Turning the corner

Obviously, climate policy in Australia is not going well. In the US, the Trump Administration is keen to reverse the progress made under Obama. Yet for the planet as a whole, the news hasn’t been better for a long time. And there is every reason to hope that Trump and Turnbull will fail on this, and on much else.

Two big pieces of good news this week

* For the third year in a row, global carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have remained nearly stable, despite continued economic growth.
* Large-scale cancellations in China and elsewhere have greatly reduced the number of proposed coal-fired power plants

A lot more needs to happen, but with the cost of renewables steadily falling and awareness of the health and climate costs spreading, there’s every reason to hope that the decarbonization of electricity supply will happen more rapidly than anyone expected. After that, the big challenge is to electrify transport. The technology is there, so this is mostly a matter of renewed political will.

As regards the politics, Trump’s failure on Obamacare suggests he will have a much tougher time reversing Obama’s climate policies than he expected; the same has been true for Abbott and Turnbull in Australia. Despite the policy shifts, coal-fired power plants keep closing and there is no likelihood of new ones. The only contribution made by Abbott and Turnbull has been to create enough uncertainty to choke investment in renewables, thereby reducing the security and coherence of the electricity supply system, already in a mess thanks to two decades of misconceived market reforms. Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro proposal, even if it’s only a thought bubble, totally undercuts the free-market and anti-renewables line he and his government have been pushing ever since his capitulation to the denialists as part of his deal to get the top job,

59 thoughts on “Turning the corner

  1. Smith :
    @Ken Fabian
    At what point does an e-bike become a motor bike for which one needs a license and to pass a test to get that licence?

    As Ken Fabian implies, it is a power-assisted bicycle (no licence needed) as long as
    1. Power is limited to 250W
    2. Power assist only while you pedal
    3. No power assist over 25 kph
    This is fine for functional cycling, including moderate touring, less so for fast recreational cycling.

  2. @Smith

    At what point does an e-bike become a motor bike for which one needs a license and to pass a test to get that licence?

    In Australia, an e-bike with a motor power greater than 250w is illegal to ride on a road. In order to be licensed as a moped or motorcycle and ridden on a road, an e-bike will need to meet the Australian Design Rules for the relevant vehicle category. Something like a mountain bike with a 1000w motor in its rear wheel won’t meet the Australian Design Rules, so in practice you need to jump from a 250w e-bike (legally a bicycle) to an electric scooter or motorbike. There isn’t anything street legal in between.

  3. @J-D
    My recommendation is to spend a few days on the island of Rottnest, off the coast of Western Australia. My 6yo daughter learned to ride a bike without falling over while on that island several weeks ago, after many months of falling over on the mainland.

  4. @GrueBleen
    I’m not going to invest the time to find out how the cheap Falklands War was financed, but IIRC no specially labeled patriotic bonds were issued.

    Besides, Whitehall had stopped issuing perpetual bonds by then. I’m not sure of the reasoning. One thing in favour of Consols is that you can’t have a crisis of confidence when bonds mature and have to be rolled over – this was a major problem for Greece and Italy recently. A crisis would need a loss of confidence in the government’s ability or will to extract the taxes needed to psy the interest. If that happens, you are in a systemic political crisis not a financial panic.

  5. @BilB
    Only just upgraded from 1.5 kW grid tied solar to 4.0 kW with 9.6 kWh of lead gel batteries, set to discharge to 50%. Lead gel on installer recommendation, with the expectation that there will be a lot better options by the time they are due for recycling.

    Right at this moment we are enjoying reliable electricity during a blackout – no grid supply since early this morning. Backup capability is a very pleasing feature.

    Two people, with solar hot water and, since we live in the bush, wood heating, means we don’t have high electricity usage. That heating may get changed to reverse cycle air conditioning but may need additional solar and storage to accommodate it, even with our own “demand management”; ie timing a significant portion of warming of the home when the sun is still shining. Or perhaps an underground piped heat pump.

    Is it economical? Time will tell; I don’t expect great cost savings at this point, but note that what we pay for power in Australia does not well reflect the real and full costs. I will not be greatly concerned even if it turns out we have paid a bit more for power by doing so, although it looks likely we will probably end up with modest savings compared to small solar, low FIT on the grid. If grid prices go much higher the savings will be assured.

    One pet irritation of mine is that comfortably prosperous Australians are encouraged to feel a sense of outrage at the prospect of any, even very modest, personal sacrifice for the sake of long term climate stability – like sacrificing anything at all for any anonymous present and future “others” is so unacceptable it borders on theft. ie the inverse of the more accurate interpretation, that, given climate change, our current generations are stealing from the future. This populist selfishness is yet one more bad outcome that should be chalked up to the LNP supported climate responsibility avoidance campaign.

    Climate science denial and obstructionism is a form of conspiracy that never ceases to keep on taking, depriving us of this precious and closing window of opportunity the timely advances in climate science have given us.

  6. Disappointed to read that the QLD govt is still leaning on councils that accept climate change.

    “Despite the threat, Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney intervened to force Moreton Bay Regional Council to remove any reference to sea level rises from its regional plan last year.”

    It may be taken out of politicians hands as business identifies the financial cost

    “”The key point I want to make today, and that APRA wants to be explicit about, is that this is no longer the case. Some climate risks are distinctly ‘financial’ in nature. Many of these risks are foreseeable, material and actionable now. Climate risks also have potential system-wide implications that APRA and other regulators here and abroad are paying much closer attention to”.


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