Roundup 30 Jan

Statism advances. Never waste a crisis! Apparently Scott Morrison is calling for more Federal power to handle emergencies. I wonder how that will end up?  Look at the record in health and education. And welfare, that was a Commonwealth responsibility from the beginning.

Camus and The Plague. The tragedy in Wuhan brings to mind the great novel by Albert Camus, The Plague (La Peste).

The novel’s plot is simple: Sometime in the 1940s, the plague settles upon Oran, a city in French Algeria. Fearful and feckless, Oran’s political leadership refuses to name the threat for what it is. They justify their dithering by the refusal of medical officials to affirm, with absolute certainty, that the plague is, indeed, the plague. Maddened by these hesitations, the book’s protagonist, Doctor Rieux, exclaims: “It has small importance whether you call it the plague or some kind of fever. The important thing is to prevent it killing off half the population of this town.”

The plague is a metaphor for the Nazi occupation of France and the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. One of the great losses in our time was the early death of Camus in 1960. He was going toe to toe with Jean Paul Sartre who was on the side of the plague. 

One of the minor characters is an elderly civil servant who is trying to write a book, but he wants to create the perfect manuscript, so he has never gotten beyond the opening line. That reminds me of  Gary Larson’s depiction of Herman Melville’s start of Moby Dick. Other Moby Dick cartoons.

Another column from Perry Williams in The Australian. How much longer can I subscribe? Its gated  but you don’t need to read it. Nikki Sava is back as well.  Perry is excited about another Big Battery.

AGL will buy output from the 100-megawatt project at Wandoan as part of a 15-year operating deal. However, bragging rights matching the Tesla chief’s record may prove short-lived, with the South Australian battery in line for a further 50 per cent capacity boost to 150MW from its current 100MW size by March.

Still, AGL said its $120m facility would be able to power up to 57,000 homes once completed in late 2021, providing storage to soak up the state’s booming solar output.

And in the great state of New South Wales.

With coal providing 80 per cent of NSW’s electricity supply and the state importing 95 per cent of its gas needs, NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean has warned the government must be realistic moving to renewables and keep every supply source in the mix ahead of Liddell’s closure.

He must be reading from the playbook that excited Ross Gittins. I saw a copy of the SMH in a cafe yesterday, if you see one in the rubbish today pull it out and see how he is recycling Garnaut’s advice to make Australia the world leader in RE. In the same scrofulous rag we read about the upcoming Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney where some more young people will shame us with their awareness of impending disaster.

The death of coal? In the world outside the bubble coal is booming and demand will increase for many years. It might be replaced by nuclear power but it will take many decades and the IEA projection for world energy use sees RE increasing from about 3% to 6% of world energy use in 2040, still an almost invisible line in the chart that is dominated by oil, coal and gas.  This is the 2018 picture and the chart for  2040 is much the same but they changed the format and it is hard to compare the two. Maybe that was deliberate, the IEA is barracking for RE.

To be clear, from the bottom the green is oil, the red is natural gas, the orange is nuclear, the blue is  hydro, the next band is RE and the grey at the top is coal. I suspect that a great deal of the RE is probably biomass aka wood and cow shit that creates killer indoor smoke.

The percentage increase of RE from practically zero is impressive but in absolute terms everything else apart from nuclear was going ahead faster to that point. Nuclear may be accelerating as China and builds more plants both at home and away.

No Moore’s Law for batteries. The only  hope for RE to make a serious contribution to the grid (allowing a role off grid with diesel backup) is have massive storage to flatten the variations in supply of sun and wind. For get about batteries. This piece reviews the fundamentals that prohibit the kind of growth in capacity that we got with disk capacity for data.


For nerdsThe burgeoning field of behavioral economics has produced a new set of justifications for paternalism. This book challenges behavioral paternalism on multiple levels, from the abstract and conceptual to the pragmatic and applied.

Escaping Peternalism. One of the authors Mario Rizzo is an Austrian economist and one of my agents of influence in New York.

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17 Responses to Roundup 30 Jan

  1. stackja says:

    Scomo criticize for not doing something. NSW and Victoria bushfires were state created.
    Fires don’t stop at borders. Commonwealth can’t help until asked. States slow to ask.

  2. stackja says:

    Scomo criticised…

  3. Mother Lode says:

    I remember I was driving when I realised that The Cure song Killing an Arab was the scene in The Outsider where the protagonist shoots the Moorish summanabitch.

    Great song.

  4. Mother Lode says:

    Morro is talking about Climate Change (which was going to be banged on about by all and sundry anyway) but seems to be sneaking in some more sensible proposals.

    The Anti-Business Daily has him calling on Eastern states to lift the moratoria on gas extraction so we can keep the lights on.

    Last week he was talking about expanding controlled burns under the aegis of Climate Change policy.

    I know it would be a better result to tell the Greens and the dimwitted press to drop dead and that we should be using coal, but I don’t think there is any irresistible force irresistible enough to overcome the immovable objections of the loudmouths.

  5. Pyrmonter says:

    A reminder of the great advances market economies and deregulation have achieved. In a world with UHT milk and an international milk market, who could imagine facing a milk shortage?

    Well … before we slap ourselves on the backs too much … the Queensland members of the coalition could. With their fondness for re-regulating markets, and campaigning for ‘local’ producers, they threaten the very basis of the advances in market size and flexibility that deliver our prosperity.

  6. tbh says:

    All this talk about renewables conveniently ignores the need for a significant technological breakthrough in battery technology. This isn’t an issue for nuclear, oil or natural gas, however. Hydro too of course, but how much of that could we realistically produce in Australia, especially with our environmental laws? Not much. Tassie would be a candidate, but wasn’t that fight lost in the 80’s?

  7. Rafe Champion says:

    tbh while you were posting that comment I was putting a link on the site about no Moore’s Law for batteries:)

  8. Turtle says:

    I switched on radio nation for less than one minute (just for a laugh) and some bloke was raving about the fires being a symbol that will be remembered as the time everyone started taking CAGW seriously. Seriously. They really are a parody of themselves.

  9. Turtle says:

    Killing an Arab by the Cure features the French title of The Outsider: L’Stranger. Not hard to work out.

  10. Turtle says:

    Sorry, Radio National. On their ABC.

  11. Colonel Crispin Berka says:

    >> the IEA is barracking for RE.

    The underlying reason being that they need something to make up for projected declines in oilfield output.

    Fresh sources of oil equivalent to the output of four Saudi Arabias will have to be found simply to maintain present levels of supply by 2030, one of the world’s leading energy experts has said. […]
    He said that in non-Opec countries, such as the United States, Britain and Mexico, depletion rates averaged 10 to 11 per cent a year. The average across the 13 member countries of the Opec cartel, which produces 40 per cent of the world’s oil, was lower, at about 2 to 3 per cent. […]
    Dr Birol said he believed that there was enough oil in the ground to meet increased demand but that it would be “a huge challenge” because of the scale of the investment required to develop new fields in remote and inhospitable places, such as the Arctic or the deep ocean off Brazil.

    That was 2008. Was the IEA wrong because it is now 2020 and we haven’t had a peak oil crisis?
    Firstly the prediction date was 2030, so the deadline for the test is still 10 years away.
    But secondly, it is because the IEA was right, and everyone knew they were right, that some interested parties, such as the USA, did what the IEA recommended and started boosting exploration and production of oil, while at the same time boosting rollout of renewables. It is because business-as-usual would have led to disaster that business-as-usual was not continued.

    Why do we now perversely have a grid stability crisis due to all the renewables? Because this was rolled out through diktat and force by politicians at politically-opportune times, not by engineers with a sensible project plan for energy stability taking cues from a market.

    The oil is primarily used in the ground transport sector, so switching to non-oil energy sources for transport delivered via the electricity grid will help to delay the inevitable oil decline. We may even see a day, before 2040, when all gasoline is referred to as avgas, because it will be reserved for aviation only. But why the new alternative sources in 2020 should be renewables instead of nuclear is still open to probing. How many bats and eagles have to die just so one little Johnny in a million can continue to have one head instead of two? Nuke the planet from orbit, it’s the only way energy can be sure.

    So there are some lingering non-environmental reasons for reducing oil dependency, but of course arguing that is is in fact a finite resource keeps falling on deaf ears for as long as companies keep finding more of the stuff. Kicking the can down the road works just fine for this year’s P&L statement… until it doesn’t. The only thing that matters is matching foreseeable demand with production, and Seneca’s Cliff is still apparently beyond our planning horizon.

  12. I_am_not_a_robot says:

    The Wandoan big battery is a private concern and good luck to them but the Queensland government will help with connections.
    “The $120 million system to be built at Wandoan by independent power developer Vena Energy will have a capacity of 100 megawatts and store 150 megawatt-hours of energy, enough to power 57,000 homes”.
    By comparison 57,000 of these would cost ~$114 million (better with a bulk deal) and power the ‘up to’ 57,000 homes for, not one hour, but 11 hours after which it’s a simple matter of nipping down to the 7 eleven for more fuel.
    They would probably last longer too.

  13. Rafe Champion says:

    Powering x thousand homes is a notoriously vague metric – year round, all weather? And domestic use of power is only about a third of the total.
    What is the business model to get their money back? Selling when price peaks? That is just gaming the rotten system that is destabilized by reckless injection of RE.

  14. Rafe Champion says:

    By the way, wind is currently blowing 2.2% of the demand for power, 0.8 GW cw 37GW.

  15. I_am_not_a_robot says:

    Using Moore’s Law as an analogy for battery technological development misunderstands the physics and chemistry.
    The miniaturisation of computer chips is largely due to advances in photolithography for printed circuits creating “extremely small patterns, down to a few tens of nanometers in size”.
    Until and unless some entirely new technology is developed batteries are powered by a chemical reaction and exponential miniaturisation is impossible.
    “The energy equivalent of the aviation fuel actually used by an aircraft flying to Asia [from US] would take $60 million worth of Tesla-type batteries weighing five times more than that aircraft”.

    That’s a great header, it’s always to good to remind alarmists in particular of past climate-related events and it infuriates them even more when reminded of the purported CO2 atmospheric concentration at the time.

  16. Mark M says:

    “For decades it has been clear that a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is critical to protecting Australia from worsening extreme weather.”

    Less clear is how much renewables are needed before an observation of renewables preventing global warming at any level is recorded.

    Discussing extreme energy costs whilst ignoring ongoing extreme weather is like swapping deck chairs for a better view of the sunset whilst ignoring that pesky iceberg off the starboard bow …

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