What are you reading this week – at least with respect to energy supply?
Writings currently impacting on me include the following:
First, an excellent commentary by Ziggy Switkowski, Chancellor of RMIT University and new chairman of Suncorp, published by Business Spectator under the heading “Refuse the carbon tax’s junk mail,” in which he analyses the current global consumption of fossil fuels, notes that the world’s economy is predicted to grow at more than three per cent annually for years to come and observes that it seems emissions and warming will continue unabated “for this generation and perhaps the next.”
Switkowski adds: “Some might find (this) discouraging, but I believe that national strategies must be fact and data-based. Australia’s current approach to climate change is muddled and confused with economic reform. And we do not have a national energy policy.”
He says: “When citizens produce advertisements in favour of a carbon tax, they sound sincere in their belief that they are fighting for our environment. Yet I can think of no environmental parameter in Australia which will be improved by our initiative absent a concerted global effort targeted at reductions in absolute aggregate emissions.”
Second and very complementary to Switkowski’s thoughts, a speech to the Minerals Council of Australia last week by the new Secretary of the federal Department of Climate Change, Blair Comley, hardly noticed by the mainstream media but to be featured strongly in the June Coolibah newsletter going up on this website this week.
In it, Comley sets out the Australian emissions “budget” for first half of this century: 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide to contribute to a global effort with a 75 per cent chance of keeping the temperature rise within the “two degree guardrail” and 1,440 gigatonnes for a 50:50 chance.
He points out – the speech is on the DCC website – that we took up 305 gigatonnes of the 50-year “budget” between 2000 and 2008 and appear on track to be at around 700 gigatonnes by 2020.
Given the commitment to strong economic and population growth, how does Australia meet either “budget” by 2050 without a national strategy on energy supply and use that looks way beyond 2020 or even 2030?
Third, on New York’s Columbia University Earth Institute website, a new paper by James Hansen and associates which suggests that global warming is already headed to the “two degree guardrail” and is being kept from it at present by industrial emissions of sulphur dioxide.
My attention was drawn to it by a commentary by Andrew Glikson of the Australian National University in Crikey.
Glikson asserts that, barring an indefinite and undesirable continuation of sulphur aerosol emissions, deep carbon cuts need to be accompanied by use of fast-track tree planting, application of biochar methods and chemical carbon dioxide sequestration.
Fourth, a critique on the website Online Opinion of Ross Garnaut’s latest report from the Energy Supply Association in which the point is driven home that investment of the order of $220 billion in the electricity supply chain between now and 2030, as recently envisioned by federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, requires the energy industry to have confidence to commit to these very large sums on the basis that they generate returns over their lifetime of several decades.
Fifth, the mounting collection of commentary on Germany’s decision to abandon its nuclear power fleet over the next 12 years and the significant cost and strategic issues this raises, including a greater reliance on gas from Russia and a flow-on impact to the whole western Europe power system, not least when exceptionally hot northern summers affect French electricity output.
Google Search will deliver a wealth of material on this topic.
The German move will see an increase in greenhouse gas emissions equal to the current output of Slovakia, it is asserted, and add a cumulative 370 to 400 million tonnes over the decade. That’s more than double the abatement achieved here over a decade by closing down Hazelwood power station.
In a sentence, it appears that Angela Merkel’s government has moved against nuclear for base reasons, choosing a near-term politically attractive approach that is economically unfeasible and strategically unwise, all cloaked in rhetoric about pursuing greater use of renewable power. Sound familiar?
Sixth, coverage in European media of the potential impact of this year’s forecast very hot summer on Nicolas Sarkozy’s chances of re-election if the ensuing drought causes 24 of France’s nuclear reactors (out of 58) to shut because they are dependent on the flow of river water for cooling.
Extreme summer weather in 2003 saw this happen and a claimed 15,000 people die from heat-related problems. It was followed as well by the political demise of Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jaques Chirac.
This really brings home the importance of energy security and makes one wonder what the French have been doing for the past eight years?
And last, the latest Essential Report opinion poll, just published, which throws up the fascinating information that, asked for the three most important issues which will decide how they vote at the next federal election, respondents placed addressing climate change eighth (with 15 per cent) behind management of the economy (61), ensuring quality in the health system (49), jobs maintenance and protection of local industries (32), a quality education system (26), a fair tax system (17), political leadership (17) and housing affordability (16).
What’s more the overall perception on climate change in the poll was skewed by Greens respondents awarding it 45 per cent of their votes versus 23 per cent for Labor and six per cent for Coalition voters.
Greens polled also gave sustaining jobs and protection of local industries 12 per cent support.
Their party will have the balance of power in the Senate in less than a month’s time and the Gillard government’s current carbon posture is largely attributable to Greens’ pressure aided and abetted by Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor.