Monday Message Board

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.

63 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. @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).

  2. 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.

  3. @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.

  4. 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.

  5. @ 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.

  6. 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.

  7. @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’.

  8. @sunshine

    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.

  9. @J-D

    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?

  10. 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.”

  11. @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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