The Bullroarer - Thursday 1 November 2007

The Age - Leaders lost on a road to nowhere

SURELY we must live in a parallel universe. This week the Victorian Government has decided to go ahead with a billion-dollar channel-deepening project without an environmental effects statement; the RACV wants the fuel excise cut by 10 cents a litre because it would only cost $3 billion and it would be a deflationary measure; federal Nationals leader Mark Vaile expressed doubts about climate change; and John Howard has jammed Kevin Rudd into retreating from Peter Garrett's pledge that a Labor government would ratify the Kyoto Protocol even if there were no firm commitments for greenhouse gas emission reductions from China and India. ...

The RACV, in tandem with the Department of Infrastructure, is one of the biggest threats to Melbourne's liveability and hence to the long-term interests of its motorist members. Where has the RACV been during the debate about peak oil?

The price of oil is heading towards a $100 a barrel and within the life of the next Federal Parliament the price of petrol could be twice what it is now. Almost certainly freeways — both those recently built and those likely to follow Sir Rod Eddington's report later this year approving Melbourne's multibillion-dollar East-West tunnel — will become "stranded assets" well before the end of their economic life in 60 years' time.

What is now in question is whether Melbourne becomes a "stranded city" or its infrastructure is planned to take into account the impact of peak oil and global warming. But there are sceptics about this too. Mark Vaile is still spruiking drought. How long do droughts have to last before they cease to be cyclical and become climate change?

SMH - Oil surges to record US$95 per barrel

SMH - Australian Dollar reaches 23 year high

NZ Herald - Controversial wind farm gets go ahead

David Roberts - Peak oil: More than cars. A different look at an issue I considered at Peak Energy yesterday without noting the demand side adjustments that could be made or mentioning all the other areas of the economy that are impacted.

There is a small rash of posts amongst the centre left - Atrios, Matt Yglesias, John Quiggin, Joseph Romm - wondering what the fuss about peak oil is. Don't hybrids solve the problem, they ask ? While I'm far from doomerish in my assessment of the peak oil challenge, I think these guys are oversimplfying things (which is a typical reaction when confronted with Kunstler's outlandish predictions).

There are 3 intertwining effects (4 if you consider global warming) :

1. Oil and gas production will decrease basically continuously over a long period of time
2. A large percentage of the world's population is getting richer as it industrialises
3. The world's population will increase by around 50% over the next 40 years

These mean that per capita oil consumption rates in the West will drop dramatically - we won't get the lions share of the world's oil as we become less economically dominant, and the reduced volume of oil will be shared between more and more people.

Thus a (maybe) 50% gain in fuel efficiency - assuming the entire vehicle fleet turns over and is converted into hybrids at a rapid rate (which is a pretty big assumption) - won't be enough of an adjustment. We need a huge investment in renewable energy sources, smart grids to distribute the electricity and an electric transport system (both cars and rail) to supercede the existing one that is nearing obsolesence.

I don't believe that industrial civilisation will collapse, but I don't believe everyone going out and buying a hybrid (assuming the manufacturers can scale up fast enough) will be enough to solve the problem either.

The Age - Memo Mr President: get tough on the black-gold cowboys. Anti-peak oil piece arguing that oil price rises are due to manipulation by the oil companies.

Upstream Online - Oz study to 'unlock' offshore oil and gas potential

Reuters - Australia's Roc Oil shares slump on Angola results

Upstream Online - Roc keeps rolling in Cabinda play

Upstream Online - Horizon Oil blocked by Chinese navy - L&M petroleum hopes for West Coast gas bonanza

SMH - Heated row sees Hewson quit post at Natural Fuels

IHT - South Korea plans $22 billion fund to invest in oil and gas projects

The Age - Recycled Cycles

Waikato Times - Waikato bike business in top gear

SMH - Bus stop blues keep people away

THE State Government has long ignored the needs of bus commuters, with shoddy shelters, inadequate interchanges and a lack of uniformity making bus services unattractive to potential passengers, says a former head of Sydney Buses.

John Stott, who ran State Transit until 2004, says bus services are too often treated as "second-class transport" and is calling for a radical overhaul of Sydney's 15,000 bus stops.

Scoop - Science, society and sustainability in New Zealand

ABC - Green groups urge more public transport funding

SMH - Keep M4 toll and scrap cashback: Scully

WorldChanging - Three NZ Groups Unite to Mainstream Action on Global Warming

Crikey - Yes, Malcolm, we do lead the world in changing the climate

ABC - Natural gas industry 'ignored' in climate change debate. Could it be because switching from a plentiful and dirty power source to a depleting but less dirty power source makes no sense ?

SMH - Clean Coal a Furphy: Dr Karl

The Australian - Clean coal a Goebbels scale lie: Dr Karl

ABC - Walking the environment talk on the campaign trail

Scoop - NZ Water Fuel Car Demonstrates World First

(Hat Tip Dave B, Rex G)

In my opinion gas will become too valuable to use in baseload electrical generation. I know this is done in places like Adelaide but it is not even combined cycle with higher efficiencies. We'll need gas for peak power, CNG especially for truck fleets and for a variety of high value processing industries. I think this can be shown via a time optimal model but future prices would be pure guesswork.

If we were a smart country instead of just lucky there would be a policy statement on this. The mandarins are too gobsmacked from Dr. Karl's bombshell to think any further ahead.

i think we have to be careful to separate the global and regional context. there's little doubt that the world market for gas is going to be just about as tight as that for oil. but australia does have a heck of a lot of gas, and local use will always have an economic advantage over long distance shipping. the only problem is that largest gas resources are on the west coast, a long way from the east coast markets. then again, coal seam methane production in Qld has actually grown faster than most expectations the last few years.

so i think gas is an appropriate bridging fuel in the australian context (within modest expectations), but definitely not for those in Europe/North America/Asia.

see you next time i'm in hobart.. it's where i was born and seems like a good place to be post peak-oil and climate change! :-)


and if i were in new zealand, although there are modest local oil and gas resources, i would be seriously considering my exposure at the very end of the supply chain - a lot like Ireland in terms of supply vulnerability.

but Australia does have a heck of a lot of gas,...


Our natural gas should be used
(1) as an energy input to manufacture renewable energy systems e.g. solar panels and mirrors (energy intensive)
(2) for fertilizer production
(3) as CNG for road transport where rail cannot go
(4) for power supply of rail electrification

Well, you've already agreed to supply New Zealand with LNG from 2020 onwards, so there'll be less of it anyway. As for us being at the end of the supply chain - yes, you're dead right. We really do need to look at it. Right now there's a company trying to build a Natural Gas power station near Auckland, but they're having all sorts of problems. Here's hoping it never gets built.

Almost certainly freeways ... will become "stranded assets" well before the end of their economic life in 60 years' time.

Not at all! They will become really sweet bikepaths as soon as we get the oilburners out of the way.

Even if my dreams of a fully electric car fleet don't eventuate, the freeways will be useful for buses or for laying down light rail tracks.

Maybe the outer lanes could be used for bikes, but personally I prefer my bike path to be well away from cars (and I've got to say the one I ride down to North Sydney is great in that respect).

All the energy news looks upside down here. Whazzup with that?


You are standing upside down - if you adopt the correct orientation everything will look fine :-)