Thursday, 21 July 2011

Selling the Carbon Tax in Never land.

Guest Post by Anton Lang and Anthony Cox
Powered by the very trace gas they seek to ban as they tramp the nation, PM Gillard and her faithful sidekick, Climate Minister Combet, are selling one of the great paradoxes of this, or any time; a genuine Zeitgeist.
Chocolate Sunshine
Their message is that CO2 is a pollutant and so dangerous it could destroy creation as Dr Hansen once opined in a moment of hyperbole so despised by the PM. Gillard and Combet’s remedy is a tax on this fierce gassy enemy of mankind; a tax designed to raise the gentle, life-affirming sources of alternative energy, wind and solar, to their rightful economic status, usurped by the CO2 sources of energy, the fossil fuels.
Yet their selling pitch is that the main source of CO2, coal, once described as chocolate sunshine by some troglodyte, and the jobs which go with the mining of the pestilent stuff will not be threatened; in fact coal has bright future, no pun intended.
Bemused citizens, constantly regaled by experts on the climate and told that it is beyond their ken must now be astonished at this new ineluctable puzzle. Coal, the source of the planet-slaying CO2, will be subject to a tax designed to get rid of it but at the same time coal and its workers will have a bright future.
Has there ever been a time when the disconnect between the political message, its recipients and logic has been greater?
Well, it gets worse.
$10 billion of the proceeds of the tax designed to eradicate coal will go to developing those perpetually nascent renewable energies, wind and solar [W&S]. If coal is the source of all evil, then W&S are the Peter Pan and Tinker Bell of energy; they never mature.
The failings of W&S are manifest. But a new aspect to their prolonged infancy has emerged; energy density [ED]. Coal, gas and the even more evil nuclear, are very ED; their energy is concentrated; a coal power plant can be measured in acres, a nuclear power plant in less. But the ephemeral energy of W&S is literally blowing in the wind, or sparkling in sunbeams; they take a lot of room to be to be captured. Magic is like that.
For instance, a new solar farm proposed in California, poetically named Brightsource, will cover 5.6 square miles, or 9 square kilometres, for an Installed capacity [IC] of 370 MW. But this IC, which is always used by promoters of W&S, is not a true measure of the energy W&S produce; what W&S actually produce is called their capacity factor [CF]. World-wide the CF for W&S is about 20% of the IC, sometimes it is as low as 5%. So that 370MW from Brightsource will only deliver about 74MW.
By comparison a medium sized, evil coal power plant like Bayswater, which along with Liddell supplies about 40% of NSW’s electricity, will deliver 2640MW; that is 2640 24/7/365; so for Bayswater no effective difference between IC and CF. Bayswater therefore delivers about 35 times as much power as Brightsource.
In terms of ED Brightsource would have to be 9 square kilometres times 35, or 315 square kilometres to even get close to Bayswater.
Well, it gets worse. Green activists are objecting to Brightsource because of its size. It seems that when those cute panels cover so much land there is no room for even cuter nature, not trees, birds, rodents; ditto for those big windmills.
And worse; even the CF does not tell the full story with W&S. The fact is W&S do not work all the time so they have to be backed up by evil coal and gas. That’s right folks; W&S do not replace evil coal. What happens is that the fossils are kept running to back-up the constant intermittency of W&S. This has the result of increasing emissions of CO2 more than if W&S were not used!
And more worse. The cost of W&S is staggering. To replace a Bayswater with W&S would cost at least 5 times and up to 16 times what it would cost to build another coal power plant. And that does not guarantee constant base load power.
The bible for enthusiasts of W&S is Beyond Zero Emissions Stationary Plan. This plan argues that W&S can replace coal and gas in Australia by 2020. It only has 2 problems. It would require a reduction in electricity use of about 50% by today’s standards and cost somewhere between $855 and $4191 billion. As a matter of interest if an equivalent to BZE’s plan for Australia was implemented world-wide it would only cost $76 trillion.
That is Never Land stuff. Back in the real world Russell Skelton, CEO of Maquarie Generation which owns Bayswater and Liddell power stations, has dragged himself away from the perpetual litigation against his company by Rising Tide, to do the sums on the carbon tax. Basically the tax will cost MacGen about $580 million, per year, about 3 times its annual profit. MacGen will not be compensated and while there are no plans to close it down like its Victorian equivalent, Hazelwood, what business could survive under conditions like that?
So, with existing coal power facing the chop and W&S not up to the job are power shortages the price we have to have? Carbon capture is not an option; Dr Brown has ruled it out and it is both a dud idea and an indictment of the coal industry’s cowardice in not arguing against the ideology and pro-global warming science directed against it.
The situation is this; the carbon tax is designed to achieve a 5% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. The Greens want it to be 20%. The only solutions offered to achieve this are both prohibitively expensive and will involve electricity shortages.
There is an unlikely saviour; coal.
Both the PM and her climate minister refer to China as leading the way in renewable energy and carbon taxes. These claims are not sustainable. But what China is doing is developing vastly more efficient coal powered turbines. These turbines burn much less coal to achieve equivalent power to the old generation plants. This also means up to 30% less CO2.
The reduction in emissions of 5% by 2020 can be achieved by using new coal technology.
It’s as simple as that; new generation coal power plants. No paradoxes, no lies, no energy shortages and much less CO2; if that’s what you want.
Now all we need is an honest politician. Back to Never Land.