Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bury any ideas of carbon capture

I haven't caught up with last night's Four Corners program on carbon capture and storage as yet, but the synopsis seems to indicate it views the problem as a lack of investment in what is, in my view, a speculative and slow technology that won't solve our emissions emergency any time soon (see update, below).

With Victoria's marginally lower winter emissions receiving positive courage, I thought I'd make a point about coal and why we've been able to leave our heaters off. Today The Age has kindly run my letter:
OUR small reduction in winter carbon emissions would be a positive sign were it not for the fact that we've been able to leave our heaters off just a little bit more only because the global heater has been turned on high ('Emissions fall as states heat up', The Age, 7/9).

In large part that's due to the burning of fossil fuels, a huge industry in Victoria. The solution of federal Energy and Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, is carbon capture and storage Mark II. Why Mark II? The current version is to capture carbon-rich coal in the shovel of an excavator, burn it, then store the resulting carbon dioxide in our steadily warming atmosphere. Both versions are fatally flawed, and it's time we forgot about 'shovel-ready' coal and switched to a mix of renewables that can readily combine to give us a green power supply.

At the moment I'm reading Diesendorf's Climate Action, which makes a clear and powerful case for replacing coal-fired power with renewables. While CCS may in time be developed, it won't be anywhere soon enough, brings the risks related to large-scale underground storage of carbon dioxide, and government investment in the technology is a distraction from much-needed support for renewable sources that are ready to go.

A good reason to Switch off Hazelwood, don't you think?

Update: Monday's Four Corners edition, 'The Coal Nightmare', turned out to be an excellent program that made clear that the coal industry itself isn't coming to the party in funding potential solutions to its own heavy emissions. At the same time it is undermining moves to put a price on carbon that would increase the pressure for it to do so. Martin Ferguson was, as expected, unconvincing in justifying the billions of dollars of public funds being directed to so-called clean coal development when the industry itself should be footing the bill.

It was good to see Mark Diesendorf interviewed, and I would like to have seen more of him, especially putting the strong case he makes in his book to move ahead with existing and maturing renewable energy technologies rather than speculating on CCS just so we can dig it out of the ground and flog it - we're the world's biggest exporter, as well as getting 82% of our energy from coal (thanks for the latter statistic, Mr Ferguson).

The ABC has extended interviews and lots of resources via the link above.

Comments welcome

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.