey472
DPR of Korea475
Germany477
Republic of Moldova486
Qatar490
Philippines492
Japan497
Romania499
Singapore500
source: IEA “CO2 emissions from fuel combustion,” 2013 edition.

As you can see, Germany is 23rd out of 29 countries in this group. It has to leapfrog over 22 other countries—including such paragons as North Korea, Nigeria, and Pakistan—before it can even make it into Group 400.

Unless Germany rescinds its nuclear phaseout, it will never enter a group below Group 500. And membership in Group 500 is nothing to brag about.

Argentina is doing the right thing. If it builds another CANDU, as it has announced it will, Argentina will lower its CIPK to close to 340 grams. That would leapfrog it over eight Group 400 countries. And if it adds another say 1,000 megawatts of light water capacity, then it will be in easy striking distance of Group 300.

*************************
Here is a sortable list of all countries and their grid power CIPK:

World Cup of Carbon, all IEA reported countries, CIPK 2011

CountryCIPK
Iceland0
Paraguay0
Nepal1
Mozambique1
Dem. Rep. of Congo3
Zambia3
Ethiopia7
Albania7
Tajikistan12
Norway13
Sweden17
Namibia24
Switzerland30
Kyrgyzstan45
France61
Costa Rica64
Brazil68
Georgia102
Colombia108
Armenia123
Latvia133
New Zealand141
Canada167
Finland191
Belgium196
Uruguay197
Cameroon200
Slovak Republic200
Sudan204
Togo206
Ghana215
Austria215
Congo230
Venezuela234
El Salvador243
Myanmar255
Lithuania270
Guatemala286
United Rep. of Tanzania288
Spain291
Kenya294
Peru297
Portugal303
Denmark315
Hungary317
Croatia334
Slovenia338
Ecuador345
Panama357
Zimbabwe358
Honduras371
Gabon378
Haiti382
Luxembourg387
Argentina390
Angola390
Italy402
Netherlands404
Pakistan409
Ireland427
Vietnam429
Kazakhstan431
Bolivia433
Nigeria433
Russian Federation437
Côte d'Ivoire437
Belarus441
United Kingdom441
Chile441
Mexico450
Ukraine450
Azerbaijan455
Tunisia455
Egypt457
Sri Lanka469
Nicaragua471
Turkey472
DPR of Korea475
Germany477
Republic of Moldova486
Qatar490
Philippines492
Japan497
Romania499
Singapore500
United States503
Trinidad and Tobago506
Thailand522
Korea545
Algeria556
Uzbekistan559
Bangladesh564
Islamic Republic of Iran578
Bulgaria591
Czech Republic591
United Arab Emirates600
Chinese Taipei601
Bahrain601
Syrian Arab Republic602
Jamaica620
Yemen633
Libya636
Jordan637
Montenegro **653
Malaysia688
Senegal689
Lebanon707
Netherlands Antilles708
Brunei Darussalam717
Greece720
Benin722
Israel727
Morocco729
Cyprus732
Oman741
Dominican Republic743
Gibraltar752
Saudi Arabia754
Indonesia755
China764
People's Rep. of China764
Hong Kong, China768
Poland780
Serbia784
Kuwait787
Cambodia793
FYR of Macedonia811
Australia823
Mongolia837
Eritrea849
India856
Malta862
South Africa869
Iraq903
Cuba955
Bosnia and Herzegovina974
Turkmenistan983
Estonia1086
Kosovo 1109
Botswana1787
source: IEA “CO2 emissions from fuel combustion,” 2013 edition.

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5 years ago

It is ironic that no prize exists for clear air achievement but a coveted prize is granted to a sport like soccer while clean air really does make a difference. I dream of a day when nuclear science is familiar to everyone. When words like “isotopes” and “fissile” are as commonly used as “tweet” or “blog.”

5 years ago
Reply to  Rick Maltese

Are you saying that the climate issue may kindle an interest in science as big as Sputnik did?

John ONeill
5 years ago
Reply to  Rick Maltese

Apparently the day Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of the Soviet Union – the German newspaper front page headlines were mainly about the football final between the teams from Berlin and Munich.

5 years ago

I just want to express my gratification that Atucha unit 2 is finally on-line. Now if only the Filipinos will start up Bataan…

5 years ago
Reply to  publius

Seconded. Also, get Taiwan Lungmen twin ABWRs finished and running, and decommission half of Taichung coal station down the coast.