Climate clippings 78

????????????????????????? These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. This post has emphasised adaptation and mitigation, essentially what we need to do to achieve a safe climate.

Comments, about science, observations, impacts, and future predictions are welcome. I do not, however, want a rehash of whether human activity causes climate change.

1. Mining company donations to political parties

Bernard Keane Looked at the astonishing trend in mining company donations to political parties:


Sandi Keane adds some value in her two part series on the cartelisation of the major parties. Bernard wrote:

The sheer scale of mining company generosity illustrates why Tony Abbott remains committed to repealing the carbon pricing package and the mining tax.

Sandi added:

He might also have added that if Abbott wins office on September 14, we will no longer have a democracy but an oligarchy – a government run by powerful mining and media magnates looking for a return on their investment – with George Pell as spiritual adviser. As Keane tweeted recently:

“Australians are a bunch of sheep about to hand themselves over to a pack of wolves”.

2. Volkswagen’s 261-MPG diesel-electric supercar spacepod

BilB has been posting links to this VW super diesel-electric car. I’ve reposted here because some folks don’t read the comments.

VW has had this car for a while, but has now been reworked and is moving into production with at least 250 to be released in Germany and Austria this year.

It’s a diesel hybrid which has taken efficiency to the maximum. They call it a one-litre car, as in 1 litre per 100 km fuel economy, but it actually only uses 0.9. The battery has a range of 32 miles (about 51 km). With a fuel tank of 2.6 gallons I make the range over 1000 km.

It’s the most aerodynamic production car on the planet, using cameras instead of rear vision mirrors. This is what you see from the inside:


Although aluminium and carbon fibre have been used in construction, the car has been thoroughly crash-tested.

There will be other forms of transport in the future, but part of the significance of this one is that design elements will find their way into other production vehicles over time.

3. The power of pee

Four African teenagers have invented a process for producing power from urine. There’s more here.

They are actually producing hydrogen, so I’m not sure how safe that is, nor whether power generation is the best use of urine. Still it shows how inventive people can be.

4. Energy company offers rooftop solar with storage

Not here, unfortunately, in New Zealand.

A New Zealand electricity network operator, Vector, is offering a trial run of leases to its customers to install rooftop solar and battery storage for around the same cost as relying entirely on the grid. Given that New Zealand’s retail electricity prices are around the same as Australia’s – 25c/kWh in the local currency – it is a striking offer.

There are two remarkable aspects to this story – one is the fact that a network operator is looking so actively for alternative solutions to dealing with the demands of the grid, and the second is the pricing of the offer – given that “grid competitive” battery storage solutions were considered by most to be several years away.

The company is spending nearly half its capital expenditure in new technologies such as solar. Remarkably, this forward-looking vision is coming from a monopoly supplier!

5. War on renewables

On this side of the ditch the war on renewables continues.

Alinta fires up one half of its old brown coal plant in Port Augusta, giving wind an unwarranted blast along the way.

As Lenore Taylor details;

The chairman of Tony Abbott’s proposed business advisory council, Maurice Newman, has called for the renewable energy target (RET) to be scrapped because he believes the scientific evidence for global warming and the economic case for renewable energy no longer stack up.

Newman used to be chairman of the ABC Board.

Ben Eltham reports:

Coalition ideologues are considering crippling regulations for wind farms and want to abolish the Renewable Energy Target.

In Queensland power reforms will not necessarily mean lower prices but we have the prospect of more blackouts. We await what action will be taken against rooftop solar. There will be something.

6. New battery technology

Graphene nanoribbons is being used by a team at Rice University to create more durable, lightweight and efficient lithium-ion batteries.

Despite its great promise for next-generation electronics and energy storage, graphene faces an enormous stumbling block in terms of cost-effective, commercial scale manufacturing, so the combination of low cost carbon nanotube production with low cost graphene production has given Rice a running start on the next step, commercial production of a competitively priced, next-generation lithium-ion battery.

This is a different project from the one at UCLA jumpy linked to some weeks ago.

7. Wave power

There was an item on RN Breakfast this morning (link not there yet as I write) about a wave power plant being constructed at the HMAS Stirling navy base in WA by Carnegie Wane Energy. The plant will be underwater as you can see here:


Ther project involved technology development and will attract world-wide interest. Defence establishments are especially interested in renewables. The project also involves water desalination.

8. German energy market (updated)

RenewEconomy’s Graph of the Day today shows the make-up of energy production in Germany. It varies a bit from week to week, but here’s Week 4 of 2013 as a winter sample:


Gas is used for peaks, topped up by renewables. Compare this with Week 23 in May:


Gas almost disappears and black coal is largely turned off on the weekend. Some weeks solar exceeds wind, other weeks the reverse. This pretty much sums up the discussion:

These highlight some of the big problems with the growing penetration of renewables in Germany. Remember, at this level, the market is around 20 per cent, but the government wants this to rise to 40 per cent by 2030. Gas plants, however, are struggling to stay open. Coal generators in Germany – like Alinta and others in Australia – are screaming blue murder because they are being levered out of the market. Most of the new coal plants currently being built in Germany – even the brown coal ones – are designed to be flexible so they can fit in around renewables – which is now the dominant influence on prices in the market.

This was an issue which is being deliberated in German policy circles at the moment and was highlighted by the International Energy Agency in two recent reports – the old style energy markets that focused uniquely on a price for kWh produced are being made redundant, and will need to be replaced by soemthing more sophisticated, along the lines of a “capabilities” market promoted by the likes of the Regulatory Project. Effectively, it is a way of finding a market design that reflects the new market dynamics, the plunging cost of solar PV and wind, and the need to provide an economic incentive (subsidy) to retain flexible fossil fuel capacity.

At Clean Technica we find that Chancellor Merkel, if re-elected, will cut back on subsidies for renewables, claiming “that the sector is now mature enough to support the cost of grid upgrades.”

Here’s the growth of the renewables sector in Germany and the EU:


On June 6 solar met 39% of Germany’s peak electricity demand.

32 thoughts on “Climate clippings 78”

  1. Item 2

    While these vehicles are no replacement for the family car, the very significant aspect of this future class of super efficient hybrides is that their fuel consumption is near one tenth that of the current commuter vehicle fleet. That is a huge difference in fuel volume, the CO2 emissions reductions alone are sufficient to make a measureable contribution to Australia’s emissions target once these dominate the rushhour highways. But also with that low volume it begins to be conceivable to power the fleet from Palm Oil Biodiesel from mixed planting fields in the far north of Australia.

    Of course they are not for everybody, but there is already a huge variety of vehicles available in the plug in hybride and EV field to offer worthwhile low emissions vehicles for most tastes and special needs. The light weight means lower resource consumption for their manufacture further adding to their environment friendly credential.

    Doing more with less must be the theme for the future, and this vehicle achieves that admirably. For those people wondering how to maintain economic growth, maintain full employment, while also reducing the resource consumption, this vehicle and all of its future derivatives shows the way.

  2. re: Item 1.

    it looks big, but by my calculations (summing by party affiliation, Lib or National, from, $3M is 5% of the approx. $60M total donations for FY2011/12 to the LNP.

    The mining (and other) companies will always act in their own interest (they must according to law). Why is it a surprise that they’ll donate to the party that, in government, will provide a better return on their investments in Australia?

  3. If you scroll down to the update in this one, you’ll see a few strays attending the wind protest meeting in Canberra compared to a pro-wind rally hastily organised.

  4. I note all the Carnegie wave energy effort seems to be based in naval facilities at Stirling WA. Could they make use of a disused coal loading wharf at Catherine Hill Bay south of Newcastle? Currently this relatively new structure is slated to be dismantled if no alternatives can be found. In its favour is proximity to grid servicing two coal fired power stations and high public visibility for an alternative energy source.
    There might even be solar and wind potential on the wharf deck.

  5. Here is an interesting video from the Paris air show. This is EADS’ (Airbus) contribution to the efficient personal air vehicle programme underway internationally.

    Energy efficiency will be required in every aspect of our lives in future, as it has been in nature through nature’s evolutionary path.

    In Australia the message from conservative politicians is don’t think, don’t attempt to improve your life, don’t think that you can build or do anything for yourself when there are more desperate people to do it for you, believe only what I tell you because I “know” what is good for you.

    What a bunch of lame suckers we are if we give into this Fox delivered load of crap. There are so many exciting and fun things to be doing, and in this time we have the very best of tools and technologies to be doing it with. To not step up and get involved, to not engage and participate would be a sleep walk to death.

  6. Wilful@8: I liked the bit that said

    Existing road space needs to be freed-up for the higher value activities undertaken by the freight industry. That can only occur by providing an ever-improving experience of public transport and active transport options (walking and cycling) that makes personal vehicle use the occasional choice instead of the everyday one for most people, most of the time. Routes for road freight will need to be better designated, enhanced and protected. In such tight funding times, more Australian cities will need to take a more economically rational approach to road space and treat it as the increasingly scarce resource it is. That means systems like congestion charging and tolling to fund new infrastructure.

    It is a change from demands that big trucks be removed from from the roads!
    Perhaps the more interesting thing was the statement that

    In Australia, road freight moved 83 billion tonne kilometres (tkm) in 1990/91, and 191 billion tkm in 2007/08,

    It is worth asking what is going on here. More freight, longer haul distances or diversion of freight from rail? It is also worth asking whether the rail/road balance is being affected by subsidies that favour one form of transport over another.

  7. John D, most shipping estimates for the future predict volumes such as a tripling by X decade not too far away. Projections far far above population growth. I always scoffed at such statements, thinking that they were self-interested studies (by Ports, freight operators, etc) that neglected a general dematerialisation of Australian lives and projected an unmet demand in Australian households. I mean, how many TVs can a household have, how many cars?

    But then I bought some bread rolls the other day and was disgusted to find out that they had been baked in the Netherlands (now I have to check product origin on bread too!). So it appears that the free trade, lowest cost system is inventing new ways to ship products from there to here.

    People keep hyping up modular housing as the way of the future. I tell you, they will be modularised in China and shipped here.

  8. @John D

    It is worth asking what is going on here. More freight, longer haul distances or diversion of freight from rail? It is also worth asking whether the rail/road balance is being affected by subsidies that favour one form of transport over another.

    More freight. The overall freight task, across all modes, has had a similar level of growth. In that time the split between modes has moved from a roughly even three-way between road/rail/shipping to road and rail now more like 40% of the total each and shipping 20%, but in every case the total tkm has grown a lot.

    Freight growth is reliably slightly larger than growth of GDP.

  9. Did you know, nitrogen filled tyres have 70% less rolling resistance!

    I find it really interesting considering air filled tyres are already 78% filled with nitrogen. Who would have thought that 20% oxygen would increase the rolling resistance that much?

  10. Oranges from the USA, bananas from FNQ have replaced stuff that used to be produced more closely.
    A key strategy for reducing emissions is reducing amount and distance as well reducing emissions per tonne km.

    My take on transport emissions is that we already have the technology to move to zero emission transport by replacing fossil fuels with renewable, low impact fuels. Renewable hydrogen can be made from clean electricty and water. Renewable liquid ammonia can be made using renewable hydrogen and nitrogen. Renewable methanol, petrol and diesel can be produced from renewable hydrogen and CO2. All these fuels are low impact because they do not require the diversion of agricultural land from food production nor the destruction of jungles to produce palm oil.

  11. Apaprently, the oxygen passes out the tyre wall far more quickly, and on its way out it does all of the oxidation and damage.

    As I said in Ben’s thread, the point of opportunity here is to get car manufacturers and retailers selling N filled tyres. For efficiency and longevity and as a sales point. Beaurepaires wouldn’t want to, they’d sell less product that way!

    And then you’d jsut have to convince consumers that there’s a benefit.

    I bought two new tyres last week, $159 ea. I probably would have paid $20 to fill them with N if given the opportunity (well I need more information, but I think that’s right).

  12. Wilful and others. Bob Jane and Jax are already offering nitrogen inflation for old and new tyres. I’ve bought 3 sets of tyres from BJ’s over the years and you usually get free inflation with the fitting, and if you sign up to their tyre care plan, for the life of the tyre. The downside is that you have to go to one of their dealers to top up, but, at least it’s not that often.

  13. Premier Newman: “Shady agents trying to kill coal”

    International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol: About two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius

    Addressing participants in the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn, Fatih Birol said this should be an “eye-opener” for pension funds with significant investments in the energy sector – particularly in coal – as well as for ratings agencies.
    He predicted coal would be hardest hit in the “unburnable carbon” scenario, followed by oil and gas. “We cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have. If we did that, it [average global surface temperature] would go higher than four degrees.

  14. Jumpy, have you read Neven’s sea ice blog? They have a lot of material about how the collapse of arctic ice is changing northern hemisphere weather, and the UK is now (as the Met guy said today on their blog) becoming part of the arctic. That’s going to make UK weather extremely hard to predict until the arctic reaches a new equilibrium.

    My prediction for the UK this year: record wet summer/autumn, floods and (another year of) crop failures. Freezing cold winter. Late spring. Serious storms.

  15. Apparently a new report “Fossil fuel: a sound investment in a growing world” by the Australian Coal Association debunks unburnable carbon.

    Dr. Nikki Williams, CEO of the Australian Coal Association, on RN Breakfast this morning on Unburnable carbon debunked: Australian Coal Association.

    “If you take out (of the equation) carbon capture then you have no chance of meeting any kind of reduced carbon emissions for the foreseeable future. The fact is the world currently burns 7.7 billion tonnes of coal and huge amount of gas and oil. And that trajectory continues, so if you are actually serious about climate change you actually have to be serious to deploying a key tool to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases …”

    Some waffle about Carbon Capture and Storage technology, then admitting it is slower than expected in development but then so is renewable energy technology apparently.

    “There are trillions of dollars invested in existing fossil fuel power generating fleet around the world, they have a live of 20 or 30 years, so it is very important that those power stations are made as efficient as possible .. (more efficiency waffle) .. all of those things need to happen, by 2030, in order for the world to achieve a two degrees scenario.”

  16. On the issue of wind power – the industry needs to get on to the front foot and tell its story. The media doesn’t do enough homework to be able to challenge the completely wrong information being disseminated by its opponents. I heard an interview with someone from the rally Tuesday – the talking points he made I found were by and large wrong in this analysis of the press release for the rally.

  17. Yeah Ootz and she went on to talk about some eleven pilot CCS schemes around the world none of which was like to be commercially available before 2030. Her major source was the International Energy Agency which has plenty of critics but their most recent assessment acknowledges the reality of leaving ff in the ground to avoid more than 2 C temperature rise.
    In view of her ‘take it or leave it’ – and suffer since renewables aren’t going to cut it – maybe she and the ACA she heads should return all that Rudd Government funding for CCS research.

  18. @28
    “Why so sad? Do you have shares in Siemens?”

    Possibly, my Super activities are a mystery to me.
    But it is relevant to Brians 8th subject.
    It’s sad because we’re told Australias future in manufacturing is in renewables, when clearly the biggest companies in Germany, a country with a vastly more mature sector than ours, is exiting due to huge losses despite government assistance and subsidies.
    Bosch is also getting out due to huge losses.

    Call me unpatriotic if you want but if the German manufacturing giants can’t make a fist of it then Australian companies shouldn’t even try.

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