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57 responses to “Perspectives on the CPRS”

  1. Aussie Oskar

    The idea that a tonne of carbon saved by reafforestation and a tonne saved by cutting coal-fired power emissions are equal suggests this is a zero sum game. That is, there’s a certain amount of money floating about and if reafforestation is cheaper, it’ll go there because its the lowest hanging fruit.

    For mine, this ignores the fact that failing to reform our domestic electricity generation sector delays the switch to renewables that this will bring about. The only reason this change is not low-hanging fruit is because the greenhouse mafia has lobbyied so hard. There are real efficiencies to be gained here but they’ve been made more expensive and more difficult to achieve because of the compo & exemptions in the CPRS. A limit on permit imports would help maintain some of the pressure to start moving away from coal.

  2. dk.au

    Emissions not released because forests aren’t logged, and peat bogs are left submerged, aren’t any less “real” than ones released by burning coal or oil. We will clearly have to stop emissions from both sources.

    Absolutely, but unfortunately that is not the way it’s been framed in the international negotiations, nor is it likely to be anytime soon. Avoided deforestation is considered equivalent to burning fossil fuels, not avoiding burning them. Confronting that political reality means also confronting the fundamental failures to frame a universal ‘subject’ of emissions reductions: should it be on a per capita or national basis? The threat of future emissions or the legacy of past ones? The UNFCCC was supposed to cool down these disputes, but the revisionists will not be silenced!

    Guy Pearse understands the politics better than most, but he still misses a crucial point: because of the difficulties of defining a forest, REDD credits will go to plantations too, effectively providing them with an additional source of revenue for doing nothing.

    I wonder how many of the 8.9% of those who claimed to have a ‘good understanding’ of the CPRS thought it would see coal fired plant staying online and providing additional finance to shonky palm oil plantations supplying ‘cheap’ shampoo to Unilever?

  3. dk.au

    Also note that with REDD, the problems with a UN-centric approach have long been recognised, even by those promoting international linkages for other credits. Frank Jotzo co-authored this 2006 paper recommending a separate treaty.

  4. Aussie Oskar

    On that subject, dk, Tim Flannery was suggesting in his QE that a village-level approach was the best way to look after forests. Get in touch with individual villagers on the internet and pay them to look after their bit of forest the way they think best. They would effectively auction their efforts and, presumably, have them verified every year.

    Not sure if these kinds of schemes would be available to Aus polluters under CPRS?

  5. David Irving (no relation)

    I heard a news item recently, the gist of which was that China thinks the emmissions resulting from their manufacturing should belong to the countries they export the manufactured goods to.

    In other words, our attempts to outsource some of our CO2 emmissions by no longer making anything in Australia could well fail.

  6. Lefty E

    Here’s the easy way to cut Australia’s emissions by 5%. Shut down Hazelwood. http://switchoffcoal.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/a-dinosaur-has-been-slain/#more-9

  7. carbonsink

    Here’s the easy way to cut Australia’s emissions by 5%. Shut down Hazelwood

    Er, what about the Victorian smelters as well? They might move to Iceland and use some of that clean green geothermal energy they have in abundance. I hear Iceland could do with some help at the moment!

    Emissions not released because forests aren’t logged, and peat bogs are left submerged, aren’t any less “real” than ones released by burning coal or oil. We will clearly have to stop emissions from both sources.

    Sure, no less real, but we’re not going to stop emissions from both sources are we? We’re going to take the easy option — avoided deforestation in some far off place — and by emphasising that option you are giving the politicians an out.

    I’m with Guy Pearse on this one.

  8. Hornet

    Purchasing carbon credits from someone who promises not to chop down some trees? Please, this does nothing to stop carbon emissions and will result in a huge disparity between the rich and the poor cross the world. Great idea, let’s pay a bunch of Indonesian farmers a pittance once so that they promise never to develop their land and obtain for their children what everyone else in the developed world takes for granted so that we can continue burning coal and powering our leaf blowers. Sounds like a great way of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Does this mean every joe blow with a tree in his backyard should get paid not to knock it over, regardless of his intention? What about landholders affected by tree clearing regulations, should they be paid for the fact that they are the only reason the government will meet it’s Kyoto targets? Australians sure aren’t burning any less coal, or using any less petrol. We’re still emitting the same amount of CO2. If landholders here don’t get compensated for not clearing trees as a result of tree clearing regulations, does that mean if third world countries brought in the same regulations we wouldn’t be able to buy carbon credits off them because they couldn’t clear the trees anyway?

    Ultimately this is a ridiculous argument. The only way to reduce Carbon levels is to stop using so much fossil fuels. This cannot be done at the expense of poorer nations. Government need to get serious about renewable energy. At the end of the day, coal and oil will run out and we’ll need alternatives then. Why not do it now? Spend the budget stimulus package on renewable technology, even a solar panel for half the houses in Australia. They can feed the electricity back into the grid when they’re not using it. Sorry, the government won’t make so much from electricity sales or coal royalties then. Taking up renewables and stopping the coal miners is a bit like dumping the nice girlfriend who you relly don’t like anymore. It’s a shit of a job, you’ll probably cop some abuse and you probably won’t have much of a chance with her friends, but at the end of the day you’ll feel a whole lot better and to not do it is just to prolong the inevitable.

  9. Huggybunny

    The longer all this debate goes on the easier it is for governments to do nothing real at all. The market will not fix it, the market will not fix it. Prescribed and mandatory cuts will. Trees not cut, peatbogs not drained, emisssions from manufacturing limmited by law. All CO2 emissions limited by a rutheless application of Draconian laws – that will do it.
    It is going to come to this because it is now too late to stop climate runaway, we will have to turn the deserts white, seed the clouds with salt spray and maybe a few other measures just to stop the seas rising by 10m and all the forests burning.
    See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/5049214/Melting-permafrost-could-trigger-unstoppable-climate-change.html
    Enjoy, Huggy

  10. Robert Merkel

    The only way to reduce Carbon levels is to stop using so much fossil fuels.

    Even if we stopped all fossil fuel emissions – tomorrow – we’d still have to stop land clearing and methane emissions to preserve a reasonable climate.

    Which goes to Huggy’s point. While I strongly disagree with him on the merits or otherwise of markets here, I’ve thought for some time now that whatever we do will not be enough and we’ll be faced with geoengineering, at best to bring CO2 levels down faster than nature can, at worst to do other things to avoid a climate disaster while we bring CO2 levels down.

  11. Lefty E

    So depressing.

    You know – if our leaders cant come up with some good news on climate within 12 months, I say we sack the lot of them.

  12. Roger Jones

    I also side with Pearse on this one. There is a sovereign risk in Australia maintaining a high per capita fossil fuel emissions rate. I think claiming credit for buying off clearing elsewhere while maintaining high domestic emissions will prove unacceptable to the rest of the world. Australia gets stuck with a fossilised economy. Good-oh, that will keep the country competitive.

    It would be smarter for tropical countries to reign in clearing, then backdate the credits when they come to emissions agreements. It’s been done before (until Australia failed to ratify Kyoto, that is).

    This plan is like giving a a sparkling paint job to a car that hardly goes. It will look good but not go any faster.

  13. Martin B

    Emissions not released because forests aren’t logged, and peat bogs are left submerged, aren’t any less “real” than ones released by burning coal or oil.

    Not less real, just awfully less dependable. Fires or illegal activity can wipe out most of the gains pretty quickly.

  14. carbonsink

    Which goes to Huggy’s point. While I strongly disagree with him on the merits or otherwise of markets here, I’ve thought for some time now that whatever we do will not be enough and we’ll be faced with geoengineering…

    The market could be a fantastic tool for reducing CO2 emissions. That’s not the problem, the problem is lack of political will, and I suspect, increasing ambivalence, skepticism and fatalism amongst the general populous. Count me in the latter category.

    I do wonder why Robert thinks there will be any more political will (or popular support) for geoengineering in the future. We can’t seem to manage even token cuts to CO2 emissions, so why he thinks we’ll happily devote X% of GDP to putting big mirrors in space (or whatever) I don’t know. There will be a thousand Andrew Bolts saying we can’t afford it and it won’t solve the problem.

  15. Huggybunny

    I have said this before and I will say it again. We (the world) will only do what it takes when the seas roll up wall street and the canal developments of the world are sunk. Until that day enjoy the market flannel and the endless arguments about sources and sinks. Angels on pins, great green monsters from the sky and whatever takes your fancy.
    Carbonsink, Robert oh that you are right about the market. I fear you are not. There is a fatal flaw. Markets generally have a fit for purpose mechanism built into them. This can be easily tested by the buyers. Carbon credits, or whatever, cannot be easily tested by any-one. Like buying indulgences in the middle ages I guess. And about as useful.

  16. Robert Merkel

    The reason why I think there will be support for geoengineering in the future is that the situation will be so obviously bad that people will clamor for anything that offers a way out.

  17. Hornet

    I agree land clearing should be stopped. But is it really true that if we stopped burning fossil fuels altogether and didn’t clear any more land that the cows on the planet farting methane would be enough to destroy the environment. I kinda find that hard to believe, but I’m no expert.
    Maybe the only way to take masses of carbon out the atmosphere is to chop down fully grown, mature forests that are no longer removing much Carbon from the atmosphere, use that timber in houses and things that lock it up forever, and replant the forest. The trees would grow big, convert Carbon Dioxide to Carbon and Oxygen, and the Carbon could then taken out and locked up in houses. It’s probably a hard one to sell, but is there any better, cheaper and more effective method that can be done on a large scale? Mature trees take very little Carbon out of the atmosphere.

  18. Aussie Oskar

    Just to return to the CPRS for a moment…

    Roger’s right on with his suggestion that its a sovereign risk for Australia to effectively pin all our emissions cuts on overseas projects. Not only does it threaten to leave us with a carbon-dependent economy when the rest of the world has moved on, but as things get uglier with the climate how is it going to look if we’ve managed to get another Kyoto-like deal and continue to emit rather than cut? How are the Bangladeshis going to feel about that?

    Its way past time to be basing plans on carbon offsets – which is effectively what the 100% import plan does. But unless Rudd is prepared to shift on this and half a dozen other things in the Senate then the CPRS is pretty much cactus. And good riddance to it – its worse than nothing at this stage.

  19. Robert Merkel

    Hornet: there was a thread on this somewhat recently. Even at current greenhouse gas levels, we’ve buggered the climate for a millenium or two.

    As for fixes, a lot of the CO2 is actually taken out of the biosphere by geological, not biological, processes. Accelerating these seems the most plausible route to low-cost geoengineering to me, though that may just be because I’m no geologist.

  20. Murph the surf.

    “But is it really true that if we stopped burning fossil fuels altogether and didn’t clear any more land that the cows on the planet farting methane would be enough to destroy the environment.”
    Methane is produced by the cows ruminal contents( cows have a 4 chambered stomach – the rumen is the first and largest compartment) – many bacteria and protozoa and I think some fungi .
    The reaction catalysed by these microbes breaks complex carbohydrates into an unusual set of chemicals called volatile fatty acids.
    The cow can use these directly as an energy source.In fact different food stuffs
    ( grains as opposed to grass for example ) produce different proportions of these chemicals- one way to try and minimise methane production possibly.
    Methane accounts for an energy loss from the ingested food of around 7%. It is predominantly BURPED out of the cow. God alone knows why so many people think that farting is involved – too many teenagers have experienced lighting each others farts I suppose.
    One thing which is poorly understood ( I also was ignorant of this perspective )is that the cow is actually part of a closed Carbon system. It’s foods are renewable- grasses grow, are eaten the Carbon is partly freed as methane but is mostly recycled as meat or manure .Sustainable management aims to minimise the losses and use the cycle to boost vegetation regrowth , soil carbon and soil coverage.All promote positive change.
    So how significant is methane compared to other sectors making Co2 equivalent emissions? Well in agriculture enteric fermentation is about 2/3 rds of the total. But this sector has been static since 1990. Livestock numbers are declining – about 90 million less sheep and a similar number of cattle and dairy cattle exist today ( figures from 2005)compared to 1990.So enteric fementation’s contribution has declined by around 8% over the period mentioned.
    Total emissions measured as Mt( megatonne) CO2 equivalents for all of Australia is around 560 .The total for agriculture is about 88, for enteric fermentation 59. Far more significant is the energy sector – it has grown from 287 to 391 over the period – a growth of 36 % .
    Landuse change lead to a decrease of emissions from 128 to 33 – a decline of 74%.
    It is the release of Carbon from the long term Carbon sinks by burning oil and coal that is driving the imbalances that are pushing climate change.
    The figures are from ABARE and AGO.

  21. Lefty E

    Yes, it just becomes clearer and clearer – carbon tax, now.

    Its need to be global, and therefore low to start off. I don’t give a crap if its $10 per tonne to start with, if it secures agreement. Countries only pay it after exceeding their per capita based allowance – thus giving the (large population) developing countries an equalising advantage, and keeping low emission countries unburdened by it at all. Funds administered by an international body which spends it on carbon remission programs based on the sole criteria of where net global emissions can be best reduced.

    Quit pissing around with cap n trade nonsense, world!

  22. Lefty E

    Ok, please comment on my International Carbon Tax Manifesto over here at BmL.

    Tell me why it cant work, why I am nuts. I will modify it per suggestions. I will junk it under sustained ridicule which is proven to be credible. But I warn you, I WILL launch this campaign on teh nets unless I am set straight. Stop me now!

  23. Hornet

    Left-e, the carbon tax is the only way emissions will be reduced, but the problem is who pays? As murph the smurf says, cows are part of a closed carbon system especially when you take into account the carbon in the animal by means of weight gain that is exported from the farm. Broadacre farmers also sequester Carbon if you take into account the Carbon in grain that leaves the farm. Should the farmer be paid for sequestering the Carbon in the grain, leaving the consumer to pay the tax on the carbon they eat out of the loaf of bread they buy? At the end of the day all agriculture and related industries such as ethanol and biofuels must be carbon neutral and the only real contributer to greenhouse gas emissions must be those who use fossil fuels as murph the smurf says. A carbon tax should therefore only target users of fossil fuels otherwise it gets too hard and you end up with an army of bureaucrats taking with one hand and giving with the other chasing carbon from closed carbon systems around the economy.

  24. BilB


    The only purpose for any kind of carbon consumption charge of any sort is to provide the finance for a sustainable replacement. With out buildng or creating the replacement there is no advantage at all.

    So the aim is to replace the largest carbon emission industries and work towards the smallest. We all think of our cars as being our most emiting devices, but it is really our houses and workplaces through electricity consumption that cause the biggest problem. The solution for our car emissions conveniently happens to be the same as for our hgouses and businesses. Electricity.

    So there is one easy to manage solution. Replace all power generation with solar origin alternatives.

    I have demonstrated else where that a simple 3.2 cents levy per retail unit of electricity (kilowatt hour) will replace all of Australia’s coal power stations with Concentrating Solar Power by 2030, and supply further electrity to replace most vehicle energy consumption by 2040. This approach gives the automotive industry time to develop and produce electric vehicles for every body. And this is without any other action being required.

    This levy will cost the average family of 4 just $5 dollars per week, and be a minimal cost to most businesses.

    This simple action will eliminate around 50% of Australia’s CO2 emissions. Along the way to 2040 sensible and well thought out solutions for much of the remaining 50% of emissions can be worked out. Solutions such as algal oil for air travel and or super capacitor batteries for the same. And solutions for less land intensive food production.

  25. Roger Jones

    Murph: in Australia, stock numbers are pretty static. Globally, the demand for meat is still increasing. So, the economy makes sure that ag methane is not a closed system.

    Everyone: The good news, is that if globally, we got fossil fuel use down far enough, we could managed improved land-use and agricultural emissions and still be able to reduce concentrations in the atmosphere. Currently, it is estimated that about 45% of emissions are being absorbed. This figure may be lower if the emissions from peats and rainforest are higher than thought, because the current budget has to balance (we know how much GHG is in the atmosphere).

    My estimate is that on current growth rates, if we try and level off emissions to a constant rate, 500 ppm CO2 equivalent is the best we can get. The risk of dangerous climate change at 500 ppm is too high, so the only viable scenario that does not contain intolerable risk has to be an overshoot scenario. 2020 targets have to be consistent with this scenario – Australia at 5% is not, in any way shape or form. Policy designed to get to overshoot is much more important than any stabilisation target that is centuries away (e.g., any number between 300 and 500 ppm CO2e) – we can decide on that later, when we know more about how the Earth system is likely to respond. Some of the lower numbers may be physically impossible, but if so, that’s already the case and we just don’t know it. Thus geo-engineering remains an option.

    Given the technical framework to carry out and administer an ETS is pretty much in place, it probably does not hugely matter whether it is a trading system or tax. It just needs a decent target, no free kicks (i.e., all compensation is tied to performance) and decent accompanying strategies (e.g., long-term investment plan that can act as medium term stimulus for the global financial crisis).

    It would be nice to have a community scheme that rewarded voluntary reductions at the user end, but it is technically very difficult to administer. This shouldn’t be seen as a reason not to think about it, and I think we need both top-down and bottom up policies in the long run. Price alone is just not good enough. This point is relevant both to trading and tax.

  26. BilB

    I should add that under the current CPRS we will all be paying the same power consumption increase, 20% this having already been announced by the power companies, while getting absolutely no benefit in the form of CO2 emission reductions. The CPRS money collected by the government, 9 billion dollars, has been divided up with the largest single share being paid back to the very power companies who are going to charge us more for the power they produce while emitting very much the same amount of CO2.

    Meanwhile, the government is already looking at how to spend the balance of the retained CPRS money on coping with the effects of global warming. The message from our Australian government is we do not know how to fix the problem, so we will just cope with it instead. And be very sympathetic to the victims of the effects of global warming, starting with all of those (rich) people with waterfront properties.

  27. BilB

    And before anyone howls about the unmangeable cost of the 3.2 cent per electricity unit levy on pensioners and the lowest income section of our community, the plan would include better targeting of the money already being spent on solar panels for the most able, to a free roof solar panel (electricity and solar water heating) programme for pensioners and families in substatial income stress. This will work to reduce the cost of electricity for these people to the point of offering a net gain in these individuals incomes.

    note: pensioner’s power needs are lower to around 500 watts solar input so allowing for around 2000 watts of solar installation for low income families.

  28. Huggybunny

    It’s not simply trees, cows or electricity generation that we have to deal with its our whole way of life. We have to implement the technologies that we know reduce CO2 emissions. The mining and manufacture of steel, copper, aluminium – all metals. Cement manufacture, transport; The list contains virtually every-thing we eat drink, consume and use.
    I would say that all the technologies exist now; many to my certain knowledge, have been around for over 40 years.
    Why don’t we use them? because they seem to cost a little bit more that’s why. That’s largely the perception of a myopic managerial class and an academic elite. when the true costs to the environment are calculated they come out way ahead. Now the managerial and academic elite are telling us we need to create a market for the implementation of stuff that we have known about for years. Wow that is really smart. We don’t need a new cohort of coupon clippers to make it happen. All they will do is stand between the talkers and the doers and take their cut, that’s what the “market” push is really all about.
    Let’s just send every business owner and minister who fails to implement CO2 reduction strategies to Guantanamo (I am sure Barack would let us use it).

  29. BilB

    The problem, Huggy, with taking a broad approach is that the wider the net of solutions come the wider probability of failure. For example. South Australia has a drink container return incentive, which works. They have an 80% overall recycling rate as a result. NSW bottle makers don’t want to do it, because they perceive it to be messy, and not their responsibility. A simple concept that we used to have, is good for the environment, but some one with influence doesn’t want to do it. So it doesn’t happen anywhere else other than SA. What chance is ther for a multiplicity of solutions being effective. This is the failure of the CPRS.

    A single specific purpose tax/levy is the most likely successful approach (worldwide) to carbon abatement.

    We need to get one significant programme under way, and while that is being implemented we can work of the smaller things, enfranchised with the knowledge that success is probable.

  30. Chris

    Why don’t we use them? because they seem to cost a little bit more that’s why. That’s largely the perception of a myopic managerial class and an academic elite.

    Probably as a result of those annoying consumers who insist on buying the cheapest equivalent product around. Ever wondered why the rates of green energy purchase are so low? Or go talk to a few project home builders and ask how many of their customers ask for more insulation to be installed and how many ask for less insulation than standard just to save a few bucks in the short term.

  31. carbonsink

    The reason why I think there will be support for geoengineering in the future is that the situation will be so obviously bad that people will clamor for anything that offers a way out.

    But its so obviously bad now and nothing is happening!

    The climate changes so slowly and imperceptibly its easy for the Bolts of this world to claim nothing is happening, and nothing will fix it. Climate change can be plausibly denied forever.

    Now sure, the WAIS might melt, or the Gulf Stream might flip, but even these changes will take place over decades or centuries, a rate of change way too slow for the average human to comprehend.

    What we really “need” is some catastrophe that is undeniably caused by climate change. Something that happens over a timescale of hours, days or weeks, not decades or centuries. But as we know, there are plenty who will deny the undeniable.

    Short of a catastrophe the politicians will never punish us for emitting CO2, they will only bribe us to use less. If the sticks will never be used we need to focus on the carrots. We need to engineer a green bubble. Lets face it, we’re good at creating bubbles without really trying. We’ve had the tech bubble, and the housing bubble, imagine how much investment we could see flowing into clean tech if we actively encouraged a green bubble?

    Its the only way forward that’s politically possible.

  32. carbonsink

    I should stress I am not wishing for, or hoping for, a 2004 tsunami-like catastrophe. My point is, only an incident of this scale will see real, coordinated global action on climate change.

  33. Danny

    BilB (24)

    I have demonstrated else where that a simple 3.2 cents levy per retail unit of electricity (kilowatt hour) will replace all of Australia’s coal power stations with Concentrating Solar Power by 2030, and supply further electrity to replace most vehicle energy consumption by 2040.

    ….Link please BilB.
    I’ve got my use down to 302kwhr for the last, mostly summer, quarter, thus approaching what a standard 1kw sponsored system in Brisbane sun will produce. A 3.4c kwhr levy like BilB’s will only add $10/quarter for me, compared to the $100/quarter the actual bill is. I note that the actual electricty consumption part of the bill is less than half the total, more than a quarter of it is an ambulence levy. If the 28c/day ambulence levy was sourced from the health system where it logically belongs, the $2 week/household freed up would be getting close to covering BilB’s 3.2c / kwh sustainable/renewables energy infrastructure levy , and not even be noticed. An ambulence/emergency services levy as another matter entirely.
    Just think how far Rudd, Swann and Gillard’s handouts would have gone if they were devoted to building a green power industry : $15 million got a 5MW ( that’s 5000 suburban rooftop units, which operate at very sub-optimal efficency, and cost about $10k each, a 3-5 fold bang-for-buck efficiency cut over desert-based grid-feeding utility scale installations) solar thermal plant up in 7 mths in california using (Ausra) Australian developed technologies. The 20 billion the qld coal railway’s were given would have given us ~1000 of them, that’s of the order of 5 gigawatts capacity. The technologies and techniques involved are pretty much the same as in robotised automobile manufacture, so that workforce could have been minimally retrained and deployed at the component manufacture side. Throughput of a workforce of 50 in the component factory is enough to keep a plant assembly workforce of 1000 going. We could knock this off in less time than it took to do the Snowy River setup.
    With a 44c kwhr feedin tariff, like even the tories in qld had on offer, the $15mill to build a 5000kw x 1000hrs/year plant, has a 5-7 year turnaround time for the investment to be recouped, an ideal superannuation funds proposition. Most of the spend is on jobs, there’s no heroic imported super-expensive engineers’ wet-dream technology like the BrisConnect ( multi-billion $cam, then punter tolls forever, the whole thing is about to go belly-up big-time, and take the queensland public service superannuation scheme with it, unless anna and kev bail it out) tunnel machines. Just mirrors and pipes and scaffolding and pumps and turbines, and oodles of desert, plenty of which is gridded already. Just add capital, greenbonds.

  34. Helen

    China thinks the emmissions resulting from their manufacturing should belong to the countries they export the manufactured goods to.

    In other words, our attempts to outsource some of our CO2 emmissions by no longer making anything in Australia could well fail.

    And quite right too!

  35. Chris

    To get around the problem of exporting CO2 emissions where we don’t have a global system, why can’t we give credits to exporters (they get money back for the cost of CO2 in production) and tax importers based on CO2 production (but take into account if they had to pay for the carbon during production).

    Would that make it a more level playing field for the manufacturers?

  36. BilB


    The discussion starts around here


    and continues for quite a while.

    As I said above since that argument was put, power distributors have signalled a 20% increase in the retail price of electricity to cover the costs of the CPRS. We are guaranteed to take that hit anyway, for no tangible gain.

  37. Lefty E

    Ta for the commments here, at my my blog. Ill be tweaking the model based on the usueful feedback, as soon as I get time. But my basic feeling is that left to politicians and elite scientists, bugger all will happen but rent-seeking smoke screens and increasingly exasperated academic papers being published. We also need popular , broad front, non-expert mass action, Old school style.

    I think cosmopolitan global citizen (ie non-state) action will be as necessary as state based (internationalist) action. We plump for a model too – and back it up with peaceful occupations of key pollution sites in 5 years time. You will have to remove 1000s of protesters from the most inefficient coal fired generators before you can get the coal in. We will be a royal pain in your arse etc.

  38. Aussie Oskar

    While we’re discussing the use of offshore abatements and cost to the economy, I thought this McKinsey diagram with relative costs of abatement pretty timely.

    The most expensive option is, drum roll, avoiding deforestation in Asia. Its undoubtedly important but its bloody expensive. Any racket that suggests its more cost effective for Australian polluters pay Indonesians to look after their forests is complete smoke and mirrors.

    Not surprisingly, CCS is right up there with the most expensive options….

    If only the markets were *actually* going to serve up a least cost solution.

  39. Helen

    Probably as a result of those annoying consumers who insist on buying the cheapest equivalent product around.

    Oh, it’s those pesky poor people again with their annoying inability to afford things.

    Rather than making this an occasion for moral one-upness, let’s consider the suggestion further up the thread for subsidised solar hot water panels for low income housing. Not only would it level the playing field in terms of being able to afford greener energy solutions, but think of the opportunities such a push would provide for the producers of the technology and the people who would get new jobs designing and building it.

  40. Huggybunny

    Small “k” big “W” small “h” = kWh.
    The electricity supply is probably the easiest to deal with in terms of generation transmission and distribution. The alternatives, in declining order of Annual Capacity Factor are: Geothermal, Methane Drainage, Solar Thermal, Wind, PV. No need for nuclear – nuclear generation is no more than academics and business touts seeking rent while they poison the planet for future generations.. (Might make an exception for accelerator based Thorium)
    We should just tell the incumbent generators that they must replace their generation according to legislated schedule using one of the Huggy sanctioned techniques listed above and retire present generation. Failure to comply will attract legal action.

  41. Chris

    Oh, it’s those pesky poor people again with their annoying inability to afford things.

    That wasn’t actually quote about the poor though. Lots of people out there who aren’t poor who make the same decisions. People who can afford green energy who choose not to (look at the stats for Canberra where household income is high). Or install a nicer kitchen when building a house rather than install better insulation.

    Rather than making this an occasion for moral one-upness, let’s consider the suggestion further up the thread for subsidised solar hot water panels for low income housing.

    I agree with this and as I’ve suggested before its a much better alternative to a feed-in-tarrif which subsidises the well off. Although as others have also stated there are more effective ways to reduce emissions (insulation is one) than solar PV (solar hot water is a big gain if replacing electric, but not so much for replacing gas).

  42. Huggybunny

    Chris @ 41.
    I know this is uncharacteristic of me but I must disagree about consumer subsidies. I would argue that the consumer subsidy for solar stuff has held the development of PV back about 15 years. The PV companies just take the subsidy and serve up the same old shit they were serving up 15 years ago. Sure the bland is blander and the spin is spinner but the product is the same and the cost much the same. Solar hot water systems in Indonesia, where they are not subsidised, cost about AUD $60:00 tops! You are not permitted to install them in Australia thanks to the non tariff barrier to trade called “Australian Standards” that was drawn up by the Aussi incumbents.
    Leaving aside standards the cost of inverters for PV is inflated by about 400% thanks to subsidies.
    Only losers and retards in business need subsidies – such as the US car industry?
    Subsidise research? Well that is another matter 🙂

  43. Chris

    Huggybunny @ 42 – I’ve heard similar comments from others – the subsidy just pushes up the prices. I don’t think the direct subsidy for solar hot water is needed anymore anyway – the pay off time is low enough. But perhaps some low interest loans would be appropriate for those who struggle to save. The government could redirect the remaining amount of subsidy money for solar hot water and put out tenders for people to install the systems for public housing – good for the environment and directly helps the disadvantaged.

    Re: $60 solar hot water sytems – couldn’t they just spend a bit more money and get them up to spec for Australia?

  44. wilful

    Hey everyone, look what I just found, quoted in the VCEC draft report on ‘green tape’, and therefore ‘authoritative’ for the Victorian government.

    Investment costs to replace 10 per cent of Australia’s total current CO2e emissions using different new technologies in 2020
    Technology Estimated capital cost $/W Cost to replace 60 Mt/a coal fired CO2 (10% of total Australian GHG) ($billion)
    CCS-coal 3.5 49
    Biomass 2.5 25
    Solar PV 5.0 174
    Solar thermal 3.0 104
    Wind 2.0 46
    Wave 1.5 42
    Geothermal 6.0 60

    Source: ATSE 2009, p. 22.
    ATSE (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering) 2009, Energy technology for climate change: accelerating the technology response, ATSE,

    (sorry if the table is unclear).

    Looks like the CCS guys have managed to capture that one, even if they haven’t economically captured any CO2 yet!

  45. BilB

    Wilfull, what are the 2 numbers. I assume the first is the $ per watt, what is the second number?

  46. Adrien

    Carbon Tax Carbon Tax Carbon Tax, Carbon Tax Carbon Tax Carbon Ta-ax; Carbon Tax Carbon Tax Carbon Tax
    (and serious money into renewable energy)

  47. wilful

    First is $ per watt, correct. Second is cost in billions to replace 60 Mt carbon emissions from coal-fired generation (only 10 percent of Australia’s electricity needs).

    I have no idea why these two figures aren’t simply arithmetic, why for example geothermal is expensive per watt but not so bad when scaled up.

    I am hugely sceptical of the CCS number, but suspect the other numbers may well be within a ballpark of approximately right. I’m sure there are plenty of other estimates out there.

  48. wilful

    Ah. more info on the ATSE study here: http://www.atse.org.au/index.php?sectionid=1259

  49. BilB


    If you look at the bottom of page 22 you will see that the report has based its assessment on TREASURY ASSUMPTIONS. Now if these assumptions are the same assumptions that Howard used to for his steam roller attempt to introduce nuclear power (treasury officials do not change with governments) then the conclusions are substantially trash.

    I will be challenging Mr Wes Stein for the validity of his information as soon as I can track him down. For CSP trough solar the $3.0 per watt can only by true if you took the European or American figure and did a straight dollar conversion to estimate Australian cost. This is not even slightly real for the Australian situation. For CSP the entire plant is manufactured on site, with the exception of the turbines and possibly the collector tubes. So costs are very different for each country.

    Even if you accepted the $3.00 per watt as being real the idea that it would take $104 billion would mean that this report suggests that CSP requires 30 gigawatt of capacity to replace 10% of coal power generation….or…..300 gigawatt of CSP to equal 60 gigawatt of coal generation capacity. TOTAL CRAP.

  50. wilful

    Interestingly, the presentation accessible on the link I just posted spent some time talking nuclear as well, though this didn’t make it into the VCEC report (along with gas, oddly). The full table:

    Technology / $ per W 2020 / $ per W 2050 / $B for 10% by 2020 / $B for 10% by 2020
    CCS $3.50 $2.50 49 35
    Gas $1.50 $1.30 30 26
    Biomass $2.50 $2.00 25 20
    Solar PV $5.00 $2.00 174 70
    Solar Thermal $3.00 $2.00 104 70
    Wind $2.00 $1.50 46 35
    Wave $1.50 $1.30 42 36
    Geothermal $6.00 $4.00 60 40
    Nuclear – $2.00 – 20

  51. BilB


    That makes the CSP figures even more false. The principle installed cost factor for CSP is installation commitment. The optimum basic plan is for 250 megawatt per turbine house (pipe distance from collectors to steam generators). But if you set up to manufacture a CSP facility and stop at 250 megawatt then the cost goes up as the mirror plant does not ever achieve its full economic capacity. So the capital cost is not time based, it is installed capacity based. To be $5 per watt you are talking about a trial 50 megawatt facility. The calculation is a simple one. At 50 megawatt (1 square kilometre) the plant costs 2.4 Euro per square metre of installed mirror area including the cost of the turbine house. At 250 megawatt that cost comes down to 1.2 Euro per square metre of installed mirror including the turbine house. If you commit to 4 off 250 megawatt facilities to make 1 gigawatt that installed mirror price comes down to 1.0 Euro per metre. There are 350,000 metres of mirror required per square kilometre or per 50 megawatts of generation capacity.

    So some simple maths should tell you that 1 gigawatt of installed generation capacity would cost $1.4 billion or $1.4 per watt. And that is todays pricing, not in 2050. There are some variables. The above is for the basic facility with no energy storage or gas hybride capability. With these added the cost is still under $1.8 billion per gigawatt. The other variable is that this information is over a year old now. but if you compare this information to the figures above you will see that they are garbage, for CSP trough solar at least. Garbage in, Garbage out. The problem here is that this is the corrupt information that government is trying to make future decisions with.

    The information that I have outlayed above is in fact verifiable on the internet, where links to the actual individuals who are driving this technology in real time can also be found. So what is going on? who is feeding this false information to government?

  52. Hornet

    The carbon tax seems so simple. Maybe it should work like this. Split the types of carbon up into two types, say modern carbon and ancient carbon. Modern carbon is that which is in the carbon cycle on the planet now, ie farmer plants seed, plant grows and converts co2 to carbon, farmer harvests crops and left with carbon in grain and stalks. Carbon in stalks sequestered or naturally turned into co2, carbon in grain eaten by human, human grows (body made of carbon), breathes out co2, excretes carbon that ends up in atmosphere as some carbon compound. Otherwise animal eats grass, shits, farts and burps Carbon into soil and atmosphere, turns rest of carbon into meat, person eats meat and so it goes until person dies and turns into some carbon compound in atmosphere again. Carbon sinks are the forests, and these should be left alone, although it is reversable, trees can be replanted and maybe some sort of payment can be made for this so that marginal land where it is more valuable to store carbon than produce food can do just that. The market would sort that out.
    The other type of carbon is ancient carbon that has accrued for millions of years and consists of coal, oil and gas. The mining of this carbon is the one thats doing the damage, so tax this one only, otherwise you’re just chasing carbon around in circles. Tax the fertiliser manufacturer who makes it from fossil fuels, tax the oil companies who pull it from the ground and tax the coal miners. Sure it would make the price of all sort of things go up, but it would be a huge leg up for renewables. Heard on the radio that the government is being urged to bring in another stimulus package, dogammit, spend it on something useful so that people have an option and can get electicity from a renewable source, who cares if it’s publically owned. Surely that wouldn’t be too hard – tear me to shreds, why wouldn’t it work?

  53. wilful

    Well it’s the “Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering”, about which I know nothing. Sounds impressive though. And yeah, when a quasi-independent group like VCEC starts picking these things up, they do start to gain credibility and start getting used by decision-makers.

    Now, onto the next bit of shocking “reporting”: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/labor-attacked-on-forest-credits-plan-20090330-9h2h.html

    Greenpeace international have released a highly misleading report to an international audience, and suddenly according to the hack reporting it, it’s “Labor attacked”. WTF?

  54. Dave Bath

    I reviewed (here all of the forty submissions published as of yesterday (another 60 were published today).

    Many of the submissions are very good, some are horrifying (like the one from “Carbon Sense Coalition” – sounds green dunnit? Nup… make Marohasy and Bolt look like Bob Brown groupies!). Carbon taxes as a better option were consistently raised.

    Meanwhile you all have a week (2008-04-08) until the wider inquiry by the newly formed Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy closes.

    Send your general, not just CPRS thoughts, to [email protected].

    Given the strong voice in committees of the lobbyists, I hope all you thoughtful types spend as much time commenting directly to politicians, on the record, as you do dropping comments on blogs…. hell, you can just cut-and-paste from your own blogs and comments if that’ll make it easy!

  55. dk.au

    Good reference post, Dave. Thanks.

    [email protected] yes I’m planning a post on this as soon as I can decipher the assumptions and methodology!!

  56. Lefty E

    Yes, ta Dave.

  57. BilB