In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his vision for an America powered by clean energy, traveling by High Speed Rail, and competing in global clean technology markets. Obama set out a clear principle: “[I]nstead of subsidising yesterday’s energy,” he implored, “let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

Is the sun setting on our chance to move away from fossil fuels? Pic: Damian Shaw

Excellent idea Mr. President.

By choosing the future, not the past, President Obama has opened a fierce technology competition with China and Germany, to bring the cost of renewable energy down below gas, coal and nuclear.

Given that Tony Abbott and the Coalition are following the US Tea Party model and reject clean renewable energy on ideological grounds, it’s up to Prime Minister Gillard to follow Obama’s lead.

Under the guidance of Steven Chu, Obama’s Nobel-laureate Secretary of Energy, the US Department of Energy is investing strategically to turbo-charge US technology in the renewable energy race. Loan guarantees have locked-in the construction of the world’s largest concentrating solar thermal power plant and wind farm.

The 390 MW Ivanpah solar thermal project in California and 845 MW Shepherd’s Flat wind farm in Oregon will provide enough clean electricity to power over 375,000 homes. The 110 MW Tonopah solar thermal plant will use molten salt storage to generate solar electricity 24-hours a day, threatening coal’s monopoly on baseload in Australia.

The crown jewel of America’s renewable energy programs is the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative which is bringing baseload and distributed (rooftop) solar electricity costs down, on track to be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. The realization of this goal will reshape the global energy system.

Why has Australia not joined the SunShot-type? We are blessed with world-leading solar scientists, but they are undermined by the lack of support from politicians and capital markets and dogged by ideological attacks from ill-informed sections of the media.

Labor government does have the ticker for nation-building. Labor’s National Broadband Network is ambitious and effective. Why can’t Labor do the same on energy?

Vested interests and the quarry mentality have kept Labor from switching its loyalty from fossil fuels to renewables. Democracy has been deaf to the Australian public, who are overwhelmingly in support of renewable energy (Exhibits A, B, and C). Powerful forces have prevented the Australian government from adopting Obama’s typically American pragmatism; divesting out of yesterday’s energy sources and investing aggressively in tomorrow’s.

Most people are unaware that the Federal government is quietly designing energy sector investments far greater than the $13.2 billion for clean energy in the carbon price package. The Energy White Paper (EWP) consultations will conclude in a few months, setting in train perhaps $40-60 billion of investments in coal, oil and gas-based infrastructure.

Martin Ferguson, Minister for Energy and Resources, started the White Paper consultations in 2008. This was derailed after the last election, when Labor Government negotiated the carbon price and renewables package with the Greens and independents. Ferguson is trying to regain his power and use the White Paper to undermine the legitimate progress of the solar and wind industries.

Minister Ferguson’s handpicked reference group is dominated by yesterday’s technologies. It includes 15 companies including Caltex, Origin, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. The 22 member group has three people with uranium experience, 11 from fossil fuels and plastics, and six from the electricity industry.

Who represents tomorrow’s technologies and future generations? There are no solar or wind companies, and not one single environment or renewable energy group on the group (Former BP executive Greg Bourne was appointed when he was WWF CEO but has since retired from that organisation.)

Most people would be upset to learn that the companies who profit from technologies of the past are dictating our energy future. Former Liberal advisor Guy Pearse turned whistleblower when he revealed in 2006 that a “Greenhouse Mafia” dominated that Australia’s energy politics under John Howard.

Does PM Gillard have the courage to challenge the Greenhouse Mafia, and force Minister Ferguson to balance his White Paper group with renewables interests?

Australia has the world’s best solar resources, but is ceding leadership on solar, to keep our berth on the sinking ship that is fossil fuels. We could be like America, shooting for the sun, not digging holes in the ground. Australians embrace technological progress - we love our mobile phones and computers - and it’s about time the government made a decisive break with the dirty fuels of the past.

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    • Erick says:

      04:48am | 28/11/11

      All this talk of new energy technologies, but no support of the only fuel with a future - nuclear power.

      You guys can’t be serious. You’re living in the past, with these 1970s dreams of running everything on rainbows and fairy dust.

    • iansand says:

      06:03am | 28/11/11

      Erick - You might have noticed that nuclear power plants exist.  You might also have noticed that there is continuing development of nuclear power.  That part of the equation is ticking along quite nicely.

      So, unless you are a lobbyist for the nuclear power industry, why should that mean that we should not also look at different sources of energy?

    • gobsmack says:

      06:50am | 28/11/11

      How would you apply nuclear power to automobiles?

    • Gus says:

      06:51am | 28/11/11

      If all the world switched to nuclear power we would run out of the worlds known uranium reserves in about ten years.

      Nuclear is dangerous and expensive.

    • Macca says:

      07:10am | 28/11/11

      Gus, that is simply a lie.

      Gobsmack, how would you apply wind or solar?

    • Mark G says:

      07:40am | 28/11/11


      ‘How would you apply nuclear power to automobiles? ‘

      Have you ever heard of electric cars? Thats one of the great advantages of that technology.

    • iansand says:

      07:42am | 28/11/11

      Gosh.  School is almost out and TimmyB is working on his conspiracy theories.  Lots of Summer fun.

    • mick says:

      08:10am | 28/11/11

      My prediction is that Australia will move from coal and oil to gas which this nation has in abundance.  Whilst this is occurring new technologies like solar will continue to be rolled out.  The challenge for this government is to continue the move towards renewables.

      The hope is that the ability to live in our environment is not killed off by a Liberal Party which is intent on protecting the interests of its dirty technology business bosses.

      Nuclear power is not an alternative.  It is one of the dirtiest forms of power as the spent rods have a half life of around 25 000 years.  In case you are unaware of what this means Erick it means that the radioactivity decays to half its level in 25000 years.  In other words you would have to store the stuff maybe around a million years to make it even a bit safe.  Nobody has come up with any sort of storage system to do this.  And I for one do not want to see any future generation have this stuff leach into the water system and/or aquifers.  It is a nightmare material and it is very wrong that it is being mined and exported.

    • Labor is Toxic says:

      08:12am | 28/11/11

      Gobsmack ..... Nuclear produces electricity that run electric cars!!!

    • gobsmack says:

      08:26am | 28/11/11

      @Mark G
      Yes, I have heard of electric cars and I hear there’s a few about.
      That’s another energy technology requiring development.

    • GB says:

      01:53pm | 28/11/11

      @Iansand. TimB posed a legitimate and easy to answer question which you’re clearly dancing around for some reason. He is obviously 100% correct or you would have debunked his “conspiracy theory” immediately. Thanks for outing yourself though. We can all now file your contributions into the “conflict of interest” waste basket.

    • andye says:

      03:39pm | 28/11/11

      @TimB - I don’t care if you are right, that is disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself for digging up personal information like that and posting the real name of a user.

      Why don’t you tell us your real name? I bet you don’t want to do that.

    • Brizben says:

      03:46pm | 28/11/11

      Does TimB(lair) make a living at climate change denial?

    • AdamC says:

      04:16pm | 28/11/11

      It is an interesting point, though. Is there a blog/online posting convention when it comes to disclosures of interests? And, if so, would it extend to someone who counts, among their clients, organisations which have some interest in the topic at hand, as against persons who work directly for such organisations?

      Incidentally, on the grammar point, the ‘you’ in Ian Sand’s original comment could be read either as referring to a generic person or to Erick specifically. It is quite ambiguous. It is also an argument for the use of ‘one’ in some circumstances, twee as it may be.

    • Gus says:

      06:57pm | 28/11/11


      Current usage is about 68,000 tU/yr.  Thus the world’s present measured resources of uranium (5.4 Mt) are enough to last for about 80 years. Nuclear power currently meets about 14% of the worlds power generation. So if all the world switched to nuclear power….........

      I’ll let you do the math.

    • Brizben says:

      07:37pm | 28/11/11

      “The only time it gets my goat is when it’s one person posting under multiple names to shore up their own position”

      hear hear

    • S.L says:

      05:45am | 28/11/11

      What planet are you two on?
      USA going clean and green? Tell that to the good ole boys, rednecks and Republican voters. You’ll be run outa town!

    • Macca says:

      05:53am | 28/11/11

      Clean baseload power will not come from renewables until well after 2020. Windpower needs a backup because its not always windy, Solar is a generation of R&D off being effective and HydroElectric only works if you have mountains, which we don’t.

      If you want a source of clean energy you must look at Nuclear technology, although the left oppose it on ideogic grounds or because they have no appetite for ambitious projects.

    • acotrel says:

      06:42am | 28/11/11

      Again with the silly baseload argument ?  Any schoolboy knows that the way our current grid works, is that it uses the Snowy Hydro Scheme to regulate the load requirements.  When there is a lot of power on the grid, and it’s cheap they pump water to higher levels.  When it’s dearer they run the turbines ! - ROOLY MAJICK ! ! !

    • TimB says:

      07:03am | 28/11/11

      Well done Acotrel. That works for hydro. Now explain that for solar and wind.

      PS- I consider hydro to be a proven renewable power source. Too bad the Greens oppose that too. Dams are bad and all that.

    • Macca says:

      07:08am | 28/11/11

      @acotrel, I can’t see the SMHS being terribly effective in managing base load power in Brisbane or Perth during the middle of the summer. The loss in power simply by attempting to distribute it that widely would be astronomically inefficient.

    • PTom says:

      07:29am | 28/11/11

      How about wave, tidal or even good older water wheels. If the restriction on solar and wind were removed you might find the size of the base load would go down.

      When do you think nuclear will start generating clean base load? My guess is not before 2020 either if we could find the trillions to build the plants.

    • Dan Cass says:

      08:49am | 28/11/11

      OK @Macca, lets not worry about Stephen Chu and his Nobel Prize in physics, lets invest the next $40 billion of energy infrastructure on the basis of your opinion.

      At least go to the trouble of Googling some spurious factoids to back up your opinion so it looks like you treat the readers of this thread as if we are intelligent.

    • Macca says:

      09:07am | 28/11/11

      Dan Cass, hypocritically goes straight for the man.

      My proposal is we have a serious conversation about the viability of Nuclear Power

    • Chris L says:

      11:45am | 28/11/11

      “the left oppose it ... because they have no appetite for ambitious projects” - Like the Snowy Hydro Scheme and the NBN? I think you’re getting you’re wings mixed up there.

    • Brizben says:

      12:07pm | 28/11/11

      @Macca There is a small holding dam at Wivenhoe near Brisbane called split yard creek that does the job acotrel proposes. No transmission line losses.

    • Labor is Toxic says:

      01:38pm | 28/11/11

      @ Brizben

      There is always transmission line losses.

      Too bad the planners don’t put in a hydro system for dam releases.

    • Gomez12 says:

      04:15pm | 28/11/11

      Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t that renowned greenie John Howard commission a report into the viablity of Nuclear power in Aus and get the result from his hand-picked researchers that it would take something like 15 years to setup in meaningful amounts and that only with massive governmental subsidies?

      Yet Germany runs over 30% of their power needs on Solar energy - developed by Australians.

      By all means lets discuss Nuclear power, but it’s not an all or nothing proposition - Diversity is the best bet for securing an energy future.

      For example the highest energy use in Aus is on hot days - when air-cons are runing at max across the country, and what’s in abundance on hot days - Sunlight.

      Solar/Nuclear/Wind/Geo-thermal/hydro are in no way mutually exclusive. We could (just as a suggestion) run small-scale nuclear plants as base-load and solar/geothermal/hydro for peak supply needs.

      Instead of picking a camp and shoving our fingers in our ears, why don’t we look at some of the possibilities that all the various technologies offer and could offer together as part of a comprehensive energy strategy?

    • CarbonDogg says:

      06:01am | 28/11/11

      Nor, Erick, any mention of Solyndra or any of the other taxpayer-funded debacles that have characterised Obama’s “green energy” push ...

    • Dave says:

      06:10am | 28/11/11

      Have a look into “Solyndra” - one of Obama’s crowning jewels of renewable energy, and a great example of what a clean energy future looks like.

    • Mark G says:

      06:39am | 28/11/11

      Its taken a 100 years and trillions of dollars to develop the coal and oil powered industries to meet the energy demands of the worlds growing population and coal/oil was the cheapest option. Now they want to switch completely to renewables overnight. We will need more than expensive carbon taxes for that. Sure we will eventually be able to switch but it will take decades (possible even more than a century) and trillions of dollars. This of course all assumes that renewable R&D is able to produce renewable energy sources that are good enough to take up most of the energy needs. At the moment the technology and industry is really still a ‘cottage industry’ and is nowhere near a stage that they will be able to meet the required demand. Where possible we should avoid gas/oil and nuclear but we need to make some hard decisions based on facts not emotion. We can either shun nuclear and accept that our lifestyles will decay or we can maintain the present energy consumption and resort to nuclear while the renewable reach their potential. You cant have it both ways. Life is tough that way.

    • PTom says:

      07:21am | 28/11/11

      You don’t want to switch to renewables because you say it will take decades and cost trillions. How long and how much do you think switching to nuclear would take? Or even switching cars from oil to gas.

      Either we spend trillions on half a dozen plants to be built in decades time if we can find the workers or we can start switching to renewables everywhere now.

    • Chris_D says:

      07:37am | 28/11/11

      @Mark G, This seems like a logical suggestion. 

      Maybe someone can give an informed insight as to how long it takes a nuclear power plant to be cost effective and it’s build time and operational longevity, and compare this to the expected time lag between weaning us off fossil fuels and onto cost-effective, reliable, renewable energy.

    • iansand says:

      07:44am | 28/11/11

      Then it would be a good plan to start.

    • Dan Cass says:

      08:51am | 28/11/11

      @Mark G: You are speaking in assertions without facts. That’s lazy. Glad you’re not powering anything.

    • Acme construction company says:

      09:10am | 28/11/11

      Chris D
      15 to 20 years to get a nuclear plant up and running.
      Where would you like me to put it?

    • Chris_D says:

      10:34am | 28/11/11

      @ACME, what are the repayment plans? 

      “Where would you like me to put it? “

      Same place as everyone wants them, in someone else’s backyard.  wink

    • Michael says:

      10:56am | 28/11/11

      MarkG, remember your wise words my friend, wise words. smile

    • Adam Diver says:

      11:30am | 28/11/11

      @ Dan Cass,

      I was re-reading the article when I notices you were the author of the actual article we are commenting on. Why do your comments sound like a 10 year old whining (apologies if someone is using your name).

      As for your “You are speaking in assertions without facts. That’s lazy.”

      I refer you to your spectatcularly poor article above and provide

      “We are blessed with world-leading solar scientists, but they are undermined by the lack of support from politicians and capital markets and dogged by ideological attacks from ill-informed sections of the media.”


      “Vested interests and the quarry mentality have kept Labor from switching its loyalty from fossil fuels to renewables. “


      “Powerful forces have prevented the Australian government from adopting Obama’s typically American pragmatism.”

      Plenty of facts behind those wild claims I see, and you provide so many sources as well. That was only 3 paragraphs BTW.

      FYI, the american government is overspending by a trillion dollars next year on top of 15 trillion worth of debt. Its easy to be forward looking, when spending someone elses money, particularly if you never plan on paying it back.

      I am embarrassed for you, I am embarrassed for your replies in the comments and I am embarrassed that the punch publishes such tripe.

    • Chris L says:

      11:56am | 28/11/11

      Chris_D - you can put it in my backyard on condition that I develop super powers from the radiation.

    • Chris_D says:

      12:07pm | 28/11/11

      @Chris L, you might get a power rebate as well, no need to turn the lights on when you can bask in the soft green glow.  It’s win-win.

    • Mark G says:

      02:53pm | 28/11/11


      I didn’t say we shouldn’t switch to renewables I just said that it is not going to happen overnight.

      The best reply to my comment was from iansand

      “Then it would be a good plan to start.”

      Absolutely. But it will still take a long time for the technology and industry to grow. Nuclear is quicker because it is a tried and tested method of producing large volumes of energy. It has lower operational risk because you know what you are going to get with a higher safety risk. The shift to renewables should be pushed as quickly as possible for all our sakes but we may have to face some stark realities along the way. If renewables take up quicker than I am suggesting then fine. That’s awesome. But we also need to prepare ourselves for the fact that the oil and coal may run out quicker than we can develop renewables. Then and only then should we consider nuclear. All I am saying is that we need to be open to the fact the we may need nuclear as a stop loss backup. Its either that or we may have to accept a temporary loss of capability in our power system.

    • Chris_D says:

      03:38pm | 28/11/11

      @Mark G, “The best reply to my comment was from iansand”.

      Geez, I thought I might have got an honourable mention with “This seems like a logical suggestion.”

      Anyway, what I like about your idea is that it is a positive contribution to the debate, a possible solution to a foreseeable problem rather than the usual negativity about what can’t be done or why it shouldn’t without providing any better alternatives.

      If it takes Acme 15-20 years to get a nuclear reactor up to speed, then it sounds like someone needs to get cracking on where and when, if it is a cost effective alternative in the mid-term.

      Surely we have enough space in the outback to put it somewhere that won’t upset too many people.

    • Coop says:

      04:01pm | 28/11/11

      Dont worry about Dan.

      He wouldnt know a fact if it came up, introduced itself.

      The only fact relative to anything of Dan’s that Ive read is that he doesnt know what a “fact” is and like to reference himself.

    • marley says:

      06:09pm | 28/11/11

      Please see my comment at the bottom of the thread - a pre-fab nuclear power plant can be up and running in three years.  In theory. 

      But even regular plants apparently can be constructed in five years - it’s getting the environmental approvals that takes up the rest of the 20 to 30 years.

    • gobsmack says:

      06:48am | 28/11/11

      While there is still oil to be pumped from the ground and while the companies that make huge profits from selling it continue to control government energy policy, you won’t see any serious attempts at developing clean alternatives.
      We are driving around in vehicles powered by engines that haven’t changed in any fundamental way since their invention in the 19th century.

    • Macca says:

      07:59am | 28/11/11

      Fair enough, Gobsmack. Do you have any suggestions?

    • gobsmack says:

      10:31am | 28/11/11

      No, not within my field of expertise.
      I guess when oil starts to run out or becomes hideously expensive we’ll see more determined efforts to develop alternatives to the internal combustion engine.  My point is that these efforts could have been made much earlier except there is too much money to made selling oil.

    • Don says:

      01:08pm | 28/11/11

      “We are driving around in vehicles powered by engines that haven’t changed in any fundamental way since their invention in the 19th century. “

      This is because the laws of thermodynamics have also not changed much in that time - funny that. I think you should take some time to learn them a bit and then you will understand what is happening just a little better.

    • gobsmack says:

      06:00pm | 28/11/11

      Tell me Professor what has an observation about the endurance of the internal combustion engine as a means of propelling a vehicle got to do with an understanding of the laws of thermodynamics.
      Are you suggesting that those laws dictate that humans are forever doomed to be transported by vehicle powered by the up and down movement of a piston?
      Please elaborate, I’m fascinated.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:51am | 28/11/11

      While there’s money in coal, we’ll dig it out of the ground.

      When the coal runs out, we’ll switch.  To solar or nuclear or whatever doesn’t matter - nobody ain’t doin’ nothin’ upstairs they don’t have to.

      I’m starting to understand why we have an OWS “movement” - the main message I’m receiving is exactly this - get big business out of government.

    • I hate pies says:

      05:48pm | 28/11/11

      ...and the unions. I agree Mahhrat, we should get all vested interests out of government. The government should only be there to allocate revenue. They should not restrict business at all - then watch the dirt come out of the ground!
      Who cares what we’re going to use next - that’s decades away. Let’s worry about it when we have a viable alternative. In the meantime we should focus on clean coal…and cheap energy whilst we still have it.

    • PW says:

      06:55am | 28/11/11

      Perhaps the idea of having fossil fuel bigwigs involved is that the companies that profit from the technologies of the past are in the best position to move to those of the future. Hence Carbon Tax.

      They are going to have to be, because while the people might be all for sustainable energy for the future, this only applies if someone else pays for it. Witness the squealing re the aforementioned Carbon Tax.

    • PTom says:

      07:35am | 28/11/11

      Using the past performance of the bigwigs in the corporate world. No change would every happen if the could prevent it.

      It is either government or the small wig that force thebig wigs to change.

    • thatmosis says:

      07:00am | 28/11/11

      I wonder, have these guys ever lived on Solar Power of Green power 100%. I think not otherwise they wouldnt write such rubbish. Have a good look at the thousands of wind turbines in California and Hawaii that are now rusting hulks,
      barely able to produce enough power to run a decent torch and the collapse of green company after green company taking with then billions of Tax payers dollars.
      The whole ting is a pipe dream that hasnt a happy ending. Nuclear power is the way of the future and to ignore that is to ignore the true facts. You want realivilt clean power then go nuclear not this airy fairy Green crap that is failing all over the world. Why throw good money after bad.
        Just work out the cost of solar for a house and the ongoing costs and its a lot dearer than coal fired power by a long shot, $45,000 to $150,000 to set up, that being for firstly a 2 person home with little power requirements and deisel backup and secondly for a suburban household with 2 adults and two kids and all the crap that goes with that and it is not an economical exercise. Add to this the ongoing expense of renewing the batteries every 10 to 12 years and the cost is way above the cost of coal powered power and will remain so for decades to come.

    • Trevor says:

      09:01am | 28/11/11

      You need to put your Marxist hat on for a sec thatmosis, and yes, I know that it doesn’t fit you.

      What will the value of electricity be when everone else is priced out or worse, there is no grid due to the onset of something like Peak Oil?

      What I mean is I think that the ‘use value’ of electricity is a hell of a lot more than current ‘market value’.

    • Fiona says:

      09:05am | 28/11/11

      We actually drove past the wind farms on the way to San Francisco this ear and they didn’t look like rusted hulks and what’s more they seemed actually to be moving. I’m sure there are some like that, but not all.
      My olds paid nowhere near what you quote for their home system of 1.5kw, and they have a pool and a couple of split system a/ c’s and still don’t pay for their power anymore. I know there’s been a rebate, but they also dont have diesel backup. I’m guessing that’s much more a regional thing. It seems to be economical for them.

    • stevem says:

      12:08pm | 28/11/11

      Fiona, your friends don’t cover their power with a 1.5 kW panel. Every time they turn on a the A/C, kettle, iron or any of a dozen appliances they take the power for it off the grid (even at noon on a sunny day). The only way they come close to a zero bill is because they get paid 10 times what they get charged (all by the generosity of the tax payer).

      In order to sustain the load of kettle, iron and A/C all at once on a hot summer’s night requires more panels to recharge the large battery bank, multiple inverters, diesel generator (for those wet weeks in winter). Yes, it does indeed cost $45,000 to $150,000 it you don’t rely on that nasty coal fired electricity grid.

    • Trevor says:

      08:42am | 28/11/11

      Too late. Way too late.

      Peak Oil is upon us and is the root cause of the global economic malaise. We are 1 - 2 years from falling of the other edge of ‘Hubberd’s Peak’ and are currently on ‘the bumpy economic plateau’, exactly as predicted by people such as Matt Simmons, Richard Heinberg and Jeremy Leggett for years now. Only to calls of ‘Cassandra!’ and ‘doomsayers’. 

      With the opposition to the carbon tax put out by the flat-earth arseclown brigade an indication of the public acknowledgement of this problem I’m afraid to say it is going to be a ‘hard crash’.  End of civilisation as we know it sort of stuff.

      Google the 2005 Hirsh report. Here is a starter:

    • Mirage says:

      02:14pm | 28/11/11

      Fear Fear Fear!!! The sky is falling!!!

      What a crock, you have at least another hundred years plus of oil reserves. The peak oil theory is based around proven reserves, what about the now viable smaller reserves that are harder to get too, improved technology which allows us to extract those more difficult reserves such as shale oil.

      Just think about your doomsday scenario here, what good is that last billion dollars profit from the extraction of the last oil reserve for the sake of end of days scenario where that billion dollars would be worth zero?
      These companies are not stupid, they will lead the way with alternatives once they are economically viable, which at this point in time, they are not.

      BTW oil can be synthetically produced and nuclear energy can provide the energy in order to do this.

      The doomsday scaremongering is so typical of the environmentalists to get exposure on something that is non existent, just like climate change…

    • Mirage says:

      02:14pm | 28/11/11

      Fear Fear Fear!!! The sky is falling!!!

      What a crock, you have at least another hundred years plus of oil reserves. The peak oil theory is based around proven reserves, what about the now viable smaller reserves that are harder to get too, improved technology which allows us to extract those more difficult reserves such as shale oil.

      Just think about your doomsday scenario here, what good is that last billion dollars profit from the extraction of the last oil reserve for the sake of end of days scenario where that billion dollars would be worth zero?
      These companies are not stupid, they will lead the way with alternatives once they are economically viable, which at this point in time, they are not.

      BTW oil can be synthetically produced and nuclear energy can provide the energy in order to do this.

      The doomsday scaremongering is so typical of the environmentalists to get exposure on something that is non existent, just like climate change…

    • Trevor says:

      04:29pm | 28/11/11


      “...what about the now viable smaller reserves that are harder to get too”.

      Like in the Gulf of Mexico? Or under the polar ice cap? One had the most dire environmental consequences and the other with the potential to start WWIII? Good one.

      “...shale oil”

      Pfffft. Now THAT is a crock. When it comes to energy, it’s all about EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested). When you have to use almost as much energy to produce oil as you get out of it, well, it’s a zero-sum game. What’s the point? Let alone the water requirements of this process and the devastating environmental impacts. EROEI also addresses your point above, the smalled and harder to get fields are to hard to get and require to much energy to be profitable or useful.

      “...what good is that last billion dollars profit from the extraction of the last oil reserve for the sake of end of days scenario where that billion dollars would be worth zero?”

      You have described Hubberd’s peak here, which is what is referred to as Peak Oil. I never claimed that we would run out. But that it will be too expensive to run civilisation as we know it. On the up slope oil is cheap and apparently plentiful, but for ‘that last billion’ the show is on the other foot. Increasing scarcity will cause the oil price to skyrocket. It is a commonly accepted economic law that oil prices over $80 bbl will suffocate the economy. Exactly like we are seeing now.

      Oil companies aren’t stupid, I’ll agree. But they are onl interested in themselves, like all companies.

    • AdamC says:

      08:43am | 28/11/11

      The premise of this article is wrong. The authors seem to assume that, with a little cash, renewables will be able to step up to meet our energy needs and, therefore, those who dismiss renewables simply lack imagination. That is not the case. As the authors note, there has been substantial investment in renewables, including a lot of large-scale ‘monuments’, which have received lots of attention but, in the scheme of things, don’t seem to produce a great deal of power.

      I cannot claim to be an expert in electricity generation, or even energy policy. However, I am highly skeptical of an industry which, after sucking up massive subsidies and grants over several years, has very little to show for it save a few ubnder-performing projects, ugly, expensive wind farm developments and a well-developed lobbying machine calling for yet more government cash.

      There is also the problem of growth in energy use. Much of the talk around renewables concerns their potential to provide a proportion of our energy needs today. However, what about our needs in the decades to come? If history is any guide, our grandchildren will be using much more energy than we use today. Where is this going to come from? To my mind, it is exceedingly unlikely to be wind power. Solar power is a possibility, assuming it becomes vastly more efficient, but variants of nuclear power seem the most likely of all.

      Those investing in infrastructure need to think about the long term costs and benefits of particular projects over their useful lives. However, most ‘green energy’ investment seems to be very short-term driven. For example, the silly propellers-on-a-stick that now blight the landscape of most western countries are a classic easy money folly driven by today’s fads, not tomorrow’s needs.

    • Dan Cass says:

      12:32pm | 28/11/11

      @AdamC: The premise is that we have to do something, now, to slash emissions and switch from fossil fuels.

      The rest of the article is based not on premise, but on fact.

      Renewables are working now and will become cheaper than fossil fuels and nukes over the next few years, all over the world. These are facts. I’m sorry if you can’t accept them.

    • AdamC says:

      12:56pm | 28/11/11

      “Renewables are working now and will become cheaper than fossil fuels and nukes over the next few years, all over the world. These are facts. ”

      No, they are not. The above sentence comprises a statement of dogmatic opinion and a prediction of the future, neither of which are especially credible.

      The difficulty with your argument, as I see it, is that you are extrapolating a few big-ticket projects, which don’t actually provide a great deal of energy in the scheme of things, and assuming these can be both replicated and scaled-up to meet a large proportion of humankind’s growing energy needs in the years to come.

      Quite frankly, I will believe it when I see it.

    • luke09 says:

      02:13pm | 28/11/11

      Dan Cass, as long as we keep using cheap dirty fuel energy there is no way that renewable energy can ever compete costs wise. The ONLY time renewable energy will become cheaper than fossil fuel is when the fossil fuel deposits are less abundance and prices skyrocket.


      It would be interesting to see if the government could set up a similar 110 MW Tonopah solar thermal plant in Australia to show how it could be done. Maybe people will be convinced by seeing is believing.

      The government has damaged the renewable energy debate by its election promise of no carbon tax which it broke.

      Those in the renewable energy business should be trying to get both sides of politics to listen to them, writing inflammatory statements such as

      ‘Given that Tony Abbott and the Coalition are following the US Tea Party model and reject clean renewable energy on ideological grounds, it’s up to Prime Minister Gillard to follow Obama’s lead.’ is childish and does nothing to gain support of people who can make it happen.

      The divisive comments emanating from this article is proof that your words (labor are good, coalition bad) have not helped your argument.

      Be politically unbiased if you want to be taken seriously.

    • Dan Cass says:

      08:45am | 28/11/11

      @thatmosis: It amazes me how ignorant and arrogant some people can be.

      Thousands of scientists and engineers work on renewable technologies and report back on how effective they are. But you and other armchair experts think that after a big of a back of the envelope calculation and Googling some extremist website, you know it all!

    • Yvette S says:

      09:34am | 28/11/11

      Labelling people that do not agree with your radical and IMO “far fetched” theories as readers of “extremist websites” is a pretty low blow.

      Why do some people fear debate?  Is it simply because they have money riding on their pet outcome?  Given that we the taxpayers fund much of “Climate Consultants” income, you may want to pay people more respect.

      The demonising of skeptics as ‘deniers’, and refusing to debate is the main reason the vast majority now have discovered that AGW is a scam.

      Discussion about renewables is sadly going the same way.

    • Labor is Toxic says:

      09:55am | 28/11/11

      Dan ...... renewable energies are not that effective!!!! Those thousands of scientists and engineers researching renewable technologies publish reports stating how effective they are so that they can get more research grants!!!! A bit of that $13.2B pie you are crowing about, that is not paid for by the Carbon Tax!!!! Ignorance is bliss!!

      Nano Solar is looking very positive, as are Parabolic Trough and Heliostat Solar Thermal Projects, but they are a little way off perfection.

      I would also love to hear your solution for powering Sydney or Melbourne, then we can talk about Tokyo and London ..... because we tried to build a Solar Generator in Cloncurry and it was a failure

    • Labor is Toxic says:

      08:47am | 28/11/11

      @ thatmosis

      Thanks ..... it brings the reality of solar costs, that I know first hand, into perspective. They are inflated because of scale of costs. I did a project on a Solar Project in the Sth Pacific while Australian Politicians with their ‘Cling-ons’ attended the lavish but totally waste of time “Hopenhagen”, and it was very expensive.

      People like Dan Cass prey on the ignorant and spread the word that the Carbon Tax will bring in a new age of renewable energy spending ..... around $13B hey Dan. What Dan won’t tell you is that the Carbon Tax pays for very little infrastructure and the Labor Government intends on extending Australia’s Debt to pay for this!!! Isn’t that right Dan?!?!? This is why people like Dan love the Carbon Tax, and ignorant people who like the carbon tax, because they see all this wonderful money flowing their way through consultants fees ..... hey Dan!!!!

      Dan will tell people about these wonderful overseas projects, yet similar ones in Australia fail again and again and again. But Dan will never tell you about the failures of wind farms in US, Scotland and Denmark, and how studies have shown that wind energy actually increases CO2e Emissions ..... will you Dan!!!

      Don’t get me wrong ...... I love solar energy but you can stick wind generators where the sun doesn’t shine ..... but anyone who thinks that Labor’s Carbon Tax is the solution is living back with the dinosaurs.

    • Penny C says:

      09:12am | 28/11/11

      More hippy dreams from those profiting with taxpayer funds from this current AGW scam.

      The ignorance of nuclear energy simply beggars belief.

      We don’t need more consultants spinning their BS on the public purse.

    • Dan Cass says:

      09:28pm | 28/11/11

      Science is right, you are wrong.

    • HarkTheBus says:

      09:13am | 28/11/11

      Peak oil mate
      Peak oil

    • Anubis says:

      01:32pm | 28/11/11

      Hey Harquebus, Welcome back

    • Anna C says:

      09:37am | 28/11/11

      “Instead of subsidising yesterday’s energy,” he (Obama) implored, “let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

      Shouldn’t this read as “Instead of subsiding yesterday’s energy we should subsidise tomorrow’s.” When are governments going to stop subsidizing these energy companies whether it be coal, petrol or solar? Let them all stand on their own two feet and let the market decide.

    • Anna C says:

      09:39am | 28/11/11

      “Instead of subsidising yesterday’s energy,” Obama implored, “let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

      Shouldn’t this read as “Instead of subsiding yesterday’s energy we should subsidise tomorrow’s”? When are governments going to stop subsidizing these energy companies whether it be coal, petrol or solar? Let them all stand on their own two feet and let the market decide.

    • Obob says:

      09:44am | 28/11/11

      The article states ...
      “the sinking ship that is fossil fuels”


      Bad News For Warmie Whackos, Good News For Humanity:
      Coal Consumption Increasing At A Geometric Rate.

      The coal bosses’ plan: mine coal, sell coal, repeat until rich
      As one English delegate put it: ‘‘The Chinese don’t give a stuff about greenhouse emissions, and nor do I.’‘
      November 14 2010

      QUOTE: The most striking thing about the conference was how few people attended the carbon capture and storage session. An almost full house had heard Palmer declare green coal the ‘‘only path’’ to deal with climate change. Yet a mere 35 delegates went to the capture and storage session, and fewer than 20 stayed to the end.


      ONCE a year, coal industry bosses gather for the World Coal Conference: ‘‘It’s where the coal deals are done,’’ says the brochure.

      The opening session set the tone. Fred Palmer, vice-president of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, noted that since the ‘‘great debate’’ on climate change began, coal consumption had gone from 3.6 billion tonnes a year to almost 7 billion tonnes. By 2030, he predicted it would be more like 11-12 billion. ‘‘The climate change concerns of people everywhere are legitimate’‘, he said, but alleviating energy poverty was ‘‘policy priority number one’‘.

      On the basis that it would leave billions in energy poverty, he declared it ‘‘immoral to say ‘we’re not going to touch coal’.’’ To those saying continued coal use depends on developing carbon capture and storage or low carbon coal, his message was blunt: ‘‘We will use coal, and the world is going to use more coal.’’ Furthermore, ‘‘using more coal to generate electricity is good for our health and good for our wealth’‘.

      There was a similarly defiant tone when I dropped the subject of climate change into conversation over lunch. Some openly doubted the science. One Australian executive said: ‘‘I just don’t understand how we can ignore such an overwhelming body of scientific research’‘, referring to the work of climate sceptics. He scoffed at the notion of capturing and storing emissions: ‘‘It isn’t happening and it won’t happen’‘. I run through the slow pace of carbon capture with a Swiss trader; the G8’s goal is to have 20 plants worldwide up and running by 2020. His answer: ‘‘plant trees’‘

      The clear impression is that Asian-driven coal demand is a more powerful juggernaut than climate change. As one English delegate put it: ‘‘The Chinese don’t give a stuff about greenhouse emissions, and nor do I.’‘

      The most striking thing about the conference was how few people attended the carbon capture and storage session. An almost full house had heard Palmer declare green coal the ‘‘only path’’ to deal with climate change. Yet a mere 35 delegates went to the capture and storage session, and fewer than 20 stayed to the end.

      During question time, a British executive highlighted the contrast between the bullish talk about growth in global coal demand and the sparse attendance at the session. ‘‘Most of the industry isn’t really taking notice’‘, he warned. Instead, the focus is on supplying developing countries that have no absolute emissions reduction targets, and where capture is rarely mentioned.

      A spokesman from Brazilian mining giant Vale captured the mindset: ‘‘Every morning, we get up and pray for China.’’ Well they might. China is now building the equivalent of 10 New York Cities. If investment bank UBS is right, Chinese annual coal consumption will rise from 3 to 5.5 billion tonnes by 2020.

      Many doubt that China’s coal industry can grow fast enough to meet that demand, and some expect India to import 1 billion tonnes of coal annually by 2020.

      Coal exporters are rubbing their hands while they pray.

      What’s unclear is where the extra coal will come from.

      The only thing remotely as crucial to the equation as Chinese demand may be Australian supply - Australia produces around a third of the world’s coal exports, and more than half the world’s metallurgical coal exports.

      Increasingly it looks as if projected demand will only be met if Australia doubles its production.

    • Warwick says:

      09:47am | 28/11/11

      Remember when all the bright young students of politics and economics were convinced that the “scientific understanding” that was embodied in Marxism, or some form of warmed -up Marxism, was going to consign all the economic and political structures, that had evolved over hundreds of years, to the “dustbin of history?”

      Now it’s happening all over again with the new ideology, the green/left religion that is being eagerly taken up by every gullible schoolgirl and her friend. And of course there is a huge army of corrupt scientists and corrupt banksters, who think that this is where the money and power will be found. 

      Communism devastated mostly The USSR,  and, before the Maoist version was junked, China. This new green/left fashion/religion/ideology is lekely to do tremendous damage worldwide. But it is still ideological rubbish.

    • andye says:

      04:25pm | 28/11/11

      @Warwick - The facts are a bit hard to dispute, aren’t they? So much easier to come up with a fanciful conspiracy theory.

      What is the weather like in ladida fairy land?

    • Dan Cass says:

      09:31pm | 28/11/11

      Mao LOL

    • George says:

      09:49am | 28/11/11

      Life Would Be Very Hard Without Coal Or Oil
      Do We Really Want To Go Back There?
      The deep greens do, but if they did, they most probably would have deep regrets!
      For most of the world’s population, carbon fuels and the tools they create are all that stands between them and hunger or starvation.
      1 Sep 2010

      Just three hundred years ago, all transport and machinery relied on muscle power, or power generated by solar energy via windmills, sailing ships and water wheels.

      This was the heyday for alternative energy.

      Since coal and oil became our servants, providing power for ploughs, harvesters, fertiliser, transport and refrigeration, the world has seen an unprecedented
      abundance of food for the common people.

      The harnessing of energy from coal and oil and the use of coal and coke to produce cement, steel and other metals has allowed more people to live in more safety and
      comfort than ever before.

      For those lucky enough to share their benefits, these carbon fuels have relieved the endless human battle to get enough food and energy.

      But like the English nobles and King Edward 1,700 years ago, the leisured and privileged classes are again trying to promote their vision of a bucolic green world by
      banning or rationing the use of carbon energy. Secretly many of them also want to see far fewer of us common people messing up their world.

      They also want to give unelected international cadres control of the taxes that could be yielded if they gained
      control of all carbon energy. “Environmentalism” has the same goals as every other “ism” that has enslaved men – total control of all productive processes and people.

      Coal is the major target of deep green witch doctors.
      Oil is the other.
      Both are carbon fuels (strictly hydro-carbons).

      The weapons they use in this war on carbon fuels are scare stories.

      Their current number one scare story claims that “carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal and oil will cause dangerous global warming”.

      There is no evidence to support it.

      This scare is faltering so new ones will be contrived.

      Any scare will do – bushfires, droughts, floods, tornados, heat waves, snowstorms and disease are all blamed on this innocent, harmless but essential friend of all life, carbon dioxide.

    • gobsmack says:

      12:48pm | 28/11/11

      “the world has seen an unprecedented abundance of food for the common people”
      Which has lead to a greater abundance of “common people” which in turn has lead to a demand for an even greater abundance of food ...
      Population control seems to be the missing factor in this equation.

    • Richard says:

      09:51am | 28/11/11

      If We Won’t Use Our Coal, India Will
      Sep 18 2011
      We’re determined to stop using coal to “save” the planet, but giant India helps itself to a lot more of what we spurn:

      Indian infrastructure giant GVK says it will pay $US1.3 billion ($A1.26 billion) for Australia’s Hancock coal and infrastructure projects as it lines up energy supplies for upcoming power plants.

      The purchase of three coal mines, a railway line and port projects linking the coal projects in Queensland, involves “truly world-class coal assets in both quality and scale”, GVK group chairman GVK Reddy said on Saturday.

    • Craigt says:

      09:52am | 28/11/11

      To all those nay sayers on nuclear. Why don’t you look into fusion or more realistically the already proven method of using EXISTING nuclear WASTE to power a different type of reactor. I cannot remember where i read it. hopefully some one on here knows about it too? That basically nullifies any argument against nuclear power. The situation in Japan was with much older (About 40 years old I believe) technology. Nowadays it is almost impossible to have a reactor melt down. And with fusion there is no danger at all… why aren’t we investing more in that. It has already been achieved in small tests it just needs the backing of some one with some vision. The fact that our government(s) are pursuing fossil fuels because of the backing they get from the industry is supremely disappointing but nothing new.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      09:57am | 28/11/11

      We have one of the world’s biggest continents. The vast majority of it is unihabited & uninhabitable. There are billions of hectares of virtually flat land which would make the building of massive Solar Power Plants easier.
      We have tens of thousands of kilometres of coastline which endure endless strong winds which would enable equally massive Wind Power Plants.
      People complain about the noise of Wind Turbines. Some claim they damage the health of man & beast. They may be right so why not put those turbines where no-one lives?
      Why not put those Solar Power stations where no-one can see them?
      Why don’t our Governments require those constructing all those huge, new, Supermarkets & Retail complexes to install Solar Power Plants on all those millions of square hectares of roofing. Incidently why do they all make their stores & buildings with no windows so that in order to trade they have to turn on the lights - lights, in some places, which are left burning 24/7!
      Why don’t the Power Companies, such as AGL, Origin etc. approach Home Owners, Hotel & Apartment building owners & get permission to install Solar panels on their roofs?
      The Power companies then own & maintain the panels, they collect the electricity & as an incentive give those who agree to the installation of those panels ” Green Energy” for which they don’t have to pay a Premium. AGL, in SA,currently charge an extra 5c KWH if we elect to have “Green Energy”. I would imagine most of us would agree to having electricity-generating panels on our roof if they scrapped that surcharge.
      Everyone’s a winner. The Power Companies get free electricity, the consumers get Green Energy & overall our reliance on Coal & Gas fired pwoer Stations diminshes.

    • Labor is Toxic says:

      01:44pm | 28/11/11

      Cos it is all too expensive!!! But Dan would have you believe that it isn’t while collecting his next consulting cheque

    • Richard says:

      09:58am | 28/11/11

      Leftist Warmist “Scientist” Phil Jones On The Magic Of Coal
      Wackier and wackier!

      According to Dr. Phil, the warming from 1915 to 1945 was due to the Sun and volcanoes.

      The subsequent COOLING until 1975 was caused by BURNING COAL– which produces aerosols.

      The subsequent WARMING until 1998 was caused by BURNING COAL which produces CO2.

      And the subsequent COOLING is again caused by BURNING CHINESE COAL which produces aerosols.

      from: Phil Jones
      subject: FW: Your graph regarding global temperature anomaly
      to: heino

      There are a multitude of explanations of the course of temperature change during the 20th century. These are discussed in the various IPCC reports. The warming from 1915 to about 1940 is generally believed to be due to a slight increase in solar output and a reduction in volcanism. The recent warming from 1975 is due to the build-up of greenhouse gases, as they begin to dominate over sulphate aerosol releases. The slight cooling from 1940 to 1975 is thought to be due to industrial development (using lots of dirty coal) increasing aerosol emissions. WWII is not thought to have had any impact. On all the above there is natural variability which could have caused some of the changes even without any external forcing (greenhouse gases, aerosols, solar, volcanoes etc) as we have had warm and cold decades in the past when there was little changes in external influences. I hope this short reply helps. The best things to read are the IPCC reports.


    • Steve Putnam says:

      05:02pm | 28/11/11

      Its still warming Richard. 2010 was the hottest year in over 150 years of keeping temperature records.

    • Wayne says:

      10:07am | 28/11/11

      Rich, Hypocrtical Greenie Eco-Imperialist Whackos Want To Deny Africans Cheap Power
      Poor must go without to “save” the planet!

      Left-wing leaders of rich countries want to “save” the planet by making Africa’s poor go without cheap power:

      The World Bank on Thursday approved a controversial $3 billion loan for the development of a coal-fired power plant by the South African state utility Eskom despite lack of support from major shareholder countries.

      The US, the Netherlands and Britain said they abstained from supporting the loan because of environmental and other concerns about the project…

      “Without an increased energy supply, South Africans will face hardship for the poor and limited economic growth,” Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for Africa, said in a statement.

      The US Treasury said it abstained because of “concerns about the climate impact of the project and its incompatibility with the World Bank’s commitment to be a leader in climate change mitigation and adaptation.” ...

      The opposition to the Eskom loan has raised eyebrows among some observers, who note that Britain and the US are allowing development of coal-powered plants at home even as they raise concerns about those in poorer countries.

    • Dan says:

      10:32am | 28/11/11

      Misanthropic Greenies Unveil Your Energy Starved Future
      The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum!
      Thanks to all the idiots who voted “green”, let’s hope you suffer more than most.

      Green means tuirning on the lights only when it’s windy:

      “Electricity consumers in the UK will need to get used to flicking the switch and finding the power unavailable, according to Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, the country’s grid operator.”

      Because of a six-fold increase in wind generation, which won’t be available when the wind doesn’t blow, “The grid is going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030,” he told BBC’s Radio 4. “We keep thinking that we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It’s going to be much a smarter system than that.”

      ”We are going to change our own behaviour and consume it when it is available and available cheaply.”


      A whole power grid dependent on the vagaries of the wind. Factories idle, waiting for a calm to end.

      Doesn’t sound like much of an economy.

      Nor much of a life.’t-count-on-constant-electricity-under-renewable-energy-says-uk-electricity-ceo/

    • MattyC says:

      10:32am | 28/11/11

      I believe that renewables can play a part in delivering our energy needs in the future but it is not the be all and end all solution. All options must be on the table and considered. Keep developing solar and plaster panels on the roofs of all new dwellings hence reducing household reliance on the grid.

      Build Nuclear plants - it appears that waste is the major concern, why couldnt we take the waste into space and post it off to the sun? (I know its a little star trekky but i dont know why this is a problem)

    • Richard says:

      10:44am | 28/11/11

      In China, The Brutal Truth About Britain’s “Clean”, “Green” Wind Power Experiment
      Pollution on a disastrous scale

      On the outskirts of one of China’s most polluted cities, an old farmer stares despairingly out across an immense lake of bubbling toxic waste covered in black dust.

      The region has more than 90 per cent of the world’s legal reserves of rare earth metals, and specifically neodymium, the element needed to make the magnets in the most striking of green energy producers, wind turbines.

      Live has uncovered the distinctly dirty truth about the process used to extract neodymium: it has an appalling environmental impact that raises serious questions over the credibility of so-called green technology.

      The reality is that, as Britain flaunts its environmental credentials by speckling its coastlines and unspoiled moors and mountains with thousands of wind turbines, it is contributing to a vast man-made lake of poison in northern China.

      Hidden out of sight behind smoke-shrouded factory complexes in the city of Baotou, and patrolled by platoons of security guards, lies a five-mile wide ‘tailing’ lake. It has killed farmland for miles around, made thousands of people ill and put one of China’s key waterways in jeopardy.

      This vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals is the dumping ground for seven million tons a year of mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its components.

      Rusting pipelines meander for miles from factories processing rare earths in Baotou out to the man-made lake where, mixed with water, the foul-smelling radioactive waste from this industrial process is pumped day after day.

      a giant, secret toxic dump, made bigger by every wind turbine we build.

      ‘At first it was just a hole in the ground,’ he says. ‘When it dried in the winter and summer, it turned into a black crust and children would play on it. Then one or two of them fell through and drowned in the sludge below. Since then, children have stayed away.’

      ‘It turned into a mountain that towered over us,’ says Mr Su. ‘Anything we planted just withered, then our animals started to sicken and die.’

      Dalahai villagers say their teeth began to fall out, their hair turned white at unusually young ages, and they suffered from severe skin and respiratory diseases.

      Children were born with soft bones and cancer rates rocketed.
      Official studies carried out five years ago in Dalahai village confirmed there were unusually high rates of cancer along with high rates of osteoporosis and skin and respiratory diseases. The lake’s radiation levels are ten times higher than in the surrounding countryside, the studies found.

      Neodymium is commonly used as part of a Neodymium-Iron-Boron alloy (Nd2Fe14B) which, thanks to its tetragonal crystal structure, is used to make the most powerful magnets in the world. Electric motors and generators rely on the basic principles of electromagnetism, and the stronger the magnets they use, the more efficient they can be. It’s been used in small quantities in common technologies for quite a long time – hi-fi speakers, hard drives and lasers, for example. But only with the rise of alternative energy solutions has neodymium really come to prominence, for use in hybrid cars and wind turbines. A direct-drive permanent-magnet generator for a top capacity wind turbine would use 4,400lb of neodymium-based permanent magnet material.

      The fact that the wind-turbine industry relies on neodymium, which even in legal factories has a catastrophic environmental impact, is an irony Ms Choi acknowledges.

      Take the figures for December, when we all shivered through sub-zero temperatures and wholesale electricity prices surged. Peak demand for the UK on 20 December was just over 60,000 megawatts. Maximum capacity for wind turbines throughout the UK is 5,891 megawatts, almost ten per cent of that peak demand figure.

      Yet on December 20, because winds were light or non-existent, wind energy contributed a paltry 140 megawatts. Despite billions of pounds in investment and subsidies, Britain’s wind-turbine fleet was producing a feeble 2.43 per cent of its own capacity – and little more than 0.2 per cent of the nation’s electricity in the coldest month since records began.

      So, against the backdrop of environmental catastrophe in China and these less than attractive calculations, could the billions being thrown at wind farms be better spent?

    • Wayne says:

      11:08am | 28/11/11

      July 15 2008

      No need to panic about peak oil just yet:

      In the Americas, proven oil reserves have increased from 170 billion barrels to 180 billion barrels over the last two decades, according to the 2008 Statistical World Review from British Petroleum.

      In Europe and Eurasia, proven oil reserves almost doubled, from 76 billion barrels to 144…

      And the Middle East, the gas tank of the world, shows no sign of slowing down—its reserves soared by almost 200 billion barrels, from a whopping 567 billion barrels to a super-whopping 756.

      Bottom line for the world:
      an incredible 36% increase in oil reserves during the two decades that saw the greatest globalization-spurred oil consumption in the history of mankind. And that doesn’t include the 152 billion barrels in proven oil reserves obtainable from Canada’s tar sands. Is there any reason to doubt that the next two decades won’t build on the steady growth of the last two?

      These oil reserves aren’t the end of it.

      These figures—for the year ending December 2006—represent oil that’s not only known to be available, but also economic at 2006 prices using 2006 technology.

      Since prices have soared in the last year, and technology has improved too, BP’s annual assessment for the 2007 year will show greater proven oil reserves still.

    • TC says:

      11:48am | 28/11/11

      Lauding the USA for its energy policies! How naive can you get? Obama’s renewable energy policies resemble the Coalitions not the ALP’s. (government funded investment into renewable energy technology R & D) The USA invaded Iraq to shore up its supplies of oil. Obama recently stated, while in Australia, that there would be no cap n’ trade in the USA. Seriously dudes join the real world.

    • Rodney says:

      11:51am | 28/11/11

      Sanderson nil
      TimB over 9,000

      That is all. Hilarious. Much better than the article that was so full of errors and bias it was embarrassing to see published but then hey…this is Australia’s best conversation… long as your views accord to those of the editors. Let’s all agree, so much easier that way.

    • Anna C says:

      12:00pm | 28/11/11

      Bugger the Greenies and Climate Change fanatics. Coal is still a relatively inexpensive form of energy which is helping developing countries like China and India lift their population’s standard of living out of the mud. 

      Most Greenies and Climate Change fanatics live in the first world and are being selfish in trying to deny poorer nations a cheap energy source. Sure the environment is important but so are the lives of billions of people living in the third world. They have a right to a better life just like us and I don’t want to see our fanaticism regarding climate change and reducing our CO2 levels derail their development.

    • Jim says:

      12:42pm | 28/11/11

      There’s no more vested an interest than a lobbyist, as Dan is.

    • Logos says:

      12:44pm | 28/11/11

      The article offers two assertions:
      1) Democracy has been deaf to the Australian public
      2) The public “are overwhelmingly in support of renewable energy”

      Two facts to consider: (a)Julia Gillard was elected on a promise not to have a Carbon Tax , and (b) Julia Gillard passed a Carbon Tax.

      (a) and (b) can only co-exist in the same universe if (1) is true. If (1) holdstrue, then (2) must prove false. Their opinions are invalid; everybody point and laugh now.

    • gobsmack says:

      12:50pm | 28/11/11

      This whole thread is getting depressing.
      Thank goodness I won’t be around in 100 years to witness the new stoneage.

    • luke09 says:

      01:21pm | 28/11/11

      This article says, ‘Given that Tony Abbott and the Coalition are following the US Tea Party model and reject clean renewable energy on ideological grounds, it’s up to Prime Minister Gillard to follow Obama’s lead.’

      What an ill informed comment. The coalition aren’t against renewable energy.

    • neil says:

      01:22pm | 28/11/11

      The author of this article is living in La La land, a new proven technology takes about 70 years to replace an existing one, modern solar and wind have only been around for 20 years and they are not yet proven base load replacements. Fossil fuels will be the world’s preferred energy source at least to the end of this century and probably well beyond, the worlds coal reserves are estimated be between 350 – 700 years worth, oil and gas 100 years but you can makes these from coal so we have enough for centuries. There are no viable non-carbon alternatives for ships, airplanes or trucks, ideas like solar electric airships if they ever work are decades away. We currently consume 60 million cars a year and increasing yet there is only enough rare earth materials to produce 5 million cars a year most of which comes from China and they have already cut back on exports to Japan for electric vehicles, cars will mostly still run on carbon in 100 years, and lets face it in Australia an electric car runs on coal. In another decade or so after the world has grow tired of the AWG alarmism because nothing has really changed the drive for alternate energy sources will become less important and things will go back to business as usual until the next oil crisis or greenie scare champagne.

    • Dan Cass says:

      09:33pm | 28/11/11

      Climate science is right, you are wrong.

    • DaS Energy says:

      02:15pm | 28/11/11

      neil says:  “a new proven technology takes about 70 years to replace an existing one”
      Since the year 2000 Australia has fully developed Green Energy fully developing base load power 24/7 and does by exploiting sealed in Co2 not releasing it as pollution. That new technology requires a heat source above minus 10* Celsius and is off the scale at point where water boils.  Backed by Howard and fully rejected by Rudd and Gillard as it has no need of Coal, Gas or Oil burning. Make no mistake the Coal lobby is such a force Governments can be dumped as a result of Coal advertising during an election campaign.

    • marley says:

      04:10pm | 28/11/11

      Where is this wonder delivering baseload power?

    • neil says:

      09:51pm | 28/11/11

      DaS Energy, is that Dan Cass?

      My point is even if you are right and you have a viable technology, it will still take about 70 years to replace the existing energy sources.

      A few examples:

      Airplane: Invented 1903 but did nottotally replace shipping as the main international travel medium until the Jumbo jet in 1974.

      Motor car: invented 1886 but did not totally replace the horse as transport or farm work until the 1950’s. I remember horse drawn milk cart s in the 70’s.

      Electric car: Invented 1842!! still going nowhere.

      Steamship: Invented 1784, but never replace sail until WW1 forced it 130 years later.

      Guns took 400 year to replace swords.

      Even a technology that is completely new and has nothing to displace, like a computer, took from it’s invention in 1946 to the wide spread exceptance of windows in the mid 1990’s, 50 years, to become universally excepted.

    • Charles says:

      03:01pm | 28/11/11

      Are you blokes serious? Stating that Shepherds Flat will provide a viable supply of electricity.  This is comedy gold, you blokes should be professional entertainers.

      The day a wind farm provides anything other than an opportunity for corporate rent-seeking will be the day the sun starts getting up in the West, so don’t plan for it happening anytime soon.

      Take SA as an example; since 2002 they have installed 1190 Mwh of windfarm generating capacity, and at the same time the amount of CO2 emitted from generating electricity is 2 million tonnes per annum, or an increase of nearly 25% (hint:  the amount of fossil fuel being burnt to generate electricity has increased).

      In addition, a 260 Mwh coal burning generator (Playford B) that was previously primarily used as a peaking demand generator, now runs full time.  All this before even one word of the health and environmental damage factors are mentioned.

      Windfarms qualify for that most beloved of public servants the triple bottom line outcome But instead of winners, windfarms are an environmental, social and economic disaster, and anyone who is a proponent of them is either quite mad or dangerously stupid

    • Joel B1 says:

      03:09pm | 28/11/11

      “choose the future”  Nuts. Utter nuts.

      Hobart has an example wind turbine set on a medium sized water front building. For a year they didn’t work, just sat there. Tourists would ask what they were and we’d say a new type of antenna for data.

      But hurrah, they’re fixed now. Still most of the time they just sit there.

      It’s a dodgy installation based on dodgy info and on a dodgy idea.

      And the dodgy “green creep” is even scarier. First reports said the VAWTs would supply 12% of that buildings power, then a few weeks later it was 15%. When they broke it was “in light winds” then that became “strong winds”.

      Truth is “green” is well dodgy.

      Just look at who pushes it, The Greens, “No Carbon Tax Gillard” and do-nothing show-pony Obama.

    • Joel B1 says:

      03:15pm | 28/11/11

      You do realise that electric cars heating runs off the batteries?

      A fuel-burning vehicle has lots of excess heat to use.

      So Green dreams of heading off to the ski-lodge in an electric car would see them frozen half way in winter.

      And in summer you couldn’t run the AC either and expect to get anywhere.

    • thatmosis says:

      03:36pm | 28/11/11

      Fiona, did you actually read the link or just bypass it. As for your oldies and their tiny solar system, I’ll bet that didnt include the batteries for a stand alone system where about one third of the price is for the batteries not just one of those put it on the roof and it will solve out problems gimmicks. They mighten pay for power now but what happens when the power companies drop their prices for included solar power to almost nothing as will happen in the future. To boil a kettle, toast some bread and have a fridge and freezer going at the same time is a no no on our system so we use, heaven forbid, the Gas stove for boiling anfd toasting. No appliance that has a stand by is left switched on at the wall and the only thing we have on at night is the TV, a small fan, the fridge and freezer. When we retire we make sure that everything except the fridge and freezer are turned off at the wall and we allow ourselves an hour of timed fan use to get to sleep on the hot nights. Airconditioning would be lovely but quite impossible without spending a further $50,000 just to run it. No pool or spar either.
        Dan Cass or is that Crass, I happen to live on 100% solar and know its limitations unlike you who probably has coal fired power directly into the home. I know what can be done and what cant be done and the costs involved. You have also demonstarted by your lack of knowledge that one, you are either a complete idiot or two, you are a complete idiot, or three, you are a Labor?Green Stooge/Troll who expounds the misinformation of the ALP and the Greens without comprehending the signifcance of what you are doing, cant make up my mind which at the moment. The scientists are working hard but it will be after our lifetime that anything of note will be found as they are working on old and tested and failed technologies and tweeking them to get them to work. Like it or lump it nuclear is the way to go and unless our government sees that we are doomed to spend billions on failure after failure as money is wasted on renewables that simply do not work.
      Have a nice day

    • Rachel Laurel says:

      03:45pm | 28/11/11

      once out of fuel, fossils evolve into evidence of past on which the present is based.

    • Rachel Laurel says:

      03:48pm | 28/11/11

      Liberal People and Liberal Ideology are the fossils on which Australia is built.

    • Rachel Laurel says:

      03:53pm | 28/11/11

      Who do you Barrack for ?

    • andye says:

      04:29pm | 28/11/11

      I have come to the conclusion we are all collectively too stupid and selfish to save ourselves. Do whatever you want. Burn whatever you want. Believe that the composition of our atmosphere affects the climate… or not. None of it matters because we don’t deserve to survive.

      If we do become extinct, don’t worry. The Earth will eventually recover. It did last time there was carbon related warming, even after 90% of species died.

    • Markus says:

      07:32pm | 28/11/11

      Human civilisation will have been and gone long before increased carbon in the air has a chance to get us.

    • DocBud says:

      08:08am | 29/11/11

      “None of it matters because we don’t deserve to survive.”

      I do and so does my wife.

      Go on, I’ll play, when was the last carbon related warming that killed 90% of species?

    • cheap white trash says:

      05:04pm | 28/11/11

      LOL solar and wind power what a joke,go and google SOLYNDRA and do some home work on this great big renewable energy con,it only survives on subsidies… will Never Ever replace base load power and that includes those stupid waste of space windmills,what a joke this has become..

      Nuclear is the only answer,now dont give me this BS about its to expensive,
      we are wasting billions on the NBN and what about the pink batts,school halls and all the other brain dead ideas this Govn has wasted to date,and its still going on today wasting my money,so please give it a rest.

      Nuclear Power the only clean green energy for the 21st century.

    • Dan Cass says:

      02:23pm | 29/11/11

      Good luck finding any bank to invest in nuclear power or any reinsurance company to insure it or any Australian community to welcome it in their backyard!

    • Col. of Blackburn says:

      06:45pm | 28/11/11

      Leigh and Dan
      Perhaps you would like to post for us here your photos of the solar pv cells on your roof and the wind turbines in your backyard?
      How many people would have solar hot water or pv’s or wind turbines if taxpayers like me didn’t pay extra tax to subsidize them. All I can say is bring on Nuclear for Australia!

    • Dan Cass says:

      02:27pm | 29/11/11

      You’re really not listening are you Col?

      You currently subsidize coal, oil and gas industries. Your tax goes to some of the richest companies in the world.

      Nuclear power is a junkie for subsidy like no other technology.

      If we get it in Australia (which won’t happen) it would need even MOAR of your tax cash than you currently stump up for fossil fools. What a mug!

    • DocBud says:

      03:29pm | 29/11/11

      Please provide more information on how the taxpayer makes a net loss at the hands of the fossil fuel industries, Dan.

      If you could do it in a grammatically correct manner and without abuse that would be appreciated, but I’ll understand if that is beyond you.

    • Dan Cass says:

      09:48am | 30/11/11

      @DocBud: Honestly mate, even the International Energy Agency (which is stacked by fossil fools) is calling to end subsidies.

    • DocBud says:

      11:48am | 30/11/11

      So that would be a no then, Dan.

    • Hase says:

      08:05pm | 28/11/11

      Leigh and Dan,  I was surprised to hear that “Labor’s National Broadband Network is ambitious and effective.”  When can I hook up?

    • James says:

      03:01pm | 29/11/11

      The thing people have to realise about fossil fuel is that it is mega mega profitable because it is a FINITE commodity, that means it’s production will peak and then decline as prices for it go parabolic.  This is why we the fossil fuel industry is doing its level best to sucker us into locking in fossil fuel using power stations for the next 35 years.

      The thing to realise about renewables is that after intial development costs are paid, the cost for the power they produce rapidly decreases and in the long run will always be cheaper than power produced by fossil fuel generators.

      Don’t be a mug, you better believe that the fossil fuel industry puts their profits before yours, if we allow gas power generation en masse in this country look forward to a long period of looking into an empty wallet every time you go to pay a power bill.

    • Obob says:

      11:27am | 30/11/11

      “alternative” energy will be used when it becomes dependable and
      economical and not one minute before.
      Peak oil is a myth.

    • James says:

      01:46pm | 30/11/11

      Peak oil production isn’t even a theory it is an observable fact, you can see it in the data put out by the “hippy love children” at the IEA, well known for their drum circles and wild over estimates of oil price.

    • Jordan says:

      02:10pm | 30/11/11

      Is this article seriously trying to argue that the U.S. DoE programs are a proportionally more serious commitment to lowering carbon footprint than Australia’s carbon price? I’m sure the fossil fuel lobbies in the respective countries would agree.

      Also, if non-hydro renewables really are just about to reach lower costs than grid parity, guaranteed, in a scalable manner, why waste time asking for government funding? The flow of private capital into such a sure fired money maker should be HUGE, if the world has even the fraction of rich greedy capitalists in it that we’ve been lead to believe….

      The fact is, all alternatives to fossil fuels have serious shortcomings, at the moment. We need government intervention to correct the externality of carbon, and yes, at a minimum to not subsidise it where that is still occurring. We need entrepreneurs coming up with all sorts of clever ideas on both the supply and demand sides of the energy market. We need nuclear in the world (although TBH its not especially necessary we get it in Australia) in case bets on wind, solar, grid scale storage, advanced biofuels, etc don’t pay off as well as we hope.


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