The Bullroarer - Tuesday 30 October 2007

The Australian - Oil price to push petrol up

NZ Herald - Petrol pain ahead after third hike in 3 days

The Age - Rift on Kyoto exposes leadership failure

MALCOLM Turnbull and all previous environment ministers in the Howard Government had one important thing in common. All understood the threat of climate change and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Turnbull has succeeded this year where his predecessors failed by reversing cabinet opposition to two key measures: carbon emissions trading and higher mandatory renewal energy targets. Six weeks ago he tried but failed to convince the cabinet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. "We are going to meet our target anyway, so it wouldn't impose any burden on us that we haven't committed to anyway," he told The Australian Financial Review.

The wave of recent studies making the case for an urgent global response confirms it is only political pride and fear for its credibility that stops the Government ratifying the treaty. Mr Turnbull also indicated the Coalition was open to a target of a 60 per cent cut in emissions by 2050, which Labor has adopted on the basis of scientific advice on keeping climate change to manageable levels. Yesterday, however, Prime Minister John Howard again said Labor's modest policies would cause job losses and that committing to an agreement that excluded major emitters would be very damaging to Australia. This ignores the jobs and industries being created overseas as countries respond to climate change, giving them a competitive advantage in a carbon-limited world. The Stern report, released by the British Treasury, warned last year that inaction carried great economic costs. At the time, the Australian Treasury had still not done any modelling or analysis of climate change's long-term impacts, some of which may be upon us.

Mr Howard has studiously avoided linking the issues of drought, rainfall and bushfires to climate change while relying on two Kyoto defences: that it excludes developing nations and that ratification would be a purely symbolic act. Both are based on false premises.

NZ Herald - Team assesses viability of Antarctic windfarm. Windiest place I've ever been - Cape Palliser.

Wellington is a tougher proposition for a wind farm than Antarctica, says a team exploring the possibility of building turbines at Scott Base. Experts from Meridian Energy have flown to the world's windiest continent to conduct feasibility tests around Scott Base, which three years ago was hit by a storm with wind gusts that exceeded 200km/h, destroying the base's wind vane.

Iain Miller, Antarctica New Zealand's Antarctic services manager, said if the windfarm went ahead, it would help power Scott Base and also the neighbouring United States base, McMurdo Station. "Interestingly enough, because of turbulence created by the landscape, the wind at Scott Base and McMurdo isn't as brutal as parts of New Zealand where there are windfarms," he told The Press. "Meridian is planning one on the southwest coast of Wellington where the wind speed and turbulence are worse."

Peak Energy - The Fat Man, The Population Bomb And The Green Revolution. If you're interested in the population issue or in what the post peak agricultural landscape could look like, you might find this one worth checking out.

The "fat man" referred to in the title isn't Al Gore (whose weight seems to be an issue amongst some parts of the blogosphere though he doesn't look all that large to me), but instead one of the more unusual icons of the cold war era (and one of those wisdom deficient products of the RAND Corporation I referred to in "The Shockwave Rider") - strategist and futurist Herman Kahn.

In the post "Silent Spring" era, environmental issues made their way to the forefront of popular thinking for a while, prompting books like "The Limits To Growth", which I've gone on about at length previously, and more alarmist works like Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb". Herman Kahn was a conservative who set up, along with a group of other RANDians, an organisation called the Hudson Institute, which Wikipedia refers to as "the organization about which the phrase 'think tank' was originally coined". Kahn continued writing after he left RAND, and published a number of books during his time at the Hudson Institute, one of which I read a couple of months back called "The Next 200 Years", which he wrote in 1976.

"200 Years" was a reaction against what Kahn called the "doomsday literature" (which was rather ironic, given his background) of the neo-Malthusians, as expressed in The Limits To Growth, The Population Bomb and other similar books, and the "current malaise" the world was experiencing at the time. The RAND Corporation still includes the book in their list of "50 Books for Thinking About the Future Human Condition".

The book looks at the issue of growth and how it might be handled in 5 main areas - population, energy, raw materials (minerals in particular), food and the environment - in some ways it could be looked at as a deliberately optimistic thought experiment in dealing with the Limits To Growth, rather than denying they exist entirely. ...

NZ Herald - Oil export surge narrows NZ trade gap. Will NZ become the Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific ? - Repeat of 1970s oil crisis not expected

The Australian - Rudd sets 20 per cent renewable target for 2020

NZ Herald - Smarter power meters from Vector and Siemens

Scoop - New homes will now be warmer and cheaper to run

SMH - Rival may seek damages over Sydney desalination plant. As if it wasn't expensive enough already.

SMH - Grain imports pondered as drought bites

Australia's livestock industry will be forced for the first time to import grain from overseas if local supplies continue to dwindle in the crippling drought, producers have warned. Grain producers are predicting a two million tonne grain shortfall for the eastern states, as ABARE released a revised down forecast for 2007-08 winter crops. The winter wheat crop output is now forecast at 12.1 million tonnes compared to a previous estimate of 15.5 million tonnes.

The Australian - Kyoto will kill our coal industry: Nats. That is the point.

Chicago Tribune - Emissions fix may lie beneath us. Converts to the cult of Nyos.

Pumping carbon dioxide underground as a way to reduce concentrations in the atmosphere is a newer idea. But Norway's state oil company, faced with paying a tax on its carbon dioxide emissions, has since 1996 injected about a million tons of the gas each year into storage in a reservoir below the North Sea. Similar small-scale projects are under way in Algeria and on the U.S.-Canada border, and scientists are studying how to make central Illinois a major focus of U.S. efforts to sequester carbon dioxide.

Australia, a coal-rich nation of just 21 million people, is fast becoming an international leader in carbon sequestration. The country is among the most advanced in the complicated process of developing legislation to license and monitor storage facilities, and is home to four of the world's largest proposed demonstration and commercial-scale storage projects, more than any other country.

The biggest is in the Latrobe Valley, where a joint venture of mining giant Anglo American and Shell Oil company aims to begin turning brown coal into high-quality diesel fuel and then pumping the carbon dioxide produced into a vast and increasingly depleted oilfield 50 miles offshore in the Bass Straits that separate mainland Australia from Tasmania.

The proximity of the massive coalfields and the big oil field, considered a top potential carbon-storage site, means the companies should be able to sequester 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, making it the biggest project in the world.

Scientists believe the Bass Straits reservoir is so big it could permanently capture between 2 billion and 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of all of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions from every man-made source for the next five to 15 years, or the world's production for up to a year.

"It's world-class," said Scott Hargreaves, a spokesman for Monash Energy, the Anglo-Shell joint venture. The vast sandstone reservoir, more than a kilometer below the ocean floor, "stored oil and gas, so, all things being equal, you should be able to put something else down there," he said.

The Australian - Windimurra resurrected with Santos gas buy

SMH - Airline stocks may stall, says Eddington

The Australian - Brumby rejects call for freeze on car tariffs

The Australian - Vicpower fined for series of breaches. If you put the grid in jeopardy you are in trouble - don't sell FCAS you don't have.

John Quiggin - On the bleeding edge. Its a little more complicated than he makes out folks - we have to do a little more than just buying Prius'.

Looking at how easy it would be to switch to hybrids, I’m more convinced than ever that a peak in oil production (which may already have been passed) will not been the end of industrial civilisation as we know it, or even a major change in our way of life.

ABC - More Australians defaulting on mortgages: report. Not a great time for rising petrol prices, so don't complain too much about the strong A$ and NZ$.

(Hat Tip Dave B, Jeff)

Interesting that noone in the media has yet pointed out that either a 15% or 20% commitment to 'renewable energy' by 2020 probably still means an absolute increase ( from present levels) in carbon
dioxide emissions at that time. Furthermore a commitment to 80% reduction of emissions (from present levels)by 2050 surely suggests that all further additions to the energy use marix should be emission free to give any credence to achieving this goal. The two goals seem irreconciable under the BAU regime beloved by our present political masters.
Even more interesting is the emphasis placed on 'clean coal' Two proposed largescale power generation/gasification/sequesteration experiments proposed for Scotland and Fremantle (WA) seem to have sunk without trace.
The data I have seen suggest an energy penalty of 20-40%( which probably does not include the extra mining and transport)so this means a substansial expansion of the coal industry. What is fascinating is the fixation on reporting the 'successes' of the injection of the carbon dioxide into depleted hydrocarbon traps.I would have thought that this was by far the best understood part of
the process, requiring little further research. The difficulties of extracting carbon dioxide from hot dilute waste gas streams for retrofitting power stations seems to be much less commented on or studied- although techniques obviously exist.
It seems pretty clear that either a very expensive messy retrofitting programme, or a generation of completely new power units will be required. Will gas fired stations need to do the same thing? It aint going to be cheap.

Yes - I've noticed this myself - the real key is reduction in carbon emissions (and from a peak oil point of view, reduction in hydrocarbon consumption).

George Monbiot is just about the only commentator I see regularly saying "we need to reduce emissions by 60% by 2030" (or whatever his numbers are) instead of "20% renewables by 2020" or "50% renewables by 2050".

Do you have a link for the Fremantle gasification project you mentioned ? Is that the Rio / BP one (I have a vague recollection of them announcing one earlier in the year).

I'm not a believer in clean coal at all but the Bass Strait experiment seems to be the most likely to go ahead. I'm told piping the carbon dioxide is also problematical over long distances as it is highly corrosive (I think the Norwegians have had a lot of problems at Sleipner but I haven't tracked that project for the last couple of years).

geonic Hi biggav. I probably saw the same news items as you did re the WA project-last heard of as abandoned due to lack of nearby sequestration sites. The reality is ( I think) that some engineers got hold hold of it and showed it to be a load of rubbish, put up as some feelgood PR.
I am certainly no fan of 'clean coal'.
The other good one - also gone without trace- was the SANTOS plan to collect CO2 from around eastern and southern Australia and pipe it up to the Cooper Basin. That would have been a real winner.
These sort of schemes give one the feeling that reality distortions are taking place to accomodate the BAU scenario.