Go South Young Man  

Posted by Big Gav

Crikey has a look at the jockeying between BHP and Woodside to supply LNG to California, and suggests that rather than coming up with ever more complex proposals to offload the stuff far out to sea, that they instead head south to Mexico.

California invented the not-in-my-backyard syndrome and it's applying it in spades with its plan for an LNG terminal that's required for the state to get the gas it needs. An on-shore terminal is out of the question, leaving BHP and Woodside proposing various costly alternatives many kilometres offshore and then piping the gas to the Terminator State.


The very interesting and quite reasonable tip from Paul Anderson in a Eureka Report interview last year was that the way to solve the Californian NIMBY problem was simply to travel south of the border, down Mexico way.

There are countless miles of Baja California coastline with no houses to have their view spoiled and Mexico is keen to encourage industrial investment. Then it would just be a matter of piping the gas north, all at a considerable saving to shareholders.

Crikey also has a somewhat annoying piece of pro-nuclear PR called "The case for uranium" which includes some interesting snippets in a piece that needs a lot of editing.
Last year it was Ian McFarlane, Industry Minister, who within the space of two weeks had back flipped on the issue of uranium mining. From staunch opponent to staunch supporter – all in the space of a fortnight! You can only suppose he was taken aside and told what to say. This is from someone who had, according to sources, given explicit instruction to the Australian Bureau of Resource Economics when conducting a recent study of Australian energy, not to look at uranium. You can only suppose that, with his position reliant on the support of the coal industry, he was looking out for his mates.

Australia, with 40% of the world's uranium, will not be allowed to sit on it. The US will not let us. The Chinese will not let us – in the same way they have capped iron ore prices. We are price takers, in no position to bargain. With demand for export revenue to fund our national debt and economy we have no choice. We are still hugely reliant on primary resources, despite various incarnations of the “clever country” program. In fact, in fairness to Ian MacFarlane, with coal being our single biggest export earner you can understand, issues of pollution, health and climate change aside, his support for it.

The coal industry got quite a lot of attention in the press this week, with their announcement of the $300 million Coal21 Fund, which will invest in "commercialising technologies such as coal gasification and geosequestration" over the next 5 years. The Financial Review had quite a good article on the topic, hidden behind their stupid paywall as usual, which noted at the end that in spite of all the rhetoric (and even the money invested), no power company will invest in "clean coal" (cough) technology unless there is a price signal that forces them to do so. So its all just window dressing until carbon taxes are introduced...
The coal industry has been criticised for allegedly undermining national policies to encourage renewable energy generation and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The fund is reviewing applications for its first round of grants and decisions are expected by the end of the month.

Ironically, for a fund comprised of black coal producers, one of the first funding recipients could be the Monash Energy project in Latrobe Valley, Victoria, which focuses on brown coal. Monash, owned by the South African mining group Anglo American, is attempting to commercialise technology that will produce low-emission, synthetic diesel and electricity from brown coal and bury carbon dioxide emissions in old Bass Strait gasfields.

Monash plans to build a demonstration plant next to the Loy Yang power stations by late 2007 for between $300 million and $400 million. The plant will produce gas and electricity, and if it proves to be viable, an energy complex costing between $4 billion and $5 billion will be built within a decade.

A coal industry source said the funding initiative was vital to its future because "coal will not be marketable if it's not environmentally sustainable".

In an apparent nod to the tinfoil world, the Herald had an article today on George Bush and Skull and Bones, courtesy of the appointment of a Bonesman as the new ambassador to Australia (why he bothered after the post has been vacant for a year or so beats me - its not like the US needs anyone besides Howard to represent their interests here).
The Skull and Bones headquarters is in a windowless stone building on the Yale campus known as the tomb. Each year 15 Bonesmen - and since 1991, Boneswomen - are "tapped", or invited, to join, and put through a bizarre initiation ceremony. Alexandra Robbins, author of Secrets of the Tomb, says it includes a devil, a Don Quixote figure and a pope with one foot in a white monogrammed slipper, resting on a stone skull.

New members are required to give their full sexual history to the other 14, which helps to explain and reinforce the extreme code of silence that surrounds the society.

"What I find disturbing about Skull and Bones is that it's basically the most powerful elite alumni network in the US," says Robbins. "It's essentially a form of nepotism that keeps the same people in power, over and over and over again."

She said there was "no way in hell" that George W. Bush would have been in Skull and Bones if his father, the former president George Bush, and his grandfather had not been members.

Tom Paine has an article on economic sustainability and relative economic competitiveness that is somewhat at odds with that put forward by many financial commentators. As the US is much more dependent on cheap energy than Europe is, you could say that this analysis is more likely to be accurate in a post peak future. Of course, the US might be better at securing energy supplies than Europe is...
Contrary to myth, the United States is not becoming more competitive in the global economy by taking the low road. We are in record-breaking debt to other countries. We have a record trade deficit, hollowed-out manufacturing base and deteriorating research and development. The infrastructure built by earlier generations of taxpayers has eroded greatly, undermining the economy as well as health and safety.

Households have propped themselves up in the face of falling real wages by maxing out work hours, credit cards and home equity loans. This is not a sustainable course. The low road is like a "shortcut" that leads to a cliff.

We will not prosper in the 21st century global economy by relying on 1920s corporate greed, 1950s tax revenues, downwardly mobile wages and global-warming energy policies. We will not prosper relying on disinvestment in place of reinvestment. We can't succeed that way any more than farmers can "compete" by eating their seed corn.

As Business Week put it in a special issue on China and India, "China's competitive edge is shifting from low-cost workers to state-of-the-art manufacturing. India is creating world-class innovation hubs, and its companies are far better performers than China's."

The United States will not succeed by shifting increasingly from state-of-the art manufacturing and world-class innovation hubs to low-cost workers.

Contrary to myth, many European countries are better positioned for the future than the United States, with healthier economies and longer healthy life expectancies, greater math and science literacy, free or affordable education from preschool through college, universal health care, less poverty and inequality and more corporations combining social responsibility with world-class innovation.

Among the world's 100 largest corporations in 2005, just 33 were U.S. companies while 48 were European. In 2002, 38 were U.S. companies and 36 were European. CEO-worker pay gaps are much narrower at European companies than American. Americans work over 200 hours more a year on average than workers in other rich industrialized nations.

William Gibson has a positive review of "V for Vendetta" up, which notes the rather edgy nature of the subject matter.
Just back from V FOR VENDETTA. More thumbs up than a Chernobyl pianist. Superb. Splendid. Heartening. Go see.
"There are people who are going to hate this movie; people who don’t like to think, the brain dead, the fools. Referencing the still unseen film, one member of a politically minded film forum was quick to declare: “You can’t make a movie about a terrorist now without endorsing bin Laden”. It’s that mindset, which has become so ingrained in all of us since 9/11, that makes V for Vendetta so unsettling. At times it almost feels like you’re watching something forbidden, like you’re seeing something you shouldn’t be allowed to see. It’s shocking that a movie like this, especially in these times, ever actually got made. It’s even more unbelievable that it was made by a major Hollywood studio. It’s fun to accuse Hollywood of liberal activism, but you don’t expect this kind of real filmmaking bravery from corporate America or a company like Warner Bros. It’s a purposefully uncomfortable film, one that will affect different people differently depending on what you bring in with you."
--Joshua Tyler, CINEMA BLEND

To close, the oddest Google query I've seen in a while on this blog is one for "starpower communications, llc cia" from a military reader last night. I've never heard of Starpower, let alone blogged about them, but it piqued my curiosity enough to go and do a search myself - nothing interesting turned up though.


Anonymous   says 5:03 AM

Well, now you have sold me on going to see V. Or at least Gibson has. (BTW, I used to hang out with him in the same bohemian coffee bar back in the 90s.)

You might be interested in hearing that another top GOP thinker has admitted US policy is now all about the oil. http://karavans.typepad.com/karavans/2006/03/oil_wars.html

I am noticing a huge backlash against V as well. Most people that review it say it is one of the worst movies they have seen and leave it at that. No critical thinking added or explanation, which means that it probably has some merit.

Peter - must have been quite interesting hanging out with Gibson - its a shame he doesn't blog a bit more often - I enjoyed his brief period of prolific posting in the lead up to the last US election.

I was actually going to include that Karavans link in my next post, so you have a good handle on what I'm interested in :-)

I did include a link to the Salon review of "American Theocracy" in an earlier post - I think Kevin Phillip's views demonstrate how far the "conservative" movement has drifted in the last decade.

Even though no one ever believes me, I've always described myself as a right winger and am usually heartened to see a lot of these old school guys tend to think the same way I do. How things can be turned around is unclear, though at least Bush's poll numbers are heading towards zero and some of the demonisation of neoconservatism that some of us enjoy practicing might be starting to have an effect.

WHT - I'm sure V will be excoriated in the "conservative" media in the next few weeks. Strangely enough the tinfoil and anarchist worlds seem a bit unenthusiastic as well, thinking it didn't go far enough...

Anonymous   says 4:06 PM


Did you move pages around on your blog? Suddenly the link on my blog to yours doesn't work properly. The link is http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/

Anonymous   says 4:08 PM

Now it's working after I made that post. Cancel both of these comments.


Peter - its Blogger I'm afraid - they seem to be having a lot of problems this week - Friday the blog wasn't accessible at all.

Today its seemed OK to me other than one glitch a few hours ago...

Back to coal. I'm not sure compliable carbon taxes can ever be enough to make CO2 burial economic without other financial incentives. I can't find the link but a UK climate researcher recently discussed the Peterhead experiment. He said the current European carbon spot price would need to double to justify separating and pumping ex-coal station emissions into depleted offshore gas wells.

Apart from physical plausibility we also need to put the $300m price tag in financial perspective. While the coal industry spends say $60m a year for 5 years of experiments they will be getting $22 billion a year in export revenue according to the Fairfax figures. The 220 megatonnes exported will generate about 660 megatonnes of CO2 per year on top of that from domestic coal use. These are big numbers given Austalia's relatively small population. If at the end of 5 years the project underwhelms or is a dud I somehow doubt the industry will say 'sorry about the atmosphere'. I'm saying it could be more of an exercise to buy time than a serious experiment. Still they are going through the motions even though they appear to be under no pressure from the government.

John - I suspect you're right - and the $300 million is a drop in the bucket of coal revenues.

Personally I'd be quite happy if carbon taxes simply forced a switch to other energy sources rather than making geosequestration financially viable - it always smacks of sweeping the mess under the carpet to me...

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