The Bullroarer - Saturday 15 December

The Australian - Quicker rollout for energy smart meters

THE rollout of smart meters allowing households to calculate the cost of their electricity consumption is to be accelerated. The Ministerial Council on Energy - at its first meeting to be chaired by new federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson - yesterday decided on the minimum information the meters will collect.

Smart meters are seen as a way of allowing people to take responsibility for their electricity consumption and help curb the growth in demand. Mr Ferguson said after the meeting in Perth the decision put in place a framework for the rollout of the meters nationally.

The next MCE meeting early next year would discuss the cost benefit of the meters' introduction in different markets. Victoria has already committed to smart meters, while NSW Premier Morris Iemma included their introduction in his electricity reform measures announced earlier this week. "We are going to go down the path of national uniformity on smart meters and that's a decision related to the Prime Minister's overall climate change agenda," Mr Ferguson said after the MCE meeting. He said state energy ministers - all Labor - had supported Kevin Rudd's approach to climate change at the UN summit in Bali. - Bags packed for doomsday

The ‘twin tsunamis’ of global warming and peak oil could spell TEOTWAWKI - the end of the world as we know it - and already, quietly, some people are getting prepared because they believe we are talking years rather than decades. Helen, a petite 42-year-old Nelson housewife, is racing to build her own personal TEOTWAWKI lifeboat. Earlier this year, she and her American husband cashed-up to buy a 21ha farm in a remote, easily defensible, river valley backing onto the Arthur Range, north-west of Nelson.

The site ticks the right boxes. Way above sea level. Its own spring and stream. Enough winter sun. A good mix of growing areas. A sprinkling of neighbouring farms strung along the valley’s winding dirt-track road. The digger was to arrive this week to carve out the platform for an adobe eco-house. A turbine in the stream will generate power. A composting toilet will deal with sewage.

Then there is the stuff that could really get her labelled as a crank (and why she would prefer to remain relatively anonymous, at least until she is completely set up). Back at her rented house in Nelson, Helen shows the growing collection of horse-drawn ploughs, wheat grinders, treadle sewing machines and other rusting relics of the pre-carbon era, she believes she will need the day the petrol pumps finally run dry. ...

Jurgen Heissner is another Nelsonian who is seeing the writing on the wall. A founder member of the New Zealand branch of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (Aspo), Heissner says it was like a blow to the stomach when he first comprehended how close we are to the brink. He immediately began the process of selling out of his thriving bio-paint business and getting ready for a new world order.

Heissner's young son crawls into the room, one foot tangled in the leg of his romper suit, and gazes up at us. Heissner's Japanese wife is in the kitchen making his 50th-birthday cake. Roses bloom at the window. Sun floods across the polished wood floor. And we're talking about TEOTWAWKI. Thank God we are in New Zealand, Heissner says in an accent still gruffly Germanic after 18 years here. The whole damn country is a lifeboat really.

Peak Energy - Jump Starting Electric Car Production With Lithium Ion Batteries

As electric vehicles and battery technology are one of the keys to establishing the smart grid / V2G infrastructure that will enable us to move to a completely clean energy based economy, I try to keep an eye on what is happening in the area (though it doesn't often show up in the day to day posts here). There have been a lot of encouraging reports in this area lately, so I thought I'd do a roundup of articles on lithium ion batteries and their applications.

SMH - March for a climate accord falters

THE UN climate summit stumbled last night towards a compromise for launching a new global agreement, but it fell well short of the expectations that many countries took to Bali.

To the last minute, the United States fought hard to stop the declaration referring to the UN's scientific advice: for developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 if the world wants to stop global temperatures rising above 2 degrees and avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

Australia's Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, was playing a key role in the final effort to drive a deal between the US and Japan on one side and the European Union, China and developing countries on the other. The battling delegations reached a consensus to launch formal negotiations in a bid to have a deal signed by 2009. And in key breakthroughs, nations agreed:

■ Cutting emissions by stopping deforestation should be included in the new deal;
■ To develop measures to transfer clean energy technology to developing countries;
■ To formulate policies to help poorer countries adapt to climate change that is already happening.

Delegates at the summit were warned that without deep cuts to emissions, the world faced a possible loss of 30 per cent of its animal and plant species, and as many as 50 million climate refugees in the next decades. ... Australia was criticised by both European diplomats and environment groups for its failure to stand with Europe and the developing nations to keep the scientific advice in the Bali test.

I see Ian Dunlop and Bruce Robinson from ASPO Australia have been featured in this article on "Carbon's Rocky Road":

For coal industries and electricity generators that depend on fossil fuels, geosequestration is the holy grail.

The theory behind it is that carbon dioxide can be harvested before it enters the atmosphere and then put under enormous pressure to turn it into a liquid, before being injected deep into the earth.

Trapped between supposedly impenetrable layers of rock where oil and gas once flowed, it ought to be stored safely and indefinitely.

However that theory has not been tested, as CCS critics often remind the coal lobby, and even if it were to be demonstrated after billions of dollars are spent on creating the technology, it could take another 20 years before it becomes a commercial proposition.

If the climate change science is right, and greenhouse gases need to start declining soon, then CCS will be too little too late to be considered a meaningful form of mitigation.

Former head of the Australian Coal Association Ian Dunlop, who now is deputy convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil, said he believed "we have probably left it too late for CCS".

At the same time he warns that government policy should not pick winners and that there is merit in continuing to encourage research into the technology, if only just to prove whether it will succeed or fail.

Shortly after Australia first signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Mr Dunlop was appointed by the federal government to chair a group that would design an emissions trading scheme for Australia.

But Mr Howard squashed the project when he was converted into a climate sceptic by his US allies, according to Mr Dunlop, who had worked as an oil and gas sector executive for years.

In the years since, Mr Dunlop has strengthened his resolve to warn governments and industries about the dangers of not taking climate change risk seriously.

In the meantime, CCS polarises the opinion-makers, with many scientists, such as AASPO convenor Bruce Robinson, dismissing it as science fiction.

Others, such as Tony Maher, head of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, label it as a panacea that must be applied.

Mr Maher was selected by an international council of unions to give a short address in Bali's Plenary 1 on behalf of the world's workers.

Former Howard government adviser Guy Pearse, the author of High and Dry, has written that there are no plans on any scale or in any meaningful timeframe to capture most emissions from existing coal fired power stations.

"But various co-operative research centres promote the idea that 'clean coal' is here and now," Dr Pearse wrote in his pre-election expose of the political links between the coal lobby and the former prime minister.

I regard every politician (eg our recent PM) who said CCS was imminent as a Bull-something-or-other not a Bullroarer.

On the subject of hypocrisy if Morris Iemma is 100% behind Rudd how come his flunkies approved Anvil Hill coal mine and are trying to speed up the Newcastle coal loader.

On the subject of stalling tactics I see we now have a Garnaut review following an Emissions Trading taskforce following a State secretariat.

Ah yes - "Waiting For Garnaut".

Will all the analysis be complete before the next election...

The recurring line will be 'when Garnaut gets here he'll know what to do'.

If I recall the stage directions to the play end with..nothing happens, nobody moves.

Got it in one.

Hopefully we're just being a bit too cynical.

One more article for the day, from Grist:

Aussies R Us

Culturally, politically, and spiritually, what country in the world is most like the United States? It's not Canada and it's sure not Great Britain. The answer is Australia. Ask anyone who's been there. It just feels like America there, from the sprawling suburbs to the cars people drive, from the obsession with sports to their unit of currency: the Australian dollar. Add these factors too: both countries were British colonies, both wiped out indigenous peoples, both have big cities in the east and vast frontiers to the west, both have huge coal deposits and per capita greenhouse-gas emissions that lead most of the world, and, in the last several years, both have had conservative national governments that basically deny the reality of global warming. The Aussies R Us!

So how, then, did Australia just complete a national election where the issue of climate change played a central role and may have determined the outcome? How did a country so steeped in America's brand of fierce self-reliance, consumerism, and fossil-fuel addiction throw out a "climate skeptic" prime minister and hand a landslide victory to a Labor candidate who talked persistently about ratifying Kyoto? And most important, if they can do it Down Under, is there still hope for America?

Feeling the heat

Several factors help explain how a "global-warming candidate," Labor's Kevin Rudd, unseated incumbent John Howard after 11 years of conservative rule. But first among them is probably the nation's nightmarish drought. Beginning in 2002, the drought conditions intensified each year until a staggering 25 percent of all food production was lost in 2007. Emaciated livestock now roam a vast landscape of dry riverbeds. Rice production and wine grapes have been devastated. Food prices have soared and up to 1 percent of the nation's entire GDP has been lost, according to credible estimates.

With drinking water now in danger of running out in much of the country, and multiple scientific reports linking the dryness to global warming, Australians registered growing concern in opinion polls prior to the Nov. 24 election. But incumbent John Howard vigorously denied any climate connection for years and told voters to simply pray for rain and, if so inclined, change their light bulbs. Labor's Rudd, however, openly connected the drought to global warming during the campaign and called for clean, efficient energy as a path to preserving public health and the nation's agricultural heritage.

But drought alone did not push global warming from background noise to a top issue in a country long tolerant of a do-nothing government. Australian journalist Wilson Da Silva, a former president of the World Federation of Science Journalists, says that -- ironically -- developments in far-off America played a role too. The first was Hurricane Katrina. Among U.S. cities, New Orleans has always been a favorite among Australians, and to watch the horrors of 2005 just as new scientific studies showed a connection between warmer oceans and bigger storms, made a big impression.

Then came "Hurricane Gore." An Inconvenient Truth was proportionally twice as big a box-office hit Down Under than even in America, and Gore made several high profile trips to the country in its aftermath. "It changed the way many Australians see the world and themselves in it," says Da Silva.

Aussie business leaders demanded climate action

Also key to the electorate's changing mood was the fact that major Australian business leaders broke ranks with the Howard government over global warming prior to the vote. American Cathy Zoi, a Gore confidant who spent 12 years in Australia working on energy issues, says beginning in 2006 top businesses began calling for national legislation to cap carbon emissions. Why? "Because Australia is heavily dependent on foreign trade, and leaders could see the inevitable carbon constraints coming through Kyoto or subsequent agreements, and they wanted some certainty and process and predictability to prepare," says Zoi. "It was the smart business move." ...

Macquarie Bank is forecasting $40 a barrel next year, see Diary of a day trader . But they would have to believe that wouldn't they, given that they own Sydney Airport and most of the motorways in Sydney.

Wow - thats a big call !

I'll have to see if I can rustle up Macquarie's report and see what reasoning their analyst is giving...