Open Thread

Open Thread 1

This is a general discussion thread where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

I’ll start a new thread once this one drops off the bottom of the front page, which by past experience will be about every 2 months.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

137 replies on “Open Thread 1”

Those who think nuclear is a major part of the climate solution are in something akin to a Prisoner’s Dilemma with the major political parties. That is each alternative is unsatisfactory. If the ETS debate leads to an early election the major choices are
1) the pro-nuclear and pro-coal Liberal/National Party with no carbon cuts
2) the antinuclear Labor Party who will be weak on carbon cuts
3) the antinuclear Greens Party who will be strong on carbon cuts but lack economic management cred.

If the LNP were annihilated in an election we would get a Labor-Green coalition which would shun nuclear for perhaps a decade. They would pour billions into clean coal and feed-in tariffs before twigging to the right approach. I would prefer not to have an election and for the LNP to push the nuclear option. If they don’t maybe no-one else will.


Is passing the Australian CPRS (ETS) in its latest incarnation a good thing (presumably on the basis that anything is better than nothing) or a bad thing? (because we might just get forced into some proper action post Copenhagen). Such is the weight of bovine excreta in the press and blogosphere that I can’t actually make my mind up (though I do tend towards the second). Even worse I can’t even tell if that makes me a hopeless optimist or not.


would prefer not to have an election and for the LNP to push the nuclear option.

I think they pushed that last night. ;-)

AB asked

Is passing the Australian CPRS (ETS) in its latest incarnation a good thing (presumably on the basis that anything is better than nothing) or a bad thing?

It’s far worse than nothing. It will give business certainty that they can continue to increase their emissions and be paid to do so. It will taint all subsequent attempts to improve it in just the way that the European scheme’s apparent flaws were adduced against subsequent schemes. We would be a lot better off with NOTHING.

With a bit of luck the Liberals will rip themselves to pieces stopping this, and then descend into a rabble as the election is called. The ALP wins and negotiates a serrious scheme with the Greens.


With it being unlikely that nuclear will make an appearance here any time soon, what are people’s thoughts on grid-connected solar?
I’m tempted to get one installed, and have had a quote, but aside from the article elsewhere on this site highlighting the problems with the bonus RECS (without which I’m afraid the system would be outside my budget), is grid-connected solar of any value with regards to climate change?
I like the idea of reducing my bills (once it’s paid off), but my main deciding factor would be in terms of reducing my carbon footprint.

Is this nothing more than a token gesture? Is a token gesture better than nothing??


Good News – Looks like we get to debate the ETS after Copenhagen. Hopefully now we will see sensible solutions like Nuclear put on the table.


@cerebus if you get PV do it for character building reasons not economics. I got about 2kw in 2005 at a cost of ~$20k with $4k rebate. While I live in cloudy SW Tas (with 2009 being the cloudiest year so far) I also have free firewood for cooking and heating and make a lot of biodiesel. I get net metering not feed-in tariffs and my electricity bill is about $200 in credit.

In my opinion PV is not an economic proposition except for outback stations. Ditto biofuels and wood burning. My fear is that if many of us get PV our neighbours will think ‘problem solved’ while Hazelwood etc spew as much CO2 as ever. A trickle of token PV installation lets the govt off the hook. On the other hand there’s a chance grid power could go through the roof (as in prices) with or without soft carbon taxation.

Does that help?


Picking up the off-topic conversation from “The Nuclear Economy” post: There are a lot of people who don’t want nuclear because they want us to go beck to a simpler life (bikes, local produce, …). A lot of the general population would be sympathetic if all countries did the same. But I don’t think many will be happy if India and China are going to have lots of cheap energy and we in the Western world aren’t. And even if Australia could muddle along on renewables, there is no chance of India and China doing so. We need them to go nuclear and that means we go nuclear or become a banana republic.


Awareness raising campaigns are a good way to get people thinking about climate change and to keep CC in the public conscience, but when they target the emissions of a particular industry or of individual’s actions without providing any realistic alternative I think they can become counterproductive. The “polar bear” example which Wilful provided a link to above, leaves me wondering what any “frequent flyer” is going to make of it.

What is the message behind this campaign? Air travel is a big contributor to CC so… don’t fly? Not likely. Keep it to a minimum? Travel only when essential? No joy flights??? The emissions reduction potential just keeps sinking.

Where air travel is concerned there is really no alternative.

Where does this leave the frequent flyer? Well, they can either take their flights, all the while racked with guilt, or they can put their head in the sand – “It doesn’t apply to me, all my flights are essential.”, or they can reject it as a whole lot of hogwash… and perhaps fly on to Paris… just to prove their point.

At the moment most of the CC public education campaigns are of this ilk. In Australia (Or is it just VIC?) we have the “black balloons” version, where black balloons squeeze out of every common household appliance in every house until they eventually fill the sky. The message is obviously energy conservation. The response has been a reluctance to own up to using the dryer.

Environment groups and governments alike must change tack, move away from the pointlessly useless guilt approach and do as BNC does; seek the best alternatives and promote those alternatives, because without them we are up the proverbial creek.


@John, it’s interesting you mention that economics is not the reason to go with the grid-connected solar….with a 3kw system in South Australia the impression I got was that over the lifetime of the system there is a substantial saving over doing nothing (with obvious assumptions made about feed-in tariffs, average sunshine, power price increases etc).
My main concern is that on top of the bonus RECs issue, that installing such a system is an empty (and not cheap!) gesture….in a perfect world, if everyone installed a solar system, would it have any meaningful impact? I know everyone having solar is not a full solution itself, but does it have any part to play?


cerebus, have you read Gene Preston’s analysis of the rooftop solar PV options? They cover the cost-benefit issues as well as it can be done without very detailed calculations. The bottom line is that rooftop PV is not an economical way for society to reduce emissions or generate meaningful energy:


@Marion Brook – you are absolutely right. This sort of guilt-based propaganda is not too effective to begin with and depends on a quickly vanishing residual Calvinism that was an inherent part of the culture of the English speaking peoples. Even if it strike a cord there, it certainly will not in places like China where the bulk of the population would see bears falling out of the sky as free food (yes, I am being sarcastic)

At any rate selecting aviation as a target is just stupid – not only is it of minor importance compare to ground vehicle, and water-borne transportation as a polluter, it is the one mode that is the least amenable to conversion away from combustion-based motive power.

Digging a bit deeper, however you will find that the roots of the group fielding this video, are with those that are resisting the expansion of airports. Personal experience with such people has convinced me that they are not motivated by any concerns over climate, or greenhouse gases, but with protecting the value of their property which they feel will be lowered due to various factors precipitated by any change to the airport near them. These groups have been active for years, and have only lately thought to raise the specter of GHG in their propaganda.


@cerebus if you put $20k in the bank at 5% interest you might be able to get $1k a year indefinitely. For that outlay you might only save $300-$500 in electricity bills with net metering and no FiT. However within a decade coal and gas fired electricity prices may double. If there is a FiT how long before it times out? If plug in electric cars were readily available would you get one?

The bigger question is if every house had PV whether the grid could cope. At 3kw a house that might neutralise hot weather air conditioning demand both in the house and in shops and offices. Other times it might present the same problems as wind power surges. As a community investment I’d think of it as say (cost per watt)/(average capacity factor) = $6/.16 = $37.50 per average watt. Way too expensive.


Airport resisters are, if you’ll pardon the metaphor, the tip of the iceberg. Basically we’ve seen lots of people flock to one side or the other of the AGW debate based on perceived (relative) advantage. The public is getting cynical and annoyed. The whole thing has started to look like politics as usual, with disingenuous arguments galore. Barry Cassidy on Insiders is usually as calm as can be, but was scathing about the PM and others associating single hot spells with global warming, after Andrew Bolt had been criticised for arguing based on the lack of warming in the last decade.

Speaking of TV. Folk in Aus can still see “Addicted to Money” at In the last episode, “Peak Everything”, you can see Paul Ehrlich in 1971 saying that making a significant change to the amount of atmospheric CO2 would be unwise. Still true today. [Though given that the climate’s next natural move is an Ice Age, I’d be a bit worried if we took the foot off the accelerator and slammed it on the brake. Not that that’s likely, but you wouldn’t want to make a geo-engineering mistake.]


Here is an excellent summary of the Copenhagen diagnosis by John Cook:

In sum:

There is a common theme emerging from the most recent peer reviewed research. When uncertainties expressed in the IPCC AR4 report are subsequently resolved, they point to a more rapidly changing and more sensitive climate than previously believed. Skeptics tend to characterise the IPCC as imposing an alarmist bias in their conclusions. The latest empirical data indicates the opposite is the case.


Another interesting comparison here:

Figure 1 also underscores just how much global warming the planet is experiencing. Since 1970, the Earth’s heat content has been rising at a rate of 6 x 1021 Joules per year. In more meaningful terms, the planet has been accumulating energy at a rate of 190,260 GigaWatts. Considering a typical nuclear power plant has an output of 1 GigaWatt, imagine 190,000 nuclear power plants pouring their energy output directly into our oceans.

And that’s 65,000 new 1 GWe power stations pumping their entire thermal output into the oceans each year. So, if we built 10,000 x 1 GWe stations over the next 40 years, it would be the equivalent of just 15% of 1 year of ocean thermal energy gain due to CO2 and other trace greenhouse gases. That puts the GHG problem in context.

(Another analogy I’ve heard is this: the human warming effect of extra GHG is the equivalent to every person in the world running 29 hair dryers continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. What’s worse, each person is switching on another 3 hair dryers every year).


This is just brilliant:

I keep running into recurring commentary on the snarkiness of the scientists behind these e-mails. They’re really entrenched, people seem surprised to note. Got a real siege mentality going on, speak unkindly of the skeptics, take all kinds of cheap shots unbecoming of the lab coat. These people can be downright assholes.

No shit, Sherlock. I was a scientist myself for the longest time, and the people I’d gladly drop into a vat of nitric acid start with the Pope and go all the way down to anyone who voted for Stephen Harper’s conservatives.

The apologists have stepped up, pointed out that these were private conversations and we shouldn’t expect them to carry the same veneer of civility that one would expect in a public presentation. “Science doesn’t work because we’re all nice,” remarked one widely-quoted NASA climatologist. “Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works.”

No. I don’t think he’s got it right. I don’t think most of these people do.

Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”?
There’s this myth in wide circulation: rational, emotionless Vulcans in white coats, plumbing the secrets of the universe, their Scientific Methods unsullied by bias or emotionalism. Most people know it’s a myth, of course; they subscribe to a more nuanced view in which scientists are as petty and vain and human as anyone (and as egotistical as any therapist or financier), people who use scientific methodology to tamp down their human imperfections and manage some approximation of objectivity.

H/T to MacDoc for this link.


air transport produces 3% of global CO2 and is one of the most efficient ways of moving stuff from A to B.
unfortunately, you cannot power a liner with electricity or nuclear or whatever. to eliminate the CO2 emissions from air transport there is only one way: eliminate air transport, which is not really an option. imagine al gore travelling by boat :D (btw, shipping produces a lot more CO2 and pollution than air transport, shipping use heavy oil, very dirty stuff, jets use highly refined fuel)

as for the climagate story, if the CRU folks have nothing to fear, why dont they make codes and databases public? the scientific process doesnt boil down to just peer reviewing, expecially if the reviewers are your drinking buddies.

unfortunately the code and some data has been made accidentally public, and it shows one simple fact: fraud. anyone who can read code can see that. this regardless of what these guys talked about in their mails, hiding the head in the sand and pretend it didnt happen wont help anyone. unless one is a fanatic so blinded by faith to consider fraud an acceptable mean to reach a certain end.


unfortunately the code and some data has been made accidentally public, and it shows one simple fact: fraud. anyone who can read code can see that.

Oh, I see. Then it will be a simple task for you to point out where the fraud has occurred, won’t it? Go on then.


In my old-fashioned way I thought a liner was a ship. I guess it makes sense that airlines run (air)liners. You can certainly run a ship on nuclear, and nuclear ships can go fast by ship standards. Not that this would be a good idea unless the nuclear bits were pretty unusable by any bad guys, or they were very well protected.


In theory, you can also run an aeroplane of nuclear power (the ORNL aircraft reactor experiment notwithstanding) by creating synthetic liquid fuels such as NH3 — ammonia (investigated, and technically possible, though less efficient than hydrocarbons). Liquid ammonia was used as the fuel of the rocket airplane, the X-15. For some relevant links, see:


The reality for aviation fuels unfortunately is going to be coal and nat.gas derived synfuels like the product being developed by Syntroleum. The American Armed Forces has made it clear that they favour this fuel and that they intend to use their purchasing power to create a market for it.The airlines will follow the lead of military aviation as they always have, and that will be that.

Once this happens, any other attempts at marketing an alternate will face a huge uphill battle finding enough investors to get its product through type approval by the FAA and other similar authorities.

So for at lest the short to medium term, the issue of jet fuel is sewed up.


Unless they make yet another loophole in the ETS the use of alternative FF derived fuels will push against the CO2 cap. Since process emissions will be comparable to tailpipe emissions the well-to-wheels CO2 could in some cases be double that of petroleum derived fuel. Therefore if they really want coal or natgas sourced jet fuel then stationary generation will have to either decrease or go low carbon. I see they may be trying to bamboozle the authorities by combining biomass and coal. As in ‘aw shucks we didn’t realise we were using 80% coal 20% straw we thought it was the other way round’.

I don’t think Fischer Tropsch or other synfuels will keep pace with oil depletion, not even China’s large scale Bergius (hydrogenated) CTL plans. As with the decades just after WW2 it could be just the military and the elites who fly while the rest take the train.


First – despite the contentions of various green groups, aviation is small potatoes compared to ground and waterborne transportation in the GHG arena. Thus because of its economic and military importance, and the fact that there is no other choice, aviation will get a pass on CO2.

Second – if it only has to service this market, and given that it will be done slowly with blends, synfuels can be developed fast enough to meet demand.

Third – the logistical and regulatory mechanics of jet fuel production, distribution, approval AND taxation does not allow for a competitive market for different fuel-types.

For all intents and purposes this is a closed subject. The military and industry have seen the writing on the wall and have taken steps to identify a viable solution, it’s a done deal. Coal-based synfuels have captured this sector. Point Final


DV82XL is absolutely correct. The aviation sector accounts for about 2% of GHG emissions worldwide, and is of such strategic and economic importance that any significant reduction of aviation will not be tolerated by any state on the planet.

This brings me to a topic I’d like to investigate on this open thread, namely, thethe interests of soveriegn states.

Consider the standard non-nuclear green/renewables model of using expensive high-tech industrial equipment to tap low enegy density power flows through the natural environment. It will require a great reduction of energy consumption by the populace as a whole to make their schemes work (assuming they can be made to work at all). The standard green propaganda on this front has been directed at private firms and citizens of free countries. That’s fine for propaganda purposes, but there’s another set of entities which are not subject to their usual diatribes, and by definition cannot be subject to them… the autonomous nation-state.

a nation-state operates according to certain dynamics within the Great Power system. These dynamics are dictated by immutable evolutionary forces. The state or coalition of states which dominate the world-system in the future will be the one which embraces the social, political, technological and economic characteristics which most effectively promote the ability of that entity to impose its will within its sphere of influence over the will of its competitors. A ‘renewables’ only state will find itself at great disadvantage in this future world, even after peak oil happens, and even assuming all the nuclear reactors are shut down. Sooner or later some anbitious Power will realise that there is an enourmous source of (physical and political) power lying in the still-extuant coal fields, and act on that knowledge. This is likely in an impoverished futurity such as the ‘renewables’ fantasists would lead us into.

This outcome is all the more likely considering that the energy impoverishment such as the green ‘renewables’ ideologues intend everyone to live under will result in the fragmentation of the global transportation, communication and trade systems into regionalised, indeed, Balkanised arrangements which will be rife with conflict between the newly-impoverished provincial entities.

I’m not going to outline a scenario whereby a new aggressor finds a smooth path to world power laid out on account of the fool policy I’ve just described, because I’m sure most of you are quite capable of imagining one for yourselves.


A good starting point for understanding CPRS is yesterday’s “Inside Business”. I certainly found Michael Hitchens enlightening: It confirms the view from the right that it is just a new tax [and we remember that Obama thought the American equivalent was going to pay for his programs, till Congress got at it]. I certainly think that its wildly optimistic to build a brickwall cap and hope the magic of the free market will come up with the best answer. Given that nuclear is excluded from the possible solutions here, it is quite likely that the only way market forces can do the job is by destroying the economy. First build new power plants, then turn the old ones off. Nothing else has a snowball’s chance of being politically acceptable.


As the ETS floor price of CO2 will be $10 per tonne each kg will cost at least 1c. A litre of Fischer Tropsch jet fuel made from coal in Australia might be penalised 5c or double that of jet fuel made from oil. That’s because an FT plant produces a lot more CO2 than a refinery even though the end products are the same. The cost of a ticket on a flight from Perth to Sydney might go up something like $15 if I have the parameters right.

Perhaps we could live with coal based jet fuel if coal was eliminated from making cement, steel and electricity. In particular if baseload generation was steered away from coal we could live with a lesser amount of CO2 from coal based synfuels. Depending on the country that could be from 40-80% of current emissions to 2 X 2% = 4% .


John Newlands – At this point it hardly matters, the choice has been made. Both military and civil aviation has made a selection, and because of the lead time to overcome the complexity of this change, they cannot wait to see what else might be coming down the road.

Going after them is tilting at windmills, and you are right, we should be more concerned with decarbonizing other modes of transportation and of course electric generation.


Barry: Here is the link to some of that code from the CRU.

“Programmer-written comments inserted into CRU’s Fortran code have drawn fire as well. The file says: ‘Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!’ and ‘APPLY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION.’ Another,, says: ‘Low pass filtering at century and longer time scales never gets rid of the trend – so eventually I start to scale down the 120-yr low pass time series to mimic the effect of removing/adding longer time scales!’”

Now we discover all the original temperature data has been destroyed and the methods employed in calculating the adjusted data, not documented.

Oh…and how the Peer Review Process works…Priceless.


Now we discover all the original temperature data has been destroyed and the methods employed in calculating the adjusted data, not documented.

What effect does this have on the RSS or UAH satellite series? Or GISTEMP? Or ocean heat content? Or glacial mass balance? Or summer sea ice extent/thickness?


I know I shouldn’t but I do like posting on sceptical websites. But if anyone wants a bit of a diversion I encourage you to head along to:

“Now that ClimateGate has buried the fraudulent hockey stick for good, it is easily to prove that global warming is not man-made: just compare the timing of our carbon dioxide emissions with the timing of global warming.”


1. There is almost no relationship between human emissions and global temperature, so global warming is not mainly due to human emissions of carbon dioxide.
2. Something other than human emissions caused the global warming prior to 1850.
3. The steadiness of the underlying temperature trend since 1700 suggests that whatever caused the warming prior to 1850 is still causing warming, and that the effect of human emissions of carbon dioxide is relatively insignificant.



Because Gordon, although a prediction of the precise future climate state is not possible, most of the uncertainties lie in the amplifying, not mollifying direction. They’re called positive feedbacks. These bring great uncertainty, but not of the reassuring kind.


Blue Ajah: So these positive feedbacks will lead to potentially greater storm activity, and hence greater cloud cover, leading to an increased negative feedback!

At some point the laws of thermodynamics will kick in, that we can be certain.


Quote from Minchin on AGW/CC ” …is a green leftist plot to de-industrialise the world”
Gee – I guess that makes Queen Elizabeth II a green lefty (if ONE is to agree with her speech at CHOGM)- who would have thought that!
I guess Minchin is no longer a monarchist then:)


Great video from Britain on the causes of climate change.
Really worth a look for folks still unsure about the science – Bob Carter tends to look rather silly!


Gordon: Programming 101, never trust comments in program code … read the
source Luke … not the comments about the source.

See comment 67 here

I’m still waiting for any skeptic to produce a single computer model which
does even half as well as any of the ensemble of AR4 models in predicting
the last 30 years climate but which only includes non-anthropogenic forcing.


Gordon: I don’t know about all of the authors of this model,
but Drew Shindell, Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt are absolutely
certain based on their models that natural forcings cannot explain the
last 50 years climate and all have shown that adding anthropogenic
forcings does the trick pretty well.


Gordon, I think you’ll find very few people on this blog who support the CPRS schmozzle in its current form. Perhaps we’ll come up with a workable model in a few years, though I doubt it.


Now that the leader of the Opposition is a global warming denier everything I said in the topmost comment is true. One of the links in the sidebar referred to ‘pragmatic progressives’. If only we had such a choice in the next election whenever it will be. I don’t give a damn about gay marriage, Muslim schools, interventions etc just sustainability issues which is why I can’t vote Green since they are not anchored in reality.

A second point is what is the meaning of the word ‘cap’? Doesn’t it mean that there is to be a finite amount of CO2 equivalent in any one year? Maybe it doesn’t apply to Queensland who are planning major new fossil fuel powered generation,20797,26423446-3102,00.html?from=public_rss
I’d guess they will be either coal seam gas or supercritical coal with CO2 savings of 30-40% and 20% respectively w.r.t. pulverised coal. If air cooled the savings will be less. If the ETS a form of ‘cap and trade’ somehow allows more CO2 we are well and truly in the era of doublespeak.


Barry, I can only imagine your disappointment at how stymied the Nuclear debate has been – not only here but world wide (you have thorwn your life into this). Unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me as the forces at work here don’t really give a toss about reducing CO2 levels, they just want to monetize it. Today, in a way, is a win for the environment – now if only you could get into Abbotts ear about raising the debate on our real options.


For information: At the top of the left side bar there is now a widget that allows you to sign on for email alerts.

This will send you an automated email when a new blog entry is posted at BNC.


Gordon IMO it would be a mistake to lobby Abbott and cronies. These people are anti-science and could easily go off half cocked. Think Joh Bjelke Peterson and the water powered car. Best to let the arguments stand on their merits and attract support from across the political spectrum.



“… Nuclear Regulatory Commission has told Toshiba’s Westinghouse Corporation that its “standardized” AP-1000 design might not withstand hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes.

Regulators in France, Finland and the UK have raised safety concerns about AREVA’s flagship EPR reactor. …”

See also:

Click to access 20070311-MladineoFerguson-WestinghouseSaleToPrc.pdf

“… China could reverse engineer advanced technologies acquired under the Westinghouse-Toshiba deal. Here the only dispute is about how difficult a task this would be for the Chinese. In particular, China could try to adapt the reactor coolant pumps in the AP1000 to its nuclear submarine program to make its submarines quieter. Quieter submarines can provide huge tactical and strategic advantages. Certainly, the Chinese have already reversed engineered very complex imported technology in the aerospace and nuclear fields. …”


“I’m still waiting for any skeptic to produce a single computer model which does even half as well as any of the ensemble of AR4 models in predicting the last 30 years climate but which only includes non-anthropogenic forcing.”

Geoff, not sure if the following fits your criteria but take a look at Compo, G & Sardeshmukh, P., 2008. Oceanic influences on recent continental warming, Climate Dynamics, DOI 10.1007/s00382-008-0448-9. From the paper: Evidence is presented that the recent worldwide land warming has occurred largely in response to a worldwide warming of the oceans rather than as a direct response to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) over land . . . Atmospheric model simulations of the last half-century with prescribed observed ocean temperature changes, but without prescribed GHG changes, account for most of the land warming. In summary, our results emphasize the significant role of remote oceanic influences, rather than the direct local effect of anthropogenic radiative forcings [AGW], in the recent continental warming . . .Although not a focus of this study, the degree to which the oceans themselves have recently warmed due to increased GHG, other anthropogenic, natural solar and volcanic forcings, or internal multi-decadal climate variations is a matter of active investigation . . . A role for natural causes of at least some of the recent oceanic warming should not be ruled out . . . Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from our analysis is that the recent acceleration of global warming may not be occurring in quite the manner one might have imagined.


The new Lib leader wrote a while ago: “It’s hard to take climate alarmists all that seriously, though, when they’re as ferociously against the one proven technology that could reduce electricity emissions to zero, nuclear power, as they are in favour of urgent reduction in emissions. For many, reducing emissions is a means to achieving a political objective they could not otherwise gain.” Ok Tony, even if you think that, now that you want to get elected you need a more nuanced message. We need nuclear power for energy security, to be part of the future technology of world energy, and to also meet the people’s desire to not be the world’s worst CO2 emitters per capita.

The key message to sell to the electorate is this: The CPRS will forcibly reduce carbon emission, but there is nothing in place to keep the electricity flowing. The price of carbon is then forced to rise enough to sufficiently kill the economy to reduce emissions. Also, it might seem that nuclear is in conflict with coal, but natgas only halves the CO2 emissions, but nuclear eliminates them. So with nuclear you can keep more coal running and still meet internationally agreed targets: with natgas you have to displace twice as much coal to get the same effect.


I think the Libs want nuclear power as well as coal, not instead of. Apart from limited CO2 cuts other problems with natural gas are that we’ll also want it to solve the trade deficit, replace diesel in trucks and buses and cover for lulls in the showpiece wind and solar installations.


Tassie energy developments
– feed-in tariffs to be introduced. Disagree even though I’ll personally benefit.
– wood burning power stations. Maybe OK if smokeless, sustainably harvested and some nutrients and carbon are returned to the forest.
– wind farm development awaiting RET clarification
– possible 2nd undersea HVDC cable.

On the last two I wonder if there has been a rethink on pumped hydro. Since the first cable (sold to an investor for $1.2bn) spot hydro exports have made top dollar but are limited to 500 Mw. Despite record rain some Tas hydro dams are little more than 50% full. Maybe pumped storage of local and interstate power (including wind) becomes more viable with a second cable depending on costs. Lengthy export flows of 1-2 Gw might then be possible.


JohnSmith: The Compo/Sardeshmurkh paper is more about how the heat
is moved around rather than where it comes from. It doesn’t contradict the
basic AGW explanation of where the heat comes from in the first
place … which is because of a fundamental imbalance between energy
arriving and leaving the planet due to GHGs.


Ziggy Switkowski has a great piece in the Fairfax media this morning arguing Australia must include nuclear in its climate and energy solutions.

Australia’s energy and climate change strategy is based upon expected contributions from four pillars: energy conservation and productivity, accelerated deployment of renewable energy, a substitution of coal by gas, and the presumed success of clean coal technologies and associated carbon capture and storage.

With renewables contributing less than 2 per cent and carbon capture yet to be demonstrated, Australia may be the only country whose total energy strategy is based upon such fragile assumptions.

Assembling a range of novel, niche energy technologies may be interesting and intellectually satisfying but is inefficient when better industrial-grade solutions are available. Nuclear power must be in the mix, and we should be prepared for it to be most of the answer within a few decades.


John Newlands,

I really like your Prisoner’s Dilemma analogy (if you could call it that)! I think the only thing you could add is “3) the antinuclear Greens Party who will be strong on carbon cuts but lack economic management cred…. and a way of keeping the electricity flowing”.

I also think it is unuseful to target the aviation sector as a means of reducing GHG emissions. As a comparision, cement production is currently responsible for about 5% of world emissions, aviation only 2%. It would be more beneficial to look at things like lime mortar for GHG reductions in cement production. There is currently no real alternative for aviation fuels at the moment.


In the Australian today,

Tony Abbott facing push by Liberal MPs to consider nuclear energy as alternative to ETS

This might put the concept into play. With nuclear power Abbott can make good on his promise to provide an alternative climate change policy, offer something to those libs that see nuclear power as part of their culture war and part of their political identity, and bed down his support in the party, all at once.

On the other hand, if he takes it to the next election and gets hosed, that might simply reinforce the idea that nuclear power is electoral poison for another decade.

sma045: “Australia has an opportunity with the new Liberal leader and we should encourage him to have the courage of his convictions. [And I’ve never voted Liberal in over 40 years of voting.]”

Likewise. I might be that rarest of beasts, a Green skewing Liberal. Politics really does make strange bedfellows.


Since the political spill, I thought this might be an opportunity to get the Liberals fired up in favour of the ‘n’ word. I am a conservative and would like to see 4GEN nuclear power take a hold of the power future here and in other countries. So, I went over to the Tony Abbott for PM FaceBoo and dropped in a few links to this most wonderful page, and some related, P4TP etc. Great resource, always enjoy reading here.

I got shouted at by a Greenie for supporting nuclear energy. I usually get the usual crap, waste lasts millions of years, melt-downs happen every Wednesday arvo, cluster cancer will kill your babies, the world only has enough U to last until next Melbourne Cup Day…..blah, blah… However, I though this one was novel……

“The energy bound in Uranium nuclei was put there during supernova explosions long before the Earth formed. Left in the Earth’s crust, those nuclei decay naturally at a slow trickle. When we dig those nuclei up and release all that energy in a chain reaction, we’re adding heat into the biosphere that was never there before, and wasn’t due to be there for millions or billions of years. Combine that with population growth and an increased greenhouse effect, and nuclear energy alone can raise global temperature by up to 2 degrees within a century.
8 minutes ago”

Hadn’t herd that one before. I see on the front page of today’s Oz, nuclear energy gets a mention. I know Dennis Jensen is a 4GEN fan. Perhaps….


John Morgan, I only just read your post. I have been a Green conservative all of my life! Perhaps this might be time to put away quasi-social policy and present science fact to the people?


Teekay I’ve posted somewhere else we could possibly get by with making jet fuel out of coal provided coal wasn’t used for anything else. However if that was the result of a government decree there could be ‘leakages’ from that industry to other would-be coal users like cement. At some point it would be more profitable to sell CO2 permits to others than to make aviation fuel. That is the beauty of a textbook ETS; it allows the market to pick the winners while staying below the overall cap.

In another post I said it would be a mistake to lobby Abbott’s cabal on nuclear power. This is making a deal with the devil and could backfire. Remember they see nothing wrong with coal so nuclear would be additional to undiminished CO2. Their approach rejects science so they could come up with all kinds of flakey ideas. You’d get nuclear in their policy but a whole bunch of other woeful stuff. It’s better to be politically neutral.


John, yes, I’m conscious of the risk you describe, but support from any quarter is welcome, I think. If the Libs wind up reducing greenhouse gas emissions in spite of themselves, thats still a good outcome.


Havin NO political affiliations or lobby interests may be pristine of soul, but impractical in the world. One must look to support if you feel strongly about the issue. Otherwise you are going to be chatting amongst yourself for ever and a day longer. Some honesty, you can stick me into the ‘denier’ camp. I don’t deny climate change, that would be rather stupid. And having a healthy interest in science, including my profession that has carried be to the ripe old age of 51, I don’t fall into the reborn Baptist demographic. I don’t like burning coal because it is a waste of a valuable chemical resource using it to boil bloody water. I have been a Looooooooonnnnngggg time supporter of the Thorium fuel cycle (way before it became trendy) and supported ‘fast’ reactors through the heady days of the 70s and 80s when you might as well have stated that you supported genocide by introduced pathogens. I KNOW Dennis Jensen is a 4GEN supporter, and a smart man for all the WA accent. So people are in the club that know exactly what you guys (and myself) are on about. So, even though our political bent may differ, the outcomes we lobby for are the same. Stop burning coal and start burning Actinides.

The coal industry need not protest your (our) momement. There are plenty of customers still for coal if we never burn another lump. When the world goes nuke, as Barry and others have rightly pointed out, it isn’t going to happen all of a sudden next week. A minimum period I see as 30-40 years in transition if we go FLAT STICK FROM NOW. So the people you percieve as anti-introduction will have all died rich way before it eats into thier trade market. The obvious way to sell IFR, LMTR and nuclear in general is to maintain the mining of coal with good nature (might as well, it isn’t going to stop) and offer the current owners of coal and gas fired plant LOW INTEREST LOANS from the future fund to build modular 3GEN next to current plant (therebye using the same transmission infrastructure) and to build full scale proof of concept 4GEN reactors (a mix of IFR and LMTR). That allows them to keep producing energy at a profit, stops them from having to wipe of billions of dollars in plant value through write downs, and provides them with an avenue of credit to build the next generation of power source plant, enabling them to have confidence in the long term viability of thier investment. The future fund gets a modest return in the future, no new tax is required, and the general revenue is not affected adversely. This is what myself and others are suggesting to Abbott, Jensen and co. Of course the Greens and the Labor part will fight a massive NIMBY campaign against it, and if allowed to win, will put nuclear energy back in a box until we really start running out of power! Support for the ‘Devil’ from concerned environmentalists may lessen the ‘Eco-terrorist’ attack on any plan to include nuclear power in an energy mix. Like I said, if you want to implement it, you have to sell it.


Smart 045, I agree 100%. Little value telling the story here. We are all (mostly) sold on the idea.

Zoom over and tell the man yourself. Unlike Turnbull, this one does read his own Facebook.

You will notice I have placed links back to here, but to lobby, one need more than a weight of one, regardless of how noisy I might be.

Barry, you would sure help.


Forewarned. Lots of ‘deniers’ over there. Arguments for nuclear energy would be far more constructive than a climat slanging match.


While not news [October 26, 2009], I came across this video today.
Steve Chu discusses many things energy wise including nuclear, Thorium and Actinides but not IFR as far as I can tell. Sounds interesting.

Secretary Chu visits Googleplex


There are more calls for the desalination plant to serve Olympic Dam to be relocated and expanded,,26427543-2682,00.html
The proposer suggests that wind power on the SA west coast could supply all the energy needs. If that was say 100 Mw it would have to be grid connected and a wind farm of 300 Mw or so might on average ‘offset’ that grid use. However during wind lulls the desal would draw heavily on the grid.

The expanded Olympic Dam operation proposes to use 183 megalitres a day of desalinated water plus 37 ML of local groundwater. I think the locals would like perhaps up to another 100 ML, the flow from the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline which could be displaced. So a SA west coast desal could be as big as 300 ML/day compared to 400 mld for Wonthaggi Vic.

However Olympic Dam still needs a major power supply as well as water. To me that says combine a desal with a NPP. The more efficient multiflash distillation that uses waste heat should be used instead of reverse osmosis. Therefore I suggest the SA west coast is the logical site for Australia’s first commercial NPP.


NIMBY has started. “Rudd DEMANDS Abbott tell people wher he will build nuclear plants”. Barry, can’t you hop into this discussion somehow? The Green cred is a seller. It would help if we could get some Green credentials in favour of the argument for nukes. Do I have to beg? I read computer science and statistics in the Barr-Smith library. Nearly married one of the Lib Techs (sorry I didn’t in retrospect). Puleeeeze help, or we can put this to bed for another decade.


addinall, what can I say? I’m doing all I can (see my latest BNC post). The hard fact is that Rudd is PM and not me, and Rudd is the ultimate ‘popularist’ and Hacker-like statesman. As such, it seems he’s going to wedge as hard as he can. Abbott should meet his bluster head on and give him 100 possible sites for plants, all along the coastline. This will give him, and others, a perfect opportunity to get the public dialogue going full bore. But he’ll probably back down, alas. If he doesn’t, then we may at last have someone worth voting for come next election.


We could start by getting Tim Flannery on side. I’m sure he doesn’t understand the water needs of significant power stations: whether geothermal or solar. You can try to run these on completely recycled water (or other fluid) but then the cost goes through the roof. As you say: we can put nuclear on the coast, use sea water, and even generate some fresh as a side line.


The reality, Barry, is that in the mouth of Abbbott, this is not a serious proposal. Abbott only allows this to go forward in order to invite people to see tackling climate change as being part and parcel of something many, especially on the labor-green side, see as anathema. Really, it’s a nod at clean coal. Saying you aren’t a “theological opponent’ of nuclear power while acknowledging that it isn’t happening any time soon and having in your cabinet people who swear that they are against it openly — e.g. Chris Pyne — shows that this is simply argy bargy.

The people who pulled the strings to get Abbott elected were the fossil fuel people. With no price on carbon, and subsidy and power prices rises ruled out on one ground or another, coal is the only solution.

Support for nuclear power from the enemies of action on climate change is simply code for “burn more coal”. This is why the Abbott wave of the hand is retrograde, because it associates a vital initiative with people who are stark staring mad.

What we should ask Abbott is not “where will you have them?” but rather “which coal and gas plants will you close to make space in the market for nuclear?”


Dear Barry :-), yes I know you try hard, and thank you for all of your effort. This is probably the best web site I have ever come across. Science is great. From my side


Sorry, mouse bounce. From my side of politics, we are pushing VERY hard to get 4GEN noticed. The coal lobby is not a concern. Easily fed. The opponents are the Greens and the Labor party. As I predicted, NIMBY started early. Rudd is such a tosser.


Maybe we should start lobbying Cardinal Pell re nuclear power. Apparently, on all his policies, Abbott first consults Pell for advice.
Mind you I can’t see many women voting for any party led by “Australia’s Ayatollah” – whatever his stance on nuclear power.
Who can one vote for? None of the major political parties seem to be serious about solving the CC crisis.
Google has come up with a good idea – asking for a worldwide vote for action on climate change – you can vote as an individual or add the widget to your webpage.

Please add your voice!


I think cheaper desal and more reliable summer power could help acceptance of NP. Note the groovy rock and roll music on the clip for Adelaide’s Pt Stanvac reverse osmosis desalination plant
There’s nothing groovy about paying $3 per kilolitre for tap water. Footy will have to be played on astro turf. Water from an alternative nuclear desal might be priced high to achieve cost recovery but that price should be relatively stable over decades. Aside from everything else where will future electrical input for this desal come from?


I notice that Melbourne is thinking about synthetic playing surfaces for prime time sports as an alternative to watered lawns. The ancient Romans thought that sport helped the masses from thinking abut their problems, an argument perhaps for keeping public but not private lawns going.

What seems to be happening in Adelaide is that recycled sewage water is used for commercial vegie growing while tap water will be a mixture of water from rain fed dams, water pumped from a single but dwindling exotic stream (the Murray) and expensive desalinated water. Storm water runoff is collected in a couple of places. Based on relative inputs that desal can be attributed mainly to gas fired electricity despite claims that it will one day be effectively wind powered. That gas supply is also dwindling.

Some will no doubt grow a few vegies using grey water but in general the cost of locally grown food must rise. Thus I suggest Adelaide is like say Las Vegas in the US in that it has outgrown its comfortable water supply. It seems people don’t want to move to the rainy parts of the country. The problem is they want it both ways; all the comforts of a big city but no extra anxieties like sewage recycling or a nuclear desal. Something has to give.


Come on Barry – surely it is time for a range of BNC pro-nuclear T-Shirts? I was trying to figure out if the largest “Nuclear Power – Yes Please” graphic would be suitable for a DIY job. Have been threatening a friend that I’m going to show up at the Walk Against Warming next week in a Nuclear POwer T-Shirt… and one of those poles with a wind turbine on top, with a sign below “These don’t really work”… or one without a turbine but a nuclear symbol on top.

Anyway I just thought some BNC branding would be a nice touch.


JohnNewlands: The desal plant is good for about 50 GL. Back in 2000/1, CSIRO
estimated the dairy industry was pulling 4,200 GL …
just from the Murray Darling Basin. By 2005/6, ABS figures put
rice+cotton (2,900 GL) < livestock (3,600 GL) (national … not just MDB).
Fruit+veg 1,100 GL.

So I figure the desal plant is just a subsidy to the upstream industries, mainly
dairy. Rice and cotton are opportunistic, but once you establish a dairy,
it acts like a permanent planting … unlike rice or cotton, which can (and
do) decide to skip a dry season and not plant.


The following is taken from: “Carbongate – Global Warming Study Censored By EPA.

Washington, D.C., June 26, 2009—The Competitive Enterprise Institute is today making public an internal study on climate science which was suppressed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Internal EPA email messages, released by CEI earlier in the week, indicate that the report was kept under wraps and its author silenced because of pressure to support the Administration’s agenda of regulating carbon dioxide.

The report finds that EPA, by adopting the United Nations’ 2007 “Fourth Assessment” report, is relying on outdated research and is ignoring major new developments. Those developments include a continued decline in global temperatures, a new consensus that future hurricanes will not be more frequent or intense, and new findings that water vapor will moderate, rather than exacerbate, temperature.

New data also indicate that ocean cycles are probably the most important single factor in explaining temperature fluctuations, though solar cycles may play a role as well, and that reliable satellite data undercut the likelihood of endangerment from greenhouse gases. All of this demonstrates EPA should independently analyze the science, rather than just adopt the conclusions of outside organizations.

The released report is a draft version, prepared under EPA’s unusually short internal review schedule, and thus may contain inaccuracies which were corrected in the final report.

“While we hoped that EPA would release the final report, we’re tired of waiting for this agency to become transparent, even though its Administrator has been talking transparency since she took office. So we are releasing a draft version of the report ourselves, today,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman.

Read the censored report here:

Click to access DOC062509-004.pdf


How about a pro-nuclear petition. Something brief as below. Available with formatting at and

Robert Smart (0400 142964)

Why Nuclear in Australia

– Renewables have under-analysed costs and impacts. They can’t do the job of preserving prosperity.
– Making an up-front payment now, to have cheap reliable energy later is the best way to use the wealth from the mining boom.
— We need to bring in “stuff” to balance the “stuff” going out. If we don’t bring in infrastructure of future value, then the dollar will rise so that we bring in goods of temporary value while simultaneously destroying our exporters and import-alternatives.
– Nuclear is the future of world energy. Choosing to sit on the sidelines is a route to economic irrelevance.
– Energy production uses water. Nuclear Power can be sited near the sea, and produce incidental fresh water. Coal Power is sited near the coal mines in good agricultural land. Geothermal, among other enormous difficulties, is sited in a very dry area.
– Australia will be the safest place for traditional nuclear power. We have the raw materials for even safer next generation reactors.
– For energy security we need to electrify because we lack oil. This requires a large increase in the amount of electricity. Coal is not an option. CCS is a fantasy.


To the petition I’d add

– Natural gas should be conserved for higher priority needs including essential fertiliser and in the future as an alternative transport fuel.

Why I’d mention that is because there are multibillion dollar incentives on offer for coal generators to switch to gas fired baseload. If memory serves the numbers are something like Qld 5 Gw, NSW 4 Gw and Vic 5 Gw either gas fired or supercritical coal fired. Throw in coal exports and we see just how fair dinkum our Federal and State govts are.


Barry’s Twitter post:

‘ “Climate Emergency Action Network” want all forms of nuclear power banned’

I can’t work this one out. I went to a CLEAN / Ecosocialist forum where Barry spoke about Gen IV nuclear power months ago, and virtually every person in the audience looked somewhat shocked hearing about advanced nuclear power. No one could say a word to refute anything that was spoken about.

John Rice (the head of CLEAN and ecosocialist South Australia) sent out an e-mail to the CLEAN mailing list containing a Gen IV critique by Jim Green (FoE) before the forum. I wrote back asking him why he felt it was necessary to take a stance against Gen IV even before the forum, and to express my feelings that they’re alienating people who think nuclear power is an option for fighting climate change. He replied stating that it was just for engagement and debate and that “CLEAN isn’t really taking a position on this debate.”

I thought that was somewhat fair enough. But now this. Why does fundamentalism take precedent over pragmatism so very often when it comes to these issues? I shouldn’t be surprised, but I thought higher of CLEAN. Very disappointing.


My feeling exactly TeeKay, well summed up. My profound disappointment at this policy announcement was what prompted the tweet. How can they consider climate change to require emergency action if they are willing, for purely non-scientific reasons, to advocate banning (not just not supporting, no, banning) the technology that currently contributes the biggest displacement of coal-fired power on the planet. Breathtakingly naive at best, scandalously stupid at worst.


I don’t detect much enthusiasm for a petition. However I’ve updated the doc, adding:

– Natural gas should be conserved for higher priority needs including essential fertiliser and in the future as an alternative transport fuel.

Thanks to John Newlands. Also since Tony Abbott wants to save the Coal industry:

– Natural gas generates 50% less CO2 than coal, but Nuclear generates none. So, for any given CO2 target, Natural Gas power has twice the impact on the continuing use of Coal power, compared to Nuclear.

[Also for your amusement, here’s a quote from Rod Adams of Atomic Insights in an attack on (Un)Scientific American: “anyone who pushes the idea that there is a hope for human society to shift from fossil fuels to a narrowly defined set of “renewable” energy sources that pointedly excludes atomic fission is either hopelessly innumerate or simply lying through their teeth.”]


TeeKay: “Why does fundamentalism take precedent over pragmatism so very often when it comes to these issues?”

It calls to mind the old IT adage, that no one ever got fired for buying IBM (or Microsoft). No green group ever lost members, or donations, by opposing nuclear power.

Is there a single green / conservation / ecology group in this country whose support for emissions reduction is not so soft that they would countenance nuclear technology? Is there not one?


sma045, on December 7th, 2009 at 5.39 — But a gas turbine running on biomethane is carbon neutral, same as an NPP. The advantage is (probably) significantly less captial costs. A disadvantage is a rather extenisve use of land, say 1500 hectares for the algae farm to power a a 540 MW CCGT running at maximum capacity.


David, I must figure out how to change my wordpress name. Anyway Let’s see an analysis of costs/etc as per our friendly blogger’s TCASE. But surely the fact jumps out and hits you on the head that you couldn’t run our current civilization on that, and that the environmental costs of commandeering land and biomass for fuel as well as food for 9 billion people doesn’t leave much for the rest of nature. Lets use the one energy source that nature doesn’t use. On the specific case of algae: open ponds mean that your algae has to compete with ones blowing in and brought in by birds/etc, and they are optimized for reproduction not oil. If you encase the algae to protect it from natural ones then the cost goes up a lot. — Robert Smart


sma045, on December 8th, 2009 at 15.52 — Use salt water algae.

Planty of available land in deserts, but this idea of algae farm + CCGT is not intended to be a unique solution, just part of an entire package.


Thinking about the Copenhagen conference I’ve wondered if there will be any indicators of success since the only outcome could be worthless promises. I suggest a single criterion, namely that the wholesale price of all current forms of coal fired electricity must increase by 50% or more. That doesn’t mean it would have increased were it not for
– free permits for several years
– offsets for tree planting or sustainable basket weaving
– a promise to be ‘carbon capture ready’.
It means for example if aluminium smelters have been paying 3c per kwh they now have to pay 4.5c or more.

If this doesn’t happen virtually immediately (say 6 months) the whole exercise is pointless. Countries who drag the chain should face difficulties landing their exported goods. Plan B is to just keep having conferences until everyone loses interest.


Nuclear nonsense from Dr Mark Diesendorf of UNSW. He doesn’t seem to realise that all of his fallacies are truths and his truths are fallacies.

He makes an interesting comment about the BraveNewClimate owner:

Tim Flannery is opposed to nuclear power for Australia, although he accepts it for overseas countries. Barry Brook is a climate scientist — I’m unsure if he’s an environmentalist. Neither scientist has expertise in energy technologies. I agree with Chris that energy efficiency and renewable energy must be equal partners in a sustainable energy future.

Excuse me, but isn’t that a classic ad hominem?

Here is the definition, for clarification:
“A fallacy that attacks the person rather than dealing with the real issue in dispute…. an attack on the person rather than on the opponent’s ideas”


Oil from algae is one of a number of things that might save us if only the last few problems can be solved. My favourite is “Focus Fusion”. Astronomers were surprised to find that chaotic processes could create tightly focussed beams of energy. The Focus Fusion people reckon they know how to produce it in the lab and use it for fusion ( Certainly sounds better than brute force containment. Let’s cheer all these attempts and fund them appropriately, but let’s make our plans for the future without assuming that any will ever actually work.


sma045, on December 9th, 2009 at 12.04 — Instead I propose putting the enitire crop of microalgae into anaeobic digesters to produce biogas. Eithr the biogas directly burned in gas turbines or is refined to obtain just the methane for burning.

Nothing left to solve about any of that.


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