Climate Change Future Hot News

Open Thread 16

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.

You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the cascading menu under the “Home” tab.

Note 1: For reference, the last general open thread (from 16 April 2011) was here.

Note 2: I’m currently inordinately busy (but also having a lot of fun!) at the Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 in Waterloo, Canada. Once I get a chance to draw breath, I’ll post more about the summit on BNC. But we’re currently working intense 14 hour days (I’m not kidding), so I’ve not got much physical or mental energy left in me by the time I get back to my hotel room at night!

However, if you want to follow some of the events, the Canadian television station TVO is covering the whole summit. I was on a panel session yesterday (Benchmarking our Energy Future: see the video here), which also featured four really interesting short animated videos on energy; I will also be part of a 1-hour episode of Steve Paikin’s The Agenda on Friday night (Canadian time — but also available on the TVO website — more details to follow).

More on the WGSI Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 in the next blog post.


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.

593 replies on “Open Thread 16”


I read about the Ausubel article in new scientist following one of your links but I could not access the article itself.

if you have a pdf copy, could you send to

Looking just at what you say, the distinction between fracking itself and the plastic lined pits may not, pun intended, hold water.

How difficult a problem is this? perhaps it is not. I agree that one should actually find out about such things and not just believe a movie, any more than we should just believe what greenpeace says or arnie gundersen–radiation expert that he is.


Sorry, the link to the Ausubel article on “Renewable and nuclear heresies” is
How did that come out wrong?
The state regulatory agencies in the United States have allowed fracking so far, with permits. Which I take to mean that it can be done safely.
If fracking is an unacceptable health hazard in spite of what the state regulatory agencies say – this would mean they aren’t doing their jobs right, that they’re in the pockets of the gas companies. Real evidence is needed to support that. So far I haven’t seen any. What I’ve seen has been factually wrong statements and people trying to make harmless consequences of fracking sound really bad.
The fracking fluid may be spilled, occasionally. When there is an industrial process there are accidents sometimes. I haven’t seen any evidence that occasional mistakes make fracking itself unacceptable.
By the way, one thing the anti-frackers talk about is nasty chemicals in fracking fluids. I’ve wondered why the drillers can’t just avoid adding any carcinogens like benzene or endocrine disruptors, to the fracking fluid. I don’t see why any such thing would be necessary. The drillers’ secret fracking recipes sound very much like recipes they come up with ad hoc, that seem to work.


@Eclipse Now, on 11 June 2011 at 10:52 AM said:

He shows a graph from U.S. northwest of all wind farms falling flat for ten days…..As far as I am aware, the NorthWest is NOT really on the ‘wind-map’ of America!

There have been various reports out of the UK that their wind turbines experienced extended periods of inactivity as well.

The US PNW makes for a reasonable ‘test bed’ for Wind Farms, as much of the storage and transmission systems that a simple ‘back of the envelope calculation’ would indicate were needed already existed.

The wind farms in the US PNW produce fairly close to ‘as advertised’. The numbers I’ve seen(sorry no link) are 28-34% on an annual basis.

If you view this wind map…there is a ‘dark section’ along the Washington, Oregon border…this area is the Columbia River Gorge where the Columbia River cuts thru the Cascade Mountain Range…that’s where the majority of windmills are located. It’s an exceptionally good site as it is a wind tunnel.

It is true that the best wind in the US goes down the east side of the Rocky Mountains.

According to the specification sheet for GE Wind Turbine operating temperatures are -4F to 104F with a ‘survival’ limit of -22F to 104F

Click to access Application%20Appendix%20C.pdf

It gets colder then -22F in Wyoming.

Wyoming, Montana and the Dakota’s are not particularly hospitable to man or machine.

The point being that ‘how much wind’ is available is only one of the determinants for suitable siting. A place with long hard Winters with long sustained periods of sub freezing weather is going to pose additional challenges to Wind Farms.

It is true that T. Boone Pickens built a 10 GW wind farm in Texas.

Here are the 2009 Texas Generating Capacity Statistics.

9,600 MW ‘other renewables'(wind) generating capacity.

9,600 MW * 8760 hours = 84,096,000 MWh per year at 100% capacity.

Here are the 2009 Texas Energy Generation Statistics

21 million megawatts of ‘other renewables’ was what was actually generated. A 25% capacity factor. If I use end of year 2008 wind generating capacity then the capacity factors rises to 31%.

Slides 14,15 and 16 from the Texas Grid Operator are interesting.

Excellent wind in the spring when system loads are load low and not very good wind generation in August when system loads are high.

It would appear that the Texas seasonal problem coincides with the Pacific Northwest seasonal problem.


The downturn in the Tasmanian logging industry could be ascribed to a number of factors both supply and demand related, for example the paperless society. I give more weight to the sustainability argument than carbon sinks. It doesn’t make sense to rely on 400 year old trees. Builders who say the timber is more fine grained than plantation wood should go back to the 1600s in a time machine and plant more seedlings.

Sustainability is also why I think using less fossil fuel is a good each way bet. At the moment Australia may be in a ‘perfect calm’ ie
-food prices low due to the La Nina
-petrol prices modest due to weak N. Hemisphere demand
-mineral exports high due to Chindia demand.
That could all change very quickly with say $150 oil, a severe El Nino and a Chinese downturn. Then we’d realise our economic system is not configured for the long run. I think it is on the cards we will get a major economic shock within the next 5 years. If this is right then we should get ready for a more difficult future, not just let it hit us unprepared. I think carbon pricing is a key element of that though just how it should be done is arguable.


harrywr2, @ 18 June 2011 at 2:29 AM:

This is a very informative comment. You’ve put a lot of work into it and argued a strong case. Ypu’ve also included many valuable links as part of the case you’e presented. I suspect people may want to refer back to this comment, and to the links you provided, in the future.

Could I persuade you to repost the comment on the “CO2 Avoidance Cost with Wind Energy …” thread:

My reason for suggesting this is so the comment can be found again in the future. Comments on Open Treads are virtually impossible to find to refer back to.


Tom Keen made several statements in comments yesterday. I reply below.

@ 17 June 2011 at 3:41 PM said:

I haven’t been presented with any evidence that we’d need to cut GDP growth in order to achieve emissions reductions. Peter Lang certainly hasn’t presented any, just asserted it.

I replied to this comment here:

@ 17 June 2011 at 3:41 PM said:

Here’s a logical counter-argument:
In 2007, landuse change (deforestation) accounted for 9.4 % of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Yet forestry accounts for just 1 % of Australia’s GDP, which is substantially less than annual GDP growth. Legislation could (theoretically) be introduced overnight to stop deforestation, and introduce afforestation programs. Not only would this be a feasible way of cutting emissions, but it would also make good economic sense by directly protecting and promoting biodiversity.

Emissions from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) are projected to be 47 Mt/a in 2020 (Business as Usual projection) (Table 3.8, ). We need to cut 160 Mt/a from the BAU projection to achieve the 5% target. So, clearly, expecting we can get all the required emissions cuts (160 Mt/a) from LULUCF is not a realistic expectation. Focusing on LULUCF is another example of how easily we can get diverted into chasing the wrong policy options when we don’t like to consider what is staring us in the face.

By the way, your comparison of emisisons from Land Use Change with GDP from Forestry is misleading. You have compared 9.4% emissions from Land Use Change with 1% of GDP from Forestry. But Forestry accounted for -3% of emissions, not 9.4%. You need to compare like with like.

I smiled at this comment “Legislation could (theoretically) be introduced overnight to stop deforestation, and introduce afforestation programs.” This looks very much like advocacy for “direct action” – something most of the Green-Labor supporters, like yourself, have scoffed at. :)

@ 17 June 2011 at 6:13 PM said

Peter, I made it quite clear that I don’t think Australia has much to gain in terms of emissions reductions from the energy sector without nuclear energy, so I don’t know why you’re insisting I play around with the Kaya equation.

We need to focus on energy because energy is responsible for 70% of our emissions – since energy contributes most of the emissions, cutting emission from energy is where most of our effort should be focused. (The BAU projection for emissions from LULUCF is just 6.5% in 2020).

Secondly, as Will Stefan and Ross Garnaut claim, it is the emissions from fossil fuels that must be cut. Emissions from fossil fuels increase CO2 concentration in the atmosphere over the long term whereas emissions from LULUCF are simply playing with the recycling of CO2 in the biosphere over the short term. I expect you are across these reports.

@17 June 2011 at 4:57 PM said:

While I don’t buy your economic catastrophe argument, 5 % is not a big reduction.

Wow! That statement demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the magnitude of the task.

@ 17 June 2011 at 6:13 PM said:

I simply stated that I don’t buy your deep, long recession argument because you had not substantiated it.

I did explain and I guided you on how to do it yourself, but apparently you have not understood, or not wanted to delve into it, for whatever reason. That is unfortunate. It is unfortunate you make dismissive comments and apparently do not want to know what the real cost would be of trying to cut emissions to achieve the 2020 targets. I’ll try a different tack.

Firstly, look at the chart here. . This chart is from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Notice the sharp change of direction of the emissions trajectory that would be needed to achieve the 2020 targets. Anyone not in denial would realise such changes of emissions trajectory are not realistically achievable.

Secondly, this is what Treasury said on 10 September 2010 about what would be needed to achieve the 2020 targets:

Click to access 100910_Email_Size_of_Abatement_Challenge.pdf

As an indication, the task of achieving Australia’s unconditional emissions-reduction target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 would be roughly equivalent to:

• removing emissions associated with all cars on the road, and nearly half of Australia’s electricity generation, in the year 2020 (pg. 77, IGR);

• planting new forests equivalent to four times the area of Tasmania by 2020 (pg. 77, IGR).

• two-thirds of Australia’s total current emissions from the generation of electricity (speech by Martin Parkinson, March 2010)

• twice our road transport emissions (speech by Martin Parkinson, March 2010)

• the emissions displaced by 35 snowy hydro schemes (press release from Greg Combet, June 2010)

Surely, it must be clear by now. It is virtually impossible to achieve the 2020 targets without a severe recession.


The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is chirping “Once we, the Labor-Greens Government has legislated a Carbon Price, the Coalition will not be able to undo it without incurring enormous cost” (deleted inflammatory remark)

I agree it will be very costly to repeal the legislation once it is passed.

But what a disgracefully irrsponsible approach to take. Her approach is to impose bad policy despite the cost to the country.

How could any responsible government take such an approach?

It is apparent to most that the reason is primarily to save her political neck.

Why is she not prepared to take the policy to the electorate – as John Howard did when he took the proposed GST policy to an election and asked the electorate for a mandate to legislate it.


(deleted inflammatory remark)
Sustainability is also why I think using less fossil fuel is a good each way bet. At the moment Australia may be in a ‘perfect calm’ ie
-food prices low due to the La Nina
-petrol prices modest due to weak N. Hemisphere demand
-mineral exports high due to Chindia demand.
Awesome post John. In other words, there are bigger things to worry about than just a carbon tax. Also, lets remember that correlation does not equal causation. If Peter Lang is so worried about a carbon tax, why isn’t he worried about peak oil? Does he just think we can pump it forever? What does declining oil supplies in an age of ever more demand mean for prices?

Again, if Australia does pass a carbon tax and then oil prices go NUTS worldwide, then surely the carbon taxes can be just as easily reversed in the mad scramble to scribble legislation that will some how deal with the physical reality that we have constructed an entire civilisation dependent on a vanishing resource.


I did not unpack this thought…

////Also, lets remember that correlation does not equal causation.////
In other words, a carbon tax comes through and starts to have a little impact on Australia’s economy, but then oil prices worldwide hit $150 a barrel. What’s going to have the bigger income and be the REAL cause of the inevitable recession that’s coming?


However, this is really interesting.

From the wiki on intermittency. Again it gets me wondering about the economics of a few really big Nullarbor plain hydro dams…

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity or other forms of grid energy storage can store energy developed by high-wind periods and release it when needed.[32] Stored energy increases the economic value of wind energy since it can be shifted to displace higher cost generation during peak demand periods. The potential revenue from this arbitrage can offset the cost and losses of storage; the cost of storage may add 25% to the cost of any wind energy stored, but it is not envisaged that this would apply to a large proportion of wind energy generated. For example, in the UK, the 2 GW Dinorwig pumped storage plant evens out electrical demand peaks, and allows base-load suppliers to run their plant more efficiently. Although pumped storage power systems are only about 75% efficient, and have high installation costs, their low running costs and ability to reduce the required electrical base-load can save both fuel and total electrical generation costs.[33][34]

Also interesting:

A 2006 International Energy Agency forum presented costs for managing intermittency as a function of wind-energy’s share of total capacity for several countries, as shown:

Increase in system operation costs, Euros per MW·h, for 10% and 20% wind share[7]
10% 20%
Germany 2.5 3.2
Denmark 0.4 0.8
Finland 0.3 1.5
Norway 0.1 0.3
Sweden 0.3 0.7


@ Peter Lang,

There’s no point in continuing this. I made it quite clear that I think we have very little to gain in terms of energy-related reductions (until nuclear is on the cards). I don’t know why you’ve tried to get me to look at the Kaya equation again, in spite of this. The only point I made is that there are other ways of reducing emissions that wouldn’t have enormous impacts on productivity. If you’d rather make stupid political accusations (as per usual) than consider this, there’s no point continuing.


Tom Keen,

I agree there is no point in you and I trying to discuss this issue, but not fo rthe reason youi give. You are dodging the real issue.

The real issue is emissions from energy. They make up 70% of total emissions, and nearly all the new C being added to the atmosphere (as explained by Garnaut and in the Will Stefan report). Emissions form LULUCF are secondary importance. As I explained, they cannot realistically cut our emissions by 5%, even with the “direct action” approach you propose.

Attempting to pull out a negligible opportunity as you have done and then try to say that is an example of many things that could be done is not worthy of you. It si a good example of FUD.

This is the sort of diversion tactic that was done by various advocates of energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy in the 1990’s. It has been going on ever since. I am very familiar with the tactic. It works on politicians and has continued to derail good policy for decades.


@ Tom,
please don’t reply — you’ll just end up feeding the Troll. Let Peter Lang have the last word. He’s BEGGING someone to disagree with him so he can keep ranting and ranting and ranting about the boring old Carbon Tax.

Will it get through? Will Julia — the most unpopular Labor leader in 40 years — completely stuff it? I don’t care either way. There are bigger issues to discuss. (Deleted inflammatory comment)


@Eclipse Now, on 18 June 2011 at 12:02 PM said:

Again it gets me wondering about the economics of a few really big Nullarbor plain hydro damms

Here are some calculations for probably the largest ‘proposed’ pumped storage projects in North America.

Lake Ontario and Lake Erie have a 100 meter altitude difference…allowing the water level in Lake Erie to vary by 5 meters between ‘pumped full’ and ‘low’ would yield 10 GW for 1,800 hrs at a cost of about $30 billion.

It’s one of the few proposed projects that even attempts to address the scale of ‘seasonal renewable generation’ imbalance.


150 MW solar at Moree NSW costing $923m and a smaller solar plant at Chinchilla Qld that will be ‘85% emissions free’.
The article doesn’t describe the technology or mention overnight storage. Note the feds are kicking in $300m towards the NSW plant which underlines that initial capital subsidies have been a big help to renewables, not just ongoing per Mwh subsidies. We need to know what is the capacity adjusted cost per Mwh assuming it paid commercial cost of capital.

This all seems to have a 1970s feel to it. I wonder if society is divided into 98% empty and 2% full types. The latter see these plants as a sign to to a big new future. Others like myself wonder why these kind of projects didn’t hit the ground running 30 years ago so they now replace coal fired stations everywhere. Absent details on the Chinchilla plant I also fear it is a greenwash for coal seam gas.


If the 150 MW is peak for the Moree installation and there is storage that may give a dispatchable 25 MW average around the clock. If we want 5 GW total output from 20 of these plants by 2020 we need to spend 20 X 0.9 bn = $18 bn. That’s $2 bn a year for the next 9 years. Piece of cake.


Hi Harrywr2,

Lake Ontario and Lake Erie have a 100 meter altitude difference…allowing the water level in Lake Erie to vary by 5 meters between ‘pumped full’ and ‘low’ would yield 10 GW for 1,800 hrs at a cost of about $30 billion.

So… have I got this right… you’re saying they can do 18 TWh at $30 billion? Is that right? Which would mean they get 600GWh / $billion where we only get 100 GWh / $billion. ($200GWh for $2 billion in the study) Australian Sustainable Energy by the numbers.


@ John Newlands,

150 MW solar at Moree NSW costing $923m and a smaller solar plant at Chinchilla Qld that will be ’85% emissions free’.

So that works out at $6153 / GW — and not even baseload! Woah!
And how much are we expecting an S-PRISM to cost? A cluster of S-PRISMS would deliver what capital cost / GW? It’s just GOT to come in cheaper than that, AND be baseload.


Confessions of a TV addict. Today ABC Landline acknowledge the measurement problems in ‘carbon farming’, particularly taking into account methane, nitrous oxide and the chances of supposedly permanent soil carbon becoming oxidised. It was suggested rather than repaying a spoiled cash carbon credit that farmers go into moderation or rehab or something.

Tonight 9.35 AEST SBS One ‘Cutting Edge’ with the promo asking ‘can we take the risk on nuclear power?’.

The Treasurer tells us renewables will save the day
I see elsewhere that the $0.9 bn 25 MW average power solar plant will be up and running by 2016. That’s not 200 such plants by 2020 if we’re to get a modest 5 GW new renewables. I sometimes wonder if politicians fully grasp what they’re saying.


I always wonder if politicians fractionally grasp what they’re saying.

And I wish they’d ask the right questions.


@ John,

Confessions of a TV addict. Today ABC Landline acknowledge the measurement problems in ‘carbon farming’, particularly taking into account methane, nitrous oxide and the chances of supposedly permanent soil carbon becoming oxidised. It was suggested rather than repaying a spoiled cash carbon credit that farmers go into moderation or rehab or something.

What sort of permanent sequestration were they discussing? Did biochar get a mention? There are some HUGE claims for biochar — which I’m a fan of — but would love to see more peer-reviewed work on the claims. The International Biochar Initiative is submitting work to the IPCC, and says that a majority of the biochar can stay permanently sequestered in the soils for thousands of years, permanently reducing the need for nitrogen fertilisers by something like a 3rd. That’s a HUGE reduction in energy use to make the fertiliser, and also reduces the nitrous oxide releasing into the atmosphere which of course is far more powerful than Co2.


EN I think they are mainly talking about plowing in stubble which of course uses a lot of tractor diesel and CO2 as well off-farm phosphorus and synthetic nitrogen. However the future looks difficult for prairie type farming due to declining supply of inputs. That includes rainfall in our biggest wheatbelt.

My problem with biochar is that it harvests carbon that would have fallen in situ somewhere else (like a forest) then plows it in again using more diesel. Since I have all the free firewood I want I use charcoal as a soil amendment and it does seem to work in high rainfall years. Phosphorus and potassium is continually removed by crops and animals so has to be replenished, hopefully not so much in carbon rich soils,

When there is no diesel to run tractors and urea is too expensive since natgas is almost all burned in power stations there will be a food crisis. Throw in some unhelpful weather in major farming areas. I think we have little choice but to grow more food in climate controlled enclosures near cities using sewage to close the nutrient loop. Mutant E. coli a bonus.


My problem with biochar is that it harvests carbon that would have fallen in situ somewhere else (like a forest) then plows it in again using more diesel. Since I have all the free firewood I want I use charcoal as a soil amendment and it does seem to work in high rainfall years. Phosphorus and potassium is continually removed by crops and animals so has to be replenished, hopefully not so much in carbon rich soils,

Yep, it only reduces the wash-off loss of nutrients but we still need to recycle that NPK out of our sewerage somehow hey? I’m with you there. We’ve got to plug this one way nutrient leak out to sea. (See more on that below under Village Towns)

But as for firewood from the forest… most of the biomass is meant to come from agriwaste? Instead of raking stubble back into the ground where it quickly breaks down and rejoins the atmospheric Co2 cycle, they biochar it and put it back in. Bigchar (linked to on my page) have a mobile biochar cooker on the back of a truck for on-site processing of some farmer’s crop waste into biochar. I’m not sure if they’ve also got the syngas capture on the back of the truck yet, but they’re working on it.

Catalyst reported that the nitrous oxide emissions were radically reduced so might be worth the liquid fuels it takes to spread it.

Also, I remember reading that the microfungi growth around the biochar is so significant it ultimately sequesters about 5 times the weight of the charcoal itself in organic carbon, sucking 5 times the Co2 out of the air as the value of the biochar itself.

Also, some forestry waste and off-cuts might be a good idea. This is especially so where the trees are being cut down anyway and then the allotment replanted and left for a decade or so as they regrow, allowing leaves and other nutrients to build up on the forest soil in the meantime.

As for all the oil required to do this, if the rest of society moves towards nukes + fast rail + electric cars + New Urbanism, are you really that pessimistic about our ability to ration liquid fuels to our most important sector, food production?

***Now to the BILLION dollar investments in Village Towns.***
Local food, car free villages, extreme walkability, and yet all the benefits of modern life.

Check out the introductory videos on the right hand column… if you have 20 minutes, do the TEDxSydney 2009 talk, but if you have 40 minutes watch the video above it.

This is NOT hippie eco-village stuff but a mainstream developer trying to reinvent how and WHY we deploy ourselves in the landscape. It’s extremely thought provoking and has a LOT of unusual quirks that just might work! The 5 minute introduction cannot possibly give anyone a clue just how radically Village-Towns will smash today’s concepts of what the “good life” really is.


“Peter Lang, on 18 June 2011 at 8:27 PM said:

Labor’s Euro vision provides the smoke and mirrors for a carbon tax

This is article is spot on. I agree with all of it.”

sorry Peter. that article is horrible. if you agree with all of it, then you are simply wrong.

“The Australian” is a paper, that has a really bad history of stories about climate change. Tim Lambert has done a very good job in exposing this, in a series of posts. (“The Australian’s War on Science”, now in 63rd episode..)

the central part of the article you linked above is this:

“And of course it embodies a central paradox. If it is so overwhelmingly clear that the best way to respond to the still uncertain science of climate change is through a carbon tax, then why is the Gillard government so hopelessly incapable of winning the argument through its own powers of persuasion?”

for a start, the science of climate change is much less uncertain than The Australian thinks. and a carbon tax obviously is one of the best, because being market based, ways to fight human caused climate change.

but the real problem with the “central paradox” is a different one: “If it is so overwhelmingly clear that the best way to respond to (Tobacco and alcohol use) is a (tax), then why (governments all over the world) so hopelessly incapable of winning the argument through its own powers of persuasion?”

looks like the central paradox in the article is not a paradox at all?!?


@ Sod
What are you doing?

As Luke Skywalker said,
“You can’t do any more good back there — pull out!”

Some people just refuse to discuss climate or taxes rationally — or politely — and I’m afraid you’ve just fed the troll.

There will be 20 or 30 more posts as ideologically driven and irrational as the one above, guaranteed, and most here just ignore it. So if he replies with bluster and attempted arguments and attempts to Bulverise you, my advice is just to ignore.


Eclipse Now, on 19 June 2011 at 12:57 PM said:

So… have I got this right… you’re saying they can do 18 TWh at $30 billion?

The Lake Ontario pumped storage project has a number of challenges, the most serious being the amount of wildlife that nests at waters edge..impact on them could be substantial if ‘waters edge’ keeps moving.

The natural elevation difference between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and their huge size, 19,000 km2 for Lake Ontario and 25,000 km2 for Lake Erie, makes then good candidates for pumped storage.

The project has been proposed with a number of scenario’s for varying the water level in the lakes, from 30 cm to 5 m. Always the same price…$30 billion.

So cost per GWh of storage for this proposed project is mostly conditioned on how much lake level variance is environmentally acceptable.

At 5 meters it’s a no-brainer no matter what…summer peak load requirements are a fact of life. At 30cm it really doesn’t address seasonal imbalances.


Just noticed this, via the Canadian Nuclear Association’s TalkNuclear blog:


26 – 30 September 2011, Seoul, Republic of Korea

A unique competition programme for students interested in nuclear power technology and policy

“A plan for gaining public acceptance of nuclear energy in my country”

The plan is for teams of up to three university students from each of about 10 countries to prepare plans for, as it says, gaining public acceptance of nuclear energy in your country. Deadline for application submissions is July 3. Student readers of BNC, hop over to the Olympiad site, download the entry form (.doc format), and enter your team!

The form asks your age but I don’t see any age restriction… just that you have to be a student.


More on Moree. It is not solar thermal with storage, just single axis tracking PV
A nice paddock that could be used to grow crops will be covered with $923m worth of panels giving 150 MW peak. I estimate that is roughly 150/6 = 25 MW average output over the 24 hour summer cycle giving an average cost of 923/25 = $37/w. A claimed objective of the project is to demonstrate grid integration. Whether it will get RECS on top of an extraordinarily generous capital subsidy is not clear, noting that per Mwh subsidies are supposed to finish when carbon tax starts.

Sen. Brown claims credit for creating funding for this project. God help us if this is the thinking that supposedly takes us forward. Ignoring the cost of overnight energy storage if we wanted say 20 GW of average power using this approach it would cost the nation $740 bn. The project will grid connect in 2015 yet we are supposed to find several GW of additional renewable power by 2020, not just tiny amounts by 2015. We’re living in dreamworld.


Looks like the Leader of the Opposition here in Australia is calling for a referendum on the proposed carbon tax.

Ah referendums…such a great way of setting policy. We should have them more often – we could bring back capital punishment and introduce intelligent design in to school “science” classes. Or ban nuclear power in Italy.


And Tom Keen tries to pretend he’s apolitical. What a joke. H’es as part of the “Progressive” advocacy of an economy-destroying Carbon price as are most of the Progressive “Greens-Labor” supporters.

The problem with the whole Climate and Carbon Tax tebate debate is that is 85% politics and ideology and only about 15% honest, un-spun, un-distorted, factual material.


I think carbon tax is a learning exercise we have to do. We’ve had the GST now for 13 years and it generates 30% of Commonwealth revenues. It nearly didn’t make it

We have to see what happens post carbon tax. I predict a lot of hollering over what I think are the two biggest anomalies, that foreigners get our coal and gas without paying c.t. and that new renewables will stop dead in their tracks without additional subsidies. Perhaps this is a new thing with solar that the taxpayer pays 30% of the cost upfront. There will have to be major changes early on. However carbon tax represents something, not just indefinite dithering or denial.


John Newlands,

I think carbon tax is a learning exercise we have to do.

That is simply an opinion based on your beliefs. It ignores the economic consequences. It ignores that it will not change the world’s emissions nor change the climate. It is an irrational position to hold.

The GST was a totally different situation. It was a tax to improve the economy, not damage it. The GST removed many of the taxes (like narrowly based wholesale sales taxes) that imposed costs on inputs to business. It removed the cost imposts of these distorting taxes on exporters. It allowed income tax and company tax to be reduced massively thus improving Australia’s competitiveness and allowing the most productive and innovative Australian’s to stay in Australia, rather than being forced to move overseas. It was a tax Keating originally supported and tried to implement but was thwarted by Kim Beasley, the unions and the Labor caucus.

The carbon tax is a very different animal. It is another case of a serious policy retrograde step (like the winding back of 25 years of Industrial relations reform).

John, your support for a carbon tax is based on nothing more substantial than your belief. That has been demonstrated in your numerous statements of support which amout to nothing more than moral arguments (your moral argiuments).


@ John Newlands

I wonder if the initial response to a carbon tax will be similar to that of the GST introduction; i.e. negative growth immediately following introduction, followed by a quick return to normal (i.e. increasing rate of) consumption.

Not that I’ve ever been able to understand the logic of advocating continuous growth of consumption on a finite planet with a rapidly growing population. But that’s an argument for another day…


John: The Moree Environment Assessment report claims 404 GWh per annum (capacity factor about 30%). Seems high to me, no detail on how it
was calculated. There is also an interesting discussion on the prospects of
flooding … looks like they are making decisions based on the past and
not on the possible future. Rather expensive to flood-proof such a large piece of


A plausible scenario is that by 2013 or 2014 carbon tax is well established but not much is happening on the ground. As if we thought we were getting steroids but they turned out to be sugar pills. Renewable show projects like the Moree solar are seen as absurdly expensive and inadequate white elephants. Throw in high fuel prices and extreme weather (maybe incl. floods at Moree) and the public could be ready for serious decisions.

BTW I thought SBS Cutting Edge was reasonably even handed on Fukushima


Tom Keen and John Newlands,

You guys’ hypocrisy amazes me. You talk incessantly about “Deniers” and yet you are doing exactly that regarding the economic consequences of a carbon price that is sufficient to achieve the 2020 targets.

Tom says:

I wonder if the initial response to a carbon tax will be similar to that of the GST introduction; i.e. negative growth immediately following introduction, followed by a quick return to normal (i.e. increasing rate of) consumption.

Isn’t that just wishful thinking? Isn’t it just hope? Isn’t it simply ignoring the facts because they don’t suit what you want to believe? Isn’t it denial?

Why do you want a carbon price anyway, given it won’t change the world’s emissions and won’t change the climate?

Are you simply wanting another symbolic gesture?

Do you believe it is morally right that you should impose your symbolic gesture on society, given it will achieve no environmental benefit and seriously damage the economy?

(All my statements have been explained, justified and substantiated in previous comments; both of decided to pull out of these discussions – having been shown to have no grounds for your position other than hope and belief!)


Seeing as you bring it up, I think the word ‘denier’ is a perfectly vaild term for people who ignore the vast body of peer-reviewed literature on climate change and impacts. But I have never used that word to describe anyone on this site or any other – not once. Which is more than I can say for you.

It is precisely these types of constant repetitious/false tirades from you that have made me (and no doubt others) pull out of any discussion with you, and for no other reason.


Peter Lang, please remember what you emailed me a while back. It is still clear in my mind, and I now hold you to it: “I must be more like… XX”. You know who the XX is.


@ John,
I find your work interesting so where do I subscribe to your magazine!? ;-)

A plausible scenario is that by 2013 or 2014 carbon tax is well established but not much is happening on the ground. As if we thought we were getting steroids but they turned out to be sugar pills. Renewable show projects like the Moree solar are seen as absurdly expensive and inadequate white elephants. Throw in high fuel prices and extreme weather (maybe incl. floods at Moree) and the public could be ready for serious decisions.

Great post. I love the image of ‘sugar pills’. Expensive, sweet, not much good at solving the problem but sure makes you feel good. Deceptive as well.

Yup, we’re in for an interesting ride.



Hi everyone, I might be seeing things but did Peter Lang REALLY say this to John Newlands?

That is simply an opinion based on your beliefs

…. I did a double take, and then laughed out loud. It’s truly priceless.

Then this?

You guys’ hypocrisy amazes me

Oh the humanity! Peter Peter Peter… (shakes head).

@ Tom

Not that I’ve ever been able to understand the logic of advocating continuous growth of consumption on a finite planet with a rapidly growing population. But that’s an argument for another day…

Finite planet? Peter will have to talk to Tony Abbott and see what he says before Peter knows what he thinks on that one. ;-)


The moderator must be in bed …

I know this is the OT, but how wonderful it would be to debate the issues and the policies without the political histrionics. Maybe the Moderator will bang some heads together in the morning.
Political histrionics tend to be part and parcel of the Open Threads – the purpose of these is to provide a “soapbox” away from the threads on a particular subject so as to prevent hijacking and off topic incursions. As long as the exchanges do not become rudely personal they are left in place.


Sorry, tired, and I just can’t stand trolling. I LOVE a good strong informed exchange of political world-views, it’s the sort of thing I got HD’s for. I’m just not finding it in this particularly sterile exchange from one particular side.


Turnages, @ 9:00 pm

I know this is the OT, but how wonderful it would be to debate the issues and the policies without the political histrionics.

OK. Good point. I’ll try to lead off as you suggest. Let’s see how it goes.

I would like to ask those who support a carbon tax to explain why they support it.

1. What will a carbon price in Australia do for world emissions? If you say it will cut world emissions, please say quantitatively by how much it will cut world emissions by 2020.

2. By how much will it change the climate? be quantitative please. [I believe it will not change the climate either in the short term or the long term because it will not cut world emissions and will not lead Australia or the world to a faster trajectory for cutting emissions. It is fundamentally a wrong policy in my opinion].

3. How high would the carbon price have to go to achieve the 2020 targets of 5% below 2000 emissions levels?

4. What would be the effect on the economy of a carbon price in Australia at this level?

5. What would be the unemployment level in such an economy?

6. What would be the effect on government spending on Health, Education, infrastructure, law and order, environment of such an economic constraint?

7. How much funding and how much political and public focus do you expect would be diverted to environmental actions, including on climate change, in such a constrained economy?

8. What are the ethics and moral implications of implementing a policy that has these consequences?

I hope people will actually consider these questions serioulsy and answer them seriously, rather than just dismiss them.



I can only see that the way forward is to put energy costs up so that we become more efficient. In the UK our petrol prices are far higher then the US. The effect is that we drive more fuel efficient cars with smaller engines. As a family we make decisions based on fuel cost. I walk 1/2 mile to the shop for milk. My children walk to school. The traffic on our roads seem to have reduced somewhat. I work more from home. We take trains if possible (for work too). We don’t feel restricted.

I think if electricity prices increased (taxed), two good things would happen. We would be more willing to invest in some self generation. Manufacturers of consumer appliances would produce products that consumed less energy and market their products for electrical efficiency. ie Companies would compete to produce more energy efficient products. This would be a good way of using a market economy.

Another area that needs looking at is rampant consumerism. In our free market capitalist world, the natural drive for companies is to sell more. Therefore we are all encouraged to buy and buy and buy. Lots of energy is used in production. We need to find a way of slowing things down whilst maintaining a our market economies. For example, at one time I would buy clothes and wear them once or twice. I would go shopping and buy another item. Same with consumer goods. I now don’t have that sort of money and I can assure you that I am happier now. Buying things became a bit of a drug. We tend to buy far beyond our needs. So taking petrol in the uk as an example, we can still lead great lives without consuming much more then we need.


Via Peak Energy more info on ‘solar flagships’. The other big project apart from PV is gas boosted solar thermal at Chinchilla Qld. Steam will be generated by lenses on parabolic troughs with a gas boost nominally limited to 15% but could be more.
Presumably cooling water is not an issue. The idea is to match summer loads but not store energy for night time. If like Moree they claim 30% c.f. then average output is 75 MW at a cost of $1.2 bn or $16/w. Again the Feds are putting up more than a third of the capital cost.

What will these ‘solar flagships’ achieve? They generate small amounts of day time power at huge cost, money that could be spent elsewhere. They won’t displace any coal or gas fired generation. In fact if they encourage night time energy demand they could perversely increase emissions. It’s said they will help drive down solar costs which seems unlikely with governments willing to be so generous. At the end of this exercise we will have spent years and billions to verify what we suspected all along, that solar is neither cheap or reliable and won’t replace coal.


Eric Moore,

Thank you for your response. You said (in part):

I can only see that the way forward is to put energy costs up so that we become more efficient.

This is what the advocates of carbon pricing are saying. But surely, we should look into this and question whether it will give the outcomes we want before we implement polices and legislation that may have dire unexpected consequences. It is only prudent and responsible to do so. We should consider why many people are opposed to the carbon pricing approach and why many countries are back tracking from taking this approach. It would be unwise to simply dismiss the opposition as by ignorant dummies and climate change deniers without properly considering the alternative point of view.

I have explained in many previous comments on this thread, other threads and especially on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread why “Putting energy costs up” is not the right policy. If you haven’t seen those comments perhaps you could look from the start of this thread. If you want to see the earlier comments, ask me and I’ll link to relevant comments.

The alternative to pricing carbon is to remove the distortions in the energy market that are favouring one technology compared with another. The impediments to nuclear are massive. It should be far cheaper than any other option given its higher energy density.

Raising the cost of electricity in the developed countries will not help to cut world emissions. It may actually increase it. It is the wrong approach. See comments up thread.

Having briefly reiterated these points, could I urge you and others to now take seriously the questions I posed in my comment at 20 June 2011 at 10:35 PM, here:

If we can deal with these questions, quantitatively, and in order they are presented, we will come to a much better informed decision. This can be part of a constructive decision tree analysis.

Given Turnages comment and other comments about the politics, I hope that this important discussion can progress in BNC.



Modern Man and His Earthly Greenhouse
The surface temperature of the Earth is conditioned largely by two minor constituents of the atmosphere; namely carbon dioxide and water vapour. These are both transparent to the short wave energy (light and near infra-red) that comes from the Sun, but they are opaque to most of the long wave radiation that attempts to escape back into space. This is the familiar greenhouse effect which traps and holds heat, and in this case keeps the Earth’s surface considerably warmer than it would be were there no water vapour or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

An increase in either of these would make things warmer still. Some geologists go as far as to suggest that the warmer geological eras were caused by excessive escape of carbon dioxide from volcanoes.

Until man appeared, the principal source of atmospheric CO2 was from animal and plant breathing, and from forest fires. Since the Industrial Revolution, man has introduced new sources, namely the burning of fossil fuels stores stored, may be, for hundreds of millions of years in sub-surface repositories such as coal beds and oil fields. Scientists have estimated that the present atmosphere contains 2.35 billion tons of CO2 existing in equilibrium with plants and surface waters (which tend to dissolve it). Until 1860, they claim, man’s fires added only half a billion tons per year, and this was quickly absorbed. Each year now more furnaces and engines pour more CO2 into the atmosphere, by 1900 they estimated three billion tons annually. By 1950 – nine billion. By the year 2010, if the present trends are indicative, nearly 50 billion tons will be being added each year.

This will represent only 2% increase in the present total of carbon dioxide, but if the oceans, minerals and plants cannot absorb it all, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere must increase and the greenhouse tendency will be intensified. With it may go all manner of inter-related adjustments and a chain of secondary effects may come into play. As the air warms, sea water will also get warmer. CO2 is less soluble in warmer waters, and so some of the dissolved gas will be returned to the atmosphere. More water would evaporate from the warmer oceans, and so the greenhouse effect will be further reinforced. If the process goes far enough, conceivably the ice-caps would melt from Antarctica and Greenland, and many of our coastal cities would be inundated.

Such drastic effects may never come to pass, but the tendency is real. One of the tasks in Geophysical Year (1957) will be to measure with greater accuracy the content of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists will record subsequent changes with added interest and we may then be able to predict “things to come” more adequately.

The Australian Amateur Mineralogist, March 1957, p 32


Eric Moore,

I fail to see how putting the price of energy up increases energy use. But if you say so.

You have misunderstood or misrepresented what I said. You may find my earlier comments on this thread of interest.

90% or emissions growth over the next few decades will be from the emerging economies, not the developed economies. So the developing economies need to implement policies that will lead to the emerging economies being able to avoid emissions. We will do that by reducing the cost of clean energy to below the cost of fossil fuel energy. We won’t achieve that by taxing energy in the developed economies, because the emerging economies will not implement policies that make energy more costly.

Secondly, Australia implementing a carbon price now (more than we are already doing through various polices which puts us in about the middle of what the main OECD economies are doing), will drive our energy intensive industries out of Australia to China and elsewhere. That will reduce Australia’s emissions but will not reduce world emissions. It may actually increase world emissions.


Barry what a great post!

It reminds me of predictions of a drying climate for the South West of Australia that were made 40 years ago in WA by meteorologists due to GHG emissions and widely reported at the time in the newspapers. Today records show that our annual rainfall is 25% lower than the mean of the annual rainfall between 1900 and 1970 and is predicted to fall further over the next 20 years. The cost of adapting to this warmer, dryer climate is already imposing a large burden on WA taxpayers as more desalination plants are constructed and very expensive water storage dams remain empty. As GHG emissions rise globally the cost of adaptation generally can only rise.


The 1957 mineralogists predicted 50 Gt of CO2 by 2010 but the actual figure was 30.6 Gt according to IEA. Good problem spotting though.

Anecdotal evidence seems to agree with China’s coal production peaking In my opinion carbon taxing Australia’s coal and LNG exports is a form of ‘sharing the pain’. Foreign govts can ask for a refund if the money goes on green programs. If they get the coal and LNG elsewhere then other measures should cut in like a tariff on the goods we import from them. That could help cut CO2 by tens of millions of tonnes unlike silly overpriced solar projects.


This is a classic case of two groups talking past each other. One group (the dominant group on BNC) wants to talk about “the science” and scary scenarios about some possible outcome in the distant future. This group does not want to consider, nor even enter into dicsussions about, what is concerning the other group.

The other group is concerned about appropriate policies and economics for the near term. The first group doesn’t want to even consider this. It seems to want to shut it out and pretend it is not a genuine problem.

The second group sees the economic consequencs of bad policies as the really big issue. It sees this as the real moral and ethical concern. The first group sees dealing with the distant future as the more pressing ethical concern.

The second group believes the long term will be resolved if we can get appropriate and acceptable solutions for the near term and get started – “get off the potty” as someone said up thread.

It is unfortunate that BNC regulars do not want to consider the economic consequences of the policies they are advocating. It’s a worry! It does not give the second group confidence that the first group should be trusted with the policy prescriptions they hold so dearly.


This is definitely worth taking the time to read – a very thorough analysis.

The IPCC and Greenpeace: Renewable outrage

A quote:

It is exactly because assessing scenarios is so hard, says Dr Edenhofer, that the IPCC authors instead chose to simply expand on the details of four particularly striking ones. The Greenpeace one was chosen for this spotlight because it had the highest renewable penetration; the median penetration in 2050 across all 164 scenarios was just 27%. That is much lower in part because it includes baseline, or “business as usual”, scenarios that made no pro-renewables policy assumptions. It’s worth noting that even in these the share of renewables tends to go up.

In the case of Energy [R]evolution there are, unsurprisingly, a fair few pro-renewable assumptions, not to mention optimistic assumptions about technology and a fixed ambitious target for carbon-dioxide emissions in 2050. Most striking of all, though, is the premise that there will be a huge gain in energy efficiency which will bring with it no rebound in terms of greater energy use.

As a result the scenario features more than 9 billion people enjoying a much higher GDP than today’s 7 billion in 2050 while using less energy not just per capita, but overall. It is because so little energy is being used, and because alternatives are ruled out ab initio (the model contains no nuclear power, and no technology for storing away carbon emissions from fossil fuels; natural gas prices rise strongly and coal plants are retired well before they are clapped out) that the model ends up with such a high percentage of renewables; indeed given the premise it’s slightly surprising it doesn’t end up with even more. Other scenarios festoon the planet with a lot more windmills and solar panels, but also imagine a lot more energy use; some of their creators claim that the low-carbon-dioxide atmosphere seen in Energy [R]evolution is impossible without carbon-caching technologies attached to fossil fuel plants.


Carbon scheme “worse than doing nothing”

It’s interesting to see people with credentials like this (founding director of Access Economics and former Australian representative to the IMF and the OECD) supporting what I’ve been saying regarding Australia’s carbon pricing proposal:

A leading economist has likened the effectiveness of the “flawed” production-based carbon pricing regime being considered by the Gillard government to doing nothing, arguing it will drive up costs and achieve little enviromental gain.


It is being asserted that the cost of the Fukushima accident is “proof” that nuclear power is too expensive. I thought it would be interesting to look at some assumed cost of cleanup distributed across all nuclear generated electricity from the viewpoint of the cost of CO2 abatement. It would be nice if somebody can confirm my figures.

Total nuclear electricity generated: ~70,000,000 GWh
(from eyeballing the chart here: )
Assume that has displaced black coal at ~ 900 grams/kWh CO2 gives an emissions saving of ~63,000,000,000 tonnes CO2

For an assumed cleanup cost of $100,000,000,000 at Fukishima that is an additional CO2 abatement cost of ~$1.40 per tonne CO2 over the whole history of nuclear power.



Mark Duffett, I note this quote in that story about Germany:

However, Europe’s largest economy is shying away from pushing for renewable energy to replace those plants, even though opinion polls show people are willing to accept higher bills to support green power.

If that’s the case, then the German Government should immediately announce an energy tax to cover the cost of providing green power. When the general public find out how much it’ll cost just to tread water on CO2 emissions (let alone actually reduce them to meet their targets), they might think twice about the wisdom of shutting down all those nuclear plants.


Peter Lang,

I’m from the US, and favor, for my country, a moderate, revenue-neutral carbon tax, with cash back for households and a cut in the corporate income tax.

The carbon tax rate would be $5 (per ton of CO2) for the first year, $10 for the second, and would rise to $20 by 2020. Fossil fuel exports would be exempt until other exporters enacted similar taxes.

Do you feel that climate change is, at least potentially, a threat? If so a slowly rising carbon tax is a good policy option.


Here’s something probably no one saw coming… Senator Steve Fielding isn’t going to support the plebiscite on a carbon tax, stating that it’s “a political stunt”. On the other hand, Xenophon is supporting it. In sum though, it’s not going to get through the upper house, so the motion is dead.

And here I was, thinking Steve Fielding wasn’t real. ;)


There is an interesting image on the Moree solar project website showing the project area overlaid on central Sydney. It can be found on this page:

It covers half of Nth Sydney, Milsons Point, McMahons Pt, Kirribilli, the CBD south to the town hall, Circular Key and the Opera House, parts of Pyrmont and Balmain and all parts of the harbour in between. Crikey! Scaling this monster up to be the equal of 1 GW nuclear or coal would need about 20 times that area.


Eric Moore, on 20 June 2011 at 11:18 PM said:

I can only see that the way forward is to put energy costs up so that we become more efficient. In the UK our petrol prices are far higher then the US. The effect is that we drive more fuel efficient cars with smaller engines.

Comparisons between what impacts policies have in one place to another place can be misleading.

I’m an American and have lived in the US Northeast,Northwest and Southeast. I’ve also lived in the UK and Japan.

When I lived in the UK I had a company car and maybe drove it 10 or 20 miles a week. When I lived in Japan I opted to rent out my company provided parking space rather then own a car.

In the US if I had to make a choice between being homeless and living in my car or not having a car it would be a tough choice.

100 years ago 75% of the population of the UK lived in areas classified as urban, in the US only 40% of the population lived in areas classified as urban. The US didn’t hit 75% urbanization until 1990.

The UK had at least a 100 year head start on the US at providing the necessary transportation infrastructure for a predominantly urban population.


King O’Malley’s comment about Canberra 1913 could apply to the Moree solar site ..’a good paddock spoilt’. Even though Sen. Fielding is a GW denier at least he shows some pragmatism. Next week he will be replaced by hardline Greens senators. They can’t see anything wrong with using a billion dollars of taxpayers money to generate a few megawatts of average power. The Greens want to replace RECs with a German style national feed-in tariff. If they fail to keep it real during their time in power I think they will go the way of the Australian Democrats and become a historical oddity.

In the next 12 months the big emitters are going to put on a hissy fit but with the Greens controlled Senate I think $20 carbon tax will get up. Greens thinking is so weird anything could happen. Maybe an aluminum smelter with a few solar panels out the front will get a carbon tax exemption.


Tom Keen, @ 21 June 2011 at 5:45 PM

You continue to make your political comments in support of your preferred “Progressive” allegiances (as you have always done) yet you continually criticise me and the the few other Conservatives who comment on BNC who dare to criticise the Progressives’ policies and who argue the case for economically rational policies. But you are nowhere near the worst of the “Progressives” in this regard.

I am just pointing out the deeply entrenched “Progressive” bias of you and many other BNCers. The fact that you and others are not willing to debate the economic consequences of the policies you support, such as carbon pricing, reduces your credibility in all you argue for. It raises the question: who are the real “Deniers”?


Phew!! been away in the Flinders for a week. Tried to catch up on this Soap box thread. Too much for me I’m afraid.But, will repeat what I said on an earlier post. The developed world which is supposed to GIVE 0.7% of GDP to the third world in aid, Should for the next 10,20 years GIVE that aid, IN FULL [not .32% as in the case of Australia] in the form of appropriately sized nuclear reactors so that those people can switch on a light and cook a meal on an electric stove etc. And for anyone interested, on the 29th June I shall be recording my piece, “Climate Change and Australia’s energy future” for Robyn Williams “Ockham’s Razor show. I’ll let you know when it’ll go to air. And on 5th July here in Port Lincoln, there is a forum to be chaired by Phillip Adams which is going to discuss questions about the urban/rural divide. I’ll be there and will relate my experiences of trying to get a say on the ABC on matters nuclear and the Murray/Darling Basin out to the people. It’s damn near impossible and I’ll be telling them. In 13 years, I’ve got a few words in on five occasions. The likes of Diesendorf, Lowe, Green, Caldicott, Flannery [runs with the hares and hunts with the hounds] are always spruiking anti nuclear tripe. Once in a blue moon a pro nuke gets a say. I’ll be urging them to achieve a better balance which they claim they always do.


Great stuff, Terry Krieg.

Really good point about the foreign aid figure. If the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg can do > 0.7 %, surely so can we. And what better way of spending it than on energy investment. Much more effective than feel-good sponsor-a-child programs.

Perhaps post a reminder here next Tuesday or Wednesday, so I (and maybe others) remember to tune in!


@ quokka,

It’s surprising they put up a size-comparison image like that in the Moree solar media release. No doubt, it’s playing on the ignorance of most people about how much power it can actually generate.

“I’d rather this than a coal power plant!”

“Yes, but would you prefer 20 instead of a coal power plant?”

Perhaps here in Adelaide we could replace the Torrens Island Power Station with 20 of them, which would probably take up an area half the size of greater Adelaide. And still not produce power reliably.

When are people going to get it? Perhaps John Newlands is onto something, with possible extended severe drought and $150 a barrel oil in a few years time.


A few years back BP began their solar division and started saying BP means ‘beyond petroleum’. Then senior management changed and they went back to a focus on oil and gas. Then the Gulf of Mexico disaster happened so the company needed to restore some green cred. They tendered for the Moree showstopper and won. However it beats me how solar enthusiasts tell us $1/w is imminent if 150 MW peak costs $923m. At 16% capacity factor that’s $38.50/w or at a claimed 30% c.f. that’s $20.50/w.

I expect our newly green tinged politicians will fly up on a sunny day in VIP jets to gaze in wonderment at the shiny panels below. I’d guess that’s power consumption of a megawatt per politician. Down below 100,000 people might have to share 100 MW from the panels or .001 MW each. That’s the way things seem to work in green folklore.


I thought it was a “$600 – $700 million project”? Not that the numbers come out increadibly better of course.


Most of you here, I repeat, are *avoiding* the issue. The real reason H2S taxes worked is because they really didn’t. It was *mandated* regulations that did along with technological progress that allowed plants to stem the growth and in fact reverse sulfuric acid pollution.

You are trying to give economic incentives and demerits to corporate entities that all they care about is making money. They will figure ways to make this work for them to *continue* to spew carbon.

I would propose you treat CO2 with the deadly long term consequences that is proven: you tell the utilities that they stop spewing CO2 or else. Else being a series of fines up to and including confiscation of their property. Stock holders don’t like it and public power utilities are under the management of the public anyway. All it has to do is be mandated. So make laws that mandate it. This is not rocket science. You make it *illegal* ultimately to use CO2 spewing generation.

As part of this each region/district/utility/ISO jurisdiction will be mandated to come up with a *specific* time line/plans for phasing out their coal and natural gas. You can give them choices of technology but the key is to do it and make it a criminal offense not to.

Secondly, they have to show certain criteria: reliability to electrical load doesn’t change (all regulatory authorities *now* mandate this anyway); they have to start with the most CO2 per unit of energy plants; careful pass-along-costs are examined and long term costs taken into consideration.

Thirdly, we reject this carbon-tax economic ‘incentive’ nonsense. It has to go as it won’t work and will at the end of the day allow producers to continue to spew carbon. The last thing we need is a *speculative* market on carbon credits. OMG!



“Oh don’t be silly” yourself. Did you bother to read the article? Do you think you understood it?

Don’t you understand simple comparisons? Others are how long you have to work in different countries to buy a pint of beer or Macdonald’s Big Mac hamburger. More sophisticated method is “purchasing power parity”.

Try again
why rational optimism beats ephemeral happiness

Perhaps this will explain the meaning of the article a bit better:

Speaking at the Centre for Independent Studies, Ridley quoted British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, who once asked: “On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?” That was in 1830, even before the industrial revolution delivered vast improvements to the way we live. Two centuries later, after even greater innovation and progress, it is passing strange that rational optimism remains such a rarity.

Asked about this conundrum, Ridley points to the intelligentsia. Calamitous predictions about the future, not calm reasoning about the past, sell books and sustain careers. And “there’s more of the intelligentsia around now so you hear more from them”. The “apocaholics” predict doom and gloom from Malthusian population explosions, AIDS epidemics, bird flu pandemics, peak oil problems, depleting ozone layers, acid rains, deforestation, urbanisation, and over-consumption. The list is long.


David Walters,

I agree with this bit of your post :)

Thirdly, we reject this carbon-tax economic ‘incentive’ nonsense. It has to go as it won’t work and will at the end of the day allow producers to continue to spew carbon. The last thing we need is a *speculative* market on carbon credits. OMG!

We can’t evne measure the damned stuff. How can you trade something you can’t measure?

It is becoming clear to me that the Australian CO2 figures produced by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficency (DCCEE) are enormously rubbery. How can you trade a substance where trhere are enormous errors in the estimated quantities, and ongoing changes in the estimating methodologies?

Instead of trading CO2, and all the problems that will cause, we should go straight to allowing nuclear to be lower cost than coal. That is feasible and possible as I’ve explained elsewhere. We just need to focus on converting the ideologically opposed – the regressive “Progressives”.


Since $20 carbon tax is likely to get up in the Greens dominated Senate and if somehow nuclear was legal in Australia the cost figure to beat is $106 per Mwh. Using the cost figures in box 4.1 from Chapter 4 of the Productivity Commission report we have pre-carbon tax
coal $78-$91 mid range $84
CCGT $97
wind $150-$214 mid range $182
Since ‘coal’ is both black and brown the average CO2 intensity will be about 1.1t per Mwh or $22 c.t.. Combined cycle gas generates about 0.37 tCO2 per Mwh call it $7 c.t..

The revised mid range figures then become coal $106, CCGT $106 and wind $182 per Mwh. Therefore to get NP in Australia we’d need
1) to make it legal
2) beat $106 per Mwh cost.


Thanks Tom Keen,
Post me your email address and I’ll send you a copy of the 13 minute talk. I hope to find out when it will go to air when I speak to Briggitte Seega who will do the recording. I’ll let you know. Cheers.


Peter Lang,

Hello. Thanks for the reply. I’ll briefly answer the first part of your first question and then address the other questions tangentially.

What Australia does with a carbon tax is important, among other reasons, because Australian action–or lack of action– will influence world policy: At the moment, Australia is the key theater in this debate.

You are right to insist on examining both the benefits and the costs of any proposal. For example, the International Energy Agency has projected the cost of electricity from power plants coming on line from 2015 to 2020 (World Energy Outlook 2009, p. 381). Gas is $78/MWh, coal $69, and nuclear $72.

But even a modest carbon tax of $10 per ton of CO2 would bring these numbers to something like $83 for gas, $79 for coal, and $72 for nuclear.

So a low-cost tax would tilt the scales heavily toward nuclear–a big effect. And if most of the revenue from the tax is recycled intelligently by lowering other, more distortionary taxes, the total cost would be near zero, and could even help the economy. That’s a pretty favorable cost-benefit ratio.



Australians need to stop thinking how important they are – we do not influence world policy and we are not centre stage, at best we appear like a little yapping lapdog.


The military’s big move from the SE to the NW is why I think only NP will keep south eastern Australia going
The message seems to be let’s protect the North West Shelf rigs, Bass Strait rigs can fend for themselves. It’s also why $7 a gigajoule Victorian gas will not replace 60c a GJ brown coal under any likely carbon tax rates. I suggest some are clutching at straws by hoping fracking will revive the southern gas basins. With uncanny foresight Rex Connor saw the need for a transcontinental gas pipeline 30 years ago.

SA, Vic and Tas have got to come up with some new baseload power source. Either that or wangle their way out of carbon tax to keep burning the flammable dirt they call coal.


@John Newlands.

When I looked at the report those LCOE figures came from (Aus Electricity Generation Technology Costs – Reference Case 2010) it cited $173/MWh for Nuclear. That assumed a reactor size of 1100-1600MW (GIII/III+) at 85% CF, with seawater cooling (to mitigate drought effects), and decomissioning costs. Plus it also highlighted the Grubb curve for GenIII/III+ showing the cost will decrease over time with each reactor built.

That $106/MWh target does look a bit of a stretch. But I think that some of the assumptions listed above are rather conservative giving that GenIII/III+ reactors can push out a CF of 90% (which will reduce the LCOE costs a bit). Still it’s far better than wind or solar giving that the report did not include transmission costs into the calculation. Seeing as solar and wind need extensive transmission networks to overcome their intermittancy issues. Furthermore that report states the LCOE for parabolic solar w/ 6hrs storage at $376-527/MWh and central receiver solar with 6hrs storage at $283-395/MWh. Wind is better but only cost compeditive with nuclear in areas of high wind and large capacity farms (Class 6).

Factor in a carbon tax, conservaive assumptions, and grubb curves and those figures will decrease. Maybe to to the level coal and gas are at, but throw in subsidies from the carbon tax and it can help further. Although there is an inherent issue that over time the tax will decrease as there is a shift away from intensive CO2 gerneation, maybe this will coincide with the over time decrease in cost to build and run nuclear meaning a reduced subsidy. Just a thought.

Personally the jury is still out on the Carbon Tax. I don’t mind its intended shift to move towards cleaner generation but I don’t like how it is at the sacrifice of a fledgeling manufacturing industry in Australia. I can’t see how the Steelworks in Whyalla can redeuce their emissions (via tech and efficiency) at a cost and also have to pay a tax. It doesn’t seem fair for one, and 2) a bit silly if they pay a tax (admin costs) and then have that tax come back to subsidise their emission reduction measures. Suppose I’ll have to wait for the Carbon Tax plan…

Report –


On rechecking chapter4 of the Productivity Commission report didn’t give a cost figure for nuclear. They claim their source was EPRI the Electric Power Research Institute 2010. I’ll have to read the entire report. It’s hard to see how carbon tax can be less than $20 with Greens controlling the Senate. When the carbon price goes to auction in 2015 it might actually decline. However if due to Peak Oil the trucking industry switches to CNG that could make gas too expensive for stationary users. Gas generators could pay less carbon tax but higher fuel costs.

With metals I think a tonne of steel creates 1.7 t CO2. from the coke ovens and blast furnace. If aluminium is smelted with black coal fired electricity that is more like 15 tCO2. It seems crazy that we will sell both thermal and coking coal to China and India free of carbon tax as well as the iron ore. All those countries supply is cheap labour and lack of pollution controls. I think direct cash compensation to the local metals industry is wrong. The deal should be foreign customers pay carbon tax on our coal or they face a carbon tariff on their finished goods. For steel ingot that would be about $35 on top of ~$850/t FOB and for aluminium bar that would be about $300 on top of $2,500/t. I suspect Swan has the ghost of John Button whispering in his ear and is resisting the idea of carbon tariffs but I think they are inevitable.


It looks like the carbon tax in Australia is being bent every which way. Despite a new report apparently modelling an average of just 2.95 % reduced profits for Australia’s 100 biggest companies, the government seems insistent on massive “compensation” schemes, in line with the compensation proposals under the sunken 2010 ETS. Despite Professor Garnaut arguing handouts should not be made.

The other thing that is concerning is that the government seems intent on having a tax replaced by an ETS as soon as possible. These trading schemes are useless, designed to be manipulated.



$173/MWh looks quite pricey for nuclear power anywhere. IEA provides it’s estimates in the 2010 Projected Costs of Electricity Generation. There is considerable variation, but the highest cost estimated is $136.50 in Switzerland at 10% discount rate and the lowest $29.05 in South Korea at 5% discount rate. Estimates include spent duel management and decommissioning.

I would guess that first of a kind costs could well be considerable in Australia, but for several of a kind $173 looks too high.



The cost of nuclear in Australia can be anywhere from lower than coal to infinitely high. It depends on the impediments we leave in place and the extra ones we put in place.

As long as we are not prepared to look at this issue, then the high LCOE’s are the most realistic to use for estimating and for comparisons. While we are not prepared to look at the impediments, recognise what they are and consider how to remove them, we can only plan on the basis of a very high cost nuclear regime – in fact nuclear in Australia would be higher cost than in tn the USA, EU, Canada.

I’ve been trying to get BNCers to consider the impediments and identify them for over a year, but it is a touchy subject that most BNC regulars apparently did not want to tackle. To highlight how touchy it is, one of the key issues we’d need to address is the Industrial Relations laws and regulations we’ve imposed on ourselves. They would add about 20% to the cost. A lot more of the impediments are mentioned in comments on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread. Until we are prepared to look into the impediments to nuclear, the sensible approach to estimating is to use the high LCOE figures.

Furthermore, while we are not prepared to tackle this issue, nuclear is off the agenda for Australia, indefinitely. It will not be economic nor politically possible, no matter how high a carbon price, while the impediments remain in place. So, a carbon price simply means renewables, gas and seriously retarded economic growth. Australia will then be in a worse position for taking on the challenges ahead than it needs to be.

It’s a pity those so attached to a carbon price cannot see any of this.


Bonnevile Power(the primary grid operator for the US Pacific Northwest) has some interesting new slides up in relation to our wind experience.

Slide 5 shows a substantial ‘seasonal’ capacity factor’ difference for wind.
Slide 12 shows the plan for finally getting rid of our stinking coal plants.(1% of the solution involves renewable’s)

Click to access WIF_SC_Presentation_6-11.pdf


Hahahahah!!!! A M A Z I N G. I’ts not that renewables increase n 1% it’s the whole table!

Slide 12 does show this:

Replacing ~2,000 MWa coal plant generation:
Reduce exports (~50% of lost energy)
Increase use of existing gas plants (~17%)
Ramp up efficiency programs (~16%)
Increase renewable energy(~1%)
Increase renewable energy ( 1%)
Build new gas generation (~18%)

So, an *increase* in natural gas use by 35%!!!! No wonder the gas guys love wind.


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