Climate clippings 190

1. BoM says 260km/h winds knocked down network in SA blackout

    The Bureau of Meteorology says wind gusts up to 260km/h from a “supercell” thunderstorm and multiple tornadoes were recorded on September 28, destroying transmission towers and causing the state-wide blackout in South Australia.

That’s as strong as Cyclone Tracy, which flattened Darwin, and almost as strong as Cyclone Yasi.

The BoM had issued repeated warnings of “destructive winds” and AEMO did nothing. The Victorian interconnector continued to run at near capacity.

There are calls for an independent inquiry into AEMO’s actions, or lack of them, on that day and subsequently. For one reason:

    the local experts are reluctant to take the problem on as they derive much of their income doing work for AEMO and AEMO has made problems for engineers in the past.

Earlier post here.

2. DME: the answer to Australia’s unquenchable appetite for diesel?

Australia is among the world’s largest consumers of diesel per capita. A Brisbane company, Australian DME Fuels, is looking at producing dimethyl ether (DME), which has a cleaner emissions profile than diesel, and no particulates or soot. The company has plans

    to build Australia’s first commercial-scale production plant by 2020, generating a diesel-replacement fuel for use in trucks, heavy machinery, and remote off-grid power stations. The DME can also be blended with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for use in passenger vehicles.


    cost is still a red flag. Renewable DME could be upwards of three times more expensive per gigajoule than diesel (currently $15/gigajoule), or DME produced with non-renewable methanol ($17/gigajoule).

Volvo and its subsidiary Mack are looking at truck engines designed to use DME and last year Ford began working with the German government to develop and test the world’s first production passenger car to run on DME.

It could be a chicken and egg thing which gets greener as it goes, but they are aiming at 50,000 tonnes pa in the first phase.

3. Traffic kills

The above item linked to an article about London considering banning diesel cars, because the pollution they cause is illegal as well as lethal.

The New Scientist has an article (pay-walled) about European and US cities, and their problems with air pollution.

    Nearly half a million people in Europe die from air pollution every year – and most of those deaths are being caused by breathing air that is supposedly “safe”. It kills more people than obesity or alcohol – only smoking is more dangerous.

The legal limits are still lethal.

The statistics are based on direct deaths and lives shortened. There is no doubt that cars and trucks are the biggest problem. However:

    In cities, about half the particulates comes from brake pads and a tenth from tyres. Another quarter comes from traffic stirring up dirt on roads.

    So even switching to electric vehicles won’t solve the problem. One 2016 study (Energies, estimated that electric cars still produce an eighth of the PM10s that new diesels do and half as much as petrol cars do.

So we need to reduce traffic. Walking and cycling is good.

Now the High Court in London has ruled that the UK Government must clean up the air as soon as possible. Apparently the case concerned nitrogen dioxide, produced by burning diesel.

4. Putting carbon back in the land is just a smokescreen for real climate action: Climate Council report

The report, Land Carbon: No Substitute for Action On Fossil Fuels, is 64 pages long with extensive detail.

Putting carbon back into soil is a good idea, but it’s not a fair dinkum climate mitigation strategy. For starters, there is a problem of scale.

At present rates total fossil fuel emissions from 2015 to 2050 will be about 360 billion tonnes of carbon. Reducing emissions through land carbon methods could save up to 38 billion tonnes only.

Moreover, it is not secure:

    Carbon stored on land is vulnerable to being returned to the atmosphere. Natural disturbances such as bushfires, droughts, insect attacks and heatwaves, many of which are being made worse by climate change, can trigger the release of significant amounts of land carbon back to the atmosphere.

The report also points out that our fossil fuel exports are roughly 6.5 times greater than the uptake of carbon by Australian landscapes.

5. Ausgrid sale great for everyone, except consumers

This is a disturbing article. Ausgrid sold “without an audit of the asset base and reasonable writedowns of useless, unused and under utilised assets, embeds these inefficiencies in the system.” The NSW government still owns half of it.

    Ausgrid, which serves 1.7 million customers in Sydney, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast regions of NSW, has a regulated asset base of $15 billion, and it seems that Industry Funds Management and Australian Super have paid 1.4 times that asset base in their deal that values the business at just over $20 billion.

Ausgrid is actually one of the least efficient networks in Australia:


The current situation is the worst of all possible worlds, with high electricity prices built in and a ready-made lobby to a government with an interest in maintaining the status quo.

6. Tibet avalanche

    An ice avalanche stretching 3.7 miles and burying the land in up to 98 feet of ice is weird. A second one in almost the exact same location just a few months later is essentially unheard of.

    And yet that’s exactly what happened in a remote corner of Tibet in late September, when a second massive jumble of ice and rock ripped across the landscape. The second avalanche is just a few miles away from the first one, which occurred on July 17.

    “Even one of these gigantic glacier avalanches is very unusual,” Andreas Kääb, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo, told NASA Earth Observatory, which published a new set of images. “Two of them within close geographical and temporal vicinity is, to our best knowledge, unprecedented.”



18 thoughts on “Climate clippings 190”

  1. I do sometimes wonder whether our car choice was the best for the environment. We live in rural Victoria and easily do 50 000 km a year. We have a 2012 Peugeot 308 diesel that regularly gets ~5.0l/100km.
    Given that we have to drive those distances, so electric is out, and it has to be a certain sized car, so small hatches is out, this is well up with the most efficient car on the market for our purposes. But it’s still a a diesel, so am I killing the kids? Every time I catch a V/Line train, I smell a lot more partly burned diesel than I ever smell from my car. Same with the tractor. I think my incidental exposure from large trucks, buses, trains, tractors etc is far far worse than what my car is doing.

  2. wilful, the articles used didn’t mention public transport. I guess electric trains driven by clean energy would be good.

    I was surprised that rubber on the road and brake pads were as bad as they are. I drive a petrol powered ute, because I don’t really have a choice.

  3. Don’t worry too much fellas, even Di Natale drives a diesel 4WD and he’s our Number One Environmental role model.

  4. The attraction of diesel compared with petrol include:
    Lower fuel consumption and less energy to convert from crude oil.
    Safety: Much higher ignition point.
    Higher torque engine – good for driving slow in rough country.

  5. Yeah I have 2 diesels VW’s. Best cars I ever had and easily return 5litres/100, less if i am careful. Both have exhaust particulate filters.
    At 5 litres/100, I use roughly two thirds the fuel of many cars out there. So are my emissions still bad, even though the rate per litre might be high?

    How come diesel is suddenly copping it anyway. How about bunker oil, the stuff big ships burn? Or the practice known as “planed redundancy”, that leads to massive needless production (and energy use) by the untimely death of our consumer products?

    This sounds a bit like a dog whistle to me intended to bring about a big change at great economic cost and in the face of a history that has had the facts available for a very long time. I smell a rat.

  6. Here a link from your old friend AKNs FB page, Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change, this ‘carbon accountant’ says.

    It contains data “””just blew me away,” says Naomi Oreskes, a science historian at Harvard University and co-author of the book Merchants of Doubt, which compares the fossil fuel industry to the tobacco industry in its efforts to raise doubts about science. “Everyone talks about this as a problem since the Industrial Revolution, but I now think that’s incorrect,” she says. Heede has shown that the roots of the problem are more recent and easier to trace.””

    As you may suspected, his data shows how the system is rigged. However, the Carbon Accountant also comments:

    “”.. that the responsibility is shared. “I as a consumer bear some responsibility for my own car, etcetera. But we’re living an illusion if we think we’re making choices, because the infrastructure pretty much makes those choices for us.” He focused on fossil fuel companies, he says, because unlike industries that produce greenhouse gases as a byproduct (such as the automobile industry, which has adhered to increasingly strict mileage standards), the mission of fossil fuel companies is to pull carbon out of the ground and put it into commerce.

    At the same time, he confesses an admiration for the fossil fuel industry, which has made “fantastic efforts to find resources for the betterment of humanity,” often in the harshest environments. They’ve done such a good job that we haven’t paused to reflect on the unintended consequences, he says. “And now we have to cope with the result.”

  7. Brian: Thanks a lot for that item on DME. Nice to know about the alternatives/substitutes for products “we cannot possibly do without”.

    Not surprised at the part tyre-rubber and brake-linings play in urban pollution – add to that very fine dust, organic as well as non-organicl, kept airborne by constant traffic.

    Wilful: Understand your point of view. Afraid this is yet another example of urban decision-makers being out of touch with the realities of non-urban life and environment.


  8. What about electric bikes and trailers for those travelling shorter* differences? Like this

    Brian you could possibly use one of these for your business? It would cost a few thousand but much less than a car and you could charge it with solar.

    (*As previously discussed, I as an ‘older’ person, frequently ride 30 or 40 kms a day on a non-electric bike, so I’m not talking a measly 5-10 kms here. With an electric bike, doing up to 100 kms a day shouldn’t be too hard, even for ‘older citizens’!)

  9. Val: I’m a wake up to you. You just want to stay fit and healthy whilst saving money and not polluting what’s left of our environment. You are the sort of consumer who put buggy-whip makers and whalebone-corset makers out of business. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? 🙂

    Geoff Henderson: Ssshhh. You are not supposed to mention bunker oil. Doing so could harm global trade. Would burning firewood in modern steam boilers be less polluting, perhaps?

    Brian: We now live in a brave new world. Just up the building and construction regulations so as to handle 400Km/H winds and we should be right for a few decades. Retrofit older houses and bludger-palaces with bolted RSJs on their exteriors and set in 1800mm concrete footings; she’ll be right.

  10. Val: Most electric bikes do well under 100 km on a charge. Some male friends have recently brought electric bikes. Say one of the problems is getting the bike back from the wives that said they didn’t need electric bikes.

  11. GB: About Bunker oil:
    The term covers a wide range of ship propellant fuels. But I am pretty sure the stuff big ships use is the sludge of crude oil after the lighter volatiles have been cracked out. It has to be heated before it can be pumped and used. Here is a bit about the stuff: OK I know it is a news article but it looks like the author did some research. Here’s the link to the safety sheet on the heavy bunker oil – it is pretty nasty.

    I was trying to get some stats on bunker oil use globally but that needs a bit more time.

  12. Hi Val, on our recent trip to Europe both my wife and I got to use the native swiss bike called the Flyer. What an amazing invention they are. The wife even went on a week bike tour around Switzerland, hills, mountain passes and all. There are many different models, for example for basic city cruising you don’t need large capacity battery and complex power control. However, if you are a fast moving and long distance traveller it pays to have more power and power management options. Basically the smaller and cheaper versions are less bulkier and complex, have smaller range and power assist stops around 25kph. The expensive and bulkier version have a larger range and power assist up to 45kph. I used both and really it is a matter of horses for causes. Also consider battery to be situated as low as possible as well as easy to remove or swap. Also there are different types of drives and tyres to consider. Choice magazine has good guide and review on bikes.

    I would buy one or perhaps two tomorrow if driving conditions (roads and drivers) would be more accommodating to bicycles, in our small rural region we have about one bicycle fatality a year. As a Danish visitor once stated “Australians should not be allowed to drive a car in Denmark, as they surely will kill a bicycle driver”. Switzerland was a dream, many bike lanes, online bike touring guides (switzerlandmobility) and despite the narrow and winding roads car drivers are very disciplined. Also public recharging is no drama for example wife and her sister were usually able to plug in for free at the place were they had lunch. Don’t get me started on public transport in Europe or infrastructure in general, service provision, etc. I had a massive culture shock coming back, I got so used to modern live.

  13. Thanks Ootz, that story is kind of simultaneously inspiring (what has been done elsewhere) and depressing (the contrast here). My area, being inner city Melbourne, is not too bad for cycling, but even so a young man was killed here last year when someone doored him and he fell in front of a truck.

    I guess we just have to keep spreading the word of what could be.

  14. Val, sorry for the delay in responding, but I’ve been a bit busy and can’t engage in the threads and write new stuff at the same time.

    Thanks for the suggestion, but no it wouldn’t work. For starters I need to carry a lot more stuff. Secondly we live in the foothills of Mt Coot-tha and there are too may hills.

    Third, the distances I travel are too long and I’m too old.

    Finally, I’ve lost a few clients this year through them moving away, and my present business doesn’t justify any kind of outlay.

    So there we are!

  15. No worries Brian. It is a good talk, about 40 minutes and he goes largely to the current mass extinction event that is happening right now, and has a bit to say about population size and sustainability.

    Probably not too much new to most people on this forum although the mass extinction might be new to some.

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