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Monday Message Board

August 4th, 2014

It’s time for another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

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  1. rog
    August 4th, 2014 at 07:59 | #1

    Decommissioning the San Onofre nuclear power plant is expected to cost $4.4B. At least.


  2. Hermit
    August 4th, 2014 at 08:51 | #2

    @ rog all is not as it seems with California’s energy transition
    your link doesn’t show the surfers and beach goers next to the San Onofre nuclear plant, seemingly oblivious to danger. California banned ‘once through’ cooling of thermal plant supposedly due to drought concerns which don’t affect sea water. The estimated $700m needed to fixed the steam pipe problems will be spent instead on new gas fired plant. That’s say 420 grams of CO2 per kwh of electricity as opposed to 50 grams or whatever for San Onofre. As elsewhere you have to one whether low carbon is the real agenda.

  3. August 4th, 2014 at 10:06 | #3

    If it makes you feel better, Hermit, California has more solar capacity per head than Australia does. Also, as in Australia, their solar capacity produces electricity more than 16% of the time and is not “missing in action” 84% of the time.

  4. Ikonoclast
    August 4th, 2014 at 10:07 | #4


    Basically, nuclear fission power is doing all that it can to provide power and “prevent” some CO2 emissions. The current fleet of nuclear power plants out to 2050 (allowing for some decomissioned and some new plants) will exhaust the world’s reserves of U235 using the common once-through or twice-through fuel cycle models. If breeders were going to work technically and economically they would be working by now.

    Once again, the issue is renewable power. Eventually, that is all there will be. However well we get that working and whatever level of civilization that supports… well that will be it. Full stop, end of story. Empirical reality does not negotiate.

  5. Hermit
    August 4th, 2014 at 10:17 | #5

    Breeders not working? What about Beloyarsk 4? It is thought that two General Electric-Hitachi PRISM type reactors could burn up 100 tonnes of the UK plutonium stockpile and supply centuries of power. The resulting compact waste will be easily buried. A US prototype is under construction which is an extension of earlier successful versions. If the PRISMs go ahead for the UK they will not require any subsidies or upfront capex by the Brits, merely a fee for service.

  6. August 4th, 2014 at 10:37 | #6

    Ikonoclast, I’m in South Australia and I can assure you that there is no shortage of Uranium. Not currently and not in the next 40 years. The way the nuclear industry is going reserves of uranium are basically infinite, or possibly divide by zero error. Or perhaps you mean there is enough uranium already processed in the cupboard to run reactors out to 2050? If that’s the case then I’d expect uranium prices to fall even further.

    As for what level of civilization renewable power supports, well, allowing for the greater efficiency of electrified transportation, South Australia already produces close to as much energy per capita from wind and solar as Argentina does in total per capitia. And many outside observers are of the opinon that civilization exists in Argentina.

  7. rog
    August 4th, 2014 at 10:52 | #7

    @Hermit Irrespective of the source of energy this boiling-of-water-to-produce-electricity is fast becoming an irrelevant technology.

  8. Tim Macknay
    August 4th, 2014 at 12:04 | #8


    It is thought that …

    A US prototype is under construction…

    If the PRISMs go ahead…

    Well, you’ve convinced me.

  9. Ikonoclast
    August 4th, 2014 at 12:35 | #9

    @Ronald Brak

    No, Ronald, that is not correct. I have investigated this issue quite thoroughly and I have given credence only to scientific information and not to corporate and government data. Corporate and government claims about the size of uranium reserves are quite specious. The scientific data points to peak uranium by about 2035 and substantial exhaustion of most economic reserves by about 2055. This is given the current reactor fleet and allowing for decommissioning and commissioning keeping the reactor fleet about the same size for most of that time (the most likely scenario). This is also allowing for mostly single use and some double use fuel cycles (still the only plausible scenario).

    Beloyarsk 4 is just starting up. Maybe after 10 years operation (2025), if it works continuously to specification, we can start to assess its success or failure.

  10. Tim Macknay
    August 4th, 2014 at 14:12 | #10

    No, Ronald, that is not correct. I have investigated this issue quite thoroughly and I have given credence only to scientific information and not to corporate and government data.

    Ikon, most of the best available scientific data on mineral resources is government data (e.g. Geoscience Australia, the US Geological Survey, etc). So if you’re ignoring both government and corporate data, I’m wondering what information you are relying on. Hopefully not crank analysis by peak oil derps!

  11. Tim Macknay
    August 4th, 2014 at 14:12 | #11

    Left out quote tags…

  12. August 4th, 2014 at 15:37 | #12

    @Tim Macknay
    I guess it’s possible Ikon has been listening to pro-nuclear derps who like to pretend there hasn’t been a nuclear phaseout occurring over the past 30+ years as new nuclear builds have been occurring below the replacement rate and that operating nuclear capacity and thus demand for uranium won’t rapidly fall as old reactors are shut down. Note that the operating lives of many reactors have already been extended as far as realistically possible, and perhaps beyond. Actually it’s starting to look like Olympic Dam in South Australia is not the world’s largest uranium ore body but the world’s largest copper and gold ore body that has the misfortune to be contaminated with uranium, complicating the extraction of the useful elements.

  13. Brett
    August 4th, 2014 at 16:20 | #13

    You can pull uranium out of seawater as well, albeit at a significantly higher fuel cost (but if fuel is a small percentage of the cost of running a reactor, then it’s not a big deal). And of course there’s thorium.

    Not that I think we’ll expand our use of those anytime soon, although maybe China will drive some innovation. More likely it’s going to be gas, coal, and a rising-but-still-small mix of solar and wind, with some countries buying a lot of electricity from others if they get rid of their nuclear plants (I’m looking at Germany and France here).

  14. Donald Oats
    August 4th, 2014 at 16:30 | #14

    Coming to an Australian city near you…dole cut-off penalties have (un-)intended consequences…

    Surely we are savvy and adroit enough to halt going down this road?

  15. Hermit
    August 4th, 2014 at 18:01 | #15

    South Australia’s current annual production of uranium oxide or equivalent when lightly enriched should be enough for about 10 gigawatt-years or 88 terawatt-hours of electricity from third generation reactors. That’s from a hard rock mine (OD) and the two operating insitu leaching mines. After that uranium is used once it can be used again in fourth generation or heavy water reactors.

    According to AEMO in 2013 SA’s electrical requirement was 13.3 Twh. So that’s about 88 Twh from SA uranium used in once through nukes outside of Australia compared to 13 Twh from wind, solar, coal but mainly (52%) from gas fired generation in SA itself. One more time 88 Twh vs 13 Twh.

  16. J-D
    August 4th, 2014 at 18:59 | #16

    @Donald Oats

    Surely not?

    I mean, if these things are actually happening in the UK, what makes you think it’s impossible for them to happen here?

  17. Megan
    August 4th, 2014 at 19:47 | #17

    According to the latest release from Snowden (on “The Intercept”):

    The new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling.

  18. Newtownian
    August 4th, 2014 at 20:01 | #18

    @Ikonoclast Good on ya mate. Tell em the facts.
    Ikon since you are getting a lot of static from people who haven’t done their homework I thought I’d wade in with some factoids to support your case. So I just went to my favourite sources on this:
    OECD NUCLEAR ENERGY AGENCY & INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY 2004. Uranium 2003: Resources, Production and Demand. Nuclear Energy Agency. / U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION 2010. Annual Energy Review 2009. In: U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION, O. O. E. M. A. E. U. (ed.). Washington, DC 20585: U.S. Department of Energy. U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY 2011. Mineral commodity summaries 2011. U.S. Geological Survey.
    They are a little dated but in this game things move slowly as far as I know so the picture isnt changed much order of magnitude wise.
    Basically consistent with your view the story as I understand it reads like this …….There are about 1.8 MT of Uranium globally which is cheap, about a third of which is in Australia. If the ore prices quadruple the economically extractable stuff goes to about 3.2 MT. So we are looking at a rapidly more expensive resource. Now about 0.7 % is U235 – which gives us about 22,000 T of U235 to burn. The energy you get from U235 is pretty close to 3,000,000 X what you get from the same weight of coal so the global reserves of U are sufficient to replace burning about 70 billion tonnes of coal.
    Now the amount of coal used in 2008 was about 7 billion tonnes. So the entire RAR uranium 235 supply if burnt in conventional light water reactors to replace coal would last about 10 years globally at current energy consumption rates. But wait – we have to replace all the oil and gas too which is twice as much primary energy again. So the supply will last about 3 years under this business as usual scenario.
    So let forget all this rubbish about light water reactors. The only game in town is those 4 Gen reactors Barry Brook is so in love with – i.e. Breeder reactors by any other name – and the other Breeder technology Thorium, both of which were going to save the day back in 1972. And they still haven’t despite even the unpopularity of conventional light reactors. And there is that little matter of nuclear proliferation which is intractable, and of course the matter of accident risk – two serious complex melt downs and two near misses (3MI and Browns Ferry) for a fleet equivalent to about 400 1000 MWe units means they just don’t cut the mustard with the actuaries. Russian Roulette anyone?
    Regarding Brett and the old hoary pull it out of seawater bit…. read BARDI, U. 2010. Extracting Minerals from Seawater: An Energy Analysis. Sustainability 2, 980-992. His numbers I think may be a little in error but his point is valid – it costs more to energy to get the stuff from seawater and the logistics of the mining machine are laughable.

  19. Ikonoclast
    August 4th, 2014 at 20:04 | #19

    @Tim Macknay

    I am not going to dig up the uranium resource links again. I have posted them several times on JQ’s blog. Aside from corporate data and official government data there are also data from independent scientific research conducted by reputable universities.

    Mineral reserves are usually quoted as follows;

    1P reserves = proven reserves (proved developed reserves + proved undeveloped reserves).
    2P reserves = 1P (proven reserves) + probable reserves, hence “proved AND probable.
    3P reserves = the sum of 2P (proven reserves + probable reserves) + possible reserves.

    Sometimes, categories even more dubious than “possible” are added. If you check the scientific literature analysing government claims in this field, you will see that governments greatly over-estimate reserves by adding in many of the more dubious reserve categories. These are often 3P or worse, sepcualtive figures, which then become the “headline reserve” of general derp debate with some obscure footnote buried somewhere in the report noting that much of this “reserve” is unproven, probable or even speculative reserves. It’s been demonstrated over and again that many countries even lie about supposedly proven reserves from oil to uranium and many other key resources.

    Apart from a general optimism bias, corporations and governments have incentives to lie or issue spin about reserves. OPEC nations lie about oil reserves because their sales quota is based on this number. Governments lie about reserves in general to promote investment and confidence in their country. Coporations lie about reserves to boost share prices. The lies are systematic and systemic in the whole global capitalist system.

    And you say peak oil theorists are derps? When peak conventional oil has already occurred and is thus proven by empirical fact!

    LTG (Limits to Growth) denialists are as bad as Climate Change denialists. In both cases, it takes a denial of extensively corroborated science to hold the “sceptic” position.

  20. Donald Oats
    August 4th, 2014 at 20:26 | #20

    Sadly, nothing at all.

    Where I live in the city (of Adelaide), there has been a distinct increase in the presence of homeless/destitute people on the streets during the past year or so. Why there has been an increase I do not know, it could be for quite local reasons, state issues, or even national issues. Still, the increase is there for all to see. I would hope that instead of “move along” orders, they have whatever issues preventing them from having a roof over their heads addressed, rather than using the police to just push the “problem” back into concealment.

  21. Ivor
    August 4th, 2014 at 23:00 | #21

    Absolutely amazing and disgusting….


    But this is the morality of the Old Testament and of radical Islam and presumably rightwing Hindus.

  22. Ivor
    August 4th, 2014 at 23:07 | #22

    This maybe a better link


    The article appears to have been deleted from some servers.

  23. Tim Macknay
    August 4th, 2014 at 23:34 | #23

    Settle down, old son. It’s like I’m talking to the Ikonoclast of five years ago!

    I was genuinely surprised at your rejection of government-sourced resources data. In my experience, agencies like Geoscience Australia are very reliable and not at all deceptive in the way their present their estimates. They always highlight the various degrees of certainty inherent in their figures (and the uranium figures of Geoscience Australia aren’t inconsistent with your thesis that supplies are relatively limited).

    As for peak oil theorists, I’ve said on this blog not so long ago that I think the online peak oil community is awash with derp, and as I recall, you agreed with me. It doesn’t mean that they’re wrong about everything, just that their analysis isn’t reliable, and many of them aren’t particularly amenable to evaluating where they’ve gone wrong – hence ‘derp’.

  24. J-D
    August 5th, 2014 at 06:58 | #24


    Some parts of the Old Testament. And some parts of the New Testament too. While some parts of both take a directly contrary view. Neither compilation is internally consistent.

  25. Ivor
    August 5th, 2014 at 07:36 | #25



    However the Jewish state is based purely on the Old Testament, a volume of constant and all consuming land grabbing and mass slaughter.

  26. Ikonoclast
    August 5th, 2014 at 08:25 | #26

    @Tim Macknay

    Australia might be an exception. OPEC governments are not noted for their truthfulness in any arena. The same goes for the governments of Russia, China, Kazakhstan and USA just to name a few of the most duplicitous. The EIA (US Energy Information Administration) was consistently wrong about peak conventional oil… until it actually happened and then they had to admit its existence.

    The peak oil community, following the main scientific theorists of this field, have been right about peak conventional oil and the real meaning of falling EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested). Some have branched out into outright renewables bashing and a form of financial collapse theory which reifies money. Much of that has become derp.

    Healthy scepticism about renewables’ potential is fine. Is the EROEI high enough to run a modern civilization? It is a valid question. But this should be a starting point for quantitative enquiries not immediate dogmatic assertions that all renewables are an energy sink or have an EROEI too low to run industrial civilization.

    Some “renewables” are an energy sink or close to it. US corn ethanol shows an EROEI of just 1.3 to 1. Claims of 8 to 1 energy return have been made for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. But the damage to environment and the opportunity cost and human costs of using food for car fuel make this process of dubious value in the long term.

  27. Hermit
    August 5th, 2014 at 11:27 | #27

    To back up Ikon remember that in the late 20th century various energy sources were high yielding. Getting oil was like drawing blood through a needle. Now it needs to be fracked, boiled out of tar sands or drilled in 2km deep water. That’s sending us back to the Neolithic in terms of net energy for effort. When gas doubles in price and petrol is $2 a litre I think we can take that as a strong hint. But we’ll all have solar powered electric cars some insist. Just trying to reconcile that with 0.7m unemployed here and 2 bn impoverished world wide. We need very high EROEI energy sources even if they’re not perfect.

  28. Megan
    August 5th, 2014 at 12:32 | #28


    We could always consider “Vivoleum”.

  29. Tim Macknay
    August 5th, 2014 at 12:32 | #29


    We need very high EROEI energy sources even if they’re not perfect.

    That is a bit of a content-free statement. How high is “very high”? Charles Hall suggested that the minimum EROEI for modern civilisation is 3. Is that “very high”?

    EROEI analysis, while potentially useful, is a problematic field because of the boundary assumptions, but most of the analyses that use generally-agreed assumptions rate many renewable energy technologies as having EROEI levels comparable to fossil fuel sources. Wind is usually rated higher than coal, for example, and hydro much higher. By some analyses, PV solar is comparable to gas. Fossil fuel sources often rate significantly lower than one might expect (and well below the fabled “100:1” ratio that’s often attributed to late 19th or early 20th century oil wells, although always without an original source).

    This leads me to suspect that, aside from the common-sense provision that it should be in comfortably positive territory, EROEI is actually less important than its fans think it is, because most energy sources under contemplation deliver a reasonably high EROEI.

  30. Hermit
    August 5th, 2014 at 13:40 | #30

    One of the boundary issues is whether an energy source should be ‘on demand’ e.g. solar power at night. To meet that criterion we might need the energy source ‘solar power + batteries’ which will undercut EROEI though I’ve yet to see a credible estimate.

    The other issue is that of the shoulder value which some suggest should be 8-10 or well above 3. I’m not sure that denizens of average EROEI = 3 world get to own cars, eat steak and attend concerts. A strong hint is that we just removed the flimsiest impediment to burning coal so the average EROEI stays high, for now at least.

  31. Tim Macknay
    August 5th, 2014 at 15:21 | #31


    One of the boundary issues is whether an energy source should be ‘on demand’ e.g. solar power at night.

    Actually, that doesn’t really have anything to do with EROEI, but is a separate issue, much like questions of energy source portability and quality – although I’ll grant you that it might be considered a “boundary issue” in the sense that the temptation to “adjust” EROEI figures to factor in various other aspects of energy sources can certainly make the process more confused, and less informative. It’s an indication, I think, that the approach of simply comparing the EROEI of “types” of energy source is not terribly informative. Comparing the EROEI of whole energy systems (such as national grids or liquid fuel production and distribution systems) would probably be more useful.

    The other issue is that of the shoulder value which some suggest should be 8-10 or well above 3. I’m not sure that denizens of average EROEI = 3 world get to own cars, eat steak and attend concerts.

    Maybe so, but what of it? The 3 figure is from Charles Hall, who would usually be considered the foremost worldwide authority on EROEI, so take it up with him. Personally, I’m inclined to agree that your figure of 8-10 would be preferable, but I have no real justification for that (I confess I haven’t read the paper by “some”). Hall, Lambert and others have all come up with different figures for the EROEI required to support various kinds of ‘societal’ activities, but they clearly have a long way to go before they can make an exact science of it (if ever).

    A strong hint is that we just removed the flimsiest impediment to burning coal so the average EROEI stays high, for now at least.

    Oh, come on. The removal of the carbon price was because of ideology, and has nothing to do with EROEI.

    I’m beginning to suspect you’re just stirring the pot and you aren’t really serious about this stuff at all. On consideration, maybe I should have worked that out a while back…

  32. Donald Oats
    August 5th, 2014 at 16:29 | #32

    It is just so sad to see “The ends justify the means” being applied to the so-called problem of boat people and boat arrivals to Australia. I don’t think (m)any among us would want people to attempt the dangerous sea journey to Australia; the fact that treating one set of detainees extremely harshly works as a deterrent does not mean that it is the only solution possible. Surely our politicians can ferret out better way of addressing the problem without subjecting a significant number of people to what amounts to intentionally punitive punishment for an unknowable duration? Surely…

  33. Hermit
    August 5th, 2014 at 17:11 | #33

    @Tim Macknay
    You couldn’t be wronger about not being serious. I’ve managed to avoid paying directly for electricity and car fuel and I’m going full bore on some other projects. However my conclusion is that replacing fossil fuel is vastly more difficult than people think. Battery powered airliners anyone?

    The threshold EROEI value of 8 dates back to Euan Mearns writing in The Oil Drum. Whether coincidence or some deeper connection coal fired electricity has both high EROEI (say 80) and low monetary cost, at least until the big power stations need replacing in the 2030s. Those unconcerned about social costs want to keep it that way. I understand help for grain ethanol EROEI <2 has now been wound back but nobody gives a damn unlike carbon tax on electricity. Therefore I assert that coal's charmed run will last another 20 years and high EROEI is the underlying reason.

  34. Tim Macknay
    August 5th, 2014 at 18:02 | #34


    However my conclusion is that replacing fossil fuel is vastly more difficult than people think. Battery powered airliners anyone?

    I don’t entirely disagree, although “battery powered airliners” isn’t much of an indication of seriousness. 😉

    Regarding coal, I’ve never seen an EROEI estimate for coal-fired electricity remotely as high as 80. There are a few estimates of the EROEI of coal at the mine mouth in that range, like Cleveland’s 1984 estimate for US coal in the 1950s, for example. I actually suspect the Cleveland study is where your number ultimately came from, although possibly via another source. However, for obvious reasons, estimates of the EROEI for coal-fired electricity tend to be much lower. For example, Cleveland’s 1984 estimate for the average US coal fired power station (in the same study with the EROEI estimate of 80 for 1950s mine-mouth coal) was 9.

    I haven’t come across any Australia-specific data. However, if the average EROEI for Australian coal-fired electricity is also around 9 (which is a considerably more plausible number than 80, by any estimate), it probably explains why wind power is now competitive with it.

  35. Patrickb
    August 5th, 2014 at 20:53 | #35

    Abbott, with Brandis at his side, abandons changes to RDA. Says that the debate’s too divisive and we’re all members of ‘Team Australia’. Howls of derisive laughter …

  36. J-D
    August 5th, 2014 at 21:08 | #36


    I don’t know in what sense you think the State of Israel is ‘based’ on the Old Testament. Indeed, I don’t understand what it could possibly mean to describe a state — any state — as based on an anthology — any anthology. But I do know that it is in any case not accurate to describe the Old Testament as ‘a volume of constant and all consuming land grabbing and mass slaughter’. The Old Testament is too variegated a compilation to have any uniform constant character.

  37. August 6th, 2014 at 00:02 | #37


    Yeah. Jesus really didn’t like the Old Testament. Basically said it was rubbish and suggested some simpler rules to replace the variegated compilation.

    I suspect the principal bit of the Old Testament that Israel is based on is the idea of the “chosen people”.

  38. August 6th, 2014 at 00:11 | #38


    Yes, those things will happen here. We already sanction people. Mainly people who don’t “play the game”. I recall the case of the brother of a mate of mine who was unemployed and on benefits for the first time. When answering the question, “Have you looked for work?”, he ticked “No”. We explained that he needed to tick “Yes”, and then to write “CES & Newspapers” in the space provided for him to document his efforts. He then asked us if he should also write about the local businesses where he had actually asked for work 🙂

    Anyway, the people who will suffer won’t be the people like me who understand how to play the system. They will be people who don’t have the necessary resilience and flexibility. You know, vulnerable people. But at least they’ll be playing their part in making the right feel good about Australia.

  39. zoot
    August 6th, 2014 at 01:22 | #39

    I don’t know in what sense you think the State of Israel is ‘based’ on the Old Testament.

    Might have something to do with the concept, “Promised Land” perhaps?

  40. John Street
    August 6th, 2014 at 02:19 | #40

    If Treasury is providing misleading advice, as Joe Hockey recently claimed, then there should be an inquiry, the responsible officials should be rooted out , from the top down.

    But if Treasury is providing correct advice, then Joe Hockey should be deeply ashamed, either of his own ignorance, or falsehoods. To criticise your own workers if they have done nothing wrong and can’t speak for themselves is the work of a bully. If this is the case then he should not keep his job.

  41. J-D
    August 6th, 2014 at 07:42 | #41

    @John Brookes

    You don’t know that. You don’t know what Jesus said, because nobody knows what Jesus said. However, we do know that the text of the New Testament twice (Matthew 5:18 and Luke 16:17) attributes to Jesus an explicit and unqualified endorsement of Old Testament law.

  42. J-D
    August 6th, 2014 at 07:48 | #42


    If you mean that the people who established the State of Israel (or at least many of them) were inspired (or at least partly) by the notion of a ‘Promised Land’ which derives from parts of the Old Testament, you’re right, but I’m not sure what further relevant conclusion can be drawn from that. What is it supposed to mean to say that a country is ‘based on’ a book — or on anything else, for that matter? What is Australia ‘based on’? or Andorra, Argentina, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Ireland, Uganda, Vanuatu, Yemen, Zimbabwe, or any other country?

  43. Hermit
    August 6th, 2014 at 08:46 | #43
  44. Megan
    August 6th, 2014 at 10:16 | #44

    Mike Carlton (whose writings I usually find too pro-ALP for my liking) has been forced out of Fairfax over his column critical of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. They say it wasn’t directly because of his column but because of his replies to attacks on him were inappropriate.

  45. August 6th, 2014 at 10:57 | #45


    Come on J-D. Jesus (or the representation of him we read about) took the 10 commandments and replaced them with two. It is obvious to me that he found the nitpicking of the priests of the time annoying, and was trying to replace a big collection of rules with a couple of simple guiding principles.

    But I’m a lapsed Anglican, so what would I know 😉

  46. Tony Lynch
    August 6th, 2014 at 12:02 | #46

    Thanks Mike. You were the only reason I bought the weekend SMH. Its taken a long time, but now I’m entirely over the MSM.

  47. Tim Macknay
    August 6th, 2014 at 12:04 | #47

    I see that table is from a 2010 paper by Murphy and Hall. The paper is behind a paywall, but based on the authors, I’d be >90% certain that the figure is originally from Cleveland (either the 1984 paper or a follow up) and refers to mouth-of-mine coal. On that basis, assuming that the 80 figure for mine-mouth coal can be taken as current and correct for Australia, a more realistic figure for coal-fired electricity would no more than 20-25 at the most, at least for the purposes of comparison with other sources of electric power. Higher than 9, I’ll grant you, but clearly in the same ball-park as wind if you assume Australian wind power has a similar EROEI to the US. The lack of clarity and consistency about what is actually being measured and whether it is comparable is unfortunately typical of the confusing way that EROEI is generally presented.

  48. Tim Macknay
    August 6th, 2014 at 12:34 | #48

    In related news, the AFL is refusing to run advertisements calling for donations to humanitarian aid in Gaza, on the grounds that they are “too political”. The advertisements are from the well-known Christian aid organisation World Vision.

  49. Tim Macknay
    August 6th, 2014 at 12:35 | #49

    Trying again, sans link:

    In related news, the AFL is refusing to run advertisements calling for donations to humanitarian aid in Gaza, on the grounds that they are “too political”. The advertisements are from the well-known Christian aid organisation World Vision.

  50. sunshine
    August 6th, 2014 at 12:39 | #50

    There is a period of 7 or so years of Jesus’ life where he seems to have disappeared .There is a theory that he may have travelled and learnt about Buddhism and forgiveness. Apparently the Old Testament has no concept of forgiveness like the New T does. Also there is some talk these days that Jesus was eliminated by the state primarily because he advocated radical redistribution of wealth and power -a feature of Christianity lost on most of todays Christians (Abbott).

  51. Tim Macknay
    August 6th, 2014 at 13:03 | #51

    @Tim Macknay
    Another point to consider with respect to EROEI and Australian coal, is that not all coal is equal. The lignite coal that supplies power in Victoria has around half the heating value per kilogram of the black coal used in NSW, so its EROEI will also be around half, all other things being equal. And yet Victorian coal-fired electricity is significantly cheaper than the NSW variety, so much so that South Australian wind energy is pricing the higher-EROEI NSW electricity out of the market, but not the lower-EROEI Victorian electricity. Evidently EROEI is not the major factor in Australian electricity prices. (A similar point could be made about relatively high-EROEI domestic gas being about to be priced out of the market by relatively low-EROEI LNG for export).

  52. Tim Macknay
    August 6th, 2014 at 13:04 | #52

    Aargh. That was meant to be addressed to Hermit. %#@&.

  53. Ken Fabian
    August 6th, 2014 at 13:20 | #53

    How much effort has been put into electrically produced gas or liquid fuels? Synthetic fuels efforts have tended to focus on the worst kind – turning coal into liquid fuel – but producing something as chemically simple as methane and propane, or methanol and ethanol from CO2 or biological sources could have profound benefits, as these are storable and transportable fuels that can be used in transport as well do a lot of industrial and domestic heavy lifting (heating, cooling, cooking), reducing the capacity needs of more technologically complex storage like batteries.

    I think there have been some serious blind spots when it comes to new energy technologies and I think that’s been because the energy industry incumbents, based on exploiting an abundance of fossil fuels, lack incentive. Even climate has failed to be incentive enough, with the advances in PV for example, being something thought so unlikely to be more than a niche, was given enough rope, I suspect, to prove it would never succeed. That would have left fossil fuels being shown to be irreplaceably essential. Government support was a way to appear as if they were doing something to address climate without really doing anything that might impact the use of fossil fuels. Surprise, surprise, it has made a difference and the lucrative daytime electricity peak is being shaved away. A relatively small introduction of domestic storage – 3 hours or so capacity – will shave away the lucrative evening peak. And lack of capability to be on-demand-intermittent – and economically intermittent – is revealing a serious shortcoming in existing generation to cope, a form of obsolescence that I don’t think anyone was predicting. And these changes are occurring without even accounting for CO2 emissions.

    PV being widely used and cheap was wholly unexpected and unprepared for by our energy sector – now there’s a big and growing market for it and still the well of PV innovation is nowhere near to running dry; no reason to not think we’ll see PV prices continue their downward trend for some time to come, with homes adding excess capacity to make them contributors during overcast conditions. So, can we expect storage go the same way? Personally I think it’s been doing surprisingly well given that it’s been more of an afterthought when in comes to energy R&D. Whether our Conservatives can defund it and kill it before it grows remains to be seen; not all governments or commercial interests are so purposefully opposed to solving the energy/emissions/climate conundrum as ours.

  54. Tim Macknay
    August 6th, 2014 at 16:02 | #54

    @Ken Fabian
    The US Navy is working on a method of producing jet fuel from seawater using an external energy source (notionally their aircraft carrier nuclear reactors). Apparently the breakthrough that made it a feasible proposition was a method of efficiently extracting dissolved CO2 out of the seawater. It works at a laboratory scale, but whether they can economically scale it up (or whether the economics would ever work for civilian applications) remains to be seen. However it is an interesting project. Similarly, there is a plant in iceland that produces methanol using geothermal energy, water, and volcanic CO2. The methanol from that plant could potentially be converted into gasoline or jet fuel using the Mobil process, although again, whether it could be done economically, and how much the process could be scaled up, are open questions.

  55. Ken Fabian
    August 6th, 2014 at 16:26 | #55

    Tim, thanks for the reply. It doesn’t seem to me that solving these problems have very high priority – not the kinds of priority I’d expect when our future prosperity and security depends on it. And if Australian R&D is cut to the bone, with the deepest cuts reserved for those with a perceived ‘green’ tint – and climate unfortunately, for the sake of political expediency, put into the ‘green’ category – we certainly won’t be leading the way. Alternative transport fuels and energy storage have not been seen as necessary in the presence of abundant fossil fuels – unless there turns out to be some good reason that fossil fuel use be restricted.

  56. Hermit
    August 6th, 2014 at 17:45 | #56

    @ TM I suspect Victorian brown coal will increasingly be SA’s backup rather than gas during wind lulls. The proposal is to increase transmission capacity between those states by 190 MW though if the southeastern economy tanks it may not be necessary. Recall when carbon tax was $23 Loy Yang said that could double and they would still be Australia’s lowest cost generator. What happens to LY, Hazelwood and Yallourn when they need replacing? If there are no carbon constraints the Latrobe Valley will still have centuries of brown coal left. Dirt cheap because it’s not that different from dirt.

    @KF to make biodiesel I sometimes get methanol from dirt car racers with their supercharged V8s. It’s nasty stuff that makes you see double if you inhale the fumes. Most of it seems to be made from natural gas at Altona. Ammonia fuel which some propose is also nasty. The trouble with NZ style methanol derived petrol is that each conversion step throws away starting energy. The Germans make synthetic methane (=unnatural gas) using hydrogen from water electrolysis and CO2 scrubbed from biogas, not dissolved in seawater as proposed by the US Navy. When converted back to electricity it has about 30% round trip efficiency. The golden era of cheap energy seems to be slipping away.

  57. Megan
    August 6th, 2014 at 21:27 | #57

    This is very funny (from Fairfax):

    Dozens of disillusioned Liberal Party members have approached the Institute of Public Affairs, the free market think tank says, threatening to quit the party because of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the Racial Discrimination Act.

    The IPA has emailed its supporters pleading for cash to fund a $38,000 attack ad which will use the Prime Minister’s own words against him.

    “Tony Abbott has given up but the IPA never will,” the email says.

    The IPA will quote from Mr Abbott’s speech to the IPA in 2012 when he said “freedom of speech is an essential foundation of democracy”.

    And in a further rebuff of the Prime Minister, the IPA is offering donors a copy of his comments signed by the News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, who was successfully prosecuted under the current laws.

    I didn’t understand why Abbott dropped the long-promised “Bolt Amendment”, anyway. Like Newman in Qld, he doesn’t seem to really care what anyone thinks of his policies/actions – but then appears to be reacting to the ‘grass-roots’ rejection of those policies/actions.

    Maybe the worst half of the ALP and the worst half of the LNP could form a coalition that we could all vote into oblivion at the next election.

    My bet is that this is all just posturing. No way will a chunk of LNP MPs walk away. All huff n puff.

  58. August 6th, 2014 at 21:34 | #58


    Is there any chance we could have the IPA deemed to be a terrorist organisation?

  59. J-D
    August 7th, 2014 at 07:53 | #59

    @John Brookes

    The two great commandments in Matthew 22:37 and Matthew 22:39 were both taken from the Old Testament. Did you know that? Further, Matthew 22:40 states that all the Law and the Prophets depend on those two commandments. If that is supposed to illustrate their importance, it can only do so if it is understood that the Law and the Prophets are important, which is what the two verses I cited earlier also say.

    A similar story is recorded about the Jewish religious scholar and leader Hillel that a non-Jew asked him for an explanation of the Jewish law to be given while he (the non-Jew) stood on one foot. Hillel is supposed to have replied: ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole of the Law; the rest is the explanation; go and study.’ That wasn’t a rejection of the Jewish law, and the enunciation of two great commandments in the New Testament text was not a rejection of the Jewish law either. If somebody says ‘This is the part you should put in the headline’ it doesn’t mean ‘The rest of the story is irrelevant’.

  60. J-D
    August 7th, 2014 at 08:00 | #60


    Forgiveness is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament. So is vengeance; but then, vengeance is also mentioned in the New Testament. Neither compilation, as I said before, is internally consistent.

    If Jesus was eliminated by the state, the Old Testament had nothing to do with it; the state, uninfluenced by the Old Testament, was the Roman Empire (and, in Galilee, if Jesus came from there, the nominally Jewish but irreligious Roman vassal ruler, Herod Antipas). It is possible, however, to find egalitarian and redistributionist principles about wealth in parts of the Old Testament.

  61. August 7th, 2014 at 11:28 | #61


    So was Jesus simply reacting to particularly fastidious black letter law advocates of the day? Or was the ordinary Jew of Jesus’ day rather like a Roman Catholic of fairly recent times, familiar with all the rules, but less so with the spirit that guides them?

  62. ZM
    August 7th, 2014 at 11:32 | #62

    I hope this is not prefiguring larger trade wars …

    “Moscow/Donetsk, Ukraine: Russia will ban all imports of food from the United States and all fruit and vegetables from Europe, the state news agency reported on Wednesday, a sweeping response to Western sanctions imposed over its support for rebels in Ukraine.

    The United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia that were mild at first but have been tightened sharply since the airliner was brought down, now targeting Russia’s defence, oil and financial sectors.”

  63. J-D
    August 7th, 2014 at 18:26 | #63

    @John Brookes

    You seem to be making the unreliable assumption that the historical context in which Jesus is supposed to have lived is the only relevant one, or at least the primary relevant one, for explaining the content of the New Testament texts, despite the fact that they were written in different contexts.

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