Mad March – looking forward to Easter

The first three months of the year are always difficult for me. It’s hot and humid, and there is a lot of physical work to do. I tend to have annual medical check ups, and our tax return for last year needs to be done by the end of March.

Last year I was in better shape because the blog was broken over the festive season, which allowed me to get a head start. This year the time to get it all sorted is now, so that is what I’m going to have to do.

I intend to keep blogging, mainly short ones and perhaps Climate clippings and Weekly salons, until things get sorted.

Meanwhile I’ve had to set aside a couple of posts I’ve done a fair bit of work on, including the follow-up to Pivotal moments in climate change: Part 1 where Part 2 was going to address what the changeover of shadow cabinet responsibility for climate change from Mark Butler to Chris Bowen meant.

I’ll give the short version here.

LEAN has sent us a compilation of all Chris Bowen’s media statements since he took up the job.

Bowen has repeatedly committed to zero emissions by 2050, which will mean in effect that Australia rejoins the international consensus on climate action. Everyone would know I think that lacks urgency, but I don’t expect Labor will want to get ahead of the pack. There is a legitimate question as to what Labor’s intention to “follow the science” means in practice since its policies to date have based on a Climate Change Authority report of 2014. The next IPCC assessment report AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, due mid-year this year is likely to be central.

Bowen has repeatedly said that Labor will take to the election a policy which shows how the 2050 net-zero target will be reached, including an interim target. He hasn’t put a date on the interim target at this stage, but it may be 2035 rather than 2030.

From the AFR Coal communities deserve honesty about the future: Bowen

He says:

    Labor should avoid moralising to workers in traditional industries but at the same time must be completely honest with them.

    “The ramifications of ignoring the need for good climate change policy are much worse, not only for the economy generally, but for them,” he says.

    Mr Bowen recounts the story of Mt Morgan in Queensland, where his own forebears mined copper, gold and silver in the 1880s.

    He said the town today was an example of what could happen when there was no plan for a community to assist them with change.

    “The mine closed in 1981.

From RenewEconomy “Gas simply not low emissions”: Labor opposes Taylor’s CEFC power grab. He also said that gas is not cheap.

Overall Bowen says that doing nothing about climate change will cost jobs, whereas climate action will create jobs.

Here is what Bowen said on getting the gig, I believe to Katharine Murphy:

    Australia faces a choice.

    As global markets shift away from carbon-intensive industries, we can stand by and allow Australian jobs and communities to be decimated.

    Or we can embrace new industries and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the suburbs and regions – all while reducing emissions and improving energy affordability and reliability.

    With more than two million Australians unemployed or underemployed, the choice is clear to me and I’m delighted to be appointed as the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy.

    In contrast, this hapless Government has offered 22 energy policies in eight years – wrecking business confidence and slashing jobs.

    Scott Morrison and his embattled Energy Minister remain isolated on net zero by 2050 – from our major trading partners, our leading businesses, and even our Liberal states.

    As we’ve seen again this week, the Coalition remains deeply divided on the science of climate change, let alone the path forward.

    For more than two terms, my friend Mark Butler has held the Government to account for this pathetic record with his characteristic intellect and energy.

    Mark literally wrote the book on climate policy in Australia and I look forward to his continued counsel in my new role.

    I also thank the health sector for working so closely with me since 2019 and, most importantly, for its efforts to tackle COVID-19 and the many other health challenges we face.

    I will continue to work with the sector on what the World Health Organisation has described as the defining health threat of the 21st Century – climate change.

As I was about to finish this post, news came through that ALP National Platform final draft for the party national conference was now available. There are at least two reactions:

Can I say that I think gas gets a gig because they think it will be necessary rather than a concession to the Fitzgibbon faction. And, contra Coorey, seeing the use of gas as critical to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, does not bring Labor in line with the views of the Morrison government. For the Morrison government gas is the main menu.

On science, it is clear that Labor will follow the IPCC, but will also revamp the Climate Change Authority to provide direction.

It will also set up a new statutory authority charged with mitigating the adverse impacts of coal power station closures and associated mines on regional workforces and communities.

Overall Labor sees climate action as an opportunity for economic renewal as well as a necessary action in relation to the environment. It sees inaction as having devastating economic and environmental consequences.

The Coalition sees climate action as a cost, and Australia’s action as basically irrelevant, so we should act in our own good time to suit ourselves.

FWIW, and from what Chris Bowen has said, I get the impression that Mark Butler may have initiated the change in portfolios. He had done a long stint, and anyone with an eye on higher honours would seek to broaden their experience.

40 thoughts on “Mad March – looking forward to Easter”

  1. Brian: One of the things I found in the past is that you get different sorts of answers if you ask “what have we got to do to get a 5% improvement?” vs “what do we have to do to get a 30% improvement?” Sure, the 30% answer can be a package of 5% answers but sometimes the 30% will spur a radically different answer that may turn out costing less than a single 5% answer.
    You and I talk about “going on a war footing” from time to time so ask yourself where the Labor plan fits?
    Labor needs to ask challenging questions. For example, what would we do if a major power said that it would “blockade Australia if it was still using fossil carbon in say 5yrs time” and had the capacity and resolution to do just that.
    Think about it.

  2. AEMO reconsiders plan to model ‘gas led recovery’, after idea panned by energy market
    “The Australian Energy Market Operator may abandon plans to model a ‘gas led recovery’ scenario as part of its 2022 Integrated System Plan, after a proposal to model the Morrison government’s gas market ambitions vision was widely panned by key energy market stakeholders as being unrealistic.

    In briefing materials distributed to energy market stakeholders ahead of a workshop on Wednesday, and seen by RenewEconomy, AEMO suggests it will instead model a “zero net emissions” scenario as part of the next edition of the Integrated System Plan, its 20-year planning blueprint, effectively replacing the abandoned ‘gas led’ scenario.
    The net-zero emissions scenario will be modelled alongside scenarios based on the ‘current trajectory’ of the energy market, a sustainable growth pathway and an ‘export superpower’ scenario which assumes a massive ramp up of an Australian green hydrogen export industry and policies designed to meet the 1.5°C target.

    AEMO’s initial plans to include a ‘gas led recovery’ scenario in the next iteration of the ISP highlighted the influence the Morrison government has attempted to exert on energy market planners in support of a greater focus on the gas industry.
    But the decision to abandon the ‘gas led recovery’ scenario is an effective repudiation – not just of the Morrison government’s push to support the gas industry in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also Labor’s newly revealed plan to also support gas and carbon capture and storage as part of its energy policy.” The article contains more reasons for ignoring questionable policies.

  3. You and I talk about “going on a war footing” from time to time so ask yourself where the Labor plan fits?

    Which would include redirecting all relevant scientific funding toward the most potent renewable weapons right ?

    Who knows, Australia could come up with the weapons every country and individual in every would use to win.

  4. John, the pirpose of my post was to summarise Labor’s platform, not to critique it.

    If I had done the latter the first thing I would have said was that you can’t pretend you are saving the Great Barrier Reef when you go along with the IPCC schtick of 1.5°C.

    Plus the planet is clearly too hot now, so what are we going to do about it?

    Put greening/cleaning the planet on a war footing, of course.

    Labor’s problem is that it has to try to win 77 seats, which is a political task.

    So first of all we need to get our terminology right. What we have here is a draft platform. What Labor will take to the election is a policy based on that platform. If elected, then there will be plans developed in government, and guided by the latest science through The Climate Change Authority.

    Albo and his troops are going to get a lot of enemy fire, plus some sniping from people who would want him to win.

    So what he takes to the election he has to believe in through his gut as well as his head. If it’s what 120 or so other nations are signing up for, then that’s the best we can do.

    Obviously it would help if Adam Bandt and the Greens were pushing for war footing urgency.

  5. John, I can’t deal with your second comment tonight, but a couple of things.

    No-one writing at present has IMO a good perspective on gas, not the ACCC, not the Govt, not AEMO, and not the energy specialists writing in RenewEconomy.

    A few articles in the AFR have gone somewhat close. I had hoped to do a post on gas, but I’ve not gotten there yet.

    Second, I’ve been worrying about AEMO and the Energy Security Board, as to whether they see themselves working for Angus Taylor, or the states and the stakeholders.

    And whether Taylor will take any notice of their plan if he doesn’t like it, but pick the states off one by one using the power of his cash.

    Your link shows why I’m right to worry.

  6. Jumpy: “Which would include redirecting all relevant scientific funding toward the most potent renewable weapons right ?
    Who knows, Australia could come up with the weapons every country and individual in every would use to win.”
    Yep, “war footing” includes something like that.
    During WWII Australia was one of the countries that went on a war footing because we believed that losing the war would be terrible. We sent young men to war. Redirected production to meet the needs of our armies, rationed a whole range of goods, built planes and factories and without much regard for debt and the economy.
    To focus our minds we need to ask challenging questions. For example:
    What do we have to do to shut down all coal fired power stations by end 2021? (Include power rationing.)
    Ditto for all fossil carbon fuel fired power stations?
    Stop all fossil fuel exports by …?
    Replace all chemicals produced from coal or natural gas?

  7. Ok, here’s a Yes/No question.

    If Elon Musk in his spare time, after working on Tesla, Neuralink, SpaceX, Boring Company, SolarCity, StarLink and all the rest decided to come up with an atmospheric CO2 vacuuming device.

    He found the machine needed a nuclear power station, natural gas and some coal.
    97% of the scientific institutions said it would work and lower the CO2 levels.

    Would you support it ?

  8. I can’t answer for John but most intelligent beings would support it (therefore, probably not the Republican Party).
    Unfortunately, given the lead time needed to build nuclear power stations (up around a decade I believe) it would be a very delayed response to what is already an existential threat.
    BTW, if Donald Trump demonstrated that by farting in a northerly direction he could reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by a factor of ten I would support him too.
    Got any more dumb, pointless questions?

  9. Postscript: Since Elon Musk’s current best solution to AGW is to move everyone to Mars (an impossibility) I would suggest you don’t hold your breath waiting for his magic Hoover.

  10. That would depend entirely on what was to be done with the vacuumed CO2, Jumpy. If it was to swept under the carpet, then absolutely not. If the CO2 was to be converted to oxygen for release and Carbon for storage in a non combustible form, such as diamond or carbon fiber, then may be. The thing with that is that the energy required to do that from an inefficient energy source such as nuclear, the waste that would be accumulated would be huge.

    The best approach is to make thousands of micro reactors for shipping and stop that CO2 emission path first as there is no realistic energy solution for shipping other than Nuclear, and we must keep global trade operational.

    The next thing is to install massive areas of PV in some desert areas particularly the Sahara desert to power Europe and the California desert to power the US. The PV production facility would be built at the PV power location and be powered by the PV energy itself

  11. John, I hunted around a bit tonight to see whether I could do something quick on scoping the problem of gas. I was defeated.

    A basic reference is AEMO Statement of opportunities March 2020 which says that from about the middle of this decade we will be running short of gas on the east coast.

    I think annual usage is about 2,000 PJ per annum, with about half on electricity.

    Some of the problems are:

    1. The coal seam gas exporters committed themselves (especially Santos) to supply more gas than they had developed. So they are scrambling to feed the export market.

    2. It costs to get Qld gas down south, because it all has to go via Wallumbilla and Moomba.

    3. Industrial users of gas want long term contracts. These are hard to come by.

    4. There is plenty of gas in Beetaloo, but they haven’t even finished exploring yet, and it’s a long way away. And it’s shale gas, which will require fracking.

    5. There are at least five proposals to set up offshore import hubs. I think only one, Twiggy Forrest’s, which is a definite goer.

    I think import may be the way to go, because places like Qatar produce gas cheaply and will want to sell as much as possible before gas is verboten.

    It seems to me that Angus Taylor would like to build new gas and keep renewables to the minimum.

    Labor has said they will consider new gas if it is sensible and the sums add up. Roughly speaking, though, it’s the reverse of what Angus Taylor is doing.

    I say”Angus Taylor” because I’m not convinced anyone in the Coalition knows what he’s doing.

  12. Jumpy: The Greens are against nuclear power because many of its forms can be used as part of a process for making nuclear weapons and there are waste disposal issues. (Yep, thorium based systems cannot be used to make nuclear weapons and some of the newer proposals produce a lot less waste. ) The other problem is that it is relatively expensive and not a quick fix (takes yonks to build compared with solar PV)
    Bilb likes the idea of driving shipping using military style marine nuclear drives. However, these drives have been used in aircraft carriers and submarines for yonks with no sign of being adopted by commercial shipping.
    Bilb has also accused me of being attached to ammonia as shipping fuel. It would take about 3 times as much space as bunker fuel oil – probably not an overwhelming problem. The real problem would be the need for the construction of bunkering systems to keep the fleet going.
    In terms of using natural gas or coal to produce chemicals almost all the fossil carbon in the gas or coal would end up in the atmosphere.
    I have an open mind but nothing you are suggesting is a quick, cheap fix.

  13. John

    Bilb likes the idea of driving shipping using military style marine nuclear drives. However, these drives have been used in aircraft carriers and submarines for yonks with no sign of being adopted by commercial shipping.

    Is that because they are not commercially viable or is it because green groups have frightened the shit out of voters so that only governments can be trusted with it, resulting in vast amounts more co2.
    I suspect the latter.

    I think BilB is correct practically.

  14. According to this article

    Although marine nuclear propulsion has been in use since the launching of the U.S.S. NAUTILUS, there is not a nuclear powered U.S. merchant ship in service today. The reason for this is mainly economic.

    which you could have discovered with a minute’s search. But it was more important to sledge the greens wasn’t it.

  15. Dang, didn’t close the tag again! But I think my comment is easily discerned.

    [I think I fixed it – Brian]

  16. The economic costs would be mainly compliance related rather than material cost.

    If you had an independent brain able to think instead of troll every comment I make.

    Get a fuckin life idiot.

    BilB is still correct because he does have an independent brain.

  17. The economic costs would be mainly compliance related rather than material cost.

    Not according to the link (or E…Vid…Ence if you prefer).
    You’re floundering and it’s not a convincing look.

  18. Other more intelligent readers that aren’t resident trolls can judge that for themselves.
    They’ve demonstrated some thought and reason, you haven’t.

    Bless you though, every little fiefdom needs it’s pet fool.

  19. The arguments from the Nuclear Industry were that given the opportunity to build reactors on a mass manufactured basis, they could make them cost effective, and aviation industry safe. Building Nuclear reactors for bulk carriers and container ships offer that level industry at scale for best design, materials safety, operational scale and cost effectiveness. When it came to refueling the ships travel to one location where specialized extraction and reprocessing machinery is housed. Waste would be minimized and the vitreous encapsulation of the wasted could be performed. Reprocessing the fissile material would also be performed on the one site.

    This arrangement also eliminates the risk of nuclear material being captured for terrorist bomb making as the fissile material is never packaged for inter community transportation, it remains within the machinery of a closed production facility.

    It is in fact the best case for the use of Nuclear, particularly where the reactors operate in a population free portion (the greater portion 4 to 1) of the globe meaning risk to life and property is minimised.

    The fissile material cannot be extracted from the reactors while the reactors are in use in ships as such reactors are designed to remain sealed and operate for 20 years without being refueled.

    From the solar perspective it would mean that the focus on solar would be to solving every other part of the Carbon emissions problem including aviation.

    Solar cannot practically solve every problem at once so please all stop imagining or claiming that it can.

    Whereas ammonia can (I imagine) power shipping it does have limitations and two of those are the risk of explosion and the risk of toxic leaks.

    If you still have doubts about Nuclear for Shipping, line the objections up and see if I can answer them to your satisfaction.

  20. I’m intrigued by the idea of nuclear powered flight.
    As I understand it nuclear powered shipping is actually powered by steam engines with the steam being produced by the heat from the nuclear reactor. Is it possible to translate this (to my mind) somewhat cumbersome method to air travel?

  21. Bless you though, every little fiefdom needs it’s pet fool.

    Really? You’re insisting Mackay couldn’t exist without a village idiot?
    Your case would be much stronger if you used your giant intellect to forensically dismantle my arguments rather than relying on petty name calling (which, truth be told, is not your strong suit).

  22. Thanks Bilb. Should have looked it up myself but the idea of steam powered aircraft boggled my mind.

    • Over the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.

    That was George Monbiot, writing on 4 April, 2011.

    He had been in the thrall of Helen Caldicott. When he asked her for the scientific evidence she was basing her claims on, he was “profoundly shaken” by what she came up with.

  23. Brian, I don’t at all support land based Nuclear power for all of the many times debated risks to life and property on the over populated and over exploited one fifth of the Earth’s surface that we depend upon for our existence. What amazes me is that the Nuclear Industry appears to be focused on multi billion dollar land based reactors only. Only Russia seems to be interested in moveable Nuclear Power Reactors.

  24. I googled Furyshima damage to people. The answer was not much.
    However, this doesn’t mean that nuclear power generation makes financial or speed of action sense.

  25. Your second point,JohnD, has been discussed extensively and most are in agreement on that.

    But that same generation capacity in ships would be some 60 large vessels, and to lose that many vessels of one design would signal a massive failure. The probability of that actually happening is virtually zero as the loss of just one vessel would call for anchoring (grounding) of the whole fleet, just as it does with aircraft, until the design floors are remedied.

    So it is wrong to transpose the land based Nuclear experience to the marine based Nuclear designs. Simply, more smaller reactors are far safer than fewer huge ones. Distributed risk, along with the safer lower energy output to thermal mass ratio of the marine reactors.

  26. Here’s the link to Wikipedia on Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. If you scroll down, the negative health effects were nowhere near as bad as Chernobyl.

    I’m betting that advocates for nukes could make a case that coal is more dangerous to health than nukes.

    I’m interested in the case bilb makes for ships powered by nukes. On land I’d prefer we didn’t, but have an open mind. I just happened to come across the reference to the Monbiot link from the latest draft chapter on Sophie’s Planet by James Hansen, who also thinks nukes will be necessary, so I thought I’d remind everyone that there is support for nukes from people who are definitely on the side of the angels.

    I think Hansen is better on the diagnosis and scientific explanation of climate change than he is on solutions, where he is really a lay person rather than an expert.

  27. Shipping is a system, not just single ships. For example, most ships run on heavy bunker oil which is a byproduct of oil refining. to support ships running on bunker oil the system needs a lot of bunker oil refueling systems spread around the world. Two problems here:
    1. If demand for petrol and diesel drops as a result of cleaning up land transport there may actually be a shortage of bunker oil as processing of oil drops. (The problem may be resolved by adding crude oil to the mix but I am not sure of all the implications of this.)
    2. We may be able to switch bunker oil handling facilities to handle lighter renewable fuels such as biofuels and renewable methanol.
    3. The switch to gaseous renewable fuels such as renewable ammonia is more difficult because it would need pressure vessels to hold the fuel.
    4. Oil refining produces a number of useful byproducts such as tar and the petro-coke used for aluminum smelting electrodes.
    5. Bilb is right to say that nuclear powered ships would avoid the need for numerous fueling points but, rightly or wrongly some ports may be reluctant to accept nuclear powered ships.
    One of the problems at the moment is that the coal kissers want to use the potential for nuclear as an excuse for doing nothing.

  28. A lawyer in New Jersey is concerned that three nuclear plants in the state will shut because they can’t compete with fracked gas.

    He cites the Union of Concerned Scientists who say

      “more than one-third of U.S. nuclear plants are unprofitable or scheduled to close. If they are replaced by natural gas, emissions will rise — with serious consequences for the climate.”

    The subsidy would amount to a $2.50 increase in the average residential customer’s monthly bill.

    The nuclear plants currently provide 40% of the state’s electricity needs.

  29. I made better progress than I expected on the weekend. Have to work and medical appointments this week (nothing serious) but should come up for air by mid-week.

    Tonight we are planning to watch Four Corners to see what they’ve got to say on the matter of Christian Porter. The only place I’ve read the specifics of what the woman claimed happened has been in Crikey, which is pay-walled.

    Last week on TV news Andrew Probyn said that the other two people on the debating team back in 1989 were disposed to believe her version rather than Porter’s. Then the following night he named one of them as saying he was prepared to testify to an inquiry. Not sure how to spell his name, so I won’t repeat it.

    Michelle Grattan thinks the Morrison government is in a shambles and doubts Porter can survive politically.

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