The Bullroarer - Monday 29th December 2008

The Age - The road to perdition

Getting people out of cars with their enthusiastic support is not difficult but it requires political boldness, a clear, health-related message and an unwavering commitment to quality public transport, walking and cycling. Reducing car dependency also has huge political and security implications. Given the importance of climate change and the upcoming battle for declining oil supplies, it would be a huge mistake to carry on with a car-based pattern of suburban expansion, road building and poor quality penetration of public transport to distant suburbs.

Reducing oil dependency is the smart thing to do unless Australians want to compete with China for increasingly scarce supplies and be dependent on politically unstable regimes in the Middle East. We should all ask why Sweden has adopted a policy to be oil-free by 2020, and reflect on the logic. It is all about protecting Swedish citizens from future shocks related to climate change, peak oil and price hikes and creating a peaceful and secure society that is truly resilient.

ABC - Gas supplies almost back to 'full capacity'

Apache Energy says repair work on its gas processing plant on Varanus Island has been delayed by recent cyclone activity in the North West. In June, a gas pipeline burst, cutting the state's domestic gas supply by a third. A spokesman for Apache Energy, David Parker, says the plant is now operating at 85 per cent capacity, but it is taking longer than expected to reach full production.

University of Queensland - UQ student wins national competition with geothermal power essay

A UQ PhD student exploring the possibilities of geothermal power has won a national award for his sustainable energy outlook for Australia. Aleks Atrens, a PhD student with UQ's School of Engineering, was awarded the under 22 age group prize in a new national essay competition aimed at encouraging young Australians to consider our energy future.

The inaugural National Energy Essay Competition (NEEC) saw more than 200 entrants submit a 10, 000 word essay addressing the energy challenges facing Australia in the next 40 years and beyond. In his winning essay, Mr Atrens suggests that a range of power generation systems will need to be constructed to meet growing energy demands and limit severe environmental harm.

Business Spectator - AGL moves into position

Trading halts for three companies this morning is a strong signal that the latest bout of consolidation of the coal seam gas sector is about to get underway. Unlike the flurry of large-scale activity throughout this year, however, this time the action is moving into NSW.

The securities of AGL, Sydney Gas and AJ Lucas Group were all placed in trading halts this morning: AGL’s and AJ Lucas’s because they are both involved in discussions concerning a "material transaction". Sydney Gas is in a trading halt "in relation to a takeover bid." AJ Lucas became Sydney Gas’s major shareholder, with about 20 per cent of its capital, this year.

As the joint venture partner of Sydney Gas in its Hunter Valley and Camden and Sydney projects, AGL already has its foot on the group’s key resources. Sydney Gas is potentially of real strategic consequence for AGL, the largest supplier of gas into Sydney and Newcastle.

There is an expectation of an increasing shortfall of gas for the Sydney market over the next decade that coal seam gas is expected to meet. With the more deeply explored and developed Queensland coal seam gas fields earmarked for the plethora of export LNG plants on the drawing boards, NSW gas will come into increasing focus.

Sydney Gas’s reserves and prospects are located close to the NSW electricity grid and the main gas transmission pipelines into Newcastle and Sydney. It already has long-term contracts to supply AGL. The joint venture partners have talked about an ambition of supplying up to 20 per cent of the existing NSW gas market by 2015 from its resources at Camden and the Hunter Valley and up to 50 per cent beyond 2015.

The Australian - AGL makes a $171 million bid for Sydney Gas

AGL Energy has continued to shore up its NSW coal seam gas (CSG) reserves during the current economic downturn. ... AGL last week agreed to pay $370 million for AJ Lucas and Molopo Gas's CSG acreage in the Gloucester Basin, north of Newcastle. AGL says the Hunter exploration project, which it already holds half of, is the main prize and Sydney Gas's 50 per cent stake was worth $115 million, or two-thirds of the purchase price. By taking Camden and the Hunter project, AGL substantially boosts its ability to supply Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong with gas.

The Age - Arrow to buy Pure for $673m

Arrow Energy, Royal Dutch Shell's partner in coal-seam gas in northeast Australia, agreed to buy Pure Energy Resources for $673 million in cash and stock. ... "A combination of Arrow and Pure will drive further upside from Pure's acreage, and provide a commercialization path for Pure's reserves as a result of Arrow's downstream exposure through both Arrow's existing domestic power generation projects and proposed LNG export projects," Arrow Managing Director Nick Davies said in the statement.

Darling Downs Chronicle - Downs to ride out slump

THERE'S no gloom and doom on the western horizons with Toowoomba set to be insulated from the slump, courtesy of the mining activity, particularly in the Surat Basin. Bust is the last thing on Easternwell Group commercial general manager Marco Waanders' agenda. He said yesterday the major resource industry player was on track to double its workforce. He joined the chorus of Surat Basin insiders declaring the global economic downturn would not substantially hurt their projects.

This is despite mining giants Xstrata, Oz Minerals and Macarthur Coal announcing 500 job cuts on Tuesday and an expected downturn in Central Queensland coking coal projects. Mr Waanders was confident the family-owned company would create up to 600 new Toowoomba jobs within 18 months. “Everyone still needs gas to fire power stations,” Mr Waanders said from one of the company's five Garden City sites.

Bloomberg - Blue Energy, Eastern Lead Australia Coal-Seam Gas Stocks Higher

Blue Energy Ltd. and Eastern Star Gas Ltd. led Australian coal-seam gas stocks higher in Sydney trading, boosted by two takeover bids in the industry last week that offered more than a 50 percent premium to the share prices. Perth-based Blue Energy jumped as much as 31 percent to 19 cents on the Australian Stock Exchange at 2:02 p.m. local time, while Sydney-based Eastern Star Gas gained as much as 22 percent. Rival coal-seam gas explorers Metgasco Ltd., Arrow Energy Ltd. and Bow Energy Ltd. also advanced.

SMH - Cash-strapped Eden Energy finds a lifeline

EDEN ENERGY, an ASX-listed minnow that suspended itself from trading because of a cash shortage, may have found a lifeline by selling most of its overseas coal-seam gas business. In a sign of the capital shortage facing small explorers, the energy company said it had entered into a conditional contract to sell 90 per cent of its share in licences to explore coal fields in Wales to lower its cashflow needs.

Adelaide Advertiser - Investors swimming with the fishes

Grand Private Equities stockbroker Wesley Legrand said the ASX had been "ravaged and decimated" this year. He said mum and dad investors had been "taken to the cleaners by immoral, unethical and unregulated hedge fund short selling in combination with the greatest global margin call in history".

Of the few companies to gain ground in the past year, four of the top 10 are in the energy sector which has been propelled by takeover speculation and the blossoming coal seam gas sector. "In the short term, LNG and coal seam gas are hot property," Mr Legrand said. Linc Energy is number one, up 120 per cent, while Origin Energy has climbed 93.5 per cent.

Clean Energy Council - Renewable Energy Target next step to White Paper (pdf)

The industry is encouraged by the government’s move to maintain momentum by starting the scheme in 2010 and highlighting the importance of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations at around 450ppm CO2-e.

However, the shallow initial targets and the anticipated low carbon prices will not drive the significant transformations needed in the Australian energy sector. This approach can only be justified if the government moves immediately to deploy a suite of complementary measures to drive multi-billion dollar investment in clean energy technologies and drive energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

SMH - Virgin Blue removes and reduces fuel surcharges

Budget airline Virgin Blue will eliminate the fuel surcharge on domestic flight airfares and reduce the surcharges for Pacific Blue trans-Tasman and Pacific Island flights following a dramatic fall in the price of jet fuel. - Australia taking bids for $182M in early cleantech projects

Victorian government plans majority of grants for carbon capture and storage, with money set aside for energy projects in solar, geothermal, biomass, wave and storage. The Australian state of Victoria has issued a request for proposals for AUD$182 million (USD$119 million) in pre-commercial cleantech projects to be implemented through 2015. The government has said it wants to help foster technologies with some technical risks that could eventually help the state reach its goal of a 60 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2050.

SMH - Rudd steps up renewable energy revolution

A $500 million renewable energy fund to kick-start clean power plants across Australia will be brought forward, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. The fund, originally to be spent over six years starting next year, will instead be invested over 18 months from next year.

ABC - Indigenous communities warned over 'carbon-baggers'

There are claims that unscrupulous carbon brokers have been approaching Indigenous communities and trying to sign them up to questionable carbon trading deals. The newly created Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce has urged Indigenous communities to be wary of entering any agreements.

ABC - Kimberley tidal power plant still on the agenda

The proponents of a failed tidal power station in the Kimberley town of Derby, say their recent plan to build a similar project near Wyndham is still moving ahead. ... The proposed site of the power plant is 25 kilometres north of Wyndham. If built, it will be the third largest tidal power plant in the world.

ABC - Site named for WA gas precinct

The Western Australian Government has named James Price Point, 60 kilometres north of Broome, as the site for its proposed liquefied natural gas precinct. The gas hub would offer offshore LNG processors working the rich Browse Basin the opportunity to use port facilities only 300 to 400 kilometres away.

ABC - Solar panel rules change in SA

A change of rules in South Australia will make installation of solar panels exempt from needing planning approval.

TVNZ - NZ energy records posted

Record crude oil prices, petrol prices and geothermal electricity generation marked New Zealand's energy trends in the September quarter this year.

Peak Energy - Grid Expansion: A Lifeline for Renewable Energy

Peak Energy - Stanford Research Ranks Energy Options

Peak Energy - Raser's Geothermal Jackpot

Peak Energy - The Oil giants are itching to invade Iraq

Peak Energy - The Sting, Part 3

Peak Energy - The Disintegrated States of America

That old (December 14) article in the SMH on the $500 million dollars Rudd is providing for renewable power just emphasises the moral bankruptcy of this government.The amount is so small compared to the task that it is derisory.

I wonder how it compares to what they are spending on CCS to prop up the coal industry.

Re The Age article - "the road to perdition" - It is all very well to talk about getting cars off the road but what about long distance truck transport?There are still billions being spent on road tunnels.
Never mind about the lack of plans for rail electrification.Never mind desperately selling off our natural gas reserves.Never mind grossly inflated levels of immigration which just serve to drive us deeper into the pit.

Perdition is certainly where we are headed.

Happy 2009 everyone! Best wishes for our next 365 spins around the planet.

Unfortunately Sydney's fireworks this year were loaded with wrong-headed symbolism. - Profligate expenditure on non-renewable resources at a time of global financial collapse, carbon footprint off the scale, and an artistic theme ("Firestorm") carefully calculated to attract tourists from Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo...

Will the world's ability to forecast events be any better than in 2008? One can only hope!

The thing about the rails is a bit muddled in The Age. It's really not difficult to get people to use any particular form of transport. It's the same as any business. Make your service frequent, reliable and pleasant, and people will use it. Make it infrequent, unreliable and unpleasant and they'll avoid it.

A typical first public transport experience for people in the outer suburbs on the weekend is coming to lonely bus stop and finding no timetable, and waiting for a bus which turns out to be 30-60 minutes apart to take them on a slow and rough trip of 20 minutes to the train station, then a train 20-45 minutes apart, 40 minutes on the train to the inner city, a total travel time of 80-165 minutes.

A more experienced public transport user will make it in the 80 minutes (still rather a lot for a 20-40km journey), since they'll know they can look up timetables online, and there's even a trip planner to lay it all out for them. But whether people use a service regularly is often determined by their first experiences with it, and first time users won't know this stuff.

A typical worker living in the inner city and working in the middle suburbs, or vice versa, living near a train station, trying to be at work at 0900, and expecting a 20 minute trip, they'll arrive at the station at 0820 to find a train scheduled for 0822, great! "Connex wishes to advise that the 0822 to Flinders St has been cancelled. Connex apologises for any inconvenience." Damn! Next train at 0832. "Connex wishes to advise that the 0832 Flinders St train has been delayed, and is now expected in twelve minutes." So it'll depart at 0834. It arrives and because the last train was delayed is packed. The worker struggles on somehow and spends a rather sweaty 15 minutes on the train. At the third last station a guy in a wheelchair gets on, the driver comes out to lay down a ramp and help him on, the worker steps off the train out of the way and three people surge in to take his place. The train drives off without him. He has to take the next train. He's late to work.

Suddenly the peak hour traffic and $18 a day parking in the inner city doesn't look so bad.

Let's not even consider what happens if you live in one outer suburb and work in another.

An infrequent, unreliable and unpleasant service loses customers. A frequent, reliable and pleasant one gains them. It's not very complicated.

The article in The Age misses this entirely. And really it's not a question of spending money on infrastructure, whether cycle paths or new train lines. It's management. Melbourne's train system with manual signals managed 270 million passengers annually, virtually the same set of railways with electronic signalling in 2008 struggled with 170 million, and Connex claimed a "capacity crisis". Indeed, capacity was stretched - but not that of the trains and rail and signalling, only the management capacity.

Similarly, sensible management of roads and neighbourhoods would make cars the least attractive transport option.