Renewables need consistent policy
From Climate Spectator:
Andrew Garrad, the founder of Garrad Hassan, the world’s largest renewable energy consultancy, has an interesting way of describing Australia’s stop-start renewable energy policy. It goes something like this, in binary code, where nought represents a step backwards, and one represents an advance: 100101100101011010010. The point he’s making is that, more than anything, renewables need consistent policy. And in Australia, and elsewhere in the world, that has been clearly lacking.
The rest of the article is worth reading. Greg Hunt shows what it would be like to have a climate change minister who is interested in climate change.
The Koreans show how to pick winners:
he suspects the future may be dominated by the Korean companies who have become household names in electrical appliances. The likes of Samsung and Hyundai are investing huge sums into clean-tech. “They are going to do things, very fast and well.”
Hunt picks algae as a winner “echoing predictions that it could emerge as a $20 billion industry.”
Algae in the outback
Speaking of which, a project is being set up to farm algae in saltwater ponds in the Pilbara.
it has decided to focus – at least initially – on the high yielding omega-3 market. Potential customers include pharmaceutical and food groups seeking a natural, sustainable and cost-effective alternative to fish oil and fermented products.
Once that profitability is established, however, and the company builds scale, it will focus more on the biofuels and biomass markets. Caspari says the company is already in talks with local mining companies, looking for a substitute to expensive diesel, as well as airlines. It is also looking to sell algae as a protein-rich feedstock, most likely to aquaculture, and as protein-rich powder products for the food and beverage industry.
Why the Pilbara?
Karratha has been chosen as a location because – apart from the state funding – it has plenty of land, sun, and seawater; not to mention emissions to use as a feedstock. And algae needs plenty of each. And it’s flat. And it is warm.
Karratha is also home to a large fertiliser plant and other heavy-emitting industries, so Aurora sees no problems in finding a feedstock for its operations.
Biodiesel from municipal sewage
Experimentally in the US biodiesel is being produced from municipal sewage waste water.
After six days, the algae can be harvested. The team plans to use a mechanical pressing method to extract the oil, leaving behind biomass that could be composted, fed into an anaerobic digester to make methane, or sold as a feedstock to make ethanol.
The process is highly productive, yielding between 66,000 and 94,000 litres per hectare.
Methane from gas mining
In the US it has been found that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale rock seams to produce natural gas also releases significant quantities of methane.
the footprint for shale gas is at least 20 percent greater than that for coal, and perhaps twice as great.
Read this RealClimate post for some of the subtleties surrounding the study. Most obviously the fugitive emissions in mining coal were not taken into account.
This study may not translate to coal seam gas production in Australia, but it is a concern that should be monitored. In the Surat Basin fracking will only be used on 14% of wells.
Climate Change Already Reducing Crop Yields
That’s what a new study has found with respect to maize and wheat. Schlenker and colleagues
estimate that global maize production is as much as 3.8 percent lower than it would have been without climate change, and wheat production is 5.5 percent lower.
Additional warmth increases yield, but:
Once temperatures rise above a certain point, which varies for each crop, “yields fall off a cliff,” he said.
Please note that the US food bowl was not affected as temperatures actually fell slightly during the period (1980-2008).
See also Time Magazine.
The limits to growth
Is the global economy a Ponzi Scheme? Joe Romm at Climate Progress tends to think so.
Now the suggestion is that we are facing a paradigm shift in commodity prices, not just oil. The message is that if we want economic growth in the longer term it can’t depend on the increased production and consumption of physical commodities. And we’d best start changing our lifestyle now.
So what has this to do with climate change?
Economic growth has always involved a greater use of commodities and an increase in GHG emissions. In reshaping the economy towards low carbon we’ll have to be equally concerned about sustainability. Not easy.
A climate treaty is possible
That’s what the UN envoy says, targetting directly the negativism of the US representative Todd Stern.
“What is not doable is not to address climate change and not to do it in a timely fashion and at the level which it merits and with the urgency it needs to be done,” Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change told reporters in New York.
“We certainly understand that different countries are at different political moments, but on the whole what is not doable is to evade the responsibility of addressing climate change as a collection of countries, as a community of nations,” Figueres said.
UN IPCC report on renewable energy
The IPCC has produced a 900-page new renewable energy “Bible”, no less.
Dr. Stephan Singer, Director for Global Energy Policy for WWF International is critical of the Summary for Policy Makers which was over-diluted to achieve word by word consensus, he reckons. Here are some of the key findings:
– technically, renewable energy could easily supply all of the world’s energy needs (and much more) by 2050.
– politically, up to 77 percent of global electricity demand could be satisfied by power from renewable energy sources by 2050.
– costs of renewable energy are projected to decrease significantly in coming years and significant deployment is projected.
– governments need to pursue the more aggressive policies and growth path in order to keep greenhouse gas concentrations below 450 parts per million, a critical necessity according to climatologists.
Many of you will know I’m not keen on hanging around at 450ppm for any length of time, or at all. It’s the midpoint where James Hansen says we get an ice-free world. It also risks some really nasty tipping points, like frying tropical jungles and methane release from permafrost.
The WWF’s The Energy Report 2011 missed the cut.