Is our Government LEADING, are our journos doing the hard yards as we rocket into a new era? There is so much new research – does government/media communicate with academia? If you’re not involved in research or don’t subscribe to a plethora of informed newsletters how do you find out what’s going on beyond this island called Australia?
I have just heard about Europe’s feed-in tariff, the driver of their solar success story and, like many others, I’ve have been reading with concern about our low emissions targets and high payments to polluters. Really disconcerting was a report that our Government wasn’t interested in participating/supporting new alternative fuel research. Is a politically expedient pathway through this undoubted minefield all that’s important?
Freelance journalist Ben Sandilands, in his Plane Talking blog calls Kevin Rudd’s vision ‘stunted’, one that rewards carbon populism. Worryingly he reports that:
“A few weeks back Airbus sent an alternative fuels expert to Australia (Sebastian Remy) to explain how it could reduce the release of fossilised carbon from jet fuel by half by 2020, and create a major new agricultural industry that would not impact food production.
Canberra didn’t want to know. For over a year Remy’s counterpart in Boeing, Billy Glover, has been explaining how algae grown octanes could completely replace kerosene by around 2040.
Both companies talk about the relevance of these advances to replacing fossil fuel in trucks, cars, and ships. Not just in the ‘toys’ of the jet set and the political elite.
The disinterest in Canberra is painful. Rudd’s mission in life is to gravitate unerringly to the most mundane of status quo positions… Bright invention just isn’t in the frame.
In the next few days a Continental Airlines jet in the US is set to trial a blend of biofuels including an algae derived component equal to more than 20% of the energy contained in it. This is about 10 years sooner than the best estimates given for algae based kerosene replacements only a year ago at a Boeing sponsored conference in Sydney.
Unfortunately the government’s stunted vision has been fed by the populist nonsense that characterises the carbon debate in this country. While it sticks with big oil and big coal, the carbon fascista sticks with social engineering and an insistence that science and technology really have no answers. This situation has been fueled by scientists who don’t trust the public with the actual science, and sit back and watch people fret about how much they might fart or the amount of carbon they exhale and hope that this hysteria will deliver big research grants and real power.
The driver of anthropogenic global warming is the release of fossilised carbon in volumes that overwhelm the natural and very complex cycles that reprocess carbon. It is the real problem. It is breaking the marine food chain, causing severe high level atmospheric cooling, and cooking the lower layers of the atmosphere under the blanket of excessive accumulations of carbon dioxide.
Everything else is a side show.
The 5% reduction target can be readily met from all sorts of carbon savings that will have sod all to do with the real problem, fossilised carbon. This travesty is possible because the populist campaign is scientifically illiterate, and much of the blame for this can truly be laid on the media, which is too lazy to inform itself about the realities.”
The Oil From Algae industry newsletter says:
“Theoretically, biodiesel produced from algae appears to be the only feasible solution today for replacing petro-diesel completely. No other feedstock has the oil yield high enough for it to be in a position to produce such large volumes of oil. To elaborate, it has been calculated that in order for a crop such as soybean or palm to yield enough oil capable of replacing petro-diesel completely, a very large percentage of the current land available needs to be utilized only for biodiesel crop production, which is quite infeasible. For some small countries, in fact it implies that all land available in the country be dedicated to biodiesel crop production.
if the feedstock were to be algae, owing to its very high yield of oil per acre of cultivation, it has been found that about 10 million acres of land would need to be used for biodiesel cultivation in the US in order to produce biodiesel to replace all the petrodiesel used currently in that country. This is just 1% of the total land used today for farming and grazing together in the US (about 1 billion acres). Clearly, algae are a superior alternative as a feedstock for large-scale biodiesel production.
In practice however, biodiesel has not yet been produced on a wide scale from algae, though large scale algae cultivation and biodiesel production appear likely in the near future (4-5 years)..
The capability to sustainably produce high-oil-yielding algae strains on a large-scale can again be thought to contain two distinct aspects: (1) Identifying the high-yielding algal strains, and (2) Identifying the most optimal methods to cultivate them. A good amount of research is taking place in each of these two aspects and it is hoped that there will be more good news soon.”
The Australian reports that:
“South African officials say privately that Kevin Rudd has surrendered the ‘bridging role’ and ‘moral leadership’ he could have exercised after signing up to the Kyoto Protocol last year.
Mr Miliband, who took over Britain’s climate change portfolio just 11 weeks ago, said (Environment Minister) Mr van Schalkwyk had emerged as a key player in the global talks, which are aimed at crafting a new agreement to follow the expiry of the Kyoto protocol in 2012.
“It is already clear to me in the international talks that he doesn’t just speak for South Africa but he is a thought leader for the whole process,” Mr Miliband said.
Last week’s climate talks in Poznan, Poland, between 192 countries ‘achieved our minimum expectations’, Mr van Schalkwyk said.
“But, if you want to be honest, the politics isn’t right. My impression was that the trust gap between the developed and the developing world in terms of politics — in terms of our expectations, what we can achieve — is wider after last week’s negotiations than before … That does not mean that agreement is not possible by December next year; I still believe it is.”
China, Brazil and South Africa had all made unexpected progress over the past two years at reining in the growth of their emissions but they expected rich nations to shoulder the greatest responsibility, he said.
The EU had provided a strong lead and US president-elect Barack Obama was making encouraging noises but developing countries were still worried about the performance of four rich nations: Australia, Japan, Canada and Russia, he said.
Australia was the first of those to unveil its 2020 targets.”
Solar Technologies state that without support a worldwide solar electricity market will not happen fast enough. Over a number of years, the premium feed-in tariff has proved its power and efficiency in developing new markets.
Worldwide, people are surprised by the fact that Germany, a country which is not one of the sunniest places in the world, has developed the most dynamic solar electricity market and a flourishing PV (photovoltaic) industry. How could this happen?
No program has been as successful over a short period of time as the feed-in tariff in Germany. The idea has been adapted for use in other European states, with each country adjusting the system according to its specific needs. The simplicity of the concept, and its low administrative costs works!
The basic idea behind a feed-in tariff is very simple. Producers of solar electricity
All three aspects are simple, but it took significant effort to establish them. For many years, the power utilities did not allow the input of solar electricity into their grid and this is still the case in many countries even today. Therefore, that right cannot be taken for granted, and will need to be argued for, when facing the likely continued opposition of utilities.
Feed-in tariffs are a temporary measure to develop the competitiveness that will result from economies of scale. Competitiveness with conventional electricity sources will be reached in different regions at different times. Feed-in tariff systems therefore need to be adapted to national conditions. However, it is important that tariffs are paid over a period of roughly 20 years from the day the system is connected to the grid, because the costs will be related to the initial investment. In some years’ time, investment costs will be low enough that they can be paid off without using the support of premium feed-in tariffs.
In the past, in order to encourage solar electricity, many programs were financed through government budgets. The disadvantage here has been that if the state money ran out the program could be stopped.
In Germany in 2007, the utilities pay a premium tariff of between Ð0.38/kWh and Ð0.54/kWh (depending on the size and type of system) for solar electricity from newly-installed PV arrays. The utilities are authorised to pass on this extra cost, spread equally, to all electricity consumers through their regular electricity bill. This means that the feed-in programme works independently from the state economy, and the extra cost which each electricity consumer has to pay, in order to increase the share of renewable energy in the national electricity portfolio, is very small. In Germany, the monthly extra costs per consumer due to the premium tariff for solar electricity are currently Ð0.20.
The result is also that every electricity consumer contributes to the restructuring of the national electricity supply network, away from a fossil-based one, and towards a sustainable and independent structure.
Although the costs for solar electricity have been reduced consistently it doesn’t yet compete with grid electricity generated from fossil fuels. Clearly it is very important to keep reducing the costs for solar electricity.
For this reason, the feed-in tariff in Germany is reduced each year by 5%, but only for newly-installed PV systems. Once a PV system is connected to the grid, the tariff remains constant over the complete period of 20 years. Through this 5% annual reduction, there is therefore constant pressure on the PV industry to bring the costs for solar electricity down by 5% each year in order to keep the market alive. At the same time, the customer can easily calculate the return on investment in their PV system. This planning security is an essential element of the success story of the feed-in tariff.
Could our big polluters ‘share’ some of their government compensation with oil from algae or PV research?