Sunday, February 05, 2017

Australian Federal government plan for clean coal power

The very term "clean" coal is a monstrous crock.  The claim is that CO2 is "dirty".  But we all breathe CO2 out.  Do we breathe out dirt?  And the idea that you can capture and store it is equally absurd.  It's possible in theory but the engineering challenges would make it monstrously expensive

The Turnbull government is planning to help fund the construction of new clean-coal-fired power stations­ in an extraordinary meas­ure to intervene in the looming energ­y security and pricing crisis.

In a move to address the premature closures of state power plants, the federal government will look to either repurpose plants or directly invest in the construction of new-generation coal-fired plants in partnership with the ­private sector. A senior government source confirmed Malcolm Turnbull had asked late last year for options to fund “ultra-super-critical power plants” to provide clean-coal alternatives and lower fuel costs, which would not only ­alleviate price pressure for consumers and business but arrest the decline in Australia’s competitive advantage in manufacturing.

In a direct challenge to the Labor states, and drawing the polit­ical battlelines with Bill Shorten, the Prime Minister yesterday blamed “huge” renewable ­energy targets set by Labor governments for pushing power prices to the highest of any OECD country.

In his first national address of the year, Mr Turnbull accused Labor yesterday of a “mindless rush” to renewables, and hinted that the government would intervene to protect prices and security of supply with a path to state-of-the-art coal-fired technology.

The Australian has confirmed that Mr Turnbull and senior ministers, including Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, have been in discussion­s since December on what exceptional measures the commonwealth could take to subsidise new coal-fired generation, as well as provide incentives to the states to lift the moratorium on new gas development, which is also having a crippling impact on reliability and prices.

“States are setting huge renewable targets, far beyond that of the national RET, with no consideration given to the baseload power and storage needed for stability,” Mr Turnbull said in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday. “We will need more synchronous baseload power and, as the world’s largest coal exporter, we have a vested interest in showing that we can provide both lower emissions and reliable baseload power with state-of-the-art clean-coal-fired technology.”

Energy storage would also be a priority in the government’s ­energy policy, with Mr Turnbull claiming it had long been neg­lected in Australia.

“You’d think if anyone had a vested interest in showing that you could do really smart, clean things with coal it would be us, wouldn’t you? Who has a bigger interest than us? We are the biggest ­exporter. Yet we don’t have one power station that meets those requirements,” he said.

“This has got to be all about Australian families and Australian businesses, making sure that they can keep the lights on and, when they’re on, they can afford to pay the bill.

“And, yes, of course, we meet our emissions ­reduction targets.

“Nothing will more rapidly de-industrialise Australia and deter investment more than more and more expensive, let alone less ­reliable, energy.

“Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, has invested $590 million since 2009 in clean-coal technology research and demonstration, and yet we do not have one modern high-efficiency, low emissions coal-fired power station, let alone one with CCS?”

Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos yesterday flagged the possibility of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation being used to fund technology-neutral power sources, but would not reveal what the government might do.

“The whole issue is being looked at because we need now a systemic approach,’’ Senator Sinodinos told Sky News. “And Malcolm Turnbull I think is a good Prime Minister to do that.’’

Another government source close to the discussions said “it is very early days” but sites being raised as possibilities for new coal-fired power plants included in Queensland, the Hazelwood plant in Victoria, which is due to be mothballed next month, and the gas-fired plant site at Pelican Point in South Australia.

Scott Morrison, who recently led a push for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to include coal power as an option in the ­region as it transitions to higher levels of renewable energy, confirmed that new coal would be part of the government’s energy policy mix. “Coal is part of our energy ­future, coal is part of our security and energy security and affordability, and we will have more to say as time goes on but the Prime Minister made it very clear today that you cannot be technology ­dependent or biased in any way in this area nor can you be, frankly, resource dependent on these things,” the Treasurer said.

“It is about energy affordability, security and sustainability. That is what households, families need, it is what businesses need. And coal is part of that. We need to have an energy future that is inclusive of what has been one of our greatest energy advantages for 100 years.”

The Opposition Leader on Tuesday claimed his 50 per cent renewable energy target would create “real jobs ... for blue-­collar workers, jobs for engineers, jobs for designers’’.

Labor’s energy spokesman, Mark Butler, yesterday blamed the government for pushing up power prices because of uncertainty in the electricity market.

“Instead of addressing the investmen­t uncertainty facing the energy sector with sensible nation­al policy that would reduce the cost of electricity, improve reliability­ and cut pollution, the Prime Minister is actively causing prices to rise, security to suffer and pollution to grow,” he said.

But Mr Frydenberg said Labor had presided over a 100 per cent increase in power prices.

“Their record in government was a disaster,” the minister said. “Bill Shorten’s 50 per cent renewable energy target would require 10,000 wind turbines to be built between now and 2030.”

Latrobe City Council Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan welcomed Mr Turnbull’s statement, saying a clean-coal policy could mean a new power station to replace ­Hazelwood was back on the table.


Senate panel advances Trump EPA chief pick over Democrats' boycott

A Senate committee suspended rules on Thursday to approve U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, amid a boycott of his nomination by the panel's Democratic members.

John Barrasso, chair of the Senate's environment and public works committee, said the panel would "suspend several rules" temporarily to approve the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator.

Democrats on the committee boycotted Wednesday's meeting to approve Pruitt, saying that he doubts the science of climate change and has too many conflicts of interest with the companies he would be charged with regulating.

The full Senate will now vote on Pruitt's nomination. The date for that has not yet been confirmed, but with Republicans holding a majority in the Senate, the nomination will likely be approved.

Barrasso justified the move by saying that Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma's top attorney, reflects the agenda of the president who won the 2016 election.  "Elections have consequences and a new president is entitled to put in place people who advance his agenda," he said.

Environmental groups, which have strongly criticized the choice of Pruitt, raised concerns that the nomination was pushed through to the full Senate.


Senate votes to block Obama coal rule

Senators voted 54-45 Thursday to kill an Obama administration coal mining rule, giving President Trump his first chance to formally take off the books an environmental rule from the previous administration.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenge passed by the Senate undoes the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation requiring coal firms to clean up waste from mountaintop removal mining and prevent it from going into local waterways.

The coal industry and its congressional allies have looked for ways to kill the rule since Obama regulators began crafting it early in his term.

They argued the regulation would be such a financial hindrance for the coal industry that it would kill jobs in economically distressed areas of Appalachia already struggling due to the sector’s market-driven downturn.

The Office of Surface Mining finalized the rule in December, and the GOP this week quickly introduced and voted on a CRA resolution taking the rule off the books and blocking regulators from writing a similar rule in the future.

The House passed the bill 228-194 on Wednesday night. Trump supports the legislation, Republicans said, meaning the rule will come off the books as soon as he signs it.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) were the only Democrats to support the measure in the Senate. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote against it.

“In my home state of Kentucky and others across the nation, the stream buffer rule will cause major damage to communities and threaten coal jobs,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Thursday, noting industry opposition and state lawsuits against the rule.

“We should heed their call now and begin bringing relief to coal country. Today’s vote on this resolution represents a good step in that direction.”

Environmentalists, public health advocates and Democrats broadly support the rule, saying it will protect waterways and prevent health risks for people living in coal-heavy areas.

“If you want to help miners, then come address their health and safety and their pension program,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during floor debate

“You can protect the coal industry here with special interests and the amount of lobbying they do, or you can step up in a process and have a regulation that works for the United States of America so the outdoor industry and sportsman and fishermen can continue to thrive.”

The resolution will be the first CRA challenge undoing an Obama-era rule to hit President Trump’s desk.

The CRA, which gives Congress the power to undo rules shortly after they are finalized, is a rarely successful tool: It has only been used to undo a rule once, in 2001.

But Republicans have pledged to pass several CRA resolutions blocking late Obama rules this session.


Is Anything Wrong With Natural, Non-Man-Made Climate Change?

I recently asked an environmentalist this question: “If we found out that the planet was warming for purely natural reasons, would you be in favor of climate engineering to stop it, because the current temperature and sea level are the right ones for humans?”

He seemed appalled. “No, of course not, man,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said. And I meant it, because this fellow had just made a concession that is fatal to the central argument in favor of reducing carbon emissions: the risk of catastrophic climate change.

Climate alarmists are alarmed about the human impact on the climate.  Most of them are not, however, actually alarmed about climate change per se. That is why they have proposed virtually nothing that would protect anyone from natural climate change. In fact, if it turns out that temperatures and sea levels are rising for purely natural reasons, most environmentalists would probably be against doing anything to stop it, just liked the fellow I asked.

Of course, not all climate alarmists agree. Some of them do think that rising temperatures and sea levels are alarming regardless of what’s causing them to rise. Such voices are in a tiny minority, however, and the policy prescriptions that follow logically from their concerns have nothing to do with reducing carbon emissions. If we are worried about global warming regardless of its causes, then the right policy is adaptation (i.e., help people adjust to life at higher temperatures) and prevention (i.e. planetary climate engineering, by altering the atmosphere in ways that neutralize natural climate change).

Many climate alarmists, however, are like the fellow who unwittingly admitted that he’s not actually alarmed about climate change in and of itself, just climate change caused by human activity. The most radical of these environmentalists flatly deny that temperatures and sea levels could be rising partly for natural reasons. In other words, they deny natural climate change. Call them “climate deniers” for short, since they are denying that the climate is doing now what it has always done, namely change for natural reasons.

Ironically enough, it turns out that these climate deniers are also science deniers. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes all of the climate science that climate alarmists use to justify their anti-carbon policies. It is the most authoritative source for environmentalists’ claims about the scientific consensus on climate change. On the link between human activity and climate change, the IPCC has this to say: “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.”

The same IPCC report says that current warming is “unequivocal” i.e.; there is virtually no doubt that the planet is warming. But the IPCC is not nearly so unequivocal about the causes. It cites human activity as the major cause of warming, but not necessarily the only cause. Scientists aren’t sure what the climate trend would be in the absence of human activity; it’s possible that carbon emissions have an even bigger warming impact than they fear, and the impact is being mostly absorbed by an underlying cooling trend; they just don’t know. The IPCC’s carefully qualified attribution statement recognizes that scientists don’t understand the climate well enough to quantify precisely the relative contribution of the various human and natural factors in the current warming trend.

The bottom line is that scientists are much more confident that the planet is warming than they are confident that they understand why the planet is warming. This only stands to reason. It is obviously easier to measure temperature change than to draw “unequivocal” conclusions about causation from the incredibly rich, complex, and often impenetrable picture that the climate data present. Those who think that the scientific debate is over are the real science deniers.

Uncertainty is not necessarily fatal to precautionary policies such as the widespread calls for reducing carbon emissions. Policies designed to guard against risks have to take uncertainty into account. But uncertainty is not an excuse for throwing rational cost-benefit analysis out the window. Through policies like the Paris Agreement on climate change, alarmists are proposing hugely expensive reductions in carbon emissions that would hit the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations hardest.

But the only benefit they propose is a reduction in warming that today’s scientists would not be able to measure, much less conclusively attribute to the policy. Warming could stop completely without any reduction in carbon emissions, and it could continue despite the elimination of all carbon emissions. Scientists don’t know what the future holds because they don’t understand natural climate variability well enough to say what the underlying climate trend would be today in the absence of human impact.

It’s very telling that climate alarmists never mention natural climate change. And yet the danger of natural climate change is all too real. Most people don’t realize that the last 9,000 years have been uncharacteristically stable compared to the violent climate changes in the 9,000 years before that. 18,000 years ago, the state of Wisconsin was under nearly two miles of ice. Average temperatures were 40 degrees Farenheit lower than they are today, when they suddenly began to soar. The glaciers that covered most of the northern hemisphere started melting away, and never stopped melting. Ocean levels rose 300 feet between 15,000 and 8,000 years ago; that’s less time than between Sumerian civilization and the present day. It is very likely that we are towards the end of a short warm period between major glaciations of the Pleistocene Ice Age, which has lasted 2.6 million years. Carbon dioxide levels are the highest they’ve been in 800,000 years, as we’re often told, but the baseline is that of a ice age that has brought carbon dioxide levels to their lowest point in 245 million years.

Climate alarmists generally don’t know any of this because they’re not really afraid of climate change. What they’re afraid of is fossil fuels. Some of them have been advocating renewable fuel standards since the 1970s, when the scientific doomsday fad was imminent oil scarcity. Others are socialists like Naomi Klein, who thinks that corporations are the height of human evil. Still others are simple proponents of government regulation like you find in every sector of the economy, the agents of government’s rapacious appetite for control. And still others are underdeveloped countries whose governments see the possibility of massive redistribution in a progressive scheme of decarbonization.

The one thing these people generally have in common is that they deny the present danger of natural climate change and they deny the many legitimate questions that remain about exactly what the climate science is telling us. They are the real climate deniers, the real science deniers, and that’s why they risk going down as just another doomsday fad.


A Scientists’ March on Washington Is a Bad Idea

The NYT says so

Talk is growing about a march for science on Washington, similar to the Women’s March. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times
Talk is growing about a March for Science on Washington, similar to the Women’s March the day after President Trump’s inauguration. It is a terrible idea.

Among scientists, understandably, there is growing fear that fact-based decision making is losing its seat at the policy-making table. There’s also overwhelming frustration with the politicization of science by climate change skeptics and others who see it as threatening to their interests or beliefs.

But trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends.

I am a coastal geologist. I direct a center where our mission is to conduct scientific research and then communicate that science to elected officials, regulators, even private entities and the public. There is no question that the proposed March for Science will make my job more difficult and increase polarization.

Please understand, I don’t shy away from openly presenting the facts about the changing climate and rising seas. But I’ve learned that doing so is not without risk.

In 2010, I was a co-author of a report for North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission that said sea levels along the state’s coastline could rise by as much as 39 inches by the end of the century. That conclusion was based on the best peer-reviewed science and was intended to help policy makers plan for the future.

But it alarmed real estate and other economic development interests, which quickly attacked the report. The coastal commission ignored it. The authors, myself included, were widely slandered. And the Legislature passed a law that barred state and local agencies from developing regulations or planning documents anticipating a rise in sea level. “I think this is a brilliant solution,” the comedian Stephen Colbert said at the time. “If your science gives you a result that you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.”

You might think that the lesson I learned from that experience was to distrust the political establishment. No. What I learned was that most of those attacking our sea-level-rise projections had never met me, nor my co-authors. Not only that, most of the public had never met anyone they considered a scientist. They didn’t understand the careful, painstaking process we followed to reach our peer-reviewed conclusions. We were unknowns, “scientists” delivering bad news. We were easy marks for those who felt threatened by our findings.

A march by scientists, while well intentioned, will serve only to trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about, turn scientists into another group caught up in the culture wars and further drive the wedge between scientists and a certain segment of the American electorate.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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