Peak Foiled ?  

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Grist notes that Spanish oil company Repsol just announced that it has made the largest onshore oil discovery in the United States in 30 years - a find of 1.2 billion barrels beneath Alaska’s North Slope - PEAK FOILED.

If there’s anyone still waiting for peak oil to save us from climate change, get over it. People just keep getting better at finding crude. If anything can get us out of this mess, it won’t be a scarcity of fossil fuels but an abundance of creativity. The same innovative capacity that allows humans to keep expanding the amount of oil that can be pumped out of the earth can also create laws to stop the flow and cleaner technologies to use instead.

Vault 7  

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A few years ago I speculated that one day some unenthused young contract worker at an Intelligence agency would decide to do a Snowden and release details of the backdoors that have been built into our electronic devices - Gen Y's Revenge - Opening The Back Door ?.

After thinking about this for a while I eventually concluded that the next big scandal could be one that could have far more real world impact than the current round of revelations (which are going to have a lasting effect on American technology providers over the next decade as foreign and multinational entities start trying to attain some level of information privacy that they don't enjoy today).

My thinking goes like this - if all our technology platforms now have backdoors built into them, what happens if some whistleblower decides to make public the mechanisms for accessing these backdoors ? Is there some procedure on the shelf that will allow a (relatively) rapid rollout of fixes to close the backdoors (and the cynic in me assumes, install new ones) ? Or is this just a hacker's wet dream waiting to come true...

So I wasn't all that surprised by Wikileaks' latest release, the much hyped "Vault 7" - Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed.

Like the Podesta emails, the timing for this one was dodgy at best, with Trump doing some paranoid tweeting about his phones being tapped by Obama a couple of days before the document dump. By and large I still like Assange, but the entire neocon and Democratic establishment seem to determined to paint him as yet another tool of Vladimir Putin - and some of Wikileaks' tweets and the way they seem to be co-ordinating with the Trumpists don't do much to contradict this.

Fingers crossed they start releasing some dirt on the Trump administration before too long to restore some balance to the force.

There are a few other conspiracy theories about this latest release floating around that don't come from the Washington establishment. One of these is that this is part of a turf war between the NSA and CIA, with the NSA perhaps deciding that the CIA are encroaching too much on their area of expertise (mirroring some theories around the time of the Snowden revelations that the CIA wanted to discredit the NSA).

Bruce Schneier has a good roundup of articles on the topic - WikiLeaks Releases CIA Hacking Tools.

Somewhat weirdly, while browsing Facebook outside yesterday (off my home network) I emailed the link to this Intercept story to myself with the subject line "Vault 7" yesterday. A minute or so later I had an aborted call from a number in The Seychelles then my phone popped up a dialog box asking me what wifi network I wanted to connect to (something I can't recall it ever spontaneously asking me to do before). It did make me wonder just how active / automated the surveillance systems are these days when it comes to grabbing all the information off your phone...

FORMER CIA DIRECTOR Michael Hayden told the BBC this week that he blames millennials for the government’s secrets being leaked to the public.

“In order to do this kind of stuff, we have to recruit from a certain demographic,” he said, referring to government surveillance. “And I don’t mean to judge them at all, but this group of millennials and related groups simply have different understandings of the words loyalty, secrecy, and transparency than certainly my generation did.”

Carnegie eyes 100MW wave farm in Western Australia  

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Australian wave power company Carnegie Clean Energy is expressing interest in building the country's first commercial scale wave power plant on the south coast of Western Australia - Carnegie eyes 100MW wave farm in Albany if Labor wins W.A. poll.

Perth-based Carnegie Clean Energy says it will consider a 20MW wave farm off the cost of Albany in West Australia if Labor wins the state poll and delivers on a commitment to provide $19.5 million of funding. Carnegie, which is currently preparing its first full-size wave farm off the coast of Fremantle, helping to supply Garden Island naval base with a mixture of wave and solar energy and battery storage, says the Albany plant could be upgraded to 100MW. ...

Carnegie CEO Michael Ottaviano said the Albany wave farm would be an opportunity to tap into a highly consistent renewable resource; delivering “24/7 clean power” into the electrical grid at a time where recognition of the importance of reliable, clean energy in Australia has never been higher. “Albany has one the most consistent wave energy resources in the world, experiencing greater than 1m swell 99.7 per cent of the time,” he said in a statement.

ANU: Wind, solar and hydro grid cheapest option for Australia  

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ReNew Economy has a look at a report from the Australian National University claiming the lowest cost electricity grid for Australia is a 100% renewable energy one - ANU: Wind, solar and hydro grid cheapest option for Australia.

A new study by energy experts from the Australian National University suggests that a 100 per cent renewable energy electricity grid – with 90 per cent of power coming from wind and solar – will be significantly cheaper future option than a coal or gas-fired network in Australia. The study, led by Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu and Matthew Stocks, suggests that with most of Australia’s current fleet of coal generators due to retire before 2030, a mix of solar PV and wind energy, backed up by pumped hydro, will be the cheapest option for Australia, and this includes integration costs.

Renewable Energy: The disruptive impact of technology  

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Nick Butler at the FT points to this paper from the Grantham Institute and Carbon Tracker on the disruption cheap renewable power and electric vehicles are starting to have on global energy markets, a process which is going to continue to accelerate - Expect the Unexpected: The Disruptive Power of Low-carbon Technology (pdf).

Butler notes of the report:

* Solar will take 23 per cent of the power generation market by 2040 and 29 per cent by 2050.
* Wind power could constitute another 12 per cent of the power market by 2050.
* Electric vehicles will account for around 35 per cent of the road transport market by 2035.
* Hydrocarbons will peak and the authors are bold enough to foresee peak oil and coal demand in 2020

Britain's Cleaner Future  

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The Times (A Murdoch rag of all things) has an editorial celebrating the UK's plummeting carbon emissions - A Cleaner Future.

Without much fanfare and four years ahead of schedule, Britain has achieved an ambitious policy goal that should have significant public health benefits and serve as a case study for other large economies. The UK has cut its carbon dioxide emissions to a level last seen during the General Strike of 1926. Apart from that exceptional year, when most coal mines were closed, the last time emissions were this low was in 1894, when Karl Benz produced the world’s first car. Most of this reduction is the result of a 52 per cent cut in a single year in the use of coal, which, like diesel, fouls the air with sooty particulates when burned. This should have an immediate and positive impact on illness and …

Tweet Tweet  

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Just a reminder that while posting here can be sporadic, I do tweet (or at least retweet) almost every day - BigGav on Twitter.

Argentina Eyeing Lithium Superpower Status Amid Battery Boom  

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Bloomberg has a report on Argentina's hopes to dramatically expand lithium production - Argentina Eyeing Lithium Superpower Status Amid Battery Boom.

If all of the projects go ahead, Argentina’s annual output of the metal used in electric-vehicle batteries would surge to 165,000 metric tons, or about 45 percent of global supply, according to government projections. Prices will increase as much as 15 percent this year, Albemarle predicted last month. “Conservatively, Argentina will represent about half of global lithium production by 2020,”

Weekend reading  

Posted by Big Gav

* The Marked Woman. "In the early twentieth century, the members of the Osage Nation became the richest people per capita in the world, after oil was discovered under their reservation, in Oklahoma. Then they began to be mysteriously murdered off."

* Exponential growth devours and corrupts. "It’s the banality of moral decline. No one person sits down and imagines that Angry Birds of 2009 becomes the Angry Birds of 2017. A fun, novel game turned into a trashy slot machine. Nobody is proud of work like that. But it happens. One pea at a time. Until the split-pea soup has no more peas."

* Tech and the Fake Market tactic. "These new False Markets only resemble true markets just enough to pull the wool over the eyes of regulators and media, whose enthusiasm for high tech solutions is boundless, and whose understanding of markets on the Internet is still stuck in the early eBay era of 20 years ago."

* Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?. "Our society is at a crossroads: If ever more powerful algorithms would be controlled by a few decision-makers and reduce our self-determination, we would fall back in a Feudalism 2.0, as important historical achievements would be lost. Now, however, we have the chance to choose the path to digital democracy or democracy 2.0, which would benefit us all "

* The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet. It’s the End of the Middle Class. "In the US, the number of manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 and has steadily decreased ever since. At the same time, manufacturing has steadily increased, with the US now producing more goods than any other country but China. Machines aren’t just taking the place of humans on the assembly line. They’re doing a better job. And all this before the coming wave of AI upends so many other sectors of the economy."

The Age of the Giant Battery Is Almost Upon Us  

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Bloomberg has an article on the great strides being made by the missing link in the transition to 100% renewable energy - cost effective energy storage - The Age of the Giant Battery Is Almost Upon Us.

Battery costs have declined 40 percent since 2014 and regulators are mandating storage technology be added to the grid. That’s encouraging utilities to offer longer contracts and developers are expected build $2.5 billion in systems globally this year. These trends are changing the risk profile, giving lenders confidence in batteries in much the same way that power-purchase agreements opened banks’ doors years ago for wind and solar power.

Arnold Schwarzenegger wants a clean energy future  

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I quite enjoy watching Arnie's old movies with my son these days. The Terminator himself also makes a lot of sense in the political pronouncements he makes these days, whether it be trading insults with Donald Trump, lobbying against gerrymandering or insisting that dealing with global warming by adopting clean energy technology is an unmitigated good thing for everyone.

His latest rant on Facebook seems to have gained a lot of media attention for the last of these items, asking everyone to embrace a clean energy future - I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change..

There are always a few of you, asking why we should care about the temperature rising, or questioning the science of climate change.

I want you to know that I hear you. Even those of you who say renewable energy is a conspiracy. Even those who say climate change is a hoax. Even those of you who use four letter words.

I've heard all of your questions, and now I have three questions for you.

Let's put climate change aside for a minute. In fact, let's assume you're right.

First - do you believe it is acceptable that 7 million people die every year from pollution? That's more than murders, suicides, and car accidents - combined.

Every day, 19,000 people die from pollution from fossil fuels. Do you accept those deaths? Do you accept that children all over the world have to grow up breathing with inhalers?

Now, my second question: do you believe coal and oil will be the fuels of the future?

Besides the fact that fossil fuels destroy our lungs, everyone agrees that eventually they will run out. What's your plan then?

I, personally, want a plan. I don't want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don't want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That's exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.

A clean energy future is a wise investment, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either wrong, or lying. Either way, I wouldn't take their investment advice. Renewable energy is great for the economy, and you don't have to take my word for it. California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future.

Our economy has not suffered. In fact, our economy in California is growing faster than the U.S. economy. We lead the nation in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, entertainment, high tech, biotech, and, of course, green tech.

I have a final question, and it will take some imagination.

There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I'm guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice - who would ever want to breathe those fumes?

This is the choice the world is making right now.

To use one of the four-letter words all of you commenters love, I don't give a damn if you believe in climate change. I couldn’t care less if you're concerned about temperatures rising or melting glaciers. It doesn't matter to me which of us is right about the science.

I just hope that you'll join me in opening Door Number Two, to a smarter, cleaner, healthier, more profitable energy future.

Warming soils releasing carbon ?  

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The Washington Post has a depressing report on a new paper on nature on clime system feedback, with warming soils releasing carbon themselves - Scientists have long feared this ‘feedback’ to the climate system. Now they say it’s happening.

At a time when a huge pulse of uncertainty has been injected into the global project to stop the planet’s warming, scientists have just raised the stakes even further.

In a massive new study published Wednesday in the influential journal Nature, no less than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades.

That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon due to the plants and roots that have grown and died in them, in many cases over vast time periods (plants pull in carbon from the air through photosynthesis and use it to fuel their growth). It has long been feared that as warming increases, the microorganisms living in these soils would respond by very naturally upping their rate of respiration, a process that in turn releases carbon dioxide or methane, leading greenhouse gases.

It’s this concern that the new study validates. “Our analysis provides empirical support for the long-held concern that rising temperatures stimulate the loss of soil C to the atmosphere, driving a positive land C–climate feedback that could accelerate planetary warming over the twenty-first century,” the paper reports. This, in turn, may mean that even humans’ best efforts to cut their emissions could fall short, simply because there’s another source of emissions all around us. The very Earth itself.

A Sydney to Melbourne Hyperloop ?  

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The Age reports that Australian government MP John Alexander is pushing for a high speed rail or hyperloop link between Sydney and Melbourne as a solution to unaffordable house prices - High-speed rail and a Hyperloop: John Alexander's radical housing affordability plan.

High-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne would be used to decentralise Australia's urban population and open up cheaper housing under a radical plan now endorsed by a parliamentary committee. ... The report also urges the government to monitor and, in future, assess the feasibility of Hyperloop, a supersonic tube conceived by Tesla founder Elon Musk that would potentially see passengers traverse Sydney to Melbourne in less than one hour.

Linking regional centres by rail would enable people to live in Goulburn, for example, and work in Sydney, and ease pressure on crowded city markets. It would "provide an abundant supply of affordable housing for many generations to come", Mr Alexander said.

The Economist: Electric cars are set to arrive far more speedily than anticipated  

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The Economist has a look at the rapid growth prospects for electric vehicle sales - Electric cars are set to arrive far more speedily than anticipated.

Improving technology and tightening regulations on emissions from ICEs is about to propel electric vehicles (EVs) from a niche to the mainstream. After more than a century of reliance on fossil fuels, however, the route from petrol power to volts will be a tough one for carmakers to navigate.

The change of gear is recent. One car in a hundred sold today is powered by electricity. The proportion of EVs on the world’s roads is still well below 1%. Most forecasters had reckoned that by 2025 that would rise to around 4%. Those estimates are undergoing a big overhaul as carmakers announce huge expansions in their production of EVs. Morgan Stanley, a bank, now says that by 2025 EV sales will hit 7m a year and make up 7% of vehicles on the road. Exane BNP Paribas, another bank, reckons that it could be more like 11% (see chart). But as carmakers plan for ever more battery power, even these figures could quickly seem too low.

Weekend reading - Grantham on Capitalism  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

If you've got some free time I'd recommend these 2 articles:

The destruction of job security and financial prospects in the western world for workers without in-demand skills had created a generation of recluses living on the internet - Trump is their revenge on reality. "Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him." - 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump.

Jeremy Grantham has a different look at the same problem in his latest newsletter: "The question now is: what for will the struggle take ?" - Grantham: ‘Twas capitalism that killed capitalism.

The data on rising inequality also led me to check what others had thought and written on this issue and made me realize that a self-destructive streak in capitalism had been well-noted in the past. A particular surprise to me was Schumpeter – he of “creative destruction fame” – who believed capitalism in its current form would eventually fail through overreaching, using its increasing power to dispense with regulations designed to protect the public good (that has a painful echo today doesn’t it?) until pushback FDR style (or Teddy Roosevelt style) results in a more controlled mix, which Schumpeter called socialism. There was also a suggestion in his work and that of Keynes that excessive corporate power would weaken the demand from ordinary workers and hence weaken the economy. This last point is also emphasized more recently by Mancur Olson, who argued that “Parochial cartels and lobbies tend to accumulate over time until they begin to sap a country’s vitality. A war or some other catastrophe sweeps away the choking undergrowth of pressure groups,” as The Economist rather eloquently summarized his thinking in his obituary of March 1998.

To promote a pushback against excessive corporatism (and elements of oligarchy) one needs first of all to recognize the problem. Given the rather apathetic response from what used to be called “the workers” to the last 30 years of relative slide, there appears to have been no such recognition. But then on the eve of the election I realized that the point had finally been made. For an astonishing 75% of those first 9,000 polled agreed that, yes, we did indeed need to be saved from the rich and powerful. From now on, in my opinion, we live in a different world from the one we grew up in. A world in which a degree of economic struggle between the financial elite, perhaps 10% but more likely 1%, and all the rest is finally recognized. The wimpy phase is probably over. The question now is which path will this struggle take? Will it be a broad societal effort through established political means to move things back to the 1950s to 1960s when a CEO’s pay was 40x his average employee’s pay and not today’s over 300x; when corporations never dreamt of leaving the US merely to save money; when investment banks set the standard (and a very high one) of ethical behavior? Or do we try to do it through the other historically well-used method, and a much more dangerous one – that of resorting to a “strong leader?” Strong leaders work out just fine if we end up with a Marcus Aurelius, the mostly benevolent and wisest of Roman Emperors. But when things go wrong, as they often do, we could more easily end up with Caligula. ...

I felt the pain from the “strong leader” bit because, like almost all in my age cohort, I am fanatically well-disposed to democracy. We were born, after all, at a time that overlapped the trio of nightmarish, strong leaders of the 1930s and 1940s, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. But I believe this fanaticism has weakened in other age cohorts born less close to these three as they have receded steadily into history. A recent report5 captured this decline: Of those born, as I was, in the 1930s, fully 75% gave a 10 out of 10 for extreme support for democracy. But each younger cohort felt less enthusiastic: 62%, 57%, 50%, and 43% for each younger cohort by decade until by the time we get to those born in the 1970s, the 40-year-olds, extreme support is down to 32%! And this is not the worst of it. The same report listed those who were actually against democracy as a “bad” or “very bad” way to “run this country.” Shockingly, in the period from 1995 to 2011, the percent of each age group agreeing to that proposition doubled. From 5.5% to 12% for those over 65 rising to a frightening 24%, up from 12.5% for the 16- to 24-year-olds. ...

The real challenge in promoting less inequality is to increase the share of GDP going to labor. Almost certainly, for any given increase in their share of GDP there must be a decline in the share going to corporate profits. How does the program of the new strong leader stack up on this one? He is surrounded by capitalists and billionaires who, to further advantage corporations and the super rich, are apparently prepared to wage war on the already sadly diminished regulations that defend ordinary people (and, yes, with no regulations corporations would make more money). The war would also include direct tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which would further increase the share of the pie going to corporations. This is a strategy that if successful in the long-run – despite its current market appeal – could not possibly be worse for the workers if he tried. Perhaps they, the workers, will feel betrayed as their share drops in order to further fatten corporations. Perhaps they will be bamboozled enough not to notice the betrayal. For bamboozlement of the working poor has become an art form in the last 30 years, with bamboozlement defined as an ability to persuade people to vote against their own economic interest for one reason or another. For example, 62% of voters do not like the sound of “death tax,” which in the form of estate tax is paid by only 1-2% of American families. An astonishing 35% of those earning less than $10,000 a year do not approve of increasing taxes on the rich. Does it get any richer than that? It has been called the Homer Simpson effect,6 whereby the poor voter reacts negatively to the idea of tax, which like death has little appeal, but does not get the point that a tax decrease for the rich has unpleasant implications for them. But, the gods willing, you probably can’t bamboozle enough of the people enough of the time. And the Reuters/Ipsos poll clearly shows that the worms have turned. The lack of class war or economic war in the US has always been a fiction, but it has been mostly hidden, and deliberately so, by the side so completely winning the undeclared war. Perhaps the 74% vote was indeed a public declaration that the war is now official.

Australia positioned to be a renewable energy superpower  

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Ross Gittins at the SMH is having a prolific week of high quality energy and global warming articles. His latest - Australia positioned to be renewable energy superpower.

It had been assumed that gas-fired power would bridge the gap because it was cheap, far less emissions-intensive than coal, and able to be turned on and off quickly and easily to counter the intermittency of renewables. Now, however, without successive federal governments quite realising what they'd done, gas has been largely priced out of the electricity market, with various not-very-old gas-fired power stations close to being stranded assets.

What now? We thank our lucky stars the cost of energy storage is coming down and we get serious about storage - both local and at grid level - using batteries and such things as "pumped hydro storage" (when electricity production exceeds immediate needs, you use it to pump water up to a dam then, when production is inadequate, you let the water flow down through a hydro turbine to a lower dam). In other words, the solution is to get innovative and agile. Who was it who said that?

Turnbull's party seem to be pro coal and anti renewables partly because they know we have a comparative advantage in coal. We can produce it cheaply and we've still got loads in the ground. The rest of the world is turning away from coal and the environmental damage it does, but let's keep opening big new mines and pumping it out, even though this pushes the prices our existing producers get even lower. If the banks are reluctant to finance new coal mines at this late stage, prop them up with government subsidies. Join the international moratorium on new mines? That would be unAustralian.

But get this: Garnaut says we also have a comparative advantage in the new world of renewables. "Nowhere in the developed world are solar and wind resources together so abundant as in the west-facing coasts and peninsulas of southern Australia. South Australian resources are particularly rich... Play our cards right, and Australia's exceptionally rich endowment per person in renewable energy resources makes us a low-cost location for energy supply in a low-carbon world economy. That would make us the economically rational location within the developed world of a high proportion of energy-intensive processing and manufacturing activity. Play our cards right, and Australia is a superpower of the low-carbon world economy."

Panoramic Plan Of The Principal Rivers and Lakes  

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Off topic, but I love these old maps and infographics - The Stunning Early Infographics and Maps of the 1800s.

Elon Musk Really Is Boring  

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Bloomberg has an update on Elon Musk's tunnelling hobby - Elon Musk Is Really Boring.

Tunnel technology is older than rockets, and boring speeds are pretty much what they were 50 years ago. As with space launches, tunnels are often funded through cost-plus government contracts, in which the contractor assumes no risk for cost overruns, which tend to be enormous as a result. Famously, Boston’s Big Dig, which moved a section of Interstate 93 underground, was delayed by roughly eight years and cost $12 billion more than originally planned, but all tunnels tend to be wildly expensive. In L.A., plans to extend the subway’s Purple Line by 2.6 miles will cost more than $2.4 billion and take almost 10 years. “It’s basically a billion dollars a mile,” Musk says. “That’s crazy.”

Musk wouldn’t comment on Trump, but a person close to him says that while the Boring Company would be open to building tunnels as part of Trump’s infrastructure plan, it intends to move forward regardless of what happens in Washington. Musk says he hopes to build a much faster tunneling machine and use it to dig thousands of miles, eventually creating a vast underground network that includes as many as 30 levels of tunnels for cars and high-speed trains such as the Hyperloop.

Objections spring to mind. Such as: Wouldn’t having hundreds of feet of hollow tunnels destabilize the ground? Nope, Musk says, the mining industry does it all the time. “The earth is big, and we are small,” he says. “We are so f---ing small you cannot believe it.” Not only are these megatunnels possible, he argues, they’re the only way we can rid ourselves of the scourge of traffic.

“We have skyscrapers with all these levels, and we have a flat, two-dimensional road system,” he says. “When everyone decides to go into these structures and then exits them at the same time, you’re going to get jammed.” Tunnels, on the other hand, would represent a 3D transportation network.

The simple truth: Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia  

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After last week's blackouts, record heat and bizarre coal worshipping rituals in parliament, Ross Gittins has sarcastically concluded it as just as well we don't need to worry about global warming - Don't worry, climate change is just imaginary.

Malcolm Turnbull, the man who lost his job as party leader because was so keen to see action he supported the Labor government's emissions trading scheme, is now keen to ensure it never happens again. The squeakiest wheels in the party want him to demonise renewable energy, blaming it for all the blackouts and price rises? Introduce new government subsidies for coal while making the future for power generation so uncertain no one's game to invest in anything?

Sure. Whatever it takes. (Don't worry, Malcolm, I'm sure all the people inside and outside the Liberal fold who were so pleased when you became Prime Minister – me included – will learn to accept your need to abandon everything we know you believe and start doing Tony Abbott impressions.)

It's the easiest thing in the world for people to imagine that whatever's been happening lately is much bigger and more terrible than ever before.

Trouble is, the scientists keep confirming our casual impressions. A report this month prepared by top climate scientists for the independent Climate Council, is all bad news. They say all extreme weather events in Australia are now occurring in an atmosphere that's warmer and wetter than it was in the 1950s. "Heatwaves are becoming hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often," they say. "Extreme fire weather and the length of the fire season is increasing, leading to an increase in bushfire risk." ...

Of course, none of this is having any effect on agriculture. It must be a great comfort to our farmers to know that, by order of Barnaby Joyce and the National Party, climate change is a figment of the climate scientists' imagination. This is good news, since I read that reliable rainfall and predictable temperature ranges are critical to agricultural production, and these are the very factors affected by a changing climate – if it was changing, which it isn't.

A new CSIRO study, led by Dr Zvi Hochman, has found that Australia's average yields from wheat-growing more than tripled between 1900 and 1990 thanks to advances in technology, but have stalled in the years since then. The study found that, since 1990, our wheat-growing zone had experienced an average rainfall decline of 2.8 millimetres, or 28 per cent per cropping season, and a maximum daily temperature increase of about 1 degree.

Australia's "yield potential" – determined by climate and soil type – which is always much higher than farmers' actual yields, has fallen by 27 per cent since 1990. So all the efforts farmers have made to improve their yields with better technology and methods have served only to offset the effects of climate change, leaving them no better off. "Assuming the climate trends we have observed over the past 26 years continue at the same rate, even if farmers continue to improve their practices, it is likely that the national wheat yield will fall," Hochman says.

It also emerged that Prime Minister Turnbull has his own solar power and energy storage setup at home, which might explain his lack of concern at our ageing energy infrastructure.

Meanwhile the local press is full of stories like "Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and ministers were told wind not to blame for South Australia blackout" (explaining the government deliberately lied when they tried to blame wind power for SA grid outages), EnergyAustralia boss says shift to renewables “a reality”, need for plan “urgent” and this excellent article from Ian Verrender, concluding "carbon pricing is inevitable" - The simple truth: Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia.

As the finger-pointing over higher prices nationally, blackouts in South Australia and threatened disruptions across the eastern states escalates, any notion over rational debate on how best to address the nation's long-term energy challenges has evaporated.

Put aside the irony that the recent run of misfortune on the national electricity grid is the direct result of a savage uptick in extreme weather conditions, a trend the vast bulk of climate scientists have been warning of for decades.

The simple truth is that, despite the entertaining theatre of insults in the national capital, Australia's future power needs overwhelmingly will be provided by renewables and gas. Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia. That is a trend driven by energy generators and consumers, both of which have abandoned hope of policy leadership from Parliament.

Generators jettisoned the idea of coal years ago, at least when it comes to building new power stations, because they carry too much risk. You're looking at upwards of $1 billion for a large-scale coal-fired generator that would be expected to last around 50 years.

No rational businessperson is willing to commit that kind of funding over that period, in an electoral cycle that lasts just three years. And that's just the equity side. An investment of that magnitude also requires huge amounts of project debt and, faced with the prospect of stranded assets and non-performing loans, financiers have wiped their hands of the idea of coal-fired electricity.

Consumers, meanwhile, have plunged into renewables, with Australians among the world's fastest adopters of rooftop solar.

Big business now seems to be abandoning the conservatives to their collective delusion, with the country's largest utility, Energy Australia, declaring we need a national plan for shifting to renewable energy - EnergyAustralia boss says shift to renewables “a reality”, need for plan “urgent”.

One of Australia’s largest operators of coal-fired power plants has weighed into the national energy debate, calling for a non-partisan push to clean energy and reminding policy makers that the shift to renewables is “a reality” that must be addressed.

In a full page advertisement published in major national newspapers on Tuesday, Energy Australia managing director Catherine Tanna (pictured below) said the way the country generated energy “had to change”, and that her company – owner of the Yallourn coal power plant, among others – was prepared to do its bit to make this happen.

“We believe all Australians should have reliable, affordable energy,” Tanna said in the letter, mirroring one of Malcolm Turnbull’s favourite energy sound-bites. “However, the way we generate, deliver and use energy has to change and I’m determined EnergyAustralia will live up to its responsibility.”

Wind on US Great Plains Supplies More Than Half Region’s Power  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Bloomberg reports that wind power in the US great plains region (from Montana to Texas) reached 52% wind power on last Sunday - For the First Time, Wind on the Plains Supplied More Than Half Region’s Power.

As more and more turbines are installed across the country, Southwest Power has become the first North American grid operator to get a majority of its supply from wind. That beats the grid’s prior record of 49.2 percent and the 48 percent that a Texas grid operator reached in March, Derek Wingfield, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.

“Ten years ago we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” Bruce Row, Southwest Power Pool’s vice president of operations, said in the statement. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent. It’s not even our ceiling.”

The power pool operates 60,000 miles of power grid across 14 states. Texas leads the U.S. wind industry with more than 20 gigawatts installed, followed by Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Kansas, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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