Australian news, and some related international items

Why emissions reductions from coal remain a pipe dream

clean-coal.highly-recommendedClean coal explained: Why emissions reductions from coal remain a pipe dream   ANALYSIS

Advocates use the phrase to describe two different technologies: carbon capture and storage; and highly efficient, lower emissions coal-fired power stations.

Carbon capture and storage is based on the principle of catching the carbon emissions, or CO2, from burning coal before they are released into the atmosphere.

It works by forcing the exhaust from a coal-fired power plant through a liquid solvent that absorbs the carbon dioxide, heating the solvent to liberate the gas, then compressing it and sending it away for storage underground.

Great in principle, but the technology faces big hurdles in practice.

One is the huge cost and logistical challenge of transporting all the captured carbon dioxide and burying it.

It would require a vast network of pipelines and storage sites. As one doubter observed: “Collectively, America’s coal-fired power plants generate 1.5 billion tons per year. Capturing that would mean filling 30 million barrels with liquid CO2 every single day — about one-and-a-half times the volume of crude oil the country consumes.”

The cost of building the required infrastructure would be enormous and the time periods involved may be too long to prevent the risk, identified by the consensus of expert scientists, of potentially catastrophic climate change.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that the world would need to capture and store almost 4 billion tonnes per annum of CO2 in 2040 to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Far more would be needed to limit it to 1.5C, the target agreed to by 195 nations at the Paris climate conference in 2015.

Yet current carbon capture capacity for projects in operation or under construction sits at approximately 40 million tonnes per annum.

We also don’t know if all gas would stay buried. While scientists are confident that there are geologically stable areas that could keep the carbon underground for very long periods, there is a risk of carbon seeping into the atmosphere.

To date, the technology is not commercially viable.

‘Cleaner coal’ sometimes mislabelled ‘clean coal’ efficiency, low-emission power stations, also known as ultracritical or supercritical coal-fired power plants, are sometimes also labelled as “clean coal”.

Continue reading

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Coal does not bring down the cost of energy

Turnbull climate 2 faced How Malcolm Turnbull could ignore the facts and fund the myth of ‘clean’ coal, Guardian,   2 Feb 17  “…..  Turnbull said in his National Press Club speech on Wednesday that “it’s security and cost that matter most, not how you deliver it”.

But new coal technology is not cheaper than renewable energy.

The US Energy Information Agency recently compared the cost of energy from various types of coal power plants and renewable energy plants.

They found that ultra supercritical coal power plants were about twice as expensive to build per unit of energy, compared to wind farms, and almost 40% more expensive than solar farms. Then coal power stations have higher ongoing maintenance costs, as well as significant fuel costs, compared with the wind and solar where the fuel is free.

Dylan McConnell from the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne said if those costs were recovered through energy prices, that would push energy prices up.

Tennant Reed from the Australian Industry Group recently pointed outthat wholesale electricity prices that are currently worrying big energy consumers have been sitting at about $75 per MWh. But recent projections by the CSIRO suggest the ultra supercritical coal generators would produce electricity at a cost of about $80 per MWh.

“To build a coal plant with such costs, investors would need to expect wholesale prices to rise even above looming levels and stay there for decades,” Reed wrote.

Reed also pointed out that the $80 per MWh projection was optimistic, since it was assuming that the power plants were being used at about 80% of their capacity, which was much higher than was generally the case.

Meanwhile, new wind and solar will produce electricity at about $75-85/MWh today and that price will decrease in coming years.

Buckley says: “So renewables are already at grid parity or cheaper than new USC coal-fired power, they can be built more modularly and five times faster, they have 100% emissions reduction relative to the PR spin called ‘clean coal’, they conform to our Paris CO2 commitments and they are likely to get finance – unlike a new coal-fired power plant.”

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australian govt’s $1bn Adani loan for coal railway line opposed by majority of Australians, including Liberal voters

coal CarmichaelMine2Most Australians oppose government’s $1bn Adani loan for coal railway line

More than half of Liberal voters also oppose plan to loan Indian company $1bn to build a rail line between proposed Carmichael coalmine and Abbot Point, Guardian, , Three-quarters of Australians, including most Liberal voters, oppose the government giving a $1bn loan to Adani to build a rail line between its proposed Carmichael coalmine and the Abbot Point shipping terminal.

The government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (Naif) granted Adani “conditional approval” for a $1bn loan in December last year.

The rail line, if built, would allow Adani to build the country’s biggest coalmine and open up the Galilee Basin to further mines by linking them to an export terminal.

Coral scientists have argued the coal needs to stay in the ground if the Great Barrier Reef is to be protected from the impacts of climate change.

The government has argued there is no definite link between the coal from the Adani mine being burned and climate change, and the resources minister, Matthew Canavan, has said the mine would “be a good thing for the environment”.

But a ReachTel poll of 2,126 people across Australia conducted on 12 January, commissioned by GetUp, found 74.4% of respondents said “no” when asked whether “lending $1bn to an offshore mining company to build a coal rail line is a good use of public money”.

Just 16.2% of respondents thought it was a good use of public money, with 9.5% saying they didn’t know.

The opposition was strong regardless of voting intention, with 53.7% of those who said they would vote Liberal opposing the loan. Just over 80% of “undecided” voters, 85.5% of Labor voters and 89.9% of Greens voters said the loan was a bad use of public money.

A previous survey of people living in the region that would host the mine found two-thirds opposed public money being used to support the mine. Analysis from Greenpeace has suggested the rail project does not meet the requirements for a loan under the scheme, since it will not be “of public benefit” and it is not clear Adani will be able to repay the loan.

GetUp’s Miriam Lyons said: “A mere 16% of Australians think this is a good way to invest public money. While we see hospitals and schools starved of resources, the government sees fit to hand over a billion bucks to build Adani’s shiny new train.”

Lyons called on Malcolm Turnbull to stop the loan going ahead.

“Prime minister Turnbull’s not even playing for his own team – only 32% of Liberal voters agree with this use of public money,” she said.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

New “clean coal” plants would cost Australia twice as much as renewable energy

Neither Canavan nor Frydenberg responded to questions about the costs of building new coal power stations

text-relevantAustralia’s coal power plan twice as costly as renewables route, report finds
Researcher says new coal plants aimed at reducing emissions would cost $62b, while the cost using renewables would be $24-$34bn,
Guardian , 27 Jan 17, A plan for new coal power plants, which government ministers say could reduce emissions from coal-generated electricity by 27%, would cost more than $60bn, a new analysis has found.

Frydenberg, Josh climateAchieving the same reduction using only renewable energy would cost just half Canavan, Matt climate
as much – between $24bn and $34bn – the report found.

The resources minister, Matthew Canavan, and the energy and environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, have been arguing for new coal power plants to be built in Australia. Continue reading

January 28, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Australian conservative MPs, Cory Bernardi etc, urge Turnbull to scrap the Renewable Energy Target

Liberal-policy-1 ‘Dump RET when America walks away from Paris’ The text-relevantAustralian, January 23, 2017,  A growing number of government MPs, including some on Malcolm Turnbull’s front bench, say Australia should dump the Renewable Energy Target and its carbon emissions reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement if Donald Trump walks away from the deal.

Conservative MPs have told The Australian they believe there is no point in remaining committed to the Paris accord without the US locked into action on climate change, a phenomenon the new President has previously labelled a Chinese “hoax”.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott and South Australian senator Cory Bernardi have both publicly argued for the scrapping of renewable energy targets, saying that would allow the government to campaign more forcefully against Labor on energy policy.

One conservative MP said the view was “getting a lot of traction very quickly”, while another said that opinion was already “widespread” within the Coalition partyroom. The push comes as many MPs express frustration that the government has made little political mileage out of Labor’s policy to lift the renewable target to 50 per cent by 2030……

But MPs said Mr Abbott’s opinion piece published in The Weekend Australian this month advocating a shift in policy was “not helpful”, saying it would make it more difficult to convince the Prime Minister of the merits of the political strategy.

Another said that regardless of the RET target, the government would seek to incentivise the building of new coal-fired power stations……

January 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy, politics | Leave a comment

So-called “Environment Minister” Josh Frydenberg approves coal mine expansion

Frydenberg, Josh climateNew Hope passes federal hurdle
Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg approving New Hope Group’s planned $900m New Acland coal mine expansion. (subscribers only)

January 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan’s fantasy about “low emission” coal

Canavan, Matt climateNo Minister, Australia doesn’t need last century’s expensive, outdated energy By  on 17 January 2017Resources Minister Matt Canavan’s suggestion that Australia could meet its climate targets by replacing ageing power stations with emerging ‘low emission’ coal-fired technology is an unrealistic fantasy that would cost billions and set back genuine efforts to tackle global warming, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

The Australian reports today that research commissioned by Senator Canavan ­estimates Australia’s climate pollution could be cut by ‘up to 27 per cent’ if the country’s coal-based power stations ran on ‘ultra-super-critical’ coal technology.

There is not a single so-called ultra-super-critical coal fired power station in Australia. The vast majority of Australia’s coal fired power stations use old sub-critical technology and most are well past their use-by dates, being more than 30 years old, on average.

Senator Canavan is proposing that Australia builds a whole new fleet of coal-fired power stations at unknown cost (likely to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars) at a time when the rest of the world is moving away from coal fired power.

It is hard to imagine a company that would be prepared to build these huge white elephants, just waiting to become stranded assets.

French company Engie has pulled out of Hazelwood and two of Australia’s biggest electricity generators, AGL and Origin, have set timetables for the exit of their coal fired power stations and have been clear they won’t be making any more investments in coal.

Even if finance for these fantasy plants was found, the costs would never be recouped over the lifetime of the assets, considering Australia’s Paris climate commitments. 

In contrast, investments in new renewable energy, which has zero fuel cost, will still be useful and productive in decades to come.

Research released by ACF in December shows strong clean energy policies would generate an additional 90,700 jobs across Queensland by 2030.

If Senator Canavan cares about jobs and a healthy future he would stop spruiking last century’s dirty energy and start securingthe tens of thousands of new jobs that flow from strong clean energy policies.

Matthew Rose is an economist with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

January 20, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

90% of rural Australians say their lives are already affected by climate change

climate SOSClimate change: 90% of rural Australians say their lives are already affected, Guardian, , 15 Jan 17 
Overwhelming majority believe they are living with the effects of warming and 46% say coal-fired power should be phased out. 
Ninety per cent of people living in rural and regional Australia believe they are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and 46% believe coal-fired power stations should be phased out, according to a new study.

A poll of 2,000 people conducted by the Climate Institute found that 82% of respondents in rural and regional Australia and 81% of those in capital cities were concerned about increased droughts, flooding and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change, and 78% of all respondents were concerned there would be more bushfires.

About three quarters of all respondents – 76% in capital cities and 74% in rural or regional areas – said ignoring climate change would make the situation worse and about two-thirds said they believed the federal government should take a leading role……..

The majority of people – 59% in capital cities and 53% in regional areas – said solar was their preferred energy source, followed by wind and hydro.

Only 3% of respondents in the city and 4% in regional areas said coal was their preferred energy source.

Nicky Ison, the director of the Community Power Agency, which represents 80 grassroots groups, said the results showed that concern about climate change was not limited to inner-city suburbs.

“I think there’s a misconception that concern is mainly held in the city and I think there are some strong voices, particularly in rural and regional Australia, that have exaggerated or stoked that misconception,” Ison said.

“A vocal minority gets a lot of traction, probably because they have a greater access to megaphones.”

Matthew Charles-Jones is a co-president of Totally Renewable Yackandandah, a community-run initiative that aims to make the small town, 300km north-east of Melbourne, entirely run on renewable power by 2022.

Charles-Jones said the group was motivated by energy security and rising electricity costs but members were also concerned about the effects of climate change.

“We have been threatened by bushfire roughly every three years for the last decade,” he said.

The last bushfire was in December 2015. “It’s very real for us in Yackandandah,” Charles-Jones said.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Protest movement intensifies against Adani’s Carmichael coal project

protestAdani coalmine activists gear up to fight: ‘This will dwarf the Franklin blockade’

As the protest against the Carmichael project – Australia’s largest proposed coalmine – moves beyond the courts and into the realm of civil disobedience, activists have a clear warning: ‘If you’re in bed with Adani, you’re a target’, Guardian, , 14 Jan 17, Across Australia a secretive network of activists are laying the groundwork for what they expect will be the biggest environmental protest movement in the country’s history.

Of course this won’t materialise if Adani and the rest of the miners proposing to open up one of the world’s biggest coalfields walk away from Queensland’s Galilee basin first.

But standing idly by on the assumption that the economics of the massive coal projects won’t stack up – at a time the world is trying to reduce carbon emissionsto limit global warming to under 2C – is not a choice these activists are willing to make.

And so the campaign to take the fight against Australia’s largest proposed coalmine, Adani’s Carmichael project, to another level, beyond the courts and into the realm of civil disobedience, is under way………

January 14, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

At both Poles – record losses of sea ice in 2016

New analysis: global sea ice suffered major losses in 2016  By Tom Yulsman | January 7, 2017 The extent of sea ice globally took major hits during 2016, according to an analysis released yesterday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

At both poles, “a wave of new record lows were set for both daily and monthly extent,” according to the analysis.


In recent years, Arctic sea ice has been hit particularly hard.

“It has been so crazy up there, not just this autumn and winter, but it’s a repeat of last autumn and winter too,” says Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC.

In years past, abnormal warmth and record low sea ice extent tended to occur most frequently during the warmer months of the year. But for the past two years, things have gotten really weird in the colder months.

In 2015, Serreze says, “you had this amazing heat wave, and you got to the melting point at the North Pole on New Years Eve. And we’ve had a repeat this autumn and winter — an absurd heat wave, and sea ice at record lows.”

Lately, the Southern Hemisphere has been getting into the act. “Now, Antarctic sea ice is very, very low,” Serreze says.

From the NSIDC analysis:

Record low monthly extents were set in the Arctic in January, February, April, May, June, October, and November; and in the Antarctic in November and December.

Put the Arctic and the Antarctic together, and you get his time series of daily global sea ice extent, meaning the Arctic plus Antarctic:

As the graph [on original] shows, the global extent of sea ice tracked well below the long-term average for all of 2016. The greatest deviation from average occurred in mid-November, when sea ice globally was 1.50 million square miles below average.

For comparison, that’s an area about 40 percent as large as the entire United States.

The low extent of sea ice globally “is a result of largely separate processes in the two hemispheres,” according to the NSIDC analysis.

For the Arctic, how much might humankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases be contributing to the long-term decline of sea ice? The graph above [on original] , based on data from a study published in the journal Science, “links Arctic sea ice loss to cumulative CO2emissions in the atmosphere through a simple linear relationship,” according to an analysis released by the NSIDC last December. Based on observations from the satellite and pre-satellite era since 1953, as well as climate models, the study found a linear relationship of 3 square meters of sea ice lost per metric ton of CO2 added to the atmosphere.

That’s over the long run. But over a shorter period of time, what can be said? Specifically, how much of the extreme warmth and retraction of sea ice that has been observed in autumn and winter of both 2015 and 2016 can be attributed to humankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases?

“We’re working on it,” Serreze says. “Maybe these are just extreme random events. But I have been looking at the Arctic since 1982, and I have never seen anything like this.”

January 9, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Heat records smashed in 2016 in many Western Australian towns

heatHydrate before reading: WA’s record-smashing hottest towns for 2016
If you complained about the heat in Perth earlier this week, spare a thought for our friends in the north of the state, who sweltered through their hottest year ever.

The Bureau of Meteorology has just released its annual climate updates and while cooler than normal temperatures in the south stopped WA’s overall annual numbers blowing out, towns up north broke records that make you uncomfortable just reading about them.

Wyndham Aerodrome set a new Australian record for annual average maximum: 37.5 degrees.

Kununurra broke its 1992 record of 36.4 to set a new one: 36.7.

Derby broke its 2015 record of 35.7 with 36.3.

Bureau of Meteorology liaison Glenn Cook said Broome equalled its record average of 33.3 for the first time since 1988.

Other Kimberley towns to break their own daytime records were Warmun Aboriginal community, Troughton Island, Cygnet Bay, Doongan Station and Argyle Aerodrome.

And residents got no relief at night, Mr Cook said, with sites across the Pilbara and Kimberley also breaking their records for highest annual mean minimums.

Troughton Island set a new Australian record of 27 degrees.

Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha and Derby all broke 2010 overnight temperature records with new highs of 23.5, 21.5, 22.0 and 23.5.

Overall for 2016, the region had its hottest average overnight temperatures ever, and its second-hottest average daytime temperatures.

They couldn’t even have the relief of saying “but it’s a dry heat”, as WA also had its wettest year since 2011……Troughton Island set a new Australian record of 27 degrees.

Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha and Derby all broke 2010 overnight temperature records with new highs of 23.5, 21.5, 22.0 and 23.5.

Overall for 2016, the region had its hottest average overnight temperatures ever, and its second-hottest average daytime temperatures.

They couldn’t even have the relief of saying “but it’s a dry heat”, as WA also had its wettest year since 2011.

January 6, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Western Australia | 1 Comment

Matt Canavan Australia’s very own Minister For The Coal Industry

Canavan, Matt climateNext-generation coal can fill gap, says Matt Canavan, 5 Jan 17 
Australia should turn to the next generation of coal-fired power stations to generate more domest­ic electricity, according to a key federal minister who has gone on the offensive against conservationists who want to end the use of coal…. (subscribers only)   

a-cat-CAN(You can see why I don’t bother to subscribe to this puppet of industry newspaper!)

January 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

2016 – Australia’s year of record-breaking extreme weather

climate-changeRecord-breaking extreme weather in Australia in 2016 devastates ecosystems

Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement cites unprecedented bushfires in regions that don’t usually burn and worst coral bleaching on record, Guardian , 5 Jan 16 Australia’s weather was extreme in 2016, driven by humankind’s burning of fossil fuels as well as a strong El Niño, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement.

That extreme weather led to devastated ecosystems both on land and in the sea, with unprecedented bushfires in regions that don’t usually burn, the worst coral bleaching on record, and has been attributed as the cause of damage to vast tracts of crucial kelp forests, oyster farms and salmon stocks across southern Australia.

The statement, released on Thursday, said the country as a whole had its fourth-warmest year on record, but locally, Sydney and Darwin broke records for both their hottest maximum temperatures and hottest minimum temperatures.

Hobart had its warmest night on record in 2016 and both Hobart and Brisbane had records for their hottest annual mean temperature fall as well. The hot and dry start to the year sparked bushfires in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.

The fires that swept through the Tasmanian world heritage forests were described as the worst crisis those forests faced in decades. The usually damp alpine forests there had been dried out by earlier dry weather and then a huge number of lightning strikes – which are expected to become more common as temperatures rise – burned through forests, killing trees that were hundreds of years old.

While land burned, the sea around Australia broiled. The bureau’s statement said despite the surface temperature of the seas around Australia being consistently high in recent years, 2016 reached a new record temperature, being 0.73C above the 1961-90 average.

Off the coast of Queensland, those record temperatures led to the worst coral bleaching on record, where an estimated 22% of the coral on the entire 2,300km length of the Great Barrier Reef was lost.

In the northern, most remote and most pristine part of the reef, coral was devastated by the unusually warm water, which scientists say will become the norm in fewer than 20 years.

The bureau’s statement also notes that ocean temperatures were at record highs around Tasmania in 2016. The freakishly hot waters there have been attributed as the cause of damage to oyster, salmon and abalone industries, as well as increased stress to kelp forests, already devastated by warmer waters in recent years.

The record hot waters in Tasmania were caused by a strengthened east Australian current, which drags warm waters from the tropics, along the coast of Australia. “This was associated with the longest and most intense marine heatwave on record for the south-east Australian region,” the statement said.

It added: “The pattern of above average temperatures over land and in the oceans reflects the background warming trend. The Australian climate in 2016 was influenced by a combination of natural drivers and anthropogenic climate change.”

The hot temperatures around the country were followed up by unusually wet conditions for much of Australia too.

The bureau said Adelaide had its second-wettest year on record and its wettest since 1992. Sydney, Canberra and Hobart had above average rainfall. But the pattern wasn’t uniform, as Perth and Melbourne were close to average and Darwin and Brisbane were significantly drier than average in 2016.

“Widespread, drought-breaking rains led to flooding in multiple states,” said Neil Plummer from the Bureau of Meteorology. “Even northern Australia saw widespread rainfall, during what is usually the dry season, greening regions that had been in drought for several years.”

January 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Determined local protests against Adani coal mine

Adani’s Mega Mine in Australia Runs Into Local Protests!topic/wgar-news/YhylvDagW10  Stephen de Tarczynski 2 January 2017:

” … But at a time when global warming is a significant threat to humanity, the Carmichael mine is generating substantial opposition. Since the project was announced in 2010, there have been more than ten appeals and judicial processes against the mine.

Shani Tager, a campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, is adamant that the coal that Adani wants to dig up must remain in the ground. “It’s a massive amount of coal that they’re talking about exporting,  which will be burnt and used and make the problem of global warming even worse,” she says. …

““The Carmichael coal mine will have a domino effect of bad impacts on the reef, from driving the need for port expansion and more dredging and dumping to increasing the risk of shipping accidents on the reef,” says Cherry Muddle from the Australian Marine Conservation Society. …

“If they can’t get the money, they can’t build the mine,” says Murrawah Johnson. … “

January 6, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Battle Lines Drawn Over Indian Mega Mine

‘Murrawah Johnson, 21, of the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, 
is among those standing in the way of the huge Carmichael coal mine project
in Australia’s Queensland state.’   Stephen de Tarczynski | MENAFN Press 30 December 2016:

“‘Our people are the unique people from that country,’ says Murrawah,  whose name means ‘rainbow’ in the indigenous Gubbi Gubbi language.
‘That is who we are in our identity, in our culture, in our song and in our dance,’ she adds.
The mine’s estimated average annual carbon emissions of 79 million tonnes are three times those of New Delhi, six times those of Amsterdam and double Tokyo’s average annual emissions.

“The Wangan and Jagalingou, numbering up to 500 people, regard the Carmichael coal mine
as a threat to their very existence and have repeatedly rejected the advances of Adani Mining,
the company behind the project.
The traditional owners argue the mine would destroy their land,  which ‘means that our story is then destroyed. And we as a people and our identity, as well,’
Murrawah, a spokesperson for her people’s Family Council, told IPS. … “

January 1, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment