CSIRO buries its futures forecast in fossil fuel technologies

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Extraordinary new CSIRO report designed to guide business through future challenges focuses almost entirely on fossil fuels. Even its “lean and clean” scenario relies on CCS, while its nightmarish “weathering the storm” scenario celebrates fact there will still be demand for Australian coal.

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A new report from the CSIRO mapping Australia’s innovation and investment priorities out to 2030 has put its energy focus squarely on fossil fuel exports and the technologies required to best exploit them, under a number of different possible future scenarios.

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The report, published on Tuesday to mark the launch of the CSIRO’s new business advisory service, appears to put Australia’s premier science and research organisation in lock-step with the Coalition government, whose stated preference is to keep the national economy firmly tethered to coal and gas, despite the global trend – and scientific mandate – for rapid decarbonisation.

And, like the Coalition’s 2015 Energy White Paper and recent Budget, the 66-page report barely mentions climate change, ignores 2°C emissions scenarios, and gives scant mention to the numerous renewable energy technologies many consider will be a key ingredient of the global effort to avert dangerous climate change – something the CSIRO’s own Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station has now confirmed we are not doing nearly fast enough.

It also appears to reflect the new corporate direction the CSIRO has taken under the leadership of former US venture capitalist Larry Marshall, which has so far included the sloughing off of as many as 110 of the organisation’s world-leading climate researchers.

The CSIRO report, Australia 2030, is based around four “plausible and divergent scenarios,” each based on different combinations of social, economic, environmental and technological drivers, and each designed to be “purposely extreme”, to provide a sharp contrast between different potential futures and illustrate the trade-offs involved for the five major sectors of Australian business and industry: food and agriculture, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, mining and METS, and “oil, gas and energy.”

The scenarios include Digital DNA – where we see a dramatic shift towards digital services driven by the “internet of things” (see table below); Mining and Dining – effectively a business as usual scenario, where a second wave of the resources boom underpins Australia’s economy; and Clean and Lean – where economic growth is decoupled from the environment, and countries can successfully pursue both objectives.

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The final scenario, called Weathering the Storm, pictures a world where geopolitical instability has increased, driven by climate change and regional conflicts over access to land, food and water – all of which leads to prolonged global economic stagnation.

Under this latter, nightmarish scenario – something that may well emerge given the slow pace of decarbonisation and the rapid changes in climate – the report heralds an energy future for Australia that still revolves around fossil fuels.

“With volatility and uncertainty surrounding most industries, the energy market relies on tried and tested energy sources such as coal rather than further developing the potential of renewables,” it predicts.

“High oil and gas prices coupled with regional conflicts in oil supplying areas like the Middle East has also increased the attractiveness of coal.”

These conditions, the report says, will mean that “technologies that allow coal to replace oil or gas as a fuel will facilitate heightened demand for Australian coal.”

An example of one such technology offered in the report is a Direct Injection Carbon Engine – an adapted diesel engine that converts coal into a water-based slurry that maximises electricity generation and extends the life of the engine.

Interestingly, things don’t pan out too differently for Australia in the Mining and Dining scenario, except that the energy and technology focus shifts a little in favour of gas.

“With increased global energy demands, continued energy security concerns in Asia and minimal renewables to complement this demand, Australian exports for oil and gas have increased substantially,” the report imagines.

“While coal is still an important export for Australia, it is LNG that is the largest export market, with higher oil and gas prices making unconventional gas economically viable.”

“To meet the demands of this booming resources sector, businesses and governments have invested heavily in infrastructure and efficiency gaining technology. Noting the increase in global demand, low-cost international producers enter the market to capture some of the growth, but are not large enough (or efficient enough) to heavily impact Australia’s comparative advantage of being rich in resources and knowledge,” the report says.

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The Clean and Lean scenario, which acknowledges a focus on “services and technologies related to renewable energy integration and storage,” spotlights clean coal technology as a “potential enabler”.

“With high abatement and a global push towards environmentally-friendly operations, Carbon Capturen and Storage (CCS) has the market conditions required to become economically viable,” the report says.

“CCS integrates the capture, transportation and storage of CO2 gases emitted from industrial processes and power generating plants, allowing coal-fired plants to provide electricity at a lower carbon intensity.

“This science and technology area could create a new knowledge export market around CCS technology for countries still operating coal fired plants.”

Just how many countries will still be operating coal-fired power plants in 2030 is certainly a question worth pondering. Many countries, like the UK, have committed to plans to quit coal-fired power generation – some as early as 2020 and 2025.

Other countries, like India, may still use coal-fired power in 2030, but have firm plans to halt all imports of thermal coal within two or three years.



And Australia, according to the Climate Institute, will need to rid itself of coal power generation completely by 2035 if it has any hope of meeting its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

On a more realistic level, the broader 2030 outlook under the Clean and Lean scenario appears to be fairly grim, with Australia forecast to come in under the “lean” side of the equation.

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Sector contributions to economic growth by scenario, from L to R: Digital DNA, Mine and Dine, Clean and Lean, Weathering the Storm

“While the significant changes in the business environment increase efficiencies and reduce costs associated with wastage in the long- term, many small businesses in capital intensive industries are unable to afford the initial investment in new equipment, processes and systems, and are forced to close down,” the report says.

“Of those that survive, some are further stifled through over-regulation. Larger businesses are only now beginning to offset their earlier ‘green’ investments, with a projected period of strong economic growth on the short-term horizon and the long-term possibility of Australia becoming a carbon credit exporter.”

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90 Comments
  1. suthnsun 4 years ago

    I feel sick

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      Me too, but we have to fight it by kicking these psychopathic fools out office. D day 2nd of July.

  2. Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

    cane toads all over again

    • Phil Gorman 4 years ago

      Cane toads in clover!

  3. David 4 years ago

    Once were scientists, now this.

  4. Liz 4 years ago

    The shamelessness is what astonishes me – they don’t even bother trying to look like they’re telling the truth

    • Gerard Wilson 4 years ago

      they don’t care about the truth

  5. Diego Matter 4 years ago

    I guess CSIRO isn’t a science institution anymore. It has become the marketing department of the Coalition. Thank you very much Mr. Turnbull!

    I really hope scientists will soon start to speak out.

    I feel sick as well.

  6. Geoff 4 years ago

    WOW the CSIRO was a once loved scientific body that people as kids used to look up too. I certainly did, but now? yeah – I feel sick too…

  7. sunoba 4 years ago

    Astonishing, unbelievable, what planet are they on? (And I worked for CSIRO for nearly 25 years, so I have a lot of sympathy for the place!)

    • john 4 years ago

      I am hearing your pain that report has absolutely no semblance to reality at all who on earth released this low level rubbish?

      • Anechidna 4 years ago

        Look in the IPA archives, most probably one of their documents lifted by the new CEO.

  8. david_fta 4 years ago

    Follows on from John Howard’s 1999 Public Service Act amendments, which replaces the obligation for “responsible” advice with a requirement that the Public Service be “responsive” to the Government of the day.

    Looks like the same thing’s happening to CSIRO: no longer required to provide objective information, but to just put out whatever spin the Government finds convenient. We’ve seen all this before, of course: that time, it was called Lysenkoism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism.

  9. Brunel 4 years ago

    Wow! The CSIRO is now corrupt!

  10. Jo 4 years ago

    “…Carbon Capturen and Storage (CCS) has the market conditions required to become economically viable,” What a load of rubbish in this report!
    With renewable energy costs approaching or in the future underbidding the cost of fossil fuels for power generation there is no way how ‘Clean Coal’ (CCS) with an additional cost of at least 50% on top of the energy cost from coal could ever be financially attractive.

    I think something very dangerous is going on. The fossil fuel supportors are making slowly their way to the boards of our major scientific and cultural and climate institutions. See e.g. CSIRO and Arena. Not sure about ABC.

    • Phil Gorman 4 years ago

      Oh yes, and the ABC! The corpocracy rules and its not ok.

    • Abel Adamski 4 years ago

      What they conveniently overlook is the constant seepage of Methane and CO2 from the gaping wounds that are coal mines both operational and mothballed.

      When Scripps started in the late 50’s, CO2 increase was approx 1ppm per annum , 2000 -2010 when the experiment defining the back radiation from CO2 was conducted it rose 22ppm, this year in April it was 4.2ppm above April 2015.

      Methane levels are rising rapidly and exponentially, ice is melting and permafrost and land ice melting, the Arctic Sea ice melt (possible blue Arctic Seas event this year) means the Arctic instead of reflecting Solar energy back to Space will be absorbing it as heat.

      The stone age did not end for lack of stones, coal has had it’s day

    • Anechidna 4 years ago

      They may be making their way but around the world they are falling over economically. Are we an aberration or have the dinosaurs returned to rule us.

    • lin 4 years ago

      ABC board is already stacked with Howard and Abbott appointees, and now has an ex Murdoch executive at the helm. Dispensing with the Fact Checking unit as a first action would indicate the future direction of “our” ABC.
      “Our” “democracy” is run by the 1% for the 1%.

  11. Alan 4 years ago

    Wow. What a let-down. Seems like there’s a few more researchers at CSIRO that need to be let go. Or at least the people involved in approving this report. Unbelievable crap!

  12. JimTheGeordie 4 years ago

    I have been engaged in a series of competitions organised by MIT, asking the public at large for ideas on managing climate change (http://climatecolab.org/ if anyone is interested. A proposal written by another competitor advised that a team at Columbia University were working on processes for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it. I had an exchange of emails with one of the staff who told me that they had succeeded in removing CO2 in the laboratory, but a lot of development work is still needed. I thought that CSIRO might like to get involved, as the work would suit those scientists whose jobs were in jeopardy and the government funding would give it a pat on the back for extending its Paris promises.
    I forwarded this information to CSIRO and got a generated reply explaining that their projects were always in response to government instructions and they thought that my comments on Dairy might interest my local MP!
    I copied the emails into a single document and forwarded it to Greg Hunt, the MP for the seat of Flinders which is adjacent to the seat where I live. I have had no reply as yet!
    Here is the link to the original MIT proposal:

    http://climatecolab.org/contests/2015/anticipate-absorb-reshape-workspace/c/proposal/1326602

    • Jo 4 years ago

      What you describe is carbon capture and storage (CCS). CSIRO has been deeply involved in this. They have a large pilot plant at their site in Newcastle.

      But you miss the point: CCS cannot be economically viable. It costs about 50% more than the coal electricity price because there are various processes involved for extraction, collection, compression, transport and storage of CO2. These process will also need more energy and we will have to burn even more coal.

      CCS will be more expensive (even in mass production) than solar energy and wind energy.

      • Cooma Doug 4 years ago

        The elephant in the room is the sun. There are a few elephants. Another one is the fact that large base load is not going to win the war because of the costs of delivery.
        This CSIRO paper would have given a years work for ABC fact check.

        This isnt the most absurd paper I have seen this week. There is one put together in Saudi. It argues the case for maintaining a ban on women drivers.

        Oh yes and I saw what the member for Hume said about wind turbines. That might be the winner.

        No no Im wrong. This is a classic and way ahead of everything. One day there might be somthing more ignorant that the tax payer delivers but I cant imagine what it is.

        This is classic and so very disappointing.

        If our prime minister doesnt react appropriately to this report we can only assume he agrees with the corruption of the great science organisation. This will make him the very worst pm we ever had by a long way.

    • john 4 years ago

      Greg Hunt the Minister, who is know as the fool of science, and keeps pumping out rubbish, i Guess you had no other alternative considering the talent you were faced with.

    • Island fisher 4 years ago

      You may if your lucky receive a one line response from said member.
      Write to the labor and greens candidates at least you will get a response
      The LNP/IPA COALition do not answer questions that might harm their campaign

    • Ian 4 years ago

      Thanks for the reference it was very entertaining, use the captured co2 for carbonated drinks. Nice one Cyril.

  13. Louis de Villiers 4 years ago

    The explanation for this bleak and uninspiring report seems easily found in how its leadership has been stacked by the rightwing government: “the new corporate direction the CSIRO has taken under the leadership of
    former US venture capitalist Larry Marshall, which has so far included the sloughing off of as many as 110 of the organisation’s world-leading climate researchers”.

  14. Finn Peacock 4 years ago

    Go easy on the researchers. From my experience at CSIRO the management, petrified of upsetting their government overlords, have likely dictated the content of the report.

    Very depressing. CSIRO is full of amazing people who want to be part of the solution.

    • Jo 4 years ago

      I take your point. I also agree that most of that report has been certainly dictated by the terms of reference.
      However I find it still inexcusable that carbon capture and storage has been described as economically viable under the right market conditions. It comes with even higher energy consumption (to drive all the processes involved) and will cost a lot more. The only ‘right market condition’ would be carbon trading or a carbon tax. But anyway renewable energy would still be cheaper.

      One anecdote explains the problem clearly: A few years ago I attended an open day at CSIRO Newcastle. They showed a lab experiments and a pilot plant capturing CO2 for exhaust gases. It worked fine.
      But when I asked what would be happening in large scale with the huge quantities of CO2 gas, the answer was “that is not our problem”.

    • john 4 years ago

      I feel for you honestly but the report is dismal.

      • Ian 4 years ago

        Carbon capture and storage is obviously viable, why else would they promote it. Every coal powered station should be forced to install CCS to maintain their licence to operate. No capture of carbon , no burning of coal.

        • Anechidna 4 years ago

          Subsidy. Only reason it could be viable, a great big subsidy. Notice it is only the Fossil Fuel suppliers in on the act and a few rusted on LNP business leaders the rest are lining up and going Low Carbon.

          Expect very shortly to hear the knife slide into this corpse of an idea.

    • Diego Matter 4 years ago

      Finn, I really respect everything you comment on in the field of renewables. But you are wrong with this comment.

      In the light of how important climate change is for humanity, these scientist should have said ,I don’t put my name under this rubbish.’

      • nakedChimp 4 years ago

        Who said any scientists signed off on that one?

        Just because it says CSIRO on the cover and it came out of the door of one of the buildings the CSIRO is using, doesn’t mean that any relevant person from relevant fields did take part in that one..

        The pdf can be found here btw:
        http://www.csiro.au/en/Do-business/Futures/Reports/Australia-2030?featured=A9E6BAEF83014D51A435B26D88E35CCC

        There are no names attributable to any of the content in there.

        • solarguy 4 years ago

          Interesting indeed. If this a huge con by the government it should be their electoral death warrant.

  15. Ron Horgan 4 years ago

    “All that’s needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”
    The perversion of our national world class research treasure into the supine agent of a corrupt government is shocking and unacceptable.
    This election must rid us of the IPA dominated Liberals supported by the Murdock gutter press.

    • john 4 years ago

      You want to know the sad fact? The over whelming majority will not give a stuff watching some rubbish input to satisfy their hours of leisure.
      Honestly only about 10% of people have a clue the rest well some kind of care the major part do not care.

      • Abel Adamski 4 years ago

        They deserve what they are going to get, the innocent do not desrve what they are inflicting on us.

      • Ron Horgan 4 years ago

        John, if 10% of people change their vote away from the liberals the swing would be 20% in an election where 4% would be decisive. Lets keep banging them rocks together.

      • lin 4 years ago

        You may be unduly pessimistic. I am hoping the nutters who control the Libs have misunderstood the electorate on this, and have consigned themselves to future irrelevance. The barrier reef bleaching, Tassie and Canadian boreal forest fires, unbelievably low arctic ice extent, and continued breaking of temperature records by huge margins might just be waking the sleepers as we approach the election.
        “Strong climate change policy is a vote-changing matter for a majority of Australians”
        http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2016/election-2016-climate-change-policy-a-vote-winner-for-majority-of-australians-20160513-gouwbf.html

  16. Robert Comerford 4 years ago

    What was once an organisation to be respected is now publishing such crap. The first thing that needs to happen is for the inappropriate foreign manager to be given his marching orders. The organisation needs local people with scientific minds back in charge not fossil fuel stoolies.

  17. Bonzo 4 years ago

    The fact this report references with such piety the current government’s 5 industry Growth Sectors to the exclusion of all others proves how potentially biased it is. I’m amazed they weren’t able to squeeze the 6th one on Cybersecurity in there as well!

    • john 4 years ago

      They do not do cyber wats its name stuff cos use copper and crap wireless.

  18. howardpatr 4 years ago

    A report no doubt approved of by the other LNP stooge, the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel?

  19. JohnOz 4 years ago

    This, coupled with the sacking of ocean and atmospheric scientists, is an absolute disgrace that is entirely the responsibility of government – scientists wouldn’t have a bar of it.

    The inclusion of “Carbon Capture and Storage” in the “Renewables Exports” category
    indicates just what a Zombi Capitalism farce this report is. An excellent WorlyParsons report to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute in 2009 (for heavens sake) belled the cat on this particular ‘fig leaf’ (thank you Christine Milne for the ‘fig leaf’).

  20. Rob G 4 years ago

    The LNP are poisoning our scientists with their ideology. We need to get them out so normality and common sense can be restored. It will probably take Labor a couple of years to repair the damage these guys have left us.

    • Sou from Bundanga 4 years ago

      Try a couple of decades. It is much easier to destroy than to rebuild. With Larry Marshall sacking top scientists and disposing equipment and facilities, means it will be very costly to rebuild, too.

  21. Sou from Bundanga 4 years ago

    What happened to caretaker mode? This looks like a policy document for the LNP, It’s been issued on the taxpayers dollar during elections. CSIRO’s CEO is out-of-control. He should never have been plucked from obscurity to run our R&D icon. He’s proven himself woefully incompetent, never had the skills or experience, and is bent only on destruction. I thought he only wanted to ruin CSIRO. It looks as if I was wrong. His ambitions extend to ruining the nation.

    • john 4 years ago

      You are on the ball Sou this is perhaps the lowest point I hope, can they go any lower?

  22. Ken Dyer 4 years ago

    Absolute bloody stupidity! CCS has failed and failed again in Canada and the USA. It just is not an economical deal. The CSIRO bureacrats have their heads up their backsides. I despair because the real people who put the science into the CSIRO, that is the scientists, have been retrenched or sidelined or ignored. No longer can anyone pay any credence to what the CSIRO produces, which is a very sad state of affairs for Australia.

  23. lin 4 years ago

    Insanity has taken over the leadership of CSIRO??
    We really need to get a better government, and fast!

  24. john 4 years ago

    “technologies that allow coal to replace oil or gas as a fuel will facilitate heightened demand for Australian coal.”
    Is this a direct quote from the coal industry?

    • Ian 4 years ago

      I love the bit about coal powered diesel engines. Very funny. A slurry of coal and water will replace diesel and apparently burn cleaner. I’m sure VW will be very interested in that one.

      • nakedChimp 4 years ago

        Until they get the car tested in real world conditions.. after that they also rather build EVs I bet.

      • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

        Is this what Turnball considers to be ‘innovation’ ?

  25. ted markstein 4 years ago

    CSIRO has quietly changed their name to more accurately reflect their repositioning in this brave new world and their new mission statement “We don’t need no science stuff. Moneygrubbing’s quite enuff.”

    Coal Supporting Implausible Rubbish Outgassers

  26. john 4 years ago

    Perhaps everyone should try and find the presentation by Larry Marshall to show how brilliant he is not.
    https://ewh.ieee.org/r6/scv/leos/archive/2010/August/LarryMarshall.pdf

    Thank you Sou for giving me this.

  27. john 4 years ago

    Let me try again
    this link shows the CEO of the CSIRO
    https://ewh.ieee.org/r6/scv/leos/archive/2010/August/LarryMarshall.pdf

    • Vastmandana 4 years ago

      Con man

  28. GraemeF 4 years ago

    The world will go to hell because of global warming and their answer is to learn to eat coal or something?

    Delusional. This is not science, this is a propaganda piece written by the Greenhouse Mafia. They own the Coalition.

  29. Abel Adamski 4 years ago

    The CSIRO is finished as a Scientific Organisation and is no longer of any value to the Nation or people of Australia.
    As such it’s taxpayer funding must be removed and it must be sold to the Business interests it now serves.
    Too much damage has been done both to it and it’s reputation for it to be worth recovering.
    Sometimes you have to make the hard decision and cut your losses.

    Make the most of what reasonably good times we have left, enjoy your families and friends and nature and our Earths co inhabitants and do not curse your family by bringing any new children or grandchildren into what will be an increasingly hellish world, courtesy of True Evil in the Finacial Markets, Corporate Sector and most especially Corporate Media such as News Ltd and puppet politicians.

    Once we had some semblance of hope for a decent future, that is vanishing like mist in the morning sun

    • JohnOz 4 years ago

      “Privatise the CSIRO” is no. 72 on the Institute of Public Affairs “Radical Ideas to Transform Australia” handed to Tony Abbott – the COALition’s ‘policy document’.

      https://ipa.org.au/publications/2080/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

      What a disgrace to privatise this immensely valuable resource to Australians and the world and to turn it into a private plaything.

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      We the people have the say here. Inform your Labor or Green candidate of this bullshit and your friends and lets get back control, vote the bastards out!

  30. Pfitzy 4 years ago

    Essentially the CSIRO has become corporatised, which suits the neoliberal purposes of a Coalition owned by an industry that exists in a land beyond corrupt.

    As anyone who works in a large corporation could tell you, all the signs are there:

    Good people are still in the organisation. They are trying to make a difference, but are overidden or ignored by management who are interested in feathering their own nest.

    Most of these managers only seek to stay for 12-14 months, get another line on their resume, then look to leap upward into the next offering.

    Typically the manager possesses a skillset or professional experience unrelated to the core tasks of the worker, but can run a spreadsheet and negotiatie the necessary project funds – whether the project is a good idea or not.

    This style of management alienates the “grunts” but they are so possessive of their work they just want to see a result.

    To protect their cushy executive job, the upper echelons put these managers into competition with each other, and invest in performance metrics and consultancy to justify their ideas.

    Typically, anyone above the bottom run starts to claim the initiatives of those further down the chain as their own.

    This will end up one of two ways:

    1) If the organisation is “too big to fail”, endless restructures will perpetuate the myth of progress, and as the managers roll out on a 24-month cycle, nothing will change. Good people will leave, or be outsourced, and the company will wail and gnash its teeth at the loss of IP, but continue to make the same mistakes (google “Five Monkeys In A Cage” if you don’t know it already).

    This can only be rescued by the collective shame of those left who give a damn, who put things right, lose the reliance on performance metrics, and just let people serve the customer to get things back on track.

    2) If its not too big to fail, the organisation disappears up its own arse in a vortex of meetings, full of buzzwords, and a vacuum is created by the rats leaving a sinking ship, and blaming the workers (local or overseas) for not toeing the company line on mission, values, and goal statements.

  31. Neville Bott 4 years ago

    I can’t read past the first paragraphs.

    The CSIRO that was the best of what Australia could be is now just a political toy for the conservatives just sickening.

  32. Jimbo 4 years ago

    The backward thinking such as the keeping of CSIRO busy with fossil fuels is just another ugly hangover from the term of the LNP Federal Government. We can just work to ensure that term ends.

  33. John 4 years ago

    Hear hear Ron Horgan! Can some well-credentialled journo please expose the link between the Liberals and the Institute of Public Affairs, and how it seems to alter the DNA of heavyweight Liberals to the point where they cannot (afford to?) listen to science.

  34. BsrKr11 4 years ago

    This is simply outrageous!!! It is utterly infuriating …what is wrong with these people? I wouldn’t put my name to that stinker no matter what they threatened me with or how much they paid me… it is embarrassing

  35. solarguy 4 years ago

    So the madness has come down to this has it. Australia locked into the twilight zone of moronic thinking.

    • Vastmandana 4 years ago

      Yep! Read the report… Fracking insane. We’re headed over a friggin cliff and these yahoos are jacking off spewing bullshit. Can i wake up please?

    • Anechidna 4 years ago

      Seems to be contagious but restricted to a particular mindset represent by an uniformed and heavily biased political ideology which is restricted mainly those from the legal and accounting fraternities. No vaccination help available for this self extinguishing disorder.

      • solarguy 4 years ago

        But they do shoot horses don’t they.

  36. nakedChimp 4 years ago

    @Giles
    Have you seen this one yet?
    http://www.dw.com/en/european-union-to-publish-strategy-paper-on-nuclear-energy/a-19262144
    “European Union to publish strategy paper on nuclear energy”

  37. Just_Chris 4 years ago

    I think people misunderstand this report. The futurists in CSIRO spend a lot of time talking to the scientists to find out what is possible, how long it would take to implement, what it would cost and who would support it. They then move to a group of social scientists who discuss what society is likely to accept, what global pressures there are on Australia and what else is happening globally. CSIRO is not allowed (by law) to comment on government policy, all it can do is show or try to predict what the future looks like if we keep going the way we are going or modify what we are doing within plausible limits. This report details what the future of Australia looks like if we we don’t dramatically change what we are doing.

    These scenarios are what they think are likely NOT what they want. We had a carbon tax, it was incredibly effective but we need to face reality, the government that introduced the carbon tax was kicked out in a campaign that focused almost entirely on the carbon tax. If people are not willing to accept even a modest increase on their power bills then we are locked into a future where the existing power generation infrastructure is simply wound down over the next 3 decades because it costs money to build new infrastructure. Renewable energy may be cost competitive and cheaper in the long run but you are talking about shutting down existing power stations that could run for another 10-30 years and building totally new power stations. If you factor in a carbon tax (or a modest ETS or a beefed up version of emissions reduction fund) then you are talking about modifying existing power stations to use CCS or building totally new power stations. The emissions reduction fund would be a tool that could lead to installation of CCS technology as this pays to modify the business as usual scenario.

    China is buying CCS technology from CSIRO. Right now carbon capture is used in Victoria at gas processing facilities to purify the natural gas from the bass straight (which contains CO2), the ammonia industry uses the same technology to remove the CO2 from the hydrogen feedstock. So is CCS viable at a large scale? yes it is but despite being essentially pure CO2, the gas currently captured in normal industrial processes is just vented into the atmosphere because it would add a small cost to fertilizer or natural gas to store the CO2. Keep in mind the CO2 from the natural gas industry was originally stored underground for millions of years so all we would be doing is putting it back where we found it or rather in the well next to where we found it that we emptied a few years prior.

    CSIRO can take the camel to water but unfortunately it is forbidden by law from grabbing it by the balls, pulling it to the middle of the lake and holding it underwater until it either drinks or drowns.

    • Jo 4 years ago

      @Just_Chris
      So if CSIRO has just looked into possible scenarios, who come that they ‘forgot’ to include a scenario where we actually care about climate change and leave the coal in the ground?

      As much as you try to talk up CCS, CCS is dead and buried. It is just not cost competitive. You say “…it would add a small cost …”. Have a look for instance at a report from the Global CCS Institute that can certainly not be seen as biased against CCS: https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/insights/authors/LawrenceIrlam/2015/07/24/levelised-costs-electricity-ccs ,on figure 5.2 the levelised cost of CCS is $108 to $153/MWh (coal is about 80 and wind 66 to 94 in the same units; solar PV is listed 162 to 265 , but it is now already less than half of that)

      if you look at other sources the financial situation of CCS is even worse: http://www.zdnet.com/article/why-carbon-capture-and-storage-will-never-pay-off/

      “…putting it back where we found it or rather in the well next to where we found it…” is nonsense. That may work with a natural gas source. But CO2 from burning of coal on average will have to be transported over hundreds of kilometers to find a suitable storage. And I have not even talked yet about the about the long term stability of the storage. What will happen if just a tiny fraction of the CO2 stored over decades will eventually seep out? I do not want to leave this legacy to my grandchildren!

      If CSIRO takes the camel to the water they should at least take the blinkers off.

      • Just_Chris 4 years ago

        My point is this is not a report about what is possible or even what is sensible it is about mapping out where we are going starting from where we are now. CSIRO is not pro or anti any technology, it has substantial effort in developing pretty much any energy technology you can think of. You mentioned Newcastle, as well as the CO2 capture R&D they also have the REIF (renewable energy integration facility), the SEIF (stored energy integration facility), gas turbines, wind turbines, various types of solar PV and the solar thermal R&D. Not to mention that the whole site is a mini-grid and has an advanced building and facility management system including passive and active temperature control. To suggest that these people are heavily influenced by anything other than the unpleasant and sobering facts presented by reality is just not true. If CSIRO ruled Australia the place would look different but it doesn’t, it is owned and run by the people of Australia who are represented by the government. The voting public define the boundaries that CSIRO has to work in they are the boss not the other way around.

        Specifically with respect to the cost of CCS. It is high but then again so is nuclear or battery storage both of which are being considered and installed globally. If the UK can build a 20 billion pound nuclear power station then Australia could conceivably sink 20 billion dollars into CCS plants. Not my first choice, I mean you could buy 4 submarines for that sort of money and they are critical to our very existence. *sarcasm off* – critical to the governments re-election more like.

        The cost of PV, solar thermal, tidal, wave and wind are all coming down but require significant grid scale management to allow supply to meet demand. Admittedly at the levels we are likely to install them in the next 10 years this won’t be a significant issue but if you take it to a point where there would be issues grid management is most defiantly not free so the cost differentials you quote are not as stark as you suggest. I am personally absolutely NOT a fan of CCS but when considering where the government (current or future) will spend its next multi-billion dollar sum in the energy space I have to admit it can’t be ignored.

        I think the best point you make is why isn’t there a scenario where the coal or gas is left in the ground, as much as I hate to say it. In Australia before 2030 the idea that we would stop extracting fossil fuels is unlikely in the extreme. Could it be done, yes I think it could but not even the Greens are suggesting this.

        Energy is heavily influenced by government policy and taxation in particular in states where the power companies are government owned. This means energy is incredibly strongly linked to politics. In politics rational careful thought is a complete rarity which is why we have all sorts of ridiculous situations in the energy world. Just look at Tasmania or the current oil price – who’s making money or sense there? no one. If you look at Australia’s energy investment we spent all our money on renewables when they were expensive and uncompetitive. Then when they reach a level where it would be sensible to invest or change policy to make investment attractive we run away like scared rabbits.

        If you are asking me if I personally believe the scenario’s presented are sensible and what I would like to see. Then the answer is no. Do I think that the scenarios suggested are likely then the answer is yes.

        What I would really like is for people to carefully read the scenario’s, think really carefully what they would mean for life in Australia and then start to persuade their friends and family that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We decided collectively as a nation we are not going to tax carbon, mining or pollution so what are we going to tax instead. Increase GST? reduce pension benefits? less money to schools? bigger deficit? no more negative gearing? maybe we can just get rid of the University’s and CSIRO – CSIRO is currently only 5000 people, so getting rid of them won’t save you as much as you think. Especially since CSIRO spends all its money in Australia in the local economies rather than sending it via the share market straight to foreign investors.

        I think the report is full of likely paths, I hope to read it 15 years from and laugh at how wrong we were.

        • Jo 4 years ago

          Not sure why you defend the undefendable.
          Especially after Paris we need to look at scenarios to reduce CO2 emissions. CSIRO looked deeply into one option by investigating CCS (without considering the high cost) by they did not even consider digging up less coal. That is a fail!

          To be sure I do not blame the scientists so much but the board stacked up by the COALition.

          Strange that cost for CCS is not so much of an issue. When they stopped what they called the carbon tax, our Environment Minister was jumping for joy. And that was for about 3 cent/kWh. CCS would increase the price of electricity by much more than that. But cost is no a problem.

          • Just_Chris 4 years ago

            To both Jo and nakedchimp,

            My point is not that we should have CCS or nuclear. My point is that if we look at what the government has committed to, what both sides of the house are saying and our rather pathetic commitment in Paris that a future with some CCS is not that unreasonable (as in not unrealistic, perhaps not sensible, perhaps not a great idea but not unrealistic).

            If you look at what would be sensible it would be to use our current installed capacity in a smarter lower carbon way. Under the carbon tax emissions dropped by almost 10% we didn’t put any new technology in we just used more gas and less brown coal. The price of power didn’t dramatically change either. We could easily meet our carbon emission reduction commitments by simply burning less brown coal and switching to more black coal, gas and of course renwables. We could do this almost immediately for not a lot of difference in cost but we don’t.

            Writing off CCS because it is expensive is a perfectly sensible suggestion but we are not doing anything sensible now so why would we do anything sensible in the future? Blaming the CSIRO for telling it how it is, is not the answer (keep in mind CSIRO didn’t say CCS is the only future, only that it is one possibility).

            Watch the Nem watch tracker, look at how much gas we use in a day (today is pretty high) but there are other days where we could use far more gas and cut back on the coal. That would reduce emissions in double digit %’s this year but why would you do that, coal is cheaper than gas so we burn more coal. If we ever connect Tasmania back to the NEM they’ll keep going with what they’ve been doing, which is cherry picking the best power prices and then sucking any profit out of hydro-Tasmania to make the state coffers look better. There’s no thought to the future, there’s no thought to the amount of money Tasmania could be making in 10 years time if the dramatically increased installed wind power with the profits they make today so they can play the same game on a larger scale tomorrow.

        • nakedChimp 4 years ago

          The UK can’t built a 20 billion power station and even if they do the high costs (compared to alternatives) from that thing will be there for decades to the taxpayer and electricity consumer.
          Also what makes you think Australia would be able to afford a nuke or other similar funny technologies at that price level?
          The UK has at least twice as many people and at least twice the GDP. Also they got a trained pile of people (scientists, engineers, military) that deals with this technology since WW2.. Australia doesn’t have this.
          Australia on the other hand has world class sun and wind resources.. it just doesn’t make sense here.

          “If you look at Australia’s energy investment we spent all our money on renewables when they were expensive and uncompetitive. Then when they reach a level where it would be sensible to invest or change policy to make investment attractive we run away like scared rabbits.”
          What textbook are you reciting there?
          New tech at the start is always more expansive than a little bit later.. it’s called early adaptors.
          And why do ‘we’ run like rabbits now?
          Because the incumbent central monopoly power sellers are recognizing that the butter is vanishing from their breads along with the bread.
          That’s why they try every possible thing in the the book to derail the inevitable and keep as much of their monopoly as they can.

          Who in their right mind want’s a monopoly that is controlled by private/individual interests?

  38. Suburbable 4 years ago

    The people who survived the cuts to the CSIRO ate those more in step with the government’s ideas on energy policy and are wiling to do anything to keep their jobd.

  39. Vastmandana 4 years ago

    It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be nice about this bullshit. Planetary collapse staring us in the fucking face and one of the most admired climate voices now spewing insane fossil fuel corporate love propaganda? Really? Use to think Aussies were awesome…but sitting on your assess while corporations destroy your government and OUR planet…Letting this happen…really? WTFs wrong with you?

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      The only way to end the nightmare is to vote the wankers out. The damage these bastards have done to this country is unforgiveable and should not be tolerated. In the time this joke of a government has been in, my solar business and others has been winding down.
      I’m more than upset myself!

    • shayneo 3 years ago

      Believe me, none of us aussies are happy about this. This is an out of control government of right wing extremists hell bent on burning *anything* that might upset their financial overlords to the grounds.

      Hopefully next election, coming soon, we can be rid of these maggots.

  40. Les Johnston 4 years ago

    The report merely reflects the power of the COALition Government to sever Government funding of CSIRO. The recent cuts reflect what would have happened had CSIRO resisted and written an unbiased informed report on energy in 2030. Tragic that CSIRO fell into the COALition’s plan.

  41. Rob 4 years ago

    If you ever needed further evidence of where Turnbull, Hunt and the COALition’s hearts lie, this is it. They never truthfully intended to do anything about climate change or transitioning to renewables. In fact they are actively blocking progress in these areas. Vandalism of epic proportions.

  42. Adventure 4 years ago

    At this juncture look for sales of even bigger TV’s (88 inches and >) to distract the populace.

    When your tax money pay for the R&D of venture capitalist big business, then we are at the end, the world has lost, greed has won.

    We all have a front row seat, enjoy the ride.

  43. Riddley_Walker 4 years ago

    We are governed by morons.

  44. Ken Fabian 4 years ago

    If only Labor could find the conviction – the kind that comes from eg taking the CSIRO’s advice seriously – to feed some courage but I wouldn’t hold my breath; I’m not convinced they are capable of it. I suspect their lack of conviction loses them more votes than any ‘unpopular carbon tax’ ever could. they could have fought for it but they preferred distancing and blame shifting, as if making a small start to doing the minimum needed was something almost shameful – or perhaps the ‘shame’ of being forced to negotiate with the cross bench is deemed more unforgivable than facing the climate problem head on with eyes open. Not to mention that all the moral high ground, were they perceptive enough to realise it, is with greater climate action, rather than the dubious ‘achievement’ of doing the least they can get away with.

    I can’t believe anyone, least of all any researcher in the CSIRO takes CCS seriously. Stripped of hype we have three times as much CO2 by mass as coal burned but in a much more difficult to manage gaseous state, to be separated from smoke stacks, stored, moved, pumped and (one hopes) capped for all time at geologically suitable locations; I cannot see how that could ever be cheap and easy.

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