a place to rant about energy, environment and all things John Howard

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Crude: Must watch TV this Thursday at 8:30pm

Crude – the incredible journey of oil. Where does it come from? When will it run out? Where is it driving us? This extraordinary documentary travels through time: from the birth of oil deep in the dinosaur-inhabited past, to its ascendancy as the indispensable ingredient of modern life.

Now, as we crest the peak of production, Crude reveals a disturbing irony: the latest scientific evidence suggests that our headlong rush to exploit the remaining reserves will lead us down a dangerous road to the future. A road the planet has travelled before...

Simply marvellous…tremendously important … if you want to understand climate change this is must watch TV” – DR TIM FLANNERY – palaeontologist, Australian of the Year (2007) and author of The Weather Makers

“A thoughtful, surprising and really important film” – DR DAVID SUZUKI – author and presenter of The Nature of Things, CBC Canada

See it on ABC TV Thursday May 24th at 8:30pm

View Trailer (RealVideo) | View Promotional Poster (PDF)
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

David Attenborough: To waste energy is a sin

From The World Today last week:
ISHKHANDAR RAZAK: What do you think people need to do to tackle climate change?

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: All I do know is that climate change is happening, no doubt, and that's been no doubt for a long time. And I also know that humanity, human beings worldwide, are contributing to climate change.

I also know that if it goes on the way it is, we are in for some very bad times.

We ought now to have a worldwide change in moral attitudes that you don't waste energy, because energy is produced at a cost, and to waste it is sinful … but mad as well.

You tell 'em Sir David.

Audio: MP3 | Windows Media | Real Audio
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Windmills from South Head to Malabar

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Nielsen poll results today on climate change?

PRIME MINISTER: I found the Nielsen poll results quite unsurprising, quite unsurprising. Of course people would say at the present time in the wake of all the publicity given to the Stern Report that more needs to be done – it’s a natural response to that sort of question. I didn’t find that surprising.

I didn’t find the 50 per cent who thought solar was the answer surprising either because solar is a nice, easy, soft answer. There’s this vague idea in the community that solar doesn’t cost anything and it can solve the problem, it can’t, it can’t replace base load power generation by power stations. It’s a good idea to make a contribution at the margin, but in the end, if you look years ahead, there are only two ways of generating the electricity that this nation needs – either through the current methods of fossil fuel use or a combination of that in a cleaner form with nuclear power. Solar, wind, all these other things can make a contribution at the margin but unless you want to have a windmill every few hundred feet starting at South Head and going down to Malabar – and I can imagine the residents of Sydney wanting that – you simply won’t be able to generate enough power from something like wind in order to take the load off the power that is generated by the use of coal and gas and in time, I believe, nuclear. Now this is going to be a long debate but I’m going to continue to argue reason. I can’t have a policy on something like this dictated by an opinion poll. I read what people say, I understand it, I’m sympathetic, but in the end I’ve got to call it as it is and calling it as it is means that I have to say that solar and wind will not replace conventional power stations.

Source: http://www.pm.gov.au/news/Interviews/Interview2234.html

That's it then. We're getting nukes and 'clean coal' (if it can ever be made to work). Howard has clearly closed his mind to renewables. They cannot and will never work. He knows this, he's just being practical.

I wonder. If Neilsen ran a poll asking people whether they'd prefer windmills or nukes in their backyard, what would the result be?
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A tale of four oil fields

If you think peak oil can't, won't, or will never happen in your lifetime, think again.

There are four oil fields in the world which produce over one million barrels per day. Ghawar in Saudia Arabia, which produces 4.5 million barrels per day, Cantarell in Mexico, which produces nearly 2 million barrels per day, Burgan in Kuwait which produces 1.7 million barrels per day and Da Qing in China which produces 1 million barrels per day.

This is what's happening at these oil fields...

Daqing: Declining by 7% a year (source: People's Daily)

Burgan: Exhausted. The Kuwaits can't increase production (source: Bloomberg). Although the Kuwaitis are now saying "God willing from Burgan the increase will be maybe 200,000 bpd by 2009" :)

Cantarell: Declining by 5% a year (source: Pemex, Mexico's state oil company)

And of course, the UK's North Sea oil production is crashing (source: official government stats) and Australia's oil production peaked in 2000.

The key to it all is Ghawar by far the biggest oil field in the world. Ghawar produces ~6% of the world's oil. There are some doomsayers out there who say production at Ghawar is already declining. I found these comments by "seismobob" particularly thought provoking.
The last few months of the Saudi production scare the heck out of me. I showed this to an engineer who is a very knowledgeable person and he said, "Oh my God, it has started and the world isn't ready for it."

I have known this individual for 15 years and that was the first time I actually saw him scared. He said that before I had said much. I just told him, 'look at the Saudi Production curve."
Of course its not a verifiable source, and it could be some kid mucking around on the internet, but the point is no-one knows what's really going on with oil production in Saudi Arabia. The world is hostage to a bunch of crackpot fiefdoms who won't tell us how much oil they have left.

Not a good situation.
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Graph of the week

Investment in energy R&D compared with science, environment, health and the military...

Click graph to enlarge

Courtesy of the New York Times.
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Saturday, November 04, 2006

The books Bill Clinton reads

On June 17th 2006 Bill Clinton addressed the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. After the keynote speech there was a Q&A session. Clinton's answer to the last question was very revealing.

Question: Do you believe that the OPEC nations have exaggerated their oil reserves and if so, what are the implications?

Bill Clinton: Well first of all I’m not a petroleum geologist, but I can tell you this. If you read, there’s a book written by a man named Jeremy Leggett who is a petroleum geologist who was so alarmed by what was happening not only in climate change but oil depletion that he went to work for Greenpeace. That’s a pretty good leap. He’s written a book called The Empty Tank, if you want one book that is not as dark as a book called The Long Emergency which is much darker, but really deals with this and attempts to explain the complications of it, I recommend it to you.

Clinton continues: There’s a guy named Matthew Simmons who is a petroleum investment advisor, he’s made a fortune and has been a friend of the Bush family, who believes that we have passed peak oil production. And I don’t know if they're overstating their reserves but I know this, they have said, for example, the Saudis have said they could go up to 12 million barrels a day in production to try to moderate price, and it doesn’t appear to me that they have or can. And keep in mind, most of the OPEC producers prefer oil higher than it was in my second term, but a little lower than this, because they know if it gets real high and stays there, even if we don’t impose gas taxes, America will get in gear and we won’t need as much anymore and the Europeans will do the same and others will do the same. And the Chinese and the Indians might figure out how to skip a step of economic development and not have to use as much energy going through from where they are now to where we are now, in the same… not get there the same way we did.

So I actually believe that most of these oil producers would like it if oil were just a little lower or at least didn’t go to $100 a barrel in five years and everybody I know who knows anything about this business believes it’ll be $100 a barrel in five years or less. Now, the only evidence that we have, those of us who aren’t petroleum geologists, so the question you asked sir, is for example, in the biggest Saudi oil field which has about eight or ten percent of the world’s oil, but has been heavily drilled, they are now getting the more difficult to drill oil out by injecting sea water and filling the… the cavities and then pushing it all back up.

Some of that retrievable oil is now 90 percent sea water, 10 percent oil, which dramatically increases the cost of disaggregating it and implies that there may be less oil there than we thought. We know that the depletion rate of the North Sea oil that the UK has, has accelerated more rapidly then anyone thought. Now the really important question is, what are the implications of this? Let’s say that the world reaches peak oil production, let’s say we haven’t done it yet, but we do sometime in this decade. That would mean that half of all the recoverable oil under planet earth has been sucked out. That’s what it means.

And if that’s true, since the first oil wells for commercial purposes were either in Pennsylvania or in Central Europe, depending on whose account you believe, somewhere in the mid-1800s, would mean most of this oil has come out in the last 60 to 70 years, almost all of it. But at present rates of usage, given the growth of India and China, it would mean we probably have no more then 35 to 50 years of oil left. So the implications are… again I will say, no matter how green you are, almost all conversion technologies rest on an oil platform.

If you look at the resilience for example of the most advanced ethanol production, and they’ve worked on it for years and The Wall Street Journal -- I almost gagged today, did you read that where they were… they were… they said, 'oh it really doesn’t count because they… the governments subsidize it,' as if we didn’t subsidize oil and gas production in America at the same time. But anyway, they have a conversion ratio of about eight to one now, which is stunning, the conversion ratio for corn ethanol is no better than one-and-a-half to one, and that’s outside. So let’s say we could get there, you’ve still got to have the one to make the eight.

So we don’t know how to run an economy without any petroleum. We know we can do what the Germans did in World War II because they had no access to oil, you can take coal and make petroleum out of it, but we also know that unleashes greenhouse gases, so that’s why we have to develop clean coal technology and the Norwegians, for example, are learning to bury it under the North… under the sea. Now we don’t know for sure whether it will stay there and if it stays there, we haven’t gotten any gain. But most scientists who study this believe that we do have quite a lot of cavities in the earth that we could buy coal gas, CO2 under and it would stay there.

But the implications are clear, it means if we don’t change, we’ll either burn up the planet or go broke and they might both happen at the same time and they’ll both happen sometime in the next 100 years in a way that will change civilization irrevocably, that’s the implications. It means we need to get in gear. It means that the biggest threat to our economic future is also, I will say again, a bird’s nest on the ground, for our country and for every rich country.

If you look at the United Kingdom for example, they have an unemployment rate about the same as we do, this is the last factoid I’ll drop on you. The UK has an unemployment rate about the same as ours and they have an economic structure most like America’s, that is they have the most free market system except for the healthcare deal which has the most socialized system, that is most of the doctors still work for the government as well as having the government pay for healthcare although wealthy people can buy outside the system.

Now, the difference is that in the United Kingdom, wages are rising and inequality is declining. I would like to tell you that it’s all because Tony Blair has the same tax policies and social policies I do, did. That may have something to do with it. But the real difference is that unlike America the United Kingdom has found a source of new jobs in this decade. Now, you know where they got it, by meeting their Kyoto targets. Last time I was in London, I did a big deal with Gordon Brown and the papers were full of articles critical of the Blair government because it would not meet its own target of reducing greenhouse gas to 20 percent below 1990 levels.

They then proceeded to say they would reduce them at least 15 percent below 1990 levels, which is 25 percent more then their 12 percent Kyoto target. In other words, we were told, you remember when I came… when our guys came home from Kyoto before I could even present it to the Senate, they voted 95 to nothing against it. They said what a terrible thing I’d done, I was going to… and then… then the Democrats started kind of hedging and coming back to us and… then President Bush said that he would never honor Kyoto because it would bankrupt the American economy.

Look what happened, if -- Gordon Brown has just issued a white paper for the next round of greenhouse gas reductions, and you know what it is? It’s a jobs paper. He says, these are the 20 things we’re going to do and here is how many new jobs will be produced by each of these 20 things. I’m telling you the implications are dire if we don’t do something, but the implications are… it’s like we are being hit over the head with our… our ticket to the future and we’re crazy if we don’t do it.

You go to my Library, we cut the greenhouse gases by 34 percent with 300 and something solar reflectors… glass that keeps the ultra-violet rays out, compact bamboo floors with miles of piping under it that runs hot water in the winter and cold water in the summer and controlled lighting. Every one of those improvements created jobs in the United States of America. If you replaced every light in every home in America, incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb tomorrow, you would cut the greenhouse gas emissions from lighting by 50 percent.

The lights cost three times as much, they last 10 times as long and within one year, and it’ll take me eight or 10 years to recover our investment, within one year, you would save 25 to 40 percent on your investment because of lower electric bills. This is… and then… and you’d create all these jobs in America making these damn lightbulbs. This is a gift, or a curse, depending on the choice we make. Thank you very much.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Total disconnect

There is a total disconnect between people making charts like this...

And people doing work like this...

And they both work for the US Government!

Then there are the people who make charts like this...

And people making charts like this...

And these come from the same US Government department!

I wish these people would start talking to each other, because I have no idea who to believe.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Costello's Energy Freeway

Federal Treasurer (or should that be Minister for Courage?) Peter Costello had something to say about energy policy today:

Rapid industrialisation in key emerging market economies provides Australia with an unprecedented opportunity to build an energy freeway, linking Australia with Asia — and the world.

The supply of minerals and energy at globally competitive prices, down this freeway, supplied under long term contracts with security of supply and continuity of demand will underpin mutual advantage for suppliers and users.

To build this freeway means we must create open and efficient energy markets, remove impediments to exploration and development, promote energy-conserving technological change and — at the national level — put in place sound regulatory and policy frameworks which encourage trade both within Australia and internationally.

Achieving this goal will provide a powerful spur for development and sustainable growth in our region — to Australia’s long-term benefit.

Blah blah blah snore. But what really caught my eye was this paragraph...
Greenhouse gas emissions

The final topic to address this evening regards the environment.

Global warming is a phenomenon that the Australian Government has recognised and is taking steps to address.

Because it is a global phenomenon any effective action requires international action to address, and Australia has to date more than met the Kyoto targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

The key weakness of Kyoto though was that it didn’t include major developing countries like China and India.

Australia’s total emissions are 1.5 per cent of global emissions. If Australia shut down all its power stations today, the saving in emissions would be replaced by China by the time of next year’s Grand Final. China adds the total of all Australian emissions each eleven months.

Australia played a key role in bringing together for the first time China and India, along with the US, Japan, South Korea and ourselves to form the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate – known as the AP6.

Australia has committed $100 million to this practical initiative, one of its main goals being to foster the development and deployment of clean technologies to address the climate change challenge, while encouraging growth and development.

Domestically, the Australian Government is supporting the ongoing innovation and commercialisation of renewable energy technologies through the $100 million Renewable Energy Development Initiative and the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund to help the private sector demonstrate clean fossil and renewable technologies.

My view is that as the hottest and driest continent on earth, we have an interest in not making Australia hotter or drier.
Our energy policy must strike an appropriate balance between our environmental responsibilities and continuing economic growth.

Earth to Pete. Its easy to meet your Kyoto targets when you negotiate a target that is an 8% increase over 1990 levels that is almost completely met by a reduction in land clearing. I think this table from the Australian Greenhouse Office report on emission trends tells the real story:

Can anyone spot where the big emission cuts are coming from? Anyone? Is it Transport? Industry? Oh I see ... "Land Use". So basically we've done absolutely sweet FA to reduce emissions apart from chopping down fewer trees.

BTW, thanks for reminding me that Australia represents 1.5 per cent of global emissions. I think its been at least three hours since a Howard Government minister reminded me of that fact.

And I'm glad to see you've committed $100 million to the problem, well, a bit of greenwashing and PR anyway. Problem is Pete THIS IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FACING HUMANITY. $100 billion would be more like it.
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Howard's new policy on climate change: Adaptation

Minster for Hypocrisy Ian Campbell today signalled what could be the Howard government's new policy on climate change: Adaptation.

Denial is no longer credible, prevention and mitigation are too hard, so we'll adapt. Easy! Ok, so we'll have to say ta ta to coral in the Great Barrier Reef, snow in the Snowies, water in the Murray-Darling, agriculture in the Riverina, wheat in the wheat belt, food, water that kind of thing ... but hey, we're a resourceful lot us Aussies, I'm sure we'll think of something!

Ian Campbell was interviewed on AM this morning about helping our neighbours deal with climate change:
TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Minister for Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, says the Government is taking measures to help its neighbours.

Do you agree that some of Australia's neighbours face a very bleak outlook as a result of global warming?

IAN CAMPBELL: I don't think there's any doubt that the impacts of global warming will have major impacts right around the world. And I think the crux of the report, which says that these are very small economies, many of them lying low in the sea, will be impacted, possibly ahead of some of the larger countries with, you know, that are higher out of the water, quite frankly.

TONY EASTLEY: So you agree with Reverend Tim Costello when he talks about environmental refugees?

IAN CAMPBELL: We've had refugees coming, or we've had people coming out of the Pacific for a long time. The major impacts, the long-term impacts of climate change will take many decades to unfold.

I think the short-term impacts of, for example, storm surges and potential increases in cyclonic activity, are issues that we need to address as a world. And I think Australia and the developed countries do have a substantial role to play in helping smaller, less developed countries adapt to the already built-in climate change that's already built into the atmosphere, because we have pumped a trillion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere already in the last 150 years.

TONY EASTLEY: Am I right in saying, though, that in the next 50 years or so we can expect to receive some of these environmental refugees from some of the Pacific Islands?

IAN CAMPBELL: Having spent a lot of time in the Pacific generally on whaling-related issues, I've got no doubt that the Pacific Island nations would like to see us work with them on adaptation measures. They would much prefer to stay on their own islands, and I think that is where the focus should be.

TONY EASTLEY: Do you agree with Reverend Costello when he says the Federal Government is treating the problem as a political one and not one based on an environmental reality?

IAN CAMPBELL: Ah no, I think he's very wrong there. The Australian Government is spending billions of dollars on practical actions to firstly address climate change in our domestic programs, but is also working very actively internationally to make sure we have a comprehensive and effective international solution.

We've got to remember Australia is less than one-and-a-half per cent of the world's emissions [Ed: because the Howard Government will never stop reminding us about it!], but Australia, like our Pacific neighbours, will reap many of the impacts of the climate change that's already built into the system.

So we do, as Tim Costello has said, have an enlightened self-interest in getting an effective international response, making sure that the world reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, and that Australia plays a constructive part in that.

TONY EASTLEY: The Minister for Environment, Senator Ian Campbell.

Enlightened self interest?! Self interested for sure, but enlightened? The truth is Australia is doing sweet FA to reduce greenhouse emissions, but we are
(it seems) prepared to move Pacific Islanders to cyclone proof bunkers on higher ground.

God forbid they start paddling their canoes towards Australia. Where would be put refugees from Nauru?
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Friday, September 29, 2006

Sea level rise alarmism

The Sydney Morning Herald ran this alarming story today about sea level rise, along with this frightening picture...

The land down under going under

A satellite image of Australia if sea levels were to rise by 300 metres

Which got me thinking, do we really need to be that worried about sea level rise?

Climate change has many serious implications, particularly for Australia, but sea level rise isn't one of them, at least not in the short term. It seems to me Australians should be more worried about worsening droughts and bushfires, more intense cyclones and storms, reduced snowfall in the alps, and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef than being submerged anytime soon. That said, I wouldn't be rushing out and buying a low-lying beachfront property anytime soon, and there's always the possibilty of ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica melting ... but even this would take hundreds of years.

The story in the SMH says:
IT IS Australia as we have never seen it before - a dry brown land transformed into an archipelago of disparate islands.

The six images, a fusion of art and science, portray what would happen if sea levels rose by up to 500 metres and the waters inundated the lower-lying regions.

And continues:
Extreme global warming might eventually lead to another rise of 100 metres, he said. "And on a longer geological time scale the indundations shown are not out of the realm of possibility."
"Extreme global warming" eh? You can say that again!

A 100m sea level rise is way beyond the most catastrophic forecasts for climate change. According the the IPCC the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) has enough ice to raise the sea level by 6 metres, Greenland by 7.2 metres, and even if the entire Antarctic ice sheet melted into the ocean, the sea level would rise by 'just' 61.1 metres.

So even if both polar icecaps melted completely the sea level rise would be well short of the 100m rise that would supposedly result from 'extreme global warming' and a fraction of the 300m rise depicted the picture above. Quite frankly I don't know where the extra ~230m would come from. That's an awful lot of thermal expansion.

Putting this alarmist nonsense aside, what does the IPCC really say about sea level rise?

For the 35 SRES scenarios, we project a sea level rise of 0.09 to 0.88 m for 1990 to 2100, with a central value of 0.48 m. The central value gives an average rate of 2.2 to 4.4 times the rate over the 20th century. If terrestrial storage continued at its present rates, the projections could be changed by –0.21 to +0.11 m. For an average AOGCM, the SRES scenarios give results which differ by 0.02 m or less for the first half of the 21st century. By 2100, they vary over a range amounting to about 50% of the central value. Beyond the 21st century, sea level rise will depend strongly on the emissions scenario.

The West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) has attracted special attention because it contains enough ice to raise sea level by 6 m and because of suggestions that instabilities associated with its being grounded below sea level may result in rapid ice discharge when the surrounding ice shelves are weakened. The range of projections given above makes no allowance for ice-dynamic instability of the WAIS. It is now widely agreed that major loss of grounded ice and accelerated sea level rise are very unlikely during the 21st century.

In other words, the IPCC's best guess is a 48cm rise over the next 94 years. No need to have the tinnie moored to the house for a while yet.
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's clean and it's green, but Howard isn't interested in it

Suzy Freeman-Greene writes in The Age about the pitiful state of solar power in Australia, despite being blessed with more sun than just about anywhere:
IN MAY, John Howard called for a "full-blooded debate" on nuclear power. When the Prime Minister asks for debate, we oblige, and the issue has attracted headlines since. But while nuclear, wind power and even carbon geosequestration are the subject of spirited discussion as we grapple with global warming, there's a clean, green power source that barely seems to rate a mention. It's solar power.
Freeman-Greene continues...
Australia is one of the world's sunniest countries and an innovator in solar research. "We used to be a world leader in solar power," says the Australian Conservation Foundation's Erwin Jackson. "Now we're falling abysmally behind countries like Japan."

For more than a decade, according to the New Internationalist, the Japanese Government has paid subsidies to householders who install photovoltaic panels on their roofs. The subsidies are being phased out but capacity is still expected to grow by 20 per cent a year.

Germany, meanwhile, has installed more than 100 times Australia's grid-connected solar capacity. "Yet if you put the same panel on a roof in Australia (where it's sunnier) it would produce twice as much capacity," says Jackson.

But in Australia, the Federal Government is quietly phasing out the rebates available to homeowners who install panels. The rebate has been replaced by the $75 million Solar Cities project, in which four locations will be used to demonstrate and trial solar technology. In North Adelaide, the first "solar city", panels and "smart meters" will be installed in 1700 homes.

The project will run until 2012-13. While worthy, it will be limited to just a few locations and seems small fry compared with what's going on elsewhere. In Spain, the Government has legislated to require solar panels in all new and renovated shopping centres, offices, hotels or warehouses. Jackson says about 70 per cent of the panels made at BP Solar's Sydney manufacturing plant are sold overseas.

It costs about $10,000 to $15,000 to put panels on your roof. We have the technology. We just need to make it cheaper. Says Haydn Fletcher from Melbourne firm Going Solar: "We already know how to become solar cities … What we need is policy change." He says the past 10 months have been the quietest he's seen.

No single power source can replace our reliance on coal; we need diversity. Solar is not the panacea. But there's so much more we could do to foster an affordable, large-scale industry. Far from a fringe affair, the foundation says solar PV is the fastest-growing energy technology in the world, with growth rates of 60 per cent annually over the past five years.

One effective way to encourage investment in solar power is to reward panel owners for the unused power they can feed into the electricity grid. Many in the local solar industry are calling for the introduction of a "feed-in tariff", where a small levy is added to all power bills. The money is then used to pay households or businesses for their excess solar power at a higher rate than that paid to dirtier sources.

Governments in Germany, Italy, China, Indonesia, Spain, South Korea and Switzerland have kick-started their industry with such a tariff. A draft proposal prepared by BP Solar and Conergy, says a feed-in tariff would cost the typical power consumer the equivalent of one cup of coffee a year (presumably about $3).

Things are happening slowly here. Melbourne firm Solar Systems has proposed a $420 million solar power station in north-western Victoria that could power 40,000 homes. Solar Systems and Boeing have developed the project using PV technology designed for satellites. They have applied for federal funding from the low emission technologies fund.

The State Government has legislated to require electricity retailers to meet 10 per cent of their energy needs through renewable sources by 2016. But the Victorian Opposition has pledged to scrap the scheme.

When the Prime Minister spoke in May, he described nuclear power, which produces radioactive waste, as "cleaner and greener than other forms of power".

Whose debate do we want to have? The one framed by politicians in thrall to the mining lobby or a discussion about genuinely clean forms of power? Clearly the Government wants to boost our coal and uranium industries, but in 100 years' time will there even be an economy around to protect?
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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Al Gore in Sydney today and tomorrow

Al Gore watch:
In tonight's Enough Rope we learn that Al Gore considers John Howard a friend (?!) and that he has spoken to Howard while he's been in Australia, but that he would prefer to keep the conversation private.
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Friday, September 08, 2006

The biggest oil discovery in 38 years

Earlier this week a group of oil companies led by Chevron made a big oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico called 'Jack'. The media has generally reported the new discovery very favourably. According to most reports, 'Jack' could...
  • produce up to 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day
  • hold up to 15 billion barrels, and boost US oil reserves by 50%
  • be the biggest US oil discovery in 38 years, bigger than Prudhoe Bay in Alaska
Does this mean the end of America's dependence on foreign oil?

Think again. Lets look at 'Jack' in context of the USA's current oil requirements.
There are other reasons to be skeptical about Jack:
  • The field is in 7,000 feet of water and a further 20,000 feet below the sea floor. Jack is pushing the outer limits of deep sea oil technology.
    "More than half a dozen world records for test equipment pressure, depth and duration in deep water were set during the Jack well test," Chevron said in a statement.
  • Estimates of the size of the oil field range from 3 billion to 15 billion barrels -- a huge range.
  • All estimates are in BOE or Barrels of Oil Equivalent, which means some (or most) of the 'oil' may in fact be natural gas.
  • It is comprised of several smaller fields dispersed over a 300 square mile area, with no single field larger than 300 million barrels.
  • The wells cannot be served by underground pipelines because of the depth of water. Rather, the oil will be pumped directly to tankers. Pipelines are faster and more efficient, and tankers will put a higher price and limit the amount of oil pumped out.
  • Production will not start (at the very earliest) until 2010.
  • Full production (at the very earliest) in 2013.
And remember this is the biggest oil discovery in 38 years! Don't buy that SUV just yet.

More references:
New oil find tests drilling's watery limits
Black gold in the Gulf
'Huge oil find' in Gulf of Mexico
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ian Macfarlane denies connection between emissions and climate change

Originally posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006:

Minister for Coal Ian Macfarlane was interviewed by the sphere-of-influence on the weekend and asked about his views on climate change and carbon trading:
LAURIE OAKES: OK. Climate change, you are a climate change sceptic, aren't you?

IAN McFARLANE: Well I am a sceptic of the connection between emissions and climate change. No-one would deny that the world's climate is changing. We don't know exactly what the factors are that are driving that. There appears to be evidence connecting emissions to climate change. But whether or not that can be proved absolutely is not the issue. What we need to do, and everyone accepts that, and I am certainly dealing with that through my portfolio, we need to lower our emissions. I think the key issue is, though, Laurie, how do you do that? How do you actually achieve lower global emissions and we're very much committed to achieving that through low emissions technologies and a spread of energy sources? So the technical solution will in fact lower greenhouse gas emissions. As we have seen, Kyoto is failing to do that.

LAURIE OAKES: You and the Prime Minister dumped on the states for proposed a carbon trading system. As a result of your dumping, I think, Peter Beattie then chickened out of it, but, how else except through an emissions trading scheme can price signals be used to cut emissions?

IAN McFARLANE: Well there are ways to get companies to adopt new technologies and not only did Peter Beattie pull out of it but so did Alan Carpenter so you have Western Australia and Queensland opting out of a what is a scheme that, by their own analysis and ABARE's analysis, will see a doubling in electricity prices and petrol prices over the next 30 odd years.

LAURIE OAKES: But, how else do you give a price signal?

IAN McFARLANE: Well, you don't necessarily need to give a price signal, you can say that it is up to the companies to ensure they're employing the latest technology in terms of emission reduction. That technology at this stage is still being proven. We're combining with the companies and they will invest more than $1 billion with the Australian Government to ensure that we pilot these technologies of lower emissions, but you've got to have the technologies in place before you can lower emissions globally and that's the challenge.

LAURIE OAKES: You say you don't need a price signal, even the Australian Coal Association says we're going to need a price signal, to compliment your cleaner coal program.

IAN McFARLANE: The Australian Coal Association actually withdrew that statement on the basis that they were taken out of context and their statement on Friday said they do not support that position but can I give you an example. The aluminium industry continues to lower its own emissions both in terms of Co2 but general emissions through their striving for efficiency and also the triple bottom line to satisfy the community that they are an industry that is sustainable in the long term. They've done that in Australia without a price signal.

LAURIE OAKES: But you're one out on this, the Australian Business Round Table earlier this year said there needed to be a pricing signal built in and it needed to be done sooner rather than later. The Reserve Bank board member, Professor Warwick McGibon says a carbon price signal is needed for the uptake of all low emissions technologies, I mean, the evidence is overwhelming?

IAN McFARLANE: There's certainly views that say that but they're not overwhelming views and the reality is, you cannot lower emissions until you have the technology to do it. Once you have the technology to do then there is a question about adoption and I'm confident, based on the track record of industry to date, that they will adopt the technology once it's available. The challenge at the moment over the next 10 years is to prove up the technology that produces zero emission coal fired electricity, that allows us to expand the renewable energy base into things like rot rocks, to look at options in terms of how we produce electricity by lowering emissions in a whole range of ways and that really is where the challenge is at the moment. The carbon trading schemes that are in place at the moment, including the one under Kyoto, are absolute failures and we've seen the carbon price in Europe move all over the place while at the same time the countries participating are actually going to miss their targets by miles. In fact, some of them will exceed Australia's growth in emissions, bearing in mind that our target was a growth of 8% from 1990 and we're one of the few countries at the moment who are on target to reach that.

LAURIE OAKES: Minister, even your Environment Minister has said the Government will have to investigate price signals coming from energy to deal with emissions.

IAN McFARLANE: Well, all I can say Laurie is that at the moment what we as a Government are focusing on, is making sure that we have the technology to reduce emissions.

LAURIE OAKES: But you're one out in saying....

IAN McFARLANE: I'm not one out actually, I have a strong band of supporters and it is the Government's position that we proceed down the track to use technology and the innovation and inventiveness of Australians in co-operation with other countries like America and Japan and China et cetera through the AP6 Network.

LAURIE OAKES: And price signals are not necessary?

IAN McFARLANE: Well, at this stage they're not.

LAURIE OAKES: Treasurer, Peter Costello, has said that.

IAN McFARLANE: I'm not sure that's exactly what Peter said, but the reality is that at the moment we need to develop that technology. We're doing that the Government is spending half a billion dollars in that area alone and companies will spend far in excess of that.

Ian Macfarlane, Renaissance man.
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Monday, September 04, 2006

Peak Oil Primer

I used to think of people who believed in Peak Oil as nutcases who stockpiled food in backyard bunkers and were a little too interested in guns. But after following the debate for a few months, I'm beginning to believe Peak Oil may happen in the next 5-10 years. This is what I have learned...

What is the theory Peak Oil?
Its not the world running out of oil (as many people think) its the point at which oil reaches its maximum rate of production after which production goes into a decline and never recovers.

Why is this significant?
World demand for oil is growing at ~2% p.a. Much of the recent growth in oil consumption has come from the rapidly industrialising economies of China and India. If production cannot be increased to meet demand the price of oil will increase very rapidly. There are obviously many possible consequences of extremely high oil prices and ever-shrinking supply, but this is pure conjecture best left to the Peak Oil 'doomer' sites.

Oil Demand

Why can't oil production be increased?
Most of the world's oilfields that are older than ~50 years have peaked and declined. The 'lower 48 states' of the USA peaked in 1970. The North Sea peaked in 1999. The Cantarell oilfield in Mexico (the 2nd largest in the world) peaked in 2005. There are rumours that Saudi Arabia has recently peaked or will peak soon. Despite all their modern technology, the Americans have not been able to increase oil production in the lower 48 states, and neither have the Brits in the North Sea. I don't pretend to understand the geology, but it seems to be accepted as fact by both sides of the Peak Oil debate that all oil fields peak and eventually decline.

Oil Production

Yes, but they're discovering lots of new oil fields aren't they?
No. The peak year of oil discovery was 1965 (around 60 billion barrels). In recent years they have been discovering around 10 billion barrels per year. For comparison, the world consumes 30 billion barrels per year (~84 million barrels/day).

The gap between oil production and discovery

Yes, but aren't world oil reserves enormous?
Yes they are. 2-3 trillion barrels of oil, enough to keep us going for 100 years at the current rate of consumption. The problem is, once the rate of production goes into decline it cannot be increased (according to the theory of Peak Oil). So we have lots of oil, but it might take 500 years to extract all of it.

Yes, but aren't there alternatives to oil?
Yes. Oil from tar sands, oil from coal, oil from gas, oil shale, biofuels etc. Problem is, none of these technologies can be ramped up fast enough to compensate for reduced rate of production from conventional oil fields. Canada has vast reserves of a bitumen-like substance called 'tar sands'. Billions of dollars are currently being invested in the Canadian tar sands, but even with all this investment the most optimistic estimate is they will be producing 4 million barrels/day by 2010. (Remember, the world uses ~84M barrels/day). In addition, all so-called 'non-conventional' sources of oil are extremely energy intensive. You might have have to burn 2 barrels of oil to make 3. Suffice to say, non-conventional oil on a large scale has disastrous implications for climate change.

What is the mainstream view of Peak Oil?
Most governments and oil companies do not see any problem with oil production until 2020-2030. The mainstream view is that as oil becomes more scarce the market will solve the problem. i.e. Much higher oil prices will drive innovation in fuel efficiency and alternative means of transportation. As the head of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) said recently "If the price of eggs is high enough even the roosters will start laying". Most governments see current high oil prices as a consequence of lack of refining capacity and underinvestment in oil exploration during the 1980s-1990s when oil prices were very low.

Nothing to worry about here

If this is such a serious issue, why isn't it front page news?
Global warming isn't front page news every day either and it probably should be. I suspect governments have been assuaged by the enormous size of global reserves without understanding that (if the peak oil theory is correct) the rate of production must fall even though reserves are huge. Its also a case of the "boy crying wolf" too many times. The doomsayers said oil was going to run out during the oil shocks of the 1970s but everything was fine for 30 years, so it must be fine this time.

Who does take Peak Oil seriously?
Peak Oil is not taken seriously by most governments, oil companies and oil industry analysts, but here are some that do:

Bill Clinton:
Clinton raises alarm about oil depletion

The Prime Minister of Sweden:
Swedish government embraces peak oil and looks towards biofuels

The New York Times:
The end of oil (front page story March 1st 2006)

If you're still unconvinced this is something you should give serious consideration watch this interview with Dr Robert Hirsch on 4 Corners (click the interview box third from left). Who the hell is Robert Hirsch? He was commissioned by the US Department of Energy to write a report on Peak Oil in 2005. This guy just doesn't strike me as a some kind of apocalyptic nutcase.

Still unconvinced? Watch this presentation by Chris Skrebowski, editor of the London Energy Institute's Petroleum Review magazine. Skrebowski is a Peak Oil convert who initially argued against supporters of the Peak Oil theory.

I dunno, I've tried hard to poke holes in the idea, but I can't find too many.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Michael Pascoe's unshakable faith in the market

Michael Pascoe is one of the best financial journalists in the country, and he writes some great stuff for Crikey which is generally spot on. He gets it mostly right below, but his unshakable faith in the market will be sorely tested by the twin threats of peak oil and climate change:
We can always go back to whale oil

Date: Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Michael Pascoe writes:

Competing doomsday scenarios are making life awfully difficult – I can’t decide whether I should be suicidal about burning too many fossil fuels or not enough. Maybe if Tim Flannery, Richard Heinberg and Andrew McNamara can coordinate their apocalyptic visions we’ll happily drown because we have no means of escaping them rising sea levels.
Pascoe continues...
The “peak oil” worrywarts are having a nice run at present, most recently Queensland National Party state MP McNamara on 60 Minutes and about-to-visit professor and book flogger Heinberg in The SMH, never mind Four Corners last month. At Heinberg's extreme, the peak oil folks are forecasting a return to the 19th century with little and expensive travel and we all have to grow our own food in the backyard as civilisation as we know grinds to a halt.

It is the nature of journalism that catastrophic bad news is goods news. But it is also astounding that that there is such a uniform ignorance or calculated ignoring of the great twin realities of our society: the ability of the market mechanism to efficiently allocate resources and our incredible capacity for inventiveness and problem solving.

We’ve gone through “peak oil” before – only then it was whale oil. The truth is that we’re not running out of oil and never will. At a price, we can make all the oil we need. The oil lubricating my car’s delightful engine already is artificial. As crude oil becomes more expensive, we start to use it more efficiently while the economic stimulus leads to product substitution. Oil remains wonderfully cheap, especially in a handful of low-tax countries like Australia, but in time it will become more expensive and we’ll use less per head of population.

Does it end tourism, global trade, the plastics and pharmaceutical industries? Of course not. The scaremongers themselves have no economic incentive to suggest how our incredibly adaptive species will move forward with less oil, but it’s not hard.

For example, the combination of China’s needs, greenhouse pollution and inventiveness means the next generation of nuclear power plants will effectively be mass-produced – modulised and much cheaper. Once you’ve built your nuke plant, the running costs are low and electricity is cheap. Cheap electricity makes the electric car a goer when oil is expensive, but it also provides the power to make alternative fuels – the hydrogen car just one of the possibilities.

There are bugs being trained to eat coal and excrete plastic. If the polyester shirt dies though, no-one will mind. Filling my Alfa with premium might become a luxury just for a special weekend excursion, but that’s a matter of choice. And we can always start farming whales.

Most of this is true. The market mechanism and human ingenuity will find alternative fuels, China will undoubtedly find a way to produce cheap nukes, but we will never find a fuel so wonderfully packed full of energy and so cheap to extract as crude oil.

Every alternative fuel we move to in the future (such as coal-to-oil, tar sands, shale oil) will cost a lot more energy to produce than crude. For example, in the tar sands of Canada they have to dig up a tonne of oily dirt to fill a tank of petrol. Think of the energy required to dig up that dirt, transport it, and refine it into oil. Compare that with the 'Texas Tea' of last century that just gushed out of the ground.

Of course, this has big implications for climate change. If we have to burn the equivalent of a barrel of oil to make two, even the most efficient vehicle is going to put more CO2 in the air per kilometre driven. Because, unlike conventional crude, the fuel cost a lot of energy to produce in the first place, and for the forseeable future that energy is going to come from fossil fuels. Last time I looked I didn't see any electric trucks at a mine site.

EROEI is everything, both in dollar terms, and in terms of CO2 emitted, and nothing beats the EROEI of light sweet crude.

There are some applications such as jet airliners where no-one can envisage an alternative to oil. There are some early experiments happening with compressed hydrogen and fuel-cells but these are more akin to experiments in human or solar-powered flight than a practical replacement for today's jet plane. Besides, hydrogen has nowhere near the energy density of jet fuel (8MJ/L vs 33MJ/L) and that's a pretty fundamental hurdle to overcome.

Yes we can build nukes and wind farms, and we will inevitably electrify transportation (rail will probably make a big comeback) but I don't know what's gonna keep the planes flying, I really don't. Cheap international tourism may indeed become a thing of the past.

Crude oil is a one-shot deal, and we will use it all in a couple of centuries. A blink of the eye in human history.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

Flannery's doomsday talk may be too scary for some

In today's Crikey climate scientist Ian McHugh writes:
Tim Flannery’s keynote address to the Melbourne Writers' Festival on Friday night at the Melbourne Town Hall must have left more than a few punters feeling decidedly blue. The vision he paints of the coming impacts of climate change is at times little short of apocalyptic.

Yet Flannery’s vision is no exaggeration. And given the stakes, there would be something obscene about soft-pedalling his message just to make our Friday evenings a little cosier, our sleep a little easier. And so, as in his book The Weather Makers, Flannery pulled no punches.
Ian McHugh continues...
But amid all of the talk of melting ice sheets and Arctic pack ice, rising seas, drowning polar bears, fatally confused bird life and monster storms, he seemed to leave scant room for hope. During the Q&A session at the conclusion of his speech, one audience member jokingly remarked that her friends were considering leaping from the balcony.

I’ve followed Tim’s work since the publication of The Future Eaters 12 years ago. A passionate discoverer and documenter of nature and natural history, he’s a great communicator, too. But with such a profoundly disturbing issue as climate change, the difficulty lies in startling people out of their reverie without turning them into despairing balcony jumpers. It is a difficult balance and -- eloquent as he was -- I don’t know that he struck it on Friday night.

This is not to take away his due. Tim Flannery’s is an important voice of warning that has helped greatly in shoehorning climate change onto the mainstream agenda. This was, after all, the ultimate reason for his appearance at the town hall. Perhaps in the end, it is only his job to deliver the bad news, uniquely placed as he is at the, er, coal face of nature’s continuing decline.

But it’s hard to imagine he would see it that way. And clearly he doesn’t think the situation is hopeless. What would be the point of communicating at all if this were true? Yet despite some welcome discussion of ways forward, it seemed a bit like cursory garnish on the main course of Armageddon. What was lacking was not so much details but a passionate defence of possibility -– the sense that we can choose to unmake at least part of the dark future he described.

It didn’t seem clear that he believed this. And that is probably the scariest thought of all.

More on Flannery's talk here: Braving the cold for a talk on warming

Dr Flannery said Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world in addressing the global warming issue.

"It's important to understand that most governments in the world are acting," he said.

"It's only in Australia and the United States we find there is opposition, still, to addressing the problems.

"These governments say they are waiting for evidence upon which they can act. But it's too late, we need to act now." A quick solution was to impose a hefty tax on those companies that continued to pollute the air.

"If you raised a billion dollars in carbon tax you could give it back to lower and middle-income earners as tax breaks and those polluters would act quickly to fix the problem."

You tell 'em Tim. No-one is suggesting that by imposing a carbon tax the government should or would increase its total tax take. Any pain inflicted by higher electricity or petrol prices could be mitigated by income tax cuts, just as the government did after the GST was imposed in 2000.
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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Look what's new at IKEA

Small indestructible lump
Does nothing for any home

(courtesy of Saturday's SMH)
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Essential reading and viewing

Some essential reading and viewing this weekend. First up is "The Resurrection of Al Gore" in the Good Weekend magazine. The article by John Heilemann (which is not online) talks up the prospect of Gore running for President in 2008 which is hugely encouraging. There is no politician in the world more committed to the issue of climate change than Al Gore, and IMO it is critical for the future of the planet that he runs and wins in 2008.

It was a tragedy of epic proportions that Gore did not become President in 2000. Gore says of that infamous 'victory'...
"The principal source of disappointment was not the dashed expectations for me or my family," he explains, "but the consequences for the country" of Bush's victory. "What the country has subsequently gone through was much worse than I ever thought, but I expected it to be bad."
Indeed. Few of us could have imagined just how bad George W. Bush would be. Iraq, Katrina ... need I say more. On the prospects of Gore running in 2008 Heilemann writes:
What's clear is that Gore would love to be president, but the thought of the whole awful business of getting there makes him nearly nauseous.
Please run Al. One man's nausea is a small price to pay to give the planet some hope. I'm nauseous every time I see Bush on TV, and there millions (billions?) who feel the same.

The article concludes with this:
When Gore ran in 2000, he did so from a position of entitlement: the vice-presidency. But the story he could tell in 2008 would be infinitely more compelling: how he suffered the harshest defeat imaginable and pulled himself back up. As his former vice-presidential chief of staff Ron Klain observes, "Americans love a comeback. We're a comeback-crazed country. And this would be a comeback beyond all comebacks."
Next up is When oil dries up a story by Nick Galvin in the SMH about Richard Heinberg who is in Australia at the moment. Galvin writes...
Heinberg, who is embarking on an Australia-wide speaking tour, is a leading proponent of the "peak oil" theory.

Peak oil is shorthand for the premise that the amount of oil left for us to use has "peaked" (or is just about to peak). Once worldwide production begins to fall and with no corresponding decrease in demand, oil prices will skyrocket, leading to widespread chaos.

How bad will it be? If Heinberg is to be believed, the impending dislocation caused by the end of the oil era will be about as bad as it gets.

From global resource wars as oil-dependent economies battle for control of remaining resources to widespread famine caused by the slowdown in oil-dependent agribusiness, the picture he paints is nothing short of cataclysmic.

Familiar stuff for regular readers of The Oil Drum but it might come as a bit of a shock for the average suburbanite living in a McMansion 40kms from the CBD with two-tonne SUV in the garage. Heinberg continues with this forecast:

Overall population levels will also have to shrink worldwide. On the back of oil's one-time energy dividend the world's population has increased sixfold, creating an unsustainable, self-perpetuating cycle needing more and more oil.

Manufacturing will again become a local business in the post-oil era as the interdependencies of global trade are unwound. International trade will continue but it will be restricted to luxuries and exotic items. People will work and shop close to home and even grow some food in their own backyards - just as many of our parents did.

Is there any hope in Richard Heinberg's post peak world? Well not much, he sounds like a pretty hard-core doomer to me, but he does urge "positive changes" in the face of the inevitable collapse of civilisation...
"If I had a bet on what the state of the world would be in 50 years I think I'd say it's not going to be a very happy place but the more we do the better off we will be," he says. "I think it's more important to be making whatever positive changes we can than just wailing and gnashing our teeth and bemoaning our collective fate."
Continuing the Peak Oil theme 60 Minutes will be giving us their take on the issue tonight. No doubt it will be usual sensationalist tabloid journalism we have come to expect from 60 Minutes, (and not a patch on the recent 4 Corners effort) but the audience will be bigger and broader, and hopefully it will give the aforementioned McMansionites some food for thought.
Running on empty
August 27, 2006
Reporter: Tara Brown

You're about to hear two of the scariest words in the English language — "peak oil".

Effectively, they mean the end of the world as we know it. The point where oil production reaches its absolute peak; the point when supplies start running out. And the doomsayers are convinced we're almost there.

So, if you think paying $100 to fill your tank is painful, I hate to tell you, this is as good as it gets. It'll get worse, much worse.

Two dollars plus per litre by Christmas for a start. Naturally, the oil companies say stay calm. We'll be right for a 100 years at least. But then they would, wouldn't they?
Last but not least 4 Corners is showing yet another story on global warming this Monday. Too much global warming news is barely enough IMO, so kudos to the ABC for continuing to report on this most important of issues. The reporter is Jonathan Holmes who was also responsible for the Peak Oil story in July.
What Price Global Warming?
Reporter: Jonathan Holmes
Broadcast: 28/08/2006

Heat waves and cyclones; droughts ravaging farmland; rising seas swamping beach havens; forests drying up and species dying out; the Barrier Reef and Kakadu, icons of nature, doomed.

This is Australia’s future if nothing is done to tackle global warming, scientists warn - though exactly what will happen, and how soon, remain uncertain.

Is there still time for the world to avert these dire consequences? How can Australians – per person the biggest greenhouse gas polluters on the globe – do more to curb their own emissions?

The biggest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of coal to produce electricity – and Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter. The best way for Australia to help, the Howard Government believes, is to invest in the search for technologies that will drastically reduce the emissions that come from burning coal.

Meanwhile, says John Howard, it’s pointless for Australia to take expensive steps to curb its own emissions: "If we stopped them tomorrow, it would take all of nine months for China’s additional emissions to equal what we’ve withdrawn by stopping ours," the Prime Minister tells Four Corners.

But a growing cast of business leaders is calling for the Government to engage the power of the market in the fight against global warming. They say Australia needs a "carbon price signal" – either a tax on carbon dioxide, or better still an emissions trading system, which will give business a real economic incentive to save energy, cut emissions and invest in clean technology.

The European Union has an emissions trading regime; Labor state governments are proposing one; but the Federal Government says any such system, unless it’s applied globally, will mean excessive job losses, electricity price hikes and lifestyle sacrifices for Australians.

Which way forward: technology or tax? Four Corners reporter Jonathan Holmes looks at clean coal technologies in the laboratory – and at the efforts of entrepreneurs responding to New South Wales’s trial emissions trading system. And he asks – why not have both?
It will be interesting what conclusions Holmes reaches about 'clean coal' aka CCS or geosequestration. As I've said a few times here, I reckon money spent on 'clean coal' is an expensive folly and is just pandering to the coal lobby, but I'm open to convincing evidence to the contrary.
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Anthony Albanese's vision for the solar industry

Shadow Minister for the Environment Anthony Albanese spoke at the Australian Centre for Science, Innovation and Society (acsis) this week about his vision for Australia's climate change policy.

Most interesting was that Albo's "Period of Real Solutions" talk focussed on solar energy rather than 'clean coal', wind or nuclear. He began with the obvious (well, obvious to anyone except John Howard).

What can Australia do to avoid dangerous climate change? Three things for a start:

1. Dramatically cut Australia’s greenhouse pollution;
2. Ratify the Kyoto Protocol and join the world in a global agreement to cut greenhouse emissions; and
3. Develop a world beating clean energy industry.

And continued...

Our Climate Change Blueprint makes it clear the only environmentally sustainable energy policy for Australia is one which makes the tough decisions to invest in two great transformations:

• transforming the coal industry into a cleaner coal industry; and
• transforming our specialist solar industry into a world beating solar industry as big as coal is today.

I want to particularly focus on the latter transformation today.

Wow! That would be some solar industry given the size of the profits the coal companies are making at the moment. Thankfully Albo skipped any discussion of 'clean coal' (perhaps because it can be summed up in one word: nonsense) and moved onto the solar industry...

Building A World Beating Solar Energy Industry

I strongly believe we can build a world beating solar industry.

In fact, if Australia is to actively engage in a period of solutions, we must establish a world beating solar industry.

The global picture is clear – the sun is shining on solar energy.

Solar photovoltaics have grown by 40% globally over the past five years.

Mark Twidell of BP Solar has stated that sales of solar cells within Asia could grow by 50% within the next decade.

BP expects global solar manufacturing revenue to double by 2008 from almost $500 million in 2005.

According to the International Herald Tribune, Asia is poised to overtake Germany as the solar industry’s main source of growth.

We could, and should, be a part of that massive growth, but the reality in Australia is very different.

Compared to a global growth rate of 40%, solar PV has only grown by 16% in Australia over the past five years.

In June 2007, the sun will set on the popular Photovoltaic Rebate Program (PVRP), which is responsible for more than a quarter of the 25 000 solar panels on rooftops across Australia.

PVRP provides Australians with a direct rebate of up to $4000 for a solar system. The truth is it has always been too popular for its own good, with long waiting lists for people wanting to participate in the scheme.

Instead of a world-beating solar energy industry, we have a beaten solar energy industry.

We could have been the Silicon Valley of solar, but when we needed national leadership we didn’t get it.

Australia once led the world in solar water heater technology but we faltered and failed to commercialise our technologies.

Now we lag behind manufacturers in both China and Europe and account for only a tiny proportion of world production and installations.

Over the last decade, our best technology and our brightest ideas have gone overseas.

Take the solar hot water systems developed at the University of Sydney.

The Chinese saw its commercial potential and grabbed it. It’s now a huge part of China’s solar market. Invented in Australia, made in China. That’s a disgrace.

You see it again with the story of Dr Zhengrong Shi, a dual Chinese-Australian citizen.

Dr Zhengrong Shi debuted at number 4 on this year’s Business Review Weekly, with a wealth estimated at $3 billion.

Zhengrong Shi completed his PhD in solar energy at the University of New South Wales, but his wealth comes from developing solar energy technology in China.

His company, Suntech, is hot property in China but solar power continues to get the cold shoulder in Canberra.

If the last ten years have been a lost opportunity for Australia, what does the next ten years hold?

I think the solar technologies that are currently being developed around the world, and particularly in Australia, have the capacity to drive a period of solutions.

Solar thermal technology being developed by CSIRO and solar sliver technology being developed at the Australian National University are both showing significant potential for addressing base load capacity.

In fact, an unpublished report by the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development, obtained by The Canberra Times, suggests solar thermal technology “is poised to play a significant role in baseload generation for Australia” and will be cost competitive with coal within seven years.

The question for John Howard is this – will you build a world beating solar industry or will you allow our solar industry to be beaten by its overseas competitors?

Already, Spain has begun construction of the first large-scale commercial solar thermal plant in Europe. The power plant is designed to generate electricity continuously to the grid when in operation.

We are already falling behind.

Labor will turn this around. We will build a world beating solar industry.

In addition to the major policy initiatives announced in our Climate Change Blueprint, we have announced a number of important practical measures that will provide a real boost to the solar industry.

We will ensure all of Australia’s 10 000 schools are solar schools.

With the right policies in place Australia should aim to deliver on our potential to have at least 1.5 million solar powered homes by 2015 and 2.25 million homes by 2020.

In addition, Kim Beazley’s Innovation Blueprint outlined a series of initiative to:

• kick start the next generation of private sector innovation;
• Reform research and development investment arrangements;
• Develop the capacity and diversity of our universities; and
• Rebuild Australia’s great research institutions, including the CSIRO. These initiatives will provide a real boost for the development and commercialisation of solar technology.

I can't wait.
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