A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action
By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.
Featured image: Children and teenagers have been among the most effective actors in the fight for climate justice. They will be back on the streets on May 21st as part of a “School strike 4 climate” initiative. Source: Beyond Coal & Gas Image Library (cc).
More subsidies for fossil fuels are coming
Last Friday the Federal Government released their National Gas Infrastructure Plan – and it’s full of hand outs for oil and gas companies. According to 350.org, Friday’s plan brings the total up to $903 million of direct and indirect handouts for oil and gas companies. We haven’t even seen the final budget yet, which will be released on Tuesday.
A government full of gas
The federal government is hell-bent on pushing for an expansion of natural-gas extraction, though they know enough to try and soften their approach by incorporating hydrogen (hopefully green, but not necessarily) where they can. Case in point: tax-payer funds will be used to subsidise Energy Australia’s Tallawarra B gas plant at Wollongong. This will be supplemented by 5% hydrogen. All this was proposed to supposedly off-set the 300MW energy shortfall expected when the Liddell coal-fired power station will close in 2023. Additionally, the federal government is pushing for the construction of a gas plant at Kurri Kurri near Newcastle, to be built by Snowy Hydro Ltd.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Resources Keith Pitt is taking away money from Neoen’s Kaban Green Energy Hub west of Cairns. He stepped into disallow a loan by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF), claiming that it would not lower energy prices. This effectively stops a plan for creating a wind powered station that would have generated 250 jobs.
Where does this emphasis on natural gas come from? A gas-fired recovery was recommended by the National Covid-19 Commission, which happened to be stacked with gas-industry executives. We understand that another $60 billion will be committed to gas (pipelines, storage projects, and Andrew Forrest’s LNG import terminal) in Tuesday’s Budget.
Preparing for disaster
Some good news however might come out of the Budget. The Morrison government is establishing a $600m national recovery and resilience agency and creating a new climate service to help manage the risk of natural disasters. Several projects will be funded, such as: bushfire and cyclone-proofing houses; building levees for flood control; and improving the resilience of telecommunications and essential supplies.
The fight against the Adani mine goes on and on, though the war is not yet won. Nevertheless, there are small victories along the way. The latest one is the news that Arch Insurance has publicly confirmed that they will never provide insurance for Adani’s coal mine.
Back to gas though. The Climate Council has brought out yet another excellent report, claiming that cooking with gas is like living with a smoker for asthmatic kids.
Coming webinar. Japan’s net-zero carbon emissions – what happens now? May 12 at 5pm. Register here.
School strike 4 climate will happen around Australia in various places on Friday 21 May so be with the kids in spirit, if not in person.
Some of the most effective activists in the climate fight are health workers. One such group drafted an open letter asking the PM for increased ambition on climate action. It was released on Monday.
- Flooding might triple in the mountains of Asia due to global warming. A research team has revealed the dramatic increase in flood risk that could occur across Earth’s icy Third Pole in response to ongoing climate change. Focusing on the threat from new lakes forming in front of rapidly retreating glaciers, a team demonstrated that the related flood risk to communities and their infrastructure could almost triple. Important new hotspots of risk will emerge, including within politically sensitive transboundary regions of the Himalaya and Pamir.
- Taxpayers could save $7.8bn a year if diesel fuel rebates scheme was wound back. Energy experts believe weaning fossil-fuel industries off the rebate would push heavy industry towards using renewables.
- Hydrogen instead of electrification? Potentials and risks for climate targets. Hydrogen-based fuels should primarily be used in sectors such as aviation or industrial processes that cannot be electrified, finds a team of researchers. Producing these fuels is too inefficient, costly and their availability too uncertain, to broadly replace fossil fuels for instance in cars or heating houses. For most sectors, directly using electricity for instance in battery electric cars or heat pumps makes more economic sense.
- Australia must kick the gas habit, because it is bad for our health. Australia is scrambling to drill hundreds more gas wells, and more are planned. How could this be when the evidence of health impacts is so clear?
- Most US coal generators can’t compete with wind and solar, US study finds. A new study shows that the vast majority of US coal plants are already more expensive to run than building new solar and wind, and that’s accelerating.
- Could vertical wind turbines finally have their day, and be the future for wind farms? UK researchers say vertical axis wind turbines could prove to be more efficient than the current standard horizontal axis, propellor style machines.
- How close are we to climate change tipping points? If we can calculate what makes a tipping point, it may be just as difficult to calculate how close we are to reaching such a tipping point or, worse, if we have already passed it.
- ‘Tsunami’ of renewables to sweep gas and coal out of market, and drive prices lower. ‘Tsunami’ of new renewables to supply majority of electricity in Australia’s main grid by 2030, as market share of coal and gas collapses, Reputex predicts.
- States of disarray: Australia needs a national climate plan. States are forging ahead on climate action, but Australia needs a national strategy to reduce emissions at lowest cost over coming decades.
- The government’s embrace of ‘clean hydrogen’ helps no one but the fossil fuel industry. Scott Morrison isn’t the first prime minister to master the fake climate announceable – the idea first showed up around 20 years ago.
The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.