Doomed Planet

A Fool’s Bargain Trades Gold for Green

Australia’s green-ink profligacy is evident in great abundance in Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s First Low Emissions Technology Statement – 2020, grandly proclaiming “global leadership in low emissions technologies”. Masquerading as a technology fix to all our problems in ‘decarbonating’ the economy, it contained hand-outs from the Australian taxpayer for worthless returns.  It

# offered funding for researchers into the ever-elusive modern Philosophers’ Stone, energy (and not the nuclear version) from hydrogen.

# promised even more subsidies to capture and bury carbon dioxide from burning coal and gas.

# said how essential it is to provide more funding for batteries and pumping water uphill for later release; due to the proliferation of subsidised wind and solar such measures are essential to rectify the damage that subsidised and inherently unstable wind and solar power sources inflict on the whole system.

# dangled before farmers the possibility of a massive new income source involved in sequestering carbon dioxide in the soils they cultivate.

The National Farmers Federation was quick to welcome the boondoggle that involves paying farmers to store carbon dioxide in their soils.  NFF has been campaigning, alongside other virtue-signalling bodies, for ‘net zero emissions’ – not that they were calling for a return to human-pulled ploughs, donkey-drawn trucks or reduced meat-eating – but farm lobbyists have a long tradition of seeking handouts even before the “protection-all-round” slogan of Black Jack McEwen, the legendary Country Party leader of the 1960s.  That short-sightedness half a century ago, like its modern day version, provided inadequate recompense for the costs to farmers of dearer imports.

Forcing increased carbon dioxide absorption into soils is highly controversial. The World Resources Institute, a green research and lobby organisation, sees little future for it.  WRI argues that “grazing practices that increase the amount of grass growing generally sequester some carbon”, but “maintaining enhanced soil carbon levels is practically challenging” and also requires nitrogen, some of which would be converted into another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide. 

CSIRO takes different view.  It sees the potential of Australian soils and forests to store “somewhere between 100 and 200 times Australia’s current annual emissions.” Drawing from this, it sees a potential to mitigate enough greenhouse gases to offset up to 20 per cent or more of Australia’s emissions over the next 40 years. That amounts to 90 million tonnes a year, a goal suggested by the Technology Statement.  

Building upon this, Minister Taylor infers that a “reward” for sequestration might be $20 per tonne, which would provide a handy top-up of $1.8 billion a year on the farm sector’s net annual earnings of $60 billion.

The Technology Statement emphasised that the soil subsidy is not cut and dried.  It noted that the present cost of soil carbon measurement is around $30 per hectare per year.  But if this could be reduced to under $3 per hectare per year, the economics of Australian farming could be transformed.  The minister thought $3 per hectare might be possible using satellite imaging.  That’s the same technology that discovers koala bear colonies in urban backyards and CBD roundabouts, and almost destroys the ability of the NSW Nationals to sit in Coalition with the Liberals!

Australia’s land mass naturally absorbs about 137 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. That is 25 per cent of the 550 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent) we actually emit.  International recognition of soil sequestration would only apply to quantities in excess of this, and any landowner’s reward for sequestration would be based on the amount over and above that absorbed at a given date (1990 under the Paris Treaty).

Not netting out annual absorptions is totally arbitrary and favours countries with high population densities.

Provisions in the climate change treaties include Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), which allow credits for action that reduce emissions.  Australia has pursued policies that prevented land being cleared in NSW and Queensland.  The Howard government (under minister David Kemp) conspired with ALP state governments in Queensland and New South Wales to employ planning laws to prevent land clearing, thereby reducing emissions.  They did so without reimbursing the landowners whose property this devalued. This was contested  by one landowner, Peter Spencer, but the judge said hard luck, there is no need for state (as opposed to the Commonwealth) governments to provide compensation for land that their actions devalue.

Australia is almost unique among developed countries in being a net exporter of products that incorporate greenhouse gas inputs.  That’s because our exports are geared to raw materials, and less elaborately transformed manufactures like smelted metals.  Having some output consumed in other countries misleadingly amplifies the measured greenhouse gas intensity of the economy.

Energy policies force the replacement of low cost coal by high cost renewables, and these exports, especially aluminium, which uses over 10 per cent of electricity generated, will decline.  Though one outcome of this will be a loss in Australian living standards, global consumption of aluminium and other goods with high carbon inputs will be unaffected as other countries’ supplies will replace Australia’s penalised output.

Emission measurement and abatement is a numbers game which, among countries like Australia that take it seriously, progressively focusses economic actions on measures that detract from increasing wealth. Rather than pulling back, the Commonwealth is exacerbating this with its Emission Technology Statement and other recent greenhouse/energy announcements.

Alan Moran is with Regulation Economics. Among his many publications are chapters on the Australian energy industry in four books covering energy markets across the world. This article is based on a report “The Hidden Cost of Climate Change Policies and Renewables”, which was commissioned by Senator Malcolm Roberts

17 thoughts on “A Fool’s Bargain Trades Gold for Green

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    COMMENT DELETED. Renew Economy, the cited source, has no credibility, except with nitwits.

  • Alan moran says:

    Alan Moran

    Before you spout propaganda why not look at the figures for youorself? There are no subsidies to fossil fuels in Australia. On contrary, unlike the subsidised wind and solar, coal pays a special tax, misleadingly called a royalty. The $29 billion is largely fuel excise relief and other “concessions” involving inputs into the production process.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    BIG Lithium is back to spout his propaganda for a world riddled with toxic Lithium. You go you environmental hero, you.

  • Charles says:

    Sequestration of soil carbon is a gimmick, yes, small amounts can be achieved over a long period of time, but it takes lots of water and Nitrogen to do so. Some of these soil sequestration projects taking place in pastoral areas almost qualify as satirical masterpieces. As mentioned, just measuring it costs more than can be sequestered, and measurement of soil carbon by satellite is about as far away as there being competent politicians found in Canberra (i.e. a few decades/centuries away yet).

    What is obvious is that Taylor has been captured by the public servants in his department and he joins a long list of equally ineffectual politicians serving in the current government who have arrived at the same fate.

    What we would give for a politician who could think for themselves?

  • Citizen Kane says:

    BIG Lithium, the Conversation has a policy which has banned any dissenting voices on the religion of AGW even from its comments section which makes Ghenghis Kan look like a model liberal democracy. You referencing it is like Goebbels referencing Mein Kampf. Good to see you are still keen to lobby for all of those millions of depleted toxic lithium batteries to be deposited out on the Western Plains.

  • ianl says:

    Ah yes, the old “fossil fuel subsidies” furphy.
    There is indeed a Primary Producers excise relief on diesel fuels. This essentially applies to farmers, commercial fishers and miners. Through the legislation on this aspect, diesel fuel tax was designed to apply to the large truck fleets that disproportionately pounded public roads without the petrol tax impost that smaller vehicles paid.
    Note that this diesel excise relief applies to farmers – like the trollster.
    Commercial fishers – it’s a rare sight to see fishing trawlers sailing down Parramatta Road.
    Miners – mines, both open cut and underground – construct and maintain their own (private) roads. Greenies like the trollster think this should be a taxable activity.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    There has been a minor epidemic of Fatal Amoebic Meningitis – three known fatal cases in the USA this month – all based on faulty diagnosis. [I discovered the cure for this disease 49 years ago. Goodness knows how many fatalities there were in the rest of the world].
    Earth is the only living Planet in the known Universe. I agree that Earth is suffering from carbon dioxide disease. Employed chain gang scientists belong to the green religion, and therefore believe Earth has too much carbon dioxide, their income depends on it. Contrariwise self employed free spirit scientists know Earth is struggling from a shortage of carbon dioxide.
    RUBISCO is the commonest protein in the Universe. RUBISCO is the enzyme, and the only enzyme, which saved Earth from the hellhouse fate of Venus. It did this vital feat by turning all but one part in 200,000 of volcanic carbon dioxide into sugar for us all to eat and oxygen for everybody to breathe. RUBISCO0 keeps Earth alive.
    RUBISCO is tuned to 300 pascals of carbon dioxide – eight times the present atmospheric level of 40 pascals [400 ppm or 0.04%]. That is RUBISCOs Michaelis constant – where it runs at half maximum speed. [Human lungs and tissues run on 5000 pascals of carbon dioxide – a perfectly safe and normal level].
    With a wrong diagnosis, employed green scientists have misled essentially ignorant politicians [One Nation Senator Roberts excepted] into applying expensive, destructive and actually futile attempts to further deplete the atmosphere of carbon dioxide.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    Windfarms and solar panels become toxic junk in 25 years.
    Meanwhile they stuff the grid and the price of electricity.
    Carbon dioxide is the real renewable.
    RUBISCO @ 300 pascals [0.3% = 3000ppm] will definitely recycle carbon dioxide five times as fast as now.
    RUBISCO @ 500 pascals [0.5% = 5000ppm] will recycle carbon dioxide about ten times as fast as now.
    US Nuclear Submarines operate on carbon dioxide @ 500 pascals, while the human crew operates on a lung and tissue carbon dioxide pressure of 5000 pascals – ten times higher.
    Stop worrying and start loving carbon dioxide.
    If your tissue carbon dioxide fell to 500 pascals then you would be dead.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    Another of my proxy patients was in the news this month – Timothy Brown of Berlin fame – who was cured of AIDS by a bone marrow transplant from an immune donor, a decade ago. Unfortunately, I hear his leukemia has recurred.
    My real biologic patient right now is mother Earth. Fortunately she is on the correct treatment. Earth is suffering from hypocapnia [carbon dioxide deficiency]. Chinese, Indians and Americans are busy giving Earth a carbon dioxide transfusion, and she should be back to normal in a century or so.
    [I am a serious biologist who fluked the Scientific Breakthrough of the Year for 1996, by discovering the molecules which make 1% of Europeans immune to HIV. I feel it is my duty to bring these matters to your attention].

  • T B LYNCH says:

    RUBISCO is the key enzyme in the Calvin cycle, discovered by Prof Calvin @ University of California in 1950, using radioactive carbon dioxide to produce radioactive sugars. [I used to use tritium, another beta emitter, in my lab].
    Physical laws are not based on meditation, but on reproducible experiments and observation.
    Accordingly, Antarctic ice cores reveal that atmospheric carbon dioxide, followed temperature changes, and therefore did not cause temperature changes.
    Prediction of future temperatures, in a coupled chaotic system, with the main greenhouse gas present as gas, liquid and solid is pure guesswork, and completely wrong for the past 40 years.
    50 million years ago Earth was 10C warmer: the equator was +28C – same as now – but Antarctica was +10C, and covered in Antarctic beech trees. Storms are thought to have been less frequent/intense due to the reduced pole-equator temperature gradient. [Weather is the original heat engine].
    The ocean has been 200 feet higher or lower than now and Earth has survived.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    BIG Lithium, you needn’t fear for your terrestrial rendition of ‘The Pearl Fishers’ at the Sydney Opera House. I live within footfall of my local beaches and the sea level has not risen one iota over the past half century. This is conformed by an array of tide gauges around the Australian coastline. Of course you would be an armchair expert based some 500km away from daily interaction with the coast. What do they say about arrogance and ignorance going hand in hand.

  • DG says:

    All this would be comical were it not for the destruction of wealth it will entail. And remember, as I expect Quadrant readers would, wealth is not buying yachts and holidays in Monte Carlo, it funds medical research, infrastructure, welfare and education.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    BIG Lithium: – ‘It is hard to notice a rise at that rate while walking along a beach, particularly if locally masked by isostasy movements.” How would you know? Do a lot of beach walking and daily taking note of coastal conditions from the Western Plains do we? Once again all of these comments go to your general integrity and credibility. As is the lack of credibility of satellite altimetry which cannot even produce a meaningful result from raw data and needs to be heavily manipulated ( to supposedly correct for cloud cover, barometric pressure, sea state, tide, magnetic interference, none of which is ground proofed at the time of measurement and all are approximations made from a desktop- the list goes on) to even produce a meaningful result – of which 3.3mm is well within its margin of error – meaning that satellitie altimetry of mean sea level changes is meaningless unless the magnitude is of a far greater order than 3.3mm. To demonstrate how pathetic your continual reference to it is, the data it produces would imply that both Lord Howe Island and Eden on the NSW South coast would have been experiencing the highest rate of sea level rise almost anywhere on the planet (~10mm per annum) yet the tide gauges for both localities demonstrate no such sea level rise whatsoever. Strange? I wonder of which two technologies – one a simple bullet proof empirical obseravation- to trust? Of course you could go and check that for yourself but someone so myopically tied to their doomsday cult is unlikely to go past their cult leaders proclamations.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    BIG Lithium – much of those subsidies go to Lithium mining to assist in the projections made by your beloved CSIRO -‘Current total world lithium production (on a carbonate basis) is approximately 500,000 tonnes per annum. By 2025, the EV market alone is predicted to consume 2.7 million tonnes PER YEAR, and potentially 15 million tonnes PER YEAR by 2030.’ That’s a stellar environmental outcome you are championing. Of course after it is depleted in degrading batteries in less than 10 year life cycles it can be dumped on the Western Plains as you so desire. As for the folly of NASA et al climateer rent seekers reliance on utterly unreliable satellite altimetry to push their rent seeking sea level rise agenda, I am more than happy to watch all fall on their own swords as none of their predictions eventuate – something the AGW religion excels at I might add. I remember being taught in school that the Maldives would be under water by now – what happened to that prediction? On recent surfing trips to Indonesia, Fiji and Sri Lanka the inter-tidal reef zones were exactly as they have been for thousands of years as demonstrated by the reef formations themselves which are exposed at low tide.
    Here’s some more from Cap Allon – NASA’s James Hansen’s Congressional testimony in 1988 set the ball rolling, or at least can be credited with bringing the “measure” to the attention of politicians. Hansen linked human CO2 emissions to rising global temperatures and projected three ‘warming scenarios’ moving into the future — spoiler: he didn’t do very well. Wasting no time in rolling out Project Fear, the UN and its corrupted MSM lapdogs ran with Hansen’s testimony and quickly began peddling-out their own scientifically-baseless doomsday scenarios. An AP headline from as early as 1989 read: “Rising seas could obliterate nations: U.N. officials.” The article detailed a U.N. environmental official warning that entire nations would be wiped off the map if the world failed to reverse warming by 2000 — a prediction which, unless it inexplicably passed me by, never materialized.
    Science told us the Arctic would be completely free of summer ice by 2009, by 2013, by 2015, by 2016, by 2018, and now by… 2050…? with mainstream publications never questioning the mounting pile of FAILED prophesies. Al Gore is king of the bullshitters, but the majority of modern politicians have accepted the ruse, too –they’ve had to in order to obtain votes– however, some do push it further than others and as a result blindly subject their future selves to ridicule and forced retraction when their predictions are inevitably proven wrong.
    Back in May, 2014, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, during a joint appearance with then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, claimed “we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos.” Fabius’s ludicrous comments were made during the early drafting of the Paris Climate Deal, a deal which gained 195 signatories and eventually became effective as of November 2016–around 60 days AFTER France’s foreign minister’s deadline for disaster. But Fabius certainly isn’t alone (He certainly isn’t is he BIG Lithium). Recent history is littered with examples of expired doomsday dates. There are long lists compiled on blog posts across the web, there are catalogs documenting thousands upon thousands of failed climate predictions from politicians, scientists, and journalists alike, but this reality is never exposed by the bought-out and utterly corrupted MSM. The science is settled after-all, and the fact that every dire climate prediction of the past 30+ years has been wrong is seemingly completely irrelevant.
    You see BIG Lithium while it is your mission to instill as much depression and anxiety into the youth of today with your AGW religion, we here at this august forum can see right through you to the self serving BIG Lithium propagandist that lies beneath. Lies being the operative word.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Quite a coalar rant there. Which is timely, because we all know that the coal creates no problems, and neither does nuclear, set to take over after the coal is al converted to $$$$ in a limited number of bank accounts, as long as those damned renewables can be torpedoed in time. So I had better not distract you any further from that project of yours, just as I would not try to stop a dog from chasing its own tail.

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