Home > Economics - General > Libs left with Chinese model

Libs left with Chinese model

December 3rd, 2009

I usually wait a day or two before reposting my Fin column. But the Liberal Party is such a rapidly moving target that this column, drafted on Tuesday, looks prescient in retrospect, but may well be obsolete by tomorrow.

Apologies in advance if this gets posted multiple times. The server is flaky, so I’m using Posterous which works, but sometimes too well. Please comment on the first (lowest on page) version.

Attentive readers of the Letters page may have noticed a letter from The Hon Wilson Tuckey MP (Quiggin sticks to problem not solution Letters 24/11). Mr Tuckey gave his account of a discussion of climate change policy held at Parliament House, organised by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Alliance, in which he and I took part.  As is usual in such cases, I had a rather different recollection of events. But, since Tuckey appeared to be, in Malcolm Turnbull’s words a fringe figure of the far right, I saw little value in responding.

Now, however, the situation has changed. As one of Turnbull’s earliest and most vociferous critics, Tuckey can consider himself vindicated by the decision of the Liberal Party to replace Turnbull with Tony Abbott, someone whose views on climate change are much closer to his own.

More significantly, as Tuckey himself has pointed out, the proposals presented on his website http://www.wilsontuckey.com.au now represent the closest thing the Liberal Party has to a climate change policy. It may therefore be useful to examine these proposals, and, in the process, to recapitulate some of the points I made during our meeting in November.

As was noted in Tuckey’s letter, I did not discuss the specifics of the government’s ETS policy, canvass alternatives such as a carbon tax, or speculate on the amendments being negotiated between the government and the then leadership of the opposition. The position presented by the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Alliance was that a 25 per cent reduction in emissions was needed by 2020, and that a market-based emissions reduction policy should be the central approach. We did not seek to promote one market-based policy over another, and my answers to Tuckey’s questions reflected that.

I was however, quite happy to explain the merits of a primarily market-based approach as against a centralised command-and-control solution, in which governments seek to determine and impose by fiat, particular technological fixes for climate change. Within a market based framework, there be room for some policies, such as feed-in tariffs for solar energy, aimed at nudging decisionmakers to adopt new technologies. But the central element must be to ensure that there is a price attached to carbon emissions, whether through taxes or through tradeable permits.

A visit to Tuckey’s website reveals a different approach. Tuckey is an enthusiast for the tidal power potential of the Kimberley region, as indeed am I. Given the incentives associated with a high enough price for carbon, and reforms to the National Electricity Market to encourage more investment in long-distance transmission lines, there is huge potential in tidal energy.

But such an incentive-based approach is of no interest to Tuckey. Rather, he suggests ‘To respond to these problems the Government should take an up front role investing in and developing Australia’s only significant and predictable renewable energy resource which is to be found in the tides of the Kimberley.’

Tuckey also proposes extensive public investment in High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines, noting that ‘China will not have an ETS. It will invest in Hydro, Nuclear and other renewable energy. Its Government is already building an extensive HVDC network.’

There are strong arguments for a return to greater reliance on public investment in energy infrastructure.  But, in the context of a policy response to climate change, it is important to avoid ‘picking winners’. There are many candidate technologies for reducing our CO2 emissions, ranging from nuclear power and ‘clean coal’ to extensive investment in energy efficiency. 

The most cost-efficient way to choose options for emissions reductions is to ensure that investors in energy infrastructure, public or private, face a price for each tonne of carbon they emit, and earn a return for each tonne they prevent. If that is done, standard commercial criteria will select the most cost-efficient path.

Tony Abbott has effectively ruled out such an option. Having denounced the government’s emissions trading scheme as a massive new tax, he can scarcely embrace the main alternative, a carbon tax. On the other hand, he has committed himself to achieving the emissions reductions promised by Labor.

In these circumstances, the Chinese approach endorsed by Wilson Tuckey is probably the only feasible option. It is, perhaps, surprising that, having elected its most conservative leader ever, the Liberal Party may have to turn to the Communist Party of China for policy guidance. But politics makes strange bedfellows.

John Quiggin is an ARC Federation Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland.

Posted via email from John’s posterous

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  1. David Douglas
    December 3rd, 2009 at 13:33 | #1

    This is rather ironic for a ‘liberal’ party – clearly now a conservative party. Of course the party may split asunder on ideological lines – as did the ALP and the DLP in the 1950s. The irony being that the DLP split from the Labor Party to distance itself from the threat of communism. If the conservatives in the Liberal party embrace a (fiscal) command and control solution to climate change then they can have little objection to other forms of fiscal stimulus in the presence of market failure (on the one hand the market is the solution to the GFC – it will correct itself without a fiscal stimulus).
    Perhaps Kevin Rudd anticipates an ideological split that will enable the legislation to pass – the true small l liberals in the Liberal party must surely have more in common with the ALP and its free-market solution to climate change.
    These liberals (and possibly libertarians) must argue that a carbon market is not a tax: it is the privatisation of the unregulated atmospheric commons. The key question to answer is: how should these property rights be distributed?
    My concern is that the compensation of shareholders amounts to an unequal enclosure of these commons. Whereas trade exposed industries have a case, I’m entirely unconvinced that an argument can be mounted that risked capital entitles an individual to a greater share – other than a morally hazardous one: the expectation that risked capital would be compensated has historically never been ruled out and remained to fester and distort markets.

  2. iain
    December 3rd, 2009 at 13:52 | #2

    Good article, John.

    In regards to the comment; “explain the merits of a primarily market-based approach”, I would be interested to see this done (specifically) in the context of addressing Clive Spash’s ‘The Brave New World of Carbon Trading’, which remains the most convincing argument against (that I am aware of).

  3. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 14:03 | #3

    While I do not have the time or background to really probe the ETS system and carbon trading, prima facie “putting a price on carbon” seems to guarantee we accept carbon emissions.

    Presumably carbon emitting producers will pass on the extra price to customers, who will still purchase the same quantity, because they have been given extra cash by government.

    If I was a big commercial entity, I would love only having to worry about a price on carbon, if I could conceive that I can pass it on to customers who get additional purchasing power from government.

    There are several Bills floating around – one is to compensate households. I wonder what the detail is.

    ,

  4. Hermit
    December 3rd, 2009 at 14:16 | #4

    I think the case could be made for slashing the $43 bn broadband rollout and spending a lot of the money on HVDC power cables. With wireless and satellite internet we don’t need fibre optic cable everywhere. I suggest two possible routes for HVDC lines. One across the Nullarbor joining WA to SA. Currently WA and NT are disconnected from the East Australia grid. South eastern gas basins like Bass Strait will run out long before WA and rather than build a pipeline send electrons instead. The other desirable HVDC cable would be to replicate the existing Basslink connection which has flow constraints. Tasmanian hydro dams have a lot of unused capacity and could be used as virtual batteries. Surplus power from any source could be used to pump water back up to the dams, even in drought. It will be recovered via controlled water release, then pond water pumped back again later.

    As for costs I think we are looking at at least $2m per kilometre for above ground cable with gigawatt capacity. The AC-DC inverter rectifier stations may cost $100m or more each. The cost of modifying dams for pumped storage is unknown but would be tens of millions of dollars for each site. The money is already there, it just needs to be partially redirected.

  5. Fran Barlow
    December 3rd, 2009 at 14:28 | #5

    Chris Warren :While I do not have the time or background to really probe the ETS system and carbon trading, prima facie “putting a price on carbon” seems to guarantee we accept carbon emissions.
    Presumably carbon emitting producers will pass on the extra price to customers, who will still purchase the same quantity, because they have been given extra cash by government.

    Not at all. Think of it as the opposite of a loyalty program. In a loyalty program, one gets credits for purchases that can be redeemed only with goods or services from the operator of the program — so the benefit is relatively illiquid or non-convertible.

    If however, you push up the price of a good or service and then compensate people with cash, then the benefit is relatively liquid and convertible because you can spend your cash as you please. If someone burns less carbon they get to keep the cash. So your position is positive if you take the option of reducing. If someone compensates me for rising petrol prices and then I use that money to fund a loan for a bike and use that instead of the petrol, I’m ahead one bicycle less depreciation and recurrent cost of operation.

    Plainly then, the incentive is for rivals to provide services that deliver equivalent utility but at a lower carbon cost. If a gas plant is less carbon intensive, then people can pay the premium for gas without loss. If they use the money to reduce their demand for electricity and heat (e.g better insulation, smart devices) or simply accept cooler and shorter showers they are ahead financially.

  6. John Quiggin
    December 3rd, 2009 at 14:45 | #6

    @iain
    Spash’s paper remains unpublished, it seems, but I have discussed the relative merits of carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes quite a few times. My short take
    (a) The differences are minor compared to the similarities
    (b) The big positive for emissions trading is that it fits naturally with a target-based international agreement.

  7. JJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 14:49 | #7

    @Hermit
    I think HVDC not only provides connections for new power sources it improves network efficiency. By connecting a range of sustainable energy sources (with some non-sustainable ones in the short/medium term) it provides the ability to overcome some of the reliability issues that all green power options are hindered by. Waves, solar and wind are not nearly as reliable as coal, but connect them all together and you get pretty close.

    There are also tidal options in north Queensland, and hot rock options in central and western Queensland that could be connected in.

    Pity that the Sims review determined that HVDC was not the right answer for further transmission for North West Queensland, despita the IsaLink project being advocated by the market. Rod Sims determined that HVDC wasn’t proven and that it would be better for Queensland to stick with the tried and true AC transmission or maybe do an upgrade of Mica Creek (gas fired). So government decided to run a 12 month market competition to see what outcome was best. But with a report that actively recommends against HVDC and consultants who are obviously not fans of the approach it is hard to see Andrew Fraser Neither really represent a proactive approach to green energy. Andrew Fraser as the Minister for Economic Development taking this one on.

  8. Tim Peterson
    December 3rd, 2009 at 15:56 | #8

    Ironic that the libs reject a market approach. And more Liberal voters that ALP voters have waterfront property that will be flooded!

  9. 2 tanners
    December 3rd, 2009 at 16:32 | #9

    It’s good to see constructive action from Mr Tuckey. Restores my faith in the man, it does. I do wonder, however, where the funding is to come from, given that the Labor Party, with its profligate stimulus packages, is racking up debt for us and our children, yea, even unto the tenth generation.

    The thing that really puzzles me is that I’d thought him an AGW skeptic. And it can only be fortuitous that the investments suggested fall within his electorate.

  10. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 18:43 | #10

    Fran

    Plainly then, the incentive is for rivals to provide services that deliver equivalent utility but at a lower carbon cost.

    This presumably is the plan. But can it work if compensated householders essentially have the means to purchase according to their previous preferences?

    Or is this, current ETS scheme, the only way to get at least some scheme up (supported by some business) – which can be adjusted later?

    I cannot see how rivals get much incentive as the market has been disrupted by household and other compensation.

    But I don’t know what the actual numbers are.

  11. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 19:08 | #11

    A market based approach won’t select nuclear if nuclear is prohibited. Lifting the prohibition should be a priority. And I’d even rather spend $43 billion of taxpayers money on nuclear power plants than the NBN although not spending it at all would be best. An ETS will be harder to get rid of than some excess government assets. Think of our children!!

    Obviously it seems like both major parties are going to give us sub optimal options. I think I’ll vote LDP.

  12. jquiggin
    December 3rd, 2009 at 19:41 | #12

    Is there in fact a prohibition? I had the impression that (apart from a plan abandoned back in the 1960s) no one had ever proposed a nuclear power plant, so it’s never been banned.

  13. Alice
    December 3rd, 2009 at 19:42 | #13

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    I think Ill vote Green Terje.

  14. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 19:46 | #14

    TerjeP is just being ridiculous.

    OK, just because some monkeys have captured the Liberal party and are preparing for workers slavery and a nuclear society, why should this stink spread through the internet?

    Why spend money on nuclear power plants when Howard research showed they were uneconomic unless they could suck on the public tit.

    TerjeP does not seem to realise that some isotopes in high-level waste have half-lives of (wait for it)….

    24,000 years.

    And waste has to be isolated for 10 half-lives minimum – longer to decay to background levels.

    In this time all continents have moved over 10 kilometres in opposing directions. There is no way geological deposits of wastes can be relied on in these circumstances.

    Only “econorats” call for nuclear power because it quickly concentrates energy production in the hands of a company and, based on monopoly analysis, huge profits can be made.

    Nuclear power makes economic sense but not social, political or environmental sense.

    Only idiots cry nuclear.
    quanratined tse n

  15. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:04 | #15

    Nuclear plants have been proposed for Australia. in particular for Jervis Bay. Jon Stanhope (ACT Chief Minister) put out a press release some 3 years ago on this, supporting Jervis Bay as a site.

    No doubt nuke-lobbyists are all revamping or updating their previously rejected Powerpoint presentations and etc for a revamped onslaught on the Australian body politic.

    I once heard Wilson Tuckey call for a nuclear waste dump in his electorate.

    So all the nuclear interests are poised to swoop, particularly if they can get the right Premier into office.

  16. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:06 | #16

    Chris – do you know how much nuclear waste the fossil fuel business produces? Here is a hint:-

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

    We already effectively crop dust a proportion of the population and land mass with thorium and uranium. Switching to nuclear power would decrease our exposure to nuclear waste by a very significant amount. Switching to fast breeder reactors (eg the Integral Fast Reactor) would actually allow us to reduce the worlds nuclear waste as existing nuclear waste could be used as fuel stock and mostly used up. In about 700 years time we might need to stop reducing waste and start increasing it again but the year 2709 is quite some way off. And the small amount of waste that does remain after use in a fast breeder reactor typically decays to background levels within 100-300 years. A time frame which is shorter than the life of chemical encasements such as glass.

    If all our modern energy usage (including transport) was produced from nuclear then the waste per person over a life time would be smaller than a golf ball.

    Nuclear power is much safer than current technology.

    The only good argument against nuclear is weapons proliferation. And that argument is weak.

  17. Doug
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:08 | #17

    Chris

    It is an open question whether nuclear power would make economic sense if all externalities over the life of the plant and its dismantling and long term storage of waste were included.

  18. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:16 | #18

    Is there in fact a prohibition? I had the impression that (apart from a plan abandoned back in the 1960s) no one had ever proposed a nuclear power plant, so it’s never been banned.

    Plants were proposed in Vic, SA and NSW, and all plans were abandoned by the early 70s. Nuclear power stations are banned in NSW, Vic and Qld.

    In Australia the possibility of nuclear power is hindered in Victoria and NSW, by legislation enacted by previous governments. In Victoria the Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act 1983 prohibits the construction or operation of any nuclear reactor, and consequential amendments to other Acts reinforce this. In NSW the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986 is similar. In 2007 the Queensland government enacted the Nuclear Facilities Prohibition Act 2006, which is similar (but allows uranium mining).

  19. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:20 | #19

    jquiggin :Is there in fact a prohibition? I had the impression that (apart from a plan abandoned back in the 1960s) no one had ever proposed a nuclear power plant, so it’s never been banned.

    John – my understanding is that nuclear power is explicity banned in some states (noteably Queensland) and implicity banned federally via licensing restrictions.

    Obviously regime risk will remain a barrier to investment until we have a framework that insulates investors from the risk of policy changes, and construction delays due to political factors. We should have a good look at the new US regulations that license nuclear power plants by type (rather than per plant) and which give development consent with financial protection against any subsequent policy changes. Historically nuclear has been expensive primarily due to political factors.

    We do have one nuclear plant although electricity production is not it’s primary purpose. It has 20 MWatt capacity and is located in Sydney and 99.99% of the time nobody gives it a second thought.

  20. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:24 | #20

    If all our modern energy usage (including transport) was produced from nuclear then the waste per person over a life time would be smaller than a golf ball.

    Nuclear power is much safer than current technology.

    Neither of these statements are correct. The first relies on a false definition what constitutes “waste”. The second makes the assumption that nothing ever goes wrong in nuclear plants, which we know for a fact is false. And in making the second one, you’re forgetting that were discussing this in the context of a CPRS, which seeks to get rid of coal anyway.

  21. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:27 | #21

    99.99% of the time nobody gives it a second thought.

    You’re working with a false definition of “nobody”. It gets mentioned in my local paper just about every week.

  22. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:31 | #22

    Of course things can go wrong. However this is true of all manner of things. Airplanes can crash and factories can explode. None of us want another Bhopal disaster. I would not want a Chernobyl style reactor built anywhere in the world. However risks need to be put into perspective. Nuclear power even including it’s most deadly accidents has a very good safety record compared to other industries that we routinely tolerate.

  23. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:37 | #23

    Obviously I meant 99.37%. It must have been a typo. ;-)

  24. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:41 | #24

    Doug

    That is an economic argument and, for sure, IF the only provider (post fossil fuels) is nuclear, then its market price will be hiked to cover any and all costs.

    This is not the point. The argument w.r.t. nuclear is not economic. The arguments are social, environmental, moral and political.

    There is also the issue of nuclear weapons which is a study in itself. 10 nuclear explosions of the larger type, risks nuclear winter (according to CSIRO atmospheric research) at least in one hemisphere but then, models show, it flows to the other.

    There is also the issue of rare breeches of safety but multiplied by an increasing number of nuke plants.

    How can anyone propose storing waste for 1,000 years and more, particularly if the net waste grows at say 2% a year? For every acre of waste today, given just 2% growth you then need 400 million acres of so called storage in 1,000 years. It does not make generational and moral sense to even consider this as a option.

    More nuke plants more waste. Presumably waste will grow at the same rate as population plus energy consumption. What % growth in net waste (low and high levels) are you thinking of? What is your calculation for 1,000 years out?

    Nuclear power is completely irrational and immoral on all counts except short-term profiteering capitalist economics.

  25. December 3rd, 2009 at 20:43 | #25

    The LP Right are always accusing Pr Q of being a socialist.
    So its nice to see the tables turned.

  26. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:43 | #26

    JQ – why not put up an article on the nuclear topic and invite a fulsome debate.

  27. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:47 | #27

    Chris – Fast Breedor reactors would reduce our nuclear waste stock piles. As in make them smaller. Negative growth. For every acre of waste today a fast breedor reactor would result in less than an acre of waste in 100 years time. Less again in 200 years. Less again in 300 years. Less again in 400 years. And so on.

  28. Fran Barlow
    December 3rd, 2009 at 20:49 | #28

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Terje … fulsome means disingenuous, despite the neologistic usage.

  29. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:13 | #29

    Try meaning number 1 from the following:-

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fulsome

  30. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:26 | #30

    Try this, Terje:

    Common usage tends toward the negative connotation, and using fulsome as in the primary definition may lead to confusion without contextual prompts.

    Just as you didn’t understand the point about “nobody”, getting it mixed up with percentage of time, you don’t understand this, either.

    As a debator, you’d make a good used car salesman.

  31. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:26 | #31

    TerjeP #16 has claimed that switching to nuclear means reduced exposure to nuclear waste.

    I don’t know how he got this idea. Maybe he misread the Scientific American article he cited, but his explanation was vague and subjective. Anyway the editor of Scientific America added in a explanatory note indicating the comparison was between unshielded fly-ash and shielded nuclear waste.

    Of course “shielded” nuclear waste reduces exposure to radiation, even to levels lower than un-shielded fly-ash. So what? This is not relevant. This is the type of confusion nicotine and climate deniers also use peddling their various causes. Has TergeP lost his thinking cap?

    The nuke lobby always claims that the next generation of reactors will be cooler, safer, and will produce less waste etc etc. The so-called Integral Fast Reactor is the latest example and a research project that has no commercial purpose. It is not the type being built or proposed today.

    I get very fed up with statements like;

    “If all our modern energy usage (including transport) was produced from nuclear then the waste per person over a life time would be smaller than a golf ball”;

    with no evidence, argument, data, or logic. The reference to “life time” is irrelevant. No commercial reactor is built to last a “lifetime” and we are now decommissioning older reactors. More than a golf ball of waste has resulted from these reactors – all in less than a “life-time”.

    The fuel rods in Lucus Heights are bigger than golf balls, so TerjeP needs to explain how many golf balls of spent fuel rods come out of Lucus Heights or maybe he can explain how they shrink them down into a golf ball.

    I wait with interest.

  32. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:34 | #32

    SJ – as a human being your a pain in the arse.

  33. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:38 | #33

    Of course “shielded” nuclear waste reduces exposure to radiation, even to levels lower than un-shielded fly-ash.

    The funny thing is nuclear power stations entail shielding. The point of risk mitigation is to mitigate risks. Cars without brakes would be a menace also.

  34. Chris Warren
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:42 | #34

    TerjeP at #27 now switches attention to ‘Fast Breeder reactors”.

    He is just confused. Anyway the facts on fast breeders are pretty clear see: Breeding Fools .

    Notice the role of Plutonium 239.

    Notice the comments on changes to the amount of fissile material.

    Notice the comments on safety.

    The Indian program is sheer, utter, lunacy. QED.

  35. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:51 | #35

    Fissile material increases. However if the nuclear fuel includes depleted uranium (as indicated in your article) then nuclear waste is being used up.

  36. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:53 | #36

    Chris Warren Says:

    Maybe he misread the Scientific American article he cited, but his explanation was vague and subjective. Anyway the editor of Scientific America added in a explanatory note indicating the comparison was between unshielded fly-ash and shielded nuclear waste.

    You’re barking up the wrong tree here. The Scientific American article compares emissions from the two different types of power stations, but ignores any waste produced in uranium mining or refining. That’s where the comparison goes pear-shaped.

    Terje, no doubt you thought your teachers and parents were pains-in-the-arse too. Children always think that. Some people try to learn from mistakes, though, and there are lessons here aplenty for you.

  37. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:57 | #37

    The nuclear waste issue for IFRs is outlined here:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor#Nuclear_Waste

  38. Ken Miles
    December 3rd, 2009 at 21:59 | #38

    Greg Hunt is on lateline right now arguing that “direct action” (ie. picking winners) is better than a carbon tax/trading.

  39. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:01 | #39

    SJ – perhaps. However you’re still a pain in the arse.

  40. December 3rd, 2009 at 22:09 | #40

    @SJ
    Your rebuttals to Terje were semantic and petty, and did not address the core of the argument.

  41. December 3rd, 2009 at 22:10 | #41

    Is the primary problem, then, to deal with the waste issue? If so, the Swedish model looks like a good one.
    There are plenty of sites in WA, the NT and in outback Qld where really, really old bedrock can be reached in 500m worth of digging and there is a lot of experience in getting there. 2km or even 3km could be used if needed.
    Disposal is AFAICS a solved problem. We just need to do it.

  42. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:15 | #42

    Your rebuttals to Terje were semantic and petty, and did not address the core of the argument.

    I can see that your reading comprehension is even worse than Terje’s.

  43. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:15 | #43

    John – SJ is not a pain in the arse because of the petty remarks here. SJ is a pain in the arse because of petty remarks all the time for years on end.

  44. SJ
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:17 | #44

    Aw, diddums. Did the smart kids beat you up again?

  45. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:18 | #45

    Andrew – better to use the nuclear waste where you can rather than throw it away.

  46. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:22 | #46

    SJ – you are a childish smart arse. I’ll grant you that.

  47. Fran Barlow
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:33 | #47

    @Fran Barlow

    I suspect comprehensive or detailed or rigorouswould have better served your contextual intent than fulsome.

  48. nanks
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:35 | #48

    @Fran Barlow
    the merriam-webster defn disagrees
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulsome
    as does the OED second edition 1989
    although both show that ambiguity is there – note that the Oxford points out that the negative connotation is “Now chiefly used in reference to gross or excessive flattery, over-demonstrative affection, or the like.” So an assumed context for positive meaning is possible where an explicit context does not disambiguate the meaning.

    I’m going into this level of pedantry because this may be the only time I’ll ever agree with terjeP

  49. paul walter
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:38 | #49

    Re Andrews Reynolds comment, I’d presume he’s suggesting that he’s talking of sites porosity/ immunity to water seepage both ways etc.
    A good example of an approach that conforms with the notion of
    sustainability”.
    My problem as ever is, what seems a refusal by both governments and corporations to follow this sort of science: Tasmanian rainforests, James Hardy, Lib
    Right’s doctinaire ideology on climate change, similar medievalism, plus graft from groupings like the NSW Labor Right; the Tobacco industry. Some of above is venal; some to do with pig headedness.
    How do we “keep the bastards honest”, particularly when science seems to produce such violent reactions in these sorts of political formations, when presented?

  50. rog
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:41 | #50

    Talking nuclear is talking dreamtime bigtime.

    It takes 10 years to build them and that is after all the compliance has been achieved (which could be another 5 years) and there is no government in Oz that will give the go ahead and cop 15 years of nimbyism and bad politicking.

    So even discussing it is avoidance of the main issue and an indulgence.

  51. rog
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:44 | #51

    @Ken Miles
    is “direct action” using taxpayers money?

  52. Graeme Bird
    December 3rd, 2009 at 22:46 | #52

    “Greg Hunt is on lateline right now arguing that “direct action” (ie. picking winners) is better than a carbon tax/trading.”

    I agree with Greg Hunt. I wonder if that is even contestable in 2009. It would be different if we became the best and lowest cost producer of nuclear power, solarised roads and heliostats, and were already using non-carbon sources with a big fat head of steam. But right now we are not in that position so lets just pay the money, green some desert or something.

    What about cutting off coal to the world until we get back that hostage the communists grabbed? You want quick results for CO2, thats the way to do it! If people are serious that would be a quick way of getting our hostage back, cutting CO2 emissions, and slapping a few nameless bully-boys around. I’m up for that. I’d want to bring the slipper down while we still can. I don’t want to excite the attention of any search engine if you think I’m being too cryptic here. Some people need to be put in their place and subject to a new round of “self-criticism” if they want to go about taking our lads hostage like that.

    Carbon tax might be the best way for the French to reduce CO2 output in 2009. But no way for us. And it would mean missing out on a lot of greening potential. The most important thing is to keep these banking sharks out of it. Let us reverse this nonsense going on with that new telecom infrastructure outfit. We should have more pride. And it ought to be a personal source of pride not having these banking sharks picking up all these commissions. The three worst words in the English language are “public private partnership.” Makes me feel sick just thinking about it. PPP spells cronytown. The way we did things in the 50′s was far more sound. We were socialist in theory but free and equal in practice.

  53. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 23:01 | #53

    Fran Barlow :@Fran Barlow
    I suspect comprehensive or detailed or rigorouswould have better served your contextual intent than fulsome.

    Fran – I offered a link to a definition merely to point out my intent, not to refute your definition. I’m not really that interested in dictionaries at 10 paces. I’m happy enough with your suggested substitutions.

  54. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 3rd, 2009 at 23:03 | #54

    rog :@Ken Miles is “direct action” using taxpayers money?

    Probably.

  55. Ian Gould
    December 3rd, 2009 at 23:27 | #55

    2 tanners :
    …t the Labor Party, with its profligate stimulus packages, is racking up debt for us and our children, yea, even unto the tenth generation.

    Australia’s debt to GDP ratio remains amongst the lowest in the world.

    I’d put money on the Federal budget returning to surplus within the next Parliamentary term.

  56. Ian Gould
    December 3rd, 2009 at 23:34 | #56

    I would suggest that anyone interested in Australia’s national debt position read this article:

    http://www.treasury.gov.au/documents/1496/PDF/01_Debt.pdf

    “Chart 2 reinforces Australia’s relatively strong position with significantly lower levels of net debt projected in 2010 than the G-7 countries, even after introducing stimulus measures. Australia’s projected net debt position, across all Government’s is estimated to be 1 per cent of GDP compared with 48 per cent of GDP for the OECD.”

  57. Ian Gould
    December 3rd, 2009 at 23:36 | #57

    “is “direct action” using taxpayers money?’

    Only if Labor is in power.

    If the Liberals are in power it’s “nation-building”.

  58. Joseph Clark
    December 4th, 2009 at 00:03 | #58

    I’d put money on the Federal budget returning to surplus within the next Parliamentary term.

    How much money?

  59. Ian Gould
    December 4th, 2009 at 00:17 | #59

    $50.

    The next Parliamentary term being definre as starting from the return of the electoral roll after the next Federal poll and running until the Governor General formally announces the next general election.

    So we’re talking approximately 2010-2012.

  60. iain
    December 4th, 2009 at 07:28 | #60

    The nuclear “debate” is a furphy.

    You could double world nuclear electricity production over the next 15-20 years (which is highly unlikely) and yet you will only reduce total emissions by 5%. This is a ridiculously small amount. We need cuts of 25-40% over this time frame. Nuclear isn’t a solution.

    http://www.energyscience.org.au/FS03%20Nucl%20Power%20Clmt%20Chng.pdf

    People who think there is a silver technology bullet to carbon pollution are basing this on hope rather than fact.

  61. JJ
    December 4th, 2009 at 07:57 | #61

    The time for nuclear really is in the past.

    If the government was to go for nuclear, it would probably take 15years before the first one became operational.

    Looking at recent UK analysis it produces electricity at a similar price to combined cycle gas. While large scale solar, hot roak and tidal is still a bit more expensive, with 10 more years to develop the technology and 5 years to implement you would have to expect that the cost will come down. Nuclear has had huge R&D budgets spent on it for 50 years. By comparison real green energy R&D is still really only gearing up. there will be huge advances in green energy production technology over the next few years. As more countries go green this will see market development drive down prices for renewables.

    While there is an interesting view that suggests that having nuclear power suggests that a country has reached a certain international position of maturity, I suspect that being one of the “in” crowd probably isn;t a good enough reason.

  62. Tim Tempest
    December 4th, 2009 at 08:31 | #62

    JQ: “There are strong arguments for a return to greater reliance on public investment in energy infrastructure. But, in the context of a policy response to climate change, it is important to avoid ‘picking winners’.”

    Why? BC and Quebec did it with hydro, Victoria almost 100 years ago with brown coal. Look, energy and transport infrastructure are about the two things that government has consistently got right in places like Canada, the UK and Australia in the era preceding 1980. ‘Picking winners’ is ideological cant that binds us into servicing corporations with our patience, time and money until they deem to get it right in – for such monopoly oriented areas as energy – anything but a market environment.

    It seems to me that instead of pandering to this neo-liberal claptrap we simply need to move on the solutions we have. This will almost certainly not affect our competitiveness. It will, on the other hand, destroy the lie that government can’t do anything right. Tidal fences and solar and dc current distribution are really sensible and achievable things to undertake in Australia right now. Why piss round by putting carbon trading systems at the heart of any forward movement? Just tax carbon polluters while we move to the reasonably achievable goal of moving to green energy.

    If Australia, with our peerless natural advantages and our strong engineering base, can’t just implement these systems, instead of tiptoing around the corporate world, filtering everything through it for permission to move, no one can.

    We’ve got to break away from this mind-numbing pseudo-market ideology.

  63. Fran Barlow
    December 4th, 2009 at 08:38 | #63

    @iain

    If you are going to make extraordinary claims like that, you will need something better than the wave of the hand that Jim Green’s paper linked above amounts to.

    For those interested in a more comprehensive account which has actual figures and analysis attached to it, undertaken by someone who is a physicist and an environmentalist and now an adviser to the UK government …

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_161.shtml

    This page here addresses carbon intensity:

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_169.shtml

    For IFR of course, or thorium, the figures would be better still.

    If we are going to do BOTE then self evidently, if the fossil fuel benchmark is ten times that of nuclear then replacing a further 16% of stationary energy with nuclear would lower that 16% by 90% — and even more if some of the facilities in the new plants could be reused.

    Simple BOTE maths suggests that that cuts carbon emissions by 55% for a doubling of nuclear capacity. Of course, if the half that is replaced are all mostly old lignite plants and otherwise coal, then the cut is even more impressive

    One may also ask — how long would it take to roll out all of the associated infrastructure needed to harness renewables in ways that would provide a good fit for the fossil capacity to be retired? — In practice, a lot longer than it would for nuclear.

    One might use gas plants of course, but here the cut is not 90% but possibly 30% (maybe even less as the extraction process is more energy intensive than with uranium or thorium — and gas is going to be in much shorter supply than it is now if we go that way. Gas is also a lot more dangerous.

    I’d urge people to look at the links above and simply work matters out for themselves.

  64. JJ
    December 4th, 2009 at 08:57 | #64

    So the French are building a nuclear plant (supposedly a very good one) in Finland – cost about $5000/kW.

    The South Koreans are building a number of tidal power facilities – cost about $2500/kW.

    Both have fairly low operating costs. The nuclear has a slightly larger clean up bill though.

    North west Australia has great tidal range and even with HVDC transmission costs is still likely to result in a cheaper solution than nuclear.

  65. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 09:01 | #65

    @Tim Tempest
    Well said Tim. Exactly.

  66. Chris Warren
    December 4th, 2009 at 09:39 | #66

    Ian Gould is being very tricky.

    You cannot say:

    Australia’s debt to GDP ratio remains amongst the lowest in the world.

    And then produce data for “public” debt. This ignores private debt.

    So Ian why don’t you produce the figures for private debt?

    You should also look at trends in Income deficit component in National Accounts.

    Anyone who just focuses on public debt, does not understand reality.

  67. Mike
    December 4th, 2009 at 09:58 | #67

    The credibility of the direct action / picking winners line depends on whether you think the Coalition is now capable of addressing climate change in good faith.

    It seems very doubtful to me. People like Hunt and Pyne speak with a gun at their head. Anyone who saw the whip chasing Senator Troeth around the Senate chamber knows how the Coalition works under the new regime.

    The Abbott-Minchin-Tuckey-Joyce clique are incapable of uttering anything authentic or viable on climate change. As they have openly said, they launched their coup in order to placate the irrational fear and anger of the extremist elements of their base. Any climate change policy they put forward will be a deliberate travesty.

  68. Jason Soon
    December 4th, 2009 at 09:59 | #68

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/politics/rudd-signals-start-of-the-abbott-attack/story-e6frgczf-1225806791810

    The comments came as Mr Turnbull stoked Liberal Party tensions by releasing a newsletter on his website defending market-based methods to address climate change. “Many people have asked me whether it is possible to cut emissions without an ETS, a carbon tax or raising electricity prices,” Mr Turnbull said. “The short answer is no. By putting a price on those CO2 emissions, the cleaner, less emissions-intensive forms of generation become more competitive because they have a lower carbon price to pay.

    “The reason an ETS is the preferred approach around the world (and indeed was the policy of the Howard government) is because it is more efficient and offers the lowest cost abatement. While I look forward to what emerges from the new policy development efforts, I note in passing that many of us would find it incongruous if a free enterprise party, the Liberal Party, abandoned a market-based means of pricing carbon and reducing emissions and replaced it with heavy government regulation and the increased bureaucracy to administer it.”

    That know nothing populist Andrew Bolt has already condemned Turnbull for this i.e. stating what is microeconomics 101. It’s time for Turnbull to listen to his friend Chris Joye and form a new liberal party and let the know nothing trogs go their own way.

  69. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 10:05 | #69

    @Mike
    The Abbott-Minchin-Tuckey-Joyce clique is as farcical as the Obeid-Tripodi-Keneally- clique at state level. Its lunatics running both parties.
    Its not often I have good things to say about the Daily Telgraph but at least they have an online petition today to ask Marie Bashir to sack NSW Labor and call an early election. Here it is..

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/

  70. des maddalena
    December 4th, 2009 at 10:12 | #70

    Its time we had a serious nuclear discussion in Aus. The nuclear scare campaign in this country had its roots in the pre Glasnost era yet we are well beyond that now. We need to reevealuate our situation. A nuclear power plant for each capital and renewable power for all the rural areas would go a long way to reducing our carbon footprint. By stopping all new coal mines and coal loading developments we would at least restrict any further expansion of the coal industry as well. While nuclear power stations do have a lead time of 10 years what is the lead to for carbon sequestration or geothermal energy? Perhaps 20-30 years, perhaps 50years. Nuclear power works efficiently all around the world right now. To write it off as an option is absurd. In fact dozens of new nuclear plants have been ordered all around the world by other countries who seem to be less bogged down in the past than we are. Which is important an ocean that turns acid and leads to the destruction of 70% of all creatures in the sea or an irrational fear that nuclear everything is bad. With reasonable controls we can have safe efficient nuclear power and reduce our carbon footprint.

  71. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 4th, 2009 at 10:18 | #71

    Nuclear gets criticised on several counts. A few quick examples and counter points.

    1. There are carbon emissions associated with construction. The counter point is that just about any alternative of comparable power output uses a lot more concrete, steel etc and entails even more emissions and cost. Especially so if the necessary transmission augmentation is included. Nuclear can be built almost anywhere and so can be situated near existing transmission corridors.

    2. Nuclear is expensive. Historically a lot of this is due to poor regulatory structure and regime risk. Many countries are now implementing better regulatory structures.

    3. Ramping up nuclear will take too long. This is a silly complaint because mass deployment of any technology will take time. Nuclear is proven technology and will take a lot less material input to construct on mass than solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. Did I mention that it is proven technology. Did I mention we don’t need large scale transmission augmentation.

    4. Nuclear waste is a long term management problem. True but the volumes are not that large. And we know that safe fast breeder reactors can be fueled using existing stockpiles of waste for hundreds of years with no mining. So the term waste is a misnomer.

    5. Dangereous. So is flying hundreds of airplanes over cities on a daily basis but what counts is the track record. Nuclear has a great track record. Nuclear is proven safe. That does not mean it will never kill anyone but put in perspective it isn’t a reason to avoid nuclear.

    6. Enables nuclear weapons. Most nuclear weapons programs rely on purpose built reactors. The nuclear weapons genie is out of the bottle whether we use nuclear power or not.

    Nuclear power is reliable, affordable, safe, proven and managable. Nuclear waste such as depleted uranium and plutonium is an asset not a liability.

    3

  72. Donald Oats
    December 4th, 2009 at 10:19 | #72

    NEWS FLASH! Clive Spash, the CSIRO economist allegedly blocked from publishing an article critical of the Australian Government’s CPRS, has resigned from the organisation. Oops. Someone’s made a booboo.

    Onto other matters: WTF?? Have the Liberals gone barkin’ ?? I heard Bob Brown giving an economics lecture on an ETS, how it differs from a carbon tax, and how taxpayers will bear costs from a large scale nuclear plan. Meanwhile we have the Liberals rejecting a market based solution outright?? Now they are picking winners? And looking at regulatory options?
    And good ol’ Wilson “Ironbar” Tuckey has a fascinating Commie solution to offer the coalition?

    Wow.

    Clearly I’ve woken up in some alien world :-P

    PS: Pity Rees got rolled by the Corruptors. Any bets on the rewarded loyalists and who’ll be deposed? Tripodi back in front no doubt. So assuming not too much has changed since I left Sydney three years ago now – trains still suck no doubt – we now have two far right major NSW parties. Great. Just Great.

  73. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 10:35 | #73

    @Donald Oats
    Sign the petition above Don – to get rid of the profiteering sleazy corrupt NSW labor powerbrokers. Really, the people have suffered their incompetence, personal profiteering and factional brawling long enough. Enough! Its a pigsty.

  74. Chris Warren
    December 4th, 2009 at 11:38 | #74

    TerjeP

    We have heard all this before. Subjective comments based on nuclear dogma and misrepresentation.

    Nuclear (and cigarettes) get criticised on several counts. A few quick examples and counter points.

    1. There are different carbon emissions associated with different constructions. The point is that just about any alternative of comparable power output uses a lot less concrete, steel etc and entails even less emissions, risk and cost. Especially so if the necessary transmission augmentation is included. Nuclear can not be built almost anywhere and so must be situated near existing population centres.

    2. Nuclear is expensive. Historically a lot of this is due to necessary regulatory structure and waste repository risk. Many countries claim to be implementing better regulatory structures.

    3. Ramping up nuclear will take too long. This is a obvious complaint because mass deployment of any technology will take time. Nuclear is proven but dangerous technology and will take a lot more material and social input to construct on mass than solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. Did I mention that it is proven but dangerous technology. Did I mention we don’t need large scale transmission augmentation.

    4. Nuclear waste is a long term management problem. True but the volumes, which I never cite, are not that large. And we know that safe fast breeder reactors can be fueled using existing stockpiles of waste for hundreds of years with no mining, but are more dangerous. So the term waste is a misnomer unless we grow the number of plants exponentially.

    5. Dangereous. So is flying hundreds of airplanes over cities on a daily basis but what counts is the track record. Nuclear has a great track record. Nuclear is proven unsafe as currently risky or faulty reactors are closed. That does not mean it will never kill anyone, feed terrorists, detroy environments, jeopardise future generations, monopolise industry, but put in economic perspective it isn’t a reason to avoid nuclear.

    6. Enables nuclear weapons. Most nuclear weapons programs rely on purpose built reactors. The nuclear weapons genie is out of the bottle whether we use nuclear power or not – according to Al Kyder.

    Nuclear power is unreliable, unaffordable, unsafe, unproven and unmanagable.

    According to Wilson Tuckey nuclear waste such as depleted uranium and plutonium is an asset not a liability.

    3

  75. Doug
    December 4th, 2009 at 11:42 | #75

    On the nuclear issue: a few facts from a recent piece by Bernard Keane at Crikey:

    First, some bald numbers taken from the German Government-commissioned World Nuclear Industry Status Report from August this year.

    There are currently 435 reactors operating worldwide, nine less than in 2002. There are 52 reactors listed as “under construction” (more on that later), down from a peak in 1979 of 233 and 120 in 1987. No new plants were connected anywhere in 2008. The last plant to come online was the Romanian plant Cernavoda-2, which took 24 years to build. Reactors now provide slightly less power worldwide than they did two years ago.

    By way of context, the 2 GW of nuclear power connected in 2006-07 was equal to one tenth of the wind power installed globally in 2007. More than double the amount of wind power was installed in the U.S. alone in 2007.

    Clearly the nuclear industry is yet to begin recovering from the slump in reactor building worldwide after its peak in the mid-1980s.

    That poses two problems for any “nuclear renaissance” and its capacity to provide a legitimate, timely response to climate change.

    Firstly, the global “fleet” of reactors is ageing. The average age of plants worldwide is 25 years. The industry maintains that reactors have a lifetime of 40 years (and that of new generations of reactors 60 years), but the average age of the 123 reactors that have been closed across the world has been 22 years. Even assuming a lifetime of 40 years, and assuming all 52 reactors “under construction” proceed, 42 reactors need to be planned and built between now and 2015, and a further 192 built out to 2025, to replace the current nuclear power capacity.

    It is highly unlikely that nuclear power will therefore play anything other than a declining role in the provision of the world’s power supply in coming decades.

    Then there’s the second, and more problematic issue: nuclear power plants take an extraordinarily long time to build. The 24-year gestation of the Romanian plant was unusual – plants have been built in five years in China, Russia and South Korea. The global average construction period for recent connections in 9 years. This means that even if Australia adopted a crash course of nuclear reactor building, there wouldn’t be a single watt of power available until late next decade at the earliest.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/11/19/the-nuclear-option-part-1-too-slow-too-costly/

  76. Gaz
    December 4th, 2009 at 11:50 | #76

    JQ: You lefties and your market-based solutions! You’ll never convince those free-market libertarian Tories types to abandon their preference for public sector investment.

  77. David C (aka Smiley)
    December 4th, 2009 at 11:52 | #77

    Australia’s debt to GDP ratio remains amongst the lowest in the world.

    Ian, I’d assume that you are talking about public debt (and a quick glance at the PDF you referenced confirms this). I’m all for spending in the public sector to get us out of the twin problems of CC and the GFC, but I suspect (as does Steve Keen) that the level of private debt may hamper the governments ability to service any large public debt.

    This really is a problem caused by a decade of conservative rule both here and around the world. When we had the opportunity to fix both problems last decade the conservatives dug their heels in. I’m quite pessimistic of our ability to solve both problems at the same time. The term “lost decade” may be applied to both the one just gone and the one to come, thanks to the wingnuts.

  78. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 12:04 | #78

    @Gaz
    Lol Gaz…the world is indeed upside down….as soon as the loony tories decide to use some plain old fashioned public investment again and stop fraternising with besuited bigwigs on hair brained schemes where the govt puts in the effort, the running around and the numbers which the bigwigs then set themselves to blowing out and wanting every legal protection from risk under the sun, the sooner Ill be voting for the tories.

  79. David C (aka Smiley)
    December 4th, 2009 at 12:22 | #79

    Oops, sorry Chris, I didn’t see you had already made that point…

    Great comedy Gaz

  80. Chris Warren
    December 4th, 2009 at 12:37 | #80

    Des maddalena

    Just using the words “Its time” and “serious nuclear discussion” is a waste of time if you then have the gall to launch into nuke-mania dogma such as:

    - the nuclear scare campaign
    - To write it off as an option is absurd
    - bogged down in the past
    - irrational fear

    Not only this, but you have not indicated how you plan to deal with nuclear waste. You have not identified the isotopes, their half-lives, the cost, nor have you balanced any non-economic, non-short-term factor.

    You are just playing with nuke-industry dogma and and opportunistic symbols with no effort at using facts or data.

    Perhaps its time you started to become “bogged down” in the future.

  81. Hermit
    December 4th, 2009 at 13:18 | #81

    @Doug
    Some suggest that the wind build of recent years represents a niche that may now have diminishing returns. Alternatively the Germans could show us how to make more use of windpower. They seem to have a hangup with coal however.
    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2761501.htm

  82. babenco
    December 4th, 2009 at 13:55 | #82

    All Abbot will do is just shovel public money to the farmers as usual, for doing nothing. I’d love to see a rigorous analysis of just how much money the farming community extorts out of the taxpayer, it would be sobering reading. Rural socialists who paint themselves as ‘conservatives’.

  83. Fran Barlow
    December 4th, 2009 at 14:11 | #83

    Realistically

    @Hermit

    if you are going to use wind at industrial scale and not cover slews directly with fossil energy you are going to have to build in enough storage capacity to supply the full output for at least long enough to bring some other combination of energy sources online. That means for every GW of installed wind capacity at a CF of about 35% (pretty good in the scheme of things) you will need 2.8 GW of storage for about 2 hours — the black start time of for example, a baseload gas plant.

    Thus, if Australia’s 27GW peak was all wind you’d need about 75GW of storage — probably pumped storage would be the best option per dollar. 2 hours@ 75GW is a hell of a lot of water, and therefore a hell of of a lot of concrete and steel, and we haven’t even spoken of the HVDC line cost for connecting up these geographically disparate sources to the relevant sections of the grid or the cost of the switches or the cost of holding gas plants in a state of black start readiness to step in, should there be a need to bring them online.

    Probably you’d go for a mix of less efficient OC peaking plants along with the nheavy duty ones, so that you could cut down the need to store 2 hours worth, but this would push the CO2 intensity up of course.

    If you’re going to wear a sunk and recurrent cost like that of course, you might as well use them so maybe you end up scaling back and using more solar thermal with less storage and running your most efficient CC gas plants during the off peak and melding them so as to have them at white start readiness and keep storage to a minimum, given how expensive it is.

    In the end though while it is technically feasible to have an industrial economy derive power in this way, it will always have a higher CO2 intensity than nuclear and the full levelized costs will always be greater, probably by an order of magnitude.

    It’s been noted that geoethermal is available here to underpin baseload, and that’s obviously an attractive option but it’s not something that is available everywhere or even in most places. And that wouldn’t be cheap either.

  84. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 4th, 2009 at 14:45 | #84

    One game changer might be that green cement somebody posted a link to recently. However I couldn’t find a lot of details on it. Patent pending perhaps.

  85. David C (aka Smiley)
    December 4th, 2009 at 15:04 | #85

    Terje, our socialised TV broadcaster has the story here. Just part of the solution to the puzzle.

  86. David C (aka Smiley)
    December 4th, 2009 at 15:39 | #86

    Actually if you look at the E-crete web site it looks like a small scale commercial operation that manufactures precast panels and other stuff. Like all good ideas it needs the right market conditions.

    I’m not really into the chemistry or the engineering of concrete but I was under the impression that fly ash and bottom ash substitutes for cement made the concrete slightly weaker. So this sort of concrete may not be suitable for building things like bridges.

  87. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 4th, 2009 at 16:04 | #87

    David – your link seems to be a different sort of green cement. The one I saw earlier was using a process that locks up CO2 rather than just reducing the release of it. The chemistry seems a bit obscure and perhaps it is all a con job to flease investors. I don’t know. However if it is real it would be a game changer. The company pushing it is called Calera.

    http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/eco-friendly/calera-green-cement-460908

  88. TerjeP (say tay-a)
  89. Donald Oats
    December 4th, 2009 at 16:38 | #89

    The Canadian climate scientists have been subject to recent breakins and attempted computer hacks, including people posing as technicians!
    Coincidence?

  90. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:00 | #90

    @Donald Oats
    Of course its not a co-incidence Donald. I find it pretty sad that organised groups can attack the very people working to advance our knowledge as a species. By that I mean real scientists not paid for hacks.

  91. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:07 | #91

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – I wish you would stop trying to shove nuclear solutions down everyone’s throats. My kids and their kids are going to be pretty angry about it. No-one has costed the mess, spills, accidents and degradability over time of nuclear reactors. So busy looking for someone to make a dollar out of digging it up. Its a good thing you will be gone by the time my descendents are living and I would like them to be living in an uncontaminated environment. There are better solutions to nuclear so that you can live your life happily now and keep turning your bedside light on wach night (and the remote control garage door and the dryer in a sunny land and whatever else whiz bang electronic gadget you think you need).

    Its the expectations on what energy we need to actually live our lives that need adjusting – thats half the energy battle. The current “consume more use more” mentality that most of us have.

  92. Donald Oats
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:12 | #92

    As I’ve said a few times now, I’ll accept nuclear on three terms:
    i) No hidden cost to consumer through subsidy, tax breaks to companies building and/or running the facility, etc. Nada, zilch, nil.
    ii) Consumers can choose to buy nuclear generated power, or other options like wind/solar/coal.
    iii) For every nuclear station approved with output of g MW, a coal fired power station with output of f*g MW is permanently shut down and the site repatriated as national parks. The factor f could be a fraction like f = 0.33, ie for every 3 Megawatts of output from the approved nuclear station 1 Megawatts of output from coal station must be permanently removed.

    The point is that nuclear station must not be complementary to coal (at least not 100%), rather it must substitute by replacement. Since the deal I’m offering is to actually take some competitor’s generation permanently out of the supply, it actually assists nuclear takeup – if they are fast enough at building the station and bringing it online. Of course, there are other technological solutions competing, some like wind and solar with excellent efficiency of capital when it comes to incremental increase of generation (eg add one more turbine rather than build 2GW of NPC in one monolithic project of 4–8Billion AUD per nuclear station, IIRC).

    The three items are to ensure that nuclear is not just additional capacity with coal living a long happy life – coal fired stations must be shut down. It is as simple as that.

    And no Liberal is allowed to write the legalese for the above – someone trustworthy must do it.

  93. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:27 | #93

    @Donald Oats
    Don – you are npot thinking straight. Coal has problems. Uranium has even bigger ones. Do we seriously want the risk. Time to get more advanced than either and if that means people have to get used to lower energy usage Im all for it. We did it for thousands of years and managed OK. Talking more coal or more nuclear is just insanity. There has to be something better than either but it may involve reducing the consumption worldwide of the greedy consumer.

  94. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:30 | #94

    I sure wouldnt swap coal for nuclear. Not in a heartbeat.

  95. gerard
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:38 | #95

    well Alice, nuclear plants may produce toxic waste but at least they don’t pump this waste directly into the atmosphere.

    “The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3 million people are killed worldwide by outdoor air pollution annually from vehicles and industrial emissions, and 1.6 million indoors through using solid fuel.”[5] In the U.S. alone, fossil fuel waste has been linked to the death of 20,000 people each year.[6] A coal power plant releases 100 times as much radiation as a nuclear power plant of the same wattage.[7] It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island accident.[8]

  96. Alicia
    December 4th, 2009 at 17:43 | #96

    Nope. Keep uranium in the ground. No nukes. We all remember Three Mile Island. This is part of the collective consciousness of generations including younger generations today who’ve not reached maturity but have been educated to be anti-nuclear.

    Alice is right. We’re consuming too much in the West, that’s the hardest problem to face and figure out what to do about it.

    Man up, fellas, stop searching for market solutions. Wrong place. We need to look at consumption expectations and standards themselves. No avoiding this now.

  97. December 4th, 2009 at 17:54 | #97

    @Donald Oats

    Don, what you ask for is approximately what the Liberal Democrats offer. We oppose any subsidies whatsoever, for nuclear, coal or renewables. We’re debating (but haven’t made official policy) a carbon tax that makes coal unsustainable and nuclear/renewables possible. Thus you get your wish for coal to be phased out and replaced. All without heavy-handed regulation. A win-win, don’t you think?

  98. December 4th, 2009 at 17:57 | #98

    @Alice

    “we managed OK” – are you serious? Human progress is tightly correlated with greater energy use. Yes, we can stop the waste and move to more efficient usage, that’s fine. But I certainly don’t have a problem with using a megawatt each before getting out of bed, as long as there aren’t any externalities. Because that’s what matters, not our “greedy consumption”.

  99. Alice
    December 4th, 2009 at 18:02 | #99

    @Jarrah
    I am serious Jarrah – until the greedy “me” generation changes our ways we are just setting ourselves up for monumental environmental disasters by costing our rampant energy consumption according to our rampant desire for creature comforts now. Spoilt rotten you might say. You complain about my statement that “we managed Ok for thousands of years”. We are now threatening to derail everything in a mere couple of hundred years environmentally.

    You live and breathe dont you? The very testament to mans ability to survive OK for thousands of years. You have nothing to complain about.

  100. December 4th, 2009 at 18:05 | #100

    @Alicia

    Three Mile Island? You mean the 30-year-old nuclear accident that killed maybe two people? If you’re going for emotive effect, best to cite Chernobyl, a far worse occurrence.

    Nuclear accidents kill. But as Gerard points out, they kill far fewer than standard fossil fuels do. This is without taking into account the better design of modern nuclear power plants.

    I opposed nuclear power for most of my life. However, climate change is a bigger problem, IMO, so I’m willing to have it around (mixed with renewables) if it means avoiding the far worse effects of continuing on our coal-, oil- and gas-centric path.

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