Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Could a gas that leaks through steel be our new energy store?

Hydrogen is being touted as the solution to our energy woes. How did that happen, and why?

“It’s really been because of the global move toward decarbonisation,” Hydrogen Council CEO Dr Fiona Simon said.

“It’s time has really arrived because of the need for us as a global economy to move from the existing way that we use energy. Hydrogen has characteristics that we can value more than we could before.”

Australia’s CSIRO has been working on the industrial applications of hydrogen for at least a decade, but its big breakthrough came in 2017, when it developed a metal membrane that enabled the element to be separated from ammonia. This global first was critical because ammonia is much easier to transport than hydrogen.

The next year the CSIRO signed a deal with Fortescue Metals to help commercialise hydrogen technologies. Company chair Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest described hydrogen as “the low emission fuel of the future” and likened the moment to the beginning of an energy revolution.

Developments have come rapidly ever since.

The federal government co-funded one hydrogen export pilot project in its 2020 Budget, and added another four this year.

The CSIRO now lists 74 large-scale, demonstration and pilot projects using hydrogen across the country.

In May this year the organisation launched its Hydrogen Industry Mission, with a goal of driving the cost of production down to under $2 per kilogram.

Hydrogen sounds great. what’s the catch?

Cost. Hydrogen will not be competitive until it can be produced at under $2 per kilogram, with the Australian industry hoping to achieve that benchmark by 2030. As the element is highly flammable, and is so small it can even escape through steel, critics say retrofitting existing infrastructure for hydrogen is also likely to be extremely expensive. Others say the water needed to create green hydrogen needs to be of such high purity that will also be a massive cost hurdle.

Hydrogen holds a lot of promise, but it needs the right policy settings to encourage investment, Dr Simon said.

“Hydrogen is competing with an existing industry with existing economies of scale and existing subsidies,” she said. “So much of [hydrogen’s potential] relies on the right policy settings, that we don’t have.”

Some have suggested hydrogen will not live up to the hype, but Dr Simon said it will fulfil its potential: it’s just a question of how much.

“It’s gone past the point where it could fall over. Hydrogen is a thing, it’s real, the question is do we put enough gusto in to make it real, to see it meets its full potential. That’s an open question,” she said.


2011 flood victims take fight to High Court

Victims of the 2011 Queensland flood have taken their decade-long fight for compensation to the High Court claiming it will be their “last chance for justice”.

Lawyers for almost 7000 flood victims lodged the application for special leave to the High Court this week, in a bid to challenge a ruling that left victims with only half of their expected $900 million payout.

The 2011 flooding of the Brisbane River damaged 6800 people’s homes and triggered one of Australia’s largest class actions.

In 2019, Maurice Blackburn lawyers secured a win for the flood victims when the NSW Supreme Court found Seqwater, SunWater and the state government failed to operate the dams properly or take into account rainfall forecasts when releasing water.

Aerial shot of Warwick when it was devastated by 2011 floods.
Aerial shot of Warwick when it was devastated by 2011 floods.
The Queensland Government and SunWater did not appeal the decision and will pay out around $440 million.

But in what flood victims called a “kick in the guts”, the State Government-owned Seqwater successfully appealed the decision last month despite being found to be 50 per cent responsible for the flood-related losses.

The legal blow left victims with only half their expected payout.

Ipswich city councillor and Goodna flood victim Paul Tully said the High Court application was the class action’s “last throw of the dice” and the latest turn in the seven-year legal stoush.

He said another delay was a “small price to pay” for Seqwater to be held accountable for its actions and for flood victims to be properly compensated.

“SunWater and the state government have already accepted they were partly liable for the flood and have agreed to pay their half of the assessed losses.”

“This is our last chance for justice to prevail after 10 long years.”


Left behind: progressives need to catch up with Perrottet and stop being so afraid of freedom

Who is afraid of freedom? That is the question, as we inch closer towards new freedoms on Monday. For many of us, it can’t come too soon. Human beings are not built for life in lockdown, confined to our domestic dungeons.

Having over 100 days of not seeing friends or family, having to juggle home-schooling with work, has been enough to plunge thousands of us into a state of what psychologists call “languishing” – not quite clinical depression but certainly not joy either.

Which explains Dominic Perrottet’s first steps as Premier in accelerating NSW’s moves towards reopening. The new Premier’s adjustments to the Reopening NSW road map are modest. The fully vaccinated will be able to have up to 10 visitors at home rather than five. Outdoor gatherings will allow 30 people rather than 20. Schools will fully return a bit earlier than expected.

Yet the announcements feel significant – maybe even unnerving to some.

Unlike many new political leaders who enjoy the benefit of a fresh start, there is already a healthy dose of suspicion directed at Perrottet from progressive commentators. Much, perhaps too much, has been said about his conservative Catholicism. His enthusiastic support for the Trump presidency and his enthusiasm for privatising public assets are more compelling reasons for concern. There is also a view that Perrottet is a free-market ideologue sceptical of public health restrictions, who wishes nothing more than to open us up, come what may.

There is no doubt that the new Premier is taking something of a bet in speeding up NSW’s reopening. Except the real bet isn’t what you might think it is.

Our revised reopening is hardly the stuff of a Trumpian push for “let it rip”. The NSW plan remains one of the most cautious in the world. And not just when compared with the US, where many Republican states have veered down the path of reckless libertarianism. Consider Denmark or Norway, social democratic states that value health and wellbeing. They started reopening back in April when less than 20 per cent of their population had a single vaccination. They have now essentially removed all restrictions on freedom.

It’s a sign of Australia’s COVID parochialism that we seem to think allowing 10 people into the homes of the double-vaccinated, instead of five, is a measure of radical risk-taking.

No, the bet that Perrottet is now taking is not about public health, but one about politics.

For months now, with vaccination rates surging in NSW, we have been on a psychological runway towards reopening. We’ve been the first state in the country to accept that we will indeed have to live with COVID. Most of us now understand that total victory can’t be declared over the virus, though we can protect ourselves from its worst dangers with a vaccinated population.

Perrottet’s political calculation is that we are now ready for take-off. This is one politician who isn’t afraid of freedom. His instincts tell him that the people of NSW increasingly aren’t either.

For Labor and those on the political left, there is huge political danger in all of this.

During the past 18 months, many self-described progressives and social democrats have grown comfortable with lockdowns. Taking their lead from Jacinda Ardern, Daniel Andrews, Mark McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk, they subscribe to the idea of COVID Zero. It has become a progressive article of faith that the best response to the pandemic is a strategy of elimination: using the awesome power of government to restrict people’s behaviour in pursuit of safety, almost irrespective of the cost.

Delta, of course, has rendered that a pipe dream. While some Labor leaders have moved on, others remain stuck in the fantasy that we can somehow hide from COVID-19. The reality is that vaccination – the higher the coverage, the better – is the best way to neutralise a virus that isn’t going away.

That is why the left risks being marooned in the pre-vaccine world of 2020, still criticising Liberal political leaders for exposing Australians to the dangers of COVID rather than offering their own alternative. There is no optimism, no energy, no hope.

Similar patterns are playing out overseas. This week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mocked his Labour rival, Keir Starmer, for opposing reopening. If Britain had listened to Labour, Johnson charged, “we’d still be in lockdown”. According to Johnson, had Christopher Columbus listened to Starmer he would only be famous for discovering Tenerife.

Dominic Perrottet is not Boris Johnson, but his fundamental political instincts are the same. We are entering a new phase of this pandemic, one where people’s minds turn to the future, their ambitions and the freedom they will be able to enjoy again. The Premier is willing to embrace that. If they want to stay politically relevant, progressives will have to do so too.


Australia won't tighten carbon emissions targets for polluters

Australia's energy minister on Monday rejected a call from the lobby group for the country's biggest companies to set stricter emissions limits on polluters but gave no indication what targets the government may announce ahead of UN climate talks this month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is working on securing support from the Liberal party's rural partner, the Nationals, to back a target of net zero by 2050 and possibly a more ambitious target for 2030 than Australia's existing pledge to cut emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels, ahead of the UN climate conference in Glasgow.

Yet, the Business Council of Australia - which represents the country's biggest companies including miners, gas and power producers - said over the weekend that emissions reductions of up to 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 could be achieved with big benefits for the economy.

Addressing an energy and climate conference on Monday, Energy Minister Angus Taylor swiftly shot down the council's recommendation that the government beef up its "Safeguard Mechanism" by requiring businesses that emit more than 25 million tonnes a year to buy carbon offsets, compared with the current threshold of 100 million tonnes a year.

The Safeguard Mechanism and the carbon offset market sets Australia's carbon price, which last week rocketed to a record high, but was still less than one-third the carbon price in the European Union, which has much stricter emission limits.

"A substantial tightening of the Safeguard Mechanism is a backdoor carbon tax consumers will ultimately have to pay for, and that's not acceptable," Taylor said at conference organised by the Australian Financial Review.

Australia is the world's fourth largest energy exporter, and Taylor said the government's main goal was to protect key industries, including gas, coal, heavy manufacturing and agriculture, while also promoting hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and soil carbon to cut emissions.

The government would stick to providing incentives to cut emissions rather than punishing polluters, he said.

"That means avoiding explicit carbon taxes or backdoor pathways to a carbon tax - sneaky carbon taxes."

Taylor's speech came the same day that Australian billionaire Twiggy Forrest, an outspoken critic of the government's energy policies, announced he would build the world's biggest electrolyser factory in Australia to further his ambition to produce green hydrogen.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


No comments: