Open Thread 17

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 7 June 2011) was here. Why another one so soon, I hear you ask? Well, blame yourselves, you worked the last one over too quickly (almost 600 comments accumulated), and this payload slows down the thread loading too much. Hence, a fresh canvas for you.

Note 2: I have now added the BNC animated video as a permanent widget, located at the top right hand column of the blog — so it will always be easy to find (and, I hope, will act as an introduction to the site for those who are visiting for the first time).

Note 3: Some interesting reading… Joe Shuster (a member of SCGI and author of ‘Beyond Fossil Fools’) has written a 24-page pamphlet called “Energy Independence Day: July 4th 2040” (PDF download). This US-focused plan includes 15% wind, 15% solar, 5% hydro, 6% biomass, geothermal, tides and waves, 5% plasma remediation (waste), 12% natural gas, and 42% nuclear (an initial build out of advanced LWR and a transition to predominantly IFRs). Click the link to read the document, which is well argued (even if you disagree with some details), colourfully illustrated, and thought provoking. Tom Blees said the following:

Joe Shuster has distilled the confusing energy picture and presented in this brief report a rational, logical, and quantified solution to some of the most intractable problems of our day. Unlike most visions of humanity’s future, Joe foresees an energy-rich world that would enable a dramatic improvement in the lives of everyone on the planet. This is not just about energy. It’s about social justice on a planetary scale.

—Tom Blees, President of the Science Council for Global Initiatives



  1. DV82XL is a frequent commenter here, and Barry has featured his views as guest posts in the past. Rod Adams, a prominent US pro nuclear advocate is touting DV82XLs writing at the moment.

    Quoting from DV82XL’s “History of the Antinuclear Movement part 2b”, at a point when he discusses environmental groups in general, which DV82XL refers to as “Green/eco-activists”:

    “Since it appears that the primary objective of these groups is to keep the flow of donations into their coffers as high as possible, they generally like to engage in high-profile actions with little regard for any overall strategy. Unlike the NIMBYs, there are only broad and ill-defined objectives, and even when there is a specific target for action, after putting on some spectacle, and garnering some attention in the press, there is rarely if any follow-up beyond a bit of rhetoric. Thus as antinuclear activists, while loud and annoying, they are not too effective on a broad front.”

    Note that his criticism at the start of this quote is general and very clear – environmental groups are not sincerely attempting to address issues of concern to them, such as climate change. Their primary interest is money. He shifts from this general, unsubstantiated expression of derision (there are no footnotes or references in this piece) to the specific case of “Green/eco-activists” who because they oppose nuclear power are part of the anti nuclear movement as he dismisses their effectiveness in his last sentence.

    I take it these views of DV82XL would offend many who visit here. Perhaps he would like to take this opportunity to explain what he believes.

    DV82XL denounced me personally here as an “anti nuclear zealot”, presumably over my view that the US National Academy of Sciences is capable of producing excellent independent expert panel reviews on any scientific topic, in the case in question, on the effects of human exposure to low doses of radiation. Because I believe in the quality and integrity of the NAS, one of the greatest scientific organizations that exists in the world today, and pointed to some of their work in debate on this website, I drew DV82XL’s fire.

    If it were just DV82XL I would say what does this matter. The fact is his tactic of attacking those who say our greatest scientific institutions have integrity and ability because he disagrees with the findings of a panel the NAS set up to examine what the scientific community believes about radiation, is a tactic that is being used by many others as they attack the findings of climate scientists.

    I have just finished re-reading Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s book “Merchants of Doubt”. There is a good interview with Naomi done by The Climate Show, here – Listen to her describe how she feels about the small group of people her book is about, who used this tactic of attacking the integrity and ability of scientists and their institutions rather than backing up their view of reality with verifiable data published in the peer reviewed literature.

    I find this view of DV82XLs, i.e. that environmentalists have no real concerns other than making money to be common among pro nuclear types, especially those who put their views most prominently forward on the internet by hosting websites. And it is also common among these types to denounce the IPCC, and climate science. Some say the Nobel Committee that awarded the only Nobel ever given for studies of the Earth’s atmosphere was in error.

    My position is that no matter how evil the types Oreskes and Conway describe, who originated these tactics, appear to be, the real problem is why did so many believe them.

    However, I think it is time we all examine whether it is wise to allow our supposed allies to continue with their tactics of attempting to undermine the credibility of our great scientific institutions unchallenged. The viability of the only planet known to support life is at stake.


  2. 42% nuclear in the Shuster plan? Surely the US can do better than that.
    12% NG- I realize that unconventional gas is the flavour of the decade but I doubt whether there will be enough recoverable gas left,even globally,by 2040 to meet this level of demand.And it is still a fossil fuel and highly polluting.

    6% biomass,geothermal,tides and waves.The latter 2 are pixieland stuff and geothermal,outside of volcanic areas,is hardly a proven technology.Biomass has the potential to be extremely environmentally destructive.

    30% wind and solar – why bother when,for less money and resources,less disrupton to the grid, and a smaller footprint the US could provide the same amount of electricity reliably with nuclear.

    5% hydro – does that mean even more destruction of river systems?

    I think advocates of nuclear power are diluting their message by even mentioning some of these ideas as being viable options.Time to stay on track and not be shunted off to weed infested sidings or down dead end lines


  3. The last time I put forward this proposal all I got was some kind of political rant about free markets. Once again.

    One way to eliminate the problems with gas backup for wind and solar would be to require all such projects to have two hours of peak output matched with associated green storage ( hydro, pumped hydro, batteries, flywheels etc)

    With pumped Hydro that would add about $2B/Gw to the current $12B/Gw cost of wind power.

    When the green storage is down to one hour CCGT plants fire up and replenish. No need for fast spooling OCGT plant and associated emissions.


  4. If it’s “one” hour or so, then it’s far cheaper than CCGT. There seems to be a misunderstanding that it takes 10 minutes or more for a CCGT to come online. The *steam turbine/generator* set might (assuming it’s not a combined GT/Steam Turbine CC unit) but the GT part of any CCGT comes on and parallels to the system as soon at it’s built up RPMs and the DC field is put on it. For the kind of set up (something that would be totally unnessary if we had well deployed nuclear) Seth here is advocating, you only need a OCGT (simple cycle).



  5. As Ray Kurzweil of “The Singularity is Near” fame correctly points out:

    “Solar panels are coming down dramatically in cost per watt. And as a result of that, the total amount of solar energy is growing, not linearly, but exponentially. Its doubling every 2 years and has been for 20 years. And again, its a very smooth curve. Theres all these arguments, subsidies and political battles and companies going bankrupt, theyre raising billions of dollars, but behind all that chaos is this very smooth progression.”

    Daniel Nocera’s recent discovery of an extremely efficient way to store solar energy is but one example of this.

    Here, now, are only some of the MAJOR ADVANCES in solar that have occurred during THIS MONTH (June, 2011) alone:

    1. Pythagoras Solar in San Mateo has developed a window laced with solar cells, a window that generates electricity. Imagine if office towers were net energy producers.

    Read More:

    2. Quantum Materials Corp announce that continuous production of Tetrapod Quantum Dots has been achieved. Tetrapod Quantum Dots are used in the manufacture of ultra efficient solar panels.

    Read more:

    3. Engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a way for the first time to create successful “CIGS” solar devices with inkjet printing, in work that reduces raw material waste by 90 percent and will significantly lower the cost of producing solar energy cells with some very promising compounds.

    Read more:

    4. Chinese solar-panel manufacturer Suntech Power has developed a new process for making silicon wafers for solar cells that could cut the cost of solar power by 10 to 20 percent

    Read more:

    This exponential trend WILL continue. The same is not true for other forms of energy.

    Nuclear power will be to solar what the Apple IIe is now to the Ipad – it’s just a matter of time

    Solar in INFINITELY marketable, scalable, and almost no waste issues

    Nuclear REQUIRES government security regimes, requires grid infrastructures (not yet available in much of the developing world and a MAJOR expense) and has considerable waste issues

    My guess is that by the time 1 new nuclear power plant is built in the US, the developing world will be significantly powered by…

    Ever cheaper, Ever more Efficient, ever more personal, Ever cleaner, Ever more promising energy from the sun.


  6. The storage requirement seems like it would meet with approval from the BZE crowd. Yesterday Bob Brown said the solar flagship projects were ‘base load’. Don’t think so; they only work when the sun shines.
    This has been pointed out by ZCA enthusiasts e.g.

    The ‘flagships’ get a favourable mention in the Martin Ferguson statement linked in the sidebar. That’s ~250 MW peak (more if gas boosted) by 2015. I thought were supposed to have ~5,000 MW more round the clock average renewable power by 2020. It’s so far off you’d think it’s time we stopped kidding ourselves.


  7. One megaWatt hour is equivalent to about 8.4 x10^10 [10^10 = exp(10)] Joules. A change in temperature of one degree C (1 C) in 1 cc (= 1gram) of water involves 4.2 Joules. Thus 8.4 x 10^10 Joules would heat, by 1 degree C, a volume of 2 x 10^10 cm3 or 2 x 10^4 cubic metres of water by 1 C. This volume is equivalent to 100m x 100m x 1m. Similarly a change of 100 C in this amount of water would involve 100 MWh. To store enough energy to run a 100 MW generator for 14 hours (no sun at night) would require 28 x 10^4 cubic metres of water initially at, say, 400 C cooling to 300 C (still hot enough to produce high quality steam) as steam was drawn off during the night. The volume is equivalent to (100 m x 100 m) in area x 28 m deep. Perhaps alternatively a sphere, buried underground, of radius about 40 m. Doesn’t sound too difficult provided that in that volume one could contain the preesure of steam at a temperature of 400 C. I think someone had better check my figures!!


  8. The comments so far are missing the key issue. They’ve been missing or avoiding there key issue consistently.

    The key point is the economics.

    If we are not prepared to tackle the fact that the impediments we place on nuclear make it uneconomic in Australia, it is not going to get built here.

    A carbon price is not going to make nuclear economic while the impediments remain in place.

    Imposing a Carbon Price will bury the problem of the impediments even deeper in the mire of regulatory imposts (we have over 240 regulations to cut GHG emissions already and there is no intention to remove any of them when a carbon price is imposed).

    A Carbon Price will allow avoidance and cause further delay (we’ve already delayed 50 years, and we keep on delaying: 1993 election, 2007 election, and now we are about to do it again).

    A Carbon Price in Australia will not cut world emissions nor will it change the climate. But it will damage Australia’s economy. That will make us less able to take the best actions in the future.

    I’d urge contributors to work on assisting Labor to change its anti-nuclear policy and the Greens and Environmental NGO’s to embrace nuclear. This is where the effort should be placed rather than encouraging more bad policy.

    The list of bad policies that have been imposed by well meaning but irrational Progressive governments is very long. These are damaging Australia’s economy and preventing nuclear being lower cost than coal.

    The arguments about “the science” and technologies are a waste of time now. “It’s the economy stupid”


  9. I”m for a carbon tax–in the US, where I live, and elsewhere. The easiest way to get such a tax enacted is to make it appealing to most people and businesses. And one way to do this is to start small and gradually increase the price. For more on this strategy, Google “The Carbon Tax Miracle Cure” by A. Blinder.

    Also, a gradually rising carbon price is one of the two main prescriptions for controlling climate change presented by James Hansen in “Storms of My Grandchildren”– the other prescription being a moratorium on new coal plants.


  10. This just in

    Canada’s new majority (deleted pejorative)government has just paid engineering firm SNC Lavalin $45M to take Atomic Energy Canada and its Candu technology and do with it as it wishes. A multibillion dollar asset given away with a giant raspberry to the 100K AECL workers that go with it and the foolish voters who thought that(deleted pejorative) are good for business.

    Just like the low information green community, the Big Oil owned Fascist political movement hates nuclear power.
    Although refs/links to support assertions are not mandatory on the Open Threads they are appreciated by blog participants. Do you have any?


  11. No David, since 80% of the wind/solar gas combo’s energy comes from gas, you really want the gas part to be as efficient as possible meaning CCGT.

    By giving the CCGT plant time to warm up as the storage system bottoms out you can replace the inefficient OCGT plant saving some GHG’s and reducing air pollution.


  12. Gee Steve,
    Despite all of those beaut new solar technologies, the fact remains that currently wind and solar together around the world contribute less than 1% of world energy. My reading reveals that they are expected to reach 2.8% by 2030. I think your claims for solar in the future are a bit fanciful. From wind, we in Australia currently get 2% of our energy total. It’s a bit more than that in SA where our misguided government going for wind farms big time. We’ll finish up like Denmark with inadequate power which is too costly and won’t do anything for emissions reductions. Barry, I recorded yesterday for Robyn Williams my Ockham’s Razor talk [13 minutes] on Climate Change and Australia’s Energy Future. If I send you a copy, would you like to put it up for me as a guest post? Then everyone can have a go at me. However, I do admit to being an AGW “skeptic” in the first part. It was a bit difficult getting the piece down to 13 minutes. However, at least I got a say which will go to a national audience. The last time that happened was in 2003 when I debated Professor John Veevers on Phillip Adams LNL. In answer to my contention that storing the world’s nuclear waste here in SA could generate sufficient funds, [$3 billion per year in taxes and royalties from user countries ] which we could use to finance the salvation of the Murray/Darling river system. Veevers said we could make just as much money going into wholesale HEROIN production. At the time he was professor of planetary and earth sciences at Macquarie University.(deleted pejorative)


  13. Huon,

    I’m for a carbon tax–in the US, where I live, and elsewhere. The easiest way to get such a tax enacted is to make it appealing to most people and businesses. And one way to do this is to start small and gradually increase the price.

    You comment indicates a single issue perspective. It suggests a lack of appreciation of the “big picture”. This article posted yesterday provides a perspective on the “big picture” and gives a clear idea where the Progressives are going wrong:


  14. SNC Lavalin will be paid $45M to take over Canada’s reactor manufacturer AECL.

    So lets see based on all the latest builds AECL can build Candu’s for $1.5B at a profit.

    But Ontario already has said they will pay $1.9B so with 15 or so guaranteed reactor sales at from OPG (Google “Ontario Energy Plan”). I’d say that is a guaranteed profit of $6B on a zero investment.

    Two conclusions:

    1)campaign donation’s really work
    2) The Ultra right wing Canadian government is strongly against nuclear power.

    Google “ottawa-sells-aecl-to-snc-lavalin”


  15. Peter Lang,

    Actually the US (and Australia) should do three things:

    1. Reduce the regulatory obstacles to nuclear, as you say.

    2. Implement a modest carbon tax at, perhaps, $1 per ton of CO2 (1 cent per gallon of gasoline) rising to $15 per ton by 2015.

    3. Put a gradually rising price on other coal emissions, such as mercury and SO2.

    These are all sound economic measures, the latter two putting a price on economic externalities.


  16. References for what? The wind gas storage numbers have been covered numerous times on this site. If I’m off in my calculations I’m sure Peter Lang will correct me.
    Sorry – I placed my remark on the wrong comment of yours (now corrected). You have subsequently submitted a ref in response to Tom Keen. Thank you.


  17. @ Huon

    Put a gradually rising price on other coal emissions, such as mercury and SO2.

    I agree. Any pollution should have a price put on it, across all industries. Quantifying negative externalities is not simply some academic way of trying to get rid of a pollution source – these are estimates of real costs that are being passed onto and paid by people other than the party responsible for the production of the cost. The people paying are often tax payers or individuals, and in the case of greenhouse gases, people all over the world. If companies want to continue to act negligently and continue polluting, they have incurred the costs themselves.

    Unfortunately, in Australia, a price on carbon is unlikely to have any real direct impact on emissions, so we really need to get on with allowing and building nuclear power plants, at whatever raw-dollar cost. A carbon tax is currently the only thing on the political agenda here which could possibly move things in this direction.


  18. Steve,

    These are the same tired old logical fallacies adressed in Hayden’s “The Solar Fraud.” I suggest you read it. Solar is growing very slowly in amount of energy delivered. By percentage the growth is rapid, but in amount it is slow (0.02% of U.S. electricity). The fastest growing energy source by amount is coal. If you have a dollar and double it, you have made a dollar. If you have a million dollars and it grows 1%, you have $10,000. Which is more? Solar will never be more than 1% of world electricity. It has a terrible EROEI (actually negative, if you store solar using lead-acid batteries) and requires too much water to keep the panels clean from debris (very problematic in the desert, where there is little water). There have been no drops in solar cost since the late `80s. In 2006, Germany had 80% of all the solar panels in the world. It provided 0.5% of their electricity, at a cost of 50 cents a kilowatt hour (nuclear is under 2 cents). If they stored it using lead-acid batteries, it would be vastly more expensive and have a negative EROEI. Solar is a joke, like ethanol. It’s really wind that has been the more successful of the two (6% electricty in Germany). However, if the world ever got more than one terawatt from wind we would be changing the climate. Technosolar is a dead end.

    As for Daniel Nocera’s “discovery,” hydrogen storage is vastly inferior to lead-acid batteries. Hydrogen is extremely lightweight and must be stored in cryogenic storage tanks at 10,000 psi. It makes metals brittle and escapes through microscopic cracks in the mettle. Fuel cells are way to expensive and use too much platinum. This is another dead end with no future.

    As for nuclear waste, a peice of nuclear ‘waste’ the size of a golf ball could equal all of the energy consumed over your entire lifetime (See Barry’s new video)


  19. Tom Keen,

    You said:

    Any pollution should have a price put on it, across all industries.

    I’ve been arguing that for a long time, but not as you want to do it. Just to be clear, what I’ve been saying is that all externalities of all industries should be internalised to the extent practicable. I then drill down to deal with only energy and say: “all externalities of all energy supply and use should be internalised to the extent practicable”

    However, when you determine what is practicable you come up against practical problems. If you go too far you cause more damage than you fix. If you send the economy backwards you will probably do more harm to more people than you help.

    Furthermore, a government defined tax is not the way to internalise externalities. You may think the damage cost of CO2 is $200/tonne and someone else may think it is $2/tonne. We do not have an accepted way to calculate it. An alternative way to internalise the externalities is to place limits on emissions. Then the costs of controlling emisisons are included in the price paid by customers. This is the common way to internalise most pollutants. It was used to ban lead from cars and is used to control pollutants in drinking water, etc.

    Another issue is why pick on one pollutant rather than another. Why pick on CO2? What has been done to demonstrate that this is the pollutant most requiring attention?

    If we do not understand the consequences of your prescriptive attempt to internalise an externality we may cause more harm than we fix (we often do that). Watching the “Gasland” documentary on SBS yesterday made me wonder if forcing the electricity industry to change from coal to gas may not do more harm than good. I can envisage large areas of the Eastern states being seriously damaged as has been done in the USA. I can imagine our water and our food being polluted with the organic chemicals being used for hydro-fracking. So we do need to understand the consequences of our actions. I fear that is often not done and certainly is not being done in the case of carbon pricing. In fact, the champions of carbon pricing do not want to even consider or discuss the consequences of the carbon pricing proposal.

    Unfortunately, in Australia, a price on carbon is unlikely to have any real direct impact on emissions,

    An key point.

    so we really need to get on with allowing and building nuclear power plants,

    I agree. This is the crux of the issue. The first step is to “allow” nuclear and to “allow” nuclear to be competitive with coal. This is what we should all be focused on. If we focused on this, there would be no argument between “progressives” and “conservatives” about how serious are the consequences of CO2 emissions or “the science” or the ideology or the other agendas. These arguments would just go away. We’d all agree on what we need to do.

    at whatever raw-dollar cost.

    No. Definitely not. That is ridiculous. I can’t imagine how anyone with a conscience could say such a thing. Words fail me.

    A carbon tax is currently the only thing on the political agenda here.

    It is the policy being pushed by the Greens and Labor government. It is not the only option. The rest of the world is walking away from this option. They are all moving towards the direct action approach. We are out of step again, just as we were with Kyoto. Australia ratified Kyoto just as everyone else realised it was a dud policy. Just as everyone else realises carbon pricing is a dud, our government wants to sign us on – no matter what the cost to the country. It’s no wonder many people do not trust the real objectives of those pushing for carbon pricing – such as wealth redistribution, nanny state regulations and a stack of other agendas being tied to the carbon pricing scheme.

    which could possibly move things in this direction

    That is pretty inconsistent. First you admit a carbon price will have little effect on emissions, then you say we should do it anyway in the hope “it will move things in the right direction”. It is scary that people could think like this. It is scary that people are prepared to take a massive risk with the economy for no benefit. It is scary that people would argue to sacrifice the well being of the country and its people to push for a policy they admit will have no beneficial effect.


  20. There’s a difference between “no beneficial effect” and “no direct effect.” It won’t directly cut emissions greatly (maybe the pitiful 5 % we’re bound to), but it’s a clear price signal and will affect future investment in fossil fuels – which is the right direction. Even more effective if the price is guaranteed to rise over time.

    The idea that we can solve the climate problem at no initial cost is, frankly, tired. What nuclear brings to the table is the least cost, most reliable, most scalable energy option. Raw dollar (up front cost) aside, nuclear energy is cheaper than coal already, so I fail to see how this would spur an economic catastrophe.


  21. Tom,

    The idea that we can solve the climate problem at no initial cost is, frankly, tired.

    What I find really tiresome is the continual repetition of silly and unsupported beliefs that a carbon price in Australia will cut world emissions or change the climate. Clearly it won’t. To continue to argue that it will is tiresome.

    To argue that the government’s carbon price scheme can cut our emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 without sending us into a deep recession is to simply ignore the obvious and to ignore everything that you don’t want to face up to. This is really tiresome!


  22. Tom Keen,

    You seem to be missing a lot. And avoiding what you don’t like to hear.

    You may have missed this:

    Please let me know that you’ve read it.

    I’d urge you to read it with the intention to understand where the otherside is coming from, rather with the intention to argue the point. If you do the latter, it just confirms you are not listenting. Your mind is closed. You cannot accept what is happening.


  23. Peter Lang:

    I am not unsympathetic to your anti carbon price views. However, I find it ironic that carbon pricing is one of the few levers available to democratic governments, reluctant to dictate,for deployment in attempting to steer energy policy in a liberalised energy market. I am not suggesting that it is necessarily inferior to a policy of regulation which you prefer, but which, equally, would be likely to have a similar effect on energy prices.

    Perhaps the Chinese leadership can take more rational decisions on energy policy because their capitalism isn’t inhibited by democracy!?


  24. Peter “To argue that the government’s carbon price scheme can cut our emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 without sending us into a deep recession is to simply ignore the obvious”

    um for this simpletons benefit what is the obvious?


  25. Douglas Wise,

    I am not unsympathetic to your anti carbon price views. However, I find it ironic that carbon pricing is one of the few levers available to democratic governments,

    That statement is not correct.

    The other options democratic governments have are:

    1. Regulation to control emissions. We do it this way with just about all other emissions we want to control. And that is the direction most of the world is moving now.

    2. Clean up the mass of regulatory impediments we have imposed that are preventing an efficient, least-cost, energy market.

    The latter is what I am recommending we should do. And we can do it. This is by far the least cost way. It does not need the massive bureaucracy and monitoring and reporting system to try to make it function. And the mass of cheating and fraud that goes with any such system. To take this approach is genuine, good reform that improves the economy. This is the sort of reform that the Howard (Treasurer), Hawke-Keating, and Howard-Costello governments instigated and implemented. These are the sorts of genuine, good reforms we need.

    The goal is to remove the unnecessary regulations that are impeding efficient business. We’ve been adding regulations without removing old or redundant ones. We’ve been doing that for a century at an ever increasing rate. We now add over a thousand a year and remove almost none. We need to clean out the mess, to the extent practicable.

    With regard to energy, consider this example: we have over 240 regulations trying to control GHG emissions. And we do not intend to remove any of these as part of the carbon pricing. In fact, the Greens are demanding we add more to further subsidise renewable energy. There is a huge number of subsidies and taxation benefits and penalties for various forms of energy (especially fossil fuels). And masses of conflicting regulations, all of which require a large amount of administration, both in the private sector and the public sector. We need monitoring equipment and reporting systems, all of which change every few years and have to be updated throughout all the companies involved. People have to be retrained and equipments and systems changed – in both the private sector and throughout many government departments, It goes on year after year. We need inspectors and bureaucracies to monitor it all. On top of that we need more and more bureaucrats and accountants and lawyers and court time for appeals and law suits. The cost is enormous. And all for no real benefit.

    The Rudd government started with great intentions to cut down on the mass of regulations that are imposts on effective and efficient business. This was a good intention. Prime Minister Rudd persuaded the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to investigate the mass of federal and state government regulations that are in conflict, duplicated and in general making business less efficient than it could and should be. The process got started but got bogged down in bickering between bureaucrats in state and federal governments. The intention was good and should be pursued. That would be genuine reform and a continuation of the successful reforms of the previous two decades.

    By now you may be wondering how does all this relate to bringing low cost nuclear to Australia at a LCOE less than coal?

    [As an aside, keep in mind that if we offered nuclear at an LCOE less than coal, then all the costs and problems with the carbon pricing scheme would be avoided. Nuclear would be cheaper than coal and would displace coal in new power stations. Of course, investors must be convinced that a future governments will not turn around and renege on agreements made in good faith (which is what the Greens want us to do on existing coal fired power stations).]

    Back to the question: how does all this relate to bringing low cost nuclear to Australia at a LCOE less than coal?

    As part of the reform and removal, where practicable, of the mass of regulatory impediments to efficient business, we would especially focus on removing the many impediments to low cost energy. We would be especially diligent to identify and remove the impediments to low-cost, clean electricity generation.

    Two ways of identifying the impediments are:

    1. Instruct the Productivity commission to identify the impediments to efficient energy market, to identify the impediments to least-cost, clean electricity generation and to recommend the order of priority for removing the impediments and the most effective way to remove them.

    2. Set up a system to allow electricity generator companies to challenge anything that is impeding a level playing field. (See “Level playing field for electricity generators” and point 2 under 2010 in “Schedule” in this post: )

    Some may be thinking: Hang on, recent estimates are that nuclear is projected to be twice as expensive in Australia as new coal. So how can all this cutting of imposts on nuclear be sufficient to make it competitive with coal?

    My answer to this is as follows:

    1. Nuclear is cheaper in China and Korea and the costs are coming down;

    2. We know that the cost of nuclear was ratched up by a factor of four due to regulatory ratcheting for virtually no improvement in safety (compared with what would have occurred if development had been allowed to progress as in other competive industries – like the aerospace industry);

    3. We know that our regulations add an enormous, unnecessary cost to business;

    4. We know that the electricity industry carries a disproportionately high regulatory cost burden;

    5. We know that there is a high sovereign risk and high investor risk premium for nuclear, especially in Australia; and

    6. We know that all these impediments that are raising the cost of nuclear could be removed, or greatly reduced, by government actions.

    Lastly, I’d point you to this comment where I laid out the approach:


  26. Tom Keen, on 30 June 2011 at 7:55 PM said:

    it’s a clear price signal and will affect future investment in fossil fuels – which is the right direction.

    In 2002 Australian Thermal Coal FOB Newcastle was selling for $23/ton. In May 2011 Australian Thermal Coal FOB Newcastle was selling for $131/ton.

    Australian 10 year coal price history-

    Between 1970 and 2000 global coal prices declined relative to inflation. If someone were concerned about CO2 emissions it’s quite understandable that they would see a need to send a signal to the markets that the days of ‘cheap coal’ were coming to an end.

    Australian 30 year coal price history-

    While the politicians bickered the days of ‘cheap coal’ ended.

    Why do we need a ‘signal’ that something will happen when it already happened?


  27. Re – MattB,on 30 June at 10:40 PM –

    In your mindless opposition to nuclear power you are grasping at straws. Why would any sane person with an elementary knowledge of history take any comfort from the counterproductive actions of Germany.

    Twice in the 20th century the Germans embarked on military and other adventures which resulted in the destruction of their nation let alone the losses inflicted on others.

    At least this particular current adventure may only damage Germany,we hope.


  28. I agree that a $20 carbon tax is a step in the right direction. I believe it puts the kibosh on any new coal fired plant. If the Feds hold firm on dropping renewables subsidies then it only leaves gas for new generation. However Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania face dwindling gas supply. They will have to pay two premiums for fossil fuelled electricity, namely carbon tax and rising fuel prices. No doubt there will be talk of solar thermal and so on but then the awful reality will set in that nuclear is the only long term coal replacement option.

    This why however I fear that reality will soon be denied. I expect a variety of lame but officially sanctioned excuses will be used to escape carbon tax. These could include implausibly high tree planting offsets, promising to be ‘carbon capture ready’, hybrid generation with token solar or biomass input, lowering the bar to ‘world’s best practice’ and re-introduced renewables subsidies as a smokescreen for the status quo.

    Thus when $20 carbon tax is introduced a year from today I expect little of anything to happen for the ensuing year. Some belt tightening but no major technology shifts. The big reality check will come perhaps two years from now. $20 carbon tax will at least have instigated a new way of thinking.


  29. David Lewis,
    DV82XL’s “Green/eco-activists” have done a pretty good job collecting funding but that is not their scariest aspect. In many countries they wield actual political power as we can see in Germany.

    They also have great influence on the use of technology in third world countries, witness their obstruction of the use of DDT, genetically altered grains and fossil fuel power plants.

    I used to like them when their primary mission was saving whales.


  30. Nature Geoscience just out has some interesting (and most importantly, not paywalled) commentaries on the current state of climate science. I found Paul Valdes’ piece particularly intriguing. Basically, our current climate models are too stable – they have real trouble reproducing previous relatively abrupt climate shifts seen in the geological record.

    I wonder if, rather than shortcomings in representing atmospheric and oceanic physics, we’re missing something from the big picture – changes in Earth’s orbital and/or rotation parameters, for instance – that fundamentally changes the game.

    Oh, and before the skeptics pile on, note none of the above invalidates the role of CO2 as a forcing agent.


  31. The Playford B coal station is shown here
    If I have my bearings right the proposed Whyalla desal for Olympic Dam (another 300km away) is towards the hummocks in the distance. Note the shallow saltmarsh that provides the cooling water, already saltier than the open sea and needing tides for circulation.

    The big white hope for SA gas appears to be fracking in the Cooper Basin
    That’s funny a year ago it was supposed to the caprock for granite geothermal and a year before that it was going to store CO2 pumped from the NSW Hunter Valley. According to a source whose link I’ve lost the Torrens Island SA 1.28 GW closed cycle baseload station now gets most of its gas from Victoria. What if fracking fails?


  32. Quokka

    The Australian reports that the federal government is negotiating to shut down Hazelwood in Victoria and Playford in South Australia to be replaced by natural gas generation.

    Yes. That’s an example of “Direct Action”. Direct Action is what most of the other large emitting countries are doing. And it is just what most of the Labor-Greens government and their supporters are rubbishing the Coalition for proposing. How hypocritical, irresponsible and politics driven.

    What we need is “direct action” to remove the bad policies that have been implemented by 50 years of “direct action”. A carbon price will not address the issue of removing the mass of bad regulations that have been implemented by “direct action”. .

    I find it difficult to understand why intelligent people can’t open their minds to the possibility that there is a better way to reduce emissions than with a carbon price. Clearly, the rest of the world is not going the carbon price route (other than basket-case Europe)

    A true pro-market reform would be to clean out the mess of unnecessary and bad regulations (as I pointed out in my comment at 11:00 pm last night ).

    If we impose a carbon price before we clean up the mess, the mass of unnecessary, economy-damaging regulations will remain in place. We’ll build another layer of complexity on top of the existing mess. Why can’t the Progressives see this?

    Can’t they see the parallel between what the Labor-Greens government is proposing and what is happening in Europe?

    This comment should be a wake up call and a warning to us: . Note in particular the comments about “Group Think” and “Heard Mentality” (not the same thing).


  33. John Newlands,

    I agree that a $20 carbon tax is a step in the right direction.

    That is simply a restatement of your belief. You’ve restated it ad nauseum. As you’ve pointed out, it is based on your morals, which are immoral to others. You’ve been incapable of defending it with sound argument and always fall back to the moral argument. You have not been able to refute waht I’ve said repeatedly:

    A carbon price in Australia will not reduce world emissions, will not change the climate but will damage Australia’s economy, making us less able to take the best actions in the future.


  34. What’s the best link for an authoritative but EASY to read summary of GenIV nukes eating today’s waste and running the world for 500 years? I’m after something for lay people and also that can be easy to GOOGLE, not just link to, for web formats that don’t allow direct links. (Like Youtube comments where I have to say “Google this: Brave New Climate + blah blah).


  35. John,

    We’ve been through this a dozen times. You picxk out a single issue or return to all your peronal crystal-balls predictions but continually avoid the substance of the argument. It’s very tiresone (as others like to say).

    Here is the big picture:

    To achieve the unconditional 2020 targets of a 5% reduction below 2000 levels is effectively impossible without a deep recession.

    Do you acknowledge that or reject it?

    If you reject it then please justify your belief. (Treasury doesn’t support your belief)

    Digest this:

    Confirmed by Treasurey corrspondence released under FOI in April 2011:

    There is stacks more. All you need to do is be prepared to look into it and let go of your desire to errect another bad symbolic gesture.


  36. @John Newlands: From my impression of First Mover Advantage that it applied to technological developments and markets created because of tech i.e Apple and the iPhone.
    I can see how an emissions trading scheme could develop a market (keeping in mind that a global market would need to be established) that could benefit first movers. But a tax isn’t a market. The carbon tax will reduce emissions at the expense of the industry that emits the most emissions. Profit margins needed for future investments, wage increases, technological advancement, R&D etc. will evaporate the higher the $ per CO2 increase. This is not to say that we shouldn’t manipulate the market to create the right behaviour, but it needs to be fully aware of the consequences. Not pushing some political/ideological agenda. Same deal with the Mining Tax. Lower the re-investment capabilities.
    I could be wrong on my impression of First-Mover Advantage though.

    On another note…

    I have recently come accross a NEI comissioned survey (they do it biannualy; link below) on residents living near Nuclear Plants in the US. 80% support nuclear and the rest of the survey is the same. Always a 80% support, or a 2/3s majority.
    From combing other surveys on Nuclear Power it is a common occurance that those living near NPPs are more favourable to Nuclear, suggesting it is a “hot bath” effect. Hesitations make you want to dip your toes in gradually until you can cope with the water and you sit in and enjoy the relaxing warm bath (or a rollercoaster analogy is perfectly acceptable).
    However one part that surprised me was that these residents didn’t associate NPP with a solution for Climate Change (same result in 2009), but rather assocaited NPP with Relaibility, Efficiency, Clean air, Job creation, Affordable Electricity (in 2009 this was worded as just Affordability; 80%), and Energy Security. Suggesting the average punter is more attuned with jobs, health, and affordability. This is the tack that the NPP debate should take, appaeal to the average Australian that is more worried about their bills, health, and jobs rather than tackling climate change (sad fact but it’s reality).
    Furthermore these results should be used in the NPP debate to highlight that while you may have apprehensions to NPP the experiences of those living near built NPPs are highly favourable. Showing that while it may look scary (like a big roller coaster) it really isn’t so bad that after you experience it and afterwards you just want more. Which is also shown in this NEI survey (80% agree to build more plants).

    NEI Survey:

    (I’m trying to find another UK survey that highlighted the same apprehension effect)


  37. Extract from Business Spectator

    Suddenly, around Australia, there is great debate as to why Julia Gillard and her Labor government are so unpopular.

    So let me today set out eight reasons why I believe the Australian community has turned on Julia Gillard. When you isolate the reasons, suddenly it is clear that there is a common theme in the cattle and carbon disasters.

    The seventh reason is not widely understood by the population but it will become a blow that further reduces Julia Gillard’s popularity from current levels. The government is planning to require all small and medium sized business contracting in the home and commercial building area to register with the government every single deal they do. This is a paper nightmare which makes the GST paperwork look like putting a postage stamp on a letter.

    Clearly, the Gillard government has no concept of what they are doing in this area. The stated reason is that it stops sham contracting, but while there is a lot of cash economy in the building contracting area, there is not a lot of sham contracting. The measure will promote the cash economy, not reduce it.

    The eighth reason is the industrial relations legislation, which is coming into force during a downturn of considerable magnitude in non-mining Australia and is causing great unpopularity in wide areas of the business community. As the next election approaches, the unpopularity of the government as a result of the new workplace rigidities and the rise in union power will be multiplied.

    As I’ve been saying, masses of new regulations and interference in business by a government that has no understanding whatsoever of business and of what makes the economy do well or do badly.

    Carbon pricing is another bad policy, a new layer of regulation on top of a mass of previous bad regulation. It will require a huge amount of monitoring, reporting, administration from bot privcate and public sector. That all costs a lot and is a dead weight on the economy. And all for no environmental gain. It is so dumb it is unbelievable.


  38. Deckermann.

    Excellent post. A survey in Canada gave similar results. This living Toronto would have high support for nuclear, whereas thos in Britich Columbia have low support. People living in Toronto would much rather live near the NPPs than near the coal power stations. House prices show that too. Houses near the NPPs are much higher value than near the coal power stations. I don’t have a link, but DV82XL could probably point to it.


  39. Peter,

    I do recall reading a Canadan survey too that highlighted the same effect. I think it was a CAMECO/Areva survey from memory.
    One of the more interesting questions from that survey (mainly on Uranium mining) was about public perceptions. Majority thought that the concensus was an opposition to Nuclear & Uranium mining and formed their opposition on that, but after hearing that the inverse was true (majority support) they were surprised. Basically there is a cohort out there that are forming their opinion based on what they think other people think. If the media is sacturated with anti-nuclear op-eds and negative articles then this perception will be reinforced. No surprise this appears to be true post Fukushima.

    Come to think of it there is possibly a French survey too. I know for a fact they compete to host Nuclear Industry facilities in France, for example one province was left feeling dejected after their bid for a repository was rejected based on geological conditions.

    I’ll have to have a dig through my folder of Nuclear to fish out these surveys.

    I think a survey needs to be redone in Australia to test some of these effects. Perceptions, the apprehension effect etc.


  40. I think people need to start thinking of economics as a real science again. One man wise in economics I know recently said something like “we used to talk about polical economy – now we just talk about economy. What happened to people?”
    The thread started with somebody questioning DV82XL’s views of ENGO’s – I too am Canadian, and in my province of Ontario the government has really adopted the term ‘stakeholder’ in allowing these folks to design policy. It seems to me the ‘stakeholders’ most involved in attacking nuclear are the Pembina Institute – which is heavily aligned with the Suzuki foundation, based in Calgary, and named after a very large oil field. So just let me say that while I embrace the frequently stated principle on this site of “playing the ball and not the player,” I don’t think ENGO’s are playing the game that we are playing.”
    That said, the game of the carbon tax is to grow government.
    The elasticity of demand for energy is most generally thought to be around -.1, which means a doubling of price will yield a 10% reduction in demand. The 5% reduction in emissions could therefore probably be achieved simply by slapping a 50% tax on energy. As Peter Lang has frequently noted, industry would probably leave, so probably the better method would be the double the price for consumers and leave business alone. That is basically what has happened in many jurisdictions – in Ontario the elasticity has borne out during 8 years of rapid price increases, but we also walked industry out.
    What ENGO’s might call a win-win.
    But what about the people?
    I’ve read some work examining energy taxation in Great Britain, and elsewhere. The point I’ve taken is that poorer households spend a far greater % of their income on energy – energy taxes are introduced, the poor get poorer, programs to support the poor are introduced, and over 100% of the revenue from the energy taxation ends up in programming to help households pay for energy. So my suspicion is a carbon tax will be the equivalent to digging holes – accomplishing no reduction and expanding government.
    So will it reduce emissions?
    Probably not. For one, we know that in Germany a decision was made to phase out nuclear, and cap-and-trade sort of priced carbon, which led to a fuel rod tax on nuclear because it didn’t have the carbon but they still didn’t like it, and then they just decided to throw away nuclear (I’d argue they needed to if the green lobby was going to be satisfied because wind had ceased producing more about 4 years ago, nobody was building offshore until the pot was sweetened, the amount of solar was presenting grid issues, and there was lots of supply available from neighbours – there was nothing to sell unless something was taken out of the picture). So there’s a jurisdiction where the lie that carbon taxes will be allowed to work through the market was illustrated.
    Secondly, we talk a lot about price for different supply options, but rarely about the value in the market. Gas and coal are worth more.
    A lot more.
    They meet demand. Think of 3 pm on a hot day. In Ontario wind is expected to be producing at under a 10% capacity factor about 40% of the time in the summer. Nobody should care that the levelized unit cost is 12-14 cents/kWh for wind, and whatever for gas/coal. The ff is more valuable. In the arguments on these threads people say the less valuable would be valuable with storage. No – the storage would be valuable.
    How high would a carbon tax need to be to change that dynamic?
    Lastly, and positively, let me leave you with a quote that provides a much more efficient route (similar to the intelligent regulation that has been wisely noted in the thread already):
    “for a tax/price increase to effectively and efficiently impact consumer demand, the tax/price impact has to be revealed to/experienced by the consumer at a point of a “primary” consumption decision, not a “secondary” or derived consumption decision. … if we want to change energy demand in as economically efficient a fashion as possible, we likely would need to tax (to the extent this is the policy mechanism of choice) home and car purchases (primary capital expenditure decisions) and not energy/fuel purchases (secondary, variable, operating costs).”


  41. Deckermann.

    The Canadian survey I was referring to was done about yearly through the 1980’s and before. I think it has been conducted since (I seem to recall it has been sent to me a few times since).

    I also know there was a series in Sweden done in those years too and it showed a similar result. The Swedes and Finss seemed to be much more engaged, more informed and less emotional about nuclear than most Canadians at the time. But Canadians were and still are light years ahead of us down under.


  42. @Stan: To give you the short answer, after having read the “paper” and associated background information from that Italian “cold fusion” guy, I’m convinced that it’s complete rubbish.


  43. @Finrod: Wow, that seems weird.

    Since when is PV cheaper than solar-thermal? I thought that PV was extremely expensive, more so than solar thermal.

    Photovoltaics, especially small sets of photovoltaics mounted on household roofs, are pretty much the single most expensive way to get a kilowatt-hour that there is on the market.

    I really thought that many pro-solar greenies were starting to actually realise this, and that’s why they have been increasingly moving away from promoting PV to promoting solar thermal.

    Also, PV has a very low capacity factor, it’s unreliable non-baseload, and there’s no real way you can improve that at all, unlike solar thermal where you can at the very least try to argue that molten-salt thermal mass might be able to bring the capacity factor up a little bit at some additional cost.


  44. Peter Lang,

    Your desire to remove obstacles to nuclear is admirable and, to me, quite understandable. But I do have one question, which will help me interpret some of your other positions. Do you think that human-caused climate change is a threat? Thanks.


  45. @ Deckermann

    based on who they are and what they believe in

    1. Peter and I have unresolved business over peak oil. Peter rejected my evidence that we are approaching peak oil on the basis that it didn’t square with Peter’s ‘opinion’ or ABARE. I dared to share the Federal Senate’s criticism of ABARE,(deleted inflammatory remark) I mean, from Peter’s view, how dare the ABC show the actual interview where the Federal Senate peak oil enquiry questioned the head of ABARE and showed him embarrassing himself (deleted snide remark)by admitting he had ignored peak oil as a pricing factor when projecting oil prices for the next decade/s!

    Peter has never responded to this substantively, or addressed the copious evidence. Not once. Not even after the IEA admitted we are close to peak oil on Catalyst. (Deleted inflammatory comment)

    2. (Deleted inflammatory remark) I argued for Open Source Hardware in Open Thread 16 on the basis that it can at least give *some* intermittent, weak, unreliable power to African villages that currently have no power. I was written off and accused of being a closet nuclear critic and pro-renewables fan, even though my blog remains pro-nuclear and I’ve posted about 10 pro-nuclear comments on just today in various forums. (Hypography, Climate Crock of the Week, Youtube, and Facebook).


  46. Huon,

    Your question reveals that you are totally missing the point, like most people want advocate a carbon tax just because it is what their group wants.

    A Carbon Price will damage our economy and not deliver the environmental benefits its advocates say it will.

    A carbon tax is bad policy. It will delver a symbolic gesture (another bad one). Framed the way the government proposes it will deliver a lot of wealth transfer to Labor supporters.

    But it will seriously damage the economy if raised sufficiently to achieve the 2020 targets. It will damage the economy at any level.

    It will require enormous compliance cost – forever.

    It is based on a wrong approach (production instead of consumption).

    For all these reasons it is divisive. Economically rational people will not support it.

    But there is a way that we can cut GHG emissions and have broad support.

    Surely that is what we should be striving for.

    But the Progressives don’t even want to consider it.

    Just look through the comments on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread and you will see that for over a year the Progressives have not want to seriously consider the alternative to their symbolic gesture of a carbon price.


  47. Deckermann the wiki article on first ,movers points out that the ‘free riders’ ( I’d call them circling sharks) will exploit early weakness. This is why I think Australia must carbon tax coal and LNG exports as well as slapping a carbon tariff on energy intensive imported goods. Giving wads of cash to trade exposed industries will never end. It’s an invitation to permanent blackmail. Better to make imported steel, aluminium etc temporarily more expensive until carbon pricing is world wide. The anti-protectionists will be upset but we know other countries have discussed imposing carbon tariffs, definitely France and I think the UK.

    Since carbon tax is meant to be revenue neutral the host governments of enterprises (eg power stations) that import our coal and LNG can ask for a carbon tax refund but it has to be spent on green programs.

    Here’s an example of a free-rider; the US increasing coal exports to China if China perceives Australia is waivering. I thought we were all in this anti carbon thing together.


  48. (The comments you refer to have been deleted as per BNC Comments Policy)
    I just went through that whole debacle of Peak Oil, which doesn’t take into account undeveloped or underdeveloped oil fields. I know of one monster field in Kazakhstan that is just being tapped now (Kashagan), furthermore there are regions like the Bight Basin off of SA that is just being explored, and fields in the Cooper Basin that are still being discovered (look at Beach Energy and Santos’s successes over the past few years).
    Peak Oil will happen one day, but technology and further developments in field extraction will delay its occurance. Not to mention the higher the price per barrel goes up the more expensive extraction methods will become more affordable. Look at Saudi Arabia’s ability now to tap the heavy oil that lies beneath it’s monster fields. What is my experience and knowledge in this field? One Thesis about to come out on Oil and Gas in the Caspian, a passion for energy geopolitics, plus a further 3 years at Uni stuying the stuff. Plus I was at the lecture Prof Kjell (?) gave on Peak OIl at Adelaide Uni last year. It was informative.

    Back to the topic at hand…

    I’ve seen data (commercial in confidence, naturally) on what a profits tax, or a carbon tax can do to investment. Not only does it negatively effect perceptions of the investment climate in the jurisdiction that it is in, it also restricts the ability to re-invest into the jurisdiction (which the Greens ironically showed in their anti-foreign investment report). However it does give that power to the Government to decide where the reinvestment goes. For the Carbon Tax, into your’s and my pockets to spend on…nothing because it’s supplementing the higher electricity, fuel, and gorecery bills. Also some is for Renewable technology. Which can be shown to be a poor investment choice in the long run to combat climate change. So in effect the Carbon tax neuters an industry, knocks up my bills (but is subsidised), and props up an industry that sort-of combats cliamte change.

    That and I have stated previously in the 16th Open thread that the language used to justify a carbon tax is that it is making the polluters pay. For acting in accordance with Australian Pollution Regulations and other Industrial regualtions in general? (rhetorical)

    I can’t see how you can force a Steelworks, or Energy Utility to alter their emissions by removing the capital they need to enact that change. Then take that tax money and give it to the public because the policy forced up the price of living. How can somone adjust if you take away their ability to adjust.

    It’s being communicated to the public as a punative measure because these “evil” corporations pollute and don’t give a stuff. I bet if someone from DRET or the Climate Change Committee sat down with the Utilities and Major Industry to find out what they need to change to low emissions production, you’d find that they would ask for help or at least indicate they are willing to do so. Going on the offensive will only cause the “target” to go on the defensive.

    What a mess.


  49. Peter Lang (two comments above at 2:15PM),

    Thank you for the generous replies. You did not answer my question head-on, but your comments were more satisfactory than a direct response would have been. After reading “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” I certainly know your position! And your plan seems quite sensible to me, although, for the US, I continue to prefer a moderate carbon tax, with most of the revenue used to lower our company tax, which is even higher than Australia’s.


  50. Podgarus… you’ve misinterpreted my lament about Germany, and the potential impact of Germany’s decision on the Australian public’s willingness to consider nuclear power, as opposition to nuclear power. Anything but.


  51. Hi Deckermann
    (Previous comment to which you refer was deleted)
    1. The professional lifetime geologists I read have already assessed ALL non-conventional oils and found them wanting; it’s about accessibility, price, bringing them to market in time, and other environmental constraints and impacts (like water availability with Athabasca’s tar sands). Here’s my summary position that Barry asked me to submit. These guys are the lifetime professionals, and I respect their opinion on these matters.
    If you think you’ve cracked the answer with some overlooked non-conventional oil, you’re kidding yourself. The organisations I refer to in this paper address everything, and I mean everything.

    Our only hope in the oil-addicted Western world is radically fast adoption of GenIV nuclear power and electrified transport, with a gradual transition to New Urbanism and a variety of other walkable town plans.
    (Inflammatory comment deleted)


  52. The German decision was purely based on Politics. The Greens had just defeated the Christian Democrat Party (Merkels party) in a State election. Political tensions were high then Fukushima happened.
    A recent technical report highlights that the decision to phase out Nuclear power by 2022 was not based upon any sound technical judgement what-so-ever ( Politics in this case killed Nuclear, but the Germans are unseasonally importing more Nucelar energy from France. Now it’s up to the German Upper House to decide whether to pass the bill or not.

    Overall facts will get the better of sensationalism. Plus you can just counter the Germans retreat with the UK, France, India, China, USA, Russia etc.


  53. Huon,

    Thank you for your reply, too.

    In comments we can’t handle all aspects of a complex issue in one comment.

    We can’t even handle all aspects in a lead article for a post. That’s why Barry continually suggests short, bite size articles. We have to use our brains to combine it all.

    Following that approach, here is another component of the jigsaw showing why I am opposed to a carbon price as the way to cut emissions – at least until:

    1. an international agreement is in place for an economically efficient mechanism for internalising the externalities of GHG emissions.

    2. Australia has removed the impediments to low cost clean electricity generation (which I expect means nuclear)

    This component of the jigsaw is an example of the costs of the regulations, monitoring and reporting of GHG emissions.

    These two papers by the USA EPA will give you some idea of what is involved in trying to measure CO2 emissions from fossil fuel electricity generators:

    Points to note:

    1. Complying with these requirements is a high cost to each generator unit – for the equipment, maintenance, calibration, monitoring, reporting and addressing the follow up demands from the EPA.

    2. The EPA requirements have been changing every few years since all this started (in the 1980s I think from memory – I haven’t checked this, you can pick it up as you go through the document)

    3. The cost of each of those changes is enormous to industry and enormous to the bureaucracy – not just to the EPA but to all the follow on organisations that use the data and have to change their systems to handle the new data and change the legacy systems and data.

    4. We know the emissions measurement being made already have significant problems and uncertainties. The data is unreliable (see comments by, for example Kent Hawkins, on this thread: )

    5. The linked EPA papers cover electricity generation only. Electricity generation is probably about the easiest sector to measure the CO2 emissions. If it is this hard and costly to measure CO2 emissions for electricity generation, imagine how much more difficult and costly it will be to measure CO2 emissions from the other industries and sectors in the economy.

    6. GHG emissions cannot be measured accurately. When a substance cannot be measured accurately, then trade in it will be open to gross fraud. We’ve already seen enormous amounts of fraud in emissions trading in the EU. If the EU can’t prevent the fraud, how can we expect even less developed countries to control fraud. Clearly, carbon trading will involve massive fraud.

    7. The EU does not measure CO2 emissions. It estimates them from calculators. The data is even more unreliable than the USA EPA data. Australia doesn’t have any systems whatsoever to measure CO2 emissions. In fact, we don’t even measure the mass of coal being used in many of our power stations.

    8. All the costs of measuring CO2 emission must be passed through to the customer. Higher energy costs means a damaged economy. Energy is one of the primary inputs to the economy and, therefore, to society’s wellbeing and progress. If you raise the cost of energy you reduce the standard of living of the society impacted. You reduce its health, education, life expectancy and nearly all the measures of human well being.

    9. None of these costs would be incurred if we removed the impediments to low cost, clean electricity generation so it could be lower LCOE than electricity generated by coal.

    I’ve suggested how this can be achieved in this comment:


  54. Huon,

    Further to the precious comment, there are many other costs that a carbon pricing scheme would cause but which would be avoided if we took the alternative rout of removing the impediments to low cot clean electricity generation. Examples are:

    Carbon emissions inspectors

    Tax inspectors

    Carbon cops

    More Accountants

    More and more complex accounting systems and IT systems and all the support they require

    More lawyers

    More court time (handling disputes)

    Large increase to the Fraud squad – if we can’t prevent internet fraud now, what chance do we have of preventing carbon trading fraud?

    As stated above, all this is avoided if we allow nuclear to be cheaper than coal.


  55. It seems the moderator can’t go away for the day without an outbreak of incivility, rudeness and unnecessary inflammatory remarks. BNC prides itself on civil discourse. Nothing puts newcomers off like the slanging match that just took place. Please desist. Although the commenting rules on the Open Threads are relaxed, common courtesy is mandatory.


  56. @ Luke Weston:

    @Finrod: Wow, that seems weird.

    I really thought that many pro-solar greenies were starting to actually realise this, and that’s why they have been increasingly moving away from promoting PV to promoting solar thermal.

    That had also been my impression. My preliminary reading of this development is that CSP has technical problems which are proving intractible.


  57. @Finrod – I disagree. I don’t think CSP has intractable technical problems, but rather that large-scale PV cost has dropped below that of CSP at this stage in it’s development.

    You may argue that PV cannot provide baseload on it’s own, and you’d be right, but these facilities are not aiming at baseload, they’re aiming at two things:
    1) peak demand, when prices are highest (which almost always occurs when the sun is shining);
    2) meeting a requirement to source x% of California’s electricity from renewable sources. (I think the ‘x’ is somewhere around 20%, from memory)

    Neither of those conditions demand a baseload renewable supply, or optimum cost/benefit.

    PV has the advantage of being *highly* modular – you can add a MWp any time you want to set out a few more thousand panels.

    It also has the advantage of being highly palatable politically in the post-Fukushima environment, with FUD regarding nuclear still flying thick & fast.

    And despite not being the most cost-effective way to do it, it will most likely reduce CO2 emissions, which makes it even more attractive for the folks in the US who recognise the danger of global warming.

    Give solar thermal a few more years of intensive development, and the balance may change again. Assuming some of the recent developments in solar technologies don’t lead to ‘uber-cheap inkjet-printable solar cells’ or some other breakthrough that drastically reduces the cost of PV.

    Still, that equation only relates to peak demand, not baseload, which will require either substantial investment in storage, or nuclear,
    assuming you accept that further CO2 emissions are a very bad idea.

    BTW, Peter Lang – you make much of the argument that a carbon tax will adversely affect the economy – cause economic collapse by 2020, you assert. You (and some others here) seem to continue to ignore the possibility of real reductions in energy usage for no reduction in productivity.

    I’d suggest a read of this article:

    Here’s a tasty quote:

    The EEO program, which involved 207 energy-intensive companies, identified energy savings equivalent to abating around 11 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions, and delivering a financial benefit of $1.2 billion.

    It goes on to identify a financial benefit of $117 per tonne of CO2-e abated.

    Benefit, not cost.

    I.e. a reduction in Australia’s emissions of about 1% is achieved at a negative cost of about $700 million.

    That’s just a small sample. Apply rigorous energy efficiency programs across the whole economy, and a reduction of 10-20% should be feasible at zero net cost. There’s a lot of energy that just gets wasted every day. (Note: I said ‘rigorous’ – throwing money at subsidised pink batts is hardly rigorous!)

    As for the economy wholesale, I’ve seen arguments from credible economists that the impact will be ~0.5% reduction in *growth* over the next 20 years – i.e. growth continues, but at a lesser pace.

    On the flip side – if you think a carbon tax now is an unacceptable impost on the economy, what do you think of the cost of relocating every home, business, factory, port, airport, road, power station, telephone line, and power pole that will be adversely impacted by 1.9m of sea level rise? (that’s the upper end of the ‘mainstream’ prediction of sea level rise by 2100) What do you think of the cost of a 30-40% reduction in Australia’s $150 billion per year agricultural industry? (I’ve seen that suggested as a likely outcome of business-as-usual CO2 emissions). What about more intense droughts, heatwaves, and fires?

    These things are all predicted by climate science as very highly likely consequences of unfettered CO2 emissions. Sure, many of the impacts are unlikely to be fully realised for decades, but why are you so adamant that we must not jeopardise economic growth now, when the risk is that by not doing so, we toy with economic collapse in 50-90 years time?

    I’ll make one other comment: you say that a buy-out of Hazelwood is an example of direct action, and that it’s a good step to reducing carbon emissions. I agree with you 100% on that. However, you fail to take the next step: where is the money for this direct action coming from?

    The government isn’t just a magical vat of money that never runs out. A carbon tax (at an appropriate level) will allow such direct action to be taken with minimal pain to the economy (and it would have been less pain if Labor hadn’t been forced by the Coalition scare campaign into promising over-generous compensation to individual households, who will only pay a minority of the carbon tax – bit of an own-goal there by the Opposition, IMHO, they’ve succeeded in reducing the pool of money available for compensation to businesses…) I think The Greens are right to insist that a significant chunk of the proceeds be reserved for clean energy. I just wish they’d get over their emotional opposition to nuclear…

    Either way, I hope they do set up an independent body to administer the proceeds – last thing we want is for politicians to get their grubby hands on the funds for pork barreling…

    Anyways, apologies for the long post… a bout of gastro has left me cut off from intelligent discourse for a few days, so I’m playing catch-up (enjoyed reading this discussion thread, though, some good stuff!)


  58. @ Bern:

    @Finrod – I disagree. I don’t think CSP has intractable technical problems, but rather that large-scale PV cost has dropped below that of CSP at this stage in it’s development.

    Really? when did that happen? The last I heard, the NSW solar power industry was screaming blue murder because the reduction in feed-in tariffs announced by the state government was going to doom it to bankruptcy. Now PV panels are more economical than the technology which was heralded as the next step in solar power development. How has this happened? What breakthrough in technology or production has boosted solar PV to this new plateue? Remember, those firms were originally committed to CSP. Perhaps it isn’t PV tech which has improved. Perhaps a realistic appraisal of the readiness of CSP has caused a rethink about its true cost, and it isn’t so much that PV is cheaper as CSP is more expensive. Unless there has been some recent improvement in PV economics I’m not aware of.


  59. @Finrod: it’s a relative thing. Certainly there do seem to be some technical issues with the specific technology those companies were proposing to use. It’s not a product I’ve looked into, so I can’t comment much on that. There are at least 7 or 8 different technologies that fall under the umbrella of “CSP”, all at differing stages of development.

    But for their purposes (which is to sell electricity at peak demand prices to meet gov’t regulatory requirements) then Solar PV “just works” – and is probably profitable, just not as much as other choices – I’ve seen (several years old now) LCOE costs for Solar PV as low as $21/MWh, and California prices get much higher than that during peak, as I understand it. As I noted above, I doubt it’s the most cost-effective solution, but it’s the one that their investors were most comfortable with.


  60. John Newlands, on 1 July 2011 at 4:18 PM said:

    Here’s an example of a free-rider; the US increasing coal exports to China if China perceives Australia is waivering.

    The predominant coal deposit in the US is the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. The seams are near the surfaces and they are very thick.

    Powder River basin coal suffers from a high water content. Newcastle ‘benchmark’ coal has 12,200 BTU’s per pound. Powder RIver basin coal is 8,800 BTU’s per pound.

    So one needs to burn 1.4 pounds of powder river basin coal to get the same energy content as Newcastle coal. More importantly then having to burn more of it to get the same energy, one has to transport more of it.

    The nearest coal export facility to Gillette,Wyoming is 1,000 miles away over two mountain ranges.

    At the moment, North American west coast coal export facilities are at capacity.(The largest facility is in Vancouver,B.C).

    There is some chatter about expanding US West coal coal export facilities by 50 million tons/year.

    In 2008 USGS reassessed the powder river basin coal fields.

    The original assesment was 201 billion tons. Removing what has already been extracted reduces that to 164 billion tons.

    When the word ‘recoverable’, I.E. technically extractable that is reduced to 77 billion tons.

    When the word ‘economically’ is added to recoverable then the amount of coal in the powder river basin is reduced to 10 billion tons.

    The current extraction rate is about 450 million tons per year. At the current rate of extraction all the ‘cheap coal’ in the Powder River Basin will be gone by 2030.

    IMHO Spending a lot of money on US rail and coal export facility expansions is unlikely to happen. Some modest upgrades is probable, but a major expansion to feed China’s appetite doesn’t seem likely.

    There is a reason why the State of Wyoming which currently has the largest and most inexpensively extractable coal reserves in the World has a task force studying nuclear power.

    Article on Wyoming Nuclear Power Task Force –


  61. Re Bern,on 1 July 2011 at 10:14 PM –

    So many elements in this comment which must be challenged.Here are a few.

    (1) “peak demand – – almost always occurs when the sun is shining”
    You must live where there is perpetual summer – maybe Shangri-La?

    (2) “1.9 metres of sea level rise” etc – Yes,all this and more if we continue on our present trajectory as we are going to do if silly schemes like carbon tax/trading are touted as a solution.These schemes are nothing more than a smokescreen for a do nothing approach by the political/industry hierachy.These groups are intent on pushing their selfish and shortsighted interests.
    Sorry to disillusion you,but the Great God Market is not going take effective action in this case.

    (3)”Where is the money for this direct action coming from?” This statement is typical of a person who is a prisoner of the current fashion in economics.
    A sovereign government with a fiat currency can purchase whatever it likes in its own currency provided it is available for sale.This can be done without borrowing one cent.I suggest you look into Modern Monetary Theory with an open mind.That just may remove the scale from your eyes.

    (4) “I just wish they’d get over their emotional opposition to nuclear”.
    Bern,if wishes were fishes we would all cast our nets in the sea.

    Get real.


  62. harrywr2 thanks for the headsup on US coal coal export capacity. I assumed because US reserves were so large (‘the Saudi Arabia of coal’) that continued expansion was likely. Now we have a situation where China’s coal demand is 10-12X Australia’s exports to all countries. In my mind that raises the possibility of a bubble with export coal prices increasing prior to a collapse.

    I see no way the IPCC’s high emissions scenarios can materialise with both the US and China at peak coal. For the world as a whole I wonder if we will get 5% less emissions in 2020 compared to year 2000 with or without carbon taxes.


  63. Death-knell for dirty Hazelwood? (see link in sidebar) I’m not so sure this will happen when the running costs are figured out. It is sobering to compare emissions per dollar between brown coal and combined cycle gas.

    Brown coal costs $6 for 10 GJ while the new Morwell plant will pay $7 a GJ for gas. Brown coal emits 1.4 tCO2 per Mwh and we can assume a large CCGT plant emits 0.4 tCO2 per Mwh. Since carbon tax is proportional it cancels out in the cross ratio of emissions per fuel dollar
    (1.4/0.6)/(0.4/7.0) = 40.8
    Put another way the emissions disadvantage to coal vs gas is 1.4/.4 = 3.5 (proportional to carbon tax) but the fuel cost advantage is 7/.6 = 11.7.

    The next step would be to plug these and other numbers (interest, heat rate etc) into the NREL levelised cost calculator. Before long someone will say Victorian electricity prices will double or treble under this proposal even though there there is 0% cost of capital for the free billions from the government.

    As I’ve said before we must also ask how much gas does Victoria have left. Their Otway Basin supplies Adelaide hundreds of kilometres away and the Bass Basin supplies Tasmania. Therefore I think Hazelwood might undergo a pretend ‘semi retirement’ whereby a small CCGT plant is built nearby and Hazelwood is kept on reduced output. Something like what happened with Muja, WA.


  64. @ Bern

    Well said!

    On the flip side – if you think a carbon tax now is an unacceptable impost on the economy, what do you think of the cost of relocating every home, business, factory, port, airport, road, power station, telephone line, and power pole that will be adversely impacted by 1.9m of sea level rise? (that’s the upper end of the ‘mainstream’ prediction of sea level rise by 2100) What do you think of the cost of a 30-40% reduction in Australia’s $150 billion per year agricultural industry? (I’ve seen that suggested as a likely outcome of business-as-usual CO2 emissions). What about more intense droughts, heatwaves, and fires?

    These things are all predicted by climate science as very highly likely consequences of unfettered CO2 emissions. Sure, many of the impacts are unlikely to be fully realised for decades, but why are you so adamant that we must not jeopardise economic growth now, when the risk is that by not doing so, we toy with economic collapse in 50-90 years time?

    I’ll make one other comment: you say that a buy-out of Hazelwood is an example of direct action, and that it’s a good step to reducing carbon emissions. I agree with you 100% on that. However, you fail to take the next step: where is the money for this direct action coming from?

    The government isn’t just a magical vat of money that never runs out. A carbon tax (at an appropriate level) will allow such direct action to be taken with minimal pain to the economy (and it would have been less pain if Labor hadn’t been forced by the Coalition scare campaign into promising over-generous compensation to individual households, who will only pay a minority of the carbon tax – bit of an own-goal there by the Opposition, IMHO, they’ve succeeded in reducing the pool of money available for compensation to businesses…) I think The Greens are right to insist that a significant chunk of the proceeds be reserved for clean energy. I just wish they’d get over their emotional opposition to nuclear…


  65. John,

    I don’t see any shortage of gas in eastern Australa as a major issue if we are prepared to frac all the sedimentary basins.

    I see the bigger issue is the environmental damage the development of gas will cause, if we are going to need gas for electricity generation, for transport fuel and for direct heat. The risk then becomes we may destroy large areas of otherwise food prodcuing land in Queensland, NSW and Victoria with hydro-fraccing.

    This is another likely unintended consequence of the carbon price – a government intervention to force gas to replace coal.

    The better alternative would be to allow nuclear to replace coal. (by removing the impediments to low cost nuclear).

    I accept it will take longer – perhaps 5-8 years to get the first 1 GW of CCGT (replacement for Hazelwood) and 10-13 years to get 1 GW of nuclear (likely for CCGT versus possible for nuclear).


  66. @ John

    Well said!

    I see no way the IPCC’s high emissions scenarios can materialise with both the US and China at peak coal. For the world as a whole I wonder if we will get 5% less emissions in 2020 compared to year 2000 with or without carbon taxes

    Yes but won’t peak coal take a while to gather momentum? If peak oil looks like a stabilising of production over a roughly 5 to 10 year peak, I’m betting that the peak in a much larger resource like coal would *really* look a lot more like a plateau. However just pausing the rate of increase would be significant!

    When do you imagine peak coal affecting global coal prices? Which countries do you see switching to other energy sources as this starts to bite?


  67. John Newlands,

    I am not sure that your comparison of the CO2 emissions intensity of Hazelwood and an replacement CCGT is a fair comparison. I agree with your figure for Hazelwood (in fact last I saw – ACIL Tasman – Hazelwood is 1.53 t/MWh on a ‘MWh sent-out’ basis).

    Bu I wonder if a CCGT would actually achieve 0.4 t/MWh. The latest ones in Ireland don’t even go close to this. The reason is not that they are not capable of it if running as baseload. But that is not waht happens. Other coal plants take over the baseload role to replace Hazelwood and the CCGT runs in intermediate and renewables balancing role – spewing out CO2 like it it wishes it was an OCGT (I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture :)


  68. Peter I think we can expect a double backlash against the gas push. It means both higher electricity prices and widespread fracking that may spoil groundwater and farming. On top of that we will want gas to replace oil as well as coal.

    According to Sen. Christine Milne 50% of Tasmania’s summer power now comes from brown coal fired electricity via Basslink HVDC cable. That wasn’t even physically possible before 2006. I think the Victorian brown coal stations could be with us for another 20 years but they will be excused by a variety of greenwashes.


  69. Anyone got a good technical comeback for Goatguy over at Next Big Future? He’s saying that Gen4’s are not self-cooling if the reactor is shut down too quickly.

    I thought they had demonstrated ‘Neutron Leak’ in the late 80’s. Anyone time to reply? NBF is a fairly popular blog and I think even Finrod subscribes to it.

    (This comment is in the ‘floating solar’ thread where there are claims that if we stick PV or CSP on 20km high balloons and pipe the energy down, it will have a much larger capacity factor and come in much cheaper due to efficiency savings, such as cutting back on solar lost in the earth’s atmosphere, etc).


  70. Peter Lang (two comments above on July 1 at 5:46PM and 5:55PM),

    A pleasure to talk with you again. Monitoring CO2 emissions is a problem for ETS (“cap-and-trade” in the US) but not for a classic carbon tax. The tax should be applied wherever a fossil fuel enters the economy–the well head, the mine mouth, or the port. Such figures are already tracked quite closely, so imposing the tax is a fairly simple matter.

    Downstream in the economy, then, in factories, power plants, homes, and cars no measurement, recording or reporting of emissions is needed.

    That said, you also have a very credible plan:

    And you are right to point out the deficiencies of an ideal carbon tax as applied to Australia, or a poorly formulated carbon tax applied anywhere.


  71. @ Huon,
    nice point. It could be a lot tidier that way.

    A pleasure to talk with you again. Monitoring CO2 emissions is a problem for ETS (“cap-and-trade” in the US) but not for a classic carbon tax. The tax should be applied wherever a fossil fuel enters the economy–the well head, the mine mouth, or the port. Such figures are already tracked quite closely, so imposing the tax is a fairly simple matter.


  72. Eclipse Now, on 2 July 2011 at 9:16 AM said:

    When do you imagine peak coal affecting global coal prices?

    2008 – The prices spiked in 2008 and it was blamed on a coal mine flood somewhere…there is always a coal mine flood somewhere…they came down a bit in 2009 with the global recession and are now back to the 2008 price spike.

    The price of coal in Europe jumped $10/ton on ‘news’ that the Germans were temporarily shutting down 7 nuclear plants.

    The flip side of that is a consortium of Finnish Companies led by Germany’s E.On just went to tender on another large nuclear plant in Finland.


  73. Huon

    Your argument for a simple carbon tax is actually much more complicated than you state. But I don’t want to get sidetracked into that issue. The carbon tax is actually a worse option than an ETS, even a region or country specific ETS as is proposed for Australia. Here are some comments:

    1. tax on energy, a primary input to human wellbeing, is bad policy anywhere

    2. tax on business inputs is bad – tax should be on business outputs not inputs. That is why we moved from wholesale sales tax (an many other inefficient indirect taxes) to a broad based, consumption tax – the GST.

    3. An international ETS is the preferred option if it is economically efficient – which is impossible because of the different levels of systems for measuring and accounting in different countries

    4. Any tax or ETS should be based on consumption not production. Australia has the highest GHG emissions per capita in the OECD if measured on the basis of production, but is about fifth if measured on the basis of consumption. Europe has much higher emissions than it admits on the basis of the consumption (UK is 20% higher, Switzerland is 50% higher for example). China is being blamed for emitting the CO2 that should be attributed to consumption of the goods by Europeans. All the proposed schemes are poor and will not survive.

    There is much more to this. But any way you look at it, carbon pricing is bad policy (for the many reasons stated up thread). No one has refuted these reasons I’ve explained. Instead they keep repeating statements which boil down to the substance are like this:

    1. I believe in a carbon price
    2. I don’t care what the arguments against it, I want a carbon price (because that is what my party says I should want)
    3. I want a carbon price because it is the moral thing to do
    4. If… if … if… then we should have a carbon price
    5. We need a carbon price so we can have more money for governments to waste on pork barrelling and bribing voters
    6. we need a carbon tax so we can implement the governments other agendas – such as wealth redistribution for m the productive sectors of society to the Progressive voters

    These are the arguments that get repeated ad nausium. It’s been going for over a year on BNC. It is impossible to get through this to have a sensible discussion. People simply will not challenge their beliefs on this issue. It seems to be faith based. It cannot be discussed. Huon, notice how no one is prepared to seriously consider the far better, economically-rational alternative – remove the impediments to low cost, low emissions electricity generation.


  74. Huon,

    Can you let me know if you read this comment:

    It explains how I suggest we can get nuclear in Australia with LCOE less than coal. The taxpayer cost would be about $20 billion – with “no more to pay”. The subsidy would decrease over about the first ten NPPs. The subsidy can be considered as:

    1. The cost to fix up the mistakes of the past – e.g. 50 years of bad “Direct Action”; examples are banning nuclear, promoting renewable energy, renewable energy targets and subsidies, and a huge amount of bad subsidies, tax breaks and regulations throughout the energy supply chain. Buy the way, a lot of these are listed in comments on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread.

    2. The least cost way to set us on the road to the deepest, cheapest, fastest CO2 emissions cuts

    3. The way to achieve a politically sustainable way to cut CO2 emissions (it has to be economically rational or it will never be politically sustainable. This fact is being demonstrated all over the world


  75. Let’s just summarise a few facts:

    1. A carbon price, applied in Australia, will not reduce world CO2 emissions nor affect the climate.

    2. A carbon price, applied in Australia but not in Australia’s trading partners or trade competitors, will damage Australia’s economy.

    3. Damaging Australia’s economy will mean we will be less able to take effective action over the long haul to decarbonise our economy.

    4. Australia cannot reduce CO2-e emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 without having a serious economic recession.

    5. Therefore, a carbon price would have to be raised high enough to cause a sever recession if we want to achieve the 2020 targets.

    6. A carbon price is intended to shift electricity generators from coal to gas, the consequences of which, both economic and environmental, are not known. The consequences of widespread coal seam gas production and possible poisoning of water supplies is one serious threat.

    See comments up thread and on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread for substantiation for these key points in thsi summary.

    When we cut the issues down to these basic key points it should be pretty clear to most (but not all), that carbon pricing in Australia, now, is bad policy.

    There is a better option to cut Australia’s GHG emissions – remove the impediments to low cost clean electricity generation. See upthread.


  76. Peter in response your points

    1) Australia has 0.3% of world population. Our domestic CO2 is nearly 2% of the world total. Add another 2% if we take some blame for exported fossil fuels.
    2) possibly that’s why we need to carbon tax coal and LNG exports plus put carbon tariffs on imports
    3) the reverse is equally possible; taking some pain early might save more pain later on
    4) it’s quite possible the reductions will happen anyway in a global economic downturn
    5) a reality check should set in before the carbon price has to be raised again
    6) quite likely and will cause a backlash.


  77. Let’s just summarise a few facts:

    1. A carbon price, applied in Australia, will not reduce world CO2 emissions nor affect the climate.

    2. A carbon price, applied in Australia but not in Australia’s trading partners or trade competitors, will damage Australia’s economy.

    I think the word you were after is in fact opinion. You don’t have any facts to justify these opinions as these events are still in the future and are therefore inherently unpredictable and unknowable. New technologies are developing all the time that might take advantage of a Carbon Price.

    You simply don’t have a logical thought out reason to assert these are facts!

    Others have shown alternative economic modelling above, but you just use “The Lang Response” yet again…. ignore, divert, reassert, rinse and repeat. Or do you think you have disproved the alternative papers above by merely ignoring them and asserting your (fact-less) assertions above?


  78. John,

    Your points are wrong and don’t follow. They are based on your moral beliefs, not on a rational argument.

    There is no point implementing policies that will damage the economy when doing so wont cut world emisisons and wont change the climate. in fact it is really bad policy, silly policy, irresponsible policy.

    Wrong on taking early pain will save pain later. That is a fantasy. It’s nonsense. What we need to do is not damage the economy, but instead stop trying to avoid the real issue. The real issue is we need to remove the impediments we’ve imposed over 50 years which are preventing us getting low cost nuclear.

    You consistently avoid dealing with the real issues. The reason is obvous.


  79. @ Huon,
    also make sure you check out Peter’s other great comment on that Alternative to Carbon Pricing thread where he tells of the moderator of this blog. You know, just so you are fully informed.

    Barry said @ 18 November 2010 at 10:16 PM said:

    Peter, you just don’t get it.

    I do get what you are saying. I do get that you are one of those who believes, without reservation, in the AGW theory and that the consequences are likely to be dire.

    I do get that you are one of those inside the ‘group-think’ tent. I do get it that the group-think has been propagated by the Left and the environmental NGOs and these are the same groups that have caused so much damage with the other beliefs and policies they have forced on societies. I do get it that the group-think has been supported by some $100 billion of public funding directed at propagating the belief in dangerous, catastrophic AGW. I do get it that many scientists’ careers are dependent on participating in this group-think and their careers would be damaged by questioning it. I do get it that there has been an enormous campaign by the Left to propagate this group think and scientist who do not want to be vilified prefer to work in other areas of science that have not been corrupted.

    What I think you and the Left don’t get is:

    There is time to do the proper due diligence analysis (it cannot be done by those who have already succumbed to the group-think).

    There is time to take the appropriate actions (whatever they may be).

    AGW is just one of many pressing problems that need to be addressed and it should be given the appropriate priority. Others are: clean water, food supply and distribution, health, education, infrastructure, congestion in cities, environmental degradation (all sorts) to name a few.

    Economic growth provides the means to solve all these problems. If we reduce economic growth by taking the wrong actions we’ll do far more damage than by delaying precipitous actions on AGW (such as pricing carbon) until we have done the proper due diligence investigation.

    The usual answers from the Alarmists to the statements above are:

    “The science is in.” (no it isn’t)

    “The vast majority of ‘Climate’ scientists say so.” (group-think, funding, career)

    “We should apply the precautionary principle” (yes, we must apply that to all the issues, not just to AGW).

    “Stern and Garnaut have done the economic analysis.” (they were political appointments by Left wing governments and produced the outcomes they were paid to produce. They would not have been appointed to the task if they were not inside the DAGW group-think tent. They both distorted their work (e.g. discount rates) to get the answers their clients wanted.)

    “UN IPCC is unbiased and conservative.” (Nonsense. It is biased and Alarmist. Sceptics were not welcome. There was clear selection bias. Read the IPCC AR4 carefully, without blinkers, and you will realise it is alarmist throughout. It is intended to scare – just like the Al Gore propaganda movie and the film shown at the opening of the Copenhagen Conference.)

    “DAGW is not political, it has nothing to do with Left versus right.” (Rubbish. Just look at the web sites that are dominated by Left contributors – e.g. BNC*, John Quiggan, ClimateSceptic, RealClimate, ABC for some examples)

    * The Leftie spray is alive and well and having a whale of a time in the comments on this thread (and others): (participating are: Barry, Fran Barlow Tom Keen, Ms Perps, quokka, podargus, Robert Parker, SteveK9, others)

    One thing that concerns me, and persuades me the Left is more interested in using DAGW as a means to achieve its other agendas than in cutting emissions, is why they spend most of their effort attacking and rubbishing the Conservatives instead of trying to persuade their ilk (Greens, Labor and the ‘environmental’ NGOs) to switch policy and support economically rational ways to cut emissions.

    We could cut emissions, improve economic growth and improve human well-being across the planet if the Left would support policies to roll out low-cost nuclear. The Left (with a few exceptions) is blocking and delaying progress and has been for 40 years.

    This post contains a combination of the tired old Denialist Myths: –

    “It’s all a conspiracy”

    “Many leading scientists question climate change”.

    See what I’m talking about? Peter writes some interesting, thought provoking stuff sometimes but then goes along with these Koch-funded Denialist urban-myths — and recites these to Barry no less! Wow! One has to stand back in awe and scratch one’s head in amazement.


    Peter Lang said:

    Your points are wrong and don’t follow. They are based on your moral beliefs, not on a rational argument.

    There is no point implementing policies that will damage the economy when doing so wont cut world emisisons and wont change the climate. in fact it is really bad policy, silly policy, irresponsible policy.

    Wrong on taking early pain will save pain later. That is a fantasy. It’s nonsense. What we need to do is not damage the economy, but instead stop trying to avoid the real issue. The real issue is we need to remove the impediments we’ve imposed over 50 years which are preventing us getting low cost nuclear.

    Again, assertion is not evidence, not a well-thought out rational reply. We need more than “deny, divert, reassert” here Peter. We need evidence .


  80. @seth…on GT simple cycle (OP) vs combined cycle (CC) you raised this originally as running the CCGT for “one or two hours”. Obviously there is a disconnect here someplace since it’ would insane to build a CCGT and run it for so little.

    @bern…PV is useless for the big bucks you state since high price demand follows peak, generally (not always). Peak in California is usually after PV supplies it’s last kw, on other words, when the price is higher.

    Secondly, you are making the assumption (I think) that all power is produced for spot power. It’s not. In *most* countries there exists no market, such, be highly regulated or long term state utilities to consumers contracts. Thus the crying need for ‘feed in tariffs’ and other massive subsidies (for units of energy generated) and taxes to pay for installing the PV units either residentially or in ‘farms’.

    CSP has a slightly better chance if they can hold their energy in storage for the peak, then, *if* the price is high enough…they can put it on the 10 minute or hour ahead market. CSP really wouldn’t exist, however, in California or any place else without the state mandate of a % of generation having to be from politically approved sources.


  81. Seth,

    David Waters is quite correct.

    The capital cost of CCGT, when used on a standby basis, is not justified for use only several hours per day. Besides which, there are startup and shutdown energy losses and thus costs and CO2 emissions which wipe out some or all of the efficiency gain of CCGT over OCGT when used intermittently.

    See, for example, Peter Lang’s 2009 paper at , Figure 3. OCGT is cheaper than CCGT at capacity factors below 15%, ie 3 or 4 hours per day and has an optimal capacity factor of 55%, whereas OCGT’s optimal capacity factor is 14%.

    This paper is well worth reading. Peter explains on Page 5 why, in a mix of OCGT and CCGT, intermittent renewable generators will tend to displace CCGT and favour operation of OCGT and act to reduce the commercial value of installing CCGT in the first place.

    Moderator: Sorry about the lengthy, convoluted link to Peter’s paper. I had difficulty finding it directly. It might even reside on BNC somewhere. A Google search on the term “cost and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by wind generation” turned up several indirect links; my copy of this paper is on real, dead tree paper, which isn’t much use on line.


  82. @ Peter Lang

    Your points are wrong and don’t follow. They are based on your moral beliefs, not on a rational argument.

    Do you believe this is also true for all the other economists in Australia? Are they all in a economic conspiracy to impose a carbon tax? If so – why?
    Apparently Tony Abbott can’t get any economists to back his plan:

    But high-profile economist Saul Eslake has hit back, saying Mr Abbott’s problem is that he cannot find an Australian economist who will support his “direct action” policy.
    I am sure Tony would love to hear from you Peter to reassure him that he is on the right track.


  83. And from the same article:

    Mr Eslake, program director with the Grattan Institute, told ABC News Online it appears Mr Abbott’s criticism of Australian economists refers to an open letter signed by 13 of Australia’s top economists backing a carbon price.

    The letter, published last month, was signed by Chris Caton, chief economist at BT Financial Group; Besa Deda, chief economist at St George; Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac and Mr Eslake among others.

    Here is the link to the letter:

    Oh dear Peter – you are looking increasingly isolated in your adamant conviction that you are right on the carbon tax. Why should we believe you and not all these other experts.


  84. @ Ms Perps:

    The letter, published last month, was signed by Chris Caton, chief economist at BT Financial Group; Besa Deda, chief economist at St George; Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac and Mr Eslake among others.

    That’s a classic, thanks for that!

    Peter, we need evidence, not diversion, assertion, and repetition.


  85. Ms Perps,the bank economists you cheerfully quote are of the same breed ( pejorative deleted) who helped to bring us the Global Financial Crisis which is continuing and will likely worsen.

    I would not give 2 cents for the opinion of any of the current conventional neo classical economists.The fact that they are in favour of a carbon tax is more than enough to damn it in my eyes without all the other cons.


  86. Well, I just wanted to say on the record — once again — that I’m ambivalent about a Carbon Tax. It’s one mechanism we could try. But there are others. Like more New Urbanist zoning laws.

    If we just rezoned — by law — huge areas of our boring, bland, suburban boxes that we drive home to sleep in each night, and allowed natural attrition to implement the changes house by house and eventually street by street, significant changes could occur in 20 or 30 years.

    As Scientific American says:

    Certainly, those of us in the developed world could get by with less—Americans consume twice as much energy as Europeans or Japanese without an appreciable difference in quality of life. “Assuming U.S. and Canada reduce per capita energy consumption to the level of Germany, that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,200 million metric tons of oil equivalent per year,” noted engineer Ding Jianhua of the China Urban Construction, Design and Research Institute in Beijing at the Equinox Summit. “That is nearly the total energy consumption of Latin America and Africa.”

    Why do they burn so much extra power? Suburbia, pure and simple.


  87. @David Walters – I’m quite aware there is no spot market for power in California – I believe generators have to bid 3-hour blocks in to the market, a day in advance (correct me if I’m wrong). The point being that if demand spikes unexpectedly, they can’t jack the price up.

    My point, which several of you seem to have missed, is that PV does not have to be able to provide baseload in order to be economical for large utilities in California. Daytime power usage (I’ll freely admit that I probably didn’t use the term ‘peak’ technically correctly) is significantly higher than night-time. Prices are also significantly higher – I believe in California they are higher than the LCOE of Solar PV for the entire daytime period, right when Solar PV is generating. How does that make Solar PV not economical for utility-scale generators who need to meet regulatory targets on ‘renewable’ energy, and would also like the ‘greenwash’ aspect as well?
    BTW, I looked up the demand curve for California (which is the specific case I was discussing, in case you missed it – it’s what that quoted ClimateSpectator article was talking about – solar plants for California switching from CSP to PV).
    See e.g. for today’s expected demand curve. Looks like it ‘peaks’ at 4-5pm. Unless I’m mistaken, that’s before sunset in California (at least the southern parts, where a solar plant is likely to be built!). So PV can provide ‘peak’ power, at ‘peak’ prices. Or at least, the generators can include the expected PV output in their bid for tomorrow’s peak periods (said bid including their entire generation portfolio – it’s up to them how they run it, I think). It’s not like it’ll cost them anything to include it, and it’ll save them money in fossil fuels that would otherwise need to be burned, or water that would need to be let out of a dam, etc…

    BTW, Can someone please explain to me how several thousand MWp of solarPV can not reduce CO2 emissions, by reducing FF burning during the day? Are you telling me that throttleable power plants are *so* inefficient that, say, reducing output by 1GW for 8 hours ends up burning more fuel than keeping it running flat out and just blowing steam?
    I’m no expert in power stations, but you’re gonna have to come up with some strong evidence & data to persuade me of that one. Probably some efficiency curves would be good to look at, if you can point me to them. I’m a mechanical engineer, so technical data is fine, I just need to know where it is.
    I know the *efficiency* of the plant drops, in terms of CO2 per kWe output, but if you’re cutting the kWe by more than the efficiency drop, then the CO2 also drops.

    @Peter Lang – responding to one of your many posts above.
    1. A carbon price, applied in Australia, will not reduce world CO2 emissions nor affect the climate.
    Not true. The effect will be small, in isolation, but not zero. The real value of it is political – being able to provide leverage – or, even more importantly, being able to remove leverage used by those who say “Why should we cut our CO2 emissions, [$country] hasn’t made any effort to reduce theirs”.
    In particular, if even America’s closest allies start pricing carbon, it may force a rethink amongst conservatives there, who all seem to have hitched their wagons to the “It’s not happening” bandwagon.

    2. A carbon price, applied in Australia but not in Australia’s trading partners or trade competitors, will damage Australia’s economy.
    You repeatedly assert this. Others (including myself) reference economic analysis that says this just aint so.

    …if the economy had been predicted to grow by 3% without the tax, then a $30 tax would cause the economy to slow to a growth rate of 2.29%.

    Last time I looked, a growth of 2.3% wasn’t a recession, let alone economic suicide.
    Technically, yes, you could call it ‘damage’, but weighed against the damage of not pricing CO2 emissions?

    3. Damaging Australia’s economy will mean we will be less able to take effective action over the long haul to decarbonise our economy.
    And if the ‘damage’ takes the form of a levy on carbon emissions which is used to ‘stand up’ decarbonised energy sources? (yes, including nuclear)

    4. Australia cannot reduce CO2-e emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 without having a serious economic recession.
    Many serious economists would strongly disagree with you. It would have certainly been much easier if we’d started the job back in 1997 when Kyoto was signed, though. 14 wasted years, there, that will come back to bite us.

    5. Therefore, a carbon price would have to be raised high enough to cause a sever recession if we want to achieve the 2020 targets.
    Again, assertion with no evidence to back it up, and see my answer to point 2 above.

    6. A carbon price is intended to shift electricity generators from coal to gas, the consequences of which, both economic and environmental, are not known. The consequences of widespread coal seam gas production and possible poisoning of water supplies is one serious threat.
    Not disagreeing with your dislike of the shift to gas, especially coal-seam gas. Whether the carbon price is intended to achieve this, I don’t know, but I strongly doubt it.

    More importantly, I think the simple precedent of having put a price on carbon emissions will have significant political ramifications. You’ll note that this is what the Opposition here (and the conservatives in the US) are desperately fighting to avoid. They (and the fossil fuel industry lobbyists) don’t want any price on carbon emissions, however small, because a price on carbon emissions is an admission that carbon emissions have an economic cost. A crack in the dam that is global warming denial, so to speak.

    The argument then becomes over exactly how great the cost is, rather than whether there is one in the first place.

    To be entirely honest, that is why I support the “initial fixed price ETS” (or whatever the gov’t is calling it at the moment). Not because I think it will solve the problem all by itself, but because it will make it clear to everyone that there is a problem that must be solved, and that Australia, at least, recognises this fact.

    It’s about framing the argument, not winning it in one fell swoop.


  88. We’ve been thinking that South Australia will be the bellwether State on coal replacement but perhaps it will be Victoria
    Premier Baillieu is not afflicted with green chic; for example he allows cattle to graze in national parks. Victoria simply can’t afford the gas long run to build several gigawatts of combined cycle plant. I think near term the Feds will throw money at Victoria, after all they paid 40% of the capital cost of the ‘solar flagships’ in NSW and Qld. However in Victoria’s case we’re talking baseload and multiple billions.

    My guess is that another medium size CCGT plant will be built in the Latrobe Valley area to divert attention. The big brown coal plants Hazelwood, Loy Yang and Yallourn will be given time to work on side issues like coal drying or gasification. Or maybe lots of tree planting and some kind of carbon tax phase-in period. After a decade or so it will wear thin and NP will have to be considered. In my opinion it would be bad PR to put a nuclear heat source at one of the grimy brown coal plants. A greenfields coastal site would be better.


  89. Peter, could you imagine a situation where nuclear power didn’t exist… what is your solution then? Most people who think an ETS is the best way to deal with this do not have nuclear power in their solution toolkit. In which case again I agree with you that the most important thing is to correct the fallacies against nuclear.

    I actually agree with what you propose as the best way forward, but I’m not convinced an ETS/tax is as terrible as you suggest. I know you think it is insane, but personally I think a bit of ETS reality without nuclear will be quickest path to nuclear. I’d rather not go there without nuclear, but I’d rather go there than stay where we are.


  90. @Bern…much of what you say is correct, much not. Yes, the yearlong peaks occur (there are actually two of them, toward the end of the day, 1700/1900 and then a small one around 2100 hours sometimes).

    At 1700 only in the summer might one get *some* solation but no where near the name plate capacity of the plant. that was 1100 to 1500 hours at best. After 1500 it’s all down hill. In the winter it *black* at 1730!

    There is actually a spot market, it’s called the “10 minute ahead market”. Many of us, keep in mind, want all this ‘market’ stuff to go away and go back to a regulated long term pricing.

    If we get our way, there will be on set price for all load schedules beyond what has to be imported.

    Solar does turn down gas while it’s running…but much of our power is from gas thermal units so they don’t ‘turn off’…GTs are not even a majority yet of power generation in California…you have older clinkers of the type I worked at. Thus solar at best can turn some of these down, but if they are not getting subsidies, even PV is going bye-bye. Of course this is California where SF is paying $50 million dollars for a 5MW solar farm IN SF. Or was, think it’s dead in the water now.



  91. Bern, on 2 July 2011 at 9:56 PM said:

    Can someone please explain to me how several thousand MWp of solarPV can not reduce CO2 emissions, by reducing FF burning during the day? Are you telling me that throttleable power plants are *so* inefficient that, say, reducing output by 1GW for 8 hours ends up burning more fuel than keeping it running flat out and just blowing steam?

    Thermal expansion and contraction are major challenges in power plant design. The hotter a thermal plant runs the more efficient it is.

    Of course the hotter a plant runs means much larger thermal expansion between ‘off’ and ‘full bore’.

    Thermal cycling is a large factor in thermal plant life and maintenance costs.

    The coolest running coal plants get about 25% thermal efficiency, the hottest can get around 45% thermal efficiency.

    Here’s a report on ‘cycling costs’.

    According to the report ‘cold starts’ on average cost $90,000 per start. Hence, no one is going to turn off their coal fired plant for 8 hours a day. They’ll leave it in hot standby mode.

    In addition most grids have plants with a range of efficiencies and cycling capabilities. It’s quite possible that a utility expecting a period of ‘excessive cycling’ will leave it’s most efficient plants which cycle poorly off and just run the least efficient plants that are better at cycling.

    Running a grid efficiently requires a complicated localized cost/benefit analysis. Tossing some solar PV on the roof could mean the power you get when the sun doesn’t shine ends up coming from a 30% efficient coal fired plant instead of a 45% efficient coal fired plant.

    In which case you’ve saved no CO2 emissions and are spending just as much for getting 2/3rds of your electricity from coal as you were spending getting 100% of your energy from coal.


  92. @harrywr2 Thanks for the lucid explanation. Great to hear from someone who actually worked in the power industry . Certainly you opened my eyes to some facts usually not thought think off.


  93. The question is not whether PV can reduce CO2 emissions, the question is how the hell are we going to reduce our global emissions to only a few billion tonnes CO2 equivalents per year. In other words how do we get to that 90+% reduction. PV is very marginal here. It can’t replace coal so its a marginal technology by definition.


  94. @ Bern

    You repeatedly assert this. Others (including myself) reference economic analysis that says this just aint so.

    “…if the economy had been predicted to grow by 3% without the tax, then a $30 tax would cause the economy to slow to a growth rate of 2.29%.”

    Last time I looked, a growth of 2.3% wasn’t a recession, let alone economic suicide.
    Technically, yes, you could call it ‘damage’, but weighed against the damage of not pricing CO2 emissions?

    Nice point, but as Peter Lang doesn’t accept the peer-reviewed science of climate ‘alarmism’ as he calls it, he just can’t agree with your conclusions here. Or any carbon price model that shows anything other than sheer devastation to our economy.

    They (and the fossil fuel industry lobbyists) don’t want any price on carbon emissions, however small, because a price on carbon emissions is an admission that carbon emissions have an economic cost. A crack in the dam that is global warming denial, so to speak.

    And there it is. Why do you think PL is fighting it so hard on this forum?


  95. @ Matt

    I actually agree with what you propose as the best way forward, but I’m not convinced an ETS/tax is as terrible as you suggest. I know you think it is insane, but personally I think a bit of ETS reality without nuclear will be quickest path to nuclear. I’d rather not go there without nuclear, but I’d rather go there than stay where we are.

    That’s a very fair position. I also agree with Peter Lang that we want to remove all subsidies to other energy sources and impediments to nuclear, such as the artificial cost increases one gets from repeated legal challenges.

    We need to totally re-educate the public, and part of that would be teaching them about the wonders of Gen3.5 and Gen4 reactors.

    As he no longer reads my posts, does anyone know if Peter Lang has changed his position on only using the cheapest Gen2 reactors we can build? I hope he dropped his “Less safe, cheaper reactors” mantra after Fukishima. The public wants to know whether we can make an exponentially safer reactor than Fukishima. I seem to be explaining Gen3.5 “Moderator leak” and Gen4 “Neutron Leak” at parties a lot these days, and arguing that dropping nuclear power because of Fukishima is like dropping aviation because of the Hindenberg!

    They want to know we have a qualitatively different and improved reactor. They don’t want to hear that we’ll give Homer Simpson some better training and the reactor a new paint job! They want to know that the new reactors are “Homer-proof!”


  96. @ Harrywr2

    “According to the report ‘cold starts’ on average cost $90,000 per start. Hence, no one is going to turn off their coal fired plant for 8 hours a day. They’ll leave it in hot standby mode.”

    That is probably going to be one of the most amazing statistics I’ll read this week — no — maybe this month! Wow. I had no idea. Thanks for that, it explains a lot!


  97. > 1. Reduce the regulatory obstacles to nuclear …

    Also needed–smarter management, e.g.
    “Two years ago the Nuclear Regulatory Commission discovered that (due to a miscalculation) Ft. Calhoun’s flooding preparation was inadequate, and forced the plant’s operator, OPPD (Omaha Public Power District) to get with the program and make necessary upgrades, without which the current situation would be much, much worse.”
    “Nine months before the March earthquake and tsunami … one of its reactors suffered a loss of electricity under much more mundane circumstances: A maintenance worker from a subcontractor accidentally bumped an electronic switch with his elbow.

    The outage triggered a sharp drop in the level of cooling water for the radioactive fuel rods ….
    … Water levels inside the No. 2 reactor had dropped by two meters (nearly seven feet) for about 30 minutes before being restored.
    …. caused by …. what NISA and Tepco described in their reports as a “momentary” flutter that was long enough to trip a circuit breaker shutting off the reactor’s main power supply, but too short to trigger the normal backup power supply.

    As a result, the electric pumps seized up ….”


  98. John Bennets,

    Thanks for the reference to my original BNC paper and for the explanation.

    By the way, you can find all previous BNC papers here (ordered by date):

    You mentioned you couldn’t easily find the paper on BNC. You can find most of my papers (and other authors), grouped by broad topic area, from the tabs at the top of the BNC page: , and one here
    And the most recent one, not yet added to the tabs, is here:

    The way I find papers by topic is on the tabs at the top of the BNC page. Tip: you have to actually click on the tab, not click on the hover-over headings. This is a bit of a trick for those not used to it.

    [Barry, I liked the way the tabs used to work before you added the hover over. We can still use it the old way by clicking on the tab. However, I suspect some new BNCers will not find the lists of past papers, ordered by subject, as easily as it is without the hover-over sub headings. ]


  99. Bern @ 2 July 2011 at 9:56 PM

    @Peter Lang – responding to one of your many posts above.

    1. A carbon price, applied in Australia, will not reduce world CO2 emissions nor affect the climate.
    Not true. The effect will be small, in isolation, but not zero. The real value of it is political – being able to provide leverage

    I cannot go over it all over again. I’ve posted the references for all the statements summarised in the six points. I’ve posted the various references dozens of times. They are authoritative sources, not just nonsense from Climate Spectator and the like.

    If you are interested, I’d urge you to go back through and read and understand the previous comments and references.

    Just to explain, in short, a carbon price in Australia will not cut world emissions, not change the climate.

    Firstly, what a carbon price will do, if high enough, is to move energy intensive industries out of Australia to other countries like China.

    Secondly, it does not help to bring the cost of low emissions electricity down, so it does not help developing countries to get lower cost low emissions electricity generation. It’s not worth me explaining all this again here. Please read the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread.

    Thirdly it damages our economy so we are less able to take the appropriate action

    Fourthly, it burries the problems of the masses of regulations the prevent low cost low emissions electricity generation. So we won’t tackle it. We’ll just cover it over. This is actually my major reason for opposing the carbon pricing. It avoids dealing with the real, underlying issues and it will defer it for ever. Nuclear will be deferred for a very long time if we go down the carbon pricing route before we confront the real problem.

    The costs of the monitoring reporting and administration – both public sector and private sector will be enormous (I listed some of it up thread). Bern, you do need to put your thinking cap on to bring it all together.

    Bern, The more of your comment I read, the more I realise you’ve either missed nearly all the background and the references or you are simply locked into reiterating the Al Gore et al line. Some people just believe no matter what. There is no point trying to discuss with them. They want symbolic gestures – like Kyoto – and think they are good. We can point to many others equally as bad, but I doubt there is any point trying to discuss with some people, because people like yourself believe they are good (anti nuclear, renewables subsidies, pink bats, green loans, green cars, ethanol, bio diesel, the list is endless of the bad policies driven by true Green believers).


  100. MattB,

    Many people just keep repeating they want a carbon price because they’ve been told by the groups they align with that it is the best way forward.

    But you’ll notice that the very people who argue for a carbon price also spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid considering or discussing the alternative, an economically rational policy. They simply don’t want to go there. They do not want to open up the can of worms it creates. It shows the mess of the bad policies they’ve forced on us in the past. Carbon pricing is the next on on their agenda.

    The consistent advocacy for useless symbolic gestures, for wealth transfer, for more regulation, and the avoidance of admitting the problems with carbon pricing, shows me that this is another seriously bad policy being foistered on us by the Progressives’ agenda.

    It should be avoided at all costs.(Deleted personal opinion of others motives-as per BNC Comments Policy) It seriously detracts from the whole case they argue for. It strongly indicates their policies are a very big risk.

    That is the effect the advocacy of these irrational policies has on me.


  101. Bern,

    I’ll just make this comment too.

    Many people are being deceptive saying on one hand a carbon price of $20 or $30 will not drive the economy into recession and on the other had trying to imply that the carbon price will cause us to achieve the 2020 targets. The point is that the carbon price will have to rise high enough to cause GDP growth to be negative (a recession) if we are to achieve the 2020 targets. There is no realistic way of achieving the 2020 targets without a deep, long recession. Do the calculations yourself and explain where the 160 Mt/a of cuts will come from. You might want to start by reading what I’ve already posted (including the references).


  102. Thanks Peter. you must admit when pretty much every significant economist in Australia thinks that the ETS will not ruin us it is a big call to expect the rest of us to reach that conclusion. Not that we should “believe” them, but it is not easy to become a guru of economics for most people.

    I note that McKibbin is not a fan. THe other day I read that Abbott’s problem was that he can’t find an economist who agrees with him… well they must be somewhere and surely this is an open invite to be given some limelight in the debate.


  103. an economically rational policy. They simply don’t want to go there. They do not want to open up the can of worms it creates. It shows the mess of the bad policies they’ve forced on us in the past. Carbon pricing is the next on on their agenda.

    do you REALLY want an economically rational policy? Then support a Carbon Price! Because according to the reports I’ve seen, it might just offset the enormous SUBSIDIES that coal, oil, and gas keep getting from our governments.

    I’d prefer to see those subsidies just stripped away, but that’s not being discussed. It’s not on the radar. Maybe a carbon tax will offset some of the $10 billion a year in subsidies the fossil fuel companies enjoy!

    If they were going to remove the subsidies, then I’d be happier about not having a Carbon Price. But while there are subsidies to fossil fuel companies, then I’m sympathetic towards a Carbon Price.


  104. The point is that the carbon price will have to rise high enough to cause GDP growth to be negative (a recession) if we are to achieve the 2020 targets

    You ignore, divert and then reassert once again Peter.

    Assertion is not EVIDENCE.


  105. EN I think alleged fossil fuel subsidies should be looked at on a case by case basis and the responsible party asked to justify their position. To take one example that of low electricity prices to aluminium smelters I believe it traces back to competition between the States for the prestige of hosting a smelter. The States should now explain why it wouldn’t be better for the local economy to close each smelter and give households lower power prices.

    I’ve just seen a TV program on why carbon credits could be an alternative to logging. Ye gods it’s a legal and measurement nightmare. They did say that carbon tax needs to be at least $40 not closer to $20. However I believe as do others that ~$20 is a foot in the door. That door has been closed and now there is the possibility it could be thrown wide open. It officially acknowledges that CO2 is a harmful product in excess doses.

    Therefore I hope carbon tax gets up without too many giveaways. The initial result I think will be some efficiency gains which will trim the fat. Hopefully people will then notice that the only technology shift is gas, not renewables (if they keep their promise to drop subsidies). Then 2-3 years from now the public will look for something else. It’s all progress.


  106. harrywr2, on 3 July 2011 at 2:37 AM said:
    According to the report ‘cold starts’ on average cost $90,000 per start. Hence, no one is going to turn off their coal fired plant for 8 hours a day. They’ll leave it in hot standby mode.
    You seem to be miss-reading the RNP coal report. According to table 7, cold starts(>48h shutdown) do average $90,000 , but hot starts(<8h shutdown) and warm starts(60% is $1800. So in fact turning off a plant for <48h is not a major expense and turning off for <8h is in fact keeping the plant in hot standby mode.
    The article explains that many plants do operate in two shift mode(16h on, 8h off), although this does require some modifications.


  107. @ Neil Howes, on 3 July 2011 at 2:18 PM:

    Neil has correctly presented us with the more reasonable range of prices for 2-shifting a conventional coal fired power plant. The fuel costs and maintenance costs are not the only issues, however, because we are not discussing a two-step on or off situation, but one where after a period of being off, there is a warm restart, followed by continuous load following.

    Now, load following is perfectly normal but it comes at a cost.

    First, there is the fuel cost due to inefficiencies involved with not operating at or close to the most efficient load. Say, for example, a 500MW unit is most economical at 420MW, but is set at 200MW after warming up. This represents an ongoing efficiency loss. Similarly, there may be a loss of efficiency if the unit is operated outside a range of, say, 250 – 470, even though this nominal 500MW machine is capable of perhaps 530MW in short bursts.

    Second, there is a loss of efficiency every time the load level is adjusted either up or down. Until the air/fuel mix is stabilised again at the optimal level, either additional air is passing through the furnace, being heated, then being blown up the chimney. This is called running lean.

    Otherwise, the furnace will run rich, ie with not enough oxygen to fully burn the fuel at the correct time and place within the furnace. Again, heat or fuel is lost. Unburned fuel turns up as CO in the exhaust flow or as carbon fines in the fly ash. Either way, they represent a loss of energy and hence a cost.

    Stochastic power sources, typically the renewable ones of wind and solar PV, result in many more and steeper adjustments, minute by minute throughout the operating period of the coal fired unit which is working in tandem with renewable power sources.

    So, whether the additional cost per start is $2k or $90k, depending on how long the unit has been out of service, to complete the picture we need to consider the additional ramping up and down continually throughout the day as the wind puffs and blows and the sun is shielded by fleeting clouds.

    One final observation: The cheapest base load (ie largest, newest coal or OCGT or nuclear or must-run hydro) are not the units that follow the fluctuating of renewables. The slightly dearer, older coal fired units and the much more expensive but (thankfully) responsive OCGT will get this task. These are also the units that have the highest thermal penalties when load-following.

    The system operators make all of this work, but it is difficult to allocate the costs of load following to the generating plant which caused the need in the first place – variable renewables.

    Until these costs are determined and lreimbursed by the renewable generators, they represent a subsidy of the variable generators by the reliable generators. Assuming a warm start and say 2% loss of efficiency, the equation becomes something of the order of:
    For a two shifting 500MW unit, warm start = $20k after being parked for 8 hours.
    For every MWh generated, the efficiency loss is of the order of 2% of 200 tonnes of coal per hour * $100 per tonne. (Adjust figures as you chose for another guess).

    Penalty for 500MW unit, running at an average of 60% (300MW) for 16 hours as above is thus
    = $20,000 + 16 hours * 200 t * $2
    = $20,000 + 6400 = $2640 per day
    = $963,600 per year, per unit. NB Power stations often consist of four or more units.

    NB I have not considered the cost of labour standing by or the cost of capital tied up in a less efficient operation.

    Remember also, that you cannot just shut down a thermal unit and walk away. The shaft must be kept turning or it will distort (“hog”) and damage the turbines and generator. Shaft jacking motors and careful observation are required during the shutdown and there are strich limits on the rate of rise of temperature in critical components during re-start. It is possible to 2-shift, but what have just written should indicate that there is huge risk involved every time, and risk represents money, as any insurer will tell you. Replacement of a damaged generator stator is counted in the tens of millions of dollars on units of this size, and that’s before the cost of the lost revenue during a shutdown of at least half a year is taken into account.

    No doubt those who own the generating plant will price 2-shifting a 4-unit station in the tens of millions of dollars per annum, above and beyond normal operating costs.

    If it was my unit, I’d be trying everything possible to keep it running at minimum load (say 140MW), rather than 2-shifting, for which I reckon $90k per day is very cheap in a market situation.

    Where does the baseload generator sent this bill?


  108. Many people just keep repeating they want a carbon price because they’ve been told by the groups they align with that it is the best way forward

    While this may be true for some people, I do not believe it applies to any of the regular commenters on this site. And it does not detract from the arguments for a carbon tax.

    The recent Productivity Commission report states “Explicit carbon pricing in the United Kingdom appears to have been a cost-effective way of achieving considerable abatement.”

    This World Bank paper argues that a carbon tax system is more practical to implement, monitor and enforce than tradable permit-based approaches to global climate-change action. It suggests that a sensible design would be an upstream carbon tax on the fossil fuel supply chain”

    Australian Treasury modelling suggests that a carbon price impact on the economy will be “very modest”.

    And if a carbon tax was really going to have a deep recession impact on the economy, why have the Opposition (who oppose a carbon tax) not pounced on the opportunity and stated “a carbon tax will cause a recession”? Surely that would be an effective argument against it, but they’re not using it. Why? Because there’s no evidence for it.

    And, Peter Lang, I read “The Failure of Al Gore: Part Deux” article. There was no evidence in it that a carbon tax would be detrimental to Australia, or that it’s a bad policy. I am not ignoring anything – I am yet to see any evidence that a carbon price will cause a recession, or significantly affect the economy.

    Nuclear power is cheaper than fossil fuels. That is the economically rational approach for dealing with climate change, and a carbon price is a step in the direction of making the playing field level.


  109. Tom Keen,

    I find it tiresome (your term) trying to discuss this with you when it seems you intentionally avoid most of the relevant points I’ve made up thread and in previous discussions with you. There is no point me repeating it all again, nor any point in linking to my previous comments, because this has been going on for so long it demonstrates it is the way of this discussion. So I’ll just pick up on a couple of your final points for the benefit of other readers.

    Firstly, you’ve quoted selectively from the Productivity Commission report and put your own interpretation on the conclusions that should be drawn from it.

    And, Peter Lang, I read “The Failure of Al Gore: Part Deux” article. There was no evidence in it that a carbon tax would be detrimental to Australia.

    Clearly you have missed the point I made by posting the link to that article. Others may want to read it and draw their own conclusions . The point the article makes is absolutely clear and applicable to what is going on here.

    I am yet to see any evidence that a carbon price will cause a recession, or significantly affect the economy.

    That is because you do not accept what is clear from the Roger Pielke Jr, (2011) ,Treasury and others make absolutely clear. In attempting to explain why you do not accept them you made some distracting comments to the effect you do not accept the Kaya Identity; we can cut emissions by other ways without having to deal with cutting fossil fuels. I refuted your comment at the time. In short, there are only two variables that can be influenced by the carbon price: GDP growth and Emissions intensity per GDP. The latter is comprised of two factors: Energy Intensity and Emissions Intensity. Neither of these factors can be changed fast enough, across the whole economy, to cut emissions at the rate needed to achieve the unconditional 2020 target (5% below 2020 levels). The only factor that can be changed fast enough is the GDP growth rate. That is what the carbon price will have to act to change. The carbon price would have to be raised fast enough to cause GDP growth rate to be cut severely (probably average negative) for 8 years to achieve the unconditional 2020 target.

    Nuclear power is cheaper than fossil fuels.

    That is not what all the studies have been showing consistently (ANSTO, EPRI, ASTE, ACIL Tasman and other studies contracted by AEMO, Department of Industry … and others. They consistently show that the LCOE of nculear in Australia would be in the order of 2x LCOE of coal if we implement with the impediments alread in Australia and as are imposed in USA< Canada, UK and EU. So, unless we tackle and remove these impediments, nuclear will not be viable in Australia. A carbon price will not help to remove theseimpedments. It will bury them under another layer of massive regulatory burden and cost imposts. It will defer addressing them. We’ve been over and over this point ad nauseum. Its tiresome.

    I’ve also pointed out, many times, that raising the cost of energy in Australia will not cut world emissions. No point repeating this again and providing all the links when you either wont read them or don’t get the overall picture. It’s tiresome.

    For others who want to follow up on this, please refer to the lead article and comments on the "Alternative to Carbon Pricing" thread:

    Then look at the comments on this thread linked in this comment:


  110. > you cannot just shut down a thermal unit and walk away.
    > The shaft must be kept turning or it will distort (“hog”) and
    > damage the turbines and generator. Shaft jacking motors
    > and careful observation are required during the shutdown
    > and there are strich limits on the rate of rise of temperature
    > in critical components during re-start.

    This issue would be the same for coal as for nuclear, right? How is the careful shutdown procedure handled when outside/backup power fails, on other systems?


  111. Tom Keen, @

    Further to my previous response to your comment at 11:40 pm, this point you made is an example of the ongoing distortions that I find worse than tiresome:

    Australian Treasury modelling suggests that a carbon price impact on the economy will be “very modest”.

    I’ve explained repeatedly that the modelling quoted by the Treasurer is for the scenario where carbon price starts at $20/tonne and increases at 4% per year. That price is nowhere near sufficient to cut CO2 emissions by 2020 to achieve the unconditional 5% reduction below 2000 levels.

    Implying that it is, as the Treasurer is doing – and many fall for it – is a slight of hand.

    (see summary of key points here: )


  112. “…Nuclear power is cheaper than fossil fuels…”

    I sorry Peter but you are going to have to stop looking at these studies for data as they are generally chock full of hidden assumption and bias. I use actual construction or sales costs as the only reliable data.

    Here we find one of American’s notoriously inefficient private utilities telling us that nuclear power is the cheapest growth strategy in the US

    With more than double the financing cost of the best in North American highly efficient public utilities like all nuclear all the time TVA, the cost advantage of nukes is obvious..


  113. @David Walters, John Bennetts

    I don’t believe I said anything about using CCGT plant for only a few hours. Sorry if you misinterpreted.

    We know that wind/solar provides on average 20% of its nameplate capacity as average power and it must/should be backed up 100% of name plate by OCGT with 80% of the wind/solar/gas combo energy being provided by the inefficient OCGT plant.

    In my green storage scenario the OCGT is replaced by more efficient CCGT plant providing that 80% of the energy as well as backup to the storage, with the storage simply replacing the need for fast spoolup OCGT.

    The second option is obviously cheaper and produces a lot less GHG’s making wind/solar a somewhat less odious and expensive option but still an order of magnitude more expensive than nuclear.


  114. BNCers who are not following the “CO2 avoidance cost with wind energy in Australia and carbon price implications” are missing a discussion of an important issue. More importantly, by not showing interest in this, the debate has moved off the BNC web site to emails.

    I’d encourage BNCers to get involved in this critical debate – then, hopefully, the debate may move from emails to the BNC web site where everyone can follow it and get involved. (I received 12 emails overnight from around the world and from a range of perspectives (including a gas generator manufacturer).)

    The points being made about renewables in the EU and the policy implications are very relevant to Australia.

    It is a pity for BNCers to be missing all this.

    Comments posted early this morning start here:


  115. coal closure would cut growth not carbon

    Shutting down the Australian coal industry would cost the economy between $29 billion and $36bn a year and have no effect on global carbon emission levels. </blockquote

    Most people in Australia now realise this.

    This chart shows clearly that a rising carbon price has not stopped, nor even slowed, demand for coal.

    Pricing carbon is the WRONG POLICY. Instead, we need to allow clean alternatives to be cheaper. Only by allowing the clean alternatives to be cheaper will they be adopted where the main growth in CO2 emissions is occurring and will occur for the decades ahead.

    We need to remove the impediments to low cost nuclear, not slow the economy with another bad, Green policy – a carbon price.


  116. Both the longevity and intensity of debate over a Carbon Price here is approaching obsession. It is as if certain members actually think they can stop Australia going forward with a Carbon Price if they just ‘win’ the argument here at BNC! They have forgotten they are on a blog, not in Parliament.

    What we conclude here hardly matters.

    Aren’t we meant to be information activists for nuclear, not taxation reform activists for Tony (I-think-climate-change-is-crap) Abbott?

    To think certain members called my few contributions on peak oil obsessive! Wow. Some people are completely blind.


  117. I’d encourage BNCers to get involved in this critical debate

    I’d encourage BNCers to get back to informing the public about the benefits of nuclear power, NOT becoming taxation reform agents bogged down in endless economic modelling.

    “Carbon price is good!”
    “Noooooo, here’s 10 reports saying Carbon Price is baaaaad.”
    “Carbon price is bad!”
    “Noooooo, here’s 10 reports saying Carbon Price is gooooood!”

    Are you guys for real? Don’t you see that politics here is degenerating down into competing ideologies and belief systems? I’m more agnostic than either of the positions above. I think *many* BNCer’s are ambivalent or agnostic about it. It’s just some members are obsessed over it and trying to derail what BNC is all about.
    This discussion is taking place on an Open Thread which is meant to be used for “soapbox” opinion. It is, therefore, not possible to de-rail this thread as, deliberately, there are no rails. The conversation would, however, be out of place on a thread dedicated to anything other than the CPRS.


  118. LCOE estimates do not currently include external costs, and so they do not capture all the costs associated with energy production across the macro-economy. has plenty of information on this stuff.

    The World Nuclear Association summarised well:

    The report of a major European study of the external costs of various fuel cycles, focusing on coal and nuclear, was released in mid 2001 – ExternE. It shows that in clear cash terms nuclear energy incurs about one tenth of the costs of coal. The external costs are defined as those actually incurred in relation to health and the environment and quantifiable but not built into the cost of the electricity. If these costs were in fact included, the EU price of electricity from coal would double and that from gas would increase 30%. These are without attempting to include the external costs of global warming.

    I.e. Nuclear is much cheaper than coal. Even without accounting for the external costs of greenhouse gas production, continued use of fossil fuels is costing the Australian economy and human well-being much more than a shift to nuclear would.

    Nuclear is a more than competitive product. An informed public and steadily rising cost (i.e. increased incorporation of externalities into the market value) of fossil fuel generation puts nuclear in the best possible position.


  119. Nuclear is definitely cheaper in some countries, but not in others. China – probably, because lack of cost imposts (and difficulty in moving coal from north to south of the country); Japan – probably, because all coal must be imported by ship; France – definitely, for both of the latter two reasons; Australia – almost certainly NOT, because of both the first two reasons apply (likely cost imposts and really cheap available coal fuel). PL’s point about trying to reduce cost imposts on nuclear is important, but it will be a difficult problem to sort out politically, and at present (absent a carbon price), I see little evidence of any motivation for pollies or bureaucrats to get stuck into solving these issues (or how much savings will ultimately be realised — can it ever be cheaper than coal in Australia, absent a carbon price? Don’t know).


  120. Tom Keen @ 4 July 2011 at 12:04 PM,

    You continue to misunderstand.

    Estimates of the LCOE of new entrant electricity generators in Australia, by the most authoritative sources available (e.g. EPRI,. ACIL-Tasman and others), consistently show the LCOE of nuclear would be about 1.5 to 2 times the LCOE of new coal.

    That is assuming the costs on the regulatory environments, investor risk premium and other imposts imposed on nuclear that apply in the other western democracies. These imposts are what makes nuclear uncompetitive. That is what needs to be addressed. And that is the very issue that you and BNCers have clearly demonstrated you do not want to address. You have continually avoided any serious discussion on BNC to investigate these imposts. That is real denial.

    Regarding internalising externalities, you are correct that the estimated external costs of fossil fuels are higher than of nuclear. If the external costs are the same in Australia as in EU, then incorporating the externalities estimate by ExternE would increase the costs of fossil fuel generated electricity in Australia but would not make nuclear competitive with coal. We need to remove the impediments that are making nuclear higher cost than coal.

    I’ve explained up thread (and elsewhere on BNC, many times) why it is not practicable to internalise all externalities. In fact, it is probably not cost effective to internalise much more than we are already doing. The costs to society of doing so may outweigh the benefits. All this is barking up the wrong tree. It is avoiding the real issue – what is making nuclear too expensive?

    Furthermore, raising the cost of electricity generation in Australia will not reduce world emissions. You seem to be avoiding that issue or having trouble understanding it. I’ve presented the evidence over and over again. It’s tiresome continually repeating the same explanation and you continually either ignore it or don’t understand it. Whatever the reason, we can’t reach closure on points because you are unwilling to concede when you have understood and accept a point.

    I believe I answered many of the points you are repeating in my reply to you @ 30 June 2011 at 5:56 PM. I’ve also answered your point in several other posts.


  121. Moderator,

    The “Alternaive to Carbon Pricing” thread is closed so the discussion about carbon pricing being conducted and on previous threads, which rightly should have been held there, is not possible.

    The thread was closed after it was trashed by off topic comments in an attempt to derail the thread (successfully) including loading irrelevant videos which slowed the thread down so much it is too slow to use.

    It is unfortunate, because the issue is clearly the most important policy issue facing Australia at the moment. To attempt to ban discussion or constrict it, seems unwise.
    (Deleted personal accusation)
    There is no attempt to ban or constrict discussion of the CPRS. That was the point of my comment to EN on his belief that the OT was being de-railed by that topic. Please ask Barry if you would like to start another specialised thread on the CPRS or continue to comment on this Open Thread.


  122. Hi Moderator,
    yes, please open up that thread again and delete any of my posts if they offend.

    I was just trying to make the point that Peter — a peak oil and global warming Denialist — is now devoting all of his time to obsessing over a silly little tax when the VAST MAJORITY OF AUSTRALIAN’S DON’T TRUST NUCLEAR POWER!

    Wasting time ventilating about a Carbon Tax and obsessing over various legal structures that might add 50% to the cost of nuclear power BOTH seem like a completely navel gazing exercise when the vast majority of Aussies HATE nuclear power right now. They don’t know about IFR’s and think nuclear power is dangerous and leaves waste problems for a 100 000 years.

    Changing public opinion about nuclear power itself seems like the first step. For instance, if Peter were 100% successful in his never-ending campaign to have us all foam at the mouth about a Carbon Tax…. then what? We sign a petition to Julia? “BNC all agree a Carbon Tax would be bad?”

    Well done. Heroic effort, after all that time and energy wasted. I can see Julia shaking in her boots because one blog decided a Carbon Tax was a bad idea! Wow — what an amazing effort in changing public efforts on nuclear power!

    So PLEASE open up that other thread and clean it up as much as Peter wants, as then I won’t have to get all his spam in my email box.
    The thread was closed by Barry and would have to be re-opened by Barry. I really don’t have the time to go back over an already moderated thread to suit you, Peter Lang or anyone else.


  123. Barry

    PL’s point about trying to reduce cost imposts on nuclear is important, but it will be a difficult problem to sort out politically, and at present (absent a carbon price), I see little evidence of any motivation for pollies or bureaucrats to get stuck into solving these issues (or how much savings will ultimately be realised — can it ever be cheaper than coal in Australia, absent a carbon price? Don’t know).

    You’ve highlighted the nub of the problem. We just don’t know the extent of the impecdiments that would cause nuclear to be higher cost than coal in Australia under the conditions assumed for the comparative estimates.

    But worse, we show no interest in trying to find out why they are.

    We are ignoring the rational alternative and running headlong into imposing an economy-damaging carbon price.

    This is irresponsible government. It is not objective. It is like many past major policy blunders.

    but it will be a difficult problem to sort out politically, and at present (absent a carbon price), I see little evidence of any motivation for pollies or bureaucrats to get stuck into solving these issues

    It will be even harder to solve once a carbon price is implemented. Then the GHG issue will be put away for ages. (Just like the Republic debate. From the public’s perspective once the issue is dealt with it is resolved and not to be raised again until the next generation).

    Now is the time to tackle it. Now is the right time because now is the time when the issue of GHG emissions is high on the public awareness. Now is the time to convince the Greens, environmental NGOs and Labor to embrace nuclear. If we don’t do it now, then it will deferred for a long time. Once the Coalition is in power it is much more difficult to introduce it. By partisan support for nuclear needs to be introduced by Labor (and preferably supported the Greens as well).

    If Labor and Greens cannot tackle this, it makes the whole GHG issue look like nothing more than hierocracy and a route to achieve their socialist agendas.

    You seem to assume that implementing a carbon price will speed up the introduction of nuclear (or any low cost, low emissions technology), but there is no evidence that that will occur.

    Lastly, the key points are summarised here:

    In short, the carbon price will not cut world emissions, nor change the climate, but will damage Australia’s economy.

    Therefore, the policy is daft.


  124. Peter Lang,

    Nuclear will certainly be deferred for “some time”. It is incredibly optimistic to believe the Labor Party will change it’s policy before the next election. This does not diminish the importance of continuing to advocate nuclear power, but to proceed on the assumption that there is any realistic chance of having a pro-nuclear policy as a replacement for a carbon tax in Australia in the immediate future is just dreaming.

    The situation at Fukushima is a festering wound for nuclear advocacy and we badly need to see all the reactors in proper controlled cold shutdown and the return of at least some of the evacuees to their homes before there is any realistic chance of making many advances.

    As for economic ill effects of various events, there are plenty of things than pose a bigger problem than a carbon tax including GFC Mark II, decline of growth/recession in China, collapse of an over priced Australian housing market – pick your poison.


  125. Tom Keen @ 3 July 2011 at 11:40 PM

    You said:

    While this may be true for some people, I do not believe it applies to any of the regular commenters on this site.

    I do not accept that statement.

    If it was true:

    1. you and others would be prepared to admit that there are serious problems with the carbon price concept, and

    2. you would be willing, in fact keen, to thoroughly and rigorously investigate alternative options.

    However, instead of investigating the alternatives, there has been a very obvious attempt to ignore the alternative, dismiss it, change the subject, in fact do anything except look into it. This has been going on for a year on BNC. Just read through the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread for evidence. You can also the evidence for avoidance of the issue on Open Thread 15, 16 and 17.

    That is why I do not agree with your statement.


  126. Lots of discussion since I was last able to visit – too much to discuss directly.

    I’ll rephrase my earlier comment though:
    A modest carbon price introduced now will not drive the economy into recession.
    It will also not solve the carbon problem all by itself.
    What it will do, however, is help shift the mainstream debate from “Is carbon a problem?” to “What’s the best way of fixing this carbon problem we seem to have?”
    That’s the point where nuclear proponents can stand up and say “Hey, check this solution out, we think it’s a good one!”
    It’s also the appropriate time to provide the technical reasons as to why 100% renewables is not a good, cost-effective solution at this time (even if technically possible).


  127. Quokka,

    You have clearly missed the point.

    The point I am making is that you and many other regular BNC contributors have done all you can to divert the discussion and to avoid looking into the alternative.

    That is not objective. In fact it is irresponsible.

    It feeds the concern that those advocating a carbon price are not really objective about any of what they are arguing for. That is a real worry. We may be being seriously misled again, by well-meaning but overly enthusiastic environmental activists.

    Furthermore, on one hand you argue we should impose a carbon price by government fiat forced on us by the Progressives because they want it (for a variety of reasons). However, on the other hand you argue, in effect, you should not persuade the Progressives to consider the alternative – because it’s too hard or politically unpopular to do so. You feel Labor should not be criticised for sticking with its anti-nuclear policy – a policy that has caused us to have much higher emissions, and be on a much longer and slower trajectory to reduce them than we would have had without the anti nuclear policy. Yet you feel free to criticise the Conservatives for trying to save the nation from this really bad policy being imposed by the “Progressives”

    Your arguments that we should impose a carbon price without seriously investigating the alternative are irresponsible, not objective, ludicrous.


  128. Eclipse Now (10:21AM above),

    I am delighted that there is so much discussion here about a carbon tax. At the moment, Australia is the center of the carbon tax debate in the entire world. And a carbon tax has huge implications for nuclear power. What a pity, then, if you were not discussing the heck out of it.

    But you are quite right, too. This is one of the premier pro-environment, pro-nuclear sites. So it would also be a shame if the carbon tax discussion somehow compromised the coverage of nuclear per se.


  129. Huon,

    So it would also be a shame if the carbon tax discussion somehow compromised the coverage of nuclear per se.

    I agree.

    But I see the policy compromises as:

    1. Carbon price now – nuclear put on the back-burner for may years, or

    2. Face up to confronting the issue of nuclear now, while there is concern about CO2 emissions, rather than bury it under a symbolic gesture (carbon price) that will not work and will damage our economy so we will be less able to move near the front of the pack in future years.

    Facing up to the policy issues of nuclear requires:

    1. the Progressives who understand that nuclear is an essential part of reducing CO2 emissions put their effort into persuading/convincing/converting the anti-nuke Greens, environmental NGOs and Labor to embrace nuclear, and

    2. seriously investigating the alternative to carbon pricing – i.e. implementing nuclear in Australia so that LCOE is cheaper than coal.

    We’ve been avoiding that discussion. I’d advocate that BNC should be at the forefront of that discussion. We can’t do the whole job, but we could certainly lead.

    Unfortunately, there has been a very strong effort ny BNC regulars to prevent that happening. Just read though the comments on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread for the evidence for that statement.


  130. @Peter Lang
    You are certainly guilty of hogging the last two Open Threads with your constant repetition of the same personal opinions on the CPRS which are patently out of step with all the leading Australian economists. I pointed this out to you up-thread (with the relevant links) but you proffered no reply.
    It is pointless for you to continue to try to hammer your personal opinions using the same mallet all the time. Repetition is boring and fruitless.
    Lucky for you that this is an Open Thread, as I see you have reverted to your previous methods of attempted political point scoring that got you into hot water before. This is not a political issue (although you would like to believe it to be so) and you cannot impose your convictions on others no matter how right you think you are, by trying to make it so.
    You are not convincing many here on BNC so give it a rest will you and let us move on to other subjects on this Open Thread.


  131. @ Huon,
    I yawn over the Carbon Tax. I’m positively bored by it. Peter Lang seems to be going apocalyptic, but I’m just ‘Oh well, whatever will be will be’.

    It’s not the answer, but neither is it Sarah Conner’s “Judgement Day” that Peter Lang would make it out to be.

    My real concern is both the severe economic impacts of climate change that we are ALREADY starting to see. Scientific American has stated that the recent record severe weather events ARE attributable to a shift in the climate, ARE actually empirically measurably demonstrably DIFFERENT!

    It’s already here, yet like a bushfire that is just getting started, we haven’t seen the blast-wave of the afternoon winds hitting the Eucalyptus forests. It’s measurable, but we ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Now add peak oil. The American Joint Forces Command has said that the world will probably be down 10mbd by 2015. I hope they are wrong, because that is 1/8th of world production!

    Can you *imagine* what that would do to oil prices, to international relations, to America and China competing over the last drops of oil as we face not just being on the absolute peak of world oil production, but staring down headfirst into the valley of terminal decline? That the world will have permanently less oil, and ever more expensive oil, ever harder to produce?

    Forget the 1970’s, we are about to hit the real oil crisis. The beginnings of the final oil crisis. The beginning of the end of oil.

    So in the face of a permanent shift in the availability of liquid fossil fuels, what does a piece of paper like the Carbon Tax really matter? Peak oil prices — when they truly hit — will ABSOLUTELY SMASH any carbon tax prices we see. I can imagine emergency legislation reversing the Carbon Tax. So I just don’t care.

    The REAL issue is how is Australia going to shift to electric transport fast enough to enable the next generation of energy infrastructure to be built in time. THAT is the discussion we should be having.

    “To Carbon Tax or Not To Carbon Tax is NOT the question!” It’s a worthless piece of paper that will achieve nothing without nukes, but won’t feel like the thunder of an angry god that Peter Lang imagines either.

    But wait till peal oil really begins to bite. Then peak gas follows, and finally peak coal. Yes, in your lifetime, peak coal! If we’re not ready by then it’s game over.


  132. So I guess my question is how do we undo Fukishima? How do we break down the complex, long story of renewables V nukes into true and informative sound bytes that the average Aussie can understand? Someone as non-technical as myself? How can we get the ABC’s Science Unit to interview Barry on Catalyst and run a special on the variety of new nukes? What can we all contribute? How can we help?

    How can we work together to promote nuclear power, rather than be side-tracked by a Carbon Tax piss-ant piece of paper that can be reversed in the twinkling of an eye the moment peak oil hits!


  133. Huon, you are likely to find that audience someone restricted here for those who agree with you. There are a lot of us who oppose carbon taxes.

    We need to make energy, clean energy, *cheaper* not more expensive. The entire development of the forces of production since humans started using tools is based on abundant, cheap and denser energy. “Cheap” being the operative word here. You make energy more expensive…vis-a-vis a carbon tax you inevitably do two things:

    1. You make energy more expensive for those that mostly can’t afford it because the *alternative* means for transportation to residential usage doesn’t exist, thus you are attacking working class people and…

    2. You stymie development of the very needed *energy* investment all industry and technology needs to grow. With more expensive energy…less investment can be directed to high tech and fission solutions to society. You also associate low-carbon solutions with higher energy costs to the individual…which is political suicide.

    Again, if we want carbonless energy production, then we mandate the stake holders *by law* to come up with it by *ordering* them to phase out with reasonable substitution carbon heavy energy production to low carbon ones.

    We should regulate CO2 like we do with NOx: you limit or demand the deployment of plans for phasing it out or making it’ statistically irrelevant and you FINE enterprises for sending it upward. Not on a plant-by-plant basis as we do with NOx but by industrial-sector/utility/regionally. But only if we can offer them nuclear as a substitute or it’s pointless.

    BTW…there are no “NOx credits”. There is no speculation in NOx…it’s *banned* (or more accurately highly regulated with real time data sent to air management authorities). We need to do the same thing with CO2.



  134. Huon, on 4 July 2011 at 5:32 PM said:

    That a carbon tax has support among conservative economists, at least in the US

    In the US, the ‘great divide’ on energy taxes is not liberal or conservative. The ‘great divide’ is urban vs rural. Hence, energy taxes get all kinds of support in the US House of Representatives where ‘urban dwellers’ rule. Then the bill goes to the US Senate where ‘rural states’ have an equal voice and it is ‘Dead on Arrival’. It’s been that way as long as I can remember.

    Rural America doesn’t have natural gas flowing in the streets and 600MW nuclear plants are far too big. A carbon tax just becomes a punishment.


  135. Since there are a lot of people very knowledgeable about nuclear power stations posting here, I’m going to ask my question here.

    Of the new Generation III reactor designs being rolled out all over the world at the moment, which type is

    a) safest?
    b) most economical?

    I can’t find comprehensive studies listing the pros and cons of each type, comparing an EPR to an AP1000 or an ESBWR, for example.
    The EPR at least seems to run into serious cost and schedule issues in Finland and France and lacks the passive cooling features of other designs.

    Anyway, I visited a BWR power plant today, and it was an amazing experience, went to see the whole reactor building, including the spent fuel pools, the control room and the turbine building. The reactor is in cold shutdown (the Isar I plant near Munich, Germany).


  136. Max, that’s a difficult question to answer definitively – it depends on many criteria and various assumptions. Of those Gen III+ units currently being built, I’d probably say the AP1000 (described here), but governments (e.g. India, Saudi Arablia) also continue to choose/favour various others, including the EPR, the APR-1400, Gen II+/III units like the CANDU-6, and perhaps in the near future the ESBWR and mPower (SMR)..


  137. In Australia:

    …, the [carbon] tax could result in electricity supply problems in Victoria and South Australia if enough funds are not allocated to financing alternative energy sources once coal-fired power stations are shut down, The Australian reported.–pd20110704-JFPUH?OpenDocument&src=mp

    Can we learn anything from overseas:

    Britain’s Green Energy Policy Is A Complete Fiasco

    Britain’s richest energy companies want homeowners to subsidise billions of pounds worth of gas-powered stations that will stand idle for most of the time. Talks have taken place between the Government, Centrica, owner of British Gas, and other energy companies on incentives to build the power stations needed as back-ups for the wind farms now being built around the country. It is understood 17 gas-fired plants worth about £10 billion will be needed by 2020. The Energy Department has been warned that without this massive back-up for the new generation of heavily subsidised giant wind farms, the lights could go out when the wind dies down. –Tom McGhie, This is Money, 24 June 2011


  138. @ David Walters

    You also associate low-carbon solutions with higher energy costs to the individual…which is political suicide.

    Which is why they are not doing that!! Won’t the average family be better off by something like $200 a year under the refunds/rebates/whatever they’re calling the Carbon Tax relief for families?

    And if you’re worried about a Carbon Tax now, what happens when nature hits us with a ‘peaked resource tax’? Don’t we need to get off fossil fuels before we hit peak fossil fuels? Even the world coal institute admits we only have 119 years before coal RUNS OUT — let alone the question of when it peaks!


  139. @ harrywr2

    Rural America doesn’t have natural gas flowing in the streets and 600MW nuclear plants are far too big. A carbon tax just becomes a punishment.

    As far as I can tell, American’s are already suffering their own “Carbon Tax” when your oil peaked in 1970, just as M.King Hubbert had predicted in 1956. So rather than being the premier oil exporter as you were before WW2, you’re now one of the biggest importers, to the tune of $600 billion a year!

    Then add the 2nd Gulf War to set up a large “Police Station” in the Middle East to watch the flow of oil, and factor in the influence of oil causing 9/11 (because Osama saw American influence on Saudi Arabia as ‘polluting’ his Islamic country) and you have a strong case that American’s have a very large Carbon Tax. It’s called your national debt, and is largely inflated by 2 oil wars and the annual import of oil. Where is it now? 14 Trillion? $122k per family? Now THAT’s a carbon tax — but not on a tidy piece of paper where it can easily be reversed, no sir.

    It’s spread throughout the military industrial complex, the 2 oil wars you’ve fought, and the oil dependence and addiction you have built in to the very design of your energy intensive cities and suburbs. The average European burns half the oil of the average American, and it is largely because they have better public transport and denser city cores. (And of course higher oil taxes which encourage efficiency and public transport use. Smart Europeans are twice as prepared for peak oil as America and Australia are. We’ve followed in your footsteps and built suburbia everywhere.)

    So while I don’t think a Carbon Tax is the answer, I say give it a go. It’ll give us a taste of INEVITABLE things to come!

    And while we fart around fighting each other over whether this Carbon Tax is a good idea, we burn another 86 million barrels of oil a day — or 1000 bathtubs a second, and sleepwalk another day into the post-peak future.


  140. @ Hank Roberts, on 4 July 2011 at 1:17 AM:

    “> you cannot just shut down a thermal unit and walk away.
    > The shaft must be kept turning or it will distort (“hog”) and
    > damage the turbines and generator. Shaft jacking motors
    > and careful observation are required during the shutdown
    > and there are strich limits on the rate of rise of temperature
    > in critical components during re-start.

    This issue would be the same for coal as for nuclear, right? How is the careful shutdown procedure handled when outside/backup power fails, on other systems?”

    Hank, the system is similar for all thermal units – hot shafts need to be cooled and heated carefully, for up to a couple of days. Clearances between stator and rotor in the generator are very fine, as also between turbine components. Bearings also need lube oil.

    The basic means for doing this are AC motor or DC motor or (last hope for the bearings) gravity feed of oil from a header tank.

    The AC supplies are drawn from unit power supplies: those supplies dedicated to feeding a single generator, usually from an adjacent unit.

    Next is an external supply, drawn from the transmission grid. That, the station supply, is also needed for starting from black – when no generator on site is on line.

    Next, there is perhaps a GT associated with the station, as is the case with one where I worked for a couple of decades. Only one of this pair of aging OCGT’s is enough to start a unit of either of the two power stations which are close by, and thus to re-start supplies to a failed grid. This is called a “black start capacity”. Black starts are also possible using hydro or remote GT’s, but this requires the grid to be functioning between (in NSW) the Snowy and, say, the Hunter Valley or Lithgow. Black start capacity on site, in the Hunter, makes it possible to re-start even if every transmission line up and down the state is out of service.

    The last AC supply comes from the power station ‘s Emergency Diesel Generator, which is large enough to run the necessary auxillaries during the cooling period of a shutdown, but not large enough to run conveyors, large fans, cooling water pumps and so forth that need to be in service to start a unit from cold. The diesel is intended to keep the lights on and the shaft turning and control systems operating till other power systems have been restored.

    Then there is DC. Batteries are adequate to provide emergency lighting and controls, but are inadequate to keep the shaft turning for more than a few hours – as was the case at Fukushima.


  141. Book review: Robert Rapier on Terry Tamminen’s Cracking the Carbon Code”:

    “…the author is fairly confident that we will get some meaningful regulations in the U.S. that will put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. In that case, a lot of what Tamminen describes in the book may be realistic. But I don’t think we will actually see any sort of stringent regulations being passed into law. There is too much opposition on the Republican side…”


  142. @ seth, on 4 July 2011 at 4:34 AM :

    Seth’s “second option ” of backing up intermittent renewables with CCGT instead of OCGT will not work. The point of the several comments to the earliest posting by Seth is that CCGT is not a realistic option for this service, due to a combination of:
    Higher capital cost per MW capacity.
    Longer runup time from cold – initially CCGT responds as per an OCGT. The steam side takes time to get going.
    Slower response time than OCGT once in operation
    Cheaper than OCGT, as stated by Seth, therefore quite likely already in service and fully loaded before the OCGT’s are called for.

    There is plenty of discussion along these lines and elsewhere to support the notion that, in a market environment including a mix of OCGT and CCGT, the short term backup of wind and PV will be mainly hydro and OCGT and that CCGT will play a minor role, whatever the notions of various bystanders may be… unless those bystanders are in a position to either legislate for inefficiency, or pay for the additional capital cost of CCGT over OCGT.


  143. Peter Lang at 9.22 I predict there will only be token gas replacement of coal burners in SA and Vic. A couple of small CCGT plants will be built and a raft of excuses found to keep burning the poor quality coal in both States. As I’ve pointed out there is a precedent for this in Muja, southwest WA where the coal plant was brought out of retirement when the gas price rose.

    Ironically Martin Ferguson’s predecessor RFX Connor anticipated the need to link NW Australian gas with the SE some 30 years ago with disastrous consequences
    I think RFX Connor could be the spiritual ancestor of many BNC posters as he also wanted an enrichment industry.

    SA and Vic are between a rock and a hard place. As the years go by the lame excuses offered to keep running the Pt Augusta and Latrobe Valley stations will start to wear thin. For example some dedicated tree plantations will frizzle up in a drought. Then the public will ask what is the realistic alternative.


  144. @ John Newlands,
    I know I’ve asked this before, but some here don’t seem to want to do the math.

    How long do you think before peak fossil fuels starts to act like a Carbon Tax anyway? I think we’d both agree that oil already has doubled in price due to global peak oil, but what about gas and coal?


  145. EN this is why I think we need a variable carbon price but not scammed by bogus carbon credits. The two big issues are China peak coal and world peak oil. I see on today’s Oil Drum the Chinese think their coal peak won’t occur for at least another decade. Maybe but how how come they need to buy so many farms around Gunnedah NSW?

    On peak oil I wonder if the price may not escalate so much but stay roughly affordable in proportion to global GDP. Thus as global economic activity contracts negative feedback keeps the oil price in check. Others say there will be an oil price spike next year downturn or not. The beauty of an auctioned CO2 price is that the market will pay what it can afford. That assumes no collusion, no scamming and no free kicks from the umpire.

    First I think the govt will have to sort out the anomalies in the carbon tax. When that turns into an ETS in 2015 there will be yet more anomalies to sort out. Hopefully within a decade everybody will know what works and what doesn’t work. If the world economy is subdued in 2020 the CO2 price could be lower than $20/t. Many scenarios are possible.


  146. @EN

    While it is true the US reached it’s maximum production of crude in 1970 and has been decreasing ever since, the price hasn’t skyrocketed like many would have us believe. There are other factors at play that eventually balance out the market. There will be some short term distortion and readjustment, but in the long term it tends to smooth out (i.e. liveable). Althought nothing solves the problem of high oil prices like a global financial crisis. Decrease the rate of GDP growth and so will the energy consumption.
    I doubt your assertions of motivations for Iraqi oil. What we have seen in Iraq is a drive to modernise and reinvest in Iraq oil fields, and prospects in the Western territories of Iraq. After 20 years of stagnation in the oil setor in Iraq, there is finally the environment necessary to develop the oil reserves. While the reasons for going to war were misleading (human error or otherwise; former proves the CIA is just human afterall), the effect on the oil industry was profound. There is no massive conspiracy, just a convergence of ideals (liberalised economies, and ousting Saddam).
    Peak Oil has the potential to be the same coralling topic for alarmist predictions of $200/barrel, 1970’s fuel rationing etc. etc.While we have 40 year oil fields (tapped and untapped) and infrastructure sitting there waiting to be modernised. Also refinery capacity has a major impact on fuel prices. There’s more to it, than the R/P ratio.


    I’m still not sold on the Carbon Tax. It just seems like a massively complex wealth redistribution reform. “Steal from the ‘rich’, to give to the newly poor”.
    I’d like to see the original assumptions (figures) that directed the ALP to go down this path. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to prioritise the areas to cut emissions from to ensure maximum economic stability. Rather than an accross-the-board tax.
    Even supplementing this by compensation from the tax just appears to add more administrative burden for little gain. Be better to spend that time actively putting in place local level policies to reduce emissions as much as possible, and spend the money that would have gone into the tax directly rather than having it come back through a maze of bureaucracy. Exempting areas is pointless and erodes the original purpose of the tax. An economic lever needs to be implemented, but it has to be smart.

    I await with baited breath….


  147. @John Bennets…you were an operator? I was too also for a couple of decades and also with GT (diesel powered, with compressed air starts) black start capability.

    Yeah…I was wondering if in Fukushima, even without the meltdowns, wouldn’t the turbines be basically trashed anyway without DC back up for the turning gears? Have to wonder. We almost bowed our shaft on more than occasion with the DC lube oil pump wouldn’t kick in. Not good…can’t even turn the shaft by hand.

    At out plant we had a minimum of 24 hours on turning gear before we cold turn it down, and temperature differentials within 50 F from top of the turbine to the bottom, from the inside of the casing to the outside and so on. There is a LOT to do with a shutdown…I always hated them. Start ups were far more fun!

    Now generally new OCGTs and CCGTs have these units on *constant* turning gear, at least the GE ones I worked at in Texas (Frame 7As).

    But this is the problem with solar/wind…they *always* exclude the costs of the GTs capital costs and of course the fuel costs to run them when the wind isn’t blowing.


  148. Hi Deckermann,
    you make some good points and of course I agree that the GFC has dampened demand and corrected the price. I also agree with John Newlands that the price may be self-correcting as we hit the global plateau of production and witness the ‘bumpy plateau’ effect. (Rising prices causes recession causes dropping prices causes more demand causes rising prices again, and around we go).

    But there are a few points where I disagree.

    1. Global peak oil will be unlike American peak oil. You offset your own peak in production by importing oil. Global peak oil rules that out. There’s no other planets to import oil from once the world has peaked and is in decline.

    2. I’m not sure that Iraq is as innocently, naively misinformed and bumbling as you seem to imply. I think there were powerful corporate forces and interests in the previous American administration that may have been just too tempting. Consider Bechtel’s rebuilding contracts worth $0.68 billion, and the links to Bechtel (and others) in the administration.

    Of course I’m no fan of Saddam’s, and wish Iraq well as it evolves over the next few decades. But when the intelligence *failures* contradicted the more reliable eyes on the ground of weapons inspectors, one has to ask why we went in? We were lied to by powerful sources, and I don’t think anyone has got the full story yet. Let’s not be Pollyanna about it.

    “As of 2007, President Bush’s administration made a total of 935 false statements in a two-year period about Iraq’s alleged threat to the United States.[3]”

    There was no Yellowcake purchased in Niger.

    3. However, now that it is done I’m sure Iraqi oil production will improve with time. However, the math doesn’t add up. As China and India become big oil consuming nations, demand worldwide is increasing. No ‘reserve growth’ due to technological improvements or Coal / Gas to liquids programs will offset the inevitable decline.
    See the Hirsch Report to the US DOE.

    If you want a good introduction to the subject, our ABC’s “4 Corners” ran a special on it years ago.

    It’s 45 minutes, and is well worth watching and a fair presentation from both sides of the argument.


  149. I forgot to add one last important point:

    I also agree with John Newlands that the price may be self-correcting as we hit the global plateau of production and witness the ‘bumpy plateau’ effect. (Rising prices causes recession causes dropping prices causes more demand causes rising prices again, and around we go).

    That is, even if the price of oil has a self-correcting system at say $110 or $120 a barrel, how much long term economic damage does that self-correcting system have to inflict on us before we learn?

    And how long can even that system cope as we head into terminal decline? What if the JFC are right and by 2015 we’re down 1/8th?

    “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day,” says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.


  150. EN couldn’t get any sound on that clip. If the last barrel of oil sells cheaply we have to ask if this is a form of market failure. The price of something in short supply is supposed to go up but in the case of oil we have the negative feedback ‘demand destruction’. An analogy is that someone suffering hypothermia doesn’t feel cold. The signal for corrective action is missing.

    In my opinion natural gas will be the major replacement for oil as a transport fuel. However in tonnage terms oil is twice as big as gas, about 50 Mt (mostly imported) opposed to a locally produced 20 Mt a year of gas in Australia. Yet we will be told on Sunday that gas will fuel our power stations. Somehow they’ve worked out that oil replacement won’t be a problem.


  151. Yeah, well, we’ll see how the world economy works out the price if the JFC are right.

    The sound works fine on that Youtube clip? It just takes 30 seconds to really get going.

    That’s Kjell Aleklett who spoke at Adelaide Uni recently, and Frank Robelius, both of whom I quoted in my peak oil article.


  152. @Deckermann – ironically, it was probably the anti-regulation crowd that forced the move to a ‘market based’ emissions reduction scheme. Yes, a highly-regulated government-controlled drawdown would be the best way to reduce GHG emissions, and this might be suitably supplemented by government investment in closing down major sources and converting industry to non-GHG alternatives. But the anti-regulation folks couldn’t bear that much government control over the market, so fought tooth & nail for a ‘market based’ mechanism, which they are now desperately unhappy about.
    Similarly, if all the state-owned power generators hadn’t been sold off in the privatisation frenzy of the 80s & 90s, then there wouldn’t be corporate profit margins & debt obligations to pay compensation for before the dirtiest power stations can be shut down.
    Yet again – short term gain to the pork-barrel fund, long term pain to the taxpayers. Seems to be a consistent pattern with government…

    While I think there are positives to the current efforts to at least partially realise the externalities of GHG emissions, I fear we’ll be seeing a repeat of that pattern. There’ll almost certainly be largesse aplenty in the next election cycle, funded by the carbon tax.


  153. Regarding electric vehicles:
    Assuming, for the moment, that 100% of road transport energy requirements could be provided by electricity. (I’m aware that it just doesn’t work in many circumstances, but bear with me)
    We all know that cars, in particular, are horribly inefficient at turning the energy content of petrol into vehicle kilometres travelled, with considerable wasted energy and low thermal efficiency (often < 20%).
    Burning that fuel in a large, highly efficient power station (e.g. a CCGT) could substantially increase the efficiency of energy use. Of course, replacing the CCGT with nuclear gets rid of the emissions altogether, but that's another issue.

    If all passenger cars were to be replaced in the next 5 years with electric equivalents, what would be the additional electricity demand on the national grid?
    Assuming no change in other electricity demand, and no change in vehicle-kilometres-travelled.
    ARRB figures for VKT for light vehicles (mostly passenger cars) is about 637 million VKT per day.
    Wikipedia figures suggest electric vehicle efficiency of 10-23 kWh per 100km travelled.

    So I get 64-146 GWh per day, or an average draw over 24 hrs of 2.7 – 6.1 GW. Not a small amount, compared to the total Australian generation capacity of ~56GW.

    Assume all those vehicles need to be charged overnight (say 10pm-6am), and you're looking at an additional demand of 8-18 GW. Put another way, charging electric passenger vehicles overnight may require up to a third of all the electricity generation capacity in the country.

    That would certainly help smooth out the demand dip during the night! :-P

    Anyone have any comments on that?
    Obviously, shifting people to public transport allows still greater efficiency gains, with corresponding required gov’t expenditure in providing good public transport that meets people’s needs – particularly for the outer ‘burbs that are designed around the assumption of private vehicle use.


  154. @ Bern
    Peter Sinclair (Climate Crock of the week) quotes a study that claims that EXISTING overnight off-peak demand electricity could charge about 80% of the American fleet. Go to about 2 minutes 50 seconds.

    (A few of us are in a discussion with “Greenman3610” or Peter Sinclair of Climate Crock about the benefits of nuclear power.)

    “Impacts Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles on Electric Utilities and Regional U.S. Power Grids, Part 1: Technical Analysis, Michael Kintner-Meyer, Kevin Schneider and Rober Pratt”

    More studies referred to here

    Personally, I prefer the “more European than European” city designs that encourage walkability and a more robust local economy.

    EG: You might get some of these “Village Towns” built in the USA soon.

    These are billion dollar developments around the theme of villages of 500 people built around a car-free central plaza. 20 Villages = a Town of 10,000 which will have the critical mass of economic activity to employ most citizens locally. Thus the Village Town is NOT a hippie ecovillage approach to going ‘off-grid’ or counter culture, but has mainstream appeal to real investors. The villages are surrounded by local agriculture and contract with the local farmers to supply all their needs. The 20 villages also plug into the “Town” in the centre which has the more upmarket trades and services. The main benefit is that 80% of the economy is local and feeds back into local people, local jobs, local goods and services and local wealth. They estimate only 20% of the economy has to be sourced from outside (like higher tech computers and electronics, etc).


  155. @Eclispe Now

    ‘Village Towns’.

    We have one near where I live. It’s called Issaquah Highlands.
    The houses sold fairly well.

    The public transport is okay if you are employed in downtown Seattle. Unfortunately neither Microsoft or Boeing, our areas major employers, are located in downtown Seattle.

    Here is the list of retailers

    So far no luck on getting a mini mart or grocery store or the cinema that was specifically designated in the community master plan.
    The concept of the community is a step in the right direction but neighborhood grocers have a very hard time competing against the suburban ‘big box’ grocers or multi-screen cinema’s.

    The ‘new urban’ communities face the same challenge as the ‘old urban’ communities. The suburbs exist and the big suburban retailers exist.

    The big box suburban retailers have a substantial advantage due to their size and can offer customers a wider selection of goods at better prices.

    Issaquah Highlands is great…you can just walk to the wine bar or organic Mexican restaurant. But if you want milk or bread or some fresh vegetables, things most people view as ‘necessities’ you have to get in the car.

    As of the 2000 census, more then half of the US population lives in the Suburbs.

    The ‘Big Box’ suburban retailers aren’t going out of business anytime soon.


  156. While undoubtedly the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) offers significant energy savings the uptake seems to be slow. In the US the much hyped Chevrolet Volt has only sold 3000 units as of last month. The problem may be that if petrol prices skyrocket even fewer can afford the higher sticker price for these vehicles. Whether they will become mainstream is not yet clear.

    On ABC Lateline they showed the CSIRO Ultrabattery storing windpower at a site near Newcastle. What I gather was Mwh scale energy storage appeared compact enough to reside in a shed. The website gives no hint of costs. We need cheap storage at the Gwh scale.

    It appears that the two coal fired power stations Loy Yang (Vic) and Playford B (SA) have been earmarked for replacement by CCGT.
    I guess that means Hazelwood will be with us for another 20 years. I presume the gas plants will be of a few hundred MW each. They are not major coal replacements and they face high fuel costs. I guess the government hopes they will distract the public’s attention for a few years.

    I don’t understand the need for cash handouts to the coal industry and coal generators. With $20 carbon tax the customers aren’t going anywhere and we’ll be lucky if demand reduces even a few percent. Perhaps we’ve hurt their feelings.


  157. I see this thread has been diverted from the most important policy issue concering the country – carbon pricing.

    I belkieve the diversion is intentional.

    That does no sya much for the objectivity of thos involved, nor of their credibility on the matters they argue so stridently for.

    No wonder the word is waking up to what is going on.
    Peter – this is an Open Thread – it can be “diverted” any way the commenters want it to go.


  158. Peter Lang,

    Regarding my (inane) reply of July 4 at 5:32PM: Yes, I have limitations, and, yes, I should talk to SOME people on the other side of the carbon tax debate, but still I hope we can continue our conversation, even if it is at a slow pace.

    There’s certainly going to be a lot to talk about. As I understand it, next Sunday the government is going to release details about its carbon plan. Although I enthusiastically support the idea of a carbon tax, I might take exception to some of the details of the plan were it to be proposed for the United States. You and I both want to limit economic damages from any environmental measure.


  159. Hi Harrywr2,

    that looks like a step in the right direction but Village Towns appear to be much more than a medical campus and a bit of an attempt at New Urbanism. VT’s are a radical, exponential step in a new direction. Watch the videos — then you’ll get a concept of just how different these things are.

    So far no luck on getting a mini mart or grocery store or the cinema that was specifically designated in the community master plan.
    The concept of the community is a step in the right direction but neighborhood grocers have a very hard time competing against the suburban ‘big box’ grocers or multi-screen cinema’s….
    The ‘new urban’ communities face the same challenge as the ‘old urban’ communities. The suburbs exist and the big suburban retailers exist

    True, but the Village Town concept would have 10,000 residents committed to the central Town, and just outside the Town is an Industrial Park where they’ll make a lot of their own stuff. (Through Open Source Hardware? I’ve informed them of the benefits of Open Source Hardware and some of them seem pretty excited by the potential).

    The big box suburban retailers have a substantial advantage due to their size and can offer customers a wider selection of goods at better prices.

    Issaquah Highlands is great…you can just walk to the wine bar or organic Mexican restaurant. But if you want milk or bread or some fresh vegetables, things most people view as ‘necessities’ you have to get in the car.

    Farmers used to get (in adjusted money) 44 cents for every meal you served up on a plate. Now they get about 12 cents because the middle man has driven them down so much. Cutting out the middle man gives local consumers a better deal on local foods AND pays the farmer more.

    The ‘Big Box’ suburban retailers aren’t going out of business anytime soon.

    Yes, it will be interesting to see if they cope with peak oil or not? Will China’s increasing prosperity lead to an increase in the value of their currency and make American small-time manufacturers competitive again? Will peak oil and increased shops of shipping all that cheap stuff out of China also make China less competitive? (But the oil cost / tonnage is quite low, so maybe not).

    Interesting times. I love a free market, and this Village Town idea seems to be a cleverly constructed local economy or market to meet needs more efficiently and with less middle men. We’ll see how it plays out.


  160. I see this thread has been diverted from the most important policy issue concering the country – carbon pricing.

    It’s an Open Thread Dude, that’s democracy in action. Many of us just don’t even CARE about your obsession. Get over it.
    (Deleted inflammatory comments)
    I have already advised Peter Lang that the Open Thread is just that and the commenters are at liberty to take the conversation to any subject covered by BNC.


  161. I am detecting signs change is in the air.

    The Canberra Times, a strongly politically correct, anti-Conservative, pro-Progressives paper has started publishing articles supporting nuclear and questioning the Green orthodoxy.

    Today an article by George Monbiot “Spin, distrust keep setting back the nuclear energy cause.”
    I can’t find a link to it but it is a rehash of this:

    Yesterday an article titled “Greens running off the rails” by Susanna Rustin:

    When the Canberra times begins publishing articles like these it is a sign change is in the air.


    I have already advised Peter Lang that the Open Thread is just that and the commenters are at liberty to take the conversation to any subject covered by BNC.

    Sorry — I wrote that reply in response to Peter Lang’s comment in my *email* inbox. I wrote it in a text editor, then copied and pasted into the thread here without actually looking up thread.

    This is an example where forums beat blogs. In a forum I would have clicked to come back to the thread and pick up the conversation where I left off. I would have seen your moderator comment and have left it at that. Indeed, any offensive material would have been deleted and I would proceed in a calmer manner.

    Anyway, Barry has his reasons for keeping this on the blogging software. But I do hope that one day he might migrate his wordpress account to a self-hosted blog and have a more geeky web designer help him run a forum.
    Not to worry EN – your “calm” moderator has your(and others) back;)


  163. Moderator,

    Peter – this is an Open Thread – it can be “diverted” any way the commenters want it to go.

    Yes. I fully understand that. My point was not directed at you. It was, perhaps a bit too subtle. I was making the point that regular BNCers have shown consistently they want to avoid discussing the most important policy issue of the time – Carbon Pricing.

    That supports the point I’ve made several times over the past 18 months that BNCers avoid discussion of this topic – a point that has been repeatedly denied by BNC regulars and the host.

    Avoiding this important economic and policy issue demonstrates a lack of objectivity.

    Some here are prepared to challenge some of their beliefs – ie they have changed from being anti-nuclear to pro nuclear – but they are not prepared to challenge other deeply held beliefs.

    That was why I pointed out that the BNC contributors continually want to avoid discussion of rational economic alternatives to carbon pricing; they do not want to discuss or look into the impediments that prevent nuclear from being economically viable alternative to coal in Australia. This is not new. It has been absolutely clear for well over a year. It is clear that BNCers do not want to discuss this topic and continually attempt to derail the discussion when ever it starts – no matter what thread it is posted on. For a clear demonstration of what I am saying, read through the comments (and note the avoidance) on the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread. It has, of course, continued on the past three Open Threads (with encouragement!).

    I also now understand why EN always posts a plie of rant comments following each of my comments. He has his email box set to alert him each time aI make a post. More clear evidence of the attempt by this individual to distract discussion from the most important economic and policy issue of the time.

    I also notice how the continually vitriolic and bating comments by EN are allowed to continue (eve encouraged), whereas any small breach of the commenting policy I make in response to him or others draws a comment by the Moderator. If anyone else had behaved as EN has done over the past 18 months, he would have been banned long ago.
    You are completely wrong! EN has actually had far more of his comments, or parts thereof, deleted than you have – remember I am not always “on board” and the moderation often occurs “down the track” timewise.If you check back over the comments you will see this to be the case. You are becoming totally unreasonable about EN (and some others). They have as much right as you to state their point of view on the OT’s as long as they stick to being civil. I ALWAYS moderate incivility from EN, you or anyone else.Further complaints of this nature from you will be deleted. Remember, you have been banned once already for persistent violations of the Comments Policy.If you don’t like the moderation you are free to leave and head to an un-moderated blog.


  164. How wise is China and how dumb are we?

    Energy security will be an imperative that underpins all of China’s ambitions

    China is on a fast track, high-tech road to modernity, as its latest five-year plan shows. It has a clear baseload energy strategy (it is ploughing ahead with more coal-fired power stations) and, despite the perceived Fukushima setback, it has 13 nuclear plants already in operation and 25 more under construction.

    By 2020, the country will have the world’s greatest installed nuclear energy capacity.

    While China leads the world in clean energy (Australia is 12th) it remains the world’s top producer of carbon emissions, emitting 15 times as much CO2 as Australia does. While its latest five-year plan commits China to a 40-45 per cent carbon intensity reduction target (aspirational, not mandatory), this should not be confused with a commitment to total carbon reductions.

    Make no mistake — neither the US nor China is committed to unilateral overall carbon emission reductions, despite being together responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    The official target for all non-fossil fuel energy may be 20 per cent of the country’s energy by 2020, but this allows only 3 per cent for wind, solar and biomass combined. In fact, China is more focused on the potential of renewables as a rapidly growing manufacturing and jobs-generating industry sector, with huge export opportunities.

    China is now the world’s largest producer of wind turbines and solar panels, and the biggest investor in clean coal technologies. China was responsible for half the world’s production of solar panels last year, but only one per cent were installed there.

    Unlike the fastidious West, it does not see coal as a dirty habit, to be dispensed with as soon as possible, in favour of clean renewables. It is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, providing 70 per cent of China’s energy needs, and determined to remain so. By 2020, China plans to add 1.1 billion tonnes of new coal production capacity.

    It may be decommissioning some dirty old coal-fired power stations, but it is replacing them with new ones at the rate of two a week. As these will be more efficient than those they replace, China can claim to be reducing its carbon intensity, but the end result will be a big increase in its greenhouse gas emissions. China is certainly interested in promoting the widest possible diversity of fuel sources but this does not mean it is pursuing a save-the-planet agenda.

    The lesson for Australia is that the Chinese emphasis is not on saving the world from climate change but instead building a world class, highly efficient, energy secure, technology based new economy. As always, they are playing a very pragmatic long game, for which their grandchildren will be grateful. Why can’t we do the same?

    My answer to that question is because our policy development is being overly influenced by radicals, extremists, Greens and catastrophists.


  165. Peter Lang
    You are coming across as being just a tad paranoid. I can assure you that we all get moderated – it has happened to me several times and I am a “Progressive” as I suspect you already know. Live with it or leave.


  166. I have four questions for the carbon price advocates:

    1. How high would the carbon price have to go to force Australia to achieve the unconditional 2020 target?

    2. What effect would such a carbon price have on the economy?

    3. What would be the effect on world GHG emissions?

    4. What would be the effect on the climate?

    Please do not avoid the questions. Answer them quantitatively.

    If you cannot answer them, I suggest you should start challenging your beliefs.


  167. What a mess Australia has got itself into with the carbon pricing:

    Coal power stations having to ask the corporate regulator for relief from breaches of its corporate trading licence due to the financial impacts of the proposed carbon pricing scheme

    What sort of message does this send to the investors we would want to invest in nuclear in the future? It send the message that governments can change their minds at the whim of extremist groups and steal investors investments. Why would anyone invest in nuclear if such a thing can happen? How could investors they wouldn’t be robbed by a future government, sometime over the 60 year life of the asset? This is one example of the sort of impediment that is making nuclear far more expensive than coal in Australia.


  168. 1. How high would the carbon price have to go to force Australia to achieve the unconditional 2020 target?

    Ans – the market will set the carbon price.

    2. What effect would such a carbon price have on the economy?

    Ans – without spending the time to research, I believe that Garnaut’s various reports deal with this, and the answer is a manageable effect.

    3. What would be the effect on world GHG emissions?

    Ans – not much at all, but it is not the reason for acting, which is ti gear our economy for broader, deeper, and global cuts. THis is like training for the big event..

    4. What would be the effect on the climate?

    Ans: Practically zilch.


  169. MattB

    1. How high would the carbon price have to go to force Australia to achieve the unconditional 2020 target?

    Ans – the market will set the carbon price

    That answer is avoidance. Pure and simple avoidance.

    The answer needs to be a figure with a dollar sign in front.

    Will it be $2, $20, $200, $2000 per tonne CO2?

    If you cannot answer this question then why on Earth are you advocating for a carbon price?

    To do so is totally irreeesponsble.

    To avoid answering key questions like this is a sign of lack of objectivity.

    By extension, the fact that most Progressives want to avoid this question demonstrates a lack of objectiivty in arriving at their beliefs.


  170. In the next couple of years we’re going to have so many flagships on the horizon we’ll feel like Sir Francis Drake gazing down upon the Spanish Armada. These are power plants for which the Federal government will put up a lot of the cash because they probably wouldn’t be economic otherwise. We’ll have
    2 gas flagships – Playford (250 MW?) and Loy Yang (2200 MW?)
    1 PV flagship – Moree (150 MW peak)
    1 solar/gas thermal flagship – Chinchilla (250 MW capable)

    Only 50,000 MW to go.


  171. @Peter:

    Although I’m not a full supporter of the Carbon Tax, I’ll answer some of your questions.

    1. How high would the carbon price have to go to force Australia to achieve the unconditional 2020 target?

    – Approximately $50 per tonne of CO2.

    2. What effect would such a carbon price have on the economy?

    – Prematurely close 18 Coal mines, Lower GDP growth, job losses, lower value AUD, loss in compeditiveness, investment losses. Fraiser Institute has pretty much proven the investment losses.

    3. What would be the effect on world GHG emissions?

    – We produce 1.4% of global GHG, so minimal at best if we cut 5% of 2000 CO2 emissions.

    4. What would be the effect on the climate?

    – Who knows. US-Finnish report has just come out highlighting that while CO2 causes a greenhouse effect (thus warming) SO2 forms a ‘reflective’ layer for Sun Radiation. Co-Authored by Michael Mann so it’s not as disreputable as first appears. Pretty convincing correlations between SO2 emissions and warming, but the concensus is still CO2 does attribute to global warming. Considering if the above is true (in addition to out total GHG emissions), minimal.

    Reference from ACIL Tasman report: (yes it is from the Coal lobby, but have a look at the numbers and assumptions before predjudice kicks in)

    Coal & SO2 emissions:

    Any comments on that study? I’m no climate scientist, so someones dissemination, who is in this subject field, of the report would be great.


  172. So what do you think the price will be Peter? You say avoidance, but to me the price is irrelevant, what is important is the impact on the economy of that price, which I believe is manageable.

    Given that we have no idea, at present, what the tax/ets detail is, we have no idea who is getting freebies, therefore don’t really know the “cost” of abating the lowest 5% of emissions. I honestly don’t think that your question has an answer that can be known… maybe I could be more certain after this weekend’s announcement, depending on just how much detail is released.

    I’d expect it to be between $40 and $100 per tonne to be honest… depending on how many of the low cost emissions are given freebies.


  173. Just to add, Peter, that until the detail is out I’m not committed as a supporter of the tax/ets. So I essentially agree with your comment “If you cannot answer this question then why on Earth are you advocating for a carbon price?”


  174. @ Peter:

    Greens and catastrophists.

    I think you misspelled that — It’s “Greens and Climatologists”.

    I have four questions for the carbon price advocates:.

    I decline to answer on the grounds that I’m NOT a Carbon Price advocate, but really and truly wuuly am just bored to tears by it.


  175. @ Moderator,

    That answer is avoidance. Pure and simple avoidance.

    The answer needs to be a figure with a dollar sign in front.

    Will it be $2, $20, $200, $2000 per tonne CO2?

    If you cannot answer this question then why on Earth are you advocating for a carbon price?

    To do so is totally irreeesponsble.

    To avoid answering key questions like this is a sign of lack of objectivity.

    By extension, the fact that most Progressives want to avoid this question demonstrates a lack of objectiivty in arriving at their beliefs.

    Is there any way to ask Peter to stop attacking us personally? Why does he get to attack Matt like he did above just because Matt answered — in all due honesty — that the market will set the price? Why does Peter then get to emotively inflame the thread with attacks on not just Matt’s motives — but then have a rant against all ‘Progressives’ character and objectivity?

    Peter seems to label *anyone* who takes climate change seriously or has a flexible attitude to taxation policy as a “Progressive”.

    Can we please open a Carbon Tax thread and direct all Carbon Tax conversations across to it? Then see who pays it a visit, and STOP Peter using this thread to attack people who are simply BORED TO TEARS by his constant foaming at the mouth about a Carbon Tax? Please?

    I’ll be good — I promise ;-)
    I agree that the OT is being choked by the Carbon Tax debate and PL, actually, also asked for a seperate thread. I have asked Barry if he will put one up but he is away at the present and very busy, so it may have to wait.
    Attacks on groups in general but not individuals, (if I have missed a personal attack I apologise and will re-check that) are allowed on the OT and it is happening on both sides of the spectrum.
    You posit “Is there any way to ask Peter to stop attacking us personally?” so I will ask you – is there any way to get you to stop attacking PL personally? The only answer lies with the pair of you, as with everyone on the blog, just be civil and play the ball not the man.
    Don’t forget this thread is a “soapbox”. You want to stop Peter and Peter wants to stop you and others who he claims are trying to divert the thread. Impossible, as I have already pointed out, to divert/derail an Open Thread.


  176. @ John,
    I just listened to the ABC Environment podcast on Moree and they positively RAVED about it. There was a short section on this inconvenient thing we call “night” but they quickly brushed that aside saying they often have power outages at Moree, so any more power was good power. “Daytime supplier and night time supplier” … “It’s all part of the grid” … “I buy the power and I don’t really know where it comes from…” “It will shore up our power supply a little bit”. “Jobs for indigenous people”.

    There you go. A few words and “night” just disappears! Otherwise, it’s all good — jobs, infrastructure, doesn’t hurt topsoil, tourist attraction….

    It seems to me BNC needs to monitor all renewables propaganda across the media and create a resource base of reporting back this propaganda and countering it. Otherwise, with Fukishima, it’s game over. We’ve lost unless we can unite and get the energy facts out there.


  177. MattB,

    to me the price is irrelevant, what is important is the impact on the economy of that price, which I believe is manageable.

    The price is relevant because it is what causes the effect on the economy.

    I agree, it is the effect on the economy that is important. You think the effect will be small. Why do you believe that?. Or don’t you think you need a reason to support your beliefs?


  178. You think the effect (of peak oil) will be small — yet the price of oil has doubled. Or don’t you think you need a reason to support your beliefs (that peak fossil fuels will be negligible and not devastate the world economy?)


  179. Peter believe it or not I am reading your links (when I have the time) and an not closed to what you are saying. But I am not an economist, and while I’ll attempt not to appeal to authority I have found that the arguments that it will be a reasonable and small effect make more rational sense than the arguments that it will be doom and gloom end of the earth.

    Is this wound up/influenced by some ideology/belief I hold dear?… I can’t rule it out, but I think many here would agree that many of your opinions appear to be entrenched in ideology (possibly/probably both mine and yours).

    Having abandoned my anti-nuclear stance I feel I am in a position of having to question most things I used to take as a given…. but that does not mean that all those things are wrong.

    EN THanks but I can look after myself:) For sure my comment that the market will decide is my honest opinion, but don;t think for a second I didn;t say it precisely to get Peter fired up:) honesty and mischeviousness at the same time is my speciality


  180. EN they claim one of the objectives of Moree will be to evaluate realtime grid integration problems. Perhaps that means avoiding brownouts when a bank of clouds passes over at midday. Hopefully data will enable an estimate to be made of the cost of CO2 avoided. To me it’s just a bright shiny toy.

    Moree is small potatoes (but expensive). It’s harder to believe they will fully replace Loy Yang coal station. Every second 2 gigajoules of electricity is currently produced with say 35% efficiency from brown coal costing 60c a gigajoule. They want to replace it with gas costing $7 a gigajoule with say 55% efficiency. My bet is nothing happens for years on that front.

    On the other hand Moree will be a marvellous photo op and should get built quickly. At the opening ceremony the the entourage will fly over in their VIP jets, land nearby and transfer to the site in a fleet of limos. Perhaps the PM can do a ‘welcome to country’ set to appropriate choreography. Bummer if it rained that day. Give the public what they want.. warm and fuzzy feelings.


  181. To the advocates of a carbon price,

    MattB asked how I would answer my own questions,

    Below is a short answer. Now, I’d ask you and the other advocates of carbon pricing to give your own answers to the questions.

    2. What effect would such a carbon price have on the economy?
    A. see below

    3. What would be the effect on world GHG emissions?
    A. No reduction in world emissions. Andy savings in Australia will be more than made for by higher emissions from oveseas

    4. What would be the effect on the climate?
    A. None

    2. What effect would such a carbon price have on the economy?

    First step (determine the limit): assume carbon intensity is inelastic. In that case GDP per capita growth would have to be cut from +1.6% p.a. to -1/7% p.a. average for 8 years (2012 to 2020). That means a very deep, long recession. I’d expect unemployment greater than 20% (like Spain has now). Do we want to turn ourselves into anothe basket case lie Europe?

    Second step: consider the elasticity of carbon intensity to GDP.

    This is more complicated. The carbon intensity is comprised of two components: Energy Intensity GJ/$ GDP) and Carbon Inetensity kg CO2 / GJ).

    1. Energy intensity – is decreasing at around 0.5% to 1%p.a. How much faster can it be reduced? One solution is to force the energy intensity industries to shut down (the growth is coming from the mining and LNG industries – so should we shut them down?)

    2. Carbon Intensity – how much can we change that in just 8 years? Without nuclear as an option, how much can we do? We need to cut emissions by 160 Mt/a. Where are the cuts going to come from?

    I’ve looked at this and can’t see how we can cut much, realistically, in 8 years without a massive recession. That is the one option we have if we want to achieve the unconditional targets.

    I’m persuaded, at the moment, it is not practicable to achieve them. The carbon tax is a diversion from biting the bullet on what we really need to do – remove the impediments to low cost nuclear. We need to realise the 2020 targets are not achievable and we need to work on setting the policies that will give us the greatest cuts fastest. That means getting rid of the ban on nuclear.

    We are doing so much wrong it is just ridiculous. The carbon price is another example of a long list of really bad policies, such as:

    ban on nuclear
    Renewable Energy Targets
    Renewable Energy Certificates
    Subsidies for renewable energy
    Pink Bats home insulation scheme
    Green loans
    Green cars
    NSW GGas
    The list goes on for ever.

    We have 240 pieces of legislation and regulations to cut GHG emissions. Most cost a bundle and do almost nothing, as the Productivity Commission has pointed out.

    We changed incandescent lights for poisonous mercury lights in every house (Mercury is a pollutant in EU but not when used in lights – that is an indication of how ridiculous are our regulations).

    As of 1 July, no more resistance hot water heaters are allowed to be installed. That’s dumb. It forces us onto gas (and heat pumps in some locations but either way much more expensive than the simple resistance hot water heater). Why I say it is dumb is because once we do get clean, electricity (e.g. from nuclear) then the best thing we can do is to go back to electric hot water instead of gas.

    We are doing it all wrong. We should bite the bullet and embrace nuclear.

    Now over to the advocates of carbon price to justify their beliefs – not just attack mine with no substantiation for your own beliefs.


  182. MattB,

    I have found that the arguments that it will be a reasonable and small effect make more rational sense than the arguments that it will be doom and gloom end of the earth.

    Firstly, I didn’t say a Carbon Price imposed by the Australian government on Australia would doom and gloom the Earth. A Carbon Price imposed in Australia will disadvantage Australia and advantage all other countries. It will not reduce world emissions.

    Now, please answer my question. Why do you believe that a carbon price, high enough to achieve the unconditional 2020 target, will have a small effect on the economy? What is your source?

    I’d suggest you need to be appropriately sceptical about what you read. For example, what are the assumptions used. Below are a few you need to watch our for.

    Firstly, the CPRS assumed the world would agree to an economically efficient ETS. That clearly won’t happen in the foreseeable future

    Secondly, the CPRS modelling assumed Australia would be able to trade emissions permits internationally. That is not the case under the proposed carbon tax system. That makes a huge difference. Under the CPRS, most of the emissions cuts would have been achieved by buying permits from overseas.

    Thirdly, most of the Government’s arguments about the economic impact of the proposed carbon pricing scheme are highly misleading. For example, the Treasurer quoted selectively from Treasury modelling to say GDP per capita growth would be cut from 1.2% to 1.1.% p.a. But that is not at a carbon price that would be needed to achieve the unconditional 2020 target. It is for the introductory, $20/tonne (“honeymoon” rate if you like to suck in the unwary and gullible). The voters will of course be massively bribed as well. But the bribes will only last a year or so. Once the legislation is in, the damage is done.


  183. Peterthis article from CLimate Spectator makes good points I think:

    MOst notably in relation to your assumption of inelasticity, wheras for example “the UK economy had already cut its emissions by 28 per cent since 1990, while growing the economy by 48 per cent.”

    p.s. “doom and gloom end of the earth” I was not referring to an earth wide impact, more comparison to people with sandwich boards proclaiming the end of the world is nigh.

    Anyway, as I say, we can have this debate once the details are out on the weekend. WHo knows I may well agree with you by then as at the mmoment any position is a bit of a guess.


  184. MattB,

    I saw the article on Climate Spectator when it was published. I’d give zer credibilty to that stie. It is sponsored by the renewable energy indudtry for the renewable energy industry. In my opinion it is complete rubbish.


  185. I will post a dedicated carbon tax blog tonight after I get back from a working dinner – thereafter please use only that thread for carbon-tax-related comments.

    (Wipes sweat off brow).

    Thanks Barry! Awesome news!

    Good dinner? Energy stuff or Uni business?


  186. I’m at Byron Bay for an intense workshop on extinction rate estimates, EN.

    Sad — was it statistical modeling extrapolating out how many earthworms and soil-biota might have gone missing, or is this measured, empirical, actual extinction rates of higher level animals that have already gone? Please don’t think I’m understating the importance of soil micro-biota, I’m not, but I understand this area may have been one where estimates of extinction rates were blown out of proportion in previous estimates and perhaps led to some cynicism about how bad things really are out there?

    (Personally, the way we’re paving over, plowing up, polluting, preying on, spreading pests and over-populating this planet I’m amazed there’s anything left!)


  187. David Walters, on 5 July 2011 at 1:16 PM:

    Was I an operator? Not quite, though at times I considered becoming one. I was for 30+ years primarily involved as an engineer in construction, operation and modification of power stations. More recently, I have been involved with design and construction of several solar thermal arrays.

    Semi-retired now, I have time to spend typing comments on BNC and really enjoy being able to think deeper about some things which beforehand I had only considered slightly – eg nuclear power, of which there is none in Austraia, hence I have no direct experience of it.

    An emerging major concern of mine is the accelerating rate of environmental effects arising from anthropogenic climate change. I first came to this site seeking knowledge about climate change, its causes, risks and so forth. I really doubt that my grandson will inherit a world which resembles that which I am enjoying: abundant energy, national security, stable society, personal opportunity and more – all are threatened by climate change, which I unfortunately for us all has been shown conclusively to be both real and unavoidable.

    That otherwise intelligent folk are able to convince themselves or be conned by others into a belief that climate change is anything other than a huge and present challenge, far more important than even the health of the world’s economies, I simply cannot understand. This is not about Man’s constructed notions of economic principles first, followed by considerations of planetary survival. Clearly, reality will trump economic theory every time.

    The Egyptian pyramids may well be colossal monuments to personal achievement but they have absolutely no physical value… they just sit there and do nothing. Climate change denialism is an industry which surpasses the pyramids both in its size and its ability to just sit there and do nothing.

    Lord Monkton and his fellow travellers have constructed a huge monument to singlemindedness, short-termism, private profit today despite public/universal costs tomorrow, and misuse of the tools of public communication. This monument has effectively blocked the road to rational response to demonstrated risk for a couple of decades and appears capable of ensuring that the worst outcomes will be the result.

    So, like George Monbiot and many others, I came to consider nuclear power via thinking about climate change. BNC is a marvellous confluence of thought on both topics.


  188. (I’m gritting my teeth at what I just heard on the ABC … )

    Yes Monckton, the climatologists know there have been much higher Co2 levels in the past. This is no mystery, and — just like water — it’s all about context. Too little and we die of thirst, too much and we die of water poisoning or Tsunami’s or flood! Monckton, how about answering the question Adam Spencer (and climatologists) actually put to you instead of waffling on about how the whole world is against you??

    Check out how slippery Monckton was this morning, and ask yourself why anyone would go and hear one of his talks when he is not only a failed hack of a pretend scientist, not really a Lord, but also this unpleasant when interviewed by someone who has a clue?


  189. Activist Opportunity!

    Scientific American has a podcast and newsletter that attract opinion and comments. Sign up below and get their email once a fortnight (or something like that) and make sure you tick the box for Energy & Sustainability and you can defend nuclear power there and debunk solar and wind scams. Click below and sign up!


  190. Via the post The Nuclear Debate – Monbiot et al., discuss the pros and cons at TalkNuclear I found this video: The Nuclear Debate, hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It’s set up as a formal debate followed by public discussion. The audience votes to accept or reject the resolution, which is: that it will be impossible to meet the emission reductions required (50% by 2030) without the use of nuclear power.

    I’ve brazenly stolen the TalkNuclear summary. Spoiler alert: I give it away at the end of this post.

    Each speaker made seven-minute opening statements. Here are some highlight points on each:

    George Monbiot (pro):

    On onshore wind: turbine construction is enough of a challenge as it is, but the lines required to connect them are worse and have not been commented on by Greenpeace
    Solar: unbelievably expensive, poorly matched to time of electricity demand
    If the UK maximizes its penetration for green energy, we can hit 45% by 2030 which is fantastic, but what do we do about the rest?
    Given the public backlash against every energy option, maybe we should suggest rolling blackouts instead as a less controversial option

    Roger Levett (con):

    To defeat this motion, we can simply stop producing and start importing energy, or if we travelled abroad more rather than locally (because then carbon is attributed to the receiving country)
    The problem is in overindulgence – we’d be better off with cars that don’t do 0-60 quickly without the safety features required for those speeds and the entertainment features to keep your kids entertained during those trips.
    Local economies means less energy is required for transportation, so we can eliminate huge portions of our current energy use
    Use a behavior-based approach rather than new energy supply (people should use less energy)

    Malcolm Grimston (pro):

    Believes it’s impossible to meet our target with or without nuclear, but nuclear is going to get us close.
    There’s a fallacy that puts nuclear and renewable against each other
    If I could reinvent the world I would leave out the 2nd law of thermodynamics
    If we end up in a position of playing a game with millions of participants acting for their own situation, we’re in trouble. See John Nash.

    Doug Parr (con):

    Opening comment: disappointing to be on the opposite side of George Monbiot
    Nuclear waste: we still don’t know what to do with it
    Proliferation: if nuclear is the answer in the UK, it needs to be the answer everywhere. If you’re comfortable with nuclear power, you need to be comfortable with nuclear power in Africa & the middle east and other politically unstable territories
    Nuclear unduly competes with renewables for share of investment capital

    Each speaker then had the opportunity to reply to the others’ opening statements. (See Monbiot and Grimston rebuttals!) Finally there was a Q&A with the audience.

    A winner was called at the end with a house vote. The result of the vote was 63-9

    It’s the first time I’ve seen and heard Monbiot speak; he’s very passionate. The rebuttals, starting about 43 minutes, are interesting too.

    Spoiler: the vote was 63 to 9 for the motion, in other words, nuclear power is essential.


  191. I was wondering if anyone could comment on these quick calculations I just did of the total costs of nuclear, coal and gas in Australia, combining LCOE and externalities.

    2015 LCOE estimates in Australia

    Brown coal 89.65 AUD$/MWh
    Black coal 80.67 AUD$/MWh
    (Split the difference – 85 AUD$/MWh)

    Nuclear 133 AUD$/MWh

    Combined cycle gas 94 AUD$/MWh


    Median external costs according to Externe 2001 (median value for each nation with estimates, then median across these nations)

    Coal 5.5 €cent/kWh
    = 55 €/MWh
    = 73 AUD$/MWh

    Nuclear 0.3 €cent/kWh
    = 3 €/MWh
    = 4 AUD$/MWh

    Gas 1.5 €cent/kWh
    = 15 €/MWh
    = 20 AUD$/MWh


    Total costs (LCOE + externalities)

    Coal 85 + 73 = 158 AUD$/MWh

    Nuclear 133 + 4 = 137 AUD$/MWh

    Gas 94 + 20 = 114 AUD$/MWh

    I think my calculations are a bit shakey, e.g. using 2001 external costs with 2015 LCOE estimates. Also, fluctuating exchange rates, not taking into account resource abundance (esp. for gas), externality figures from the other side of the world, etc.

    Anyone have better estimates?


  192. @ Luke Weston and David Walters:

    Before you get too excited, read the linked report again. Nowhere does it say that the solar generator was at or near nameplate rating for any part of the day, let alone overnight.

    Until a proper report is received, I remain skeptical that the energy sent out was anywhere above nominal during the night. At the very least, meaningful reports of this event should include a figure for the energy sent out over the claimed 24 hour period, along with salt temperatures before and after, to indicate how much energy has been borrowed from stored heat.

    This said, the result is of great value, because it is an industrial scale operation which can be on line for the morning peak and does not need several hours’ warming through after sunride before first generation. Without overnight storage and circulation, Solar thermal cools down overnight and requires at least half of the morning to re-start. Sorry, I don’t have links to support this last statement. I know it to be true from personal experience but public records of overnight and startup performance are not available, as far as I know, to the public.

    Let’s hope that the owners and developers of this record breaker are proud and confident enough that they will put their data out for public review. I would be most impressed if the unit managed to average 40MW, ie 960 MWH total during the 24 hours test, because historical performance of CST has been very much less than 33% of nameplate rating when averaged over a day or days.

    David, your calculation then looks like $600M for 125MW peak capacity, 40MW average during favourable weather conditions and with the added benefit of reliability within at least a schedule of several hours, ie can be relied on to last through a peak period. This is great stuff.


  193. IT’s amazing how they almost never have actual MWhrs shown. The writers, who receive the info off of press releases, simply can’t parse what’s out there or ask the right questions. “100MWs”…for 24 hours? NOT!



    Working the anti-nuclear side of the street however, which has grown far broader in the last four months, Rosatom has recently been in discussions with Germany’s Siemens on a broad array of nuclear issues, including assisting in closing down Germany’s nuclear power plants.

    Ever upbeat, Rosatom Deputy General Director Kirill Komarov told reporters, “We can look at different types of partnership, not just nuclear reactors, but at nuclear medicine or the closure of nuclear power plants.”

    Opportunity is where you find it. Why am I not suprised that Rosatom is eager to assist Germany decomission its nuclear plants?


  195. I don’t know Luke Weston, “incompetent” is a bit harsh – other than the one hiccup (using the word “reactor” instead of “combustion boiler”), the article is pretty spot on. News of what we’re doing to global ecological systems is fairly sobering in my view.


  196. Weather related incidents are in the news these days all the time. Then they cross to to a story where a captain of industry says there is no need to do anything about climate change. As time goes by the disconnect must be harder to maintain. I myself nearly got swept away in a mudslide a couple of days ago. Yesterday the ground was snow covered at 200m altitude; today it’s warm. Even the old timers admit it’s unusual.


  197. @Peter Lang

    Curiously, your link 1 July 2011 at 11:23 AM to Treasury under FOI in regarding the 2020 5% reduction on 2000 levels seems to have had the details deleted ……….
    Graham – please note that Peter Lang has been banned from BNC for persistent violations of the Comments Policy.


  198. In a big industrialized country with an integrated power grid, an energy mix based on nuclear and hydro, augmented by wind, solar and gas is probably the way to go if you want to largely decarbonize electricity production.

    But what about remote rural areas with no grid connection, or small islands which today rely mostly on diesel generators for their electric power? They can set up a couple of wind turbines and solar panels to replace the diesels most of the time, but they still have to keep them around for periods of low wind or overcast skies. In order to get rid of the generators alltogether, they have to find ways of storing renewable energy to get through extended periods of below average renewable electricity production.
    Pumped storage may be an option in some rural areas, but on most smaller islands, say in the Pacific, it is not feasible to construct because of lack of space and height differential. Batteries are an option, but they get heavy, bulky and expensive the more electricity they have to store.

    What about hydrogen? There are several test sites in the world where they produce hydrogen from wind power, compress it, store it and burn it in a generator. This sounds good (better than wasting excess wind energy), but it is pretty inefficient, and hydrogen — because it’s the smallest molecule in the universe — tends to leak out of containers, so long-term storage is difficult.

    A process which may adress the storage problem is methanization. You run CO2 and hydrogen through a Sabatier generator and produce methane gas, which can be stored in compressed or liquid form and combusted in a gas turbine.
    Now the interesting option I’m thinking about is running the methanization process using atmospheric CO2. This was first proposed by NASA scientists working on a manned mission to Mars. If the the Mars expeditionary spacecraft had to carry all its return propellant from Earth to Mars, it would have been much too heavy to be launched on top of even the most powerful heavy lift rockets. So in order to reduce the mass of the outbound spacecraft, the engineers decided to equip it with only a small hydrogen feedstock in a separate tank, a small nuclear reactor and a small propellant production module. It would fly out essentially on empty tanks. After landing, the ship would start producing methane-oxygen rocket propellant for the return journey using nuclear electricity and Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. Using only five tonnes of hydrogen feedstock, about 96 tonnes of methane-oxygen rocket propellant would be produced.

    How are the prospects of using this process here on Earth:

    excess renewable/nuclear electricity -> hydrogen -> methanization using stored or atmospheric CO2 -> storage -> burning in a gas turbine for power if needed -> release of the CO2 into the atmosphere or storage for recycling

    … or is it more efficient to directly use the hydrogen in large fuel cells?

    Could such a storage system added to wind and solar system, with perhaps the addition of a small anaerobic digestion plant be an adequate solution to the challenge of brining zero-carbon electricity to small islands and rural areas, not only when mother nature permits it but when it is demanded?


  199. Max a few people are thinking along these lines e.g. wind fuels who claim it can be done with 60% efficiency and even a car maker.

    Perhaps 60% efficiency means the EROEI is the reciprocal 1.67 which is better than corn ethanol at 1.25. That still doesn’t say what the Sabatier methane fuel will cost per kwh, MJ or kg. As you say the trick is to simplify the technology so it can not only be done by Martian astronauts but also by island dwellers. At 0.04% w/w atmospheric CO2 is too dilute. I’ve tried making concentrated CO2 using charcoal and chemical oxygen. Messy. I’m about to experiment with different catalysts in a Sabatier reactor so if I stop posting it all went bad. BTW I’ve been making biodiesel for years.

    While inefficient plenty of piston engine generators can run on methane. We see them at landfills and they are cheaper and more robust than fuel cells. Perhaps synthetic and bio-methane could be blended. Fast forward to year 2050 when natural gas is expensive or unobtainable. How do we balance wind power?


  200. Interesting proposals. The guys at dotyenergy seem to be doing exactly what I described. I also didn’t know that Audi is looking at synthetic gas as a car fuel.

    The process is 60% efficiency compared to what? I doubt they mean 60% overall efficiency in electricity storage. Remember that you have to use the excess wind power electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen first, a process which is barely 60% efficient and then, expending power yet again, manufacture methane using H2 and CO2 in a Sabatier reactor, compress and store the produced gas and then burn it in a generator or turbine, which in itself is nowhere near 60% efficient. The whole process should only be 20% or so efficient in storing electricity, but that’s better than wasting the excess wind power. I can definitely see this powering remote communities such as islands, and perhaps even producing fuel for agricultural machinery, boats or trucks in these areas, but not as a general subsititute for oil in transportation.


  201. There is some amazing stuff on peak coal on the net lately. Anyone checked the math of growth and run a Hubbert’s bell curve across it? So many sites seem to support alarming stats like *running out* in 119 years, but then when you add 2% growth (or whatever we can expect after peak oil with Hirsch’s coal-to-liquids programs running), and *then* on top of growth try to smooth for peak coal… wow.

    It’s looking close. As in my lifetime, and I’m only in mid 40’s.


  202. The round trip efficiency of synthetic hydrocarbons as an energy store must be low. That’s why we should conserve natural gas as a cheap versatile hydrocarbon and not burn so much in power stations. People who claimed to be tuned into sustainability issues blithely assume gas will always be there. For example the huge offshore processing platform to be built All the gas will go to foreigners. Not only will they avoid paying carbon tax on an Australian fossil fuel but Shell is to get partial c.t. exemption for the gas burned onsite to run the rig. As Graham Palmer points out it worsens the CO2 cut we will have to make by 2020.

    I would like our bureaucrats to write a paper on Australia’s long term gas supply and demand. Minor topics to touch on include replacing oil imports and gas for south eastern Australia such as converting Hazelwood. Perhaps flogging our WA gas while exempt from carbon constraints won’t look such a good idea.

    EN one of my secrets (or was) to a good brew of biodiesel is to keep the reaction close to flash point for an hour. There’s a chance a hose could burst so I keep several fire extinguishers handy.


  203. Some good news from Japan:

    NHK in Japan now is reporting that Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese Government have announced in a joint statement that the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are stabilized. This means that cooling water injection is controlled, that temperature of the reactors is in an acceptable range and can be controlled, and that nitrogen to prevent hydrogen burn or explosion is being injected to all three.

    I believe this is the first major milestone achieved in the recovery effort.


  204. The Open Source Hardware energy systems have been described as “Amish on crack”. They are remarkably upbeat about the energy that can come from food polyculture biomass waste. I’m suspicious because if done wrong, biomass creates the Food V Fuel competition. But they are claiming both, and I have heard of systems that provide food *and* fuel in certain carefully designed agricultural processes.


  205. I just read a report by a German renewables “think tank”, which states that the overall efficiency of electricity-methane-electricity (the last step in a combined cycle gas powerplant) is about 35%. The CO2 needed to produce the methane is supposed to come from the burning of biomass for electricity.

    Electrictiy-hydrogen-electricity would be 7% more efficient, but you would need to design new gas turbines for that, or inject nitrogen decrease reaction temperature. Also, in order to use hydrogen, you would need to build a new storage and transportation infrastructure.

    Obviously they are thinking about using this system on a very large scale.

    Which process is more advantageous for rural areas and remote islands? Using pure hydrogen allows you to get rid of the biomass component, but that shouldn’t be a problem in the not to densely populated countryside. Also, you wouldn’t use combined cycle gas turbines but rather generators, so the efficieny of using “renewable methane” may be even lower.
    In a tropical location (Maldives, Polynesia), I’d probably go for windmills and rooftop solar, with an added electrolyzer and fuel cell array for power storage.
    In a colder climate I’d burn the hydrogen (or methane) in a small combined heat-power plant to supply electricity and heat to houses.

    Any comments?
    As per BNC Comments Policy, please supply the link to the report you are quoting so that others can read it in full and then make their appraisals.


  206. Max an all-hydrogen system has been trialled a number of places including Stuart Island off Washington State.
    They say their round trip efficiency is 7% but if they give a cost per kwh it is not on their cost page. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was well over $1/kwh as some solar-battery systems have ie without fuel cells.

    The Methane Economy has a lot going for it including sunk costs (eg gas grid), medium tech (eg piston engines), multiple sources (bio, synthetic, natgas) and conversion losses avoided (eg 40% in gas-to-liquids). The main problem would be fugitive emissions.

    While this isn’t on the radar I think it will become so in a few years. The govt says they will drop the 18c/L diesel fuel rebate. When liquid diesel hits say $2/L for truckers I think there will be a major shift to CNG. That will seriously drive up the price of gas for stationary users such as power stations. It’s one of the reasons why I think a full gas replacement for Hazelwood brown coal station will never happen despite it being a hot topic in the news.


  207. @ John Newlands:

    With Victoria and SA already knocking at the door of gas shortages, any conversion of Hazelwood to gas is in the “Too Hard” basket, with or without price rises for NG. Vic’s share of Australian gas supplies is about 6%. At current rates of extraction, Victoria’s gas reserves (Proved and Provable) will last about 10 years. See: , especially Table 3.1.

    The available list of options for future electricity supplies grows a little shorter every day. Australia’s destiny is to continue down the path of eliminating each of the alternatives to nuclear power until nothing else remains and, only then, re-examining the political constraints and reluctantly considering nuclear power.


  208. JB I think it’s uncanny that R.F.X. (Rex) Connor predicted the need for a NW->SE gas pipeline 30 years ago. Shame it didn’t end well..

    Perhaps he would be pleased if an east-west HVDC line eventuated.instead. Rex also wanted a uranium enrichment industry. I’ve previously given a link to an article suggesting SA’s once great gas field (Cooper Basin) needs fracking to bring a new lease of life.

    It’s not just SA and Vic but according to Sen, Milne 50% of Tasmania’s summer power comes via the HVDC cable that ends next to the Loy Yang Vic brown coal station.. That cable only became fully operational in 2006.

    Therefore NP with suitable transmission would be of massive benefit to SA, Vic and Tas who are all on borrowed time. I think either SA or Vic should be the site of Australia’s first commercial NP tied in with desalination, brown coal replacement and new industry.


  209. John,

    Agreed 100%. Reginald Francis Xavier Conner. Love him or hate him, an interesting fellow then and still. Gough Whitlam had an interesting bunch of ministers whose names began with a C: Cass, Connor, Crean, Cairnes… all Contentious.

    I tend to favour Victoria for the first 4x 800MW NPP’s, perhaps Hazelwood site, but above flood level please. Otherwise, replacing Loy Yang A. Closely behind, a couple of 800MW units in SA to feed Olympic Dam and the desal plants (Adelaide’s and BHP’s). The desal plant provides a nice large load which can be used to manage demand, thus enabling the nuclear power plants to run flat out, because otherwise their capacity might be a bit large for the SA end of the grid.

    That should balance up the opportunities quite well, even leaving room for a phased transition to providing cheapish power for the aluminium industry, which has been made out to be an ogre. Energy-hungry, yes. Ogre, no. It depends where the electricity comes from and at what price.

    The next phases could well be an HVDC link across the continent, which will also help to kick off solar in the desert and/or pumped storage on the Nullarbor, followed closely by a repetition of the exercise in NSW – perhaps with 1000MW or more per unit. Think: Wallerawang (2), Munmorah (1 or 2), Vales Point (2 to 4), Liddell (2 to 4). That brings NSW’s total to 7 to 12 with minimal transmission line upgrades, on existing sites, using existing workforces, provided that these black coal power stations are retired at the same time or beforehand.

    That should deliver Australia’s first 15 to 20 GW of NPP’s, as well as a fat chunk of solar thermal and/or PV. The question is: “When?”


  210. John Bennetts further study of your link suggests how SA and Vic coal stations could be replaced with gas for several decades. The eastern option would be for Queensland coal seam gas to be diverted to the Adelaide-Moomba pipeline then reverse the flow in the SA-Vic line (SEAgas). I don’t know if this would be subject to capacity or blending constraints. Also Qld seem hell bent on liquefying and exporting a lot of their gas.

    The other option is either to build a transcontinental pipe or ship WA LNG around the coastline from any of several onshore and offshore fields. I’d expect LNG to cost double piped gas and it is inefficient. As you say R/P ratios for the SE gas basins don’t justify large new plant. It might be easier to put a few solar panels out the front of Hazelwood and buy offsets from somebody with some spare jungle.


  211. JB

    The question is: “When?”

    When we’ve created the viral video meme that slays the ghosts of older Generation nukes, and emotionally excites and motivates the average Aussie to favour nukes. We need a unified message and strategy, otherwise we’re done and dusted.


  212. @ John Newlands, on 17 July 2011 at 3:41 PM:

    I noticed that longer term gas discussion, but IMHO it should be disregarded. It relies on availability of pigs which do not yet fly, in the form of coal seam methane and pipelines which do not exist and may never do so.


  213. Has anyone noticed this last item in the Coalition’s 2010 Energy and Resources Policy?

    17. Examine the potential of thorium as an energy source for export
    The Coalition will examine the potential use of thorium as an energy source.
    Australia possesses an estimated 18.7 per cent (489,000t) of the world’s identified resources of thorium7.
    The primary source of thorium in Australia and globally is the mineral monazite. Thorium can be used as an alternative source of fuel for energy generation and possesses an energy content that can be utilised almost in its entirety.

    Maybe they should also examine the potential of thorium as an energy source for domestic generation.


  214. ABC Radio National’s The National Interest will have shadow environment minister Greg Hunt on the next show. The host, Peter Mares, solicited questions from listeners for Mr Hunt. If you’re interested you can log them here. My question:

    Dear Peter,

    I am very concerned about climate change and so I look forward to your upcoming interview with Greg Hunt. If the opportunity presents I would be grateful if you could put to him the following question:

    Given the Coalition’s policy of direct action on climate change, and given that the single most effective policy change that could be made to reduce our emissions would be to rescind the ban on nuclear power, will the Coalition add nuclear power to its list of direct action initiatives?

    And I note by way of background to the question:

    * The much smaller environmental footprint of nuclear power and the nuclear fuel cycle relative to any proposed renewable energy alternative
    * The need for large amounts of zero carbon energy to support water desalination in the future
    * The superior safety of nuclear power relative to our current generation infrastructure (Fukushima nothwithstanding)
    * The example of France as the only industrial economy to have essentially eliminated greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, and the failure of all attempts to do so with just renewable energy in other countries
    * The Coalition’s support for our existing uranium mining and export industries, including uranium exports to India and its pledge to examine the use of thorium for energy

    Kind regards,
    John Morgan


  215. I’m new to this site. I stumbled on to it 3 days ago and have been reading voraciously ever since the mature and intelligent discussions about often contentious ideas and issues. I’ve not seen anything better on the net.

    It seems Peter Lang’s post Pumped-hydro energy storage – cost estimates for a feasible system and comments has been quiet since April so I ‘m going to ask my questions here in the open thread.

    A pumped storage generator project has been proposed for construction in my community. I’m seeking comments and analysis from this community of the obviously concerned, knowledgeable and talented.

    How’s that for a preamble?

    The proposed facility would have a 1.25 billion gallon upper reservoir feeding water through a pump/generator into a 600 foot deep open mine pit. A concept drawing shows the 600 foot deep pit as being filled almost completely and the upper reservoir being virtually empty at the end of the generating phase. ( I’ve just learned that there is, apparently, no way to post a graphic here)

    The graphic of the proposal shows the bottom of the reservoir at/on ground level and the top of the pit at (of course) the same ground level with the pen stock feeding from ground level down to the turbine 600 feet below and out into the bottom of the mine pit.

    To my untrained eye and my physics inept brain it seems to me that as the water level in the pit rises so will back pressure against the turbine. As the reservoir empties there will also be less weight of water pushing down onto the turbine.

    Most of the pumped storage facilities I have read about drop into a river or into a reservoir behind a dam, very large bodies of water that would not suffer an appreciable level rise from the additional water being placed there-in by the turbine outflow. They also, in most instances, have the water dropping 1000 feet or more.

    Wouldn’t the weight of the constantly rising column of water in the pit reduce output from the generator as back pressure increases?

    Will the generator actually be able to maintain full 400 MW output for 5 hours?

    Some specs given for this proposal are 400 MW for 5 hours with 322 cms flow through a Francis generator/pump.

    More details and graphics are available on the Northland power web site.
    (The graphic I would like to have been able to post here is page 17 of the PDF, 1st URL below)

    Thanks for your comments


  216. Fred I think there must always be an air gap between the turbine and the full height of the lower reservoir. The latter is called a sump or cuddie in the mining industry. If there was continuous fluid Pascal’s law would stop the flow.

    Interesting that a mine shaft is used to get the vertical drop. Kind of the opposite of a cliff top tank with the sea as the lower reservoir. Suits Hawaii since a higher sea cliff means the tank doesn’t need to be as large for the same energy.


  217. @ John N:

    The mine is not an underground one. The fall is between a pond and a residual void. The surfaces of each pond will always be at atmospheric pressure.

    The idea is a good one. If we must have residual voids, we should at least use them productively.

    OTOH, miners could always choose to fill their mines and revegetate the restored surfaces before they leave. It’s only good manners.


  218. Eclipse Now,

    Modified carbon nanotubes can store solar power indefinitely… but at what cost? And when can I buy one for a few extra bucks? ;-)

    I didn’t comment on this before because there wasn’t enough info in the nextbigfuture link to figure out what was going on. We’ve known about state flipping azobenzenes for decades – why attach them to a nanotube? (Other than that it turns research in “chemistry” into research in “nanotechnology” and is therefore much more buzzworthy.) And how do you use these things? Do you spread them in a very thin film because thats the best solar collecting configuration? But its also the worst possible energy recovery configuration – regenerated heat would be lost. Do you scoop the stuff up and put it in jars? Sounds like a recipe for an incendiary.

    Then this morning I saw Ars Technica has also covered this story and gives a better account. The nanotube attachment provides stabilization to ground and excited states, increasing shelf life of the high energy state.

    But the real kicker here is that the molecule doesn’t exist.

    This material has never been made. It exists only as a computer simulation. There is no guarantee that the material behaves as designed. There is no knowledge of other relevant material properties or chemical stability. There is no guarantee that the material can even be synthesized. There is no tested synthetic pathway. For any synthesis you might conceive, there is no knowledge of percentage yield, and many other things. Without knowledge of synthetic pathway, yield or or conversion processes, you cannot say anything about the cost of the material. But I can tell you that Sigma Aldrich is selling the nanotube feedstock for $1500 a gram.

    Nowhere in the nextbigfuture coverage is it mentioned that this compound only exists in a simulation. Its reported as if it has been made. This is really irresponsible.

    A couple more comments on the claims in that article:

    storing the solar energy indefinitely

    Ars Technica states the half life is “over 1 year”

    volumetric energy density of Li-ion batteries

    We don’t know anything about the bulk material properties of the stuff so take any discussion of energy density as completely unreliable. But the bigger issue is recoverable energy density. The recoverable energy is proportional to the temperature rise above ambient that can be achieved. High efficiency requires high temperatures. The proposed molecule is an azo-benzene functionalized nanotube. The azo compounds are, shall we say, not renowned for their stability. How hot can you heat this stuff in air before it decomposes, or bursts into flames? Not hot enough to drive a turbine, or recover any meaningful amount of energy in any other form. [Hint – its the kind of molecule you could brown in your oven at 180 C, if it doesn’t catch fire. In fact taking the rule of thumb that chemical reaction rates roughly double for every 10 C temperature increase, and based on a 1 year half life, 30 mins at 180 C would see it nicely cooked.]

    So the stored energy can only be recovered as low grade heat, not a more useful form like electricity, except at conversion efficiencies that make the whole exercise laughable. As far as I can tell we’re talking about a very expensive pocket warmer.

    less expensive than the earlier ruthenium-containing compound

    Maybe. But astronomically expensive all the same, and an outrageous claim for a material that hasn’t been made.

    while this process is useful for heating applications, to produce electricity would require another conversion step, using thermoelectric devices or producing steam to run a generator

    Which it couldn’t do because the decomposition temperature is way below that required to run a steam turbine, or achieve useful conversion efficiency regardless the technology.

    This sort of reporting verges on criminally irresponsible. And for the academic involved, I don’t care that he’s from MIT, talking up the potential of these materials in this way is professionally negligent.

    Lets have a look at the other article linked from nextbigfuture, this time from our very own Monash university:

    Graphite + water = new battery with storage as good as Lithium Ion but recharges in seconds.

    What has been reported by nextbifuture is:

    “When used in energy devices, graphene gel significantly outperforms current carbon-based technology, both in terms of the amount of charge stored and how fast the charges can be delivered.”

    What has actually been done is to report a new gelling process, presumably water intercalation between layered graphene sheets at there edges (I can’t access the abstract). In other words, no battery or supercapacitor has been made, there is no knowledge of energy densities of any device that might use this material, no knowledge of charge, discharge rates, power densities, self-discharge rates, cost, etc. This is drawing a very long bow from observation of a gelling behaviour.

    So once again nextbigfuture is reporting breakthoughs in imaginary devices.

    This kind of journalism is a real problem. It is breathless and uncritical reaction to what is essentially a marketing hook for what is otherwise scientifically interesting research. Both of these pieces you’ve linked to, taken in the context of a scientific research exercise, are interesting reports. Neither of them have any basis for any claim on future deployment, but both of them have been reported as if they have already enabled energy storage for renewable energy.

    The state of journalistic coverage of renewable energy technologies is deplorable and reminds me very much of where scientific coverage of biochemistry etc. was at a decade or two ago. That is, some researcher would find some legitimately interesting metabolic pathway or somesuch, and it would be reported as a cure for cancer, to the detriment of the scientists, the doctors, patients, and the journalist. Science journalism has cleaned up its act a lot in this regard – I think there is less of this sort of outrage in the biological sciences than there used to be (though there are constant howlers). But renewable energy breakthroughs are the new cures for cancer, and material science journalism really needs to go through the same process of maturation as medical science journalism seems to have.

    Dilbert absolutely skewered this sort of reporting here:


  219. John Morgan, ouch!

    Thanks for a fascinating, not to mention brutal, review of the nextbigfuture article – reprehensible, full of spin.

    It really is rather sad the way “green technologies” get spun in the media (not to mention advertising campaigns too) at the moment. Interesting also that I never bothered to so much as glance at the article in the first place, due to an initial suspicion the article would have little or no substance. Goes to show how commonplace this misreporting currently is. From enormous pistons lifting granite for energy storage to Azobenzene-Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes…


  220. I’m shortly expecting some Adelaide visitors here in Tasmania. These people trot out the latest green technology idea year after year. They seem completely untroubled by lack of implementation or indeed undiminished reliance on coal. The important thing seems to be that greentech will one day save us in some unspecified time frame.

    The thing that unites SA, Tas and Vic is that our gas reserves only have 10 good years left. Yet all three are inordinately pleased with their wind build program that needs gas backup. If there is to be an energy storage breakthrough it had better come soon otherwise those wind farms will be even less relevant.


  221. I think this cartoon is counter-productive.

    It is not the way to demonstrate objectivity – for just as there are unsubstantiated, optimistic claims about renewables; there are unsubstantiated, optimistic claims about new nuclear.

    This cartoon could just as easily be retagged “imaginary IFR technologies” given that so many of the essential capabilities appear to be unproven outside the lab.

    When I read Tom Blees’s book I felt very optimistic about IFRs, boron and plasma. But that optimism was tempered by his cautionary words that a lot of work remains to prove the solution on a commercial scale; let alone prove that the multinational regulation/governance mechanism is doable.

    So for the moment it is not possible to demonstrate that:
    * the risk of containment failure due to “accidents” is acceptably low
    * the risk of containment failure due to hostile attacks is acceptably low
    * the risk of fuel cycle breaches leading to nuclear material ending up in the hands of hostiles is acceptably low
    * the re-use of waste from older reactors can be economically achieved
    * the final waste from IFRs can be safely stored for a dramatically shortened period
    * there is reliable and significant intention on the part of multiple, leading governments and the leading commercial enterprises to work cooperatively on such things as standardised designs and multilateral governance (which would likely involve international law)

    As far as I can see all this remains “design ambition” and there are heaps of hurdles to cross. The technology is at “development” stage – no more.

    The strategy should be to win the right and funding to demonstrate the solution on an industrial scale.

    If that right is won and the demonstration validates the design ambition then there is a real case for change that can influence those who, like me before, have been conditioned against nuclear.


  222. @ Alan:

    All of Alan’s supposed issues are safety related and safety is one huge plus for nuclear as far as I can tell.

    Hypothecising about possible but improbable events, indeed events with near zero probability of happening in a lifetime anywhere in the world, or which have never been known to happen is a rare luxury which is not available to those millions, many millions per year who are dying and will continue to die due to excessive fossil fuel usage by the privileged few (ie those who have a life expectancy above, say, 35 years at birth), while emotional exaggeration continues to steer analysis of life and death safety matters away from reality and towards dead ends and fanciful maybe’s.

    Sure, these issues must be considered, but the costs of focussing only on them whilst ignoring the biggies could well include loss of civilization as we know it, widespread famine, resource wars and global environmental collapse. Why place no priority on these issues?

    Besides which, what does Alan’s sixth point mean? Is it really essential that international law be used to enforce standardised designs and that technical progress be outlawed? Is this about one world government, or what? It certainly isn’t about optimising safety, environmental and social equity outcomes from the energy industry.


  223. Abbott is right; 80% emissions reductions by 2050 means the world coal industry should also shrink by 80%. Why the hell are Gillard and Swan boasting that the Australian coal industry will double? It’s a bit like saying liquor sales to responsible adults have declined but sales to drunks and minors have increased.

    I was impressed with the way Gillard stood her ground with the carbon tax announcement.but now she is undermining her credibility. One recent report I read (author Pearse, link lost) said Australian exported coal accounted for over 700 Mt a year of CO2. Australia as a whole is at 580 Mt net for all fossil fuels and we are trying to knock off a few percent. I think it was Basil Fawlty who asked ‘what’s the bleedin’ point?’.


  224. @ John Bennetts

    All of Alan’s supposed issues are safety related and safety is one huge plus for nuclear as far as I can tell

    1, 2 & 5 are related to safety; 3 is related to weapons; 4 is related to cost and energy security; 6 is related to cost, safety & weapons.

    They are all real issues in that IFRs are not yet deployed to any degree; they are all real issues because opposition to nuclear is strongly rooted in these issues.

    Hypothecising about possible but improbable events, indeed events with near zero probability of happening in a lifetime anywhere in the world, or which have never been known to happen is a rare luxury

    Well I think you need to separate concerns before assessing risk and how that directs engineering design.

    Failure modes & effects analysis is used to estimate the probability of system failure under normal operating conditions. Engineering design has advanced greatly and you might end up with an estimate like Barry quoted in the “For climates sake” thread at

    the risk of a meltdown as serious as the Three Mile Island incident in the US (which resulted in no fatalities) for GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor has been assessed as once every 29 million reactor years.

    This sounds great. Once every 29 million years … no worries!

    But other risk factors which might lead to events like containment failures or fuel cycle breaches – by accidents or hostiles – most likely dwarf the risk of failure in normal mode. Fukushima.

    From an engineering design perspective the challenge becomes to develop a solution which delivers on the ambition.

    I recall Tom talking about the concept of putting the reactor underground. Fine … but not proven. What about the fuel reserves and waste stores? Has the design for that been proven? Not to my knowledge. What about the sealing of final waste in the glass compound? Great idea … but has it been proven?

    The engineering design challenge is to make the system reactor and the fuel cycle demonstrably passive safe and indestructible (natural disasters & hostile attack) and unbreachable (to hostiles) to a degree that the “reasonable” person accepts.

    While there is empirical evidence from the Argonne facility it is not at industrial scale. Tom has guesstimated that about $4 billion and 5 years is required to demonstrate at industrial scale.

    Besides which, what does Alan’s sixth point mean? Is it really essential that international law be used to enforce standardised designs and that technical progress be outlawed? Is this about one world government, or what?

    I suggest you refer to Tom’s book. The argument for international governance is powerful and I agree with it 100%. While it could be argued that market innovation would be reduced, I seriously doubt it … there’s lot of money to be made and design improvements are essential. And there are huge potential benefits in construction and operating efficiencies.

    To summarise the concept … if we are looking at a future with thousands of reactors deployed across dozens of countries, what sort of international oversight is suggested given the demonstrable political instabilities that plague humankind.

    Tom posits that an international governance/treaty mechanism be established for regulation of design, construction, operating etc. Another element of his proposition is that huge cost and time benefits are realisable if there was a substantial uniformity of system design – rather than a plethora of bespoke designs – because manufacturers, constructors, operators and maintainers would become highly skilled.

    This makes eminent sense to me. We’re dealing with hot technology here. Having international regulation at this level is a small constraint to achieve the objective of ubiquitous base load energy for billions.

    “One World Government” it is not!

    My reference to “international law” is a personal muse. I wonder how rogue states could be deterred from doing what war machines do – attack the utilities like power and water. My thoughts drifted to international laws which prosecute the leadership of aggressor states if their war machines ever attacked a nuclear facility (even if they aimed their smart missiles at the transmission yard not the reactor).

    Maybe automatic life imprisonment for the government and military leaders is suggested. Maybe an automatic impost of $1 trillion on the aggressor country might do the trick. I don’t know.

    But enforceability of international governance is essential.


  225. “Why would we look to nuclear power when Germany, Japan and Italy are looking to remove it ?” These nations share in common that they all have had conservative constitutions forced upon them. If a large enough section of the voting population goes weak at the knees, the government is forced to back down. The rest of us have no such excuse.


  226. Thanks John Morgan for the review of the nano-battery’s exaggerated claims! Glad you found those other articles. I copied and posted your comment up at Next Big Future and explained a friend did the work. Cheers.


  227. Eclipse, you’re welcome. I hope you realize my rant was directed not at you but at those who failed you, namely the journalists selling a puff piece, the university pr departments promoting the work, and the academics reaching for contrived application scenarios for their research – an identical chain of broken logic coming out of different institutions on opposite sides of the world.

    Tom Keen, sometimes you have to be cruel to be nasty, and its been a while since I’ve done a good debunking.


  228. The real peer-reviewed work I need is a thorough, calm, objective debunking of Wind + the Nullarbor dam idea (seawater pumped hydro combination).

    (I also no longer trust a single thing Peter Lang wrote as objective, and if I owned this blog would probably be removing all his work and replacing it with better, more objective peer-reviewed work).

    Wind seems to be the cheapest renewable if *only* measuring it on a grid feed in rate. But it’s making it baseload that sucks and gets expensive. Yet part of me still plays the “What if we can’t get Parliament to back nukes?” game.

    I *know* nuclear uses 10% or less of the concrete and steel and is the quickest way we have to shore up clean base-load power in this country! But I just want to see the price of an alternative system.

    So assuming:-
    * a good overbuild across Australia
    * a HVDC super-grid across the continent
    * all the best wind sites covered so that there was always some wind blowing
    * “enough” Nullarbor dams, I’d love to see the final bill.
    (Note: I’m not going to commit to reading each and every technical comment that might appear on this thread as an attempt to answering the above. I was expressing the wish to see the finished peer-reviewed results — not necessarily even the working out — of such a study by peer-reviewed experts. I’m not even sure if I’d fully trust the work by either greenie renewable activists OR nuclear activists to be objective — worldviews and deep-seated belief systems are hard things to abandon for true objectivity).


  229. @Eclipse Now

    The inner imp in me says: “If it was economically viable, or even close, we’d know the answer. We don’t, so it isn’t.”

    A longer version would be: “If it was economically viable, or even close, people would be trumpeting the statistics we need to calculate (power generation time-series statistics) the answer from every roof-top. They aren’t. They are, instead, being conspicuously quiet and secretive with the numbers. One expects, then, that the numbers are very, very bad.”


  230. @Kray – don’t underestimate the power of “commercial-in-confidence” restrictions…

    I.e. if the numbers are bad, you wont hear them. But if the numbers are good, you wont hear them either, because someone wants to make money out of them…

    I agree with EclipseNow – it’d be nice to see a credible review of the likely costs of baseload wind.
    We’ve seen the ZCA report, but they make some wildly optimistic assumptions about how much demand-side reduction is achievable, and it appears some pretty optimistic assumptions about how fast cost will come down for solar thermal.
    Perhaps a ZCA revision that includes a number of scenarios for demand & cost of renewables?
    And one that includes nuclear in the mix – no point excluding it for the reasons ZCA gave (takes longer than 10 years to implement), because there’s no prospect of Australia going 100% carbon-free in 10 years anyway. We’ll be struggling to meet the “2000 – 5%” target…


  231. Eclipse Now, on 20 July 2011 at 10:22 PM said:

    The real peer-reviewed work I need is a thorough, calm, objective debunking of Wind + the Nullarbor dam idea (seawater pumped hydro combination).
    Any future energy scenario is going to have to evolve from what we have today(78% coal, 14% natural gas ,6% hydro and 2% wind,90%), rather than “debunking” a hypothetical energy storage scheme. By the time that >90% CO2 reductions are achieved (2050?) generation IV nuclear may be a low cost option and /or better energy storage options may be available.


  232. Eclipse Now, on 20 July 2011 at 10:22 PM said:

    The real peer-reviewed work I need is a thorough, calm, objective debunking of Wind + the Nullarbor dam idea (seawater pumped hydro combination).
    Any future energy scenario is going to have to evolve from what we have today ;78% coal, 14% natural gas ,6% hydro and 2% wind,1% solar and no nuclear to a period when almost all coal fired is replaced by either nuclear and natural gas or renewables and natural gas or a mixture of renewables plus nuclear and natural gas.
    Replacing that last natural gas FF used for peak demand, is going to be relatively expensive, requiring either increased pumped hydro storage, or an overbuild of nuclear or an overbuild of renewable storage, or generation of bio-gas, for relatively small savings in CO2 emissions.
    It seems to me that getting to the point when 85% of electricity is generated from low CO2 sources and none from coal is the important step (ie reducing CO2 emissions by electricity generation 90%), rather than “debunking” a hypothetical energy storage scheme. By the time that 90% CO2 reductions are achieved (2050?) generation IV nuclear may be a low cost option and or better energy storage options may be available.


  233. Eclipse Now, on 21 July 2011 at 5:34 PM said:

    it will do so based on the energy scenarios that politicians and energy corporations believe

    add the words ‘they can sell’ and I think you’ve nailed it.:)

    Risk management is a difficult concept for many to begin with.
    The risks with nuclear are direct..what happens if the thing cooks off.

    The risks with intermittent energy sources are indirect…what happens when that record continent wide heat wave shows up (as it did this last week in the US) and the wind doesn’t blow. How many people are going to die from heat stroke?


  234. Pingback: Fake green energy « SeekerBlog

  235. Hi John,
    yes — that site seems to just link to any hair-brained overblown report claims without any critical thinking. It’s a grab-bag chasing techno-utopian dreams. Some of those dreams interest me in a Sci-Fi sense, but I’m increasingly wondering if the host even *reads* the full articles he posts.


  236. I don’t think he does. He responded to me:

    This is an article that had no analysis from me .. It was re-reported science news. .. It was not worth my time to dig into this work. .. I did zero original assessment.

    This is the problem.


  237. @ John Morgan,

    Great commentary over at nextbigfuture. The site owner’s replies to your comments are quite bizzare, I don’t understand why he’s being so defensive – all you’ve done is given an honest appraisal. Nothing “whingy”, nothing offensive or personal. *shrug*


  238. A peer-reviewed journal has just published a special edition (part 1) on wind turbines:

    From the press release:

    “GLOBAL FIRST: Leading Scientific Peer Reviewed Journal Publishes Special Edition on Wind Turbines

    Immediate Release

    Toronto Ontario July 20, 2011/ The first peer reviewed scientific journal devoted solely to the impacts of wind turbines on communities was published today by SAGE Publications Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society”

    “The groundbreaking Special Edition called WINDFARMS, COMMUNITIES AND ECOSYSTEMS PART I, features peer reviewed articles documenting adverse health effects and their cause from wind turbine installations.

    Subjects range from an original case definition by Dr. Robert McMurtry of Ontario Canada, to noise characteristics and their impacts on communities in Australia by Dr. Bob Thorne, New Zealand. One featured article describes the specific and unique nature of wind turbine noise while another speaks to impacts of wind turbines on sleep disturbance and how this affects human health.

    Two other articles of great importance are an epidemiological analysis of the WindVoice Health Survey (Krogh et al). This case series, begun in February 2008 in Ontario Canada, chronicles the many health outcomes experienced by people in Ontario living within the environs of wind turbine installations.

    The other article follows the thread of the way those suffering receive no support from their government or community and how that lack of social justice is creating a whole new set of issues for victims of wind turbines.

    Critics of those who are calling for stringent, authoritative guidelines regarding the locating of wind developments have continuously claimed there is a lack of peer reviewed evidence. This claim is false and now SAGE will be adding to that existing body of research including further context and current up to date research.”


  239. Interesting, bryen.
    The counterpoint to the health impacts of wind turbines is, as a colleague of mine put it, that money is a 100% effective vaccine.
    I.e. the people who get paid to have turbines on their land, for some reason suffer no adverse health effects at all. It’s only their neighbours who seem to be affected.
    Mind you, I’m not aware of any serious studies that document that, so it’s only anecdotal evidence at this point as far as I’m concerned – but until these papers were published, the same could be said of the adverse health affects.
    From what I’ve read on the topic, there seems to be a strong psychosomatic component to it – similar to the way some people can sleep soundly next to a busy rail freight line, while others get perturbed by a dog barking three streets away.


  240. @ Bryen,

    Do you have any other examples of papers on the health effects from wind turbines? I’ve looked before, and haven’t really found any substantial evidence. I’m a bit concerned that this journal appears to have taken a one eyed view on the issue too – but of course, I could be wrong (I’m not familiar with Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society).

    In my mind, intermittency (unreliability), poor scalability, and high costs are the primary problems for wind energy.

    Then again, if they really are the cause of health problems they should be dealt with in the same manner as any other technology which has detrimental effects.


  241. Bern,

    The “oney is a 100% effective vaccine” is incorrect/unproven and disingenuous / unscientific to apply to all circumstances, and unfortunately is being heavily promoted by Prof Simon Chapman:

    But Chapman just selectively quotes this research study :

    J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 Aug;126(2):634-43.
    Response to noise from modern wind farms in The Netherlands.
    Pedersen E, van den Berg F, Bakker R, Bouma J.

    and ignores all of Pedersen et al’s & other scientific research.

    However, if you examine the published research in the journal issue linked in my previous comment, and many of the papers referenced within them, you will find that the situation is somewhat more complex.

    The facts are that wind turbine noise is different from other types of community noise (road, rail, aviation) and causes “annoyance” (a primary health effect) at much lower levels due to its unique characteristics (Pederson and Persson-Waye, J. Acoust. Soc Amer 2004; 116:3460). For a view of this relationship see also Dr Alec Salt of Cochlear Fluids Research Laboratory, Washington University in St. Louis web page titled :

    “Wind Turbines can be Hazardous to Human Health”

    In particular see the graph on page 10 of this paper, which has a reproduction of the Pedersen & Persson-Waye 2004 results showing higher annoyance for lower sound levels than road, rail & aviation:

    I would also highly recommend Dr Daniel Shephard et al’s recent paper at the 2011 International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise:

    Wind turbine noise and health-related quality of life of nearby
    residents: a cross-sectional study in New Zealand.

    Daniel Shepherd, David McBride, David Welch, Kim N. Dirks, and Erin M. Hill


    “Hearing allows humans to detect threats in the environment and to communicate with others. However, unwanted sound has the capacity to evoke reflexive and emotional responses, and can act a stressor. The World Health Organisation classifies noise as an environmental pollutant that degrades sleep, quality of life and general health. Previous research provides evidence of a relationship between wind turbine noise and both annoyance and sleep disturbance. However, wind turbines are a relatively new source of community noise, and as such their effects on health have yet to be fully described. We report a study exploring the effect of wind turbine noise on health and well-being in a sample of New Zealand residents living within two kilometres of a wind turbine installation. Our data provide evidence that wind turbine noise can degrade aspects of health-related quality of life and amenity. On this evidence, wind turbine installations should be sited with care and consideration with respect to the communities hosting them.”

    & Shephard’s submission to the recent Senate Inquiry on wind farms from his evidence in the Kent Breeze wind farm case is a very comprehensive document:


  242. @ Tom Keen

    I totally agree with your statement: “In my mind, intermittency (unreliability), poor scalability, and high costs are the primary problems for wind energy.” and would add also ineffective and costly at reducing emissions based on previous posts here at BNC.

    I don’t consider the Journal to be one-sided, and it is a special issue looking particularly at those negative impacts.

    Another place I would recommend regarding industrial wind turbine noise is the Acoustic Ecology Institute:

    They have just published their annual “Wind Farm Noise” report, available for download as well as some other resources.


  243. bryen, thanks for the reponse & the pointer to that submission.

    I should point out that I’m an acoustic engineer – noise assessment & control is my day job. My colleague has extensive experience in assessing wind farms, particularly in the UK. I’ll send him that submission and see what he has to say.

    I’ll note two things, though:

    1) The report was prepared for the parties opposed to the wind farm. As much as people might say expert witnesses’ reports aren’t affected by this, I’d disagree, having seen quite a few expert reports that were specifically tailored to push the client’s position (including several that were, in my mind, technically indefensible)

    2) This quote from the report caught my eye:

    noise level explains between 15 – 20 percent of the variation in the annoyance response across individuals

    To me, such a low correlation says the annoyance response had very little to do with noise. I consider it likely that noise was seized upon as an identifiable factor that might provide grounds for arguing against the proposal.

    I’ll note here that I also agree with Tom Keen re the practicality of replacing baseload fossil fuel with wind farms, but I’m quite sceptical of the noise issue. Based on my experience & reading of peer-reviewed articles on the matter, people who are particularly concerned about a noise will find it annoying when others literally wouldn’t notice it.

    Working in acoustics, it’s amazing to compare your perceptions of the acoustic environment to that of normal people. You can sit there rattling off the list of noise sources you can hear & identify, and other people are going “I can’t hear anything!”


  244. anyone know of some easily accessible graphs charting daily wind production? The U.S. is currently experiencing a heat wave covering large regions of the country. it’s so hot that in the nation’s capital, the temperature is still 90 degrees at midnight.

    How are the wind farms doing in these areas, to the extent that there are any? solar would do well during peak afternoon hours but when the heat stays so high at night?

    Imagine a nearly all renewables grid under such circumstances, ones that will become more common? No knowledgeable country is going to turn heavily to renewables–wind and solar. it’s a non starter.


  245. GM can’t help with wind maps but 32C at midnight far inland suggests cloud cover trapping heat. If so it means solar energy without storage fails to follow air conditioning demand on two counts
    1) obvious – no local insolation at night
    2) less obvious – reduced insolation during the day.

    Does the heatwave mean the US public could one day accept GHG abatement measures like carbon tax?


  246. I have nothing interesting to say about the U.S. public, save that it would not be overwhelmingly complementary.

    and that large portions of the u.s. public are planning a trip to David Walters’ house on the California coast, where it stays cool.


  247. Bern, on 22 July 2011 at 11:17 AM said:
    I.e. the people who get paid to have turbines on their land, for some reason suffer no adverse health effects at all. It’s only their neighbours who seem to be affected.

    I voluntarily live next to a major interstate highway. The traffic on the highway drops off in the evening and doesn’t pick back up until between 5:30 and 6:00 AM the next morning.(The time when I’ve been waking up for the last 15 years without an alarm clock). I.E. The change in noise level controls when I wake up.

    I’ve also visited a Gigawatt class wind farm

    The wind blows at random times, frequently at night. The change in noise levels could occur at midnight or 3 AM or 6 AM.

    I wouldn’t voluntarily live near a gigawatt class wind farm. The transition from absolute dead silence to whoosh, whoosh, whoosh and back to dead silence again would drive me nuts.

    A fair proportion of people voluntarily living in rural areas in near poverty are living there because they found the noise of an urban environment overwhelming.


  248. Nuclear Demand Tracking

    Since electricity demand is not constant, the generation of electricity cannot be constant. A generating plant will not produce electricity all of the time. The capacity factor of a generation plant is the percent of the electricity the plant actually products as compared to the rated ability to produce electricity.

    But what would the demand capacity factor of the grid itself be? Let’s say the maximum capacity of the grid is the highest amount of electricity that the grid has ever produced and that the average production (demand) is taken over a year. Then would the grid capacity factor be closer to 60% or 70%? My uneducated guess is closer to 60%. Please educate me.

    Let’s consider two scenarios: 100% nuclear generation and 40% nuclear + 40% renewable + 20% fossil.

    Scenario 1 – 100% nuclear generation
    Grant me the assumption that the nuclear plants can track demand. The nuclear capacity factor would be 60% (what ever the demand capacity factor is really). The capacity factor of 90% is only possible when nuclear is a small part of the total grid capacity and among the lowest cost producers of electricity. So a scenario of 100% nuclear would need to use a capacity factor much smaller than 90% therefore increasing the cost.

    Scenario 2 – 40% nuclear + 40% renewable (20% wind +10% hydro +10% solar) + 20% fossil
    Under this “balanced portfolio” approach it becomes very interesting to think about the capacity factor of nuclear. If I were to control this grid so that the least CO2 is created and the least cost is spent, then here are my rules:
    1. Fossil is only used when the other sources cannot equal the demand,
    2. Wind and solar are used when available. (Wind must be able to turn off if too much electricity is being made.)
    3. Hydro is used to balance the demand and supply if fossil is not in use.
    4 Nuclear is used to supply the rest of the demand.
    The capacity factor of nuclear under this set of rules beyond by ability to guess. Probably less that 60%.

    Nuclear reactors under design should optimize the ability to match demand (variable output).

    Does the EPR track demand better than the AP1000?

    Molten salt reactor enthusiasts claim super variable automatic demand tracking.

    Does the PRISM reactor track demand well?


  249. John Newlands,

    “Does the heatwave mean the US public could one day accept GHG abatement measures like carbon tax?”

    It could well be a trigger. In 1988, another heatwave in the US started the first serious discussion here about global warming. To paraphrase the late Senator Dirksen from Illinois: When they start to feel the heat, they begin to see the light. (Dirksen was referring to politicians feeling political heat.)

    But any measure must be politically astute, appealing to most segments of society, and it must be cost-effective. Again, to paraphrase Dirksen: A billion here, a billion there, and it starts adding up to real money.


  250. If I recall Barry predicted that 2013 would be a hot year world wide and somebody said James Hansen thought 2012-2014 could be El Nino conditions. Southern Australian cities might hit 47C again as happened with the outer Melbourne bushfires. Air conditioning will be rationed for all except the important people who need to wear dark suits.

    Bring it on I say because AGW deniers will STFU for a while. By then I’ll have completed my fire bunker/cellar with LAN cabling so I can read BNC while 4 metres underground.


  251. Since electricity demand is not constant, the generation of electricity cannot be constant

    I’ve heard it said here that newer nukes can follow demand. But even if they can’t, there are other ways to smooth supply to the grid. Rather than building a bunch of new power stations there are other energy stores we might be able to draw on that will *already* be there (to help solve peak oil). EV’s will be able to supply *some* of our extra electricity, and maybe even reimburse EV owners at premium electricity prices. It would be cheaper for the utility than building a whole new power station!

    I’m not sure even the experts really know how much energy can be reliably despatched back into the grid from the random movements of EV drivers in the marketplace, but experience will tell.


  252. Martin Burkle, on 23 July 2011 at 4:05 AM said:

    It would seem that scenario 1 is very unlikely (100% electricity from nuclear) because hydro and pumped hydro presently supplies about 10% of capacity in countries with considerable nuclear. Considering the high investment cost of new nuclear and the long life of existing pumped hydro and low cost of uprating existing hydro, hydro is always going to be a better option than running nuclear at 40%.
    In the US and Australia for wind and solar to each supply 20% of electricity would require a wind capacity of 60% av demand, and for solar 100% av demand and nuclear 45% av demand, assuming 90% capacity operation. If all FF was NG would require enough capacity to supply 170% av demand, minus hydro capacity(30% av demand), minus nuclear(45%) , approx 95% av demand so NG would operate at 20% capacity factor.
    Since solar is delivering during high demand, its unlikely to ever displace any nuclear. A wind capacity of 60% av demand will generally be generating 10-40% av demand over a large grid, so I don’t see many periods when either excess wind or excess nuclear would need to be spilled. NG and hydro would be used mainly during cloudy days and early evening peak demand.
    I dont see any reason why nuclear would not operate at maximum capacity in scenario 2. Grid limitations would probably require excess wind to be spilled ahead of nuclear.


  253. @ Huon

    Again, to paraphrase Dirksen: A billion here, a billion there, and it starts adding up to real money.

    With regards to American debt, isn’t that a trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money!

    When divided into family units of 4 people each doesn’t your national debt work out around $130k for each family? On top of whatever other debts they are carrying? Ouch.

    My preferred solution to this problem is, once again, nuclear power + electric cars + New Urbanism / Village Towns + trolley buses + fast rail.

    If the $trillions wasted on invading Iraq had instead been put into nuclear power, walkable town planning reform and public transport, America would probably be independent of foreign oil sometime soon.

    You waste $600 billion a year buying overseas oil. That’s $6 trillion a decade, or your national debt paid off in about 25 years.


  254. @ Neil,
    interesting figures there — how would they stack up if say night time demand were nearly as constant as daytime demand because of EV’s charging overnight? What would it mean for the grid if a significant number of home owners let their cars sell some power back to the grid during periods of high daytime demand?

    Those batteries will be there anyway and some people will be happy to limit their driving to work and back and still have 100km worth of juice to sell back to the grid during peak demand. We must not forget what a game changer this will be for power plants that want to run at full speed 24/7 and also for grid utilities trying to match supply to demand. A nuclear powered smart grid could be something to behold indeed — a TOTALLY different beast.


  255. @ John Newlands

    Bring it on I say because AGW deniers will STFU for a while. By then I’ll have completed my fire bunker/cellar with LAN cabling so I can read BNC while 4 metres underground.

    Ha ha, I love it when you have a good rant! Melbourne’s Black Saturday was horrific, but it also provided new benchmarks and touchstones for the public’s understanding of a ‘hot’ day.
    “How do you know it’s hot in Melbourne?”
    “The rails are melting out of shape and people without air conditioning are lying naked on their concrete garage floors.”


  256. @ Martin Burkle, on 23 July 2011 at 4:05 AM:

    But what would the demand capacity factor of the grid itself be? Let’s say the maximum capacity of the grid is the highest amount of electricity that the grid has ever produced and that the average production (demand) is taken over a year. Then would the grid capacity factor be closer to 60% or 70%? My uneducated guess is closer to 60%.

    Martin, you appear to have conflated two concepts.
    1. Generating plant all operate within ranges, depending on load levels. Some faster than others and between wide limits, some much less flexibly. The key two statistics about gen plant are their availability and capacity factors, respectively.
    Availability takes in to account availability when not required – ie, on standby. It decreases with outages, which may be “forced” – ie breakdowns) and “planned outages”, for planned maintenance. The latter implies that replacement energy sources have been locked in and there is no operational issue for the system. Forced outages require immediate replacement of a unit (say 660MW, Australia’s largest). To prepare for forced outages, additional spinning reserve is kept hot and on line, partly loaded. The Australian eastern states’ grids might typically have 1GW or more spinning reserve at any time.

    2. Transmission lines operate like a network of chains, each with their own particular weakest link. Think of these links as being the transformers and switchgear in the switchyards at each end, as well as the physical conductor strung between pylons, which will have load limits relating to sag, tension and more. Loading the network is like pulling on a chain, connected web-wise to many other chains. Eventually there is a maximum somewhere which must be respected or the link breaks.
    Some chains (transmission paths) may at any given time be broken: the load goes another way if there is enough redundancy, otherwise the web of chains (transmission system) is torn apart by excess loads.

    The concept of capacity factor, as an average through a year, is irrelevant. What matters is the load capacity, minute by minute. This may change with time of day or season, due to ice loads and wind affecting line tension, heat and electrical load, which incrementally heat up the conductors, making the sags between pylons greater and so forth. Each transmission line is available up to its capacity, perhaps with short-term overload capacity as well, thus making the operator’s life more interesting.

    Let’s consider two scenarios: 100% nuclear generation and 40% nuclear + 40% renewable + 20% fossil.

    Scenarios like those which you have chosen are not realistic. Nowhere on the planet is there a 100% nuclear system, neither is there likely to be one any time soon. The capital costs would be prohibitive and the ability of the system to respond to fast load changes would be poor. Solution: Nuclear can load follow, but only slowly. Hydro and gas turbines and geothermal (where available) provide good quick response to provide this power at much lower capital cost.

    So, all realistic grids will be fed by a range of plant, each with its own marginal operating cost and operating parameters. For example, a baseload plant may be available after a period of maintenance, but there is a cost involved with starting it up – large coal units may consume hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fuel oil and other costs when returning to service. Occasionally, return to service will be deferred (for example) to the next business day, rather than bringing the unit back on-line the day before a public holiday weekend.

    That leaves us with your Scenario 2.
    All I will say here is that unless your rules take note of the costs of providing power from the various sources, you are running a charity, not a business. Any business that throws money at a particular sector (your case: renewables), when there is cheaper supply available, is obviously not feeling the pain of this decision, so the additional cost is being picked up in one of two places.
    i) The government, via taxes and subsidies, might do this for a while, till the Opposition uses this silliness to help win an election, after which the situation is re-evaluated.
    II) Tariffs and charges are loaded in favour of the selected power source via a feed in tariff or a range of other financial support mechanisms including mandated requirements for X% Green Power, regardless of cost, etc. This is a blind process, not responsive to costs or to customer preference and simply loads the additional costs onto the customers, usually starting with the domestic customers because like in Germany, there is a desire to not drive industry across the border. People are deemed to be trapped and thus unable to avoid the impost. This system will only last as long as it takes for the electors, through the ballot box, to change governments to one which does not waste their money.

    This leaves us with the problem which drives this site – GHG and climate change.

    That is why those who emit GHG should be brought to account for their damage to the common goods of society and the planet which society depends on so fundamentally.

    For 200 plus years, the rise in CO2 levels with developing industrialisation and population went virtually unnoticed. Not so any more. CO2 is causing demonstrated damage and the costs of emitting CO2 fairly lie with those who do the emitting, not as at present with every organism on the globe, emitter or consumer or not.

    If we care about CO2 emissions, it seems to me that there is only one rational response – attach a reasonable price, payable by the emitter. If/when this price affects input costs to industry, then so be it. If and when cheaper electricity is available, it should be used, regardless of its colour – green wind and solar, yellow nuclear, natural gas, … whatever, but driven by market dollars.

    Forget rules about forcing the market to favour one technology over another – the unforseen consequences are too great.

    The single, just, method available is for nations, one by one, to place a price on carbon emissions and for that price to be adjusted in light of rational considerations of the society’s and the planet’s costs due to C02e emissions.

    Nuclear reactors under design should optimize the ability to match demand (variable output).

    I can think of no reason why any designer does not already aspire to meeting this criterion, regardless of the technology. This includes nuclear and coal baseload plants. Demand following ability is a huge commercial factor, because ability to ramp up quicker than the rest allows the proprietor to grab load during upswings. Ability to ramp down steeply allows the generator to hang onto this load longer before reducing load. Load translates into income.

    Your wish (conclusion) has already been granted.

    If a NPP or coal fired plant near your place runs flat out 24/7 it is on the basis of price in the marketplace.

    If the same unit is only partially loaded, its owners will use their best efforts to increase their load and hence capacity factor.

    I object when political forces abandon logic and try to ignore the cost of their actions. Preferencing expensive power over cheap power is one example of this. Not charging for CO2 emissions is another.

    Australia’s regulators and legislators are currently guilty on both counts.


  257. OOPS!

    Moderator, any chance of having the final 3 paras of my last contribution deleted? Last word: “counts.”

    Then this message also.

    Please let me know where to start the deletion as it is difficult to determine where the last three paragraphs start(there are spaces between some lines).


  258. John Bennets, great post, as always.

    Forced outages require immediate replacement of a unit (say 660MW, Australia’s largest).

    How frequently does this sort of event happen in Australia? What might typically cause it? I have an image in mind of some gross and dramatic mechanical failure but that is probably naive.


  259. John, there are hundreds (thousands?) of fault conditions which could cause the loss of an in-service unit. Failure of even minor items can do the job. That’s the business of Protection. Modern units are watched over by very powerful computers which are set to flag unexpected performance and either alert the operators or, in occasional events, protect the unit by taking it out of service.

    Turbine trips typically may leave the boiler in service, burning coal and boiling water off via pressure relief and blowdown systems, but there are hundreds of variants on a theme.

    An example: Perhaps a failure in a couple of major fans, resulting in loss of air to the boiler. It would be dangerous to pump fuel into a hot, unlit boiler, so the fuel is automatically shut off. Whether the operators can recover from this situation in a minute or a week depends on the problem and the engineering response, however the unit has lost load. It may be back on line very soon… GTs or hydro can carry the load for a while, as the “spinning reserve” ramps up to catch the full load. This all happens in minutes.

    If diagnosis indicates that the unit will remain out of service, the next cheapest unit on the pecking order gets the not, comes on stream and the system returns to its former resilient state.

    Think of all of the possible systems and sub-systems in a power station. All of them can fail in one way or another, most have parallel backup systems (eg 2 conveyors to do the work of one, the second either on standby or being maintained).

    Very rarely is a major plant failure the cause of a unit trip. That might be a once-a-year event for an older coal-fired unit, which might have a few other trips along the way due to cranky bits and pieces or even from outside the power station, if the transmission system has been disturbed by a problem elswehere.

    That’s enough for now. Perhaps we need a resource on this site explaining basic operating principles of the various technologies, so that we can get our heads around operational characteristics of each of them. I’ll keep my eyes out for a suitable link, but I have not seen one anywhere.


  260. @ Eclipse Now, re fast rail.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Medium fast rail – say 150kph, is a vastly less energy demanding concept than true fast rail and is much cheaper to construct. Chinese-style VFT’s are another thing altogether, they can effectively compete with air, but at similar energy cost and without many intermediate stations. Imagine Sydney-Canberra – Melbourne. Albury misses out?

    How do light rail, suburban rail, long distance not-so-fast rail and true fast rail coexist? Do some modes need to be abandoned? If so, at what social cost and benefit?

    BNC isn’t really the site for this discussion, but rail modes have vastly differing characteristics. Freight and passenger are pretty much mutually exclusive on the same tracks. Energy is a big factor, especially whether electrical or fossil fuelled.

    Those who favour more passenger rail, myself included, need to ensure that they are not being seduced by a few discussion points drawn from various sources and modes, despite them being mutually exclusive and/or prohibitively expensive and/or too long to construct.

    Time frames do matter. We need different plans for the 10, 20 and 50 year horizons. Perhaps it’s too early for some long term responses to be initiated.

    My question to you:
    Where do you want rail transport to provide in 10, 20 and 50 years, mode by mode?


  261. EN I think if we believe in AGW and PO we must do something about it. My fire bunker is progressing well and has been wired up for ethernet, TV and 12v lighting. Soon it will be ready to be backfilled with 30t of rock and soil.


  262. Thanks John B for your illuminating response.

    I was lamenting with a friend this morning out buying veges from the farmers market that most people don’t know where their food comes from, don’t know where their water comes from, don’t know where their electricity comes from and don’t know where their petrol comes from. Not a good foundation for rational decision making.


  263. This might be of interest:

    About This is the official Clean Energy Future Facebook Page of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. This Page is owned and operated by the Department. For more information visit the Clean Energy Future website
    Description We intend for this Page to encourage constructive public discussion on relevant topics.

    On Facebook, we encourage you to join us and check out our profiles on Twitter and YouTube.


  264. John Newlands and Eclipse Now,

    Thanks so much for your lively comments at 9:21 AM and 9:48 AM above. I do look forward to the day when oil has been largely displaced by efficiency, nuclear, natural gas, solar and other technologies. Then a trillion here, a trillion there, and we’ll start getting real savings.


  265. My question to you:
    Where do you want rail transport to provide in 10, 20 and 50 years, mode by mode?

    More of everything, depending on how serious peak oil becomes and how quickly we either adapt with electric cars, or fail to adapt with electric cars.

    So it depends.

    I’m no expert on Rail, and I defer to my friend Dr Gary Glazebrook who plans this stuff all day every day, including filling existing trains faster, adding new carriages, adding new trains to existing rail and making further plans for Sydney.

    Then there’s fast-rail between the capital cities. Inter-city rail would need to take economics and speed into account. If the 300km an hour trains are just vastly too expensive for our smaller populations, then maybe we’ll need to look at something more modest. It depends both on energy and economics, as you have suggested.

    Did you know the inventor of the Double-Decker train was an Australian? Dr Roy Leembruggen. He’s also submitted various plans for intra-city networks of trolley buses which are 5 times cheaper per km to build than trams, can go off the line and down side streets on batteries or a diesel engine before connecting up the main line again, etc.


  266. @ Huon,
    the frustrating thing is that how far along the road to oil independence America could be if only America had taken that pathway instead of invading Iraq to set up a police station in the middle east.

    Check out the Village Town concept. The first Village Town may in fact be built in America.

    Watch the Sydney TEDx 2009 talk by Claude Lewenz of the Village Town movement. It’s 20 minutes and third down on the right hand column. Grab a coffee, and enjoy.


  267. John,
    Thanks for helping me think about grid management differently. Obviously, I am having trouble thinking about future grid possibilities because I do not fully understand today’s grid well enough.
    Let me try to use the concept of “availability” which was lacking in the original post to rephrase my original puzzle. Today, in the United State, there are 104 nuclear reactors. Three of the reactors are shutdown and almost all the rest are running at 100%. Many US reactors run at 100% for the whole year.

    Both nuclear and wind cost a lot to build. Let’s assume that both have adequate transmission capability to handle 100% output. Now, if both are available (the wind is blowing and there is no nuclear plant outrage) which one would be the best to use. Do we use marginal cost? If so, then it would seem wind would have the advantage because there is no fuel cost at all. If wind is not the choice, then what property or characteristic of nuclear am I missing?

    “All I will say here is that unless your rules take note of the costs of providing power from the various sources, you are running a charity, not a business.” John, are you talking marginal costs or total costs. If you are talking total cost then I think you imply that wind and solar are charities. OK if you exclude wind and solar due to build cost and exclude coal and gas due to CO2 then you end up with 10% hydro and 90% nuclear. This is scenario #1 where nuclear is available but low demand but not needed (night, spring, and fall). Therefore the capacity factor might be 60% to 70%. Do you agree?


  268. Eclipse Now, on 23 July 2011 at 7:17 PM said:

    Check out the Village Town concept. The first Village Town may in fact be built in America.

    The first ‘village town’ was built in America at Seaside Florida in 1979.

    ‘New Urbanism’ has been studied, debated and attempted in the US for 30 years with mixed success.


  269. Seaside is not a Village Town — not at all. New Urbanism is great, Ecocities are great, and Village Towns are great — but they are all different. Village Towns are an attempt to turn mainstream real estate upside down.

    Unless you’ve watched the 20 minute video you just will not be informed as to the key differences between Village Towns and New Urbanism. It’s a very different town planning concept with some quite practical advantages for the free markets operating within them.


  270. The long, rambling “manifesto” of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik contains references to the use of nuclear and radiological weapons as weapons of terrorism, as well as references to the idea of attacking nuclear power plants and using them as radiological weapons.

    I don’t personally think that the dubious plans or knowledge or descriptions that he provides on these subjects would constitute any credible, serious threat – even if he was not already in custody, which he is.

    Even so, however, I suspect that some media outlets and anti-nuclearists will go nuts over this particular subject in the near future.


  271. @ Martin Burkle, on 24 July 2011 at 2:08 AM:

    Positive feedback, as from Martin, makes my day.

    First, there is a world of difference between the market price of a good and its cost of production, especially the marginal cost of production, which does not take into account fixed costs and returns to shareholders from their investment.

    The marginal cost of fuel alone is even less useful as a comparitor between potential suppliers, whether of electricity or of anything else in life, eg my next car.

    I could purchase a cheap, thirsty old clunker or a small, elegant, battery-driven 2-seater, but will either satisfy my needs for performance, reliability, social acceptance, carrying capacity, etc? The ultimate decision will depend on many factors. Thankfully, electricity is a commodity, so the decision might be more straight forward, but a glance at the amount and complexity of competition law and regulation applying to the industry suggests to me that it is ion no way simple to determine, either in advance or day-to-day, the dispatch order of power plants in a large interconnected system.

    100% loading of American NPP. I understand that, with 70+% NPP’s, France does run some at less than 100% and to follow loads. In this, I may be wrong, in which case I stand to be corrected. However, if correct, then France’s system relies on one-way hydro, hydro storage, GT’s and a small amount of renewables to manage their loads. As substantial producers of aluminium, I guess that they also use demand managent options in the form of load reduction agreements with the smelters and other large industrial consumers to shave the peaks and thus reduce their need for spinning reserves.

    The situation in USA may be better answered by others, however once an NPP is up and running, the fuel costs are minimal, so the marginal cost of power is close to zero, ie the same as wind and solar PV. NPP’s have the advantage of being able to offer stability, ie non-stochastic, unvarying supply minute by minute throughout their in-service period. This enables the other (fossil fuelled) generating plant to operate at relatively stable loads, thus not suffering inefficiencies as they hunt up and down to match loads and to follow drops in generation due to wind fluctuations and/or clouding, etc.

    Of course, in USA there is quite a large component of hydro, including pumped storage, to help to manage peaks and troughs in both supply (eg wind drops, clouds), and demand (demand peaks) but this is constrained by three factors:
    1. Must-run conditions occur when the water (eg spring melts in the NW) will either be used or lost over the spillway. This favours using at least part of the hydro installed capacity at a steady load for a couple of months. Nobody suggests that this power should be free, because the income from this base load period is an essential part of the annual income of the business, even though its fuel (water) is free.
    2. Transmission capacity and line losses. No substantial transmission system is capable of generating power just anywhere and transmitting it anywhere without encountering capacity constraints. Let’s not dwell too long on this – your hypothetical question is perhaps best rephrased as “Why would we run a nuclear plant if there was a renewable one next door, able to be loaded?” I’ll try that one next.
    3. Since there is very little difference between the marginal cost of fuel for an NPP and for renewables, other economic factors come into play. Prime amongst these is the need for both power stations to recoup their capital costs over time, as well as their operating costs, including financing costs, as they go. NPP’s are mightily expensive to build, but renewables are even more so. Thus, the nuclear plant may well have smaller prorata overheads than the renewable plant next door. That’s why the LCOE should guide the construction of new generating plant. Plants with lower LCOE’s promise better returns on capital than those with higher LCOE’s in any given market.

    I know that I have not answered Martin’s questions in a rigorous manner, but it remains true that the capital costs and other non-fuel costs must be recouped somehow. This may be via taxes or feed-in tariffs which are an indirect charge on the community and the politicians who support these taxes and tariffs do so at the risk of electoral defeat, as I stated in my previous post. The only other way to recoup these costs is via the marketplace, ie by charging more for power than simply the cost of fuel. Any supplier with a higher embedded cost structure will lose market share through attempting to recover a return on shareholders’ capital and/or lose money through failing to do so.

    It’s not about fuel costs, it is about running a business.

    Businesses need to recover all of their costs via the market.

    Before construction, the key comparitor is the LCOE.

    After construction, it is the ROI after allowance for abnormalities – the net return on investment of the shareholders’ funds. An economist would use more precise terminology such as EBIT, EBITDA, etc. An investor might consider his yield, expressed in any of a number of ways. The message is the same.

    Fuel costs, even zero fuel costs, are only a small component when capital costs are such a large part of the business’s cash flows.

    One of my previous employers, in the coal powered business, had financing costs greater than their fuel costs, even before providing dividends for shareholders. Wages, contract maintenance, spares, insurances and all those other things were smaller still. These figures are published annually in many corporations’ Annual Report to Shareholders. Readers might like to look on-line for the reports from local generators and make their own comparisons.

    Martin asked: “Do we use marginal cost?” for comparisons between NPP and wind and PV.

    My answer: We must determine the dispatch order of generating plant on the basis of lowest market prices, not the input costs, especially not the cost of only one input, fuel. Individual operators will develop market strategies which interpret the rules of the marketplace and the need for the business to cover marginal costs, to recover the cost of capital and to return value to shareholders. Any bidder which fails to price his power, over the long term, to achieve all three objectives, is on a dowward slide. Thus, the producer’s marginal cost of production is an inadequate indicator, except for the very short term.

    I’ll leave short term considerations with a comment that some Victorian brown coal proprietors appear to have walked unprotected through this minefield and paid the price, eventually having to re-sell their assets at a fraction of the prices they paid for them to the Victorian Government when they were privatised. It is noteworthy that, after almost two decades, none of the Victorian brown coal generators has substantially enlarged the capacity of their plant. Not one. They are all flogging their ageing, carbon-intense brown coal assets in hope of obtaining a return from a market which has been held down by short-sighted focus on marginal costs.

    For Australia to possess any kind of reliable electricity business in 10, 20 and 50 years’ time, this focus must shift to future returns through building the business.

    By way of comparison, New South Wales’ State-owned generators have done no better. The last commissioned substantial new capacity in my state was Unit 2 at Mt Piper in the 1980’s. The NSW Government has also drawn dividends from its businesses at a faster rate than they have been producing profits, thus starving them of funds with which to construct new capacity. These generators developed at least 6 plans for additional base load generation, but none have been funded. So, it’s not a question of state Vs private ownership – it’s a question of retruns on capital not being adequate to build the business, or even adequate to continue these businesses at their current capacity. They are getting older and older and less reliable with age. System load has continued to climb at 2 to 3% per annum during this period. 15 years = 20% increase in load and very little increase in capacity.

    Liddell Power Station, with 4 units commissioned between 1971 and 1975 set its production record not in its first few years. As I type this, my coffee cup has written on the side; “2009 Liddell Power Station 2 Years No LTI Record Generation 11,586 GWH.” The station was about 40 years old! Design life: 25 years. Life Extension programs have cost hundreds of millions, yet the fact remains – NSW is relying for its power on plant which is 40-plus years old.

    The market must soon start returning a real dividend to investors, or we will face intractable blackouts. Simply paying for the cost of fuel will not keep the lights on, in Australia or anywhere. Cost of capital dwarfs fuel cost.

    Think LCOE. Think carbon price. Add carbon prices into LCOE, because those numbers are where the longer term answers will come from, once the politicians have stopped playing unaffordable tax and subsidy and FiT games.


  272. Quick, I need a $$figure for replacing USA energy with nukes 3 times over. Check this out, the solar highways idea is getting an airing at TEDx.

    The 12- x 12-foot panels, which each cost $6,900, are designed to be embedded into roads. When shined upon, each panel generates an estimated 7.6 kilowatt hours of power each day. If this electricity could be pumped into the grid, the company predicts that a four-lane, one-mile stretch of road with panels could generate enough power for 500 homes. Although it would be expensive, covering the entire US interstate highway system with the panels could theoretically fulfill the country’s total energy needs. The company estimates that this would take 5 billion panels, but could “produce three times more power than we’ve ever used as a nation – almost enough to power the entire world.”

    Are you trying to bankrupt America?

    “Although it would be expensive” is the understatement of the century!

    Do the math on what they are suggesting:
    $6900 * 5 billion = $34.5 TRILLION dollars, or half of the annual GLOBAL economy! And then you still haven’t factored in this terribly inconvenient thing we call night time.

    Gen3 nukes like the AP1000 could offer safe reliable baseload power now, and they work at 100% all day every day, even through the horrors of NIGHT TIME! The waste from Gen3 nukes can then be fed into the IFR’s or Gen4 nukes when they arrive.

    We already have the technology to beat global warming, and don’t need to fund the hair-brained schemes of venture capitalists trying to find bizarre new markets for their products. Honestly, they’re going to take the most expensive form of electricity we have — Solar PV — and put it down UNDER cars, in the shade, in car parks? Huh? Did someone just slip something interesting in my coffee, or is this just insane? (No wonder he starts his talk by having a go at sensible, real world engineers leaving derogatory comments on his crack-pot idea).


  273. Heads up: the solar chimney is doing the rounds as well.

    When are these guys going to actually just build one of these behemoths? I’m just curious how the working stats would pan out after the engineers took their theory into the frightening real world.
    EG: * How much power does it really produce as reliable baseload, especially in winter?

    * How does the plastic or glass of the greenhouse work in a hail storm?

    * How much does it really cost?

    * How water does the greenhouse really produce through condensation? Will it really make the deserts bloom?

    * How does the chimney go with weird fluting air dynamics; do vibrations in certain wind conditions threaten the integrity of the chimney? That sort of thing.


  274. EN:
    “How does the chimney go with weird fluting air dynamics; do vibrations in certain wind conditions threaten the integrity of the chimney? That sort of thing.”

    Look up “vortex shedding” or “Kármán vortex shedding”. All structures, in all winds, have a tendency to shed vortices (spirals) of wind alternately from one side, then the other, as the wind slips around them.

    This sets up a rhythmic, left-right-left… transverse force and thus movement back and forth. If the structure is horizontal, eg a bridge deck, then the forces and movements are up and down.

    For visual comparison, the chimney part of the proposal is about three times as tall as the chimney stacks that I worked on at Bayswater Power Station (NSW). Structurally speaking, design of such a structure is not a huge leap into the unknown.

    For a more technical discussion which is not entirely over the top, see especially pages 46 and 47.


  275. Yeah, I just heard that might be an issue. I suspected it wasn’t the biggest deal with solar chimneys. I’m guessing cost & only 60% capacity will be the biggest issues with these things, but man the idea is so simple. (The wind turbines can be more robust as the wind is steadier and in a more consistent direction.)

    As I said above, I’m also keen to see if they really can make a patch of desert grow grass — although at the temperatures they are talking about under the collector, I doubt cattle would enjoy it. (Unless he was talking F not C?)


  276. Grass? And cattle? Under the glass deck?

    That sounds like wishful thinking to me.

    There will be a ferocious breeze, at least closer to the centre. The breeze will tend to be dry, due to its coming straight in from the Arizonan desert.

    I must have missed something significant in the video. I didn’t hear anything about grass and cattle.


  277. Hi John,

    If I appear to rave about these a bit too much it is not because I’ve given up nukes, it’s because these were one of my favourite solutions prior to discovering the fact that we could burn nuclear waste in IFR’s.

    Check it out.

    The first solar chimney (or updraft tower) that was ever built in Spain had the unintended side-effect of greening the desert. Even desert air contains some moisture, and at night the air under the glass was still warm from the heat trapped in the soil under the hotter greenhouse conditions. So air still travels up the chimney, drawing in more desert air from the surrounding desert.

    As this air passes under the greenhouse collector some of it brushes past the underside of the collector glass, and water condenses on the glass and then falls to the floor.

    So remembering this is about 6km diameter, some solar tower proponents have probably tried to over-market the spin-off benefits. (They’re probably worried about just how much friggin’ LAND these things take to make 200MW). So concepts have ranged from only biofuel grasses and crops through to the outer km’s growing some sheep or cattle! As the km’s roll inwards different areas could be fenced off.

    This Enviromission video shows some kind of small shrubs or fruit trees? Wouldn’t that slow the all-important wind? (Also has a cool clip comparing the solar updraft tower with the pyramids, Sydney Tower and the Eiffel tower). Anyway, if they are actually going to build one of these beasts then we’ll just see what ‘side benefits’ there really are, such as how much water it actually collects from the surrounding air.

    Water is not just from the collectors.

    As the wiki says:

    “Release of humid ground-level air from an atmospheric vortex or solar chimney at altitude could form clouds or precipitation, potentially altering local hydrology.[45][46][47] Local de-desertification, or afforestation could be achieved if a regional water cycle were established and sustained in an otherwise arid area.”


  278. The greenwash keeps coming on TV. A Clean Energy Futures ad shows a 70s era hydro which is not eligible for subsidies and no more will be built. There are glimpses of industrial scale solar but no mention that the Federal govt is paying 40% of the capital cost as well as any ongoing subsidy or that some is gas boosted.

    On the Four Corners program about wind turbine noise they quietly mentioned that wind only provides 2% of Australia’s energy. Untroubled by facts Diesendorf said it would eventually enable coal fired power stations to be closed.

    In another ad a coal mining company (let’s call them Xstrata) says they are environmental good guys since they take less water from the river than they feel they are entitled. They didn’t get around to mentioning the burning of diesel, fugitive methane or the fact each tonne of coal creates 2-3 tonnes of CO2. The best thing they could do for the natural water cycle would be to stop mining coal.

    I wonder if Joe Public sees through all this. The TV ads are creating a sort of green haze which will not be reflected by emissions cuts. The danger is that symbolism will replace reality.


  279. I made a vain attempt at “The Conversation”. It will probably get banned because I used my eclipse alias, but hey? Just not interested in whacko’s calling me in the middle of the night. (I had some weird encounters with activists calling late when I used to do peak oil activism under my real name. Eeerrghghggh).


  280. Emissions and abatement scenarios used in Treasury modelling are highly unrealistic in several ways. The ABC graph is
    The Martin Nicholson article linked in the sidebar points out the unreality of proposed abatement paths. It assumes a lot of geothermal, CCS for both gas and coal, no nuclear and the massive purchase of foreign offsets.

    We’re now at 580 Mt but we want to get to 480 by 2020, an annual reduction of over 2%. Treasury predict that left unchecked and with strong population growth we would get to 640 by 2020, some 160 higher. I’m not so sure. On the Oil Drum some are predicting a permanent global economic slowdown after 2015. I think without abatement or just the limited carbon tax we will still be in the 500-600 range by 2020.

    If this is right we won’t make the 2020 target. On the other hand by 2050 all fossil fuels will have peaked. The modelling says that everything will get bigger and better except it will be low carbon. In all likelihood we’ll continue to burn the same amount of carbon until it starts to run out. Then we’ll have a double crisis of locked in warming and energy shortages. The graph in the link cannot be close to reality because it is wrong on three counts; long term economic growth, no depletion of fossil fuels and unproven technology.


  281. I note that in the medium scenario, as Martin has noted, CCS commands around 36% of electricity in 2050 (chart 3.13 page 61).

    As discussed by Smil in a number of articles, the sheer volume of CO2 would rival that of global oil production.

    Under the medium scenario, the quantity of liquid CO2 would possibly be around twice the quantity of oil currently produced (quick calculation). Given that CO2 has no market value and would only be extracted, compressed, shipped and injected based on a carbon price, the cost must easily exceed the current value of global oil, and the entire infrastructure exceeding that of oil must be constructed by 2050. Given that there is no current prospect (for the next couple of decades at least?) that the largest emitters, China and the US, will implement a carbon price at anywhere near a sufficient price to drive large scale CCS, and that no commercial CCS currently exists, one wonders where Treasury has derived their figures from?


  282. Hi Graham,
    I’ve always heard that CCS would be extremely expensive but comparing all the plumbing and piping to the oil industry is a brilliant image to get out there! If anyone has time to do the numbers and peer-review this claim, I can see another “pro-nuke” poster going up along this theme!


  283. EN, try these figures:

    Global electricity consumption in 2050 : 40,000 TWh – take 36% of this equals 14400 TWh per year CCS.

    At 0.5 kg CO2-e/kWh (guess, averaging gas and coal), multiplies out to 7.2 billion tonnes per year.

    For oil, allowing 85 million barrels a day, 159 litres a barrel, 365 days, 0.8 density equals 4 billion tonnes oil per year

    Allow critical density CO2 at 468 kg/m3
    Allow density crude 800 kg/m3

    So (7.2/4.0) x (800/468) equals 3 times the volume of CO2 sequestration compared to current global oil.

    Feel free to recalculate in case I’ve missed something or made a mistake.


  284. I think the public ‘gets’ the implausibility of coal CCS more because of economics rather than the waste volume requirement. This could be why the Clean Energy Future ads focus on wind and solar which are still a ‘maybe’ in the public’s mind. Ironically dry rock geothermal which is also dogged by underground plumbing problems is portrayed as the baseload saviour.

    From what I gather the gas CCS project in Scotland has gone nowhere
    Correct me if I’m wrong but I understand in terms of working prototypes for 4th generation nuclear the number is 5-10 gas while for gas CCS the number is 0.

    I think the problem for selling the Clean Energy Future will come around 2013 after a year or so of carbon tax with emissions either increasing or falling short of the inferred reduction path. As it becomes more urgent to replace older coal plants the public will look askance at wind, solar and geothermal. The advantage I see of the carbon tax is that it may have cleared the decks for serious action.


  285. A few quibbles. 4-9 Mt a year of liquefied gas will be going from Queensland to China.

    1st quibble it’s not strictly LNG since natural gas comes from marine sediments not coal seams. I suggest the acronym LCSG.

    2nd quibble; what is the plan for replacing crude oil about 60% of which we now import? We can increasingly get transport fuel and plastics feedstock from gas. Small amounts of bitumen can come from coal not crude under the CO2 cap if it is not burned to make electricity.

    3rd quibble call Qld northeast Australia while SA, Vic and Tas are southeast Australia. The SE gas basins (natgas not CSG) have reserve to production ratios in the 10-20 year range. Hazelwood Vic will never be fully replaced with gas unless Qld gas is diverted south. Whether current pipe sizes are adequate or not at least the easement exists. Bringing in LNG or LCSG by ship would be expensive.

    4th quibble; the Chinese won’t be paying carbon tax while local customers of piped CSG will. Is that fair and does it help global emissions abatement?


  286. Graham Palmer and Eclipse Now:

    … only be extracted, compressed, shipped and injected based on a carbon price, the cost must easily exceed the current value of global oil

    That refutes a straw man, although many people other than Palmer have helped to build him. Carbon dioxide won’t be sequestered with pipes and bottles that extract, compress, etc. But notice the part about olivine here.

    To refute CCS, you must refute its strongest variant.

    So Palmer should understand that after you pulverize olivine and disperse it, it extracts and condenses CO2 all by itself, and the resulting form, if solid, doesn’t need to be shipped or injected. It can just lie stably on the ground.

    He should repeat his calculation using the density of CO2 in magnesium carbonate (total density (CRC60 p. B-204) 3.0095 g/mL) and figure out how thick a layer this would make on, say, North America.

    This is slightly conservative, because the captured CO2 doesn’t actually stay solid; a magnesium carbonate tends to pull down another CO2 in the process of dissolving in the ocean as bicarbonate, where it is less obtrusive.


  287. More here. Although note that this paper makes heavy weather of something that I would have thought was obvious —

    However, a distribution in the densely vegetated interior of the tropical rain forest catchment area seems difficult to obtain.

    — meaning it’s difficult to distribute by surface transport. Well sure, but no-one would do it that way. You loft the particles and let them be wind-transported where they may.


  288. G.R.L.Cowan

    You seem to have misunderstood the subject matter in your links – your links relate to geoengineering, not carbon capture from the exhaust of fossil fuel plants.

    The mainstream position of the global coal industry is to sequester carbon dioxide as a compressed liquid. The Global CCS Institute and CSIRO provide a good indication of the mainstream position – are you alleging that they conspired to build ‘straw men’?


  289. GRLC, if olivine is effective in broadcast dispersal, would it not be even more effective if used to directly capture emissions from fossil fuel plants, say by sparging the exhaust gasses through an olivine slurry?


  290. Does this Olivine have *any* economic value whatsoever other than just removing Co2? Aren’t we bigger than this? Aren’t we able to think of multiple wins for the environment and equally importantly, for our economies?

    If we are going to subsidise carbon sequestration let’s subsidise an industry that turns carbon into something we DESPERATELY NEED ANYWAY! So let’s biochar agriwaste, forestry waste, and council waste. Let’s support regional communities getting biomass converted into biochar and back into the soil.

    This makes farmers 33% less reliant on nitrogen fertiliser. Just think about that statistic for a moment, and how much energy goes into the Haber-Bosch process to suck nitrogen out of the air!

    Biochar retains water and other nutrients in the soil, like nitrous oxides which are a very powerful greenhouse pollutant and nitrogen runoff which is a VERY powerful water nutrient which over-fertilises rivers and causes algal blooms and ultimately dead zones in our oceans.

    As the wiki says:

    Johannes Lehmann, of Cornell University, estimates that pyrolysis can be cost-effective for a combination of sequestration and energy production when the cost of a CO2 ton reaches $37.[27] As of mid-February 2010, CO2 is trading at $16.82/ton on the European Climate Exchange (ECX), so using pyrolysis for bioenergy production may be feasible even if it is more expensive than fossil fuels.

    The technology for biochar sequestration does not require a fundamental scientific advance. The underlying production technology is robust and simple, making it appropriate for many regions of the world.[28]

    Watch this BBC feed on the Biochar from sewage.


  291. There are no olivine mountains around here, but plenty of coal mining and combustion. Does anybody know whether mining gigatonnes of olivine is conceivable, and at what price?

    Besides which, who in his right mind would recommend “lofting” billions of tonnes of fine powder into the atmosphere? How is this a good idea?


  292. JB I sometimes go hiking near a 60s era peridotite (main ingredient olivine) working, the Adamsfield open cut. I see carbonate veins in the rocks though I guess most of the weathering products would be washed down the creek. My impression is that the reaction is too slow to be a practical carbon sink. I guess a kg pulverised to sub milligram particle size exposed to humid air would absorb just a few grams of CO2 a year. Then we need to add the emissions created in powering the crusher. I can’t quantify the reaction rate in terms of mol litres per second, just very slow. Most silicate minerals are slow reacting with rare exceptions like zeolites.

    Historical sidenote (on account of Open Thread) a father and son team worked this outcrop hoping to find ‘osmo’ a natural alloy of the platinoids osmium, iridium and ruthenium. According to one version of the story the son walked behind the bulldozer driven by the father looking for glints of platinum nuggets. One day the machine lurched sideways on the steep slope and killed the son. The nearest people were hydro workers 50 km away. This was around 1967.


  293. Here’s an amusing little blog post from some anti-nuclearist who is having a hysterical little tantrum about David Mackay’s Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air.

    To these fanatical, hysterical anti-nuclearists, anybody, absolutely anyone, who even discusses the actual numbers, anybody who dares to discuss actual science, evidence, skepticism and critical thinking, or to bring the conversation to something that is a little more rational and science-literate is a big evil pro-nuclear lobbyist defending the big evil mean nuclear industry.


  294. Luke:

    The article you linked to is a fine example of work by somebody who likes to have things both ways.

    First, BlueRock argues that David MacKay has got his numbers wrong and that numbers are important, then he presents a wild guess of 82kw/person/day, based on a link to a site which details why the number is 245kw/d by breaking it down a little so that losses are recognisable. It turns out that the number is 205kW/p/d, plus thermal and system losses.

    Beyond that point, I lose track, because I am continually forced to allow for a factor of 3 for exaggeration in everything else that BlueRock has written.

    So, David MacKay wasn’t wrong after all, and BlueRock’s own source says so.

    The rules of this site forbid me from expressing my opinion about BlueRock.


  295. Hugh Sharman, writing for the European Energy Review, has just released a damning review of UK energy policy.


    After describing (with graphs and statistics) UK’s poor current situation re both nuclear and coal fired baseload and demonstrating the futility of pretending that wind will fill the gap, his closing remark is:

    “This must almost certainly require the electrification of almost everything and the speeding up of nuclear capacity build, wherever possible innovating technically and reducing the costs by depending more on South Korea and China than our partners across the Channel in France.”

    It is highly recommended and very much relevant to Australia’s and the world’s circumstances.


  296. John Bennetts

    … who in his right mind would recommend “lofting” billions of tonnes of fine powder into the atmosphere? How is this a good idea?

    It doesn’t have to stay up long; just long enough for the wind to spread it out over a square megametre or so from each station. The particles do their work in the subsequent year or so as they lie on or near the surface.

    It completely addresses a problem that is generally considered serious.


  297. Radio National Philosopher’s Zone has an interesting discussion on the “perfect moral storm” of geoengineering:

    It shows that humanity wasn’t capable of adapting to this perfectly serviceable planet that it was given to live on; that it did foul its nest. And then having discovered that it was fouling the nest, couldn’t just do the straightforward thing that the science community and the World Society reports are urging us to do; clean up the mess. It decided to try and do some further manipulation of the system to see if it could get away with continuing to foul the nest as long as it made adjustments elsewhere in the system to dampen down the impacts.


  298. The simple answer is we know the absorption spectra of CO2 because we can measure it directly, unambiguously and very accurately.

    The measurement is conceptually very simple – shine a light source of a given wavelength through a sample of CO2 gas in a glass box, and measure the decrease in intensity of the light that passes through. The difference between what goes in and what comes out is the absorption, at that particular wavelength. If you measure the absorption for a range of wavelengths – say from infrared through to ultraviolet, thats the absorption spectrum. If you know the dimensions of the box, and the density of the gas, you can then calculate the absorption per molecule, or mole, or whatever. You can then use that to calculate the absorption through any amount of CO2, say, that in the atmosphere above us.

    Look up Beer’s Law on wikipedia. In the old days we would have used a single wavelength spectrometer, which would split light through a prism and slit arrangement to select a single wavelength. A more modern instrument is the FTIR – Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy – which illuminates with all wavelengths at once and uses fourier analysis to back out the spectrum. But the spectrum of CO2 is a bit like the boiling point of water. It was established a very long time ago, and if you need it, you look it up.

    We don’t use mass spectrometers, thats a different kind of instrument used for chemical analysis – it breaks a molecule into charged fragments, ejects them through a magnetic field which separates them by charge mass ratio, and from the fragments you can figure out what you started with. A very powerful tool for chemical analysis, but unrelated to absorption spectroscopy.


  299. I suspected there was a connection between the abdication of SA premier Mike Rann and the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine, the world’s biggest uranium deposit
    Rann says he wants to sign off on expansion plans. Without pre-empting any decisions I hope the plan is not the compromise that sees jobs, profits and newly extracted uranium going to China.

    The original expansion plan called for 700 MW of new power supply and a 200 ML/d desalination plant. For the latter BHP chose a poor location at Whyalla. SA has about 10 years of gas reserves and 20 years of poor quality developed coal. It seems unlikely a new coal fired power station will be built in SA. However in his early political career Rann was opposed to French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

    This makes me think the China option is on the cards whereby OD concentrate is railed to Darwin then Guandong in China. There the uranium will extracted along with copper and I presume gold and silver. Massive amounts of rare earths will remain at OD as tailings. I think the best approach is for the OD expansion to go ahead with an NP and desal at an alternative coastal site. I also think SA should look at enrichment and storing nuclear waste.

    My gut feeling is that Rann’s parting shot will not see anything like this eventuate.


  300. Ben Heard at Decarbonise SA is seeking supporters to (virtually) sign a letter of support to the South Australian Opposition spokesman for energy, Mitch Williams. Williams has recently spoken in favour of developing nuclear power for South Australia.

    If you support this position, and particularly if you are in South Australia, please read Ben’s post here:

    Open letter to Mitch Williams


    * email him with your name and location (at the address on his blog)
    * add a comment to this post

    Any politician in Australia who sticks his head up where it can be kicked deserves all the support we can muster.


  301. Sodium nitrate-potassium nitrate has been prototyped; it’s not entirely new.

    Winter is the main difficulty. Eclipse Now’s link says,

    The systems could store enough heat, accumulated over 10 sunny days, to continue generating power through one full cloudy day.

    Two cloudy days would defeat this system — in the summer. 90 days of low average sunlight are out of the question.

    EN’s other question — “Aren’t we able to think of multiple wins for the environment” — is answerable, Yes, but we aren’t all that likely to find them. Things that are good as floor polish aren’t likely also to be good as dessert toppings.

    Olivine dispersal seems to me to be the best way of accomplishing the single purpose of getting the atmosphere’s carbon level back down to long-term safe levels. Anything that promises to do this and some other good thing is making an extraordinary claim, and must back it up with extraordinary evidence.


  302. @ Cowan,
    good point on the CSP. However, I don’t see why we need to rush to Olivine. Biochar lets us:
    * fix our soils AND
    * sequester Co2 AND
    * reduce nitrous oxide emissions
    * reduce nitrogen pollution in rivers
    * increase farm productivity with 1/3 less nitrogen fertiliser required
    * saves moisture in the soil
    * turns Co2 into a useful agricultural aid

    Whereas Olivine costs money but just sits there and soaks up Co2 … what am I missing?



  303. The Say Yes Australia facebook page has seen the following exchange recently:

    Brigid Cahill: NUCLEAR POWER IS !!!!NOT!!!! CLEAN AND ITS !!!!NOT!!!! SAFE!!!!!!

    Brigid Cahill: People who go on “competing sites” do so because they feel the need to prove themselves and to justify their beliefs but who they are really justifying to is themselves!!

    Brigid Cahill: We don’t need to justify or prove ourselves to anyon because we know we are on the path that will lead to the best outcome for Australia and Australians!

    Grant Copeland: Oh noes I can’t see Howard’s posts anymore lol, have they been removed or has he blocked me?

    Say Yes Australia: Hi guys,
    I think we’re getting off topic. Removed offending posts and trolls who repeatedly post false or misleading information will be banned (as has been done here) but please don’t feed them quitttttttttttte so enthusiastically :)!

    So…. whatcha planning for the fortnight!

    Rhiannon Michell: I’m going to bet removed as I can’t see them either.

    Grant Copeland: Sorry admins it’s just so much fun :) Busted Howard plaigerizing tonight, fun times :D

    Say Yes Australia: ‎;-)

    The thread asks people what they’ll be doing for the events planned around Australia for the next fortnight supporting the carbon tax. I responded that I would be attending the nearest to hand out pamphlets explaining the advantages of nuclear power. This started an exchange I haven’t been around to contribute to for a couple of days. Does anyone find it a bit worrying that the admin is so obviously partisan about this issue?


  304. EN (above) presented a shopping list extolling the advantages of biochar.

    In a former life, I became very optimistic about using power station fly ash as a soil improver. At first test, the ash from the power stations I was associated with offered hopes for water retention, fertiliser reduction, phosphate adsorption (useful with phosphate intolerant native species, eg grevilleas), selenium replenishment (very useful for wide areas of NSW which have selenium deficient soils) and much more.

    Unfortunately, many of these fantastic positives melted away or at least reduced during further testing and commercialisation studies. For example, the phosphates were dumped by the ash if the pH dropped below a trigger point, thus introducing both an unforseen chemical limit and a substantial commercial and environmental risk.

    The end result was that the none of the foreshadowed uses was commercialised.

    I suspect, without any specific knowledge on the subject, that EN’s shopping list will follow the same path towards non-commercialisation.

    ‘Twould be nice to be proved wrong, but at present nobody has been proved right, either, because it isn’t happening yet.

    On a science-related site such as BNC, conjecture comes a poor second to results.

    BTW: What, precisely, am I to understand the phrase “Fix our soils” to mean? Fix what? When? How? At what cost? It’s a motherhood statement, not verifiable, not defined, not useful. And so on, down the list.


  305. I think alkaline ash needs to brewed in a mix of wet ‘sour’ compost for a few months as it is too harsh in raw form. In any case I think phosphorus always needs to be added. That’s wood ash; I wonder what happens to metals like arsenic in power station fly ash. That’s also why for example we’re not supposed to burn treated timber.

    Just read the Crikey piece on why Fukushima is worse than Hiroshima. That must be the hot spot referred to in WNA news. I hope somebody knowledgeable can put this in perspective.


  306. @ John Bennetts,
    Why are you reading my posts again? Please don’t. Please just put me back on your ignore list. You obviously have no intention of looking up biochar or you might have at least watched the ABC Catalyst piece — or even gone to wikipedia for crying out loud. Just put me back on your ignore list. Thanks.


  307. (Snide comment deleted) Biochar, is an exciting new scientific field with a body of peer-reviewed soil Phd’s working away to identify the best biochar production methods. They run various empirical tests to eliminate variables, have sophisticated gas and soil and river testing equipment deployed around test sites, and have an international organisation and dialogue amongst the experts.

    John would have learned all this if he had watched the Catalyst report or had looked up the Wiki.

    There is a huge difference between ash and charcoal where ash is produced in almost any old fire but charcoal requires a special low oxygen environment.

    The fixing our soils fixation I have is documented as a loss of arable land around the world. Industrial farming has saved many people from starvation but has come at a terrible price. The farmland soil is mined of nutrients in a one-way trip from farm to dinner plate to sewerage to sea. Many soils are now as sterile as cotton wool, and require NPK chemical fertilisers to be shoved onto the seeds to force them to grow. We’ve mined the soil of all it’s living biota and naturally occurring fertilisers, moved thousands of tons of plant matter to our dinner tables and then flushed the nutrients out to sea.

    What the experts have found is that biochar has an enormous surface to mass ratio, and all the folds and nooks and crannies in biochar become a habitat for micro-oganisms that suck nitrogen out of the air. Biochar reduces the need for nitrogen fertiliser by about 30%.

    It is not just a “motherhood statement, not verifiable, not defined, not useful” but a cutting edge science with energy & agricultural economists estimating the carbon price that might be necessary to introduce this in Australia. It’s even gone mobile with “Bigchar” turning up to cook up a farm’s agriwaste on site.

    John sounds as informed about biochar as I was about nuclear energy 18 months ago.
    EN- I have edited out your unnecessary asides on another commenter. Please desist.


  308. Anyone got information on whether AP1000’s have been put up on an assembly line yet, or are in the process of being modularised to go on an assembly line? The wiki just explains that AP1000’s are under construction but not *how* they are being constructed… and as I’m cramming some new software for a new job I start Monday week (FINALLY!!!!) I really don’t have time to scan through all the reports.

    It’s for BlueRock over at Climate Crock of the week. Dang but I’m sick of his smug misdirection and diversion tactics.


  309. Anyone got time to head over there? Climate crock is a great site for Debunking Deniers, but BlueRock needs some (debating). Be polite to Peter Sinclair (Greenman) though as he has said if GenIV nukes ever arrive, he’ll support them.


  310. I saw this on the comments of another site:

    Official Death Tolls

    Japan 2011 Tsunami – 20448 (July 31)
    Japan 2011 Nuclear Meltdown – 3 (July 31) – none from radiation

    Japan Hiroshima A Bomb 1945 – 90,000–166,000
    Japan Nagasaki A Bomb 1945 – 60,000–80,000

    Japan Motor Accidents 2010 – 4914

    China Coal Mines 2010 – 2433
    Global Plane Crashes 2010 – 829
    US Motor Accidents 2010 – 33808


  311. @ EN, 8:59 and subsequent:

    No, I did not have EN on my “do not read” list. I do, however, turn my optimism detector all the way up for certain posts.

    There is a possible future for biochar – I never said that there is not. What I said, I stand by, and it is essentially as follows.

    Biochar and other uncommercialised trial technologies are fine and I support this type of endeavour, for the same reasons that I threw myself into trying to find beneficial uses for fly ash. However, in a world where billions of tonnes of carbon have been burned and added to the atmosphere, any contibution from biochar to reducing the excessof atmospheric CO2 will likely help, but cannot solve the main problem, for which additional heavy lifting solutions are needed.

    “Cutting edge science” biochar is not… it is a welcome contribution to a technological toolkit, but not cutting edge. I await peer reviewed reports covering biochar. Until then, it remains a conversation topic, not a thesis.
    I have edited the untoward comments by EN and therefore have also deleted your comment about this.


  312. (Snide comment deleted)

    any contibution from biochar to reducing the excessof atmospheric CO2 will likely help, but cannot solve the main problem, for which additional heavy lifting solutions are needed.

    “Cutting edge science” biochar is not…

    Biochar itself is a 7000 year old technique. Biochar studies involve our best and brightest soil scientists.

    These quotes pretty much sum it up.

    ““We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.”
    – Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1500s

    ”In many ways the ground beneath our feet is as alien as a distant planet. The processes occurring in the top few centimenters of Earth’s surface are the basis of all life on dry land but the opacity of soil has severely limited our understanding of how it functions…. However, perspectives are beginning to change… Interest in soil is booming, spurred in part by technical advances of the past decade.”

    Here is the peer reviewed material. Which topic grabs ya?

    IBI Research Summaries
    Research Summaries provide in depth information on a single issue and provide additional references from peer reviewed publications.

    Biochar in Mixtures
    Biochar for Soil Remediation and Land Reclamation
    Biochar Impact on Soil Carbon Losses
    Biochar Recalcitrance in Soil
    Impact of Biochar on Soil Moisture
    Soil Improvement from Application of Biochar

    From here.


  313. From Eclipse Now Anyone got information on whether AP1000′s have been put up on an assembly line yet, or are in the process of being modularised to go on an assembly line?

    My god this is entering the realm of fantasy. Courtesy Barry from earlier in the thread:

    27 July 2011
    The reactor pressure vessel cylinder to be used in the world’s first AP1000 has been delivered from South Korea to Sanmen in Zhejiang province, eastern China.

    (Snide remark deleted)


  314. @ BJ

    Do you scorn EN’s notion of an “assembly line” for AP1000s on the basis that the first only has been delivered?

    The Westinghouse site reports

    Westinghouse Electric Company and its consortium are currently building four AP1000® in China. Additionally, five U.S. utilities have chosen the AP1000 for possible nuclear plant construction.

    There could very well be an “assembly line” with “modularised” manufacturing process.

    30 years ago my engineering practice was co-located with a heavy fabricator which had a contract to manufacture the structures for 3 draglines destined for the central Queensland coal fields.

    A passing observer would not see evidence of a modularised assembly line, but over the course of 15 months you could see the bits coming together and being spat off the end of the assembly line.

    Interestingly, the second caught up with the first and the third caught up with the first! Experience curve.


  315. Roger Clifton, on 5 August 2011 at 6:23 PM said:

    Global capacity for heavy forgings does limit the possibility of a emergency production run of large PWR reactors such as AP1000

    The heavy forgings business is adapting. The South Koreans are now doing heavy forgings, the Chinese are expected to do heavy forgings as well which has ‘cooled’ the enthusiasm of those outside of China wishing to get into the heavy forgings business.


  316. “Global capacity for heavy forgings does limit the possibility of a emergency production run of large PWR reactors such as AP1000”

    The link to “Global capacity to heavy forgings” does not seem to work for me. Could you repost it?


  317. John Newlands writes,

    My impression is that the reaction is too slow to be a practical carbon sink. I guess a kg pulverised to sub milligram particle size exposed to humid air would absorb just a few grams of CO2 a year. Then we need to add the emissions created in powering the crusher. I can’t quantify the reaction rate in terms of mol litres per second, just very slow.

    much as he did here. The offer of help I followed that with still stands. There is no need for impressions and guesses.

    John Morgan, on 29 July 2011 at 10:02 AM said:

    GRLC, if olivine is effective in broadcast dispersal, would it not be even more effective if used to directly capture emissions from fossil fuel plants, say by sparging the exhaust gasses through an olivine slurry?

    Yes, I think it would, and I’m pretty sure there’s a web-inaccessible paper on this, perhaps Schuiling, R. D.; Krijgsman, P. (2006). “Enhanced Weathering: An Effective and Cheap Tool to Sequester Co2”. Climatic Change 74: 349–354. The available heat for a given coal is increased by burning its carbon all the way to its geochemical ground state rather than just to gaseous CO2. I did some basic figuring, not for slurry but for a giant pile of chips, in that other thread.


  318. Here’s some sad news

    Japan PM vows nuclear-free future

    What I find infuriating about this is that they don’t (or won’t) say what they’ll be replacing the nuclear plants with. If they do end up eventually phasing out nuclear (and I have doubts about this), they’ll replace them with coal – it’s obvious, but the pollies and media won’t say it. It’s criminal.


  319. I just noticed it was ‘Hiroshima Day’ today.

    Denis Doherty from the Hiroshima Day Committee believes there are grim similarities between [Hiroshima and Fukushima].

    “Both areas had ground zero. Both had incredibly large death tolls,” he said.

    An incredibly large death toll in respect of the latter nuclear event of, um, zero.


  320. GRL Cowan, that Schuiling Krijgsman paper can be found here.

    Olivine sequesters CO2 on roughly a ton for ton basis. Picture a coal plant with a coal train like this running into it. Now picture a second set of tracks carrying the complementary olivine train. And a third set of tracks to take away the product.

    Or, to reverse our greenhouse gas emissions, imagine us recapitulating in olivine the history of fossil fuel extraction in the industrial age.

    Without some very cheap means to expose vast quantities of finely divided olivine to the weather [is there such], I am not optimistic about what could be achieved by this process.


  321. @ G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-energy fan until ~1996, on 6 August 2011 at 5:13 AM:

    Re olivine rocks and heat recovery, I wonder how much sensible heat there will be to recover. My experience with fabric filter plant in existing coal fired power stations is that the exit temperatures from the bag houses is far less than 100 degrees C – perhaps 70C max. If it is over 110 C at the entry to the baghouses, attemperating air is used to cool the flue gas. This is to minimise the risk of a baghouse fire, which is a very nasty event.

    Considerable energy is needed to blow the filtered flue gas up the chimney stack, by use of Induced Draft fans drawing about 1% of the generated power from the unit.

    Any proposal to pass the flue gas through a pile of rocks must include additional collection of the gases and discharge via the chimneys, otherwise many environmental conditions will not be achieved, not least the need to ensure that the air at ground level is breathable.

    I’m still far from convinced. The first essential is to calculate the size of the necessary pile of olivine rocks to absorb CO2 from an airflow of more than 1000 cubic metres per second carrying 650 tonnes per hour of CO2. That’s for a 500MW plant. It’s simply not conceivable as a retrofit.


  322. John B, that would be approximately 650 tonnes per hour of olivine.

    Mind you, I’m not sure that is any more ludicrous than collecting the same flux of hot CO2, pressurizing it and removing heat until it liquifies, and pumping it deep underground while maintaining both positive energy return andnet profit at market rates from the exercise.


  323. @Graham Palmer, on 6 August 2011 at 8:31 PM:

    Many thanks for the link to a most informative short discussion paper. Well done, MIT.

    Betcha our daily newspapers won’t publish the major observations and recommendations – they aren’t sufficiently sensational.


  324. John M: That much olivine is about 3 times the coal usage, in tonnes, perhaps double in volume. Huge.

    As a competitor for CCS, perhaps, but since when has CCS been likely to grow legs? Really? Readers wilI already have noticed that I consider CCS to be more FUD, a fig leaf, BS. Whatever term fits best.


  325. It is not necessary to put the olivine in coal plants. You can just mix grinded olivine dust in agricultural soil or fertilizer and apply to farmland. No more need for magnesium in the fertilizer, and tilling means the reaction with air and water remains higher so the CO2 fixing rate is higher.

    Even bigger potential is in applying the olivine dust to the ocean surface water. Interestingly, if grinded fine enough, the olivine floats on the surface of the ocean for considerable time, enough to fix the CO2.

    Olaf Schuiling from the Utrecht University (Netherlands) is a leading researcher on this topic:


  326. You still need to apply this olivine at ~3x the mass rate of coal + oil + gas extraction to break even on instantaneous CO2 production, more if you want to draw down existing atmospheric carbon.

    I’d love for olivine to be a geosequestration resource, but I need someone to give me a plausible route to the necessary scale.


  327. Re biochar versus olivine. These are synergetic. The olvine reacts to sequester CO2 but also makes magnesium for the soil. The biochar, when mixed in with the olivine powder, would retain the magnesium and other nutrients better. Now, biochar is definately resource-limited: we’ll never have the biomass or waste to make tens of billions of tonnes of CO2 sequestering per year capabilities. So you’ll need olivine too – its one of the most common rock types on earth.


  328. Some interesting articles over at The Conversation that BNCers might want to comment on. The Conversation seems like “the thinking person’s forum”. Just read the heading in the url. I don’t really have the technical expertise to tackle some of these people.

    By George Dracoulis — Head of the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University from 1992 to July 2009.


  329. Eclipse Now: there’s an interesting quote in that “Are you ready for a four degree world?” article:

    At one point during his keynote speech, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and former climate adviser to the German Chancellor and the EU, asks rhetorically: “What is the difference between two degrees (of temperature increase) and four degrees?”

    “The difference,” he said, “is human civilisation”.


  330. Yes, a great quote that I’ve used on one of my summary pages. But you’ll note I’ve asked The Conversation whether they are in contact with anyone who has done more work on the “Sulphur Gun”. (EG: Will it really stop the Monsoon, reduce agricultural yields and paint the sky white?)


  331. There was this link that Barry tweeted the other day.

    “I think it would be an excellent idea for the industry to create some form of insurance body, just to lay down to rest the argument of the anti-nuclear side that the risk is not insurable.”

    When I read this, I wrote a little bit of a long rant about how this
    insurance industry which insures the nuclear energy industry actually exists, and about this false but ridiculously persistent anti-nuclear meme of saying that “the risk is not insurable”.

    But after I wrote this, I couldn’t figure out how to actually register on this person’s website so I could actually post the comment. So, I figured that I would post it here to share it, instead of letting a long comment go to waste after it had been written anyway.

    This is just garbage, it is simply a myth that gets echoed backwards and forwards between the anti-nuclearists, without any of them ever bothering to actually check the facts or do the research. It’s simply a meme, one of many nonsense pseudo-fact memes that persist in the community of devout believers in the evilness of nuclear energy.

    The Price-Anderson Act in the United States is often bought up by anti-nuclear activists as some sort of damning evidence of preferential government treatment for nuclear energy, but it’s actually quite the opposite – it’s legislation which imposes exceptional demands on nuclear energy above and beyond any other industry, which is of course completely out of proportion to the realities of the demonstrably low risk of nuclear energy, especially relative to other energy sources. This should be compared with the risks associated with other important energy generation systems, where the industry is not insured in any such way against significant impacts on society and the environment.

    When there’s a catastrophic disaster on an oil rig or a coal ash dam or a natural gas pipeline or a coal mine and people lose their lives and/or there is severe environmental damage, where are the Price-Anderson style requirements for insurance and industry liability coverage for those industries? They do not exist. In these incidents, the government spends a fortune managing and cleaning up the effects. Sites polluted by the fossil fuel industry and the chemical industry in the United States are cleaned up as Superfund sites; these industries are not required to take responsibility for themselves in the same way that the nuclear energy industry is.

    The air pollution resulting from the use of coal and other fossil fuels causes around 30,000 premature deaths in the United States each year – does the coal generation industry have appropriate insurance coverage? The risks from catastrophic flooding resulting from the failure of a hydroelectric dam, for example, are borne directly by the public. The 1977 failure of Idaho’s Teton Dam caused half a billion dollars in property damage – but the only compensation provided to the affected communities was around $200 million in low-cost government loans.

    Nuclear power plants in the United States have literally never harmed anyone. The large liability and insurance pool which the industry provides as it is required to by Price-Anderson has almost never been touched at all, and not one cent in Price-Anderson liability has ever been paid out from the government’s theoretical liability which might exist, theoretically, if the industry’s own private insurance coverage was entirely exhausted.

    The commercial nuclear energy industry in the United States has over $10 billion in liability insurance protection, covering them in the event of claims resulting from some kind of nuclear energy-related incident sufficiently catastrophic so as to have a deleterious impact on the community outside the plant boundary. The utilities using nuclear energy (and, indirectly, the consumers of nuclear electricity, for whom the cost of the required insurance constitutes a tiny portion of the cost of their electricity; a fraction of a cent per kilowatt-hour) – not the federal government or the American public – pay for this insurance. The Price-Anderson Act requires that the nuclear energy industry has this massive pool of liability insurance, which is provided by the private, commercial insurance industry.

    These insurance pools have paid out a total of more than $200 million in claims and litigation costs since the Act came into effect, mainly as a result of dubious claims supported by anti-nuclear activist groups, particularly following the Three Mile Island accident, which did not have any bona fide health physics impact on any person outside the plant’s boundary. (It is important to point out that not once has any of these claims ever involved a bona fide case of illness or injury to a person relating to ionising radiation or radioactivity from a nuclear power reactor, supported by legitimate evidence.) The American taxpayer has not paid one cent of this.

    While the nuclear energy industry’s insurance pools have paid out about $200 million in claims, and the industry has actually paid about $21 million to the government in indemnity fees, again, the taxpayer has never paid for any of this. The Price-Anderson Act does not give the commercial nuclear energy industry in the United States any government money; it is actually a set of government requirements requiring the commercial nuclear energy industry in the United States to spend money.

    The Price-Anderson Act requires nuclear energy utilities to demonstrate evidence of financial protection – nuclear power licensees are required to provide a total of more than ten billion dollars in pooled insurance coverage to compensate the public in the event of a catastrophic nuclear accident. Wherever they are available to the commercial insurance industry, nuclear power stations in the Western world actually represent sought-after business because of their high engineering and risk management standards. This has been the case for fifty years.

    Significantly, because the RBMK reactors at Chernobyl were of a design that was never acceptable to anybody outside the Soviet Union, notably due the lack of any containment vessel as well as due to the intrinsic physics characteristics of the reactor, the accident had no impact on premium rates for the Western commercial nuclear energy industry.The structure of insurance practice in relation to the nuclear energy industry is different from the management of ordinary industrial risks. It involves international conventions, national legislation channelling liability to the operators of the plants and mandating very large insurance pools taken out by the nuclear energy industry from the private-sector commercial insurance industry, and the pooling of insurance capacity in more than twenty countries. The approach of the national nuclear insurance pool was primarily developed in the United Kingdom in 1956 as a way of marshaling insurance capacity for the coverage of the then-novel and exotic perceived risk of radiological accidents or reactor accidents. Other national pools that followed were modelled on the UK pool, forming the association of insurance brokers serving the nuclear energy industry that is today known as Nuclear Risk Insurers Limited.

    NRI’s capacity comes from eight insurance companies and 16 Lloyds syndicates. NRI represents the largest single block of risk transfer insurance capacity in the world, at more than 400 million British pounds. It also reinsures other nuclear energy industry insurance pools worldwide. It covers risks including property, the nuclear fuel and radioactive waste handling, construction work on nuclear energy sites and transport liabilities.

    The role of the commercial insurance and actuarial sectors in understanding and underwriting the risks associated with the commercial nuclear energy industry is discussed at further length in 2008 issue three of Market magazine, the industry journal of Lloyds of London.

    In the United States, one of the major commercial insurance providers specialising in nuclear energy is Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited. NEIL insures domestic and international nuclear utilities for the costs associated with interruptions, damages, decontaminations and related nuclear risks.

    If the commercial insurance industry will not provide any coverage for the commercial nuclear energy industry, as anti-nuclearists often claim, then would they care to explain what it is exactly that these nuclear-specialist insurance corporations actually do all day?

    Risk is a quantity. It’s a number. Anti-nuclearists seem to have a really hard time understanding this fact, and since this simple fact is at the foundation of how insurance works, I guess that’s why anti-nuclearists seem to have such a hard time understanding the insurance industry and how it relates to nuclear energy.

    The commercial insurance industry will provide you insurance for absolutely any kind of risk, as long as they can actually quantitatively estimate what the risk really is. The industry will provide a successful professional singer with insurance coverage against the risk of some kind of injury damaging her ability to sing, and you cannot seriously say that this risk is any easier to quantify than the risks associated with the commercial nuclear energy industry. If they can put a probability and a cost on it with any reasonable degree of confidence, then the commercial insurance industry can sell you insurance for it. When dealing with a relatively complex system such as a nuclear power plant, these risks are quantitatively assessed through Probabilistic Risk Assessment.

    When dealing with a situation or with a technology which is perceived to involve greater risk than it really actually does, then it seems like this would present an attractive opportunity to the commercial insurance industry – because you can charge the customers more money to provide the same degree of coverage of real-world risk. Nuclear energy certainly seems like a good example of such an industry, doesn’t it?

    The Price-Anderson Act seems to exist only because of the completely distorted, false, unrealistic idea that nuclear energy is an extremely risky business. But the reality, which we see confirmed from direct, empirical, real-world experience all the time, is that nuclear energy is literally the safest form of energy generation there is.

    Incidentally, some people suggest today that the Price-Anderson model has been very successful, and suggest that, in the wake of fossil fuel disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, that it should actually be copied for the oil industry, the fossil fuel industries, the chemical industry and the like, so that such industries are required to cover their risks to the public and to the environment adequately, too.

    However, I do not think this would be successful, because it works well in the context of nuclear energy simply because nuclear energy really is very safe, and I don’t think that it is economically practical for industries like the oil and coal and gas industries which really do present high risks to health and to the environment to be forced to hold large amounts of liability coverage in the event of all too common accidents in the same way that the nuclear energy industry is under the terms of the Price-Anderson Act.


  332. Luke we have something like our own version of Price Anderson in Australia for the gas industry
    Chevron will separate 3.5 Mt a year of CO2 from raw Gorgon gas and pump it into saline aquifers below Barrow Island until 120 Mt is stored. Then they can walk away and the WA and Federal govts assume liability if anything goes wrong.

    Perhaps governments take the view that royalties and mining taxes are a kind of insurance premium. There are emergency plans drawn up for oil spills. Somehow the public has to grasp managed risk, a tough call since they haven’t yet grasped the idea of the lights going out.


  333. @ Luke W – All true, but although $10bn sounds a lot, the damage claims from Fukushma are likely to be far more than that, due to the prolonged large scale evacuation. The global nuclear insurance pool needs to be more like $100bn to cover such incidents in full, but that would still be only 0.1-0.2 cents/kw-hr onto electricity costs if spread evenly over the whole industry.

    More involvement from commercial insurance might actually be a safety benefit. For the chemical industry – my employers – the 2-yearly inspection by the insurance company is at least as concerning as visits from statutory regulators. No insurance –> no business.


  334. Luke W, such a great contribution deserves to be promoted as a BNC post in its own right to make it more discoverable, rather than have it buried as the 426th comment in an open thread. Barry, is there any possibility you can make it so?


  335. Ms Perps, that is really exciting. They actually seem to have a physical presence, too.

    I count a small but apparently growing number of pro-nuclear groups out there:

    New England Nuclear Research
    Nucleus 92
    Decarbonise SA
    Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy

    Are there more?


  336. If you follow the link to the New England anti-nuke fb page you will likely note that I have been active there today. I hereby request that any pro-nuke with a bit of time go there and keep up my tradition as so far established. I have the Nucleus 92 AGM tonight, and I wouldn’t like to think that my temporary absence meant any letup in criticism of them.


  337. @Finrod, the trouble is that you have to ‘like’ the fb page in order to comment. I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it!

    While we’re co-opting support, here’s another for your consideration in which weight of numbers will quite literally tell, if you haven’t already:, where questions to be put to a climate forum will be determined by popular vote. The question I’d recommend getting behind with all 7 of your votes is already up to 4th with a bullet – thanks to everyone who has got behind it so far.


  338. It looks like the principal of the New England anti-nuke group is a fossil fuel supporter and global warming antagonist:

    this was a government initiative to advertise the carbon economy and encouraging people to reduce their carbon footprint….caused an uproar…….death cult death cult death cult….. reduce carbon at any cost… abortions as a carbon offset in china….the expendability of life humans to reduce carbon…… no pressure! ecofascism death cult death cult

    Thats a direct quote from a much larger stream of bile on their Facebook page. It will be interesting to see how the environmentally minded members of this group react.


  339. This morning saw the following comment on the SANENEG page, which is much more measured and concilliatory in tone. I suspect some of the admins were horrified at what their friend had put up during the night.

    The S.A.N.E Facebook administrative managements aim, is to bring forth information pertaining to the nuclear industry, its economics, failures and dangers. S.A.N.E advocates Sustainable Alternative Natural Energy. On this page you will find… links to news articles of notable interest and a public forum that reflects advocacy on both sides of the camp. Although we may not agree, we repect and value to opinions of all and in the interests of healthy democratic debate we encourage participation at all levels. The primary aim of this organisation is to provide an informed choice for the people of the New England region; this is where the proposed location is afterall. Outside the Facebook platform we are a management of 11 dedicated coordinators, we are on the lookout for bright dynamic individuals to come join our movement towards a sustainable non nuclear movement.


  340. The culprit of yester eve/morn is apparently one Mat Reynolds, who is now posting lunacy under his own name:

    hey jon thats not what sane is about ‘DENYING’ climate change….of course climate is changing isn’t that what climate means … variation in weather… so how can the denatotive meaning of a word be denied… as for the conspiracy theory. …it is just that….a theory … let me put the null hypothesis up instead…. there is no organised movement of people seeking to exert influence based on empirical observations of the data relating to carbon and weather pattern fluctuation……………​……………………..​……..that’s what i don’t beleive………and its quite true, i don’t beleive that null hypothesis….if i disprove the null hypothesis by observing that: YES representatives of nuclear industry (group) seek to use the climate debate (carbon data) to further their own nuclear expansion agenda then is that a conspiracy when i see it before my own eyes in a discussion forum…………………​……………………..​…………… i’m me voicing my own….HOPEFULLY INCORRECT opinions ……………………..​…………………i’d asked to be removed from admin so i could speak for myself and not be accused of moderating content by people posting their own vitriol and then saying debate had been censonred… when it was they who’d deleted their, sometimes embarrassing, assertions not the SANE group……………. my views are my own…….. and not to be confused with the group can you disprove my null hypothesis….and prove that there is in fact no nuclear group citing climate change to further nuclear science and its risky grip on the biosphere….. i think not…………………..​…… my ‘conspiracy trip’ may have validity…..well craig’s here isnt he spruiking nuke stuff….and he’s amember of NUCLEUS92 a pronuke group… by his own admission…. and he’s citing climate data with the intention on furthering his group’s pro nuclear interests, isnt he? what i’m saying … in an overly inflammatory way to draw attention to MY concern… and for its poor delivery, of which i must concede was over the top….but it got the idea across and i here apologise for the offense it most likely caused SORRY to offend ……………………..​……………………..​……………………..​……………………..​ is this………………….​.if they go to far with the ethos of carbon reduction at any cost… human rights/ human ecology and environmentalism/deep ecology will be a thing of the past There’s a real risk that zealots may attempt reducing carbon footprints by stepping on people…as demonstrated by the link to china using murder as an acceptable tax cut…… and of pronuclear energy lobbiests wrecklessly pursuing zero carbon emmissions by ridiculous, negative long term, radiopollutive means…. is that observation valid?


  341. From Rod Adams – listen up!

    Atomic Show #172 – Decarbonise South Australia

    On August 13, 2011, I spoke with Ben Heard of Decarbonise SA and Barry Brook of Brave New Climate. These two Australians are both working hard to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in a land where the idea of reducing the consumption of carbon and hydrocarbon fuels trends on the interests of some very powerful and wealthy people.

    Ben grew up assuming that nuclear energy was bad, but after a logical process of evaluating all available options, changed his mind. He is now running a campaign that he calls Decarbonise SA. Since his home state of South Australia has only 1.5 million residents, his goal could be achieved in less than a decade with the construction of 3 large nuclear plants – or 30 small modular reactors like the B&W mPowerTM.

    Barry (or should I say, Dr. Brook?) is a scientist who focuses on the earth’s climate, never opposed the use of nuclear energy, but did not immediately recognize just how effective a weapon it could be in what he considers to be an extremely important battle to keep the Earth as hospitable as it has been for humans for the past tens of thousands of years.

    I think you will enjoy the conversation. I apologize for any sound issues – from my point of view it is almost magical that I could speak to two people in separate locations in a time zone that is 13.5 hours farther along in the day than my own. The fact that I could do it with essentially no lag and at no cost is even more incredible. Thank you, Skype.

    Disclosure: I work for B&W on the mPower reactor project.


  342. The cleantech graveyard to start filling up

    Silicon Valley’s so-called undertaker, Sherwood Partners, which specializes in shutting down startups, sees a major fallout coming for certain tech sectors including cleantech … the firm is already st