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Monday Message Board

November 18th, 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. Geoff Andrews
    November 18th, 2014 at 10:50 | #1

    A couple of questions from a curious non-economist:
    1. Apparently, the demand for electricity has fallen, presumably because of the proliferation of domestic solar panels. Why then has the price gone up, defying the law of supply and demand?
    2. What would be the difference in capital investment to build a coal fired power station and a renewable energy system capable of generating the same amount of electricity as the power station over, say, a 12 month period?
    3. Is there an economic reason why “direct action” and a “price on carbon” could not be implemented simultaneously, as my logic would suggest?
    4. Is there an economic theory that could guide a society with long term negative growth or even no growth when the population stabilises, as it inevitably must or are we destined to be an economic Mr Creosote?
    5. Is there any truth in the rumour that Labor has sacked its PR firm who are now advising ISIS with the same tactics?

  2. November 18th, 2014 at 11:02 | #2

    1. I’m led to believe it is perverse investment incentives resulting in overinvestment in poles and wires.
    3. Only because a price on carbon is better, so direct action will cost more for the same result (or no result, if you don’t have penalties for not delivering).
    4. There is a Nobel prize on offer if you can supply a no growth theory that does not clash with human nature. And you get 10 times the money if you can get the Murdoch press to support it.
    5. What, public beheadings?

  3. Tim Macknay
    November 18th, 2014 at 11:28 | #3

    I don’t know about economic theories of no-growth (although I do believe that there has been some investigaiton of the concept of a ‘steady-state economy’), but as an actual example of a no-growth society, I nominate Japan.

  4. Megan
    November 18th, 2014 at 11:58 | #4

    Naomi Klein has a new book This Changes Everything.

    From the introduction:

    So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house?

    I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets. That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when those elites were enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s.

    A different kind of climate movement would have tried to challenge the extreme ideology that was blocking so much sensible action, joining with other sectors to show how unfettered corporate power posed a grave threat to the habitability of the planet. Instead, large parts of the climate movement wasted precious decades attempting to make the square peg of the climate crisis fit into the round hole of deregulated capitalism, forever touting ways for the problem to be solved by the market itself. (though it was only years into this project that I discovered the depths of collusion between big polluters and Big Green).

    And it wasn’t just earnest, but misplaced, good intentions on the part of those pushing the ‘market’ solutions. There is a very virulent strain – especially in Australia with ALP supporters for example – of pro-market fundamentalists who shout down anyone questioning the idea that a ‘market’ scheme can achieve what is needed.

  5. November 18th, 2014 at 14:57 | #5

    @Geoff Andrews
    Geoff, the price of electricity has gone down, it’s just that what people are being charged for it hasn’t. Why are electricity distributors charging more? The short answer is because they can.
    And note that rooftop solar is only one reason why electricity consumption has gone down. The fall in consumption has been much greater than what is being generated by solar.

    2. Wind power cheaper than new coal capacity. Rooftop solar is cheaper than electricity supplied by the grid from any source.

    3. As mentioned, a carbon price is superior.

    4. I don’t really understand this one.

    5. The mother of Horus requires no paltry mortal PR.

  6. Donald Oats
    November 18th, 2014 at 20:10 | #6

    The wealthier and more prosperous we are told we have become, the less coin we (are told we) have for putting back into our most creative and curiousity-driven scientific endeavours, things that enrich society. The shrinkage of CSIRO is lamentable: for example, CSIRO no longer has a maths/stats/informatics departmental presence in South Australia, thanks to the most recent round of budget cuts. It is a great pity, for CSIRO invests significant effort into student outreach,^fn1 this taking place about the time many of them are contemplating careers and the necessary study to get there. Not much chance of doing an internship in mathematics, statistics, bioinformatics, etc here, if there isn’t even a departmental presence in SA!

    Honestly, is this even remotely sensible as a budget “repair” strategy for Australia? If we want to repair the budget, how about looking at politicians and their basic salaries, their work expense claims, their superannuation scheme, their manifestly inadequate number of sitting days, their corrupted party donation practices, and so on. Politicians should endure the same pay rise restrictions as all other public servants, should lose recreational leave as trade-off for keeping their jobs, and so on. Just like the public servants they so readily disparage. Grrr.

    fn1: Actually, CSIRO conducts significantly less outreach now, thanks to those budget cuts. A savage axe indeed, the one that swung through the education and outreach staff.

  7. November 18th, 2014 at 20:40 | #7

    This is a reply to PatrickB @39 on the Policy lessons from G20 thread. Patrick, if you see this, I wanted to support your call, and I went to the RN website, but I thought I had to know what was said in the program first, and I couldn’t bear to listen to it. Really sorry to wimp out. If there had been a transcript, I would have read it, but I couldn’t see one, and listening to it just seemed too much to bear.

    Just – the ABC – Amanda Vanstone – to begin with, let alone some program making excuses for violence against women – too much. I can argue with left wing men about sexism, because there are some basic rules, but listening to apologists for violence against women on Amanda Vanstone’s program is too much. It’s like the question JQ canvasses here, although he puts it much more politely – are right wingers stupid or bad (however you wish to read ‘bad’)? I think people like Amanda Vanstone and Malcolm Turnbull are not stupid, and not knowingly evil, they are just in a bubble – a bubble of, this suits me, I will do ok if I go along with this, and let’s not look at who gets hurt (probably closer to what JQ is saying than the ‘bad’ shorthand, really). What to do? At least if we don’t listen, they don’t get the numbers, but sometimes I despair.

  8. iain
    November 18th, 2014 at 21:02 | #8

    “What would be the difference in capital investment to build a coal fired power station and a renewable energy system capable of generating the same amount of electricity as the power station over, say, a 12 month period?”

    For a generally applicable case, comparable with an Australian utility sized coal power station (think 500-1000 MW+) – the answer is — no one really knows.

    Outside of hydro and geo hotspots, and one or two so-called renewable/environmental biomass plants, there really is no such thing proven and available that will always meet current demand curves for a whole year.

    There are theoretical possibilities, along with costings, but this also isn’t the same thing as a real proven example. I think AEMO was +30% cost, but the cynic would say it is an order of magnitude out and still unproven.

    There is also some discussion about realigning demand curves and of course the whole — “it’s cheaper already and SA was 100% for a few hours and those crazy engineers don’t understand economics and we really need to retrain the lot of them”.

  9. Geoff Andrews
    November 18th, 2014 at 22:07 | #9

    @Ronald Brak
    Thank you (and all the others, above) for your/their response/s to my bemused questions.
    I’m not arguing: just asking.
    1. If the price of electricity has gone down but we, the consumers, are being charged more and this price increase appears to be using as a stick to beat Labor, do we have the Opposition we deserve?
    2. If all (or most) of renewable power sources are cheaper than coal as you assert, where are the screams of outrages from Labor or the renewable industry or do they (Labor, et al) know something that you & I don’t.
    3. Surely it doesn’t matter which of the two systems is cheaper. If they are both tending in the same direction, they are not incompatible and one may, in the long run, prove to be only slightly more successful than the other at reducing greenhouse gases. Both may be able to contribute. The development of more than one computer operating systems has not held back computer technology.
    4. At some time in the future, let’s say 2060 when the world population has doubled but finally peaked at 14 billion; at the E20 conference (E=economists) held in balmy Mawson, Antarctica, the meeting finally has to admit that there is nothing that they can advise their respective governments to do because all economic theory thus far has been based on the certainty of population growth or even cleverer, growing FASTER than the population growth.

  10. Geoff Andrews
    November 18th, 2014 at 22:21 | #10

    continuing from #8…..
    So, in 2014 some professions can land a scientific experiment on a rock a couple of kilometres in diameter 500,000,000 km away travelling at 30,000kph but economists are still scratching their head about a question that should have been engaging them for 60 years?

  11. Geoff Andrews
    November 18th, 2014 at 22:49 | #11

    Thank you for your response.
    I find it difficult to believe that it would not be a standard accounting exercise to calculate over a 30 year life of a coal fired power station:
    1. the interest paid on the initial investment, total maintenance, labour costs, decommissioning costs and
    2. the total power generated in that period.

    The dividend is the true wholesale cost of a unit of coal generated electricity.
    I was interested in the the result of the same accounting applied to a large renewable generator

  12. November 18th, 2014 at 23:46 | #12

    @Geoff Andrews
    1. Geoff, the way things are organised here with regards to electricity is bad. It would be nice if they could be improved. Experience shows that privatisation results in badness. It would be best if all political parties avoided privatisaton. Unfortunately they don’t.

    2. If you wanted to build a new coal power plant it would cost more than building wind and/or rooftop capacity that generates the same amount of electricity. So no one will build a new coal power plant in Australia. And no one is interested in building a new coal power plant in Australia because we have massive generating overcapacity and low wholesale electricity prices.

    3. When the government delibrately chooses a more expensive option they are wasting your money. Or looking at it another way, they are failing to abate as much emissions as they could for that amount of money. I’d prefer they didn’t do that.

    4. I’ve never heard of an economic theory that is based on population growth. Certainly lot of people have investigated population growth and modeled it in various ways, but I don’t know of any economic theories that are based on population growth. But what would I know? I’m no economist.

    PS: Bet you 20 cents peak world population is only about nine billion.

  13. iain
    November 19th, 2014 at 06:23 | #13

    @Geoff Andrews

    “I was interested in the the result of the same accounting applied to a large renewable generator”.

    There is no agreed result. Your use of the term “large renewable generator” as an equivalent to a coal power station is just not something that exists in reality for a generally applicable case (outside of hydro etc). Take your pick at estimates like AEMO and factor by 1 or 2 orders of magnitude – the answer, at present, is “not economic enough to compete with fossil fuel subsidies”.

    @Ronald – solar energy is not something you can relate to coal fire electricity energy, in any meaningful way, at present. Solar (as a replacement for fossil fuel electricity generation uses) is mainly useful for low quality energy uses such as solar hot water for domestic use or peak lopping afternoon electricity with pv. If, and when, temperature quality issues with solar concentrate thermal become effectively equivalent with fossil fuels, or battery technology improves to assist low EROEI pv, it will be a different discussion. But better to think of solar as a resource to assist other things like; wind, tide, geo etc. The sooner people come to this conclusion the better. The biggest issue is literacy around the measurement unit Joule, which is primarily a temperature measurement to a specific energy use case. Applying it generally – especially to energy quality issues – will give you results wildly inconsistent with reality. Have fun shooting the messenger.

  14. November 19th, 2014 at 06:52 | #14

    Some interesting thoughts over at Our Finite World about pitfalls in renewable energy (http://ourfiniteworld.com/2014/11/18/eight-pitfalls-in-evaluating-green-energy-solutions/)

  15. Ikonoclast
    November 19th, 2014 at 07:29 | #15

    @Ronald Brak

    ” Experience shows that privatisation results in badness.”

    This is often true but not always true. It is most often true when a natural monopoly is privatised. Networks are a good example: roads, railways, power transmission, water systems and so on. It is also true when returns on an investment have a long time frame and there are social as well as financial benefits. In this category, health, welfare and education are good examples.

    On the other hand, prices of home power systems (solar plus inverter plus grid connection and/or battery back-up) are getting to the point where it makes sense to privately generate power. I mean as opposed to large centralised corporate or state generators.

    There are cases where a passive, distributed collection system exceeds the efficiency of centralised production. Our water is collected by a passive, distributed collection system. The collection system in this case is the land itself. Rain falls on the land, runs to and in the rivers and is collected in dams. In a like manner, solar rays fall everywhere, collectors (solar PV panels) are now cheap as chips and can be put up anywhere. And if we can afford to build dams to collect the rainwater then by extension it seems likely that we can afford to put up heat storages to store the energy for overnight. After all, sunlight in Australia is much more plentiful and dependable than rain.

  16. Ikonoclast
    November 19th, 2014 at 10:02 | #16


    Gail the Actuary has strong prior beliefs that renewable energy will never work in the modern world. Of course, renewable energy did work for most of human history at least up until about 1500 AD or 1600 AD.

    It is difficult to count all embedded energy in energy generation and in other production. If the stringent and extensive energy acccounting applied to renewable energy by Gail’s quoted energy experts was also applied to fossil fuels, I think now in the modern world we would likewise find a low energy profit. This is due to the depletion of the best resources first. We are now entering an economic phase where gathering energy will (again) become a bigger part of the economy. Therfore less of the economy will be able to be devoted to excess production for excess consumption (which is how our economy has worked in the oil age).

    Provided we haven’t damaged the environment too much (a doubtful issue perhaps), we could at least support again say an 1100 AD lifestyle and a population of 0.3 billion. This is allowing for some very considerable environmental damage. If renewable energy proves fully viable we can perhaps run a modern world with say 3 billion people in the long run (allowing for a lot of long run damage which is already baked into the cake.) The reality is likely to lie between these levels. So a possibly medieval world again up to a decent modern world of 3 billion by say 2100 seems to be the possibility range to me. This is very speculative of course.

  17. November 19th, 2014 at 10:08 | #17

    Ianin, rooftop solar is the cheapest source of electricity available to Australian households and small businesses. It often supplies over a quarter of total electricity use around noon in South Australia.

    With regard to utility scale generating capacity, wind power is not the same as coal power, but the electricity it produces is of similar value on the wholesale market. And so new wind capacity will be built in Australia in preference to new coal capacity as it costs less.

  18. Paul Norton
    November 19th, 2014 at 10:51 | #18

    Tim Macknay @3, Japan, or Poland in the later years of Stalinism, aren’t examples of no-growth economies. They are/were examples of growth economies that aren’t/weren’t working.

  19. Donald Oats
    November 19th, 2014 at 11:40 | #19

    It has only been about 250 years in which humanity has had access to energy beyond human and animal labour, with a bit of wind energy for sail ships to move about. Prior to then, we coped well enough for most things, the old Roman cities were pretty good for the citizens for the most part (for example).

    It is an interesting question as to what sustainable with respect to our population for a given technological age. In one sense, there is no carrying capacity of relevance: historically, humans degrade their environment and cause species extinction. For a truly sustainable population, we would need to ensure that we stop degradation of the environment, and we stop causing species extinction, at least at the top end of the food chain. Once the big wild animals are gone, there is no getting them back.

    If, on the other hand, we accept species extinction—large and small—of non-domesticated animals and plants, then the carrying capacity is that much larger; bit of a shame to only have pictures of tigers, lions, gazelles, rhinoceros, hippos, elephants, some whale species, dozens of different species of fish, worms, butterflies, marsupials, etc, instead of being able to see them in their natural habitat. Oh well, must feed the economic machine…until we can’t. What happens then is unexplained by the pro-coal lobby, the PM Abbott or his minions. What good is a planet if we can’t mine the bitch?

  20. Tim Macknay
    November 19th, 2014 at 12:39 | #20

    @Paul Norton
    Yes, that is the way Japan is generally described. I’m suggesting that it might be insightful to look at Japan as an example of a post-growth economy, notwithstanding that it clearly isn’t that way intentionally.

  21. Nick
    November 19th, 2014 at 12:42 | #21

    Donald, don’t forget the: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watermill

    Much older, and much more reliable output than a windmill. There were 100,000s of them across Europe by 250 years ago.

    A windmill was a much fiddlier contraption requiring sail cloths etc, and which obviously only operated at the mercy of the wind. Their advantage however was they didn’t need to be built near water. You could put them anywhere.

  22. Hermit
    November 19th, 2014 at 14:19 | #22

    @Ronald Brak
    The ACT must be silly sausages paying $180 per Mwh from the Royalla solar farm on sunny days when you can get coal fired electricity almost any time for $40 or less per Mwh.

  23. Ikonoclast
    November 19th, 2014 at 14:21 | #23

    @Donald Oats

    Note quite right;

    “As early as the 13th century, coal pits were mined and coal energy was used specifically for the forcing and smelting of metals. In the 1600’s, England experienced an energy crisis due to a shortage of wood and began using coal as a substitute fuel source for domestic purposes. Even in the 1700’s, wood was the major fuel source in colonial America.

    Steam power was developed in the 1600’s in conjunction with coal mining to help pump water out of the mines. … The first commercially successful steam engine was invented by Thomas Savery (1650-1715), an English military engineer. In 1712, this engine was refined by Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729), another Englishman. The Newcomen engine was widely used in Britain and Europe throughout the eighteenth century, but had very low energy efficiency.” – Carnegie Mellon, History of the Energy System.

    So, to go without all modern energy sources and fossil sources and wood (since many great forests are gone) would put us back in the middle ages.

  24. Ivor
    November 19th, 2014 at 15:09 | #24

    John Brookes :

    4. There is a Nobel prize on offer if you can supply a no growth theory that does not clash with human nature. And you get 10 times the money if you can get the Murdoch press to support it.

    I nominate Robinson Crusoe.

  25. Donald Oats
    November 19th, 2014 at 16:15 | #25

    Thanks Nick and Ikonoclast for correcting me: self-facepalm at my own laziness in not looking a few things up first. Watermills were certainly in widespread use in some places, as were windmills.

    The comment about a shortage of wood being a driver for using coal as a fuel for domestic use is intriguing; I hadn’t realised that wood was in such low supply that long ago. Wow.

  26. Nick
    November 19th, 2014 at 16:34 | #26

    If I remember rightly, the Romans suffered wood shortages in the Mediterranean much longer ago than that. I think it was actually a big contributor to the downfall of the empire.

    Remember as well the machine age really got moving after the plague years in the 14C. In short, there wasn’t enough manpower left. Hence the appeal of machines to do the work instead.

  27. jungney
    November 19th, 2014 at 17:28 | #27

    @Donald Oats
    The rolling barrenness of Greenland derives from clearing by Vikings. The ‘natural’ heaths of Ireland and Scotland resulted from English clearing forest for smelting. Nature has a history, most often of being shaped by human activity and then being accepted in later ages as ‘natural’ The treelessness of the Mediterranean basin, as Nick says, is an artefact of empire.

  28. Fran Barlow
    November 19th, 2014 at 18:38 | #28


    There’s an echo of that sentiment in the Lord of the Rings movie in which the evil wizard is clearing the forests to suck out their life and build his power over the humans and other creatures.

    It’s a compelling metaphor, its sentimentality notwithstanding.

  29. jungney
    November 19th, 2014 at 19:28 | #29

    @Fran Barlow
    Absolutely. I read the book as a young teenager while making a series of long bushwalks across and around about Barrington and Gloucester Tops National parks. One of the distinctive features of the alpine area are the moss dripping, ancient Antarctic Beech forests interspersed by open alpine swamp and meadows. So, the book informed my politics in ways that Tolkein would not have imagined because the yank’s spraying of Vietnam provided my most enduring memory of the defoliation was footage of the spraying; the spraying images came to symbolise the war.

    It occurred to me that there might be something wrong with western culture 🙂

  30. jungney
    November 19th, 2014 at 19:31 | #30

    Oh dear heavens

    the yank’s spraying of Vietnam provided my most enduring memory of the defoliation was footage of the spraying;

    should read, I don’t know why I keep employing these fingers:

    “So, the book informed my politics in ways that Tolkein would not have imagined because the US was defliating Vietnam and it was a nightly event on the teev”

    Pardon me.

  31. Ikonoclast
    November 19th, 2014 at 19:51 | #31

    @Fran Barlow

    The hobbits had “a love of all things that grow”. Saruman had a “mind of metal and wheels”. It’s a consistent theme of Tolkien’s middlebrow and semi-flawed masterpiece that it is better to live in harmony with the natural world and keep it green. Isengard becomes a mini-Mordor when Saruman rips down its trees and later moves onto desecrating the margins of Fangorn. Mordor itself, in its north-west regions, is one vast slag heap.

    Tolkien also puts forward the notion that there are many forms of life that live according to their own ways independently of man and that these forms are important too. The world loses something when these forms of life pass or crumble like the great forests of former ages and all their denizens. It does have a lot of applicability to the modern world. Tolkein preferred “feigned history” with its general “applicability” giving the reader freedom to interpret. He preferred this to allegory with its tight one-to-one correlations which are imposed by the author on the reader.

  32. plaasmatron
    November 19th, 2014 at 19:59 | #32

    Anatolia was heavily forested 3000 years ago. So was the Iberian peninsula until the (re)discovery of the Americas. (interesting review in the article “Historical and recent changes in the Spanish forests: A socio-economic process”).

    I wonder what Australia will look like in 100 years. At our family property near Orange, NSW, there are only two self-germinated eucalypts on 10 hectares of excellent volcanic soil. Trying to establish new trees is an uphill battle, with drought, beetles and rabbits taking their toll, and almost impossible to imagine being self-sufficient for heating purposes within the next 25 years.

    Many advances in windmill technology came from Holland pumping their wetlands dry after 1400.

  33. November 19th, 2014 at 22:33 | #33

    Hermit, I think they were silly not to install the solar capacity on rooftops which delivers electricity to the consumer at a lower cost than utility scale generating capacity including paid off coal plants. However, I believe they were motivated by a desire to kill fewer babies and I can’t fault that. I’m just glad that no one would ever suggest that the costs of the ACT Royalla solar farm are typical of the cost of solar in Australia because that would be dishonest.

  34. Donald Oats
    November 20th, 2014 at 00:37 | #34

    Trees are over-rated. What use are they, honestly? In a paddock they just get in the road, and along my nice asphalt city lane the trees drop leaves and that brings out the dreaded council leafblower man. And people use them for shade and congregate, making the place look untidy. Birds alight on them and twitter (or is it “tweet”?) first thing in the morning, little puff-balls of phosphate expelling machines that they are. Not to mention that eerie sound they emit whenever the wind is up. Yep, feral trees are a menace.

    Which in no particular way brings me to FDOTM’s wind turbine enquiry cartoon, a must see.

  35. Fran Barlow
    November 20th, 2014 at 05:18 | #35

    You might find this interesting Ronald

  36. Hermit
    November 20th, 2014 at 06:14 | #36

    @Ronald Brak
    Perhaps the 83,000 panels at Royalla should have been divvied up and put on the roofs of ACT and Queanbeyan battlers under some pay-later arrangement. Even without a RET wind and solar now have some natural advantages. With a rising gas price wind power saves running high opex gas plant at higher capacity. For solar at the users premises it partly displaces buying grid electricity at retail rates i.e. it eliminates the middle man. Royalla reintroduces the middle man.

  37. Nick
    November 20th, 2014 at 09:37 | #37

    Interesting, plaasmatron. I didn’t know that about Holland.


    The name Kinderdijk is Dutch for “Children dike”. In 1421, during the Saint Elizabeth flood of 1421, the Grote Hollandse Waard flooded, but the Alblasserwaard polder stayed unflooded. It is said that when the terrible storm had subsided, someone went on to the dike between these two areas, to see what could be saved. In the distance, he saw a wooden cradle floating on the waters. As it came nearer, some movement was detected. A cat was seen in the cradle trying to keep it in balance by jumping back and forth so that no water could get into it. As the cradle eventually came close enough to the dike for a bystander to pick up the cradle, he saw that a baby was quietly sleeping inside it, nice and dry. The cat had kept the cradle balanced and afloat. This folktale and legend has been published as “The Cat and the Cradle” in English.

    The things you learn 🙂

  38. sunshine
    November 20th, 2014 at 11:01 | #38

    A (presumed) Christian was arrested for threats to the life of Dennis Napthine a few days ago .Had he been a Muslim it wold have been a week of front page news about terror plots.

    Just a reminder -the often said ‘ plots to blow up the MCG’ were not substantiated by the court. There was no specific plot or means to carry it out. People did go to jail tho.

    Re: Earths carrying capacity and Humanities impact on the world. Biologically we are hunter gatherers -its only been the last few tiny moments of our evolution when all the other stuff happened. H G life was not perfect -they wiped out mega fauna, changed ecosystems and ,like us, had some brutal customs .However there is lots of evidence that they were physically and mentally healthier than we are now. In many ways it was the agricultural revolution when it started going wrong for us .Suddenly we could sustain much larger populations – of sicker individuals. There was no turning back.

  39. November 20th, 2014 at 11:21 | #39

    @Fran Barlow
    Thanks Fran, that was interesting. It is one more example of those involved in utility scale generation attacking point of use solar because they don’t like the competition. We’re lucky in Australia that rooftop solar got as far as it did before too many knives were drawn. And we’re unlikely to see much more utility scale solar in Australia once the current, small by by world standards, projects that are underway are completed thanks to rooftop solar lowering electricity prices during the day. Adelaide is completely overcast at the moment but rooftop solar is probably still supplying 8% or more of total electricity use here at the moment.

  40. November 20th, 2014 at 11:25 | #40

    Hermit, however it was done, it certainly would have made more sense economically to put the PV capacity on roofs.

  41. Hermit
    November 20th, 2014 at 11:46 | #41

    Select SA on this website http://empowerme.org.au/market.html#
    Wind, gas and brown coal are currently supplying power in roughly equal proportions. However when Moomba gas goes into Gladstone Qld LNG mid 2015 I would expect more imports of brown coal power from Victoria.

    Why don’t they build a nuclear plant to replace all coal and some gas? After all SA not only had atom bomb tests in the 1960s but they also have a third of the world’s easily mined uranium. The N-build project might also deflect SA’s submarine and car manufacturing woes.

  42. November 20th, 2014 at 12:48 | #42

    That’s an interesting link you provided, Hermit. How do they determine demand? They have it at over 2,000 megawatts in South Australia at the moment. And they have 6:30 as minimum demand, the off peak hot water spike isn’t visible and I’m afraid it doesn’t really make sense at all.

    The economic reason why South Australia does not built a nuclear power plant is because it is more expensive than other methods of generating electricity, including gas. Also note that South Australia spends a great deal of time burning very little gas on account of how it is expensive. And I don’t see how an increase in electricity prices that would result from nuclear power would help ship or car manufacturing. Rather, South Australia’s wind and rooftop solar capacity has been quite effective at lowering wholesale prices and so have probably reduced the cost of electricity for large industrial users in the state. (It is not uncommon for contracts to large industrial users of electricity to be tied to spot prices, although I am not aware of the details for South Australia.)

  43. November 20th, 2014 at 12:52 | #43

    @Ronald Brak
    Sorry, the hot water spike is visible, but doesn’t seem large enough.

  44. November 20th, 2014 at 12:58 | #44

    @Ronald Brak
    Do they really think South Australia is burning diesel in a peak power plant on a windy 26 degree day? How bizarre.

  45. Donald Oats
    November 20th, 2014 at 13:08 | #45

    Malcolm Turnbull has been out and about, defending PM Abbott’s pledge of no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to SBS: the defence is that Turnbull and Hockey had been stating their would be efficiency and productivity savings sought, and that they were saying these things in the lead up to the election. So far, I have not heard a TV journalist confront Malcolm Turnbull by pointing out that PM Abbott’s pledge was an unequivocal statement made after Hockey and Turnbull’s statements, and that as the opposition leader at the time, Tony Abbott’s statements should obviously trump what had gone before. I mean, he made the pledges on national TV the day before the bloody election! Malcolm Turnbull has disgraced himself by expecting us to buy into some mythical alternate reality in which just because someone says something and does the exact opposite, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Yeah, right, and I’m a billionaire because I believe I am…nup, reality doesn’t work that way, Malcolm.

    As far as I’m concerned, when even Malcolm Turnbull is willing to take the piss out of us mug voters on something as significant as these cuts, then this government is illegitimate and does not deserve to stay in power. None of them seem to feel the need for some measure of honesty with us: if people enjoy the principle of democracy, then surely this intractable dishonesty is as vicious an insult to that principle as you can get. Where are the protest marches?

  46. November 20th, 2014 at 13:35 | #46

    I think it was Malcolm who said that any organisation that couldn’t absorb a 5% budget cut wasn’t worth its salt. Lets start with the Australian parliament. I’m pretty sure we could cut their budget by 5% and it would be a lot less noticeable than cuts to Aunty.

  47. Hermit
    November 20th, 2014 at 13:58 | #47

    @Ronald Brak
    BREE thinks the levelised cost of large nuclear and combined cycle gas will be about the same after 2020. See their AETA publication which has various assumptions about gas prices, carbon tax, renewable energy certificates and so on. These assumptions are all rubbery.

    I suspect SA is finished as a manufacturing centre unless Canberra sends business their way regardless of cost. Up to 13,000 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be lost when Holden up stumps. There’s thousands more at the Australian Submarine Corporation unsure of their fate. I suggest SA get into the nuclear fuel cycle in big way not only expanding the current uranium mining but also enrichment and nuclear power generation for local use and interstate export. It’s their best shot.

  48. November 20th, 2014 at 14:32 | #48

    Hermit, do you have any idea where the empowerme site you linked to got their information from, because it certainly appears to have been made by crazy people.

  49. Fran Barlow
    November 20th, 2014 at 14:32 | #49

    @John Brookes

    So is an organisation that ‘absorbs’ a cut of 5% in 2015 still worth its salt a year later? Surely if the maxim is sound then the answer must be yes. How many years will it remain sound? Presumably, indefinitely.

    So 25 years from now, the ABC will function just as well on what I spend on groceries each year?

    You know it makes sense.

  50. Larry
    November 20th, 2014 at 14:42 | #50

    me -> 8======D~~~~ O: <- John

  51. Hermit
    November 20th, 2014 at 17:28 | #51

    @Ronald Brak
    Dunno who they are but they obviously have continuous links to NEM and others. I presume they use smoothing algorithms to get rid of micro spikes and dips. We’ll have to keep shooting the messengers until the right one comes along.

  52. November 20th, 2014 at 18:10 | #52

    Hermit, actual grid demand according to the NEM can be found here:


    As you can see it is quite different from the empowerme site, or perhaps you can’t see as the empowerme site doesn’t appear to be working at the moment. So which one do you suggest we shoot? The AEMO or the empowerme site?

  53. Megan
    November 20th, 2014 at 22:25 | #53

    Thanks to the mysteries of eternal moderation this may be triple posting!

    In the Mackay District Court yesterday two (white) guys were released on parole after pleading guilty to dr-gs charges and breaking into a milit*ry property and stealing six g*ns and ammunition. If they were brown……?

    Or the (white) man from Derrinallum, Glenn Sanders, who bl^w up his house this April injuring 2 cops and obliterating himself. The news articles at the time casually mention that he often wandered around town with expl*sives strapped to himself. Like you do. Anyone remember the hysteria surrounding that story?

    The double-standards are so obvious that one wonders whether we’ve just accepted them.

  54. Megan
    November 20th, 2014 at 22:31 | #54

    Thought so.

    I couldn’t be bothered trying to work out what words sent the last 3 comments to eternal moderation. Does Jacques work for the NSA?

  55. Fran Barlow
    November 20th, 2014 at 22:41 | #55


    If you reply to someone with a hyperlink that’s one link. A second link gets it rejected as [email protected]

    Words like [email protected] and [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] trigger the [email protected] trap. A while backI discovered that the name Al|ce also did, which is weird. Strings count so if you said [email protected] then the post goes into moderation.


  56. Megan
    November 21st, 2014 at 00:31 | #56

    Thanks Fran.

    I know you’ve worked out a lot of the ‘cheats’ and catchwords, but this has me stuffed.

    I was trying to “reply” to ‘Sunshine’ at #38 – specifically the first half of the comment about the differential treatment of people who are alleged to have done things, according to who they appear to be rather than the thing they are alleged to have done.

    I made reference to a matter – on the public record and reported in the establishment media – in court yesterday in Mackay involving things that go bang and noting the ethnicity (or lack thereof, if you are a shock jock). Originally I tried to also make reference to an event in rural Victoria from April this year involving a man named Glenn Sanders.

    My third attempt didn’t even include the usual – courteous – ‘reply’ thing, and none of my attempts included any links. I tried to ‘dumb’ it down and include so much stuffing in place of vowels that the comment was barely decipherable. But still they failed.

    As I said, I can’t work out what the bad words were. I can only imagine that the thoughts were, what is the word Orwell would use….?

  57. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2014 at 07:45 | #57


    I really think JQ needs to consider a better hosting system. That’s if he wants this blog to keep working. Also, a bit more focus back on economics would be interesting IMO. For example, is economic growth failing around the world? Where is it failing? Where is it not failing? Why? What is going on with all this? Like to hear JQ’s theories.

  58. Fran Barlow
    November 21st, 2014 at 12:31 | #58


    Eventually they do get through so I should be able to see the naughty word.

    Maybe I should add ‘gun’ to it?

  59. Fran Barlow
    November 21st, 2014 at 12:32 | #59

    Nope, that was fine. I can’t wait to see what it was.

  60. John Quiggin
    November 21st, 2014 at 13:18 | #60

    Most of these are outside my control. I have removed “Alice” from the automoderation list.

  61. Fran Barlow
    November 21st, 2014 at 13:31 | #61

    People aware of my posting history here will recall that unlike most Greens, I’m not opposed in principle to nuclear power. That remains my position. I favour a technology-neutral ‘best-fit’ suite of options for each jurisdiction attempting the urgent task of decarbonisation. Where nuclear plants already exist, providing they are in good order and fail-safe then I am for leaving them be. My primary interest is in rapid decarbonisation or pre-emptive carbon neutral technology. I respect those who prefer ‘renewables’ and provided we can get to 100% decarbonisation rapidly by this route I support it.

    I read though last night the latest on The EDF Hinckley proposal in Somerset. Since 2007 the likely time at which it would deliver its first power has been everything from 12 years to about 7 years, with each new review pushing back the date of the start. At one point, DECC proposed it starting as early as 2017. That was pushed back year on year and as I write these lines, they are saying 2023.

    Imagine if someone keen on decarbonisation in 2007 had fancied supporting nuclear power in Britain, and had pencilled in 2017 as a start date. Jt’s not that hard to do because I was one such. Britain had an existing regulatory framework and engineering expertise in the area. There is no significant opposition to nuclear power. I fancied it being up and running well before that at the time. The head of EDF spoke of people cooking their Christmas dinners on its output in 2017.

    Not only that, but the cost has blown out from about $1.10 per watt to about $8 per watt in this time. An inquiry is now in place to see if 2023 is realistic.

    Now I never dismissed RE as some of the nuclear enthusiasts do, but had I done so, it wound have been embarrassing. During those years, Britain built massive quantities of wind on budget and on time. Call them intermittent, but they are abating emissions right now and fir at least nine years before Hinkley comes online — at 40% of the Hinckley cost (availability adjusted assuming Hinkley has no further overruns).

    Transfer that to here and you can see why nuclear power proposals would need to answer some pretty stiff questions.

  62. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2014 at 13:50 | #62

    @Fran Barlow

    Nuclear power is physically and economically self-limiting and those limits are operative now. The nuclear fission plant fleet is about as big as it will ever get. Indeed, it will reduce slowly over time. Nuclear fission power is not viable without massive subsdies and not sustainable due to peak uranium which is about now. Gen IV reactors if they ever happened in significant numbers (highly unlikely) would be at least 20 to 30 years too late to do anything about our energy requirements or GHG abatement. Fission power opponents really don’t have to worry. Fission power will wither away naturally now.

  63. Hermit
    November 21st, 2014 at 15:32 | #63

    Mantras must an effective way of drowning out facts.
    1) I already gave you a link to WNA News about 60 reactors under construction worldwide
    2) our own BREE thinks nuclear power will cost the same as gas fired in a few years
    3) despite peak uranium some resource rich miners say demand is currently too low.

  64. Fran Barlow
    November 21st, 2014 at 16:36 | #64


    I’m not convinced about ‘peak uranium’. Certainly it’s hard to imagine nuclear plants being constrained by want of uranium. As things stand, the price for U is low and if new nuclear builds stagnate, as you suggest, then the reserves will be adequate.

    If the price of uranium is to climb it will only because new nuclear builds do indeed burgeon, but the cost if the fuel forms such a low proportion of the cost of the electricity that even if it were ten times as expensive, it would make little difference to the costs of running the plant. Interest rate variations are a bigger factor than fuel costs.

    Nuclear plants don’t need a lot of uranium so pressure on supply or price seems unlikely in any event, at least on the timeline of the next 30 years.

    And self-evidently, if there were pressure on supply and the price did burgeon then fuel fabrication from once-used fuel, or Th232 would be done. That would only happen if you were wrong on the rate of new nuclear builds of course.

    These things aside, I do doubt that outside of China (possibly Russia who are reportedly bringing a BN800 fast reactor online in 2015) that new nuclear capacity will be more than a blip on the energy supply map between now and 2030. The build times are too long, and there is no certainty on capex either, so developers are going to find it hard, a decade out, to assess commercial viability. Essentially, short of guarantees by the state, projects won’t attract the capital necessary.

    That’s why I strongly favour ”renewables” on the basis that costs and build times are acceptable and predictable and in concert with demand management, energy efficiency, energy usage avoidance and culture change could get us where we need to be by 2025 — mostly decarbonised in stationary supply, and substantially decarbonised in transport.

  65. Hermit
    November 21st, 2014 at 17:35 | #65

    Many of the big coal fired baseload stations will need to be rebuilt between 2025 and 2035. It would be a massive turnaround to get from 2013’s 64% coal, 2.9% wind and 1.5% solar electricity to a mix that was predominantly low carbon. Some expect next year 2015 there will be more coal and less hydro and gas in the mix… a backwards step in carbon terms. The first of the US approved mini-nukes won’t be tested until 2023.
    Perhaps prefabrication and modular construction could accelerate build times for large units.

    I suggest there is an uncomfortable third possibility is that we have to keep the old stinkers like Hazelwood going for years longer. Compounding problems may be expensive gas, expensive imported oil and lack of real progress on large scale energy storage. Auto makers may not be able to get electric car price and performance down to fit the needs of average wage earners. Several improbable developments have to happen for all of this to go well.

  66. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2014 at 18:20 | #66

    Ah, the old Hermit is back. I was actually rather worried when you said something positive about renewable energy the other day. I thought you might have been unwell. 😉

  67. November 21st, 2014 at 20:48 | #67

    Fran, uranium production probably peaked around 1980 at 67,000 tonnes a year or so. So peak uranium was about 35 years ago. Electricity generated from nuclear power is down from its peak and new reactor builds are below the required replacement rate so they will only slow its decline, which will become quite rapid as the existing nuclear fleet is quite old.

  68. Fran Barlow
    November 21st, 2014 at 23:22 | #68

    @Ronald Brak

    Yes, but Ikono is using ‘peak uranium’ in a different sense — the way ‘peak oil’ is often used — suggesting that uranium scarcity will cruel interest in new plants.

    If he’s not saying that then what he has posted above is ambiguous.

  69. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 00:26 | #69

    @Fran Barlow

    Eventually they do get through so I should be able to see the naughty word.

    The third attempt (no “reply” and full of vowel replacement stuffing) got through at #3 above.

    The other two seem to have gone down the memory hole.

    When eternal moderation is acting silly, i.e. always, I can usually see my “bad” comments (on my own computer) with a heading along the lines of:

    your comment is awaiting moderation

    But when they’ve been assigned to the hole they disappear altogether and even on my screen it is as if they never existed. ‘Orwellian’ is not hyperbole in this context.

    I’m not positive that the wording on the comment that got through is the same as the first two failed attempts – in fact I’m sure it isn’t but not having kept a copy I can’t think of any significant difference apart from the stuffing and not using “reply”.

  70. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2014 at 05:50 | #70


    How annoying!

    FWIW you have my solidarity. I’ve found it frustrating. I do find the perverse ones interesting though. I wonder how they made the list … Why should [email protected] be tab00?

  71. Ikonoclast
    November 22nd, 2014 at 08:31 | #71

    I can’t decide if the person(s) who owned, designed and coded this blog host are very odd or very incompetent. I think it is probably both.

  72. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 09:04 | #72

    @Fran Barlow

    Thanks! I think [email protected] is too.

  73. Tim Macknay
    November 22nd, 2014 at 11:23 | #73

    [email protected], in addition to its other meanings, is the brand name of a muscle relaxant. I suspect it’s on the automod list because of pharma-spam, rather like [email protected]!sm, which contains the string c!al!s. I wonder if [email protected] also contains a string that happens to be a pharmaceutical name?

  74. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 12:12 | #74

    So I’d get eternally moderated for using a word such as “specialist”, which contains that string?

  75. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 12:13 | #75


    There must exist somewhere a list of bad words. Wouldn’t it be helpful to publish the list somewhere such as in ‘comment policy’.

  76. Tim Macknay
    November 22nd, 2014 at 12:47 | #76


  77. Tim Macknay
    November 22nd, 2014 at 12:48 | #77

    Interesting. That didn’t get automoderated. Maybe Prof Q sorted that particular one out.

  78. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2014 at 13:42 | #78

    Maybe he did sort out ‘socialism’. Has he fixed Leninism?

  79. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2014 at 13:43 | #79

    Cool … That one used to trip the filter at LP (same BlogMaster) all the time.

  80. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 14:17 | #80


  81. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 14:18 | #81

    Well, [email protected]@ still ends up in eternal moderation.

  82. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2014 at 14:44 | #82

    It was the use of that word that tipped me off to it. I identified it with a variant of a crudely iterated quasi boolean sort.

    I excluded the parts containing words that had never tripped moderation before and divided the remainder in half, posting that alone. If the post passed the spam trap, then I’d post the first half of the remainder. If it failed then I’d divide the first string in half and post the first half of that. Rinse and repeat until only one word remains.

    I eventually got down to [email protected]

  83. November 22nd, 2014 at 15:57 | #83

    Fran, yes, Ikonoclast is using peak uranium in a different sense than I am. But the marginal new nuclear power plant is not constrained by a lack of uranium. The retirement and/or failure of older reactors wil see to that. Uranium prices are not that high and one additonal plant is not going to have much effect on them. For example, when the dozen or so nuclear plants that are actually under constrution in China are completed, and the not the extra ones that are underway in imaginationland, if they decide to build one more reactor it is not going to be constrained by a lack of uranium. If they decide to build a million more, then yeah, they’re going to have to consider where they’re going to get their nuclear fuel from.

  84. Ikonoclast
    November 22nd, 2014 at 16:15 | #84

    @Ronald Brak

    I have posted a lot of links to data on uranium reserves. That was in various earlier threads. The gist of the peer reviewed scientific data is this;

    (a) The current fission reactor fleet will substantially deplete U reserves by 2050 plus or minus about 5 years;

    (b) This holds true whilst most fuel cycles are once-through and a few are twice through (the current situation); and

    (c) There is no realistic prospect of Gen IV reactors or multi-use fuel cycles in the next 30 years on a scale that would make any difference to these limitations.

    Yes, I get that the economics of fusion reactors are bad now. I am just adding the point that U will deplete also with just running the existing fleet and having a few more finish building while a few also retire. It’s a double-whammy.

    Prices of U are irrelevant in the sense that a final physical limit exists. Prices are relevant to the path to the final physical limit and are also relevant to possibly abandoning the fission path.

  85. Hermit
    November 22nd, 2014 at 16:35 | #85

    China is working on reactors, both molten salt and the heavy water type, that can use thorium, depleted uranium and reprocessed uranium fuel. Then there are the fast neutron or breeder type reactors such as Beloyarsk 4 in Russia. At some point the UK will have to decide what to do with its 120 tonnes of plutonium; current options include breeders, heavy water and diluting the plutonium to mixed oxide for conventional re-use. By the way there is a speck of a plutonium product in most smoke alarms perhaps just inches away.

    Since fuel cost is only a few percent of reactor opex (compared to ~50% for combined cycle gas) depending on type it should prove economical to get uranium from dilute sources, some suggest even seawater. We’ll either have 4th generation fission, fusion or economic collapse by the time we’d get that desperate.

    A refresher on the approximate numbers
    current world power use 17 TW = 14 fossil + 3 nonfossil
    mid century power use 25 TW = 5 fossil + 20 nonfossil.

  86. November 22nd, 2014 at 17:33 | #86

    Hermit, do you think the empowerme site might be including electricity exports by South Australia in its demand profile while the AMEO isn’t? This should be easy enough to check. We just have to wait until Victorian wholesale electricity prices are clearly lower than South Australian prices.

  87. November 22nd, 2014 at 19:26 | #87

    Ikonoclast, the deposit at Olympic dam alone could meet current uranium demand right now for around 40+ years. Since the nuclear fleet will be a shell of itself by 2050 Olympic dam could probably actually meeet the demand for uranium untill the end of the world. Of course whether or not the Olympic dam deposit is economical to mine depends upon the price of uranium and the associated copper. And the uranium price will stay high enough for someone somewhere to meet demand, whatever it turns out to be, unless you think the following situation is likely:

    HINKLEY C CHIEF ENGINEER: Finally! After 32 billion pounds and 16 years of construction we’ve finally turned on the reactors!

    HINKLEY C PURCHASING OFFICER: Madame! The cost of uranium has just risen from 0.3 pence a kilowatt-hour to 0.35 pence a kilowatt-hour!

    HINKLEY C CHIEF ENGINEER: Okay everyone! Shut it down! We can’t aford to run it any more! Get everything stowed for the decomissioning crew and then I’ll see you down the pub for one final pint.

  88. Megan
    November 22nd, 2014 at 21:19 | #88

    What about psychosomatic?automoderated

  89. Ikonoclast
    November 22nd, 2014 at 21:45 | #89

    @Ronald Brak

    Which peer reviewed scientific studies do you base your claim on?

    Check out the Gauardian article: The coming nuclear energy crunch.

    A study by Micheal Dittmar, based on an analysis of global deposit depletion profiles from past and present uranium mining, forecasts a global uranium mining peak of approximately 58 kilotonnes (kton) by 2015, declining gradually to 54 ktons by 2025, after which production would drop more steeply to at most 41 ktons around 2030. … a peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, which concludes:

    “This amount will not be sufficient to fuel the existing and planned nuclear power plants during the next 10–20 years. In fact, we find that it will be difficult to avoid supply shortages even under a slow 1%/ year worldwide nuclear energy phase-out scenario up to 2025. We thus suggest that a worldwide nuclear energy phase-out is in order.”

    Study author Dr. Michael Dittmar is a nuclear physicist at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

    Sorry, Ronald but I believe the specialist nuclear physicist working is his metier not you on matters of uranium supply. Heaven knows where you pulled the Olympic Dam claim from… probably from their managerialist propaganda.

  90. Tim Macknay
    November 22nd, 2014 at 23:30 | #90


    We’ll either have 4th generation fission, fusion or economic collapse by the time we’d get that desperate.

    Or maybe even renewables with storage. Who knows? 😉

  91. November 22nd, 2014 at 23:45 | #91

    WESTERN MINING 1973: We have discovered a small deposit of uranium and copper. Enough for one large mine that will beome one of the largest mines in Australia, but not large enough for any expansion beyond that.

    BHP 1973: Lie and say it is a huge deposit!

    WESTERN MINING 1973: Why would we do that?

    BHP 1973: In the future we will become partners on the venture and we will continue to lie about how much uranium there is! It will encourage countries to build nuclear reactors and then we will make a fortune selling uranium to them! Uranium that we don’t have!

    WESTERN MINING 1973: That is brilliant! But what about the geologists who know the truth?

    BHP 1973: Let them know their jobs depend on toeing the company line.

    WESTERN MINING 1973: But most of them will have retired by 2014.

    BHP 1973: I’m sure they will have forgotten all about it by then. Nothing can stop our evil plan that makes no sense!

    WESTERN MINING 1973: But won’t we be expected to eventually expand our operations if we say the deposit is huge?

    BHP 1973: Don’t worry, we’ll talk big about expanding our operations, but then we’ll engineer a global financial crisis in say 2008 to give us an excuse not to.

    WESTERN MINING 1973: Do you promise not to let anything slip when we buy you out in 20 years time?

    BHP 1973: Not if you won’t squeal when we take over your whole company in 2003!

    WESTERN MINING 1973: It’s a deal!

  92. November 23rd, 2014 at 00:26 | #92

    Michael Dittmar stated that world uranium production in 2009 would only be 44,000 tonnes. Brian Wang disagreed and so Dittmar made a bet with him that it would be under 47,383 tonnes. It was actually 50,572 tonnes. He lost.

  93. Ikonoclast
    November 23rd, 2014 at 07:04 | #93

    @Ronald Brak

    I haven’t seen any references to peer reviewed scientific data and analyses from you yet.

    According to the partisan and pro-nuclear World Nuclear Assosciation uranium production has risen from 36,036 tonnes to 58,394 tonnes in 2012. (I assume they mean “tonnes” although nowhere on the table does it state the unit of measurement. That’s very poor in itself.)

    However, what such a table VERY DISHONESTLY HIDES is that peak uranium mining production occurred in 1978-79 at about 66,000 tonnes. This has never been exceeded since. With a great effort and many new suppliers (Kazakstan etc.) this past peak MIGHT be briefly exceeded again, bringing peak uranium forward to about 2015-20. But as of writing peak uranium occurred 35 years ago.

    The graph I got this from has a WNA stamp on it but I cannot find it on the WNA site now. I have seen other similar graphs.

    Dittmar’s study stated “Using this model for all larger existing and planned uranium mines up to 2030, a global uranium mining peak of at most 58±4 ktons around the year 2015 is obtained.” He is obviously referring to the new peak after the saddle between the 1979 peak and now. His predicted peak has not yet been falsified by 58,394 tonnes in 2012. I don’t have 2013 figures.

    The bet you quote is irrelevant. It’s a point-in-time bet not a trend bet. Production can “chatter” over individual years. The long term trend is what is important. Dittmar has rigorously examined world uranium reserve claims, their recoverability and has mathematically modelled the possibilities for the trend. It’s not a perfect prediction but it’s the most calculated and scientific prediction made on this topic that I know of as a layperson. You still haven’t stumped up a single study or source for your claims.

    We are on the same page re solar power. Whether nuclear power declines for reasons A, B or C or a combination thereof is admittedly a bit academic. However, I find that the inability to conceptualise limits and thus to deny them is very broad based extending even into the ” enlightended left” and among the otherwise scientifically literate. This inability to conceptualise real limits is almost universal among economists.

  94. Hermit
    November 23rd, 2014 at 07:32 | #94

    @ RB at this stage I’m assuming the empowerme.org.au site is largely accurate. A test for over or under accounting would be annual graphs of state power production that we can add up.

    @ TM I doubt that fast depreciating lithium batteries will store Gwh of electricity. It’s like needing to build something with bricks and only having marshmallows. Australia’s daily electricity demand is 249,000 Gwh/365 = 682 Gwh of which NSW pumped hydro can store ~5 Gwh I believe. If lithium batteries cost $150m per Gwh (Tesla’s objective) and we wanted to save a week’s worth of power (Germany’s objective) the required capex would be $716 bn. Then add the cost of a large overbuild of renewables then add 40% for electric transport. That’s why we’ll keep burning coal.

  95. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2014 at 08:15 | #95


    We don’t need a week’s worth of lithium battery power. We only need, perhaps, about 36 hours (which we’d do with pumped storage because other measures– demand management, V2G storage, and other conventional back up would be adequate to meet LOLP and even the conventional back-up would be used too infrequently to be a serious constraint on abatement.

    You mention the cost of EVs in demand, but of course these are also, directly and indirectly, a potential means for storage of excess output from all sources, including intermittents. Grid-connected vehicles and their demurred batteries sitting in storage could themselves be adequate to extend unused PV capacity to the 16.00 –> 21.00 time slot, and thus preclude the need for either more grandiose overbuild or extra-storage. Assuming people hope to trade this power with advantage, it’s in their interests not to be frivolous with how much of it they use personally. So while there can be no doubt that EVs will increase the call on the grid greatly, there will be substantial cost offsets. Let’s also keep in mind that each of these will be displacing demand for refined petroleum which is a cost ultimately on each vehicle user. If they are being economical, taking public transport and using their EV’s to trade with the grid, they are probably going to spend less on transport than now, proportionately.

    We could have our gas or coal plants at ‘black start’ for almost all of the 8760 hours per year, and wear the cost of maintaining them in readiness for a tiny fraction of the cost now and still be 99% decarbonised in stationary energy. We could then use a drawdown technology — like algae ponds, to such whatever emissions we couldn’t avoid right out of the atmosphere.

    That’s why we won’t necessarily have to keep burning high volumes of coal, or do harm from the trivial amounts we did burn.

    I do wonder why you insist on being so unnecessarily pessimistic about the options. Nobody pretends it will be easy or cheap, but it’s not impossible. The technology exists to do it and we can afford it, though we will need to reprioritise and rethink our connections with energy supply. The culture will need to change. Your ‘broken record’ on this sounds less like salutary caution or a desire for a hawkish decarbonisation stance (which as you’d know, I hold) than a rather maladaptive ‘we’re all doomed’ which only serves to diminish the will of others to press on in making decarbonisation their most important public policy priority.

    Please understand that if we get this done, it won’t be because we invent some new technology or radically improve an existing set of technologies, as helpful as those things are. It will be because the demand from working folk has become nearly ubiquitous, incessant and strident. Carping and negativity are far more serious threats right now than woolly optimism.

  96. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2014 at 08:19 | #96

    I assume that Murdoch’s photoshop of Lambie here is supposed to humiliate her


    Not sure it does. If I were Lambie, I’d frame this and stick it on the figurative mantelpiece. I might use it in my next election campaign.

    What’s not to like about being presented as … um … an action figure who doesn’t take crap?

    Normally you have to spend your own PR dollars to get publicity like that.

  97. November 23rd, 2014 at 08:35 | #97

    Hermit I agree with RB, the empowerme site seems rather strange. They provide very little information so it’s hard to know what the data means, but there are some obvious questions. For example, the so-called demand pattern seems to vary widely between states, with some having obvious troughs in the early hours of this morning, while others, like Victoria, have an apparent almost straight line of demand. Unless you think we’re all party animals who never go to sleep here, why would that be? Possibly it’s a graph of power generation rather than ‘demand’, which I would take to mean usage?

    Also the list of market participants doesn’t include any solar, from what I can see, but they show it in the graph (usually very small amount) So is that an estimate of roof top solar, or what?

    Also, Victoria, which has about 3 and a half times as many people as SA, is shown as having a demand six times as high as SA. Why would that be? A thought might be that roof top solar is suppressing apparent ‘demand’ in SA (which in turn would suggest that solar is not actually being fully measured in the graph, because it’s currently showing less than one MW of solar in SA)?

    I think there are too many unanswered questions with the site to take is as a good measure.

  98. Ikonoclast
    November 23rd, 2014 at 08:48 | #98

    @Fran Barlow

    I was prepared to cut Senator Lambie some slack earlier on. I even thought her tongue in cheek comment about how she liked her men was funny, good satire and a back-at-yer to all males objectifying women.

    Now though, power appears to have gone to her head. She is becoming quite erratic. Let me also say that power has gone to Tony Abbott’s head too and he has become extremely erratic. Actually, Tony was always extremely erratic and with a tendency to violence. His village idiot performance at the G20 was priceless in a hilariously cringeworthy way. I add the Abbott rider because I fear being flamed as a sexist as soon as I criticise any aspect of a female politician’s performance.

  99. November 23rd, 2014 at 08:56 | #99

    @Fran Barlow
    What do you think we will use for heating in the southern states, Fran? Gas isn’t ideal from an emissions POV, and is predicted to rise in price sharply. Wood burners have improved I believe, but are still not ideal from emissions or health POV. Solar just won’t do it in winter in Victoria – huge fan though I am of solar (from my 1.5kw panels I generate more than I need for nine months, but not in June -August, and I am a careful user of heating). I have heard about heat exchange technologies, but I assume they are very expensive, and also unsuitable for retro- fitting.

    Possibly wind might be the answer, but in Victoria that would necessitate a very large rapid investment in wind, to cope with the demand peaks.

    Of course I am only talking about household usage here. I realise that’s less than half of the usage (about a quarter is it?), but I guess I’m influenced in my thinking by my belief that we will have to ‘de grow’ in some ways (even though JQ doesn’t accept it). My sense is that if we have to, we can do without a lot of stuff produced outside of households, but we can’t do without some kind of heating, without serious health consequences especially for the vulnerable groups.

    Tony McMichael (RIP) thought that death rates in Victoria would actually decrease for a while with global warming, due to the reduced numbers of people dying in winter (though they would be overcompensated by heat related deaths in the not too far distant future). Similarly I guess a possible benefit of AGW for us in the southern states is that we won’t have to heat our homes so much in winter (but again, the way we’re going, that will be cancelled out by increasing use of AC in summer).

    Anyway I guess the possibility of increased investment in wind power is one more reason to hope for a change of government in Victoria this Saturday. I really hope in fact that we see not just a change of government, but several Greens elected and perhaps holding the balance of power in one or both houses. Which is why I am definitely going to vote this Saturday in my inner north electorate of Brunswick! Definitely people should vote!

  100. November 23rd, 2014 at 09:02 | #100

    Ikon, if it makes you feel better, the only time I’ve thought you were sexist was in your over-the-top criticism of Julia Gillard, and that was because (as I kept trying to tell you at the time), even if you disagreed with her, she is a decent person, and, the over-the- top criticisms you and others made of her were against your own best interests. All they were doing were increasing the chance of an Abbott victory.

    One day you will understand. I’ll probably be dead by then, but I can but hope.

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