Saturday, March 13, 2021

When hydrogen is a fossil fuel product: The absurd Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project

This project is nonsense on stilts. Hydrogen can be very useful stuff but producing hydrogen from coal is a highly intensive industrial process that uses a lot of energy. Any claim that it bypasses fossil-fuel use is a chimera. How it works:

"Hydrogen production from coal is achieved through gasification. Coal gasification works by first reacting coal with oxygen and steam under high pressures and temperatures to form synthesis gas. Synthesis gas is a mixture consisting primarily of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). The synthesis gas is cleaned of impurities, and the carbon monoxide in the gas mixture is reacted with steam to produce additional hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is removed by a separation system. The highly concentrated CO2 can be separated and captured using CCS technology"

And on top of that the hydrogen has to be greatly compressed and stored in a heavy pressure vessel for transport -- which again uses a lot of energy

A Japanese consortium hopes the production of hydrogen using coal from the Latrobe Valley in a world-first trial will prove it is possible to export the emerging fuel source.

The consortium has produced the first hydrogen at a plant at the Loy Yang mine, south-east of Traralgon, and plans to transport it to Japan from the Port of Hastings in a specially designed ship later this year.

The $500 million Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project involves creating hydrogen gas at the plant and refining it for transport.

Hydrogen is touted as a clean energy source with a range of uses including in fuel cells and powering vehicles.

The project is in its pilot phase, and because producing hydrogen using coal creates greenhouse gases, it will not commercialise it unless it is able to capture and store the emissions.

Announced in April 2018, then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull attended the launch of the project, which received $50 million each from the Victorian and federal governments.

Professor Alan Finkel, the Commonwealth's special adviser on low-emissions technology, said hydrogen was part of a "world-changing transition".

"Hydrogen is part of the future transition that around the world economies are going to go through towards zero emissions," he said. "The world's going to need a lot of hydrogen, and so the more ways we can get that hydrogen the better."


Halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout in EU an 'overreaction', according to experts

European authorities pausing the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a small number of people developed blood clots is an "overreaction", according to one leading Australian scientist.

More than 11 million people have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca drug in the UK without evidence of an increase in blood clots

"You can't ignore these events, but I think it's an overreaction," Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases expert from ANU, said.

He said generally there were around 100 cases per 100,000 of blood clots in the general population and that the rate of blood clots from people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine did not appear to be higher than that.

Professor Collignon said in any mass vaccination program, some people were going to have health issues that were not necessarily a consequence of receiving the vaccine.

"So we are going to see everything from heart attacks, to strokes, to pulmonary embolism, and we need to keep an eye on it but generally, this doesn't seem to be above what you would expect given that millions of doses have been given out," he said.

Professor Collignon said there was no evidence of increased blood clots in the phase 3 trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the AstraZeneca vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risk.

"There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine," the EMA said. "The vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing," it added.

The EMA said there had been 30 cases of clot-related events among the 5 million Europeans who have received the jab.

One person in Austria died from blood clots and another was hospitalised with a blockage in the lung after receiving doses from a particular batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Denmark suspended the shots for two weeks after a 60-year-old woman, given an AstraZeneca shot from a batch used in Austria, formed a blood clot and died, health authorities said.

Some EU countries subsequently suspended this batch as a precautionary measure, while a full investigation by the EMA was ongoing.

Italy also suspended the use of AstraZeneca when two men died in Sicily, however, those shots were not from the Austrian batch.

Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Latvia have also stopped inoculations with the vaccine while investigations continue.

RMIT vaccine expert Kylie Quinn said increased clotting had not come up as a potential issue in the UK rollout of the vaccine.

"Biologically, I don't know why there would be a link between clots and this specific vaccine," she said.

Professor Collignon said it was important to monitor the vaccine rollout for any serious side effects, to see if it was above what you would expect to see in the general population.

"Tens of millions of doses of [the AstraZeneca] vaccine have been given around the world, so if there is an association with blood clots, which is doubtful, it is a pretty rare side effect compared to the consequences of getting COVID-19 itself," he said.

Experts said any apparent cluster of side effects needed to be investigated, but it did not mean the cause was the vaccine itself.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the sensible approach was to make sure the "benefit and risk balance is in favour of the vaccine".

"This is a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe," he said. "The problem with spontaneous reports of suspected adverse reactions to a vaccine are the enormous difficulty of distinguishing a causal effect from a coincidence.

"This is especially true when we know that COVID-19 disease is very strongly associated with blood clotting and there have been hundreds if not many thousands of deaths caused by blood clotting as a result of COVID-19 disease.

"The first thing to do is to be absolutely certain that the clots did not have some other cause, including COVID-19."

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said there was "no evidence" the AstraZeneca jab caused blood clots.

"The Australian government is aware of reports some European countries have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to some reports of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated," he said.

"Safety is our first priority and in a large vaccine rollout like this, we need to monitor carefully for any unusual events so we will find them.

"This does not mean that every event following a vaccination is caused by the vaccine.

"But we do take them seriously and investigate and that's what Denmark is currently doing."

Professor Kelly noted there had been more than 11 million people vaccinated in the UK without evidence of an increase in blood clots.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said any overseas developments in vaccine rollouts were monitored by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

"The batches we distribute here in Australia are tested here by the TGA and we have robust processes," he said.


Australians face a hotter future if our cities don't do more to cool 'heat islands', report finds

This report has a small grain of truth. ALL large urban centres are heat islands. It is not unique to Australia. And eforts to mitigate it are reasonable within limits.

That our cities could become "almost unbearable" is a joke. What's a couple of degrees temperature rise when our North/South temperature range is huge?

Most major Australian cities will be far hotter than forecast in coming years, as a lack of vegetation creates "heat islands," especially in poorer areas, a new report warns.

The report, Temperature Check: Greening Australia's Warming Cities, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, found green spaces in almost all major cities had declined in the last decade.

The country's greenest capital, Hobart, was the only city to increase its green cover between 2013 and 2020 — but even then, it was only by 1 per cent.

The report said other capital cities had major work to do to increase vegetation, or avoid becoming almost unbearable in coming decades as climate change raises temperatures worldwide.

"Our research shows increasing urban vegetation will become essential for our three largest cities — Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — to reduce serious heatwave impacts by 2060-2080," said the report's author, Dr Lucy Richardson from the Monash Climate Change research communication hub.

Dr Richardson highlighted Western Sydney as one urban region at risk of becoming "unliveable".

"If Western Sydney hits 50 degrees Celsius and then the urban heat island adds another 15 degrees — 65 degrees is not going to be liveable, so we need to act now," Dr Richardson said. [An absurd projection]

The report explains in built-up cities, a lack of vegetation creates "'heat islands" or pockets of warmer temperature, caused by air becoming trapped between buildings and other infrastructure.

Dark materials, including asphalt and steel, also absorb and retain more heat than natural materials. It can also feel hotter because landscapes devoid of trees may give people fewer places to seek shelter.

The report found that Brisbane was one of the greenest cities with 54 per cent green cover in 2020. Melbourne was found to be one of the least green cities, with just 23 per cent total tree cover, and Sydney had 34 per cent. All three cities lost green cover between 2013 and 2020.

But, while the individual declines may not seem like much, the report said in a large city like Sydney, a 0.8 per cent drop could equal around 570 AFL football fields.

Meanwhile, according to a list of local government areas, green cover in the ACT almost halved from 2013 to 2020 to 34 per cent, Darwin has just 33 per cent, Perth 33 and Adelaide 27 per cent.

While warming cities will present a problem for most people, a "heat gap" has emerged between richer and poorer areas, the report said.

Typically, poorer areas have less green space and vegetation than wealthy suburbs.

"The areas which have lower socio-economic status tend to have less vegetation and because of the nature of the structure of the buildings, the layouts and designs of the areas, that's where they tend to trap a lot more heat," said Dr Richardson.

For example, the report showed the Blacktown local government area had just 22 per cent vegetation cover.

The city's extra infrastructure could add a mean of 5.8 degrees Celsius on top of normal temperatures, the report found.

Meanwhile, Sydney's Northern Beaches has 63 per cent tree cover and could expect its infrastructure to add a mean of just 1.1C.

"In those areas that are economically disadvantaged, they not only get hotter weather, they get the impact of the urban heat island effect that increases their temperature," said Dr Paul Sinclair from the Australian Conservation Foundation.

"We need to start taking action now to make sure that our cities in the future are going to be liveable safe places for 90 per cent of the population."

In Logan City, south of Brisbane, Deputy Mayor John Raven said the local government area was committed to revegetation.

"We've been making sure that wherever developers are cutting down trees, they pay an offset to council so that we can revegetate areas that are of high environmental value, or areas historically damaged by farming or other activities, and restore them back to their original environmental values," Mr Raven said.


Mathias Cormann elected next secretary-general of the OECD

At this rate, the Left have not yet got their claws into the OECD. Cormann is an economic realist

Mathias Cormann has been elected the next secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in a major strategic coup for the Australian government that also catapults the former finance minister onto the world stage.

Cormann was on Friday named the winner of the six-month contest, which pitted him against nine other candidates from around the world for the top international post.

The race had come down to the ex-senator and former European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who for much of the time had been the favourite to win.

However, a deft lobbying campaign mounted by Cormann, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia’s network of ambassadors and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra rallied enough support from the OECD’s 38 member countries to snare victory.

One observer said the final round of consultations to determine a winner was “intense” and Australian officials were braced for the result to go either way.

Consultations earlier this week had failed to determine whether Cormann or Malmstrom had enough support. A new ballot was held on Friday morning Paris-time and Cormann was successful.

The West Australian will take the helm at the influential Paris-based economic body on June 1.

Cormann pledged to put his early focus on the economic recovery from coronavirus, climate change and digital taxation.

“I would like to thank Cecilia Malmstrom and all of the candidates who put themselves forward as part of this process for their hard work and their commitment to the values and the importance of the OECD,” he said.

“I would like to thank the Australian government, in particular the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Foreign Minister and our two trade ministers during this period, for their strong support of my candidacy.

“A particular thank you to the hardworking team at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in Canberra and around the world, who have done an outstanding job in supporting my campaign.

“I would also like to thank the opposition for their generous offer of bipartisan support.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison framed the appointment as “recognition of Australia’s global agency and standing amongst fellow liberal democracies”.

“This is the most senior appointment of an Australian candidate to an international body for decades,” he said.

“Australia overcame great odds for Mathias Cormann to be successful in the contest, which comprised nine other high-calibre candidates, including six from Europe.”

Cormann, a Liberal Party power broker and Australia’s longest-serving finance minister, left the Senate in October to run for the job and travelled around Europe, Asia, South America and North America to rally support.

His use of a Royal Australian Air Force Falcon jet for some of the lobbying blitz angered Labor, which gave bipartisan backing to his bid.

The position will give the former Western Australia senator serious influence over the world’s post-pandemic economic recovery and carriage of negotiations over a global accord for a new tax on multinational tech giants.

The tax could reap up to $135 billion in extra revenue for 137 governments. World leaders asked the OECD to design the new tax to prevent America launching a trade war against countries that planned to go it alone in the quest to get a fairer share of tax from US-based Silicon Valley firms.

Cormann was elected despite a determined campaign by environmentalists to have his candidacy rejected over the Coalition government’s record on climate change and emissions reduction.

Cormann has never denied the science of climate change but has questioned the best way to lower emissions.

In lobbying OECD members, Cormann said achieving global net-zero emissions by 2050 required an “urgent and major international effort”. He said the OECD had a role to play “to help countries around the world achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050″.

His five-year posting will be the first time someone from the Asia-Pacific region has led the OECD but the rejection of Malmstrom means it will not gain its first female leader.

The OECD emerged from the post-war Marshall Plan and plays a key role in shaping the international economic agenda. Its members represent more than 60 per cent of global GDP and must be committed to democracy and a free market.

Headquartered in a sprawling compound in central Paris, it has an annual budget of €386 million ($625 million), a staff of more than 3500 and a seat at G20 meetings.

Cormann, who was born in Belgium and is fluent in German, French and Flemish, pitched himself as a bridge between Europe’s traditional economies and the increasingly important Asia-Pacific markets. He spent 25 years in Europe before moving to Australia in 1996.

Morrison said the pandemic had made the OECD’s role in shaping international economic, tax and climate policy “more critical than ever”.

“Mathias’ work and life experience in both Europe and Australia, his outstanding record as finance minister and Senate leader and his expertise in international economic diplomacy will ensure he makes an outstanding contribution as leader of the OECD.”

In a statement the dean of ambassadors to the OECD and chair of the selection committee, Christopher Sharrock, said Cormann was selected after a “straw poll” on March 12.

“The chair would like to thank all heads of delegations for the constructive spirit, the effort, and the commitment to consensus that they, their governments, and all ten candidates demonstrated so amply throughout this process.”




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