Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Monday, June 26, 2017

US and UK have worst income inequality

The Gini Coefficient measures the degree of inequality in a society.  The higher it is, the greater the inequality.  A Gini coefficient of 1 means that all income goes to 1 person; the rest receive zero.  A Gini coefficient of 0 means income is exactly equally distributed.  If you drew a Gini coefficient for wealth instead in income it would be much higher, i.e., significantly more unequal.  I was surprised to see how high Oz's Gini coefficient is--the result of decades of neo-liberalism has changed my country from an egalitarian one to something much more unequal.

World's largest coal company closes 37 mines

The world's largest solar farm in Tamil Nadu, India (source)


The rapid growth in renewable energy continues to put a dent in the demand for coal. 
Coal India, the world's biggest coal mining company and producer of 82 percent of the country's coal, announced the closure of 37 mines that are financially "unviable." 
The sites make up roughly nine percent of the total mines operated by Coal India. The company is expected save Rs 800 crore ($124 million) from the closures.  
India's energy market is undergoing a rapid transformation as it moves away from fossil fuels. Last month, the country cancelled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations.  [Read more here]

This is because solar in India is now cheaper than coal.  Its costs have nearly halved in 18 months.

The lowest solar power tariff in India currently stands at Rs 2.44/kWh (US$39/MWh) which is cheaper than 92% of the operational coal-based power plants in the country [Read more here]

Meanwhile, in Australia, renewables have got so cheap that the government proposes to subsidise new coal generators.  You couldn't make this stuff up.

If you're listening

Genius.  Another Tom Toles from the Washington Post.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Cartoon by Jim Morin

Back in the late 1970s when I was at varsity studying economics, the new rising orthodoxy was "rational economics".  The theory behind it was simple and logical.  Any person knows much better what their preferences are than any centralised government authority possibly can, so we should let individuals decide what they want to do.  So far, so good.  But the advocates of rational economics took the whole idea a lot further.  They argued that any collective activity was ipso facto inferior to any individual one, and that therefore government should be scaled back to as small a profile as possible.  Regulation of private enterprises was unnecessary, because “the market” would take care of it.  Privatisation, even of entities such as schools, hospitals, generators and the grid was desirable, even if these entities were monopolies or not in fact profit-seeking organisations, because privately owned and managed enterprises would be “more efficient” than collectively owned ones.  Cutting tariffs and removing quantitative import controls would, it was maintained, lead to higher growth and rising living standards.  Welfare had to be cut back so that taxes could be cut, because taxes on the rich “reduced incentives”.    Prosperity was supposed to "trickle down" from the rich to the poor.  This philosophy is called “neo-liberalism”.

There was a fundamental flaw in the whole thesis.  When markets are “perfect” and supply is “atomistic” (i.e., there are a very large number of suppliers) the self-interest of each of the individual suppliers can potentially lead to positive outcomes, because any attempt to gouge the public is prevented by competition.  For example, in any urban centre there are thousands of cafés.  For all practical purposes supply is “atomistic”.  Each café is a “price taker”, not a “price maker”.  Contrast that with, say, the electricity grid.  It would be completely impractical to build a hundred grids with connections to each house.  The grid is a monopoly.  It could, theoretically, set its own price.  There are no constraints on the self-interest of those who own monopolies except regulation and politics.  As Adam Smith, the great guru of the economic rationalists and neo-liberals said:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices

There was a second critical flaw in the whole thesis of neo-liberalism.  The assumption was that economics would happen independently of the political system and political processes, that there would be a level playing field where all players could be potentially equally successful.  But that was wrong.  Neo-liberalism led to vastly increasing inequality, and the people with more money bought the politicians.  Laws and regulations were changed to favour incumbents.  Grumpy billionaires bought control of media outlets, and started pushing far-right agendas, which—quelle surprise!—favoured deregulation, lower taxes, lower wages and free migration. 

There are other fatal flaws to the whole doctrine of neo-liberalism, but I'll talk about them in future posts.

As the years went by I began to wonder whether neo-liberalism was actually as good as its proponents believed.  But what really killed it for me was the GFC.  The neo-liberal system plunged us into deep recession.  Banks were supposed to be capable of self-regulation.  Instead they lent imprudently and foolishly, and failed spectacularly, and had to be rescued--oh, the irony!--by the state.  The result was the  deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 30s.  And since then, trend growth in the OECD has fallen from 2.9% per annum to 1.8%.  It became obvious that austerity policies to try and balance budgets just made things worse.  The major burden of readjustment was everywhere borne by the poor.  The fastest recovery from the GFC lows was in the USA, which also ran the most Keynesian stimulatory policy in developed countries (to the fury of the Republican Party) while dogmatists elsewhere forced tax increases and spending and welfare cuts (Europe being the worst offender) which contrary to the theory simply deepened the downturns, while leaving the deficits unchanged.

I think the high water point of neo-liberalism has passed.  All the interlocking doctrines are under assault.  Just as with Communism, once a political doctrine loses its intellectual authority it is doomed.  Neo-liberalism is dying.  Its supporters just don't know it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Another David Horsey classic from the LA Times

EVs in California and China


I mentioned in a previous post that China has a target of 8% EVs and PHEVs (plug-in hybrid EVs) by 2018 and 12% by 2020.  So how will this work?  It's a kind of cap-and-trade system.  Every manufacturer who achieves the targets gets points/credits, with 100% EVs getting the most points, PHEVs getting less, but more than hybrids without a plug, which in turn get more that petrol-engined cars which get zero points.  If your EV/PHEV sales percentage is less than the target, you have to buy credits from manufacturers who have achieved the target.  This will make your cars more expensive than the cars from producers who have achieved their target.

The Chinese scheme is modelled on California's ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) scheme.  The California scheme has been adopted by nine other states (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont).

The ZEV program assigns each automaker “ZEV credits,” which represent the company’s sales of electric cars and trucks. Automakers are then required to maintain ZEV credits equal to a set percentage of non-electric sales. The credit requirement is 4.5 percent of sales in 2018, rising to 22 percent in 2025. 
For example, an automaker selling 100,000 cars in California in 2018 will need at least 4,500 ZEV credits, with at least 2,000 coming from battery-electric or fuel cell vehicle sales. However, this does not mean they’ll sell 4,500 electric cars and trucks, as most ZEVs generate more than one credit per vehicle (see below).
Automakers earn credits by selling zero emission cars and trucks. The credit per vehicle varies with drivetrain type and electric range. From 2018 onwards, plug-in hybrids—which only partially drive on electricity—receive between 0.4 and 1.3 credits per vehicle sold. Battery electric and fuel cell vehicles receive between 1 and 4 credits, based on range.
For example: the Tesla Model S, which boasts a range of more than 200 miles, is eligible for 3.3 credits, while the 84-mile range Nissan Leaf is credited at 1.8 ZEV credits per car sold.
Because not all vehicles receive a flat 1 credit per sale, the ZEV credit percentage does not directly reflect the EV sales percentage. CARB’s most recent assessment of the ZEV program estimates automakers will need to reach less than 8 percent ZEV sales by 2025 to meet the 22 percent ZEV credit requirement.    [Read more here]

It seems odd to me that you would give an EV 1.8 or 3.3 ZEV credits but only require 1 credit to cover the EV requirement for producers who make or sell no EVS.  As the article points out, this has led to a build-up of surplus ZEV credits.   Which reduces the pressure on ICE manufacturers to increase their own EV/PHEV sales (because it reduces the price of the credits).

They're doing something similar in China.

Last week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met privately with German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss China’s proposal to require all manufacturers to sell more so-called new energy vehicles. After the meeting, Merkel thought she had an agreement that would allow German companies that manufacture cars in China a little breathing room before complying with the new rules. 
But a notification posted online this week by the Legislative Affairs Office, which reports to the Chinese cabinet, says otherwise. It indicates that all manufacturers will be required to generate EV credits that equal 8% of sales in 2018, 10% by 2019, and 12% by 2020. The rule applies to both foreign and domestic car makers. 
The credits are computed based on the level of electrification of the cars produced. Fully electric cars earn more credits than plug-in hybrid cars, for example. Plug-in cars that go further on battery power alone are rewarded with more credits than cars that have more limited electric range. [Read more here]

So the question is; is China's 12% target also in effect lower because of over-issuance of credits or do they mean 12%?  I looked for clarification but found none.  For what it's worth I reckon China means a real 8% and a real 12%.  But they might not actually achieve it because of supply constraints for components.  All the same, the pressure is on, and those traditional car manufacturers will have to move rapidly if they want to preserve access to the world's largest car market, which makes up 35% of global car sales.

Update (17/9/17):  The Chinese system will be more similar to the Californian ZEV system than I thought.  Here's CleanTechnica on it:

The new model is not a timid one, with a very ambitious mandate of “8%” of all vehicle sales that must be hybrid, plug-in, or electric vehicles for 2018. The goal steps up to “10%” for 2019, followed by another increase to “12%” in 2020. The percentages are in quotes because they aren’t exact percentages where one gas car equals one electric car. A fully electric car with long range (a certain battery size, most likely) will be counted as 4 cars; a fully electric car that doesn’t hit that minimum range/capacity will count as 2 cars; and a plug-in hybrid will count as 1 car.

[Read more here]

Given that many Chinese EV sales are "city" cars with a small range or PHEVs, the actual required percentage targets are higher than they would be in California.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How cheap could electric cars get?

Chevrolet Bolt (Source)

Green Car Reports has found out that the replacement cost of a new Chevrolet Bolt EV battery pack is US$15,700 (at retail).  Battery costs have fallen 75% over the last 4 years, and with numerous battery giga-factories under construction round the world (12 at my last count!) costs are likely to keep on falling extremely rapidly.  Before EVs entered the market for batteries, battery costs were falling by 15% per annum.  Let's assume, conservatively, that battery costs will fall by 20% per annum over the next 5 years.  This will cut the cost of a Bolt's battery pack from $15,700 to just over $5000.  (Remember that's the replacement or retail cost, not the cost of the original equipment, which would be perhaps 20% less.)  The total cost of a Bolt is about $35,000 before tax credits, which is the same as the average cost of a car in the USA.  So, ceteris paribus, the cost of Bolt should drop to $25,000 in 5 years (before tax credits.)

What about the cheapest cars?  In the USA, the cheapest cars currently available cost between $14,000 and $17,000 .  So putting in a 60 kWh 200 mile $5000 battery in them would increase their costs to $19,000-$22,000.  Except you have to consider the cost of the petrol engine. To replace a worn engine with a reconditioned one costs $2,500 to $4,000.  Let's assume that the cost of a new engine and a new automatic transmission, installed during the manufacturing process, totals just $2000.  So if you could get the battery cost down to $2000, the cheapest cars would cost the same as or little more than a cheap EV.

Now, the Nissan Leaf has a 30 kWh battery which gives it a 107 miles/172 km range.  That's not much range by Tesla or GM Bolt standards, but the average daily car commute in the US is just 25 miles (40 kms) one way, or 50 miles per day.  There's no reason why both a family's cars need to have a long range.  You'd keep one car for long trips plus commuting and the other just for commuting.  The Bolt has a 60 kWh battery capacity which will cost $5000 in 5 years.  So a 30 kWh battery pack would be about $2,500 or about the same as the cost of a petrol engine.    In other words, in five years, even the cheapest ICE cars in the US will cost be about the same cost as an electric version.

But EVs are much cheaper to run than ICEs.  They have fewer moving parts (100 times fewer), they require far less maintenance, and the fear that batteries would have to be frequently replaced turns out to be wrong.

Tesloop, a Tesla-centric ride-hailing company has already driven its first Model S for more 200,000 miles, and seen only an 6% loss in battery life. A battery lifetime of 1,000,000 miles may even be in reach.   [Read more here]
And in terms of converting the energy from petrol or electricity into kinetic energy, EVs are five times as efficient as ICEs.

This increased lifetime translates directly to a lower cost of ownership: extending an EVs life by 3–4 X means an EVs capital cost, per mile, is 1/3 or 1/4 that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Better still, the cost of switching from gasoline to electricity delivers another savings of about 1/3 to 1/4 per mile. And electric vehicles do not need oil changes, air filters, or timing belt replacements; the 200,000 mile Tesloop never even had its brakes replaced. The most significant repair cost on an electric vehicle is from worn tires. 
For emphasis: The total cost of owning an electric vehicle is, over its entire life, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle. [Read more here]
And that's with current battery costs.  Which will probably be at least 2/3rds lower in 5 years.  If EVs are cheaper to run and they have the same 'sticker price' as ICEs, no one is going to buy ICE car any more.  Especially since EVs are much smoother, much quieter, much more reliable, and more fun to drive.

It's hard to be optimistic about oil demand and the oil price with EVs about to take off in a big way.   When the transition to EVs gathers pace, the switch will be as sharp and as disruptive as the replacement of film with digital in cameras.   The chart below is very instructive.  In just 7 years, sales of film cameras dropped from 100% of the market to nothing.  7 Years!  The risk is very, very high that the same thing will happen over the next 7 years to ICEs.


Bad news for oil, bad news for dinosaur car companies, bad news for garages (service stations), but truly excellent news for global warming and urban air pollution.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trump's endorsement by past presidents

After the nauseating sycophancy of his cabinet meeting, Tom Toles at The Washington Post, suggests past presidents will be pressed into service to promote Trump.

Air pollution inside cars

Air pollution inside cars is 9 to 12 times as bad as it is outside cars.  And it's bad enough there.


Children are at risk of dangerous levels of air pollution in cars because exposure to toxic air is often far higher inside than outside vehicles, a former government chief scientific adviser has warned. 
Prof Sir David King, writing for the Guardian, says walking or cycling to school would be much better for children’s health. The warning comes as the UK government faces a third legal defeat for failing to tackle the country’s illegal levels of air pollution. Air pollution is known to damage children’s developing lungs but recent research also indicates it harms children’s ability to learn at school and may damage their DNA. 
“Children sitting in the backseat of vehicles are likely to be exposed to dangerous levels [of air pollution],” said King. “You may be driving a cleaner vehicle but your children are sitting in a box collecting toxic gases from all the vehicles around you.” 
“The best thing for all our health is to leave our cars behind,” said King, who now advises the British Lung Foundation. “It’s been shown that the health benefits of walking and cycling far outweigh the costs of breathing in pollution. If more drivers knew the damage they could be doing to their children, I think they’d think twice about getting in the car.” 
A range of experiments, some as far back as 2001, have shown that drivers inside vehicles are exposed to far higher levels of air pollution than those walking or cycling along the same urban routes. 
Prof Stephen Holgate, an asthma expert at Southampton University and chair of the Royal College of Physicians working party on air pollution, said there was enough evidence to tell parents that walking and cycling exposes their children to less air pollution than driving. 
“It is nine to 12 times higher inside the car than outside,” he said. “Children are in the back of the car and often the car has the fans on, just sucking the fresh exhaust coming out of the car or lorry in front of them straight into the back of the car.”
[Read more here]
I have to say I didn't know this.  
I'm all in favour of more walking and cycling.  But even if you walk or cycle you are still exposed to nitrous oxide and various extremely unhealthy particulates.  Plus if you cycle you have a much higher risk of accident than if you are driving a car (that's why I stopped cycling--the risks were just too high)  And sometimes you simply have to use your car, especially in cities where public transport is bad.  Whatever work-arounds we try, the truth is that petrol(gasoline)/diesel cars, lorries, and busses don't just emit carbon dioxide, they emit other toxic muck, which kills people.  
The solution is obvious: electric vehicles (EVs).  But it's a collective solution, because it's not enough for you to replace your ICE car with an EV, if everybody else continues to use their filthy petrol or diesel cars and lorries.  Yes, at the margin we can make a small difference.  But we're still breathing in everybody else's toxic waste and getting sick because of it.  We have to act as a society to get rid of ICE vehicles, by regulation and tax incentives.  The problem is that the Right equates "collective" with "socialist", and refuses to act.  
The good news (the topic for my next post) is that the cost of electric cars is falling so fast that within 5 years they will be cheaper than ICEs.  So even if the Right drags their feet, the car fleet will start to get cleaner.  But it will still take time: average car life is around 10 or 11 years, so even when 100% of new car sales is made up by EVs, it will take a decade after that point for the whole car fleet to be pollution free, unless we offer owners of worn-out old ICEs an incentive to swap their cars for EVs.  For me, and for everybody's health, a 100% EV fleet can't come soon enough.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stop all this science!

From David Horsey at the LA Times

How much does nuclear cost?


There still seem to be people who think that a big expansion in nuclear generation will save the world from global warming.  I've talked about this before, here and here.

The problems with nuclear are simple.

First off, a nuclear reactor takes a decade or longer to build.  A huge solar farm can be built in a few months.  A huge wind farm in a couple of years.  And we don't have time to waste,  It is imperative that we move rapidly to 100% renewable electricity.

Second, nuclear power is now much more expensive than renewables.  It wasn't always so.  A decade ago, nuclear was in theory cheaper than wind or solar.  But the costs of wind and solar have plummeted in the last 10 years.  The costs of nuclear have risen.

Third, nuclear produces toxic waste with a half-life of thousands of years,  Plus nuclear plants have a nasty habit of going rogue.

The first two problems are exemplified by a proposed expansion to an existing nuclear generator in Virginia, USA.  The plant has already taken 10 years to get to the stage where planning approval is to be granted.  10 years, and construction hasn't even started!  And estimated costs are dramatically higher than wind or solar.  Michael Barnard of CleanTechnica estimates the very lowest cost per MWh for this new facility at $136/MWh, using the most optimistic parameters.  What's more, the cost of capital (8% per annum?  6%?), the cost of insurance (borne by the taxpayer) and the cost of decommissioning at the end of its useful life are all excluded.  Add those factors in and the cost will be well over $200/MWh.  Now wind (after a 30% tax credit) is down to $26/MWh at its cheapest in the USA, solar to $35/MWh.  On even the most favourable calculations, wind and solar are much cheaper than nuclear.

What about the infamous "variability" of wind and solar?  First, nuclear power plants are often closed down for refurbishment or refuelling or go off line because of accidents or safety concerns.  Second, even with storage, in the sunnier parts of the USA, solar with storage is down to $45/MWh.  That's 1/3rd of the cheapest and most optimistic costings for this nuclear plant.   And the thing is, by the time the construction of this reactor is completed, renewables will have fallen in cost by another 50 or 75%!

If I believed that nuclear was a feasible and sensible way to slow global warming I would grit my teeth and support it.  But it isn't.  Even ignoring the safety risks and the toxic waste, getting reasonable amounts of nuclear power into the grid would take far too long and be far too costly.  Renewables could do the same job more quickly and more cheaply without radio-active waste,  Moreover, I suspect that many of those who do enthusiastically promote  nuclear are in truth fossil fuel advocates because they know just how long it would take to get nuclear power plants approved and constructed, and meanwhile we would need to go on using coal and gas, right?

Global temperatures keep on rising.  Even though this isn't an El Niño year, the average temperature  anomaly for the 12 months to April is the second highest in the record.  We can't phaff around with nuclear.  It's not going to solve our problem.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Idiot in chief

Der Spiegel's take on the Donald's withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty: (the title means "The end of the world (as we know it)".


Are EVs cleaner than petrol cars?

One of the factoids wheeled out by soft denialists is that it's no good switching to an electric car or a hybrid because the coal used to produce electricity emits twice as much carbon as the oil used to drive cars.  Actually, EVs are 5 times as efficient as ICEs at converting energy into motion.  (ICE = Internal Combustion Engine cars, using petrol/gasoline/diesel; EV = electric vehicle) Unlike the case with EVs, most of the energy in a conventional ICE is wasted as heat, and doesn't drive the car forward.  Which means that even with a grid completely powered by coal, electric cars still produce fewer lifetime emissions than  petrol cars. And of course, the larger the proportion of renewables in the grid, the lower the effective MPG of EVs.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has done the numbers in the USA.  They calculate what miles per gallon (MPG) a ICE vehicle would have to achieve to produce fewer emissions than an electric car.  They're pretty high. (These estimates were calculated using 2014 renewables percentages.  Since then the percentage of renewables in most US grids has risen)


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pumped Hydro Storage


Pumped hydro storage is the oldest form of electricity storage around.  It's been used for decades. How it works is simple.  When electricity demand is low (the wholesale electricity price  is low) water is pumped from a lower reservoir to an upper one.  When demand is high (wholesale price is high) water is released from the upper dam, flows down through the turbines, which generate electricity to produce power.  The price differential covers the cost of the pumped hydro facility.

I've talked about molten salt storage, battery storage, and molten silicon storage.  But I've more or less ignored pumped hydro before, because I confused it with conventional hydro, which requires large dams and strong river flows. The chart below shows the difference.


One further chart is interesting.  It shows the potential for pumped hydro to make a profit based on .
the difference between peak and trough wholesale prices.  Notice how as storage hours rise, the incremental profit ("arbitrage") starts to decline., Up to 4 hours of electricity, profit rises, but from 6 hours to 10 hours there's no incremental improvement.


I won't reproduce the whole presentation here.  Read it for yourself.  It's quite fascinating.  But also read this article, which makes a strong case for  pumped hydro on cost grounds.  The author says that 5 hours of pumped hydro storage would add just 25% to the cost of solar.

Pumped hydro is the perfect complement to renewables.  On the costing charts provided (slide 27 and 30), pumped hydro seems cheaper than batteries. But even if it's the same, it can play a part in our switch to renewables, because diversification isn't just good for supply, it's also good for storage.

Monday, June 5, 2017

AGL says renewables cheaper than fossil fuels

AGL is Australia's largest electricity "gentailer" (generator + retailer).  These graphics come from slides presented at the Macquarie companies conference in Sydney last month.  In the slides, when AGL talks about "firming" they mean making the output of renewables closer to the demand profile either by storage or gas generation.  When they talk about "time shifting" they specifically mean storage and it's much larger than "firming".

The first slide shows wholesale prices on one side and the age of the fossil fuel generating fleet on the other.  Wholesale prices have risen (a) because Hazelwood, an aging brown-coal power station in the LaTrobe valley was shuttered taking 5% of the national market out and (b) because gas prices have risen sharply because of policy mistakes by the government.  This rise in wholesale prices has made renewables appear more attractive, because their prices have been falling.  For example, a year ago (at last year's conference) the cost of utility scale solar was around A$100/MWh.  Now it's down to A$70.  Similarly, recent wind contracts have been A$65/MWh down to as low as A$55/MWh, down from A$80.  This means that renewables are now below the cost of existing coal and gas generators.

Renewables plus "firming" are now cheaper than new fossil fuel generators, even with the cost of "firming" added.  And these costs continue to fall.

Big growth in renewables depends on storage.  In the left hand chart, solar produces at its peak 100% of demand and the demand outside that peak is filled (supply is "firmed") by gas generation.  Gas is useful as part of a grid with lots of renewables because it can be scaled up or down much more easily than coal and nuclear.  However, only using gas for part of the day raises its average cost.  As the chart above shows, even now gas is more expensive than wind and solar plus storage, and peaking power gas is more expensive still.  The right hand chart shows what it will be like in the future, with solar output much higher than peak demand, and that surplus stored for the periods of twilight and darkness in the rest of the day.  Solar is now providing a big chunk of peak demand, and as more solar (household and utility-scale) is installed (driven by the increasing price differential) the need for storage will rise sharply.

So storage changes everything.

How much will it cost?  The  numbers look massive, but (a) the existing generation fleet cost much more in today's money and (b) 75% of the existing fleet is over 25 years old and 30% is over 35 years old (first chart).  They will have to be replaced anyway as they wear out.

Now I want to point out (it should be obvious, but hey, there are some really dumb denialists out there) that this isn't a bunch of loony left tree-hugging greenies.  This is a company which helped fund the so-called "Liberal" Party's "axe the tax" anti carbon tax campaign, just 4 years ago.  For them to say that the future of electricity is renewables means that it is.  Whatever the Right says.  Australia's circumstance are peculiar because our electricity is among the most expensive in the world.  But where Australia is now will be where the rest of the world is in the next few years, as wind, solar and storage costs plummet.

The future of the grid is green, and gas's role as a "bridging fuel" will likely be short (10-15 years).  Oh, and coal is finished.  AGL also has a slide (not shown) which projects its progressive switch away from fossil fuels, with zero being reached in 2048.  I'm pretty sure the zero point will be reached long before that, as the cost advantage of renewables just gets irresistible.  And again, that's likely worldwide, too.

[Read more here]

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Trump pulls out


There's been lots of commentary on Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement (how, for example, can an agreement be both 'non-binding' and 'draconian'?)  But of all the mountains of stuff I've read I think Paul Krugman's take is my favourite, so I'll just quote him:

The point is that while tackling climate change in the way envisaged by the Paris accord used to look like a hard engineering and economic problem, these days it looks fairly easy. We have almost all the technology we need, and can be quite confident of developing the rest. Obviously the transition to a low-emissions economy, the phasing out of fossil fuels, would take time, but that would be O.K. as long as the path was clear.
Why, then, are so many people on the right determined to block climate action, and even trying to sabotage the progress we’ve been making on new energy sources?
Don’t tell me that they’re honestly worried about the inherent uncertainty of climate projections. All long-term policy choices must be made in the face of an uncertain future (duh); there’s as much scientific consensus here as you’re ever likely to see on any issue. And in this case, uncertainty arguably strengthens the case for action, because the costs of getting it wrong are asymmetric: Do too much, and we’ve wasted some money; do too little, and we’ve doomed civilization.
Don’t tell me that it’s about coal miners. Anyone who really cared about those miners would be crusading to protect their health, disability and pension benefits, and trying to provide alternative employment opportunities — not pretending that environmental irresponsibility will somehow bring back jobs lost to strip mining and mountaintop removal.
While it isn’t about coal jobs, right-wing anti-environmentalism is in part about protecting the profits of the coal industry, which in 2016 gave 97 percent of its political contributions to Republicans.
As I said, however, these days the fight against climate action is largely driven by sheer spite.
Pay any attention to modern right-wing discourse — including op-ed articles by top Trump officials — and you find deep hostility to any notion that some problems require collective action beyond shooting people and blowing things up.
Beyond this, much of today’s right seems driven above all by animus toward liberals rather than specific issues. If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama.
And if all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House. Need I say more?
[Read more here]