Congealed Electricity  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The Australian has an article on BHP considering a $3.4bn Congo aluminium smelter. It is interesting to see companies that depend heavily on cheap energy starting to move towards large renewable power sources (similar to the move of petrochemical companies to the middle east).

MINING giant BHP Billiton is considering spending $US3 billion ($3.365 billion) on building an aluminium smelter in the once war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo to take advantage of cheap and green hydro-electric power in the country. Under a memorandum of understanding with the DRC Government, BHP will spend $US20 million on a feasibility study for the smelter and an associated expansion of the Inga hydro power station on the Congo River.

BHP could source alumina for the refinery from its $3 billion alumina and bauxite project in Guinea, and the move will stoke speculation that BHP is stalking its Canadian-based partner in the Guinea project, Global Alumina, which is valued at more than $US500 million.

The Congo project is the latest sign that miners are having to go into riskier geographies to find key assets - the key asset in this case being hydro power.

Aluminium is often referred to as "congealed electricity" because of the large amount of power needed to smelt alumina. Aluminium producers are scouring the world for sources of so-called stranded power that can guarantee low costs, and the inevitability of a price on carbon means green power is high on the list. Rio Tinto's $43 billion takeover of Canadian aluminium giant Alcan is largely driven by Alcan's large sources of hydro-electric power in Canada.

While aluminium producers including Rio increasingly see the Middle East as an attractive site for smelters, given the region's surplus natural gas reserves, BHP is believed to be wary of the area, given the potential for the gas to be exported as liquefied natural gas.

WorldChanging notes that New Zealand Aims to be World’s First Carbon Neutral Nation
New Zealand has declared its aim to be carbon neutral in electrical energy by 2025, in stationary manufacturing energy in 2030 and in transport energy by 2040.

The New Zealand government has a history of leadership in sustainable energy planning already signaled its intention to be a leader in carbon neutrality when it announced its Emissions Trading Scheme in September. The October launch of the New Zealand Energy Strategy to 2050, titled Powering our Future: Towards a sustainable low emissions energy system, has provided further detail of the steps.

The strategy includes plans for substantial reductions in emissions, along with carbon offsetting projects such as increasing national forest area by 250,000 hectares by 2020. By 2025, the goal is to obtain 90 percent of all electricity from renewable sources. Is this achievable? We think so: Provision of renewable electricity is cheaper in New Zealand compared to other countries due to abundant renewable energy resources. Around 70 percent of New Zealand energy production is already from renewable sources, and a number of large scale wind farm proposals have recently been approved.

Crikey notes that the Greens are actually economic rationalists compared to the pork-barrelling Rodent - Greens show up Howard on energy subsidies
It's a bizarre election campaign when the economic flat-earthers in the Greens make more sense than the Government. But their attack on the Liberals' proposal to subsidise low income earners for higher energy bills as a consequence of emissions trading is exactly right.

As the Prime Minister noted on Sunday night, addressing climate change will actually entail costs for consumers. That's exactly the point, really, because only costs, not good intentions, will cause consumers to make decisions with lower carbon impacts. You can't stop a runaway greenhouse effect with a few fluoro light bulbs and the occasional bike ride to work.

But Howard promptly undermined this by announcing a climate change fund, sourced from proceeds from emissions trading, to subsidise low income earners' power bills, which an emissions trading scheme will – or should, if it actually works - increase. Of course, we are talking here about a proper emissions trading scheme, not Morris Iemma's version that exempts the biggest carbon producers because they're mates of the government.

Quite how you encourage people to reduce their carbon emissions when you're subsidising their power usage isn't clear. It's like subsidising a smoker's cigarette costs because of all the taxes you've imposed on tobacco.

Greens senator Christine Milne has pointed this out, arguing that funding energy efficiency measures in low income households will provide a more permanent and effective guarantee against higher power bills. Even better, she calls the Liberals' proposal "a bandaid cheque", which is the best entry so far in the "Mixed Metaphor of the Campaign" competition.

Perhaps the Government has had its preferred inventor of greenhouse fictions, ABARE, produce some evidence that carbon emissions from low income earners have less of a greenhouse impact than those from everyone else. But on that basis, the Government wouldn't justify its refusal to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol because it leaves out China and India. Clearly carbon emissions from foreign low income earners have to be addressed, even if ours don't.

Public Opinion has a post on Climate change: rhetoric+reality
Jim Douglas, writing in the Canberra Times on climate change, says that:
You get the feeling, under these circumstances, of being in a luxury car accelerating towards a sheer drop, as its demented driver ignores your shouts of alarm and regales you with enthusiastic details of what a wonderful vehicle it is, and how well he has maintained it.

That's what the Liberal's "Go for Growth "campaign slogan signifies. It means more of the same kind of growth with the economy machine being run with energy produced by dirty coal power.

Some reality is dawning. The Liberals are backtracking on nuclear power as the key solution, due to the unpopularity of nuclear power plants in the electorate. Clean coal is the key. But that's ten years down the track, if not more. In the meantime?

What is lacking is an acknowledgment that any plan for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions entails a major roll-out of renewable energy technologies and the introduction of ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce emissions and to secure Australia’s share in the boom in renewable energy occurring globally. The danger is that Australia is becoming a renewable technology importer and it's losing the chance to move to a clean energy economy.


Links:

* Pop!Tech - The Pop!Tech Blog
* The Economist - Roll out the $100 barrel?
* AP - US Electricity prices see biggest jump in 25 years
* Jerome a Paris - Energy: the fundamental unseriousness of Gordon Brown
* The Oil Drum - The Bullroarer - Wednesday 24 October 2007. Lots of links.
* BBC - Oceans are 'soaking up less CO2'
* The Energy Blog - Unexpected Growth in Atmospheric CO2
* Wired - Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere Increasing
* Climate Savers - Climate Savers Computing initiative
* SMH - Yahoo aims to be carbon neutral. Through offsets, not their own generation capability.
* Thomas Friedman - Save the Planet: Vote Smart
* Joshua Holland - Ron Paul Schools Democrats; Stands Up Against Terror Hysteria
* Chicago Tribune - Blackwater and me: A love story it ain't. US troops seem to think Blackwater is a lot more dangerous than Al Qaida. To them.
* Crikey - Howard and Cheney in 'iron curtain' Hicks deal?
* Past Peak - Fair's Fair. Miami residents will soon welcome their new Ecuadorian overlords.
* Past Peak - Today's Bush Joke
* Cryptogon - Scientists Want to Steer Hurricanes with Industrial Slag and Directed Energy Systems
* Boing Boing - Tale of the tree that ate cows. Feed me Seymour !

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