The Bullroarer - Sunday 6 April 2008

ABC - Coal's days are numbered, says AGL boss

The head of one of Australia's largest energy companies says the future of coal-fired power stations is limited. Speaking on ABC1's Inside Business, AGL CEO Michael Fraser said it is unlikely any new coal generators will be built without significant improvements in technology and the ability to capture and store carbon.

Mr Fraser says he is accelerating the company's investment in wind, hydro and gas power in anticipation of a carbon-constrained future and that policy will require selling existing assets. "There is a whole range of opportunities and we've got our balance sheet deployed in some assets that really aren't core to our strategy'" he said.

Mr Fraser says it is likely that a decision to sell its PNG gas assets, which are believed to be valued at around $500 million, is likely to made in coming weeks. He says however no decision has been made on whether AGL will be a player assets a proposed privatisation of NSW energy assets. "I think we have to wait and see first what's for sale," he said.

SMH - Get used to being greener, poorer

AUSTRALIANS must accept that emissions trading is designed to make them pay more and lower their standard of living, at least where energy use is concerned, the Reserve Bank governor warns. Glenn Stevens said yesterday any attempt by workers to demand higher wages as compensation could increase inflation. There would also be little point in raising the price of energy if it did not result in lower consumption of it, Mr Stevens said. Responding to his comments, the Rudd Government's chief climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, told the Herald the Government could consider a GST-style package of tax cuts to head off calls for higher wages. These tax cuts could be funded by the sale of emission permits.

SMH - Solar expert wants same support as coal

ONE of Australia's leading solar engineers has criticised governments for a lack of support for the industry, contrasting it with the strong backing given to clean coal in the race to cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. "If we have a level playing field we will win," said Richard Corkish, the head of renewable energy engineering at the University of NSW.

In Victoria this week, the federal Minister for Energy, Martin Ferguson, launched the southern hemisphere's largest clean coal experiment, which is backed by big coal and gas companies, six universities and state governments. An International Energy Agency report has predicted that a commercial clean coal plant is unlikely to be operating before 2020. Just days earlier California was rolling out the largest commercial solar power project in the world, which will serve 162,000 homes south of Los Angeles. The $1 billion project by Southern California Edison will put advanced photovoltaic solar generating cells on 6 million square metres of commercial roof space.

Malcolm Turnbull - Climate Change, Economics and Tax Reform - Speech to Sydney Institute

The world’s governments have now accepted that our growing emissions of CO2 and similar greenhouse gases has caused the earth’s climate to warm and that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change we must dramatically reduce our emissions of those gases.

This global objective which is both consistent with the science and growing in acceptance is a reduction of emissions by 2050 to a level equal to 50 per cent of global emissions in 1990. Note that this is much, much larger than cutting 2050 emissions to half their business as usual level. The Stern Review estimated this would amount to a reduction to 23 per cent of the business as usual level.

This will be a costly exercise. We will all be faced with consequences of climate change whatever reduced levels of emissions are achieved. That can be described as the cost of adaptation, some of it certainly unavoidable. In addition we will be faced with the costs of reducing emissions. That can be described as the costs of mitigation.

For Australia, an example of the cost of adaptation is the many desalination plants being built around our coast line, or the National Plan for Water Security – $10 billion to secure the future of irrigated agriculture in a hotter, drier future. An example of the cost of mitigation will be the extra we will all pay for low emission energy. Gas is dearer than coal. Wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear are presently dearer than gas.

SMH - LNG production up 8% in 2007

Australia's liquefied natural gas (LNG) production rose eight per cent to 699.6 billion cubic feet in 2007, according to the nation's petroleum industry association. "The strong growth in LNG production is primarily as a result of increased production at the ConocoPhillips operated Darwin LNG project," Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association Ltd (APPEA) chief executive Belinda Robinson said in a statement Thursday. "This plant commenced operations in the first quarter of 2006."

APPEA's statistics also revealed a marginal decrease in crude oil production and a continued rise in gas sales. Crude oil production in 2007 was 120 million barrels, down three per cent on 2006. Combined crude, condensate and liquefied petroleum gas production was 196.7 million barrels, down one per cent. "The slight decline in liquids production can largely be attributed to a combination of shut-downs on significant producing assets and natural field decline," Ms Robinson said.

SMH - Hurdles to clear before carbon trading starts

Australia has three key hurdles to overcome if it wants an emissions trading system to operate by its scheduled 2010 starting date, the global head of carbon emissions for Merrill Lynch says. London-based Abyd Kamali said there needed to be reliable carbon price data and information technology infrastructure. He also said the carbon services sector must have capacity to deal with the new work load in order meet the federal government's July 1 2010 deadline to have the trading system running. Mr Kamali said the emissions data had to be reliable enough to provide the technical integrity for the trading scheme. He said the price for carbon could be as cheap as $10 to $15 a tonne or could surge to as much $60 a tonne.

The Australian - Roc tumbles 17pc on well woes

The Australian - Imports to close more refineries

AT least two of Australia's remaining seven oil refineries are likely to shut down within the next decade because they will not be able to compete with surplus Asian refined petroleum products, Caltex managing director Des King predicts. Mr King said yesterday that by 2030 Australia was likely to be importing between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of its petrol, jet fuel and diesel which meant that at any one time there would be a huge volume of liquid transport fuels that would be on the water and subject to disruption. "That is a huge energy security risk," he said, because Australia would grind to a halt without liquid transport fuels. Mr King, who has headed Australia's only listed oil refiner for the past two years, told an Institute of Chartered Accountants breakfast that without a viable refinery industry Australia would be left exposed to the increasing international clamour for oil.

SMH - Easter prompts a dip in car sales

Australian vehicles sales dipped three per cent in March, the fall flowing from the Easter break rather than a slowing economy or rising interest rates, officials say. The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) said 91,285 vehicles were retailed last month compared to the 94,392 sold in March last year, a fall of 3.3 per cent. But the FCAI said with three fewer selling days because of Easter, daily sales were actually nine per cent higher last month, suggesting consumers had not been deterred by economic concerns.

The Australian - Leighton wins $1bn India coal contract

Frogblog - Damming the Mohikinui River eels

This hydro dam will require Meridian to flood the Mokihinui Gorge, which is home to endangered bats, kiwi, snails, kaka and whio. It will also prevent many fish from swimming out to sea to breed. 12 of those fish species are natives, and four of them are endangered. And, of particular interest to Metiria and Russel are the long fin eels.

Long fin eels live for about 100 years if they are allowed. They swim all the way from their river in New Zealand to deep sea trenches off the coast in Tonga where they breed. The children then make their way slowly back to the same river from where their parents came.

Frogblog - Electric cars are not the whole solution

Surely the Hive doesn’t seriously think the solution to New Zealand’s transport problems is to replace all the Fords and Holdens in Auckland’s traffic jams with Telsas. While electric cars are better than petrol cars in terms of climate change, they still place the same or similar demands on our roading infrastructure, our public health and road toll, our congestion and our isolated communities.

Roads need to return to being shared public spaces. Too many have become dangerous barriers that sever buildings and people from each other. Roads take up over 500 million square metres of land in New Zealand. Promoting public transport as well as active transport, like walking, skateboarding and cycling, is a more economically sensible, as well as healthier, safer and fairer way to resolve our transport problems than simply improving our car fleet.

NZ Herald - Trust expects seven-figure windfall from power station

Construction of the station starts next month and will take two years. It will plug into existing transmission lines and eventually produce enough power to supply 100,000 homes. Mighty River Power chief executive Doug Heffernan said the fact that Maori owned significant geothermal land is good for future power generation as well as the nation's economic development. "It means we've got a long-term relationship, because they've got some skin on the ground. They don't want to sell their land and they've got the geothermal resources beneath their feet."

The Australian - Worley buys Intec in deepwater plunge

WORLEYPARSONS has bought hydrocarbons engineering company Intec Engineering for US$108.5 million ($119 million), to add to its deepwater pipeline capacity and gain access to new and emerging markets. Houston-based Intec provides services to offshore exploration and production as well as the transportation sectors of the oil and gas industry, with a focus on deep water up 2400m.

The Age - Green push gets down to business

BUSINESS will be expected to massively boost investment in Victoria's stressed environment under a State Government plan to save species threatened by climate change. Launching a draft blueprint for rebuilding devastated ecosystems over the next 20 to 50 years, Environment Minister Gavin Jennings yesterday called on the community to start viewing the restoration of the environment as an economic opportunity rather than a cost.

Auction revenue -> tax cuts?

I see major problems here, possibly leading to more delays. The big emitters could link arms and say 'none of us will pay more than 50c per tonne' or 'we offset'. On the other hand a floor price could make the size of the tax cut more certain. For example if the floor price was $20 per tonne of CO2 then 400Mt would raise $8bn.

The second problem is that of rebound whereby folks spent their tax cut on energy intensive goods with likely inflation. One of those goods being food. We don't know yet whether producers and consumers will actually cut back or switch to lower carbon alternatives. Maybe they'll just bawl their eyes out...more tax cuts, more exemptions, warming is crap, we need special treatment etc etc.

The time for half measures and talk is over. These companies that are forever trying to remove themselves from action on climate change need to take a good hard look at themselves. Do they not understand what is at stake here? Do they not have children and grandchildren of their own? Action on climate change must begin to be removed from economics. Governments have to start telling businesses that from a certain time "this is the way we will be doing things now". No preferential treatment, no special arrangements for particular sections of business. The economomists would argue that this will create uncertainty but how is that different to any other day?
If companies start to remove their business from Australia because their profit margins are decreasing then let them go. I guarantee there will be a line up of other companies to take their place, ones that have an environmental conscience and genuinely want to make a difference. Once society really, really takes action on climate change companies that simply greenwash their publicity while just continuing on their business as usual, profit at all cost ways will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Greener and poorer? What a strange idea.

If I give up my car - which the average Aussie 2.6 person household spends about $120 on each week - and use the train - $30 per week, times 1.1 average full-time jobs per household, plus half again for those in the household not employed, I'm spending $50 a week on transport. I am thus "greener", and save $70 a week.

So long as the power bill goes up by less than $70 a week (higher bill due to increased generation buildout required due to more electrified mass transit) I'll be better off. The average Aussie household uses 42kWh/day in electricity and natural gas, 300kWh/week, and pays $0.17/kWh for it, or $51. So the electricity rate would have to more than double before we're worse off.

And that's not going to happen unless there's a really enormous carbon tax - $100/tonne would be $0.1325/kWh for coal-fired plants, so we'd have to have a carbon tax of about $200/tonne to suck up the spare $70 - or we decided to build something stupidly expensive like nuclear.

And of course, with higher prices you can just reduce consumption. Other countries consume less electricity than us... France, Germany and Italy consume around 8,000kWh of electricity to our 12,000kWh, and they're not exactly living in barbarism.

The RBA bloke lacks imagination... which should not come as a surprise to any of us, but still.

And what will you do with the $70 a week you save? Spend it ... and thus fuel the burning of energy needed to create whatever goods and services you spend it on? Perhaps you'll leave it in the bank instead ... but then the bank will lend it out to other people who'll use it to burn energy. Either directly or indirectly the energy still gets burned, the carbon still released into the atmosphere.

Perhaps if _everyone_ stopped driving their cars and used the train or bus. Sounds good, but look at how crowded and inadequate public transport already is in most Australian cities. It just won't cope with a surge in patronage, which is happening anyway due to soaring fuel costs.

There's a very good reason why climate change will only be addressed with greenwash. Our economy is based on a model of infinite growth. When the growth stops we go into recession. If it significantly shrinks we go into _depression_. Economic growth is directly related to ever-increasing profits, jobs, money-in-circulation, consumption, population. The more growth, the more energy consumed, the more carbon is created.

Its all very well our government talking tough about CC, but in reality all they'll do is (eventually) introduce an ineffective carbon credits pass-the-buck scheme that doesn't really punish the burning of fossil fuels. "Clean" energy sources will struggle to grow enough to even keep up with the continual growth of the economy, let alone start to take market share from fossil fuels. There's no way our govt will do anything real to address CC, because to do so would be to tell voters that, sorry, we're voluntarily putting the country into recession for the sake of your grandkids.

Anyway, there's more immediate problems coming down the tube that TPTB will be hard pressed to cope with. We have a credit crunch that threatens to cause deep recession in the western world - don't imagine we'll escape it unscathed. We also have what looks increasingly like Peak Oil, here and now, which means fuel cutbacks are being forced on us & are going to get worse over the next few years. Recession, whether we like it or not ... and one we may not emerge from.

That's probably enough doom for one day :)