Random Notes  

Posted by Big Gav

The SMH has an editorial on global warming, which then segues on to the need for a debate on nuclear power. I really wish people would stop saying that nuclear power is carbon free (ignoring all the carbon emitted to mine, transport and enrich the ore, along with the construction of the plant) - it produces less carbon than coal would be the accurate statement.

Those who dismiss the idea of a link between climate change and rising greenhouse gases increasingly resemble the sceptics who scoff at the link between smoking and cancer. In complex phenomena no one can say that this particular piece of behaviour caused that particular effect, but patterns can be observed and probabilities calculated. Global warming is now too clear and widespread a pattern to deny. It looks more and more likely that human activity contributes to it. Despite their epic scale, hurricanes are only one small effect of climate change. Melting glaciers, shrinking ice caps and the thawing of vast areas of Siberian permafrost all point to warmer weather. Dr Tim Flannery's book The Weather Makers, extracts of which the Herald has been publishing, argues that as weather patterns change, every aspect of life is affected - species die out, crops fail, diseases spread. Such change, uncontrolled and vast, threatens the way we live. It has the power to blight human existence on the planet.

Under the Howard Government, Australia has been reluctant to address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, fearing the Kyoto Protocol, which sets mandatory limits for developed countries, will inhibit its lucrative exports of coal and other hydrocarbons. It would also undermine the local electricity industry, which relies on coal. As a result, Australians remain the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per head. The interests of the mining industry have dictated another policy move - the Federal Government's takeover last month of uranium mining in the Northern Territory, where the Territory Government was reluctant to open new mines. An export deal with China is in the offing, and Canberra wanted to declare the Territory open for business.

There are good reasons to think uranium and nuclear power, which produce no greenhouse gases at all, hold one key to reducing global warming. There is division among conservationists: some see the greenhouse effect as a threat so overwhelming that even nuclear power's well-known dangers are an acceptable risk to counter it. Others disagree. It is an important debate. Australia must take the nuclear option seriously as it chooses new sources of power for the next century. The decision must not be left to the mining industry to make by default.

The Silver Bodgie (ex PM Bob Hawke) has come out with a plan to make Australia the world's nuclear waste dump. Peter Garrett says we might be better off considering other options (I'm glad to see some small amount of sense coming out of the Labor party this week).
The federal Labor MP Peter Garrett agreed it was a false debate to pit coal against nuclear energy in the context of climate change.

Mr Garrett said Australia needed a much wider energy policy that included renewable energy and energy efficiency

There are dire predictions of the east coast of Australia being tormented by cyclones when (or if) the current (very long) El Nino period ends. There are a few jarring remarks in this piece, so I'm not sure how credible I'd regard it.

There is more on global warming at Tech Review and WorldChanging.

There is a "news forecast" (a weird but quite cool idea) from October 1 that Exxon's development off Sakhalin island is about to commence pumping.
Russia's eastern offshore Sakhalin-1 project, led by the United States company ExxonMobil, begins oil production, but may not have any impact on prices until its output reaches the international marketplace in 2006. Prices reached a record US $65.30 a barrel in New York on Aug 11 because of US refinery disruptions and concern about political stability in the Middle East. Hurricane Katrina in September in the United States has added to the pressure on prices.

At peak the US $12 billion Sakhalin-1 project is expected to add 250,000 barrels per day to the supply.

The filed has reserves estimated at over 2.3 billion barrels and 485 billion cubic meters of gas. Oil from its offshore platform northeast of Sakhalin will travel 226 kilometers across the island and the Tatar Strait to the mainland De-Kastri port, where an export terminal is being built.

Energy Bulletin's roundup of energy news today had a number of interesting pieces. In the US, a combined energy group plans to build 2 new nuclear plants in Gulf of Mexico states. A Texas paper is reporting that the main problem post the latest hurricane isn't so much oil supply interruptions as it is natural gas supply disruptions - I'm still foreseeing a massive rush to build LNG plants - probably starting at the end of the northern winter if things go bad as many people fear. The Oil Drum also has a lot of comments on the predictions by Dr Economides about gas prices going to $20/McF and oil prices hitting $100/bbl by the end of the year (although that comment thread does go a bit haywire for quite a while). Some analysts are rather boldy predicting that oil prices have peaked and won't reach this level again for "5 years" - but this seems to be the minority view.
Having seen his prediction that crude oil prices would reach $65 a barrel become reality, Dr. Michael Economides is making equally bold predictions about natural gas. Natural gas prices, he said Wednesday while visiting Midland to address the Permian Basin section, Society of Petroleum Engineers, will reach $20 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) around Christmas.

Business Week has an article on China's rush to build more nuclear reactors, while Planet Ark looks at six new hydro plants and food security worries limiting biofuels production. France doesn't appear to have the same worries, with boom in ethanol production from grain and beets predicted.

High oil prices are already starting to hit US wheat growers. I haven't seen any similar stories here, and while I suspect our fertiliser prices haven't changed much, fuel costs definitely have.
Nobody's called it a ``perfect storm,' yet.

But between rocketing costs for fuel and fertilizer, low prices for their crop, increased shipping surcharges and worries over whether this will be another dry winter, local wheat farmers say the future is looking pretty grim these days.

``I'm not sure anyone is aware of it, but energy prices are quickly making the continuation of wheat farming questionable unless something begins to change soon,' said Walla Walla County farmer Nat Webb.

Over a relatively short period of time, fuel prices have tripled and the cost of fertilizer has doubled, Webb and others said.

At the same time, the price for soft white wheat, the type which accounts for 88 percent of the wheat grown in Washington state, is hovering slightly above $3 a bushel, ``a 20-year low,' said Harold Cochran, former national legislative chairman for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

The bottom line, as Washington State University farm management specialist Herb Hinman said, is the rising prices are ``cutting into (farmers') profit margins, and a lot of these guys are operating on a pretty thin profit.'

Fuel and fertilizer are two constants all farmers have to deal with year in and year out, Cochran said, and lately ``our core costs of production have gone up dramatically.

The Koreans are talking about buying into oil companies as a (imperfect) hedge against rising oil prices.

The new JODI world oil database is due to be made public by the end of the year. I'm sure these numbers will cause quite a stir when they are released.

Billmon notes that George Bush has begun channelling Jimmy Carter and started calling for energy conservation measures. He also has a rather horrifying post on why the time to withdraw from Iraq is now (go and read this one).

Rigzone has a report quoting an ex-Iraqi official saying that the outlook for Iraqi oil production is bleak.
Big oil companies have no concrete plans to develop the oil industry in Iraq, meaning that it will be several years before the country can hope to return to its 1979 peak in production and probably a decade before Iraq can pump the 5.5 million to 6 million barrels a day suggested by its reserves, according to a former Iraqi oil minister.

The Bush administration and other supporters of the 2003 invasion
of Iraq pointed to the prospect of increasing the country's oil production to improve the lives of its people.

But much equipment was looted from pipelines, pumping stations and other facilities in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, and continuing extreme insecurity has kept foreign oil companies away.

In addition, there has been a lack of clear institutions and laws to manage the oil industry.

The former official, Issam al-Chalabi, who led the Iraqi Oil Ministry in the late 1980s, told a conference here on Wednesday, "There is no plan to develop the Iraqi oil industry."

Looking at current production, he said Iraq would be "lucky" to maintain its daily level of about 1.5 million barrels. In what he called the medium term, Chalabi said he doubted that Iraq could return to its 1979 record daily production levels of 3.5 million barrels until 2009.

For long-term production, which would involve opening new fields that could raise Iraqi production to 5.5 million or even 6 million barrels a day, Chalabi said, "we can only pray." Chalabi said he guessed that this could not occur before 2013 or 2014.

Rigzone also has a report on offshore oil rig damage, which seems pretty substantial, in spite of the upbeat press reports on the less-than-expected damage caused by Rita onshore. The Deepwater Nautilus went walkabout yet again.

BOP News has a look at the possible impact of Rita and Katrina on heating oil supplies (via Mobjectvist).

The Australian has an article about a survey that shows that "4WD drivers are 'fat, homophobic'". It doesn't mention if they are now broke as well.

The BBC has a piece on a weird application of solar technology - the solar handbag.

Finally, the average letter writer to the Herald appears just as dismayed about our appalling new detention without charge laws as I am - 400 hundred years of western progress rolled back in a day. Beazley's pathetic behaviour seems to have earned at least as much ire as Howard and Ruddock have - no wonder his poll numbers are plummeting. Given that Labor is incapable of being an effective opposition it's not surprising that Crikey is canvassing the possibility of Malcolm Turnbull creating a new centrist party - at least us small "l" Liberal voters would have somewhere to go then.

2 comments

Anyone heard about Innamincka Hot Fractured rock project?

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1440622.htm

I really hope we move to energy sources more like this and other alternatives even if the cost per kilowatt turns out to be higher.

Thanks for the link.

I've posted on GeoDynamics quite a few times (and I have shares in them for that matter) - I included a link to an article in the Herald this week about HDR as well.

At the end of the day I suspect this is a limited resource (there are probably only so many wells with the right geologic features that you'll be able to drill - the geology out there is quite unique).

But everything (especially clean energy like this) helps !

In terms of investment you can get some lower risk exposure to GeoDynamics via Origin and Woodside, both of which have stakes in the company.

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