Adani’s Potemkin village

Throughout the long struggle over Adani’s Carmichael mine, I’ve argued that the project, as well as being environmentally disastrous, is not financially viable. Adani’s objective has been to keep the project alive, both to avoid bringing the loss of money already spent on the project and to maximize the chance that an Australian government will either pay them to go away or stop the project in a way that leaves open the possibility of a claim under the insidious system of Investor State Dispute Settlement, which still applies between Australia and India, even though our trade agreement has lapsed.

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Published (almost!)

Economics in Two Lessons is listed as the #1 New Release in Microeconomics on Amazon. I’m not sure what this means, but it sounds encouraging.

It’s now available for preorder now, with a release date of April 23, the hardcover publication date. Apple books also has it for pre-order.

Thanks again to everyone who read and commented on the excerpts I published along the way. I’ve tried to mention you all in the acknowledgements, but it’s just about inevitable that I will have missed someone.

Energy in 2019: dead horse roundup

If the world is going to avoid dangerous climate change, we need to accelerate the pace of the energy transition towards decarbonization. So, as 2019 begins, it’s worth looking at the state of play. Easing into things, I’ll take a look at the dead horses: nuclear and “clean coal”.

AFAICT, hardly any nuclear plants started construction in 2018, continuing the trend of recent years. At the beginning of the year, lots of reports suggested China would start 6-8 plants, but (again AFAICT) the actual number was zero. Elsewhere, the massively delayed Vogtle project in the US just avoided scrapping. At this point, the best hope is to limit premature closures of existing nuclear plants and keep the focus on ending coal.

“Clean coal” is a deliberately ambiguous term, encompassing carbon capture and storage, which would eliminate CO2 emissions, if only it worked, and ultrasupercritical or “High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) technology, a marginal improvement on existing technology.

CCS was an obvious dead horse a year ago, and nothing has changed that. Bob Burton gives a good summary.

But at least CCS would have made a difference if it had worked. The marginal improvement in efficiency going from 1990s “supercritical” technology to more modern “ultrasupercritical” isn’t worth worrying about. In any case, it’s come too late. Although there’s still a big pipeline of coal projects using older technologies (most of which will have to be cancelled if we are to achieve climate goals) there aren’t many new ones. Outside China, the number of HELE plants we are ever likely to see can be counted on fingers and toes: one in the US, a few in Europe, a few more in India, and a handful in developing countries.

The joy of forgetting

I just read (on a plane) The Labyrinth Index the latest novel in Charlie Stross’ Laundry series (a mashup of HP Lovecraft and Len Deighton). The central conceit is a spell which causes Americans to forget the existence of the President whenever they go to sleep. After reading the book and nodding off, I had a dream that someone has a similar office in Australia, with a couple of deputies, one in charge of the bush and another in charge of the money. On waking though, I couldn’t remember any of these.

Update: Apparently, I’m not alone.